Sunday, June 29, 2008

Myths About Manufacturing That Are Hurting America

It surprises me but every once in a while the Washington Post gets it right, even on the economy. That's especially true when they let an op-ed writer pen something for the Sunday Outlook section. Today, they carried an essay, by Gilbert B. Kaplan, a partner in King, Stamp and Spalding, that spells out five of the most prevalent myths about American manufacturing and its decline. According to Kaplan, it's not that Americans can't compete on a level playing field. As he claims, the playing field starts out leaning steeply uphill. The American worker - and the U.S. manufacturer - hardly have a chance, and the miracle is that anybody succeeds at all at starting and maintaining a manufacturing company. Here's some of what Kaplan says in dispelling the myth of American manufacturing.
1. It's all about cheap wages. American workers are just paid too much.

For most manufacturing sectors, that's just wrong. Labor costs are already less than 10 percent of the cost of making many products, including steel and semiconductors. Many of the real cost disadvantages the United States confronts are self-imposed. Our government doesn't rebate taxes to corporations when they export manufactured products, the way other countries do: A Brazilian steel company, for example, can get a 17 percent tax credit for every ton of steel it sends abroad. In addition, many foreign countries keep their currencies valued extremely low against the dollar. Most economists believe that China undervalues its currency by as much as 40 percent. That makes Chinese goods very cheap here and U.S. exports very expensive in China. This is a key driver of the $260 billion trade deficit with Beijing. We should deal with these issues in our international trade negotiations, but we haven't.

2. U.S. manufacturers can save themselves by investing in innovation.

Okay, but how much are you going to invest? U.S. private-sector companies can't put as much money into technology and research and development as foreign governments do to build up their sectors. As the chief executive of a technology firm with whom I've worked for many years says, "We're the best company in the world, but we can't compete with foreign governments." Consider Airbus. The European Union has put more than $15 billion into building this aircraft company from the ground up. Whatever you may think about the recent U.S. Air Force decision to buy tankers from Airbus rather than Boeing, one thing is clear: Through its subsidies, the E.U. has managed to build a highly competitive aircraft industry. South Korea has put more than $12 billion into its semiconductor industry to similar effect, severely harming the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing base.

3. Trade laws and trade agreements level the playing field for U.S. manufacturers.

If only this were so. This should be the main goal of our trade negotiations. The manufacturing sector is hurting more than any other, but we're using our political capital -- in the Doha round, for example, the latest World Trade Organization negotiating round -- to help the service and agricultural sectors. Little is being done for basic manufacturing. There are international trade laws under which U.S. companies can file cases to offset unfair practices in China, Japan and other countries, but they're difficult to use, expensive and haven't solved the problem. In 2006, despite a manufacturing trade deficit of more than $600 billion, U.S. manufacturers filed only eight new trade cases. If these statutes were really working, we would see hundreds of new cases each year, instead of watching U.S. companies decide that it's better to give up and just move manufacturing plants abroad -- something I've recently heard executives in both the textile and electronics sectors say they're thinking about doing.
There are only two more myths to list and I'm already in serious danger of violating the fair use laws here. I'd love to just reprint the whole article because it's so good at shattering most of the shibboleths the right wing and the free trade advocates hold so dear about the global economy and competition.

One of the main points that screamed out at me was that U.S. manufacturers are not just competing against their foreign counterparts, they are also competing against foreign government subsidies to key industries. When the European Union, for example, subsidizes investment in Airbus, that tilts the so-called playing field into one lopsided sports ground.

Likewise, other countries provide tax credits and other financial breaks to private companies to encourage them to stay in country and export their products elsewhere. We do the opposite. We provide tax shelters for windfall profits made overseas and give breaks that encourage our big businesses to relocate to other countries and import goods back to us. That's the reverse of what Europe does. While they attempt to keep good jobs in their countries and export their goods, our screwy policy is to encourage outsourcing of jobs and valuable resources and importing of foreign products.

American companies are also hamstrung by rising health care costs. While most first world industrial nations provide universal health care to their citizens, we rely on privately funded insurance, picked up by our employers. Ironically, Europeans and Canadians often get better care at cheaper rates than we do. I know the arguments about long lines for government paid care and the inefficiency of socialized medicine. But that's only true in England. Most of Europe provides subsidies directly to individuals and families and lets them choose their doctors. And the most vocal critics of European health care obviously haven't seen the restrictions that American HMOs impose on patients, limiting their choice of doctors and causing long waits for health care services.

Another myth to bust: The high tech jobs that were supposed to replace manufacturing jobs in the rust belt are also going overseas. Anybody with a computer, any where in the world, can do the jobs we were training displaced workers to do. Meanwhile, our government does not even negotiate good trade deals to relieve some of the worst of our disadvantages. Instead, the trade deals we have in place have only encouraged more off shoring.

In addition, many of the emerging nations with whom we are competing, such as China, keep their currencies artificially low against the dollar so our goods are too expensive on the world market, while theirs are cheaper even to import back here. It's not the high salaries of American workers, but manipulation of the world currency market that boosts our product prices and makes them uncompetitive. And that's something our government should be doing something about. It's not free market competition but the interference of other governments on behalf of their businesses that is causing our economic problems in the global economy.

Besides creating a shrinking job market, our policies are creating other problems for Americans. It's just not healthy for a nation to import everything, produce nothing, and simply depend on a service economy for all its jobs and income. It's bad for the overall economic prosperity and it's bad for national security. All you need is a belligerent nation to cut off their supplies to us (like oil maybe?) or to blockade the ports of an exporter nation and they will have choked our life line. Isn't it time to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and regain our self reliance?

Friday, June 27, 2008

What Are the Limits of Religious Tolerance?

A reader left a comment that got me pondering the limits of freedom and religious tolerance. Here is what Coleen McMains wrote as a response to my original post, which was about the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decision to renew the lease of the controversial Islamic Saudi academy:
I find your blog disturbing. Overall, for the fact that you are all right with supporting the rights for innocent children to be taught, in their textbooks, in OUR schools, that WE are infidels, Christian's and Jews are "apes and pigs" (it says this on the Koran) and that homosexuals should be thrown from cliffs (also in the Koran). Where were our Americans...when THESE people hijacked four airliners and killed thousands of our citizens on September 11, 2001? Do you remember that day? Were you proclaiming their first amendment rights and proclaiming their need for religious freedom on that day? It is people, like yourself, that are so bound up in these people having their "rights" and "religious freedoms" that will be the downfall of our country.
First of all, let me assure Ms. McMains that I indeed remember that day well. I was fleeing from an office right near the White House, considered at the time to be a likely target in an attack on the U.S. I spent hours in traffic evacuating the Washington, DC while frantic family and friends wondered about my whereabouts. I had – and still have – friends who work at the Pentagon. I was frantic about them. I also had relatives in lower Manhattan, not far from the Twin Towers. And New York City is my hometown. To say the least, I had many connections to both areas affected by that attack. It’s always dangerous to make easy assumptions when in high dudgeon, attacking somebody. I’ve done it myself and been embarrassed. But that’s another story.

What troubles me most, however, are how many other unquestioned assumptions Ms. McMains makes in this comment.

First is the notion that all Muslims are extremists. The other is that all Muslims take every word of the Koran literally and interpret it narrowly and so are actively committed to throwing every homosexual off a cliff and killing every infidel who doesn’t share their religious beliefs.

Although I disagree with Ms. McMains - I’ll get into the reasons in a few minutes - I think she is sincere in her belief that there are real dangers lurking out there because of the threat of radical Islam. I even agree that the way Islam is practiced by groups like the Taliban, the Wahabbists, Salafis and al Qaeda is dangerous.

It’s also true, I think, that America needs to regain control of its too porous borders to keep terrorists from those groups from entering our country. It’s important to acknowledge that there are two separate issues in our immigration problems. One is dealing humanely with the many illegal immigrants who live and work in our country, contributing to our economy and conducting themselves as law abiding residents. Their only crime was entering America illegally. But once here, they have acted in a productive and respectful manner. Those people deserve a pathway to citizenship, which involves paying fines, going to the back of the line, and fulfilling certain obligations. But they do not deserve to be booted out and have their lives and their families’ lives disrupted.

But the other issue is that we have to stop the flow of new illegal immigrants into the nation, especially those who might present a security threat. That is the more serious problem and deserves immediate attention. I happen to agree with Ms. McMains and other critics that America is under no obligation to open its borders to, and welcome in, followers of Osama bin Laden or Mullah Mohammed Omar.

On the other hand, Ms. McMains unexamined idea that religious tolerance is dangerous is as disturbing to me as my support for First Amendment rights is disturbing to her.

As I quoted in my original blog diary, John Whitehead, from the Rutherford Institute, while speaking in defense of the Saudi Islamic Academy, said that religions have a history of teaching intolerant things, which is why they need the extra protection of the Constitution.

That’s objectively true.

A somewhat humorous piece has made its way around the Internet, and even wound up as a speech by President Jed Bartlett on The West Wing. In it a religious person expresses his dilemma at having to follow certain sections of the Old Testament. Here are a few examples:
• I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

• Lev. 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?

• I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

• A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 10:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
In addition, the Bible seems to encourage, even command, genocide. Not only were the ancient Israelites, returning from bondage in Egypt, given the land of Canaan, but they were exhorted by God to kill all the original Canaanite inhabitants. Slackers that they were, when they failed to be as thorough as God commanded them to be, they were roundly condemned for it. In fact, when King Saul falls out of favor with God, the prophet Samuel tells him it is because he disobeyed God’s direct command to kill all the Canaanites – every man, woman and child – who were polluting the land.

Here are just a few examples of relevant passages:
NKJ Deu 7:1 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, 2 “and when he LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.

NKJ Deu 20:16 “But of the cities of these peoples which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, 17 “but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the LORD your God has commanded you,

NKJ 1Sa 15:1 Samuel also said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 ‘Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”
Now modern Christians, even fairly conservative ones, will quickly point out that they actually don’t do this anymore. But those Biblical passages about how to treat “infidels” were used to justify the terrible treatment that Native Americans received from white settlers, including theft of their land, forced conversions, confinement on reservations, and massacres.

And even today, you can find fundamentalists Christian groups, such as this one, which unapologetically support the command to genocide simply because it is in the Bible.
The Justification of God’s Call to Holy War

In light of the context and nature of holy war, God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites may be justified under the following biblical principles: First of all, the Canaanites had known about Yahweh’s redemptive acts on behalf of Israel for many years (Josh 2:10, 11); yet, with the exception of Rahab (Josh 2:12, 13), they did not repent. Therefore, the Canaanites stood under the just condemnation of God (Rom 1:18-2:16) (Greene, 1929:220). Secondly, the Bible teaches (as does the light of nature) the principle of corporate solidarity, whereby the actions of an individual may affect the larger community for good or evil (Josh 7; Rom 5:12-21). Thirdly, God’s love for his people and desire to maintain their purity required the preventative excision of that which would inevitably corrupt their devotion to the true religion (Deut 20:16-18). As Wright points out, “divine love is a two-edged sword” (1969:130-31). Like a surgeon, God removed the cancerous growth of Canaanite depravity in order to promote the longevity of his people. Finally, we must remember that Israel’s holy war against Canaan is a redemptive-historical type of spiritual and eschatological warfare (cf. Eph 6:10-18; Heb 4:1-11; Rev 19:11-21) (Holloway, 1998:57). Eschatological judgment intruded into human history in a unique way, which only finds its equal at Calvary (Rom. 3:25; Gal. 3:13) and at the Second Coming (Rev. 6:16; 14:10).
Tell me, what is the real difference between this passage and the calls for jihad from radical Muslims?

The only thing that makes the Muslim claim reprehensible and the Judeo Christian claim permissible is which religious tradition you believe is the true faith. If you do a mind exercise and assume that Allah is the true God and that the Koran is the truthful revelation, then the command to exterminate infidels becomes as acceptable as Jehovah’s command to liquidate all the Canaanites.

Of course, when I go into Catholic or Methodist churches, I don’t hear exhortations to genocide. In fact, all of us would be more likely to hear pleas for peace. The same would be true if we went into any modern synagogue or temple. Members of all those faiths have somehow moved beyond the belief that they are commanded to kill infidels. The same is true for most Muslims. The groups that hold a literalist view are a minority of Muslims. Just as they are a minority of Christians or Jews.

But if you start closing down schools for teaching religion, whose school follows the Saudi academy?

According to this article, Christian religious schools and homeschoolers often use textbooks that show little tolerance for non Christians or even for Christians who aren’t fundamentalists. Those textbooks are intolerant of Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even Catholics.
To say that Christian fundamentalist textbooks portray Roman Catholicism and non-Western religions in a negative way is to understate the case by several orders of magnitude. All the texts are imbued with an arrogance and hostility toward non-Western religions that is truly breathtaking

This animus toward other religions is intimately tied to the theological roots of fundamentalist Christian perspectives. As researchers Gaddy, Hall, and Maranzo have noted, because Christian fundamentalists believe that truth can only be found in “God's infallible, literal Word revealed in the Bible, religious tolerance toward others with different values and different world views must be rejected.” 1

In looking at the treatment of religion, I again studied three major textbook publishers for fundamentalist Christian schools and home-schoolers: A Beka Press, Bob Jones University Press, and School of Tomorrow/Accelerated Christian Education. I drew on a wider range of the textbooks and materials than in my discussion of politics and included substantially more material from world history and geography textbooks and, in some instances, from English literature texts.
So, do we close them down and deny parents the right to home school too?

It goes back to my original contention that if you start violating the First Amendment rights of one group, then none of us are safe.

It’s fair to debate the limits of tolerance. How much intolerance can a free society allow and still remain open and democratic? How does one discourage religious bigotry without violating the First Amendment rights that protect us all?

Indeed, the anti-religious prescriptions of militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris to shut down all religious teaching are as dangerous as any other extremist solution. So while I am sympathetic to Ms. McMains’ alarm, I don’t think there are easy answers. I believe we will always struggle with the tension between protecting religious liberty for all versus shutting down the extremism that threatens those liberties we hold so dear in a democratic society.

And don’t think this is a new problem. The dilemma was put starkly by Benjamin Franklin: “Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.”

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Do Not Read This Blog!

At least until next Thursday. Easiest way to drive the number of hits down on an active blog: Admit you're going on vacation for a few days.

Seriously, it's just polite to let regular readers know that I won't be around until next Thursday or Friday (at least, on the Internet). By the time you read this, I'll be winging my way to steamy South Florida for a visit with my dad and to see some old friends - all of whom were at my wedding 25 years ago. Yes, it's also to celebrate my Silver Anniversary back at the scene of the crime. God, is it really 25 years?

Oh, and all those friends were in the Young Democrats with Dan and me. Dan was president of the Broward Club and both of us, at different times, were voted Broward YD of the Year. So, catching up on local South Florida politics, where some things never change, will be fun.

Stay cool and see you back on the Net soon.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kenton Ngo and Johnny Comacho Head for Denver Convention

Congratulations to a couple of young, progressive Democratic bloggers who will be going to Denver for the convention. Kenton Ngo will be a Virginia Delegation Page. And Johnny Comacho is going as a blogger for a site called Think Youth. The editor-in-chief applied to the DNC for credentials, not expecting to actually get them. But to his surprise, the DNC picked his website, and Johnny was tapped to attend. Way to go Johnny and Kenton!

Also, Johnny taped about an hour of speeches from last Saturday's state convention in Hampton Roads. The following two videos, from his site, are from the Young Democrats breakfast at the Convention Center. I was at it. Sorry I didn't get to meet Johnny, who is a bright and talented young man.

The first video is of Sam Rasoul's speech.

Next is Glenn Nye.

Glenn especially impressed me that he is sharp on the uptake. On the tape, he mentioned that he had just talked to a couple who had met, years ago, in the Florida Young Democrats, and gotten married. Yep, it was Dan and me. Nye was working the tables at the breakfast when I told that to him. It was the first time we had ever met.

More important than stoking the ego of a middle aged woman, it shows he listens to people and can improvise. Good political sense. And by the way, he did not know I was a blogger. I never mentioned that.

Between enterprising young bloggers, energetic YDs, and youthful candidates, I'd say the Virginia Democratic Party has a pretty good future!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rebranding of the Baptists?

I recently wrote a post about a new book, Fall of the Evangelical Nation, by former Dallas Morning News religion writer, Christine Wicker. In her tome, Ms. Wicker maintained that the big religion story every reporter was missing is that membership in the evangelical churches is shrinking, and the denomination's political influence is waning.

Two recent stories in the Washington Post, seem to bear out Ms. Wicker's claims and show that the media are waking up to this hard fact.

First, Jacqueline Salmon writes, in the Sunday June 8th newspaper, that the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination, is going to consider a ten year initiative to halt the sharp decline in its membership. According to the report:

Alarmed by a drop in membership and baptisms, members of the Southern Baptist Convention are set to consider at their annual meeting, which starts Tuesday, a 10-year initiative to reverse the decline.

The number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year last year to the lowest level in 20 years, and membership in the nation's largest Protestant denomination decreased by close to 40,000 to 16.27 million last year. Leaders of the convention say the numbers could represent a turning point for the organization.

The convention's president, the Rev. Frank S. Page, has predicted that unless the denomination takes swift action, the number of Southern Baptist churches will fall by half by 2030.
The article then goes on to describe the initiative, which consists of outreach to young families and college students and to create worship services and programs more relevant to their tastes and lifestyles.

Some Baptists churches, however, have taken an even more radical route. They are wrestling with the decision to drop the "Baptist" from their names because they think the brand's bad. According to this piece, by Brigid Schulte,

After 100 years, Baptist Temple, he feared, was dying. In its heyday in the 1950s, more than 900 members crammed into the sanctuary of the pretty white church in Alexandria that was built for 500. Now he was lucky to get 30. Perhaps the problem, he began to think, was the name itself.

"We're probably the most progressive church in the city, but 'Baptist Temple' sounds weird, like it's charismatic and conservative," Thomason said. He worried that the word "Baptist" had become indelibly tied to the political religious right and that when combined with "Temple" it sounded like a fundamentalist "bring out the snakes" kind of place.
Although that particular church ultimately voted to simply drop "Temple" and leave "Baptist" in their name, becoming the Commonwealth Baptist Church, the issue of name change is troubling Baptists across the nation.

The truth is there are many different types of Baptists, as the article points out. Although the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest group, there is also a denomination of American Baptists, which broke from the Southern Convention during the Civil War, over the issue of slavery. Located mostly in the northern United States, American Baptists are far more progressive than their southern counterparts. There also are historically black Baptist denominations. Each Baptist church also has considerable autonomy as none of the various Baptists Conventions are hierarchical in the way that the Roman Catholic or Episcopal churches are.

The point, though, is that many mainstream Baptists, across all denominational lines, are concerned that the Baptist name has become too associated with right wing political causes and narrow fundamentalism.

"The word Baptist is such a turnoff," said David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Connecticut, who has documented the name-changing trend. "There is a kind of national skepticism about evangelical Christianity because of the religious right and the connection to the Bush administration. You say 'Baptist' and people almost automatically think conservative."
And that's by no means an eccentric position.

Like those at many Baptist and other Christian churches across the country where attendance has steadily dropped, many Baptist Temple members feel they are at a point where they must either rebrand themselves with a new name, restart as an entirely new church or limp along a few more years before quietly closing their doors.
Recent national surveys show that in an attempt to fill pews, a small but steadily growing number of Christian churches are changing their names and even their religious denominations. Wycoff Baptist in New Jersey became Cornerstone Christian Church. First Baptist in Concord, N.H., is now Centerpoint Church. The Reformed Church in America outside Detroit became Crosswinds Community Church.

Even the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant group in the country, whose 16 million membership has declined in recent years, has hosted church-naming seminars asking the question, "To Baptist or Not to Baptist?"
So, the story Christine Wicker stumbled across and could hardly believe has now hit the mainstream media.

I can't help but be struck by the irony that not only has too close an association between denominationalism and partisan politics hurt the nation and the political parties, it's also harmed the religious denominations that allowed themselves to be so tempted by worldly power and influence.

It may be that religion is at its most powerful when it plays the role of the outsider, hungering for justice and thirsting for righteousness. If I recall my Bible correctly, none of the prophets were numbered among the powerful of the kings' courts. Indeed, they came afflict the powerful and comfort the afflicted. Perhaps, that is what Baptists need to do again, rather than change their names.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Photos from Last Weekend's Democratic Convention

I've got some pictures back from last weekend's Virginia Democratic Convention in Hampton Roads. Special thanks to a very talented photographer, whom I'm proud to call a friend, Joyce Putnam from the Office and Professional Employee's International Union (OPEIU)

The first is Dan Duncan, President of the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council and beloved husband, with Senate Majority Leader, Dick Saslow.

Next, it's me on the left with the most important person in Senator Jim Webb's office, his scheduler, Lisa Stark. I've been a scheduler and know how difficult it is to do that job really well. So people like Lisa are very special in my book. It was a pleasure to see her down in Hampton Roads with the Senator.

I was thrilled to meet Tom Perriello, candidate for Congress from the 5th CD. I've written about him before and I'll definitely have more to say about him and some of the other congressional candidates who impressed me that weekend, including Glenn Nye,VA-2, and Sam Rasoul, VA-6.

Vivian Paige (2nd to left) and Rachel Rifkind (center left), from Mason District, both elected Hillary Clinton delegates to the National Democratic Convention in Denver. I'm proud to say I voted for both of them. And apologies to the other ladies, whom I just don't recognize.

Finally, nobody ever gets a picture of the photographer. In fact, I suspect they often become photographers precisely to hide out from other people's prying cameras. At least, that was always true of my husband. But not this time. Looking a bit tuckered but definitely happy, here's the talented person who brought you those pictures, Joyce Putnam.

Once again, thank you, Joyce, for the photos and the opportunity to share them with readers

Election Silly Season Attacks Launched Against Gerry Connolly

Well, they always say the best laid plans of mice and men. I had a lot planned for this week’s blog posts, including some great pictures from the convention last weekend. They were taken by my good friend from OPEIU, Joyce Putnam. Also this week, the Gerry Connolly endorsement was scheduled. I had kinda hoped I’d be able to at least endorse him before having to defend him from right wing attacks. Foolish me.

I get it that the campaigns have started and it’s officially silly season. But this year it really got off with a bang, with an attack from a national blog on the Democratic candidate for the 11th CD.

Ok, it’s only nutcase Michelle Malkin, linking to my favorite Virginia demagogue, Greg Leticque. But it gives you an indication of just how hotly contested Northern Virginia is going to be nationally. Unfortunately, a Virginia semi-Democratic blogger, who has broken some good posts nationally a few times, signed on to what is essentially a far right circle jerk.

Before launching in, I should probably let you know a couple of things about me in the interest of full disclosure. On the one hand, I have a long history of criticizing the excesses of extreme Islam, especially of the Wahabbi variety, and of pointing out the problems with radical Islam in countries like Saudi Arabia. This is just one example. But I also pride myself on my defense of religious liberty for even the most obscure sects, such as this one.

With that in mind, here goes.

Malkin, Leticque and NLS have all carried stories about the Islamic Saudi Academy, located in Fairfax County. The school is problematic for a number of reasons which I will get into later. But their attacks on Gerry Connolly were launched because the Fairfax Board of Supervisors renewed the lease for the school, as reported here, by the Washington Post’s Focus on Fairfax back in May.

Connolly did not act unilaterally. The entire board voted on this. But the issue is larger than just defending Gerry Connolly or the other supervisors. It also involves speaking up against religious bigotry and the demonizing of a whole group of people. That’s why it takes precedence over anything else I will write this week.

First off, let me admit that the Islamic Saudi Academy is problematic on a number of grounds. It is the nature of demagoguery that there is often an element of truth to what is said. And what Malkin, Leticque and, because he linked to them, Tribbett, are alleging has some veracity to it. Whenever there is truth to a charge, it must be acknowledged and respected.

The academy is a Muslim private school, funded by the government of Saudi Arabia, which leases land from the Fairfax County government. Because of that it is fair to scrutinize what they teach. Because of the fact that they are funded by a foreign government, they are also subject to monitoring and oversight by the federal government. And U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found problems with the school’s textbooks and teaching materials, which came from Saudi Arabia. They recommended that the State Department close the school.

Some of the problems they found include lessons that encourage intolerance and hatred for non Muslims, especially anti-Semitism, and encouragement of violence toward non Muslims.

The school, however, claimed they were not using the same textbooks that are used in Saudi Arabia. They had altered them to remove material offensive and unacceptable in the West. The problem, however, is that the Commission was not given access to the material and couldn’t verify that claim. That’s why they made their recommendation. That’s an important distinction. The Commission did not find offensive hate material; they just couldn’t verify its absence. And the Saudis have too long a history of teaching intolerance to simply believe them without that verification.

However, before renewing the lease, Fairfax did do their due diligence. According to the Washington Post article
Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), whose district includes the Saudi-backed school, said he reviewed the academy's materials with the help of an Arabic translator. After Hyland found no reason for serious concern, he and other board members agreed Monday to extend the lease of the school, which has about 1,000 students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

"We had no indication they are teaching terrorists, or are teaching students to hate and kill," Hyland said. "The bottom line," he said, is that the textbooks used at the Fairfax school "are not the same" as those used in Saudi Arabia.

Hyland said, however, that the issue was one of religious tolerance. "There's a great reluctance on the part of the board to be judgmental as to people's religions," he said
In addition, non Muslim teachers at the school have said
American-born teachers who are Christian and work at the school told officials they have seen no evidence of religious intolerance.

Civic associations in the area testified in support of the lease extension, saying that the school, which has operated there since 1989, has been a good neighbor and maintains the grounds well.
Surprisingly, at the hearing on the vote to renew the lease, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute spoke in defense of the school. Whitehead and the Rutherford Institute, ironically, are usually heroes of the Christian right. The Rutherford Institute is widely known and respected for its passionate defense of First Amendment rights of churches and Christian individuals and usually fights for their rights against the secular establishment. And here is what the Post reported.
John Whitehead, founder of the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute, which focuses on religious freedom cases, said he is skeptical of the U.S. government judging the intent and content of a religious school's curriculum.

"This is real troublesome stuff," he said. "Religion has a history of saying intolerant things. That's why they're protected."
Personally, I still find the academy problematic and believe that it needs scrutiny, both from the State Department (remember, it’s funded by a foreign government, so that is legal) and from Fairfax County, which still holds the lease. And the lease comes up for renewal annually, so that oversight is both doable and necessary.

Having said that, academic and religious freedom are important concepts in our society. They never trump hatred and intolerance, of course. But if a branch of the government can interfere with the religious liberty or academic freedom of one minority, then none of us are safe.

It’s a delicate balance in this case. But it’s worth the effort. Among other reasons is because Islam in the U.S. stands at a crossroads. There are many Muslims who wish to become part of the U.S. They desire to participate in our culture. They want to be good citizens and good neighbors. If we build a moat and draw up the bridge, we run the risk of marginalizing them and creating the very radicalism that we are trying so hard to prevent. If, instead, we engage them in dialogue, encourage them to join us, and challenge intolerance and hatred while welcoming their positive contributions, we will do more to protect both our freedom and security than we will if we demonize and demagogue them.

Therefore, I applaud Gerry Connolly and the members of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors for taking the long sighted approach and not giving in to the very fear and intolerance we are trying to fight in the first place.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Back From the Convention

Right now, I'm exhausted. But unity was the theme of the convention from a "unity pass," which you could purchase and got you into a Young Democrats breakfast to providing lunch and a reception with Governor Tim Kaine at the end of the convention to an actual unity ticket to elect DNC members. The ticket consisted of supporters of both Clinton and Obama who ran on the same ticket to unify the party and included Doris Crouse Mays, Secretary-Treasurer of the State AFL-CIO; Mame Reiley, Chair of the Woman's Caucus of the DNC and member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee; Lionell Spruill, Vice Chair of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus and delegate since 1994; and Frank Leone, Vice Chair for Rules of the Democratic Party. We also voted on delegates to attend the national convention in Denver this August.

Congratulations to Vivian Paige, who was chosen as a Clinton delegate as part of the Virginia Blue State slate. She's off to Denver. As somebody who has gone to several conventions, I can tell you she's going to have a ball! A tireless worker and dedicated blogger for Clinton's candidacy, she deserved this. You go Vivian!

Also, while I didn't live blog the convention, my friend over at Bearing Drift, Jr, did. I finally got to meet him. And if you go to his site, you can see a picture of me and Vivian. But you've got to scroll way down to see us because we were at 10:05 and Jim patiently sat there tapping his computer until 3:50. It's a good read that captured the major points of the convention, which dragged on and on. It's also interesting to read about what it looked like from a Republican's perspective. JR did a good job of being fair and gracious and his few digs were actually funny.

For a Democratic perspective of the convention, Blueweeds also has excellent coverage. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Mike but his report is definitely worth the read.

The convention ran over time and seemed to drag on and on. We didn't break into caucuses to vote on the delegates for Denver until close to 4 pm and a reception with Tim Kaine was scheduled to begin at 4:30. I finally got to the reception at 5 pm. By then most people were drained but we caught our second wind.

Best party room of the evening was hands down Jon Bowerbank's digs. He had a great band, the Moonlighters, who played blues and Motown. Great dance music!

I must also mention, we had gorgeous weather and I fell in love with Hampton Roads.

Now, I'm tired so I'm outta here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Farewell to Tim Russert

It is with great sadness that I note that Tim Russert has passed away. He died earlier today at his desk at NBC News while working. On the one hand, there is something about dying while doing what you love that is touching. But then again, passing away at 58 is so truly tragic - way too young.

As somebody who was a very long time viewer of NBC's Meet The Press, and who always enjoyed Russert's White Board at presidential election time, I will miss him greatly. And my condolences to his family.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

Well, I made it to Hampton Roads and checked into our hotel. We came early because Dan had some state AFL-CIO meetings to attend this afternoon. Meanwhile I went in search of the hotel's business center to catch up on email and the blogs. Since I don't have a laptop, I usually have to rely on the kindness of hotel business centers like this one.

Blogging will be light this weekend. I won't be live blogging the convention. Frankly, there will be too much going on and I don't want to be behind a computer, missing all the action. I know lots of people from other parts of the state and want to catch up on gossip with them. And I want to have fun and party a little bit.

Next week, though, I'll write my endorsement of Gerry Connolly, who just won a hard fought primary in the 11th CD. In my last post, I know my congratulations to him got a little lost in my praise for his recent opponent, Leslie Byrne. It was indeed a hard loss. But I want to say unequivocally, Congratulations Gerry Connolly!

As just promised, next week, I'll make that support formal and in the coming weeks, I'll have more to say about why people in the 11th should vote for him rather than Republican newcomer, Keith Fimian. I also plan to work for Connolly and the rest of the Democratic ticket in the fall.

For now, I'm off to unpack, look for some friends, and find a bar. Because, girls just want to have in Hampton Roads :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Leslie Byrne You Are a Class Act!

If you’re reading this blog, you probably also read the newspapers, watch morning news, and are plugged into politics. So, you probably know that Leslie Byrne did not win yesterday’s primary.

First, let me congratulate Gerry Connolly for his victory. It was a hard fought race on both sides.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit I am disappointed, sad, and hurt at the outcome. I’ve known Leslie and Larry Byrne for over 15 years and think they are two of the finest people around. For all the reasons I’ve written over the past weeks, I proudly supported Leslie’s candidacy. And I’m still proud of her.

I have no regrets that I supported her. Absolutely none. Instead, all I feel is pride that Leslie stood up for working people, women, consumers, and stood up against the war in Iraq as one of its earliest opponents. So, I would support her all over again.

Last night, in her concession speech, Leslie put to rest any question that she was a sore loser. Far from it. In conceding to Gerry Connolly, she pointed out the values they – and we all share as Democrats. She told her audience that it was important in November to elect Barack Obama, Mark Warner – and yes, also Gerry Connolly. She reminded us of how important this election will be. As somebody in the audience called out, Leslie, you are a class act.

Meanwhile, it is important to note that Gerry Connolly did not win this by running on his record as a proud pro developer centrist moderate. He won by running more to the left than he has in a long time. He claimed that he was an early opponent of the war in Iraq. He also stressed his environmentalist credentials and his support for the Cool Counties Initiative. And he certainly didn’t run as anti-union.

Although Leslie got more union endorsements and has a more pro-labor record, Connolly had the support of some of the largest unions, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Laborers and the Firefighters.

It is likely that Connolly will go on to win the general election against an unknown candidate who is too conservative for the 11th CD. So for now, I will give him every opportunity to prove he is true to the values he just espoused to win. If he continues to hew to the progressive line that he took during the primary, I will give him my unqualified support. If he wavers while in office, there will be other elections and other primaries. Progressives will live to fight for our values another day.

Meanwhile, I want to thank Leslie Byrne for a race well run. And repeat: Leslie, you are a class act and always have been.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Heartfelt Plea Urging You to Vote for Leslie Byrne

I know this blog seems to have turned into an “all Leslie Byrne, all the time” site. But that’s because I truly believe she would be the best representative for the 11th CD.

Let me say up front that I don’t share some of my fellow bloggers' distaste for Byrne’s opponent, Gerry Connolly. He has been described as a “blue dog/DLC type Democrat. And that’s true. During the Gingrich Revolution of the 1990s, which swept Republicans into office in Fairfax County as well as elsewhere in this country, Connolly positioned himself as a moderate and a centrist. His business ties to developers are well known. But he still remained true to Democratic values like reproductive freedom for women, commitment to environmentalism, smart growth, etc.

My biggest objection to Connolly is that he always played it safe and took the path of least risk. There was a time Democrats would have died to have Connolly take on Tom Davis because he was the type of Virginia moderate Democrat, with great name recognition in the district, which would have made him competitive. Connolly instead chose to wait until it was clear that Davis would leave.

It’s precisely because Connolly has cherry picked his races that he can claim he has never lost an election. If you don’t take risks, you limit your risk of failing. But you shouldn’t be rewarded for that.

Leslie Byrne, on the other hand, never met a risk she wouldn’t take, especially when a higher principle was concerned. She didn’t position herself as a moderate when it was fashionable to do so. She didn’t run from a fight, especially when it was a battle on behalf of consumers, workers, children, and women.

The elections Leslie lost, during the 90s, were lost because she stayed the course. She remained a progressive willing to fight for the values she believes in even when it was unfashionable.

Byrne is an accomplished leader. She ran for the Virginia House of Delegates in 1985 and won. Then, in 1992, she became the first woman from Virginia elected to Congress. There, she showed her leadership ability by being elected the freshman caucus whip. She served on the Public Works and Transportation Committee, Surface Transportation, Water Resources and Investigative Oversight Subcommittee, and the Post Office and Civil Service Subcommittee. According to Wikepedia, here are some of her other accomplishments from her time in Congress.
She introduced and passed more legislation than any other freshman representative. In addition, two of her measures on childhood immunization passed into law early in the first session of the 103rd Congress. Rep. Byrne played a role in preventing cuts in federal workers' wages and benefits. Additionally, she helped lead the effort to improve federal oversight of the nation's 1.7 million miles of natural gas and petroleum pipelines. Byrne's legislative efforts included Medicaid reform; increasing opportunities of IRA holders to see their savings for first-time home purchases and college costs; cost savings on federal highway projects through value engineering and enhancing the international market for American high technologies. She helped obtain funds for rail from Tyson's Corner to Dulles.
When Byrne returns to Congress, she will regain her seniority. She won’t start as a freshman but will be considered in the sophomore class. As such, she will have her choice of committees.

In addition, Byrne is right about the issues. A proven leader, she was among the earliest critics of the war in Iraq. She joined 75 former congressmen in calling for President Bush to put more effort into economic and diplomatic efforts before invading Iraq. She also has signed on to the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq.

Byrne has also been a consistent advocate of economic fairness. She would sponsor legislation to protect borrowers from unscrupulous lending institutions and mortgage companies, whose subprime lending practices led to the housing collapse. She would sponsor laws to separate commercial banks from investment banks to further protect consumers. Byrne would cut federal subsidies to corn-based ethanol, which have contributed to food shortages and skyrocketing costs for basic food supplies. And she would support investment in technology to produce renewable energy sources to relieve the high fuel prices.

A consistent friend to working people, Byrne also would sign on as a co-sponsor to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to join unions. Byrne also vowed to protect government workers from having their jobs outsourced to contractors, which has not saved the government money nor provided superior service to the public. Byrne remains an advocate of fair trade.

There is so much more I could write about Leslie Byrne if time permitted it. But for all those reasons mentioned above, I urge you to go out and vote for Leslie Byrne for Congress in the 11th CD on Tuesday June 10. Polls are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Vote Tuesday, June 10th for Leslie Byrne in the 11th CD

The following statement is an excerpt from an email from Senator Jim Webb from his Born Fighting PAC:
Since 2001, the Democratic Party has enjoyed great success in Virginia by running smart, tough, and honest candidates. More importantly, Democrats have governed Virginia effectively -- earning the trust and support of more people.

I am proud to be part of this success. This year, I am working to keep it going by supporting candidates like my good friend, Leslie Byrne. Leslie is a longtime state legislator and former member of Congress, who is working to replace Tom Davis in Virginia's 11th Congressional District.

Leslie was one of my earliest supporters in 2006. She and I share certain fundamental beliefs -- that America's leaders must be accountable to its people, that our economic system must give everyone a fair shot at success, and that our foreign policy choices must be governed by thoughtful strategic goals. Like me, Leslie was an early warning voice against the war in Iraq.

Throughout her career, Leslie has proven she is a tenacious and skilled leader. During her time in the Virginia House of Delegates, the State Senate, on Capitol Hill, and as the White House Consumer Advocate, she made a name for herself as someone who could be counted to actually accomplish her goals. She championed the first full funding for Head Start in its history, and freed up millions of dollars for childhood immunization programs. She worked to develop Polluter Pays laws and helped pass the Family and Medical Leave Act. Leslie is the kind of results-oriented leader that Northern Virginians deserve to have representing them in Congress, and she's more than deserving of your support.


The 111th Congress will face considerable obstacles. Leslie Byrne has the courage and the experience to help us win those fights. I am looking forward to seeing her defend our common principles on the House floor. Please join me in helping Leslie become the next U.S. Representative from the Virginia 11th today.
So, if you live in the 11th CD, don't forget to get out and vote in Tuesday's primary election. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

So, Is It A Recession?

Ed Harrison, writing on Credit Writedown, thinks so. According to him, the following data have predicted recession accurately nine out of nine times for recessions, going back to 1953. Harrison originally came across this theory on Bruce Ritholtz's The Big Picture and then tested it himself by examining data from 1939, 1940 and 1949 bringing the success rate for the theory to 11 out of 11 recessions that could have been predicted correctly.

According to Ritholtz and Harrison:
Since 1953, when year-over-year Non-Farm payrolls go negative, there is a recession. This happened nine out of nine times for a perfect score! (I actually looked at the data from 1939 and it scores two other direct hits in 1944 and 1949 making it 11 for 11 in calling recessions.


The data show that unemployment is not always a lagging indicator. Sometimes continuing claims jump before the recession actually begins.

Where are we today? +582,000 year-on-year, as of 24 May 2008. Continuing claims went over +200,000 up y-o-y on 22 Dec 2007. So are we in recession today? Sure looks like it.
If you go to Ed's blog, you can get a more detailed analysis with charts to illustrate his points. For more detail on why I agree with Harrison and Ritholtz that we are already in a recession or fast heading into one, just check out yesterday's dire report , in the Washington Post, on last quarter's unemployment figures, soaring oil prices and a plunging stock market.

According to the Post's report, the price of oil had a one day surge to $10.75 more per barrel and is now trading at $139 a barrel. This one day increase is more than the entire cost for a barrel of oil just a decade ago. In additional economic woe, the unemployment rate shot up to its highest level in two decades. Since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, while the unemployment rate and the price of oil are skyrocketing, the stock market is plunging in the other direction in reaction to all the bad news. Shaky investors are bailing. According to the Washington Post,
A soaring jobless rate, an unprecedented jump in oil prices and a sliding dollar sent tremors through financial markets yesterday and cast fresh doubt on how soon the U.S. economy would be able to break out of a pattern of feeble growth and financial instability


It was one of the worst days of economic news in a year already well-stocked with disappointment. The Dow Jones industrial average reacted by plunging 394.64 points, or 3.13 percent, its sharpest decline since Feb. 27, 2007. Other major indicators also dropped about 3 percent.

"Today's events are a combination of really nasty news for American consumers," said Andrew Tilton, a senior economist at Goldman Sachs.
In an economy that was once booming for high rollers but never quite matched its promise for ordinary working people, this is truly grim news. When it comes to suffering the downturns, we all are truly in the same boat. Believe me, when belt tightening times come, it's the middle class that feels the squeeze first. But during the salad days of the economy's high point, they never shared in the gravy.

Going into an election, John McCain is going to try to keep the focus on Iraq and national security, his two perceived strong points. But with these disastrous numbers and the very real possibility that we already are in a recession, which threatens to get worse, that might not be possible.

Trying to to control the agenda and dominate the debate is usually smart politics. This time, ignoring the public's pain and anxiety might not be so smart. And Republican solutions have pretty much been played out. I think the public is ready to listen to some different voices and different solutions because everybody knows you can't just taxcut your way out of this.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Gerry Connolly: WaPo's Second Choice Endorsement

As an astute commenter reminded me, today's Washington Post endorsed Gerry Connolly for the June 10 primary. Believe it or not, this does not surprise or upset me. I know two things.

The first is that Mr. Connolly is the WaPo's second choice. They would much rather have Tom Davis to endorse in the general election. He's their boy and has been for years. Indeed, the Post may yet endorse Keith Fimian in the general, though I suspect they will cite Connolly's government experience and moderate, pro business credentials once again to endorse him over a neophyte in the general election in November. And they'd be right to do that.

The second thing is that the Washington Post consistently picks the moderate and is a center right paper, despite the radical right's denial of this. Unlike the Washington Times, the Washington Post retains some respectability when it comes to common sense over ideology. But that doesn't make it a progressive beacon.

For example, in last year's state Senate race, they endorsed Jeannemarie Devolitis Davis over Chap Peterson. In addition, back in 2006, they went with Harris Miller over Jim Webb in their endorsements. Actually, given this track record for influencing voters, their choice may actually be heartening for Byrne's supporters.

More telling than whom they endorse is why they endorse. Here's a brief excerpt from their 2006 endorsement of Miller:
THE CONTEST in Virginia between the two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate is easily caricatured as war hero vs. wonk. One candidate, James Webb of Falls Church, is a scrappy former Marine and much-decorated Vietnam veteran with impressive literary credentials and an Emmy Award to his name. The other, Harris Miller of Fairfax County, is a longtime Democratic party apparatchik whose passion for public policy contributed to his success as a telecommunications lobbyist. Some Democrats have convinced themselves that only a candidate with Mr. Webb's résumé and panache stands a chance of knocking off incumbent Sen. George Allen, a Republican with a daunting track record of electoral success. But that would be missing a key point, which is this: Of the two primary candidates, Mr. Miller is the better-briefed, better-focused and more thoughtful. He would make the better senator.
And their reason why Miller was the "better candidate" in their view is explained by what they disliked about James Webb (emphasis is mine):
He was an early and prescient critic of the war in Iraq and its likely consequences, a stand that won him converts in the blogosphere and beyond. But since announcing his candidacy he seems to have given scant time and attention to issues ranging from education to tax policy to immigration, as if the cachet of his military past excuses him from having to master the pressing questions of the present -- not the best trait for a candidate for the Senate. Mr. Webb's somewhat strident populism on trade policy tends toward xenophobic sloganeering and business-bashing. And while he is right to focus concern on the widening disparities of Americans' income and wealth, his ideas about the problem's causes and possible antidotes are sketchy
Now, look at the Post's rationale for supporting Gerry Connolly over Leslie Byrne (once again, emphasis mine):
Mr. Connolly is not universally beloved; he can be thin-skinned and hardheaded. But there is no denying his dedication and effectiveness on a range of issues affecting the region, including climate change, transportation and affordable housing. Ms. Byrne has backing from unions and other progressive groups. But her sharp-elbow tactics have injected a toxic note into most of the campaigns she has run, raising doubt about her ability to work cooperatively on regional issues in Congress. The Washington area's congressional delegation has a tradition of bipartisanship; Mr. Connolly is a better bet to fit that mold.
Once again, the Washington Post is simply being true to their pro business, anti-working class and anti labor bias. The Washington Post has long been the cheerleader for free trade, outsourcing, and the war in Iraq. They are to the right of Gerry Connolly by a mile. But given that Tom Davis isn't around anymore, Connolly, at least, fits into the moderate, centrist pro business, pro developer mold, with a dollop of liberalism on social issues, that the Washington Post likes.

In an era of a shrinking middle class, a declining economy, rising unemployment, and an endless war in Iraq, sapping our nation's stength, the Washington Post has basically endorsed business as usual.

But Leslie Byrne, like Jim Webb, who endorsed her early, represents change. Is she sharp edged. You betcha! Like the "strident populist" Webb, she'll fight for us!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Let Every Vote Count in Fairfax This November

This press release just came from Leslie Byrne's campaign:

Byrne Asks Election Board to Hand-Count All Absentee Votes, Calls on Fellow Candidates to Join Her Effort

Fairfax, VA – Former Congresswoman Leslie Byrne today delivered a formal request to Robert K. Sparks, Chairman of the Fairfax County Electoral Board, asking the Board to hand-count all paper absentee ballots in the 11th congressional district Democratic primary to ensure accurate tabulation. Byrne made this request in response to a notification of problems stemming from the printing of the absentee ballots, which have resulted in some cases of legitimate ballots being initially rejected by the ballot reader. Byrne believes that hand-counting all paper absentee ballots is necessary to prevent votes from being misread or overlooked.

Byrne is also calling on her fellow candidates in the Democratic primary race to join her in requesting a hand count. She feels that this issue bridges the divides between candidates.

"I firmly believe that every absentee ballot must be counted fairly and accurately, and a hand count is the only way that we can ensure that it happens. I cannot imagine any candidate in this race disagreeing with that view," said Byrne.

In her letter to the Board of Elections, Byrne emphasized the importance of guaranteeing the constitutional right of every citizen to vote. She feels that a democracy cannot function unless the people believe that election results reflect their choices, and she will actively work with the Board and with her opponents to ensure that there is no doubt about the accuracy of the results in the primary on June 10.
In addition to this wise precaution, now might be the time to also discuss a paper trail even for the touch screen voting machines that Fairfax County uses. If we really want to make sure every vote counts, we must address the issue of unreliable voting machines and the need for a paper trail to verify votes, especially in the event of close races, where there are recounts.

You don't have to have malfeasance to have a malfunctioning machine.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

We Endorse!

Members of the community Northern Virginia progressive bloggers proudly endorse the following candidates in their primaries on Tuesday, June 10th:

Leslie Byrne, 11th CD Congressional candidate
Judy Feder, 10th CD Congressional candidate
Jim Moran, 8th CD Congressional candidate

RK has an excellent write up on each of these candidates and the reason why Blueweeds, Bryan Scafford, Leesburg Tomorrow and Not Larry Sabato are joining me and RK in this joint endorsement. Here is our joint endorsement.
Jim Moran - 8th
While the corporate media only seems to focus on Jim Moran when he makes a misstatement or a mistake, the truth is that Jim is working hard for Northern Virginia and the nation on a wide variety of issues everyday. Jim was an early vote against the war in Iraq and has continued to oppose the war, even moving away from his former DLC allies over this and other issues (e.g., "free trade" vs. "fair trade"). Jim has been a strong voice for Northern Virginia on the House Appropriations Committee, has done great work on the BRAC issue, and is a strong environmentalist. In addition, Jim and his office have been great friends of the netroots and the Virginia progressive blogosphere. In contrast, Jim's opponent is an unknown who has made no case for replacing the 9-term incumbent. Elections are not about achieving the perfect, they are a choice between the candidates on the ballot. In this matchup, it's Moran by a mile.

Judy Feder - 10th
The 10th CD primary offers Democrats an easy choice. In 2006, Judy Feder gave Frank Wolf the toughest race he's seen in more than a decade. This year, Judy is building on what she accomplished the last time around. For 2008, she has started earlier, is raising more money, and has built a highly capable campaign team -- all in a district that is trending blue and in a year which has seen record Democratic turnout across the country. Needless to say, the Republicans are worried, and justifiably so; perhaps that's why they've already begun attacking Judy.

Electability is essential, but Judy offers much more. First and foremost, she is one of the leading experts in this country on health care. This could prove to be a tremendous asset to President Obama as he works to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable, universal health care coverage. In addition, as a veteran of the health care battles of the 1990s, Judy will help President Obama and the Democratic Congress avoid past pitfalls in getting this done.

In addition to health care, Judy believes in balancing the federal budget, paying as you go, getting out of Iraq responsibly, ending our oil addiction, and protecting our environment. As a member of Congress, she will bring her tremendous work ethic and intellectual rigor to these and other issues. We strongly and enthusiastically endorse Judy Feder for Congress!

Leslie Byrne - 11th
We join Jim Webb, Chap Petersen, Donald McEachin and many others in enthusiastically endorsing Leslie Byrne for Congress.

Leslie is a proven winner, having carried the 11th district in 2005, with 55% of the vote. Leslie is a strong progressive, something she has proven her entire career. Leslie is effective, having introduced and passed more legislation than any other freshman representative while in Congress. Leslie has principles; in 1993, she voted against NAFTA out of concern for labor rights and the environment. Leslie has guts; she did the politically risky thing and voted for President Clinton's tax package. Several Democrats lost their seats because of this vote, but it was the right thing to do, leading to balanced budgets and contributing to the years of prosperity in the 1990s. Finally, Leslie has her priorities straight, fighting for working people as opposed the powerful special interests and the super-rich. We strongly urge all Democrats in the 11th CD to vote for Leslie Byrne on June 10.
This is the last weekend before the June 10th primaries in NoVa. I urge you to get out and work for any of these fine candidates in this last GOTV effort the rest of this week and this weekend. And certainly, get out next Tuesday and VOTE!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Just Breaking... Barack Obama in Northern Virginia on Thursady

Although I'm still officially a Hillary Clinton supporter, I believe in supporting and announcing major Democratic events that I come across in NoVA as a service to my readers. This just came across my email from the FCDC:
Rally with Barack Obama
Nissan Pavillion
7800 Cellar Door Drive
Bristow, VA
Thursday, June 5th
Doors Open: 3:00 p.m.
Program Starts: 6:00 p.m
For more information, go here.

RIP Elias Bates - 1928-2008

When Elias Bates, from McComb, Mississippi, burst upon the music scene in the 1950s, he became one of the creators of a new, joyfully rebellious genre known as Rock 'n Roll. It turned pop music on its head. Bates - better known as Bo Didley - along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, inspired future generations of musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty and just about every rock 'n roller who has come along since.

Bo Didley built his own guitar and invented a unique beat, based on the rhythms of African drum beats. As The Age best describes it:

Diddley's syncopated, percussive, propulsive rhythm guitar playing, backed by shuffling maracas, was inspired by an African drum beat. That rhythm helped lay rock'n'roll's foundation.

"Boom da boom da boom, boom boom. That was basically an Indian chant," is how Diddley described it in a March 2007 interview with National Public Radio.


The driving beat of songs such as Who Do You Love, Roadrunner and Pretty Thing inspired artists from Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones and the Pretty Things, the Clash, Iggy Pop, ZZ Top, U2 and the White Stripes.

Along with Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Diddley constructed a sound that crossed America's racial divide, appealing to both black and white audiences and musicians. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognised his influence in 1987, and he received a Grammy lifetime achievement award the following year. Exploitation by record companies meant he never received financial rewards commensurate with his influence.

Bo Didley, one of the music greats, died at his home in Archer, Florida, of a heart attack. He had toured the country until about a year ago. Last year, he suffered one stroke, while on tour in Iowa, followed by a heart attack a few months later. This was his second heart attack.

Although Bo Didley has left us, his music will live on for all of us who love rock 'n roll. Here is the best tribute I know - listen, enjoy, and rock out for a few more minutes and celebrate the man and his legacy.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mark Warner and Leslie Byrne Have Been Past Allies!

Lowell has a great post up at RK that gives lie to the Connolly campaign's mendacious claim that there is animosity between Leslie Byrne and Mark Warner. After a hard fought campaign in 1996, there was some bad feeling. But Byrne's main objection was to the way the caucuses at that time were conducted. However, she did endorse and work for Mark Warner.

Further evidence that they patched things up include the fact that in 1999, both Warner and current state Senate Majority Leader, Dick Saslaw, asked Leslie to run against Republican moderate Jane Woods for the state Senate. Both Warner and Saslaw believed that Byrne was the Democrats' best chance to beat the popular GOP candidate. And she did in a very close race.

But hers was the first seat targeted by Republicans during their highly partisan redistricting in 2000.

Warner and Steve Jarding also asked for Byrne's support for Warner's run for governor in 2001. According to Lowell:
3) In 2001, Mark Warner and Steve Jarding (before Jarding was announced as Warner's campaign manager) asked for a meeting with Leslie and Larry Byrne to seek Leslie's endorsement in Warner's run for governor. Warner told Leslie Byrne at that meeting that he believed she had never attacked him, only the process and the way it was handled by the party in 1996. Leslie endorsed Warner and did surrogate work for him, particularly among women's groups. The Warner campaign also asked Larry Byrne to run Fairfax county for them, which he did. In the end, the Warner campaign carried Fairfax by a margin of more than 26,000 votes. In comparison, Warner lost the county in 1996.

4) In 2005, Mark Warner did fund raising for Leslie Byrne and campaigned for her around the state when she ran for LG. The video above shows how Mark Warner really feels about Leslie Byrne, as opposed to the nonsense the Connolly campaign has put out.
And thanks to Lowell and RK, here's the video, so you can see for yourself.

This should put to rest the ridiculous assertions put out by the Connolly camp that there is any bad blood between Leslie Byrne and Mark Warner