Latin America, 2007
Wild birds, 2007
Science & Technology, 2007
Culture & Travel, 2007
February, 2022 X
December, 2020 X
November, 2020 X
October, 2020 X
April, 2020 X
March, 2020 X
February, 2020 X
January, 2020 X
May, 2018 X
April, 2018 X
May, 2014 X
November, 2013 X
May 18, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Rocket science 101
The illustrious, larger-than-life Roger Clemens is about to make his first pitching start since rejoining the Yankees -- but only in the franchise's minor league team in Tampa Bay. It may be a week or more before we see him play with the Bronx Yankees. Last Sunday's Washington Post compared The Rocket to Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, and other all-time greatest pitchers. They used lifetime winning percentage (his is .662), ERA (3.10), strikeouts (4,604), and three special measurements that adjust for contemporary conditions, stadiums, etc. The upshot is that he could indeed be considered the very best pitcher in major league history. Perhaps his "swan song" year (or years!) with the Yankees may provide ammunition for arguing one way or the other. The fact that he wants to stay in the competitive heat long after his Hall of Fame qualifications had been achieved beyond dispute says a lot about him.
The mail bag
From Mike Zurawski: Now that the Minnesota Twins have cleared the last legal hurdle to begin construction of their new stadium, the team announced that the process of demolition and clearing the land will begin on Monday. Formal groundbreaking ceremonies will not take place until August, however. Befitting the politically correct culture of Minnesota, the construction engineers will try to recycle materials as much as possible, using crushed stone and asphalt from the existing site in the concrete forms of the new stadium. See MLB.com.
May 20, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Eurasian Collared Doves
Responding to a rare bird e-mail alert, I drove up to the town of Sangerville, in northern Augusta County late this afternoon, and was fortunate to spot a Eurasian collared dove within a few minutes. It was almost exactly where it was supposed to be. The black collar was clearly visible even from a distance of 100+ yards, and the white-tipped tail was obvious when it flew. I noticed they have a very pale tan color. It seemed to glide and swoop more than a Mourning dove, almost reminding me of a swallow in flight. It did seem to respond to my dove calls, and after 15 minutes or so I saw two of them flying at the same time, so it may well be a breeding pair. LIFE BIRD!
Eurasian Collared Doves somehow expanded their range from the Old World through the Caribbean and became established in Florida during the 1980s. They are gradually expanding in range and numbers, but I don't know if they pose a threat to their cousins, the Mourning doves. Another example of our failed immigration policy!
It so happens that Sangerville is almost exactly one mile east of where State Senator Emmett Hanger lives. Of the two candidates running in the Republican primary election on June 12, he is the one who is more concerned with environmental and conservation issues, and he has the legislative record to prove it.
On the way up to Sangerville, I saw a Solitary sandpiper (first of season) and a Least sandpiper in the Mount Solon pond, which is mostly drained for some reason. Also, the Purple martins (see photo; first of season) are settling in to the housing complex at the Spring Hill Rd. corner just north of town, but they've got competition from Starlings. Other birds of note seen today:
- Hummingbird (M)
- Blue-gray gnatcatcher
- Red-eyed vireo
- Indigo buntings
- Chipping sparrow
- Red-headed woodpecker (???)
- Brown thrasher
Late migrating warblers
Blackpoll warblers have been zipping about the tree tops almost everywhere for the past few days, it seems, which is a clear sign that bird migration season is almost over. Darn... Here is what I have seen along the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad trail over the past few days:
- Canada warbler (M, FOS)
- Blackpoll warblers (M, F)
- Downy woodpecker
- Goldfinches (M, F)
- Great crested flycatchers
- Indigo buntings
Colombian hummers in peril
A new species of hummingbird was discovered in the jungles of Colombia recently. Unfortunately, the existence of the "Gorgeted Puffleg" (!) is threatened by coca farmers, who slash and burn trees to clear more land for coca cultivation. The researchers put their lives at risk -- the FARC guerrillas kill or kidnap anyone suspected of working for the government -- just to gather evidence about this tiny, unique creature of God. See CNN.com.
May 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Senator Hanger on tax reform
Anyone who thinks that Sen. Emmett Hanger is "running away from his tax-hiking record" (as D.J. McGuire stated) should take a close look at his detailed policy statement on tax reform at his new blog, "The Responsible Republican." (Actually, his blog is almost two weeks old already, and I'm just now getting caught up with it!) Sen. Hanger really tells it like it is, making some of the same points he made to the Staunton Republican Committee three weeks ago:
For the overwhelming majority of the families that I represent, the net impact of the tax package was a tax reduction rather than a tax increase. The implication that it was the "largest tax increase in Virginia's history" is totally bogus.
The major changes that figure into this are:
These changes produced approximately $700 million per year in additional revenue to the state, but roughly $500 million per year of that amount was returned to the localities to pay for existing programs, primarily education and public safety. The remaining additional revenue was allocated to higher education costs (reducing the need for increased tuition) and mandated Chesapeake Bay cleanup costs.
- Income tax was decreased slightly for everyone, no matter what income level by increasing the personal exemption amount from $800 to $900
- Sales tax was increased by one half of a percent (this was the major component of the tax increase), but two percent was taken off of food
- The estate tax was eliminated
- Cigarette taxes were increased and the proceeds directed to health costs
- Recordation fees were increased for real estate transactions
The statement that the additional revenue was used to "create new liberal social programs" is totally bogus.
The point about returning most of the additional revenues to the localities is especially important in light of recent controversies about property tax rates in Staunton and Waynesboro. Obviously, Sen. Hanger knows his stuff, inside and out. As they say, read the whole thing.
On a more general level, I am usually very skeptical whenever I hear about a tax hike or tax cut of X million dollars; any such scalar (one-dimensional) measure is bound to be misleading, because it depends on the time frame and economic projections, which are never certain. It's better to compare changes in rates for particular kinds of taxes, restricting the focus to single-year intervals, and then to evaluate the overall revenue effect after the fact.
May 11, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Rudy's stand on abortion
In an age where almost all political candidates hem, haw, and triangulate their policy positions so as to minimize any offense they might cause by expressing an opinion, Rudy Giuliani's reaffirmation of his position on abortion was a nice change of pace. He says he opposes it on a personal level but respects the woman's right to choose as a matter of individual conscience. He also made an important distinction -- which many people fail to grasp -- between the merits of the issue and the judicial standard of case precedent; he could live with a Supreme Court ruling upholding Roe v. Wade, or one that overturned it. See Washington Post. Some people on both sides of the issue will probably be outraged, but I hope that more people will respect Giuliani for sticking to his guns, even at considerable political risk. (Dogwood Pundit concurs with that.) The last thing we need is getting bogged down in another divisive "wedge issue" over an intractable public policy dilemma.
May 17, 2007 [LINK / comment]
The Nationals are on a roll
The Nationals followed up their sweep of the Marlins with a 3-1 series win over the Braves, who were thereby knocked out of first place. That makes six wins over the last seven games, in marked contrast to the first five weeks when they only won consecutive games twice! This time the bullpen gets most of the credit. In Wednesday's game, a total of six relievers held the Braves to just two hits over five innings; Chad Cordero pitched for the first time since he took bereavement leave, and Jon Rauch -- filling in as closer -- earned another save. (He has three now.) In the last two games, the Nats have come from behind to win, and today the two Ryans were the heroes: Zimmerman hit a homer to start the fifth inning (he seems to be coming out of his batting slump), and Church got a three-run double. See MLB.com. The whole team is starting to click, getting clutch hits and occasional flashes of excellence, so maybe they will end up with a respectable record this season after all. Over the long term, of course, most things tend to even out, so perhaps the recent upsurge shouldn't be so surprising.
May 15, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Wonderful weekend road trips
Jacqueline and I had an exceptionally busy and enjoyable weekend, with two (2) road trips. On Saturday afternoon, we drove south to Raphine, the first time we had been to that town, which is located in northeastern Rockbridge County -- not far from the War of the Worlds movie set, in fact. Then we headed west to the Buffalo Springs Herb Farm , which sells all sorts of scented soaps, candles, and assorted household knicknacks. Jacqueline was just delighted. We also shopped at their herb greenhouse and walked through the exquisitely landscaped gardens. Next we strolled over to Wade's Mill (see photo), which is right next door. It has been restored to its 19th Century condition, and once again produces grain mill products, though their output is now packaged in one-pound bags designed for tourists rather than in 50-pound bags. We had planned to go for a walk along the nature trail across the road, but a heavy thunderstorm trapped us inside the Buffalo Springs barn/shop for over a half hour. No matter; it was a very pleasant place to take refuge!
On Sunday, we drove up to Humpback Rocks in the Blue Ridge, and hiked to the top (about 1,000 feet up) for the first time in almost three years. (Pant, pant ... I really need to get back in shape again.) It was chillier than on Saturday, but the skies were clear blue and ideal for taking photographs. A report on the birds we saw there and other places will follow later today. To see more photos from this weekend and earlier this spring, see the new Spring 2007 photo gallery ; you can also click on the image above.
May 31, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Campaigning with Emmett
Local Republicans Stan and Jean Cline, along with Senator Emmett Hanger, at a gathering hosted by Mr. Michael Organ at the Belle Grae Inn in Staunton on Wednesday evening.
I hit the streets of Staunton with Senator Hanger and some other volunteers last night, and got quite a workout climbing those hills in the New Town area. It just shows that I'm still not in shape. The senator chatted with a number of local residents of that revitalizing historic district, and was received very warmly, listening to their various concerns. New Town is the perfect embodiment of an old-fashioned community, where people of various income levels live together in harmony. Afterwards, Senator Hanger met with a number of neighborhood residents at the Belle Grae Inn, discussing policy issues in depth.
May 27, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Nationals win another series
Home runs by former Cardinal Ronnie Belliard and Ryan Langerhans (who hit a grand slam) were the keys to the victory by the Nationals over the Cardinals today. Once again, the bargain-basement team from Washington showed they belong in the major leagues, prevailing over a World Champion team that has been "under-achieving" this year. Until the second week of May, the Nationals had not won any series this season, but since then they have won four out of five series. What is especially notable is the fact that in only one game during this period have the Nationals been outscored by more than two runs. The team's future looks bright, and the present isn't so shabby, either.
One of the biggest contributors to the recent success has been relief pitcher Jesus Colome, who has won four games (leading the Nats) and an ERA of only 2.20. Only four other pitchers with 30 or more innings this year have a lower ERA than that. See MLB.com
Yanks keep struggling
In New York, the Yankees got swept by the Angels, and are only one game ahead of the last-place Devil Rays in the AL East. This, notwithstanding the superb performance of Jorge Posada, who leads all major league regular players in batting average, with .372. (He batted .287 in his best year, 2000.) Derek Jeter is batting .352, close behind.
The mail bag
Tim Gilbert writes to ask if anyone has ever heard the St. Louis Cardinals being called the "Fighting Cardinals." He has a family heirloom souvenir mini-baseball bat, probably from the 1920s, and it contains the words "Sportsmans Park" and "Fighting Cardinals." He posted a message about this on baseball-fever.com, but no luck yet. Anyone?
May 30, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Local Democrats nominate Cox
While we Republicans were hashing out our policy differences at the Hanger-Sayre forum last night (Myron "Republitarian" called it a draw), the Democrats held a mass meeting in Verona and nominated David Cox to run for the 24th District seat in the Virginia Senate. It was a surprise ending to the sudden surge of activity by Democrats in this area; Will Hrovat had been touted as the presumptive nominee. (For more background, see May 22 and May 17.) Former State Senator Frank Nolen, the Democrat who was unseated by Emmett Hanger in 1995 election, noted with irony that the same rhetoric which Sen. Hanger used against Nolen back then, is now being used by Mr. Sayre against Sen. Hanger. (There was certainly more validity to charge that the opponent was a "tax-spending liberal" in 1995 than there is today.) See The New Dominion. Cox is a retired Episcopal (!) priest from Rockbridge County who lost to Ben Cline in the 2005 race for House of Delegates -- also the 24th District, by pure coincidence. About this nomination, Staunton Democratic blogger Clifford Garstang crows:
It was a stark contrast to the mud-slinging we've seen in the Republican party contest between Emmett Hanger and Scott Sayre, and should tell the public something about the state of the Democratic Party in Virginia today: we are united in our goal of restoring fiscal responsibilty and people-centered policies to our General Assembly.
Meanwhile, we Republicans cannot even agree on what the "fiscal responsibilty" part of the RPV creed means, and some are even questioning who holds which party offices. It's not a very good way to start the fall campaign...
Bush "wins" on war funding
The Democrats in Congress can make all the noise they want, but at the end of the day enough of them will make sure the troops on the ground in Iraq get enough funding to continue their operations. So, the victory by President Bush in getting Congress to pass the Iraq war funding measure last week (see Washington Post) was not very surprising. The big question is, at what cost did the victory come? For me, two things stand out: the dreaded "benchmarks" term, which puts a tight leash on the Iraqi government at a time when they need to be exercising their prerogatives of sovereignty. It's hard for the U.S. government to get out of that dilemma. Second, Bush had to make so many legislative compromises just to get a short-term extension of funding that he helped the Democrats achieve much of what they promised in last fall's campaign. For example, raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour over the next two years will induce even more illegal immigration, as businesses seek cheaper labor. To me, adding further fuel to the ongoing firestorm of controversy over immigration is just plain idiotic. More of Karl Rove's genius?
Thus, I would find it hard to disagree with Richmond Democrat, who wrote that Bush merely won a "Pyrrhic victory" on the Iraq funding bill. For you folks in Rio Linda, that refers to Pyrrhus, the King of Epirus, who defeated the Roman army in 280 B.C. but at such a high cost in casualties that the Romans eventually repelled his invading forces. (I learned that in Miss Lydia Bartling's Latin class back in high school.) The implication is that by winning this battle, President Bush may have conceded long-term defeat in the overall policy war in Washington.
May 28, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Memorial Day 2007
Bob Ladd, the owner of Shenandoah Harley-Davidson/Buell, speaks to the "Rolling Thunder" veterans gathered to honor their fallen comrades at the Staunton National Cemetary.
Just like last year, I marked Memorial Day by paying a visit to the Staunton National Cemetary. This was was different, however, as a large contingent (about 60, including spouses, etc.) of "Rolling Thunder" veterans paid their respects at this historical site. Before their motorcycles roared in, the civilian visitors to the cemetary were treated to a brief history lesson given by Mr. Ernest Petemines, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. He made it clear that we can all have different political opinions about the war, but the duty to serve one's country, and the respect that all Americans owe to our current and former armed service members, are paramount.
Words of inspiration (and warning)
As the debates on Capitol Hill over war funding rage on, it is a good idea to step back and read some of the more thoughtful commentaries on the present strategic situation in the Middle East, and what the stakes are. Mohammed Fadhil wrote in the New York Daily News that the United States "should stay and fight," condemning those in the United States who want to pull our troops out precipitously. Dr. Fahdil (a dentist) is the author of the defiantly upbeat Iraq the Model blog, live from Baghad. He proclaimed:
It is up to us to show tyrants and murderers like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, Syria's Bashar Assad, and their would-be imitators who seek to control Iraq's people and wealth that we, the people, are not their possessions. They can't take out our humanity and they can't force us to back down.
In the Wall Street Journal, Bernard Lewis described how the successful U.S.-led response to the 9/11 attacks undermined the entire rationale of Osama bin Laden, who told his followers that the West was decadent and weak-willed. It is only since the last two years that the psychological edge has shifted back in the Islamists' favor, and in light of recent political trends, Lewis questions whether the American people have enough fighting spirit needed to prevail.
It's been quite a while since I've read his blog, but as the debates in Washington go on, it would be a good idea to read Steven den Beste's Strategic Overview of the war against Arab-Islamic terrorism. He lays out the case for war in very clear, rational, unemotional terms. (Link via Baseball Crank.)
I think the most important lesson for Memorial Day is that Americans need to stand together, whatever their political party or beliefs. As Abraham Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." In a free country such as ours, however, "standing together" means respecting the inevitable differences of opinion that arise, and defending the rights of loyal dissenters. We are a nation of free-thinking individuals, not a mob of conformists.
May 18, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Dubious deal on immigration
In a reasonably healthy political system, there might be good reason to hope for a comprehensive reform of immigration policy in this country, one that would accommodate socio-economic realities without violating the American people's basic sense of justice. In our present-day world, however, the best we can probably hope for is awkward, incremental policy changes to narrow the gap between Law and Fact. Yesterday President Bush and several leaders in the Senate announced a comprehensive immigration reform package that seems just a little too ambitious too work. The Washington Post summarizes its main provisions thusly:
The Senate deal would grant temporary legal status to virtually all illegal immigrants in the country, while allowing them to apply for residence visas and eventual citizenship. A temporary-worker program would allow as many as 400,000 migrants into the country each year, but they would have to leave after two years.
Yeah, right. As I argued in February 2006:
Any "guest worker program" should be accompanied by a suitable increase in funding to adequately monitor those who are supposedly here on a temporary basis; otherwise, it will become a cynical charade.
Unless Bush wants to raise taxes to pay for enforcing these measures, I don't think they will be taken seriously. Requiring undocumented immigrants who seek full legal status (the proposed "Z-Visa") to pay a $5,000 fine plus $1,500 fees over a period of several years sounds about right to me, but as for the "path to citizenship," I do not think it should be easy or certain. If we don't make it clear that U.S. citizenship is a supreme privilege, other countries will continue to lose respect for us. I suppose the compromise proposal deserves a chance, but I'm not getting my hopes up that it will satisfy either side. I am quite certain that most immigrants, legal or otherwise, will strongly oppose any policy change short of broad amnesty, and I'm wondering if there are enough strong leaders like Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo to stand up to their pressure. Sadly, most Americans these days are too apathetic about national politics to voice an opinion.
Sayre on illegal immigration
Here in Virginia, the Sayre for State Senate campaign recently sent out a mailing with the loud title, "It's time to crack down on illegal immigration." The unsettling emphasis on using law enforcement tools (as if to say "Round 'em all up!") made me wonder if this issue is more about getting votes or about tackling a vexing conundrum. Nevertheless, I do agree wholeheartedly with this general statement from his Web site:
Those who violate the law by entering this country illegally are diminishing the American Dream for those who have, with patience and commitment, pursued a path to citizenship in a legal manner.
Let's look at Mr. Sayre's specific policy proposals, as contained in the campaign flyer and his Web site:
- Reducing bureaucratic red tape and encouraging citizenship.
This strikes me as lame sloganeering. As I argued at the Sixth District Republican Committee meeting in March 2006, if we really want to keep out the bad guys and make sure that prospective immigrants are bona fide, we are going to need more bureaucrats and more red tape, which means more government spending. It's an awkward predicament for small-government Republicans to be in, and Sayre is dead wrong on this count.
- Opposing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
This is one of the (relatively few) issues where I disagree with Sen. Hanger; see my February 2006 post.
- More law enforcement funding to fight immigrant gangs.
OK, but be very careful not to persecute people of certain ethnic backgrounds.
- Require verification of legal employment on a quarterly basis.
Only quarterly? How about every pay period? See final item below.
- Holding illegal immigrants charged with a felony without bail.
- Requiring identification when voting and ensure that all non-citizens are removed from the voter roles. [sic; he means "rolls."]
OK, but I seriously doubt that this is a widespread problem in Virginia.
- Allowing for litigation when an employer knowingly hires illegal aliens and harms a law-abiding competitor.
This one strikes me as suspiciously weak. Cheating by employers undermines the entire labor market in this country, discouraging U.S.-born workers from striving to make an honest living. The employers should be held responsible for making sure that Social Security numbers of their workers are valid. The sanction for such severe economic violations should be decided in the criminal courts, with possible jail time for repeat offenders, not just damages awarded in a civil court.
I just hope that Mr. Sayre's position on this issue is is genuine; I cringe whenever I hear the phrase "cracking down." As I wrote on February 3,
Many people forget that cracking down on illegal immigrants forces them to lay low, which has the effect of making it easier for sleazy businesses to exploit them. Nothing could be more cruel or cynical.
Fred Thompson's view
UPDATE: Conservative darling Fred Thompson, writing at nationalreview.com, pokes holes in the "comprehensive" approach to immigration reform, observing that the compromise package is so complicated that hardly anyone really understands it. Exactly. "No matter how much lipstick Washington tries to slap onto this legislative pig, it's not going to win any beauty contests." (via Instapundit)
May 29, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Hanger vs. Sayre: the podcast
State Senator Emmett Hanger and the challenger, Scott Sayre, were both interviewed by Chris and Crystal Graham of The New Dominion on Friday, and you can listen to the podcast at your leisure. Sen. Hanger made his main points effectively without getting bogged down in the murky details. Mr. Sayre is getting better at handling questions, but he still has a very long way to go in terms of addressing complex issues.
The first question -- on defining "fiscal conservatism" -- was an easy "lob" pitch for which Sen. Hanger was well prepared. He linked that term to fiscal responsibility, which for him "has to do with much more than being for or against any particular tax, it has to do with balancing budgets..." and is tied to the basic idea of limited government. He reminded everyone that the Republican Party (of Virginia) creed has been his guideline for political philosophy ever since he joined the party.
Sen. Hanger did exceptionally well in explaining his position on in-state tuition for illegal aliens, about which I had my doubts. Now I understand better where he is coming from. His goal is to force the courts to revisit the Supreme Court ruling that prohibited public schools from asking whether immigrant students had legal status or not. It is a good example of issues in which responsibility between the states and the federal government is blurred. Mr. Sayre voiced outrage at the immigration status quo, but didn't offer much in the way of solutions.
Both candidates were asked whether they would support their opponents in the general election. Sen. Hanger reiterated his loyalty to the Republican Party, making it clear he would not run as an independent. In contrast, Mr. Sayre demurred on this vital question, missing an opportunity to help unify the splintered Virginia GOP. He noted correctly that he has not been involved in politics, so the question had not really occurred to him, while boasting of his endorsements by local Republican Party chairmen -- for whatever that's worth.
Tonight the two candidates will square off in a forum at Blue Ridge Community College.
BRCC forum update
At this evening's public forum, both candidates made pretty much the same points as they had made in their podcasts, and I didn't notice any gaffes. Sen. Hanger once again displayed a thorough command of the complex issues facing the state government, and Mr. Sayre kept coming back with crowd-pleasing one-liners. In response to the question about whether each candidate would run as an independent should they lose on June 12, Mr. Sayre said that he expected to win. Well! If he based his optimism on the results of the telephone survey (in which I participated) last week, he should heed this word of caution: those "push-polls" with leading questions ("Do you think incumbent Sen. Hanger deserves another term, or is it time for a change?") do not yield valid indicators of voting behavior. For most of the time, Sayre had a smirk on his face, perhaps anticipating the silly stunt with the umbrella in his closing remarks, an attempt to ridicule a new enclosed walkway between the State Capitol Building and the legislators' offices. Stay tuned for video clips of Sen. Hanger and/or Mr. Sayre...
In Friday's News Leader, Al Dahler wrote an op-ed piece entitled "Sayre strikes a bargain with the devil." [This was in reference to the no-tax pledge he signed, as part of the quid pro quo with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.] In it, [Mr. Dahler] praised Sen. Hanger:
Personally, I applaud Sen. Hanger's prudence to transcend ideology, assuring Virginia's fiscal health. Conscientious conservatives recognize the state's obligation to meet its citizens' myriad legitimate requirements and aspirations. Energetic economic growth rests on a foundation of adequately state-funded services, an excellent education system and a first-rate transportation infrastructure.
Well put; too bad it had to come from a "progressive" (leftist). Dogwood Pundit jumped on this op-ed piece to make the case that Sen. Hanger is the darling of leftists throughout the Old Dominion. Not exactly. The true significance of Dahler's piece is that the Republican Party of today is giving away to the Democrats its traditional advantage on the issue of fiscal responsibility. Among pragmatic-minded centrist voters, that issue carries a lot of weight and has often been the decisive factor in close elections.
We can leave the question of what a "progressive" is until later. Suffice it to say that Sen. Hanger's model Republican leader, Teddy Roosevelt, was a progressive Republican, believing in reform on behalf of the broad public interest. Like "TR," Sen. Hanger is a strong advocated of nature and wildlife conservation.
May 1, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Sayre bloggers take offense
One paragraph from my blog post yesterday began "I was taken aback by the hostile reaction of some pro-Sayre bloggers to the endorsements received by Hanger." Today I was really taken aback to see how much outrage was sparked by one or two innocuous comments I wrote. One thing is clear: You do not want to get on the Sayre bloggers' bad side. Let's go to the reactions, one by one:
Alton Foley, one of the pro-Sayre bloggers with an open identity, took the time to post a comment on my blog (a rare event), but violated my cardinal rule of using polite language. It's too bad, as he seems like an interesting character, from having read his blog off and on. For the record, the fact that I aspire to high standards does not mean that I am an "elitist," or that I look on others with disdain. To each his own. Furthermore, I do not have contempt for Republicans who are working for Sayre. As I wrote on April 19, "
I should state that I have no problem with those in the Republican ranks who are working to elect the political novice Scott Sayre, just as I have no problem with those who sincerely object to the Bush administration's policy in Iraq.
But I'm afraid Alton went way outside the norms of propriety in accusing me of "Chutzpah Squared" and "hypocrisy," even casting doubt on my academic credentials. He also revealed the contents of a personal e-mail message in his blog post, which is very bad form, to put it mildly. As for my application to join the Old Dominion Blog Alliance earlier this year, I never raised a peep about the unusual rejection, in stark contrast to other bloggers I know who have protested loudly about getting excluded from this or that blog roll or aggregator. "Sour grapes"? Not me.
"Johnathan Maxfield" got carried away with his retort, badly misconstruing my remarks. All I can say is, I did not mean to be "disparaging" pro-Sayre bloggers, just that I won't pay very much attention to the ones who hide behind pseudonyms.
Scott White weighed in, saying my blog is "weird." Guilty as charged! (It comes from taking Apple's "Think Different" slogan a little too seriously, I suppose.) Scott cited one passage I wrote, but it was not based on the paragraph from the New Dominion article he cited, but rather from the following paragraph, which began, "'We have a situation right now where we have several chairs who have agendas of their own,' said Hanger."
For the sake of balance, however, I probably should have mentioned Sen. Hanger's remark (which Scott cited) about party officers who do "somewhat thankless jobs that we kind of hand over to anybody who says they want them..." First, there is a lot of truth in that, as I can attest from personal experience, and second, it is not the sort of thing that should be said openly.
I was surprised that Alton and Scott thought taking a screen shot of my blog post would be necessary, since no one has ever accused me of altering previously posted text. I adhere to a clear set of blog practices, occasionally correcting misspellings and factual errors, in which case I use [brackets] to indicate it. Clicking on the permalink for each blog post shows a time stamp at the bottom to show when the last change (if any) was made.
I was also cited by the lefty C-ville wunderkind Waldo Jaquith, who spotted some Rose-breasted grosbeaks today. So did I, yesterday.
Frankly, I didn't think my reference to "anonymous or dubious" identities would hit such a raw nerve. What are those people so sensitive about? It brings us back to my blog post on February 11 which listed my top criteria for assessing which blogs deserve the most credibility. Right at the top is "Open identity (not anonymous)." If a person has good reason for using a pseudonym, that's one thing, but misrepresenting one's own background is grounds for banning a given blog, as far as I'm concerned. And, yes, Alton, I am a doctor.
May 10, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Tony Blair is set to resign
As has been expected, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that he will resign effective June 27. He will almost certainly be replaced as Prime Minister and Labour Party leader by Gordon Brown, currently the chancellor of the exchequer. See Washington Post. Regarding his biggest disappointment, the war in Iraq, Blair said:
For many it simply isn't and can't be worth it. For me, I think we must see it through," Blair said. "They, the terrorists who threaten us here and around the world, will never give up if we give up. It is a test of will and of belief and we can't fail it." He added: "Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right . . . I may have been wrong. That's your call. But believe one thing, if nothing else: I did what I thought was right for our country.
Precisely. And so, just as France turns more friendly under president-elect Sarkozy, our True Blue allies in Britain turn just a little less so. Some analysts derided Blair for failing to accomplish very much during his ten years in office, but I think that's a little unfair, especially when the criticism comes from the conservative side. We didn't want Blair to bring back the welfare state in Britain, and we should perhaps be celebrating that his second term domestic policy agenda got bogged down because of Iraq. Divisions in the Labour Party over foreign policy served the purposes of the British Conservatives quite well.
Even though I was quite leery of Blair from the very beginning, I can't help but feel a mixture of sorrow and gratefulness for the man who stood by the United States when we most needed it. I think he would have had higher stature if President Bush had made a stronger gesture of reciprocal goodwill, bending on other foreign policy issues of concern to Britain. But one way or another, Blair was probably bound to step down after two terms. We will miss him dearly.
Virginia blog rankings flap
The Daily Whack Job has been on a roll all week making fun of the "Bloggers 4 Sayre" for the way some of them link to, and make comments on, each others' posts so as to inflate their perceived influence on the Virginia Blog Net News. Being largely indifferent to such things, I have always resisted suggestions to use those sorts of tricks, and I think recent events have validated my reluctance. The Whack Jobbers also "apologized" in a sardonic way to "John Maxfield the lawyer ... err, Alex Davis that 16 year old..." Under other circumstances I would take issue with picking on a youthful blogger like that. Satirical blogs like DWJ constantly run the danger of going too far with their humor, but I wouldn't say they practice "political pornography" (as Alex says) the way "GGD" or "Howling Latina" do.
The Richmond Democrat came up with his own system for ranking political blogs, supposedly filtering out the effect of such rank-building tricks. Perhaps it's worth the effort, but I'm still skeptical of the whole notion of ranking blogs. It's like the way U.S. News and World Report (and others) rank colleges and universities, which obliterates any sense of what makes a given school special. In the social sciences, the presupposition that being able to count something makes it more important is called the quantitative fallacy.
Then, Bad Rose mocked Ben "Not Larry Sabato" for removing his RSS feed to protest the questionable way that blog influence is ranked by the BNN. Such a gesture could be construed as a fit of pique. This, of course, sparked yet another flurry of blogospheric angst and resentment featuring many of the usual suspects. I think Jason Kenney hit the nail on the head:
The rankings are moot, it's a circle jerk like any other online poll and based on figures that reflect the data BNN collects, which has been limited for sites like RK and NLS from the get go. Really, the rankings are harmless and if you're confindent enough in your own blog and your abilities, what should you care what some third party site says? Besides, it's not the size that counts...
Exactamundo. In the The New Dominion, meanwhile, Chris Graham drew attention to the way some of the Bloggers4Sayre have been engaging in nasty politics lately, and "have also done their part to fan the flames of tensions between the numbers of elected officials" from Augusta County and elsewhere. One of those bloggers, "Spank That Donkey," took sharp issue with those characterizations, not very convincingly. Sigh.........
May 15 "gas out"? Not!
Donald Sensing ridicules the silly gesture of not buying gas on May 15.
May 22, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Senator Hanger: party loyalist
In my New Dominion podcast interview yesterday, I cast doubt on the possibility that Sen. Emmett Hanger might run as an independent this fall in the event that Scott Sayre wins the primary election. This was in response to a question from Chris Graham that was prompted by blogospheric rumors which are totally unfounded. Nevertheless, "Elle" somehow took my comment to mean that I was emphasizing the likelihood of such a contingency. To clear things up, Senator Hanger contacted me today to declare unconditionally that he remains a loyal Republican, just as he has been for the better part of three decades, and that he will not run as an independent.
I should state for the record that, although I strongly and wholeheartedly support Senator Hanger in this race, I do not speak for him in any way, shape, or form. The senator has a mind of his own, and exercises his own judgment on policy questions, and so do I. Furthermore, I have no formal responsibility in the senator's re-election campaign, and any statements to the contrary are false.
So who's ahead?
Frankly, I don't have a clue. In The New Dominion, Chris Graham suggests that the 24th District senate nomination race is "Scott Sayre's to lose," based on the much greater degree of mobilization among his supporters, which will no doubt have a big impact on turnout. He observes, however,
that 24th District Dems might actually have a chance in November if Hanger is upset in the primary next month -- because the one factor holding Hrovat back right now, his lack of political experience, is negated by the fact that Sayre as well has not been elected to public office. I still think Sayre wins in November if he gets the nomination in June, but if the Democratic Party of Virginia decides to target the race early on, things could get interesting around here around the end of September.
Indeed. Sayre's whole campaign is based on the idea that the Democrats couldn't win the 24th district in any case, which is one heck of a gamble.
As I feared might be the case, "Spank That Donkey" [link corrected] did not take my description of him as an "apostate" well at all. Well, he keeps saying that he does not consider people like Emmett Hanger to be real Republicans, so what does he expect? He went on to repeat the rumors originated by "General Grievous' Dog" about my supposed regular contacts with lefty bloggers. It seems to me the right wingers are starting to believe their own feverish rhetoric about "RINOs," which is perfectly in keeping with the "paranoid style" of pseudo-conservatives (scroll down to second item). Waldo Jaquith must be rolling on the floor laughing at all of this...
Phil Cronginger had a similar experience with STD, who accused him of being a Democrat, just because some of the people on Daily Whack Job are, but Phil says he is willing to "bury the hatchet" and "end the in-fighting amongst conservatives." Me, too. Can we at least agree that conservatism encompasses a broad range of specific concerns? Or will the right wing try to purge the moderate conservatives, thereby handing power over to the Democratic-Socialists?
May 25, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Mexico's drug war escalates
President Felipe Calderon has continued the determined military offensive against the narco-lords that terrorize much of Mexico, with mixed results. Last week 22 people died in gun battles between police, Army soldiers, and the henchmen of drug traffickers in the Mexican state of Sonora. This week a newspaper in that state shut down operations after its offices were attacked with explosives twice since April. Cambio Sonora had boldly exposed drug traffickers, and paid heavily for it. Their concession to intimidation is obviously a sad setback in the war against narcotics trade. See BBC. This virtual low-level counter-insurgency campaign taking place just across our southern border is the context in which the battle over immigration in the United States is being waged. If the U.S. government tries too hard to accommodate Mexico's demands for freer access to the United States, it will take the pressure off them to reform, but if we refuse to make any compromises at all, it will undercut the government of Felipe Calderon, who is friendly toward Washington. We can't afford to lose an ally in a neighboring country, even an ally who is on shaky ground.
Ingrid Betancourt in chains
Last month, a Colombian police officer named Jhon (!) Frank Pinchao escaped from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after eight years in captivity, and after 17 days of trudging through the jungles, he reached safety just last week. Thanks to him, we now know more about the conditions under which hostage Ingrid Betancourt, who once ran for president, is being held. She has been shackled in chains, as punishment for having tried to escape. Betancourt was captured in 2002 while campaign swing through southern Colombia. President Alvaro Uribe expressed outrage at the condition to which the leftist guerrillas are subjecting their prisoners, and vowed to redouble efforts to locate Betancourt, three Americans, and other hostages of FARC. See CNN.com . There were rumors that she might be released as part of a prisoner exchange about a year ago, but nothing came of it. The fact that FARC has shown little or no interest in bargaining for the release of their hostages, but prefer simply to keep them as an asset for eventual use, is another example of the low value they have for human life.
May 6, 2007 [LINK / comment]
The Rocket returns to The Bronx
Roger Clemens says he wants to help the Yankees, and boy do they need the help! This move makes sense, as he already said he wants to go in the Hall of Fame with a Yankee uniform. He also made a bigger impact on the Yankees than on the Red Sox, Blue Jays, or Astros during his career. Clemens and the Yankees desperately want another World Series win. His appearance at Yankee Stadium today, preceding the official announcement, brought jubilation to the fans. See MLB.com.
The Yanks' current ace pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, threw seven and one third innings on Saturday before the first Mariner reached first base. That was Ben Broussard, whose home run was the only score by the visiting team. Catcher Jorge Posada thought Wang was going to go the distance, but it was not to be. See MLB.com. I was watching the televised game with baited breath, hoping for a perfect game, and totally forgetting about the Queen at the Kentucky Derby. The tall young man from Taiwan will get plenty more chances in future years to join Don Larsen, David Wells, and David Cone in the ranks of immortal Yankee perfect game pitchers.
After an agonizing period of time in last place in the AL East Division, the Yankees have quickly climbed into second place, but are still five games behind the Red Sox. Hopefully, the series win in Seattle and the Clemens announcement will lay to rest the rumors about Joe Torre being replaced as manager.
Cubs sweep the Nats
The Washington Nationals faced their former team mate Alfonso Soriano at his new home in Wrigley Field this weekend, and were swept by the Cubbies, who have climbed above .500 for the first time this year. On Friday afternoon, the Nats got off to a hot start with four runs in the first inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Austin Kearns, but then fell flat as the Cubs closed the gap and finally prevailed. On Saturday, the Nats fell behind early and couldn't quite catch up. Ominously, former ace pitcher John Patterson left the game with a strained bicep. Today's game held the most promise, as the new ace pitcher Shawn Hill allowed only two hits and two runs in six inning. The Cubs tied it at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, and then won it in the tenth. See MLB.com.
Having blown half of his eight save opportunities so far this year, I wonder if anyone has thought about replacing Chad Cordero? The mere suggestion would have been unthinkable in 2005 or 2006, when he was converting nearly 90 percent of his save opportunities.
Sorry for the hiatus
I can't believe it has been over two weeks since my last baseball post; that must be some kind of record. Well, at least I have kept myself occupied with Important Matters in the interim. Baseball fans of this site who don't normally visit my main blog page will be amused by the blog controversy I've been in lately.
May 2, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Meltdown in the blogosphere
As a "relatively obscure blogger" (according to "Elle"), I find all this sudden (negative) attention from some of the pro-Sayre bloggers very strange. At the very least, this episode served to reveal the mean streak that underlies much of the present-day "conservative movement" behind the Scott Sayre candidacy. It was almost as if I had contrived the whole affair precisely to expose their "true colors."
Several of those blogs made the perplexing suggestion that I might be associated with Waldo Jaquith in some way, or perhaps even a closet Democrat. These included "Elle", the notorious "General Grievous' Dog", and Carl Kilo, notwithstanding the fact that I came to Carl's defense in a dustup with the "Richmond Democrat" blogger in March (scroll down to third item). Such a bizarre speculation about partisan intrigues calls attention to the troubling paranoia that has afflicted the right wing in America at various times over the course of history, most notably the Red Scare of the McCarthy Era. For more on that theme, see the second item on my October 30 blog post, referencing Professor Richard Hofstadter about the "paranoid style" of "pseudo-conservatives." It is extremely relevant to the current situation.
So why did Waldo draw attention to my blog post? Well, as a Democrat, he is probably quite eager to seize upon divisions in the opposing party. That's a no-brainer. I followed his blog off and on for a couple years, but I don't think I ever linked to it until the big blogosphere flap over "GGD" in early January. I joined Chad Dotson, Shaun Kenney, and other respected conservative bloggers who are worried about the trend toward trashy discourse in the the Old Dominion. My stance on this issue apparently upset some of my erstwhile colleagues. In February, however, I took issue with the way Waldo occasionally violated his own high standards, using foul language, etc. I think this excerpt is very pertinent to the current flap:
Bloggers on all sides of the political spectrum need to get a grip, put an end to all these nasty innuendos and rumors, and present their opinions in a frank and honest manner, without hiding behind some pseudonym.
Finally, Ward Smythe ought to get an award for snarkiest blog post title of the year: "How do we know he's really 'Andrew Clem?'" (Wow, what a philosophical conundrum!) I fail to understand, however, why he and all those others got so worked up about my simple, un-snarky observation regarding bloggers with an "anonymous or dubious" identity. Please, folks, lighten up!
In the Charlottesville Daily Progress, Bob Gibson examines the Hanger-Sayre contest, especially the fund-raising aspect. The story mentions that Hanger was endorsed by Albemarle Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Camblos, and that Sayre "received $2,650 in contributions from former House of Delegates Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr." (For background on him, see george.loper.org.)
I have updated my rankings of 2008 GOP presidential candidates, putting Fred Thompson at the top, even though he has not formally declared. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore recently announced his candidacy, but he is not considered a serious contender by many people. I saw a C-SPAN cablecast of his speech at a GOP gathering recently, and while he made some very good points on some issues, on others he fell flat. Early on, I was enthusiastic about his "no car tax" proposal, but as the state government faced a revenue shortfall in his final year in office, I thought he should have shown more flexibility in implementing those tax cuts. To me, his stubbornness was disappointing.
May 26, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Birding around Elliott Knob
I took a nice, invigorating 5-mile hike along the loop trail that extends about half-way up Elliott Knob this morning, and had fairly good luck spotting birds. I definitely needed the exercise, and resting by the cool waterfalls and moss-covered rocks was an especially nice way to soothe the weary soul. (Enough of politics, already! ) The air was warm and humid, but not too bad, and the insects were tolerable. Next month conditions will get much harsher. Today's avian highlights included two first-of-season birds:
- Kestrel (on Rt. 254)
- Blue-gray gnatcatchers
- Indigo buntings (F, M)
- Red-eyed vireos
- Hooded warblers (M)
- Acadian flycatcher (FOS)
- Pileated woodpecker
- Louisiana waterthrushes
- Scarlet tanager
- Black and white warblers (M, F)
- Blue-headed vireo
- Black-capped chickadees
- Downy woodpecker
- Yellow-billed cuckoo (FOS)
The cuckoo showed up after I imitated its "cowp-cowp-cowp" call. I also heard but did not see Worm-eating warblers, Black-throated green warblers, and a Canada warbler close by.
May 21, 2007 [LINK / comment]
New Dominion podcast
This morning I was interviewed by Chris and Crystal Graham of The New Dominion, and you can listen to it directly (or download it for later use) at their podcast link page. Most of their questions centered around the Hanger vs. Sayre race for the state senate, and the blogospheric controversies and partisan infighting surrounding that. I expressed guarded hope that the party will come back together after the June 12 primary, and cast doubt on the idea that Sen. Hanger might run as an independent candidate if he loses to Scott Sayre. Of course, that will depend in part on whether the campaign stays relatively clean.
I hope I avoided any major gaffes about facts or party doctrine such as Chris Green committed two weeks ago. I took a beating for calling attention to that from D.J. McGuire, who said what I wrote was an "intellectually dishonest half-truth." I asked him to explain or to apologize, and I am still waiting. There are plenty of sophomoric jeers in the rest of the comments on that page, in case you're in need of amusement. That is the sort of political discourse that voters will be able to either endorse or reject when they go into the polls on June 12.
By the way, when I wrote of "apostates" in the GOP ranks, I chose my words carefully. Many party members emphatically reject the traditional principles which The Party of Lincoln has long embodied, and some of them are quite conscious of this fact. That is why they cannot tolerate the presence of fiscal conservatives who actually take such principles at face value, because they know they will be called on it eventually, and there will be hell to pay.
For you folks in Rio Linda, apostasy is defined by Webster's New World Dictionary (Third College Edition) as: "an abandoning of what one has believed in, as a faith, cause, principles, etc." I distinctly recall that the Republicans used to be the party of fiscal responsibility, sometimes taking their lumps at the polls on Election Day for having done the right thing on Capitol Hill. If you're under 40, you might not even be aware of that heritage. Back in the 1990s my heroes were Warren Rudman (co-founder of the Concord Coalition, to which I once belonged), Newt Gingrich, and John Kasich, but the GOP has sadly gotten off track under Bush II, and now many people are terribly confused.
UPDATE: Chris Graham has written up his summary of the interview he did with me, entitled "Blogger4Hanger." It's fair and accurate, though it's a bit uncomfortable for me to see all the unfortunate hard feelings among local party members broadcast for all the world to see.
May 17, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Will Dems run in 24th District?
According to The New Dominion, the Democrats are planning to take advantage of divisions within the Republican Party by nominating a candidate to run in the 24th District state senate seat currently held by Emmett Hanger. And to think that this has been considered a "safe" district for Republicans...
Tom Long, the chairman of the Augusta County Democratic Committee, confirm[ed] today that Democrats in the 24th do plan to run a candidate in the November general election.
Long said that one candidate has pre-filed for a May 29 party mass meeting where a nominee for the seat -- currenly held by Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger -- will be named.
Well, as the Church Lady said, "Isn't that interesting?" That article also quoted U.Va.'s Sean O'Brien, who expects the Democrats to reach out to the center of the political spectrum and nominate moderate candidates in districts where moderate Republicans are being challenged by right-wingers. If Hanger wins the nomination, he will be a shoo-in come November; if Sayre wins it will be a toss-up. But I'm sure that the "conservative movement" activists will keep on dreaming up ways to "mobilize the (right-wing) base" and identify "hard core" Republican voters in their election campaign strategy. Those folks are tragically and utterly blind to the fundamental reality that the vital center is, far more often than not, where political fortunes are won or lost.
Hat tip to D.J. McGuire, who offers a solid analysis based on policy preferences and the hankering of many right-wingers to defect to the Libertarian Arin Sime in case Hanger beats Sayre. He igores, however, the large number of voters who are sick of endless polarized bickering in Richmond and just want legislators who are competent and able to hammer out pragmatic deals that serve the public interest. (Guess who's good in that department?) He also overlooks the personal character and incumbency aspects which weigh heavily in Hanger's favor. By the way, D.J. is the very same guy who doubted my suggestion last week that the Democrats might contest the seat after all. At least he acknowledged the error, which is admirable -- and rather uncommon in the blogosphere.
The prospect which McGuire raises, of a large number of Sayre supporters from within the Republican ranks ending up voting for the Libertarian Sime in the general elections should Hanger defeat Sayre, says a lot about party loyalty these days. Even with all the nastiness and dirty tricks used by Sayre supporters against fellow Republicans which I have witnessed over the past several months, at this point I would still be inclined to vote for Sayre in November if he defeats Sen. Hanger. It all depends on whether the closing weeks of the campaign are clean or not.
Hanger vs. Sayre in Staunton
The two candidates vying for that senate seat, Emmett Hanger and Scott Sayre, spoke to the Staunton Republican Committee on Tuesday evening. Each candidate was only allotted ten minutes, however, and no questions were allowed from the audience, so it wasn't the Great Debate that we Hanger supporters have been hoping for. Afterwards, there was a forum on "media bias" consisting of Chris Graham, editor of The New Dominion, Melanie Lofton, a reporter/producer with WHSV TV-3 in Harrisonburg, Steven Winslow, editor of the new Conservative Viewpoints blog, and Bruce Grover, vice chairman of the Staunton Republican Committee. I was delighted that one of our members raised the issue of anonymous bloggers and the damage they do by spreading false rumors and misinformation, without being held accountable. Graham and Winslow both agreed with her that bloggers who use their real names deserve more credibility (!), and of course, they both blog using their real names.
I'm sorry to say this, but the version of that meeting as reported by "SWAC Girl" did not accord with what I observed. For one thing, Sen. Hanger spoke first, contrary to what she wrote, because Sayre arrived late. As the senator was leaving, a few of his supporters did leave the room to speak to him for a few minutes (I could see them from the rostrum where I was seated, whereas "SWAC Girl" was seated in the rear), but most of the Hanger crowd stayed in the chambers and politely listened to Mr. Sayre. There was no hostility shown to either guest, and I did not notice any banging doors. As for the alleged "bullying and intimidating" of our chairwoman, there was a motion from the floor which she ruled out of order, and an appeal by me which she refused to act upon properly. That's all. After several members objected vehemently to this, she abruptly declared that the meeting was adjourned without even taking a vote and left the chambers, leaving the members and guests stunned. An "orderly meeting"? Not! The only rude words I heard came from a young Sayre supporter who told one of the long-standing party members (a Hanger supporter) that he hoped he was offending her and wanted to know what else he could say that might offend her even more. (He must have learned that line from Alton Foley. ) I could challenge other assertions made in that blog post, but it would not be appropriate to do so in a public forum.
(Notwithstanding the date above, this was originally posted after midnight on May 18, to make room in the politics category for a big post on immigration tomorrow, I mean today.)
May 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Nashville warbler comes to town
No, I'm not talking about Kenney Chesney or Martina McBride. It was, rather, the first Nashville warbler I have seen in two years. It was singing high in a tree. Also seen behind the Staunton- Augusta Rescue Squad this morning: an Indigo bunting, a couple Cedar waxwings, and some Catbirds.
This snail, which I saw this morning, was a more cooperative photographic subject than most wild birds are. I relocated it to the side of the trail.
Here is a run-down of my recent first-of-season bird sightings over the past week, in chronological order:
- Ruby-throated hummingbird (May 2, out back)
- Ovenbird (May 5, Chimney Hollow)
- Red-eyed vireo (May 5, " ")
- Ruffed grouse (May 5, " ")
- Cliff swallow (May 5, " ")
- Spotted sandpiper (May 6, Bell's Lane)
- Least sandpiper (May 6, " ")
- Nashville warbler (May 9, behind SARS)
At Chimney Hollow last Saturday, I was surprised to see a large bird with a very long neck, short tail, and angled wing flying high overhead; I'm almost certain that it was a cormorant, probably a Double-crested cormorant. At the trail head I also saw Dave McRuer of the Virginia Wildlife Center; he had joined my field trip there on March 30.
In Waynesboro on Monday, I visited Riverside Park for the first time ever. It is very scenic and pleasant, which would explain the large number of human visitors. I saw several Yellow-rumped warblers and a Kingfisher, among others.
May 15, 2007 [LINK / comment]
ABC annual spring picnic
The Augusta Bird Club held its annual spring picnic on Saturday morning, with mild weather that was almost perfect. As soon as I arrived I heard my first Blackpoll warbler of the season, and then saw one of them a little later. I saw three other avian species for the first time this spring. It was announced that Mary Baldwin College has selected Yulee Larner to receive Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the commencement ceremonies this Sunday. The happy feeling of joining with fellow bird watchers was offset by sadness at the news that Patricia Larner, the wife of one of our very best and most devoted bird watchers, Allen Larner, passed away recently. She was a very gentle and special person whose life had been extended by ten years thanks to a lung transplant. I hope this loss serves to remind people of how important organ donations are.
- Chestnut-sided warbler (M, FOS)
- Blackpoll warbler (M, FOS)
- Red-bellied woodpeckers (M, F)
- Downy woodpecker
- Blue-headed vireos
- Cedar waxwings
- Rose-breasted grosbeak (F)
- Black-throated blue warbler (M, FOS)
- House wrens
- Redstart (M)
- Brown thrasher
- Red-eyed vireos
- White-throated sparrows
- Great crested flycatcher
- House finches (M)
- Baltimore oriole (M)
- Blackburnian warblers (M, F)
- E. Wood Pewee (FOS)
Roll the mouse over this image to see a closeup.
At the Buffalo Springs (field?) Herb Farm on Saturday afternoon, Jacqueline and I saw several Chipping sparrows, Bluebirds, and House finches. The only really noteworthy sighting was a Robin brooding on her nest in plain view not more than eight feet off the ground. On the way back toward Raphine, we came upon this female Wild Turkey walking along the road, oblivious to the traffic hazard. I was glad that it cooperated while I got ready to take a photo, holding the camera up through the "moon roof" so as not to startle it. A little ways further along the road, I noticed a Great Egret (see below) in a pond, in the same place where we saw the miniature horses.
While hiking to the top of Humpback Rocks on Sunday, we saw at least a dozen Redstarts of both genders, and heard several Cerulean warblers, one of which I finally saw -- my first of the season. We saw a pair of Scarlet tanagers in the sun, but I couldn't quite get close enough for a good video shot. The highlights:
- Hummingbird (F)
- Yellow-rumped warbler (M)
- Redstarts (M, F)
- Red-eyed vireos
- Cerulean warbler (M, FOS)
- Blue-headed vireo
- Black & white warbler (M)
- Chipping sparrows
- Scarlet tanagers (M, F)
We have been seeing a female Hummingbird at the back porch feeder almost every day.
A Magellanic penguin, named for the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of Chile where the species is found, somehow got lost and ended up thousands of miles to the north in Peru's Paracas national reserve. See BBC.
May 4, 2007 [LINK / comment]
National Guard heads to Iraq
Some of the 120+ National Guard troops leaving Staunton, shortly after noon today.
Today a company of soldiers from the 116th "Stonewall" Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 29th Infantry Division based here in Staunton shipped out for a month of training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, prior to deployment in Iraq. I joined hundreds of family members and other civilian well-wishers in an emotional send-off at the National Guard armory, and while the huge turnout was certainly encouraging, I also witnessed some truly heart-wrenching scenes, such as a young girl being carried away by Grandma, screaming while Mommy heads off to war. The News Leader reported on preparations for the departure, including staff and volunteers from our local Red Cross chapter who work on the Armed Forces Emergency Services. This service helps families get in touch with soldiers in the combat zone when urgent situations arise. By easing the worries felt by those on the front lines as well as the home front, it is a vital part of the expression of united, determined national will that will ultimately tip the balance in this long, difficult war.
Send a message to Congress!
President Bush's veto of the Defense appropriations bill that set arbitrary deadlines for withdrawing from Iraq was fitting and proper -- whether or not you agree with the administration's war policy. But people need to put pressure on the Democratic leaders in Congress so that they will come up with a reasonable alternative funding measure that does not aim for defeat. I got the following material from Cathouse Chat, and you can put it on your blog as well, just by copying and pasting the SCRIPT tags in the box below. Make your opinion felt on Capitol Hill!
UPDATE: For a list of bloggers who have joined the "We Win, They Lose" coalition, see wewintheylose.com. I'm listed at #98 out of 400, but I have no idea what the sequence means. Apparently, this campaign was started by conservative blogger Patrick Ruffini.
Webb's spin on victory
Sen. Jim "Born Fighting" Webb reacted to the veto by President Bush in a way that is unusual for most Democrats: "We won this war four years ago. The question is when we end the occupation." From Josh Marshall, via Instapundit, who says:
Say, maybe we have the outline of a deal here -- Bush agrees to withdraw troops, if Democrats agree to say loudly and publicly that we won the war.
Any patriotic American of either party should recognize that it is far more important for our nation -- and the cause of freedom -- to prevail in this conflict than it is for anyone to score political points. If we on the right side have to bite our lip so that relatively sensible people on the other side of the political aisle can gracefully make the necessary gestures of support for the war effort, perhaps "spinning" the issue just a little bit, so be it.
May 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Nats extend losing streak
The good news is that the Nationals' "raw recruit" starting pitchers are pulling their own weight, to everyone's surprise. Shawn Hill, Jason Bergman, and Jason Simontacchi have all shown signs of potential excellence, holding down the opponents' run totals. Also, outfielder Nook Logan and shortstop Cristian Guzman have returned from the disabled list, offering hope that the team's anemic offense might get recharged. Victory is right around the corner!
The bad news is that the Nationals have now lost seven games in a row, breaking the team's previous record of six consecutive losses, which they did twice. Before the season started, few would have expected the Milwaukee Brewers to be such formidable opponents, but they have made life miserable for the Nats on this road trip to the NL Central Division. The batting averages of Ronnie Belliard, Dmitri Young, and Ryan Church have plummeted after reaching dazzling heights in April, and team batting average of .227 is now the second-lowest in the majors, just above the White Sox. Oh well, it could be worse...
Cordero takes leave
Washington Nationals' closer Chad Cordero has taken "bereavement leave" to be with his grandmother in Los Angeles. She has terminal brain cancer and is not expected to live much longer. This has been weighing on his mind, and apparently affected his performance on the mound. MLB bereavement leave extends for three to seven games, and Jon Rauch will be the Nats' closer for the time being. See MLB.com. Nats fans everywhere wish Chad and his family comfort in this sad time.
Patterson on DL
John Patterson has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, after doctors found fluid in his elbow. See MLB.com. Patterson has yet to pitch an entire season without suffering a major health setback, and this raises fresh questions about his career future.
Even though the Nationals have yet to win a game this month, you've got to admit: Having a losing team play the National Pastime in Our Nation's Capital is much, much better than no baseball at all!
The mail bag
From Mike Zurawski: The Oakland (?) Athletics have put a $500,000 deposit fee to back up their application for a land-use permit so that their stadium in Fremont can get built. It is not a done deal yet, however, which makes you wonder how they can spend so much money on a purely speculative basis; see insidebayarea.com. As with Washington, Miami, and other cities, it's a delicate dance of "You go first," ... "No, you go first!" This is probably out of date already, but I'm astonished by the rapid progress taking at the construction site of Citi Field, the future home of the Mets. See the photos at baseball-fever.com.
From Chris Kassulke: The Minnesota Twins unveiled design details and artists' renderings of their future stadium last month. The exterior will feature "native Minnesotan limestone." See MLB.com. All that glass reminds me of Great American Ballpark or the future Washington Nationals stadium.
May 4, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Miners go on strike in Peru
As expected, the metal miners federation in Peru went on strike this week, but other unions have not joined them so far. The federation represents only about 22,000 of the approximately 110,000 miners in Peru overall. Given the heavy demand and high prices for metals on global commodities markets, this shows how weak the labor movement in Peru (and much of Latin America) has become over the past twenty years. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether the impetus toward competitive, free-market economic policies can be restored in the near future. That's not a likely prospect, so chances are that labor negotiations will boil down to squabbling over what share of the pie will be allocated among workers and owners -- as opposed to reaching a dynamic new social compact along the lines of east Asian countries. See CNN.com.
Castro is still infirm
Many people, including Bolivian President Evo Morales, had expected the ailing dictator Fidel Castro to make a dramatic appearance at the May Day parades in Havana this year, but it did not come to pass. Castro did issue a public statement, however, and it contained an interesting criticism of U.S. policy to promote the use of ethanol bio-fuel in Latin America, on the grounds that it would lead to increased exploitation of workers. As a large sugar exporter, Cuba would stand to benefit greatly from increased production of ethanol, but Castro's main ally -- Hugo Chavez of Venezuela -- depends above all on petrodollars, and bio-fuels would reduce his export revenues. See CNN.com.
May 19, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Apostates rewrite RPV Creed
In response to Arianism and other heretical movements that threatened to tear Christianity apart, in 325 A.D. bishops from throughout Christendom convened at the Council of Nicaea, and drew up the Nicene Creed to clarify the essential elements of Christian theology. Based on all the talk about "RINOs" and other epithets over the past few years, I think the Republican Party needs to engage in such a large-scale soul-searching exercise.
I bring this up because Chris Green, of "Spank That Donkey," committed a major doctrinal gaffe during a podcast interview with The New Dominion on May 7. He was talking about his colleagues on Bloggers 4 Sayre, and elaborated (at 23:45 into the podcast):
They're just all good, pretty solid kind of conservatives on when you get down to taxes, the issue of taxes, which is a plank in the Republican Party Plan, or the Republican Party Creed I should say...
Wrong. The RPV Creed says nothing at all about taxes. Indeed, the only pertinent section of it reads as follows:
That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government. (SOURCE: rpv.org)
Fiscal responsibility -- i.e., making sure you've got enough money to pay the bills -- does not mean cutting taxes, the fad which Scott Sayre and many on the Right espouse these days. Indeed, it could be construed as justifying tax increases when necessary. Sadly, there are probably many people who are led astray by such misinformation about basic Republican Party principles. Ironically, it is the doctrinal "apostates" who are bemoaning the "Republicans In Name Only," their term for political leaders such as Sen. Hanger who actually live up to the party's core principles. What kind of Orwellian double-speak is this?
I recently commented on STD in hopes of correcting the false statements about who holds the office of secretary of the Staunton Republican Party. All I got in response was juvenile taunts, which is par for that course, I guess. If you're a "true believer" in the religion of tax cuts, it seems, facts just don't matter.
Bloggers for Hanger?
I knew I wasn't the only one! In response to the fabulously influential (or totally discredited, depending on whom you ask) Bloggers 4 Sayre blog, some clever guy has come up with Bloggers 4 Hanger, with five contributors listed: "Alex," "Lynn," "Chris," "Kurt," and "Truthserum." Well, most of the "contributors" are not anonymous, at least!
"Republitarian" (Myron, from the Harrisonburg area) recently solicited questions to be asked of Sen. Emmett Hanger, who has now answered all of them. He is still waiting to hear from Scott Sayre...
More blog intrigues
I got a nice plug last week from local Democratic blogger Clifford Garstang. He wrote that Clem "eschews the shrillness of those other bloggers. And of course they [the other SWAC-GOP bloggers] attack him for that." Did Waldo put him up to this? Actually, I happened to meet Clifford at the Bookstack in downtown Staunton a couple months ago, and even though I take sharp exception to his letters to the editor on the war, etc., he seems like a nice fellow. It says a lot about the state of conservatism today that someone like me gets treated with more courtesy from a Democrat than from people in his own party.
May 6, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Sarkozy wins election in France
Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for Europe and Western Civilization after all. Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy triumphed in the French presidential election (second round), by a 53 to 47 percent margin over Socialist Segolene Royal, a woman. Most people in France are coming to realize that their social welfare system (which she defended) is heading toward national bankruptcy, large-scale social violence, or both. I watched Sarkozy's victory speech on C-SPAN this afternoon, and he came across as confident, sincere, and determined to tackle France's big social problems. He made magnanimous gestures of outreach to his political opponents, but immigrants in some French cities reacted immediately by rioting. Sarkozy had served as Interior Minister during the upheaval of 2005-2006. He is quite a contrast to the dour, do-nothing current President, Jacques Chirac. See Washington Post.
Most gratifying of all was Sarkozy's expression of friendship with the United States. Is the long, cold winter of European-American hostility finally coming to an end? He made it clear that he disagrees with U.S. policies in some respects, reminding everyone that friends don't have to see everything exactly the same way. I'm not sure if global warming is the best issue for him to emphasize, but it may have been a "bone" to appease the leftist opposition in France. I just hope President Bush makes a suitable reciprocal gesture of good will, taking advantage of the "window of opportunity" that this election has created for U.S.-European relations.
Voter turnout was 85 percent, as the campaign became quite a sensation in France, much as the 1980 election was in the United States. It will probably help build the image of conservatives as progressive and more open to change and innovation than the socialists. Indeed, Sarkozy's youth and vigor remind one of John F. Kennedy. The fact that many younger, trendy people chose him, giving up the chance to have the first woman president in French history, says a lot about the respect he has earned.
The elections victory also portends a realignment in France's political party system. The Socialists are hopelessly divided between those who favor European integration and the backward-looking protectionists, neither of whom have the slightest idea what to do about the immigration crisis. On the Right, Sarkozy's "Union for a Popular Movement" seems to be leaving behind the chauvinistic roots inherited from Charles DeGaulle. In recent decades, France has tended to be "out of step" with other countries in Europe, moving to the left when the others turn right, and vice versa.
It so happens that today is the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Dutch leader Pim Fortuyn, who was the first prominent figure to warn his countrymen of the dangers posed by unchecked Islamic immigration. The underlying social tensions at that time are much the same as the tensions of the present day. See pajamasmedia.com (via Instapundit) and also my first blog post, in May 2002.
I have updated the Foreign leaders page, adding Sarkozy's name.
Blog flap update
D.J. McGuire looks at the flap between the pro-Sayre bloggers (of which he is one) and the pro-Hanger blogger (moi), and makes a few good observations, plus a couple I take issue with. Like others, McGuire read too much into my observation about the nameless pro-Sayre bloggers. I think it was pertinent, but not a huge deal. As I wrote in the comment, I do not think that Sen. Hanger is "running away from his tax-hiking record." He is very much an issue-oriented candidate, but his problem is that the issues are too complex to explain in the sound-bite format that is typical of political campaigns. Waldo's odd comment that "Hanger is one of the farthest right, most extreme members of the General Assembly" certainly raised my eyebrow. Huh?
May 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Nationals win four straight
Perhaps the Washington Nationals have finally begun to rebound from rock bottom: they swept the Marlins in their first home series of the month. The most thrilling win of the series at RFK Stadium was on Saturday night -- or early Sunday morning, actually, after two rain delays. Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off grand slam to break a tie in the bottom of the ninth, helping his team to beat the Florida Marlins 7-3.
In tonight's game against the Braves, Jason Bergman pitched seven innings of no-hit ball. Brian McCann spoiled what would have been the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history with a home run in the eighth, but Austin Kearns' clutch RBI double provided the needed one-run cushion to assure a slim victory. The team now stands at 13-25 for the year.
MLB officials announced a postseason format change, with more rest days that may stretch out play into November. Boo! Please, Mr. Selig and company, don't follow the greedy, short-sighted approach of the NBA and kill fan interest by trying to milk more revenue by stretching the playoff schedule to an absurd extent.
The mail bag
From Bruce Orser: the Yankee's Web site has a new photogallery of the new stadium construction. Eegads, they really are moving right along there in the Bronx.
May 21, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Evening on Bell's Lane
For me, the best way to relax after a hectic day is to drive to Bell's Lane just outside of town and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature and the sun slowly descends. Late this afternoon was exceptionally pleasant and mild, and all the bird songs blended together like a choir, with a first year male Orchard oriole (first of season) as lead vocalist. I also heard some rustling in the bushes, and a couple strolling by told me it was a fox, but I couldn't be sure. Today's highlights:
- Yellow warblers
- Indigo bunting (M)
- Downy woodpecker
- Brown thrasher
- Willow flycatcher (prob., FOS?)
- Orchard oriole (1st year M, FOS)
- Cedar waxwings
May 30, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Ten to zip: That's gotta hurt!
After their recent string of successes on the ball field, perhaps the Washington Nationals got just a little cocky. Or perhaps it's just that no one can figure out how to hit off Brad Penney. Whatever the reason, the Dodgers spoiled the Nats' return home to RFK Stadium last night with a 10-0 blowout. I did some checking of my records and found that this was not the worst defeat in the team's two-plus year history; actually, the day of bleakest ignominy was Sept. 30, 2006, when the Nats lost to the Mets 13-0 and I was there! Anyway, perhaps last night's "slap in the face" is what was needed to get the team to bear down for the long, hard grind ahead and keep them above the .400 threshhold of respectability and perhaps even within range of a .500 win-loss record. To dream the impossible dream...
Thank you, fans
As most of the baseball fans of this site know by now, my recent political travails have kept me from devoting enough attention to updating the stadium diagrams and informational pages. Fear not, everything should get back to normal after the June 12 primary election in Virginia. In the mean time, I do appreciate fan e-mail greetings such as the messages I received last week from "TC" and Gregory G. Encouraging words mean a lot to me.
May 11, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Pope Benedict visits Brazil
Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Joseph Ratzinger) is visiting Brazil, in conjunction with the first conference of Latin American bishops for the last 15 years. It is the first time he has been to Latin America since he was elevated to Pontiff. He used the occasion to canonize the first saint born in Brazil, the 18th Century monk Friar Galvao, who was famed for miraculous healings. The Pope warned Brazilians not to fall prey to hedonistic temptations, but hedonism is practically the essence of Brazil's national identity. Although Brazil is "the world's most populous Catholic nation," most of the people are not particularly devout, and paganism is perhaps as strong there as Christianity is. See BBC.
Teachers strike in Argentina
A strike by teachers in Argentina that began last month has turned into a big political mess. President Kirchner persuaded the governor of his home state of Santa Cruz to resign after protests got out of hand, embarrassing Kirchner. The president is getting a reputation for governing in a heavy-handed authoritarian style, which is sadly in keeping with Argentina's political culture. See CNN.com. Kirchner's style of cynical, hard-ball politics has cost him moral authority to deal with grievances such as the teachers who seek higher pay. If he can exploit nationalistic sentiments to coerce the World Bank into backing down on demands for debt repayment, then interest groups in his own country can expect to get their way by using similar Machiavellian tactics.
Peruvian terrorists to marry
Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman and his second-in-command Elena Iparraguirre, both of whom are serving life sentences for terrorism, plan to get married, but no date has been set. If the jailhouse nuptials do take place, the "happy couple" will get six conjugal visits per year. See CNN.com. Guzman was a philosophy professor who became enamored of Mao Zedong and set about killing and destroying much of the infrastructure of the Peruvian highlands from 1980 until 1992, when he was captured.
May 24, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Nationals pile on the runs
During their recent rebound, the Washington Nationals' strong point was in their pitching staff, to the surprise and delight of many. The low team batting average, in contrast, has come as a disappointment to their fans. Now their bats are finally getting hot, as Felipe Lopez hit a grand slam that made the difference in an 8-4 win over the Reds on Tuesday, and Ryan Church hit two homers in the 12-7 victory last night. On Monday, the Nats wasted a big lead as the Reds came back to win, 8-7. That makes a total of 27 runs scored by the Nats in the last three games, their highest such total in team history. (Their previous such record was April 18-20, 2006, when they had scored 26 runs against the Phillies.) The Nats will be trying to win the final game of the four-game series in Cincinnati tonight.
I was greatly annoyed that the Nats were bested in two out of three games by the Baltimore Orioles in the weekend series; arghhh! Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell took a look at the bright side, marvelling that so many fans showed up to see three games that are essentially meaningless in terms of the pennant races. Each of the three games were decided by a one-run margin, providing plenty of drama and opportunities for learning small-ball strategy.
So, the 82,317 fans who came to old RFK Stadium this weekend to enjoy three one-run games were the hard core: the students of the game, the kids just starting to fall in love with the sport and those so loyal to their teams that they never stop dreaming of better days. And all weekend they got their reward.
The mail bag
From Mike Zurawski: ballparkdigest.com has a detailed overview of plans for renovating Kauffman Stadium, home of the Royals. The most noticeable change would be the new concourse that would wrap all the way around the stadium's exterior. I've always thought that fans ought to be able to sit or at least walk close to the green bank / waterfall in the outfield, and it appears that is their intention. Good! Also, the Oakland (?) Athletics have bought land in Fremont for their new stadium, moving ahead with their plans in spite of uncertainty over final approval by local government authorities. Team owner Lew Wolff hopes "to open the new ballpark within three to five years." See sfgate.com
May 28, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Press freedom dies in Venezuela
Hugo Chavez followed through with his threat to effectively shut down Radio Caracas TV, one of the few remaining opposition voices in the country, as the request by that station to renew its license was denied. The signal went dead at midnight Saturday/Sunday. It was encouraging that the cause of freedom did not go down without a fight, as thousands of people rallied outside the RCTV studios to protest the government's decision. The final moments on air were very poignant, as reported by the BBC:
Employees of Venezuela's most watched channel embraced and chanted "freedom", before bowing their heads in tearful prayer, during the final minutes on air.
"Long live Venezuela. We will return soon," a presenter said, before the national anthem was sung and the screen went blank.
Those who can afford cable TV will still be able to watch RCTV, but with most of its viewership gone, advertising revenues will certainly dwindle, and the station will have to cut back its operations drastically. Mr. Chavez, who is quite sure that he knows better than anyone else what is best for Venezuela, explained his decision in the tone of a true autocrat:
That television station became a threat to the country so I decided not to renew the license because it's my responsibility.
Threats to freedom exist all around the world, and even here at home, there are those on both sides of the political spectrum who seek government power for the express purpose of shutting down alternative points of view. If you think what happened in Venezuela can't happen here, think again.
May 30, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Battles in Gaza and Lebanon
The Memorial Day weekend had most of us focused on the continued high casualty rate suffered by our military personnel serving in Iraq, but there has also been a "surge" of violent conflict in the lands next to Israel. In the Gaza Strip, which is now governed by the Palestine Authority, there has been a virtual civil war between the currently-dominant Hamas terrorist group and the Fatah faction of Yasser Arafat that used to run the PLO. Israeli armed forces intervened on a small scale to prevent the violence from getting out of control. In Lebanon, the Army has started to crack down on Hezbollah, which has reverted to its old thuggish ways of intimidation via terrorism and assassination, evidently at the behest of the government of Bashar Assad in Damascus.
The upsurge in political violence in both Israel and Lebanon can only be understood in the context of the broader showdown in the Middle East region. Washington Post: "Many government officials and residents see one prime mover in the assassination, the fighting in the north and the bombs: Syria, Lebanon's larger, historically oppressive neighbor." Yes, the very same country that Nancy Pelosi recently visited to "build bridges" in the Middle East, and that Diane Sawyer visited to interview President Assad earlier this year. With his elite mannerisms and clear English diction, he seems not to fit the mold of tyrranical despot, but that is what he really is. Whether he wanted to play that role in life, that's the legacy his father left him: a regime whose power rests solely on brute force. Fortunately, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is under no illusions about the nature of Assad and his regime, and even through supreme difficulties, she will make sure that the appropriate degree of U.S. pressure is brought to bear so that Damascus refrains from overt support of international terrorism.
May 24, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Compromise immigration bill
Even as the Senate approved an ambitious immigration package (see Washington Post), activists on both sides are gearing up to stop any such change dead in its tracks. Why? Because the interest groups that benefit from maintaining the status quo are far better organized and mobilized than those who work in the broad public interest and recognize that the current system cannot be sustained indefinitely.
It was thus very appropriate that the local PBS affiliate WVPT hosted a panel discussion on immigration this evening. Jacqueline and I drove up to Harrisonburg and enjoyed exchanging views with those who attended. The program was moderated by Chris Graham, editor of The New Dominion, and included four panelists: Amy Lilly, an elementary school ESL teacher, Sam Nickels, with the New Bridges Immigration Resource Center, Jim Patrick, a member of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, and John Vinson, Editor of Americans for Immigration Control. It may be broadcast at some point in the future. The first two speakers were strongly pro-immigrant, emphasizing humanitarian values and downplaying the risks to social stability, while the latter two speakers were strongly in favor of restricting immigration, insisting on enforcing the law. My heart sides with the first two, and my mind sides with the latter two. Chris Graham strained mightily to keep the dialogue on civil terms, showing how fragile the rational middle ground position is on this vital issue.
After the discussion among the panelists, the members of the audience were invited to join in. One of those who did so was Rick Castaneda, chairperson of the Hispanic Services Council in Harrisonburg.
I spoke up to bemoan the lack of attention to applying basic principles of free market economics to this issue. In particular, I took issue with Chris Graham's assertion that American workers would refuse to work in poultry plants no matter how high the wage was. I said that it's just a matter of how high the wage was; I have no doubt that wages of $20 an hour would attract a sufficient number of American-born workers, in which case the price of chicken would of course rise to the natural market level. But the big businesses that dominate this sector want cheap labor to avoid paying for health insurance and other entitlements, and most Americans go along with this because they are used to paying cheap prices for chicken. Everyone around the Shenandoah Valley knows that poultry processing plants employ mostly immigrant workers with essentially no legal rights, curtailing job opportunities for young people who grow up in this area. Much of our "WalMart" economy is based on massive cheating, which disrupts the normal supply and demand mechanism and confusing people about relative value and scarcity. Reforming this system will be very difficult and painful.
I also cited a joke by Jay Leno: If we give amnesty to all the 12 or so million illegal immigrants, they will qualify for minimum wage and get other welfare entitlements, and thus would no longer be forced to do those menial jobs, in which case we would have to bring in 12 [million] more illegal immigrants to do those jobs!
May 20, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Sixth District Republican Gala
Jacqueline joined me, as guests of Carol and Ray Ergenbright, at the Virginia Sixth District Republican Gala, which was held at the Lexington Golf and Country Club last night. It was the first time I had attended this annual event. I was especially pleased that Sixth District Chairman Fred Anderson made a point to remind the guests of the Virginia Republican Creed, which was included in the program. (I hope the "apostates" took note.)
Clockwise, from top left: Sixth District Chairman Fred Anderson, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, State Senator Emmett Hanger, Larry Roller, Scott Sayre, Vickie Parkinson, House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, and Delegate Ben Cline, among others.
The setting for this fund-raising event was truly spectacular, with a great view of the golf course and mountains beyond as the sun went down. The food was excellent, and the people were pleasant and friendly. Both of the candidates for the hotly contested 24th District senate seat -- incumbent Emmett Hanger and chalenger Scott Sayre -- were present, along with several of their respective supporters. (Thanks to Vickie Parkinson for giving up her seat at the table with Senator Hanger so that we late arrivals could sit together!)
In his introductory remarks, Congressman Goodlatte talked about the difficulties in working with the Democrats on Capitol Hill now that they have regained the majority once again. He sharply criticized the Democratic leaders' attempts to force a premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, saying he was quite certain that if only the Democrats would allow an up or down vote on the question of funding the war in Iraq, many Democrats and nearly all Republicans would vote "yes." On the subject of the proposed comprehensive immigration reform, he reiterated his firm opposition to any form of amnesty, which would only reward illegal behavior.
In his keynote address, Attorney General McDonnell focused on the theme of liberty, in the context of the global war on terror and the ongoing political battles in the United States. He noted how the founding of Jamestown by the English settlers four hundred years ago gave rise to a nation -- and a global cause -- that they never could have imagined at the time. He also reminded his guests of the perils to liberty that come with expanded government social programs, and urged everyone to work hard to elect Republicans in the upcoming elections.
At the end of the evening, several Republicans received the Eagle Award from Congressman Bob Goodlatte for their hard work on the campaign trail last year. Among those was Alex Davis from Staunton. Congratulations, Alex!
May 4, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Web site traffic overload?
Here's something weird: Even though I made fewer blog posts last month than in almost any other month in over a year, with not a single new baseball stadium diagram, traffic on my Web site has risen substantially. This was even before the recent blogospheric flap in which I became embroiled. In fact, I got a warning a few days ago about overloading the bandwidth restriction from my Web site host, which means I need to start rattling the tip jar again pretty soon.