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Andrew Clem archives

December 1, 2004 [LINK]

D.C. Council approves stadium

By a 6-to-4 vote, with three abstentions, the D.C. City Council approved a bill that will provide city funding for construction of a baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals. It provides for the possibility of some private financing and obliges Mayor Anthony Williams to renegotiate terms with Major League Baseball, for whatever that's worth. It was a closer call than it had to be, as some believe that Williams got complacent and neglected to persuade key council members on the merits of his grand plan. A second vote to finalize the bill's passage will be taken in two or three weeks. See washingtonpost.com for details. Some are still denouncing the package as a case of "corporate welfare," and there's some truth to that, but no one can deny that the new stadium will provide an uplifting impact on a wretched, forlorn part of the city that's only a mile from the Capitol. The only question is whether the stadium design and the construction contracts will be handled in a way that integrates the ballpark into the local community. Councilmember Adrian Fenty's proposal to force the Nationals to play at RFK Stadium indefinitely is hopelessly unrealistic, as is Chairwoman Linda Cropp's proposal to use land near RFK as a backup site if cost overruns get out of hand. I'm more convinced all the time that the timing of the announcement that the team will be named the "Nationals" was aimed at providing political ammunition for Mayor Williams, who opposed reuse of the "Senators" name because the District lacks any voting representatives in Congress.


Andrew Clem archives

December 1, 2004 [LINK]

"Anchors away!"

Tom Brokaw bid farewell as NBC News anchorman this evening, and thankfully refrained from any attempt to be profound. He also managed to avoid any tear-shedding, as happened on his appearance on the Today show, where he got his start. In all the historic vignettes that were replayed in his honor, I was surprised that nothing was said of his coverage of the 1972 McGovern campaign, when he first drew national attention. That assignment was natural, since Brokaw is from South Dakota. Of the three current network anchormen, he stands alone in terms of journalistic integrity and just plain decency. Rush Limbaugh ran several clips of past moments he shared on the air with Mr. Brokaw today, and had some surprisingly warm words for him.

By sheer coincidence, as I was cleaning up Princess and George's room this evening, I noticed how they paid selective "respects" to the other two news anchors, the shamefully partisan Dan Rather and Peter Jennings. This was from the November 24 Washington Post article about Dan Rather's departure next March, and the photo was of a panel forum held by the three anchors in October. I swear, this photograph was NOT doctored (!), and the bird "events" were not contrived or staged in any way.



Andrew Clem archives

December 3, 2004 [LINK]

Bonds feigns innocence

The steroid scandal turned into a full-blown storm today, as the San Francisco Chroncicle (www.sfgate.com) reported that Bonds "told a federal grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream supplied by the Burlingame laboratory now enmeshed in a sports doping scandal, but he said he never thought they were steroids." This revelation came one day short of a year after his testimony, and the circumstances by which the information was released remains cloudy. His lawyer Michael Rains complained about this, and tried to portray Bonds as a guileless victim, stretching credulity to the maximum. See sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Hardly anyone expects baseball players to be paragons of virtue, but fans have every reason to expect that they will at least accept responsibilities for their actions in an adult way. Whether baseball's reputation is deeply damaged for years to come, or only lightly scratched for a while, now depends on how the probable dope users respond. Bonds' statements remind me of a certain former president who half-admitted to past drug use by saying, "I didn't inhale." Really.

December 3, 2004 [LINK]

MLB approves Expos relocation

All but one of the 29 Major League franchise owners voted to approve the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington next year, but this is "subject to all conditions set forth in the Baseball Stadium Agreement" which was signed on September 29. In other words, the D.C. City Council can forget about having Mayor Tony Williams renegotiate the deal. No dice. Who was the lone dissenter in today's vote? Why, none other than Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. All those lengthy, patient negotiations in which Bob DuPuy tried to placate his fears of a financial loss came to nothing. What is disturbing is that Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (a Republican) recently hinted that legal action on behalf of the Orioles may be necessary. (Since when did the Democrat Angelos start making friends across party lines, I wonder?) See sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Personally, I thought it was a waste of time for MLB officials to bend over backward so far just to get Angelos to go along with the relocation for the sake of unanimity. He proved long ago beyond any shadow of a doubt how unreasonable he is. In the vicious world of corporate lawyering, however, such a nasty reputation can be used to very good effect, bringing in millions of extra dollars from adversaries who would rather not endure an ugly, drawn-out fight. It looks like that's what the Nationals have in store as they prepare to settle in to Our Nation's Capital. The dead-end rejectionist attitude of Angelos reminds one of George Wallace, Lester Maddux, and other leaders of "massive resistance" to racial desegregation in the South during the 1960s. Contrast that with the friendly welcome mat laid out for the Orioles when they moved from St. Louis to Baltimore in 1954:

Senators owner Clark ... Griffith relented and in some ways even supported Baltimore's bid. When the team finally arrived in Baltimore, Griffith attended a citywide parade, welcoming a new baseball team to the area. All he received was a small monetary payment that came through television sponsorship. [SOURCE: Washington Post, Sept. 30, 2004]

Meanwhile, there is a flurry of negotiations with free agent pitchers such as Carl Pavano and Pedro Martinez, who used to pitch for the Expos. Thanks to the delays caused by Linda Cropp, however, the Nationals franchise is not likely to be sold until next year, which means the team's "interim" general manager, Jim Bowden, is still on a shoestring budget and therefore won't be able to acquire as much pitching talent as he would like. Booo!

December 3, 2004 [LINK]

D.C. stadium vote aftermath

In Thursday's washingtonpost.com, columnist Marc Fisher really ripped into some of the D.C. City Council members, especially Chairperson Linda Cropp, for cowardly abstaining in the big vote on Tuesday. He also showed a sense of balance, however, in discussing the stadium bill's leading opponents:

Adrian Fenty (Ward 4) and David Catania (At Large), deserve credit for their principled agitation on behalf of the view that the stadium deal is fiscally irresponsible. ...

Then he patiently explained the obvious economic benefits from drawing in all the suburbanite cash into the District, as well as the more nebulous psychological benefits:

So even if you don't believe that the Capitol Street corridor will blossom as a result of the stadium development, this deal is sweet. That a majority of the D.C. Council lacked the courage to say so is shameful. That three members were so derelict as to take no position is unforgivable.

Exactly! Fisher has been a consistently avid booster of D.C. baseball on the Post staff, and I agree wholeheartedly with his honest and forthright conclusions. ball Meanwhile, hot-headed anti-stadium activist Adam Eidinger has apparently taken a vacation in France, one week after disrupting the announcement of the Nationals name and logo. ball Finally, the Anomalous stadiums and RFK stadium pages have been updated to reflect the virtual certainty that the Washington Nationals will play in RFK Stadium next year. Revisions to other pages are still pending...

December 3, 2004 [LINK]

Jason Giambi confesses

So Jason Giambi has admitted to using steroids in testimony to a grand jury. Was there ever any doubt, really? Those enormous biceps (until this year, that is, when "going clean" apparently came back into fashion) looked like something from a comic book superhero. Dittos for ... well, you know. The records books in the future may have a lot of asterisks for sluggers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I try to avoid being too judgmental, but I've certainly never believed in the ethical relativism of "so what, everybody does it." I just hope Giambi hasn't caused permanent damage to his body, and I pray that this doping scandal doesn't end up ruining all the public goodwill that baseball has managed to recover since the 1994 strike. In sportsillustrated.cnn.com, Tom Verducci says the Yankees will "definitely look into the possibility of voiding the contract," which has four years to go. Poor Mr. Steinbrenner.


Andrew Clem archives

December 3, 2004 [LINK]

Sweet home Alabama

Alabama voters narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have stricken provisions for racially-separate schools and an explicit non-guarantee of a right to a public education, which was enacted in an effort to neutralize the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in the 1950s. Opponents such as Alabama Christian Coalition President John Giles claimed they were focusing on the second part, on the grounds that it was needed to prevent activist judges from decreeing tax hikes to provide funding. See washingtonpost.com for more. I'm no fan of activist judges, but I can't see any legitimate grounds for such fears, certainly nothing that would justify making common cause with recalcitrant racists. How many of the opponents of the amendment fit that description? I would like to think they are but a small minority, but that may not be the case. I would hope the Republican Party can take a principled stand on this issue, even though it might cost a few votes in the short run.


Andrew Clem archives

December 7, 2004 [LINK]

U.N. scandals widen

Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman called on Kofi Annan to resign as U.N. Secretary General, but that doesn't appear to be likely any time soon. The State Department has disavowed such a position but leaves no doubt about the deep dissatisfaction with Mr. Annan. The fact that his son has been implicated in the U.N. "oil for food" scandal is further indication that his credibility is in tatters, probably beyond repair. As a further reminder that the opposition to U.S. foreign policy by both foreign and domestic political forces is based on corrupt self-interest, it was reported by ABC News that one of the key figures involved with the U.N. "oil for food" program was former American fugitive Marc Rich. Just one month after his pardon from President Clinton, he served as a middleman for several of Iraq's suspect oil deals in February 2001. Ver-r-ry interesting... (via badhairblog)


Andrew Clem archives

December 7, 2004 [LINK]

War escalates and spreads

The successful capture of Fallujah by U.S. forces last month was followed by terrorist counterattacks in other parts of Iraq. Today a suicide terrorist squad breached the outer perimeter of the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, marking a possible step toward increased coordination among terrorist groups that could cause the war to spill across Iraq's borders. Many war critics feel the apparent chaos vindicates their position, which is of course exactly what the terrorists want them to feel. Max Boot provided a confident yet sober perspective last week in the latimes.com, "What We Won in Fallouja":

Thus, for all their success in Fallouja, we should not expect U.S. troops to completely pacify Iraq anytime soon. What they can do -- what they are doing -- is to keep the insurgents from derailing a political process that, one hopes, will soon result in the creation of a legitimate government that can field indigenous security forces and defend itself.

In other words, no one should be under any illusion about an imminent return to "normalcy" in Iraq, whatever that is. The terrorist counterattacks are obvously aimed at getting back the momentum after their base of operations in Fallujah was dismantled. In Mosul, which is home to Kurds as well as Sunni Arabs, U.S. forces had to restore order after most Iraqi police fled their posts. That was a worrisome indicator that "Iraqicization" may be stalling, one of the few genuine parallels between this war and Vietnam. In the end, if Iraqi leaders don't step up to the plate and take charge, there is not much we can do about it. Ironically, President Bush's original skepticism about Clintonian "nation building" (or "state building," more accurately) would be validated. Government authority cannot be willed into existence from the outside.

These difficulties do not by any means signify the war has become a hopeless quagmire, but they are clear signs that American forces are stretched to the limit. No one doubts that the violence will probably get worse before it gets better, and the Pentagon announced that 12,000 additional U.S. troops will be sent to Iraq to provide extra security for the elections scheduled for late January. This will raise the total U.S. force commitment to 150,000, the highest since the invasion began in March 2003; see washingtonpost.com. Bush has consistently ruled out any resort to drafting soldiers, and indeed that is not necessary or appropriate at this time. If he does not find some equivalent manner of exerting force in response to the terrorist upsurge, however, we will be back to where we were a few months ago. It is imperative that we make clear, concrete advances (such as holding elections on schedule, whether the Sunnis are ready or not) in order to maintain the vital psychological edge. Otherwise, terrorists may start making inroads in nearby fence-sitting countries with weak governments.

Smaller-scale military advances are described by W. Thomas Smith Jr. in the nationalreview.com. In Operation "Plymouth Rock" (launched during Thanksgiving week), U.S. and Coalition forces are employing new, highly adaptive tactics in the "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad. They target particular enemy strongholds based on new intelligence gleaned from previous raids, which then provides information for the next raid on the next town, and so on. What looks to casual observers as endless, random violence is, in fact, bearing fruit, slowly but surely.

Pearl Harbor

Sixty three years ago today, hundreds of Japanese carrier-based planes bombed Pearl Harbor, destroying most of the U.S. Pacific fleet. It's a good thing the American people back then had enough gumption and determination to believe they could manage to resist the fascist onslaught long enough to rebuild and eventually win the war. What about us?


Andrew Clem archives
Cedar Waxwing pair

December 7, 2004 [LINK]

Cedar waxwings are back

Upon returning from a pleasant (!!?) day of shopping late Sunday afternoon, Jacqueline and I noticed a noisy flock of Cedar waxwings feeding in the cherry (?) trees next to our parking lot. I ran inside to get the camera, and managed to get some good photos with the sunlight at a perfect angle. (Roll the mouse over the image to see 18 of them gathered in a tree top.) Cedar waxwings are surprisingly common birds, but many folks never notice them because they have such subtle coloration and seldom stay in one place for very long. If you ever hear a flock of pale birds calling "tseee - tseee" in a high-pitched voice, especially in the cooler months, take a close look and chances are your eyes will be delighted by the bright yellow markings and (not seen here) red wingtips of these gregarious berry eaters.


While driving through the Bell's Lane area late Friday afternoon, I saw a group of eight or so Hooded mergansers, the first of that species I had seen since February 29. I was too far away to get a good view of the huge "hoods" on those migratory ducks, but I was able to pick out multiple key field marks, so there was no question about what they were.


Andrew Clem archives

December 8, 2004 [LINK]

Rummy visits [Kuwait]

During his visit to [Kuwait] today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked by a soldier why more armored vehicles haven't been delivered to our troops serving in the hazardous "front lines." His answer that it's simply a problem with production, and that we can't expect to have all the equipment we would like to have, struck me as lame and dispiriting. I hope that was not an indication of Bush administration attitudes toward our incredibly brave soldiers in harm's way. They deserve better, from the American government as well as from the American people. Rumsfeld was the top military official bears some responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib, and has a lot to answer for, in my view. The fact that he is one of the few cabinet officials being kept on into the second term, while others who have performed their jobs perfectly well are leaving, concerns me.

Guarded optimism

Andrew Sullivan has sharply criticized President Bush for failing to prosecute the war against Islamic fascists (a.k.a. "terrorists") more effectively. Thus, his relatively upbeat assessment of the situation in Iraq, appearing in the The New Republic Online, bears reading.

The Kurds and the Shia understand that their interest today lies in a successful election. They're not unhappy to see Sunni and Baathist rebels get pummeled by American arms. In that, you see the beginning of the new Iraqi reality: a place where 80 percent of the country wants the democratic transition to succeed.

Andrew Clem archives

December 8, 2004 [LINK]

McCormick's Farm

I joined the Augusta Bird Club outing to McCormick's Farm led by YuLee Larner this morning, and the weather was just fine, contrary to forecasts of high winds. Here are the best birds I saw, ranked by importance:

  • Green-winged teal (first of season)
  • Golden-crowned kinglet
  • Great blue heron
  • Kingfisher
  • Sharp-shinned hawk
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Downy woodpecker
  • White-breasted nuthatch
  • Grackles (100+)
  • Robins (7)
  • Black vultures
  • Canada geese (70+)
  • Plus all the usuals, except NO White-throated sparrows

Andrew Clem archives

December 9, 2004 [LINK]

Krugman on Social Security

Donald Luskin (www.poorandstupid.com) and "justoneminute" are among the bloggers who have ripped into Paul Krugman for flip-flopping on Social Security in his Tuesday New York Times column. Back in 1996 when he was supporting President Clinton's initiatives, Krugman wrote with regard to Social Security, "Where is the crisis? Just over the horizon, that's where." (quote from Luskin) Now, however, he downplays a Congressional Budget Office report that the "trust fund" (a misleading accounting contrivance) will run out in 2052. He says,

But it's a problem of modest size. The report finds that extending the life of the trust fund into the 22nd century, with no change in benefits, would require additional revenues equal to only 0.54 percent of G.D.P. That's less than 3 percent of federal spending.

He goes on to sing the praises of the creaky old system as though it were a success story, and concludes, "And that's why the right wants to destroy it." No, they want to trim back the unsustainable giveaways and direct benefits toward those who need it the most. Krugman was among those on the Left who had to take a long rest after the traumatic defeat they suffered on November 2. Perhaps he needs more time.

I have long been skeptical of "privatizing" Social Security, if that means handing off responsibility for providing entitlements to some private financial entity. Those who argue that individuals could get a better rate or return from private investments than from Federal retirement benefits are missing the point. Social Security is NOT an "investment," it is an ongoing transfer of resources from the younger generation to the older generation. It will work as long as there exists a solid nationwide consensus and trust among political factions. Do those conditions exist any more? Absolutely not. It would be much better, I think, to simply scale current benefits back to the pre-1960s era, when Social Security was still understood as being a supplementary fund aimed primarily at widows, the disabled, and other people unable to provide for themselves. Unfortunately, the benefits were inflated by Democrat Congresses over the decades, to the point that middle class people began counting on Social Security to provide for a comfortable retirement. Big mistake, that. The cyncical doubts of the younger generations about ever getting back a fair share of their contriubtions is entirely appropriate, which is another reason why Krugman's newfound complacency about the solvency of the Social Security system is so utterly misplaced. The Concord Coalition drew attention to the looming catstrophe in the early 1990s, and even though the Bush administration has shaky credentials on fiscal responsibility, it is on the right overall track where this is concerned.

There remains, nevertheless, a sadly-neglected Big Picture, which is the way that Social Security, health care, tax reform, immigration, and the war on terrorism all fit together. President Bush has taken tentative steps by creating "medical savings accounts," but there really should be no distinction between savings accounts intended for health, education, or any purpose, including gambling at the casino. It's the individual's own business! A truly conservative economic policy would be aimed at forthrightly "smashing the bonds of statism" and freeing individuals to pursue happiness as they see fit. That is why I have consistently urged that the hideously complex maze of regulations on 401K plans, etc., etc. be abolished, in favor of simply exempting up to $5,000 of personal savings from Federal income taxes each year. What could be more fair or simple to understand? Such an approach is utterly alien to the mainstream of opinion in the United States, especially the left-liberals who look to the ultra-cushy European social democratic system as a model for our future. They fail to recognize, of course, that the European socio-economic system could not be sustained without many millions of exploited cheap immigrant workers who are not covered by the system. Hence the resentment of these "outsiders" toward the entitled Western citizens, which paves the way for terrorist subversion. Making the connection between entitlements affordability, immigration, and the terrorist threat could be the basis for a radical restoration of economic freedom that would make this a second "American century." Otherwise, China will steadily gain on us, as demonstrated by IBM's sale of its personal computer division to the Lenovo Corporation, headquartered in "Red" China...


Andrew Clem archives

December 9, 2004 [LINK]

Was Rummy blindsided?

According to drudgereport.com, the soldier who asked the pointed question to Donald Rumsfeld yesterday (in Kuwait, not Iraq, as I had written) was coached to speak up by a reporter from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Edward Lee Pitts. This doesn't detract from the basic grievance, but it does put the incident in better perspective. The soldier, Spec. Thomas Wilson, was also from Tennessee. He complained that his men had to scrounge through junkyards to find scrap metal plate to protect their vehicles. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out today, it's a lot like U.S. Army troops in Normandy who rigged their Sherman tanks with devices to cut through the hedgerows. Such resourceful adaptation under fire is the stuff of military legend.

UPDATE: Lefty cartoonist Dan Perkins (of This Modern World fame) made a good observation about the "unfair questioning" by the reporter: "only one question is relevant--did the reporter also engineer the spontaneous roar of applause from the rest of the troops in the audience?" Indeed, it would be hard to interpret that as anything else but a clear indication of discontent within the ranks. It's worth mentioning that other soldiers complained about the lack of supplies and "antiquated equipment" made available to National Guard units, and delays in paycheck delivery. Guard and Reserve units, composed of older civilians who are more likely to speak their mind without regard to military protocol, currently account for 45 percent of all U.S. forces in Iraq. (See the transcript of Rumsfeld's meeting with troops; link via Washington Post.)


Andrew Clem archives

December 11, 2004 [LINK]

Steroid update

Was the threat by Senator John McCain the deciding factor in motivating the baseball player's association to cooperate with owners in renegotiating terms of drug testing? Perhaps. It is a sad thing whenever the iron fist of government authority is needed to straighten things out in our National Pastime. Bud Selig has made appropriate stern declarations about getting serious on this problem, but what will come of it? It's too bad that Bud's credibility suffered during the excruciatingly long process to decide on the relocation of the Montreal Expos. ball Speaking of which, the Yankees nabbed the reliable young pitcher Jaret Wright (a Brave this year), foiling the cash-poor Washington Nationals. Wait till next year! Note the counter at the top left of the Baseball page, indicating how many days remain until the Nats "Play Ball!" in good ol' RFK Stadium, on April 14. I will be there or die trying! If my plans work out, I'll also be present at the first official game the Nationals play, up at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, on April 3.

Web site transitions

The baseball home page is now integrated into this Web site's "home-made" automatic blogging system; note the ".shtml" suffix in the URL, and please adjust your bookmarks accordingly. The "[LINK]" links next to the date take you to the permanent file archive for each blog entry; in other words, they are "permalinks." Putting interactive comments links on this page and others is just around the corner... ball Also, I've added to the Memorial Stadium page an old photo that I found while digging through my photo albums today. A dynamic diagram will be added to that page, and many other stadiums used for football, in the near future.


Andrew Clem archives

December 11, 2004 [LINK]

"That's really gotta hurt!"

Doctors in Austria have confirmed what Ukrainian presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko has been saying: the hideous deterioration of his face since last summer is the result of poisoning, by dioxins to be precise. See cnn.com for a dramatic photographic contrast. If this poisoning incident was a political dirty trick engineered by the Kremlin, Russian politics are in even worse shape than most people thought. President Bush said last year that he could see into Mr. Putin's soul and saw a good man. Yikes. I hope this is not an accurate overall indication of "W" as a judge of character. Putin's recent fierce and obnoxious criticisms of the United States and the West are strange, given the fact that we both face a common enemy -- Islamo-fascist terrorism.

The burgeoning democracy movement in Ukraine is one of the most uplifting global political trends of recent months, and represents an opportunity for the U.S. and Europe to work together. I was a little annoyed that the huge crowds in downtown Kiev were "singing" a protest rap "song". Whatever happened to rock and roll as a symbol of Western freedom?? It would appear that the old-style blatantly despotic tendencies of incumbent President Kuchma and his hand-picked successor, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, may not work after all. The second (hopefully clean) election will be held on December 26.

December 11, 2004 [LINK]

Cabinet shakeups

Former NYPD top cop Bernard Kerik shocked everyone by withdrawing as nominee to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security because of the same kind of "nannygate" scandal that plagued Bill Clintons' second choice as Attorney General, Zoe Baird. (His first choice was Lani Guinier, remember?) Whether Kerik was well-suited for a national-level position, I don't know. He may have been picked for symbolic reasons, since he was in charge of New York police during the 9/11 attacks. I hope not.

What is more worrisome to me is the offhanded way Bush seems to have been deciding on the fate of his top officials. In the Chicago Sun Times, Robert Novak wrote:

For nearly two weeks, John Snow had been twisting in the wind. Snow had not heard one word on whether he should leave or stay as secretary of the Treasury until Wednesday, when President Bush asked him to remain at least temporarily.

Snow is a perfectly capable and politically loyal cabinet official. Why Bush would hesitate to ask him to stay on, especially when so many other cabinet secretaries are leaving, is a mystery to me. Maybe Karl Rove knows...

December 11, 2004 [LINK]

Abstinence

Last week Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) called attention to a report by House staffers that casts doubt on the effectiveness of school programs that encourage teens to abstain from sexual activity. He said the data and findings of Bush administration reports did not meet standard scientific criteria. A Heritage Foundation study written Melissa Pardue gives support to the abstinence approach, however. See www.heritage.org.

By coincidence, yesterday it was reported that American teenagers are now waiting longer to have sex than in the 1990s. Does this reflect the morali proselytizing of President Bush, the First Lady, and his administration? Probably not. Presidents have no more control over individual behavior than they do on the wheels of the economy, except in a very general, indirect way. It should be noted, nevertheless, that good examples by adults in positions of authority certainly can't hurt. Which leads us to baseball...


Andrew Clem archives

December 13, 2004 [LINK]

Winter meetings: Few trades

The annual winter meeting of baseball owners, being held in Anaheim, yielded little big news in the way of trades. Perhaps the steroid controversy took all their time. The Orioles signed up veteran nice guy B. J. Surhoff for another year, but are otherwise frustrated. The Yankees signed Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, both ace pitchers eagerly sought by the Washington Nationals. (Isn't it amazing how easily that name rolls off your tongue after only a few weeks?) The Yankees' deal with Wright mentioned in the last posting had been temporarily put on hold because medical exams showed his arm has not fully healed. After he passed a second exam, the contract was signed.

The Nationals just signed utility player Wil Cordero, who played with the Marlins this year (though he was injured most of the summer), and used to play with the Expos. Interim General Manager Jim Bowden is negotiating with the Cubs over Sammy Sosa, a hopelessly unrealistic prospect given the D.C. team's limited budget for this year. Bowden has done well to pick up Cristian Guzman, Vinny Castilla, and Jose Guillen, but what the Nats really need is more pitching! (Just like the Yankees do.) Other players seem wary of signing with the Nationals until the team's status becomes more clear.

Speaking of which, the D.C. City Council will vote for a second time on the stadium funding bill tomorrow. If it passes, serious negotiating on selling the franchise to one of the bidders will commence, enabling the team to acquire a full roster of top-notch talent at last. If it fails, sheer chaos will descend upon Our Nation's Capital...

Commissioner Bud Selig had a cancerous skin lesion removed from his forehead last week, and the prognosis is good. We wish him all the best.


Andrew Clem archives

December 13, 2004 [LINK]

Wiretapping, foreign and domestic

News that U.S. agents eavesdropped on International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei (specifically, his telephone conversations with officials in Iran) came as quite a shock. Not the fact itself so much, but the public announcement thereof. The Bush administration is putting pressure on him to resign, but this heavy-handed tactic may backfire unless the taped conversations reveal something very damaging about ElBaradei. Some in the Bush administration suspect that he is not seriously committed to ensuring that Iran halt its nuclear weapons program. The hardening U.S. position on Iran is probably in response to Iran's support for fundamentalist Shiite leaders who are running in the upcoming elections in Iraq. Unfortunately, France and other members of the U.N. Security Council may calculate that the risk of an Iranian bomb is outweighed by their priority of thwarting U.S. objectives in the Middle East. Donald Rumsfeld recently criticized NATO "partners" for failing to cooperate in training the reconstituted Iraqi military forces.

By coincidence, there was an update in the Post last Wednesday about the March 2002 case in which then-state GOP executive director Edmund Matricardi wiretapped Democratic officials who were conversing with Governor Mark Warner about their challenge to the Republicans' redistricting plan. Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, who is running for governor next year, alerted law enforcement officials as soon as this was brought to his attention, leading to arrests. This shows he is a principled official who puts the law above party loyalty, and he deserves credit for it. The wiretapping was a costly mistake for the Virginia GOP, however: "The state Republican Party has agreed to pay most of a $750,000 settlement in the federal lawsuit brought by the 33 Democratic lawmakers who were on the conference calls." Matricardi went to jail for it, and two others pled guilty to lesser offenses. How do people involved in politics think they're going to get away with such stupid dirty tricks? It's probably the intoxicating thrill of power.

December 13, 2004 [LINK]

Cabinet update

President Bush has nominated EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt (former governor of Utah) to serve as Health and Human Services secretary, replacing Tommy Thompson (former governor of Wisconsin). Nine of the 15 department heads have announced their departure, more than in any other presidential second term since 1972. Gary Trudeau ran several "Doonesbury" comic strips last week lampooning Bush's fondness for agreeable cabinet heads, with a "Department of Toady Affairs." Ha ha.

Bush is catching a lot of flak for the failure to properly vet Bernie Kerik, the erstwhile nominee to be Secretary of Homeland Security. The fact that many House Republicans initially opposed the intelligence reform bill (see below) because it lacked provisions for guarding against illegal immigration make this case especially ironic. The rumored other factors, such as Kerik's enrichment from serving on the board of a company that makes stun guns, raise further questions about White House management. Will anyone be reprimanded for this lapse, or lose their job?

December 13, 2004 [LINK]

Intelligence reform

The passage of the Intelligence reform bill by the House last week is considered a political victory for Bush, but he had to spend a lot of political capital, and the benefits are murky at best. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) insisted on the armed forces retaining control over battlefield reconnaissance, and his concerns were met. Some doubted Bush's commitment to the bill, and even now it is uncertain how much of a priority it was for him. This much is certain: the bill passed because of domestic political reasons, and not many people believe that centralizing control of intelligence will accomplish much if anything. Indeed, this change might even make intelligence gathering less efficient. But the families of the 9/11 victims, bless their heavy hearts, needed some concrete sign of government action so that the deaths of their relatives will not have been in vain. This is a classic case of "Politically compelling policies," as congressional scholar R. Douglas Arnold put it. (See the newly reformatted Arnold on Congress page, which summarizes Arnold's superb, succinct analysis of how the U.S. Congress works.) The immediate necessity of winning votes in the next election (or minimizing vote losses) outweighs doubts in the legislators' minds that the bill in question will achieve the stated ends.


Andrew Clem archives

December 15, 2004 [LINK]

Chaos: Cropp throws a spitball

Well, she's done it again! Five weeks ago, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp "threw a curveball" that threatened to derail the process of relocating the Expos to Washington. Then last night,

Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) shocked her colleagues after 11 hours of debate on a stadium package by offering the private financing amendment about 10 p.m., saying she was disappointed by recent talks with Major League Baseball.

(SOURCE: Washington Post) According to MLB officials, this vote "might leave baseball with little choice but to reopen the search for a long-term home for the franchise." (See mlb.com.) This second stunning about-face by Cropp came only one day after she responded favorably to a letter in which baseball officials offered concessions aimed at benefiting the community such as more free tickets for kids and more days of usage by D.C. According to the Washington Post,

Cropp (D) said the letter means she probably will support the legislation today. "I am very positive," she said. "We have things in writing from Major League Baseball."

Is Mrs. Cropp suffering from schizophrenia, or does her inability to maintain a consistent position reflect an affliction of a moral nature? Or was she just misquoted by the Post, perhaps? As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a principled stand against public subsidies, as Adrian Fenty has done. I myself have urged political leaders to resist the tide of "stadium socialism," or corporate welfare, if you wish. (See Nov. 10 and July 10 postings in the Baseball 2004 archives, and March 20 and June 25 in the Baseball 2003 archives.). I think there is little doubt that a new stadium in southeast D.C. would yield vast net benefits to the city, but in the end, it is leaders in D.C. who must make that decision. Given contemporary realities (baseball's legal status as a monopoly), opposing subsidies while pretending to support baseball in Washington is nothing more than two-faced political "grandstanding." Repeatedly playing both sides of the issue in a way that causes doubts about the city's credibility, as Mrs. Cropp has done, is not only amateurish, but highly destructive. I would call such a classless posture "bleachering."

As a result of the vote by the council last night, MLB has postponed the unveiling of the Nationals' uniform that had been scheduled for this afternoon. Likewise, we may expect the sale of the franchise to be suspended indefinitely, making it difficult if not impossible for the team to acquire top-notch talent prior to spring training. Fenty wants to play "chicken" and call MLB's bluff, thinking they have no serious alternative. I doubt MLB officials would want to reopen the agonizing relocation process once again, as they have threatened, but it can't be ruled out. Here is regular visitor T. J. Zmina's take on the fiasco:

It would appear as though too many cooks still spoil the dorm food, as Linda Cropp may have just cost Washington it's franchise. Then again, all may still work itself out. On the other hand (how many hands is that now, five?) the Expos situation has not been resolved, but simply picked up, repainted, and put back down in a different location. It's as if they took a rusted out K car on blocks, spray painted it, duct taped some inner tubes on the rims, and put it on display as a state of the art vehicle. If you want to call the current Nationals situtation state of the art, it must make Rhode Island look like a continent.

December 15, 2004 [LINK]

EVENING UPDATE:

There was a photo of Adam Eidinger (the hot-headed stadium opponent who disrupted the unveiling of the Nationals logo last month) in the Post article cited above, along with his young daughter Arundhati. Where did that name come from, you wonder? It almost certainly refers to Arundhati Roy, a young, highly articulate Marxist writer from Kerala, India, who has bitterly denounced the Bush administration over its policies in the war against terrorism. Could such people even fathom what Our National Pastime really means?

MLB has suspended all promotional activities connected to the Nationals team: no tickets, no logo merchandise. That's what we would expect. Nevertheless, Councilman Jack Evans remains confident that a compromise will yet save the day, but Mayor Williams disgustedly warned the whole thing is in jeopardy. Will he and Linda Cropp ever again speak to one another in cordial terms? Another article in Washington Post called attention to "a delicate, chicken-and-the-egg balance that may have reappeared last night. Which should come first? A new owner, who might not provide a new stadium, or a new city, with no committed buyer?" That aptly illustrates the strange, wary "courtship" between D.C. and MLB, which is hard for outsiders to understand. The article also quoted an unnamed MLB official as saying, "I think they just killed baseball in Washington." That could be negotiating rhetoric, however. An online survey included in that article asked, "Does this latest amendment on stadium financing kill the chances of the Expos relocating to Washington?" Of the 4902 responses, 72 percent said "yes." I put "no." Meanwhile, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who just attended baseball's winter meetings, was quick to declare that his city could arrange for a quick relocation if need be. Norfolk, Virginia and Portland, Oregon officials are also busily dusting off their contingency plans. (Further details are found in yahoo.com; thanks to Steven Poppe for the link.)

It's a dirty rotten shame that the ballpark alternative near Dulles Airport is so pathetically lame; if leaders in Arlington or Alexandria were at all amenable right now, Northern Virginia would be in a prime position to snatch the team away. Aware of the clashing interests at stake, I've prepared myself for such last-minute $nag$. Risking death-defying head-on collisions as negotiating deadlines approach is how businessmen, politicians, and even some diplomats advance their careers. (Remember Clinton vs. Gingrich in November 1995?) That is why, in my estimation, the situation is not as bleak as some people think. Generally speaking, rational self-interest prevails over stupidity and short-sightedness. Nevertheless, with the egos and reputations of the key players in this anguishing saga on the line, absolutely anything is possible now. Stay tuned...


Andrew Clem archives

December 17, 2004 [LINK]

Utter disgrace: aftershocks in D.C.

The ugly repercussions of the D.C. Council's vote on Tuesday continue. (I would have posted baseball updates yesterday had I not been busy with War of the Worlds.) Since unleashing her little cataclysm three days ago, Linda Cropp has alternated between posturing as a tough negotiator and a meek conciliator. At a news conference, she asked MLB officials to

"give us a few months." ...

"I want baseball here, but not at any cost," Cropp said, and not by giving "a blank check" to Major League Baseball.

Cropp said she would not put the stadium deal on the agenda for next Tuesday's D.C. Council meeting "if there is no resolution" of the current impasse, and she called the Dec. 31 deadline "artificial." Three new council members opposed to Williams's stadium financing deal are scheduled to take office Jan. 3. (SOURCE: washingtonpost.com)

Such chilling words are not what one would expect to hear from a political leader who is tuned into reality, and it raises the awful possibility of doom. (Steven Poppe, you may be right after all.) If Mrs. Cropp does not believe that it really is now or never for baseball in D.C., she is either deceiving herself, her constituents, or both. Seldom has my standard of maintaining a respectful, dignified tone in Web discourse been tested as sorely as now. I would like to think she is just mistaken in judgment on this matter, but I fear she has deliberately taken a crowd-pleasing position that puts herself in a hole from which she cannot crawl out without ruining her political reputation, thereby forfeiting her probable mayoral aspirations. On WTOP Radio's morning call-in show today, she admitted that Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin gets huge (implicit) public subsidies from the District via the special tax breaks on the MCI Center. So why not the same treatment for baseball, Linda?? Let her know how you feel by calling (202) 724-8032, or sending e-mail at lcropp@dccouncil.us. As Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote, it is perfectly acceptable to vote yes or no on a given issue, as I myself have said. But

What is utterly and absolutely not acceptable is the current behavior of Council Chairman Linda Cropp and nine of her colleagues who want to bait-and-switch baseball into a radically altered deal than the one which Williams negotiated exhaustively -- as his city's official representative -- over a two-year period.

In business, a deal is a deal, something Cropp refuses to understand. For her any deals, those made by others or even ones she has agreed to herself in recent days, are not deals at all. They are just a starting point for her next demand.

Note that I have redone the "countdown" at the top left of the Baseball page to reflect the increased uncertainty, which will fluctuate from day to day. Likewise, I have also changed the title of the RFK Stadium page, but have left the Anomalous stadiums page untouched for the time being, since it includes the caveat phrase "barring some unforeseeable catastrophe," which would seem to be a fitting description of Mrs. Cropp.


Andrew Clem archives

December 19, 2004 [LINK]

Pre-Armageddon maneuverings

Sunday's Washington Post provided a detailed review of each of the 13 D.C. council members' positions on the stadium funding issue. Some members, notably Carol Schwartz and Jim Graham, were previously open to the idea but disliked a provision in the letter from MLB officials, which was supposed to address council members' concerns about the project's financing, but which might actually put D.C. in a money trap. Specifically,

Item 7: If the city failed to build a ballpark for the former Montreal Expos by March 2008, it would have to pay the team as much as $19 million a year to cover lost profits.

From Major League Baseball's perspective, that was a big concession to the city. The stadium agreement places no limit on the city's liability if the ballpark isn't ready by 2008.

To certain council members, however, Item 7 looked like a hoax -- a big, fat thumb in the eye of an unsuspecting city.

A reasonable person might well agree that this provision puts an unfair burden on the city for eventualities that are largely beyond its control, but if you read the entire paragraph in that document, it is clear that the terms are markedly better than before. Nevertheless, Mrs. Cropp did not give any indiation that Item 7 in the letter bothered her in the least until the fateful meeting last Tuesday was well underway; indeed, she had said the letter was very positive. Did she actually read the whole document before making that earlier statement?

December 19, 2004 [LINK]

A modest proposal

In a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp, I proposed an unorthodox solution to the problem of cost overruns and delays: Have the city commit to a fixed amount of funding at the low end of the range of cost estimates ($440 million), and build as much of the stadium as can be done until the money runs out. If some of the outfield seating sections or fancy adornments have to left out when the Nationals are supposed to begin play in the new stadium in 2008, don't worry about it! Let private investors into the action, with naming rights for seating sections, or whatever it takes. If the new ballpark looks a little funky for the first couple years, so much the better! That's where unique character comes from. If MLB officials are wise enough accept this awkward compromise, meeting Mrs. Cropp's demand half-way, it would actually accomplish two goals. It would make sure the stadium gets built, with a real incentive on the contractors to stay within budget (since they won't get any money for parts of the stadium that don't get built), and it creates a sort of nostalgic throwback to the days when major league ballparks were built in incremental stages over the years, especially in the 1920s. Indeed, only one stadium built between 1909 and 1923 was not significantly expanded several years after the initial construction: League Park in Cleveland. Some were expanded more than once. See Baseball Stadiums by Class for more.

December 19, 2004 [LINK]

The race card vs. civic unity

Two columnists in the Post illustrated the ultrasensitive, seldom-mentioned racial undercurrent behind this controversy. Colbert King played the "race card" with unabashed zest, reprinting a viciously racist e-mail message sent to Linda Cropp. Does King mean to imply that such views are typical of stadium backers, or is he just throwing a rhetorical bomb without considering the damage to racial relations it might cause? The way he compares the D.C. Council's belated and Quixotic challenge to MLB to the way Frederick Douglass bravely defied plantation owners suggests the latter. King ridiculed Mayor Williams ("when it comes to the D.C. Council, he can't deliver diddly squat") and the "yahoos" who want the new stadium, while giving heaping praise to Mrs. Cropp. He blithely ignores the essential point: that Mrs. Cropp's last-minute change was a cheap, underhanded bait-and-switch tactic that did grave damage to the city's credibility.

In contrast, Marc Fisher recalled the old days when the Senators served as a bridge between whites and blacks in Washington.

[B]lack Washington repeatedly rose above the racism of baseball's owners to embrace the team as a point of civic pride.

That's the choice Linda Cropp, the D.C. Council chairman who stands between Washington and baseball, faces right now: Ride to higher office on a wave of spite or bring us together. History teaches the right answer.

Call me crazy, call me deluded, but I'm cautiously inclined to think that such uplifting voices of reason and reconciliation as Fisher exemplifies will prevail over the fear and demagoguery expounded by Colbert King in this debate. As for the deal Mayor Williams offered to MLB last June, call it a giveaway, call it extortion, call it whatever you want, but it was almost certainly the only way the other 28 baseball owners would ever override Peter Angelos's objections to putting baseball back where in belongs in Washington. In an imperfect world, sometimes you have to swallow a better pill or two. I know the deal with MLB makes a mockery of the principles of private enterprise, but that wrong will be more than offset, I believe, by the huge amounts of money that are likely to pour into Washington as a result of the new stadium.

Town Hall Meeting

The Washington Baseball Club (a prospective franchise ownership group) wants all area baseball fans to attend a Town Hall Meeting, on Monday at 6pm, featuring Mayor Williams, members of the D.C. City Council, and others. ball Brand new Web site: www.dropcropp.com. (link via Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo) blog.


Andrew Clem archives

December 19, 2004 [LINK]

Christmas Bird Count

Bluebird I spent almost all of Saturday taking the annual bird census sponsored by the Audubon Society, known as the "CBC" for short. It was bitterly cold, but the skies were fairly clear, unlike last year, when we endured snow and sleet. My partner was Mark Adams, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, who authored a book on his birding experiences in Texas. Our territory was in the northern part of Augusta County, including parts of the Middle River valley and some uplands with fantastic views of the mountain ranges to the east and west. I heard or saw 36 species altogether (eight more than last year), including a remarkable 32 Eastern bluebirds, which have been somewhat scarce in these parts for the last year or so. The numbers of Turkey vultures, Red-tailed hawks, and Cardinals were also above average, whereas none of the expected Yellow-rumped warblers or Cedar waxwings were present, and only one pigeon was seen. Our bird tally is shown below. That evening, about a dozen participants belonging to the Augusta Bird Club shared their observations at a fine catered dinner.

  • 1 Great blue heron
  • 7 Black vultures
  • 85 Turkey vultures
  • 25 Canada geese
  • 2 Mallards
  • 2 Northern harriers
  • 1 Cooper's hawk *
  • 15 Red-tailed hawks
  • 5 American kestrels
  • 1 Rock dove (pigeon)
  • 10 Mourning doves
  • 1 Belted kingfisher **
  • 6 Red-bellied woodpeckers
  • 2 Yellow-bellied sapsuckers
  • 4 Downy woodpeckers
  • 5 Northern flickers
  • 1 Eastern phoebe *
  • 19 Blue jays
  • 53 American crows
  • 2 Fish crows (HO)
  • 22 Carolina chickadees
  • 18 Tufted titmice
  • 12 White-breasted nuthatches
  • 14 Carolina wrens
  • 5 Golden-crowned kinglets
  • 32 Eastern bluebirds
  • 1 Robin (HO)
  • 13 Northern mockingbirds
  • 17 Song sparrows
  • 2 Swamp sparrows
  • 17 White-throated sparrows
  • 8 White-crowned sparrows
  • 44 Dark-eyed juncos
  • 53 Northern cardinals
  • 9 House finches
  • 11 American goldfinches
  • 231 European starlings
  • 10 House sparrows
  • * : seen by Mark Adams, but not me.
    ** : seen by me, but not Mark Adams.
    HO : heard only

December 19, 2004 [LINK]

Pale Male un-evicted

Good news: the owners of the Manhattan condo building where the Red-tailed hawks have been nesting for the past 15 years have relented under heavy public pressure, agreeing to reinstall the anti-pigeon spikes that had provided a support for the nest. Some people in the building thought the nest was either unsanitary or hazardous, among whom were (reportedly) CBS Newswoman Paula Zahn or her husband. Another resident, Mary Tyler Moore, spoke out in favor of preserving the hawks' nest. The New York City Audubon chapter had been holding daily vigils for Pale Male and Lola (his current mate), but has halted them while arrangments are made to provide for new and safer support on top of the window arch. See www.palemale.com and www.savepalemale.com. When Jacqueline and I were strolling through Central Park in July, we were looking for one of those hawks, but didn't see any. It turns out we were within a stone's throw of that building, located at Fifth Avenue and 74th Street.

December 19, 2004 [LINK]

Climate shift may harm birds

Bad news: According to a "technical review" just published by the Wildlife Society (cited in the Washington Post), global climate changes have apparently put birds under great stress, forcing many species to accelerate their annual migration, and causing serious population declines in others. As for the birds that most interest me, the study noted,

Thus, in terms of mobility, Neotropical migrants appear pre-adapted to shifting range distributions as climates change. ... But rather than being able to focus on conserving relatively small areas, habitat ranging from breeding areas in the United States and Canada all the way south along migration routes to wintering areas in Mexico, Central America, and portions of South America must be conserved.

What lessons are we to draw? First, it is becoming increasingly clear that many of the biggest environmental problems cannot be addressed by individual countries. This suggests that countries must learn to cooperate on matters of joint concern even when there are deep disagreements over foreign policy. It is also important to avoid hasty, ill-considered action, however. As U.Va. professor Patrick Michaels and others have argued (see www.skepticism.net), the evidence on global warming is mixed, some of the science is deeply flawed, and the CO2 "greenhouse effect" may be less significant than fluctuations in the sun's temperature over the decades and centuries. That doesn't mean we should get complacent, it just means we need to keep various potential threats in perspective.


Andrew Clem archives

December 20, 2004 [LINK]

Down to the wire talks

Chances that the D.C. Council will approve the stadium package increased substantially this evening. The FOX television station in Washington, Channel 5, reported at 11:10 PM EST that negotiations among Linda Cropp, Mayor Williams, and MLB officials had resolved all the differences. Channel 9 reported likewise a little later, via a telephone interview with Council member Harold Brazil. It is so obvious that all parties stand to gain significantly from this transaction that success would seem very likely. But since some of the key actors in this drama have different time frames and agendas, a total collapse is still very much possible. I've raised my estimation of the chances of success from 55 percent to 75 percent.

Hundreds of baseball fans turned out for a rally this evening, a much more upbeat amd polite expression of public sentiment than has been waged by most stadium opponents. Some anti-baseball activists screamed during the last Council meeting and had to be removed, and of course we all remember Adam Eidinger's disruptive stunt on November 22. Yesterday MLB President Bob DuPuy had said, "We have no intention of extending the deadline. We have a few options [referring to putting the Ex-Expos in some other city, apparently], but we're not even going to look at that until the deadline comes and goes." See mlb.com

Whatever the outcome, years from now people will look back on this strange episode and marvel that one woman had an entire professional sports league tied up in knots. The indignity! One can only imagine the heartburn that Bud Selig must be suffering right now, after years of dragging his heels over the D.C. question, fearing exactly this kind of mess. Who knows, maybe the Lords of Baseball deserve it... In today's Washington Post, sports columnist Tony Kornheiser expressed this situation in very graphic terms, for mature audiences only:

... I hold her primarily responsible for this fiasco. I'd like to see her head on a stick. But let me give Cropp this: She has made herself The Key Player in this game. All baseball roads go through Linda Cropp now, and not the mayor. When you see the mayor squirming, it's because she's got his, um, onions, in her hand, and she is squeezing the Charmin right now. It's hard to believe a smart big-city mayor like Tony Williams could have been punked like this. Marion Barry wouldn't have been.

Mrs. Cropp may not grasp all the tangible and intangible benefits that baseball would bring to her city, but she seems smart enough and politically astute enough to reach a reasonable compromise. The alternative would be a total disaster for which thousands would hate her for years to come, and it would be very hard for her to govern as mayor, if that indeed is her plan. If she can deliver a deal that includes substantial revisions from what Mayor Williams and the MLB agreed to in September, on the other hand, her prestige and electability will soar. The D.C. Council will meet tomorrow, presumably for the last time this year, unless an emergency session is called.

Just came across a new Web site: www.dcbaseballpac.com


Andrew Clem Archives

December 21, 2004 [LINK]

Stadium Deal Approved!

After two critical amendments were added by Chairman Linda Cropp, the D.C. Council just voted 7-6 in favor of the revised stadium funding bill. The first amendment

calls for the city and Major League Baseball to share the cost for insurance, which would limit the city's liability on cost overruns or completion delays.

It also waives compensatory damages for the first year if the stadium is finished late. Instead, the Washington Nationals would not have to pay rent for RFK Stadium if the new ballpark is not ready for the 2008 season.

The second amendment, approved 10-3, deletes the sunset provision that cancels the deal if there is no private financing. [SOURCE: WTOP News]

Since MLB President Bob DuPuy was involved in telephone negotiations last night, these provisions presumably meet with MLB approval. Resumed sales of Nationals tickets and merchandise should begin right away. There are a couple of stipulations, such as certification of the proposed private financing schemes, and some unforeseeable $nag$ may yet emerge, but we can now call the Ex-Expos / Nationals move to D.C. a virtual certainty: 98 percent. (Hence the image of RFK Stadium in the baseball page banner is now clear once again.) PLAY BALL!

A poll by the Washington Post indicated that most D.C. residents favored Mrs. Cropp's insistence on private funding for the new stadium, even if it means losing the team altogether. It's hard to gauge the meaning or intensity of such sentiments, however. In any case, people would do well to read Steven Pearlstein's column in the Post Business section today, in which he laments the "screwball logic" used by many in this debate. As he explained,

Council Chairman Linda Cropp and other critics often confuse "financing" with "pay for."

Should we care who finances the stadium? Well, if our interest is in holding down the total cost of the project, it's pretty clear we should be pushing for as much public financing as possible. The reason is simple: Cities can borrow money more cheaply.

He concludes by admitting some unease over the bargain (which I share), but makes it clear that

[U]ntil Congress repeals baseball's antitrust exemption, or until all major cities are willing to sign a pact that none of them will buy into baseball's Ponzi scheme, our choices are either to play by the rules laid down by Major League Baseball or not play at all. Another round of "tough negotiating" won't change that basic reality.

Or, as Don Rumsfeld might put it, you go into negotiations with the Major League you have, not the one you wish you had.

That is an appropriately realistic assessment. Predictably, in contrast, the folks at Field of Schemes complained,

In short, everybody blinked, resulting in a deal that dissident councilmember Adrian Fenty accurately summed up as "materially the exact same thing the mayor sent over. It's a publicly financed stadium with less risk, but still a publicly financed stadium."

Well, of course. Was there any other plausible outcome, besides no stadium at all? They should at least credit Mrs. Cropp for her daring (if not duplicitous) last-minute maneuver that -- she claims -- will end up saving the city $193 million or more. I suppose that much money is worth causing a few thousand cases of heartburn, plus a heart attack or two. As for Fenty, his opposition is starting to seem more like politically motivated deadset rejection than principled reason.

Details on how Mayor Williams and Chairman Cropp reached the compromise last night are in the Washington Post. Mrs. Cropp seems to have come out slightly on top in this monumental showdown, though perhaps not quite to the extent Tony Kornheiser suggested yesterday. This is not the time to pick winners and losers, however. Let's make sure this stadium project serves its proper purpose of restoring a sense of community in our nation's capital, bridging the gap between the city and its wealthy suburbs.


Andrew Clem Archives

December 22, 2004 [LINK]

The "Nats" become a reality

Washington Nationals logo The Washington Nationals' team jerseys went on sale this morning, one week after they were supposed to be put on display for the first time. I have to say, I really admire the artwork. Regular visitor Steven Poppe suggests that the new owners go back to using the "Senators" name after the franchise is sold, but I think that would be a bit awkward. Besides, as he mentions, the Texas Rangers apparently retain residual rights to that name since they used to be the Senators! Weird.

In the Washington Post, Thomas Boswell interprets the strange way the relocation deal has come about:

Washington and baseball are now locked in a bizarre marriage of inconvenience. The sport finds itself in the novel position of bestowing a team on a town that has responded with a distrustful, lukewarm embrace and a demand for prenuptial agreements.

While the District wonders whether baseball is worth all the expense, baseball wonders if Washington is worth such a headache.

Looking ahead, he casts doubt on the three-year construction timetable that is generally assumed for the new stadium:

... according to one of the people most involved in researching the timeline for building the District's new ballpark, "Getting the stadium done for '08 is already out of the question. It can't be done and it won't be close. I'd put a ballpark opening in '09 at 50-50." If that pessimistic view proves true, Cropp may save the District $15 to $30 million.

Trades and near-trades

Back in the real world of baseball, the Yankees welcomed ex-Marlins pitcher Carl Pavano to their roster but failed to acquire Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks. This was part of a three-way deal in which Dodger Shawn Green would have gone to Phoenix, but it apparently fell through because Yankee Javier Vazquez refused to go play for Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have picked up David Wells, Matt Clement, and Edgar Renteria, gaining an advantage on the Yanks during the winter trades, according to mlb.com. Finally, Orlando Hernandez -- who I saw pitch a shutout in the Bronx last July -- is about to sign with with White Sox.


Andrew Clem archives

December 22, 2004 [LINK]

Is conservatism unpopular?

In his typically incisive yet blunt fashion, Andrew Sullivan raises serious doubts about whether Bush can accomplish much in his second term, and indeed whether Bush is truly serving the interests of conservative philosophy.

[C]onservatism, understood loosely as an "ideology of self-reliance," has failed to make serious inroads since the mid-'90s. It's still nowhere near a popular majority. This is why conservative politicians are often forced to use deception to advance conservative policy proposals.
Predictably, the Bush administration is contemplating a series of half-assed "reforms" that are likely to make matters worse. In doing so, the administration will yet again discredit the "ideology of self-reliance." One wonders if Bush is a sleeper agent for the Socialist International.

I think he's overstating the case, no doubt bitter toward Bush for cozying up too much with social conservatives, but I too have such worries that the Bush-Rove team is too focused on winning elections to adopt a serious, comprehensive economic conservative agenda. If he fails to "spend his political capital" and take on the tough issues, this precious moment of opportunity will end up wasted. In that case, and the Republicans will be right back to where they started, probably splitting into recriminating factions much as the Democrats are doing. It is critical for the Republicans to realize that at least half of the American population still takes for granted the Federal entitlements spawned by the New Deal era. For many folks, unfortunately, talk about "freedom" and "personal responsibility" is nothing more than talk. They are the ones susceptible to the lure of another Clinton presidency (!) if the Bush does not make a much more serious attempt to explain the ramifications of conservative policy, and to persuade the comfortable, "ultra-entitled" middle class of the need for radical reform. As Rush Limbaugh said on his show today, the battle for Social Security reform is just the beginning.


Andrew Clem archives

December 22, 2004 [LINK]

Winter officially begins

Dark-eyed junco Ironically coinciding with the winter solstice, that bitter cold snap is finally behind us, thank goodness. This morning I saw a Winter wren, two Hermit thrushes, two Red-tailed hawks, and a few other birds while walking behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad. (That volunteer unit recently announced it plans to begin charging for ambulance pickups, sparking some local controversy.) A Sharp-shinned hawk buzzed the back yard once again. It has been cooler than normal for most of the past year, from what I've observed. The recent single-digit temperatures remind me how thankful we should be to all the sheep who get shorn every year just so we "hairless apes" can stay warm and comfy during these bleak months. I love wool!

This Dark-eyed junco is one of the nicer things about the winter months. You can see them occasionally in the higher elevations in Virginia during the summer, but here in the lowlands they are only seen from October or November through April.



Andrew Clem archives

December 24, 2004 [LINK]

Merry Christmas in D.C.!

Thanks to common sense and perhaps just a bit of goodwill shown by D.C. political leaders toward each other, baseball fans in Washington and Virginia will enjoy glad tidings this Yuletide for the first time in a generation. But what about the New Year? Well, that's another matter. You may notice that the "current likelihood" of baseball in D.C. (displayed in the upper left of the Baseball page is only 98 percent. Why isn't it 100 percent? Just ask Peter Angelos, who is still haggling over distribution of revenues from broadcasts and would not hesitate to file an injunction to get his way, and Marion Barry, who is about to take a seat on the D.C. Council and no doubt relishes the prospect of throwing his weight around once again. The passage of the stadium funding bill supposedly contained ironclad procedural safeguards to prevent it being reversed, but anything is possible in Our Nation's Capital, especially with a crafty politician like Barry. Indeed, according to Thursday's Washington Post,

[Councilman Vincent] Orange said that the maneuver effectively tabled a reconsideration of the legislation forever because no date was attached to the motion.

But, according to Phyllis Jones, the council's secretary, such a maneuver is meaningless. Jones said that a simple majority of the 13-member council could vote to undo the tabling.

Even though chances that the Nationals won't play in D.C. are negligible, there are sure to be all sorts of polemical fireworks, scary showdowns, work stoppages, and assorted mayhem as this l-o-n-g overdue relocation and construction of the new stadium go forward.

December 24, 2004 [LINK]

Turf battle

The D.C. United soccer team will play its first game in RFK Stadium next year on April 9, five days before the Washington Nationals do. The plan is to cover the baseball infield with a layer of grass with a special clay backing that enables it to be rolled up and stored for a few days. According to the Washington Post, "It will take two days to transform the playing surface from baseball to soccer and three days from soccer to baseball." This should be interesting... Stay tuned for a soccer version of the diagram on the RFK Stadium page.

Web site updates...

The Baseball in D.C. page has been partly updated (the chronology is still lacking) and now includes the table listing the D.C. Council members and their votes on the stadium bill, with a "racial profile." Contrary to the presumption that baseball boosters are white folks, five of the six African-American council members voted "yes" on the stadium bill, while only two of the seven white members did. On the Baseball page, the list of stadiums in the left hand column is now arranged in alphabetical order of the city in which they are located, rather than by franchise, in the respective leagues and divisions.


Andrew Clem archives

December 31, 2004 [LINK]

2004: A truly amazing year!

So what was the biggest baseball story in 2004? As if there is any doubt: The Curse was Reversed! (Or "eclipsed," that is, if you recall the lunar phenomenon that night.) The steroid scandal and the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington probably rank a close second and third behind the Red Sox long-awaited World Series triumph. Among individual player accomplishments, Randy Johnson's perfect game against Atlanta in May stands out, as well as Ken Griffey Jr.'s 500th home run and Barry Bonds' 700th.* Other milestones that may soon be forgotten include the publication of Pete Rose's autobiography and the passing away of former Reds owner Marge Schott. As for stadiums, the opening of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and PETCO Park in San Diego turned out to be great successes, certainly more so than Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark debut in 2003. Don't forget about the upper-deck truncation and re-roofing of U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, a commendable effort to make up for poor original design work. Construction of the new ballpark in St. Louis (Busch Stadium III) got into full swing, while politicians in Miami and Minneapolis kept haggling over financing of new stadiums in their downtowns. On the grim side, the Yankees announced plans to replace Yankee Stadium with a smaller, luxury-oriented venue next door. Boooo!!!

Done deals in D.C. & N.Y.?

On Wednesday D.C. Mayor Tony Williams signed the bill authorizing $535 million in bonds for the construction of the new baseball stadium in Washington. This supposedly marks an end to the long and perilous process of laying the groundwork for the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, but you never know what surprises some of the key players may have in store.

Arizona has tentatively agreed to terms with the Yankees by which Randy Johnson will finish his career pitching in The Bronx. Just like Roger Clemens -- or so we thought! Their front office is still studying the terms to make sure they get their money's worth, and Commissioner Selig must approve the deal, since it involves so much money.

Play ball?

Has anyone noticed there were games being in two baseball stadiums in the last few days? Navy beat New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl at SBC Park in San Francisco (formerly Pac Bell Park), and Oregon State defeated Notre Dame in the Insight.com Bowl at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix.


Andrew Clem archives

December 31, 2004 [LINK]

Tsunami: 9/11 times 50?

The scale of destruction and death around the rim of the Indian Ocean is simply incomprehensible. The death toll has risen to 117,000 and will probably climb much higher. Even if relief workers manage get a handle on the situation, it will probably be weeks before an accurate assessment of the damage to property is made. Whole islands have been obliterated. Writing a measly check seems so hopelessly inadequate in this situation, but like voting, it's the sort of tiny gesture that yields huge effects when done en masse.

American Red Cross
Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013

It is times like these that the term international community has some real meaning. Sadly, however, it only took two days for this disaster to become politicized. U.N. official Jan Egeland accused the U.S. and some other Western countries of being "stingy," even before the magnitude of the calamity was fully grasped by most people. What was most annoying about his remarks was the suggestion that how much tax revenue a government collects is an indicator of the people's commitment to good causes. Well, of course, if you're a socialist. The Washington Post had virtually nothing on Mr. Egeland's words, but did print some stories that push the notion that Bush was not paying attention to the crisis for the first couple days. Daniel Drezner provides plenty of evidence to refute the "stingy" charg. The United States gives 2.34 cents per capita per day in relief aid, much less than the altruistic Scandinavian countries, but nosing out France and Canada by a whisker. In any event, the early pledges of money mean very little, as much more will be donated to South Asian countries in one form or another in coming months. Colin Powell spoke very effectively about the active role the United States is playing, and it makes me very sad that someone with his high stature and ability is leaving the State Department. Finally, Josh Marshall heaped scorn on President Bush for allegedly "badmouthing" Bill Clinton. What really happened was that a White House spokesman defended President Bush's low profile by making a tart reference to the previous president's compassion-mongering, with that ubiquitous four-word cliche.

December 31, 2004 [LINK]

Susan Sontag

One of the Left's leading voices passed away this week. Ms. Sontag offended many people by her sharp denunciations of U.S. policies, and for rejecting the notion that the 9/11 attacks were a barbarian atrocity. In her view, it is arrogant and erroneous to assume that we belong to the civilized world and those who attacked us are savages. Generally, speaking, there is some truth in such a relativistic view of global conflict, but she picked an inappropriate case to make the argument. It's like when Michael Dukakis reacted so coldly to the hypothetical question of what if his wife were raped and murdered in 1988. For an American not to get angry about 9/11 reflects a certain lack of humanity. The superb literary critic Henry Allen had a good piece on her in Wednesday's Washington Post:

Sontag, who died Tuesday at the age of 71, had the gift of fame, which is to say she possessed charisma, which may be why she ended up being called overrated, the fate of charismatic people. I had read more about her than by her.

Even so, she was always the center of attention, one of the world's most quoted figures. I remember well the uproar the followed a comment she made back in 1982, as quoted by Allen:

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only the Nation or the New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

Indeed so. Ms. Sontag must be given credit for her intellectual honesty, if not for good judgment.

December 31, 2004 [LINK]

Radical utopians, here and there

Cathy Seipp, writing in the National Review notes that a group blog in Los Angeles called Martini Republic that the pro-democracy blog Iraq the Model is just a front operation of the CIA. It's not true, but such a belief typifies the conspiracy mongering on that side of the political spectrum these days. Which reminds me, many if not most Americans would probably say the religious fascists in the Muslim world have more in common with the Religous Right in the United States than with the Secular Left. So why does it so often seem that the Left is rationalizing atrocities committed by the Islamo-fascists? Anyway, Seipp goes on,

I did come across a good explanation in David Horowitz's new book Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left. Horowitz's theory is "the utopian future that embodies the idea of 'social justice'" connects radical Islam and its sympathizers with yesterday's Marxists: "It is this utopian vision that provides radicals with the standard of judgment that condemns the actually existing world, no matter how decent it may be." So therefore America and its friends, like Iraq the Model, are automatically suspect.

I like what Horowitz has to say, though he's often a bit too harsh. His previous book Radical Son exposes from a first-hand perspective the descent into hypocrisy and bitterness of the post-1960s American Left. My lifelong political journey has paralleled his in many ways.

December 31, 2004 [LINK]

More recounts!

As expected, Viktor was the victor in the recent "do-over" elections in Ukraine -- Viktor Yushchenko, that is. Oddly, however, Viktor was also the loser -- Viktor Yanukovych, that is. Perhaps inspired by Al Gore, the latter is pursuing a challenge to the election, and both sides are mobilizing for a possible mass confrontation in the streets. This would seem to be a humiliating setback in prestige for Vladimir Putin; might some other hardliner wannabe rulers in Moscow start contemplating pushing him aside?

In Washington state, the Democratic candidate Christine Gregoire won in the second recount after several hundred "missing" ballots were discovered in heavily Democratic King County. As the Church Lady would say, "How convenient!" Republican Dino Rossi asked for a new election, like they did in Ukraine, but it's not going to happen.

In Ohio, the recount narrowed President Bush's margin of victory slightly, but it's still a difference of over 112,000 votes, validating John Kerry's wise decision to accept reality and avoid a slow descent toward a second American civil war. Many of Kerry's more zealous supporters refuse to accept the election outcome, however, and are planning to disrupt the inauguration ceremonies on January 20.

Finally, in Puerto Rico, the pro-status quo (commonwealth) candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila defeated by a tiny fraction the pro-statehood candidate for governor, Pedro Rossello, who was governor from 1993-2001. The margin was about 3,600 votes, or 0.18 percent of all votes cast. The pro-independence candidate Ruben Berrios received only 2.74 percent of the votes.


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