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October 27, 2004 I saw at least a dozen White-crowned sparrows for the first time this season on Bell's Lane, both Monday and Tuesday afternoons. There were Field, Swamp, Chipping, Savannah, and Song sparrows as well, plus a Northern harrier and a Great blue heron.

New There is a new Mushrooms page, including some recently posted ones, some old photos that I need to identify, and this Cluster that appeared out back on Sunday, a side-effect of all the drizzle we had last week. Two more photos on the Virginia Fall 2004 page, including Bell's Lane south (taken on a bike ride on Tuesday) and Behind S.A.R.S. (taken Sunday), two of my favorite birding spots.

The latest "scandal" over 380 tons of missing high explosives in Iraq, as reported by the New York Times on Monday, may be another concocted brew of half-truths. NBC's Jim Milkaszewski reported that when U.S. troops arrived at the site during the ground offensive toward Baghdad in April 2003, the explosives were already gone. (See MSNBC for an update.) The fact that CBS News and Kerry's campaign picked up on it so quickly raises eyebrows (Where is Mary Mapes?), and Rush Limbaugh declared that this is the Democrats' "October surprise." (Speaking of which, I thought they were going to capture Osama bin Laden this week.) The polls seem to be tightening, and the Washington Post's daily tracking poll puts Kerry ahead slightly, but I'm not panicking just yet.

As expected, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan announced he's voting for Kerry, as "the lesser of two risks..." The reasons for his disappointment in Bush are well put, if emotionally strained, but his defense of Kerry on national security issues sounds like wishful thinking: "Besides, the Democratic party needs to be forced to take responsibility for the security of the country that is as much theirs' as anyone's." How about Dennis Kucinich as Secretary of Defense!?

Does Kerry really Have "a Plan" to get European countries to share the burden in Iraq? Sebastian Mallaby writes in the Washington Post:

If neither foreign nor Iraqi troops come to the rescue, a President Kerry might face a choice: Take back his election talk of bringing soldiers home, or take back his election talk of winning. Kerry is a responsible leader surrounded by a tough foreign policy team, and in the past few days I've edged closer to the view that he would not abandon Iraq prematurely. But if his team really did present the Europeans with a [Senator Joe] Biden-style ultimatum -- you get into Iraq or we get out -- it would risk creating a dynamic that would lead to a U.S. withdrawal and terrifying anarchy.

Which leads me to make a point that has been percolating in my mind for many months: Maybe Kerry and/or some of his top supporters actually want the United States to lose? It sounds insane, but the bitter spitefulness many on the Democratic side have showed in the last few years make you wonder. "See, we told you so!" Would Kerry as president be willing to jeopardize American interests down just to prove a partisan point? After reflecting, I will put that option past him, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

Perhaps such thinking is what gives rise to the hostile reactions faced by Republicans. Just out of curiousity, a journalist in Southern California decided to don a Kerry-Edwards shirt and strolled through conservative communities such as Bakersfield; then he put on a Bush-Cheney shirt and walked into the hip and posh neighborhoods of Venice, where counterculture Bohemians and the Hollywood set hang out. Guess what kind of reaction he got in each place?? See "Political Poseur: Pretending to be a Republican in Blue California" by Richard Rushfield in (via InstaPundit)

World Series and Decision 2004: Many people have concluded that the Red Sox ALCS triumph is a harbinger for a Kerry victory, since the team from Bush's home state lost in the NLCS. Here's another possibility: The fact that both teams in the World Series have red colors means that the candidate favored by the (GOP) "red states" will win the election!

Could it be?? Thanks to Pedro and Manny both living up to their high expectations at just the right moment (and Jeff Suppan making a colossal base-running goof), the Red Sox edged closer to what will be regarded the history-making triumph of our time. The fat lady is not yet singing, but the ghost of Babe Ruth seems to be sleeping. (Good SNL skit on that, but I missed Ashlee Simpson's lip-sync gaffe.) The Red Sox must have set some kind of record in errors in the first two games, but their batting made up for it. A 4-0 sweep would cut into FOX's ad revenues [Fans! It's game time, time to grab a cold, fresh Budweiser!] so let's see if they can contrive some way to stretch this series out another game or two. As we all know, coming back from an 0-3 deficit is almost unheard of...

Four letters to the editor in the Washington Post on Tuesday made some good points about the developmental effects of the proposed new ballpark, and some bad ones. To succeed, stadiums must be close to downtown, which is why the option of keeping the team in RFK indefinitely is simply not plausible. That's also why FedEx Field is such a sterile, unhappy home for the Redskins. As for the complaint that a homeless shelter near the new site may get shut down, that needs to be compensated in some way. Insisting on private funding for the new stadium is a nice thought, and the Giants' SBC Park is a noble example, but MLB's terms for relocating the Expos were very explicit on that point. They're a monopoly, and -- as long as Congress lets them run free -- they make the rules.

October 24, 2004 Towhee Hey, a win's a win. Johnny Damon sparked the Red Sox into taking an early lead last night, but the Cardinals clawed their way back into the game in the latter innings. Two errors by Manny Ramirez almost blew the game wide open, but Mark Bellhorn's home run in the bottom of the eighth saved the day. The way I figure it, Manny owes him a BIG favor; a loss in Game 1 would have been a crushing blow to the Red Sox. The idea of a World Series in Boston is still almost too unreal to absorb; the Red Sox have made it to the October Classic about once every two decades since the 1940s. It's interesting that their recent success coincides with the transfer of ownership from the Yawkey family, the owners since 1933, to John Henry, the former owner of the Marlins.

Will John Kerry show up at Fenway Park for Game 2 of the World Series tonight? I'm sure "Manny Ortez" would be happy to see him. Massachusetts is safely in his column, so it's more likely he would be campaigning in Wisconsin, perhaps seeing a game in Green Bay's "Lambert Field." Kerry showed that he's a real manly man by going hunting in a crisp new camouflage outfit last week. Wind-surfing, anyone?

Most of the polls show a close race, with a slight lead for Bush. There's a lot of uncertainty because polls depend on telephone directories, but many young folks rely exclusively on cell phones these days, and are thus excluded from the sampling universe. Which reminds me, I've gotten into the habit of ignoring incoming phone calls unless the Caller ID tells me who it is, so any pollster trying to reach me this year didn't. That's another reason for the big uncertainty as we head for the finish line. A few months ago it was conventional wisdom that incumbents either win by a comfortable margin or lose decisively; this year may break that pattern. My hunch is that most of the undecideds will opt for Bush at the last minute, not being convinced that Kerry has anything better to offer, and perhaps a little spooked by his tactless wife. (Laura Bush never had a "real" job? How appalling. Imagine the wars that she [Teresa] might start by an offhand remark at an official reception.)

Meanwhile, Larry Sabato compares this election to that of 1916, in terms of the dynamic between foreign and domestic issues. See his Crystal Ball. It really shouldn't have come as such a surprise that Bush did better in the later debates which focused more on domestic policy, since that was his the heart of his original agenda during the 2000 campaign. 9/11 changed all that.

In spite of some misgivings, I strongly favor Bush over Kerry, mainly because of the war on terrorism. Here is my brutally honest, scrupulously impartial assessment:

Decision 2004: A Fair and Balanced Assessment
Issue / aspect Bush Kerry
War on terrorism B D
Other foreign policy B C
Trade and immigration B B
Economy C C
Civil rights & judicial issues B C
Social issues B C
Health care C F
Environment C B
Character B C
Intellect C A
Likeability A D

As I've made clear recently, nothing Kerry has said gives me any confidence that he really understands the nature of the conflict being waged against the West by the Arab-Islamic fascists. Note that Bush's "C" grade for economic issues is not based on any blame for the recent slow economy, but rather his apparent lack of concern for long-term fiscal soundness. Kerry is slightly better in terms of rhetoric, but is basically an old-fashioned tax-and-spend Keynesian Democrat. Bush's "C" for health care reflects his pandering to AARP on the prescription medicine coverage under Medicare. Kerry's "F" grade in that category reflects his pandering to trial lawyers (the biggest single source of health care inflation) and his fatuous promise of universal insurance coverage while denying any intention to impose government controls. That is simply impossible; as Bush said, Kerry's proposals would take us a huge step toward a European state-run system. Many people think we are inexorably headed that way in any case; not me!

Sun at last! After nearly a solid week of gloomy overcast skies, chilly air, and intermittent drizzle, we finally enjoyed a day of fair weather. While taking a walk in our neighborhood, I saw a number of interesting birds on the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad:

  • Indigo bunting (F/J) (late straggler)* PHOTO
  • White-throated sparrows (1st of season)
  • Swamp sparrow**
  • Phoebe
  • Yellow-bellied sapsuckers (F, M)
  • Woodpeckers: Downy, Hairy (M), Pileated, Flicker
  • Cedar waxwings (40+)
  • Robins (20+)
  • Catbird (late straggler)
  • Blue-headed vireos (2 -- late stragglers)***
  • Ruby-crowned kinglet
  • Yellow-rumped warbler
  • Towhee (male; picture above)
  • * Previous latest recorded Indigo bunting in Augusta County: Oct. 16, 1982.
    ** I saw my first Swamp sparrow of the season early yesterday morning.
    *** I just missed getting a great photo of the Blue-headed vireos.

October 22, 2004 In today's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer digs beneath the multilateralist foreign policy rhetoric of John Kerry and asks what he can possibly do to deliver on such a dubious promise. What is the one issue on which Europe and Mideast Muslim countries stand in agreement? Opposition to Israel. Krauthammer thinks Kerry intends to pressure Israel into major concessions and/or dramatically scale back U.S. security guarantees toward the Jewish state.

Thanks in large part to that amazing diving catch by Jim Edmunds in the 2nd inning, which saved (at least) two runs, the Cards managed to beat Roger Clemens and the Astros last night. So this year's World Series will be a rematch of the 1967 and 1946 contests between two of the "reddest" teams in baseball. Had Houston won (they led until the 6th inning), it would have been the second all-wild-card World Series in three years. If Boston had held onto their 5-run lead in last year's ALCS Game 7, both teams in last year's World Series would have been wild card teams as well. Rewarding grit and spunk is all well and good, but the emerging pattern suggests that there ought to more of an advantage for teams that do better during the regular season. (Am I beating a dead horse here?) The problem is that playing at home doesn't yield as much of an advantage as one might think. Excepting this series, 12 out of the 23 other postseason games this year were won by the visiting team. This was only the fourth seven-game postseason series in MLB history in which the home team won all of the games. (The previous times were the 1987, 1991, and 2001 World Series.)

New (revised, that is) Baseball in D.C., with a photo and map of the new stadium site, a chronology (not yet complete), Web links, etc.

October 21, 2004 Is John Kerry disqualified? Legal blogger Eugene Volokh addresses the question of whether section 3 of the 14th Amendment would bar the junior senator from Massachusetts from serving as this nation's Chief Executive (or indeed in Congress itself), by virtue of having met with North Vietnamese officials during the Vietnam War and having slandered American armed forces. Here is the relevant text:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

(italics added for emphasis) Volokh ultimately concludes that this clause does not apply as one might think it does, but it is an intriguing thought, nonetheless. In more recent years, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) is at the top of this list of those who have come perilously close to giving aid or comfort to our enemies. (link via InstaPundit)

New Photos from Virginia, Summer 2004. They are not actually "new" photos, but we just had them developed a couple weeks ago, and I just scanned the best ones today. It goes to show how far behind the times the old technology is falling. The pictures are mostly from the Shenandoah National Park, including three great closeup shots of beautiful and weird mushrooms. I also added a picture of the Potomac River on the Washington 2004 page, and added contrast to the Jefferson Memorial photo on that page.

There were several crows making lots of noise out back yesterday afternoon, so I went out to see what was going on and spotted one of them chasing a Cooper's hawk very close by. There are Downy woodpeckers and White-breasted nuthatches at our suet feeder almost every day now, but I still haven't seen any White-throated sparrows, which should have arrived from the north by now. Perhaps it's due to the construction next door.

"The World Turned Upside Down" -- That was the name of the song played by the British Army band when General Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington at the Battle of Yorktown on October 19, 1781 -- only one calendar date earlier than the stupendous victory by the underdog Red Sox in the Bronx last night. How can such a thing have happened?? In my view, there were three main factors: reliable batting through the entire Boston lineup, solid pitching (when it really counted, at least), and gritty team spirit. I had wondered how the Yankees would manage to win in the championships without a first-rate pitching staff this year, and the consequences of that gap are now obvious. David Ortiz obviously earned the ALCS MVP award, but it was the down-on-his-luck "caveman" Johnny Damon who provided the necessary power (six RBIs) last night, with TWO homers, including a squeaker of a grand slam and a huge blast into the upper deck. What a well-timed rally on his part! Last year I felt a certain charitable sympathy for that perpetually frustrated team from Boston, but this year was different. During September they clearly established themselves as worthy contenders to the American League pennant. Even after their early losses in the ALCS, I thought they would end up with a respectable showing, but even I couldn't imagine the record-smashing comeback they pulled off in the last four games. Will this triumph help Boston fans to get over their hatred and resentment of the Bronx Bombers, at long last? Will it lead to national reconciliation and promote world peace?? Well, at least now I may be able to wear my Yankees cap without fear when I finally get a chance to see a game in Fenway Park. In the mean time, I will be cheering the Red Sox on in the World Series, confidently and whole-heartedly. That being said, I feel the need to repeat what I wrote about the Florida Marlins victory in last year's World Series: "I hate spunk!"

I've redone the panoramic (spliced-together) photo of the back side of Wrigley Field, and have added large versions of the two other photos on that page. Stil pending are diagram revisions to show how that historic stadium evolved over the early decades of its existence.

October 20, 2004 You're a Republican??? Why, yes, that is What I Am. For a heartfelt manifesto from a guy (George J. Esseff, Sr.) who is sick and tired of all the insults and bigoted stereotypes that have been hurled at members of the Party of Lincoln in recent years, take a look at This appeared as a full-page "open letter" ad in this morning's Washington Post.

In Mexico, there are big protests against the planned construction of a Wal-Mart superstore within a mile or so from the pyramids of Teotihuacan, about 25 miles north of the capital city. See (That popup photo is from our trip to Mexico last year.)

EVENING UPDATE: Jim Edmonds just forced Game 7 in the NLCS with a home run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Just in time for this evening's Main Event to begin!!! Julian Tavares got so mad at himself for blowing Game 5 in Houston that he pulled a Kevin Brown masochism stunt, and I was amazed he was able to pitch with two broken fingers tonight. Interestingly, the Astros-Cardinals series is the first postseason series in at least a couple years in which all games have been won by the home team -- so far. ball The Red Sox jumped out to an early 6-run lead thanks to yet another homer by Ortiz, and a grand slam by Johnny Damon, who has been ice cold lately. In Game 7 of the ALCS last year, the Yanks came back from five runs down to win; can they somehow recover from a six-run deficit this year???

Naughty A-Rod: When I first saw Bronson Arroyo's failed tag on Alex Rodriguez in the 8th inning I had chilling memories of the similar game-ruining gaffe by Bill Buckner in 1986. But then the replays showed clearly that A-Rod had swatted the ball away from Arroyo's glove with his left hand, and the conferring umpires quickly made things right, after which the outraged fans started throwing balls onto the field. Things soon calmed down after riot police took up positions, averting a possible forfeit but spoiling the atmosphere nonetheless. Thanks for leaving a sour taste in our mouths, A-Rod! Let's not forget the incredibly brave pitching performance by Curt Schilling, who somehow lasted SEVEN full innings, in spite of his fragile ankle. The deciding game this evening will be extremely tense, which raises the ugly possibility of another brawl.


The Montreal Expos franchise is officially on the auction block. Do I hear $300 million? The ultimate price will be greatly inflated by virtue of the publicly-subsidized future stadium in D.C., the "extortionary" price of admission made necessary by the obstructionism of Peter Angelos. Interested parties should contact ball In Washington, opponents of city funding for a new stadium seem resigned to defeat, as no one has any better ideas on how to revitalize the South Capitol Street neighborhood. See the Washington Post.

I've just read a book that provides a lot of insight into the recent (and yet-unfinished) struggle over the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. It's Playing Hardball: The High Stakes Battle for Baseball's New Franchises (1993), by Donald Whitford. It focuses mainly on the long campaign by Denver (and Colorado) to land a big league franchise, either via relocation or expansion. Their long sojourn in the "wilderness" is similar to what Washington has been through, except that Denver never had big league ball, and the nearest alternative big league team for them was several hundred miles away. The other case was the Florida Marlins, whose original owner Wayne Huizenga emerged from the pack of franchise contenders quite suddenly, in contrast to Denver. This illustrates how modern baseball has increasingly come under control of flamboyant risk-taking tycoons whose ties to their local communities are often weak. Two other themes in the book are fascinating to me: the persistent role of politicians who get carried away trumpeting economic development spinoffs (such as then-Denver mayor Federico Peña, who later served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation), and the unique personal styles of the successive MLB commissioners who struggle to balance heavy pressure from owners while justifying baseball's special monopoly status as a matter of public interest. How would baseball have evolved in the 1990s if Bart Giamatti had lived a full life?

The 2002 Baseball Archives and 2003 Baseball Archives pages have been cleaned up, and there are now links enabling you to jump from one postseason "scoreboard" to another. (Pretty handy, huh?) Games won by the visiting team are now shaded olive, which reveals some interesting patterns. Another bit of odd trivia I've discovered: there were NO extra-inning games in the 2002 postseason.

Based on the third debates last week, Daniel Drezner raised his probability of voting for Kerry from 60% to 80%. After reconsidering foreign policy comments submitted by his readers, he has since lowered the probability back down to 70%. His explanation is thorough and thoughtful, if not entirely convincing. I do fault Bush for not making it clearer from the outset that we had no desire to stay in Iraq any longer than is necessary, and for not seizing the opportunity to pay respect to the wounded pride of Iraqi people immediately after Saddam Hussein was toppled. I'm not convinced that a bigger occupation force would have made much difference in pacifying Iraq, and I'm definitely not convinced by Kerry's bemoaning Bush's alleged lack of a "plan to win the peace." We're not imperialists, so we can't presume to script the final outcome via a "plan." In a sense, the awkward handling of the transition by U.S. authorities is a reassuring sign that we don't mean to make this a routine course of action. Back to Drezner's main points, his complaints about the lack of coordination between the State Department professionals and administration Neoconservatives such as Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz are valid, in my view. The problem is that this focus makes Drezner quite oblivious to Senator Kerry's policy incoherence, failure to grasp the nature of the conflict, and his lack of commitment to winning the war.

October 19, 2004 The Red Sox came out swinging in Yankee Stadium tonight, but so far (end of 3rd inning) there is no score. Win or lose, the Red Sox deserve huge respect for what they accomplished in their do-or-die home stand this past weekend. Anyway, it will be better for the Yankees if they win at home. Now the big question is, How many innings can Curt Schilling last?

Overcast skies and gathering fog made for a rather poor morning at the Afton Mountain hawk watch. I saw two Sharp-shinned hawks and one American kestrel (male) flying just under the fog bank that was rolling in through Rockfish Gap. There was also a group of 20 or so Cedar waxwings that kept flying around, and several small flocks of Robins heading south. At last week's hawk watch, the skies were bright; I saw a couple Northern harriers, and several sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks. On Bell's Lane yesterday afternoon, Jacqueline and I saw two or three Northern harriers, including an adult male, which is gray on the back and mostly white in front. The white patch on their rump is the most distinctive marking. We also saw a Great blue heron, which seems to have taken up residence in that area.

So what about the flap over John Kerry "outing" Mary Cheney during the last debate? I thought it was tacky and crassly opportunistic, but not much to get excited about. Like President Bush, I'm basically "agnostic" on the nature-vs.-nurture question of "gaity" -- I just don't know how much choice is involved for most people. But that's not good enough for some people such as Richard Cohen, who lambastes Bush's "intellectual obtuseness, the fervid confession of ignorance" in today's Washington Post. Though granting that homosexuality may not be 100% predetermined, he rants on, "Deep in his heart -- which too often functions as his brain -- Bush knows he has pandered to ignorance and homophobia." Just how does Cohen know what is in the President's heart or mind? I sharply disagree with his proposed "Defense of Marriage Amendment," but at least Bush came across as sincere and thoughtful on the subject.

After seeing those big grinning teeth on one of the Sunday morning political shows, I thought of a good question to ask Jimmy Carter:

President Carter, please compare the recent referendum in Venezuela to the 2000 elections in Florida by ranking each on a scale of 1 (filthy, rigged) to 10 (pristine).

Would he dare answer candidly? He often gives the impression that there's not much difference, a disgraceful slur on our political system. Perhaps President-for-Life Hugo Chavez will build a statue to Jimmy Carter to replace the one of Christopher Columbus that was torn down.

October 18, 2004 UPDATE: David Ortiz just drove in the winning run for the second night in a row, keeping the Red Sox's impossible dream alive. This year's "Boston marathon" has been simply unbelievable! And the Astros' 2B Jeff Kent of all people gets to be the hero for the folks in Houston. (Oh, that home field advantage.) So it's back to New York and St. Louis; could this year's postseason top last year's???

George, Princess new nest New But wait, there's MORE on the Fall Photos page. Jacqueline and I drove up to see the fall foliage at Shenandoah National Park yesterday, but there was so much traffic that we had to wait in line at the entrance gate for over 20 minutes. It was clear and sunny, but extremely windy. Inspired by the spirit of the fall season, I went through some old photos that I posted years ago, and one of them looks much better after having adjusted the brightness and contrast using Apple's iPhoto program. See the (revised) Blacksburg page. While I was at it, I added this recent photo of George guarding Princess at her new nest, the first time she has made use of this mini-shelf we installed for that express purpose.

In a fit of hyperbole, John Edwards said last week that if he and Kerry win the election, "people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again." Oh really? In the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer (who is wheelchair-bound) wrote,

In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery. Hope is good. False hope is bad. Deliberately, for personal gain, raising false hope in the catastrophically afflicted is despicable.

Mr. Reeve was a great inspiration for disabled people, but the tragedy of his horse-riding accident was compounded when his life ended up being exploited for political purposes. I'll never forget his dramatic appearance at the 1996 Democratic convention, which laid the sentimental groundwork for Bill Clinton's reelection triumph against the sensible but dour Senator Dole. Reeve asked what was meant by all this talk of "family values," and said, "I think it means we are all family. And we all have value." Like Plato (in his Republic) and like the 19th Century Socialist utopians, he saw no harm in seeking to forge a mass-scale community of sharing and equality. Never mind that such a vision clashes so directly with our own political culture!

What about the sexual harrassment allegedly committed by Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly? It's way too soon to know with any degree of confidence. Just because he fits the stereotype of a "mean-spirited Republican" does not mean he is necessarily guilty, and the same goes for Tom DeLay. As for the latter's troubles, I would hope one side-effect of the recent criticism of him would be to undermine the blatantly partisan redistricting schemes of the kind that he hatched in Texas. Can we hope to reverse the nationwide trend as exemplified by Colorado, Maryland, and Virginia? Both parties share guilt for this.

As a "public service," here are the links to the Web sites cited in last week's "Doonesbury" comic strips. Most of them aim to undermine President Bush's credentials as a conservative. Some of them are up front, making points that I think have validity, while others have a certain aroma of disingenuity, like the "seminar callers" that Rush Limbaugh complains about. To me, the grievances stem from the fundamental liberal-conservative conundrum associated with war that Bruce Porter (1994) called attention to. Even if Garry Trudeau doesn't buy the conservative premises to begin with, thus casting doubt on the sincerity of this bit of campaigning, they are worth reading for open-minded people.

HOLY COW! I still can hardly believe what I saw transpire after midnight up at Fenway Park. My hunch that Boston would refuse to quit, in spite of having dropped the first three games to the Yankees, was proven correct. Who cares that no team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in a postseason series? Anything is possible! Those scrappy wild card teams have certainly added lots of spark to the postseason, and we should give credit where credit is due for that innovation: Thanks, Mr. Selig! Nevertheless, I still think the highest-percentage team in each league should get a bigger advantage than at present, with only three games in the first round, and all at home. That's a little different from what I had suggested before; after rethinking the matter, I decided that a 3 home game / 2 away game series format would put too much pressure on the team with the home field advantage.

Interestingly, both games yesterday were decided by a home run to the right field bullpen. It was also coincidental that "Houston" and "Boston" rhyme, and both are in states that are home to a presidential candidate. What's more, both stadiums bear strong similarities in layout, with a short left field with a high wall and grandstands that are squeezed in along the foul line. (That's not really a coincidence, however, since it reflects the conscious imitation of Fenway Park by the designers of MinuteMaid Park.) The two games in Boston lasted well over nine hours altogether. The 19-8 blowout by the Yankees on Saturday set a number of records, too many to mention here. The Astros have proven themselves worthy competitors to the Cardinals. Carlos Beltran and Albert Pujols are just amazing.

I've received a lot of news tips and corrections on baseball stadium news over the last several days, and I'm sorry that I can't always respond right away. Steven Poppe laid out a list of stadium diagrams in need of revision and/or updating, including some of the "neutral" venues such as the TokyoDome. T.J. Zmina (whose photos are on the PNC Park page) told me that the scrolling stadium menus overlap with each other; I hope that's fixed now. Marc Gilbert tells me that the dugouts at Dodger Stadium will be moved forward next year, as part of the recent grandstand renovations there. I ran across some great photos of it and many other stadiums at As always, I greatly appreciate fan feedback, and I keep track of such input on my "to do" list, near the top of which is revising the grievously outdated Baseball in D.C. page.

Take that, European colonizers! In Venezuela, supporters of President Hugo Chavez commemorated the 514th anniversary of the discovery of America by toppling a statue of Christopher Columbus. Chavez has declared October 12 to be "Indian Resistance Day." See Yesterday a high-rise office building in Caracas went up in flames, but no fatalities were reported. President Chavez has warned opposition governors that they will be jailed if they fail to give up their office should they lose the October 31 elections. Many regime opponents have charged that the elections are being rigged, just as the referendum in August apparently was.

October 13, 2004 UPDATE: Bush continued to improve both stylistically and in [terms of his] command of the issues tonight. Even liberal stalwart Mort Kondracke gave Bush the win. There were a couple solid points made by Kerry that Bush either didn't answer or didn't have a chance to answer, but otherwise he kept Kerry on the defensive the whole time. Also, Kerry repeatedly strayed away from the questions that were asked, feeling like he needed to make one more point about the previous issue, a bad sign. Bush handled with sincere ease the final question about the role of his wife and daughters, whereas it was almost too painful to watch Kerry do likewise. I felt a little sorry for him.

Once again, the Red Sox couldn't quite mount enough of a comeback against the Yankees tonight, losing 3-1. They've still got plenty of fight left in them, though no league championship has ever been won by a team that lost the first two games. Whatever happens, 2004 will mark another great chapter in one of the biggest rivalries in sporting history. We've learned that Curt Schilling's rocky outing last night was the result of his tendon snapping across his ankle bone every time his foot pivoted. He is listed as "hopeful" for Game 5 (if there is one), but Boston's pitching staff has plenty of depth, so even if he can't make it, they'll still be competitive. ball The Cards beat the Astros by the same score as the Yanks did to the Bosox last night, 10-7. There seem to be a lot of repeated scores this postseason (8-3, especially).

Persimmons Yes, folks, it's that time of year again: Persimmon season!! If you've never munched on one before, you don't know what you're missing. "Try it, you'll like it!" (This photo is a year or two old, actually.)

New More recent Fall Photos, including a green dragonfly, a "Golden Garden Spider," and a scenic shot of Waynesboro and the Blue Ridge, which is just starting to turn colors. More to come!!

Just in time for the third presidential debate, I've written another big essay on "Understanding the War on Terrorism," posted on the SWACGOP Web site. Yet another plaintive appeal to fair-minded skeptics of the war, interspersed with a few sharp political barbs. (HINT: Your vote this year counts more than you could ever imagine.) Revisions are likely, in which case I'll post an updated version on this Web site. Back to the debates, the first two were pleasantly substantive, rising above the low standards we have come to expect in recent years. Too bad it interrupts tonight's ball game in The Bronx.

The Red Sox certainly showed they've got spunk last night, coming within one run of the Yanks after falling eight runs behind. If David Ortiz's drive to left center field in the eighth inning had gone about two feet further, it would have set a postseason comeback record. The way things turned out, the 10-7 loss probably qualified as a moral victory for Boston, whose batting lineup and pitching staff are simply awe inspiring. The Bosox don't need anybody's sympathy this year; indeed, they could ... go ... all ... the ... WAY! ball Arghhh! The FOX channel on our TV is all screwed up at the moment; where is "the cable guy" when you need him?

After a three month respite from attempts at reproduction, Princess started building a nest again last week, and has just laid three eggs. She and George are still molting a little bit, but their energy levels are more or less back to normal. George sings now and then, and except for the time he spends guarding Princess at her nest, he is very active.

October 11, 2004 New" Fabulous close-up photos taken by my brother John: four sparrow species, including -- by amazing coincidence -- the Lincoln's sparrow I saw for the first time ever on Saturday. (I'm 99% certain now.) All four photos were taken at Spirit Mound, the historical site where Lewis and Clark stopped to visit 200 years ago. Compare the juvenile White-crowned sparrow he took with the adult I took. Like the late great Rodney Dangerfield (born Jacob Cohen), sparrows are plain birds that "don't get no respect," but there are a lot of subtle differences once you start to pay close attention.

Glenn Reynolds writes in unusual detail about Kerry's comments in a New York Times Magazine article about wanting to reduce terrorism to the level of a "nuisance." Bush and his campaign organization jumped all over Kerry for that one, and there is a big irony in that Bush himself had caught some flak in early September for saying that we should not expect a clearcut military victory over the terrorists. That's just common sense, but Kerry has an extra burden of proof to surmount, by virtue of his own mealy-mouthed past statements that cast doubt on his commitment to prevail in the war on terrorism. Furthermore, the Bush ads mocking Kerry contain a very valid fundamental criticism: Over three years after 9/11, Kerry still shows no indication of grasping the nature of the Arab-Islamic fascist movement, or the political agenda behind it. He really does seem to think of terrorism as just an extreme form of juvenile delinquency that we just have to live with. On that point, he is dead wrong.

The networks and major newspapers all focused on the part of the report by U.S. chief weapons inspector Robert Duelfer that concluded that Saddam Hussein's capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction had been seriously degraded during the 1990s. Hardly any of them picked up on the part that found large-scale bribery of U.N. officials via the hopelessly corrupt "oil for food" program, rendering the economic sanctions against Iraq and the whole idea of "containing" Saddam a pathetic joke. (See Washington Post.) No surprise there. Another bit of good news for the Bush administration that got lost in the shuffle was the electoral victory of Australian Prime Minister John Howard's conservative coalition. He is almost as important an ally of the United States as Britain's Tony Blair.

In South Dakota, John Thune seems to have a narrow lead against incumbent Senator Tom "Mr. Obstruction" Daschle. The Washington Post reports that both candidates are pandering to West River ranchers who regard prairie dogs as destructive pests. Mainly for political reasons, environmental regulations on prairie dogs were recently loosened, so thousands of those burrowing rodents will probably be poisoned in coming months. To think that such peripheral issues might tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate...

In Peru, a reporter of the "Fourth Branch" investigative television program resigned under pressure after a sharp confrontation with President Toledo over allegations of corruption.

Former President of Costa Rica Miguel Angel Rodriguez resigned as General Secretary of the Organization of American States only two weeks after he took office. It was reported that he had received kickbacks from the French Alcatel company for a cellular telephone contract. He denied the accusations. Costa Rica is regarded as one of the most peaceful, prosperous, clean, and democratic countries in Latin America, and this case was a setback for the country's international prestige.

Killer bees! So the Astros have won their first-ever postseason series after 43 years of trying. Meanwhile, the Braves' championship dreams have once again been thwarted, as if it's expected. Those may be the two most frustrated teams in baseball today, but either of them would be hard pressed to beat the Cardinals. Is Houston due? It was nice for a long-suffering lower-ranked team like the Angels to finally get a moment of glory a couple years ago, but other teams have waited even longer. At least Turner Field was (over-) filled to capacity this time; the empty seats in the first two games were an embarrassment. Houston's remarkable success since mid-August is all the more amazing considering that Andy Pettite has been on the DL for so long. What if Roger Clemens faces Curt Schilling in the World Series, with both pitchers having switched leagues since their last joint appearance in 2001!?

October 10, 2004 I went searching for newly arriving winter migrants on the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Co. Rescue Squad this morning, and was lucky to spot three such species, indicated by asterisks below. It's always striking to see "winter" and "summer" birds alongside each other this time of year.

  • Winter wren *
  • Towhees
  • Robins
  • Phoebes
  • Black-throated green warblers (JF, JM/F)
  • Hairy woodpecker (F)
  • Cooper's hawks (J -- 1 quite close, 2 "dogfighting" up high, perhaps including the same one as before. Lots of white feathers at base of tail.)
  • Cedar waxwings (10+)
  • Ruby-crowned kinglets (3+) *
  • WB nuthatch
  • Yellow-rumped warbler *
  • Wilson's warbler (close -- first all year!)
  • Blue-headed vireo (several great looks, possibly more than one)
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Brown thrasher
  • Rose-breasted grosbeak (F -- close)

ALSO, I drove out on Rt. 637 across I-64 west of Augusta hospital yesterday and saw a mixed flock of sparrows on the side of the road, including song, field, and grasshopper, as well as what I think were Lincoln's sparrows, based on the overall rich golden buffy color on the upper parts, and thin black streaks. It is listed as a rare transient in "Birds of Augusta County," and I had never seen one before, so I'm less than 100% sure. There were two red-tailed hawks, a kestrel, a red-bellied woodpecker, a flock of robins, and some bluebirds nearby.

The local Republicans (hardly any of whom fit the "country club" stereotype) held a successful golf tournament at the Ingleside Resort in Staunton on Friday, followed by a prime rib dinner at the Mill Street Grill downtown. I didn't hit any double eagles this time, but I suppose I played alright, especially given my lack of practice. The weather was just spectacular, as you can see at Golf 2004. This was all timed to coincide with the second presidential debate, which definitely went better for President Bush than the first debate. The Bush Web site lists 19 inaccuracies by Kerry during the debate.

Here we go again! The Red Sox will face the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, just like last year. These being the two highest percentage teams in the AL, this is as it should be. Don Zimmer isn't coaching for the Yanks anymore, so who will Pedro Martinez throw to the ground when the next fight breaks out? Seriously, the Red Sox have shown they are true AL pennant contenders, combining skill, determination, and (so far) self-discipline. (Too bad the Cubs couldn't do likewise.) The Braves eked out another come-from-behind win over the Astros today and will now get a chance to advance to the NLCS at home tomorrow night. The Dodgers are struggling to survive another day against the Cardinals right now, but it doesn't look good. ball UPDATE: Game over, Cards win 6-2.

Parting is such bitter sorrow: Who can blame Canadians for scorning the $weetheart deal that brought the Expos to D.C.? Here's a headline from "Washington name? Call 'em the Suckers -- The deal that brought major-league baseball back to Washington is so one-sided there's no need to hold a contest to come up with a name for the franchise" The Washington Post's political columnist David Broder suggested the team be called "The Reagans" because everything else in Washington has been named after The Gipper lately. Or maybe "The Gippers"?

As for us Washingtonians and Virginians, after waiting for baseball for so many years, the recent turn of events is still almost too unreal to believe. (Thomas Boswell eloquently explored this theme last week in the Washington Post.) But it makes me think, if such outrageously improbable things are possible, then who knows, maybe the Red Sox can win the World Series! I said "maybe." ball Meanwhile, former rogue mayor Marion Barry says he will fight any public funding for the new ballpark in Washington, echoing the flat-out rejectionist position of council member Adrian Fenty. Do they have any better ideas for bringing in private money to clean up and redevelop the South Capitol Street neighborhood? Tomorrow's Post has an article on the political opposition to Mayor Williams' baseball deal. Let there be no doubt: This was a sweetheart deal and deserves serious scrutiny in terms of public policy. But beyond the strict developmental aspects of building a new ballpark there lies the deeper socio-psychological purpose of healing the racial animosities that exploded in the 1960s. That was a big reason for baseball's departure in 1971, and Mayor Williams is well aware of the unique role baseball can play in making things right again in Our Nation's Capital.

October 6, 2004 What home field advantage? Three of the first four playoff games were won by the lower-seeded visiting teams, yet more proof that anything can happen in the wide-open baseball postseason. Har-rumph! See the Postseason scores table. ball UPDATE: The Twins scored a run in the top of the 12th inning, but A-Rod's clutch double and Matsui's sac fly saved the day for the Bronx Bombers, who won 7-6. Whew!

Activists in Our Nation's Capital are already organizing to try to block any public funding of a new ballpark, under the false assumption that there is a fixed "pie" of goodies to be divided upon among various factions. ("Education, Homelessness Are More Pressing Priorities, D.C. Group Says" -- Washington Post.) In a capitalist system such as ours, the pursuit of investment opportunities creates a positive-sum gain for society as a whole, though sometimes at a cost to certain groups. True, the economic development spinoffs from sports stadium construction are often exaggerated, but anyone with any familiarity with the South Capitol Street neighborhood should know how desperately new capital investment is needed there. Such blighted areas are a main reason for despair, which is what leads to so many other social ills. The real question is whether to spend D.C. government money from the existing tight budget, or to spend money drawn from new revenue sources in a way that attracts a steady and increasing flow of private money. The amount of money that would be spent in that area by suburban fans would probably cover the entire cost of the stadium well before the expected 30-year bond term expires. Such an injection of outside wealth will have a huge multiplier effect, stimulating new business and residential construction. (See last Sunday's Washington Post.) For anyone who genuinely wants to expand economic opportunities in the inner cities, this should be a no-brainer. The protesters seem more interested in thwarting the private sector elites and blocking investment than in looking out for poor people's best interests. The only question is whether the dislocated residents of the area will be adequately compensated and treated with respect.

Speaking of compensation, negotiations with Peter Angelos are dragging on and on and on. No surprise there. I think some kind of cushion is entirely appropriate, much like the adjustment subsidies given to workers in industries impacted by foreign imports. The point of such programs, however, is to ease the transition, not create a permanent entitlement. Angelos wants not only a 60 percent share of the Baltimore-Washington broadcasting profits, but a guaranteed $360 million resale value for his franchise and an automatic payment to make up for any revenue decline after the team begins playing in D.C. Any one or two of those would be reasonable, but all three? The word chutzpah does not begin to describe Mr. Angelos. ball CORRECTION: The Expos lost to the Mets in their last game, not the Marlins. Thanks for that to "TopGear" who also writes, "By the way, it's interesting to note that the Expos' first game ever was at Shea Stadium as well as their last (as the Expos, at least)."

For me the Yankees-Twins game took precedence over the vice presidential debate last night. I cringe at smiley-faced huckster John Edwards the way many people cringe at the curmudgeonly Dick Cheney. His gruff style doesn't bother me, and in fact it is often very appropriate. I'm puzzled what he could have been thinking, however, when he declared that last night was the first time he had ever met Mr. Edwards when there is proof that the two had been in the same place on at least one previous occasion. I assume it was a mental lapse, but I'm afraid it will just end up giving more ammunition for those who complain about Bush-Cheney "lies."

new Wondering what the effect will be if New Jersey or Ohio votes differently than in the 2000 presidential race? Try the Electoral College Simulation, created by yours truly for the local Republican Party Web site. Many thanks to my younger brother Dan for trouble-shooting the JavaScript.

October 4, 2004 UPDATE: Postseason 2004. In a more perfect world, the winningest team in each league would have a bigger advantage in the playoffs*, and frankly I would love to see a rematch of the 1964 Yanks vs. Cards contest. As we've seen in recent years, however, it's anybody's guess as to who will advance to the World Series. The Astros seemed to come from out of nowhere in in the final week, while the Cubs choked, to my distress. The Dodgers and the Angels both made it: isn't it funny how rival franchises in big markets are often so competitive! Will the team in Washington next year give the Orioles the motivation they've been lacking? Nearly all the teams in the playoffs are stronger in batting than in pitching -- except for the Astros, and possibly the Red Sox. (Wild card teams: hmmm...) ball Also, thanks to James Mauro for reminding me which division the K.C. Royals now play in. (D'oh!) The list of stadiums by league and division on the left side of the Baseball page has been duly corrected.
* I.e., the first round would be in a 3 home game -- 2 away game format (rather than 2 -- 2 -- 1), and there would only be a wild card slot if a team had a winning percentage higher than one of the divisional champions; otherwise, "bye" for the number one team!

While biking along Bell's Lane late this afternoon, I saw a Kestrel, two juvenile Northern harriers -- whose low-altitude hovering tactic while they hunt is awesome to watch, several Palm warblers, 30 or so Canada geese, and a Great blue heron. The weather was perfect.

It seemed pretty clear to me that President Bush did better than Senator Kerry in the first 30 or so minutes of the first debate last week, effectively underlining the key arguments, such as: Terrorism is the end result of hatred deliberately sowed by dictatorial regimes in the Middle East. Therefore, our security depends on changing their regimes. It's a simple, fundamental point that folks on Kerry's side tend to ignore. Bush also pointed out that if Kerry really believed in U.N.-sponsored international security, he would have voted to authorize U.S. military action in Iraq in January 1991 -- after the U.N. Security Council had already passed the necessary resolution. Bush also made fun of Kerry for saying he would meet a "global test" in deciding on foreign intervention, but failed to go for the jugular when he had the chance. (See Just One Minute (Tom Maguire) and Juan Cole for thoughts on what the "global test" might mean.)

It was just as clear that Bush got fatigued as the debate wore on and let his irritation at Kerry show, a major stylistic boo-boo. Both Kerry and Bush got very repetitive toward the end, but Kerry did much better in regaining his composure. Upon this very non-substantive basis, most people (at least those in the polls and in the media) picked Kerry as the winner. So, it's going to be a "horse race," after all. Video tape of the first debate shows that John Kerry pulled something from his coat pocket as he stepped up to the podium, a possible violation of the lengthy debate rules, which specified no cheat sheets, among other things. See, via Drudge Report.

Finally, just for fun, here are some recent ScrappleFace headlines:

  • Kerry Battles Bush Without Plan to Win Peace
  • Rev. Jackson Brings Black Windsurfers Into Kerry Camp
  • Kerry Musters Coalition to Debate Bush
  • Kerry: I'll Kill Bin Laden with My Bare Hands

SE DC stadium siteI've been "on the road" quite a bit for the past several days. While in our historic state capital last week, I stopped at the home of Richmond Braves and took some photos of The Diamond. (That's the first minor league stadium page I've done, though there is yet no diagram.) Over the weekend I paid a visit to Washington, D.C., where I stopped at the former site of Griffith Stadium and RFK Stadium (which by weird coincidence had to be evacuated later that day due to a bomb threat). Two new photos are found on the respective stadium pages. Finally, I ventured into my (brief) old neighborhood on South Capitol Street, where the future ballpark will be built. (See photo.)

Au Revoir! While Washingtonians danced in the streets and uncorked champaign bottles, 31,395 melancholy Montreal fans showed up at Olympic Stadium to say goodbye to their beloved Expos last Wednesday night. They've known this was coming for several years, which is no doubt why the fans were much better behaved than the ones who stormed the field at the last game in RFK Stadium 33 years ago, causing a forfeit. Or maybe Canadians are just nicer folks. Anyway, the Expos lost to the [Mets] in their last game, 9 to 1. I know from experience what a beautiful city Montreal is, and it would behoove joyful Washington-area fans not to forget the sadness felt by those true-blue fans up north.

Next April 15, the Ex-Expos, or whatever they will be called, will play their first home game in 43-year old RFK Stadium, where no official baseball games have been played for the last 33 years. The longest such vacant lapse among the four previous "hand-me-down" stadiums was four years. When the A's moved into Kansas City's Municipal Stadium in 1955, that structure (or its first deck, rather) was already 32 years old. The Washington Post has a full report on the momentous occasion, and has already launched a new D.C. Baseball Web site, for ticket and merchandise information.

YB sapsucker While taking a picture of RFK Stadium yesterday, my niece Cathy and I saw two Great egrets [and a Great blue heron] in the Anacostia River. In Manassas Park, Virginia, I saw a Yellow-bellied sapsucker for the first time this fall, and was lucky to get a semi-decent photo. Even under perfect lighting conditions, the belly is only pale yellow. You can tell this is a male by the red throat.

ex-President Jimmy Carter bitterly complained about elections in Florida in last Monday's Washington Post. He has become an expert in overseeing elections around the world, most recently in Venezuela. (Hugo Chavez owes him a big favor.) I thought the tone of Carter's piece was unfortunately partisan, another sign of the sad times we live in. Libertarian blogger Asymmetrical Information, "Jane Galt" (pseudonym referring to Atlas Shrugged character) offers a much sharper retort to Carter's insinuation that our electoral process has descended to Third World status.

Smokin'! Take a look at the Mt. St. Helens Web cam (via InstaPundit)