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April 2006 Archives

April 7, 2006 [LINK]

Princess leaves the nest

Princess After two and a half weeks of brooding, Princess finally gave up on her one remaining egg today, and wasted no time in resuming her usual routine of flirting in the perch next to the window. Her excitement is no doubt related to the large number of "eligible" male goldfinches outside the window; they are quickly turning into their bright yellow breeding plumage.

I finally managed to get a good closeup shot of Princess' face today; note that the tip of her beak is always green because of all the kale, spinach, mustard leaves, etc. she munches on. You can also see the black pupil and the dark brown iris, as well as the reflected window light. Compare it to the closeup of George I took last October.

I also put some old photos of Goldie on the Canaries photo gallery page. Some of them are newly-enhanced photos I had posted years ago and later deleted.

April 7, 2006 [LINK]

Immigration compromise fails

Prospects for passing a meaningful immigration reform bill faded today when Democrats in the Senate balked at the terms conservative Republicans were demanding. See Washington Post. I must say, McCain's and Kennedy's complicated formula for treating immigrants differently on the basis of how long they have been in this country seemed totally unworkable, another invitation to fraud. When you add the abnormally bitter partisan hostilities of recent years to normal election year politics, the chances for passing anything truly significant are not that great. The main question is whether passing some paltry half-measure this year would be preferable to doing nothing until next year, when legislators will be less confined by the calculus of reelection.

Referring to the huge demonstrations across America last week, Wednesday's Washington Post, "A sleeping Latino giant has awoken." Indeed. The huge Anglo giant woke up first, however, and their superior numbers are made stronger by the widespread conviction that they are on the right side of justice.

Speaking of which, the letter to the editor on immigration which I wrote appeared in today's Staunton News Leader. I was a bit irritated that they deleted some key words in a few places, such as "and in others" after "Xenophobia is a real, enduring problem in our country." That really changed the whole thrust of what I was trying to say. I drew an ironic parallel between Bush's contention that our economy needs illegal workers and his lament that we are "addicted to oil." Closing line: "The only people who really "depend" on illegal immigrant workers are those who think that low, low prices are an American birthright."

On the same page, coincidentally (?), there was a column by Linda Chavez, who strives to clear up some of the misconceptions. Most of her points were on target. She points out something I mentioned in my letter, that many if not most illegal aliens are "otherwise law-abiding." Likewise, most of them do pay their taxes. I would take issue with the way she equates the current flood of immigrants to earlier periods in our history. In particular, there was never a time when the influx literally overwhelmed the ability of our patrol officers to guard the southern border. But she correctly insists that "It's bad for all of us when laws are so wantonly flouted," calling for stiff fines, tighter border controls, and "more flexible" immigration laws. That's fine, but the problem won't go away until we reform the entitlements in this country that undermine the incentive to work and save.

President Bush has said that his "guest worker" proposal would encourage undocumented aliens to register their presence so we can keep track of who is actually here. Why do they need to be "encouraged"? Simple: It's because, generally speaking, they have no respect for the United States or its government. They probably wouldn't take seriously any registration deadlines, either. Unless Congress enacts laws on immigration and labor standards that are reasonably consistent, and therefore likely to be observed, America's global prestige will continue to erode.

Bottom line: Get in line, and Speed up the process.

The answer: probation

I may be wrong, but I really don't think Reps. Tancredo or Sensenbrenner want to "release the hounds" and make every illegal alien in the country subject to immediate expulsion. That would be a recipe for a mass uprising, possibly even unleashing a civil war. On the other hand, no reform could contemplate mass amnesty or "guest worker" program, either, so what are we to do? Sen. McCain is not far off base when he talks about a very thorough, rigorous screening procedure that would put current illegal residents on a path toward eventual legality. The problem is that it would be very tempting to ease up on scrutiny and make all sorts of exceptions for a variety of flimsy reasons. What I say is, offer illegal residents a one-time-only opportunity to register their presence, providing as much documentation as they can regarding their employment and tax payment history. In return, they would be obliged to pay a small ($100?) fine to help cover administrative expenses, plus interest on any back taxes, and would be "sentenced" to probation, five or so years, depending on their circumstances. As long as they stay out of trouble, notify the authorities of their whereabouts, and only take legitimate jobs that pay at least minimum wage and adhere to applicable labor laws, they should be left alone and accorded the respect that is due to all human beings. If not, adios amigo.

Nuestra culpa

But let's not kid anyone. This problem would never have gotten out of hand if our political system were not so terribly dysfunctional, letting our proud "free market" economy become corrupted over the years by massive cheating. All scams involve two willing parties, and the status quo in America's labor market amounts to a colossal, hideous scam that simply cannot be tolerated any longer. That is why I think our so-called "leaders" in Washington should refrain from piously scorning those new arrivals who flaunt our laws when they themselves are so lax in carrying out their solemn duties.

Kaine & Chichester

What could explain the puzzling cooperation on pushing for higher taxes to fund transportion between Democrat Governor Tim Kaine and the Republican (?) Senate leader John Chichester. I have no clue, but there are signs that it is nothing more than old-fashioned tacky cronyism, as Michael Shear suggests at Washington Post blog (via Commonwealth Conservative). He notes that Kaine and Chichester will appear as featured guests at a fund-raiser for the Foundation for Virginia on April 18, one day before the legislature reconvenes. Former Governor Mark Warner set up that foundation as a vehicle for promoting his vision of a hyperactive state government colluding with big business on various futuristic projects.

April 7, 2006 [LINK]

Sandinistas on the comeback trail

Remember the Cold War? Remember the Iran-Contra scandal and protests against the Reagan administration's policies in Central America? Well, I do. It would seem, however, that a large number of people in Nicaragua have forgotten the disasters inflicted upon them by the Sandinista government, if the leader of that party, Daniel Ortega, continues his recent climb in the polls. As George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." On the other hand, perhaps Ortega himself has learned something from his past mistakes: He declared that he "welcomes U.S. investment and tourism." Dissident Sandinista Herty Lewites will run against Ortega in the November elections. The conservative candidate is Eduardo Montealegre. See It so happened that the Sandinistas broke into separate factions just as I was visiting Nicaragua a little over a year ago (Feb. 27, 2005). Ortega has been using the residual power wielded by the Sandinistas in the courts, bureaucracy, and military forces to subvert democratic institutions. Does Hugo Chavez have anything to do with this?

Wedding vows exchanged

As he had promised, former President-for-life Alberto Fujimori (who is still incarcerated in Chile) married his wealthy girlfriend Satomi Kataoka just before the Peruvian elections on Sunday. Apparently, the only "ceremony" was when she filed the necessary papers in Japan before flying to Peru. In a campaign rally for her new husband's party in San Juan de Lurigancho (site of an infamous prison), she spoke in Japanese. It makes you wonder what kind of first lady she would have been if Fujimori had succeeded in running for president again. Santiago Fujimori, the former president's brother and a vice presidential candidate, translated her words into Spanish. See

April 6, 2006 [LINK]

Virginia is for photos

Virginia montage Finally catching up with long-overdue chores, I have created a new photo gallery page, Virginia landmarks. It is full of scenes from around the photogenic Old Dominion. As Mick Jagger sang,
"Oh, come on ... come on down ... to Virginia.
Got to wipe that $#!+ right off your shoes!"

While I was at it, I also redid several of the other photo montages, such as Mushrooms and universities.

Clockwise from top left:
Natural Bridge, near Lexington;
Governor's Mansion in Colonial Williamsburg;
D-Day Memorial in Bedford;
Natural Chimneys, in Augusta County;
Peaks of Otter, in the Blue Ridge.

April 6, 2006 [LINK]

Will GOP moderates defect?

Perhaps a better question is Should they defect? I have largely overlooked the FY 2007 budget introduced by President Bush in February, already disgusted with fiscal imprudence. Public awareness of the growing budget deficit is putting increasing pressure on the Republicans in Congress, many of whose members are vulnerable to challengers in the November elections. (Imagine that: competitive elections!)

One of the moderates who is leveraging his faction's clout to get $7 billion in additional Federal funding for popular labor, health, and education programs, is Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware. See Washington Post. I tend to be extremely skeptical of such programs, and much as I would like to maintain a Republican majority in Congress, it may be for the best in the long run that the Republicans slough off a few wayward members. Voters need clear choices when they go into the voting booth, and blurring distinctions on basic policy choices, as many centrists in Congress are prone to do, is not necessarily a good way to attract moderate voters. "Who cares, politicians are all the same!"

To understand the Republican squabbling, it is necessary to grasp that many Republicans wrongly equate loyalty to President Bush with being a true conservative. This tendency is related, in turn, to an unseemly eagerness to use harsh campaign rhetoric against liberal Democrats, ironically emulating the dirty tricks that used to keep the Democrats in power. Until more of the Republican activist base adopts a more reflective attitude about the very real dilemmas in terms of the substance of public policy, as a prelude to reformulating a conservative agenda, I don't see how things will improve. As my mailbox is filled up with crass, dumbed-down appeals for money from the RNC, meanwhile, the party leadership seems utterly tone deaf to complaints from grass-roots conservatives.

Immigration dilemma

A recent cartoon in the Washington Post by Joel Pett expressed the vexing moral quandary many Republicans face on the immigration issue. A senator tells his House colleague, "I'm torn between the security issues and my solemn pledge to help the rich exploit the poor." Hey, the truth hurts.

April 5, 2006 [LINK]

More on Mass. health care

I was taken aback to find that Andrew Sullivan has nice things to say about the "experiment" in Massachusetts, the recently passed bill that would oblige all residents to purchase health insurance. If a man who prides himself on being a genuine small-government conservative (as opposed to a Bushian "compassionate" conservative") reacts that way, it would seem that prospects for reforming society along market principles are bleak indeed. Sullivan seems to think that establishing a base level of medical coverage would encourage a genuine market to develop, allowing consumers to make sane choices. He must be terribly naive for overlooking the fact that legislatures are universally prone to force insurance companies to provide X, Y, and Z services. With universal insurance coverage, people will get the medical services they want by demanding them from their elected representatives, rather than paying for them themselves.

Another blog bites the dust

One of the premier Virginia blogs, Sic Semper Tyrannis ("Thus always to tyrants," our state motto), shut down as of April 1. Presumably it was not an April Fool's joke. Now how are people like me supposed to make sense of what's going on in Richmond without a variety of critical perspectives?

Cynthia McKinney

The congresswoman from Georgia has said so many outrageous anti-semitic and pro-terrorist things in the past that she would qualify for the unmentionable wackos list if she were not an elected official. Unless she has witnesses to refute the charge that she assaulted a Capitol police officer just for doing his duty in checking IDs, I would say she needs to express humble contrition at her court appearance. No easy task, that.

April 5, 2006 [LINK]

Sparrows, sparrows, everywhere

Field sparrow A Field sparrow was foraging in our back yard today, a quite unusual occurrence. Fortunately, it lingered long enough for me to get a decent photo. They are distinguished by an overall pale buff color, with a reddish brown crown, pink beak, gray face, and a white eye ring. There was also a Chipping sparrow, which is also a migrant species, but is more commonly seen inside the city limits. Soon the White-throated sparrows will molt into their bright breeding plumage, and then head north for the summer. To compare the Field sparrow to the much more common Song sparrow, roll the mouse over the image.

April 5, 2006 [LINK]

Humala warns of uprising

The populist candidate in the upcoming elections in Peru, Ollanta Humala, uttered more menacing words in an interview with the Argentine newspaper Pagina 12 (in Spanish). He warned that if conservative Lourdes Flores Nano is elected, the same thing would happen in Peru as elsewhere in Latin America: a popular uprising by poor people to forcibly overthrow the president. It is a possible outcome, but everything I remain convinced that Peruvian state institutions are more solid than those in Bolivia and Ecuador, and respect for authority is correspondingly much stronger. Perhaps to allay fears that his implied threat might prompt, Humala identified himself as a nationalist, like Charles DeGaulle (!), disavowing any ideological inclination toward either the Left or the Right, but of course, that's what they all say. He made it clear that he looks forward to working with the "progressive" (leftist) leaders that have come to power elsewhere in South American in recent years. He also denied having taken part in any torture or human rights violations when he was a military commander during the war against the Shining Path in the early 1990s, while downplaying the need for amnesty. In addition, he declared his intention to review the environmentally controversial Camisea natural gas pipeline contract, in which Argentine firms have invested. Finally, he said he aspires to good relations with the United States, but insists that there be a distinction between growing coca leaves and producing cocaine. That, of course, echoes the policy of President Evo Morales in Bolivia.

Debt relief for Bolivia?

As the Inter-American Development Bank holds its annual meeting in Brazil, Evo Morales is proposing that Bolivia's debt to that bank be wiped off the books, along with the debts of the other poor countries in Latin America: Haiti, Honduras, Guyana, and Nicaragua. Bolivia is the biggest debtor to the IADB. See BBC. Since the late 1970s, Bolivia has ranked among the most deeply indebted countries in the world, and its aggregate debt burden is often more than half of its entire gross domestic product. Substantial progress was made in reducing that burden during the 1990s, as the country's economy enjoyed a boom thanks to sound monetary and fiscal policies as well open trade policies. There was lingering resentment over the distribution of those benefits, however, eventually exploding into the populist backlash that brought Evo Morales to power. Unless Morales changes course and becomes more pragmatic as Jaime Paz and other left-of-center leaders in Bolivia, there is a great risk that all of the sacrifices endured by Bolivian people during the years of stabilization and adjustment will have been utterly wasted. Back to the drawing board...

My basic position on Third World debt relief is that any such campaign should be at the grass-roots level, not involving sovereign governments. If you want U.S. banks to forgive debts to poor countries, tell your own bank that you will be glad to absorb your share of the loss if they agree to do so. It may seem like a trivial gesture, but it carries a lot more meaning than some protest sign.

Mexican elections & Venezuela

In the New York Post, former Clinton adviser Dick Morris claims that Hugo Chavez is pouring millions of dollars into the campaign of leftist candidate Angel Manuel Lopez Obrador. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) recently informed Mexican legislators about intelligence reports he received to that effect. Given the clear ambitions of Chavez to lead a continent-wide bloc against the United States, it would be surprising if he were not providing financial support to the Mexican Left. If Chavez doesn't start showing some restraint, he is going to offend the otherwise friendly nationalistic leaders in Brazil and Argentina, which because of their great size and stage of economic development, regard themselves as the "proper" leaders of the region. The same is true of Mexico, but it is less involved in South American affairs.

According to the pro-democracy blog Publius Pundit Felipe Calderón (of the conservative PAN) is four percentage points ahead of "AMLO" (of the PRD) in the latest polls, for whatever that's worth.

April 5, 2006 [LINK]

1:23 4/5/06

Princess, George in sunlight Many of us will be noting this once-in-a-century moment at 1:23 this afternoon, but for military folks the time will be 13:23, so it won't really count. Strictly speaking, the observance should have been last night at 01:23. I would think this time and date in the year 2067 would be a bigger deal.

Speaking of transitory phenomena As the World Turns (the TV soap that recently turned 50!), I happened to have the camera on hand just as the reflected morning sunlight shone on Princess' nest this morning. It created an interesting, high-contrast effect. One of the eggs fell out of the nest last week, so only one remains.

April 4, 2006 [LINK]

Mets' future home

The New York Times calls attention to the often-neglected (except by Mike Zurawski) plans by the Mets to build a new home next to Shea Stadium by 2009, on the same schedule as the Yankees are proceeding with their future home. One question is what to name it. The "Flushing Bowl," perhaps? Surprisingly, no one has suggested "Casey Stengel Stadium." Amazin'!

Rogers Centre

Some formerly-front-row fans in Toronto are complaining about the seating modifications made to Rogers Centre during the off season. Two rows in back have been eliminated, to make room for more vending space in the concourse, and one plush, ground-level row has been added in front. See Toronto Globe and Mail. (via Mike Zurawski)

Miller Park

The Miller Park diagrams have been revised with warning tracks and a couple minor tweaks. Also, a new version diagram showing the small picnic area in right field has been added.

Slight of hand

The Nationals would have tied the game with the Mets yesterday if the home plate umpire had made the proper call when Alfonso Soriano slid head first into home in the eighth inning. Video replays showed that catcher Paul Lo Duca clearly dropped the ball during the attempted tag, and to his credit, he later admitted getting away with a bit of good acting, saying he's "a magician in the offseason. ... The hand is quicker than the eye. I was guilty as charged." See

UPDATE: Follies closes

I wasn't sure if the feature Style section story in this morning's Washington Post was worth mentioning, but Andrew Sullivan did, so what the heck: The Follies and other gay night clubs located on O Street S.E., where the future Washington baseball stadium will be built, officially closed down yesterday. Apparently it was an emotional occasion. Soon the bulldozers will begin razing the entire area, transforming it into a "family friendly" entertainment zone.

April 4, 2006 [LINK]

Tom DeLay to leave Congress

Whether you love him or hate him, Tom DeLay has clearly put the interests of his party first in deciding to resign from the House of Representatives at some unspecified future date. The decision was no doubt prompted by the [guilty plea last Friday] of his former aide Tony C. Rudy, who was involved in the Abramoff scandals, but that does not mean that DeLay is necessarily guilty of anything. See Washington Post. Mean people are just as entitled to the presumption of innocence as nice people are. This day has been coming ever since he was indicted last September, after which he stepped aside as majority leader. For someone with a reputation as a hardball player (nicknamed "The Hammer") his explanation that he didn't want to engage in a "nasty" reelection campaign seemed a little odd.

Rush Limbaugh rightly called attention to the fact that DeLay is the victim of Texas prosecutor (and partisan hack) Ronnie Earle, but went a bit far in lauding DeLay for such things as redrawing congressional districts to benefit his colleagus at his own expense. In my opinion, that whole approach to politics, contriving the rules of the game to maximize the chance of winning, tends to undermine the Republicans' stature and thereby makes it harder to govern. Now the big question is whether this will help the Republicans reverse their recent sagging political fortunes in time for the fall campaign. If you ask me, the GOP leaders had better come up with a positive agenda to persuade voters to pull the right lever, not just another round of slamming liberal Democrats. It's not that the lib Dems don't deserve such slamming, it's just that complaints about them have grown stale. It also raises suspicions among moderates that the Republicans don't really have any positive ideas on how to govern the country.

Socialist folly in Massachusetts

Thanks to Rush, I learned that the Massachusetts state legislature has passed a bill requiring that all residents purchase health insurance, so as to ease the burden of deadbeat [patients on hospitals and the government]. To make it easier on poor people, the state will offer a low-cost health insurance policy. "The House approved the bill on a 154-2 vote. The Senate endorsed it 37-0." See Boston Herald. Such an unfunded mandate marks a devastating blow to individual liberty, one more step in the Long March toward Socialism. Perhaps Hugo Chavez can lend a hand, like he is doing in providing low-cost heating oil to the shivering proletarians in the northeast.

Cruise with Ollie!

This sounds like a good time, if you're a genuine gun-totin' patriot like Ollie North and Wayne LaPierre, and happen to have a big wad of cash in your wallet: Freedom Cruise. Not me.

April 4, 2006 [LINK]

Web site hacked!

To my enormous consternation, I learned yesterday that some malicious spammers have hacked my Web site, forcing me to suspend the functionality of the permalinks and à la carte photos. The idea that my domain name may have been attached to messages promoting Levitra, porn, or sleazy stock deals is positively nauseating. It's the first time it has happened, so now I have to spend my precious time studying Web security procedures. I suppose it would be pointless to express anger toward the guilty parties, who most likely have no conscience anyway. Perhaps this is another example of how the anonymity of cyberspace is contributing to the erosion of basic norms of right and wrong.

April 3, 2006 [LINK]

Why don't we invade Country X?

In Saturday's Washington Post, Francis Fukuyama responded to Charles Krauthammer's criticism (see Mar. 28) by pointing out episodes when he did express opposition to war against Iraq, as early as 2002. Low-key dissent, but dissent nonetheless. Fukuyama's credibility suffers by evading the central charge that he wrongly claimed that Krauthammer called the war in Iraq an "unqualified success." His contorted effort to construe Krauthammer's speech at AEI is not very convincing. Fukuyama is an intellectual who lacks either a core set of beliefs about the world, or the courage to stake his reputation on a clear plan of action to fight global terrorism.

There was a second letter after Fukuyama's, by some guy named Arthur Buono who sarcastically cited Krauthammer's point about terrorism arising from political oppression, necessitating forcible regime change. "If so, in addition to Afghanistan we should have attacked Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan -- not Iraq." It's just another version of the standard lame rhetorical question, rooted in the insinuation that war in Iraq was "all about oil." Those red herrings are typically based on the naive premise that wars are launched on the basis of certain set criteria, ignoring calculations of potential strategic advantage and risk, or that just because military action is appropriate in one situation, it must be appropriate in all. Well, just to reach out to the other side and accept their approach to things, let's go through the checklist:

Country: Acquired WMDs, or tried to Haven for terrorists U.S. national interests at stake Militarily defeatable Oppressive regime Government is hostile to U.S.
Pakistan ?
Egypt ?
Saudi Arabia ?
LIBYA * * *
Explanations: Nuclear, biological, chemical weapons Deliberate harboring by govt., not nec. Al Qaeda. Economic or strategic interests, apart from terror threat. With existing U.S./allied military forces. Dictatorial or authoritarian. Strong, avowed hostility toward U.S.

NOTE: Countries whose names are in capital letters were identified as "rogue regimes" by Raymond Tanter, in Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation (1999). [UPDATE: North Korea, also.]
*The checked criteria for each country are based on the post 9/11 period; some countries (notably Libya) are less hostile to U.S. interests than they used to be.

Based on this (relatively) comprehensive set of war criteria, Iraq ranks ahead of Afghanistan, contrary to the much broader global support for military intervention in the latter compared to the former. Interestingly, Syria ranks on par with Iraq as "most eligible" to be attacked on the basis of these criteria. Go ahead and check or uncheck the boxes as you think appropriate, and let me know what you come up with. This ought to be an interesting exercise in collecting survey responses; stay tuned.

April 3, 2006 [LINK]

Batter UP! Opening Day 2006

Actually, last night was Opening Day for the White Sox and Indians, but the rest of major league teams (except the Twins and Blue Jays) begin their regular seasons today. The first game today is the Nationals against the Mets at Shea Stadium. The Nationals have the same starting pitcher as they did for their inaugural game in Philadelphia last year, the rock-steady Livan Hernandez, but half of the rest of their starting lineup consists of newbies, two of whom were acquired in the off-season. Ryan Zimmerman will be under heavy pressure to live up to the high expectations, but he seems well composed for a guy who is only 21. It reminds me of Mickey Mantle's awkward debut with the Yankees in 1951, trying to fill Joe DiMaggio's big shoes. Zimmerman and Alfonso Soriano got hits in the fourth inning, helping to tie the game 1-1. Not a bad start to the season!

UPDATE: The Nationals had runners in scoring position three times in the latter innings, but fell short of the Mets, 3-2. On the plus side, they had more hits (12) than the Mets (10). Oddly, though, the Mets had one more left on base (10) than the Nats. Just remember, the Nationals lost their first game last year, and then came back to win the series against the Phillies.

Selig stalls on sale of Nats

In Today's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell explains the delay in the sale of the Washington Nationals: The publication of the book Game of Shadows forced Commisioner Selig to devote all of his (limited?) attention to grappling with the steroid scandal. He is hopeful that Washington will have its own owner in time for the home opener at RFK Stadium on April 11, but makes it clear that "Any failure at this point would be unconscionable." Even though the finalization of the stadium lease means there is no longer any real chance that the Nationals will be relocated, I'm leaving the likelihood as five percent until the franchise is actually sold.

Retro (?) ballpark T-shirts

Those marketing guys at MLB are making a play for us ballpark aficionados, with a set of "retro stadium ringer" T-shirts. I must say, however, the selection of some of them seems rather odd to me. Who in their right mind would ever consider the Astrodome or Shea Stadium "retro" ballparks? In terms of franchise history, Montreal's Jarry Park might be more appropriate [for the Washington Nationals] than Griffith Stadium, but I'm not complaining. What about Shibe Park, Crosley Field, or Tiger Stadium??? See

Citizens Bank Park

Just in time for the Phillies first game (at home), I have modified the diagram on the Citizens Bank Park page, moving the left field fence back slightly. The change made during the off season is too minor to merit a separate diagram version. For some reactions to this change, see the Philadelphia Inquirer. (link via Mike Zurawski)

April 2, 2006 [LINK]

Blue-headed vireos in Blue Ridge

It was a beautiful, clear, balmy day here in Virginia, so I drove up to the Blue Ridge and joined a friend for a three-mile hike in the area north of Humpback Rocks. Almost immediately I heard what I thought was a Yellow-throated vireo, but could not spot it. I heard several others along the way, and when I finally saw one singing, I realized that it was actually a Blue-headed vireo. It was one of the earliest dates in the season I had ever seen a vireo; the early-arrival record for me is March 30, 2000. Early in the hike, we also heard some loud honking calls, like a squeeze toy, and soon saw two Sharp-shinned hawks flying around in a courtship ritual; one of them was building a nest. Other birds we saw were either courting or building nests, and a return visit to that trail should provide some good opportunities to see nestlings, in another month or so. Today's list:

  • Sharp-shinned hawks (nest!)
  • Yellow-bellied sapsuckers (M, F)
  • Juncos (M, F)
  • Hairy woodpeckers (2M, 1F)
  • Phoebe (nest!)
  • Blue-headed vireos (FOS)
  • White-breasted nuthatches
  • Ravens (nest!)
  • Red-tailed hawk

April 2, 2006 [LINK]

House vs. Senate on immigration

On CBS's Face the Nation today, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, widely reviled as a mean-spirited Republican, or even mocked as a Nazi, for his bill that would raise penalties on those who violate immigration laws, came across as very reasonable and sincere. Sen. Dick Durbin, who compared the U.S. treatment of detainees to Nazi Germany, came across as cynical. You can tell the Democrats are licking their chops as the Republicans beat each other up over this vexing issue. Sensenbrenner pointed out that he introduced an amendment to reduce penalties for those abetting illegal immigration from a felony to a misdemeanor, but it was voted down by Democrats and some Republicans. That was one of those too-clever parliamentary maneuvers, no doubt, but it also sheds light on what Sensenbrenner is trying to accomplish. That unduly harsh provision is obviously meant as a bargaining chip when it comes time for the House and Senate conferees to work out a compromise. Can they get together? Much like the situation in the Virginia General Assembly, where the Republicans in the Senate are at cross purposes with the Republicans in the House of Delegates, it depends on the party's own leaders. In the case of the U.S. Congress, much also depends the leadership of President Bush, which has been pretty weak lately.

April 1, 2006 [LINK]

Irredentists* on the march in L.A.

Unless someone has been very busy with Photoshop, this gallery of photos of the march in Los Angeles at is not an April fool's joke. With slogans like "Stolen continent," "Indigenous people against white racists," "All Europeans are illegal," and the like, it is clear that these people would not be content just to gain legal immigration status, via amnesty or "guest worker" visas. They want to undo the results of the Mexican War and have the southwestern U.S.A. returned to Mexico! Don't laugh, it might just happen within our lifetime. How many Latino immigrants truly share such extreme sentiments? How many of them would openly admit it? Perhaps my humorous, offhand reference to reexamining the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (March 29) was closer to the mark than I thought. (Link via Instapundit, who also wonders "Why so little immigration protest in South Florida?" -- [link added])

What this means is that a polarizing dynamic has begun that will almost certainly lead to increasing violence and decreasing trust among immigrants and native-born Americans. For those of us who have tried for years to build bridges of understanding between cultures, it is all an enormous pity.

Interestingly, many of the protesters were holding American flags, apparently aware of the hostility they had incited among otherwise sympathetic folks when they waved Mexican flags. Most of the protesters are apparently oblivious to the fact that Mexico has at least as bad a historical record in treating true indigneous people as the United States. The vast majority of Mexicans and Latinos are mixed blooded, which gives rise to deep anxiety about their ethnic identity. Protesting can be a good way to vent such internal conflicts.

* For you folks in Rio Linda, "irredentism" is a movement demanding the transfer of land from one country to another on the basis of historical claims. Examples would be Germany against Poland during the 1930s, or Ecuador against Peru from the 1940s until the 1990s.

April 1, 2006 [LINK]

Good job, George Mason U.

Life does not always have a storybook ending, and of course, it usually doesn't. Just getting to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen (earning a Sports Illustrated cover) would have been enough for George Mason University folks to claim a huge triumph for their athletic program. Reaching the Final Four was almost beyond belief. In tonight's game against Florida they started off slow, but closed the gap toward the end of the first half, raising hopes for a possible repeat of their earlier tournament victories. It was not to be, however, as they trailed by 15 points or more for most of the second half. Coach Larranaga, Will Thomas, Jai Lewis, and the rest of the Patriots basketball team deserve hearty congratulations, and thanks for making all Virginians proud.

April 1, 2006 [LINK]

Killing time on Betsy Bell Hill

Pileated Woodpecker While our old Dodge Colt was being inspected this morning, I took a hike to the top of Betsy Bell Hill, where I saw two birds for the first time this season. Today's list:

  • Killdeer
  • Chipping sparrows (FOS)
  • Flicker
  • Golden-crowned kinglets
  • White-breasted nuthatch
  • Sharp-shinned hawk
  • Turkey and Black vultures
  • Phoebes (FOS)
  • Yellow-bellied sapsuckers (M, 1st yr)
  • Pileated woodpecker (M) -- SEE PHOTO
  • Red-bellied woodpeckers
  • Bluebirds
  • House finches

April 1, 2006 [LINK]

April Fools!

I figured it's about time to indulge in some cyber-whimsy, to keep all you baseball fans and fellow stadium geeks alert and on your toes. Presented for you amusement, in all their wretchedly primitive glory, are some of the original baseball stadium diagrams from four years ago, when this site was still hosted by First, roll the mouse over the links below, and then click.

Yankee Stadium

End of spring training

I noticed that two of teams that were in first place in their divisions as of July 1 last year are at the bottom of the league rankings for this spring exhibition game season: The White Sox and the Nationals! Likewise, the Yankees are way down the list as well, which goes to show how little significiance spring win-loss records have.