Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gerry Connolly and His Big Developer High Rollers

Both critics and supporters of Gerry Connolly acknowledge that he gets much of his financial support from real estate developers and the construction industry. An article, by Bill Turque, in today’s Washington Post analyzes Connolly’s ties to big developers and construction companies. According to the article:
“Connolly (D), who is running for a second term, is the top fundraiser on the local level in Northern Virginia, the reports show. He has amassed $311,700 from developers and builders, which is 38.5 percent of the $808,293 he has raised since the beginning of 2004, according to an analysis conducted for The Washington Post by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.”
Among Connolly’s top donors are the Lerner Corp and WestGroup. But the issue isn’t simply who gives to his campaign but why they give and what they get for their donations. Nobody is so na├»ve as to believe large corporations, developers, trial lawyers, or any interest group gives simply out of a disinterested sense of civic responsibility. Or as Connolly’s opponent Gary Baise, a Washington corporate lawyer whose specialty is environmental litigation put it:
“ ‘The analysis I want to see is how close the dates of these contributions are to votes the board took on applications [for rezoning].’ Baise said he had no specific examples of campaign contributions that directly followed favorable votes.”
I suspect that if you examine the record you won’t find quid pro quo. You’re probably not going to read about any juicy scandals where somebody gave Connolly’s campaign a huge contribution and a week later the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of their development. In fact, Connolly stated bluntly in the article, “I don’t operate that way.”

And he doesn’t.

My guess is that Connolly is genuinely pro-business and pro-development He hasn’t sold out to the highest bidder. The highest bidders are contributing because they want to see somebody win who already supports business and growth. In other words, Connolly gets their donations because he is already on their side, not because he’s in their pocket.

And you know what? If Fairfax weren’t business friendly, see how fast residents would complain about the loss of jobs and services those businesses provide. If Fairfax's vibrant economy came to a screeching halt, watch how quickly Connolly and other supervisors would no longer be in office. In that worst case scenario, nobody in the county would be well served.

The question isn’t whether Gerry Connolly, or any other supervisor, is pro growth. It’s what kind of growth they support. So far, Connolly has been a leader in the fight for smart growth. He has been the number one cheerleader for building the tunnel rather than above ground Metro station to Tysons. In addition, he has proactively supported mixed-use building developments clustered near already existing Metro stations, like the Dunn Loring project, to alleviate suburban sprawl and roadway congestion.

Besides all that, as this Washington Post article from March shows, Connolly signed on to the Sierra Club’s “Cool County” project to green Fairfax County. Among some of the initiatives are the use of ethanol- burning buses, tax breaks for hybrid cars, encouraging new neighborhoods with more trees and green spaces, and vegetation on public buildings, including schools and firehouses, to reduce carbon dioxide levels. In addition, Fairfax County gets 5% of its electricity from alternative energy sources like solar and wind power and already uses 90 hybrid vehicles.

If pro-business Gerry Connolly can get his developer friends interested in projects that provide green spaces and that invest in alternative energy he will have accomplished more than some of the purists who constantly vilify developers and keep winning the small skirmishes while losing the war against global warming.

In truth, I am not Connolly’s biggest fan. But I’m also not his worst critic. On balance, when it comes to land use and greening Fairfax, he’s on the right side and if he can convince his developer buddies to support smart growth because its good for public relations and for business, well, there are worse reasons for supporting environmentally friendly projects that do something to alleviate global warming.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wiccans Win Religious Liberty Case Against Veterans Administration

After a protracted legal battle with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Wiccans have won the right to have the symbol of their religion, the pentacle, engraved on the headstones of deceased veterans.

Represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, relatives of the fallen veterans finally had the Wiccan pentacle admitted to a list of 38 religious symbols that indicate the faith of their departed loved ones. As this article in the New York Times points out, it normally only takes a few months to gain this recognition. Wiccan families, however, fought for ten years to have their religion officially recognized.

Wicca is a pre-Christian nature religion. Although when it was first founded some of its members claimed that it was part of a Pagan faith stretching back to Old Europe’s pre-history and even referred to it as “the Old Religion,” most adherents now admit that their faith is a modern revival based on what they imagine Celtic and other ethnic groups’ Paganism might have been.

What makes this battle important is that every religion at one time was new, including Judaism and Christianity. And every new faith was denigrated and considered a cult or a fad by the prevailing dominant religion. Indeed, persecution of the new Christian faith by Imperial Rome was the perfect example of egregious religious persecution.

In America, though, minority religions are protected under the First Amendment. Although something like 85 to 90 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian, there are many followers of minority faiths such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. Indeed, the number of faith traditions in America can be mind-boggling. But one thing all of those religions have in common is that in our nation, their rights as minority faiths is protected and they do not have to fear discrimination, especially from their government.

In this particular case, groups that normally oppose Americans United for Separation of Church and State signed on as supporters. In fact, John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a group that usually litigates First Amendment cases in defense of religious liberty for a diverse group that includes Christian organizations, had this to say:

" 'I was just aghast that someone who would fight for their country and die for their country would not get the symbol he wanted on his gravestone,' said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which litigates many First Amendment cases. “ 'It’s just overt religious discrimination'.”

What makes Whitehead, himself a conservative Christian, absolutely right is that when one small minority is discriminated against, no religion is truly safe. The Wiccans victory, in this case, is a victory for religious liberty for all groups including Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Phriendly Jaime, I May Buy You That Beer Yet

I may owe Jaime over at West of Shockoe a beer yet. I’m still skeptical about Gore running in 08, but as I’ve said many times, if I hear certain names I’ll get interested. Well as this post in the NY Times political blog, The Caucus, shows, one of those names popped up. It's Peter Knight, a long time Gore insider and he's organizing a reunion dinner for former Gore fundraisers to mark the 20th anniversary of Gore's first run for president. Here's what the Caucus had to say about the event scheduled for May 8:

It’s not a Gore ’08 strategy session (at least not officially), but about 20 former fund-raisers and supporters of former Vice President Al Gore will gather in Washington next month to talk about politics, memories and Mr. Gore’s future at a dinner being organized by Peter Knight, his close friend and political ally.
On the other hand:
Kalee Kreider, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gore, said Mr. Knight and another former Gore fund-raiser, Mary Pat Bonner, were organizing the dinner at their own initiative, and that Mr. Gore — while honored — would not be attending.
Well, I'm not convinced that Gore is going to run. And this may just be an innocent little reunion dinner to sit around and reminisce about the good old days. Yeah, right.

I’m listening. I’m hoping. And Jaime, I hope I will owe you a beer. If he runs, you name the location.



for the first ever

Labor Roundtable

Democratic primary candidates (SD 39, HD 34 and 40)
will join area labor leaders and activists to discuss issues of concern to working men and women in Fairfax County.

Thursday, April 26 at 7:30pm
Fairfax County Government Center
12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax

What issues resonate best with working families?
  • What does the Republican incumbents’ voting record say about their support for labor?
  • What can Democratic candidates do to connect with and motivate union voters?
  • What part can unions play in electing pro-worker candidates?

    Paid for and authorized by the FCDC Labor Committee,

This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.
The Labor Committee is a Standing Committee of the
Fairfax County Democratic Committee.Please RSVP to the FCDC Labor Committee at

Monday, April 23, 2007

Healing Words and Leadership from Chap Petersen

For one of the most balanced, compassionate posts about the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech and what possible next steps we can take, go here to Chap Peterson's Ox Road South blog.

Chap struck the right note of balance, respect for all points of view and multiple approaches in a serious discussion that has to take place. It's no longer possible to shout past each other and try to score ideological points off each other. People have to begin feeling their way gently and with compassion and try to find ways to prevent further tragedies. We need the humility to realize that we will never be able to prevent every horrific event but we also need the courage and political will to learn from this tragedy and improve the lives and safety of all Virginians.

And there is no one panacea. First, we do have to respect the rights of law abiding citizens who own guns. Chap reminds his readers that he is one of them. But he comes up with a couple of common sense suggestions such as better accessibility to mental health treatement, a more stringent database that would prevent somebody as severely mentally ill as Seung Hui Cho from being able to buy guns. This something that already is in the law but loopholes in that law made it possible for Cho to still gain access to deadly weapons. We can tighten those loopholes while still protecting legitimate privacy rights of our citizens and the rights of gun owners.

Finally, Chap says that high capacity gun magazines are not appropriate for civilian gun owners. They had been outlawed until 2004, when Congress let the ban on semi-automatic weapons expire.

In his writing, Chap has proved himself a leader willing to step up and take a principled stand that is courageous, compassionate and respectful. I applaud him for it and urge you to read his own words.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Time To Heal

Cross posted at Raising Kaine

Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a season and a time for everything under the heaven. A time for war and a time for peace; a time to weep and a time to laugh; and a time to mourn and a time to dance. There is also a season and a time to heal.

I am uncomfortable with phrases like “we have to move on” though. To me it feels more like moving into a different space, one of gradual healing. Let’s take it slow. There are no timelines to the grieving and healing process and just as each of us grieves differently, each of us will heal at our own pace.

But healing often doesn’t happen without some will to do it and some tangible acts that help move the process along.

One suggestion – and it’s the same one that was given after 9-11 – is to turn off the television. Stop flooding yourself with waves of images and sounds of the tragedy or you’ll eventually drown in them. Get out of your homes and out of yourselves.

At times like this, people need connections and not just virtual ones. Until now, the blogs have provided many of us with a place to come together to grieve, to vent, and to feel connected. A special thanks has to go to Ben Tribbett for his Not Larry Sabato, and to Raising Kaine, for providing places for people from across Virginia to come together and to feel like they are part of a larger community.

But it’s time to turn the computer off too because it can’t take the place of real human contact. One of the things that struck me about Cho Seung-Hui was how radically disconnected he was to those around him. Unlike in high school where, the word is, he was bullied and laughed at, it seems that people at Virginia Tech tried to reach out to him and he kept refusing every offer of kindness from teachers and students. By the time he reached VT he was already so badly damaged that they couldn’t reach him.

Yet, connectedness is the best antidote to despair and anger. It blesses you with empathy for others. It’s what makes us human. Its total absence is what turns us into monsters.

That doesn’t mean that everybody has to be a joiner or an extrovert. There are plenty of introverts, people who prefer privacy and small intimate gatherings with fewer people to large parties and big crowds. That’s very different from somebody being completely disconnected from all people. Introverts often have satisfying relationships and deep connections though with fewer people. It’s the crowds they don’t feel comfortable in.

But every human needs some connection to others. And every human being needs hope. So, if you have not yet been to one of the memorials, see if there’s something to attend so that you will be surrounded with others like you who still have grief to work through. The good thing about all of these memorials is that for all the tears, they also leave you with a sense of hope in the goodness of other people and a sense that evil will not overcome goodness and mercy.

If you’ve missed the memorials in your area, go to a church or synagogue or mosque or temple this weekend. I’m sure they all will acknowledge this terrible tragedy and share the sadness as a community. And they too will not let evil be the final word. They will lift you up and carry you out on a hopeful note.

Finally, be with your family and friends. This promises to be a gorgeous weekend across Virginia, warm weather, and sunshine, the beginning of spring. Go out for a hike, play ball, go on a picnic. Enjoy those you love. Give them a hug and savor every moment with them.

The very best way to honor those who died tragically is to continue to live in love while carrying their memories in your heart. That way evil does not triumph. We will have beaten it. We will have prevailed.

I’ll see you all next week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

April 30, 2007

On April 30, you can count me in on this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Million Ways To Mourn

The tragedy at Virginia Tech has everybody grieving across Virginia. And across the blogosphere. And the ways and forms that our grief takes illustrate how very differently people mourn.

Over on NLS, and elsewhere, a thread where people were expressing mourning for the young victims has turned into a debate on guns, with people expressing anger at those who have turned this “political.”

Terry Hartnett, president of the Million Mom March and a longtime anti-gun activist, was roundly criticized for this by some and defended by others. And Republitarian and others were equally criticized for making the point that if somebody had had a gun, they might have been able to stop the shooter in his tracks.

But I respectfully disagree with those who have accused those on both sides of the spectrum of politicizing this or of opportunism.

People express their grief in different ways and need different ways to find comfort. The author Leo Tolstoy once observed that “all happy families are alike but unhappy families are all different in their unhappiness.”

I think that’s true. And I think it’s a myth that tragedy brings us together. In fact, we are more likely to be unified in the times when we celebrate than in the times when we mourn.

That’s because we all have different styles of explaining tragedy. And also because mourning and grief contain an element of anger anyway. Indeed, the late Dr, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who devoted her life to working with the dying, observed five stages of grieving and one of those was anger. Another was attempting to “make a deal with God.” Another was denial.

Often the loss of a child in a family does not bring the parents closer, seeking comfort from each other. Sometimes it does. But it is just as likely to lead to divorce.

Here in Virginia we are seeing the many ways that people explain tragedy to themselves as well as express their grief and they are all valid expressions.

For somebody who has made gun control a major part of their life, it seems so obvious that banning guns would have saved lives that reacting in anger to the availability of guns becomes a natural expression of very real grief, not a chance to exploit the opportunity to promote their political views. Their real concern is saving lives and their anger and opinions are a natural expression of that concern and of their grief.

Likewise, for those like Republitarian, defending the right to own a gun becomes crucial at such a time. He truly believes that somebody who was armed might have been able to stop a killer. I don’t know whether that’s true or who is correct in this debate. And that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that neither of these good people is exploiting an issue. Rather this issue is deeply who they are and bringing it up is a natural expression of real grief as well as a legitimate desire to prevent future tragedies.

It’s fair for others to say, we don’t want to hear it now. For them, grief is expressed much differently. The kindest thing we can do is to respect each other’s different ways of mourning.

Right now my prayers are with all those at Virginia Tech. Ben Tribbett, at NLS is right. Today we are all Hokies. But that doesn’t mean the discussion about what to do next isn’t valid. Or that the people raising it are being exploitative. We are all just different in our unhappiness.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Godspeed to Virginia Tech

Tonight they need our prayers. Here is Gov. Tim Kaine's statement:

"It is difficult to comprehend senseless violence on this scale.
"Our prayers are with the families and friends of these victims, and members of the extended Virginia Tech community.

"The state is working closely with Tech officials, local law enforcement, and the community health system to provide whatever additional resources and support may be needed.

"My staff has made arrangements for me to leave Tokyo today, where I was set to begin a two-week Asian trade mission, so that I can return to the Commonwealth on Tuesday.

"I urge Virginians to keep these victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Toy Trucks and Girl Bloggers

Years ago, when I was active on a fan site for the TV show The West Wing, some of us started a thread for aspiring writers on the site’s message board. We swapped tips and tricks to stay motivated, solve plotting problems, and fight the inevitable procrastination that most fiction writers – and maybe many writers in general – seem to encounter.

One suggestion that a contributor came up with came from her teacher in a writing workshop. Have a toy truck, the message board contributor advised.

What she meant by that was to have another story or writing project that a budding author could turn to when she ran dry of ideas in her main project. The object was to take a needed break from the work in progress but to not lose the habit of sitting down and writing something every day.

It was good advice. Many self-help books on writing advise would be authors to sit down every day even if they do nothing more than stare at a blank screen. That advice, however well meaning, is counter-productive. Stare at the screen – or even a blank page – for too many days and you’ll throw in the towel for good.

Instead, sometimes when you step away and think of something completely different, your subconscious mind will still be working on the original project and will come up with the perfect idea or solution to whatever has been blocking you.

That’s true in every creative endeavor including research science. There’s a famous story of a nineteenth century German chemist, Friedrich Kekule, who couldn’t solve a mathematical problem pertaining to a formula he was working on. Finally, he just took a break from his work and went to sleep one night. During the night, he dreamed of a snake swallowing its own tail. That dream inspired him to solve the problem of the correct structure of the benzene molecule.

So switching gears, taking a nap or having the toy truck, helps you to step away and come back with a fresh perspective. At least, that’s what happened to me.

I stopped blogging because I wanted to try my hand at fiction. At first I was going great guns blazing. I did a short story that I posted on a Website for writers. I began a novel and wrote 58 pages, working steadily. Then I hit writer’s block. I didn’t feel like doing it any more. I actually knew where I was going with the broad outlines of the story but the motivation had dried up.

At about that time, a few bloggers began telling me how much they missed my blog. And truth to tell, I missed doing it too. So I began to spend more time surfing the blogosphere, posting comments on everybody else’s blog, writing occasional diaries for Raising Kaine, and even doing a couple of guest posts, at Jim Hoeft’s invitation, on Bearing Drift.

And guess what?

If you guessed that I got passed page 58 and ideas totally unrelated to blogging began to flow again in my other work, you would be right.

But, I’m actually a little embarrassed to come back after the great fanfare that accompanied my saying goodbye. So many people wished me well that there’s something to be said for quitting while you’re ahead and staying quit. Also, I don’t want people to think my good bye was some sort of ploy. I can assure you that at the time I was very serious and sincere about leaving.

In addition to the desire to do a different type of writing, blogging was taking a lot of time. Several bloggers had left citing the same reason. And I envied each and every one of them for walking away when they did. So I followed suit.

One of the strains of blogging had been the sense of obligation to post something every day. When I started blogging, the received wisdom was that you had to post daily, and possibly update your site several times a day, to keep your readers. If there were nothing new, they’d stop coming around. That seemed logical.

But now with blog aggregators it’s possible to post less frequently and still get an audience. As the blogosphere has expanded, almost nobody can keep up with everything out there, so more and more people are going to the aggregators’ sites as a one-stop shop to find out what’s going on and who’s saying what. Also, most blogs have Lefty Blogs, BNN, or Waldo’s aggregator on their sidebars. So, if readers go to one of the larger, better-known blogs, if a post somewhere else catches their eye, they’ll click on the link. Most people who use the Web are inveterate Web surfers, looking for other links anyway.

That works beautifully for me. I don’t take advertising and I don’t need constant traffic to my site. If I have nothing up and nobody clicks on my site for three days or three weeks, it doesn't matter to me. When I’ve got a post up, it’ll show up on the aggregators and people can surf over and read it if it’s something that arouses their interest. That’s good enough for me.

Also, since I stopped blogging, a lot has changed with the blogging software. Blogger has made it easier than ever to update a blogroll, post links, etc. Although I learned the basic HTML coding needed to do things on a site, it was never my ambition to do Web design. I wanted to write, not code and worry about graphics. But I wanted a crisp, professional looking site. And I wanted to link and have a blogroll that showed off other bloggers. Now I can do those things on Blogger with just a few clicks of a mouse.

The other thing was that I had been blogging with AOL dial-up for a good deal of the time I was doing it. Then I switched to Verizon, which kept crashing. The technology was frankly driving me bonkers because I’m not the most patient person in the world. Nor am I a computer geek who finds problem solving all that interesting. Again, I wanted to write, not fiddle with all the techie stuff.

But now that everything is running smoothly and I can concentrate on penning opinions again, I have decided to try my hand at blogging once more. Just as all the technical hassles had pushed me in the direction of leaving when I was sorely in need of a break, so the solution to those hassles and my own natural inclination to want to spout my opinions at the blogosphere have paved the way for me returning. It just feels right.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Holding My Breath Until I Turn Blue?

No, just going back to being a Democrat now that April Fool's Day is over. The only thing I was serious about yesterday was that I do want to keep the domain since I still use the name Anonymous Is A Woman. Every once in a while I'll Google just to see what's going on, and I've noticed that somebody else is using the same name on eBay and another person on YouTube. I promise you that they are not me. I don't bid on eBay and I don't have a site on YouTube. I also don't have a copyright on the name Anonymous Is A Woman, which is actually a famous quote frequently attributed to Virginia Wolfe. Nevertheless, I would like to hold onto the name and this domain.

On the other hand, I really did write a
guest post on Bearing Drift, which is what Jim Hoeft was referring to in the comments section yesterday. It grew out of a few emails that we sent back and forth and Jim very graciously invited me to do so. I don't want to embarrass him but he's a good guy.

Nevertheless, if I never complete my novel and win a Pulitzer Prize, I can now always blame him for distracting me from my true calling. The truth, though, is that I seem to have gotten to page 58 before writer's block set in. Which could be just as well since one of my characters was a reincarnation of Torquemada. I promise you that you really don't want to know.

But I actually did write one short story that may even be readable. It's posted here. And I also wrote a personal essay on suffering and faith here.

To post comments on that site, I think you have to sign up, so if you don't want to go through that rigamarole, don't worry about it. If you're interested, just click on the links and enjoy reading "what I did on my winter vacation" when I abandoned blogging.

And I'll be back in a few months, unless the spirit moves me sooner :)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Exciting April 1st Announcement for AIAW

Well, it’s time to throw up a post on this site again – just to keep from losing the domain. After all, I don’t want somebody taking it over to hawk Cialis, socially useful and medically necessary as that drug is.

However, I’m also excited to be announcing that I have decided to return to full time blogging, but as a Republican. I’m even turning my site red, which is such a better color anyway. Remember, there’s a shade of red out there that could flatter everybody.

Let’s face it, living with a union thug and advocating for the needy are boring. And frankly, I hate the Birkenstocks. Ann Coulter is right.

What I long for is to wear six-inch stilettos in a cute fuchsia and puce (if I figure out what puce looks like).

I want big hair and lots of black eyeliner and scarlet lipstick to go with my scarlet manicure. Color coordination is so important.

In fact, the more I think about it, the hell with politics. I am going to dedicate my blog to the really important stuff – fashion. From now on, I’m going to call it Anonymous Is A Fashionista. And I’m buying my stuff at Wal Mart only if it’s imported directly from China.

Ooops, gotta go, Dan just got back from another damn outsourcing rally.