November 1, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Campaign 2009: home stretch!
As Election Day 2009 fast approaches, Republicans are still in unusually high spirits. About 200 gathered for a big political rally at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave late this afternoon, and I was there. (It was only three days ago that I went to that very same airport to see a World War II aircraft show.) All three members of the Republican statewide ticket were there, along with virtually all of the local candidates for public office. In fact, with a couple exceptions, it was almost the same group of leaders who attended the "Republican Reunion" in Verona on October 10:
- Bob Goodlatte, U.S. Congress, 6th District
- Bob McDonnell, candidate for Governor
- Bill Bolling, Lieutenant Governor *
- Ken Cuccinelli, candidate for Attorney General
- Ben Cline, House of Delegates, 24th District *
- Steve Landes, House of Delegates, 25th District *
- Dickie Bell, candidate for House of Delegates, 20th District
- Chaz Evans-Haywood, Rockingham County Clerk of Court
- Matt Lohr, State Senate 26th District
- And possibly others...
* (asterisk): Incumbent running for reelection.
As on October 10, Congressman Bob Goodlatte led in making the introductions. Bob McDonnell expressed gratitude to everyone who worked to make his campaign so successful, while reminding everyone that it isn't over yet! Bill Bolling gave a spirited talk about all the woes suffered by average people in the economy, ending each section of the litany with the refrain, "HELP IS ON THE WAY!" Ken Cuccinelli stressed the need to protect our constitutional rights against those who would take control of our personal lives on bogus pretenses. As I wrote on my Facebook page,
Andrew Clem is encouraged that the Republican Party may be on the right track once again. The speakers at the Weyer's Cave airport campaign rally this evening -- McDonnell, Bolling, Cuccinelli, et al. -- all focused on the right things, such as upholding liberty and defending the constitution. It's a refreshing change of pace from the GOP recent past of harsh negativity, and a stark contrast to the Democrats' statist agenda.
Here's another reason to be encouraged: Former Virginia Republican Finance Chairman Fred Malek puts Bob McDonnell at the top of his list of "10 Republican Leaders Who Could Be President."
While moving around to get a better view of the speakers up front, I noticed SWAC Girl live-blogging the event. In recent days, she and former Augusta County Republican Chairman Kurt Michael have resumed a high public profile after an extended "quiet" period. Uh, oh...
GOP Waynesboro rally
Republicans held another campaign rally in Waynesboro on Friday, and Steve Kijak was there to take pictures. I almost went to that event, but decided not to at the last minute. Too bad: I could have seen RNC Chairman Michael Steele. He is one of the brightest lights in the party these days, in spite of heavy flak from members of "The Base" such as Richard Viguerie. Another GOP leader who made a (rather rare) public appearance: State Sen. Emmett Hanger!
This would have been more appropriate for Halloween, but if you're in the mood for some scary things to keep you up at night, read Marc Faber's very gloomy forecast of the world economy at yahoo.com; hat tip to Dan.
November 2, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Yankees lead 3-1 in World Series
Last night's game was a real classic, as the Yankees took an early lead, scoring twice in the first inning, and the Phillies kept closing the gap. Chase Utley got another home run off C.C. Sabathia, and in the eighth inning Pedro Feliz got one off Joba Chamberlain, tying the game. But in the top of the ninth, Johnny Damon hit a two-out single, then stole two bases in one fell swoop, taking advantage of the Phillies' defensive shift for left-handed batter Mark Teixeira. Nobody was on third base! Teixeira was then hit by a pitch, and mighty A-Rod stepped up to the plate. Even though he hasn't been getting many hits during the World Series, he has been getting clutch RBIs. A double to the left field corner got Damon across the plate, after which Jorge Posada batted in Teixeira and A-Rodriguez. Mariano Rivera pitched in the bottom of the ninth, three up and three down. Final score: 7-4, and the Yankees now enjoy a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series. I won't be able to see the first part of the game tonight, to my immense consternation. I almost wish the Phillies would win tonight so that New York fans would get to share in the victory celebration on Wednesday or Thursday...
Attendance at both Game 3 and Game 4 exceeded 46,000 -- more than 2,500 in excess of Citizens Bank Park's seating capacity. That's a lot of standing-room-only fans. In contrast, attendance at Games 1 and 2 was about 2,000 less than the 52,325 official seating capacity at New Yankee Stadium. It sounds like the same problem as at Nationals Park: the seating price structure is out of sync with economic realities. After the crash on Wall Street, there's not enough rich fat cats left to pay for the elite box seats and luxury suites.
In response to a request for some detail enhancements from Mike Zurawski, I have made a slight revision to the Citizens Bank Park diagram. The grandstand in left-center field and nearby structures are affected, and the "387" distance marker has been added. I'll also be making a slight revision to New Yankee Stadium.
As for Sportsman's Park, which has been "on deck" forever, it seems, I recently came across some conflicting information about the 1920s era that needs to be reconciled...
Wrigley Field changes?
Mike [Zurawski] informs me that the new Cubs owner, Tom Ricketts, plans to make intermediate-scale changes to Wrigley Field, costing about $200 million altogether. That means they won't be replacing the upper deck, as has been discussed. No flashy jumbotron scoreboard either, thank God. See Chicago Tribune. Also, the long-term plan to build a new hotel/entertainment complex is still alive, pending economic recovery: see addisonparkonclark.com.
Also, they just took the letters off
Old Renovated Yankee Stadium. See demolitionofyankeestadium.com
November 2, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Scozzafava drops out
In yet another bizarre twist to the strange race in New York's 23rd Congressional District (see my post on Wednesday), Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava has withdrawn from the race. The Washington Post interpreted this as a victory for the the right wing of the GOP. Today, Scozzafava endorsed the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, rather than the Conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman. This move leaves little doubt that Scozzafava was indeed a liberal and not a "moderate," as the Post and several other media sources have indicated. Her husband is a union official who is in close touch with Democratic leaders. According to politico.com, Democrats have been courting Scozzafava very assiduously, and even Joe Biden showed up to campaign on Owens' behalf. It could be a very close race, but it won't be as significant for natiowide trends as either the Virginia or New Jersey governors' races.
The odd situation came about because President Obama nominated John M. McHugh to be Secretary of the Army. McHugh resigned from the House on September 21 (see house.gov) and assumed his new duties the same day (see army.mil). It would be nice to know why the local GOP leaders picked Scozzafava without duly consulting party members. What were they thinking of?? Perhaps it was just a hasty, ill-considered fluke. On ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulus, the panelists discussed the "GOP Civil War." The same situation almost came about here in the Virginia 20th District House contest in July, but the party leaders held a public forum at the last minute to solicit input.
Cuccinelli on gays
I was disappointed that a Washington Post editorial criticized Ken Cuccinelli for alleged "bigotry," just because he opposes the homosexual agenda. I see no reason to doubt that his views, while strongly on the traditional social conservative side, are sincere and religiously-based.
On Facebook, Chris Saxman solicited election predictions. Here's mine:
McDonnell and Bolling by 9% points each, Cuccinelli by 3%. Steve Landes by 12%, Ben Cline by 14%, Dickie Bell by 8%. Net GOP gain in HOD: 2 seats. Just an unscientific hunch.
Party IDs on ballots
This isn't very encouraging: According to the Washington Times, the Obama Justice Department "decided that equal rights for black voters cannot be achieved without the Democratic Party Party." That is, without party labels on ballots, they might not know who to vote for. Hat tip to Megan Rhodes.
November 4, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Republicans sweep Virginia races
It's hard to imagine a more satisfying election result than what we saw last night. All three Republican statewide candidates won by near-landslide proportions, exceeding my conservatively optimistic forecasts by at least ten percentage points. It was the first time that the GOP had swept the three statewide races in Virginia since 1997, when Jim Gilmore, John Hager, and Mark Earley were each elected. The Grand Old Party also gained about six seats in the Virginia House of Delegates (pending a possible recount), and won the governorship in New Jersey. Here are the preliminary, unofficial statewide results for the Old Dominion:
|| Bob McDonnell
|| Creigh Deeds
SOURCE: Virginia State Board of Elections
Congratulations to Governor-Elect Bob McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, and Attorney General-Elect Ken Cuccinelli for their historic triumph!
In New Jersey, meanwhile, Republican Chris Christie (a moderate) defeated incumbent Democrat Governor Jon Corzine by a 49%-45% margin. President Obama had made several campaign appearances on behalf of Corzine, who was plagued by ethical problems. It all had little or no net effect, as Christie won in spite of a lackluster campaign. Of all the races, this one has the greatest potential significance for national politics.
To some extent, the voters in Virginia and New Jersey were expressing deep dissatisfaction with the Obama administration and its agenda, but we need to study the results more closely before making definitive judgments about that. In today's Washington Post, Dan Balz wrote that yesterday's elections "revealed cracks in the Obama 2008 faction and demonstrated that, at this point, Republicans have the more energized constituency heading into next year's midterm elections."
The result in New York's 23rd Congressional District was a disappointment, but it's hard to draw a clear-cut lesson from that bizarre three-way contest. Democrat Bill Owens beat Conservative Doug Hoffman by a 49%-46% margin, while "Republican" Dede Scozzafava (who withdrew and endorsed Owen on Sunday) received 5%. Does the loss of this seat, which has been in Republican hands since 1872, mean that the GOP is doomed to lose more ground in its traditional northeastern "homeland"? Not necessarily; it's really up to the political leaders to get their factions reunited. According to politico.com, "Owens ... seemed to benefit from voters' preference for pragmatism over ideology." If so, it's a stark contrast to the winning pragmatic approach adopted by Bob McDonnell. Hoffman may have been one of those off-putting right-wing ideologues, as some suggest, but it's hard for an outsider to know for sure. One clear consequence of that campaign is that Newt Gingrich made a huge blunder in endorsing Scozzafava. He was already on thin ice in some party circles for having taken strong stands on controversial issues, and this will severely damage his stature. Steve Bragaw, my former colleague at Sweet Briar College, pointed out the huge impact of Sarah Palin's use of Facebook for promoting Hoffman's candidacy. Such a thing would have been impossible before the era of New Media began.
Back in Virginia, voters decided that the House of Delegates is going to have six (6) more Republicans next year. Eight incumbent Democrats were defeated by Republican challengers, while one Republican incumbent was defeated by a Democratic challenger, and the 52nd District seat held by Jeff Frederick (who served as RPV Chairman until last April and did not run for reelection) was won by a Democrat as well. It is a welcome rebound after three consecutive elections in which the Republicans lost several seats.
Republican Victory Party
Delegate Steve Landes (25th District) and his colleague-to-be Dickie Bell (20th District) co-hosted a Victory Party at the Staunton Holiday Inn, complete with a catered buffet. Perhaps the most telling moment was when Emmett and Sharon Hanger entered the room and received a warm and hearty round of applause. Senator Hanger has been at odds with a number of party members in recent years, but it seems that the differences of opinion are narrowing, as a new spirit of unity and mutual understanding emerges. Hanger led the victory speeches, remarking what a great feeling it was, just like in the "good old days." Dickie Bell expressed humble gratitude to all for the honor that was bestowed upon him. I was happy that Delegate Landes took the time to thank all those who had worked so hard during the campaign, in particular Steve Kijak.
There was extensive press coverage, with television crews from WHSV-TV3 and WVIR Channel 29 as well as reporters from the News Leader (which focused on Dickie Bell) and the News Virginian (Bob Stuart, who focused on Steve Landes).
Augusta County Commissioner of Revenue Jean Shrewsbury was among the local GOP elected officials who were present, as well as Staunton City Sheriff Alex Caldwell, who easily withstood a challenge from Michael Painter. The three local Republican Party chairpersons -- Bill Shirley of Augusta County, Anne Taetzsch Fitzgerald of Staunton, and Chris Darden of Waynesboro -- were busy greeting the guests and keeping up with the elections returns. Many local Republican activists were there, including Steve Kijak, Carl Tate, Zannette Hahn, Al Katz, and others named in the photo captions below. There were also several sympathetic independent activists such as Mike Hodge of the Valley American and Richard Armstrong, a leader of the local "Tea Party" movement. Many of the Young Republicans from out of state who helped in the final phases of the campaign were there as well. What a great experience that must have been for them! On the down side, I heard some talk that the right-wing "grassroots" faction (a.k.a. "SWAC") may be planning to challenge some of the Republican incumbents at the local level. I guess we're not out of the woods just yet...
Delegate-Elect Dickie Bell, Delegate Steve Landes, State Senator Emmett Hanger
Ann and Dickie Bell
Augusta County Supervisor Dave Beyeler, future "legal eagle" Carl Tate
Augusta County Supervisor Jeremy Shifflett, State Senator Emmett Hanger, Augusta County Treasurer Rick Homes
Just a few of the 150+ guests at the Republican 2009 Victory Party.
Among those at the Victory Party were Dr. Larry Roller and Emily Griffin (center), and Bob and Ruth Talmage (on the right).
November 5, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Yankees are the 2009 champions
It's been almost a full decade since the last time the New York Yankees lived up to their high self-imposed expectations, in which nothing less than a world championship is seen as satisfactory. But last night they finally rose above the post-9/11 cloud of frustration and won their 27th World Series title, perhaps getting back the team's "mojo" at long last. After a shaky first month that raised questions about manager Joe Girardi and the new Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Bombers got their act together in May and started playing like a true team for the first time in years. Even though they finished the regular season with the highest winning percentage in the majors (.636), fans were nervous that they might choke in the postseason once again. Well, for whatever reason this year was different, and almost every Yankee played superbly, which is why they finally won the World Series once again.
It was by no means easy, however, and you have to give the defending champs, the Philadelphia Phillies, a lot of credit for playing hard and playing well. Manager Charlie Manuel was clearly distraught when interviewed by Ken Rosenthal after the game, but he has nothing to be ashamed of -- other than pitcher Cole Hamel's apparent lack of competitive spirit, that is. Chase Utley's five World Series home runs tied Reggie Jackson's record from 1977, and if a few of his team mates had done a little better, they might have won it. In fact, Ryan Howard set a World Series record, with 13 strikeouts. I was actually glad when he hit a home run last night, to at least partly redeem himself. Overall, the Phillies were a very worthy opponent, and they will be a force to be reckoned with next year.
In the deciding Game Six last night, Hideki Matsui was the star, batting in six runs to tie a World Series record. He hit a two-run homer in the second inning, a two-run single in the third inning, and a two-run double in the fifth inning. He was just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. Matsui has played well for the Yankees over the past seven years, but he never lived up to the expectations befitting his nickname "Godzilla." See MLB.com. When you combine that performance with his slugging over the past few days, including home runs in Games Two and Three, there is little doubt that he truly deserved the 2009 World Series Most Valuable Player award. (Some purists probably cringe that a designated hitter would get such an award, just as many have questioned whether career "DHers" like Edgar Martinez deserve to be considered for the Hall of Fame.) Since Matsui's contract is about to expire, this may be his last season as a Yankee, in which case it would be good that he went out on a high note.
On the mound, Andy Pettitte proved all the nay-sayers wrong, pitching confidently and solidly for 5 2/3 innings. Both he and C.C. Sabathia did just fine on only three days rest, which was all that most pitchers in the "good old days" of baseball could expect. It's amazing the Yankees did so well this year with only those two plus A.J. Burnett as first-class pitchers. As for the other Yankees, Mark Teixeira got the only other RBI of the game last night, while Derek Jeter got three more hits, pushing his World Series batting average over .400, and Alex Rodriguez got one hit and two runs. He did get a few clutch hits during the World Series, but not enough to qualify him for "Mr. October" status, a role that he seemed to be filling last month in the ALDS and ALCS.
Speaking of which, I just learned from a book I recently bought that in the 1977 World Series the real "Mr. October," Reggie Jackson, hit four of his record-setting five home runs on four consecutive swings. Pretty amazing, huh? That was over the course of Game Five and Game Six, and included a four-pitch walk in between two of his four-baggers.
And so, just as happened in the original Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Bombers win a world championship in the very first year of their new ballpark's existence. Whether or not you believe in the "Destiny" hype, it's another incredible chapter in the Yankees' saga...
A few random notes: This was the first World Series that went as far as Game Six since 2003, when the Marlins beat the Yankees, four games to two. In 2002, the Angels beat the Giants four games to three. According to MLB.com, this was the first time that C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui, and Alex Rodriguez have been part of a World Series champion team. Of course, Johnny Damon enjoyed such a status as part of the 2004 Red Sox. Attendance at Game Six was about the same as in the first two games: 50,315, about 2,000 less than capacity of New Yankee Stadium. (That's just not right!) "Win one for the Boss!" Ailing franchise owner George Steinbrenner was present for games One and Two, but then returned to Florida, so he was unable to be part of the celebration. Tragically, the game ended much too late (almost midnight) for most young boys in America to watch the game on TV. When are the MLB executives going to reform the playoffs to make it more accessible to young fans, to ensure the future viability of the sport? As one of those who have become Washington Nationals fans since 2005, the success of my other favorite team takes the sting out of what was a truly horrible year.
The Yankees celebrating their World Series victory, courtesy of Brian Vangor. Among the identifiable players are Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano (24), Hideki Matsui (55), Johnny Damon (18), Derek Jeter (2), and Mariano Rivera.
Brian Vangor and his nephew Mike -- one of the luckiest young kids in America. Also see the (rather awesome) Yankee Stadium II wide view photo that Brian took from the same location.
Whew! Now that baseball games are done for the year, I can get back to the task of revising the rest of those stadium diagrams...
November 6, 2009 [LINK / comment]
The Nationals: 2009 in review
Perhaps looking back on such an awful year is more painful than it's worth, but somebody's got to do it. The Washington Nationals began the season on the road, and lost their first seven games. New arrival Adam Dunn provided lots of slugging firepower, while infielders Nick Johnson, Cristian Guzman, and Ryan Zimmerman started off the season on a hot streak. Zimmerman had a 30-game hitting streak through May 12, but his luck ran out on the 13th. The weak spot throughout the 2009 season was the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, causing the team to lose many close games. In May catcher Jesus Flores suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, a major blow. At the All-Star break, the Nats were only 26-61 (.299), and manager Manny Acta was replaced by Jim Riggleman. The acquisition of fleet-footed Nyjer Morgan from the Pirates at the end of June raised hopes, but he broke his hand while sliding on August 27, and was out for the season. In August, the Nats traded away two reliable veterans: Nick Johnson to the Marlins and Ronnie Belliard to the Dodgers. At about the same time, Livan Hernandez returned to the pitching rotation after a two-year absence. The highlight of the season was the eight-game winning streak from August 2 to August 9, and the low point was an eight-game losing streak from August 28 to September 5. Adam Dunn raised his batting average to almost .290 in August, but then slumped; he fell short of 40 home runs (38) for the first time in five years. Boosted by rookies Ian Desmond and Justin Maxwell, the Nats swept both the Mets and the Braves to end the season, becoming the first MLB team ever to lose their first seven games of the season and then win the final seven games. This surprising streak of wins provided a glimmer of hope for the future, and may have saved Jim Riggleman's job as manager.
A slightly modified version of the above text and the below list of 2009 highlights has been posted on the Washington Nationals page. A full-page ad in the November 1 Washington Post placed by the Nationals' front office listed some of the same highlights as shown below, while thanking the "Natstown" fans and looking forward to a better season in 2010. Well, at least it can't get any worse -- right?
- Apr. 17-19 -- Marlins come from behind and win in the 9th inning in three straight games.
- May 11 -- Ryan Zimmerman hits safely in his 30th consecutive game, the end of his streak. @
- May 24 -- Adam Dunn hits two home runs, incl. a grand slam; WSH 8, BAL 5.
- June 4 -- Randy Johnson wins his 300th game in D.C.; SF 5, WSH 1.
- June 20 -- Willie Harris GW home run in 12th inning; WSH 5, TOR 3. @
- June 25 -- Record attendance at Nationals Park: 41,985; WSH 9, BOS 3. @
- July 9 -- 11th-inning error by M. Tejada ends rain-susp. May 5 home game; WSH 11, HOU 10 @
- July 27 -- Josh Willingham hits two grand slams in one game; WSH 14, MIL 6. @
- July 28 -- Adam Dunn hits home run out of Miller Park; WSH 8, MIL 3. @
- Aug. 2 -- Willingham HR helps Nats end 8-game losing streak; WSH 5, PIT 3. (I was there.)
- Sept. 6 -- Ryan Zimmerman GW 9th-inning two-run home run; WSH 5, FLA 4. (I was there.)
- Sept. 30 -- Justin Maxwell GW 9th-inning grand slam; WSH 7, NYM 4.
- Oct. 3 -- Justin Maxwell home run in 11th inning; WSH 6, ATL 4. @
- Oct. 4 -- Alberto Gonzalez RBI single in 15th inning; WSH 2, ATL 1. @ Nats win last 7 games!
ESPN honors Zimmerman
I was lucky to be watching ESPN on Monday night when a well-dressed Ryan Zimmerman received the first-ever "Web Gem Champion award," a fitting recognition for the All-Star third baseman's defensive prowess. See MLB.com; for some reason, I couldn't find that news item on ESPN's Web site. If Zimmerman hits as well next year as he did this year (.292 batting average, 33 home runs, and 106 RBIs), and keeps up his superb fielding performance, there is no reason why the Nationals shouldn't win a much bigger share of their games.
November 7, 2009 [LINK / comment]
World Series ballparks & cities
To mark the successful (!?) conclusion to the World Series, I have made some minor revisions to the Yankee Stadium II diagram, mostly with respect to the periphery on the third base side. I was watching closely throughout the postseason, and I didn't notice any discrepancies between the real thing and my rendition thereof, with the possible exception of the second-to-first deck overhang. I estimate about three rows of overhang, but it may be a few more rows than that. (Hopefully, I'll see for myself next year!) My hypothetical proposed alternative version, with the outfield walls pushed back by about ten feet, has been modified a bit as well.
While I was at it, I made a few more tweaks of Citizens Bank Park, mostly in center field and the area beyond. Mike Zurawski suggests that I put distance markers to match where they are placed at the actual ballparks, but in some cases that is hard to do without excessive squeezing. In this case, I simply adopted Mike's suggestion and made the "329" left field marker vertical, as it is in real life. The "334" marker located at the bend just to the right of the corner, is much more obvious to casual viewers, and excluding it might be confusing. Also note that the right-center marker (369) in the diagram has a pale gray background to indicate that there is no actual marker there, but that is, nevertheless, the "official" power alley distance. As previously mentioned, Yankee Stadium II and Citizens Bank Park are "the two most slugger-friendly stadiums in the major leagues." In the former, there were 2.93 home runs per game (237 total) this year, and the latter there were 2.56 home runs per game (207 total). For a complete list of 2009 home runs sorted by ballpark, see hittrackeronline.com.
Philadelphians may be bummed about the outcome of the 2009 World Series, but they have already earned a distinction that can never be challenged. As Buck Wolf pointed out at Weird News (link via SABR), Citizens Bank Park "is actually the city's FOURTH ballpark to host World Series games..." Philadelphia actually achieved that status exactly one year before New York did [, unless you include Brooklyn, in which case New York reached that level in 1969.]* No other city has even had that many stadiums since the early 20th Century. Whenever the Mets win the NL pennant, New York will [have reached six]. For the record, here is a complete list of all cities in which World Series games have been played at more than one ballpark:
||Most recent "new"
World Series ballpark
World Series ballparks
World Series **
| New York [/ Brooklyn ]
| Los Angeles / Anaheim
| St. Louis
| Minneapolis / Bloomington
| San Francisco
* Thanks to Kevin Connell for the fact check; corrections in [brackets]. NOTE: Based on further fact checks, a revised version of this table was posted on November 20.
** No double counting for "subway series," etc.
The mail bag
Old Renovated (Desecrated?) Yankee Stadium, much of the lower portion of the bleachers are now gone. See demolitionofyankeestadium.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski.
November 7, 2009 [LINK / comment]
House passes Obamacare bill
At about 11:05 P.M. cheers erupted from the floor of the House of Representatives when the 218th vote was cast in favor of H.R. 3962, the "Affordable Health Care for America Act." After the last few votes were counted it was 220 in favor, including one Republican, and 215 against, including 39 Democrats. With that five-vote margin, this nation took a big step toward a fundamental reordering of our society and economy -- a veritable leap into the unknown.
On most Saturdays this time of year, I would probably be watching a football game, but today was an extraordinary moment in U.S. history. My eyes were glued to the tube, watching the House of Representatives debate the thousand-page behemoth. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) spoke very forcefully against the bill, and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) spoke eloquently about the lack of constitutional authority for such a measure, and the lack of any provisions to prevent illegal aliens from enjoying the health care benefits. I saw Congressman Bob Goodlatte speak twice, emphasizing the job-killing aspects. You can peruse the document at your leisure at the Library of Congress' "Thomas" legislative database. Is that too much to digest? Don't worry, there's probably somebody on Capitol Hill who has read most of it for you already. Or maybe not.
This was a good occasion for me to take advantage of instantaneous civic interaction via the new "social media." Chris Saxman sparked a debate on health care on Facebook, and I replied to one critic of Republicans (Susan Maddux-Anderson) thusly:
Susan is right that most Republicans failed to blow the whistle on Bush's fiscal profligacy, and that Obama is just doing what he promised. But it would be fatally wrong to suggest that there are no reform alternatives to Obamacare. It will either bankrupt us or enslave us, or both.
To which she asked whether other industrialized nations were bankrupt or enslaved, to which I replied:
No, they are are free-riding on the security protection that we have provided them since the beginning of the Cold War. We don't have that luxury. Plus, their economies depend on immigrant workers who aren't covered, which is the same direction we are heading. Statism has crippled economic innovation in Europe, which is why so many Europeans come here to live.
Just after the House voted to approve the measure, I replied to Zanette Showker Hahn:
"Sad" is putting it very mildly. At least there is hope that this unconstitutional travesty will get stopped in the Senate. What an irony that the one Republican voting "yea" (Joseph Cao) is a refugee from communism, and that he replaced that crook William Jefferson.
and right after that I replied to Shaun Kenney ("R.I.P. Free Market."):
It's the Constitution I'm more worried about. It's been several decades since we've had something resembling a free market in the health care sector, but somehow the Republicans failed to convey this fundamental fact to the public.
It's probably those damn health care industry lobbyists. Nancy Pelosi choked back tears as she announced the final vote, and I was crying inside too, but for the opposite reason. Now the fate of American liberty is up to the U.S. Senate...
Locally and nationally, the Democrats are gnashing their teeth at the big Republican victories in Virginia and New Jersey. Should they appeal to the Center or to their Base? Not surprisingly, Daily Kos thinks the latter, blaming the collapse in turnout. "This is a base problem." Forecast: increased polarization, with chance of violence.
November 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Catholic - Anglican reunion?
Last month the Roman Catholic Church announced that it will welcome Anglican Christians into full communion with the Catholic Church, meaning that members of the two denominations will share in the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments. See catholic.org. This weekend, The Traditional Anglican Church in Great Britain announced it will accept the offer, which could lead more members of the Church of England back toward Rome. See catholicnewsagency.com; hat tip to Shaun Kenney for both items. This comes in the midst of bitter legal and moral disputes within the Anglican Communion, as the Episcopal Church bishops continue to defy mainstream Anglican opinion on the issues of gay bishops, etc.
In response, the Episcopal Church issued a surprisingly bland statement saying that the Catholic moves are a continuation of what Rome "has been doing for some years more informally." I hope they are not ignoring profound signs of dissent from within the Anglican-Episcopal fold.
New papal encyclical
Several weeks ago the Pope issued a new encyclical, emphasizing the deep connection between Truth and Charity. It looks interesting, and I hope to diget it one of these days. See the Vatican Web site; hat tip to Shaun Kenney.
"Harvest Day" service
Yesterday our congregation (Emmanuel Episcopal Church!) had a special "Harvest Day" service, as part of the annual pledge drive. Like most businesses and individuals, churches too are facing a budget crunch these days. I was among the "Harvest Band" musicians who played some lively folk tunes as an alternative to traditional organ music. Earlier today I posted a couple photos at the emmanuelstaunton.org Web site.
November 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Health care bill fallout
Now that the House has passed its version, what will become of the health care bill? Will the Stupak amendment, which forbids any money from being spent for abortion services, kill the whole deal? Today's Washington Post indicates that is a real possibility. On the other hand, it could have paved the way for nationalized health care to go forward, because without Republican votes to get majority for the Stupak amendment on Saturday, there would not have been enough moderate Democrats to vote in favor of the whole bill. In that case, the social conservatives who wanted to go on record against abortion will have betrayed the overall conservative agenda, and indeed, freedom itself. What an irony, one of many more to come.
As they say, "the Devil is in the details," and the Wall Street Journal has been uncovering a lot of bad stuff the Democrats don't want you to know about.
Obama visits Berlin [NOT*]
is on [will soon begin] an overseas trip [to the APEC summit in Singapore.] and stopped in Berlin, where they are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Somehow, he failed to mention the name of the person who was primarily responsible for that epochal event: President Ronald Reagan. See CNN.com.
* I must have misunderstood something I heard Rush Limbaugh say. My apologies for not fact checking first.
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Mission accomplished: see youtube.com; hat tip to Steve Bragaw.
November 11, 2009 [LINK / comment]
As the Democrats proceed to "seize the moment" and ram through the first phase of health care nationalization, some of us are pondering what this bodes for the future of the U.S. Constitution. If they get away with this, what other radical transformations to our nation may be enacted by thin majorities in years hence? How can we possibly maintain "domestic tranquility" if the Constitution is routinely flaunted? This is not just some far-off, abstract, academic question. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about constitutionality by a CNS News reporter a few weeks ago, she just laughed it off:
CNSNews.com: "Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?"
Pelosi: "Are you serious? Are you serious?"
To ridicule the notion that constitutional authority for such a monumental change in policy is even a valid question is evidence of a very narrow, partisan mind. When our government is led by such people, very bad things are likely to happen.
So what can we do about the steady erosion of our constitutional freedoms? Kevin Gutzman, co-author of the book Who Killed the Constitution? (see Oct. 23) thinks the only solution is to persuade the state legislatures to pass resolutions authorizing a constitutional convention, in effect going "over the head" of Congress. He was recently interviewed by radio host Mike Church, and you can listen to the whole thing. The subject was "Everything you ever wanted to know about constitutional conventions but were too afraid to ask," trying to make an otherwise dry subject more "sexy." On Kevin's Facebook page, I gave a thumbs-up to the idea, but one pro-Constitution person named Teri warned that a constitutional convention would backfire. My response to her:
... You are quite right that without an engaged public and responsive legislators, no piece of paper is going to matter. The American people may well be "ignorant of their heritage," in a blissful coma perhaps, but a constitutional convention could be precisely the civic "tonic" they need to wake up. It's true that what is left of our freedoms could be swept away under a new constitution, but if we don't take that risk, we'll never get back the freedoms we've already lost. As long as it's done the right way, so be it. Make the people face up to the choices, and the profound consequences thereof, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Unless Congress somehow sees the light real soon, there may be no alternative to a constitutional convention. At the very least, it's something that needs to be discussed.
Candid on Obamacare
Many conservatives are deeply suspicious at the Democrats' proposed health care "reforms," for good reason: neither President Obama nor Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid are being fully honest about what the likely consequences will be. The same goes for most, but not all liberal apologists for "Obamacare." As an example of one honest voice, John Cassidy offers "Some Vaguely Heretical Thoughts On Health-Care Reform" at newyorker.com. He admits that it will cost much more than it's advertised, but he feels that is a small price to pay for getting the bill passed. Good grief! Hat tip to "Mud Pit", where I posted the following comment, rebutting local lefty blogger "Zen":
The candid revelation by Mr. Cassidy is not that partisan politics is as important as policy goals in driving the health care bill, or that the cost projections may be over-optimistic, as Zen suggests, but rather that the Pelosi bill contradicts one of the central rationales given by Obama -- that it will cut health care costs. Obama is NOT "transforming the existing system of private insurance, which gave rise to many of the current problems, but ... extending it." Translation: it is NOT a real "reform."
Cassidy is very clear that the fiscal consequences will be dire, and there will be political hell to pay later on. To those like him (and Zen) who have long dreamt of nationalized health care, subterfuge and red ink are a small price to pay. But once the lies upon which the irreversible health care entitlement was enacted are exposed to all, resentment and social polarization will increase exponentially. You think the Tea Partiers are mad now? Just wait.
Jeff Frederick update
Outgoing Del. Jeff Frederick, who was ousted as head of Republican Party of Virginia in April, blames Governor Elect Bob McDonnell for his ill fortune. In fact, he all but said that he cast a write-in vote for another candidate! Sheesh. Such a spiteful attitude is yet another sign of Frederick's immaturity and unfitness to serve in a position of great responsibility. See Washington Post; via tooconservative.com. McDonnell was wise and astute to use his influence to get the party back on an even keel, as it would have been very hard for him to appeal to independent voters on the campaign trail otherwise. Indeed, he might not have won the election.
Victory party photos
Steve Kijak has a boatload of Election Day (and Night) photos on his blog, including one of me (uncharacteristically cheerful! ) along with Delegate Steve Landes and Carl Tate.
November 11, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Hurricane season: the end
The remnants of Hurricane Ida have been giving us a good soaking all day. Last week it flooded large parts of Central America, killing dozens, but it was downgraded to a tropical storm before it reached the Florida panhandle. Now it's just a gigantic swath of rain blanketing the eastern U.S.A. It's annoying and discomforting, but not very menacing. It's almost certainly the last tropical storm of 2009, which has seen relatively few hurricanes.
Every couple weeks or so, I stop at the Woods Mill roadside park along Route 29, where this historical marker of Hurricane Camille is located. I took this photo almost exactly forty years after the calamity that swept across much of the southeastern United States, shortly after the Apollo moon landing and Chappaquiddick. I remember it took place just after our family returned from a vacation to North Carolina.
Hurricane Camille historical marker: On August 20, 1969, at least 114 died in this area, and 87 people remain missing. Click on the image to see a larger size.
November 11, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Veterans Day 2009
As President Obama deliberates over whether to send additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan, and as soldiers and families at Fort Hood recover from the murder of 13 of their comrades, the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform, past and present, become clearer. Civilians can never know the full measure of devotion on the part of military personnel, but simply talking about what they did and where they served is a good first step toward showing we care. Of all the things to be proud about in this country, the members of the United States armed forces rank very close to the top.
On PBS this evening there was a show about a World War II bomber crew who had to bail out over the island of Borneo after their B-24 was damaged by enemy fire. They spent several months struggling to survive in the jungle, with the help of local tribesmen who hated the Japanese, but most of them finally made it out alive. It was an inspirational tale that applies to the current struggle against terrorists in Afghanistan -- and in our own midst.
Today the weather here in Virginia was bleak, perhaps fitting for the present somber emotions. Staunton will hold its annual Veterans Day parade this coming Saturday.
November 13, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Nats keep Riggleman as manager
After a relatively brief selection process, the owners of the Washington Nationals decided to keep Jim Riggleman as manager. The rumor got spilled [on Wednesday], and the formal announcement was [yesterday.] Other candidates included former Mets manager Bobby Valentine and Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Bo Porter. Riggleman had been serving as "interim" manager since mid-July, when his predecessor Manny Acta was fired. The team went 26-61 team (.299) under Acta, and 33-42 (.440) under Riggleman, but that was helped significantly by the seven-game winning streak at the end of the season. He was also a sentimental favorite, having grown up in the suburbs of Washington in Maryland. See Washington Post.
I have no problems with that decision. Riggleman seems a bit too passive and mild mannered to provide the motivation the Nationals so desperately need, but the same thing could be said for some very successful managers such as Joe Torre. General Manager Mike Rizzo said Riggleman has "discipline and a toughness to his personality..." I just hope he can get the team on track to a winning record for 2010.
Z-man gets Golden Glove
On Wednesday, Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was awarded the Golden Glove (see MLB.com), the first Washington National to be so honored. Today he received the Silver Slugger award, which is given to the top offensive player at each position. The honors are fitting indeed, and a sign that he is emerging as a true superstar.
November 13, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Honduran compromise in peril
Last week, chances were growing that the prolonged stalemate in Honduras may be broken in the near future. There is a broad consensus that ousted President Manuel Zelaya should be allowed to return to power for the last several weeks of his term, which ends in January. The question is, on whose terms? Would Zelaya be allowed to hold a constitutional referendum and thereby stay in office indefinitely, as he tried to do last summer? Through the efforts of U.S. and Latin American diplomats, a compromise was arranged.
In the past couple days, however, Zelaya has accused the United States of reneging on a commitment to return him to power. José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, said the negotiations have broken down. He has taken a lead role in this mediation effort. Resolving this delicate issue is urgent because the country plans to hold presidential elections on November 29, and without OAS blessing, it may not be considered legitimate by other countries. See the Washington Post.
A unique aspect of this prolonged crisis is that Republican legislators led by Sen. Jim DeMint have declared their support of the de facto government, traveling to Honduras in recent weeks. The Honduran leadership has faced international isolation since Zelaya was ousted in July. Zelaya remains a refugee within the Brazilian embassy after sneaking back into the country in September.
Venezuela vs. Colombia
Once again, Venezuelan President-for-Life Hugo Chavez is whipping up fears of war in South America. He ordered his armed forces to prepare for a war with Colombia, accusing it of conspiring with the United States against Venezuela. In response, Colombia appealed to the U.N. Security Council and the OAS to prevent hostilities from breaking out. Tensions began to rise again last summer when Colombia accused Venezuela of shipping weapons to the FARC guerillas, but nothing else has happened lately. See CNN.com. The idea that the United States would adopt an aggressive policy toward Venezuela with Barack Obama as president is unlikely in the extreme. As discontent rises in his country because of stagnant crude oil prices, Chavez seems to have no better response than to divert attention to imagined foreign threats.
Ecuador vs. Colombia
In a move that set back recent attempts at reconciliation, a judge in Ecuador issued a warrant last month for the arrest of the head of the Colombian armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla. In March 2008 Colombian forces had attacked guerrillas who were taking refuge on Ecuador's side of the border, precipitating an international crisis. Since then, tensions have eased for the most part. One expert called the recent actions by Ecuador's government "schizophrenic." See CNN.com.
Fujimori guilty again
The former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, pleaded guilty to bribery and illegal phone-tapping charges last month. This came after his previous convictions for convicted of ordering the murder of 25 dissidents (in March 2009) and for having ordered an illegal search (in December 2007). It makes any political comeback even less likely than before, but his daughter Keiko Fujimori may run for president in 2011. See BBC. Fujimori is quite a tragic figure, achieving great things as President through audacity during the early 1990s, and then becoming intoxicated with power.
November 20, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Baseball awards season
For most of sports fans this time of year, baseball is a fading, warm memory, while football consumes most of our attention as spectators. (Reform the BCS? Bah humbug!) But it's also the season for tallying up the accomplishments of the "boys of summer," as individuals rather than team players. In other words, it's kind of like the Oscars.
Among pitchers, the phenomenal Tim Lincecum of the S.F. Giants prevailed over Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (both St. Louis Cardinals), thus becoming the only pitcher to capture the Cy Young Award in each of his first two full Major League seasons See MLB.com. In the American League, the equally phenomenal Zach Greinke of the Kansas City Royals was the Cy Young winner, to no one's surprise. With a record of 16-8, he tied Brandon Webb, of the Diamondbacks, for the lowest win total for any Cy Young winner in either league. I think that means the Royals had better build a better team if they expect to keep him for the long term.
In other player awards, Oakland right-hand pitcher Andrew Bailey was chosen as American League rookie of the year, and Chris Coghlan, an outfielder for the Marlins, was chosen in the National League.
Mike Scioscia of the LAnaheim Angels was honored as the American League Manager of the Year, and Jim Tracy of the Colorado Rockies was chosen on the National League side. He was brought in to replace Clint Hurdle in May, and against all odds, brought the Rockies into the postseason for the second time in their 17-year history.
Soon we'll find out who gets the top prize of all: the Most Valuable Player awards. Albert Pujols (first baseman) is the odds-on favorite in the N.L., though Hanley Ramirez has a higher batting average (.342 vs. .327), and deserves consideration at least. In the American League, catcher Joe Mauer towers above the rest, with a .365 average, 28 home runs, and 96 RBIs.
2012 All Stars in K.C.
It would appear that the 2012 All-Star Game will be played in Kansas City, according to MLB.com. Bud Selig couldn't say for sure, but left little doubt at the annual meeting of MLB owners in Chicago. The formal announcement will be at the MLB winter meetings about two weeks from now. The rumor sparked a remark at Baseball Fever to the effect that Fenway Park, which is celebrating its centennial that year, had been "snubbed." A guy named Mike disagreed, and I concurred:
Mike is right; nothing will ever replace the 1999 All Star Game when Ted was there to say goodbye.
If Fenway was snubbed, it was during the 37 years from 1962 until 1999, a longer period without an ASG than any other ballpark except Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. (Only once, in 1958.) Actually, Kauffman Stadium will surpass Fenway's length of time without an ASG by the time 2012 rolls around. Its only ASG was in 1973, the year it opened.
Davey Johnson joins Nats
The Washington Nationals picked Davey Johnson to be "senior advisor" to general manager Mike Rizzo. Johnson managed Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Olympics, when one of his players was none other than future pitching ace Stephen Strasburg. Johnson is expected to serve as a scout and as a "roving instructor." He was manager of the year in 1997, when he led the Orioles to the AL East championship, the last time Baltimore made it to the post-season. See MLB.com.
WS ballpark fact check
Todd Stephenson and Christopher Jackman each recently contacted me, separately, about further errors in my November 7 blog post about "World Series ballparks & cities." Todd reminded me that "the Philadelphia A's played at Columbia Park in the 1905 Series..." So, the total number of World Series ballparks for Philadelphia is actually five -- not four, as the Weird News story reported.
But wait, there's more errors in that table! As Christopher Jackman pointed out, by including the wooden turn-of-the-century ballparks, the totals for Boston, Pittsburgh, and Detroit should be revised upward by one, and the total for Chicago should be revised upward by two! That would be for, respectively, Huntington Avenue Grounds (Red Sox), Exposition Park (Pirates), Bennett Park (Tigers), West Side Grounds (Cubs), and South Side Park (White Sox). I would add one more for New York, because I count the wooden incarnation of Polo Grounds (III) as separate from the concrete and steel stadium by that same name (Polo Grounds IV) that was built in 1911, at the same place. Thus, it was Chicago that became the first city with five World Series ballparks, in 2005, and New York reached the six level this year.
I certainly hope that settles that!
||Most recent "new"
World Series ballpark
World Series ballparks
World Series **
|New York / Brooklyn
| Los Angeles / Anaheim
| St. Louis
| Minneapolis / Bloomington
| San Francisco
This is a revised version of a table that was first posted on November 7. Thanks to Kevin Connell, Todd Stephenson, and Christopher Jackman for the fact checks.
** No double counting for "subway series," etc.
November 21, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Senate votes on health care
Just like the House of Representatives did two weeks ago, the U.S. Senate is going to vote on the health care bill on a Saturday night when most Americans are out at the movies or something. Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks he has enough votes in the Senate to pass health care, after having promised Sen. Mary Landrieu $100 million to help rebuild her home state of Lousiana. (Hurricane Katrina keeps coming back to haunt the GOP.) This is just a procedural vote to allow debate to begin, but there seems little doubt that the Democrats intend to exploit their "window of opportunity" and rush it through before the American public realizes what just happened.
UPDATE: Just after 8:00 P.M., as scheduled, the Senate voted on the motion, and it passed, as expected, by a margin of 60-39. Now it remains to be seen if the moderate Democrats in the Senate (Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman) will use the debate to truly scrutinize the measure, or just rush it through while no one is looking...
As for the murky details, yesterday's Washington Post outlined the devlish details and what it took to get to the crucial 60th vote, needed to stop a filibuster. What it doesn't tell you, however, is that the "$848 billion measure" would actually cost $2.5 billion over a ten-year period, after the whole thing goes into effect. (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained that very clearly on the Senate floor just a few minutes ago.) There would be a transition period for the first four years, during which time benefits would be negligible, and after that it balloons out of control. God help us all.
On his Facebook page, Brandon Bell (former Virginia state senator) pointed out the accounting gimmickery that allows the Democrats to claim that the health care program will be affordable: States will be forced to pay one half of the total program from their own resources, even though many states now are either in very tight financial straits, or else flat broke. Here is my response to Brandon:
Unfunded mandates, why didn't I think of that?! This must be what Obama means when he insists that his health care reform will be "deficit neutral." I wonder how many other sneaky budgetary tricks are in there?
It appears all but certain that both Virginia senators will vote in favor of the bill. Three years ago, both Virginia senators were Republicans, and now they are both Democrats. Why? In a nutshell, you can explain the shift with just two words: macaca (the gaffe which undid George Allen's Senate career) and RINO (the disgusting, counterproductive epithet which led John Warner to call it quits in 2008). His replacement, Sen. Mark Warner, touts his business experience and sensitivity to the needs of small businesses. I have marked up the edited text of his speech on the Senate floor as shown on his Web site to show what he actually said, as you can hear for yourself on the video clip. In Warner's words,
The only people who pay retail -- who pay full price for their health care benefits in America today -- are small businesses and those [folks] who purchase health care on the individual-based market. [So,] There is no group that [is going to be more]
will benefit [and that will] more from, or have more to gain from, more meaningful health care reform [if we do it right] than small businesses.
Here is my message to Senator Warner, submitted on his constituent feedback Web page form, in which I call attention to a telling omission in the transcript of his speech:
Sen. Warner: The quoted text on your Web page omitted five key words from your speech on the Senate floor: "if we do it right." The Senate health care bill, however, is doing it WRONG. It purports to cut the federal deficit by $130 billion over the next decade, mostly by forcing state governments to pony up half of the cost. Virginia's state government is already in crisis mode, and our people cannot afford to pay more taxes to fund the proposed bureaucratic nightmare. As a former governor of our commonwealth, you of all people should know better. Furthermore, there is NO constitutional authority for Congress to mandate individual participation in such a program. Your speech showed awareness of the plight faced by small businesses, but you just don't seem to grasp the fundamental reasons why health care costs are spiralling out of control. We do NOT need more insurance coverage or more government entitlements that would only make things worse, we need more freedom, thrift, and individual responsibility. Choice and real competition will bring costs and quality into balance. I urge you to vote NO on the health care bill, and to work with other moderates to come up with an alternative that is faithful to our country's values and our Constitution.
I also gave Senator Warner's office a call, at 1-877-676-2759, for Virginia residents only. Finally, I also submitted a message to Virginia's senior senator:
Sen. Webb: I was searching your Web site, and could not find any press releases by you this year concerning the vital issue of health care reform. I have studied the House bill (HR 3962) in some detail, and from a quick glance, the Senate bill seems very similar. From my perspective as a political scientist and former economist, I have grave doubts about mandating universal insurance coverage and expanding federal entitlements. If you want to make health care more accessible to poor people, fine, but please don't make our already bad health care system even worse. I urge you to vote NO on the proposed Senate bill, and to work with other moderates in crafting a compromise that will uphold freedom and individual responsibility.
While the Senate proceeds to impose an enormous new burden on the citizens without any thought of whether such a power is granted by the U.S. Constitution, it might be a good idea to "go back to basics." This video on the difference between republics and other forms of government is so good, I think I'll use it in my class: wimp.com.
November 23, 2009 [LINK / comment]
GOP split in Virginia Beach
You would think that with the Republican Party currently engaged in a momentous historical struggle to resist a government takeover of our health care system, and thereby uphold liberty, there would be a consensus on what kind of candidate to nominate, especially in a (normally) red state like Virginia. But you would be wrong. A special election will soon be held for the 8th District state Senate seat that has been held by Ken Stolle, who was just elected to be sheriff of Virginia Beach and therefore had to resign from the state Senate. For some reason, the leading candidate to replace Stolle is Jeff McWaters, who works in the insurance industry and has made statements seeming to favor Obamacare. (??!!) According to the Virginian-Pilot, he said, "Health care is a right in America... We don't let sick people lie on the street and die." (Define "we," please.) The opposing Republican candidate, Rosemary Wilson, will need a strong show of support from conservatives in the upcoming party canvass by which the nominee will be chosen. For more discussion and analysis of this, see Brian Kirwin at Bearing Drift. It is uncertain whether the Democrats will even nominate a candidate for that seat, so the nomination will be tantamount to election. Hat tip to Ben Marchi.
This is not unlike the situation in New York's 23rd Congressional District, where local Republican leaders nominated Dede Scozzafava, who was so liberal that a third party Conservative candidate emerged, after which Scozzafava withdrew from the race and endorsed the Democratic candidate, who went on to win. See Nov. 2. When are Republicans going to stop shooting themselves in the foot, for crying out loud?!
November 24, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Mauer, Pujols win MVP honors
As widely expected, Joe Mauer, of the Minnesota Twins, and Albert Pujols, of the St. Louis Cardinals, were chosen as the (respective) American League and National League Most Valuable Players for 2009. Mauer received 27 out of 28 first-place votes, and is the first catcher to be so honored since Ivan Rodriguez in 1999. See MLB.com. Pujols was chosen unanimously, with 32 first-place votes. He is the tenth player in baseball history to have won three MVPs, and is on track to surpass The Babe, Hank, and Barry in career home runs by the time he retires. See MLB.com.
Sosa pales in comparison
I heard some odd references to Sammy Sosa's skin color on TV or radio recently, and didn't realize what it was about until today. Apparently, Sosa has been getting the same kind of skin-lightening treatments that Michael Jackson used to get, causing a stir in celebrity circles. For a shocking before-and-after comparison, see the Huffington Post. Retired NBA star Charles Barkley was mocking him for it. I hope Sammy doesn't get a nose job.
November 25, 2009 [LINK / comment]
November ballpark news roundup
Thanks as always to Mike Zurawski for the latest batch of ballpark-related news. In Chicago, the Cubs are going to erecting big signs in the back of the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field in order to block a casino billboard atop a building across. The new sign will probably feature Bud Light, which already has naming rights to the bleachers. See Chicago Tribune. I guess this means drinking isn't as bad as gambling.
The Florida Marlins and New York Mets are considering playing a series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico next summer, with the Marlins as "home team." Unlike the 2003-2004 period during which the Expos played a fair number of "home games" there, this time it wouldn't be as part of a relocation threat. The series should draw big crowds, since at least four Puerto Ricans are expected to be on the Mets' roster, including Carlos Beltran, Pedro Feliciano, Angel Pagan, and Omir Santos; see New York Daily News.
And back in the Flushing section of Queens, Mike tells me, "The Mets are making Citi Field more Met friendly. They are renaming the entrances after former players, naming the bridge in right center Shea bridge, adding Mets banners, adding a hall of fame, planting mets colored flowers outside the stadium and painting the railings mets colors." See loge13.com. But are they going to move the diamond forward to make home runs easier??
In St. Petersburg, the The ABC Coalition is presenting a report on new stadium options for the Rays to Hillsborough County leaders as well as Pinellas County. The Rays are contractually obliged to remain at Tropicana Field until 2027, however. Tampa Bay Online.
In Milwaukee, the Brewers are going to make some upgrades to Miller Park this winter, renovating the terrace level merchandise store, and building a "Plaza Pavilion" on the field level in the right-field corner. See the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal.
Jarry Park update
As for diagrams, you might think I've been slacking off lately, but such is not the case. True, I've been preoccupied, but it's mostly that the various diagrams I've been working on are in a semi-finished state. Anyway, I have completed a revision to the diagram of Jarry Park, former home of the former Montreal Expos, adding the usual details such as light towers and a more accurate profile. The main grandstand is about 15-20 feet deeper than I previously estimated. Also, I have added a tennis version diagram for the first time. The original home of the Expos franchise (which now resides in Washington, D.C., as the Nationals) was totally rebuilt into a tennis stadium in 1996. The sometimes-reliable Wikipedia says it was 1995, but the Stade Uniprix Web site says 1996.
One of the sources I came across while researching Jarry Park was an archival TV news report, "Major League Baseball Comes to Canada" from the CBC.
November 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Target Field nears completion
New! Just as construction workers in Minneapolis are making the final touches on the real Target Field, I have completed my diagrammatic rendition of the stadium. CAVEAT: The diagram is "under construction," with future revisions pending a good look at the finished project next spring. I made use of a wide variety of photos on baseball-fever.com, and Bruce Orser was very helpful in drawing my attention to those. Target Field is one of the most innovative of the "Neoclassical" ballparks, and most people are very excited about it. It looks fine to me, but I frown on the balcony section that hangs over right field, and I don't like outfield upper decks that are positioned so far forward that fans can't see what's going on near the fence below. Anyway, I hope to see a game there next summer.
One of the useful sources was "A walking tour of Target Field" by Jim Bickal, at minnesota.publicradio.org; hat tip to Mike Zurawski.
This is the first all-new stadium diagram I've done since Citi Field, which I first first posted in June 2008. (To keep track of all the stadium diagram updates thus far this year, see the 2009 stadium updates page.) Only one other major league baseball stadium is under construction at present: the Marlins' future home in Miami. I may decide to do diagrams of early 20th Century ballparks before I get to that one, however...
In conjunction with the new Target Field Web page and diagram, I have also updated the text on the Metrodome page. Updated diagram coming soon...
As for other ballparks I have been working on, I got so frustrated with Sportsman's Park that I just cast it aside for a while. I finally determined that it is one of the "Classical Era" ballparks in which the diamond was slightly askew (rotated counter-clockwise by about one degree), and this threw everything off just a little. The first four cases of skewed diamonds in the list below are fairly well known, and are clearly indicated as such in my diagrams, whereas the next three I only learned about in the past few months (hence the exclamation marks), and the final
two [three] are still uncertain (hence the question marks):
- Wrigley Field
- Braves Field
- Tiger Stadium
- Crosley Field
- Baker Bowl (!)
- League Park (!)
- Sportsman's Park (!)
- Griffith Stadium (?)
- Forbes Field (?)
- [ Yankee Stadium (?) ]
The way to San Jose
As fan support in Oakland dwindles, the co-owner of the Athletics, Lew Wolff, remains optimistic about getting a new stadium built in San Jose. The city has set aside the land and is preparing to decide on public funding, but as the Mercury News reports, "plans are on hold until a panel appointed by Major League Baseball finishes its study of possible locations throughout the Bay Area." This is probably just a ritualistic, formal process to address concerns by the San Francisco Giants about their territorial rights to San Jose. The fact that AT&T Park was mainly paid for by the Giants' owners themselves should be taken into account, but if you ask me, San Jose is the only feasible location for the A's. I noticed that the Oakland Athletics' Web site has deleted any reference to a future ballpark ("Cisco Field"?), whether in Fremont or San Jose. Does this mean the A's just playing it cool while San Jose decides on whether to spend the necessary money?
N.Y. Beatlemania 2009
As part of its Thanksgiving prime time lineup, ABC broadcast the concert by Paul McCartney in Citi Field last summer. Lots of great stuff, and you've got to admire him for keeping his youthful appearance well into his sixties. The New York crowd was big and enthusiastic, though not as berserk as when the Beatles performed at Shea Stadium 45 years ago.
Squire Rushnell was at Yankee Stadium when David Wells through his perfect game in 1998, which was 42 years after Don Larsen accomplished the same feat in the same stadium. He later learned that the two pitchers shared a common background characterstic that defies probability. Coincidence or "Godwink"? Watch his video at beliefnet.com and decide for yourself.
November 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Peru-Chile espionage dispute
Just as the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was about to convene two weeks ago, Peruvian President Alan Garcia left Singapore and returned to Lima because a Peruvian air force officer was arrested on charges of spying for Chile. See CNN.com. Chile's foreign ministry quickly denied the charges of espionage, and Chile's President Michelle Bachelet called Garcia's remarks about the matter "offensive." See BBC. Once again, the neighboring countries are mad at each other, but this time the charges involve a possible crime that may carry the death penalty. In the late 1970s a Peruvian military officer was executed after having been convicted of spying for Chile. It could happen again.
This week, President Alan Garcia said that Chile's offer to "study" the incident was far short of what would be expected of a democratic government. He then declared that Peru's ambassador in Santiago, Carlos Pareja, will remain in Lima indefinitely; it may take several weeks before the matter is cleared up. See La Republica (in Spanish).
This incident is especially unfortunate since Peru hosted the APEC summit meeting last year. Soon after that summit, in December, a Peruvian general was dismissed for having uttered inflammatory remarks directed at Chile. Unlike Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, the foreign policy of Peru at present is not aggressive or hostile. Peru's economy is doing better than most other countries in South America, and it would have nothing to gain by creating a crisis. Based on circumstances, it would appear more likely that the espionage charges are valid.
Hondurans set to vote
In Honduras, the elections scheduled for tomorrow are going ahead, even though the compromise under which exiled president Manuel Zelaya would be restored to power fell through. (See Nov 13.) This may call into question the legitimacy of the vote, as Brazil and other countries align themselves with Hugo Chavez in supporting the demands of Zelaya. An editorial in today's Washington Post praised the Obama administration for "rejecting their attempt to nullify Honduras's democratic vote." It's too bad Obama sided with Zelaya early on, needlessly prolonging the conflict. With a heavy presence of international observers, there is no reason to suspect that the election results will not be fair.
November 29, 2009 [LINK / comment]
The birds of November
I've only been on one major birding expedition this month, and precious little otherwise. A female Red-bellied woodpecker has been showing up at our backyard feeder almost every day lately, and we have seen an immature Yellow-bellied sapsucker on a semi-regular basis as well. Dark-eyed juncos are quite plentiful, and White-throated sparrows are somewhat less so. Red-tailed hawks are becoming more common along the highways, but thus far not as many Sharp-shinned hawks as I would normally expect.
Birding in Bath County*
Two weeks ago, on November 14 (Saturday), I joined Allen Larner, Penny Warren, and one other birder for a field trip to Bath County, about one hour's drive to the southwest, near the West Virginia border. It was very sunny and mild, and there was almost no wind at all, creating a serene sense of calm in the remote forests. Our first stop was the reservoir on Back Creek, where a hydroelectric station is located; all of the immature Bald eagles were seen there. Lake Moomaw was the final destination, and I was shocked to see how low the water level is. This was a deliberate measure aimed at reducing the risk from structural faults in the dam. (Yikes!) On our way back we stopped to enjoy the view from the top of a mountain pass east of Warm Springs, and spent a while looking around the Swoope area of western Augusta County. Here are the highlights, including ten (10) birds I saw for the first time this season:
- Red-tailed hawks
- Bald eagles (7 imm., 2 adults)
- Hooded mergansers (20+, FOS)
- American Black ducks (FOS)
- Green-winged teals
- Field sparrow
- Bufflehead (FOS)
- Ruddy ducks (FOS)
- Carolina wren
- Yellow-rumped warbler
- Ruffed grouse (FOS)
- Gadwalls (FOS)
- Great blue heron
- Golden-crowned kinglets
- Common loon (FOS)
- Hermit thrush (FOS)
- Fox sparrows (FOS)
- White-throated sparrows
- White-breasted nuthatches
- Yellow-bellied sapsuckers
- Pileated woodpeckers
- Hairy woodpecker
- Downy woodpecker
- Northern Harrier (FOS)
* What about "Bathing in Bird County"?
Lake Moomaw, at McClintick, with very low water levels because of a leaky dam. Roll your mouse over the image to see a nice mountain-top view of Bath County, looking to the east toward Goshen Pass and Lexington.
Can you see the Ruffed Grouse in this photo? Good luck -- it's very well camouflaged!
Flood at Chincoteague
The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge was heavily damaged by Tropical Storm Ida, and no tourists or nature lovers will be admitted until the damage is repaired. That's a pity, but maybe Mother Nature figured the area had too many humans and needed a good "washing." See a gallery of flood photos at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.