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July 2007
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July 1, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Blog disinformation gets worse

Some of us had hoped that the friction among Republican bloggers might ease after the primary race was over, but it's only going from bad to worse. "Johnathan Maxfield" wrote about the meeting of Staunton Republicans last Thursday, but almost every sentence was either blatantly false or insulting in tone. But the average reader would have no way of knowing what was true and what was false because "Johnathan" did not even include a permalink citation to my blog, which is a fundamental norm of ethical blogging. He also included the contents of an e-mail message from one party official (Matthew Wells, at RPV) to another (Staunton GOP Chair Anne Taetszch), another violation of cyberspace ethics. For the record, the reason why I have not "publish[ed] any of the reasons the June 28th meeting was deemed illegal," as he complains, is because, thus far, no such reasons have been given to me. Once I do receive the reasons, we plan to appeal.

Today I became aware of an even more egregious case of blog disinformation that was aimed at me, and I have begun the necessary steps to rectify the situation. Stay tuned...

Thursday's meeting

Bob Stuart's story about our meeting Thursday night was on the front page of the Sunday edition of the News Virginian. It included comments from Sen. Emmett Hanger, Augusta County GOP Chair Kurt Michael, Staunton GOP Chair Anne Taetszch, Staunton GOP member (and former secretary) Erma Fretwell, JMU Professor Bob Roberts, and Delegate Chris Saxman.

July 1, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Birding around Swoope

It was bright and sunny but with mild temperatures today, so I decided to do a different sort of birding venture: a Sunday drive to various birding hot spots around the village of Swoope, a few miles west of Staunton. I made it as far as the Boy Scout Camp, and saw at least a dozen turtles on the lake there. Today's highlights:

I was distressed to see for the first time evidence of large-scale logging on Little North Mountain, near Trimbles Mill. I was aware there was a controversy about that several months ago, and it is sad that the beautiful scenery has been spoiled.

July 2, 2007 [LINK / comment]

All-Star rosters, 2007

Because of unexpectedly heavy political "fallout" from the recent primary election here in Virginia, I didn't have enough time to submit my picks for this year's All-Star teams. I don't have any major problems with the starting rosters (see below), but I'll admit I'm not that familiar with first baseman Prince Fielder, who is only in his second season. He was one of four Milwaukee Brewers chosen, the first time that many players from that team had been picked since 1982, which was their World Series debut. See It says a lot that he was picked ahead of Albert Pujols, widely considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Those two are ahead of Dmitri Young, the only All-Star player from the Washington Nationals. I think Jorge Posada, batting .336 right now, had a much better claim to the catcher's slot than Ivan Rodriguez, who is batting only .283. It would appear that the team's win-loss record must count for more than the individual player's performance.

  • 1st Base: D. Ortiz (BOS)
  • 2nd Base: P. Polanco (DET)
  • Shortstop: D. Jeter (NYY)
  • 3rd Base: A. Rodriguez (NYY)
  • Catcher: I. Rodriguez (DET)
  • Outfield: V. Guerrero (LAA)
  • Outfield: M. Ordonez (DET)
  • Outfield: I. Suzuki (SEA)
  • 1st Base: P. Fielder (MIL)
  • 2nd Base: C. Utley (PHI)
  • Shortstop: J. Reyes (NYM)
  • 3rd Base: D. Wright (NYM)
  • Catcher: R. Martin (LAD)
  • Outfield: K. Griffey, Jr. (CIN)
  • Outfield: B. Bonds (SF)
  • Outfield: C. Beltran (NYM)

UPDATE: For complete details, see

Yankees in a "free fall"

USA Today/Gannett columnist Mike Lopresti summarized the unbelievably poor record of the Bronx Bombers this year, despite Roger Clemens and an enormous payroll. The Yanks find themselves 11 games behind the division-leading Red Sox, and are now in danger of falling into fourth place after a 1-7 road trip. Imagine that...

Nats avoid two straight sweeps

The Washington Nationals got swept by the Braves in Atlanta last week, including an ugly 13-0 blowout, and narrowly avoided getting swept by the Pirates in Pittsburgh over the weekend. On Sunday, Chad Cordero finally managed to save a game, preserving a one-run lead in the ninth inning. I think we can narrow down the Nationals' woes to two basic shortcomings: lousy batting (team average .247, ranking 28th out of 30 in the majors, and dead last in number of home runs, with 47) and lousy pitching (ranking 25th, with a team ERA of 4.78) Only once since June 13 have the Nats scored more than four runs.

Patterson's bad arm

The Nationals have been without their ace pitcher John Patterson since early May, and he is getting so frustrated from his arm's lack of progress in healing that he is planning to go to Canada to get unorthodox homeopathic treatments, including injections. This does not sound good at all. See

The mail bag

William Carron would like to know what persons were commemorated by the center-field plaques at the Polo Grounds; he knows the one on the far left side was for Christy Mathewson, but doesn't know about the others. There was a monument to fallen World War I soldier Eddie Grant in straightaway center field, and I have seen some photos that seem to show two plaques on either side of it, on the wall beneath the clubhouse window. Does anyone know for sure?

July 2, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Minor blog enhancements

Just in case anyone wants to print out my blog posts, I have created a new clutter-free printer-friendly version. The link is in the upper right of the (individual) blog post page -- which is where you go when you click on the "[LINK / comment]" link above. Also, I've added a hit counter to that page. Obviously, it keeps track of all visits to individual blog posts, not any particular blog post.

July 3, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Richmond and The Diamond

As the last hopes for building a new baseball stadium in downtown Richmond fall by the wayside, city leaders are now pondering whether to renovate The Diamond, or to build a replacement ballpark in that same industrial neighborhood, along The Boulevard. (It's odd how some of Richmond's landmarks lack proper names.) Today's Richmond Times Dispatch laid out the options being considered. Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder (former governor of The Commonwealth) favors a new venue.

I think The Diamond has at least ten more years in it. Sure, it's plain, but it's certainly big enough for Triple-A baseball, and there is no reason why it couldn't be upgraded with all the "necessary" amenities. They should probably add some landscaped picnic areas along the foul territory, and a bleacher section in the outfield.

Soriano returns to Washington

Former Nats star Alfonso Soriano is playing in D.C. for the first time since he joined the Cubs late last year. So far, it's not going very well for the Nats, losing on Monday and falling behind early tonight. In today's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell reminds us of what the Nationals (and their fans) have been missing since Alfonso left town. I know it would have been foolish for the Lerners to outbid the Cubs, but still...

Polo Ground plaques

Thanks to a prompt reply from fellow baseball blogger Jay Roberts to yesterday's query from William Carron, I now know for sure about the plaques behind the Eddie Grant monument in the center field of the Polo Grounds. They commemorate:

I appreciate all such tips from casual fans and serious devotees of baseball. Thanks, Jay!

July 3, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Immigration bill collapses

The collapse of the immigration bill endorsed by President Bush last week (see Washington Post) was neither unexpected nor terribly disappointing. To accomplish a genuine "comprehensive" reform would take months of careful "ground work" and deal-making, which did not happen. This is a hot potato issue that exposes the dirty little secret about our "steroid" economy, i.e., one in which growth is stimulated by artificial means. Nobody wants to face up to that, so the status quo keeps getting worse, while politicians pretend otherwise. The Republicans blew their best chance at such a reform last year, and the best we can now hope for under a Democratic Congress is something that strengthens border security and penalizes businesses that hire illegal workers.

Columnist Robert D. Novak pins part of the blame on the passive attitude of Senate leaders such as Kentucky's Mitch McConnell. He and others who are facing reelection campaigns next year have become timid about taking forthright stands on controversial issues, as many conservative activists have been in rebellion mode against any kind of "amnesty." (I too strongly oppose any blanket "wiping of the slate.") Novak writes that failure to deal with immigration is a reflection of the more general malaise among Republicans:

It is difficult to exaggerate the pessimism about the immediate political future voiced by Republicans in Congress when not on the record. With an unpopular president waging an unpopular war, they foresee electoral catastrophe in 2008, with Democratic gains in both the House and Senate and Hillary Clinton in the White House.

I think Novak is being just a little too harsh on McConnell. The plight of Republican legislators at present results to a large extent from the lack of concern under the Bush administration for serious policy analysis. The idea of standing on one's own record is out of fashion; these days it's all about "getting out the vote" -- and, too often, smearing your opponents...

Blog meltdown again

"Spank That Donkey" and "General Grievous' Dog" are on a rampage once again, showing that hopes for party unity any time soon is out of the question. "STD" just cannot let go of Scott Sayre's defeat, and evidently has learned nothing at all from the voters' emphatic rejection of the nasty mudslinging against Sen. Hanger and his supporters. Since last week, I noticed that "GGD" has metamorphasized from a right-wing political porn fest into the ersatz-liberal "Teddy's Dog," a play on the pro-Hanger "Teddy's Truth" blog (as in Teddy Roosevelt), but referring instead to Teddy Kennedy. The blogroll includes various Democrats, leftists, and me (very funny), and it briefly included bogus material suggesting that I was its creator (not funny at all). That was removed after I complained to Blogger about the fraudulent identity content, but this case is not closed yet...

This would be a good time to see whether any of the pro-Sayre bloggers have enough good sense and integrity to distance themselves from "GGD," before he drags the Republican Party right into the sewer.

July 3, 2007 [LINK / comment]

McCormick's Mill midsummer

I paid a visit to the McCormick's Mill agricultural station and wayside this morning, for the first time in months. I was a little disappointed not to see or hear any orioles, which have nested there in the past. Today's highlights:

Plus, the usual Barn swallows, Canada geese, Mallards (two families with several juveniles each), Robins, etc.

July 4, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Veterans Stadium update

Veterans Stadium At long last, the Veterans Stadium diagrams have been revised. Why that one? Well, today is a national holiday, and I figured that it's appropriate to remember our veterans to whom we owe our independence. Whatever the reason, now you can directly compare The Vet to the new home of the Phillies, Citizens Bank Park.

It has been four whole months since the last time I managed to get one of those stadium diagrams "up to standard" (i.e., properly aligned with center field at the top), and I greatly appreciate the patience of fans who visit this Web site regularly. I do expect to resume upgrading other diagrams on a regular basis, now that most of my political battles are behind me (I hope).

The Nats: First Half, 2007

The Nationals played their 81st game this year on Sunday, marking the halfway point of the season. Aside from the "warm streak" lasting from May 11 through June 14 (when they went 20-12), there isn't very much to be cheerful about. The table below summarizes their playing success (or lack thereof) and their home game attendance on a month-by-month basis. I did the same thing at the end of the season in 2005 and 2006. I plan to compile such data on a single page, eventually.

Washington Nationals: First Half, 2007 summary
Month Wins Losses NL East place
(at end)
Number of
home games
April 9 17 5 14 299,157 21,368
May 13 15 5 13 291,869 22,451
June* 11 16 5 12 295,414 24,618
1st Half TOTAL 33 48 5 39 886,440 22,729

* incl. July 1
SOURCE: My unofficial daily tabulations from MLB Gameday stats and newspapers.

Nats beat the Cubs

Thanks to a grand slam by the phenomenal All-Star Dmitri Young, as well as a superb seven-inning outing by Matt Chico (giving up no runs, four hits, and no walks), the Nationals defeated the Cubs at RFK this bright Fourth of July afternoon, 6-0. It was only their second win of the last nine games, and was the first time they had shut out an opponent since May 11 (the Marlins).

What could be better than watching our national pastime on our national holiday in our nation's capital? The Nats had their biggest crowd of the season since opening day, with 39,207 fans. They ought to schedule a home series in Washington every Fourth of July, and they ought to go back to the old tradition of having the very first game of the season in Washington as well, with the president throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

July 4, 2007 [LINK / comment]

4th of July parade in Staunton

The Emmett Hanger fall campaign got off with a bang at the 4th of July parade here in Staunton today. Fresh from his narrow primary election victory over Scott Sayre, our friendly state senator waved at the big crowd from the back of a pickup truck, and was received warmly by the local folks. Because of the deep divisions in the Republican party, locally as well as state-wide, Hanger knows that he cannot count on an easy victory this November. He will have to spend a lot of effort mending fences with supporters of Scott Sayre, but on the other hand he has to avoid caving in to their demands if he wants to have any clout in Richmond next year. Handling this delicate situation in the right way will be one of the biggest challenges of his political career.

Emmett Hanger truck

State Senator Emmett Hanger, along with his wife Sharon, and several of their children.

Because of the problems within the Republican Party, we didn't have a booth at Gypsy Hill park or a float in the parade this year, whereas the Democrats had a booth and a float. In lieu of the usual joint float effort between the Staunton and Augusta County Republican Committees, the Augusta County Republican elected officials put together their own float, highlighting Emmett Hanger, and it looked very impressive:

Hanger, Aug Co GOP float 1

Augusta County supervisor David Beyeler (standing on right side of float), County Treasurer Richard Homes and Commissioner of Revenue Jean Shrewsbury (both walking, at lower right). Roll mouse over this image to see a different perspective.

Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate for the 24th district state senate seat, David Cox, walked along a Democratic float. It was the biggest such endeavour the Other Party has put together since I have lived in Staunton -- five years. There were also many signs and balloons for the third party senatorial candidate, the Libertarian Arin Sime. I even saw a Republican who was carrying a Sime sign, which is not a good sign for the GOP.

July 5, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Scooter Libby goes Scoot free

Well, he did have to pay a $250,000 fine, at least. Apologists for President Bush, as well as Democratic partisans, have each reacted in predictable ways to this very predictable legal outcome. In strictly political terms, the decision by President Bush to commute Scooter Libby's prison sentence was absolutely necessary, given his weakened stature. He had to take a defiant stand in defense of Dick Cheney's former aide, to make sure Libby didn't spill his guts and to show that he (Bush) was not going to let himself be bested by an overly-aggressive prosecutor (Patrick Fitzgerald). It was four months ago that Libby was convicted, and I repeat what I said in the aftermath: "Perjury is unacceptable, period."

Given that the previous Chief Executive abused his power to pardon or commute, most complaints about this case by opponents of Bush must be taken with a grain of salt. Many people have correctly pointed out the irony (which I mentioned) that Libby once represented convicted swindler Marc Rich, who was pardoned by Bill Clinton on his last day in office. Today's News Leader editorial alluded to that, arguing that all Bush proved with his commutation was that he would look out for his "good old boy" who got caught in a tight spot. I don't go for the "they did it first" excuse which they scorn, and I'm not very happy about the commutation, I just think that Bush did what he had to do.

Just as it was hard to remember what Monica Lewinsky ever had to do with the various scandals related to Whitewater, it is hard for many of us to remember what Scooter Libby had to do with "Plamegate." After all, he was the "fall guy" in that scandal, and probably played a minor role in the White House effort to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson; see Sept. 1.

"Virulent" populism

In today's Washington Post, David Broder takes issue with the commonplace notion that Washington politicians are "out of touch" with average Americans. Instead, he argues, most of the politicians spend too much time and energy placating their constituents, when they should be deliberating on serious national issues: "A particularly virulent strain of populism has made official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion." I disagree with Broder's criticism of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for withdrawing support for the immigration compromise bill, because I don't think it was in the national interest, but in general, his contrarian perspective on the issue of how much weight should be given to popular sentiment is refreshingly healthy.

"Ethical" blogging?

In reference to the upcoming "Blogs United" get-together in Hamptom Roads, Richmond Democrat (J.C. Wilmore) lamented the fact that only one hour has been scheduled to deal with the ethics of blogging. He hopes it "will focus on the most serious ethical problem confronting the Virginia political blogosphere: anonymous blogging." (Emphasis added.) Ah-ha! This is one of the recurrent themes I have addressed over the past several months (see June 21, for example), to say nothing of the recent case of blogging with fraudulent identities which I came upon. It all makes me wonder if "ethical blogging" will eventually come to be regarded as an oxymoron, like "military intelligence." (Cue Alan Alda.)

July 7, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Valley League baseball

Last night I joined other local Red Cross volunteers in a community promotion event at a Staunton Braves baseball game here in Staunton. The Braves are part of the Valley League, the "Gateway to the Majors." It consists of eleven teams from the Shenandoah Valley and nearby parts of Virginia. The fifth-place Braves beat the third-place Luray Wranglers, 5-2. The highlight of the game came in the sixth inning, when Matt Payne and David Burns hit back-to-back home runs, the second of the game for Payne. After the sun went down, the temperature was very mild, making for a very pleasant evening.

Staunton Braves game

Nats fall again

If it weren't for my Red Cross duties, I probably would have gone up to Washington to see the Nationals host the Brewers last night. I figured it would be a good chance to see the likely playoff contenders and their four All-Star players, even if it was a very daunting challenge for the floundering Nats. Indeed, it was, as the last-place home team lost to the first-place visitors from Milwaukee, 6-2. As a result of their recent cold streak (5-15 since June 14), the Nationals have fallen below .400 once again.

Home run milestones

Congratulations to Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Cincinnati Reds for hitting his 586th career home run, tying Frank Robinson at the number six rank. He still has an excellent chance of passing Willie Mays (660), and perhaps going even higher. The Rangers' Sammy Sosa recently hit his 600th career four-bagger, though it didn't get much attention; "Slammin' Sammy" may not have many more homers left in him. Speaking of aging veterans, late in June, Toronto's Frank Thomas hit his 500th career homer, on the same day that the Astros' Craig Biggio got his 3000th career hit. Alex Rodriguez only has seven more homers to reach the 500 mark, and despite cooling off in June, he still has a shot at a single-season record this year. Meanwhile, Barry Bonds has come within four of Hank Aaron's lifetime record of 755 homers. A dark day is looming, sports fans...

July 8, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Burned out on Bush

In today's Washington Post, Byron York says what many if not most Republicans privately feel but are afraid to state openly: There is deep discontent with The Prez among the very conservatives who should be his most loyal supporters. As one of the reasons for this, York cites the immigration deal with Ted Kennedy "that leaned too far toward amnesty for illegal immigrants." Well, that is certainly true. He also argues that the commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence failed to satisfy The Base, which if true shows how thin the ice Bush is standing on. Unless Republicans manage to speak candidly to one another about what has gone wrong in this administration and within the GOP, chances for holding on to the White House in 2008, much less regaining control of Congress, appear to be fading. In any case, there is not much hope left for getting anything serious done during the last 18 months of the prematurely "lame duck" Bush administration.

July 8, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Midsummer country birding

Indigo Bunting In hopes of finding orioles (either Baltimore or Orchard), I drove to various suitable stream-side breeding habitats east of town Saturday morning, without success. I did spot a number of interesting species, however, most notably a Yellow-billed cuckoo lurking in the bushes only about 50 feet away. This Indigo bunting was in the same location, at the nursery on New Hope Road on the east side of Staunton. Yesterday's highlights:

I've been hearing Mockingbirds and Killdeers quite often in the middle of the night lately. When do they sleep???

July 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Nats take two from Brew Crew

Surprise, surprise! The Washington Nationals defied the odds and bounced back from the defeat by the Brewers on Friday night with their first back-to-back wins in almost a month. A clutch two-run double by Austin Kearns provided the needed edge in Saturday's 5-4 victory, and a homer by Ryan Zimmerman did likewise in Sunday's 7-2 win, sparking a six-run sixth inning. See Well, at least the Nats will have something positive to reflect on as they rest during the All-Star break.

I wonder when the last time a "discarded" has-been veteran like Dmitri Young made the All-Star roster? Lest anyone forget, he is only playing as a "substitute" player for the Nats' first-baseman Nick Johnson, whose leg is still healing.

And speaking of great performances by "elder" players, what a shame that Roger Clemens didn't get any run support from the Yankees on [Saturday]! He only gave up one run in eight innings, but the Angels ended up winning 2-1 in 13 innings. D'oh! Well, at least the Yanks got their revenge against the Angels with a 12-0 victory on Sunday. A-Rod hit his 494th home run.

The mail bag

Mike Zurawski sends more ballpark news: The outfield concession building at the future home of the Washington Nationals will have an eco-friendly roof with live grass and other plants on top, thanks to a $101,670 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. See Baltimore Business Journal. Combined with the grove of Cherry trees, you might end up with a habitat suitable for a variety of nesting songbirds. From a strictly rational perspective, on the other hand, spending a hundred grand on a single environmental project like this seems extravagant compared to alternative uses. It all depends on whether it serves the desired purpose of stimulating other businesses and individual home owners to do the same where they live and work.

The Minnesota Twins are hoping for the same kind of "greenery" in their future stadium, but it may not get certified as meeting the "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" (LEED) guidelines. See Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Meanwhile, an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune warned against giving in to the demands of landowners for more money ($65.4 million, which is nearly $50 million more than they were offered), because it would take away resources from related fan amenities and infrastructure proejcts, which would detract from the return on public investment. This shows that the right of eminent domain, which was made famous in the Kelo case two years ago, can be abused just like government authorities can abuse their power.

Finally, the Chicago Cubs' plans for putting a new drainage system in Wrigley Field have been delayed. See Chicago Sun Times.

July 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Ambassador leaves Venezuela

James Brownfield officially stepped down as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela last week. Since assuming that post in August 2004, he has been assailed on repeated occasions -- verbally by President Hugo Chavez, and physically by pro-Chavez street mobs. In his departure remarks, he regretted the failure "to establish a direct, serious, pragmatic dialogue between the two governments..." He called attention to the fact that some of the terrorists who were conspiring to attack JFK Airport were planning to fly from Trinidad to Iran by way of Venezuela, which is nearby. Hugo Chavez is on very friendly terms with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Brownfield again criticized the large-scale purchase of Russian arms by Chavez, insisting that "the United States ... will never attack Venezuela." Patrick Duddy has been chosen to succeed him as the new U.S. envoy in Caracas. See

There can be few more frustrating, thankless jobs that representing the United States in a foreign country in which the government's primary objective is to inflame popular hostility toward Uncle Sam. Any gestures of friendship are regarded in paranoid fashion as malign deception, and any attempts to put pressure on the host government are portrayed as acts of aggression. So what is there left to do? Trying to "keep up appearances" of diplomatic normality, while maintaining and building informal contacts with rational-minded government officials and businessmen, i.e., non-political hacks. Such alternate channels of communication can help to prevent a minor misunderstanding from escalating into a major confrontation. It will also keep up hopes among those who still resist Chavez's autocratic regime, and thereby defend what is left of the democratic movement in Venezuela.

July 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Those lazy (Mexicans) Americans

"Because of their Catholic culture and the tropical climate in which they live, Mexicans tend to be lazy and averse to hard work." A generation ago, such a blatantly racist statement would have been accepted as conventional wisdom by most people, and hardly anyone would have raised an eyebrow. Today, the tables are turned, and most people would agree that Americans are the lazy ones, whereas Mexican immigrants are the industrious workers on which our economy has come to depend. That notion is perpetuated, implicitly, by Ruben Navarrette Jr. of the San Diego Union Tribune; reprined in today's News Leader. He cites the "straight talk" from Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who warned that American workers could lose jobs to foreign workers who are willing to work for lower wages, and "often have better skills, and better manners." Well!

Frankly, I wouldn't argue with that impression at all. Americans of all walks of life are in dire need of serious behavioral modification -- and a good spanking by "Super Nanny" would be a good place to start. Both of the above-mentioned stereotypical impressions (lazy Mexicans and lazy Americans) are very misleading, however, as they are based on a fundamental logical fallacy: ascribing individual characteristics to groups or whole populations. If most American workers or young people seem lazy or irresponsible or unfit, it is probably because existing institutions, customs, and laws encourage such behavior, or undermine the "normal" corrective incentives. In Mexico's case, the problem centered around the mercantilistic, anti-competitive economic system that still persists to a large degree. If you had to boil our current problems in the United States down to one fundamental cause of anti-social behavior, it would be the "nanny state" engendered by the Great Society welfare monstrosity -- which, contrary to Bill Clinton's January 1995 proclamation about Big Government, has not ended. Indeed, the intrusive "compassionate conservative" agenda of President Bush has reinforced that pernicious corrosive effect on the American work ethic. When you add to that the discouragement that results from widespread cheating by employers (hiring workers who are not protected by the laws), it is no wonder that so many young people in America shun the ladder of success.

July 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Midsummer nature break

While searching for birds a couple days ago, I noticed a cluster of thistle plants in full bloom, and was lucky to get this shot of a Honeybee licking nectar from a flower. Thistles are attractive for about one week, and then they go to seed, looking scraggly for the rest of the summer. Goldfinches depend almost exclusively on the cotton-like thistle fibers, so these late-breeders will soon be able to start building their nests.

Thistle, bee

Along the path behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad on Monday morning, I noticed many fledgling Chickadees, Titmice, and Cardinals making a lot of noise. Those year-round resident species will be able to raise a second brood later this summer and early fall, whereas most of the migrants will have to pack up and leave by September. If their first brood fails for whatever reason (snakes, Cowbirds, Bluejays), they won't get another chance until next year.

July 11, 2007 [LINK / comment]

A Midsummer "Classic" indeed!

Wonder of wonders -- This year's All-Star game was actually worth watching, and it will no doubt be remembered for years to come. Seeing Willie Mays getting a huge ovation from the San Francisco fans was almost as heartwarming as it was to see Ted Williams at Fenway Park in July 1999. Ichiro Suzuki's thrilling inside-the-park home run (the first ever in an All-Star Game) showed the effects of the quirky right-field wall in AT&T Park. What a pleasure it was to see all those aerial views of the ballpark, the bay, and nearby downtown from the Goodyear blimp! As in most recent years, the American League used their slugging superiority to pile on a scoring advantage. Thanks to Dmitri Young, however, the sole representative of the Washington Nationals, and a home run by former Nat Alfonso Soriano, the National League came within one run of tying the game in bottom of the ninth. What uncharacteristic drama for this "exhibition" game! When they loaded the bases, it seemed almost certain that the game would at least go into extra innings, if not be won outright. But such was not to be, as Aaron Rowand of the Phillies hit a lazy fly ball to right field for the final out, and the Senior Circuit failed to win the Midsummer Classic for the tenth year in a row. See

Vladimir Guerrero won this year's Home run derby, but the totals weren't very impressive. That goes to show that AT&T Park is not very friendly to sluggers. Barry Bonds was conspicuous by his absence.

Stadium impressions

Over the past few weeks, new visitors to this Web site have submitted their own impressions of AT&T Park, Seals Stadium, and (Milwaukee) County Stadium, so I have modified those pages so that the impressions appear on them. That reminded me that I needed to fix the early version(s) of the diagrams on County Stadium, so I have done so, with a new 1953 version and a corrected 1954 version. (I realized several months ago, that only the lower deck was extended to the right field corner in 1954, and that the upper deck was not extended until 1973.) There are many other long-overdue minor diagram "chores" to get to...

The mail bag

Speaking of "chores," Scott Rhodes brought some corrections on the two Kansas City ballparks to my attention. With regard to Kauffman Stadium, he is quite certain that the original dimensions were 410 feet to center and 385 to the power alleys, whereas both editions of Lowry's Green Cathedrals and several other sources state that it was originally 405 and 375, respectively. I was never 100% sure about that, which is why I made a 1980 version diagram, but no 1973 version diagram. Well, thanks to John Pastier's fine coffee table book Historic Ballparks, I saw a photo of the very first game played there in April 1973, and sure enough the "385" distance markers are clearly visible. (I couldn't see any markers in center field, probably because they were in dark letters.) That pretty much confirms what Scott said, so unless anyone knows for sure that there were some changes to the outfield fences between 1973 and 1995, I think the matter is settled. Thanks very much, Scott!

July 12, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Midsummer: Mimosas in bloom!

In keeping with the recent theme of "Midsummer," I present some images of one of my favorite flowers: the Mimosa. They come into bloom toward the end of June, just when it gets really hot outside. Some people consider them unwanted "weed" trees, because they will grow almost anywhere in warm and humid regions, but I think their pink puffy flowers are uniquely beautiful. Because of the recent dry spell we had, the Mimosas were turning pale, but the nice, steady rain we had on Wednesday brought the color back. So, I took advantage of the situation with my camera when the sun came out late in the afternoon.

To see a closeup of the Mimosa flower, showing the glistening rain drops, roll your mouse over this image. Click on it to see the rest of the new Summer 2007 photo gallery.


July 12, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Fujimori may avoid extradition

A Supreme Court judge in Chile, Orlando Alvarez, ruled Wednesday that there are insufficient grounds to grant the Peruvian government's request to extradite ex-president Alberto Fujimori to Peru so that he can face human rights and corruption charges. This was a surprising rebuke to the special prosecutor in charge of this delicate case, Monica Maldonado, but the ruling may still be appealed. The Washington Post reports, "A University of Lima poll released Wednesday indicated that two-thirds of Peruvians 'do not sympathize' with Fujimori." Maria McFarland, who works for Human Rights Watch, complained that the judge ignored evidence implicating Fujimori in activities of the the "Colina Group," a death squad that played a key role in suppressing the terrorist insurgency that used to torment Peru. "Alvarez mistakenly asserts that there is no evidence directly linking Fujimori to the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres in 1991 and 1992." Those killings left a stain on Fujimori's legacy that the near-miraculous economic recovery of the mid-1990s could never erase.

Peruvians are outraged by this ruling, of course. An editorial in today's El Comercio (of Lima) raised the possibility of a quid-pro-quo behind the ruling: "Precisely yesterday the Chamber of Deputies of Chile approved a [free trade agreement] with Japan." Given that Fujimori is contemplating a run for the senate in Japan (!) next month, this coincidence is indeed very intersting...

When a government is fighting for its very survival, and civilization itself is in peril, one can under some circumstances rationalize targetted brutality in the name of public order. But if so, leaders such as Augusto Pinochet or Francisco Franco should be obliged to face their accusers, so that there can be a public accounting for the harsh deeds. Otherwise, society will never heal, and people on opposite sides of the political fence will never be reconciled. Peru needs to convene another "Truth Commission," along the lines of South Africa and Argentina, to settle the agonizing fundamental question: Were the extreme measures really necessary? What's more, a cynic might question whether the government of Chile, which treated former dictator Pinochet with kid gloves as long as he lived, is in a position to sit in judgment on such matters.

Congress screws Colombia

This is one of the most appalling news items I've come across lately: The Democrat-led Congress has rejected a measure that would have extended broad free trade privileges to Colombia. This despite the fact that we have major interests in that country (above all, the threat of narcotics trade) and the fact that the current government, of Alvaro Uribe, is very friendly toward the United States and has been extraordinarily effective in suppressing the narcoterrorist movement of FARC. Unfortunately, some of Uribe's conservative allies are in cahoots with the right-wing militia organizations which are rather corrupt and brutal, though not nearly as bad as the leftist counterparts. For whatever reason, the U.S. government will be obliged to treat Colombia with the same manner as it treats Ecuador, whose young left-wing President Rafael Correa has proven to be a menacing hot-head. The decision by Congress is monumentally short-sighted and stupid. Publius Pundit pulls no punches in excoriating the contemptible weasels on Capitol Hill. (Link via Instapundit.)

July 13, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Stadium structure completed

The last major structural beam in the Washington Nationals' new stadium was put in place on Wednesday. Progress is on schedule, and there should be no problems getting it finished before Opening Day next April. City and team officials had planned a ceremony in which various dignitaries and workers would sign that last beam, but the event was "rained out." One worker, evidently not from the D.C. area, wrote "Go Pirates!" on the final beam. See Washington Post.

This landmark comes just as the Washington Nationals begin the second half of a daunting but not hopeless season. In Thursday's Post, Barry Svrluga paid tribute to manager Manny Acta's "relentless positivity," which is leavened by realistic expectations about the short term. Acta does seem to have the ideal leadership personality for a team in the Nationals' position, and it reminds me of one of my favorite inspirational quotations, from Samuel Johnson: "Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance."

The mail bag

Mike Zurawski came across a news story in the Palm Beach Post: Commissioner Bud Selig "is very upset" that the state of Florida hasn't offered funding to help build a new stadium for the Marlins. The delay stems from indecision on the part of the University of Miami as to where the Hurricanes will play in future years. Some might call looking out for taxpayers' interests by the legislators as simple hard bargaining. Once again, MLB owners are exhibiting the same "entitlement" mentality that other clients of the government have come to expect -- like pigs feeding at the trough. (I was amused that MLB President Bob DuPuy is using astrological lingo again, as he did during the negotiations with D.C. three years ago: "We thought the stars were aligned.") It's ironic that this issue is being raised during the week when the All-Star game was played at the one recently-built stadium that was mostly paid for by the franchise itself: AT&T Park.

July 13, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Illegal immigrant crackdown?

Clearly exasperated with the breakdown of law and order in their midst, on Tuesday the Prince William County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to deny public services to illegal immigrants. (The independent cities of Manassas and Manassas Park lie within PWC, and the whole area is one of the biggest Hispanic population centers in Northern Virginia.) This raises the question of who will do the checking every time some "funny-looking" person with a foreign accent wants to check out a library book or use a public swimming pool. Is some 20-year old clerk or cashier up to the task of verifying legitimate identity documents? The Washington Post examined the practical side of the push to make sure that only legal residents can enjoy the health, educational, and recreational privileges to which bona fide members of a community are entitled.

Some people will say that this precipitous action by PWC leaders stems from the failure by Congress to pass an immigration reform bill, as local governments assume by default more of the Federal government's proper responsibility for enforcing immigration laws. Well, perhaps to some extent. I don't like alarmist approaches to policy problems, and I dislike any talk of "cracking down" on illegal aliens; on May 18, I criticized then-state senatorial candidate Scott Sayre for suggesting that state police officers start rounding up illegal immigrants. That would be a recipe for social chaos. I do know, however, that the only way to resolve the issue in the long run is to put pressure on the Feds to enforce the law. As long as the Federal government fails in its basic duties to police our borders and keeping track of foreigners who are here on a temporary visa, state and local governments are faced with a massive "unfunded mandate" to provide education and other services to people who do not legally deserve it. As long as the United States of America was the undisputed world champion in economic and political terms, we could afford to be "charitable" to the illegal immigrants who were being exploited by sleazy, cost-cutting employers. Thanks to China and the Islamo-fascists, unfortunately, we are no longer in a position to enjoy that luxury. Only through the "grass-roots" actions of local governments such as the one in Prince William County will anyone in Washington take notice that something must be done!

For a humorous take on this dead-serious matter, novatownhall explains "Why Illegal Immigrants Should Be Allowed To Stay." As in, NOT!

July 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Rebels bomb pipeline in Mexico

Leftist guerrillas in Mexico used bombs to blow up sections of a major gas pipeline in western Mexico three times over the past week, targeting multinational companies such as Honda, Kelloggs, Hershey, and Nissan. The lack of gas energy forced many industries to cease operations until repairs can be made. Well over 100,000 workers are presently idle, and the Mexican economy will no doubt suffer from the drop in output in the affected regions. The "People's Revolutionary Army," one of the offshoots of the Zapatista rebel movement of the 1990s, claimed responsibility, declaring the start of a "prolonged people's war." In response, the Mexican government pledged to upgrade its security measures, as President Calderon faces one of his most difficult challenges since taking office last December. See

Today, the Mexico City newspaper El Universal reported that PEMEX, the government oil and gas enterprise, had been warned of a pending attack in April, as vandals began to wreak small-scale havoc. Nothing was done about the threat, however, because other concerns were being prioritized. The lack of vigilance should come as no surprise, given that the bureaucrats who run PEMEX lack much incentive to exert effort to assure continued production or efficiency. But you can't say that in Mexico, where PEMEX is a "sacred cow" on par with Social Security in this country.

The big underlying question is whether the left-wing political movement that narrowly lost the presidential elections one year ago have any connection to the guerrilla movement. Supporters of defeated candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador made quite a few fiercely revolutionary statements during the closing months of 2006, even trying to thwart the inaugural ceremonies, and it would not surprise me if some of them have turned from childish spite to deadly subversion.

July 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]

In defense of "SWAC Girl"?

The scrupulously fair-minded Thomas Krehbiel criticizes the new Staunton Democrat blog Cobalt-6 for "childish name-calling" in a series of over-the-top blog attacks against "SWAC Girl" over the past few days. Krehbiel makes no secret of his many disagreements with "SWAC Girl," so his remarks in this case aren't about party or ideology, but simple good manners. He also chastised that blog's author, "Kestrel9000," for a video "ambush" of Congressman Bob Goodlatte at a constituent meeting in Staunton last Monday. In spite of his customary courteous attitude, Goodlatte was rudely interrupted by Democrats (or leftists) several times. (I'm sorry I missed that event; it's another sign of low morale among local Republicans, I suppose.) I would agree with Krehbiel on both counts. Two wrongs don't make a right, and no purpose is served when hyper-partisans of the Left retaliate in kind against the angry rantings expressed by some people on the Right.

July 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Revisionist history dies hard

On the editorial page of the News Leader earlier this week, Nick Patler repeated one of the familiar canards espoused by leftists during the Cold War -- that dropping the atomic bombs on Japan was not necessary to bring an end to World War II in the Pacific. In his view, which I find quite offensive, President Truman approved dropping the atomic bomb

not to save American lives, but committed what amounts to a brutal crime against humanity primarily to prevent the Soviet Union from ending the war by invading Japan...

That is a foolish statement on several levels. It is true that the Red Army was preparing to invade Japanese-occupied Manchuria, but the Russians lacked the necessary sea transport to invade Japan itself. To substantiate his claims, Patler cites a recent book by Gar Alperovitz, a leading left-wing scholar-activist who is tied to the "Revisionist" school of diplomatic history. Those people believe that the Cold War would never have come about if only the United States refrained from offending Joseph Stalin in the aftermath of Hitler's defeat. It's essentially an argument in favor of appeasement, and is utterly blind to the expansionist aims of the Soviet Union.

In the next day's paper, Charles Culbertson responded by reminding everyone of the fanatical, desperate measures the Japanese military government was undertaking to ward off an American invasion. The war would have lasted another year without the A-bomb, and U.S. casualties probably would have exceeded one million before it was all over. It doesn't mean we should blithely turn away from the moral dilemma Truman faced, and it may take several decades before American people and historians reach a final "verdict" about the meaning of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

July 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Green heron in Staunton

Green Heron So, I took a casual drive north of town around the middle of the day, and wouldn't you know it, I came across the greatest number of non-abundant species I have seen all summer. I was impressed by the large numbers of Purple martins and Kingbirds, but the biggest surprise came when I was driving back into town: a Green heron was standing on the mud alongside a pond on the north edge of Staunton. In the evening I drove back with my camera and luckily it was still there. (As you can see, it's not very green.) Then I checked out Bell's Lane and was pleased that the Yellow warblers are still around.

July 16, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Thinking about pennant races

Now that the second half of the season has begun, we can reasonably talk about the divisional races and wild card slots. The Cubs are the hottest team in baseball right now, closing in on the Brewers, while the Braves close in on the Mets, hoping to reclaim their "throne." Will the imminent return of Pedro Martinez regalvanize the Mets in time? One interesting fact about the current MLB standings is the relative evenness, with hardly any extremely good or extremely bad teams. [For most of July, all teams in the National League have had] winning percentage records of between .400 and .600, and [in the majors right] now only the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are below the .400 threshold. [My apologies for having had to make a correction.]

For the first time in over a month, the Yankees have won more games than they have lost. Unless they close in on the Red Sox in a hurry, however, the Yanks may have to settle for a wild card spot, and they may be excluded from the playoffs altogether. Can you imagine the Yankees trading away some of their top-notch players as the August 1 deadline approaches? No, I can't either. With A-Rod's contract about to expire, George Steinbrenner might be tempted to rethink his team's big-spending approach to acquiring talent. (Is Brian Cashman brave enough to make such a recommendation to The Boss?) That might be a healthy development for the sport as a whole.

The August 1 trading deadline means a lot more to also-ran teams like the Washington Nationals. I think they ought to spend just about whatever it takes to keep Cristian Guzman.

Nine-game World Series?

A few weeks ago, controversial baseball player agent Scott Boras made news by proposing to extend the World Series into a best-of-nine format, with the first two games to be played at a neutral site. See USA Today. I oppose almost anything that would extend the postseason schedule any later into October, and I think the current format is stretching things out too much as it is, though not as badly as the NBA or NFL. Some people think that Boras, who has represented Alex Rodriguez and other superstars, is "destroying the game of baseball" with his demands for mega-salaries. See This proposal smacks of the same short-sighted obsession with generating revenue, at the expense of the spirit of the game. Just say no!

If any changes to the postseason schedule are made, I would modify the first two rounds, making the wild card slot contingent on at least one team having a higher winning percentage than one of the divisional champions. If not, then the divisional champion with the highest percentage gets a first-round "bye." Also, I would change the format of the first round so that home field advantage would be adjusted according to the differential between the two teams' regular season winning percentage. A big enough difference would mean the better team would get all games at home.

Web page fixups

All of the baseball stadium comparison pages (for example, Stadium statistics) have been reformatted slightly, for the sake of consistency and simplicity.

July 16, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Gilmore exits presidential race

Our former governor Jim Gilmore decided his candidacy for president wasn't going anywhere, so he wisely withdrew from contention. He is a very good speaker, on par with Mike Huckabee, and he exudes a sincere, down-home image not unlike that of Fred Thompson. As the Washington Post noted, however, the main problem was in the fund-raising department. Gilmore had the strongest conservative credentials among the announced candidates, and he had gained some experience in national politics in recent years, but he remained unknown to most people outside of Virginia. Maybe four years from now he'll have better luck.

Why, you might ask, do virtual unknowns like Mike Huckabee or Dennis Kucinich bother to run for president? [Mostly because it is almost the only way to gain national attention these days.] That leads to the bigger lesson to be drawn from the early exit by Gov. Gilmore, which is the highly dysfunctional nature of the presidential nomination process itself. Those silly "debates" among several candidates -- serious ones as well as frivolous ones -- are a major distraction from the real issues facing the nation, which is one reason we end up with less and less satisfactory nominees each successive election cycle. [ ] Ever since early 1968, when the nation was transfixed by the drama of Eugene McCarthy challenging incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson, almost everyone has come to accept the notion that primaries are the best way for parties to choose their nominees. "Democracy is good, smoke-filled rooms are bad." The possibility that deliberation and negotiation among party leaders might yield better-qualified and more reliable candidates has been completely discarded. As a result, both parties now rely on public funding to hold primary elections in nearly all states, which in effect makes them "established" parties. No wonder people complain about the limited choices that are available! Another negative side-effect of primary elections is that, without any central authority to oversee the process, there is a big incentive for individual states to schedule their own primaries earlier and earlier each election cycle. As a result, we will almost certainly know both parties' nominees by March next year, leaving six whole months of anti-climatic "dead time."

There is an urgent need to reform the presidential nomination system, and public funding for the process should be eliminated. That would reduce the incentive to rely upon primary elections. It is doubtful that any significant changes will take place any time soon, however.

R.I.P. "Lady Bird"

Speaking of Lyndon Johnson, we should remember the passing of his widow, "Lady Bird" Johnson. Following in the footsteps of the high-profile Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird became active in promoting her "Beautify America" campaign, encouraging people to clean up litter and plant gardens. It was a very worthy cause that spawned many similar efforts on a smaller scale. We are all better off because of what Lady Bird did.

R.I.P. Jack Hinton

One of the members of the Staunton Republican Committee, Jack Hinton, passed away last week after several months of declining health. In early 2005, Mr. Hinton led the campaign to preserve the "Weekday Religious Education" (WRE) program in Staunton. For background on that, see the Washington Post and my Jan. 24, 2005 post. Mr. Hinton was a retired man of the cloth [hospital administrator], and was a gracious Virginia Gentleman to boot. May God rest his soul.

July 17, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Another hot summer in Oaxaca

Protests in the Mexican state of Oaxaca have turned violent again, after several months of relative calm. As before, police used tear gas to quell the disturbance, and the protesters burned several vehicles. This is taking place during the "Guelaguetza festival, which celebrates indigenous music, food and crafts..." See BBC. It all began with a strike by teachers in May 2006, turning into politically-motivated effort to force Governor Ulises Ruiz to resign. The violence peaked in late October , after which the police retreated.

It is a terrible tragedy that the beautiful tourist city of Oaxaca -- with its precious colonial architecture, pre-Columbian archeological wonders, and superb bird-watching opportunities -- has been devasted because of political disagreements.

Panama - U.S. free trade

Last Wednesday the Panamanian Congress ratified a free trade agreement with the United States, in the face of protests by farmers and others who have enjoyed economic protection. Interestingly, the left-leaning President Martin Torrijos and his Democratic Revolutionary Party have played a constructive pro-trade role in Panama. See It's almost the same situation as in Costa Rica and Honduras, where Manuel Zelaya and the Liberal Party have adopted a forward-looking attitude on global integration. Now the question is whether the Democrats in the U.S. Congress will ratify the treaty. It's time for pro-NAFTA Bill Clinton to step up to the plate and urge his fellow Democrats to do the right thing.

July 17, 2007 [LINK / comment]

"The Dog": back into hiding

GGD - Andrew Clem, GOP chairs closeup After having metamorphosed "from a right-wing political porn fest into the ersatz-liberal 'Teddy's Dog'" since late June, fraudulently identifying me as the blog registrant, and then re-adopting his original blog name (but with the same pretend liberal identity) last week, the notorious (to put it mildly) General Grievous' Dog has gone back into hiding once again, or perhaps he is just hibernating. As of now, the only content left is a big smiley face, and all the recent archives with bogus insinuations about me have been erased from existence. There is obviously no point to making a permalink blog references in such a situation, since they all end up vanishing anyway. (On the other hand, perhaps the old "GGD" blog content will instantly reappear as if by magic later this afternoon! Who knows?) I swear, "The Dog's" repeated identity morphing almost reminds me of the creepy shape-shifting character "Odo" on that Star Trek spin-off series, and the repeated cover-ups of his smutty tracks show his lack of integrity as a "blogger." (The screen shots were taken today and on July 2.)

This was a clear violation of Blogger's rules about content: "Blogs that misleadingly appropriate the identity of another person are not permitted." So why, then, have they continued to permit it?

The (presumed) identity of "The Dog" was first revealed to the public (inadvertently?) by "Spank That Donkey" back in February, but when I asked him about this in person just a few days later, "Spanky" would not tell me who it really is. Why not? What was there to hide? Elle admitted back in December that she knows who "General Grievous' Dog" is, and the Richmond Democrat followed up on this strange case last month.

For the record, I have better things to do with my time than respond to each and every false statement posted by the "SWAC job" bloggers who include links to GGD. I try to deal with the more egregious cases, but there is simply too much disinformation out there for one blogger to rebut. By now it should be obvious to all that anyone who lends credence to "SWAC Girl," "Spanky," "Johnathan Maxfield," or "Elle" is making a big mistake.

Time for Sime?

Phil Chroninger wonders why the pro-Sayre faction is lining up behind Emmett Hanger in the fall campaign, suggesting that the Libertarian alternative Arin Sime is a closer ideological match. Simple answer: As long as a person is a member of a local Republican committee, he or she is obliged to support their party's candidate. You don't have to go campaigning door-to-door if you don't want to, and mild criticism is acceptable, but you should at least voice support for your party's nominee, and vote for him or her. It would also help matters to retract past statements to the effect that Senator Hanger is a "Republican In Name Only (RINO)" or a "Democrat Lite."

July 19, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Braves sign Julio Franco

Less than a week after the Mets let him go, 48-year old Julio Franco signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves, the team where he played from 2001 to 2005. (Before that, he had played in the Mexican League.) As before, the reliable clutch slugger will serve as a pinch-hitter most of the time, while starting at first base on occasion. He says he wants to play until he is 50. Over the hill? NOT! See

I was lucky to take a photo of Julio hitting a home run in RFK Stadium late last September. He is the oldest major leaguer ever to do so, and he has hit one four-bagger this year. As you can see in the closeup view, his biceps are huge, and no one has ever accused him of using steroids, as far as I know. Wouldn't it be something if the Braves end up ahead of the Mets in the NL East divisional race this year? It would be like the Damon-less Red Sox finishing ahead of the Yankees in the AL East.

Nats beat Astros

Back at home after a brief road trip to Miami, the Nationals took two out of three games from the Houston Astros. Ryan Langerhans (another former Atlanta Brave) hit a three-run homer that made the difference for the D.C. team last night; it was his fifth of the year. The Nats have won five of their last eight games, a fleeting sign of hope as the second half of the season gets going.

The mail bag

Warm welcome to new visitor Eric Hines, who appreciates my hard work on the ballpark diagrams, etc., and says he "especially love[s] how the football fields can be overlaid on the baseball fields..." Well, I appreciate being appreciated! Also, Brian Hughes tells me that fans can get into the "Park at the Park" area behind center field at PETCO Park for only five bucks. That would be a fun way to enjoy an afternoon game with friends or Significant Others who are not hard-core baseball fans. Something like that should be done at the new Washington Nationals Stadium!

July 19, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Alien beetle invasion?

Jacqueline and I went for a country drive after dinner last evening, and stopped at the home of a friend who showed us this frighteningly weird (but dead) beetle. It was still alive when they caught it. At over two inches in length, it appears to be a Dynastes tityus, a.k.a. Eastern Hercules beetle, which is part of the Rhinoceros beetle family; see and Wikipedia. Most of those species are native to Central and South America, but this one is found throughout the southeastern USA -- not an "alien invader."

Hercules beetle

NOTE: This photo has been retouched.

July 20, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Clydesdales visit Staunton

The Budweiser Clydesdales came to Staunton on Thursday evening, as part of a nationwide tour sponsored by Anheuser-Busch. Hundreds of people of all ages -- over 21 and under 21 -- lined the streets to watch those elegant horses stepping in their well-trained cadence. Local veterans and motorcycle riders also joined the street procession. Staunton has a parade just about every month, it seems, and this makes two parades in one month! In conjunction with the parade, there was a rock concert at the wharf parking lot, sponsored by a local beer distributor and a radio station. As I learned from the News Leader, there are actually several teams of Clydesdales across the country. This one is the "East Coast Hitch," based in New Hampshire.

Budweiser Clydesdales

That's Bob Ladd, owner of Shenandoah Harley-Davidson, seated atop the carriage, wearing the black shirt.

July 22, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Nats win another series

The Nationals found a way to prevail over the Colorado Rockies this weekend, winning 3-0 on both the Saturday and Sunday games. Thus, they won three of the four games in the series, the second one in a row they have won. RFK is becoming a good luck charm once again. The main credit for the victory on Saturday goes to Mike Bacsik, who allowed only three hits, three walks, and no runs in 6 2/3 innings. The hero this afternoon was Austin Kearns, whose 3-run home run into the left field mezzanine level in the bottom of the eighth inning was the only run-scoring play of the game.

Slugfest in Da Bronx

The humble Devil Rays walloped the once-vaunted Yankees by a score of 14-4 on Friday night, but the home team got revenge during the weekend, winning by 7-3, 17-5, and today 21-4! The total four-game score was 49-26. According to, "the last time the Yankees scored this many runs in back-to-back games was 40 back in 1936..." A-Rod was among the Yankees who hit a home run, and now needs only two more to reach the 500 mark. Perhaps the Yankees are finally on a rebound. The trading deadline is approaching, and decisions must be made...

Bob Feller in Iowa

Hall of Famer pitcher Bob Feller, who is 88 years of age, recently visited his home town of Van Meter, Iowa. There is a poignant story about the visit by the former Cleveland Indian ace at I visited the Bob Feller Museum in August 2004, and of course I can relate to the small-town setting Feller grew up in.

Miller Park anomaly

On FOX Saturday baseball, I was watching the Barry Bonds interludes and noticed what others have commented upon: The right field distance marker at Miller Park still says "345," even though they supposedly moved the fence in by several feet prior to the 2006 season, making room for a "patio" area with tables. I'll have to get to the bottom of this discrepancy.

July 22, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Airline disaster in Brazil

The crash of an Airbus airliner at Sao Paulo's Conganhas airport on Tuesday night was the worst air disaster in Brazil's history. BBC has a video clip of the tragic accident in which over 200 people died. President da Silva declared three days of national mourning. Conganhas is the smaller of the two main airports in Brazil's biggest city, comparable to New York's LaGuardia or Washington's Reagan National. It is aging and cramped, with hardly any margin for safety at the end of the runways. A few months ago there was a midair air collision over the Amazon jungle that brought to light the problems in Brazil's air traffic control systems. They tried to blame the American pilots, who were detained for a while.

Venezuela's RCTV returns

Two months after going off the air because Hugo Chavez refused (on bogus political grounds) to grant them a renewed broadcast license, Radio Caracas Television is beginning its new life as a cable and satellite media company. About 30 percent of Venezuelan homes either have cable TV access or a satellite dish, so the opposition to Chavez will still have a significant voice, although a muted one. See BBC.

Cuban emigration

This is almost too funny to be true: Cuba tried to portray U.S. scrutiny of visa applications by Cubans seeking to enter the U.S. as part of an effort to overthrow the Cuban government. Well! See As almost everyone knows, the previous two big waves of Cuban emigration to the United States (the 1980 Mariel boatlift and the mid-1990s crisis) were both contrived by Castro to defuse internal social tensions. Indeed, if it weren't for past U.S. humanitarian gestures, bending the rules on immigration for the benefit of the victims of Marxism, the communist regime in Havana might not have survived all these years!

July 22, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Hager edges Judd in RPV race

Former Lieutenant Governor John Hager was elected as the new Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia yesterday, by a narrow 41-39 margin on the second ballot. This marked the end of a surprisingly contentious struggle among evenly-matched factions. Judd has been serving as Executive Director of the party since late last year, and would have continued in that (paid) staff position as well as the (unpaid) chairman role. Hager announced that he plans to keep Judd in his current position, and said he will work hard to unite the factions within the party. I wish him all the luck in the world, but even that may not be enough. See the Hampton Road Daily Press.

Jim Hoeft has the full text of Hager's letter to the RPV, emphasizing the need for the party to unite to win elections. There are a bunch of pertinent comments from various points of view at Too Conservative. I'll admit I had mixed feelings about this race; see my June 22 blog post. I had a good impression of Charlie Judd from my brief meeting with him back in February, but I also have a lot of respect for the mainstream, common-sense conservatism of John Hager. He has been a political rival, at various times, of former Attorney General Mark Earley and Rep. Eric Cantor, who endorsed Judd in this race. Judd used to work for the Moral Majority, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

"My buddy" Waldo

Waldo Jaquith has more to say about "the dangers of pseudonymous commenting." One motivation for assuming a false cybernetic identity is to artificially manipulate stock prices by spreading rumors, and someone got caught doing just that. Waldo just added me to his Virginia political blogroll, which will no doubt intensify the SWAC-area rumors of my alleged "leftist activities."

July 22, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Mild day at Augusta Springs

Great Blue Heron I spent much of the day hiking around the Augusta Springs wetlands and nearby trails, joined by Bill Funk, who has worked on various conservation programs in this area. The temperature was surprisingly mild, and the insects were few in number as well. We didn't see any particularly spectacular birds, but I did get a fairly decent shot of this Great Blue Heron. There were at least three Green herons as well. Also, Bill pointed out a Snapping turtle in one of the ponds, along with a Painted turtle. Today's highlights:

Near the end of our hike, I spotted this huge fungus, nearly 12 inches across, which I believe is a "Chicken mushroom":

Chicken mushroom

July 24, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Bolivians quarrel over capital

In another sign of sharpening ethnic and regional divisions within Bolivia, many of the opponents to President Evo Morales have proposed moving the seat of government from La Paz, where it has been for about a century, to Sucre. At present only the Supreme Court sits in Sucre, which is a beautiful colonial city in the central part of the country, at a lower elevation than La Paz. That would make it more accessible to the easterners in the boom city of Santa Cruz who are more modern and pro-business in outlook, and hence more conservative. In response, supporters of President Morales have staged large demonstrations to insist that the capital stay where it is, in La Paz. See and my Bolivia photo gallery

July 25, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Chavez warns foreigners

Apparently worried about the declining attention he has been getting recently, President-for-life Hugo Chavez has issued a warning to foreigners in Venezuela that they will be expelled from the country if they criticize his government. On his radio show he asked,

How long are we going to allow a person -- from any country in the world -- to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it? [SOURCE:]

This was in response to a recent statement by Manuel Espino, leader of the conservative National Action Party party in Mexico, who criticized Chavez at a pro-democracy forum in Caracas. How ironic that when Chavez spoke at the United Nations last September he called President Bush "The Devil," and then tried to stir up rebellious sentiment among the poor people in New York City. Of course, ideological extremists like Chavez are immune to grasping such irony. But just think if the tables were turned and Bush did in Venezuela what Chavez did here!

Another bit of irony is the "paranoid style" of Hugo Chavez, who constantly seeks to bolster his popular support by artificially magnifying political threats, such as claiming that the U.S. government is plotting to assassinate him. "The CIA is everywhere," he declared. It's the same phenomenon that Richard Hofstadter identified among the U.S. right-wing fringe during the 1950s Red Scare, and which is re-emerging today. See Oct. 30, 2006.

July 25, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Dems tap antiwar sentiment (?)

Tuesday's Washington Post drew attention to a public opinion survey which, they say, shows a strong shift in favor of the Democrats on the Iraq war issue. Apparently, nearly three times as many American people (49% to 17%) believe that the Democrats in Congress have done too little to get President Bush to change his war policy as those who believe they have done too much.

A little scrutiny would lead one to a different conclusion, however. For one thing, the choices posed by the poll questions are artificial. Asking whether Bush is willing enough to change his war policies implicitly assumes that those policies should be changed, which is a highly debatable proposition. People who agree that he should refuse to cave in to pressure to change his policy would have a hard time answering this question in a straightforward way. (I know I would.) Furthermore, negative attitudes toward a national leader are entirely understandable when there is a prolonged, unpopular war. The folks are upset, and somebody has to take the blame. But there is not much point in directly comparing attitudes toward a specific leader who has a real face and name with attitudes toward a large, heterogeneous assembly -- e.g., Congress.

Another problem is the nature of the survey itself. The Post reporter who co-wrote this story, Dan Balz, has a solid reputation (I don't know about Jon Cohen), but the questions remind me of the "push polls" that some political candidates use to influence voters while pretending to merely inquire about voting preference. News stories like this should be clearly identified as "analysis" pieces, making it plain that they reflect the author's own viewpoints.

As for the underlying political dynamics depicted in the article -- the risk to the GOP fortunes in 2008 posed by the war -- there are many uncertainties. The mitigating factor here is Hillary's strong need to shore up her vulnerability on national security issues. Because of her past anti-military statements, she is forced to adopt a relatively hawkish line on Iraq and the broader war on terrorism. That's why, in the "debate" on Monday evening, she came down so hard on Barack Obama for his "irresponsible" (her words) position on the war. This illustrates why it is that the Democrats will have a hard time presenting a coherent alternative war policy in next year's campaign: a large proportion of Democrats are simply blind to strategic realities. One of the big ironies of governance is that responsible leaders are not necessarily responsive to public opinion -- especially in emergency sitatuations such as war when the pros and cons are very complex and judgment tends to get clouded by emotion. Abraham Lincoln defied the opinion of a war-weary public in 1864, putting his reelection at risk, and we are all better off for it.

Antiwar nut in C-ville

A certain notorious person on my list of unmentionable wackos showed up at a rally protesting U.S. military involvement in Iraq last Friday. Why don't I mention her or others on that list? Because I understand that the more public attention those kinds of people draw, the more influence they get. I just wish more people on the Right understood that.

July 25, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Caution: BEAR crossing!

I almost killed a Black bear on Monday, and it is possible that it almost killed my passengers and me. I was driving along Interstate 66 just west of Front Royal some time after 4:00 PM, when I noticed a large black animal in the median up ahead. A very big dog, perhaps? No. As we approached, I could see that it was a Black bear, and to my horror, it began to run across the highway in front of us. I swerved toward the right onto the asphalt shoulder and sped up, hoping to get around the jaywalking beast, and we all braced for impact. Fortunately, my evasive driving paid off, and the bear escaped unharmed. I stopped the vehicle and we could see the bear climbing up the grass slope toward safety. It couldn't have missed us by more than a few inches. If I had slowed down, I am pretty sure that we would have collided.

And if that scary wildlife encounter wasn't enough, a Red-tailed hawk flew right in front of our vehicle a short while later. Other notable bird sightings so far this week include a high-flying Great blue heron near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, and a bunch of noisy Kingbirds in Bethesda, Maryland.

That Green heron is still hanging out at the pond on North Augusta Street, and on Monday I saw two of them there, confirming what local bird club member Lisa Hamilton told me. As for "yard birds," we have seen more House finches out back lately, but hardly any Goldfinches.

UPDATE: A bear trying to cross I-75 north of Atlanta on Tuesday morning was not so lucky. Hat tip to Instapundit.

July 26, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Gladiolas out back

Gladiolas Jacqueline planted some flowering bulbs out back a couple years ago, and to our surprise each year they grow back even bigger than before. In fact, they have been growing so tall that I had to tie them to wooden stakes to keep them from falling over. Most of them are white, but the yellow and pink ones shown here are my favorites. Some friends visited recently and informed us that the flowers are Gladiolas. You learn something new every day!

July 27, 2007 [LINK / comment]

More polarization in Colombia

For different reasons, the likelihood that either the left-wing rebels or the right-wing militias in Colombia might cooperate with government peace talks has lessened over the past few days. This polarization threatens to undermine the progress achieved by President Uribe. On the left, the FARC and ELN rebels have been accused by Human Rights Watch of widespread reckless use of land mines, which killed or injured over a thousand people last year. Among the people of Colombia, FARC has lost its credibility as a fighter for social justice, since it turned into a drug-running protection racket during the 1990s. See Washington Post. On the right, the warlords of the "United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia" who provide security to wealthy plantation owners refuse to cooperate with the prosecution of massacres in which many of their members have been complicit.

Uribe is very popular for his strong stance against narco-terrorism and political violence in general, but if he can't maintain the momentum he built up during his first term in office (2002-2006), he may lose clout. That would be a big setback for U.S. diplomacy in Latin America, where most governments are on less than friendly terms with Washington.

Brazilian official axed

In Brazil, minister of defense Waldir Pires was dismissed by President da Silva on the grounds that he failed in his duty to fix the sorry state of the country's air traffic control system. Over 200 people died in a plane crash in Sao Paulo last week. See BBC.

July 27, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Democrats "get out the vote"

In the "debate" among Democratic candidates for president on Monday evening, Governor Bill Richardson brought up the Democrats' old grievance about the alleged "suppression" of minority voters (Florida 2000?), pledging to push for increased voter registration. Sure, why not!?

Meanwhile, in Washington state, seven paid employees and supervisors of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) were indicted for having "allegedly committed the biggest voter-registration fraud in state history." Of course, ACORN leaders say it was just an isolated group of over-enthusiastic workers, but these sorts of things have been going on for years. See Seattle Times. Now do you get it?

This case illustrates why, generally speaking, I am dubious of efforts to "get out the vote" by either party. It sounds reasonable enough, but even aside from the incentives to cheat, it encourages many people who don't really know much about public affairs to participate in choosing elected leaders. That is not necessarily a good thing.

Border Patrol agents to prison?

GOP-USA is leading an online petition drive to persuade President Bush to pardon Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, the Border Patrol agents who were sentenced to prison because they shot an illegal alien who was smuggling a huge stash of marijuana into the United States. Bush has weak credentials on border security, but I'm betting he will see the light and give those law enforcement officers a break, which they richly deserve -- certainly more than Scooter Libby deserved having his sentence commuted.

July 28, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Happy Birthday, Peru!

Peru flag Peru celebrated its birthday today, and there was much to celebrate. As is customary, the president gave a "state of the union" speech. Alan Garcia boasted about the country's economic success and explained why the changes he is making will take time to be implemented. He pledged that by the end of his term in 2011, Peru will be stronger and more socially just. That is in keeping with one of the basic principles of his party, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). El Comercio of Lima reported that his message was well received by most Peruvians, including several prominent business leaders. Gaining their confidence has been a monumental achievement for Garcia, who entered office with a a huge credibility gap because of the failures of his previous term in office (1985-1990). Some opposition politicians complained about Garcia's speech, however. The leader of the General Confederation of Pervian Workers (CGTP), Mario Huaman called it "triumphalist" and full of promises, warning that labor unions may not cooperate with Garcia's policies. Given Alan Garcia's past record and the current upbeat economic circumstances, it is perhaps remarkable that he didn't spend even more time bragging.

It was one year ago today that Alan Garcia was inaugurated for a second time. Having studied his first period of government in excruciating detail, I had modest expectations. I must say, however, that he has turned out far better than I had expected. Obviously, he has learned from experience. Above all, he has lowered expectations and urged patience, in contrast to the "bonanza" approach of his first government.

Garcia is fortunate to have inherited a solid economic system, which owes much to the market-oriented reforms of his nemesis, Alberto Fujimori, who led Peru from 1990 to 2000. Of all the countries in Latin America, Peru had the third highest rate of economic growth in 2006, at 6.7%, in real terms. (SOURCE: U.S. AID) Only Venezuela (9.3%, thanks to the oil boom) and Argentina (9.2%, thanks to the debt default) ranked higher. Peru's per captial gross domestic product ($2,814) continues to lag behind that of those two countries, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Brazil, but it is at least positioned for sustained future growth. The big question is whether the society can be reformed in such a way that the benefits of growth are more widespread without handicapping the economy with statist restrictions as used to be the case in most of Latin America.

July 29, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Gwynn & Ripken at Cooperstown

Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken are being inducted into the Hall of Fame today. The Washington Post had a four-page section devoted just to "Iron Man" Cal: "The Man, The Myth." I have the highest respect for both Gwynn and Ripken, but I think that part of the wave of admiration for them is related to shame about some of the tawdry side of baseball's recent past. Well, at least umpires haven't been caught betting like the NBA ref. And at least no MLB players have been running dog fighting rings...

Nats sign Young, Belliard

The Nationals showed they want to keep fans happy by winning, signing first baseman Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard in the past few days. See Which leads us to the uncomfortable question:

Will Nick return?

I hope so, but he may not, at least not this year. See

July 29, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Emotional lives of birds (?)

Cardinal I recently read The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy -- and Why They Matter. The author is Marc Bekoff, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado, Boulder. (Yes, I know that is a hotbed of New Age nuttiness and anti-American cranks such as Prof. Ward Churchill.) If you're not a nature enthusiast or a pet owner, you will almost certainly scoff at the premise of the book -- that animals possess emotions akin to our own. The book was full of compelling anecdotes, but there is no systematic compilation of evidence to support the author's thesis. Thus, it probably won't change very many people's minds on the subject. If you are curious and/or open minded, see the author's Web site.

I finally got a decent, well-lit photo of a Cardinal out back last week. What emotions, if any, does this guy exhibit?

Not much birding activity to report. The usual birds are hanging out behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad and along Bell's Lane.

July 30, 2007 [LINK / comment]

"Revolutionary" shift in Cuba?

Even though Fidel Castro continues to recover from abdominal surgery nearly a year ago, he is still too frail to make public appearances. His younger brother Raul, designated as Fidel's successor, spoke at the annual Revolution Day celebrations and surprised some people by suggesting that Cuba adopt some market-oriented policies. Capitalist heresy!? See the Washington Post. Such a shift in policy in the "socialist paradise" would be downright revolutionary -- in a very ironic sense. You might say Cuba is following in the footsteps of Vietnam, where untold thousands of lives were lost so as to pave the way for Marxism-Leninism. Then, 20 years later, they finally figured out (like China) that the only sure path to prosperity is to open up to global markets. Better late than never, I suppose.

Fujimori loses election in Japan

The former President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, lost an election for a senate seat in Japan, where his parents were born. He could not campaign for the race because he is under house arrest in Chile, pending possible extradition to Peru. His rationale for running -- pledging to "restore Japanese traditional values of hard work and humility" -- apparently didn't convince many people, since he has an obvious incentive to avoid having to face prosecution in Peru. So, the question once again turns to when and whether Chile will turn Fujimori over to Peruvian authorities. See BBC.

July 31, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Gonzales under the gun

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been coming under more scathing criticism from members of Congress in both parties, leading some to wonder how much longer he can keep his job. In today's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus wrote that "Gonzales once again dissembled and misled," but she doesn't think "he actually lied" during his latest appearance on Capitol Hill. This was in reference to a meeting with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and whether Bush's warrantless wiretapping program was executed according to the constitutional standards of due process. Marcus concludes,

Consequently, the calls by some Democrats for a special prosecutor to consider whether Gonzales committed perjury have more than a hint of maneuvering for political advantage.

I checked my archives and found to my surprise that I haven't written anything about Gonzales in the past. Perhaps this is because he doesn't really elicit any strong opinions or feelings from me. When President Bush nominated him, I figured he was probably competent enough, but subsequent events put him on par with some of the more questionable Bush loyalists, such as Harriet Miers. (See October 2005.) Like Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, and other Bush cabinet buddies, Alberto "VO5" Gonzales has become more of a liability than an asset to this administration. The problem is that Bush is too weak right now to make a concession to the Democrats who are demanding that Gonzales be ousted. So, I would expect Gonzales to stay in office for a few more months, at least, and then after the furor has died down, perhaps he can quietly exit with a measure of dignity.


As illegal aliens prepare for another round of protests against any reform to the farcical status quo immigration policy, FOX-5 TV in Washington profiled Greg Letief, the guy behind the Black Velvet Bruce Li blog. Greg has been working overtime to let folks outside Northern Virginia know how bad the lawlessness has gotten (see my June 25 post), and now he is warning about the "Mexicans Without Frontiers" movement. (I'll bet the ones who still live in Mexico proper would object to their own borders being violated.) In person, he seems like quite a reasonable fellow, in contrast to the tone of his blog.

As for the planned "boycott," it would mean a lot more if they boycotted their places of employment, to see if our economy would come crashing down like many people seem to think.

July 31, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Radio goes high definition

After several bleak years, it looks like the "Silicon Prairie" (southeastern South Dakota, where Gateway Computers was founded) has reemerged as a cutting-edge center of high-tech industry. A startup firm called Radiosophy is manufacturing high-definition radio receivers, which can pick up digital signals. The story of their rise above adversity was reported on NPR recently. Hat tip to Dan, who recently began revamping Radiosophy's Web site.

Unbeknownst to most folks, many radio stations have already begun to broadcast digitally, with clearer audio and even multiple sub-channels for some stations. This is quite unlike the situation with broadcast television, which will experience a massive disruption in early 2009 when analog broadcasting abruptly ends. I did some checking, and learned that no such digital broadcasting has begun in the Shenandoah Valley so far, whereas several stations are doing so in South Dakota.

Caution: toner dust

Rush Limbaugh made fun of this newly-reported health hazard today, but I think it may be a serious problem. Australian researchers have found that office laser printers give off particles that may be more dangerous to human lungs than cigarette smoke. See BBC. I used to have a laser printer in my home office, and often used a paper breathing mask whenever I changed the toner. I'm getting tired of the slow speed of ink-jet printers, but I'll definitely think twice before I buy another laser printer.

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