September 2004 Archives
September 29, 2004 FURTHER UPDATE (6:20 PM): Mayor Anthony Williams announced at 5:00 this afternoon that Major League Baseball will be coming to Washington, D.C. next year. Two hours before, he had received a telephone call from the Commissioner's office confirming that the transfer will be approved. (A 3/4 vote of the 29 franchise owners is required, but that is a 100% certainty. If the broadcasting package is as generous as is rumored, Peter Angelos himself may vote "yes.") The 15-minute ceremony featured seven city council members who have [either] agreed to vote for the necessary funding [or are leaning that way]. Mayor Williams made it clear that D.C. residents would not bear any tax burden for the new stadium, that a large number of free or low-cost tickets would be set aside for underprivileged youth, and that one dollar for each ticket sold after 2.5 million attendance is reached each year would be allocated to community recreation projects. In short, the Mayor gets it. Baseball is about building communities and restoring hope. For details, see WTOP Web site. Much more to come.
Mayor Williams was particularly gracious in paying respects to Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, whose welcoming attitude so angered Mr. Angelos back in July. So what's next? I'll be buying myself a Senators (or Nationals or Grays) cap as soon as the franchise is sold and the team's new name is announced. Come next spring, George W. Bush or John W. Kerry will revive the long-forgotten spring ritual by which the President used to throw out the first pitch at the season opening game in The Nation's Capital. PLAY BALL!!! I really look forward to finally seeing a game at Camden Yards, now that my boycott is over.
As in previous years, I've added a table at the bottom of the Baseball page showing the scores of postseason games. A few the championship series slots are still unfilled, so I may have to alter the teams listed. Cincinnati just beat the Cubs 4-3 in 12 innings, meaning the Cubs are in grave danger of losing the wild card race.
FURTHER UPDATE (noon): Steven Poppe referred me to a Canadian blogger Colby Cosh, who insists that the lawsuit by former minority partners in the Expos franchise will stop this deal dead in its tracks. It is, of course, remotely possible that lawyers could still sabotage this deal, even though no serious person on Earth believes that there is sufficient support for the Expos in Montreal to keep the franchise alive. True, MLB may just going through the motions with this relocation process, but the economic reasons for moving the team to the D.C. area are simply overwhelming. The lawsuit, and the threat of an injunction, is nothing more than a ploy to cash in -- one of the "$nag$" I referred to yesterday.
UPDATE [1:00 AM]: Here's the Post story from the Wednesday edition, and here's the latest press release from MLB.com. No official confirmation just yet. My take on this is that Mayor Williams is jumping the gun just a bit to make sure that the necessary funding legislation gets introduced at the City Council this week. Friday is the deadline.
I drove out to Bell's Lane this morning to see what (ex-) Hurricane Jeanne left behind. Time well spent!
Along the stream on the stretch closer to Staunton:
- Magnolia warbler
- Kentucky warbler -- 1st for me in years!? *
- RT hummingbird
- RW blackbird (M) -- none seen recently
- Red-bellied WP
- Kestrel (F)
- Song sparrows (4+)
Along the upland portion to the north:
- Palm warblers (2+)
- Kingfishers (2)
- Phoebe (J)
- Bluebirds (F, J)
- Savannah sparrows (3+)
- Canada geese (8+ flying)
- Meadowlarks (5+)
- N. harriers (M, 2 J)
* slight possibility of a 1st year M Common yellowthroat, but its cheek marks were very black and distinctive, its posture was more upright, and its behavior was calmer, spending most of its time on the mud.
September 28, 2004 Yes, sports fans, it's true. According to both WTTG FOX-5 TV and WUSA TV-9 in Washington, it's a done deal! MLB negotiators have narrowed the differences with Peter Angelos, and the D.C. Mayor's Office tacitly confirmed that an announcement will be made tomorrow afternoon that the Expos will move to Washington next spring. Ironically, a press release from MLB.com earlier today cast a bit of doubt, as Bob DuPuy stated, "No schedule has been set for any announcement" about relocating the Expos. So what was the precipitating factor that brought forth this sublime revelation today, as opposed to later in the week? Were the honchos motivated by sympathy for Expos fans? Those few but passionate long-suffering true blue devotees now will know with certainty that their team's final home game of this season tomorrow will in fact be the last one ever played in "The Big O." Merci beaucoup, Mr. Selig. Was it the alignment of "the sun and the moon" that Bob DuPuy cited last year? (The moon is just about at full phase, it so happens.) Was it the passage of yet another hurricane through the D.C. area today? Or perhaps the rumblings at Mount Saint Helens or the earthquake in California today? Details about the sale of the franchise are still up in the air, and it's entirely possible that the Zients-Malek investor group (Washington Baseball Club, www.baseballindc.com) may get outbid by an out-of-towner. Some visitors to this site have expressed understandable skepticism about this long-delayed transaction actually being consummated, and there will probably be a few last-minute $nag$, but there's really no turning back now. O ye of little faith! It was just about 33 years ago -- a third of a century -- that the final Senators game was played at RFK Stadium, and it was exactly two years ago that I opined that the Southeast D.C. prospective stadium site was my favorite.
We really got soaked by what's left of Hurricane Jeanne, with at least 4 or 5 inches or rain. As a result, I was unable to participate in today's hawk watch on Afton Mountain. There is flooding in low-lying areas of the Shenandoah Valley, but it's not nearly as bad as what happened in Florida or ...
In Haiti, the death toll has climbed past 1,500 people, and about 900 are still missing. Looting is rampant, as desperate survivors of Hurricane Jeanne overwhelm the 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers (mostly from Brazil) who are trying to help CARE distribute food and water. Many bodies are being buried in mass graves, in hopes of avoiding an epidemic. The regime that took power by forcing former President Aristide to flee back in January has lost what little control of the country it had. Street gangs now rule in many neighborhoods. A Canadian peacekeeping officer was quoted by CNN.com as saying, "There is no security right now. There are no patrols. There are no functioning police. We're on our own."
President Bush wryly lamented how difficult it has been to prepare for a debate with an opponent who takes so many different positions on major issues. Kerry's recent harsh attacks on Bush's Iraq policy seem to be a desperate attempt to shore up his dispirited political base on the left. He complains that Bush failed to "do it the right way," meaning that the U.S. should have sought the support of allies before going into Iraq. Not bloody likely, that. In fact, chances that our European "allies" might join in the battle against terrorists in Iraq have dwindled to nil, as seen in this Financial Times article. France and Germany have indicated they have absolutely no intention of sending troops to Iraq even if Kerry is elected, thus nullifying one of the major rationales for voting for him. Kerry's tailspin into negativism is not only politically risky, it approaches moral cowardice in the face of a common threat against which we desperately need to stand united. As the stalwart honest (former?) leftist Christopher Hitchens wrote in Slate yesterday,
The unfortunately necessary corollary of this -- that bad news for the American cause in wartime would be good for Kerry -- is that good news would be bad for him. Thus, in Mrs. Kerry's brainless and witless offhand yet pregnant remark, we hear the sick thud of the other shoe dropping. How can the Democrats possibly have gotten themselves into a position where they even suspect that a victory for the Zarqawi or Bin Laden forces would in some way be welcome to them? Or that the capture or killing of Bin Laden would not be something to celebrate with a whole heart?
In any event, Kerry's lame talk about how he would have relied on prolonged sanctions and multilateral diplomacy directly contradicts what he said back in 1997, as explained by realclearpolitics.com (link via Rush Limbaugh):
On November 9, 1997 Kerry gave a speech of his own free will on the floor of the United States Senate that was entered into the Congressional Record with the title, " We Must Be Firm With Saddam Hussein."
In the speech Kerry not only laid out the case for aggressive military action against Saddam Hussein, he cited Saddam's pursuit of WMD as the main rationale for action
In my never-ending quest to Engage in Meaningful Dialogue and look at issues from the other side's perspective, I browsed some leftist Web sites today. It was almost a complete waste of time. Nevertheless, if you have a really strong stomach and are curious about what they are saying about the Florida 2000 controversy these days, take a look at
www.gregpalast.com. Also, here are some of the more deranged recent entries from democrats.com:
- Chilling Image of Bush
Now tell us this photo doesn't evoke images of Nazi Germany in the 1930s! Here's Bush apparently giving an unabashed "Seig Heil!", while in the background a US flag hangs vertically suspended, as the Nazi flag was displayed.. news.yahoo.com
(NOTE to paranoid lefties: Bush was just waving to a crowd. Get a grip.)
- Bush's Biggest Rally - a White Supremacist Triumph?
- Jeb's Gestapo Intimidates Black Voters in Orlando
Truly frightening, those domestic enemies of freedom. Remember how Terry McAuliffe blamed the White House for the "Rathergate" fake memos fiasco? Well, perhaps the above pieces are just something that Karl Rove concocted to make the Democrats look bad. Otherwise, I'm at a loss as to how to explain such extreme self-defeating hatred.
September 26, 2004 Pennant fever! The Red Sox kept the heat on the Yankees at Fenway, trouncing them decisively in both weekend games after losing a close one on Friday. It was a virtual mirror image of what happened in the Bronx the week before. Obviously, Kevin Brown wasn't ready to return as a starting pitcher; I hope he's not too mad at himself... Yankee Andy Phillips became (according to my records) the 14th player ever to hit a home run on his very first pitch in the major leagues; Marcus Thames (also of the Yankees) was the last to do so, on June 10, 2002.
Following up on the issue of ballpark compass orientation which was brought up in the Washington Post article on the planned new stadium in D.C. yesterday, I have determined such orientations for all stadiums covered on this Web site. (!) The data are now included in a new column on the Stadium statistics page. To my surprise, in only three of the 65 stadiums is center field situated northwest from home plate. (Oddly enough, all three of those stadiums are/were in Canada!) So, it would appear that my proposal of building the new stadium in such a way as to have both the Washington Monument and the Capitol as an outfield backdrop is not very likely. I've come up with a suggested name for the new stadium, by the way: "Senators Park at Navy Yards." (It's just west of the Washington Navy Yards, on the Anacostia River.)
The new CBS drama The Clubhouse may be just the "shot in the arm"* CBS needs to recover from the 60 Minutes - Rathergate scandal. It seems like a well-conceived and directed series, and the fact that Mel Gibson and Aaron Spelling are behind the project says a lot. Dean Cain, formerly of "Lois and Clark" and "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!",** is well cast as the handsome, good-natured veteran star, à la Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken Jr. Tonight's premier episode explored the moral dilemma of team loyalty versus upholding the law, the kind of charcter-building issue you don't often see on television these days. I was puzzled by the source of the imaginary New York team name "Emperors" until I put "Yankee" and "imperialist" together. I was also impressed by the special effects by which Dodger Stadium (which plays the role of "Empires Stadium") and Camden Yards were transformed into an alternate reality by replacing their bleachers with the bleachers from some other stadiums.
* Cheap, gratuitous pun on the steroid issue.
** Gratuitous bragging.
Loose cannon. While campaigning at a rally at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Teresa Heinz Kerry weighed in on one of the most complex, weighty issues facing the American electorate:
"Terrorism is not Saddam Hussein. Terrorism is Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan," Heinz Kerry said. "Afghanistan is one thing; Iraq is another.
(SOURCE: www.coloradoan.com, via Donald Luskin) WRONG! Iraq and Afghanistan are both classic examples of tortured societies in which the former regime justified the brutalization of its own citizens by whipping up xenophobic hatred toward the West. Anyone who denies that Saddam Hussein's regime was not terrorist to its very core does not deserve to be taken seriously. Though it's repeated ad ininitum, that standard line from the Democrats (that Iraq and Afghanistan/Al Qaeda are unrelated) is looking sillier all the time. As Gen. John Abizaid explained this morning on Meet the Press, the enemy we face is not a specific individual, organization, or country, but rather a broad, amorphous fascist-inspired movement that draws upon nationalist as well as religious passions. It cannot be defined in a nice, neat way, which is precisely why it cannot be either "contained" or decisively defeated in a conventional sense. The threat of Arab-Islamic fascism can only be reduced gradually by a combination of military, diplomatic, economic, and political means, over a period of many years. As long as dictatorships persist in the Middle East, elements of this movement will enjoy safe havens. Does this mean U.S. forces will have to invade Syria and Iran? No. How we go about deposing such pathological regimes depends on the circumstances.
Anyway, Mrs. Kerry then got totally carried away with herself, unleashing another whopper to explain what her husband's "enlightened" vision of security would entail:
"Day One of his presidency, every child in America will have health care. Period," Heinz Kerry said of her husband. His plan also calls for the creation of a $25 billion federal account to protect people in case of catastrophic illness.
So Congress will be completely sidestepped as would-be President Kerry extends a huge new entitlement to a vast segment of the populace? Is he running for emperor or what? Andrew Sullivan believes that Mrs. Kerry may be the biggest factor in the crumbling of John Kerry's reputation as a political leader.
September 25, 2004 Spoilers! Three runs down and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets came back to tie the Cubs and then beat them in the eleventh inning, ruining what had seemed to be smooth sailing toward a second consecutive postseason appearance. Arghhh! Sammy Sosa struck out four times and then grounded into a double play. He and the rest of the Cubs desperately need to get their stuff together fast. I'm really looking forward to seeing Sosa, Bonds, and the Jones "brothers" playing in Washington next summer...
"A Perfect Setting For a Diamond" -- Saturday's Washington Post looked into the likely uplifting effect a new stadium would have on the South Capitol Street neighborhood, which is a rough urban frontier consisting of warehouses, industrial junkyards, and rowhouses of various classes. (I ought to know, I once lived there.) Andrew Zimbalist and other experts have questioned the touted economic benefits from new stadium construction, but there is little doubt that this project would yield a huge positive impact. It is one of the most compelling cases one could make these days for a public subsidy. Let's hope Ralph Nader takes an open-minded view of this... The Post article discusses alternate stadium orientations, but the author believes that the northwest orientation I favor would put afternoon sun glare in the batters' eyes. Perhaps; I need to finish a comparison of the orientation of other stadiums.
I joined YuLee Larner and a few other Augusta Bird Club members on another successful outing to McCormick's Farm this morning. I saw:
- Red-tailed hawks (2)
- Scarlet tanagers (F/J)
- Yellow-billed cuckoo
- White-breasted nuthatch
- Killdeer (3)
- Red-bellied woodpecker
- Towhee (f/J)
- Canada geese (150+)
- Tree swallow
I forgot to record that I had seen a female wild turkey with three young turkeys in the Shenandoah National Park back on September 19. I've updated that posting.
September 24, 2004 Braves do it again! Yes, those underrated tribesmen from Atlanta grabbed yet another NL East championship, which makes 13 such titles in a row, a feat unmatched by any other team in any other sport. Marcus Giles's eighth-inning 2-RBI double put the Braves ahead in dramatic fashion. Johnny Estrada, Charles Thomas, Jaret Wright, and Eli Marrero are among the many pleasant surprises on the Braves' roster this year, and senior citizen Julio Franco just keeps on truckin'. I officially take back what I wrote on February 21 about "their ownership just giving up." Up in Beantown, meanwhile, the Yanks pulled further ahead of the Red Sox in the race for the AL East title.
Thune vs. Daschle. Tim Russert featured the candidates from the U.S. Senate race in South Dakota on last Sunday's "Meet the Press," and challenger John Thune did fairly well, sticking by his guns even when Tom Daschle (a.k.a. "Mr. Obstruction") practically wept -- wept! -- at the insinuation that his ill-timed bitter criticism of President Bush on the eve of the war in Iraq was less than patriotic. I often wonder whether Daschle's breathtakingly disingenuous affectation of being a plain-spoken country boy gets taken at face value by the folks back in his home state. Probably not, but enough South Dakotans probably like the extra attention and pork barrel money that he brings to the Prairie State that they don't mind his lack of sincerity. Daschle has the edge, according to UVa's Larry Sabato, but Thune is leading by a 50% to 47% margin according to a recent poll cited on his Web site. In any case, it's very close.
Gore loser! I keep wondering whether the apparent implosion of the Kerry campaign is real or whether the Democrats are just trying to lull the Republicans into complacency. Josh Marshall provides evidence for the former hypothesis, that the Dems are indeed in full-fledged despair mode, the way he sarcastically invokes the Florida 2000 controversy:
Don Rumsfeld said yesterday that elections in "three-quarters or four-fifths of" Iraq might be good enough.
In other words, run the place on Florida rules.
Only a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat could see any humor in that. They can keep wallowing in past frustrations, as far as I'm concerned. Doing so will only alienate them further from open-minded undecided voters. As for Rumsfeld's comment, I expressed the same relative equanimity about the less-than-optimal prospects for the Iraqi elections on September 15, by the way.
As far as Democratic strategizing, the Rathergate scandal may be taken as a hint of the hardball underhanded tactics to come. Don't forget how the baseless accusations about "W"'s alleged drunk driving record pushed the election in Gore's direction in the final days of the 2000 campaign. Expect more last-minute hijinks this year.
Not that the Republicans are entirely innocent of political nastiness, however. According to the 365Gay.com Web site, the Republican National Committee sent mass mailings to voters in West Virginia warning that the Democrats will legalize gay marriage and ban the Bible if they win the election. If true, it's deplorable, as is any such use of scare tactics. Also, the mean-spirited GOP Whip Tom DeLay and some of his aides are in legal trouble over questionable fund raising in Texas.
Despite the lack of a formal announcement from the MLB Executive Committee meeting in Milwaukee, Friday's Washington Post is just as upbeat as before about landing the Expos, as all parties realize the proverbial gilded carriage is about to turn into a pumpkin.
"I think we're all running out of time and we realize that," said MLB President Robert A. DuPuy, speaking generally about the relocation process at a news conference in which he revealed few specifics but indicated that years of negotiations will conclude soon.
[UPDATE: The text in red is on the Post Web site but did not appear in my copy of the paper this morning, suggesting careful editorial treatment of this extremely sensitive matter. You know how skittish "unnamed sources" can get.] If MLB officials sign the necessary letter of intent to relocate the Expos as expected, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams expects to make a formal announcement at RFK Stadium next week. By the way, I wonder what the astrologers are saying about all this. In July 2003, Mr. DuPuy said a decision on the Expos would come "when the moons and the suns and the stars and the dollars are aligned correctly. We'll get there." Is this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius?
September 23, 2004 Angelos: "Hell no!" The Major League Baseball Executive Committee met in Milwaukee today, but did not make any decision on what to do with the Expos. As expected, Orioles' owner Peter Angelos remains 100% intransigent. [UPDATE: USA Today headline says: "Expos remain in limbo," though their columnist Hal Bodley opines that they have to move to D.C. "I believe Selig has come to the conclusion there's no other place to locate the Expos."] Thursday's Washington Post quotes MLB sources as saying negotiations with Peter Angelos about compensation for the expected relocation of the Expos to Washington "are going nowhere." His no-compromise position may alienate the other 28 franchise owners, who are starting to look like the biggest chumps on the planet for coddling him. As the Post notes, the tentative stadium deal worked out with the District of Columbia should raise the market value of the Expos franchise by nearly $300 million, which means an extra $10 million in the pocket of each of the 29 franchise owners, who currently share ownership of the Expos. Does Angelos really have enough clout to persuade 28 other men to forego $10 million each??? As a successful trial lawyer, Angelos may well be contemplating filing a motion for an injunction against a franchise move to D.C. However, the Major League Constitution defines the Orioles' "operating territory" as consisting exclusively of areas in Maryland, so "a team could be chartered in the District with no infringement upon that geographic territory." The front pages of Sections A (National), B (Metro), and D (Sports) of today's Post were filled with prominent headline stories on various aspects of the seemingly-imminent relocation, an indication that most insiders conclude it is virtually -- virtually, mind you -- a done deal.
NOTE: I have moved the Stadium chronology table from the bottom of the Baseball page to a separate page, to save time in loading and make navigation more efficient. You got a problem with that? Just let me know. The link to that new page is in the Comparisons section.
I was pleased that the networks broadcast live the statements by President Bush and Iraq's Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on the White House lawn today. Bush responded in an appropriately ambiguous fashion to a question about Gen. John Abizaid's statement that more U.S. troops are needed in Iraq. (Washington Post) Allawi doesn't want more U.S. troops, at least not right now. What he does want is a firm indication of continued strong support from Washington. John Kerry, whose degree of support for Iraq is anything but firm, criticized what he called their falsely optimistic portrayal of the situation, but he will learn if he is elected president that leaders are duty bound to err on the positive side when speaking to the public. Allawi insists that elections could be held in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces right now, and expects them to proceed as scheduled in January. We'll see.
Unlike others who strain to portray events as much better or much worse than recent televised images would seem to indicate, I remain concerned but less than frantic about the current terrorist offensive, which should not have come as a big surprise. As for what to do about it, I believe the United States ought to make highly targeted counterstrikes while steadily reducing its profile in Iraq, actively supporting the new government militarily but not taking direct responsibility for the course of political events there. Besides trying to undermine morale back in the U.S.A., the insurgents are obviously trying to bait U.S. forces into making a heavy-handed assault that would inevitably result in civilian casualties. A combination of persistence, restraint, and iron resolve will prevail in the end, and with proper U.S. and Iraqi leadership, most people of Iraq will turn away from the deadly allure of gangs led by Moqtada al Sadr, Abu Musab Zarqawi, and their like.
In Ecuador, police have wrested control of the Galapagos Islands from park wardens who were protesting against the appointment of a new governor who is believed to be a political hack who cares nothing for nature. The wardens have been involved in clashes with local fishermen, whose numbers in the Galapagos have been rising sharply in recent years as the mainland economy continues to stagnate, and good jobs remain scarce. (BBC News)
In Haiti, over a thousand people died in flooding caused by Hurricane Jeanne. The city of Gonaives was hardest hit, and much of it is still under water and/or mud. After stalling for a few days, Jeanne is heading toward the Florida coast again.
In Mexico, sex-crazed pop singer Gloria Trevi was released from prison after a judge ruled the evidence against her was not sufficient to warrant further incarceration. Before being extradited to her native land of Mexico, she had been serving prison time in Brazil, on charges of corrupting youth, during which time she somehow managed to conceive and bore a child fathered by her co-defendant boyfriend Sergio Andrade.
September 22, 2004 Down to the wire! According to the Washington Post, officials in D.C. and MLB have tentatively agreed on a new stadium site on South Capitol Street near the Anacostia River. (See map below.) The L'Enfant Plaza site would have been better, but Virginians could get to this location fairly easily, so it's OK by me. Thomas Boswell echoes my gleefully expectant yet slightly wary sentiments:
Nevertheless, the Expos are so close to coming to the District right now that, if you were Charlie Brown, you'd be absolutely, positively certain that, this time, you were going to kick that miserable football before Lucy could pull it away.
Well put. Let's just hope MLB pays due respect to the feelings of Montreal fans, and makes a decision by this weekend. Only eight more games are scheduled in Olympic Stadium, and the Expos deserve to bow out and begin the transformation of their identity with class.
This map shows the location of the proposed stadium site, but I have turned the field around 180 degrees to bring the "Washington skyline" into view. To see a larger image, just click on it. The existing stadium design is basically just a clone of Ameriquest Field in Arlington (Texas), and I have made preliminary modififications in it to provide for open views toward the U.S. Capitol (down the right field line) and the Washington Monument (in center field). How inspiring would that be? The rectangular notch in center field draws on a similar feature of Griffith Stadium, which would be a nice tribute to Washington's ancient baseball heritage. I may work on a more detailed suggested design in coming weeks... [UPDATE: In the mean time, I just updated the RFK Stadium page, moving five of the eight photos to a separate page so it will load more quickly.]
The Red Sox became the third team in the majors to reach the 90-win mark, edging Baltimore last night. Many people have offered suggestions for a revised postseason format, and my basic feeling is they should avoid tinkering with divisional alignments or divisional series, but should give a bigger advantage to teams with a higher overall winning percentage. In this case, for example, [even though Boston is "only" the (probable) Wild Card team,] they really ought to get a home field advantage over the AL Central champion Twins and whoever wins the AL West.
As the moment of truth approaches for the titans of Major League Baseball finally making their fateful megabucks decision on relocating the Expos to Washington, it's a good idea to take a grass-roots small-town perspective to help remember what our national pastime is all about: fitness, community, tradition, intergenerational bonding, and never-ending faith and hope in "better luck next year." With that shamelessly corny thought, here's a snapshot of a Valley League game in Staunton on August 2. Final score: Staunton Braves 7, Woodstock River Bandits 3. Attendance: about 300.
September 21, 2004 Rather comes (half) clean! CBS announced yesterday that it regrets having aired the "60 Minutes" piece on Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard in the first place, and Dan Rather told his viewers "I'm sorry." However, his apology only applied to his role in putting out the story, not to his fierce defense of it after the evidence was shown to be false. The Washington Post provides details about the strange connections between CBS, the fraudulent memos, and the Democratic Party. "[Rather's producer, Mary] Mapes also put Burkett in touch with a senior official in John F. Kerry's presidential campaign..." Huh?? Recall that Joe Lockhart joined Kerry's team just before the bogus "60 Minutes" story aired on September 8. Lockhart has admitted having met with the source of the memos, Burkett, who faxed them to CBS from Kinko's in Abilene, Texas at about the same time. For a full chronology, see Baseball Crank.
Like Pete Rose and Bill Clinton, Dan Rather realized that cutting his losses was preferable to spending the rest of his life denying the obvious. Like them, his superinflated ego simply refused to make a fully sincere gesture of contrition, merely admitting to poor judgment without acknowledging deeper flaws. Rather is exactly the kind of overpaid pompous fool that was lampooned so well in Broadcast News, starring William Hurt, Albert Brooks, and Holly Hunter. (Remember the staged tearful interview video clip?) Frankly, I'm surprised the folks at CBS were able to stonewall as long as they did; if they had kept it up much longer, Rather would have had to utter a Nixonian "I am not a crook" line. The parallel with Watergate is deliciously ironic: The coverup of Rathergate (and Watergate) turned out to be a bigger crime than the original "cheap forgery" ("third-rate burglary"). Until Rather apologizes for dragging this matter out, for downplaying the seriousness of fraud, and for impugning the motives of those who brought this journalistic travesty to light, the matter will not be closed. If Rather were to be fired, many partisan CBS viewers would probably feel betrayed, so I'm guessing Dan will just take a week-long "vacation" to reflect on his errors, returning in plenty of time for the November showdown.
Not to be pushing conspiracy theories, but it cannot be entirely coincidental that the Democratic National Committee began running those "Fortunate Son" ads at about the same time as the "60 Minutes" report, seeking to exploit Bush's "chicken-hawk" vulnerability. On September 10, Glenn Reynolds made a good point about the writer of the song, "Fortunate Son." Before Creedence Clearwater Revival made the big time, band leader John Fogerty was himself a member of the Army Reserves, thereby avoiding service in Vietnam.
On a humorous note, Drew Carey, who has been filling in as host of the CBS "Late Late Show" since Craig Kilborne left, presented tearful mock "apologies" from CBS employees, including a janitor, a technician, and a cafeteria worker.
Good grief! Leftists, I mean "progressives," have come up with a clever scheme so that radical sentiment can be voiced in such a way that it won't cost the mainstream liberal candidate, John Kerry, any electoral votes. Remember Nader in 2000? VotePair.org is trying to get voters in swing states who are inclined to vote with their radical hearts to use their heads instead. Radical voter "A" in swing state "X" would agree to vote for Kerry in exchange for Democratic voter "B" in non-swing state "Y" voting for A's preferred radical fringe candidate. What would Gus Hall have thought of this? Such "pragmatism" in the exercise of democracy strikes me as very troubling, the idea that elections might be decided on the basis of insincerely-cast ballots. It's not only a transparent attempt to thwart the principle of federalism underlying the U.S. Constitution (setting up presidential races on a state by state basis, not nationwide), it's a wide-open invitation to fraud. (via www.mudvillegazette.com)
I spent the morning and midday up at the Afton Mountain hawk watch. It was very sunny, with a few wispy clouds, which help to pinpoint distant skyborne raptors. Altogether, about ten people showed up while I was there. I saw:
- Broad-winged hawks (70+)
- Bald eagle -- close!!
- Sharp-shinned hawks (15+)
- Cooper's hawk
- Rose-breasted grosbeak (M)
- Yellow-bellied sapsucker (prob. - FOS?)
- Flickers (2)
- Cedar waxwings (8+)
September 20, 2004 Some of the photos I took at the Shenandoah National Park yesterday turned out pretty well. This colorful arachnid was certainly much more cooperative in posing than the warblers I saw. I did get a decent shot of a Red-eyed vireo, however, which you can see on the new Virginia Fall 2004 page. Stay tuned for more soon.
Knowing that chilly weather would arrive in the wake of Hurricane Ivan, I put up a hummingbird feeder out back a few days ago, and sure enough, we have been getting frequent visits by the tiny, ravenous, shivering migrants. We didn't have any hummingbirds in our back yard all summer!
I happened to see a snippet of a speech made by controversial author (and blogger) Michelle Malkin at Berkeley on September 8 on C-SPAN2 last night. Her book In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War On Terror is a blatant violation of a cardinal sin in the P.C. world: the mere suggestion that discrimination of any kind might be justified in some circumstances. For dogmatic lefties, such views are intolerable heresies. Hence it was no surprise that she was rudely interrupted by screaming hecklers several times, a sad reflection of what's become of the "Free Speech Movement" pioneered in Berkeley. As I wrote on July 17, in light of the peril of mass-scale terrorism we now face, there is little choice but to apply scrutiny at airports and other key locations in an efficient manner, targeting the most likely threats. "Let common sense prevail."
September 19, 2004 The PETCO Park page is finally done, the last of the 65 major league stadiums I set out to cover when I began this Web project two-plus years ago. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!? Not yet, there are plenty of corrections and enhancements to do in existing stadium pages, and I also plan to do pages for stadiums where major league games were held even though they were not the home field of any major league team. A visitor to this site asked about compass orientation of stadiums, which reminded me that I had been thinking about adding a symbol to indicate "North" in each diagram. So I added one to the PETCO Park and Turner Field diagrams, the latter of which is slightly revised.
Payoff. MLB is negotiating how much money to give to Peter Angelos to overcome his objections to putting a team in the Washington area. According to the Washington Post, an "indemnity payment in the tens of millions of dollars" is expected. (I wonder what he did with all those millions he got from the tobacco settlement?) Then there are the former Expos minority owners who are suing former chief owner Jeffrey Loria and Major League Baseball. Just when the deal is on the verge of being closed, D.C. Councilman Jack Evans unleashed another volley of spiteful bile, as reported by the Washington Times:
Major League Baseball is so screwed up, they probably won't give us the team anyway. ... I have nothing but disrespect for the owners of Major League Baseball, to be honest with you. And if they drag this thing out any longer, they can take the team and put it in Northern Virginia, and I hope it fails. Good for them.
Sheesh. Is he trying to alienate prospective fans from this side of the Potomac? With sick attitudes like that, this whole thing might just fall apart. Or maybe it's just meant as another motivational kick in Mr. Selig's rear.
The Yankees proved they've still got spunk, trouncing the Red Sox by double-digit margins both Saturday and Sunday. It's amazing they can hold the other team to so few runs, given their weak pitching staff. The Red Sox can draw a bit of satisfaction from eking out one win in The Bronx, but they'll need to do better than that in these last two weeks. #701! Barry Bonds did it again, and is single-handedly propelling the Giants in the Wild Card race with the Cubs, who have the advantage of facing weak opponents for the rest of the season.
Mistaken identity! Robert A. Strong, a professor I know at Washington and Lee University (about 40 miles south of here), wrote a letter to the Miami Herald complaining he has been inundated with hateful e-mail from people whose ire was misdirected. It was reported that a professor named Robert Strong was weighing in on the anti-Bush side of the recent Texas Air National Guard / "RatherGate" scandal, but it was a different Prof. Strong. (Via Beautiful Horizons) Moral: Be careful before you "flame"! Personally, I'm astounded by the gutter language many people use toward each other in issues-oriented message boards, which I see as yet another symptom of a decaying civic culture. Where is Mr. Rogers when you need him?
I saw a number of warblers while hiking in the Shenandoah National Park today, but since most are now in their drab fall plumage, it was hard to identify some of them. I then stopped at the Afton Mountain hawk watch on the way home. Here's the roundup of notable sightings:
- Magnolia warblers (2+)
- Yellow-billed cuckoo
- Black and white warbler
- Black-throated blue warblers (2+ F)
- Red-eyed vireo
- Wood thrush
- Ravens 4+
- Hairy woodpecker
- Redstarts (F/J - 8+)
- Cooper's hawk (prob.)
- Black vultures
- Broad-winged hawks (50+)
- Bald eagle!
- [Wild turkeys (F, 3 J)]
September 17, 2004 Ivan Peters Out. After several hours of gathering gloom, swirling clouds, and brief showers, we finally got a real downpour from Ivan in mid-afternoon, but then it cleared up. On the other side of the Blue Ridge, meanwhile, at least a dozen tornados wrought widespread devastation, tearing trees to shreds and ripping roofs off buildings. Ironically, the terrible storm was supposed to be worse here in the western parts of Virginia. Great for us at least...
End game!? On the question of baseball in D.C., I've learned over the years to be highly skeptical about rumors of glad tidings, but this time I think they're really serious. According to the the Washington Post, Relocation Committee Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and other MLB officials have spent 12 hours in meetings with D.C. officials to iron out details on getting RFK Stadium ready for the Expos to play in next year. All signs point to an announcement about the Relocation Committee's recommendation in the next few days. The Virginia option seems to be fading away, as Governor Warner seems to have been caught flat-footed by the recent turns of events. At the same time, the virtual election of the roguish Marion Barry to the D.C. City Council has jolted the MLB into accelerating the process and finalizing the deal once and for all. Barry, who will take office in January, said public funding for a new baseball stadium will come "Over my dead body." Would he go as far as trying to retroactively nullify the kind of targeted stadium tax package that Mayor Anthony Williams has been pushing? In any event, the idea that such funding would come at the cost of education or vital public services is highly dubious, Ralph Nader notwithstanding. If Barry's threat prods Mr. Selig into a decision this month, it will at least have served the purpose of giving the long-suffering fans in Montreal enough advanced warning so that they will have a fair chance to bid a fond farewell to their team. I've criticized Selig's heel-dragging many times, but it is very important that this process be carried out 100% above board, with due deliberation. I wouldn't wish the feeling of abrupt betrayal as endured by Brooklynites (1957) and Washingtonians (1971) on anyone.
700 Club! After a few days stuck at #699, Barry Bonds just hit his 700th career home run before the friendly Frisco fans at SBC Park. Not a bad performance, considering he had been hit by a pitch earlier in the game. Early next season he'll no doubt catch up to The Babe, and a year after that probably Hammerin' Hank himself. Unlike some other famed long-ball hitters, however, Bonds has maintained an awesome batting average throughout his career, yielding a stratospheric slugging percentage when you factor in all the walks. Simply put, no one has dominated the game like him in my lifetime.
On the other coast, meanwhile, the Red Sox came from behind in the top of the ninth inning to beat the Yanks in the first game of the Clash of Titans. The often-slack Manny Ramirez actually jumped into the left-field stands in Yankee Stadium to rob Miguel Cairo of a homer, helping to pull his team to within 2 1/2 games of first place. Once again, Mariano Rivera failed to live up to his huge reputation as a closer, as the Bosox used some commendable "small ball" tactics to tie and then take the lead in the ninth. I wonder how high FOX's TV ratings will be for tomorrow's Game of the Week? The e-mail seems to be working again. Note that I've split the scrolling baseball stadium menu into separate "Current" and "Past" sections, which I think should speed up access a little bit. Please let me know if this format is less than satisfactory.
Venezuelan Prsident-for-Life Hugo Chavez just met with Brazilian President "Lula" da Silva, reaching a preliminary agreement to proceed with South American economic integration, including a possible giant petroleum conglomerate that would bring all the countries' state-owned petroleum company under a single roof. A mass media enterprise "to rival CNN" was also mentioned. As a leftist, Lula probably feels obliged to express solidarity with Chavez, but as a pragmatist, he probably won't do any more than is necessary to help the would-be Napoleon achieve his Bolivarian dreams of continental union.
In anticipation of lousy weekend weather, I went for a bike ride along Bell's Lane yesterday. On the return leg I went along the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad and saw several warbler species, including the beautiful blue, yellow, orange and white Northern parulas. No camera!!! Many of these were the same birds I had seen the day before at McCormick Farm:
- Kestrel* (F/J)
- Red-tailed hawk or Northern harrier*
- Great blue heron*
- Downy woodpeckers (4+)
- Red-bellied woodpeckers (5+)
- Flicker (M)
- White-breasted nuthatches (3)
- Northern parulas (3+)
- Magnolia warblers (2)
- Common yellowthroat (F/J)
- Chestnut-sided warblers (F/J - 3)
- Redstarts (F/J - 2)
- Yellow-billed cuckoo
* -- along Bell's Lane
September 15, 2004
Yesterday's posting included a link to the wrong story about the "RatherGate" scandal, so I corrected it below. I had inadvertently linked to this Washington Post story by Howard Kurtz, who reported that CBS News ignored the advance warnings about probable forgery made by two document experts it had retained. Dan Rather and CBS bigwig Andrew Heyward are sticking to their guns for now, relying on the deceased Lt. Col. Killian's secretary, who says that the general thrust of those alleged memos was accurate, even though she agrees with nearly all the experts who say the documents were fake. For Rather, the main point is that the underlying "60 Minutes" story about Bush is true, implying that the veracity of the evidence used to prepare that story doesn't really matter. Yikes. That reminds me of the kinds of things Molotov and Goebbels used to say. CBS has pledged to investigate its sources, reminding me of O.J. Simpson's pledge to search for "the real killer."
Whereas much of the "blogosphere" is in an uproar, some of the more highbrow types have an aloof or complacent attitude. One example is Daniel Drezner, an academic whose judgment is normally quite sound. I just posted the following comment on his blog:
Prof. Drezner asks:
My one and only political response to all of this stuff is very simple: does anyone seriously believe that this election should be decided by what either candidate did more than thirty years ago?
The huge irony embodied in this question was touched on by Al (above), but it cries out for amplification. Not only did Kerry himself make what he did thirty years ago the centerpiece of his entire campaign, but Drezner apparently remains inclined to cast his vote for that same candidate! I share some of Drezner's misgivings about Bush's strategic miscalculations in Iraq, but I cannot fathom how the flip-flopping Kerry would do any better. Like it or not, a Kerry win would be interpreted by Islamo-fascists as a sign of U.S. retreat. As for the subject of the scandalous 60 Minutes report, the follies of youth and/or young adulthood are for me a marginal but not negligible mark of character. But as others have pointed out, Drezner misses the big point, seemingly unaware of the significance of the collapse of journalistic integrity at CBS.
Will chaos lead to partition? But indeed, what about the mounting chaos in Iraq? For many Americans with a thin grasp of history, the latest terrorist offensive in Iraq brings new grounds for pessimism, but it should serve to remind us what a determined, vicious, and well-funded enemy we face. The timing of the attacks is obviously aimed at influencing the U.S. elections. Wiser, non-triumphalist leaders and commentators have emphasized that this conflict will almost certainly be long, bloody, and perilous, with many nasty surprises yet to come.* It is important to understand that the recent brutal attacks in the Sunni heartland of Fallujah and Baghdad, and even in the nearby Shi'ite bastion of Najaf, have been mainly of a secular nationalist origin. It doesn't mean that religious motivations are absent, just that the political direction of the terrorist campaign comes mainly from Ba'ath Party remnants and infiltrators from Iran, Jordan, etc. As far as we can tell, the rebel "cleric" (actually just a vicious warlord) Muqtada al-Sadr has been isolated, and the Ayatollah Sistani wields much greater authority and respect. Some fear that the elections scheduled for January may not be possible, but many parts of Iraq remain relatively peaceful and great strides are being made toward physical and sociopolitical reconstruction.
* (Note to war skeptics: The banner "Mission Accomplished" aboard the the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln where Bush landed in April 2003 referred merely to one campaign in a long, arduous series. Anyone who imagined the liberation of Iraq was a Hollywood happy ending has only himself or herself to blame.)
The fundamental lesson to learn from this distressing turn of events is that United States cannot impose a solution on Iraq, we can only exert influence on how the new political system Iraq evolves. The likely divergence in developmental trajectories in the three major regions of Iraq leads to only one logical conclusion: If elections can be carried out in the northern and southern regions of Iraq, but not in the center, we must prepare for the possible emergence of autonomous governments in the Shi'ite and Kurdish areas, and even the eventual establishment of separate sovereign states. It's basically up to the Sunni people themselves whether to take a stand in defense of the fledgling regime in Baghdad, thereby preserving Iraq as a unified whole, or else succumb to fear of (Iran-backed) terrorists and (anti-U.S.) xenophobia. It's not unlike the choice faced by the peoples of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. I would bet most Serbs, and possibly even many Croatians and Bosnians, would have chosen differently and made the necessary compromises to keep Yugoslavia united if they had to do it all over again. In any event, as long as the U.S. government keeps its political objectives in Iraq modest, refraining from undue interference in non-security-related matters, there is no reason to fear a "quagmire."
Migratory bird bonanza! I joined the Augusta Bird Club on a very successful field trip to McCormick Farm led by YuLee Larner this morning, and saw:
- Red-tailed hawk
- Great blue heron
- Green herons (2)
- Downy woodpeckers (2)
- White-breasted nuthatches (3)
- Magnolia warblers (2)
- Blackpoll warbler
- Chestnut-sided warblers (3)
- Black-throated green warbler
- Mallards (10+)
- Canada geese (50+)
- Yellow-billed cuckoo
- E. wood pewee
Balk!? Today's Washington Post reports that several Virginia legislators and Governor Mark Warner are a bit leery of putting the Commonwealth's credit rating on the line to help finance a new stadium. Apparently many have growing doubts about the proposed "Diamond Lake" mega-complex in Loudoun County, especially now that it has been scaled back. Meanwhile, former Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry just won the Democratic primary election for D.C. City Council, assuring him of a victory in the November general elections. Ever the populist, the doubts he raised about spending the District's money on a new stadium throw yet another wrench into the tense endgame negotiations with MLB officials. If only they had made the deal last year... The hit counter for the Baseball page crossed the 10,000 threshhold in the past couple days. Thanks for stopping by, sports fans! (Now if only one percent of you would just click on that "Donate" button...) The PETCO Park page will be done by the end of the week, at long last!
September 14, 2004 Today's Washington Post lays out very damaging evidence casting severe doubt on the authenticity of those alleged Texas Air National Guard memos on President Bush. Incredibly (!), CBS News remains defiant in its defense of the 60 Minutes story and their sources. They cite two experts to back up the authenticity of those documents, but many more experts have unequivocally declared them bogus. Many wonder how a forgery could have slipped by, and most people assume it was simple arrogance on the part of Dan Rather and his CBS editors. Many bloggers -- perhaps prematurely triumphant -- are already proclaiming that this "RatherGate" scandal signifies the irrevocable decline of mainstream (liberal-slanted) television news. I can understand how the superscripted "th" happened; it's one of those annoying "features" of Microsoft Word that is very difficult to turn off. Uncle Bill Gates knows what's best!
Another fascinating (but far-fetched) possibility is raised by Rich Hailey (via InstaPundit): It may have been a conspiracy by the Clintonistas who recently arrived with the mission of trying to "save" Kerry's nosediving campaign, but who instead decided to dump Kerry from the Democratic ticket by means of this easily traceable scandal that will likely incriminate him and his inner circle, and then replace him with ... Hillary! Remember how the Democrats replaced Bob Torricelli just a few weeks before the 2002 election, after the filing deadline? One of the Clintonistas, Susan Estrich, practically boasted about the dirty tricks about to be unleashed, so extreme scenarios cannot be discounted entirely. Seriously, this whole campaign is turning very creepy.
A good friend from my days in the Washington area, Dave Givens, paid us a brief visit, and went along on a quick tour of Augusta Springs, in the foothills west of town. I / we saw:
- Cedar waxwings (25+)
- Blue-headed vireo
- Pine warbler
- Mallards (prob. 4+)
Afterwards I headed toward the hawk watch station on Afton Mountain, but encountered rain and decided to turn back home. En route I made a quick stop at Bell's Lane, and was amply rewarded:
- Red-tailed hawk
- Unidentified long-tailed large raptor (N. harrier?)
- Great blue heron
- Brown thrasher (10+)
- Red-bellied woodpecker
- Downy woodpecker
- Willow flycatcher
- Rose-breasted grosbeaks (4)
- Magnolia warblers (2+ prob.)
Chased away from their home turf in Miami by Hurricane Ivan, the Florida Marlins "hosted" the Montreal Expos for a two-game series in the Chicago White Sox's U.S. Cellular Field. Total attendance was about 9,000, meaning that about $45,000 will be made available as disaster relief to victims. MLB officials met once again with representatives from D.C. and Virginia today, as haggling over financial details related to moving the Expos goes down to the wire. A preliminary announcement by the Relocation Committee could come in the next week or so. The baseball e-mail account has been disfunctional in recent weeks, possibly the result of malicious hacking. Thanks for your patience until I get communications repaired.
September 12, 2004 The third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks passed without incident, thank God. Will we start to let our guard down? Will our security enhancement measures recommended by the 9/11 Commission degenerate into petty bureaucratic reshuffling, or will the human beings who guard our air and sea ports get the motivation to maintain a high state of vigilance? An even greater holocaust than the one in 2001 is by no means out of the question...
I try to refrain from jumping on the latest scandals before there are enough facts to warrant commentary, but it seems like "RatherGate" (thanks to InstaPundit for the clever typography) has reached critical mass. CBS has had enough time to reconsider its original "60 Minutes" report accusing President Bush of having failed to report for duty on multiple occasions while in the Texas Air National Guard, but has failed to do so, even as the evidence upon which that report was based becomes increasingly discredited. It now appears very likely that the documents were nothing more than cheap forgeries, while the few living witnesses in a position to corroborate the charges have weighed in against the CBS story. From what I can tell, the blogger who is most on top of this case, citing a number of solid typographical experts, is Hugh Hewitt. Dan Rather, who stubbornly stands by his original report, is apparently willing to drag his network down with him. Rather biased, I'd say!
Having received my brother John's detailed travelogue, I've now posted a separate page with captions describing eight of the birds he photographed during his recent trip to Washington (state).
I caught up with an Augusta Bird Club field trip up on the Blue Ridge on Saturday morning, and made a fair number of sightings. If conflicting obligations had not delayed my arrival, I might have seen my first-ever Blue-winged warbler, and several other warblers the group saw before I got there. Several of us caught glimpses of a plain olive-colored warbler in the underbrush. I thought it was an Orange-crowned, but more people thought it was a Connecticut.
- Scarlet tanager (F/J)
- Rose-breasted grosbeak (F/J)
- Brown thrasher
- Red-bellied woodpecker
- Downy woodpecker
- Black & white warblers (F/J)
- Chestnut-sided warbler
- Red-headed woodpecker
- Red-eyed vireo
- Connecticut (or Orange-crowned?) warbler
- Pine warblers
September 9, 2004 Military affairs writer (and reserve officer) Austin Bay has just returned from Iraq, as confident as ever in the U.S.-led cause. In Strategy Page, he does call attention to one weak spot in U.S. strategy, however:
If there is one mistake I think we've made in fighting this war, it's been the way we've soft-pedaled the ideological dimensions. This really is a fight for the future, between our free, open political system and the unholy alliance of despots and Islamo-fascists whose very existence depends on denying liberty. ... The lesson of 9-11, three years on, is that liberty must sustain a focused offensive if it is to survive.
That reminds me of a point made by John Kerry during the Democratic convention: He stressed that military power is never enough, that we need to supplement violent means with the force of ideas. That is quite correct, of course, but the irony is that Kerry himself is so timid about proclaiming U.S. values. When is the last time you heard him boldly championing individual liberty? As a committed collectivist, of course, he simply can't.
Tropical Storm/Depression Frances roared through these parts yesterday, and it looks like we got about three inches of rain, a little less than predicted. The power flickered on and off a couple times, but the wind wasn't really that strong. Richmond got hit by heavy rains once again, only a week after the Shockoe Bottoms downtown district was devastated by floods caused by the remnants of Hurricane Gaston. Even before that, the Richmond Braves' home field, The Diamond, had been rendered it unplayable by mud and sinkholes. As reported in the Richmond Times Dispatch, though, the grounds crew somehow got the field in shape (just barely) for the end of the season. The R-Braves face the Columbus Clippers in the International League (Triple A) playoffs.
The Turner Field page has been revised, and now includes a "dynamic diagram" to show how the original structure used for the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta was transformed into the "home of the Braves" we know today. A little late for this year's Olympics in Athens, but just in time for tonight's Braves' game on TBS. (Football? Huh??) There seem to be an unusually high number of long winning and losing streaks over the last month. The Red Sox and Astros have been almost unstoppable, while the Mets and Devil Rays are plummeting headlong into the cellar. The Orioles had lost eleven in a row, but over the last couple weeks has managed a rebound, even beating the suddenly shell-shocked Yankees. Regroup! The Yankees' lobbying to have a forfeit declared on that game in New York the Devil Rays missed due to Hurricane Frances was not an indication of a team that is confident of its ability to win.
In Tuesday's Washington Post, David Ignatius lamented the self-centered "Ptolemaic" foreign policy of the Bush administration, alluding the Medieval cosmology which held the Earth to be the center of the Universe. He worries about the growing "disconnect" between (most) Americans' self-image as the bastion of liberty with a duty to save the rest of the world and the widespread foreign perception that we have become more of a menace.
The Ptolemaist in me wants to tell the rest of the world to go to hell. ... But we should consider the need for a Copernican revolution in the way we think about America and the world.
Such a "Copernican" worldview would indeed be a healthy dose of reality for the isolation-prone American masses, but the way he credits John Kerry for holding such a view raises questions. For one thing, resenting concentrated power is a universal human trait, whatever the merits of the issue at hand. The U.S. happens to be on top of the global heap right now, and we are thus the "natural" target for people in countries lacking in opportunity, especially the Third World. Furthermore, as Hans Morgenthau wrote, "world public opinion" is one of those nebulous chimeras that do more to distract diplomacy than enhance it. Even if it were a desirable goal, it is highly uncertain whether a Kerry administration could do much to improve U.S. popularity around the world without sacrificing important national interests.
September 8, 2004 The one-thousandth American military death was recorded in Iraq yesterday. Of this total, 75 percent were the result of hostile enemy action. Though our lossess in Iraq have been higher than most people expected, it is important to put this in context. For one thing, a high (though uncertain) proportion of U.S. losses have occurred in ambushes and terrorist attacks, not combat per se. In addition, the average of 59 deaths per month thus far (17 months) ranks very low compared to previous wars. Data on U.S. deaths in past wars are now included on the War page, which has been thoroughly revised. The various war-related pages have been revised as well, and the new Iraq war page includes an updated monthly table of U.S. fatalities in Iraq.
Smarting from recent reversals, John Kerry has shaken up his campaign staff, adding the supremely disingenuous Joe Lockhart, who served as Bill Clinton's spokesman during the latter years. Yesterday Kerry went on the rhetorical offensive, declaring that Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." (For you history buffs, that was the same phrase used by retired General Omar Bradley in testifying to Congress about the Korean War back in 1951.) In other words, Kerry apparently thinks we would be better off if we had not gone to war and Saddam Hussein were still in power. Oh yeah? Look at what he said during a campaign event last December:
Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president.
(This was taken from William Kristol in the Weekly Standard, via InstaPundit) Kerry has excused past flip-flops on the grounds that he had been misled by the Bush administration. As late as last December?? Does he really want us to believe he was that much of an innocent dupe? I was listening to that hyper-patriot Ollie North on Sean Hannity's radio program this afternoon, and I think he just may have a point: He thinks that Kerry's mercurial stance, pathological flip-flopping, and sullen diffidence on his own past record are evidence that he is suffering from deep guilt over what he said and did during and after the Vietnam War.
September 7, 2004 My brother John informed me that the local newspaper in my home town published a more accurate version than did the Sioux Falls Argus Leader of the story about my once-in-a-lifetime double eagle back on August 10. What's more, it has been saved on their Web archives, so you can read all about it in the online version of the Vermillion Plain Talk. Unfortunately, the story contained two misspellings.
For some reason, many Democrats are furious at the ad campaign launched by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, even though it was Kerry himself who made his Vietnam service the centerpiece of his campaign. ("I'm John Kerry, reporting for duty!") First, few people would doubt that, compared to President Bush, Kerry has more to be proud of for his military service. Bush himself said as much. But the ferocity of this latest flap does suggest a serious double-standard at play, as Benjamin Ginsberg argued in the Washington Post on September 1. He was recently obliged to resign as counsel for the Bush campaign after it was reported that he also did legal work for the Swift Boat Vets, because some people charged that this "proved" that there was illegal coordination between that "527" group and the Bush-Cheney campaign. Meanwhile, top Democrats such as Harold Ickes, Bill Richardson hold prominent positions in both "527" groups such as the Media Fund or MoveOn.org and the Democratic Party. Ginsberg lamented the failure of journalists to scrutinize the much stronger ties between the Democrats and various non-party political organizations:
When the Bush-Cheney campaign filed a detailed, 70-page complaint detailing illegal coordination by Democrats, the move produced 14 news articles, with no follow-up. When the Kerry campaign filed an unsupportable charge of coordination about the Swift boat ads, there were 74 articles, and the pack swarmed.
Liberal media bias? Whatever! Sadly, some facts of political life are just so obvious that no one gets worked up about it anymore.
Booo! With regard to that atrocious mistaken AP story mentioned yesterday, the hyper-partisan blogger Josh Marshall first reported the story almost as soon as it hit the wires, later mentioned that it had been retracted, then curtly acknowledged it was not true, and finally ridiculed Bush aide Karen Hughes for screaming at the AP reporter who got it wrong. (I probably would have screamed, too!) If he really thinks it was not important enough to get so upset about, then why in the world did he bother to call attention to the AP story in the first place??
September 6, 2004 Former President Clinton is "recovering normally" from his quadruple heart bypass surgery. I join the vast majority of Americans who wish him well and pray for his health. This being campaign season, however, there is a sad footnote to report: The Associated Press filed a story on Friday erroneously claiming that when President Bush broke the news about Clinton's hospitalization during a campaign rally, the crowd booed. This was totally false! The AP eventually retracted the story, but not before it had spread around the world and become accepted by many as fact. For a full story on this journalistic travesty, including links to an audio clip of the Bush rally, see spinswimming blog. (Via Donald Luskin's Poor and stupid blog.)
Sebastian Mallaby wrote a fair-minded piece on President Bush in today's Washington Post. He praised Bush's admission during the interview with Matt Lauer that the war on terrorism cannot be "won" in the conventional sense of military victory. All sensible people would agree with that, which is why the Democrats were unable to capitalize on Bush's alleged "flip flop." But Bush has yet to face up to his domestic agenda's likely effect on the budget. Mallaby writes:
If Bush offers more sober honesty, complementing the soaring paeans to liberty of his convention speech, he may present voters with the best of both worlds: a glorious belief in American power and a reassuring understanding of its limits. ... But the small signs of foreign policy sobriety are in stark contrast to Bush's domestic-policy thinking. Here, the bluster blares at full volume. There's no evidence of honesty or reconsideration.
As long as Karl Rove remains in charge, I'm afraid there's very little chance Bush will do or say anything differently. If he is reelected, he will then have the painful choice of either continuing the risky current economic policy course or else seeking to reduce the deficit, thereby infuriating millions of voters. Given the hardball campaign tactics he has adopted, he will not be able to expect any help from Congressional Democrats.
Six exotic bird photos from my brother John's recent trip to the state of Washington, including a White-headed woodpecker (!) and a Rhinoceros auklet (!!?), on the Photos page. A separate annotated page for those photos may be added soon.
Jacqueline and I drove up to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park yesterday, but there weren't as many migrant species as I had hoped. We saw at least nine ravens, as well as some red-eyed vireos, a blue-headed vireo, a chestnut-sided warbler, and a black-throated blue warbler.
The Washington Post reports that Congressman Tom Davis (R-Virginia) is throwing his weight behind the effort to land a baseball team for the Washington area, wisely ridiculing the petty parochial jealousies that have erupted recently between Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. He's an avid fan and, at age 55, still plays softball. To him, the political jurisdiction to which the Expos franchise will be relocated is less important than the overriding objective of giving Washingtonians and Northern Virginians a real chance to see big league ball. If the rest of the Virginia congressional delegation would get behind this effort, it just might tip the balance and close the deal once and for all.
September 4, 2004 I just posted the following remark in reponse to a flood of derogatory comments about the phrase "God's country" on Randy Paul's Beautiful Horizons blog, a left-liberal take on events in Latin America. What prompted it was a Republican convention delegate from Iowa who invoked said term in scolding the protesters in New York about their "lack of patriotism."
Thank God (!) for Miguel's comment to balance all the rest. There was probably a tinge of bigotry in the Iowa delegate's remarks, but Randy and others totally misconstrue the expression "God's country." It means any place with endless verdant pastures and forests unspoiled by human hands (and machines). I'd be tempted to call the Yungas of Bolivia "God's country." True, the chemical-saturated mega-farms in the Midwest today are becoming less of a pristine Eden all the time, but if you'd ever been to the Field of Dreams you might understand from whence such sentiments derive. It doesn't mean that The Bronx (for example) is hell. Likewise, you would have to have lived in both rural and urban settings to see how much people really "love thy neighbor as thyself" in each environment. There are certain similarities between NYC and Iowa in terms of community spirit, but there are also huge differences. Perhaps the touchy feelings about patriotism, faith, and community on both the urban and rural sides of the Great Divide have their origins in the dual meaning of "country." Lighten up, y'all!
In case you're wondering about the sparse posts on this site of late, I've been under the weather, and most of my limited energy has been devoted to local politicking and e-mail debating. In fact, I just realized that I had failed to update the Baseball page with the material from September 1. My apologies! Perhaps the 22-0 shellacking suffered by the Yankees at the hands of the Indians this week had something to do with my subpar state of mind. What's worse, Kevin Brown smashed his (non-pitching) left hand in anger. That's gotta hurt! The Yanks lost to Baltimore again today, and Red Sox had a chance to pull to within 1 1/2 games, but even with a 5-run seventh inning at Fenway, they fell short against the Rangers. Yikes... I'm really mad that Fox stops the Saturday afternoon baseball broadcasts in September.
Overall, I was quite pleased by the Republican Convention, though some speeches were too harsh, especially Zell Miller's. President Bush's speech was among his finest, which is to say "good," though he got bogged down in policy details. That's the price he had to pay for having been vague about his plans for a second term up till then. The concluding part was appropriately humble and almost contrite about his personal shortcomings and past mistakes. It probably won't change very many voters' minds, but it at least served to reassure those (like me) who sometimes worry that he is too deaf to critics. He got the expected bounce in the polls, but that is probably only temporary. It is too late for him to come out with the kind of brutally frank assessment of our situation in the war on terrorism that might convince fence-sitters. As a result, I expect the campaign to be bitter and the election to be close.
Gay conservative Andrew Sullivan has given up on Bush and the Republican Party, and not just because of the exclusion of gays from the convention stage. (Dick Cheney's daughter was apparently nowhere to be seen.) Sullivan interprets the convention platform and speeches as indicating that Bush has definitively forfeited his credentials as an economic conservative:
The whole package was, I think, best summed up as a mixture of Bismarck and Wilson. Germany's Bismarck fused a profound social conservatism with a nascent welfare state. It was a political philosophy based on a strong alliance with military and corporate interests, and bound itself in a paternalist Protestant ethic. Bush Republicanism is not as authoritarian, but its impulses are similar ... the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry - especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending - easily the choice for fiscal conservatives.
Ouch! As election day approaches I will be taking a good hard look at what Bush says and does to see whether Sullivan was right. If he was, then it may be time to start supporting the Concord Coalition once again.
The death toll in Beslan stands at 324, and will probably climb much further. Ralph Peters, in the New York Post, draws the appropriate trenchant conclusions from the slaughter of innocent children in southern Russia:
If Muslim religious leaders around the world will not publicly condemn the taking of children as hostages and their subsequent slaughter -- if those "men of faith" will not issue a condemnation without reservations or caveats -- then no one need pretend any longer that all religions are equally sound and moral.
When I praised Bush for "taking the high road" by distancing himself from the Swift Boat Vet ads on August 23, I should have acknowledged a bit of disingenuity on his part: he never believed that the McCain-Feingold bill would end fund-raising sleaze in the first place. But on the very next day, E.J. Dionne escalated the disingenuity race in the Washington Post when he called on Bush to:
tell the inappropriately named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to stop smearing Kerry's service record and urge his big money contributors to stop bankrolling the distortions.
It's too bad he can't even hint at acknowledging that the negative ads from "527" groups like MoveOn.org are far worse in terms of accuracy and questionable funding. I'm still reserving judgment about the Swift Boat Vets, though I did take a look at the book by John O'Neil, Unfit For Duty, and it appears convincing at first glance. It claims Kerry was an antiwar activist in college as early as 1966, whereas in the interview he did with WRC-TV in 1971, he said he didn't change his mind about Vietnam until he went there in 1968. He used to claim that he served on two tours in Vietnam, but in the first tour he was on a destroyer in the South China Sea. If you want the true facts, here are links to Kerry's 1971 testimony to Congress and an apparently impartial chronology of Kerry's career. If you are interested in how Kerry has flip-flopped on Saddam Hussein, WMDs, and all that, take a look at: Kerry on Iraq.
More leftist merriment: Banana Republicans, "How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One-Party State." A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy." So we are a "one-party state" now?? Last I checked, the election was still up for grabs; I guess that reveals the mentality of folks who used to have perennial control of Congress and came to feel they were entitled to permanent majority status. It IS true that the country has become more polarized since "W" took office, but the reasons for that are less clear. Bush's critics consistently fail to point out specific examples of what he has done to cause this. The President is rated as likable by an overwhelming majority of American.
But wait, there's more, from the CyberCast News Service (via InstaPundit):
U.S. Rep. Major Owens, a New York Democrat, warned a crowd of feminist protesters that the Bush administration is taking America "into a snake pit of fascism."
I don't know about the CyberCast News Service, but you can find similar extremist language on Rep. Owens' Web site. Oh yeah, well take THIS: Communists for Kerry (via Donald Luskin's Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid blog.)
On a more serious note, Larry Diamond, a political scientist with the Hoover Institution who served as adviser to the Coalition Provisional Governing Authority in Iraq, wrote a sharply critical analysis of the U.S. pacification strategy. As I've written before, democracy has been oversold by the Bush administration -- and by virtually every U.S. administration since Woodrow Wilson. Democracies per se are not necessarily more peaceful, liberal republics with limited governments and divided powers are. (For more, read Rummel.) I've seen [Diamond] at an APSA conference or two, and he is definitely in the top tier prestige-wise -- and he knows it. I missed the Chicago meeting this year, but Daniel Drezner was there, and led a panel on political blogging. (Andrew Sullivan was absent, however.)
Finally, John Thune has recently taken a small lead in the polls and just may just beat Tom Daschle, according to this story from gopusa.com. DUMP DASCHLE!
In Panama, left-populist Martin Torrijos was just inaugurated as president. Just before stepping down as president last week, Mireya Moscoso pardoned four Cuban exiles who were convicted of having conspired to commit violent acts against the Castro regime. Cuba reacted by recalling its ambassador, though the diplomatic breech is only temporary. The question is whether the U.S. government was involved. Some of the Cubans quickly took refuge in Florida -- just in time for Hurricane Frances! (NOTE: To my dismay, my default Latin America news source, cnn.com en español Web site no longer carries news updates.)
September 1, 2004 This week's speeches a the GOP Convention have been consistently rousing, and it seems that the rank and file party members are getting fired up and, for now, setting aside differences. On Monday Rudy Giuliani frankly acknowledged some differences over policy but left no doubt about his degree of support for the president, a very good sign that the "big tent" is holding firm. Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech last night was surprisingly effective, taunting the nay-sayers who lament this country's supposed poverty: "Don't be an economic girlie-man."
Senator John McCain and [soon-to-be] Former Senator Zell Miller sure gave John Kerry hell tonight. [Oops! McCain spoke on Monday.] McCain showed class by criticizing the Swift Boat Veteran ads on general principles (he did not challenge their factual accuracy, however), and has at the same time restored his standing in the Republican Party after occasionally straying from its core principles in recent years. Miller has long been regarded as a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, but he has flip-flopped on policies, and his criticism of Bush policies in recent years is worth a raised eyebrow or two. Vice President Dick Cheney followed up, scorning Kerry's "sensitive, multilateralist" approach to national security: "George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people."
The local Republican Party headquarters in Staunton opened its doors on Monday, and I took a couple photos of it for the swacgop.org Web site. Local members are enthusiastic and confident, especially given all of Kerry's recent contradictory statements on his Vietnam service and his policy flip-flops, but no one is taking anything for granted, not even in the "safe" territory of Virginia.
Four photos and added comments on Great American Ballpark based on my recent trip through the Midwest. Those photos, and the ones I took at Comerica Park, brought to my attention certain inaccuracies in those stadiums' diagrams, so they'll have to be revised at some point. Also, two of the photos of Citizens Bank Park taken by Phil Faranda have been enlarged to show more detail. The pennant races are heating up, as the Red Sox have somehow pulled to within 3.5 games of the Yankees, but even so, the Angels and Rangers are still strong contenders for the AL wild card spot. In the National League, the hard-luck Cubs are clinging to a precarious wild card lead, while the Braves bravely pitched to Barry Bonds during the four-game series in Atlanta last weekend. Result: he got three more homers.
Apple Computer unveiled its new line of ultra-slim iMac desktop computers at an exhibition in Paris today. It sports the ultra-fast G5 processor (1.6 GHz or 1.8 GHz), the first time the G5 has been available in a consumer-oriented computer. Apple's stock has continued to climb to the $35 range in recent weeks, in spite of a challenge from Real which released new software (Real Player for Mac OS X) that is compatible with the iPod, which would let users improperly copy music files from the iPod to a computer, jeopardizing the Apple Music Store's ability to prevent its customers from infringing upon copyright laws. This is all getting very interesting. Some people are worried that if Apple resists, they might spoil this golden opportunity to make the iPod the de facto standard for MP3-type music players, much as it let slip the chance to license the Mac OS in the late 1980s, which would have made the Mac the standard, rather than Windows. Oh well...