Tuesday, October 30, 2007

According to Jim (Hoeft That Is)

Because this isn’t my day job time sometimes gets away from me, and I don’t get to posting about something that I find really interesting or valuable until it’s almost too late. And in the world of the blogosphere, two nanoseconds can make something dated.

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

Will the Republican Blogosphere Blow Their Integrity for Jeannemarie Devolites Davis?

UPDATE: One Republican blogger refused to participate in whitewashing JMDD's disgraceful campaign dirty trick. Bwana, from Renaissance Ruminations has all my respect and admiration. And my eternal thanks for restoring my faith in the basic decency of people from both sides of the aisle. I kinda hope some others will follow his example and come forward.

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.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Breaking News...Chap's Press Conference

You can go here, to NLS, and here, to RK for the details. I'd say, stick a fork in Jeannemarie. She's done!

Does The Cooch Have an Ethics Problem?

Raising Kaine has run two disturbing stories over as many days about some highly unusual real estate dealings that state Senator Ken Cuccinelli has had with a lobbyist for, and officer in, an organization called the American Coalition for Fathers and Children (ACFC). The stories also detail allegations of tax evasion on Ken’s part.

These allegations were uncovered not by Ken’s opponent, Janet Oleszek, but by Democratic candidate for Clerk of the Courts, Dale Evans. Evans went public with his charges to highlight the fact that current Republican Clerk of the Courts, John Frey, has not exercised due diligence on his job and has allowed some highly questionable deals to be registered without questioning their legality. Here’s what Evans had to say about his accusations:
This is an important issue, not only for voters in Senator Cuccinelli's District, but in all of Fairfax County. I am concerned that this highly unusual deal was allowed to pass unchecked through the Clerk's office. As a citizen and a taxpayer, it makes me wonder how many other potentially shady deals have gone unnoticed, and how much higher my taxes are because the Clerk is not making sure that everyone - his good friends in particular (see below) - is playing by the rules.

I am running for Clerk of Court because I am tired of the complacency which has plagued this office for the last sixteen years. My opponent's response to this shady dealing is that years ago, he received an AG's opinion saying that he could not closely inspect the documents that pass through his office. I wish that I found his complacency in failing to address that situation surprising, but it seems to be the hallmark of his tenure.

As the next Fairfax Clerk, I will push for legislation to change that policy, after which all transactions involving my friends, family, donors, or fellow elected officials will be flagged to ensure that the citizens of Fairfax never have to worry about political favoritism in my office.

The least of the charges, concerning Ken, is that he failed to pay a grantor’s tax for purchasing some property from Miller. That’s the part that especially pertains to Frey’s failure to be vigilant about this transaction. But there’s more that makes Ken look really, really bad. Lowell has the story in greater detail, including a time line of this rather odd transaction:
*January 2005: Ken Cuccinelli sponsors a bill about visitation rights, touted by Fathers for Virginia as a means "of countering no fault divorce." Cooch is one of only 5 votes for the bill, which fails 5-10 in committee.
*February 2005: Stuart Miller's boss at ACFC, Stephen Baskerville, praises Cuccinelli for his work sponsoring a bill for "no fault divorce" and specifically thanking him for his work along with Ron Grignol (Mark Sickles' '05 opponent and Patricia Phillips (Mark Herring's '07 opponent).

*March 2005: ACFC President Stephen Baskerville again praises Cuccinelli's bill, claiming that it will "give Virginia the strongest family protection provisions in the Western world."

*December 2005: According to Fairfax County Land Records, Cuccinelli buys a 1/3 interest in a Stuart Miller's mother's house from sister for $160K and transfers that 1/3rd interest to Miller's Mother's trust in exchange a $185,000 1-year promissory note at 10.25% interest secured against the ACFC's lobbyists's mother's house - folks that's interest of almost $19,000 per year - netting him a profit of $25K to $40K+ depending on when the note got paid - he signs a deed claiming he doesn't have to pay the Grantor's Tax by certifying he was a beneficiary of the Miller trust and that he received no consideration (he must have forgot about that $185K note referenced in the land records).

*January 2006: VPAP says Cuccinelli files an economic disclosure failing to list any interest in the house, the note, or any income earned from outside his firm and sponsors yet another bill on child custody (does anyone have the paper copy of these disclosures? I can only find VPAP's summary.).

*March 2006: The Miller property is sold for $600,000, according to land records and tax records.

*January 2007: VPAP says Cuccinelli files another economic disclosure failing to list any interest in the house, the note, or any income earned from outside his firm.

*June 21, 2007, Susan Miller donates $500 to Ken Cuccinelli's campaign (the Trustee of her Trust was Stuart Miller). This is the first donation Cuccinelli received "from her" (depending on what the profit he made on her house was).

Now this is especially troubling to me. For all that I disagree with Ken Cuccinelli on the issues, I’ve always assumed that he was basically a decent and honorable guy. I thought you couldn’t fault his integrity. Indeed, all those moderate and centrist newspapers that have endorsed him for re-election have made basically the same point, that even though he was out of step with his district ideologically, he was honest.

So it bothers me that all of our assumptions about him might have been wrong. Indeed, I hereby invite Ken to answer these charges here, if he’d like, or on any other blog or website where he’d be more comfortable. But answer them he should because the voters of the 37th district deserve to know the whole story. And, yes, that includes his side of it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Janet Oleszek Endorsed by Burke Connection

They say a prophet has no honor in his own home. But in this case, the Burke Connection, the local paper, did a far more insightful job of endorsements than the Washington Post or the Fairfax Times.

Understanding their home turf far better than the other two papers, and realizing that citizens in an area actually deserve to be represented in Richmond by those who actually share their beliefs and will vote for their interests and not tilt at right wing ideological windmills, endorsed Janet Oleszek in the 37th District.

The C0nnection also, far more wisely than either the hopelessly dense WaPo or the Fairfax Times, recognized that a Democratic takeover of the Senate would bring far more clout to Northern Virginia. It might help to change the funding formulas so some more of the taxes we pay out would actually come back to benefit our region. In addition, they seem to know that if the increasingly Democratic Northern Virginia districts represented by Jay O'Brien and Ken Cuccinelli change hands, it will bring more moderate leadership to Richmond.

Indeed, the whole argument that some newspapers, like the WaPo, and the Richmond Times Dispatch make that challengers need to show why an incumbent should be fired is actually the wrong analogy and therefore a faulty argument. Its logic is just plain dumb.

Running for elected office is not the same thing as being a job prospect. It's not about firing somebody for a bad professional performance. It's about whose beliefs are closest to their district's views and who is in a better position to represent the opinions of the voters and who will fight for their consitutents interests. And it's also about the realities of politics.

So, if you are really unhappy with the Republican leadership in Richomond, which by the way will get less, not more, moderate and far, far more conservative if Republicans are returned to power, you simply can't vote for a conservative Republican to represent a moderate Democratic district, regardless of how personally persuasive he has been in a debate.

In fact, here's what the Connection said about that:

Ken Cuccinelli is perhaps the most conservative member of the Virginia Senate. He brings an immense intellect and ethical consistency to his job. You will never find Cuccinelli changing his views to suit public opinion. He’s experienced an enormous learning curve in the Senate since first elected in a special election in 2002. In particular, his expertise in mental health issues in the courts, and his fierce defense of civil liberties are an asset.
But as Cuccinelli himself says, "I am who I am." He is not part of the solution to bringing more resources and more local control to Northern Virginia.
Janet Oleszek, who fortunately is far better on the job than she is on the campaign trial, is correct when she observes: "This district has changed — voters want something different, and also it’s not the same voter."
It’s an understatement when she says, "I am not a politician."
But in her four years on the school board (Oleszek was the top vote getter among all school board candidates in 2003), Oleszek has demonstrated excellent priorities and the ability to work with others to accomplish her goals. Her advocacy of full day kindergarten is an example of her success. She’s patient and cooperative, skills that will be needed in the Senate in the coming years. Her expertise in education, including a focus on higher education, will be needed in Richmond. Her views on most issues, especially guns and education, are far more in line with this district than the incumbent.

That's the best, most insightful, and most politically astute editorial I've read about the 37th District so far this election cycle. Somebody please remind me to keep reading the Connection. When none of the bigger guns understand - they get it!

Chap Petersen is A Class Act and Jeannemarie Devolites - Well She's Not

Strong language comes to mind at the thought of her latest stunt. But I'll take a cue from Chap Petersen, who is, as you shall see in a minute, a true class act, and I'll refrain from any nasty comment. Ben has the story here.

Jeannemarie, in her desperation to cast her opponent, Chap, in a bad light sent out a mailing that was supposedly a disclosure form accusing his old law firm of lobbying for such unsavory clients as Bechtel and Enron. The point of this hit piece was to disgust Chap's Democratic supporters. (By the way, Chap has up a rebuttal to her charges about his old law firm and his connection to any of her charges here)

Although JMDD is, herself, a lobbyist for big time firms, has a zero rating from abortion rights groups and voted for the reprehensible marriage amendment last year, she is, incredibly, attempting to run to the left of Chap and to run away from her own true record as a conservative Republican.

But in this attack piece, she neglected to redact the address and phone number of Chap Petersen's personal residence. She also failed to cross out reference to Chap's wife and children. According to Ben at NLS, Sharon Petersen has reported receiving a spate of hate calls, which is probably attributable to the family's personal number being on the campaign mailer. In fact, here's an update from NLS on the fallout of JMDD's political stunt:

UPDATE #2- Sources inside the Fairfax Sheriff's office tell me they are going to be doing regular surveillance tonight in the Petersen's neighborhood due to the suddenly heightened threat his family may be under. There is no specific threat yet, but the bizarre phone calls are enough to have law enforcement's attention.
Ben, being Ben, threatened to retaliate by publishing the Davises private phone numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII). Several of his readers, thinking turnabout is fair play, urged him to do it.

But a more influential voice stopped Ben. Chap Petesen, himself, personally asked Chap not to print JMDD's phone number or other PII. Good for Chap! He showed his class. And JMDD showed, well, ok, I'm not as noble as Chap or even Ben. She showed she's basically trailer trash.

You just don't do what she did. No, not to anybody. Not even to her. So, thank you Ben for not doing it!

Don't Give Up Your Day Job

There are a lot of Republicans, even very conservative ones, whom I respect. I read their blogs and take seriously their comments and even criticism of liberals and progressives. One of their strongest objections is to the liberal propensity for, what they call, "political correctness." That's the attempt, in their view, of liberals to silence true diversity of opinion. For example, although liberals place a high value on racial and ethnic diversity, conservatives claim we are not so tolerant of differences of point of view, especially if it involves the views of conservatives. They believe this is especially true on college campuses, where they suspect leftists rule the day and prevent the expression any beliefs different from their own.

And there may be some truth to that. Many conservative blogs have posted videos and snippets of articles that they think illustrate their charges. But there is another side to this story.

It seems that both sides are equally guilty of intolerance. Indeed, it may be built in to human nature, but it's worth pointing out that liberals don't have a monopoly on political correctness on college campuses, as this piece illustrates.

Here's the other side of the coin. Gary Peters, a professor at Central Michigan University is running for political office as a Democrat. Dennis Lennox, a student, who is a self-appointed watchdog, has taken to hounding him, with a video camera no less. The problem isn’t that this student is simply following him and videotaping campaign appearances, which are public events and are fair game. But the student is following him all around campus, asking insulting questions, and setting up misleading situations to make the professor look bad. In addition, he is attempting to shoot situations that involve the violation of the privacy of students and campus employees.

Here’s how some describe the situation:

"Basically, he's just an extreme partisan. Anybody that's a Democrat, he's going to try to get at," said fellow political science major Eric Schulz.

Lennox's anti-Peters campaign shows no sign of slowing down, though his tactics have generated complaints.

Both Lennox and college Dean Pamela Gates filed police complaints against each other after Lennox requested Peters' e-mails under the Freedom of Information Act. At one point in the brief video, also posted online, Gates it seen gesturing into the camera at close range, and it then goes out of focus, as if it has been struck.

Lennox is heard saying, "Don't touch my camera," suggesting that Peters either touched it or attempted to.
Lennox claims he started doing this because Peters won’t choose between his teaching at the campus and Congress. The fallacy of that logic is that Peters has yet to be elected and observed that everybody had a right to earn a living even while campaigning.

It should seem to any decent and fair minded person that as long as Peters is doing his job, showing up to teach his classes, is presenting well prepared lectures, and meeting his professional obligation that he should be allowed to teach while campaigning. In fact, despite Lennox’s claims to be simply trying to protect taxpayers’ money, here’s Peters’ take on the situation:

"The bottom line is that people who run for public office still need to pay the bills and still need to work," he said. He drives 130 miles from a Detroit suburb to Mount Pleasant to teach class once a week.

"If I was running for Congress in a seat where I had no chance of winning, I probably wouldn't have any attention put on me at all," said Peters, a former state senator who lost a close race for Michigan attorney general in 2002.

He acknowledges it would be difficult to keep his $65,000-a-year job at the university if he gets elected to Congress, but says he will worry about that if he wins. Peters holds the Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government - named for a former Republican U.S. senator and Michigan Supreme Court justice.
Of course, Peters also pointed out that his salary is not funded by taxpayers but is, and this is a direct quote from Peters, “privately funded.”

This is nothing more than partisan inspired harrassment. The student should be jailed for infringing on the privacy of others – not Peters – but the dean and other students.

But more chilling is that this is a blatant attempt to intimidate somebody into not running for Congress. If everybody who decided to run had to give up their jobs, only the very rich would be able to do it.

That is the unintended consequences of this type of action by Lennox. At least, I hope it's unintended and this kid isn't attempting to deliberately create a situation where political office is open only to the independently wealthy who don't need day jobs.

I would hope, at the very least, that even my conservative blogger colleagues would join me in condemning actions like these. Until then, my advice to candidates is don't be intimidated by grandstanding like this. And above all, don't let actions like this force you into giving up your day job until after the election

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Republicans Get This Year's Chutzpah Award

Note: The classic definition of Chutzpah is the man convicted of murder who throws himself on the mercy of the jury because he's an orphan.

Jim Hoeft recently conducted a poll of Bearing Drift readers. His main question was who benefits more from negative ads, the Democrats or Republicans. Well, the results are in, and Bearing Drift readers said Democratic candidates gain more by going on the attack.

What prompted the poll, and Jim’s thoughts on the subject, was his and his fellow Bearing Drift contributors’ contention that Democrats are running nastier, more negative and more unfair campaigns than their Republican counterparts. In fact Jim states:

So, the result of the poll is pretty clear: The only way Democrats can win is to tear down good people and obfuscate the truth.

Bearing Drift readers are very astute.
Well, no. Actually Bearing Drift readers are just very one sided and can’t see their own double standard at work.

Indeed, Bearing Drift was the blog that ran this and crowed proudly about somebody’s “Willie Horton moment.” Now Willie Horton is synonymous with both racism and negative campaigning. So why Brian Kirwin, who posted it, would even be proud of this and then turn around to complain about the other side being negative is totally beyond me. But I think Bearing Drift does get the Chutzpah award this year.

Furthermore, if Bearing Drift’s consistently fair, high minded, and always positive Republican readers really believe what they are saying about attack ads, I’d like to know if they consider this ad, launched in September by the RPV, to be a truthful and positive ad?

In fact, it was pulled from the RPV Website almost immediately, not because their communications director, Shaun Kenney, and the other members of the RPV, suddenly developed a conscience that told them it was the wrong thing to do, but because they feared the blowback from something so patently absurd. Morality had nothing to do with their retraction. Simple pragmatism did. You know that’s true because they certainly haven’t declared a moratorium on other negative campaign ads against their Democratic opponents.

In fact, as today’s Washington Post points out in this article, this has been one of the most hard fought campaign seasons in Virginia history. And both sides have gone negative even earlier than usual. But as this shows, some Republicans have added an even nastier fillip to the usual brew of negative charges and counter charges with accusations that Governor Tim Kaine and other Democrats support terrorism in Virginia. The charge was levelled against the Democrats because they have reached out to Northern Virginia’s Muslim community and to its largest mosque in Falls Church, Virginia.

The problem is that, despite their denials, Republicans have inserted bigotry and racism into the campaign. And even some of their fellow party members, who run for office and represent Northern Virginia and, who have Muslim supporters and constituents, are objecting to these extreme charges, as Delegate Tom Rust did. Here’s the entire quote from the Washington Post, including quotes from political science professor, Mark Rozell and others as well as Rust:

As Republicans work to retain their majorities in the General Assembly, the two delegates from the Shenandoah Valley say they are conducting an investigation into Democrats' ties to the Muslim American Society and Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, both in Falls Church.

Dels. C. Todd Gilbert (Shenandoah) and C.L. "Clay" Athey Jr. (Warren) allege that the society and mosque have links to terrorism, even though federal officials have found no such connection.

The delegates have been trying to connect Kaine and other Democrats to prominent Muslim leaders affiliated with the organizations. On Friday, Gilbert and Athey released a photograph of Kaine speaking at a Muslim American Society dinner this spring.

Politics and campaigning have stooped to a new low when the governor of Virginia's effort to reach out to people of all faiths and races is characterized as an association with terrorists," said Delacey Skinner, the governor's communications director.

Several political observers predicted the GOP effort to link Democrats to terrorists will backfire and cost the party votes in the Nov. 6 election, when all 140 seats in the legislature are on the ballot.

"The idea is such a stretch, so beyond the realm of believability, this just strikes most people as either ridiculous or just political desperation," said Mark J. Rozell, a political science professor at George Mason University. "The people doing this risk alienating a growing segment of the population and don't really gain anything substantial in return."

The Republican-controlled General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution in 2005 praising Mukit Hossain, one of the Muslim American Society's leaders, after the Herndon Times named him its citizen of the year. Hossain was honored because he raised $10,000 to buy coats for day laborers.

Del. Thomas David Rust (R-Fairfax), one of the co-sponsors of the resolution honoring Hossain, said Gilbert and Athey should temper their investigation.
"I know Mukit; he is a friend of mine. I have lots of friends in the Muslim community, and I am very disappointed this is going on," Rust said.

The irony of this, of course, is that both Delegates Gilbert and Athey are running unopposed. But they have an interest in preventing the Democrats from gaining control of the state Senate and House. That’s a very real possibility this year. Especially the Senate.

And that’s the reason there is so much negative campaigning this year. So much is at stake and the simple truth is negative ads work.

Republicans have accepted this reality and embraced the strategy and tactics of negative campaigning for years. Lots of Republicans may not like it. Indeed, I think there are many Republicans who are good and decent people and they are embarrassed when their candidates go too far, just as there are many Democrats who would rather eschew all attack ads.

But the fact is if you want to win an election and you really believe your ideas will move the state and the nation in a better direction that will help more people, you don’t lie down and let the other side Swiftboat you while you stick to the high road. Democrats, especially, have tripped too many times on that rocky road. And too much is at stake to buy that siren song about being nobler than the other side.

So, ok Jim and Brian, if you really believe what you are saying here, you get your side to lay down their swords first and conduct a really positive campaign. Show us how to do it and lead by example rather than just complain about what we are doing to your side.

Truthfully, I don’t think you will do that for the same reason we won’t. But let’s at least be honest about it. Both sides do the same thing. It’s not right. But it’s effective. And neither side will quit. In fact, to do so would be to abdicate the election. And that would be wrong too In fact, only a bully who doesn't want a fair fight would even suggest it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chap Petersen Sets His Record Straight

I put up a link on my blogroll, under political sites, that will set Chap Petersen's record straight. In fact, it's called The Straight Record and it's an answer to Jeannemarie Devolities Davis' deceptive claims and ads, which have misreprsented and distorted Chap's record.

So, if you get a flyer, see a television commercial or come across a YouTube video or post on a Republican blog about Chap Petersen that just seems fishy to you, check out The Straight Record to get the facts straight!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Offer You Can't Refuse

Money is crucial to a successful campaign. I know we’ve all had the pleasure of seeing very good candidates come from behind and win even when being badly outspent. But that’s all too rare. More often we’ve agonized to see really deserving, capable, dedicated people lose elections because they just didn’t have enough money to get their message out effectively; or worse, they didn’t have the funds going into the home stretch to counter false attacks from their opponent.

That’s what is happening now, in the 34th District, to Chap Petersen in his race against Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, who has been running television ads misrepresenting Chap’s record on the estate tax, the gas tax and handgun legislation. You can go here to get the details from this excellent post by James Martin.

The bottom line is that Chap needs money to answer JMDD’s false charges and misleading accusations. We’ve all seen the damage that can be done when a candidate doesn’t have the funds to counter attack ads with his own advertisements to set the record straight and hold his opponent accountable for deception. So go and contribute to help Chap. He’s one of our most promising prospects for this year, and he’s in a tight race that could be a key to taking back the Senate.

Meanwhile, we have a bunch of other excellent candidates who also need another boost of funds to carry them over the finish line to victory. Lowell is making an offer you just can’t refuse if you care about Virginia’s future. Raising Kaine will match the first $1,000 in donations to candidates. Go over to RK to see the details.

And please be generous with both your money and your time. Remember the campaigns also need foot soldiers to staff their phone banks and canvass door-to-door. Political scientists, who do studies of the most effective campaign tactics, say that face-to-face contact with voters – basic retail politics – is still the most effective vote getter. And in local races like these the ground game will determine the winner. Whoever gets their voters out will claim victory on November 6.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Announcing Netroots for Virginia

Eileen, from VB Dems, is calling all Democratic bloggers to send her posts for a great new campaign Website Netroots for Virginia. You may have noticed the logo on my sidebar. If you click on it, you'll be redirected to the new site.

The logo originally was linked to a post on Raising Kaine and this new site grew out of a discussion that started there. Check out the new site for a compendium of articles and posts on your favorite candidates. And please contribute your own blog posts as well.

Here's what Eileen is asking for:
Send us the post that best trumpets your candidate! Also send in posts that best illustrate why your candidate's Republican opponent just doesn't get Virginia. Send links to live blogs you have conducted with our candidates as well.
So, please contribute and help us turn Virginia blue!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Harbinger of Victory?

Lowell just posted Virginia Public Access Project's raw numbers from the campaign finance reports for the period from 9/1 to 9/30. It seems that Democratic challengers have raised money hand over fist over their Republican opponents.

We all know money alone doesn't guarantee that a candidate will win an election. Still, it never hurts. So, going into the final weeks of a campaign, those funds for a final get out the vote push are going to be mighty sweet. And more important, it’s unusual for challengers to be that much more successful at fundraising across the board.

That success at getting the money may be a strong early indication that this year is going to break in a wave for the Democrats. There are two reasons to be hopeful.

First, if individuals are making small donations to the challengers, it shows the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo. People are mad about the transportation package that came out of Richmond. And they are especially angry about the abuser fees. They blame the Republicans more for it and trust the Democrats to fix it. If voters are ready for change, the first indication may be that they are voting with their pocketbooks first.

Business donors, on the other hand, usually hedge their bets and give something to both parties. But they give the most to those they think will win. If more cash is flowing to Democratic coffers, it could be that the smart money is on a Democratic victory.

And that money helps. It certainly boosts my hopes. But in the end, local races like these depend on a good ground game. Now is the time that each side is going for the final push to identify and turn out their voters.

But with George Barker, Janet Oleszek, Chap Petersen, and and Ralph Northam all raising healthy sums over their incumbent opponents, and John Miller out raising Tricia Stall in the open seat, and even newcomer Tom Periello out raising Virgil Goode, this could very well be the harbinger of a Democratic wave that really turns Virginia blue and gives Governor Tim Kaine a working majority to accomplish great things for the commonwealth.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Women Who Blog

Vivian has up a post about a list of women political bloggers. It was compiled by Catherine Morgan of Informed Voter. She wondered where all the female bloggers were and set out to compile a list of 100 women bloggers. That list grew to 200 and includes women who blog from both sides of the aisle and from many different perspectives. And it is by no means exhaustive. There are so many really good blogs written by women that nobody could possible list them all. But Catherine made an amazing attempt to capture a sampling.

Many people believe that the blogosphere is male dominated and that we women who blog are the rare bird. The exception rather than the rule. But as this post shows, many of us have a voice and a presence bringing our own points of view to the net.

Thank you Catherine!

Playoff Season at the Duncans' House

Unfortunately, this is my first attempt at scanning a picture on my new computer. I've never had the equipment to scan on my home computer before. Hopefully, I'll get better at the technique.
This, however, is my husband's fellow Cleveland Indians fans, the bleacher section that he turned our living room into to watch the playoffs with him.
The teddy bears come from my collection - serious teddy bear collectors call it a "hug." I know, makes you want to dry heave. Me too. Nevertheless, I am a fairly serious collector of teddy bears and have a hug of well over a 100.
No, they are not all Cleveland Indian bears, although for some reason, my husband does seem to get me an inordinate amount of Wahoos considering I'm actually a Yankee fan.
There is, in fact, one tiny Yankee bear in there, looking absolutely appalled to find himself surrounded by all those unruly Tribesmen while his own team went down to tragic defeat. He's the small white bear with the black eyes, ears and feet, sitting second from the right, where the tip of the inflatable Indians bat ends.
However, given that the Indians now face the hated Red Sox (sorry Gerry, Jim, and Brian), I can only say one thing: "Go Tribe!" I'm sure my poor, lone Yankee bear, still valiantly hanging in, in the bleacher section that used to be my couch, agrees with the sentiment.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Thought for Columbus Day: Mistreat Not the Stranger, For You Were Strangers in Egypt

The Bible is clear. According to Exodus 22:21: "You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." And Exodus 23:9 reinforces this: “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

And those strangers were Israelites fleeing famine, fleeing war, and fleeing oppression. The same things our European ancestors were fleeing when they came to America, whether as Pilgrims running from England in search of religious freedom, or Italians, Poles, and Germans seeking escape from poverty, and the Irish leaving a murderous potato famine that took so many lives through starvation. Or Jews fleeing religious persecution and seeking freedom to worship. All of us were strangers in the land. And all of us should be cautioned not to oppress the stranger in our land today.

Today, we just celebrated Columbus Day. Mostly, it's a day spent contemplating fall sales in the malls and shopping centers. It might be worth also remembering that Christopher Columbus set sale for a new world. One which quickly became a haven for those seeking relief from poverty and oppression. And those searching for freedom and a new way of life.

Spotter, from VB Dems, was kind enough to share with me this creedal statement, which was read in churches around the world for World Communion Day. It’s worth reprinting and contemplating at the end of Columbus Day.
Immigrant Creed

I believe in Almighty God, who guided the people in
exile and in exodus, the God of Joseph in Egypt and
Daniel in Babylon, the God of foreigners and

I believe in Jesus the Christ, a displaced Galilean,
who was born away from his people and his home, who
fled his country with his parents when his life was in
danger and, upon returning to his own country,
suffered the oppression of the tyrant Pontius Pilate,
the servant of a foreign power. He was then accused,
persecuted, beaten, and condemned to death unjustly.
But on the third day this scorned Jesus rose from the
dead not as a foreigner, but to offer us citizenship
in heaven.I believe in the Holy Spirit, the eternal immigrant
from God's kingdom among us, who speaks all languages,
lives in all countries, and can reunite all races.

I believe that the church is the secure home for the
foreigner and for all believers who constitute it, who
speak the same language, and have the same purpose.

I believe that the communion of saints begins when we
accept the diversity of the saints.

I believe in the forgiveness that makes us all equal,
and in the reconciliation that identifies us more than
race, language, or nationality.

I believe that the resurrection of God will unite us
as one people in whom all are distinct and all are
alike at the same time.

Beyond this world I believe in Life Eternal, in which
no one will be an immigrant but citizens of God's
kingdom that will never end.

And Happy Columbus Day to all the children of immigrants, like me!

VB Dems Give the Top Ten Reasons to Vote Against John Welch

Ok, I'm wandering further a field here than I normally do. Lately, I've been honoring Tip O'Neil's dictum that "all politics is local" and writing about races in Northern Virginia, especially about the 37th District contest between Janet Oleszek and Ken Cuccinelli.

But this caught my eye. The Virginia Beach Democrats have been really creative in their use of the Web and in cultivating the netroots for their candidates. They do a particularly good job here with their new site which gives the top ten reasons to vote against state Senator John Welch, who is being challenged by Bobby Mathieson.

h/t to JC Wilmore, the Richmond Democrat for picking this up.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ken Cuccinelli Ad Distorts Fairfax Schools Achievements

Glant, over at Raising Kaine, has a good post about Ken Cuccinelli's latest television commerical. Apparently, he slams Janet Oleszek because during her term on the school board test scores have remained flat.

Now, that would be terrible. Except for one minor point the good senator left out. Test scores have put Fairfax schools consistently in the top 5% of the nation. Here's the quote:

What the ad did not say is that the test results have been among the top 5% in the nation. Remaining consistently in the top 5% is an amazing achievement. But Ken Cuccinelli portrays it as a failure.

What the ad did not say is that, as a result of the misbegotten No Child Left Behind rules, Fairfax County, with its large ESL population, is forced to include results from students who are not ready to take test in English.

What the ad did not say is that Ken Cuccinelli is part of the Republican majority in Richmond that has refused to fully fund the Fairfax County schools, so that the county has had to raise the property tax to fund the difference.

What the ad also doesn't tell you is that public schools are forced to keep students who are trouble makers and disruptive in classes. Private schools regularly throw out kids who raise hell in school and can't be controlled. In fact, some of the more prestigious private schools boot kids out for having failing grades. They cherry pick their students so no wonder they look like they're doing a great job. Comparing public schools, who have to take everybody, and private schools, who can be selective, is like comparing apples and oranges.

But despite those differences, the Fairfax County Public School system has remained in the top 5% Damned that flat rate. Pretty soon you might think public education actually works!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Jo Ann Davis Has Passed Away

Representative Jo Ann Davis, who represented the 1st Congressional District, lost her brave battle with breast cancer and passed away. I got the news earlier and am now able to confirm it. I wish her family and all those in the Virginia blogging community who knew and supported her all my sympathy.

At times like this, I'm simply at a loss for words. And perhaps it's one of those times when no words are possible or necessary. Maybe the only response to such news by those she left behind is to pray, cry, mourn, and celebrate a life well lived and the good deeds and legacy that she left.

May God be good to her!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Check Out Janet Oleszek's Live Blog at Raising Kaine

I just finished reading Janet Oleszek’s live blog at Raising Kaine. Although the live portion is over, so you can’t really post any more questions, she provides good answers to the questions posed to her. And they weren’t all from the progressive community. Chris Beers, the Mason Conservative, Bwana, from Renaissance Ruminations and other Republicans were well represented as well.

While Janet is not at her best in a debate forum, she did a great job over there. To get a sense of what she stands for and her opinion on the major campaign and policy issues, head on over to read it.

On a personal note, I have to add that many, many people have told me I’m a good writer. I’ve also been told that I’m articulate, eloquent and logical – all the types of very kind words that make me blush to hear them.

But one of my favorite stories about me and my blogging is this one. When Kate Wilder found out that I was Anonymous Is A Woman she gushed about how articulate, eloquent and logical I was and said, “Everything you write is so calm, correct, and reasonable.” Then she added, “I couldn’t believe it’s actually you.” And she blushed that it had slipped out.

But it’s true. AIAW is my smarter twin. I’m actually pretty dumb and illogical in person. Honest.

The reason is that I don’t have a good memory for facts, figures, statistics, quotes; all the things you need to make a credible argument. I forget things. Oh, I can remember and grasp the basic concepts and apply them to new situations. I can even make connections and distinction that are creative. But I don’t have rote memory and can’t always lay my hands on just the right source or statistics I need to back up my argument and make it convincing. I can do that when I write because I can Google and research. Usually I’ll remember exactly where I read what I need or I’ll have a pretty good idea where to find it. I’m good at the type of free association you need to use a search engine.

But I can’t hold the stuff in my head to get up at a podium and debate somebody. But that doesn’t make me dumb. And it doesn’t mean I’d be incapable of writing a bill or understanding it or even getting it passed in a legislature. The truth is legislators don’t spend all their days standing around debating bills. Lots of what gets passed is decided in the cloakroom. The ability to get along with your fellow legislators and do some horse trading is as important, if not more so, as debating skills.

Ken Cucinnelli is a great debater. I certainly wouldn’t want to go up against him. But he hasn’t actually been that successful at getting many of his bills passed. And given the nature of some of them, I’m actually grateful for that.

But Janet has great people skills one on one. She is knowledgeable. You can find out what she stands for and what her solutions will be to Virginia’s challenges at the live blog. And you can rest assured that if she is elected, she will be able to get her bills passed because her focus will be on transportation, education, mental health, and other bread and butter issues, not social wedge issues that seek to limit a woman’s freedoms, choices and horizons.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Oleszek-Cuccinelli Debate: Will Substance Trump Style?

Well, I got home late tonight so I haven’t had time to post on last night’s debate between Janet Oleszek and Ken Cuccinelli, which I did indeed watch. Hat tip to Lowell and Blueweeds for their early and good coverage.

Let’s start by admitting the obvious. Ken Cuccinelli, a trial lawyer by profession, is a better debater than school board member Janet Oleszek. And Ken has considerable charm. In fact, his charm and wit should be registered as lethal weapons.

Further, if you are an ardent pro-life, pro gun, anti-tax conservative, you should definitely vote to return him to the state Senate. He’s been representing you superbly. The problem is he hasn’t been representing the majority of the 37th district so well. Unlike some other districts in Virginia, this is a moderate to progressive area whose residents are mostly pro-choice and would favor some gun control. They also expect services like good schools, adequate public transportation – many of them commute to Washington, DC – and good roads. And they’d be willing to pay for them as long as they are convinced their money is well spent and the state’s funds are properly managed. They don’t want pledges of no new taxes; they want fiscal responsibility that buys them the services they need. They want limited government but they don’t want a pledge of no government and the expectation that they will “go it alone” in providing their kids with quality education, mental health services, public transportation, and good roads.

Meanwhile, Ken, who has provided excellent representation for his pro-life, conservative constituency, doesn’t actually represent the majority of us who are pro-choice in the district.

Kenton Ngo did a spoof a while ago on Cucinnelli’s record, which, while it was very funny, was pretty on target and provided the links to some of the more extreme measures the Cooch has either sponsored or voted for.

This includes SB 315, Abortion performed on child under age 15; penalty. Requires the preservation and testing of fetal tissue for the purpose of determining whether the pregnancy was the result of criminal behavior. Failure of a physician to comply with the requirements is unprofessional conduct and a Class 4 misdemeanor.

HB2797, Constitutional right to enjoyment of Life. Provides that “the right to enjoyment of life” guaranteed by Article 1 of the Constitution of Virginia is vested in each born and preborn human being from the moment of fertilization.

That by the way, was the bill Ken claimed he forgot about or tried to deny during the debate.

But most troubling is Cuccinelli’s support for the Conscience Clause, also known as the Pharmacist’s Conscience Clause.

There has been a movement among the Christian right to encourage pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills or the emergency contraceptive pill, known as the Morning After pill, for women even in cases of rape.

This is no quixotic windmill tilting. The following states already have some version of this legislation, making it difficult for women to get prescriptions from their doctors filled. They are:
Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia and South Dakota. Colorado, Maine, Tennessee, and Florida have broad conscience clauses that don't specifically mention pharmacists.

Still another area where Ken is out of the mainstream is support for stem cell research. Although he claims that he is for use of adult stem cells to treat medical conditions, he opposes the use of embryonic stem cells. Ken made the claim that adult stem cell therapy has proven more promising in actual use and is now curing ailments.

That’s true. The therapy is not new or experimental and has been used in treatment for blood cancers like leukemia and the lymphomas. But it’s embryonic stem cells that hold the promise for curing illnesses like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. As this Washington Post story reported:

The letter to the journal focused on David A. Prentice, a scientist with the conservative Family Research Council. Prentice has been an adviser to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) -- a leader in the charge to maintain tight restrictions on the research -- and an "expert source" often cited by opponents of embryonic stem cell research.

Prentice has repeatedly claimed that adult stem cells, which can be retrieved harmlessly from adults, have at least as much medical potential as embryonic cells. He often carries a binder filled with references to scientific papers that he says prove the value of adult stem cells as treatments for at least 65 diseases.

In the letter to Science, however, three researchers went through Prentice's footnoted documentation and concluded that most of his examples are wrong.

"Prentice not only misrepresents existing adult stem cell treatments but also frequently distorts the nature and content of the references he cites," wrote Shane Smith of the Children's Neurobiological Solutions Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif.; William B. Neaves of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo.; and Steven Teitelbaum of Washington University in St. Louis.
For example, they wrote, a study cited by Prentice as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with testicular cancer is in fact a study that evaluates methods of isolating adult stem cells.

Similarly, a published report that Prentice cites as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma does not address the medical value of those cells but rather describes the best way to isolate cells from lymphoma patients and grow them in laboratory dishes, the letter said.

And Prentice's reference to the usefulness of adult stem cells for patients with Sandhoff disease -- a rare nerve disorder -- is "a layperson's statement in a newspaper article," the scientists reported.

All told, the scientists concluded, there are only nine diseases that have been proved to respond to treatment with adult stem cells.

"By promoting the falsehood that adult stem cell treatments are already in general use for 65 diseases and injuries, Prentice and those who repeat his claims mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients," the scientists wrote.

Yet that is exactly what Ken Cuccinelli is also promoting. And, yes, it is cruelly deceptive when research into embryonic stem cell research is universally believed by real scientists to hold so much promise.

But if Ken has strong objections to the use of embryonic stem cells, he ought to also do something about the fertility clinics that produce them. Most of the stem cell lines come from discarded embryos that couples have left over after in-vitreo fertilization. Currently, those excess embryos are discarded. Somehow using them to cure people of diseases seems more moral than simply putting them out in the trash.

For all Ken’s razzle dazzle, when it comes to who better represents a moderate to progressive district that is trending blue, Janet is closer to the views of voters in this district and all the charm and lawyerly debate skills doesn’t disguise that fact.

Finally, when all is said and done, this race will be won by the ground game. In local races, voters expect retail politics. So, I would advise Janet not to waste too much time agonizing that her trial lawyer opponent is a better debater. I’d urge her to keep knocking on doors, connecting with voters one-to-one and keep emphasizing her issues. The key to winning this election is going to be who gets out his voters not who is more dazzling in the debate arena. In the end it’s going to come down to substance, not style.