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Sunday, November 19, 2006

It's Another Door Opening

I believe things happen for a reason. Sometimes, there seems to be more irony than reason in the way events unfold, but I think that life has a purpose and there truly are explanations for why things occur even if we don’t’ always discover the answers in this lifetime.

But sometimes it seems that events do push you down a specific path.

I just discovered that since I switched to Blogger’s beta version my posts have not been getting picked up by Lefty Blogs. I had been wondering why there were so few comments on my blog. Surely my opinions hadn’t grown any less offensive to those readers who always found me disagreeable. Maybe I had gotten more boring – a distinct possibility that I can’t really discount.

I certainly have been less observant than usual because I didn’t notice until late yesterday that Lefty Blogs hadn’t picked up two things I had posted a couple of hours earlier. So, out of curiosity I went to their site to see if they had dropped me. After all, perhaps I’m not lefty enough. Another distinct possibility.

Nope, I’m still on their Virginia blogroll. I surfed around and to my surprise discovered that a lot of other bloggers who used Blogger and switched to the beta version were having the same problems with their feed.

In my case, it amused me because it’s just the shove in a direction I’ve wanted to take for a while. I’ve even mentioned it to a few friends and fellow bloggers.

I’m going to hang up my dancing slippers and slip away.

There are a few reasons for this, which actually have little to do with Lefty Blogs. That they aren’t getting my feed is just a fortuitous coincidence.

The main reason that I’m taking a break from blogging is lack of time. To really do it right, political blogging needs to be an on the spot, up to the minute response to breaking news. In today’s instant headline world, blogging is not the place for the leisurely, thoughtful in depth analysis that I like to write and read in others. The most relevant bloggers do short, choppy and timely posts, updating several time a day. And I just can’t do that anymore.

I think you can get away with updating just once a day. But when you go longer than two or three days, you really get less relevant. Or at least that’s my take on it.

And blogging is fairly time intensive. Unlike some other forms of writing, such as fiction, memoirs, and personal essays, it’s impossible to do political blogging without a lot of reading of other blogs, newspapers, and magazines. You can’t do the type of blogging that I was trying to do without being well informed and without being willing to do intensive research and linking. That more than the actual writing is what makes it so labor and time intensive.

I enjoyed every minute of doing it, almost to the point of addiction. Indeed, on any given night, long after I had researched, linked, and written my own blog entry, I’d still be up surfing the net and reading other people’s blogs, and writing comments on their sites too.

But I can’t keep doing that. As much fun as it’s been, I’ve been informed by those who love me that I need to take my life back. I need to stop neglecting family members. Having lost my mother nearly a year ago, it became very clear to me that the people I ignore today may not be here tomorrow and I may not ever get the chance to make it up to them.

Nor should any of us put off doing the things we want to do for that mythical tomorrow that may never come. And I’ve been putting off doing something that I’ve wanted to try for way too long.

I alluded to it in another post (no, I refuse to link this time, I’m tired of linking). In "No Republican Blogger Died In the Making of This Blog," I mentioned that I was getting interested in writing fiction. I gave you a brief snippet – but a sort of tongue in cheek sample.

The truth is I know I’m a decent enough writer of non-fiction and of doing the type of writing that works on a blog or even in an off-line op-ed piece. But I have no objective proof that I’d be a good fiction author. Still, I’d sure like to try.

I don’t expect my first efforts to be dazzling because the first essay I wrote back in fifth or sixth grade wasn’t brilliant either. It took work and practice to be an effective non-fiction writer. And it will probably take effort to be even a little bit good as a novelist or short story writer.

I’ve made my first effort and joined a writer’s workshop at my local library. When I read my short story it was very well received and that gave me encouragement to keep trying. It’s when I start sending work out to actual editors and publishers that I expect to taste a bit more humility. But that’s what having a support group like the one I joined is for. To get the feedback and validation to keep plugging away when the going gets tough.

So, I’m going to try my hand at writing fiction. And I’m going to take more time to savor my family and friends and rejoice while I’ve got them.

And next year, I’ll probably get so impassioned, once again, by the state of politics that I’ll be back. Or maybe not. I’m not closing the door on blogging. But for now, another door is opening.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Janet Oleszek Will Challenge Cuccinelli

Ben Tribbett has this up announcing that Janet Oleszek will take on Ken Cuccinelli in the state Senate race next year. Ben has changed this race from leans Republican to a toss up. I think he's right.

Some of those who posted comments to his article pointed out that voters in this district voted for Davis or Wolf (depending on which part of the district they live in) in the most recent election. But the district also has gone for Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Leslie, Byrne, Creigh Deeds, and Jim Webb. And both Davis and Wolf are viewed as moderates. Cuccinelli definitely isn't.

I like Ken a lot. Every election day when I work the polls at Fairview, he's also there and I can schmooze with him all day without getting frustrated. He's enormously personable and likeable. But I think he's way more conservative than the district he's representing.

So, despite his personal attributes and the power of incumbency, against a candidate as formidable as Oleszek, it's going to be close.

Right now this is going to be one of the races to watch. With Chap taking on Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and Janet Oleszek challenging Ken Cuccinelli, we're not going to get a dull 2007.

Two Fighting Scots-Irish Celebrate Victory

Photo courtesy of Bill Burke, Page One

The photo was taken at the AFL-CIO's Congressional reception in Washington, DC on Tuesday, November 13. The enthusiastic guy hugging Jim Webb is Dan Duncan, a fellow Scots-Irish descendant who hails from Tennessee. He's the nominee to be the next president of the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council and he led the successful Northern Virginia labor-to-labor GOTV effort.

He was also an early Webb supporter. In fact, he brought his copy of Born Fighting to his first meeting with Jim Webb back in March 2006 and got it autographed.

Oh yeah, he's also Mr. Anonymous. Am I a proud wife, or what?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Defining A Real Democrat Just Got Easier With Jim Webb

Defeated and somewhat demoralized Republicans, like Mason Conservative, are consoling themselves with a new narrative about Jim Webb. According to their new meme, Jim Webb is going to be a big disappointment to the Democrats who worked so hard for his election because Webb is really a "Pat Buchanan Conservative."

I think that's a stretch. They're misreading Webb and fooling themselves, probably because right now they need to in order to avoid admitting that Americans really did repudiate them for their handling of the war and the economy.

Their main argument, though, for comparing the two men is that Webb has an independent and sometimes conservative streak. Especially, they point out gleefully, where Second Amendment rights are concerned. Webb, like Buchanan, is against gun control and is comfortable around people who like guns. MC and other conservatives believe this will cause Democrats to become disillusioned with Webb.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that most Democrats knew Webb's position going in. In fact, one district chair said to me that although, as a part of leadership, he was publicly supporting Webb, his wife could never vote for Webb precisely because of Webb's stand on gun control. That was a minority reaction but it proves that Democrats knew exactly what they were getting in Jim Webb. And by the way, both Mark Warner and Tim Kaine also had "Sportsman for (Warner or Kaine)" bumper stickers, which was virtually an admission of being pro-gun ownership. However worthy their cause, most of the proponents of gun control have given up that fight in Virginia as unwinnable at this time.

But other than on the gun control issue, there are significant differences between Webb and Buchanan.

The most obvious is that Buchanan is a real wedge issue social conservative. Webb is not. Even during his Reagan years, Webb was considered moderate when it came to social issues like abortion. Webb is pro-choice, in favor of stem cell research, and opposed the so-called marriage amendment. So he's much more in step with Democrats than with Pat Buchanan Conservatives.
As for his opposition to Iraq, every Democrat who won last week was anti-Iraq. It's Buchanan who is marching in step with us on that one, not visa versa. Likewise, on the economy, Buchanan's populism puts him out of synch with free traders in his own party as well as Harris Miller style Democrats. But plenty of Democrats, including Brian Dorgan and Carl Levin, are also economic populists. If you're a Democrat, it's called being pro-union, something Buchanan actually isn't, but Jim Webb is.

And Webb showed his true colors today in this Wall Street Journal op-ed. Webb nails it in this piece, which is brilliantly written and literally hammers home the inequities that are bothering people.

There’s a popular misconception among the mainstream media and political pundits that populism doesn’t work in American elections because most voters don’t resent rich people. Indeed, they aspire to be rich themselves. No matter how far fetched the reality, most Americans appear to believe that the ability to achieve great wealth is within their grasp, so they support laws that favor the rich even if that appears contrary to their real economic interests.

That’s only a partial truth, though. Most Americans don’t resent the rich because most Americans are generous of spirit and kind of heart. As long as they are economically comfortable, prosperous, and secure, they are not envious. And as long as they perceive that the system is basically fair and provides equitable opportunity they are not resentful.

But too many people have been affected by downsizing, outsourcing and automation or have seen neighbors and family members affected by these forces to feel really secure. And too many have either experienced, seen, or read about the erosion of pensions and health benefits. At the same time, they’ve also read about golden parachutes, fabulous wealth and perks awarded to CEOs and corporate executives, even while their companies are performing poorly.

Most people are aware that “it’s not what you know but who you know” nowadays that determines economic well-being. Americans aren’t resentful and aren’t natural populists. But too many of them are getting fed up with the unfairness they are seeing around them. Indeed, inequity seems to run like a seam through the rock of the American economy and it's causing a crack in the surface of our civil society. Jim Webb just exposed the fault line and proved he’s a real Democrat who holds our core values. He's not a Pat Buchanan Conservative, as MC and others would have you think. Jim Webb is a Jefferson-Jackson-style Democrat.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Ok, the most obvious fact is that it’s neither Monday nor morning. It’s actually two days after the elections. Nevertheless, it's time for me to give you my take on the results. Here's my pick for winners and losers in the 2006 elections.

Jim Webb was a very big winner. He came into this race a complete novice. And he was never supposed to win. To a lot of so-called hard headed pragmatists, if Webb had simply slowed down Allen's momentum to keep him from a cakewalk into the Republican presidential nomination, it would have been enough. But here was a guy who was a reluctant politician, introverted (I mean, he writes books for a living - that's 8 hours of sitting in a room all alone working at a solitary pursuit, not great preparation for glad handing the general public), and obviously uncomfortable asking strangers for the huge amounts of money it takes to run. Yet despite all that, he slayed a giant. If anybody deserves the hearty thanks of Democrats all over this country, it's Webb. Against all odds, this novice took back the Senate for Democrats.

The most obvious loser is George Bush. This was a referendum about him. His management style, his policies, his administration. People wanted change and they trusted the Democrats to deliver it.

Surprisingly, the biggest winner (other than the actual successful candidates) might also be George Bush. He showed immediately that he got it. His humble demeanor as he admitted at a press conference that Republicans had “taken a thumping” reminded Americans of what they had originally liked about him, back in 2000 when he still acted like a regular guy you’d want to have a beer with. It’s been a long time since anybody’s caught a glimpse of that humble side. He’s been all arrogance recently. Look for a return to the famous charm offensive of early 2001. Of course, it didn't work the first time and I'm not sure it will, with Democrats, this time either. It's not really meant to charm them anyway. It's meant to appeal the public, though, so he can blame Democratic obstructionists who will definitely oppose him on Iraq, social security privatization, and any number of judicial appointments.

The big losers, Democrats. Now they've got to govern. At some point, they have to agree upon a legislative agenda, including a plausible plan to extricate us from Iraq without appearing reckless or weak. That's a lot harder than it looks from the minority side of the aisle. Governing is more difficult than it appears, especially with a divided government. Both sides are going to do a lot of finger pointing and posturing and jockying for favorable position with the public leading up to the presidential elections in 2008.

But a big loser was Karl Rove whose strategy of exciting the base - independents and swing voters be damned - finally failed. Good politics always is about building coalitions, not depending on only one narrow segment of the electorate to win and govern.

So-called values voters were another big loser. For all their bragging after 2004, they couldn’t deliver the winning margins in state and local races when they were overtaken by events like the war in Iraq and the economic erosion of the middle class. Pragmatism trumped the culture wars when it came to candidates winning this year.

On the other hand, values didn’t lose. Voters were disgusted by Republican scandals from Abramoff to Foley. Voters proved that they didn’t define values as narrowly as the social conservatives did. Honesty, integrity, concern for economic fairness and social justice, and good environmental stewardship concerned them.

On the other hand, traditional moral values are hardly dead. In Virginia, the marriage amendment won and I am afraid that same sex marriage is a loser. Although I personally support anybody’s right to be married to whomever they want and to have the full legal protections of a marriage, for now laws to define marriage as between one man and one woman have a better track record than those that seek to expand the definition of marriage to give the right to same sex partners. That's true across the nation.

Right now, gay activists need to do the hard work of convincing the American public of the basic fairness of extending to same sex partners the same legal protections for their unions that straight people have, and not focus on whether its called marriage or something else. Sometimes incrementalism and pragmatism win.

The Republicans’ famous 72-Hour Project was a loser. Not that it failed. Just that Democrats don’t need to fear it. When they set their minds to it, Democrats can get out their votes too. The Democrats’ GOTV effort was a winner.

I’m prejudiced on this one, but another winner was Virginia’s organized labor, which was with Jim Webb from the beginning. Although a few unions backed his opponent in the primary, most of labor supported Webb, including the incoming president of the NoVa Central Labor Council, who met with Webb back in March and supported him immediately. The Northern Virginia CLC, by the way, knocked on 4,000 doors and made 2400 phone calls in one day in their labor to labor GOTV effort, probably the most they've ever logged in an election. In a squeaker like this, that's got to give them some credit for turning out labor voters for Webb that helped put him over the top. Good job!

Other very big winners were Larry and Leslie Byrne, who took Webb around to Democrats and labor. Chap Peterson was also right there lending his name and considerable credibility to Webb’s run. And the fact that both Leslie Byrne and Peterson could put the 2005 Lt Governor’s primary behind them to unite behind Webb's candidacy can teach a lesson in graciousness, pragmatisim, and party loyalty to some of the leadership of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. Enough said about that.

A big winner was the Virginia blogosphere.

Without them Allen’s maccacca moment would have been relegated to the last page of the metro section of the Washington Post without much coverage anyplace else. In the past, the press thought of themselves as the gatekeepers who decided which news the public should get. Those days have ended. For better or worse, the general public now knows what’s whispered in the halls of Richmond and Washington the same as the reporters and the legislators do. Nobody was better at up to the minute coverage, gossip, rumor, innuendo, and spot on analysis of polls than Not Larry Sabato. Ben Tribbett is the must read blog for all Virginia bloggers, regardless of party or ideology.

Another big winner was Raising Kaine's Josh Chernila and Lowell Feld . They were the first Webb supporters. In fact, without their encouragement, there might not have been a Webb candidacy. They helped to persuade him to run. And the rest of the RK gang provided coverage, support, enthusiasm, and great YouTube footage to readers. We probably have to thank the Indian-American college student, Siddarth, who first put YouTube and maccacca on the map - or at least the late night comedy shows. Congrats to all!

Finally, a special mention has to go to Mason Conservative who has been incredibly gracious on his blog and over at NLS. He is a true Virginia gentleman and he makes me proud to be a Virginia blogger. We will lock horns again, my friend. But for now you have all my admiration and you are one of the true winners for showing style and class. And good luck to your Redskins. You deserve some victory joy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Finis!

Well, it's all over but the shouting. And hopefully the celebrating.

Like most of the political bloggers, regardless of which party, I had a busy day. It actually began with a doctor's appointment, then I headed to my polling place to vote. I stayed to work the polls for a few hours. Then I was supposed to make get out the vote calls. When I got to the precinct where my contact was supposed to give me the phone list, she hadn't shown up yet so I stayed to pass out some more literature. She had a lot of people working the polls. We had three Democrats to one Republican passing out lit.

When she showed up, she said she had the phone calls covered so I stayed a while longer. Then, because they seemed to have enough people, with more coming in later, I headed back to my own precinct. They had about four or five people too, with the promise of more to cover the all important 5 to 7 shift. Meanwhile, four of us passed out literature for a couple of hours while there were no Allen people at all. We basically had the playing field to ourselves.

Finally, an Allen supporter showed up, spent some time on the phone - no doubt to call for reinforcements - and began passing out his literature.

For me, the best moment, one where I wished I had a camera, was when one of our supporters, a young man who wore a Firefighters For Webb tee shirt over his turtleneck sweater helped an elderly disabled lady out of a car and escorted her to the polls. He did the same for another elderly woman who was having difficulty walking. It was all very chivelrous and touching.

I saw Ben Tribbett at Fairview Precinct, which is my precint, and the place I spent the most time. Ben also introduced me to Too Conservative's little sister. A nice young woman, even if she laughed when I went back to the left side. Honestly, the Dems in Fairview always seem to take the left side and Repubs the right. Has been that way for the 12 years that I've worked there. And they've always gotten along well. In previous years, there were Republicans who would hug me in greeting. And I'd return the hugs enthusiastically. They were fellow Burke residents who I saw around the stores and restaurants and we had real relationships beyond election day.

Politics has gotten so nasty lately that we forget that human touch. But when you see somebody else who feels just as passionate about his beliefs standing beside you in the rain on a chilly November day, there is a common bond, even if it's just that your both shivering and huddled under umbrellas.

I have to admit that I've met some of the nicest people among Republicans while working the Fairview Precinct. I miss some of the ones who have moved on and aren't there anymore.

Meanwhile, I hope our side wins. But even more, I hope someday we find a better, more fair, kinder way to do politics.

As Mason Conservative said yesterday, it's not personal. It's politics. And because it's Virginia, we'll all be back in six months for the next race. So, rest up.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Vote For Jim Webb And Andy Hurst Tuesday

And if you’re in the 10th Congressional District, vote for Judy Feder.

I’m going to make my plea to those who live in my own 11th CD to please vote for Andy Hurst as well as for Jim Webb for U.S. Senate this Tuesday, November 7.

It is long past time for some oversight in our government. The problem with the one party rule that we’ve experienced for six years is that there has not been adequate checks and balances.

That’s not the way to run a government. It’s not even the way you run a good business. In business, there are accounting standards that demand checks and balances and even audits to ensure accountability and honesty. If that’s how a private business is run, then surely a government, which is responsible to its citizens, should have even more transparency and accountability. The citizens, after all, foot the bill for the government.

And those citizen-taxpayers are dissatisfied on a number of fronts.

They want a solution to the war in Iraq that gets our soldiers out of harms way without compromising national security. Yet reports have shown that our presence in Iraq has actually made us more vulnerable to terrorist threats rather than safer. And in a stunning blow to the current administration, all the branches of our armed forces have called for Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s ouster.

Basically our people in uniform have voted no confidence in the Secretary of Defense. Yet President Bush has vowed to “stay the course” on keeping him. You can’t credibly say that our military leaders simply have a partisan gripe with their civilian leader. Everybody can see how badly things are going in Iraq, just as they can see how badly its going in the rest of the Middle East, North Korea, and around the world. The military is merely echoing the no confidence that civilians feel with the course we are being urged to stay.

Democrats certainly don’t have all the answers. Democrats, if you will recall, have been systematically excluded from leadership and marginalized by this administration and by Republican congressional leaders. Without access to meaningful intelligence reports it’s difficult to say what to do differently with any certainty.

But Democrats do agree on some alternatives including sending the National Guard troops home, moving Special Forces troops to friendly countries so they can monitor conditions in Iraq and contain terrorism in that country. They also favor seeking a diplomatic solution to the civil war there, which would bring Iraq’s neighbors and our European allies into the solution. Democrats want to ensure that our security needs are met, contrary to Republican claims, and find a way out of the morass that we are in, in Iraq.

On the economic front, Republicans are baffled that the country is not overjoyed at the economy they’ve created. We’ve had years of solid growth, high productivity and low unemployment, although growth has slowed dramatically this quarter and productivity is also on a downward spiral. Only the unemployment rate has dipped even lower. Now, investors fear the combination of a tight employment market and low productivity might drive wages up and spike inflation.

For ordinary workers, it’s a no win situation. When business growth was sizzling and profits were shooting sky high, high productivity kept their wages low. In fact, that was a favorable condition to economists, who always fear higher wages as a sign of inflationary pressure.

So, if workers cannot share the gravy in the good times, and any advance they make is a threat to the good of the economy (whereas astronomical salaries, generous bonuses and stock options, and munificent perks for CEOs are all considered justifiable expenses), what stake do employees have in the economy?

That’s what explains the sourness the ordinary voter feels for the economy. It’s why good economic conditions have not given Republicans any traction and why voters trust Democrats more with the economy.

And they’re right. Democrats understand the difference between greed, which contrary to Gordon Gekko, the character in the movie Wall Street, is not good. Rational self-interest is very good. Encouraging businesses to share the good times with workers, instead of resenting them as a necessary but evil expense that cuts into business profits and bonuses, is rational self-interest.

Democrats would raise the minimum wage and work with businesses to find ways to make healthcare more affordable and to encourage secure pensions. And they would do it in ways that would strengthen business because nobody wants to see business hurt; that’s killing the goose that lays the golden egg. And that, by the way, is the difference between rational self-interest and greed. Most workers don't want to gain benefits that hurt business in the long run. They want good salaries and good benefits only to the degree that it helps business not hurts it.

Republicans fear that Democrats would repeal Bush’s tax cuts. They probably would.

Instead, they would encourage targeted tax cuts that benefit the middle class and working people because economists have shown that when you give tax cuts to wealthy people, they do not spend it in ways that stimulate the economy. They stick it in savings or investment. But with the economic slowdown now a fact, we are going to need to stimulate the economy again and the fastest way to encourage people to spend is to give them money in their pocket as a tax cut does. The people who actually spend tax cuts in ways that stimulate the retail sector are poorer people. That’s because they’re the ones who have to put off purchases and if you give them an extra dollar, there’s stuff they actually need but couldn’t afford. So they’ll buy.

Tax cuts could also go to businesses that provide decent health coverage to employees to help offset the expense. There are other ways to use tax cuts to reward businesses for helping employees with healthcare, pensions, and even daycare for workers.

Because Democrats have different priorities than Republicans they will use tax cuts differently than Republicans. Not just to benefit the top one percent of the wealthiest members of society, but to benefit the middle class and working people.

Jim Webb and Andy Hurst have both demonstrated that they understand the needs of the middle class. Both of them want to find a solution to the mess in Iraq and realize staying the course isn’t it. Both men have demonstrated integrity and independence.

This country needs a change and both of them can help find it. They would represent Virginia with an integrity that is sadly lacking in Washington right now and Virginians could be proud to call them respectively Senator and Representative.

Vote Tuesday, and vote for Jim Webb for Senate and Andy Hurst for the House of Representatives.

And vote for Judy Feder in the 10, because everything I’ve said above applies to her too. And she would bring tremendous intelligence and experience to Congress.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

On The Marriage Amendment Vote NO

Most of the liberal/Democratic blogs are urging a no vote on ballot issue #1, the so-called marriage amendment to the Virginia Constitution. Opponents of this amendment, also known as the Marshall-Newman amendment, cite its unanticipated consequences as one of the major reasons to vote it down. The language is so vague that it could encourage costly lawsuits.

For the best coverage of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, Vivian Paige has been doing a masterful job over at her blog. Go here , here, and here

What's striking is a number of Republicans and Republican/conservative leaning blogs are also urging a no vote. Bearing Drift gives the reasons why its contributors are urging readers to vote the Marshall-Newman Amendment down.

And in the Burke Connection, Delegate Steve Shanon, a moderate Democrat, who was originally a strong supporter of laws to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and who, indeed, was one of only two Democrats, Chap Peterson was the other one, to vote in favor of this law in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2004 (I yelled at him for it, at the time) has now come out against the Marshall-Newman amendment.

And finally Rick Sincere has a good post on prominent Republicans voting No to the amendment.

I don't usually cut and paste others work, but there's enough out there about how bad this amendment is that I don't need to repeat what others have done better than me. Let it suffice to say that I urge you to vote No on Tuesday.