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October 1, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Grand slams by the Nationals
Home run expert Bruce Orser was intrigued by my summary of walk-off home runs hit by Washington Nationals players yesterday, and asked me how many grand slams they have hit. Good question! So, I pored through my game-by-game tabulations, and came up with an answer: 15. Here they are, in chronological order.
- Aug. 4, 2005 -- Brad Wilkerson; WSH 7, LAD 0
- Apr. 18, 2006 -- Ryan Church; WSH 10, PHI 3 @
- Apr. 22, 2007 -- Ryan Zimmerman; FLA 12, WSH 6 * @
- May 12, 2007 -- Ryan Zimmerman; WSH 7, FLA 3 *
- May 22, 2007 -- Felipe Lopez; WSH 8, CIN 4 @
- July 4, 2007 -- Dmitri Young; WSH 6, CHC 0
- Apr. 24, 2008 -- Felipe Lopez; WSH 10, NYM 5
- May 28, 2008 -- Jesus Flores; WSH 6, SD 4 @
- July 1, 2008 -- Ronnie Belliard; WSH 9, FLA 6 @
- May 24, 2009 -- Adam Dunn; WSH 8, BAL 5
- July 25, 2009 -- Adam Dunn; WSH 13, SD 1
- July 27, 2009 -- Josh Willingham; WSH 14, MIL 6 @
- July 27, 2009 -- Josh Willingham; WSH 14, MIL 6 @ (yes, twice in one game)
- Aug. 22, 2009 -- Ronnie Belliard; MIL 11, WSH 9
- Sept. 30, 2009 -- Justin Maxwell; WSH 7, NYM 4 *
* = 9th inning
@ = away game
Phillies, Rockies clinch
After the second-place Atlanta Braves were defeated by the third-place Florida Marlins last night, the Philadelphia Phillies clinched the NL Eastern Division, as expected. I saw a video clip of the post-game celebrations in the clubhouse, and concluded that they and other teams are getting carried away with all the champagne-drenching festivities. If you want to whoop it up that much, why not wait until you have at least won the league pennant?
This afternoon, the Colorado Rockies nailed down at least the NL Wild Card slot, beating the Milwaukee Brewers. If they sweep the Dodgers in Los Angeles this weekend, they will take the NL Western Division for the first time ever. And so, the Braves are left out of post-season contention once again, which means they won't be as motivated in the series against the Nationals that is just getting underway.
October 1, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Three's Company? Hello, Lucy!
About the same time that Princess had emergency surgery nearly one month ago, we decided it was time to get a new female companion for Luciano. We shopped around at several pet stores in the area and finally found a suitably attractive female canary at a place in Charlottesville. Because of her resemblance to Luciano, with a somewhat paler shade of yellow, we decided to name the newest avian arrival in the Clem household "Lucy."
Jacqueline and I were rather nervous about how this potentially unstable "love triangle" might turn out, so we kept Lucy in the cage for the first few days. That way, all the birds could get familiar with each other before any misunderstandings took place and led to squabbles. Luciano was very curious about the new bird, and vice versa. When we finally let Lucy out she started flying without too much difficulty, to our surprise, but learning to land was a bit of a problem. Even after a few weeks, she is still a little awkward in the air. She has an amazing appetite, and loves to eat apple slices. It took her a while to develop a taste for some of the "gourmet" greens we serve: broccoli, basil flowers, and cabbage flowers. Princess and Luciano just love those treats, so Lucy gradually followed suit. Occasionally she and Luciano get into brief arguments, flying around each other like a spiral. For the most part, however, they get along fine, and she seems to enjoy staying close to him, which is a good sign. Lucy also likes to visit Princess and eat at her food dish sometimes. I think Princess enjoys the extra company, and there doesn't seem to be any jealousy or resentment. In sum, the first month of this little avian "situation comedy" has gone very well.
Our newest canary, Lucy, eating an apple slice. (Sept. 2009)
Also see Luciano (Jan. 2008)
and Princess (Apr. 2001)
Soon after we brought Lucy home, we noticed that she frequently coughs or wheezes. We were hoping that exposure to fresh air and sunlight (she just loves to sit in the sun for extended periods) would clear up her respiratory condition, but it pretty much stayed the same. So, yesterday I took her to the vet, who gave her some medication that is supposed to kill the tiny mites that often afflict birds. Diagnosis is difficult with such a small, delicate patient. Lucy seemed a little better today, but it will be a few more days before we know whether the treatment has been effective.
Thankfully, Princess has made a full recovery and she is glad not to have to take the antibiotic medicine twice a day any more. The left leg is healing where the infected foot was amputated, and she is more or less accustomed to getting around as best she can. She is calling once again, a sign that her former vigor is returning. Jacqueline is very happy and relieved that Princess is going to be OK.
For his part, Luciano has resumed singing on a regular basis once again. He had gotten out of practice during the summer molting months, and it took him a couple weeks of practice before he could vocalize strong, clear notes like he used to. It remains to be seen how he and Lucy will get along when mating season comes around...
October 1, 2009 [LINK / comment]
McDonnell widens his lead
According to the latest Rasmussen poll (hat tip to Augusta Free Press), Bob McDonnell has regained a sizeable lead over Creigh Deeds in the Virginia Governor's race: It's now McDonnell 51%, Deeds 42%. That's about what the margin was before the flap over McDonnell's 1989 grad school paper laying out an ambitious social policy agenda based on rather quaint notions about gender roles in American families. (See Sept. 3.) The previous narrowing of the gap in the immediate aftermath of that revelation turned out to be a mere "temporary blip," just as I expected. McDonnell is not taking Deeds' charges lying down, and he is reacting to them in a carefully calibrated way. Keeping cool and composed under pressure is one of the hallmarks of effective leadership, and McDonnell has met every such test along the way so far.
To me it is reassuring that McDonnell's campaign is maintaing its focus, and that the people of Virginia are not letting themselves be swayed by irrelevant diversionary tactics. In contrast, the Deeds campaign seems to be flailing about, searching for some theme that will "stick," almost reminding me of the unsuccessful Kilgore campaign in 2005.
Marrow on "free money"
In a letter to the editor in yesterday's News Leader, Steve Kijak called attention to a recent awkward comment by Greg Marrow. The Democratic candidate is vying for the seat held by Del. Steve Landes, criticizing Republicans for turning down the $125 million stimulus because they refused to extend unemployment benefits, as required by the Federal stimulus legislation. Marrow saw this as "free money," which was given up to other states, conveniently forgetting where the money came from in the first place.
"Use it or lose it." That is an all-too-common mentality in government, and many social programs contain such perverse incentives that lead to waste of public money. The same thing goes for many health benefit programs: You get X number of dollars per year, and if you don't spend it by December 31 (or whatever the deadline is), it's gone forever. And that is precisely why all the talk of eliminating "waste" under the public option of Obamacare is so absurd. Everyone in the country will be frantically trying to squeeze every bit of benefit from the public health care system that they can.
October 4, 2009 [LINK / comment]
"10-4, over and out": season ends
It's weird to be playing regular season baseball games this late in the autumn (10/4/09), but I can't complain about the way things turned out for the Nationals. Whereas the luckless "D.C. 9" started the 2009 season by losing seven games in a row, they managed to pull themselves together at the very end, winning their last seven games. No other team in baseball finished the 2009 season with a winning streak longer than four. The best previous season-ending performance by the Nationals was in 2007, when they went 5-2 in their final seven games. Last year they went 1-6. It is the very first time they have won their final game of the season. Hopefully, this is a positive omen for the 2010 season. The last-minute hot streak couldn't have come at a better time for interim manager Jim Riggleman, whose job hangs in the balance. (Among the candidates for a permanent replacement is the Mets' former manager Bobby Valentine.) The Nats were 26-61 (.299) under Manny Acta this year, and 33-42 (.440) under Riggleman.
This afternoon's game was an amazing pitchers' duel, as J.D. Martin went six innings and only gave up one run. In the seventh, Adam Dunn pinch-hit and got an RBI single, evening the score. It is noteworthy that none of the veteran sluggers were in the Nats' original lineup, whereas most of the Braves best players were; they didn't want to end the season getting swept at home. In almost every one of the extra innings the Nats got a runner on base, but failed to capitalize on it. In the 14th inning, Ryan Zimmerman doubled, but Wil Nieves somehow couldn't score from first base, and nothing came of that opportunity. In the 15th inning, Elijah Dukes walked and Alberto Gonzalez singled to left-center field, getting the go-ahead RBI. The Braves advanced runners to second and third base in the bottom of the inning, but Logan Kensing hung in there and struck out Brooks Conrad to end the game. See MLB.com. Whew! I was glad that Rigglemen gave Kensing a chance to test his mettle; this experience will do him good in the future. (If he had screwed up, I would have felt otherwise!) Until today, the longest game played by the Nationals this year was 12 innings, which they did four times.
Yesterday's game was just as dramatic, but not quite as long. The Nats scored a run in the first inning thanks to an RBI single by Ryan Zimmeran, and held a slim lead until the Braves tied it 2-2 in the sixth inning. The game went into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Cristian Guzman pinch-hit a double that scored two runs, but then the Braves managed to tie the game 4-4 in the bottom of the inning. In the eleventh, Justin Maxwell hit a two-run homer that proved to be the decisive play of the game. When Zack Segovia came in as a reliever, I started to cringe, remembering how he almost gave up a six-run lead on September 10. Once again, he allowed multiple runners to reach base, but this time it wasn't fatal to the team, as the Nats hung on to win, 6-4.
TRUE ANECDOTE: When I was in Denver two months ago, a fan saw my Washington cap and expressed his condolences. I pointed out to him that the Nationals were on an eight-game winning streak, the hottest team in the majors -- for a brief moment. He seemed unaware of that, and probably didn't believe me. And so, once again, the lowly Nats are (temporarily) at the top of the MLB heap!
The Minnesota Twins won their last four games of the season, pulling even with the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central race yesterday. Today the Tigers finally beat the White Sox, averting a sweep at home in Detroit, and forcing a tie-breaking playoff game with the Twins, to be played at the Metrodome on Tuesday. The Metrodome will "retire" as a baseball venue after this season, and the Twins' opponents must be wondering whether the notorious indoor noise advantage will once again tilt the games in Minnesota's favor.
Ted Williams head games
From the "Stranger Than Fiction" Department: Lab workers at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona were allegedly playing around with the the frozen head of baseball legend Ted Williams, and possibly mutilated it. See New York Daily News, via David Pinto.
October 4, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Are conservatives "brain dead"?
In the Outlook section of today's Washington Post, Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute* scrutinizes the contemporary Conservative Movement: "Is Conservatism Brain Dead?" (The title made me think of the 2005 Terri Schiavo tragedy, and the misguided congressional intervention therein.) Money quote:
During the glory days of the conservative movement, from its ascent in the 1960s and '70s to its success in Ronald Reagan's era, there was a balance between the intellectuals, such as Buckley and Milton Friedman, and the activists, such as Phyllis Schlafly and Paul Weyrich, the leader of the New Right. The conservative political movement, for all its infighting, has always drawn deeply from the conservative intellectual movement, and this mix of populism and elitism troubled neither side.
Today, however, the conservative movement has been thrown off balance, with the populists dominating and the intellectuals retreating and struggling to come up with new ideas. The leading conservative figures of our time are now drawn from mass media, from talk radio and cable news. We've traded in Buckley for Beck, Kristol for Coulter, and conservatism has been reduced to sound bites.
Exactamundo! In one sense, Hayward's argument is so obvious that it almost doesn't need stating. The problem is that many people on the Right side remain utterly and blissfully ignorant of the dead-end path we are currently on; they are "whistling in the dark." Many have been cheered that "Obamacare" is momentarily stalled, which is good news indeed, but they seem to think that the "tea party" movement heralds the incipient rebirth of Reaganism, even though none of that movement's leaders have articulated a coherent concrete ideology or policy platform. Meanwhile, the "birthers" who remain fixated on President Obama's place of birth make us all look silly. Hayward rightly acknowledges that even some of the more "colorful" voices on the Right (e.g., Glenn Beck) sometimes do raise very good arguments, in between their rants. He makes the point I have often advanced, that the absence of serious alternative ideas and policies severely undermines conservatism's potential appeal to mainstream Americans. In this age of attention-deficit New Media, as he says, it will be a huge challenge to carry out the vital task of enlightening the public.
Gratuitous self-serving remark: I have often longed wistfully (see March 14 or September 17 -- second item in both cases) that intellectuals such as George Will or David Brooks would get more respect from Republicans, but these days, anyone with a graduate degree is suspected of being a "RINO." (!) Such a state of affairs would have been deeply distressing to William F. Buckley Jr., who died just last year.
For the record, I referred to the Republican Party as "intellectually comatose" way back in December 2005, referring in particular to the failure to deal with the pressing issue of illegal immigration. (For me, that's pretty sharp language.) I wrote that back when I thought that open, constructive dialogue within the Republican Party was still possible. I learned otherwise in 2007 and 2008.
On a related note, two new books on contemporary politics just arrived from Amazon.com a couple days ago, and I have been eagerly devouring them. They provide much food for thought, and therefore, blogging. Stay tuned!
* For you folks in Rio Linda, AEI is a conservative public policy organization.
October 6, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Twins win AL Central tie-breaker
The tie-breaking game held in the Metrodome this evening turned out to be quite a thriller, with the lead going back and forth. The Minnesota Twins went ahead 4-3 in the seventh inning, and then the Detroit Tigers tied the game 4-4 in the eighth, leading to extra innings. In the 10th inning, both teams scored one run, and in the top of the 12th inning the Tigers had the bases loaded with one out, on the verge of taking control. The Twins prevented any runs from scoring, however, and pinch-hit single by Alexi Casilla (??) in the bottom of the 12th inning gave the Twins the winning margin, 6-5. The Twins thus become the AL Central Division champions after 163 games, and face the Yankees in New York tomorrow night. See MLB.com. Tonight's game would have been played last night, except that Monday Night Football was taking place. (The Vikings under Brett Favre beat Favre's former team, the Packers.) Stadium workers had to do a rush job in converting the Metrodome back to baseball use today. Another baseball postseason in the Metrodome: here we go again...
On the other side of downtown Minneapolis, meanwhile, Target Field is apparently ready for baseball.; see baseball-fever.com. (Hat tip to Bruce Orser.) They ought to force the Twins to play their post-season games there, if you ask me. And speaking of which, I gotta get crackin' on that diagram...
October 7, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Road trip 2009 photos: Midwest
The final set of photos from my Great Road Trip 2009 has now been posted: Midwest 2009, with "Midwest" being defined very broadly. (It sounds better than "Miscellaneous," at least.) That photo gallery page includes scenes from Nebraska and Missouri, as well as Ohio and even Kentucky. Indeed, it was the first time I had ever spent much time exploring the "Bluegrass state" of Kentucky. As suggested by the photographs I took, the state economy seems to depend heavily on alcohol and tobacco. (BATF -- What about firearms?) At the bottom of that page are panoramic views of three city skylines (Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Cincinnati) as well as the arch in Nebraska, seen in the montage below.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: Old Crow distillery in Kentucky, Windmill in Nebraska, Court house in St. Louis, Tobacco plants in Kentucky, Nature preserve in Nebraska, Maritime Museum in Ohio, Arch over Interstate 80, Nebraska.
Note that I previously posted batches of photos from that trip on:
Baseball stadiums (on Aug. 16),
Washington, D.C. (posted on Aug. 18),
Birds of August, 2009 (posted on Aug. 23), and
Colorado (posted on Sept. 25).
Almost all of those photos were made possible by virtue of the good, old-fashioned passenger automobile. Even though under a tight schedule, I took full advantage of the opportunities to explore roadside attractions all across the Fruited Plain, including several fascinating places I never would have seen otherwise. Now does anyone still think it's better to travel via air??
October 7, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Bell and Curren debate on TV
The two candidates for the Virginia 20th District House of Delegates seat debated last night on WHSV-TV3. (One of the questioners was Cindy Correll from the News Leader, which has a link to a video replay adjacent to that news story.) There were no big dramatic moments or gaffes, and the exchange was very civil, focusing on the issues. Early on, Republican Dickie Bell explained the delay in arranging the debates on the basis of Democrat Eric Curren's abrupt "invitation" to debate that was issued via the news media rather than to Bell himself. That kind of gesture seems like grandstanding, and I can sympathize with Bell's irritation at the less-than-courteous way it was done.
The Democrat Curren says he wants to "modernize" Virginia's tax bracket so as to keep pace with the rate of inflation. Now there's a clever euphemism for "increase"! He also supports the "right to work," but then qualified that by saying that term is not properly understood, as a prelude to expressing support for labor unions. A dazzling exhibition of fence-straddling, ladies and gentlemen! Well, anyone who belongs to the same party as President Obama will have to resort to some creative rhetorical maneuvers to win in a conservative area such as this. Curren is still a little awkward in public speaking, and he seemed to strain just a bit to establish his experience in private business. Clearly, he hopes to appeal to moderate voters.
For his part, the Republican Bell maintained a calm but direct demeanor throughout the debate. As he said, his voting record on the Staunton City Council is well-known to all, and his credentials as a "small-government conservative" are unassailable. As for transportation, he mentioned creative financial tools to pay for needed improvements, but sounded pessimistic about the issue in general, doubting that it will be solved any time soon. (I happen to agree with him that toll roads may be necessary at some point.) Bell agreed in part with Curren that "rail can be part of the solution. I don't think it's the total solution..." He also expressed mild skepticism about the whole "green jobs" idea, which is one of Curren's main issues. Bell's common sense and sincerity make him appealing to a wide range of voters, and will serve him very well on Election Day.
Apparently, the question of Curren's eclectic blend of Christian and Buddhist religious beliefs did not come up during the debate, which is just as well.
October 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]
A-Rod: the new Mr. October!
As the MLB postseason 2009 begins, it is interesting to note that the home teams have won in six of the first seven games, a much higher proportion than last year.
But the really BIG news tonight comes from the Bronx. Move over Reggie Jackson, a new postseason Yankee hero has arrived! He's a bit late perhaps, having established a reputation for choking in the postseason ever since his arrival in 2004, but Alex Rodriguez sure came through in the clutch tonight! With two outs in the sixth inning, he singled in a run to tie the game 1-1, and in the bottom of the ninth (with no outs) he hit a two-run homer to tie the game again, 3-3. He single-handedly carried the Yankees, with all three RBIs in the first nine innings. Otherwise, the Twins would have tied the series 1-1 and enjoyed a big psychological advantage heading back home to the Metrodome. The Yankees had a golden opportunity to win it in the tenth inning, getting a runner to third with one out, but Johnny Damon lined into a double play. In the bottom of the eleventh inning, leadoff batter Mark Teixera hit a walk-off home run. Just like the good old days: the Yankees win!!!
It must feel good for A-Rod to be redeemed, at long last. Maybe his confessional about past steroid use (see Feb. 11) cleared his conscious enough to be able to fulfill the role of hero.
There was a good omen for A-Rod in the final game of the regular season, on October 4. In the sixth inning on Sunday, he hit a three-run homer and then a grand slam, as the Yankees scored all ten of their runs, beating the Rays, 10-2. In the process, A-Rod added seven RBIs to his yearly total, thereby reaching the 100 mark at the last possible moment.
Holliday: the new Buckner
All Matt Holliday had to do was catch a routine fly ball to left field yesterday, and the Cardinals would have evened the series against the Dodgers, 1-1. Instead, he muffed it, the runner reached second base, after which Ronnie Belliard (former National!) batted him home to tie the game, setting the stage for the Dodgers to win later that inning. As Homer Simpson would say, "D'oh!"
Modify Citi Field?
Some people blame the Mets' lousy season on the overly spacious new stadium they moved into this year. Citi Field is one of the least slugger-friendly venues in the majors, negating the Mets' offensive advantage. Apparently they are considering ways to shorten the outfield dimensions next year, but probably not by rebuilding the outfield walls, but rather by moving the diamond forward by ten feet or so. Since foul territory is so tight as it is, that probably makes sense. As reported bu the New York Times (hat tip to John Zajc of SABR),
While Shea, despite its reputation, gave up the ninth-most home runs of any park in the major leagues in 2008, Citi Field has given up the sixth fewest in 2009. The Mets have the fewest home runs at home of any team in the majors this season, with 47, and also have the fewest home runs over all, with 93.
Adam Dunn's home runs
Adam Dunn fell two short of his goal of hitting at least 40 home runs for the sixth year in a row. Until early September, it looked like he would make it with ease, but then he abruptly stalled, getting only one home run after Sept. 11. To his credit, he drove in the game-tying run in the final game of the season, helping the Nationals to beat the Braves in extra innings, completing a sweep. Here are his monthly home run totals, taken from MLB.com:
||Cumulative Home runs
October 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize
This morning's news from Sweden left jaws dropping all across America, and perhaps across the world. The idea that a president who has made such a low priority of foreign policy would receive the Nobel Peace Prize so early in his term, before he had any significant accomplishments, is simply too bizarre to digest. It will make for plenty of late-night comedy jokes, at least. Obama thus joins the ranks of other such nobel Nobel luminaries (?) as Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Yasser Arafat. See CNN.com.
All kidding aside, however, there is a very real legal complication stemming from the fact that Obama is the [third] sitting president to have received the award. As J.P. Freire notes at washingtonexaminer.com, Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
The Nobel Peace Prize carries with it a cash prize of about $1.4 million. Obama says he will donate it to charity, but that is beside the point. Unless Congress passes a resolution to approve of the award, it will be illegal -- no ifs, ands, or buts.
Finally, here's some witty wisdom from Facebook:
Steve Bragaw loves the delicious confluence of the President of the United States of America winning the Nobel Peace Prize on the same day that we are bombing the moon. (space.com)
Deeds: waffling compromiser
As more polls confirm that Bob McDonnell has a comfortable lead over Creigh Deeds, Democrats must be screaming at each other over what campaign approach to take. He faces quite a dilemma: Keep hammering away at the irrelevant 1989 thesis by McDonnell, which hasn't done much good so far, or appeal to moderate voters by disavowing any support for the increasingly unpopular "Obamacare" scheme? Well, maybe he can do both at the same time! The Washington Post recently had a psychological profile of candidate Creigh Deeds, calling attention to his notorious inability to take a firm stand on anything: "Raised to believe in the power of compromise, he tends to see pledges and specifics as just so many holes in a frayed fence that will require patching anyway."
Baucus health bill: $$$$
Speaking of Obamacare, the latest version of Senator Baucus's health plan will be up for a vote in the Senate Finance Committee next week. There were rumors that it would totally bust the budget, but after some arms were twisted at the Congressional Budget Office, a much more hopeful forecast emerged. Don't let such "rosy scenarios" fool you, folks. Take a look at Wall Street Journal Online (hat tip to Rep. Bob Goodlatte), where Stephen Moore explains the true cost of the proposal. If you look at the dirty details, a number of clever tricks are apparent. For example, businesses would only have to pay a $600 fine if they don't provide health insurance for their employees, which sounds relatively reasonable. The effect of such a provision, however, would be to encourage many current businesses to cease coverage for new employees, under the expectation that they would be covered under the envisioned expanded Medicaid system. That would be a "stealthy" form of the public option, under a different name. The true cost would be astronomical, and middle-class folks would shoulder the greatest burden.
October 10, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Republicans reunite in Verona
Republicans from all around the Augusta County area gathered in a huge "Republican Reunion and Family Picnic" at the Augusta County Farmer's Market Pavilion in Verona this afternoon. The barbecue meal and catering services were provided courtesy of Congressman Bob Goodlatte, who served as master of ceremonies, introducing the various speakers. After looking closely at the photos I took, I estimate that at least 300 people were in attendance. The speakers, in approximate order:
- Bob Goodlatte, U.S. Congress, 6th District
- Jean Shrewsbury, Augusta County Commissioner of Revenue
- Ben Cline, House of Delegates, 24th District *
- Steve Landes, House of Delegates, 25th District *
- Dickie Bell, candidate for House of Delegates, 20th District
- Bill Bolling, Lieutenant Governor *
- Bob McDonnell, candidate for Governor
* candidates for reelection
Congressman Goodlatte talked about how important it is for citizens to take action to prevent the Obama agenda from going through. He also praised the candidates and introduced local party leaders. His friendly and gracious wife MaryEllen worked hard serving food to all of the hungry guests. Dickie Bell noted that he may be looking for a job in January if the Staunton School Board affirms to decision of the Superintendent to deny Bell's request for a leave of absence during the spring semester, when the Virginia legislature is in session. Bill Bolling gave a spirited address, and Bob McDonnell later thanked him for deferring his aspirations for the governor's chair. By putting the party's interests first, Bolling avoided another split within the GOP, which is badly enough divided as it is. McDonnell ended his speech with a strong affirmation of limited government, drawing hearty cheers.
(I forgot to tell Lt. Gov. Bolling how impressed my students were with his mastery of parliamentary procedure as presiding officer of the Virginia State Senate when our class toured the State Capitol last February. I'll have to write him a letter.)
At today's event, I saw a number of people for the first time in several months, or even years, and I also met some new folks who have recently become active in the party. It was quite gratifying to see such a large, friendly, and enthusiastic group of Republicans. (Speaking of which, this event certainly bears out today's Washington Post article: "Virginia Republicans are heading into the homestretch of a campaign season with a level of enthusiasm unparalleled in recent years...") It seems that all the strife of the past three years has ended, as the former leaders who wrought such havoc and spread so much distrust and hard feelings have finally left the public arena. Republicans may not see eye to eye on everything -- I am living proof of that -- but we are gradually learning to work with each other again. The alternative of total domination by Democrats under President Obama is just not acceptable.
Hundreds of people enjoyed the Republican barbecue in Verona.
Republican signs were all around the Augusta County Government Center.
Bill Bolling and Ruth Talmage
Bill Bolling and Andrew Clem
Bob McDonnell speaks in Verona.
Corey Stewart visits
The chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Corey Stewart, was the featured speaker at the "Valley GOP" * breakfast which was held (for the first time) in the Country Cookin' restaurant in Staunton this morning. Stewart has been heavily criticized by the Washington Post and various liberal groups for taking a lead role in confronting the problem of illegal immigration in PWC. One of the pivotal moments was a controversial vote by the PWC Board in October 2007, requiring county officials to verify legal residence status for people seeking public services. Stewart's tough stand was vindicated one month later when he won reelection by a 55%-45% margin. He told local Republicans that he was once burned in effigy, a special distinction for a public official. But the actual results made it all worth it: Stewart told us that because of the exodus of illegal immigrants from PWC, one hospital saved $5.8 million last year, and violent crime in the county fell by 36.8%. When prudent and courageous leaders step forward and put their reputation on the line, good things happen.
* As opposed to the Mountain Valley Republicans, who have been meeting in that restaurant for over a year. Mere coincidence?
October 13, 2009 [LINK / comment]
MLB playoffs: three quick sweeps
So far, the 2009 baseball postseason has been pretty routine, as the team with the home field advantage has won each of the four first-round series. In fact, three of those series were swept, and the other one was won in four games. That means that TBS won't be earning as much TV ad revenue as they had projected, so maybe they'll be less likely next year to participate in the monopoly-scam by which MLB currently runs its broadcasting licenses. If so, good. (They could just as easily have split the first-round games between TBS and FOX.) Another side-effect of the rapid conclusion of the divisional series is that in each case, the deciding game was won by the visiting team, so there wasn't much fan excitement.
Both teams from Los Angeles, [and the AL team from] New York swept their opponents in the first round, thereby advancing to the league championship series. So, we could have a first-ever all-L.A. "freeway series," or a repeat of the historic Yankee-Dodger rivalry, or a contest between two long-suffering teams that finally became world champions in recent years (Angels vs. Phillies). I'm going with the second alternative scenario.
"Rocktober"? Not! Unlike the Red Sox, Cardinals, and Twins, at least the Colorado Rockies won one of their playoff games, but the Saturday game was snowed out, which may have been a bad omen. The Phillies eked out narrow one-run wins on Sunday (late night) and Monday. It's not unexpected that the world champions would prevail, but it's too bad the Denver fans didn't get to see a postseason victory in Coors Field again. The last time such a series took place, in October 2007, the Red Sox swept the Rockies.
Stalling for time, losing fans
It seems that every year they figure out new ways to prolong the MLB postseason, creating more and more "dead time" during which fans' attention drifts toward football, basketball, or hockey. Every time a series shifts from one city to another, there is a rest day, as though air travel did not yet exist (!), plus one extra day in the divisional series and two extra days in the league championship series. Those extra days are aimed at eliminating any possibility of overlap, which would reduce TV viewership. Then there are two more days of rest between the league championship series and the World Series. I will never understand how the big MLB honchos who decided such things can be so blind to the damage they are doing to fan interest in Our National Pastime. There is no excuse for taking more than a single calendar week to play a postseason series, and they ought to be able to wrap up the World Series by the third week of October. PERIOD.
Metrodome is renamed
The 4-1 victory by the Yankees on Sunday was the last MLB game ever to be played at the Metrodome, or as it is now called, the "Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome." What-ever! The naming rights contract went into effect on October 5, and will terminate in 2012. The NFL Vikings are now the only tenant, as the Twins pack up their belongings and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers move into brand-new TCF Bank Stadium. See Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; hat tip to Mike Zurawski. The Vikings hope to get public money for a major expansion/renovation of the Metrodome. I think they can afford to be patient for a couple years. Ironically, the Mall of America occupies the land on which the Twins' original home in Bloomington once stood: Metropolitan Stadium.
October 16, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Phillies get jump on Dodgers
The Philadelphia Phillies showed they really are World Champions last night, stunning the home team L.A. Dodgers in Game One of the NLCS. An even bigger surprise was which batters led the way: The catcher Carlos Ruiz hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning, and Raul Ibanez did the same in the eighth inning, giving the Phillies a comfortable 8-4 lead. The Dodgers scored twice in the ninth inning, rattling closing pitcher Brad Lidge, who still got credit for the save. See MLB.com.
UPDATE: The Dodgers struck back tonight, capitalizing on an erroneous throw to first base by second baseman Chase Utley in the eighth inning. That allowed the tying run to score, after which the Dodgers took the lead and went on to win, 2-1. That one play may have saved the Dodgers' hide in this series.
How far can Yanks go?
It's hard to believe, but this is the first year since 2004 that the Yankees have reached the AL Championship series. They made it to the postseason but only as far as the divisional series in three of the four years since then, and the last time they went all the way to a world championship was at the dawn of the century (and the millenium), the Year 2000. Starting with 1923 (when the original Yankee Stadium was built), the Bronx Bombers have won 26 World Series titles, which translates to about one every four years over the entire 1903-2008 period. Given the current eight-year drought they're in, I'd say they're about due!
The following table summarizes how far the Yankees have gone in each postseason of this century:
| 2007 ALDS
|| Failed to qualify.
The New York Times raises serious questions about whether the City of Miami can and should pay such a big portion of the new stadium for the Marlins. It will all depend on whether the Marlins can sustain attendance.
October 16, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Health care polemics heat up
As the Senate Finance Committee passed its version of Health care reform this week, lead responsibility for getting the legislation through Congress shifts from Sen. Max Baucus to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Will he somehow be able to craft a coherent, comprehensive package that lives up to everyone's diverse expectations and yet meets the bottom-line criteria of budgeteers? It's a pretty tall order. The only Republican committee member to vote in support of Obama's plan was Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, from Maine. She has been waffling on the health care issue for several months, and her explanation for voting in favor of the Democrats' bill was not very convincing. See Washington Post.
All across the nation, television viewers are being bombarded by advertisements on both sides of the health care issue. On the air waves, Glenn Beck, Keith Olberman, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow are all raging against the other side, and hardly any moderate voices are heard prominently. Anyone who hoped for some kind of consensus to emerge through the course of debates on Capitol Hill was sorely mistaken.
Here in the Shenandoah Valley, a "Hands Off My Health Care" rally was held in Waynesboro this morning, part of a multi-city bus caravan that is sponsored by Americans For Prosperity. Steve Kijak was there, and took several photos as well. In spite of the gloomy weather, about sixty high-spirited citizens (mostly near or past retirement age) showed up to voice their objections to the Democrats' health care proposals. The featured attraction was former Senator George Allen, who spoke with gusto about the evils that would come about under Obamacare. Unlike some other critics, however, Allen offered some very worthwhile reform proposals centered around the basic ideas of thrift (e.g., health savings accounts) and consumer choice (e.g., allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines). Many consider such virtues old fashioned, but I couldn't agree more with him. Next, the Republican candidate for attorney general, State Senator Ken Cuccinelli, talked about the legal and constitutional issues raised by Obamacare. Before the rally began, I was unsure of what to expect, but I came away very pleased with the tone and the convincing, rational arguments made by the speakers.
After the speeches were over, I got to meet Sen. Cuccinelli for the first time, and complimented him for talking about the constitutional issues that I have lectured about in my classes, such as the Tenth Amendment. (I always take pains to present both sides of issues in class, and do not preach any particular ideology.) I mentioned the book by Thomas Woods and Kevin Gutzman that I recently bought, Who Killed the Constitution? Overall, I was impressed by Cuccinelli's knowledge and clear style of delivery. He faces a tough election battle against Democrat Steve Shannon.
Ben Marchi (Americans For Prosperity), former state senate candidate Scott Sayre, attorney general candidate Ken Cuccinelli, and former Senator George Allen.
The "Hands Off My Health Care" rally drew about sixty people to downtown Waynesboro.
According to bloomberg.com, former Senator Tom Daschle said that senior citizens should get out of the habit of thinking that every affliction that comes with old age should be treated medically, but rather just accept their declining physical condition. Does that sound harsh to you? Well, if the Federal government takes over health care and continues its downhill slide in terms of fiscal responsibility, that kind of advice will be the only real choice.
McDonnell, Deeds debate
In their debate earlier this week, Bob McDonnell looked and sounded poised and knowledgeable, while Creigh Deeds came across as awkward and desperate. Deeds should have known better than to declare that his opponent "lied," a rhetorical hand-grenade that he failed to substantiate. Deeds failed to focus sharply enough on some of McDonnell's weak points, such as reliance on privatization of roads and liquor stores as a way to raise revenue without tax hikes. McDonnell is not only well-versed about the issues, with solid policy proposals, he has demonstrated a political astuteness that will serve him very well in the governor's mansion, should he be elected. Clearly, he ready to serve as governor, and Deeds is not.
Nobel Prize update
Has it been seven days since President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? Yes, it has. On Face the Nation last Sunday, Bob Schieffer said that this award will diminish the Nobel Prize, which seems pretty clear to me. As part of the "mainstream media," Schieffer made it clear he is sympathetic to Obama but fears -- rightly -- that the prize will be an albatross on Obama's shoulders, making the "International Community" look silly and validating the xenophobia of the right wing. Given how sensitive this moment is for Obama, who is pondering his options in Afghanistan, the Nobel Prize may have the effect of making it harder for him to retreat, even though he probably should.
I agree with
Daniel Drezner, who was "laughing at the morons on the Norwegian Nobel Committee who made this decision to cheapen an already devalued prize." It's pretty obvious that the prize was a repudiation of Bush II, pure and simple, just as the 2008 election was.
October 18, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Yankees take two from Angels
Alex Rodriguez continues to build on his new reputation as a postseason clutch hitter, as New York fans suffer through miserably cold, wet weather. In Game One of the ALCS in New Yankee Stadium on Friday night, he got things started off right with a sac fly RBI in the first inning. Right after that, Hideki Matsui launched an easy popup that fell right between third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar, both of whom just stood there. With light rain falling down, it's possible they might have lost the ball in the glare of the stadium lights. An ill omen for the Angels. Yankees' starter C.C. Sabathia held the Angels to just one run, as the Yankees won, 4-1.
Game Two last night was similar, with the Yankees taking an early lead, but the Angels tied it 2-2 in the fifth inning, and the game went into extra innings. In the top of the eleventh inning Chone Figgins hit an RBI single, giving the Angels the lead for the first time. Things looked bleak for the New York Nine, but when mighty A-Rod stepped up to the plate, everyone held their breath in nervous anticipation. Strike one! Strike TWO! But then, unlike Casey, A-Rod hit a home run to right field (conveniently short), drawing thunderous cheers and tying the game once again, 3-3. Yet another awesome clutch performance. After two more innings transpired, Angels second baseman Cesar Izturis made a big mistake trying to turn a double play, and his errant throw allowed Yankee pinch hitter Jerry Hairston, Jr. to score the winning run from second base. See ESPN. Hey, a win's a win, right?
The Saturday night game lasted until just after 1:00 in the morning, showing again how ridiculous it is to have baseball games start so late in the evening -- 7:57 in this case. How many little boys are going to stay up and watch those games?
Anyway, the Yankees now enjoy a big 2-0 advantage as the series heads out to Anaheim for the next
three four days. (Baseball players these days need extra rest, you know.) The Angels will presumably play better in the warm, sunny conditions to which they are accustomed.
"Oxide Super Stadium"?
I am among those who is intrigued by the new ABC sci-fi drama "Flash Forward", in which every human being on Earth (or almost every one) suddenly passes out simultaneously, causing massive chaos. Somehow, I seem to miss it every Thursday night, unfortunately. No matter, you can see the episode replays at abc.go.com. Another very conventient option is that you can buy the downloadable HD version (as I did) from Apple via the iTunes application. I bring this up because I recently learned from Phillip Killewald that a crucial scene takes place in a baseball stadium that does not look like any real-world stadium that I know of. At the very end of the first episode of "Flash Forward," an FBI specialist is looking at the video tape from a security surveillance camera at a baseball game in Detroit, noticing that a mysterious man in black is walking around while nearly everyone else on Earth is lying unconscious. A sign says "Oxide Super Stadium" (referring to the Rust Belt, perhaps?), and it is definitely not Comerica Park, which only has two decks and a much different-looking scoreboard in left field. Also, the city skyline beyond is definitely not Detroit. As near as I can tell, they spliced together pieces of either Camden Yards or Coors Field, together with some football stadium scoreboard, from which they derived this artificial synthesis:
Fictitious "Oxide Super Stadium," supposedly in Detroit. (spliced-together screen grabs)
Can anyone figure out where those stadium pieces came from? Feel free to comment below, or send me an e-mail message.
October 19, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Phillies dominate the Dodgers
Back home in cold and blustery Philadelphia, the Phillies crushed the L.A. Dodgers 11-0 last night, as starting pitcher Cliff Lee gave up only three hits over the course of eight innings. Jason Werth set the tone for the night by hitting a three-run homer in the first inning, and every Phillies player in the initial lineup scored at least one run. That's what you call a real team effort. See MLB.com. Evidently, the throwing error by Chase Utley that cost the Phillies Game Two has been forgotten. The Phillies now have a 2-1 series lead and the momentum is on their side as they aim for winning the series at home on Wednesday night, after a (pointless) day of rest on Tuesday.
World Series history
The Phillies' postseason success thus far leads us to contemplate various World Series match-ups. The only time the Yankees ever faced the Phillies in the World Series was in 1950, when they swept them, four games to none.
In contrast, the Yankees have faced the Dodgers in the World Series 11 times over the course of history, winning eight of them, of which six were when the Dodgers still resided in Brooklyn. Since the move to Los Angeles in 1958, however, the win-loss record in World Series between the two teams is an even 2-2.
Not to be discounted by any means are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, who won the only World Series they ever played in, beating the San Francisco Giants four games to three in 2002.
Cubs file for bankruptcy
No, it's not a sign of hopeless despair after going a full century without a World Series title, it's simply a legal step that will facilitate sale of the Cubs franchise by the already-bankrupt Tribune Corporation. They are relying on "Section 363 of the federal bankruptcy code, a tactic once used to shed failing plants or unused equipment." The Ricketts family is buying the Cubs and Wrigley Field for about $845 million. See chicagotribune.com; hat tip to Bruce Orser.
October 19, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Fog on Afton Mountain? (frown)
Whenever I hear on the morning TV weather reports that there is rain or fog on Afton Mountain on one of my commuting days, I start to get anxious. Rockfish Gap, where Interstate 64 and Route 250 cross the Blue Ridge just east of Waynesboro, is renowned for awful accidents involving multiple vehicles. For the past few days, it has been overcast, cold, and drizzly, discouraging travel just at the peak of fall foliage season when tourists flock to this area. Today, thankfully, we have bright skies once again, and I thought this photo I took at the start of a recent Augusta Bird Club field trip would be a good way to illustrate the nicer, scenic side of the dreaded words "Fog on Afton Mountain":
Afton Mountain fog, early in the morning on September 12. Click on this image to see a larger version.
October 21, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Phillies eliminate the Dodgers
For the rest of his life, Jimmy Rollins will be able to walk into any bar in Philadelphia, and somebody's going to buy him a beer. With two outs [and runners on first and second] in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday night, the Dodgers had a 4-3 lead and thought they had the series evened up, 2-2. Instead, Rollins doubled to deep right center field, and [Carlos Ruiz] scored the winning run. Final score: 5-4. Fans in Philadelphia were euphoric beyond measure, and even I cheered the improbably heroic deed, but meanwhile the spirits of the Dodger faithful were crushed. Hey, that's baseball for you.
Tonight, the Dodgers' Andre Ethier homered in the top of the first inning, rattling the nerves of Phillies ace pitcher Cole Hamel, but Jason Werth answered that with a three-run homer in the bottom of the inning. After that, the Phillies kept piling on more runs inning after inning. Walks and batters hit by pitches were what did the Dodgers in: Even though they got as many hits as the Phillies, the final score wasn't even close: 10-4, "over and out." Former Washington National Ronnie Belliard played very respectably in both the NLDS and NLCS, but he had the misfortune to be the last Dodger to bat, striking out.
And so, the Philadelphia Phillies [take the National League Championship Series four games to one. They] are going to the World Series for the second year in a row, something they have never done before. Congratulations to the City of Brotherly Love!
October 23, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Angels refuse to give up
After the Yankees won the first two games against the Angels in the American League Championship Series, the final outcome began to look inevitable, but after returning home to Anaheim, the Angels managed to bounce back. Game Three on Monday evening went to extra innings, just like Game Two, except that this time the Angels won, 5-4. All four of the Yankee runs came on solo home runs, and the one by Jorge Posada in the eighth inning tied the game at four apiece. But the hero of the game was Angels second-string catcher Jeff Mathis, who doubled in the winning run in the 11th inning. It was the fifth game in a row in which the Yankees had scored exactly four runs, which may be a postseason record. (I'll have to check.)
Game Four on Tuesday evening was a total onslaught by the Bronx Bombers, who won by a score of 10 to 1. C.C. Sabathia pitched nearly flawlessly for eight innings, and for the third straight game, Alex Rodriguez -- the new "Mr. October" -- hit a home run, as well as a double and a single. Johnny Damon, who has been in a slump, hit a homer as well, clearing the high wall in right field. Center fielder Melky Cabrera led the Yanks with four RBIs.
After a pointless non-travel "day of rest," Game Five on Thursday started off disastrously for the Yankees, as A.J. Burnett gave up four runs to the Angels before the first out was made. To his credit, he settled down and pitched into the seventh inning without giving up any more runs. By that time, the Yanks had regained the lead thanks to a sudden outburst of slugging in the seventh inning started by Mark Teixera, who cleared the bases with a very timely double. Alex Rodriguez was given an intentional walk, but then Hideki Matsui knocked in a run, and Robinson Cano batted in two more, making six total. It looked like the aura of Yankee invincibility had returned, but then the Angels took back the lead with three runs in the bottom of the inning, and won the game, 7-6. See MLB.com. Well, you gotta give credit to Jeff Mathis, Vladimir Guerrero, Kendry Morales, and Torii Hunter for their consistent hitting. Oddly, there were no home runs in Game Five.
As the ALCS returns to the Bronx tomorrow, expectations from New York fans will be high. Andy Pettitte will be the starting pitcher, but rain is in the forecast and could force a postponement.
The mail bag
Thanks to Scott Hollmeyer, Mark Komp, and of course Mike Zurawski and Bruce Orser for recent tips on ballparks, past and present. And my apologies to those others whose messages I haven't had time to digest and reply to as of yet...
October 23, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Health care vs. the Constitution
My friend and colleague Matthew Poteat wrote a letter that was published in the News Leader today, asserting that the Democrats' proposed health care program would be constitutional. He made some good points, but I felt compelled to respond with a comment:
While there are some precedents, such as the ones cited, for a broad interpretation of the Constitution that might justify a government-run health care program of limited scope, constitutionality is by no means a settled question. In the Helvering decision (1937) two justices switched sides because FDR threatened to "pack" the Supreme Court with sympathetic judges. Not exactly the finest hour for jurisprudence. The general thrust of the constitution is indisputably to LIMIT government power, and whenever a broad new power is asserted, such as the income tax, a constitutional amendment is required. A universal, mandatory health care program such as Congress is considering would fundamentally and permanently alter the relation between U.S. citizens and their government. If Congress passes an amendment authorizing such a program, and at least 38 states ratify it, fine. If not, it would be widely seen as a usurpation bordering on tyranny, rendering freedom almost meaningless.
A number of other people commented as well; quite a "hot-button" topic.
Coincidentally, an editorial in yesterday's Investors Business Daily decried the Democrats for "shredding" the Constitution. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer cited the "general Welfare" provision of Article 1, Section 8 as a justification to mandate universal insurance. That is indeed quite a stretch. Hat tip to Stacey Morris.
So why would Democrats take such a far-out position on constitutional law? Probably because they don't think they could get the necessary two-thirds of both houses to pass such an amendment to the Constitution, and even if they did, it would be a steep uphill battle to get the necessary three-fourths (38) of the states to ratify it. And anyway, how many people really care about the Constitution any more? That is the sobering theme covered by Thomas Woods and Kevin Gutzman in their book, Who Killed the Constitution?
Brooks on radio jocks
In other recent punditry, New York Times columnist David Brooks called attention to the Republican leadership's mistaken attention paid to polemical talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity. He concludes, "The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer's niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician's coalition-building strategy." Probably so. Hat tip to Connie.
Just yesterday I was disgusted when Rush started ranting about the government's pay cuts of the executives of firms that were bailed out under TARP last year, as though such measures constituted a socialist takeover of the private sector. He then suggested, Why not cut the pay of members of Congress by 90%? So, I turned him off. I frown on populist rhetoric, but those executives of AIG, Bank of America, CitiGroup, GM, and Chrysler have to be held accountable for the near collapse of the free market system which they helped bring about.
October 24, 2009 [LINK / comment]
The birds of October
As far as birding goes, all I've had time to do over the past month is some occasional brief forays, no extended field trips. The highlight this fall has been life bird #399: three Dunlins (a rather chunky species of sandpiper), at Leonard's Pond (north of Weyer's Cave) on October 16. (Conveniently, that sighting coincided with the Green Valley Book Fair!) Also seen there were a Green-winged teal (first of season), some Killdeers, and a graceful Common tern, which showed up just as I was about to leave.
Today was the annual Augusta Bird Club bird seed sale pickup day, in Verona, and on the way home I stopped along Bell's Lane, where I saw:
- Red-bellied woodpecker
- Yellow-rumped warblers
- ??? sandpiper (too far)
- Field sparrows
- Palm warbler
- White-throated sparrows
- White-crowned sparrows
- Field sparrow
- Sharp-shinned hawk (close!)
I also heard a Catbird in the bushes. I have also seen Phoebes and Brown thrashers there lately. Other sightings of note from earlier this month, mostly first-of-seasons:
- Oct. 6: Common yellowthroat, Woods Mill (Rt. 29)
- Oct. 8: Black-throated blue warbler, Peaks of Otter
- Oct. 12: Yellow-bellied sapsucker, out back (FOS)
- Oct. 18: White-throated sparrows, Bell's Lane (FOS)
- Oct. 21: Yellow-rumped warblers, Bell's Lane (FOS)
- Oct. 21: White-crowned sparrows, Bell's Lane (FOS)
- Oct. 22: Red-headed woodpecker, Quillen's farm
The birds of late September
On September 21, I stopped at the Rockfish Gap, where Vic Laubach was standing (or sitting) vigil as part of the hawk watch. Nancy Davidson arrived just after I did, and we picked a good time. I was fortunate to spot an adult Peregrine Falcon passing along the east side of the Blue Ridge. I was pretty sure about the the identification, but Vic confirmed it. About 15 minutes later I spotted a dark raptor flying right past us at eve level. It turned out to be an immature Merlin, only the second I have ever seen. Later another adult Peregrine Falcon passed overhead, circled a couple times, and then resumed its southbound journey. Ironically, we didn't see any of the much more common falcon species, the Kestrel.
On September 24, I was driving home along the Blue Ridge Parkway (scenic route), but didn't see much of interest until I spotted a Chestnut-sided warbler at the Rockfish Valley overlook. Also seen that day were an Ovenbird and a Hummingbird.
On September 27, I walked along the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad for the first time in several months. It was a pretty good day, with several neotropical migrants:
- Magnolia warblers
- Brown thrasher
- Common yellowthroats
- Warbling vireos
- White-breasted nuthatch
- Red-bellied woodpecker
October 27, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Yankees win their 40th pennant
For the 40th time in their 107-year history, the New York Yankees have won the American League pennant, beating the Los Angeles Angels four games to two. In Game Six, the Angels took a 1-0 lead in the third inning, but the Yanks came back with three runs in the fourth, and held on for the rest of the game. Vladimir Guerrero batted in a run in the eighth inning, closing the gap to one run, but the Yanks responded by capitalizing on errors to score two more runs in the bottom of the inning, sealing the Angels' doom. (That's an odd juxtaposition.) Andy Pettitte went for six-plus innings, and Mariano Rivera pitched the final two. Full coverage is at MLB.com, indicating that attendance was 50,173, the biggest number recorded at the new Yankee Stadium.
Brian Vangor was lucky enough to be at that game, and captured the celebratory moments with his camera:
After Mariano Rivera got the last out, the Yankees poured onto the field and celebrated. Photo courtesy of Brian Vangor.
Fans got to watch the postgame fun in the Yankee Clubhouse on the center field video screen. The forecast for "heavy showers" (with a chance of bubbles) turned out to be very accurate. Photo courtesy of Brian Vangor.
And so, Alex Rodriguez is finally going to the World Series, for the first time in his career. Since the last time the Yankees went to the Fall Classic (in 2003), the team roster has changed drastically. Of that team, only Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera still remain. It will also be the first such experience for star players Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia. Of course, Johnny Damon was one of the self-proclaimed "idiots" on the world champion Boston Red Sox team of 2004.
Of interest to ballpark aficionados is that fact that Yankee Stadium II has become the seventh stadium ever to host a World Series in its inaugural year. Here is the full list:
- 1909: Pittsburgh Pirates, in Forbes Field (won WS)
- 1911: New York Giants, in Polo Grounds (lost WS)
- 1912: Boston Red Sox, in Fenway Park (won WS)
- 1923: New York Yankees, in Yankee Stadium (won WS)
- 1970: Cincinnati Reds, in Riverfront Stadium (lost WS)
- 2006: St. Louis Cardinals, in Busch Stadium III (won WS)
- 2009: New York Yankees, in Yankee Stadium II (???)
Acta to manage Indians
In spite of the Washington Nationals' awful performance, I thought Manny Acta showed promise as a manager from 2008 through the middle of this year. For a variety of reasons, however, (personality conflicts?) he could no longer be effective in that role. As I noted on July 13, "I'm sure he'll get another chance to be a big-league manager before long." Indeed, it happened even quicker than I expected, as he was just hired by the Cleveland Indians to manage their team for the next two seasons, with an optional third-year contract extension. Another candidate for the position was former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who is also being considered by the Washington Nationals front office. See MLB.com. Acta knows baseball well enough, and his (rough) experience in Washington will serve him well in Cleveland. I hope he has better luck there than he did in D.C.
L.A. football stadium
Like the agonizingly prolonged relocation of the former Montreal Expos to Washington, the efforts to get a pro football team back to the country's second biggest city is taking forever. Maybe, just maybe, they have crossed a critical point and the dream may actually come true. Lasts week Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that would facilitate construction of a football stadium in the city of Industry, about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The measure included an exemption from environmental regulatory hurdles that might otherwise prevent the investment project from going forward. Seven NFL teams are being courted, including all four that are currently residing in California, as well as the Bills, Vikings, and the Jaguars. The first six are "shopping around" for new stadiums, while the city of Jacksonville, Florida just isn't big enough to provide an adequate fan base for the Jaguars. See ESPN and/or Reuters; hat tips to (respectively) Virginia Delegate Chris Saxman and Mike Zurawski.
October 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Phillies shock the Yankees
Cue Peter Gabriel and replace the word monkey in that 1980s song: "shock the Yankees tonight ... shock the Yankees tonight." I knew the Philadelphia Phillies were a serious contender, being defending world champions, but I certainly didn't expect them to dominate the Yankees, especially not in New York. Well, you gotta give credit to starting pitcher Cliff Lee for completely shutting down the Yankees, going a full nine innings with zero earned runs. An error in the ninth inning allowed the only Yankee run to score. C.C. Sabathia got off to a bad start in the first inning, barely escaping a bases-loaded situation without any damage, but he pulled himself together for five more innings. The only mistakes he made were letting Chase Utley hit two solo home runs. The Yankees got six hits, but couldn't put together a rally; A-Rod struck out three times and did not reach base. It was still a tight game until the Yankees bullpen buckled under the pressure, allowing the Phillies to score two runs in the eighth inning and two more in the ninth. Final score: 6-1.
Notwithstanding this rude opening act, this should be an excellent, highly competitive World Series. As Thomas Boswell wrote in today's Washington Post, the Yankees are in the unusual position of having to prove their worthiness, while the Phillies are almost as confident as the Yankees were a decade ago. It's indeed quite a role reversal.
Just like I did last year and in the years before that, here is a "side-by-side" comparison of the ballparks of the two contending World Series teams. There is clearly a big difference in terms of the shape of each stadium, and in the left field dimensions, but in right field it's almost exactly the same. The right field wall in Citizens Bank Park is five feet higher than in New Yankee Stadium, 13 vs. 8. Roll your mouse over the thumbnail images to toggle back and forth between Yankee Stadium II and Citizens Bank Park, the two most slugger-friendly stadiums in the major leagues:
October 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]
McDonnell widens his lead
With a growing double-digit lead over Creigh Deeds in all the major polls (see Washington Post), I think it's safe to say that Bob McDonnell has this election locked up. But is it really safe to say (out loud) that he has this election locked up? Will all the rosy forecasts cause Republicans to get complacent and fail to show up at the polls in sufficient numbers? Hungry as they are for a win after eight years of Democratic control of the governor's mansion in Richmond, I think not.
To me, this is a vindication for McDonnell's prudent, level-headed style of campaigning, and his focus on pragmatic issues targetting middle-of-the-road voters rather than emotion-charged attacks aimed at "energizing the Republican base." The question is, will "The Base" learn anything from this campaign?
McDonnell's television ads remain focused on his own priorities (economic renewal via private enterprise) and Deeds' flip-flopping and fondness for tax hikes. Deeds did come up with an effective rejoinder TV ad, however, recruiting workers from a factory in Covington (I believe) who vouched emphatically for Deeds as someone who really cares about and understands them. Well, Deeds is a decent person, and I would expect such expressions of loyalty and gratitude from folks in his part of the state. But can he attract much support from elsewhere in Virginia? We'll see.
McDonnell, Bill Bolling, and Ken Cuccinelli will be campaigning in Waynesboro on Friday and at the airport in Weyer's Cave on Sunday, the big finale. Will the self-proclaimed "true conservatives" (a.k.a. "The Base") show up?
Obama stumps for Deeds
In Norfolk, President Obama made a spirited campaign speech in support of Creigh Deeds, with the sobering caveat that it will be a "tough race." (Translation: hopeless cause.) Obama's derision of Bob McDonnell as one of those "politicians who are more interested in scoring points than solving problems" could not possibly be further from the mark. See the Richmond Times Dispatch. Obama is already facing heat from the left wing of the Democratic Party who refuse to compromise on health care, so he really had little choice but to spend some of his political capital on Deeds. Everyone knows it was a ritualized gesture, so Obama won't suffer much if Deeds loses as badly as the polls suggest.
But if Democrat Jon Corzine loses the governor's race in New Jersey, that would be seen as major repudiation of the Democratic Party and its leadership. That could put the brakes on Obamacare.
Conservatives vs. Bush
One of the more amusing contradictions in rhetoric emanating from the self-proclaimed "Republican Base" is how quickly they are abandoning their erstwhile leader, George W. Bush. For example, Byron York at the Washington Examiner recently called attention to an interview in which Bush was bragging about having changed the Republican Party, dismissing the "conservative movement." As if he himself were not a creature (albeit an apostate) of the movement! It's yet another case of "cognitive dissonance," as I described on Dec. 9, 2008.
Viguerie howls at RINOs
Meanwhile, Richard Viguerie keeps howling like a wolf about "RINOs," and you can almost imagine him frothing at the mouth. So, what else is new? Well, this time, he may have a point: There will be a special election next week in New York's 23rd District, where Republican leaders nominated a liberal named Dede Scozzafava. How could a thing like that happen? "True Conservatives" were outraged, so they picked Doug Hoffman to run on the Conservative ticket. See Washington Times, via conservativehq.com. By splitting the right-of-center vote, however, they may tip the election in favor of Democrat Bill Owens.
October 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]
World War II aircraft show
Taking advantage of the improved weather conditions, I headed up to the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave today, to see an exhibit of aircraft from World War II. There were two bombers -- a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-24 Liberator, the only one in the world that is still flight-worthy -- and one fighter, the P-51 Mustang. The public event was part of the "Wings of Freedom" tour that is run by the Collings Foundation, a non-profit group devoted to historical preservation. The volunteers who work with that group deserve a lot of credit for keeping alive the memory of what author Studs Terkel called "The Good War."
For a modest entry fee (12 bucks) they let you get inside the two bombers, which was quite a thrill. It is a very tight squeeze, and rather hazardous if you're not careful. I was mesmerized getting up close and personal with the ancient military hardware, imagining what it would be like to fire a machine gun at attacking German Messerschmitts. Actually, it was the second time I had climbed aboard a B-17. In August 2006, I saw a Flying Fortress take off and land at the Manassas airport in Northern Virginia.
B-17 Flying Fortress ~ B-24 Liberator ~ P-51 Mustang
(Roll mouse over the names to see each one.)
Larger-sized photos of these three aircraft are posted on the (new) Warplanes photo gallery page. More photos showing different angles and some interior details will be added later.
October 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Life bird: Pectoral sandpiper(s)
I paid a visit to the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave today, where there was an exhibit of aircraft from World War II, and afterwards I took a slight detour to Leonard's Pond, just in case some unusual birds might be present. It turned out to be a wise decision, as I soon spotted some unusual-looking shorebirds that I soon identified as Pectoral sandpipers. I got good, extended views, and every detail matched my field guide perfectly. LIFE BIRD #400!!! I have updated my Life bird list accordingly.
The Dunlins which were seen in that location earlier this month are still there, along with the other "usual suspects." Today's full list:
- Pectoral sandpipers
- Green-winged teals
- Muscovy ducks
- Canada geese
Yesterday I saw my first Junco of the season in Lynchburg, and this morning saw one out back, along with my first Ruby-crowned kinglet of the season. The juvenile Yellow-bellied sapsucker first seen last week has been making occasional appearances as well. Finally, White-throated sparrows have begun appearing out back, another sign of the approach of winter.
Rare bird in England
An Eastern crowned warbler was sighted along the northeastern coast of England last week, drawing "twitchers" (bird watchers) from far and wide. Its normal range is in the forests of Siberia and Central Asia. See BBC. Warblers in Europe and Asia are from a completely different biological family than warblers in the New World.
October 29, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Yankees even series vs. Phils
After last night's embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Phillies, the Yankees were in desperate need of a win this evening. Thanks to some clutch homers by Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui, they managed to recover just in time. The Yankees' starting pitcher A.J. Burnett got his first career postseason win, while Pedro Martinez pitched well, but without enough run support. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano remain in a slump, going hitless again. There were a couple bad calls by umpires in the late innings, but they affected each team, so it's hard to argue that it would have changed the game one way or another. Final score: 3-1. Anxious Yankee fans breathed a big sigh of relief, as the World Series is now evened up, 1-1.
After yet another pointless day of rest tomorrow, the World Series switches to Philadelphia on Saturday night. You can make that trip in only a couple hours via Amtrak.
Nix on sex for tix
Speaking of desperate, a Susan Finkelstein, of Philadelphia, was seeking tickets to the World Series, and allegedly offered intimate services in exchange for them. She has been charged with prostitution, which she denies. See foxnews.com. If fans are so desperate, perhaps they need to expand the seating capacity of Citizens Bank Park.
October 31, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Yankees shock the Phillies
So much for home field advantage! Andy Pettitte was under heavy pressure in Game Three of the World Series tonight, at Citizens Bank Park, giving up three runs to the Phillies in the second inning. After that, however, he stayed composed and allowed his team to catch up and take the lead. Alex Rodriguez got his first hit of the 2009 World Series, a squeaker of a home run to the right field corner that was called a double and then revised upward to a four-bagger based on "instant-replay" review. Ironically, the ball hit a TV camera. Jayson Werth crushed a huge home run that bounced off the GEICO sign in front of the left field upper deck. It was estimated to have gone 445 feet, and according to my estimates, it traveled just about 400 feet in the air. Johnny Damon hit a two-run double, and Nick Swisher and Hideki Matsui added to the score with solo home runs. Final score: 8-5. All of a sudden, the momentum is solidly in the Yankees' favor.
Rainiest postseason ever?
When is this lousy weather going to end? Oh yeah, next April. Mother Nature keeps dropping hints that it is dumb to play baseball so late into the autumn, but the bosses of baseball refuse to listen. For a while it looked like the World Series (or at least tonight's game) had been rained out, just as happened one year and two days ago -- October 29, 2008. The start of the game was delayed for an hour and 20 minutes, but the rain and drizzle hardly let up at all, contrary to the weather forecasts. They decided to keep playing through it all, and fortunately nobody was injured from slipping on the wet grass.
And weather aside, how dumb is it to be playing baseball on Halloween, anyway? Booo!
Back to standard time
Tonight was not only Halloween, but also the last day of Daylight Savings Time for this year. I already set my clocks back, so it's still before midnight.
Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology