November 10, 2004 [LINK]

More winter birds arrive

Pine siskin For the past three days I've seen Purple finches at our feeder out back, and this morning I saw several Pine siskins at the thistle seed feeder right next to the window. (Hence the glare spots in the photo.) The yellow color in their wings (not visible in photos of Pine siskins I took earlier this year) is a clear sign that they are related to goldfinches. Princess was very excited by the new prospective suitors and started "flirting" furiously, prompting George to fly back into their room and defend his turf. Princess has been making new calls recently, a subdued, intricate series of soft squeaks, sometimes punctuated by harsh outbursts. It really makes me wonder what she is trying to say... Yesterday I heard a loud bump on that window, and caught a glimpse of a Cooper's hawk (or possibly a Sharp-shinned hawk) flying away with its prey. A pile of feathers is all that's left.

Cropp blocks stadium vote

Once again, D.C. City Council Chairperson Linda Cropp shocked her cohorts by postponing a vote on funding a new baseball stadium for two weeks, even though Mayor Williams had a majority of votes lined up for his proposal. Unbeknownst to the Mayor, she has been discussing with real estate brokers (including Michael Sununu, son of John Sununu, a top official in the first Bush administration) a plan under which private investors would fund up to $350 million of the $440-$530 million total construction cost. The good news is that she says she is committed to building the stadium, and now accepts the South Capitol Street site on the Anacostia waterfront. According to the Washington Post, an aide to the Mayor "described the proposal as a tax shelter that relies on a loophole in the federal tax code..." Mrs. Cropp appeared on WUSA-TV9 this morning and tried to explain her alternative plan, denying that her actions are aimed at laying the groundwork to run for mayor. Will Mayor Williams be forced to renegotiate his agreement with MLB? I'm rather sympathetic to those who fault such "stadium socialism," but D.C. has a reputation for being unfriendly to business, and the city's credibility has been undermined by Mrs. Cropp's last-minute switcheroo. Fortunately, none of this seriously threatens the planned relocation of the Expos to D.C. MLB plans to name the team the "Nationals" on a provisional basis, and ticket sales are supposed to begin any day now, according to General Manager Tony Tavares.

More Post-Election Fallout

Reactions from Democrats to Bush's triumph are mixed, ranging from die-hard deniers to sober reflectors. Fringe investigative reporter Greg Palast, who gained fame by writing stories alleging systematic vote fraud in Florida in 2000, wrote "Kerry Won," claiming that "The election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something called 'spoilage.'" I just learned from Rush Limbaugh that Peter Jennings devoted time to this story on ABC News last night, so I guess we can't put it down as just another one of those wacko conspiracy theories. Among the sane but bitter Democrats, Josh Marshall and Maureen Dowd dismiss outright any thought of reconciliation with President Bush. Kevin Drum chastises Frank Pastore for an L.A. Times article with some sharp words about the cultural elite that I thought were pretty close to the mark. A few days after challenging those who were planning to vote for Bush by couching the issues in grotesquely slanted ways, Randy Paul presented a relatively restrained take on the election on his Beautiful Horizons blog. He suggests that states that voted for Kerry should be considered the "Brainland," as opposed to the Red "Heartland" states that backed Bush. So I replied,

Regarding Randy's thoughts: The exit of McAuliffe (and the rest of the duplicitous Clinton gang) is indeed long overdue. It would be nice to see a Democratic Party with its soul restored. "Brainland" is clever, but it would only reinforce the sense of resentment felt toward coastal elites in much of the Heartland. I count myself as only one of many of your opponents who does NOT want Democrats to become "morose," but rather that they get their bearings and pick fights on a rational basis, not rejecting everything that Republicans propose. I also take exception to the portrayal of us on the Right as being intolerant of dissent. I respect principled pacifism and criticism of the war based on strategic reasoning, but too much dissent these days is of the blind, knee-jerk variety, which is just not appropriate in these dangerous times.

(Thanks to a comment on that blog by Miguel Centellas, I came across a good piece by a Democrat who voted for Bush.) It also had a link to a New York Times article filled with laments of Gotham citizens who can't understand why the Heartland votes in a way that they see as quite hostile. Some of the comments are predictably condescending, unwittingly answering their own question. At a forum televised by C-SPAN, veteran ABC reporter Carole Simpson could barely contain her disgust with the election, equating the winning conservative "red states" coalition with a resurgence of the slave-owning Confederacy. The more sober Ron Brownstein, of the L.A. Times, emphasized how much broader President Bush's support was compared to Kerry: In only five of the 21 states he lost did he receive less than 43 percent of the vote, whereas Kerry failed to get that proportion in 21 of the 29 states he lost. Democratic Leadership Council co-founder David Frum touted the New Democrats Online Web site, which laid out a useful list of ten kinds of bipartisanship. Being center-oriented, their critical analysis of what Bush will be doing in his second term is thoughtful and worth reading.

And finally: You won't have John Ashcroft to kick around anymore! So the Attorney General has resigned, along with Secretary of Commerce Don Evans. I never had particularly strong feelings about Ashcroft one way or another, but the way the Left ripped him to shreds over the PATRIOT Act, etc. really mystified me. Is Ashcroft the "sacrificial lamb" on the altar of bipartisanship? Michael Moore ridiculed his musical aspirations in Farenheit 9/11. (I've been meaning to put in my two cents about that mockumentary flick, which I finally saw a few weeks ago at a local Democratic Party event; stay tuned.) Alberto Gonzalez, from Texas, was just named by President Bush to succeed Ashcroft.

Senator Arlen Specter, in line to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was obliged to retract his November 3 warning to President Bush not to nominate anyone in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court. I would agree with his general point that there should be no specific "litmus test" on judicial appointees, and President Bush said exactly that in the third debate. The point is that judges should interpret the Constitution in the narrow terms intended by the original Framers and not stretch it to advance some reformist agenda. Specter is on very shaky ground when he declares that Roe v. Wade is as inviolable as Brown v. Board of Education. There is a vast difference between the two cases in terms of how many people accept the Court's rulings as legitimate. His original statement can be found at: American Family Association, a social conservative group. Since Chief Justice Rehnquist is being treated for thyroid cancer, which is one of the most dangerous forms, this question takes on great urgency.

The Battle for Fallujah

Will we have to level the place before the Sunni resistance begins to break down? It's shocking how few news reports mention that the violence in Fallujah, Baghdad, Baquba, etc. do not represent a nationwide rejection of U.S. occupation forces in Iraq, but is rather the last-gasp effort by the Sunni minority to prevent the establishment of a new pluralistic, democratic political order. Belmont Club has been making very good observations on happenings in the Heartland of Sunni Terror. U.S. troops are making effective use of high-tech communication, night vision, and remote photographic equipment, putting the terrorists at a big disadvantage. Army and Marine units have taken control over at least 70 percent of the city, but it will be several months before we get a clear idea of which way the tides of war are turning. Here's a satellite photo of the Fallujah area, showing deployment of U.S. units, from: www.globalsecurity.org.

The timing of this offensive so soon after the U.S. election is definitely not coincidental, as Austin Bay makes clear in Strategy Page:

The re-election of George W. Bush bodes well for peace in 2020. A John Kerry victory would have cost us an additional two years of blood, toil, sweat, and tears -- the two years it would take the Kerry Administration to discover that the Bush Administration's strategy in the War on Terror is the right one.

Comeback for Guzman in Peru?

The shaky government of Peru was embarrassed a few days ago when terrorist leader Abimael Guzman and his Shining Path co-defendants began raising their fists and chanting revolutionary slogans as their retrial began. The trial was interrupted but has now resumed, with no cameras allowed in the courtroom. The feckless government of Alejandro Toledo has discredited democracy itself in the eyes of many poor Peruvians, so a resurgence of political violence in the highlands can't be ruled out.