Monday, December 31, 2007
But as every primary season kicks off, months of attention falls on Iowa. The top stars of the news media all camp out there and some of the luminaries of every campaign show up. Candidates spend virtually all their time stumping in the snowy rural hinterlands, shaking every hand, conducting town hall meetings in places like Ottumwa whose only other claim to fame is that Radar O'Reilly came from there.
As a great boon to the local economy of Iowa, I don't resent this. But because it skews election results and upends the aspirations of many good candidates, I have serious concerns about the every four year circus that is the Iowa Caucus.
For starters, the caucus system does not give anybody a good feel for which candidate is really an effective vote getter. It favors good organization and lots of money and the ability to get out the most partisan citizens to spend hours publicly declaring their support for a candidate in front of all their neighbors.
In most of the nation, we have a secret ballot, which is the heart of a true democracy.
And that's the most worrisome aspect of the carnival side show we call Iowa. There is no secret ballot. And that influences how people vote.
In today' Washington Post, there is an interesting article by Shankar Vedantam, in his Department of Human Behavior column about how people make decisions.
Vedantam reports on an experiment conducted by two sociologists and a mathematician, Matthew Salganik, Duncan Watts and Peter Sheridan Dodds.
They asked a group of people to listen to and rate 48 songs. They then had 8 other groups repeat the process. The difference was that the other 8 groups all knew how other members of their group were rating the songs. While the first group, the control group, rated the songs based on the quality of the music, the other groups all picked the songs based on the opinions of others in their group. And in each of the groups, a different set of songs made the cut as the best music. There was no consistency in the choices between groups. Here's what the experimenters concluded:
...Did the eight groups come up with the same list of the best songs? No. When people knew how others thought, this changed how they thought.
Since the people in the first "control" group had nothing to go on besides the songs, their ratings were measures of quality. But in the other eight groups, quality played a much smaller role in determining a song's success. Rather, network dynamics -- the mathematical patterns that govern how ideas spread when a large group of people share complex interconnections and simultaneously influence others and are being influenced themselves -- explained why some songs became popular.
From rating songs to rating political candidates, both the sociologists, whose experiment was just published in Science Magazine, and Vedantam extrapolate that the theory of network dynamics can influence the outcome of people's choices in ways that defy logic and quality.
The experiment, published in Science, suggests that when large networks of people evaluate something together -- and it does not matter whether we are talking about songs or "American Idol" contestants or presidential candidates -- their conclusions are not only powerfully shaped by the views of others, but by the network that binds them together. The Iowa caucuses, which involve people watching one another and moving from one candidate's camp to another, have different network properties than a primary where voters don't have such real-time feedback.
The implications are ominous.
Not only does network dynamics shape the outcome of the caucuses in Iowa, it creates a false sense of momentum carrying into New Hampshire, another largely rural, largely white small state. Between them, Iowa and New Hampshire already have an inordiante influence on the outcome of presidential politics. But at least New Hampshire has a legitimate secret ballot election where pressure from neighbors and network dynamics aren't skewing the results even further than necessary.
Both New Hampshire and Iowa jealously guard their perogatives as first in the nation caucus and primary states. Every other state has been pushing the primary calendar earlier and earlier. By the time the primaries are over it will be far too early, far too much money will have been spent, and the odds of voter fatigue setting in before the general election will be greatly increased.
It's time to fix what has become a broken system that no longer works fairly and that we now know is not even producing the best candidates or the the best leaders. It's not a rational system and it's got to go. And the first step should be dethroning Iowa from its number one spot in the nation.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
The current conventional wisdom is that Rudy Guiliani will do very well in the Republican primary in the Sunshine State because so many New Yorkers have relocated there, either in search of job opportunities or to retire. Giuliani, himself, is banking on a strong showing in Florida to offset expected losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But there's a big flaw in that strategy. And an equally big fallacy in the conventional wisdom that is fueling it.
What many of the pundits and strategists are missing is that the New Yorkers who have settled in South Florida - largely in Broward and Palm Beach counties - are mostly registered Democrats. And they are as staunch a group of liberals as you'll find. In other words, they are not just Democrats, they are New York liberals. This is especially true of the large retiree population there. Many of them are activists who came out of the depression era and were formed by FDR's New Deal.
Florida also is not an open primary state as Virginia is. That means that even if they were so inclined, those New Yorkers Rudy is banking on can't cross party lines to vote for a fellow New Yorker. For the reason I mentioned above, I personally doubt that many of them have that inclination anyway, but they wouldn't have the legal ability to do so if they wanted to.
The beneficiary of Florida's GOP demographics could be, believe it or not, Mike Huckabee.
The GOP's strength is mostly in North Florida and the Panhandle. Both of those regions have more in common with other Southern states than with South Florida and its large population of New Yorkers.
The largest city in Northeast Florida is Jacksonville. It is a large military town with three naval bases. It also attracts a lot of former military retirees. Those who come there for jobs mostly hail from rural south Georgia. The same demographic is true for the retirement population in Jacksonville. It's composed of natives of Jacksonville and south Georgia.
If the South is heart of the Bible Belt, North Florida is its eastern buckle. For years the Jacksonville First Baptist Church was THE major arbiter in local politics for both Democrats and Republicans.
Then there's the Panhandle, which is famous throughout the South as "the Redneck Riviera" because it plays host to vacationers from Alabama and Mississippi. Those folks love the sun and surf and casual atmosphere of a beach setting as much as vactioners anywhere, but Key West or South Beach wouldn't be their leisure destination. They come to the beaches of Panama City because culturally and socially they feel at home there among fellow conservative Southerners.
The only wild card for the GOP primary would be Miami with its staunchly Republican Cuban American population. Cuban Americans will be facing a real dilemna in this election cycle. They remain vehemently anti-Castro and pro-Republican. But the issue of immigration is very important in the Cuban exile community. So, I'm not sure how the Republicans' harsh anti-illegal immigration stance plays out here.
In any case, I believe the the Cubans in Miami will be outnumbered by the values voters up North and along the Florida West Coast.
There are many things that could stop a Huckabee surge, with its roots in the Iowa caucuses. The main stumbling block for him right now is his lack of foreign policy experience and his gaffes following the Bhutto assassination. The growing crisis in Pakistan has put national security and foreign policy back on the front burner for most voters.
But if values voters, who are growing tired of unkept promises, have their say and vote for one of their own, Huckabee could come out of Florida's Republican primary with a strong showing. That more than any other defeat would derail Giuliani's campaign since he's putting so many of his eggs in that basket.
I think the basket will have its bottom fall out and the eggs will break. There simply aren't enough New Yorkers in South Florida who vote in GOP primaries to put that Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Yeah, you'd think.
But if you were a political junkie, and a blogger to boot, there would actually be no rest for the weary.
There can, however, be lots of fun going to holiday parties and seeing who else shows up. So, tagging along with Dan who, as president of the NoVa Central Labor Council, goes to most of these things, I attended Brian Moran's post holiday party. It was held at one of my favorite spots, the lovely and historic old Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town, Alexandria.
A crowd of about 500 well wishers flowed through all the nooks and crannies of the old stone and wood structure that dates from 1785. I greeted Brian Moran as soon as I entered, climbing old winding, wood steps to the second floor where a large reception room was set up.
Some of the notables who were there included Del. Chuck Caputo,as well as both candidates for the 10th District Congressional race, Mike Turner and Judy Feder. Del. Dave Marsden and his wife Julia were there as was Del. David Bulova and his wife Gretchen.
I also spotted Del. Adam Ebbin and State Sen. Patsy Ticer, whom Dan and I actually saw walking to the event. We offered her a ride in our car, which meant that Dan dropped us both off right at the door - saving me from having to trek from a parking lot in the rain with no umbrella.
I also spotted Alexandria's Del Pepper; Ingrid Morroy, Arlington's Commissioner of Revenue; and Dranesville's supervisor, John Foust. Chair of the DNC Women's Caucus and Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Mame Reiley, was there as was Steve Bunn and Scott Surovell, both of whom are running for Chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. George Burke, the 11th District Chair, was there with his wife Sharon. Margo Horner, the Chair of the 10th District also was there.
The high point for me was finally meeting fellow blogger Vivian Paige who drove up from Norfolk to attend. I had hoped to meet her at last year's bloggers conference before my root canal put an end to that plan. As far as I'm concerned, Vivian is the gold standard for bloggers. We briefly discussed the payday lending issue and legislation, including SB 24 and HB 12, both of which will be coming up in the legislative session and I told her that I'm with her one hundred percent on that. I'll be blogging more about that soon.
There are so many others whom I've probably missed. It was a large crowd and it's almost certain that there are people I've overlooked. If so, my apologies to them.
It was a great event. And it beat staying in and vegging out, even if I was tired from my week in Tennessee and the long ride home.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Actually, there is a history and precedence to that boast on Hillary's part. When Bill Clinton first began his candidacy in 1992, the two of them appeared on 60 Minutes and said that voters would get "two for one." The implication even then was that Hillary would play an active role in her husband's presidency if he won. She was supposed to be a selling point with Democratic feminists.
But it fell flat. Women standing behind their men was exactly the role that women were trying to overcome then. Many progressive women questioned Hillary's decision to forego her own career to be a helper to her husband.
A good feminist case can be made now that a woman should not trade on her husband's success to boost her own career. Real feminism should be about women succeeding on their own merits not being either the little woman behind the throne or about getting a boost from a successful spouse.
I'm not opposed to Hillary. I think she is capable and strong. But depending on your spouse to win is not the feminist message that I want to see sent to young women. What it says is marry right and attach yourself to your husband's rising star and you too can succeed.
How about Hillary running on her own considerable merits. It's not like anybody else running has any greater experience that she has - and that's true in either party. She's not running against an incumbent. So her husband's success should not be an issue.
She needs to impress on her own merits and credentials. She has them!
Friday, December 21, 2007
A bunch of other elected officials and candidates also attended the party. Leslie Byrne was there basking in support from the unions who have already come out early to endorse her candidacy for the 11th CD. She looked right at home among friends. Of course, Larry Byrne was there as well. As always, he and I chatted about the Yankees. What else is there to talk about at a labor event in Northern Virginia?
I also spoke for a long time with promising newcomer Doug Denneny. Although I am solidly with Leslie, I enjoyed meeting him and wished him well. I told him I want to see him around for a long time because, as I’ve said elsewhere, I expect great things from him.
Gerry Connolly showed up with his wife and of course continued to stoke my ire by being happy about the Red Sox. Ok, I’m a sore loser. This fight, though, has been going on since the game that the Red Sox won from the Yankees back in the summer of 2004 when Gerry had the nerve to cheer his team during the Democratic Convention in Boston. I warned him I would hold a grudge.
Seriously, he gets a lot of ire from the blogosphere but he has done good things in Fairfax including the Cool Counties initiative, supporting and passing big box legislation and the living wage bill. In addition, he refused to demagogue the illegal immigration issue in the last election when his counterparts in Prince William and Loudoun counties all tried it. I think he’s right to concentrate on enforcing zoning ordinances against crowding, noise restrictions and other laws that penalize the behaviors that distress so many residents in neighborhoods where immigrants, legal or not, have chosen to live. By focusing on illegal actions, he has refused to demonize the people. He’s right about that. And he’s been an excellent Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
Other elected officials whom I saw include the two Davids: David Bulova and Dave Marsden. Vivian Watts, Patsy Ticer, Mark Sickles, Adam Ebbin, and Al Eisenberg were all there too. I chatted for a few minutes with George Barker who looked excited about heading for Richmond in January.
Judy Feder also looked happy and enthusiastic about her upcoming campaign. I met Mike Turner for the first time as well. Both will face each other in a primary in the 10th CD,
Writing up these “gossip column” type reports is often dicey and I’m always afraid there will be somebody that I leave out. If so, my profound apologies!
It was a great party that didn’t break up until after 10, a late night for most labor people who wake up early and face long commutes in our area just like everybody else.
Happy Holidays to All!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Leslie is a long time friend of labor who has supported many of their issues. While in office, she was a supporter of legislation that benefitted working men and women. In addition, she was a strong advocate for consumers and served in the Clinton administration as chief consumer advocate. She also has an excellent record on the environment.
After the holiday, I will focus more on the 11 CD race, as well as other electoral politics, and go into more detail on her record and why she will represent the 11th CD and all of Virginia's interests so well in Congress. In other words, I'll explain it detail why I am such an enthusiastic supporter.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I think so. When it's that close voters have a right to make sure that every vote is counted accurately and thoroughly. That doesn't imply any wrong doing on anybody's part. First of all, despite some misconceptions, machines can break down. Even more important, there are absentee ballots which are counted by hand and there is room for human error there. As for the cost, which Republican bloggers and commenters spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about, it was estimated to cost approximately $200 to ensure that all the votes were counted properly. Here's the quote from an earlier Washington Post story:
...Under state law, recount officials review those votes using printouts. A smaller number of votes -- such as absentee ballots -- were tabulated on paper, and those will be recounted by hand, Fairfax County officials said.That's a modest sum to ensure an accurate vote. It is not a waste of money; it is the heart of a democracy to do so.
It is the county, not the state, that will set up the recount and bear the expense, largely for paying election workers. Officials said it would probably not cost more than a couple hundred dollars.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Ken Cuccinelli both on his victory and his new son, Thomas Jackson, who was born on December 6. This is the Cuccinelli's first boy!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
It's already apparent that I haven't written or posted too much in the past couple of weeks. I've been busy as many of us have.
Christmas and Chanukah shopping is great fun. The stores, whether in the city or out in the suburban malls, are all pretty. I was walking through Macy's just tonight and everything was red, gold, silver and sparkly. But my favorite thing is that even my sense of smell was tempted by the subtle scent of perfume wafting from the perfume counter to the farthest reaches of the store. I love walking in the door of a large department store and smelling all the perfume as I pass the cosmetic counter, the handbags, shoes, and holiday dresses.
Actually, most of my Christmas shopping is already done, the presents wrapped and waiting to be put under our tree.
Since we'll be traveling to Tennessee for the holidays, that's most of our preparation already completed. There are a few last minute things to do in this next week and some parties to attend. It's nice to have most of the work behind me and to look forward to the fun.
Unless something really catches my attention, I probably won't blog again until after New Years.
When I do get back, I expect that my focus will be on the presidential primaries and the upcoming elections in 2008. Yes, I'll focus most of my attention on the Virginia Senate race and the 11th CD Congressional race. And I hope to write more about religion and other cultural topics that have gotten short shrift on my blog recently.
For now, though, I wish everybody a happy holiday.
Go enjoy this most wonderful time of the year!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I suspect that the 1st CD was never really ours to take. Sometimes you can't overcome the demographics and that has been a reliably GOP area for quite some time. And for a while it probably will remain so.
But Forgit ran a great campaign. He didn't have enough money nor enough time to really introduce himself to the voters and gain the name recognition he needed. And Wittman ran as a moderate Republican. Further, the RCCC threw a lot of money into this district to defend what should have been a safe seat for them. That in itself is something of a moral victory for us.
For now, though, there was too much to overcome and too little resources with which to do it. But I am proud of the Democratic candidate for running the race he did. And I'm equally proud of all the Democratic electeds who got out to help him including Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, Chap Petersen and many others.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
After that rally, he and Phil picked up their walking sheets and drove downtown to begin knocking on doors in the middle class neighborhoods near Mary Washington campus.
Here's some of Chap's description of the experience:
I'd gone a few blocks when my brain started to put together the street names (e.g. Sunken Lane) with the sloping topography. For all you Civil War buffs ... yes we were knocking on doors below Marye's Heights.
In other words, we were campaigning on the same patch of land that the Union Army was charging across during the battle of Fredericksburg. The battle was fought on December 13, 1862 and was a decisive defeat for the Union Army who lost over 10,000 men trying to dislodge Lee's Army from the Heights.
To add gentle irony to situation, Chap noted that by coincidence the National Park Service was commemorating the anniversary of that battle and re-enactors were staging the fight, with men in butternut and ladies in shawls and long skirts. A group of those women, staying in character, informed Chap that they could not vote for Phil Forgit because they hadn't yet gotten the vote.
A pretty humorous experience and an entertaining post. At the end, Chap reminds residence of the 1st CD to get out and vote for Forgit this coming Tuesday.
P.S., that means the ladies too because, yes, we actually do have the right to vote. Let's exercise it on Tuesday, December 11th :)
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Fred2Blue has a story on Forgit’s confident and skilled performance in staking out his position and taking on his opponents, especially Wittman.
Also, according the Daily Press
The policy debate started with a discussion of Iraq with Forgit explaining that while he was training Iraqi soldiers in 2005 he saw a lot of potential.
"They are willing to work, they are willing to stand up," Forgit said. "While our troops are there we need to support them in deeds, not just in words."
Meanwhile, Wittman said that the surge was helping to stop violence in some parts of Iraq and more needed to be done to build on that security. In other words, stay the course just as the Bush administration argues.
Lucky Narain, meanwhile, said he wanted to bring the troops home but not before the Iraqis gained better control of the insurgents and militias.
Of course, it’s hard to say when that would be or how that’s different from Wittman’s stand. Narain, however, at least quickly turned the subject to the need to protect veterans’ benefits, which he said are shrinking.
In that area, he’s in agreement with Forgit, an Iraq veteran and Naval Reservist as well as a Bronze Star recipient who has made protection of veterans’ benefits a centerpiece of his campaign.
Then the discussion turned to oil and conservation. Here's more on Wittman and his positions
...Wittman, currently a state delegate, said he wants to see additional research done on more efficient and cleaner fuels and noted that during his first General Assembly session he sponsored a bill that created a grant program to fund scientists working on alternative biofuels.
"We need to have energy independence," Wittman said. "It's a national security issue."
He also mentioned that he was one of four legislators who had been named Chesapeake Bay Foundation's legislator of the year in 2007. To which Forgit quipped, “Welcome to the Democratic Party.”
Forgit also said to Wittman, “The fact is your party is not going to be there for you.” Forgit pointed out that the Republicans and Bush administration have scuttled research into alternate energy sources and fought against environmental regulations.
On immigration Forgit went after the Republicans in Congress and the administration:
Forgit again went after the GOP, charging that while Republicans controlled Congress and the White House for six years, the party did little to effectively curb illegal immigration. Forgit said the federal government must shut down the borders and fine businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
That is an excellent point and one that more Democrats need to remind people of.
Indeed, in the recent statewide elections, Republicans demagogued the immigration issue to death. The truth is this is not a state problem, it’s a national problem. There is very little states can legally do to stem the flow of illegal immigration. The solution lies at the federal level. And it includes getting control of our borders, which is also a security issue.
Anyway, it looks like Forgit more than held his own against an experienced politician and he brings real, pragmatic solutions to the race.
In addition, he has picked up a lot of support from his fellow Democrats in his final push this weekend. Raising Kaine has a great post up about events featuring Tim Kaine today at Three Olives Restaurant, 1203 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA., and Mark Warner, at the Forgit for Congress office in Newport News on Monday at 2 pm. Also, tomorrow Chap Petersen will be at a Get Out The Vote Rally at the Forgit for Congress office in Fredericksburg at 1:30 pm. For more information about these events go to the Forgit for Congress website.
Since turnout is expected to be miniscule on Tuesday, December 11, every vote is going to count. With Phil Forgit in office, there will be one more voice representing Virginia and moving forward a Democratic agenda that will give us a sustainable energy policy, dedication to protecting the benefits of those who serve our nation, making the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and a knowledgeable voice on education.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Forgit, a moderate Democrat, is an Iraqi war veteran, Naval reservist and a Bronze Star recipient. He's also a nationally recognized teacher and winner of the 2005 National Education Association Award for Teaching Excellence. He brings creative ideas and independence to the race.
His views on health care are particulary impressive and show an understanding of the pragmatic solutions that will work for America. Here's what he had to say on the topic:
Let me say again for the record (and I hope my opponent is listening), I am not for single payer health care and I am not for creating new bureaucracies. I want to pursue three guiding principles: accessibility, affordability, and portability. I know from experience that it can be a real hassle to keep insurance between jobs, so portability issues must be resolved.Forgit puts an emphasis on practical solutions that work for the U.S., not rhetoric and ideology. He rejects the European systems which are government run and understands that reforming health care delivery will best be achieved through a market based public-private partnership.
I would like to look at successful programs like the State Children's Health Insurance Program and to some degree Medicare and build on what we are doing right in order to expand coverage for those who need it. I want to encourage a unique American system with competition and full involvement of private insurance companies.
His position on energy consumption and conservation is equally thoughtful and pragmatic:
How is it that we can send a man to the moon, but we can create engines that don't run on substances produced by our enemies? This is an environmental and national security nightmare. Thanks to the Democrats, Congress is finally coming close to updating our CAFE standards. But this is just a start. I strongly support initiatives to develop alternatives that rely on renewable resources like wind, sun and water, as well as new technologies which reduce energy consumption.Finally, he displayed his dedication to doing more than paying lip service to "supporting the troops" by showing how he would write legislation to actually assist soldiers and veterans:
As an Iraq Veteran and Naval Reservist, I want to help craft legislation, similar to what Senator Webb is working on, that helps our troops and veterans. There is a push to draft a new GI Bill of Rights to increase health and other benefits for troops to a level closer to what our WWII heroes received. I've seen how this Administration has talked a good talk all the while making budget cuts for health care and benefits--not to mention armor, etc.--for our troops. I will not stand for this. Their hypocrisy must come to an end.Let's not have any illusions. As good a candidate as he is, Phil Forgit has an uphill battle. The 1st CD is a Republican district. And the GOP candidate, Rob Wittman is already a state delegate with name recognition. He also is considered moderate by Virginia Republican standards. But that's actually a stretch. His record and positions are more in line with conseratives nationally.
He supports Bush's unpopular Iraq war. In addition he has endorsements from National Right to Life and the Family Foundation. In fact, he has a 100% rating from them as well as an A rating from National Rifle Association.
In Phil Forgit, the 1st CD would get a pragmatic problem solver not somebody interested in fighting the culture wars.
But, as I said, despite Forgit's qualifications, he has to gain name recognition and introduce himself to voters in a short time. This race is expected to have low turn out and will be decided by whichever side is most successful in getting their voters to the polls. For a list of events including volunteer opportunities and canvasses go here.
This weekend is the last big push. Finally, if you live in the 1st CD, remember the obvious: go out and vote next Tuesday, December 11.
I have a somewhat personal connection to AFSCME. The father of a close friend of mine, the late Jerry Wurf, was president of AFSCME until 1980. I spent many hours listening to Susan Wurf's stories about growing up the daughter of one of the most respected labor leaders of the 20th Century. Her father also championed the Civil Rights movement as one of the founding members of the New York state chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, CORE, In addition, he was a close associate of Martin Luther King. In fact, King was attending the AFSCME sanitation workers' strike in Memphis in 1968 when he was assasinated. Jerry Wurf later issued the following statement about that:
"Let us never forget that Martin Luther King, on a mission for us, was killed in this city. He helped bring us this victory,"
I am proud to be supporting a candidate who has won the endorsement of one of the most progressive labor unions, one that has consistently stood up for the rights and dignity of all workers.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
According to Stephen Barr’s column in today’s Washington Post, 100,000 federal employees and 100,000 contractor workers could have their jobs on the chopping block in February. Since federal work regulations require 60 days notice before RIFs (reduction in force is the technical term for a government layoff), the pink slips will go out at Christmas season.
The Army and the Marine Corps both say that if they run out of money to fund the Iraq war they will have to reduce operations at their bases around the U.S. According to this account:
Yesterday, Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said "facts are the facts" and that military bases will have to cease operations, terminate contracts and send employees home without pay if a war-funding deal is not reached.
"Anyone who thinks that this is not a serious situation is simply misinformed or is ignoring the facts," he said in an interview with the American Forces Press Service.
However, the real story isn’t quite that straightforward. Here’s the telling quote:
Whitman's warning came a day after Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) released a letter, signed by seven other Washington area House members, calling on the Pentagon to shift money around in the department's many budget accounts to stave off furloughs.
"This is an old budget showdown tactic -- and they're using federal employees' livelihoods as leverage in a turf battle with Congress," Moran said.
Asked for his views on the furloughs, John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents thousands of Defense workers, yesterday said Secretary Robert M. Gates should "reconsider plans to lay off civilian employees in the midst of this political debate. The Defense Department should have alternatives for funding the war without laying off civilian employees --one alternative is to request authority from Congress to reprogram operation funds."
Federal employees, Gage said, are vital to the Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts, and many Defense civilian employees are military veterans who have volunteered for jobs in the combat zones. "They are the ones who care for wounded war fighters in DoD hospitals, and they are the ones who tend to the families of troops waiting at home for their loved ones," he said.
The letter that Moran released, by the way, was also signed by Reps. Tom Davis, Frank Wolf, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Elijah Cummings, Chris Van Hollen, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. In other words, the Virginia and Maryland members of Congress – both Republican and Democratic – and the DC delegate to Congress are all united in their plea to the Pentagon to shift the money around to keep the military bases funded.
This is nothing more than the Bush administration’s attempt to play chicken with Congress to get its way regardless of the cost to employee morale or the security of the country. The money is there; the funding of salaries can be met through reprogramming funds and other budgetary tools until next year when supplemental funds will be passed.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
One of them is new to blogging, though I'm pretty sure you'll recognize her name. Leslie Byrne is certainly not new to Virginia politics nor to the political blogosphere. She's read our blogs, live blogged, commented and generally supported our efforts; so, now it's time to support her, read her blog, go to her website and contribute to her campaign. And certainly, as her campaign gears up to take on Tom Davis next year, be on the look out for opportunities to volunteer.
BTW, her current post is funny and shows the lady has a sense of humor!
The other blog I've added is not new. I've just gotten around to updating though and I recommend Dan Geroe's site , Donkey With a Trunk, very highly. Dan used to known as Dannyboy. And his four part study on the Evangelical voters is worth reading carefully. It's on a topic dear to my heart and on which I will have more to say here at my own site in the coming days.
Geroe and his fellow blogger afausser have a lot of interesting things to say, so go take a look.
As the Post reported, national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, praised al Faisal for attending by saying “I know it must have been a very difficult decision.”
Meanwhile, al Faisal, in the spirit of commitment to a Middle Eastern peace accord, lambasted Israel and explained why he refused to even shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.
Then, one reporter present asked the foreign minister about the Girl of Qatif, as the Saudi rape victim sentenced by a religious court to 90 lashes for being in public with a male to whom she is not related, is known. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to move freely about their country unaccompanied by a chaperone, usually a husband or male relative.
After her harsh sentence, the young woman hired a lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al Lahem, described by the Post as “one of Saudi Arabia’s most courageous human rights advocates,” who appealed the case. For this effort to obtain real justice, the court increased the woman’s sentence to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail. In addition, they retaliated against the lawyer by barring him from further representing the woman and suspending his lawyer’s license. He is also facing a disciplinary hearing, which could lead to his complete disbarment. I reported on this here.
Obviously, heavy handed retaliation like this against a lawyer legitimately defending a client is meant to have a chilling effect on any other attorney who wants to defend a woman’s rights in the Saudi courts. It’s basically shutting the legal door on any woman who is victimized by a crime. And the Girl of Qatif may actually be lucky.
Honor killings of rape victims are still not uncommon in much of the Middle East. Though technically against the law, the family members who commit these murders are seldom prosecuted and if they are, sentences amount to a pro forma slap on the wrist.
As the Washington Post further points out, despite the Bush administration’s embrace of Saudi Arabia and its steadfast friendship of the Saudi royal family, that country is the major source of the spread of radical Islam throughout the world. Fifteen of the 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudis, as is Osama bin Laden. The majority of the suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis. Furthermore, the Taliban in Afghanistan, which sheltered al Qaeda even after 9/11, was funded and influenced by the radical Wahabi clerics from Saudi Arabia. Indeed, Wahabism, a militantly puritanical and fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam is the brand of Islam taught in the madarassas – Islamic religious schools – throughout the world. Most of the radical Muslim terrorists have been recruited through those schools and Wahabi- funded mosques, which are heavily financed by wealthy Saudis.
Here’s a quote, from the Post editorial that sums it up nicely:
Six years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, it was widely acknowledged in and outside the Bush administration that Saudi Arabia -- the homeland of 15 of the 19 hijackers, along with Osama bin Laden -- was a threat as well as an oil supplier to the United States. Its embrace of extremist Islamic ideology, its vigorous efforts to spread that creed throughout the Middle East and beyond and its sponsorship of groups like the Taliban were a far more direct cause of anti-Western terrorism than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For several years the Bush administration pressed the Saudi regime for reforms; the regime responded with half steps that didn't change its essential nature. Most of the suicide bombers in Iraq have been Saudis. Yet in the last year, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Bush administration has abruptly returned to describing Saudi Arabia as a "mainstream" and "moderate" state and a staunch U.S. ally. Once again the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is treated as the Middle East's most critical problem and Prince Saud as a statesman who is to be congratulated for appearing in the same room as an Israeli. The case of the Girl of Qatif ought to be a reminder of what the Bush administration has chosen to forget.
Meanwhile, in another excellent report in today’s Washington Post, Kevin O’Sullivan reports on a new, upbeat face of modern Islam. One of its most successful proponents, Moez Masoud, promotes “sweet Orthodoxy.”
Masoud, an advertising executive by day, preaches to huge crowds of young Muslims, telling them that Islam can have compassion for non-Muslims and for homosexuals. Although Masoud does not challenge any of the basic tenets of Islam such as prayer five times a day, the practice of charity, refraining from sex outside of marriage, etc., he encourages his followers to embrace music and the arts. He tells them that Islam, properly understood, is about doing good and also enjoying life. And he encourages greater compassion and a far less punitive and puritanical brand of Islam, one that dampens the rage that has been so prevalent among young, disaffected Muslims elsewhere.
His upbeat message of seeking personal freedom and fulfillment, rather than militant rage, within the context of living an orthodox Islamic life is resonating with young, educated Muslims in Egypt and across the Middle East. It may yet be the moderate form of Islam the West is hoping for to replace the fanaticism sponsored by the aging clerics in places like Saudi Arabia.
In the end, it may be bring hope that we all can prevent both more Girls of Qatif as well as more 9/11s.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I wish all of you and yours a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The problem with this is that the Saudis are the major exporters of Sunni terrorism. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on September 11th were Saudis. And the Saudi clerics have aggressively proselytized the rest of the Middle East with their puritanical anti-Western brand of Wahabbiism. In fact, the madrassas, the Muslim religious schools from which most of the young Islamic radicals spring, is funded and staffed by Saudi clerics and their supporters. I've long said that if you really want to fight Islamic terrorism, you have to go to its heart and soul, which is Saudi Arabia, not Iraq.
Anybody who tells you differently doesn't understand the Muslim world or Islamic religion.
Now comes a disturbing story that highlights how extreme and puritanical the religious faith of the Saudi Wabbiists is.
According to this CNN account, a 19 year old woman, who was raped by seven men was originally sentenced to 90 lashes of a whip for the crime of being with a man to whom she wasn't married. All Saudi women must be accompanied in public by a male relative, either a husband, father, or brother. Women must be chaperoned at all times in that country. They are not allowed to drive or to work outside the home without permission. In fact, they cannot even seek surgery or other medical care without male permission.
Because the woman appealed the sentence and talked to the media, the Qatif General Court increased her sentence. The men who raped her were originally sentenced to two to three years in prison. They also had their sentences increased to two to nine years. Why does something tell me they will probably serve the original two years anyway and only the woman will suffer the extra punishment?
In all the cases I've ever heard of blaming the victim, this one probably wins the award for the most gruesome.
But to add insult to injury, the woman's lawyer also has been disciplined. Abdulrahman al-Lahim, the attorney, has had his license revoked and is facing a three year suspension and disbarrment.
And what has been the official reaction of our country to this? According to CNN, there's this:
White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend, who announced her resignation Monday, called the case "absolutely reprehensible" but told CNN's "American Morning" the Saudis deserve credit for their assistance in battling terrorism. "This case is separate and apart from that, and I just don't think there's any explaining it or justifying it," she added.
And here's a further administration reaction:
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. officials had "expressed our astonishment" at the sentence, though not directly to Saudi officials. "It is within the power of the Saudi government to take a look at the verdict and change it," he added.
I think we'll be waiting for a long time for any justice. This, after all, is the same country where in the 1990s, Saudi religious police blocked the entrance to a burning school so that young girls could not escape a fire because the religious police were more worried that the girls would be seen without their head scarfs than that they would burn to death in the blaze.
Meanwhile, the case has sparked outrage among human rights groups, including within Saudi Arabia itself.
"This is not just about the Qatif girl, it's about every woman in Saudi Arabia," said Fawzeyah al-Oyouni, founding member of the newly formed Saudi Association for the Defense of Women's Rights.
"We're fearing for our lives and the lives of our sisters and our daughters and every Saudi woman out there. We're afraid of going out in the streets.
"Barring the lawyer from representing the victim in court is almost equivalent to the rape crime itself," she added.
Human Rights Watch said it has called on Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah "to immediately void the verdict and drop all charges against the rape victim and to order the court to end its harassment of her lawyer."
I hope I'm wrong, but I don't hold out much hope of any justice for this victim of rape. Nor am I optimistic about our war on terror. I've said it before, I'll say it again. We are in the wrong place, fighting the wrong war. We've managed to get ourselves smack in the middle of a civil war that didn't have to happen in Iraq while the real extremists are running around free, jacking up the price of oil and socializing with the Bushes.
As I said in the title, with friends like these, you don't need enemies. Unfortunately, we've made them anyway.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Last Wednesday I found out.
That evening I spoke with Ken Cuccinelli, who called me to explain it. He made clear that he was doing so only because I was his constituent and he told me to feel free to use it on my blog or not, it was my decision. He personally was not inclined to answer what he felt was more a campaign dirty trick than a substantive charge. I think he was right. For myself, I just ran with the story rather than checking it out. I put the onus on him to answer it. A good journalist doesn’t do that and I knew better. Before you print an allegation like that, you call and get the subject’s explanation. If the person declines to talk to you, you put that in your article. I’ve criticized other journalists for failing to that. It’s basic good reporting and is a journalistic fundamental.
But I also tried to have it both ways. After all, I’m not a journalist. I’m an amateur with a day job so I simply put the story out with a disclaimer that I gave him the benefit of the doubt but it was up to Ken to answer the charge.
It’s up to the person writing the piece to pick up the phone. I didn’t do that. Ken, who had every right to be annoyed, however, was the one who did exactly that.
So, I feel I owe it to him and his reputation to follow up and write what I now know and especially to inform my readers that he indeed answered my questions.
Frankly, I’m going to keep the explanation to the bare bones. I don’t want to rehash it or give it a new life. So, here’s the take home version:
Ken had a client whose family had been feuding for years. The client’s mother and sister were not speaking and the sister wanted to sell her one-third of a family home back to the mother. Ken was asked, as an attorney, to make a third party purchase. He bought the one-third interest in the property and four days later sold it to the mother. He was not a beneficiary and received no consideration. He was a nominee, or stand in, for the transaction. That’s why he legally was not obligated to pay a grantor’s tax. It’s also why he had nothing to declare from the purchase on his disclosure forms.
If he earned anything, it was in his capacity as an attorney for his law firm. Transactions like these are not unusual. They are employed routinely when families can’t get along and need to settle estate disputes and transfer property from one party to another.
In addition, the lobbyist client was somebody whom Ken had known previous to his becoming a state senator. In fact, he was introduced to that person by a law professor in college.
Finally, the media did follow up on the story. Four or five reporters, including one from WTOP and one from the Examiner, called Ken the next day and followed up on his account. The reason you neither read nor heard anything about it is because after those journalists did the research they found they had nothing to write about. There was no “there” there.
Here's a quote from their announcement:
Congrats to Leslie on snaring another union endorsement. For those who don't realize it, Leslie has been a friend of labor for many year, and often at great personal cost when it was not popular to stand up for Virginia's working men and women. Her history with organized labor goes way back and she has earned every endorsement she has received or will receive.
The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 51 proudly endorses Leslie Byrne for the candidacy for the U.S. Congress in the 11th District of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2008. For over 20 years she has been an advocate for working families. She has an unblemished record for defending workers rights by addressing issues important to working families in the legislature. We are confident she will continue to be a voice for us in the U.S. Congress to advance the common good of all.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
In addition, I put up a new site called Virginia Commitment. Here's a description from their site of who they are and their purpose.
Virginia’s Commitment is a coalition of concerned citizens, homeowners, landowners, consumers and business people which seeks 21st century approaches to promote Virginia’s growth and prosperity.
Dominion Power wants to build a new 81-mile-long transmission corridor in Virginia. They say it’s all about Northern Virginia’s need for electricity. The truth is quite different. If built, Dominion Power’s power line will be bad for ratepayers, bad for the environment and bad for Virginia. We are in favor of a new approach to Virginia’s growing need for reliable energy
Worth checking out. I'll be doing some more housekeeping over the weekend, taking off the websites of those whose campaigns are over, both winners and losers. I'll be replacing campaign websites with official websites that senators, delegates or other officials may have as those become available.
No real blogging tomorrow as I'll be out celebrating my birthday. I'll be back over the weekend.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
As Bwana said:
But all this wringing of hands in Democrat land overlooks one thing-Republican state Senator Ken Cuccinelli ran the ideal campaign, and he should be congratulated on that. I do not mean perfect-there were glitches along the way, like the failure to have any presence at all at Day 2 of the Burke Centre Festival. But Cooch set up a fundamental plan, put it in motion and stuck to it. He did not make elementary mistakes, not did he make mistakes that created an opening for Hoot to jump in. While both sides went on the attack, Cooch used Hoot’s verbal stumbles to argue she was not ready to be a state Senator without casting her as a bad person. He also did not respond to fishing expeditions by Democrats trying to create issues, nor did he do anything stupid that gave Hoot an opening to come after him-compare that with the JMDD-Chap! mailing thing.The truth is that Janet had an excellent ground game. As Bwana notes, the Cooch did not have any presence at the 2nd day of the Burke Centre Festival while Janet’s troops were out in force. Her campaign also mailed a ton of campaign literature. Like Ken, she was at my house numerous times and left door hangers because I was never home when either candidate was in my neighborhood.
What Janet’s campaign proved was that it’s not just getting out your message but the content of the message that counts. Her constant emphasis on the abortion issue was talking past what voters were concerned with. I’ve already made the point in the previous analysis and won’t harp on it here.
I think Bwana is also right that Ken refrained from personal attacks on Janet and stuck to capitalizing on her verbal gaffes and stumbles in the debates to argue that he was better suited to serve in the Senate. He made her competence the issue, which is fair game. But he never implied in any of his attacks that she was a bad person despite the fact that they are diametrically opposed on his most passionate issue, right to life. That’s an issue where people can really get vitriolic. For every time she called him an extremist, he could have roused his base by returning fire and saying that she was an immoral baby killer. But he refrained from that and simply stuck to the issues on which the voters were most focused.
The important thing is that no matter how much more conservative than his district Ken is, he’s the one whose message connected. He certainly isn’t showing any signs of moderating his position. Right out of the gate, he’s already vowing to oppose Governor Kaine’s attempt to end abstinence only sex education (here and here).
But on the campaign trail, he addressed the issues about which voters cared most including transportation, education and mental health care. He didn’t shy away from his stands on abortion and that issue didn’t help him. It probably cost him votes and made the race even closer. But enough people either agreed with him – let’s face it, there really are some pro-life people even in the most liberal areas of the 37th District – or didn’t consider it the primary issue of the campaign. My take is still that it only motivated the most committed of the base on either side. Others simply don’t feel threatened that they are going to lose reproductive rights. And with Democrats in power in the Senate and the Governor’s mansion, they probably feel more secure so barring the overturn of Roe v Wade, this should be even less of an issue next time.
If Ken can work to solve their more pressing problems – or if he is perceived as working to solve them – they really don’t care that they disagree with him on one issue.
Meanwhile, the important take home lesson for Democrats is that no matter how great your team is at the mechanics of getting out your message, you first have to have the right message that connects with voters. And more work on debate prep wouldn’t hurt either.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Then an early birthday celebration at a lovely restaurant called High Point, located on top of a mountain. It's right near University of the South (Sewanee). My mother-in-law's birthday is October 31 and mine is November 15, so we will have a joint celebration.
While I'm gone, play nicel
Thursday, November 08, 2007
There were a few things that the Oleszek campaign could have done differently and more effectively in this very close race – one, btw which shouldn’t even have been close let alone lost.
Please understand, unlike some others, I don’t mean this as criticism or finger pointing at anybody in her campaign. The truth is if I had recognized these things myself sooner, I’d have shot an email to her or called her or Jonathan. I had plenty of access to both of them. So, I was as blind to the shortcomings during the campaign as anybody else.
However, here is the single most important thing I would have done differently now that I look back at it.
I never would have labeled Ken Cuccinelli as an extremist. There were two problems with this strategy. The first is that Ken is personable, witty, and nice. If you were an average voter and you received a piece of mail calling him extreme and then you met him, you would simply discount the mailer as political hype. Most people barely read the stuff they receive because they are too busy and they get too much junk mail. They also don’t believe half the claims in TV ads because they’re smart enough to know both sides are bashing each other because they think it will help them win.
The other problem with calling people names is that most people don’t respond well to the obvious nastiness of “toxic labeling.”
A much more effective strategy to get the same message across would be to be more factual and “show rather than tell” the voter. How do you do this?
You take a few examples of unpopular votes that Ken has cast, or bills that he sponsored, and then draw the conclusion that he is out of step with his district. But first present the evidence. And then be more moderate in your assessment. In fact, given his personality, it might even be wise to start by admitting that he’s nice, charming and smart. But he’s not really in synch with the community’s views and values. Claiming he is “out of step” resonates more with voters than labeling him “extreme.” It will also match their expectation should he actually show up at their door acting reasonable. And by conceding his strong points, it would make Janet seem more rational and believable.
The other thing that is necessary is actually matching the voters’ concerns and not talking past them.
As an example, after pointing out Ken’s anti-abortion positions, instead of promising to protect a woman’s right to choose, Janet could have pointed out how Ken was more concerned with pursuing divisive wedge issues than solving practical problems. She then could have pledged to work for solutions to Virginia’s transportation problems rather than fighting the culture wars. Putting that twist on the issue would have been a more effective way to go.
The reason for this is that most women don’t feel threatened by Ken’s anti-abortion stances. They are pro choice in his district. But the truth is that their right to abortion and birth control just doesn’t appear to be under any real threat.
Until the Supreme Court actually overturns Roe v Wade (which it very well could some time in the future), nobody is going to feel threatened. It’s simply viewed as an irrelevant issue because people feel secure about these particular rights.
But if you tell them that Ken’s dedication to that issue causes him to be distracted from finding solutions to their real problems that would stir them up. It would also show that Janet was more in touch with their real concerns than Ken.
Also, during the debates Janet needed to come up with more substantive answers to issues like transportation. Failing to do so was the big mistake that hurt her performance.
The most damaging question asked her was whether she would have voted for the current transportation plan if she had been in office. It really harmed her campaign that she refused to respond fully, insisting that she couldn’t answer hypotheticals.
It would have been more effective to simply say she never would have voted for this plan.
She should have insisted that she would have worked for a different plan, explained what she was in favor of as an alternative, and then never budged from it. If she was pressed further, then she could have said that she couldn’t answer the hypothetical because she really believed she would have been more effective at crafting a compromise and so wouldn’t have had to make that choice. Period! End of discussion no matter how many times she was pressed. Once you’ve given a substantive answer you are not obligated to elaborate on it and beat it to death just because somebody keeps badgering you. You just stick to the answer until they get tired and move on.
However, at that point, had she been the one who wanted to move on, she could credibly have turned the question on Ken. Why didn’t he work harder to craft a better compromise?
She should also have been more aggressive during the debate at pointing out that although Ken claimed to want to change the funding formulas so that NoVa residents received more of their tax dollars back from the state, he failed to deliver. She should have pressed him by reminding him that he was a member of the party in power. If he couldn’t bring home a better funding formula while the Republican Party was in charge, why did he think he would do better if the party changed hands, which everybody knew was a real possibility. She could have pushed the fact that he didn’t get along with his own moderate leadership so he surely wouldn’t be effective if Democrats took over.
And finally, there is no substitute for coming up with clear, specific positions and policies. A candidate has got to take some risks by putting out an agenda for people to see and vote on. I don’t believe Northern Virginia voters would have voted against raising money to fix problems as long as they were convinced that the candidate proposing it would be a good steward of their tax money, use it wisely and raise it cautiously.
In short, my advice to a candidate would be this.
You have to convince them that you have good judgment and won’t try to break the bank. Virginians respond to fiscal responsibility. Persuade them of that and don’t disappoint them when you are in office. Be honest about the funding you need, the limitations on what you can do with what you have and present them with a clear plan, including how much it costs, to improve things. Above all, address their real needs and interests rather than tilting at ideological windmills.
And that would be the winning formula for the 37th District. In fact, it would probably work in most areas but especially there.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I stayed up longer last night than I had in years. Part of it was because of the partying. There was no way Dan and I were going to go home at our usual 10 or 11 o'clock. Dan, especially, had worked hard on the labor to labor GOTV at Northern Virginia's Central Labor Council. There was a great deal for us to celebrate.
And this morning, we were getting phone calls from friends from as far away as New York and Florida congratulating us on Virginia's wins.
Of course, it was closer than we would have liked. And some races that we should have taken, we didn't. And in one case the results still aren't known.
The Oleszek-Cuccinelli race is still up in the air, heading to a recount. In that district, it never should have been that close. Even Ken acknowledges that he is far more conservative than the constituents he represents. However, he is an excellent campaigner, intelligent, charming and likable. And he was a superb, sharp, witty debater. All of that helped him.
Janet ran a great ground game and she's far smarter than a lot of the rightwing blogosphere gives her credit for. I still hope she can pull it off based on the absentee ballots as well as the official recount. Most people will agree that recounts don't usually lead to a reversal of the original results but they are necessary to ensure the fairness and integrity of the process.
Having said all that, I actually once worked in a very close race in Fort Lauderdale where my candidate was winning on election night in a real squeaker very similar to the contest in the 37th District. And once the absentee ballots came in, it got even closer, right down to the wire. And in a heartbreaking reversal in the recount, we lost by single digits.
I don't think that will happen this time, but you never know.
Having said that, I'm not going to do the usual "winners-losers" recap, though I will have something to say about winners and one loser later on. Nor am I going to agonize, as a few progressive bloggers have been, about the ones we lost or that were too close and should have gone better.
Instead, I'm going to savor the victory that we did win. There will be time to sit down with the numbers and analyze the results when we prepare for next year's elections. And taking a hard look at what we did wrong as well as all the things we did right will be a necessary prelude to picking candidates and setting strategy for the next round. There's always room for improvement.
But for this time, the Democrats were pumped, energized, and ran an excellent ground game which is the envy of state-wide Republicans. In addition, we really utilized some significant technological enhancements to our GOTV effort, some of which I've heard will still not be talked about publicly. And I think we also dominated the blogosphere.
Progressive bloggers were disciplined, had a coherent message and stayed on it.We worked to help candidates across the state. And when the mainstream press fell short in covering a story adequately, the blogosphere was able to step into the breach and get out the facts that newspapers, radio and TV tried to ignore or squelch. The days when a corporate press could act as the only gatekeeper and prevent one side's message from getting full coverage are over. Voters have a variety of resources at their fingertips when they sit down to gather the facts and make their choices.
As far as the winners, in this election, the real winners are the people of Virginia for having given Tim Kaine a majority, albeit a slim one, so that he can enact legislation that will truly benefit the whole state. Hopefully, we will be able to implement a pre-K school program that will benefit our children, provide more adequate mental health services, and do more to solve Virginia's transportation problems and also protect the environment.
Another big winner is moderation. Republicans on their blogs are consoling themselves that Virginia is basically a conservative state that will not be happy with the the Democrats they've chosen. I think those bloggers are wrong. Virginia Democrats are not uber liberals. They are moderates and centrists who are interested in pragmatic solutions not social wedge issues that divide people. The big loser of the night was demogoguery in all it's forms.
The illegal immigration issue did not deliver the blow out victory that Republicans had hoped it would. It seems they are running out of boogy men to scare the voters with. That does not mean that Democrats should ignore the issue of illegal immigration. Far from it.
Gerry Connolly had the right idea. By focusing on limiting the impact of illegal immigrants' activities, such as gathering at 7/11 stores to pick up day labor jobs, or crowding into illegal boarding houses, Fairfax County was able to protect the property and quality of life of its residents without breaking laws or running afoul of the Constitution.
In addition, Fairfax has concentrated on curbing gang activity and has lowered its crime rate making our area one of the safest suburban regions in the country. A pragmatic focus on outcomes that are possible and legal trumps grandstanding and demonizing a whole group of people every time.
As the Democrats rightly noted, the solution to the problem of illegal immigration must come from the national level. So, next year, I'd like to see proposals and solutions from the Democratic candidates running for Congress, the place where this problem will truly be solved. And the proposals I want to see are those that will secure our borders, discourage businesses from hiring illegal immigrants to depress wages, and provide some sort of amnesty to those who are otherwise law abiding and have lived in this country and held jobs for years. They deserve humane treatment as a part of any solution to this problem.
Finally, every candidate who ran is a winner. Whether they won or lost, they helped to make ours a stronger democracy through their effort, hard work, and sacrifice to run for elective office. I say, thank you to every one of them. And thank you to everybody who came out and voted. You are all winners because you participated in the electoral process and made our democracy stronger for it.
And thank you to both sides of the blogosphere for the spirited, sometimes heated, and always fascinating converstation. May it continue!
Monday, November 05, 2007
I wish every one of them the best of luck and victory tomorrow!
Thanks to Jim Southworth for the link.
In the 68th House please vote for our incumbent Katherine Waddell, Independent. She is running against Loupassi, republican, and Grogan, another Independent. Loupassi is the favorite to win with major support from the republican party and eric cantor.(Norman from Raising Kaine blog)I knew there would be good people that I would forget to include. And some readers will come on and scan quickly and not go to the comments, so I'm updating to post this information, with a sincere thanks to Norman for letting me know.
I suspect it won’t come as a surprise to any of my readers that my one last pitch to get out the vote tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6, will be to vote Democratic. Here’s a partial run down of Democratic candidates to vote for. I’m mostly sticking with the local races in my neck of the woods and with the people I know the best.
For the Senate:
Janet Oleszek over Ken Cuccinelli in SD 37
Chap Petersen over Jeannemarie Devolites Davis in SD 34
George Barker over Jay O’Brien in SD 39
Chuck Colgan over Bob FitzSimmons in SD 29
For the House of Delegates:
Bruce Roemmelt over Bob Marshall in HD 13
David Poisson over Lynn Chapman in HD 32
Marty Martinez over Joe May in HD33
Margi Vanderhye over Dave Hunt in HD-34
Rex Simmons over Tim Hugo in HD 40
Jeanette Rishell over Jackson Miller in HD50
Chuck Caputo over Marc Cadin in HD 67
The one exception to my “all politics is local” rule is to urge voters in the 1st SD to vote for John Miller over Tricia Stall. Anybody who takes a pledge to oppose public education on general principle, as Tricia Stall has done, is too extreme to ever sit in a legislative body anyplace.
These are the candidates who are most in step with the changing constituencies in Northern Virginia. It’s time to replace the ideologues who would rather pursue divisive social wedge issues in the legislative body with those who want to find solutions to the pragmatic problems facing ordinary Virginians.
We need a legislature composed of people who will work with Governor Tim Kaine to find lasting solutions to our transportation problems and funding for public education, including all day kindergarten programs. In addition, our mental health services are woefully under funded and there is a pressing need to see that people get the mental health treatment they need to prevent future tragedies in our state.
Finally, Republicans had eight years of their party ruling the commonwealth, both the governor’s mansion and then also the legislature during the 1990s. They brought Virginia to the brink of financial disaster before Mark Warner became governor in 2001 . Warner restored Virginia’s bond rating and put the state back on firm fiscal footing. Under Tim Kaine, who has followed in Warner’s footsteps, Virginia continues to be rated one of the best states to do business.
But both Warner and Kaine have had to fight an intractable legislature every step of the way to accomplish anything. It’s time to give Tim Kaine a Democratic majority so that Virginians can really see what he will accomplish for them.
If they don’t like the results, they can vote Democrats out of office in the next election. Unlike other states, Virginia holds elections every year so any time our citizens don’t like the direction of the state, they can send a message. But it’s time to give the Democrats the chance to move forward a Democratic agenda to benefit Virginia. Without giving Tim Kaine a Democratic majority to work with, that opportunity could be lost.
Fairfax Count Races
In addition, for the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, I’m urging people to re-elect Gerry Connolly as Chairman. Also vote to re-elect Sharon Bulova and vote for Mike McClanahan.
Fairfax is a well run county whose leaders have not given in to hysteria over illegal immigration. Rather than succumbing to the temptation to demagogue the issue and to get entangled in expensive and illegal attempts to curtail services to illegal immigrants, Fairfax County has focused on enforcing zoning laws and other regulations to mitigate the worst effects of illegal immigration such as overcrowded and illegal boarding houses, too many parked cars, gang activity and crime. Indeed, Fairfax has enjoyed a decrease in gang related activity and our crime rate has been steadily declining.
In addition, Fairfax has been a leader in the Cool Counties initiative to fight global warming and be more environmentally responsible.
Furthermore, although he is often criticized for being too favorable to big business and developers, Connolly and the Board passed big box legislation and a living wage bill. For those pro-working people pieces of legislation, they are to be commended. I don’t think Republicans would have been as responsive to the needs of middle class and working class citizens. So once again, the Democratic elected officials in Fairfax have benefited working Virginians and deserve to be retained in office.
And for the school board, Ilyung Moon, Liz Griffith and Tina Hone.
I'm sure I've forgotten some good and deserving people. If so, please forgive me. Fortunately, mine is not the only site you can visit for campaign and election information.
Finally, I must add one last pitch. A low turn out is expected for all these races. There was a line in an old West Wing show: “Decisions are made by those who show up.”
Please, please show up!
Sunday, November 04, 2007
In addition, a suporter of Cuccinelli sent out this e-mail to other Cuccinelli supporters:
As you know I am NOT a big fan of 'mass' e-mails; however, we are only 3- short days away from Election Day and it's important we get the 'right' people in place. This is one of several e-mails I have sent to solicit your support for Mr. Ken Cuccinelli.
As I have said before, and I will say again... Ken Cuccinelli is someone that not only has my respect but my complete support.
Now let's talk about Janet "oh my God is she an ugly liar" Oleszek. First and foremost as a woman I have to say, having a woman, like her, in office would do NOTHING for woman period. I personally want a woman in office I could absolutely be proud of... that clearly, under no uncertain terms, is NOT Janet. No... Janet is NOT for Fairfax... Janet is for Janet; that's it and that's all. Janet knows she can't win fairly so what does she do... this sorry excuse for a human lies and tries to smear the good name of Ken Cuccinelli. How original... growing a brain would do this woman A LOT of good. And Janet's unprofessional, dishonest and nasty behavior that speaks volumes as to what you can expect from Janet, this monster, in the highly unlikely event she would ever be elected. Unfortunately for Janet her disingenuous, unprofessional and unethical behavior can NOT begin to discredit what an amazing person Ken Cuccinelli truly is. Janet needs to grow up, find some morals, buy some ethics... and, most importantly, while she's at it Janet should absolutely consider a face lift. Have you seen her? Janet gives a whole new meaning to the word F-UGLY.
Back to Ken... Ken is PRO-Family... PRO-Virginia... PRO-Fairfax... and Ken Cuccinelli supports you, the good, honest, tax paying citizens of the 37th District.
Re-Elect Ken Cuccinelli, a man who will do right by you...
Not some sorry excuse, lying, sick, twisted and manipulative woman like Janet. Janet can ONLY hurt the 37th District- this I promise you.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
I haven't decided which candidate to support in next year's presidential primary. But John Edwards' powerful populist message speaks to my heart and moves me emotionally.
Any long time reader of AIAW knows that, like Edwards, I consider myself a populist at heart. So, I'm proud to present this moving video clip with a h/t to Mosquito Blog for bringing it to my attention.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
He voted against measures to outlaw cock fighting in Virginia. Since Maryland and North Carolina have both made it a felony, the fighting venue have moved to Virginia, bringing with it, not just a disgusting and cruel sport, but the crimes of gambling and drug and alcohol abuse that go with it. Ironically, this "sport" - and I use the term very loosely since there's nothing sporting about arming chickens with knives and razors in their claws to make their deaths more bloody and painful - is popular among some groups of illegal immigrants, the very people Ken claims to want to discourage from coming into Virginia.
In addition, in a letter he wrote to the Connection newspapers, defending his position, he ends with the, what he thinks is witty, comment that he enjoys a good drumstick.
So do I. But I don't enjoy the thought of animals dying in a needlessly painful and violent manner. When animals are slaughtered for food consumption, it is usually in a manner that is quick and as painless as possible, not in a drawn out bloody battle waged for entertainment.
I'm not sure I get the Cooch's faux libertarian values. He works hard to prevent women from having access to birth control yet he makes light of cruelty to animals.
And, no, I'm not comparing the life of a human to that of an animal. I deliberately left the abortion issue out of this. I'm talking about his opposition to a woman's right to birth control prescriptions, something that involves no death. Again, I'll repeat for the scientifically challenged, even if life begins at conception, preventing conception is not the same as murder.
But making light of the bloody and protracted death of animals for sport and entertainment is being a poor steward and misuing God's creatures. It does not have the same moral equivalency of harming a human being but it is nonetheless immoral and probably a sin.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I’m hoping that’s not true this time because over at Bearing Drift, Jim Hoeft has up a very well thought out post, from October 29th, speculating about Tom Davis’ plans to run for the Senate in the future. According to Jim’s speculation, Davis may have decided to take a pass on the 2008 race because somebody with better name recognition than him and far less political baggage than Jim Gilmore may jump in. Hoeft is guessing that Peter Pace might be interested in running for the Senate.
I’ve heard some talk of that too. He certainly would make a good candidate for the Republicans. He obviously has the military background and to the degree that they are still pro-Iraq, he’d be a good spokesman for their position. They don’t need the military background as much as the Democrats do because the public has always perceived Republicans as more pro-military and stronger on defense and national security. We’re finally catching up and Bush’s mishandling of foreign policy has helped Democrats to make a case that they could do a better job of keeping us safe and secure than some Republicans. Still, it’s the GOP’s greatest strength and a respected military leader on the ballot never hurts either party.
If Pace gets into the 2008 race, Davis would support him far more enthusiastically than he would Gilmore. And I think Gilmore would have a hard time getting the nomination even if the convention was set up for his advantage. That was done to stop Davis as much as to help Gilmore. The dynamics change with a Peter Pace in the race.
Meanwhile, Jim Hoeft thinks it’s brilliant strategy on Davis’ part to take a pass this year and come back in 2012 to run against Jim Webb.
I’m not sure that part is so true. For starters, in a match up against Webb, Davis may have the same trouble downstate as he would against Gilmore.
To the degree that Davis is known outside of NoVa, he’s perceived as too liberal especially for the Republican base. Also, his wife has staked her career running to the left of moderate Democrat Chap Petersen and Tom Davis has been out there stumping for Jeannemarie Devolites Davis.
So, when he runs in the southern part of the state – you know the “Alabama part” – his opponent only has to run JMDD’s commercials criticizing Petersen for supporting gun ownership. Davis can be painted as pro-gun control and Webb is on record as a gun owner who has stated that he has a right to protect his family.
Unlike JMDD, Tom has run as moderate on abortion. His voting record is more conservative on this than his campaign record, but still he could be painted as too pro-choice for conservatives so he and Webb split the difference on that issue. And depending on how the economy is doing, Webb’s economic populism may be more advantageous once you get outside prosperous NoVa. It’s much easier to make a case for outsourcing, free trade agreements and globalism in an area where lots of people work for contractors in an international sector than in a place that has seen factories close and well paying jobs dry up. Davis’ Wall Street Republicanism may not do as well there as Pat Buchanan’s brand of nativist protectionism.
Finally, Webb is popular in NoVa and doesn’t run well downstate. That’s Davis’s strength and weakness too. But I think Webb would actually have an advantage outside of NoVa because he appears to be more like the voters in the southern areas than Davis does. And Democrats would replay Davis’ “Alabama” statement ad nauseum.
But all of this speculation may be moot. That’s because I don’t think the Republican base is going to let him win a nomination in a primary anyway, not just in 2008 but ever. Unless the Republican Party changes significantly, they’re in no mood for Northern Virginia’s urbane moderates.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
By now most people in Northern Virginia, whether they read blogs, watch TV news, listen to local radio, or read newspapers, are aware of the campaign brochure that Jeannemarie Devolites Davis sent out displaying Chap Petersen’s personally identifiable information including the names of his wife and children, and his address and phone number. In fact, Chap issued a press release and held a press conference yesterday, which was widely carried by all the local media.
JMDD responded with a press conference of her own where she dismissed Chap’s anger as overblown. She asked what the big deal was since all the information shown in her campaign flyer was publicly available anyway.
What was instructive was that every point she made in her press statement had already been said yesterday on the blogs, both in the comments on Not Larry Sabato (here, here and here) and as posts on some of the Republican blogs, such as Mason Conservative (here and here) and Virginia Virtucon. (Note: That's only a small sample of their sychophantic rationalizing on behalf of the Davises).
It is obvious that Republican bloggers got their talking points early and repeated them often, hoping that, like Joseph Goebbels’ famous dictum, if you state a lie often enough people will believe it. Their lie was to tell people that what Jeannemarie Devolites Davis did was unimportant because all the data she exposed, when releasing the copy of Chap Petersen’s disclosure form, was public information anyway. Furthermore, his personal identifying information is publicly available. For example, his name, address and phone number are listed in the phone book as well as on numerous public forms. And he, himself, has shown images of his children and wife on his website and campaign mailers. He refers to them often. So, the logic goes, what is the big deal about Jeannemarie sending out 30,000 copies of the disclosure form with the names, address and phone number of Chap’s family and personal residence listed? And with that information circled in red, with a red arrow pointing to it, just in case readers accidentally miss the data while perusing the document?
Well, I will happily walk these Republican bloggers step by step through why it is a big deal. Consider this the equivalent of a book called “The Dangers of Releasing PII Publicly for Idiots.”
In that ubiquitous series of tomes, with the orange, yellow and blue covers, the first words in the introduction always state, “You are no idiot of course ….” But in this case, about the kindest thing anybody can say about the Republicans who are employing the above line of reasoning to justify Jeannemarie’s actions is that they are indeed idiots. There are much worse things one could call them. "Morally obtuse hypocrite" is also one of the milder epithets you could hurl at them.
Anyway, here’s what’s so wrong about her actions, step by step for those idiots among us:
Let’s start with the fact that there are two different personality types prone to harassing public figures. The one that most people are familiar with from TV cop dramas is the stalker who carefully plots out his harassment of his victim. This is the type of person who will do in depth research, meticulously plan his actions, and spend hours observing and tailing his subject before striking. That kind of stalker doesn’t need a flyer with a candidate’s address and phone number. He will go to the Internet, the phone book, the library and even pore over tax and court records in dusty basements of public buildings to glean whatever information he needs. Indeed, such a stalker could rival the best investigative reporter or private detective. He is also the most dangerous type, the one most prone to seriously tracking his victim for years. He’s also the hardest to catch and stop. Fortunately, that type of stalker is also relatively rare.
Much more common is the garden variety harasser who wouldn’t dream of even opening a phone book because he doesn’t start out intending to harass or intimidate anybody. He just opens his newspaper, reads a blog, or sees a commercial and gets emotionally worked up. This person is excitable, has poor impulse control, is prone to acting on those impulses without thinking much about it, and he’s very suggestible. That’s the person who will look at an inflammatory piece of mail, get his emotions worked up, which is the intention of the piece, see the phone number and address and, in the heat of the moment, place an angry phone call. Such a person could be a harmless irritant who makes one call, blows off steam, slams down the receiver and forgets it. Or he could grab a gun and go shoot somebody. It all depends on how unstable he is. The most common harasser of this sort will make an angry call and move on because he also doesn’t have a long attention span.
But his actions can disconcert his victim nonetheless.
I don’t believe Jeannemarie wanted to see Chap’s family put into real danger by an out of control shooter. But I do think her intention in the mailer was to inflame readers to go out and vote against Chap. Unfortunately, the same piece could also inflame somebody to go out and make harassing phone calls. In fact, it did just that. Providing the phone number and the name of Chap’s wife and children to such a person so they could act out their impulse makes Jeannemarie Devolites Davis an enabler and, in legal terms, an accessory to any harassing action.
It was an irresponsible act that showed utter lack of judgment and no sense of responsibility. The fact that it came from a public official who has run her campaigns on a platform of family values and taking personal responsibility for one’s behavior makes it even worse.
I get it that a lot of Republican bloggers support her candidacy as the best shot at holding on to the state Senate this year. But to defend her actions or explain this away with the same lame excuses that JMDD herself has given just doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s rotten and it reeks.
That’s especially true since a major tenet of the Republican Party, one which the most conservative of the local bloggers proudly promotes, is personal responsibility. Is that just for other people, or do they really mean it for everybody, including themselves and their candidates?
There’s a big difference between a blogger spinning his candidate’s performance in a debate or his failure to get an endorsement from a union or newspaper, versus spinning a real misdeed. Attempting to explain away a true wrongdoing is one of those things that will destroy one’s own credibility and in the end will make any blogger less valuable to future candidates he may support.
Here’s a rule of thumb for anybody wanting to blog. If you harm your own integrity by trying to defend the indefensible, you will leave your readers little reason to take you seriously in the future when you support another candidate. This becomes especially true if somewhere down the road you find out something damaging about an opponent. Once you’ve blown your credibility, you will not be believed even when you later deserve to be. Once readers perceive you as a political hack and partisan attack dog without integrity it will be too late to be useful to a political candidate or his campaign.
There simply are times when you have to step away from a candidate or at least not defend his or her misdeeds. Believe me, I know. It happened to the Democrats early on with a candidate. Both Vivian Paige and I got out front in defense of a Democratic candidate and attacked a Republican blogger for uncovering damaging information about him only to learn that it was true. Both Vivian and I immediately retracted our earlier defense of that candidate and publicly apologized to the blogger. Believe me, it was one of the most embarrassing and unpleasant things I had to do; admit I was wrong. But my credibility was at stake. So, I bit the bullet and did it. So did Vivian.
It’s time to see if any Republican blogger will step up to the plate now. Those who don’t back away and admit that this was, at the very least, a terrible mistake for which JMDD should apologize will have lost their right to be taken seriously by any reader in the future. And those who continue to spin this as not really serious or not really a big deal will simply show that they, like the Davises, have no moral compass. I think that decision will cost them. And I’m not sure that Jeannemarie Devolites Davis deserves to be the candidate for whom they jump the shark.