August 2004 Archives
August 28, 2004 Three photos and added comments on Comerica Park based on my recent trip through the Midwest. I've fallen way behind schedule as a result of said journey, but I do plan to add photos and comments to the Great American Ballpark page very soon. Also, stay tuned for a 1996 Olympics version of Turner Field. THEN I'll finally get to Petco Park, hopefully featuring photos from a high school friend who now lives in San Diego. Adding pages for special occasion stadiums and doing revisions of other diagrams will keep me plenty busy during the off season.
While heading west earlier this month, I made an impromptu visit to the Bob Feller Museum, in Van Meter, Iowa, just west of Des Moines. The time I spent there browsing through all the historical mementos related to the Cleveland Indians' star pitcher (and World War II veteran) was well worth it. The folks at the museum are very friendly and helpful, and I highly recommend a visit there to anyone passing through that part of the country. (It's just a couple hours west of the Field of Dreams in Dyersville.) To see a closeup of the bas relief images in the adjoining photo, roll the mouse over it.
The tension mounts... MLB officials held intensive negotiations with officials from D.C. and Virginia earlier this week, a sign that there may just be a final resolution of the Expos relocation issue in the next couple months. Just as the agonizingly long process nears a climax, however, potential "deal breakers" have emerged on both sides of the Potomac. Some Virginia state legislators have expressed doubts about approving state guarantees for debts incurred for a stadium if it's built in the distant hinterlands of Loudoun County, and today the Washington Post reported that the proposed "Diamond Lake" mega-resort complex has been downscaled because the sale of quarry land where the lake was supposed to be fell through. Meanwhile, a poll of D.C. residents points to stiff opposition to using city government money to fund a stadium. What's more, on Friday members of the D.C. city council held a press conference to ridicule the Virginia option, pointing to a poll indicating that 82 percent of adult fans in the Greater Washington area would prefer a ballpark in Washington rather than Loudoun County." It got even nastier when Councilman Jack Evans warned that if Virginia gets the Expos, "the council could pass legislation that would keep a northern Virginia team out of RFK." (From the Washington Post.) I've said in the past that I would prefer that a new stadium be built within sight of the Potomac River, but such obnoxious and foolish rhetoric is a big turn-off. If no baseball games are to be played in RFK, they might as well tear it down right now and save the maintenance costs, which soccer games alone can't cover. Could such petty squabbling sink the whole deal?
Meanwhile, building inspectors in Chicago have verified that Wrigley Field is structurally sound after all. An interesting political angle came to light during this episode: Mayor Richard Dailey (a Democrat, like his father) has recently been at war with the Tribune Company which owns the Cubs, and he has made unsubtle threats that Wrigley might be shut down.
I was right! Back on July 17 I predicted that the restorehonesty.com Web site, which featured anti-Bush diatribes from former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, would soon be "gone and conveniently forgotten." In it, Wilson bitterly denounced what he called the Bush administration's "deceptive" arguments for going to war against Iraq, but that was before more of the detailed facts about the 2002 intelligence reports on uranium from Africa came out in July. Now, all you will find at that Web address is a bland portal to John Kerry's campaign Web site, with no mention of Joseph Wilson anywhere. Ha! Are the Kerry folks trying to hide something? I say, "Restore 'restorehonesty.com' to its original form" so that everyone can see the bogus propaganda Kerry has relied on. That's one way he can repair his shaken credibility and live up to the standards of honesty...
August 25, 2004 Prompted by e-mail alerts from local birders, I went to a hot spot known as "Leonard's Pond" yesterday morning, and saw FIVE different species of sandpipers, including the famous Baird's sandpiper, the first time I've seen one. I have updated my life bird list to include it, as well as all the life birds I saw in Peru and South Dakota earlier this year. Total number of species: 285. In the evening, Jacqueline and I saw some nighthawks for the first time in Staunton this season; I corrected the list below to show that I saw several of them on my recent trip in South Dakota, and one in West Virginia. Goldfinches are abundant in our back yard once again, as the wing-flapping juveniles beg for food from their parents and learn to feed on their own, little by little.
August 23, 2004 An August 22 Washington Post story by Michael Dobbs sifted through the evidence regarding the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth charges against John F. Kerry's military record. So far, the truth seems somewhere in between. My sense is that Kerry probably served honorably, but flagrantly hustled superiors ("Ouch!") to get an extra Purple Heart and thus a quick exit from Vietnam. There is little doubt that from the very beginning he was self-consciously capitalizing on his Vietnam service for a possible future career in politics. His callous disrespect for his comrades in uniform and his too-pious Congressional testimony are examples of utter shameless gall. Kerry's most dubious claim of having been in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968 is not corroborated by any official documents, and his campaign organization has beat a steady retreat from his past definitive declarations of how that experience was "seared ... seared" in his memory. It is possible, however, that he was on a "black" secret mission. If so, he never should have divulged it to the public, and anyone with so little regard for the confidentiality of sensitive national security matters is unfit to serve as commander in chief.
Why would Kerry put so much emphasis on his military service if he had so blatantly inflated his record? My guess is that he wanted to divert the public's attention from the fact that, like Nixon in 1968, he really doesn't have any better ideas on how to win the war on terrorism. If that is the case, why in the world should we "change horses in the middle of the stream"? In any case, all that gung-ho, off-color bravado (I'm John Kerry, reporting for duty!") is likely to wear thin as more people realize that there is very little correlation between presidential greatness and past military service. Abe Lincoln vs. Ulysses Grant?
To me, the biggest lesson to be learned from this is the futility of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which inadvertently created the massive pernicious loophole. Only in a world of political saints could the "527" organizations such as MoveOn.org and the Swift Boat Vets be regarded as fully independent of the respective parties and presidential campaigns. Why pretend? Well, there's a good reason: Both sides are straining to appeal to the small but vital undecided bloc of voters, who are by and large clueless about the facts and/or innocent of such Washington political games. To his credit, President Bush today distanced himself from any and all such unauthorized quasi-campaigns, calling on the Democrats to do the same. Way to take the high road, "W"! Meanwhile, esteemed WWII veteran (and political hard-baller) Bob Dole endorsed the Swift Boat Veterans' charges, in a well-choreographed "good-cop, bad-cop" routine. John Kerry is shocked -- shocked! -- that the usually slow-witted Republicans have learned to play his party's game.
Jacqueline and I camped in the Shenandoah National Park for a couple nights a few days ago, and went for an eight-mile circuit hike, descending and then climbing 1,700 feet. The bird highlights were some chestnut-sided warblers, a hooded warbler, a female (or juvenile) tanager, and a loud raven at close range. Jacqueline spotted a black bear crossing the trail ahead of us, but I was pretty fatigued by that point and didn't look up in time to see it.
Here is a list of the most interesting birds I saw during my trip to South Dakota earlier this month. Also included are a few I saw en route or on the way back east. Asterisks indicate I took video clips, some still images of which are displayed on the South Dakota 2004 and Photo gallery pages. (Others may be added later.) Kingbirds were abundant almost everywhere, and killdeer were all over The Bluffs Golf course.
- 1 Double-crested cormorant -- Toledo, OH
- 6 Red-headed woodpeckers -- several locations
- 1 Sedge wren * -- Spirit Mound, N of Vermillion
- 4 Pied-billed grebes -- near Greenfield
- 8 Common nighthawks * -- in Vermillion
- 1 Common yellowthroat (M) * -- NE of Vermillion
- 10 Ospreys * -- Clay County Park, SD
- 3 Warbling vireos * -- Clay County Park
- 8 Cedar waxwings * -- Clay County Park
- 6 Marsh wrens * (LIFE BIRD) -- NE of Vermillion
- 1 Dickcissel * (F/J) -- NE of Vermillion
- 2 Baltimore orioles (M,F) -- The Bluffs Golf Course
- 2 Orchard orioles -- S of Burbank, near Missouri R.
- 1 Lark sparrow (LIFE BIRD) -- S of Burbank, near Missouri R.
- 3 Red-eyed vireos * -- SD and Hawks Nest S.P., WV
- 1 Magnolia warbler (M) -- Cranberry Glades, WV
- 6 Hummingbirds * (F/J) -- Cranberry Glades, WV
August 19, 2004 The MLB Relocation Committee failed to reach a decision during their meeting this week. Robert DuPuy issued a statement denying that the Washington area will necessarily get the Expos franchise, but few people believe any other outcome is likely. The Washington Post ran stories on the Washington-based and Virginia-based prospective franchises. Jeffrey Zients has replaced Fred Malek as the lead figure in the Washington Baseball Club, while William Collins keeps on truckin' in that role on the southern side of the Potomac. I've added two photos and some comments to the Tiger Stadium page based on my visit there earlier this month. Photos from Comerica Park and Great American Ballpark will be added next week.
Believe It Or Not!
August 18, 2004 I just returned from my vacation to South Dakota, the highlight of which actually appeared in last Thursday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader. If you're not a golfer, you should know that a double eagle is even more rare than a hole in one, nearly all of which are on par 3 holes and hence just single eagles. "Perfect!" I exclaimed, as the ball I hit sailed toward its improbable destiny. Perfect indeed. Never even having scored a "single" eagle before, I was utterly stupefied as I approached the green and found the ball in the cup. I saw my name in the newspaper two days later, and wouldn't you know it, the greatest athletic feat in my lifetime gets misreported! I called the Argus Leader to request a correction, but apparently such minor stories aren't deemed worth it. Oh well... At any rate, I was lucky to be playing that day with my father and two brothers, both of whom scored birdies on that same hole. I'm not big on luck and superstition, but there must be some cosmic significance behind that once-in-a-lifetime event.
Unlike our brief rain-curtailed jaunt to NYC last month, this time my intricately scheduled baseball itinerary worked flawlessly: while heading west I saw a game in Detroit (Rangers 2, Tigers 1), and on the way back saw one in Cincinnati (Padres 7, Reds 2). So much for home field advantage! That first game put Texas into first place in the AL West, and they are still neck and neck with the A's. San Diego overtook the Cubs in the NL Wild Card race, though [San Francisco now holds that lead]. Given that the total scores in the three games I've seen this year have risen in perfect geometric progression (1, 3, 9), I would expect the total score in the next game I see to be 27. Stay tuned for updates to three stadium pages, complete with photos, in the near future. (Yes, venerable old Tiger Stadium is still standing.)
In terms of birding, the highlight of my trip was seeing ten juvenile ospreys that have been relocated from Idaho to the banks of the Missouri River by Wildlife Experiences, a private non-profit organization dedicated to conservation. While at the Clay County Park site I also saw a couple bald eagles flying high, plus a variety of songbirds. Stay tuned for photos of the ospreys, as well as a common yellowthroat, red-headed woodpecker, sedge wren, marsh wren, cedar waxwing, and others, along with a more complete list. Also, my brother John is headed to the Great Northwest for yet another birding adventure, which will no doubt yield another super batch of photos.
Thanks to Phil Faranda for the link to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of former sailors who served with John Kerry in the Vietnam War. Why didn't more of those Navy vets speak out before? If what they are saying is true, Kerry will have been exposed as a complete fraud, and the whole "chicken hawk" line of criticism toward President Bush collapses. If not, it shouldn't be hard for Kerry to rebut them and lay the issue to rest, in which case his election would become a near certainty. I'm not surprised by the escalating tit-for-tat negative ads by organizations that are not affiliated with the official presidential campaigns, given that the Democrats have turned this election into a virtual holy war, but such a high-stakes challenge is unusual. Hang on, folks, it's going to be a rough ride for the next two and a half months!
In Venezuela, President-for-Life Hugo Chavez won the recall referendum by a 58% to 42% margin, and the results have been acknowledged as legitimate by the United States and international observers. While not unexpected, the referendum signifies yet another setback for the cause of freedom in the Third World. It may simply be that the uncommitted segment of the Venezuelan population was more afraid of what might happen if Chavez had lost the referendum and decided to stay in office anyway. Civil war would have erupted, most likely, shutting down one of our biggest sources of crude oil.
August 4, 2004 I'm heading west to South Dakota for a high school reunion and family get-together. If all goes as planned, I'll see a ballgame in Detroit on the way out there, and perhaps another city or two on the way back. I may try to update this blogsite from a remote location, but otherwise, I'll return by mid-month.
I hope Daniel Drezner read Robert Kagan's sharp critique of "The Kerry Doctrine" in the Washington Post's "Outlook" section on Sunday. Kagan ridicules Kerry's pious pledge to
bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation.
In fact, as Kagan points out:
The United States has sent forces into combat dozens of times over the past century and a half, and only twice, in World War II and in Afghanistan, has it arguably done so because it "had to."
The point is that Kerry panders to the illusion of innocence that underlies the persistent isolationist tendency in American politics, which is a dangerous impediment to effective diplomacy. What does Kerry himself really believe? Does he even know?
Investigative blogger Michelle Malkin reports that Grover Norquist has been defending a Saudi financial supporter who has proclaimed sympathy with the cause of the terrorists. Norquist is a heavyweight tax-cutting advocate who has made a number of enemies in Washington, but is close to President Bush's adviser Karl Rove. Just what Bush needs: links to the enemy. I had hoped that Bush might shake up the White House staff after the setbacks of recent months, possibly even putting former staffer Karen Hughes back in a prominent spot and demoting Karl Rove. His father tried a similar fourth-quarter staff shakeup in mid-1992, but it was all for nought. Perhaps that's why Bush Junior prefers to Stay The Course.
In any case, Kerry got little if any benefit from the Democratic Convention in Boston, and his wife is once again in hot water for a caustic retort to hecklers at a campaign rally. This may be the first election in which the choice for First Lady ended up being the decisive factor.
In Paraguay, at least 323 people died in a fire in an suburban supermarket whose exit doors were locked, apparently to prevent theft. In Mexico, the once-dominant Revolutionary Insitutional Party (PRI) won gubernatorial elections in Oaxaca (where we visited in Feb.-Mar. 2003) and Tijuana.
Diabolical plot in the Bronx. Wouldn't you know it, one week after I finally see a game in The Bronx and it's announced that the Yankees have resurrected plans to replace "The House that Ruth Built" with a smaller luxury-oriented venue next door. The New York Daily News reports on the particulars; apparently they would play in the current stadium while a new one is built across the street. So I did some Google searching on Yankee Stadium and come across a New York City blog with a relevant thread, Gothamist, where I posted the following comment:
"Travesty" would be putting it extremely mildly. It's long been known that Steinbrenner is a short-sighted bully who is clueless about the "goodwill" value of the Yankee tradition in general and Yankee Stadium in particular. What is news is Mayor Bloomberg's acquiescence in this latest gambit. He had opposed any public funds for new baseball stadiums in the wake of 9/11, but now it looks like he'll agree to massive new spending on infrastructure, an unwarranted public subsidy to make life more pleasant for the skybox set. He's making Ralph Nader look wise...
Speaking of political controversy at Yankee Stadium, I noticed that Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado was getting booed by many fans when I saw them play on July 22. Only later did I read up on what that's all about. It seems Señor Delgado has taken it upon himself to protest against the Iraq war by refusing to stand when "God Bless America" is played. Well, that's his right as an American. (He's from Puerto Rico, actually, a quasi-colony where Yankee hating is still quite intense in some quarters.) See MSNBC.com for more details.
Perhaps indicative of the increasing likelihood that the Expos will finally relocate to Washington next year, the D.C. United soccer team has expressed concerns that their games may conflict with baseball games at RFK Stadium. (See Washington Post.) The stadium seating sections could be moved back and forth with no problem (other than a few rusting wheels perhaps), but the field couldn't take the wear and tear, and the dirt infield would make it very hard to play soccer. The major league soccer season roughly coincides with the baseball season, from April through October.
The Staunton Braves beat the Woodstock River Bandits Monday night, 7-3, thereby qualifying for the next round in the Valley Baseball League playoffs. Stay tuned for some photos of a small-town, American-as-apple-pie baseball game...
I returned ed to the Ramsey's Draft / Shenadoah Mtn. area on Sunday to see if I could detect any evidence of breeding by that brown creeper Jacqueline and I spotted there two months ago. No such luck. I may have heard one of the rose-breasted grosbeaks we saw, but I'm just not sure. Since breeding season is over, there was hardly any singing, but I did see a fair number of good birds nonetheless. I walked around the picnic area at Ramsey's Draft for an hour or so and then drove up to the Confederate Breastworks and hiked north a mile or so from there to the junction with the trail where we saw the Brown creeper back in late May.
- 6 Hummingbirds (M,F/J)
- 3 Worm-eating warblers
- 8 Black & white warblers (F/J)
- 6 Goldfinches (M,F)
- 4 Black-throated green warblers (M,F/J)
- 8 Carolina chickadees (some possible Black-capped)
- 3 Titmice
- 4 Indigo buntings (M,F/J)
- 2 Cedar waxwings
- 1 Flicker
- 1 Louisiana waterthrush (first of season)
- 1 N. parula (J)
- 3 Scarlet tanagers (M, 2 F/J)
- 1 Red-eyed vireo
- 1 Hairy WP (F)
- 3 Ovenbirds (silent!)
- 1 Great crested flycatcher