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Andrew Clem archives

November 1, 2004 [LINK]

The Moment of Truth

O.K., here's what this pivotal moment in our nation's history really means: Do we have enough confidence in the values that bind us together as a nation to recognize the barbarian challenge for what it is, or will we simply shrug and shuffle away with our figurative tails between our legs? Because I am an unabashed believer in all the good that America stands for (though acknowledging our blemishes), I am sticking to my hunch that Bush will end up with a slight majority in the nationwide popular vote. Voting for Bush is an expression of resolve and solidarity, the vital psychological underpinning upon which our national security depends. I liken this moment to the early 1980s when there were huge protests against the deployment of U.S. cruise missiles and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe. Nevertheless, elections in several NATO countries in effect ratified President Reagan's buildup, which nullified the Soviet nuclear advantage and ultimately played a huge part in ending the Cold War. Senator Kerry, in case you don't recall, was a staunch opponent of the Reagan foreign policy, wrong as usual when it comes to security matters. He talks tough about "hunting down" Al Qaeda, but he acts as though he had a spine of rubber. Mortal danger has the healthy effect of focusing one's mind on how to survive, and I think enough American people are aware that we are close to that point. I will give Kerry my (conditional) support if he is elected, since we simply must stand together in this time of peril, but I will tremble for the fate of this great nation if and when his hands are on the wheel of the Ship of State.

Larry Sabato's last Crystal Ball before the election hints at a slight edge for Kerry, depending on the turnout, since no incumbent has ever won an election without a clear lead in the polls. He foresees a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College, in which case the GOP-controlled House would choose the president. How will the Democrats react in that case? Armies of lawyers are standing by.

Good news for Bush: Reds' Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench endorsed him at a huge rally last night at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, where I saw a game back in August. The estimated attendance was 40,000. (I would have guessed more like 30,000, given that most of the upper deck was empty.) Bush appeared calm and confident, and that kind of event might be enough to tip the Ohio vote into his column. Kerry, however, has seemed strained and nervous, and positively silly when he wears that Red Sox cap. By the way, where is Mrs. Heinz Kerry these days? Locked up in a luxury suite in BelAir, or Bermuda, perhaps?

Rush Limbaugh raised a good point today: the Redskins don't play in Washington any more (FedEx Field is actually in Landover, Maryland), so that old superstition about incumbent presidents losing elections no longer applies.

Given all the nice things I've said about him, this is probably a good moment to review Bush's major failures and shortcomings.

  • Not telling the American people how arduous the war would be, or asking them to make material sacrifices.
  • Not asking Congress for a formal declaration of war against Iraq, in lieu of U.N. authorization.
  • Not making enough gestures of respect for the Iraqi people, and Arabs in general.
  • Not listening to advisers who urged a more robust occupation force, thus losing the strategic initiative, temporarily.
  • Not articulating a clear enough vision of what freedom would mean for the Middle East and the Third World. (MTV?)
  • Not upholding true conservative principles in health and education policy, or in the budget in general.

George Will makes some of these points in his tepid endorsement of Bush in yesterday's Washington Post. In the end, he writes, the most important thing is pursuing a firm, steady course in defeating the Arab-Islamic terrorists -- and Bush knows it. I'm willing to bet that the Democrats would have been in a much better position to win this election if such fringe elements as MoveOn.org and ACT had been more restrained and reasonable in their criticisms of Bush.

Just what I was thinking: Osama bin Laden's surprise address to the American people sounded like it was written by Michael Moore or the Democratic National Committee. Guess what? A Democrat has frankly admitted as much. Will the implications of this striking rhetorical convergence sink in to enough heads by tomorrow? See Jeff Jarvis's buzzmachine. (via InstaPundit and Belmont Club)

The eerie thing about the bin Laden tape is how he remixes Michael Moore -- remixes as if in a Cuisinart. I swear the guy saw Fahrenheit 9/11 and picked up the themes for his latest wacky show -- even the fixation with that goat book. It's so nutty that if he weren't such an evil murdering slime, it would almost be funny. Or it would sound like another 527 ad.

What's also strange is that it's hard to see exactly how he wants to influence the election. Though it may seem he's trying to defeat the President, taunting Bush and America may only serve Bush. And that may be his goal: These cult nuts feed on having enemies and Bush is his ideal enemy.

I sharply dispute his last part, of course, since I think bin Laden is more sophisticated than that. Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, all that made me think, what if Bush has been consciously downplaying the importance of Osama bin Laden in order to undermine his prestige among his supporters? Did Bush deliberatedly "take his eye off the ball" (as Kerry keeps whining) in order to rob bin Laden of the attention he needs to survive?? If so, it would a "psychological operation" of the highest order. Reactions from the Looney Left to the bin Laden videotape (see erictheunred, via InstaPundit) make you wonder if some of that stuff is coming from right-wing plants out to discredit them. Nah, that's too conspiratorial.


Andrew Clem archives

November 3, 2004 [LINK]

Victory, Redemption, Reconciliaton

WOW! The past 48 hours have left me utterly exhausted, but the final results made it all worth it. Just as I predicted three days ago, Bush won 51 percent to Kerry's 48 percent, just enough of a margin to put aside all those asinine gripes we've been hearing for the last four years. It's hard to imagine a more decisive election, and we will all have vivid memories of it for the rest of our lives. It may be less than a full endorsement of Bush's agenda, but it will definitely give the President a huge psychological boost as he confronts foreign adversaries. (Imagine how distraught the French and Germans must be right now!) The "icing on the cake" was the increase in GOP strength in both houses of Congress, especially the defeat of Senator Tom Daschle -- "Mr. Obstructionist" -- by John Thune in South Dakota. Any chance Tom the Consummate Washington Insider is going back to retire in his "home state"? Zip, zero, nada. Senator Kerry deserves great praise for deciding not to contest the results in Ohio, where he was at least 130,000 votes behind, not including the "provisional" ballots. (What a risk-prone mechanism those are!) His concession speech was a bit late perhaps, but the tone was gracious and sincere, which will hopefully go a long way toward restoring public trust and repairing the damage to our body politic caused by the Florida 2000 fiasco. John Edwards came across as more defiant, in contrast, perhaps indicating that he'll run for the Number One spot in 2008 -- against Hillary??? President Bush made a fine victory speech, graciously reciprocating the peace offering from Kerry. Let us hope and pray that enough of Kerry's supporters take Bush's words to heart.

For more on what I've been up to with the local Republicans for the last few days, take a look at swacgop.org. It includes a video I took of the rally last October 28, the first time I've dabbled in Web video. Good old Apple iMovie and QuickTime come through reliably as ever, once again.


Andrew Clem archives

November 5, 2004 [LINK]

Cropp throws curveball

D.C. Council member Linda Cropp, who has previously spoken in favor of a new baseball stadium, just proposed to build it near RFK Stadium, prompting Mayor Williams to warn that such a change would put the whole relocation deal in jeopardy. She claims it would save 20 percent of the construction costs, a perfect example of "penny wise, pound foolish." A location that far from downtown and Northern Virginia would reduce average attendance at games by at least 15 percent, I'd bet. See Washington Post. Again, I interpret such actions as part of a negotiating strategy aimed at getting slightly better terms from MLB and the new owners, but we'll see... Earlier this week, two committees of the D.C. Council gave approval to particular aspects of the stadium plan, after including additional funds for community development. Hot-headed D.C. Council member Jack Evans, perhaps the biggest stadium booster, used profanity during one of the heated public hearings. He then apologized.

I plan to stay much more on top of baseball events this winter season than in past years, for obvious self-interested reasons. Aside from much new material pertaining to the new Washington team, there will be dozens of revisions, corrections, and enhancements guaranteed to appeal to true baseball fans. Any old photos of stadiums -- especially Griffith Stadium or RFK Stadium -- would be greatly appreciated, and all such photos will be properly credited.


Andrew Clem archives

November 5, 2004 [LINK]

George loves Broccoli

George, broccoli UPDATE: I forgot to mention one of the reasons for my confidence in Bush's reelection: Our canary George, who is named after the President (since we bought him on Inauguration Day 2001), was singing more robustly than usual on Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps it was because of all the broccoli we've been feeding him lately. Quite unlike George H. W. Bush (the Elder), our George just loves broccoli!



Andrew Clem archives

November 5, 2004 [LINK]

Let the Honeymoon Begin! (Please?)

In keeping with the "New Era" occasioned by the historic Republican victory on Tuesday, I've begun some long-deferred format and organizational revisions of this Web site. Real permalinks and interactive comments should be largely finished by the end of the month.

Early indications are that the olive branch extended by President Bush to his opponents on Wednesday has not been widely accepted. Indeed, quite the contrary. So much for reconciliation! For example, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Reynolds (Mr. InstaPundit) called attention to what novelist Jane Smiley wrote yesterday in Slate:

The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. ...
The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey -- workers and consumers.

Italics added to highlight inanity. Overgeneralizing, are we? That is the same basic line of presumptuous, bigoted thinking expressed by Thomas Frank in What's Wrong With Kansas?, reviewed below. E. J. Dionne is another of the Democrats who is terribly bitter about the election results, as you can hear for yourself on the NPR All Things Considered archives. (via InstaPundit) In today's Washington Post he writes in conclusion,

the burden for achieving national unity is on a president who could manage a narrow victory only by savagely trashing his opponent.

In other words, "It's all their fault! It's all their fault!" And this from an intellectual? It would help in the task of narrowing partisan differences if Dionne would either acknowledge that many of the criticisms of Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans, et al. were well grounded, or that past criticisms of the president have been terribly unfair and destructive. As I have made clear many times, I am not thrilled with some of the hardball tactics devised by Karl Rove, and being on the winning side I have the duty to go the extra mile in de-escalating the "tit for tat" warfare. Therefore, I will continue to do my best to meet his challenge to moderate Republicans of holding to account the less temperate partisans on my side, even though Dionne doesn't give me much reason to hope it will do much good. Believe it or not, the reactions on the Left to Bush's reelection get worse. From the Daily Kos blog:

The big silver lining, and it's significant, is that Kerry won't be tarred for cleaning up Bush's mess. Had Kerry gotten us out of Iraq, he would've been blamed for "losing the war". Now Bush will ineptly lose it for himself. Kerry would've been forced to make sense of a mess of a budget. Now Bush will be responsible for his own half-trillion dollar deficits.

Losing a war and national insolvency are "silver linings"? If he's trying to raise suspicions that Leftists want to drag this country down, they are succeeding. Many of the comments on that page are even creepier, worthy of a Halloween horror flick. By comparison, Richard Nixon's famous 1962 retort "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore" sounds mature. And then there's the indisputably wacko far left: The photos posted on zombietime.com of a rally in San Francisco on the day after Bush's reelection will make you sit up and take notice.

Given the traumatic magnitude of their defeat, perhaps such "sour grapes" attitudes are to be expected. Nevertheless, those of us plaintive dialogue-seekers should not despair over the apparent communication breakdown among the main factions of the U.S. body politic. The only cure for such pain-induced vitriol is time. In the coming months and years, wiser folks on the Left will get over their bitterness, reflect on their side's crippling flaws, and come up with a more constructive alternative to Bushism. They'd sure better, since would be extremely unhealthy if the opposition party did not play such an active role in shaping national policy. Others will probably remain stuck in the mud of the past for the rest of their miserable lives. However things shake out in the end, the 2004 election is almost certain to signify the definitive end of New Deal political paradigm, which has been on its death bed for at least two decades already. What's next from the Left? If they're smart, they will abandon the pursuit of socialism on a nationwide scale and instead coopt the conservative agenda of decentralized government, and start from scratch building utopian communes in places like Berkeley, Boulder, Greenwich Village, and Charlottesville. Heck, some of them might even work!

Enough of bitter, hyper-opinionated polemics, already! Here's an interesting fact-based observation from Coyote Blog: (via InstaPundit)

Assuming Cheney does not want to run for president, which I think is a given, something will happen in 2008 for the first time since 1952: Neither of the two major-party presidential candidates will be incumbents of the President or Vice-President jobs.

I heartily agree with his subsequently-posted conclusion that that the wide-open primary election campaign will be chaotic and even more distorted than usual by the absurdly early Iowa caucuses. Can we reform the nomination process by then?

Election update: As the last of the vote tallies slowly trickle in, President Bush's lead in the nationwide popular vote has actually climbed. He now has 52.1 percent of the vote, nearly matching the 53 percent share of the electoral vote he won (286 to Kerry's 252). So my prediction wasn't quite right after all! I'm tempted to say that the 4.6 million vote margin (nearly 5 percent) is big enough to count as a mandate, E. J. Dionne notwithstanding.


Andrew Clem archives

November 8, 2004 [LINK]

Late-inning $tadium $ite $nag

D.C. City Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp admits that her plan to build the new baseball stadium near RFK Stadium doesn't have enough votes to win passage, according to the Washington Post. As things stand, however, Mayor Williams' plan doesn't have enough votes either, and tomorrow evening's Council meeting will decide whether a compromise is possible. The Saturday edition of the Post was full of news and comments that cast extremely negative light on Mrs. Cropp's alternative. I had initially hypothesized that her ploy was aimed at getting better terms from MLB, but I may have overestimated her political astuteness...

Winston Lord, of the propsective D.C. baseball franchise ownership group, just sent out an e-mail message to folks like me who are signed up for ticket info on the new Washington baseball team. Their site has link for sending an e-mail message to the D.C. City Council: www.baseballindc.com/non_dc_resident with a pre-written message, which I rewrote almost from scratch; see below. That link didn't work for me, so you might want to just click on the following link to send a message to
ALL MEMBERS OF THE D.C. CITY COUNCIL.

Dear Members of the D.C. City Council:

I am a resident of Virginia and a former resident of the District who has long been a serious fan of baseball. I am writing to express to you my strong support for the Anacostia Waterfront as the right location for a new ballpark in Washington DC. Anything else would be an unmitigated disaster.

I once lived within a block of the proposed site on South Capitol Street, and I can testify how deep is the need for a renewed urban development effort in that part of the city. It is the gateway to D.C. from the south, and a new stadium / entertainment complex there would be a tremendous enhancement to Washington's image. Giving up on the Anacostia Waterfront will mean missing a historic opportunity to revitalize an entire section of the City. A new ballpark could do for the Waterfront what the MCI Center did for the 7th Street area. What's more, by drawing in many millions of dollars from Virginia every year, it would serve as the "commuter tax" on suburbanites that the D.C. government has always wanted.

Building a new ballpark near RFK Stadium as Chairwoman Linda Cropp has proposed, in contrast, would NOT generate any significant development, and it would attract far fewer fans from Virginia. (I would probably attend at least ten additional games per year at a South Capitol Street ballpark compared to a ballpark built next to RFK.) Even worse, it would be more likely to encroach upon the Baltimore Orioles' fan base in Maryland, and their owner Peter Angelos would almost certainly require additional monetary compensation. In short, the RFK site would be a colossal mistake: penny wise but pound foolish.

The deal that Mayor Washington made with Major League Baseball specified the site on South Capitol Street. The radical change of plan this late in the game will jeopardize the return of baseball entirely. After waiting so long for baseball to our area, we can't afford such a risk. Please do not break the signed agreement with Major League Baseball.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Sincerely,

Andrew G. Clem

Andrew Clem archives

November 10, 2004 [LINK]

Cropp blocks stadium vote

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


Andrew Clem archives

November 10, 2004 [LINK]

Comeback for Guzman in Peru?

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


Andrew Clem archives

November 10, 2004 [LINK]

More Post-Election Fallout

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

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

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

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

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


Andrew Clem archives

November 10, 2004 [LINK]

The Battle for Fallujah

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

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

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

Andrew Clem archives

November 10, 2004 [LINK]

More winter birds arrive

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



Andrew Clem archives

November 11, 2004 [LINK]

Arafat

Few peace-loving people will mourn the death of Yasser Arafat, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with martyred Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Another Peace Prize recipient, Jimmy Carter, had this to say today:

While he provided indispensable leadership to a revolutionary movement and was instrumental in forging a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, he was excluded from the negotiating role in more recent years.

Huh? It must be pointed out that Arafat's "exclusion" was self-inflicted. Rather than accept the nearly ideal peace terms offered by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he resumed the Intifada in 1999, stoking the hateful fires of the fascist movement of which Osama bin Laden was a part. When his moment of truth came, he just could not rise above his terrorist past and live up to the vain hopes of the Nobel Committee by transforming himself into an elder statesman. Instead, Arafat reverted to his comfortable old ways, thereby showing himself to be a complete coward -- much like all terrorists! I'm afraid that Jimmy Carter's judgment in recent years has deteriorated from questionable to simply abysmal. There is no need to spit on Arafat's grave, but Americans and Westerners in general need to remember that his broad popularity in the Arab-Muslim world is the heart of the problem! There is simply no point in trying to accommodate the nationalist sensibilities of people who revere such a shameful figure. Whether or not they mature and leave barbaric ways behind is up to them, not us.


Andrew Clem archives

November 11, 2004 [LINK]

Veterans Day, 2004

This Veterans Day is more special than others because American soldiers are engaged in combat at this very moment, in Fallujah. The city is largely under U.S. control now, but the ability of Iraqi government police to maintain the peace remains in grave doubt. Lack of willpower and leadership on the part of the friendly government forces is one of the valid parallels with Vietnam. Belmont Club has press statement by an Iraqi resistance leader that sheds light on the strategy of the formerly dominant Sunni faction. The factionalized sociopolitical structure in Iraq stands in sharp contrast to Vietnam, having both postive and negative aspects. For thoughtful perspectives on what's going on in Iraq, I'd recommend Sgt. Stryker. For an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who have made bodily sacrifices, visit Disabled American Veterans.

Faces of the Fallen Some heroes never get to become veterans, however. It is for those who have died in service of our country that we have Memorial Day. Today's Washington Post included another installment of the "Faces of the Fallen," an appropriate way to remind ourselves of the human cost of war. (Pictured are, clockwise from the top left, Sgt. Jack Hennessy, Sgt. Russell Collier, Spc. Christopher Merville, and Pfc. Oscar Martinez.)

Until 1954, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of The (First) World War in 1918. Even as we honor the sacrifices of soldiers, airmen, and sailors, we might also reflect on the original meaning of this holiday by celebrating peace -- when we are so fortunate -- or else by rededicating ourselves to understand how peace is best preserved.


Andrew Clem archives

November 11, 2004 [LINK]

Even more winter birds

On a walk down the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad this morning, I saw the first Hermit thrush of the season, as well as a Yellow-rumped warbler, a Towhee, a Red-bellied woodpecker, a Downy woodpecker, a Yellow-bellied sapsucker, some Golden-crowned kinglets only a few feet away (Arghhh -- no camera!!), a Chipping sparrow, and two Sharp-shinned hawks within 100 feet or so. One of them was probably the same hawk that killed a small bird in our back yard on Tuesday. Pine siskins reappeared in our back yard again several times today.

As part of the ongoing, long-overdue reorganization of this Web site, the Wild Birds pages have been modified heavily, with a more consistent format in the archives. While updating some of my records, I came across an interesting pattern: I saw the first White-crowned sparrow of the year on October 25 in 2002, 2003, AND 2004. Amazingly consistent!


Andrew Clem archives

November 12, 2004 [LINK]

Window of opportunity for reform?

George W. Bush is the first President since 1936 to be re-elected in a year when his party gained seats in the House and the Senate, and he is the first Republican President to be re-elected with House and Senate majorities since 1924. How weird is that? (Answer: almost as weird as the Red Sox winning the World Series.) Perhaps the mere fact that this situation is so unusual accounts for the bitter grumbling still heard from the Democratic side, which had been accustomed to holding at least some governmental power for the last several decades. Though his margin was too slim to be considered a clear mandate, he is finally in a position to get some real action. On the down side, the Republicans will now be held accountable for policy successes and errors for the next four years. (The GOP will hold onto Congress in 2006, barring some catastrophe; see below.) Most second-term "lame-duck" presidencies end up in frustration and/or scandal; indeed all of them since World War II have: Truman, Eisenhowever, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton. That may not apply this time, however, since this is the first term in which Bush can claim a majority of the popular vote.

So what now? At the top of my dream reform agenda is abolition of gerrymandering, of which both parties are guilty. Tom DeLay's intervention on behalf of redistricting in Texas is but the most recent and notorious example; Republicans in Virginia and Democrats in Maryland have done likewise on a lesser scale. In the Washington Post, David Broder fears that this pernicious habit is "... creating a U.S. House of Lords," a privileged body that is virtually immune from popular will.

Thanks to rigged boundaries and the incumbents' immense fundraising advantage, nearly 96 percent of the "races" were won by a margin of at least 10 percent.

For example, in the Sixth District of Virginia where I live, incumbent Bob Goodlatte received almost 97 percent of the vote, mainly because the Democrats didn't even bother to nominate a challenger. He is a fine representative and recently was named to the powerful position of chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and thus would have every reason to expect to be reelected. Yet even in a heavily Republican area such as the Shenandoah Valley there should be some degree of meaningful political competition. There was certainly a lot of organizing on behalf of the Kerry-Edwards ticket around here... Elsewhere in Virginia, in only one of the eleven congressional races did the winner have less than a 20-percent margin in the vote totals. BOR-ing! Such landslides are typical nationwide, reinforcing the alienation voters feel from their elected representatives in Washington. Remember, the House of Representatives is supposed to be the most direct expression of the popular will. Nowadays, incumbents have such a huge advantage that it calls in question the very democratic nature of our political system itself. What does this sad situation say about our fitness to preach democratic government in other countries?

The idea of Republicans as a reform party strikes many people as strange, but Newt Gingrich gave some good arguments for that in the Washington Post on Tuesday. For a perfect example of the hopelessly outmoded conventional thinking on such matters, read what George Silver wrote in yesterday's Post:

Today's dysfunctional health care system is a palpable example of the lessons that come from our national obsession with markets at all costs.

WRONG! Our health care "system" is the furthest thing from a pure market-driven system. It is, rather, a nightmarish publicly-subsidized monopoly in which the lack of accountability (thanks to non-market-based insurance policies) fuels an uncontrollable upward spiral of costs. I only wish enough Republicans were brave enough to actually say such a thing in public, but then they might not get reelected. (Such timidity is another sign of deep flaws in our democratic system.) Here are some other matters that I hope Bush will tackle:

  • Radically simplifying the U.S. tax code, perhaps replacing the corporate income tax with a luxury consumption tax.
  • Exempting virtually all personal savings from income tax, as part of new approach to Social Security, health insurance and loans for higher education.
  • Slashing U.S. contributions to the World Bank and IMF, which do more harm than good these days.
  • Getting serious about immigration, with more efficient processing of visa applicants, and huge fines on companies that employ undocumented workers.
  • Raising taxes on energy across the board, to discourage profligate waste and pollution. (I know, I'm dreaming about that.)

Peterson is guilty!

After two jurors were dismissed for misconduct, which almost caused a mistrial, Scott Peterson was just found guilty of murder in the first degree. After some of the other outrageous aquittals of recent years, it's nice to know our legal system works. In the television age, it's easy for average citizens to think they can render judgments in these high-profile cases, but we never get to see or hear all the evidence. That's why I usually refrain from weighing in. The lack of direct incriminating evidence was more than offset by the overwhelming circumstantial evidence that made it obvious he was guilty as sin. (And that's an understatement.) The jurors clearly needed plenty of time to seriously consider whether there was any other plausible scenario consistent with the known facts of the case. Clearly, no. Now, does Mr. Peterson deserve to get free room and board for the rest of his life and gloat over how close he came to getting away with his nauseatingly horrible, heinous crime, or does he deserve the Ultimate Punishment? Will European countries portray us Americans as savages if he is executed?


Andrew Clem archives

November 13, 2004 [LINK]

Farenheit 9/11 again

Matt Welch tries to belittle the significance of the "Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party," specifically the assertion that John Kerry could have won the election by criticizing Moore just as Bill Clinton criticized "Sister Souljah" in 1992, thereby establishing his credentials as a "moderate." Welch notes that Moore endorsed Wesley Clark, while his biggest and zaniest fans gravitated toward Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich.

I can look you in the eye and say these people do not have a significant voice within the modern Democratic Party.

Well! I beg to differ with Welch's conclusion, with which Randy Paul concurs. Here in Staunton, the local Democratic Party sponsored a series of political films in October, two per night for one week, with Farenheit 9/11 being shown every night! Furthermore, the Democrats' Sixth District Web site continues to highlight that film, and this is rock-solid conservative territory where radical ideas are not exactly kosher. Welch's after-the-fact attempt to disassociate the Democratic Party from guerrilla film maker simply does not square with the facts. Any politically conscious person was well aware that throughout the campaign John Kerry and the Democrats were recycling the same venomous rhetoric and the same lies about President Bush that Michael Moore was purveying. The revulsion of the moderate mainstream in this country toward such bile may have been just enough to tip the balance in Bush's favor.


Andrew Clem archives

November 15, 2004 [LINK]

Even more post-election fallout

The resignation of Colin Powell as Secretary of State today was expected, so it probably doesn't mean too much for policy. When he writes his memoirs it will surely provide intense fascination. Condoleeza Rice has excellent credentials from the academic world, but is yet unproven in terms of administration and policy planning. The heads of the Agriculture, Education, and Energy Departments also tendered their resignations today, but the Pentagon is "staying the course." NBC reported that President Bush doesn't want to let Donald Rumsfeld go, because that would be seen as an admission of failure. On the contrary, the biggest sign of failure is when leaders make decisions aimed at avoiding the appearance of failure. Rumsfeld is old and his determined efforts at reforming the Pentagon have largely run out of steam, so I'm not there is any concrete reason to keep him into the second term.

Speaking of recalcitrant bureaucracies, the CIA seems to be on the verge of chaos as top-level spymasters have resigned in protest against the managerial style of newly appointed Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss. Some view him as a political hack, since he had served for several years as a congressman from Florida, but before that he worked in the CIA and has professional experience. It's hard for outsiders to know what's really going on, but Senator John McCain, who is at least an independent voice, opined on Meet the Press yesterday that the main problem is the Agency is bogged down in bureaucratic inertia, and its managers refuse to make needed reforms called for by the 9/11 Commission.

In the Washington Post, David Broder emphatically refutes the leftist notion that Election 2004 signifies a step backward into reactionary, hate-mongering darkness. He mentions the hysterical piece cited below by Maureen Dowd, who sees the Republicans as hell-bent on exploiting the poor and punishing he weak. This is utter nonsense, Broder writes, as is all the commotion over the gay marriage issue. In fact, he notes, the decisive edge was moderate voters who decided that Bush was the safer choice, given the supreme importance of the terrorism issue and security matters in general. Whether the paranoid Secular Left or the zealous Religious Right like it or not, the Republican Party remains in the hands of sensible, non-extreme conservatives. Relax, folks: The nation is in good hands.

For an off-the-wall satirical take on the collective nervous breakdown suffered by millions on the Left, see "Blue State Blues as Coastal Parents Battle Invasion of Dollywood Values" at the Iowa Hawk blog.

The Democrats and Michael Moore

Matt Welch tries to belittle the significance of the "Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party," specifically the assertion that John Kerry could have won the election by criticizing Moore just as Bill Clinton criticized "Sister Souljah" in 1992, thereby establishing his credentials as a "moderate." Welch notes that Moore endorsed Wesley Clark, while his biggest and zaniest fans gravitated toward Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich.

I can look you in the eye and say these people do not have a significant voice within the modern Democratic Party.

Well! I beg to differ with Welch's conclusion, with which Randy Paul heartily concurs. Here in Staunton, the local Democratic Party sponsored a series of political films in October, two per night for one week, with Farenheit 9/11 being shown every night! Furthermore, the Democrats' Sixth District Web site continues (as of November 12) to highlight that film near the top of their home page, and this is rock-solid conservative territory where radical ideas are not exactly "kosher." Welch's after-the-fact attempt to disassociate the Democratic Party from guerrilla film maker simply does not square with the facts. Any politically conscious person was well aware that throughout the campaign John Kerry and the Democrats were recycling the same venomous rhetoric and the same lies about President Bush that Michael Moore was purveying. The revulsion of the moderate mainstream in this country toward such bile may have been just enough to tip the balance in Bush's favor. Welch tries to downplay Moore-ish fringe elements on the Democratic side by "point[ing] out that the Republicans' extremist fringe includes powerful senior elected politicians from their own party," such as Rick Santorum and Tom Coburn. If he considers these social conservatives "extremists," perhaps it is because he is further from the center of the political spectrum than he thinks.


Andrew Clem archives

November 15, 2004 [LINK]

Bird records update

Andrew's bird photo montage I've essentially finished compiling the first-of-season migratory bird records on the Wild Birds page, and to mark the occasion I have created this montage of my bird photos, which also appears on the Photos page. All but the wood duck were taken this year with our new Canon ZR-65 MC digital video camera. I've also retouched some old photos that were previously posted and added a couple photos of birds that "slipped through the cracks" along with way, including a close-up of a male Purple finch.

On Sunday a hawk of the accipiter family (probably a Sharp-shinned hawk) flew into our back yard for a couple minutes and then left at high speed. (Click on that link to see the photo I took, which would have been great, except that the hawk's back was turned; just wait till next time!) On a walk behind the Rescue Squad later that day I saw both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets, but my attempts to get pictures of them were frustrated. On the way back I noticed what I'm pretty sure were Owl pellets, the regurgitated remains of small rodents eaten by the nocturnal raptors. I learned at an Augusta Bird Club meeting last year why owls have such small beaks: They swallow their prey whole, rather than tearing them apart like hawks and eagles do.


Andrew Clem archives

November 16, 2004 [LINK]

Field(s) of Dreams

UPDATE: The front office of the amorphous entity formerly known as the Expos, currently in transit from Montreal to Washington, has agreed to a four-year contract with 26-year old shortstop Cristian Guzman (who played a big part in the Twins' pennant chase this year) and a two-year contract with Vinny Castilla (the veteran Rockies third baseman). It is not certain whether this means the "Ex-Expos" are not interested in former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, though he might become a first baseman. You put those three top-notch infielders together with Jose Vidro at second, and you've got a team in serious contention for the pennant! Also, Frank Robinson made a verbal agreement to serve as manager for another year. This was also reassuring news for a team in flux that is vulnerable to an identity crisis. I wonder if this flurry of activity is an indication of MLB's confidence that the D.C. City Council will approve the stadium package as originally agreed to by the Mayor? Obviously, whoever puts in the winning bid to buy the Expos must have deep enough pockets to follow through on those commitments.

New! Field of Dreams, imaginary home of the Chicago Black Sox. "If you build it, he will come." -- (Yeah, but who's gonna pay for it???) Note the special effects on the cornfield photo on that page.

Meanwhile, the dream of bringing baseball back to Washington is coming ever closer to becoming a reality. D.C. City Council Chairperson Linda Cropp has agreed to fully fund a new stadium at the South Capitol Street site if it's the only way to consummate the Expos relocation deal. Nearly everyone agrees that her alternative plan was just a shady tax-dodging scheme. It is rumored that 40-something veteran player Barry Larkin, who was let go by the Reds, is very interested in finishing his career in Washington. Orlando Cabrera, who was traded to the Red Sox in July, might even be induced to rejoin his Expos teammates under the right conditions. Finally, the former minority partners of the Montreal Expos just lost their racketeering lawsuit against former principal owner Jeffrey Loria and MLB officials, thus removing one of the last potential obstacles in the way of that franchise being relocated to Washington Next year. It's hard to know what the plaintiffs were hoping to gain from that suit, aside from getting a small cash payoff, and perhaps the fact that their claim that they wanted to keep the Expos in Montreal was so far-fetched was what undermined their legal case. (See Yahoo Sports; Thanks to Steven Poppe for the tip.)


Andrew Clem archives

November 17, 2004 [LINK]

Sharp-shinned hawk!

Sharp-shinned hawk One of the Sharp-shinned hawks that has been menacing the small birds in our back yard returned this morning, and this time it posed for a long enough time that I was able to get my camera ready. It was only about 20 feet away, stalking the bush where Goldfinches and a Pine siskin were taking refuge, but the overcast skies and the window screen made for less-than-ideal photographic conditions. The other photo I took was blurrier but shows the squarish tail tip, the main feature that distinguishes Sharp-shinned hawks from Cooper's hawks. The latter are bigger, but since female hawks are usually bigger than the males, it is often hard to tell male Cooper's hawks from female Sharp-shinned hawks. (The third species of the Accipiter genus found in North America, the Northern goshawk, is relatively rare.) You can tell this is an adult by the mottled orange and white plumage on the front side and legs; immature Accipiters are streaked brown and white in front. Jacqueline shooed this predator away as soon as the camera clicked. I'm sure it will be back for further photo-ops in coming months...



Andrew Clem archives

November 19, 2004 [LINK]

Baseball frenzy in Washington

In the first two days since sales began, over 10,000 people have put down a $300 deposit to get season tickets for baseball games in D.C. next year. Prices at RFK Stadium will range from $7 for the outfield upper deck to $90 for elite box seats between the dugouts, with eleven (!) different price brackets. By comparison, in the stadium's inaugrual year, 1962, there were only five price brackets, ranging from 75 cents to $3.50. Single-game ticket prices will be higher yet, but it is not yet known whether multi-game ticket packages will be sold. Another good sign for D.C. is that the "Ex-Expos" just obtained outfielder Jose Guillen from the Anaheim Angels in exchange for outfielder Juan Rivera and shortstop Maicer Izturis. Meanwhile, the D.C. city council has agreed to vote on funding for the new stadium on November 30, and it appears likely that there will be a compromise provision allowing for some private funding. MLB franchise owners postponed their vote to approve the relocation of the Expos to D.C., but Bud Selig denied it had anything to do with the delays in getting the stadium funding approved. According to the Washington Post, the main hitch is good ol' Peter Angelos, who is still haggling over revenue-sharing terms.

It is interesting to contrast the D.C. situation with that in South Florida. The Miami Herald reports that the Florida Marlins have offered to contribute $35 million more to build a new stadium in Miami, estimated to cost $420 million, for a $192 million total commitment. City officials have insisted that the Marlins say how much they would pay for any cost overruns.


Andrew Clem archives

November 19, 2004 [LINK]

Diplomacy: fantasy and reality

The Washington Post Magazine had an article on the classic board game Diplomacy, its zealous devotees, and its designer Allan Calhamer. (He eventually sold out to Avalon Hill, which now publishes it.) I learned from the article that Gideon Rose, managing editor at Foreign Affairs, is among those who have played it. The game is premised on a brutally Hobbesian view of the world, where lying and back-stabbing your allies are the keys to success. It's always been a favorite holiday pastime in the Clem household!

Speaking of diplomacy, here are some strong suggestions addressed "To the Next Secretary of State" at The Diplomad, a new blog by (mostly Republican) career U.S. Foreign Service officers. (via Daniel Drezner):

The single greatest step you could take to ensuring that merit is the basis for advancement is to do away with the Department's Affirmative Action program, i.e., quota system. It is a total fraud. It is just another white upper- and middle-class entitlement. The overwhelming beneficiaries of the program are white women from elite schools. ...

Put an end to the little ... empires established by bureaucrats who "homestead" themselves in the HR system. ...

Drastically reduce the layers of bureaucracy. ...

Finally, ignore the New York Times and CNN.

Andrew Clem archives

November 19, 2004 [LINK]

Bloody mess in Fallujah

The apparent killing of a wounded Iraqi fighter by U.S. Marines was shocking and appalling, and some worry that it indicates a breakdown in discipline. Like most things in wartime, all this must be seen in proper context. Other U.S. soldiers have been killed by bombs strapped to dead and dying Iraqi combatants. As Clauswitz wrote, war leads to a limitless escalation toward ever-more awful forms of violence, which in our day means that forces fighting terrorist movements are under growing temptation to respond in kind for the lawless brutalities inflicted upon them. For an on-the-scene perspective, see "A Marine Writes Home" at powerlineblog. Lest anyone forget, any pretense about "winning hearts and minds" in the Sunni Fascist heartland is in vain. The die-hard Baathists there will hate us for stripping away the privilege they once enjoyed, no matter what. For the near term, the best we can hope for in that part of Iraq is that there be a respectable turnout in the upcoming elections. No easy task.


Andrew Clem archives

November 22, 2004 [LINK]

The "Nationals" It Is!

Washington Nationals logo Mayor Anthony Williams just led a ceremony announcing that the Washington baseball team will be named the "Nationals." It had been understood that the new owners of the franchise would have discretion to choose the team name, but the fact that someone has invested a lot of design work into the new team logo suggests that MLB may be appeasing or giving political support to Mayor Williams, who has rejected reusing the "Senators" name because D.C. lacks any representation in Congress. Score one for Tony. Another possible name occurred to me recently, but I guess it's too late now: the Washington Warblers! Three other baseball teams already have bird names, including our friendly neighbors up in Baltimore. Another crucial landmark is that there is now an official MLB Washington Nationals Web site, which has replaced that of the defunct Montreal Expos.

Sadly, the auspicious occasion was marred when a protester took over the podium, held up a sign, and started yelling about the pending stadium financing deal. Opposition to public funding for sports stadiums is certainly a legitimate point of view, but expressing it in such a rude and obnoxious fashion detracts from the cause. (Where was good old dull-but-earnest Ralph Nader?) The culprit was identified as Adam Eidinger, who recently ran for D.C. "shadow representative" on the D.C. Statehood Party ticket, and indeed the photos on his Web site match the guy I saw on TV. It was a reminder of one reason why MLB has long been leery of Washington: It's a hotbed of disruptive fringe political activists, rather like Greenwich Village or Berkeley. Getting things done in Our Nation's Capital often means pandering to zealous fools.


Andrew Clem archives

November 22, 2004 [LINK]

More eggs; Singin' in the rain

Princess laid more three eggs last week, but one of them broke. Once again, she is brooding contentedly on her nest, chirping constantly whenever George is near. Here is a 20-second movie (Apple QuickTime format) of George, "Singin' in the rain," just last Friday; the constant chirping by Princess can also be heard. The first four seconds are focused on the background outside.



Andrew Clem archives

November 22, 2004 [LINK]

CIA upheaval update

Robert Novak wrote about Senator John McCain's role in the CIA controversy in the Chicago Sun Times last week:

McCain told Goss the CIA is "a dysfunctional organization. It has to be cleaned out." That is, the CIA does not perform its missions. McCain told Goss that as director, he must get rid of the old boys and bring in a new team at Langley. Moreover, McCain told me this week, "with CIA leaks intended to harm the re-election campaign of the president of the United States, it is not only dysfunctional but a rogue organization."

Senator McCain appeared on "Meet the Press" yesterday, giving strong support to new CIA Director Porter Goss. McCain's contention that there are "rogue elements" in the CIA is a very disturbing thought. It's quite ironic that the CIA careerist seem to be favoring the Democratic side. What's next: Will Michael Moore come out defending the CIA against Bush's attempted reforms? One of my professors at U.Va. once posed the problem in very stark terms: Can an agency with responsibility for extremely sensitive and secret matters of national security be considered truly accountable in a wide-open democracy such as ours? If not, are they above the law?

Ex-CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, the formerly anonymous author of Imperial Hubris, followed McCain on "Meet the Press," and frankly I was not very impressed. I've always been very attentive to serious arguments about U.S. foreign policy rooted in the idea that our ambitions must not exceed our resources, and I have therefore been planning on reading his book. To my surprise, however, his comments to Tim Russert were mostly formulaic criticisms of Bush, not particularly thougtful. It also struck me as a bit odd how many times he used the word sir, and from checking the transcript at MSNBC, I counted 21 times. He takes the grievances of Osama bin Laden at face value, apparently believing the threat will go away if we just pull our military forces and commercial interests out of the Middle East. He denies being an appeaser, however, and says he thinks operations like the one in Fallujah are necessary. Well! Perhaps the Sunday interview show format is not well suited for expositing his thesis.


Andrew Clem archives

November 22, 2004 [LINK]

More new winter birds

Red-breasted nuthatch While hiking along the Chimney Hollow Trail west of Staunton on Sunday, I saw several Red-breasted nuthatches, for the first time in over three years. Photos of the hike (and a strange fruit called "Osage orange") are posted at the bottom of the now-complete Virginia Fall 2004 page. I also saw two Brown creepers for the first time this season; I happened to see one of those in the upper elevations around Ramsey's Draft last June, an apparent rare breeder in these latitudes. There were quite a few Golden-crowned kinglets, but they too stayed far above effective camera range. On the way home I stopped at Bell's Lane, and saw two Red-tailed hawks, two Northern harriers (one adult male, one immature), a Kestrel, and several Northern pintail ducks, Ruddy ducks, American coots, Bluebirds, plus one each of a White-crowned sparrow, a Field sparrow, and a Chipping sparrow. On Saturday I saw a Fox sparrow for the first time this season, behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad.


Andrew Clem archives

November 26, 2004 [LINK]

"Reddest" county in a "red" state

Virginia election map 2004 Of all the counties in Virginia, Augusta and Rockingham scored the highest percentage vote for President Bush in the recent elections, with 74.4 percent. This is definitely part of the "Bible Belt," part of the vast U.S.A. Heartland, or as some leftists are now calling it, "Jesusland." I once shared such fears about the Religious Right, but virtually none of the conservative folks I've met who prioritize faith and values would qualify as "wackos" or zealots. By and large, they are simply sincere people who are deeply worried -- as am I -- about the direction our country has been heading. On the east side of the Blue Ridge, in contrast, is Democrat territory, including the "People's Republic of Charlottesville," home of the University of Virginia. (Click on the adjacent map I drew to see a full-size version in a pop-up window.)

What do these deep divisions in our nation portend? Will the secular "Brainland" (as Randy Paul calls it) secede and join Canada? (See politicalhumor for a hypothetical future map of North America.) Somehow I doubt it will come to that.

Full moon Speaking of Red vs. Blue, I took a photo of Earth's nearest neighbor as it was rising above the horizon earlier this evening, and noticed the very same polarizing effect!!! Just as in the United States, the blue fringe is is the north and the red fringe is in the south. (You may have to squint.) Perhaps what our country needs to overcome this high degree of polarity is a higher quality "lens."

November 26, 2004 [LINK]

Dems lose control of media

At the end of CNN's "Late Edition" program hosted by Wolf Blitzer, there was a roundtable featuring three Democratic Congresspersons -- Martin Frost (TX), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL), and Loretta Sanchez (CA) -- plus Air America talk-show host Al Franken. Ms. Sanchez let the cat out of the bag when she mentioned one of the reasons her party fared so poorly:

SANCHEZ: I agree with Jesse. I agree with my colleague. I believe that we made mistakes. The media certainly is not in our hands any longer, and, in particular, radio talk shows where that is completely in the opposition's hands, and they use it effectively against us.

BLITZER: But, Loretta, when you say the media -- when you say the media is not in your hands, are you saying that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN are hostile to Democrats?

SANCHEZ: No, that's not what I said. I'm saying that -- if you would let me finish -- that the majority of people are now receiving a lot of their information out of radio. And the radio isn't in the hands of the Democrats anymore.

Does that mean she thinks TV still is under control of the Democrats? Again, it's one of those facts of life that is so obvious that there's no point in raising it. SOURCE: cnn.com WARNING: Turn off Java, Javascript, etc. in your browser program before clicking on that link. The Safari program on my iMac kept quitting until I did so. (via InstaPundit)

Which brings me to Dan Rather's exit: CBS denies it has anything to do with Rathergate, of course, but no one believes that. I'm a bit surprised, since I had expected him to take a brief vacation and then resume full-time duties as anchorman. What a lesson his life provides about the huge costs to be paid when personal vanity rages out of control. And what a contrast between him and the dignified professional Tom Brokaw, who has just retired as NBC anchor. I was in a small group chatting with him after he spoke at our mutual alma mater, the University of South Dakota, back in the late 1970s. He would be the last to claim that he was a role model, but he was quite an inspiration nonetheless.

November 26, 2004 [LINK]

Recount in Ohio?

It sounded like a joke at first, but Democrats in Ohio are now seriously calling for a recount. See the Washington Post. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is under bitter criticism in the Buckeye State, the same fate as Katherine Harris suffered for her role in overseeing the Florida 2000 recount. The folks behind this movement even launched their own Web site, ohiorecount.org, but for some reason it now shows nothing but an article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on voting machines. For leftist views on this, see washingtondispatch.com. John Kerry's gracious concession on the day after the election has apparently not earned him any credit or respect from the left wing of his party. Too bad... Meanwhile, the Republican candidate Dino Rossi is ahead by 42 votes in the Washington state governor's race won by after a recount, and there will probably be a second recount.

Speaking of close races, I was looking at a Washington Post article from October 25, focusing on "ten House races to watch." The Republicans won seven of those ten races, receiving from 54 to 61 percent of the votes. In contrast, none of three the Democrats who won got more than 52 percent of the votes. These were all supposed to be close races, and provides yet another indication of how broad and deep the Republican victory really was.

November 26, 2004 [LINK]

Recount in Ukraine?

President Bush and Secretary of State Powell have both declared that the recent elections in Ukraine were not legitimate, an unusually strong statement about the political system in another country. Vladimir Putin seems to have decided that Russian security interests necessitate an iron-fisted leadership, using force or fraud to regain influence and even control over the former Soviet republics. Moscow has also resorted blunt threats during the recent flareup in the intermittent civil war in Georgia. Interestingly, a group of Democratic former congressmen who were observing the first round of the election declared that it was basically free and fair, but as reported in the Washington Post:

What the congressional group did not say was that its members were recruited and paid $500 a day by a Washington-based lobbyist who is a registered representative of the pro-Russian candidate in the race, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. ... The delegation of former lawmakers was led by Robert M. Carr, an 18-year Democratic House veteran from Michigan who is returning with another delegation to observe the runoff.

In the first round, Carr brought former Wisconsin congressmen Peter Barca, Jay Johnson and Jim Moody, as well as Norman D'Amours of New Hampshire, Ronald Coleman of Texas and Mike Ward of Kentucky.

No word yet on what these Democrats said about the second round. Even the vigorously pro-democracy Carter Center has not issued any statement on this Ukrainian travesty, more than a week after the event. What does all this say about Democrats' commitment to democracy?


Andrew Clem archives

November 26, 2004 [LINK]

Hawk returns; more bird photos

Once again, a Sharp-shinned hawk visited our back yard this morning, and I got an even better photo of it (through the window, but with no screen obstruction) than last time. A Pine siskin also showed up at the thistle feeder next to the window, and I got a great close-up shot of its head. While I was at it, I took a photo of George guarding Princess at her nest. (Click on any of those links to see a pop-up photo.) I've also done further retouching on some older bird photos, most notably the Bananaquit I saw in Peru last March.


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