Monday, March 30, 2009

Welcome, Virginia Democrat!

Since today, for some reason :), I'm getting far more readers than usual, I'm gonna take this opportunity to plug a new blog, The Virginia Democrat, which is written by my friend Aznew. He has been one of the most civil and intelligent of posters on Raising Kaine and Blue Commonwealth and he's now launched his own blog. It's great and you ought to check it out for intelligent analysis of Democratic politics in the Charlottesville area.

It's going to be on my blogroll just a soon as I finish this post and get over to fiddle with the blogroll.

The Further Adventures of the Angry Spud - It's Not Who I First Thought

But I've got another theory.

I was going to do this as an update, but it deserves its own separate post. I got a full denial from my primary suspect in The Angry Potato mystery. Actually, it was an email passed on to me by a third party. I am waiting to see if I can get permission to reprint it, with steps taken to preserve the person's identity.

This, however, leads me to explore my second theory, which now seems more plausible in light of some new posts to that site. I'll get to that in a minute.

Bear in mind, I have no smoking guns. This is all circumstantial evidence based on speculation that seems logical. But I don't have "I've got your IP address and can prove your identity" type evidence. Nor do I care about the actual identity of the individual doing this. I simply love a good mystery and think this type deconstruction of circumstantial evidence is fun. In fact, it's almost as much fun as reading a good murder mystery.

With those caveats, here's my theory. More and more, I'm convinced that if this isn't the work of a disgruntled former blogger on the lefty side, it is a Republican posing as a Democrat. First of all, it's not as if Republicans are strangers to dirty tricks. Neither are Democrats, by the way. But here's why I think this is a GOPer's dirty trick.

First there is motive. They have the most to benefit from sowing seeds of dissension and mistrust among Democrats. The timing is perfect. There have been real fights among progressive bloggers and diarists. So whoever is doing this thinks that now is the time when it would seem plausible that a Democrat had ratcheted it up to the next level.

But if you read between the lines, whoever this person is always somehow makes the Republicans look better than the Democrats. No matter what the issue. When he's not engaging in pure vitriolic ridicule that is. Here's one example.

For background, the post refers to a proposal in Congress put forth by a very conservative Republican representative, Daryl Issa of California, to change the federal law so that if the first lady participates regularly in any policy group, she would be required to announce it and the meetings would have be public.

As Democrats pointed out, this could be viewed as an attack on Michelle Obama because it could be perceived as treating her differently than Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, or Laura Bush. Why this law and why now?

Here's what the angry little spud said:
It’s about time Democrats stop reaching for the race card every time they get confused. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a racist. If I said, “Vivian’s blog is crap,” besides the fact that it’s untrue, does it make me a racist because Vivian is not a potato? But Blogwhore Central immediately jumps to the fact that Obama is black. That in and of itself indicates some deeply widening sense of racism (of otherness). Let me offer a different take on this issue, and Retweet you’re welcome to copy and paste all you want if you can figure out the big-boy words:
Here's the mashed brain spud's spin:

Finally we have a First Lady who is more than a ceremonial garden statue. Michelle Obama has such potential to change our government, and yes our lives as American citizens, that Republicans are pushing to include her policy work within the same transparency framework as the President and Vice President. It’s an excellent opportunity for the better half of our Presidential Duo to elevate the role of the First Lady, and I believe that with Obama’s claim for more transparency, this bill should be embraced and expanded to grant greater power to the Office of the First Lady. And even if Republicans don’t see it that way, and their motives are not as pure, Democrats should take their bill and do something productive with it instead of bitching about motives.

It’s time for the Democratic party to man up and stop the name calling (I don’t count obviously because I’m better than you, and like T-Mac, I made you who you are today), stop the automatic race-card escalation, and take a step back before you start typing. I’m not saying there aren’t racists in every level of our government (there are, and there always will be, especially as we see more minorities reach the highest peaks of power), but for Christ’s sake, take a moment and try to make your point in a creative and original way, instead of just bouncing up and down on the bed yelling “racist.” If anyone has the right to talk about racism, it’s Vivian Paige, and not you white boy. But you’ll notice that the realities of life have helped Vivian develop the ability to disagree agreeably (while not looking like a total crackpot).
First thing to notice is the accusation that Democrats always play the race card against Republicans. Whenever we have a legitimate beef that something might be unfair or racist, the first thing the Republican blogosphere does is jump up and down and accuse us of injecting accusations of racism or sexism. If you read certain conservative blogs, it's a constant complaint against us and a constant theme of theirs. Indeed, I think the whole Angry Potato site is a parody portraying what Republicans think Democrats are, rather than a site that is authentically written by a Democrat.

The other thing I noticed, as a clue, is how genuinely kindly this blogger treats Vivian Paige. Now, I think Vivian is one of the better bloggers on the blogosphere. But she is one of the few progressive bloggers who also gets the genuine admiration of rightwing bloggers. In fact, it's the one area where I actually agree with them and am impressed with their good taste - it's, unfortunately, only a temporary lapse from their usual bad taste :).

Seriously, whoever is doing this site does admire Vivian but has little good to say about almost any other Democrat, including a high school aged Young Democrat. It would be pretty rare for a fellow Democrat, regardless of whom he was supporting in the primary, to post something this nasty about a kid.
It seems another netroots activist (that’s a guy with a blog and a C+ in high school civics) has switched to the T-Mac campaign. That’s like secretly switching someones gourmet coffee with a steaming cup of shit. Here is the dirty details:
Then there is this video that was put up after it was announced that AFSCME endorsed Terry McAuliffe. The video parodies a union boss and uses all the stereotypes portraying him as an obscenity spouting union goon. No Democrat would use that particular video, but I know which prominent Republican blog put it up recently. In fact, it was an RNC generated video, for which the RNC later apologized.

Because the mashed brained spud seems to particularly resent Lowell and Josh and the BC crowd, some have speculated that this is somehow coming out of the Brian Moran camp. But I don't think so because the tiny tatter tot has thrown rotten potatoes at every single Democratic candidate and campaign running - McAuliffe, Moran, and Deeds. In other words, he doesn't actually like any of the Democratic candidates.

In fact, he's spending an awful lot more time trashing Democrats than Republicans. And then, just today, he came up with this beauty that is supposed to be a hit at Republicans from the Democrats' point of view.
Democrats must act now to prevent the destruction of one of their most precious resources. Forget global warming and endangered pelican sperm, I’m speaking to you today about Jeff Frederick. Under Frederick’s leadership, the Titanic that is the RPV is ramming icebergs like an alcoholic drinking perfume snuck into rehab. If something isn’t done soon, Virginia may lose one if it’s most treasured gifts to the Democratic Party. To help you understand what this means, lets imagine an alternate universe.

It’s April 1, 2009, and the RPV has ousted Jeff Frederick along with his entire staff. The announcement goes out that he is replaced by Shaun Kenny. Within the first month, Kenny has managed to create a comprehensive plan to right the ship, including uniting the activists, created a coherent message and a network of bloggers and local party chairs to disseminate this message, and has committed to a return to values. Within another month, people begin to realize that Kenny wasn’t paying lip service to RPV values when he starts releasing guides and instructions to the different parties, including talking points and a comprehensive direction of new ideas and solutions. By the summer, Kenny is so tied into the campaigns that he’s practically a staffer.

By the time the election is over, Kenny has united the party and created a fundraising machine. He has started working on campaigns to bring in minorities and independents who identify with his message and values. In the election, he doesn’t take back the Senate or Governor, but he holds the majority in the House, and starts building a strong base of candidates for the 2010 races. By 2012, Virginia is firmly in the red, the Senate is back under Republican control, and there has been a net change of one or two Congressional seats. The RNC is taking note and pushes Shaun’s message to all 50 states. Once again, the Republican party stands for something that people can identify, it learns to keep its mouth shut and its idiots in the closet, and the tide starts turning nationally.
See, he's not really trashing the Republicans at all. Somehow, in every supposed anti-Republican post he does, they somehow come out ahead. In his posts about the Democrats, we never do. And whoever it is certainly admires Shaun Kenny. I don't know many Democrats who would actually declare Kenny a hero of the Republican Party or care that much who becomes their chairman. That's Republican inside baseball.

And it's why I don't buy for a minute that this comes from a Democrat regardless of which faction he claims to be in. Another reason I don't think it's a Democratic blogger is that there's no Democrat, except for Vivian, who has ever earned this guy's respect, including Jim Webb. I only know of one Democrat left who still dislikes Jim Webb and she doesn't blog.

The Angry Potato also isn't the only site masquerading as Democratic-written. There's another site that claims to be from a Democrat and even from a supporter of one of the candidates. It's called StopPatEdmondson, and I've long suspected that that site also is a Republican dirty trick. It's a twofer. It ridicules and humiliates Pat and harms her opponent, Jody Wagner, by claiming to be one of her supporters. Let me tell you, no candidate would want a supporter publicly saying or writing such outlandish things about an opponent. Indeed, that site embarrases and harms Jody's campaign more than it does Pat's. So, it's easy to conclude it's an enemy of Democrats not one of them.

The dirty tricksters are out in full force this season. And I'd look to Virginia Beach to find at least some of them.

So, Who Is That Angry Spud?

I think I know the identity of theangrypotato. I was leaning to the theory that it was either a particular blogger who was thoroughly disillusioned with the progressive blogosphere partly from some personal reasons - he's had several fallings out with other bloggers, or it was a Republican simply up to an election year prank to sow dissension among progressives.

I'm not going to give you all my reasoning for coming to this conclusion. I'm now going with the first theory and I know the identity of said angry potato. In fairness, I don't think he's particulary trying to hide it either; he left too big a major clue.

Here it is.

My alma mater Villanova is in the Final Four! Take that protestant bitches.
I know which local blogger is a Villanova graduate. You can look it up by Googling. I was going to link but since it involves an employer, I won't do that or provide his last name.


I had his name up, and it is a he. But I've decided to take it down. This is why I don't deserve to have more than the 5 readers I normally get when Ben or Lowell don't link to me.

I am fairly convinced I'm right. And I believe it is cowardly to ridicule people anonymously. But I have a visceral dislike for unmasking people and possibly harming them too. So, I did the cowardly, but I think correct thing. I know the identity but I'm not going to reveal it. One reason is because the link that does so also lists the person's employer and somebody's livelihood is not something I want to harm or threaten in any way.

Meanwhile, I have the personal satisfaction that I've solved a mystery. I've always been a fan of mystery novels.

The Survival of the Progressive Virginia Blogosphere

Great news!

Just as I was getting ready to do a task that really made me sad, removing Blue Commonwealth because of their recent announcement that they were closing up, I saw this announcement that they will be back under new management. Here's the announcement in full:
Blue Commonwealth will be returning shortly, The URL will then point to a different address.

We will still be a community blog, serving all Virginia Dems willing to behave with a modicum of common decency

we will be at a different location

we will be under different management

those of us who have been active here have decided we want to try to continue to have one blog in Virginia that is open to people who may disagree on whom to support in contested primaries

we will keep our name

we will have many of the same participants

we will invite others to join us, including you

so . . . . .

STAY TUNED We will let you know when we are about to "go live" in our NEW! IMPROVED packaging :-)

And we hope you will join us. :-) :-) :-)

Like many others across the progressive blogosphere, I was stunned by the level of acrimony that we were descending into in the primaries. And when Blue Commonwealth finally decided to fold under the weight of it, I was distressed all day yesterday.

Without a solid community blog, there would be a huge vacuum in Virginia progressive politics. Despite the disagreements over which candidate to support in the primary, bloggers create value in the election process. That's why all of the major campaigns have put out time and money to woo bloggers. Each of the gubernatorial campaigns has hosted blogger dinners, teleconferences, and interviews with bloggers. They have embraced live blogging and sat down for interviews with bloggers. Even small fry like me have been offered exclusive interviews. I don't do interviews because to do them properly and respectfully of the candidate, I think it requires lots of work researching the interviewees background and composing intelligent and challenging questions for him to answer. In short, interviewing is a skill that requires more dedication, time, and work than I am willing to give to what is for me a hobby.

If I wanted to be a reporter, I'd quit my day job and go back into journalism (although nowadays, that might not actually be a realistic career option).

Sorry to digress from the main point of this post. That point is that campaigns realize the value of blogs to spreading their message and, in some cases, to raising funds for them and encouraging grassroots activists to support and work for their campaigns.

The best read blogs are the large scale community efforts where readers can go to peruse a variety of opinions, get valuable information on the campaigns and where to go to volunteer, and find out each candidate's policy positions. A lot this inside baseball information for volunteers and activists is not avaliable in newspapers, which cover only the horse race aspects. And the largest daily newspaper in our region, the Washington Post, often gives scant coverage to smaller local races.

As a reader, I've learned more about local politics from the blogs than I ever did from the newspapers, even the smaller more localized papers like The Connection, The Fairfax Journal, The Examiner, etc. I'm not just talking about the Democratic Party's political messages, I've learned more about the Republican Party at the local level by being able to read the other side's blogs. And that makes me a more informed voter and citizen. The more information out there, the better for democracy.

But when a large state-wide blog with lots of contributors from all over the commonwealth folds, it creates a vacuum, as I said above, that will be difficult to fill by smaller blogs. Many of us who do one person blogs have neither the time nor resources to update several times a day or to present differing views within the spectrum of progressive politics. Heck, I sometimes can't post for days at a time. Raising Kaine and Blue Commonwealth were able to present new material throughout the day. The more news, views, and information you have on your site, obviously, the more readers you will attract throughout the day. People will check in periodically to see what's happened since they last read it in the morning. People can check AIAW about once every few days and be reasonably caught up with what I'm going to say and write since I can't sit here all day doing what BC, or RK before it, did. And the more timely information out there, the more people read it, the more word of mouth that that's where you go to keep up, the more valuable to site becomes for practical organizing.

Just as important, when newspapers neglect an important story or get it wrong or are biased, who will be there from the progressive side to call them on it?

Despite what our right wing friends claim, more of the mainstream media is right center than left center. There are just a few truly slightly left center papers around. And even they have a pro-business bias. In our area, the Washington Post is clearly a slightly right center, socially moderate, vey pro-business, very anti-union newspaper. Doubt me?

Recently, Sandhya Somashekhar and Tim Craig did a major article on the growing influence of unions on Virginia politics and the only labor person they interviewed was a labor official from Maryland whose union had almost no members in Virginia. They totally ignored the Virginia State AFL-CIO or even the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council, which is both one of the largest and most politically active labor councils in Virginia and is right in their own backyard. That's being pretty out of touch with your own community. (Ok, I have to add some snark here, maybe that's why the WaPo is losing readers and maybe they need to pay attention to the fundamentals of good reporting rather than making cosmetic changes to the way their paper looks).

So, with most newspapers having their own biases and shortcomings and an organized and energized rightwing blogosphere - underestimate them at your peril - who picks up the slack for us as we head into the general elections, after June 9th?

For me, it was starting to look like a pretty bleak prospect. It could easily have become a return to the days when Republicans dominated the media coverage and successfully got their talking points out while we couldn't get anybody to even listen to us - remember the talk radio, early Fox News days, and early blogosphere when there was virtually nobody out there to compete with the rightwing bloggers?

Because we didn't have much money and had less influence on the mainstream media, blogging was all we could compete with successfully and out of that desperation to get our message out, it was what the progressive community did brilliantly. We were simply better in recent election cycles than Republican bloggers at dominating the Net and getting out our narrative and it spread beyond the Internet and wended its way to network and print media.

Also, Republicans have not had anything like the concept of a community blog with lots of diarists posting whenever they wanted. The closest in Virginia is Bearing Drift, with its great variety of regular contributors, including some respected progressives, and its guest posts. But it is still managed by Jim Hoeft and friends, and contributors have to be invited to post. It is run more like a good on-line magazine, with a variety of contributors; but it's not a true community blog as RK or BC was. And that's not its business model.

But that was precisly what contributed to the Virginia progressive blogosphere's great success in driving the dialogue and the message. To be sure, there are some real problems with a bunch of amateurs posting in a free for all format. To my mind, the most glaring problem is that they break the most elemental rules of good journalism because they are untrained and those rules never occur to them. But the mainstream media also break some of those rules, and they are trained and should know better.

The main problem, for me, is that bloggers tend to post inside dirt, leak things, and think they are doing great investigative journalism, but they never go to the subjects of their posts to get their side of the story. In real investigative journalism, a Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein always interviewed their subjects, presented the material they had gathered, and attempted to get the subject to respond to hard hitting questions pertaining to that material. Good reporters interview targets of their stories and ask them to answer charges raised against them. Bloggers almost never do that and, I think, it's hurts their stories and hurts their credibility.

They may argue that they haven no obligation to get the other side's story.

They don't if all they are interested in is partisan advocacy. But if they are interested in doing good journalism, even from a liberal point of view, yeah, they actually are obligated to practice the tenets of of the profession and be fair.

There are other technical problems with the way bloggers handle stories. But I don't want to write - and I don't think readers want to read - a complete journalism textbook here. However, the issue of how to handle anonymous sources and getting verification from others willing to go public to confirm the information is another area that needs to be better thought out.

My point is that while there are areas where we bloggers could improve, overall we provide value in our coverage of campaigns and our advocacy for candidates that will be sorely missed if the largest of our progressive blogs can't make it and are forced to fold.

That's why I welcome a revised Blue Commonwealth. I hope the dedicated bloggers, diarists, and grassroots activists tone down the vitriol, concentrate on promoting their candidates, and remain positive during the rest of this election cycle. If they can't do that, we will lose more than the valuable resources of the blogs, we will also lose an important election and set Virginia's progressive politics back a great deal.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Miles Grant: Labor and Environmentalists Can Partner On Green Jobs and Saving Business Money

H/t to Lowell at Blue Virginia for this:

Miles Grant is one of the candidates in the 47th District for the Virginia House of Delegates. He also writes the blog The Green Miles, a great environmental blog. And in this post, he proves he's also savvy about unions and workers. Here's Miles comments on the Employee Free Choice Act:
Right now there’s a critical labor question facing Americans: Do you believe it should be easier for workers to organize into a union to fight for better working conditions? That’s the question at the heart of the Employee Free Choice Act, yet it’s completely ignored in most media discussion of the bill.

Instead, reporters skip right to the Republican talking points, bashing unions and claiming that any strengthening of workers’ ability to organize will be bad for everyone. No, really. The National Right to Work Committee sent out an email claiming anyone who supports the Employee Free Choice Act is selling out “employees, customers, stockholders, and fellow employers.” I’m surprised they didn’t include pets.
It’s a sad statement about how little we value workers’ ability to organize for a better deal that even minor process changes in union organization are met with such fierce, over-the-top resistance from big business and its allies on Capitol Hill.

Grant urges his readers to attend an event his campaign is hosting this Saturday at 1 PM to write to senators Webb and Warner to urge them to support the EFCA when it comes up for a vote. Here's where you can sign up to attend. Come and get to know Miles Grant, an environmentalist and labor supporter and a great candidate for the House of Delegates from the 47th District.

The event is this Saturday, March 28, from 1 to 5 pm at Miles' headquarters, 400 N. 5th Street, #1, in Arlington.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Abortion in Brazil

This story is so incendiary that the only possible way to report it is in a straightforward "just the facts" manner, with as little comment as possible. The facts scream loud enough.

According to reports, like this one, a nine year old girl, who was raped repeatedly by her stepfather from the time she was six years old, was given an emergency abortion by doctors after being rushed to the hospital with stomach pains. The Roman Catholic Church, which is very influential in this conservative nation, excommunicated the girl's mother and the doctors who performed the emergency, life saving surgery.

Meanwhile, the stepfather, who was caught while trying to flee the country, is still a member in good standing of the Church.

The decision of the ultra conservative Archbishop of coastal Recife, Jose Cardoso Sorinho, has been met with a firestorm across Brazil, but the Vatican defended the decision.
Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, told reporters that although the girl fell pregnant after apparently being abused by her stepfather, her twins had, "the right to live, and could not be eliminated".

In an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, the cardinal added: "It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons. Life must always be protected."

The controversy represents a PR nightmare for the Vatican. The unnamed girl's mother and doctors were excommunicated for agreeing to Wednesday's emergency abortion yet the Church has not taken formal steps against the stepfather, who is in custody. Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the conservative regional archbishop for Pernambuco where the girl was rushed to hospital, has said that the man would not be thrown out of the Church, because although he had allegedly committed "a heinous crime", the Church took the view that "the abortion, the elimination of an innocent life, was more serious".
Really? More serious than the fact that this man is apparently a serial rapist who also abused the girl's 14 year old handicapped sister?

The pregnant nine year old weighed 80 pounds and was carrying twins. Doctors believed her hips were too childishly thin for her to deliver the baby. The archbishop's solution - she could have had a Caesarian section.

The incident has sparked outrage across Brazil and even its president has weighed in.
Even the President, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, has waded into the row. "As a Christian and a Catholic, I deeply regret that a bishop of the Catholic Church has such a conservative attitude," he said "The doctors did what had to be done: save the life of a girl of nine years old. In this case, the medical profession was more right than the Church."
And even one of the doctors, himself a devout Catholic, spoke out publicly
One of the doctors involved in the abortion, Rivaldo Albuquerque, has raised the prospect of public clashes at his local church, telling Globo, the nation's main TV network, that he would keep going to mass there, regardless of the archbishop's order.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How Brian Moran's Campaign Got Bitten By Fleas

I was not going to write about this topic at all, but the truth is it's already out on the blogosphere. Three or four blogs that get more readers in five minutes than I get in five days are hotly debating it. Hopefully, there can be less heat and more light here.

As most readers of Virginia blogs and the Washington Post already know, Terry McAuliffe won a convincing victory at Gerry Connolly’s St. Patrick’s Day straw poll last night. Old news.

But I believe it’s a wake up call to Brian Moran that he has to do something to re-energize his campaign. Complaining that McAuliffe bought the election is beside the point. All sides buy tickets for supporters and have campaign staff there. Even the nonsense about out of state cars in the parking lot is not convincing. My husband drives a “company” car with Maryland license plates, and we have lived in Northern Virginia for over 18 years - in Burke for 17 of them.

I still think Brian Moran can win the primary - and that he should win it. As critical as I’ve been of some of his supporters who comment on blogs and of the tone of his campaign, I still believe he’s far and away the best candidate.

Creigh Deeds is one of the most decent human beings I’ve ever met and if there could be a co-governorship, I’d vote for him too. But on issues, I’m closer to Brian’s positions than to Creigh’s. And I agree that Creigh doesn’t have enough of a base of support outside of NoVA to make up for the overwhelming support either Brian or Terry will get in June. November could be a different story. If Creigh pulls off an upset victory in the June primary, I think he would carry Northern Virginia, Richmond, and the Hampton Roads area by high enough margins and take enough of a chunk out of South and Southwest to win against McDonnell. It would be a nail biter of an election night, but it’s doable.

Terry, on the other hand, is the most charming, fascinating, and charismatic rogue I’ve ever met. Underestimate him at your peril. What he’s got going for him now is he has a coherent vision for Virginia, lots of creative ideas, a clear message, and a sunny, upbeat personality. He also is slick enough to grease a flagpole with his snake oil.

Brian, on the other hand, has some good solid working class street cred and his stands on clean energy, especially his opposition to the Surry plant, is nothing less than a profile in courage. I know better than most exactly which unions - it’s plural - are pissed at him for standing up for the environment and working people’s health. Believe me, after what I'm about to write, I don't think I want to face Cecil Roberts or Rich Trumka for a while.

In the interest of full disclosure, I spent a couple of my formative years in New York City, working as an office temp at Mount Sinai Medical School’s Environmental and Occupational Health Division. My boss was Dr. Arthur Frank, the protégée of Dr. Irving Selikoff, the brilliant doctor and scientist who did seminal work identifying the threat of asbestos to workers. He devoted his life to working on lung disease caused by environmental factors. Working for these men, I spent hours transcribing tapes of testimony from mine workers suffering from black lung disease. At the same time, my own uncle was dying a slow, horrible death from lung cancer in the cancer ward at Mount Sinai. I alternated between typing about lung disease and its symptoms and watching those symptoms play out and take a man’s life. Trust me, it was not a pretty sight and the memory has never left me.

Cancer and black lung disease are different diseases, but they share some common, painful, and ultimately deadly symptoms. And both are caused by environmental degradation.

In the interest of even fuller disclosure, my husband and I are in total disagreement on this as a campaign issue. But I believe there is no more pro-worker position you can take than to promote green jobs that get human beings out of coals mines and get coal fired plants out of Virginia.

All that said, Brian needs to revamp his campaign to regain lost momentum. If he does the things I’m about to suggest, I can’t guarantee he will win. If he ignores my suggestions, I can’t guarantee he’ll lose. Nobody can do that. But I know that if he keeps doing the same things that he has done so far, he runs the risk of getting the same result at the polls in June as he did at the straw poll last night. Those straw polls are not perfect indicators, but they’ve been a pretty good predictor in past years.

The first thing Brian needs to do is take a more positive tone. I don’t mean he shouldn’t differ with Terry or Creigh. Of course he should present reasons why he is the best candidate. But one thing I’ve observed about Democratic voters is that we don’t want our eventual nominee to come out of the primary bloodied. I’ve also observed that voters want civility even in the general election.

I’ve always been a huge advocate of defending oneself against an attack. I still believe it’s folly to ever let an attack from one’s opponent go unanswered. It is, however, equal folly to be the one initiating the attack. Here's an example of what I mean.

Years ago, I saw a movie about a prison where one of the characters was giving advice to a new inmate and said that in a fight you had to get in the first punch and take your enemy out before they had a chance to hit you. That may make sense in a prison yard where your rival could be twice your size physically and if he lands a punch, he'll kill you. But it doesn’t work in a schoolyard, where even the biggest, most vicious kid would be stopped by a teacher before doing serious harm. Most kids hate the bully who always throws the first punch. The only thing they hate more is the bully’s victim. Watching kids, you learn that the one they cheer for is the underdog who bests the bully. In a campaign, the same dynamic holds. Don’t throw the first punch, but be ready to fight back hard and clean when it comes.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to take back the first punch. But Brian needs to present himself positively, make the case that he’s the best person for the job, and refrain from personal attacks that single out any other.

But there’s another issue that has hurt Brian in some quarters. Again, this is being discussed all over several very well read blogs, so it needs to be addressed here too.

There was a recent dust up over one blogger’s endorsement of Terry McAuliffe. I’m not going to link to any of the many posts about it but the upshot is somebody in Brian’s campaign leaked some personal emails to another blogger who is particularly known for stirring up mud. I think it backfired and added to Brian’s wounds.

At this point, Brian needs to get the children in his campaign under his control and return the campaign to the adults, of whom there are several. Personally, I think Brian owes the wronged person an apology but that would be tactically hard to do without calling even more attention to the situation. At the very least, the person who leaked the email should privately apologize to the wronged blogger. And then he should be kept on a tight reign.

If it were my campaign, I’d probably fire the person - and not just for having appalling ethics but for being even more appallingly incompetent. Here’s why.

The released emails implied that the blogger had sought a job with Brian’s campaign and when he didn’t get it, he switched sides to Terry McAuliffe's campaign. It appears there is some truth to the charge. But the campaign should have sat on it.

If it was true, the blogger would have taken the job with the McAuliffe campaign. Once that was a fait accompli, the Moran campaign would have been well within its right to publicly question the blogger’s change of endorsement. Without being nasty, without leaking anything private, it would have been a legitimate question. And the campaign itself probably would have had to do nothing more than watch other bloggers and commenters do its heavy lifting.

Instead, it’s got the blood on its hands. The blogger turned down the job offer and now looks like the wronged victim. And even worse, the private email was leaked to the meanest dog in the junkyard, so the whole campaign is scratching huge fleabites. There is something to be said for having patience and giving your opponents the rope to hang themselves. But patience takes adults. And that goes back to my point about who Brian needs to listen to and who should be summarily put out to pasture.

Again, I don’t know if all that will help turn things around. But at this point, trying something different sure couldn’t hurt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day: The Obama Irish Song

By popular demand, I'm bringing this back from last October when I first found it. Ok, not really by popular demand, but just because I thought it was so funny the first time. I think it sounds better after you've had a few green beers.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Rachel Maddow on Employee Free Choice Act

H/t to Bryan at Left of the Hill for this. As always, Rachel Maddow nails the silliness of the Republican argument against the Employee Free Choice Act.

I would also like to add that currently it takes only 30 percent of workers to sign up to decertify a union - and they don't need a secret ballot to do so. As Clair McCaskill pointed out on ABC-TV's This Week, on March 8:
There is no secret ballot to get rid of a union, but there is a requirement of -- of that for people to be able to organize. And to me, that seems unfair. Let's -- let's -- what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Let's put people on a level playing field and have both businesses have to have a secret ballot to decertify. Until they do that, I'm not sure they've got a lot of room to complaint.
A level playing field - exactly what big business, the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP don't want.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dueling Bloggers Dinners Last Night

There was an unfortunate time conflict between two blogger dinners last night. Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds both held competing events. Because I received Brian's invitation first, I accepted it. Then, I got an email with Creigh's invitation. I've always been the type of person who wants to be in two places at once and yesterday was no exception. I solved the problem brilliantly by being at neither event. Instead, I went home from work with the tail end of a two week old flu, which reared its ugly head for one more battle with my immune system.

I'm happy to report that I finally won the war. But I'm disappointed that I haven't made one of the blogger dinners since Brian's first one last year (that includes Terry McAuliffe's dinner). But fellow bloggers Lowell Feld and Bryan Scrafford have not only provided excellent coverage of both but extensive video as well.

Lowell attended Creigh's dinner and has both commentary and video at Blue Virginia (here, here, and here ). He also took some video of Creigh's campaign manager, and one of my favorite people, Joe Abbey.

Brian does the same at Left of the Hill (here, here, here here, and here).

Thanks to both these bloggers for sharing so generously with us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

EFCA: We Don't Want To Own The Bank, We Just Want To Be Able To Go To the Bank

Here's a message from the president of the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council on the importance to working families of the Employee Free Choice Act. In the interests of full disclosure, yeah, he is my husband :)

For more information, go here and here, and especially here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Tornado on Our Side of the Street

First, I would like to give my congratulations to Ilryong Moon for a hard fought, aggressive campaign for Braddock District supervisor. Despite the effort of dedicated volunteers, he lost by just 89 votes to John Cook, president of Kings Park Civic Association. Moon, however, proved he was a class act by issuing the following statement:
I was certainly hoping for better numbers from the voting machines at Fairview Precinct today, but the numbers show otherwise. Even though I have a right to ask for a recount under state law and also challenge the election result due to irregularities with the voting machines used at Fairview precinct, I have decided not to do so. Given the state of our economy, the taxpayers' resources should be focused on providing services to Fairfax County's residents and Braddock District's residents need someone to represent them on the Board of Supervisors to start working on important issues such as budget and transportation as soon as possible. I do not want to cause any delay.

I am humbled by and grateful for all the support that I have received from many supporters and more than 6,000 votes cast in the special election on Tuesday. I would like to congratulate Mr. John Cook for waging a strong campaign and wish him well on the Board. I look forward to working with him on education issues as a school board member.

Ilryong Moon
It is rare, nowadays, when any politician puts the intersts of his constituents ahead of his own ambitions. And if anybody had good reason to contest an election result, this was it. To me, Ilryong Moon is a winner, pure and simple. He put the welfare of Fairfax County first.

Having said all that, today I had the awful feeling that my vote did not count, literally. As Ben so playfully noted in his Twitter, I do live in Fairview Precint. No, I did not provide the one vote there that tipped the race to Moon. Nor was I out at a graveyard digging up votes. No Chicago jokes, please!

But mine was the precinct that had the malfunctioning machine. The irony is that I was talking with the poll workers about why they didn't have voting machines that left a paper trail, like the ones used this past November. They explained that they couldn't get them back because of budget constraints.

I am mindful, even sympathetic, to the fact that we will all be asked to make sacrifices because of the tough economic times, and that includes budget cuts. But what is the price for a democracy? How much are we willing to sacrifice to ensure that every vote counts and that every citizen has faith in a democratic system?

Many years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Margaret Meade, the legendary anthropologist. She was lecturing at my college and she recounted an anecdote that describes Americans. She told a hypothetical tale of a town in a tornado ridden area where people refused to build storm cellars because they had never had a tornado come through their street. One day, a tornado ripped through one side of the street, devastating the homes. When they rebuilt their houses, the people on that side of the street all put in storm cellars. But the people on the other side of the street refused to because they had never had a tornado come down their side of the street.

That's how we have been about reform of voting machines. After witnessing the fiasco in Florida in 2000, where at least they had a paper trail to recount, and the still contested race in Minnesota this year, people in Virginia are still resistant to replacing our touch screen machines.

We have had far too many very close elections in the past few years to keep burying out heads in the sand. I do not mean to imply that John Cook might not have won the race yesterday. And I suspect absolutely no foul play.

But the simple truth is the malfunctioning voting machine is a wake up call. It is our torando down our side of the street. It is time to replace the touch screen machines with paper ballots. No matter what the cost, no matter what the budget contraints, our democracy has already come at too high a cost to sacrifice it. Men and women have sacrificed their lives on battlefields to ensure our right to vote and choose our leaders. No budget constraint should every trump that.

It is past time to replace the touch screens, which can be hacked and tampered with. We need a paper trail precisely for recounts in close races.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Passing of Marwan Burgan

Marwan Burgan, a good friend to all Fairfax Democrats, passed away. He put up a brave battle against cancer for many years before dying Thursday night. Sam Rasoul has more to say about this gentle man and dedicated activist at Blue Commonwealth.

I didn't know Marwan very well, but I did know him for many years. He was a fixture at Democratic events and was with the Fairfax Dems at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston. He also was active in pursuing dialogue between Jews and Palestinians. We've lost an important voice for peace, understanding, and tolerance.

A memorial service for him is planned tomorrow (Sunday) at Poets and Busboys.
Date: Sunday March 8
Time: 8am - 10am
Place: The 5TH & K Busboys and Poets,
1025 5th Street NW, Washington DC 20001

The Washington Post's Strange Endorsement of John Cook

Lowell, at Blue Virginia, noticed the same thing that I did in the Washington Post’s endorsement today of John Cook for Supervisor. Their editorial endorsing him lacked logic. It almost looks like the editorial board needed a Republican to endorse so angry Republicans would stop accusing them of leaning Democratic. In truth, the Washington Post is neither Democratic nor Republican, and it certainly isn’t liberal, despite conservatives’ claims to the contrary. The newspaper’s editorial position is centrist and pro-business. On social positions, they tack liberal, on fiscal and business issues they move to the right.

The Democrats they’ve endorsed, including Mark Warner; Sharon Bulova; and Gerry Connolly, are generally moderate, pro-business Democrats who received the endorsements of business and real estate groups as well as union support. The Post also endorses moderate Republicans like Tom Davis, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, and Frank Wolf. Move too far to the left or right and the Post won’t be writing an editorial urging voters to choose you come Election Day.

Today’s endorsement of John Cook, however, seemed particularly odd, not because he’s not a good candidate, but because the reasoning – or actually lack of reasoning – is startling. Here’s what the Washington Post said:

Both candidates in Tuesday's special election, School Board member Ilryong Moon (D) and Kings Park Civic Association President John Cook (R), are worthy successors. (Carey C. Campbell, an independent, is also on the ballot.) Mr. Moon has more experience with countywide issues, but Mr. Cook has the more intricate grasp of neighborhood ones. Mr. Moon would bring welcome ethnic diversity to the board as the first Asian American elected official in Northern Virginia; Mr. Cook would bring welcome ideological diversity as one of only three Republicans on the 10-member board. It's not an easy call, but based on his ability to present a different point of view without being reactionary or doctrinaire, Mr. Cook has the slight edge.
So according to the Washington Post, ideological diversity is more important than ethnic diversity? Some might beg to disagree with that line of reasoning. By that logic, we should have communists, socialists, and Nazis in our government too. After all, most politicians, regardless of which of the major parties they belong to, believe in a representative democracy and a capitalist economic system. We may argue about specifics, such as how large a role government should play in regulating industry, providing a safety net, and helping people, but nobody I know wants to permanently nationalize oil companies, the auto industry, or even banks. So, by the Washington Post's own logic, I expect them to endorse a few socialists for Congress in the next election. Maybe a fascist or two for the state House of Delegates. That would bring much needed diversity to government.

Seriously, supporting a candidate just because his ideas are different from those of the prevailing majority is nonsensical. Nowhere does the Washington Post say that Cook’s ideas are actually better than those of the rest of the Board of Supervisors. Yet that is precisely what the standard should be when they make an endorsement.

Also, in terms of experience, I’m not sure I buy their logic that the experience of a civic association president trumps that of an elected official, who – by the Post’s own admission – “has grappled with budgets that exceed $1 billion; as a former member of the county's Planning Commission, he is fluent in development issues.”

That’s especially true since in their very first sentence, the Post also said that whoever wins “will have to help guide Fairfax through a challenging budget crunch -- and that's only part of the job.” So, the person who has already worked with county budgets of over $1 billion on a routine basis is not the one most qualified to deal with the tremendous challenge of the budget crunch? That’s because there are too many Democrats on the Board, not because he, himself, has proved not up to the challenge?

I am not going to disparage Mr. Cook’s experience with the Kings Park Civic Association. Nor will I take issue with his grasp of neighborhood issues in his own community. Those seeking elective office have to start somewhere, and civic and community volunteerism is a pretty good place to start. More power to him for going the next step to run for elective office. My quarrel isn't with him. It's not even with the Washington Post for choosing him. It's with their lack of a logical editorial.

If the Post had been able to cite a valid reason why Mr. Cook was a better candidate and why he would be better on the Board of Supervisors, based on fresh, new ideas or a better grasp of the issues at hand, that would be a different story. But they make no such case. Indeed, they admit that both men are impressive. The simple fact remains, however, that Ilryong Moon has more experience and a better grasp of countywide issues. Mr. Cook’s only real qualification, according to the Washington Post, is that he’s not a Democrat. But by that logic, Mr. Moon should qualify because he’s not a white guy. That’s how silly the Post’s logic is.

Further, the Post seems to think consensus is a bad thing. So, do they favor its opposite, obstructionism? People all over the country are tired of naysayers who block progress. If the election of Barack Obama showed anything, it was that people wanted more consensus and bipartisanship in Washington, not less. Somehow, I think the citizens of Fairfax County, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in November, would agree with that wish. The other thing citizens want in their government is pragmatism and ideas that work. I think a good case can be made that the Democrats, not the Republicans, have those ideas right now.

Ironically, while the majority of Americans were dissatisfied with the way the country was going in November, most Fairfax County residents approved of the direction that Fairfax County was taking. It’s consistently rated one of the best run counties. And its schools are cited as being among the best in the nation. So, why would Fairfax residents need to vote into office somebody from a party with whom they disagree simply because there are, by the Post’s reckoning, too many Democrats and too much consensus on the Board of Supervisors?

The Washington Post has not made a case that Fairfax County needs a change of direction. Nor has it made a reasonable argument that John Cook is more qualified than Ilryong Moon to be a supervisor. All the Post has done is left a lot of folks scratching their heads, wondering why their argument lacks coherence. It's not an endorsement that helps their choice of candidate.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

CPAC's Cleansing Moment?

The Conservative Political Action PAC (CPAC) wrapped up its annual meeting here in Washington, DC at the Omni Shoreham. The fortunes of the conservative movement, according to today’s Washington Post, have done a 180 degree about face from just a few years ago when their ideas were in the ascendancy and they controlled both the legislative process and the policy debate. But that did not dampen the ardor of these most rightward looking of movement conservatives. Despite their declining numbers and the fact, noted by friend and foe alike, that they have shrunk to a mostly regional party of the Deep South and Plains states, their enthusiasm for their conservative principles has not waned at all. Neither has their determination not to compromise on either principle or policy. To most of those present, the explanation for why they lost the last election so resoundingly is that the Republicans abandoned their core conservative principles and turned their back on the base. That’s the explanation of Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich, among other rightwing luminaries who spoke to the crowd. They all urged their fellow conservatives to be the party of new ideas that advance their core values. They were, however, long on enthusiasm and inspiration but short on actual ideas.

The most realistic assessment of the right’s chances of regaining power from the Democrats in the next few years came from Bay Buchanan:
"As long as they're pursuing legislation that appears to be working, we won't be able to come back," she said. "If the economy comes back, the group in power stays in power. It's that simple."
Bay is right, of course, but this leaves two problems for the conservatives. The first is that the Republicans pursued legislation for nearly eight years that, in fact, didn’t appear to work. Indeed, most of the current economic turmoil has been laid at their feet, which is why the public repudiated them in the last election. This is also not the first time their solutions and policies have led to similar results. The run up to the Great Depression was in many ways eerily similar to today’s recession. It too began with the collapse of the banking industry and the stock market crash. Likewise, the recession of 1987 was brought about by the savings and loan collapse. During those periods the Republican administration passed tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of the economy, preached free market values, and ended up with government bailouts to shore up the economy. Three of the most recent Republican administrations also left the nation with record deficits.

Under most modern Democratic administrations (the exception being Jimmy Carter’s abysmal administration and Carter was a Blue Dog fiscal conservative), the nation enjoyed solid growth of the GDP, low unemployment, low inflation, and even a slight rise in wages for ordinary people. Even under Bill Clinton’s administration, which was largely pro-free trade but did raise taxes on the very wealthy, most working people saw an increase in their wages and a real rise in their buying power. Unlike with the Republicans, a larger group of Americans benefitted from the good economy, not just CEOs and top executives. And none of that hurt the real economic growth of the nation.

So, one problem is that the Democratic legislative agenda appears to work better than the Republican one does.

This also begs the question – and this is the second problem for conservatives – if, in fact, the Democratic economic policies actually do work once again, why should the conservatives make a comeback? If their ideas actually don’t work in the real world – as opposed to in ivory tower think tank papers – as well as Democratic ideas, why would these people deserve to come back? Even more important, why wouldn’t they simply change their mind if facts and history prove them wrong?

This exchange at Tucker Carlson’s speech provides an answer and may be the most telling moment at this conservative event.
Carlson got in a bit of a dust-up with the audience when he spoke Thursday. Arguing that conservatives need to put more effort into digging up facts and rely less on opinion and punditry, he noted that the New York Times, a favorite target of conservative wrath, at least cares about spelling people's names right.

"NOOOOOOO," arose a moan from some in the crowd.
"I'm merely saying that at the core of their news-gathering operation is gathering news."

"NOOOOO . . ."
If the conservatives are so resistant to taking newsgathering and respecting the facts of current events seriously, even when those facts contradict their favorite ideas, is there any hope for a serious and substantive opposition party that actually puts forth a real debate?