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Monday, September 28, 2009

Important Endorsements for Steve Shannon in AG's Race

Congratulations to Steve Shannon on winning two important endorsements. First, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General of Virginia won the nod from 40 police and first responder groups including the Virginia Police Benevolent Association, the Fairfax Coalition of Police, the Fairfax Deputy Sheriffs Coalition, and the Virginia Professional Firefighters. Here's the press release from Shannon's campaign announcing these prestigious endorsements:
Fairfax - Steve Shannon, candidate for Attorney General, has announced the endorsements of 40 law enforcement and first response organizations and officials and across the state, including the Virginia Police Benevolent Association, the Fairfax Coalition of Police, the Fairfax Deputy Sheriffs Coalition, the Virginia Professional Firefighters, seventeen city and county sheriffs, six Commonwealth's Attorneys, and twelve other leaders in Virginia's law enforcement community.

"I've known and respected Steve for a long time, as I've followed his career as a tough prosecutor, a strong advocate for children, and a steadfast supporter of law enforcement officers," said Beth Arthur, Arlington County Sheriff. "As a prosecutor and a legislator, he has worked closely with the law enforcement community to crack down on the criminals who threaten Virginia's kids, and to keep our towns safe for families. Steve is experienced, committed, and focused, and I know that as Attorney General he will be a strong leader for Virginia's public safety community."

"I am humbled and honored to have the support of these brave men and women," Shannon said. "Our law enforcement officers and first responders put their lives at risk every day in order to keep our children and our communities safe. Virginia needs an Attorney General who will put public safety ahead of his own personal political agenda and work with our law enforcement to keep families safe by cracking down on gangs, drugs, and Internet predators who target our kids."

Shannon's career in public safety began when he and his wife Abby helped create Virginia's first AMBER Alert program, a public safety initiative that uses the broadcast media to help police recover an abducted child.

Following that experience Shannon went to work as a Fairfax County prosecutor where he prosecute hundreds of cases involving drugs, drunk driving, gang violence, and Internet crimes against children. In 2003 Shannon was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates where he helped passed numerous pieces of legislation making Virginia safer.

In this year's Attorney General's race Shannon is running against Senator Ken Cuccinelli, who has yet to unveil a single independent public safety policy proposal. During their time in the legislature each has had the opportunity to vote on numerous pieces of legislation aimed at making Virginia safer. Below is a comparison of some of their votes, and a list of the law enforcement leaders who have endorsed Steve Shannon.
Below is the list of police and firefighter groups who have endorsed Shannon, as well as individuals who support him:
Organizations

Virginia Police Benevolent Association
Fairfax Coalition of Police
Fairfax Deputy Sheriff's Coalition
Virginia Professional Fire Fighters

Individuals

Fred P. Newman, Sheriff, Washington County
Stan G. Barry, Sheriff, Fairfax City
H.S. Caudill, Sheriff, Tazewell County
Herald Holt, Sheriff, Roanoke County
Beth Arthur, Sheriff, Arlington County
J.T. Whitt, Sheriff, Montgomery County
Gabe A. Morgan, Sheriff, Newport News City
Bill Watson, Sheriff, Portsmouth City
Paul W. Higgs, Sheriff, Fredericksburg City
Stephen Bittle, Sheriff, Falls Church
Vernie W. Francis, Sheriff, Southhampton County
John Puckett, Sheriff, Scott County
Streve Draper, Sheriff, Martinsville
Robert J. McCabe, Sheriff, Norfolk City
W. Randolph Hamilton, Sheriff, Buena Vista City
Lenny Millholland, Sheriff, Winchester City
Vanessa Crawford, Sheriff, Petersburg City
Kevin Pittman, President, Fairfax Deputy Sheriff's Coalition
Bobby Mathieson, Delegate and Former Virginia Beach Police Officer
Marshall Thielan, President, Fairfax Coalition of Police
Mike Scanlon, Vice President, Fairfax Coalition of Police
Dan Kalbacher, Executive Board Member, Fairfax Deputy Sheriff's Coalition
Bob Horan, Former Commonwealth's Attorney, Fairfax County
Ray Morrogh, Commonwealth's Attorney, Fairfax County
Dennis Godfrey, Commonwealth's Attorney, Washington County
Michael Doucette, Commonwealth's Attorney, Lynchburg City
Joan Ziglar, Commonwealth's Attorney, Martinsville City
Gregory Underwood, Commonwealth's Attorney, Norfolk City
Paul B. Ebert, Commonwealth's Attorney, Prince William County
Mike Mohler, President, Virginia Professional Fire Fighters
Robert Bragg, Vice President, Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, District 2
Michael Staples, Vice President, Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, District 3 and President, VPFF Arlington Local
Andrew Water, Vice President, Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, District 4
Ken Pravetz, Vice President, Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, District 6
Hanh Deniston, Past Secretary, MWAA
Additionally, Shannon won the support of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce/NOVA Biz PAC. Here is their announcement:
Vienna, VA – NOVABizPAC, the political action committee of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, today announced it has endorsed the candidacy of local Fairfax Delegate Steve Shannon in his bid to become Virginia’s next Attorney General.

The PAC trustees made their decision following an exhaustive research and interview process, during which the records, positions and statements of the two candidates were closely examined.

The decision came with great difficulty as both candidates have strong backgrounds of supporting the northern Virginia business community. However, Delegate Shannon’s consistent support of Chamber specific legislative policies edged him ahead of his opponent for the endorsement.

“The Trustees voted to endorse Delegate Steve Shannon in recognition of his hard work promoting and protecting the interests of the Fairfax Chamber and our members. I commend he trustees for examining the records and positions of these candidates, and for their commitment to making a decision that best supports the policies of this organization and the businesses it represents,” said NOVABizPAC Chair Fran Fisher.

“I also want to thank both Shannon and Cuccinelli for the time and effort they put into meeting with the PAC trustees and for their cooperation in helping us reach this decision. We look forward to continuing to work closely with both individuals following the election.” Fisher concluded.
It should be noted that it is highly unusual for the Chamber of Commerce to endorse a Democrat in most states. Virginia is one of the exceptions for a couple of reasons. The first is that the Democrats are moderate, business friendly centrists. Probably too centrist for my more populist taste, but nevertheless, they reflect the mainstream of where Virginia is at. It is a pro-business, centrist state. But not one with much patience for cultural warriors who want to inject their personal religious beliefs into the public square or turn the commonwealth into a theocracy.

What most Virginians want is a well run, efficient state government that attracts business and grows jobs. Under the Democrats the commonwealth has done this, maintaining a AAA Bond rate and being voted by Forbes as the best state to do business for four consecutive years.

Besides this, Shannon brings to the table his experience as a prosecutor and his role, with his wife, in creating the first Amber Alert in Northern Virginia to keep our children safe.

It's a winning combination for our commonwealth - a strong, pro-business candidate who has dedicated his career to keeping Virginians both safe and prosperous.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Doug Wilder's Non Endorsement of Deeds Says More About Wilder, Less About Deeds

I have to admit that I have been both puzzled and irritated by Doug Wilder's non-endorsement of Creigh Deeds. For a long time, Wilder has played the spoiler in Virginia politics, but Terry Rea sums it up well here. This quote says it all:
In his statement, the former governor of Virginia and mayor of Richmond gave some clues as to why Creigh Deeds couldn't win his endorsement. In doing so Wilder mentioned Deeds three times by name. Bob McDonnell got one such mention. That while Wilder wrote "I" 13 times.

So, for the most part, Wilder used the space to remind his readers of what he sees as pertinent highlights of his own record. He made no mention of the many feuds he has (had) with various Democrats along the way.
Meanwhile, Lowell gives a brilliant point by point refutation that skewers the faulty logic that Wilder brought to his statement. Here are some highlights:
1. Wilder asks, "Who is best suited by temperament and training to govern in hard times?" I mean, seriously, is there really a question here? I mean, does Governor Wilder really believe that person would be Bob McDonnell, who opposed Mark Warner's bipartisan (and courageous) actions to save Virginia's AAA bond rating from the ravages of Jim Gilmore's governorship? Does he really believe that person would be Bob McDonnell, who thinks that Bush economics is the a great model for America? And does he really believe that person would be Bob McDonnell, who has focused his entire career on pushing an extreme, divisive social agenda? Finally, does he really not believe that person would be Creigh Deeds, a pragmatic/moderate Democrat who will govern in the Mark Warner mold? Whatever.

2. Wilder asks, "Who has presented to the people realistic plans for Education, Transportation, Health Care, Public Safety and Social Services, etc.?" Puh-leeze, this isn't even a close call! As the Washington Post (correctly) has said, Bob McDonnell's transportation "plan" is all "smoke-and-mirrors, wing-and-a-prayer" stuff that "relies mainly on raiding other areas of the budget such as education and public safety to pay for new roads." Wonderful. Or, as Dan Casey put it in the Roanoke Times, McDonnell's transportation plan is "a patchwork that's overloaded with complexity, chock full of wishful thinking and seriously flawed overall" (Casey nicknames it, "Booze, borrowing, tolls and BS"). Or, as Republican State Senator Marty Williams said about McDonnell's transportation non-plan, "It's a disaster." Meanwhile, Mark Warner says that Creigh Deeds' approach to is "exactly the right approach Virginia commuters and businesses need to solve our transportation challenges." Again, tough choice!

3. Wilder asks, "Who has the vision that can inspire confidence and assure people that Virginia can still move forward, even while confronting difficult choices?" Well, Bob McDonnell certainly has a vision. The only problem is, that vision is batshit crazy. What's amazing is that McDonnell's been so open about it, whether in his infamous theocratic thesis at CBN University, or when he urged "the General Assembly to exploit the gap in state road funding as a rationale for reducing state spending on education, public safety, health care and conservation." As the Daily Press wrote about this extreme, Grover Norquist view of government, "That such an ideological purpose lies behind the Republican transportation proposal has been implied all along. McDonnell made it explicit." And that is certainly NOT the "vision" we need for Virginia the next four years.

4. Wilder claims that the Creigh Deeds' position on the one-gun-a-month issue "is puzzling and inexplicable." But what's actually "puzzling and inexplicable" is how Doug Wilder can possibly think that Bob McDonnell - who promised god knows what to gain the NRA endorsement - will be any better on this issue than Creigh Deeds. Also, if Doug Wilder really believes that the gun issue is on the top of most peoples' minds right now, he must not be talking to many ordinary Virginians (you know, the ones struggling to make ends meet, get or keep a job, provide health care coverage to their families, etc.).

5. Wilder states that "it is the time to put our fiscal house in order," completely ignoring the fact that Virginia maintains a AAA bond rating, a sure sign that the Commonwealth does have its fiscal house in order. What does Wilder want, a AAAAAAAAAAAA bond rating? What the hell? And in what conceivable way does Wilder believe that Bob McDonnell will do a better job than Creigh Deeds in maintaining Virginia's long string of AAA bond ratings, "best managed states in the country" awards, etc? That this is even a question is utterly nonsensical.

6. Finally, and to be brutally frank about it, Doug Wilder sounds like a Grover Norquist/"Club for Growth" Republican with his blather about funding "'necessities' rather than 'niceties'". What next, does Wilder want to shrink government - as Norquist famously said - to a size where he can "drown it in the bathtub?" I mean, with all due respect, Governor Wilder, when you refer to "niceties," what in god's name are you talking about? Are you perhaps talking about education, whether pre-K, K-12, or colleges and universities? Are you talking about transportation? Public safety? Environmental protection? Health care? What? And please, Governor Wilder, enlighten us all as to where the "fat" is in a state budget that has now been slashed by billions of dollars the past year as the Republican Recession devastates state revenues (and increases state expenditures for unemployment insurance, etc.) across the nation?

The bottom line is this: on the merits, and with all due respect to Doug Wilder's past accomplishments (as well as his deserved place in Virginia and U.S. history), today he is completely, wildly, bizarrely, laughably off base. On "one handgun a month," Bob McDonnell will certainly not be any more "liberal" than Creigh Deeds would be. And on keeping Virginia the "best managed state in the country," we've seen the results of the ideological Republican approach vs. the pragmatic Democratic approach the past 8 years. That there can be any question in Doug Wilder's mind as to which approach is completely inexplicable and nonsensical. Given that Doug Wilder is a very smart man, and employing Occam's Razor, that leads to one simple conclusion: Doug Wilder simply doesn't get along with Creigh Deeds personally (maybe Creigh hasn't kissed Wilder's you-know-what sufficiently over the years?) and is taking it out on him - but more importantly, on the people of Virginia - yet again. That's just pitiful.
It is indeed sad that personal vendettas and pettiness have clouded the judgment of the man who was the first African American to be elected the governor of any state in the U.S. His accomplishments and his service to Virginia are admirable and nobody can take away his proud legacy or his role in history. That makes it even more poignant that he has chosen to let ego override logic.

But Lowell has a strong point. If it's Creigh's position on guns that Governor Wilder objects to - McDonnell's is no better and is most likely worse - at least, from Wilder's perspective. After all, it's McDonnell who has won the NRA endorsement. So, if Wilder objects to Deeds' votes, helping McDonnell puts Virginia no closer to gun control. For that, Wilder should go out and win the hearts and minds of Virginians, not ruin political careers.

If it's Deeds' position on raising revenue to fund fixing our transportation mess, that is hardly a "nicety" for the millions of Northern Virginians stuck every day in two hour traffic jams. Likewise for those who struggle in Richmond and the Hampton Roads area, or any urban center, with traffic problems. Indeed, if we don't fix our transportation problems by investing in infrastructure and public transit, we will lose out in the race to attract new business to Virginia since business companies do look at quality of life issues and are concerned with how their workers will commute to work. Additionally, these issues impact the environment and pollution control.

Meanwhile, Virginia was just named the best state to do business for the fourth consecutive year by Forbes magazine. All that has been under Democratic governors. Deeds has already pledged to follow in the tradition of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine when it comes to fiscal responsibility and maintaining a strong business environment.

So, whatever Doug Wilder's beef with Creigh Deeds, it's not for any of the issues that really impact Virginia or its citizens well being. More likely, it's all about Doug Wilder, an increasingly petulant old man who has been rapidly winding his way into irrelevance.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Experiment Number 2

Ok in my continuing quest to try new things, I found an app that let's me blog directly from my iPhone. I'll write more about it when I am home. For now it is enough to know that this is possible!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Test Post

This is basically just a test to see how posting from a mobile device
would work. The truth is I couln't imagine trying to actually compose
a real substantial blog diary on an important topic from an iPhone.

But for short blurbs this could work. Of course that is also why I
signed up for Twitter.
#30

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, September 17, 2009

L'Shanah Tovah!


As I usually do at this time of year, I will be heading to Fort Lauderdale to visit with my father for the High Holidays. Dan and I will be enjoying sunny Florida, where it's 90 degrees, sticky and humid. It's actually a terrible time to be leaving Virginia, with the elections and all. But the Jewish holidays have been around for far longer than Virginia's off-year gubernatorial elections, so I'm off to see my 96 year old dad.

This year, I have a brand new iPod to play with. It will keep me connected to Virginia, the blogs, and my email. And I finally broke down and signed up for Twitter, which is now on my sidebar. I'm not sure how much I'll actually tweet, since my reason for going to Florida is to visit with my dad, not micro-blog. But look for brief, dyspeptic complaints about the airport, at least. And probably comments about some of my weirder relatives.


When you are part of a family of New York Jews, Pittsburgh Polish Catholics and Florida evangelicals, every holiday is fraught.


I'll be back next week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Searching for the Real Bob McDonnell

Interesting discussion among reporters about Bob McDonnell and his credibility problems. This is not from McDonnell's political opponents but from working press, including a reporter from the usually conservative Washington Times.



And apparently the doubts about who is the real Bob McDonnell are starting to take their toll, as this latest poll shows the race tightening. According to this non-partisan Clarus poll, McDonnell now leads Creigh Deeds by only 5 points. According to the poll, McDonnell is at 42 percent to Deeds' 37 percent. Previously, McDonnell led in the double digits, polling as high as 10 or 12 points. So, that's quite a shrinking number with another month and a half to go.

According to this report in Reuters:

McDonnell's margin, at 5 percent, is smaller than it had been in other publicly reported polls conducted between the first week of August and the first week of September, when McDonnell's average lead was 10.2 percent.

In the Clarus poll, Republicans lead in all three statewide races that will be
on the November ballot.

"The McDonnell thesis story has not -- so far -- damaged McDonnell as badly as
Democrats had hoped, but it hasn't left him unscathed, the way many Republicans had hoped," said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group.

The story's major impact has been to solidify the Democratic base for Deeds. It has had less impact on independents -- McDonnell beats Deeds by 7 points among them."

A big factor in this election will be Election Day turnout, especially by race," said Faucheux. "If African American turnout approaches the 2008 presidential election levels, it would be a major boost to Deeds' chances."
The major reason for optimism is that the thesis story has indeed energized the Democratic base and it's managed to knock McDonnell off message and make him stumble. The now famous F-bomb heard round the world (ok, around the media) won't really damage McDonnell's chances. It's just a dumb stumble. But it shows that the candidate has been knocked off his game, if only temporarily.

The real key to winning for Democrats is not so much the abortion issue or other social issues but the doubts sown about McDonnell's character, especially his authenticity. That's what the Deeds campaign needs to keep hammering at, not the specific issues but the fact that voters don't really know what this guy stands for because he won't tell them. He won't discuss anything that he even suspects voters don't wish to hear. And that's not an attribute of leadership.

Voters may not believe that abortion, gay rights, or any other social issue is really relevant to them as compared to jobs, education, and transporation. But what is relevant to every voters is whether they can trust the candidate to deliver on his promises. And with Bob McDonnell you just don't know because what you see isn't necessarily what you will get.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Those People Who Died, Died! RIP, Jim Carroll



It was an anthem for a generation caught between the hippies of the sixties and the punks of the seventies. Jim Carroll spanned both. But he always belonged more to the punk sensibility – a blue collar New Yorker originally from lower Manhattan, the son of a bartender.

Jim Carroll lived in my neighborhood during my own scuffling days. Yeah, I scuffled, and hung out with poets and poseurs, punk rockers and philosophers. It seems like a strange combination, but not really. One of the seminal Punk groups, The Tuff Darts, had a hit with the song "Your Love Is Like Nuclear Waste," which was actually composed by an art school graduate, Jeff Salen, who was a middle class intellectual who knew the difference between cant and Kant. I know because I once dated him.

And Jim Carroll, who died last Friday, lived in my neighborhood. Actually, our neighborhood was home to Mount Sinai Hospital, which was the border between the edge of the middle class, professional Upper East Side and the beginnings of Spanish Harlem. It was conveniently located in close proximity to some of the most renowned smack dealers on the one side and respectable employees of Mount Sinai’s hospital and medical school on the other side. I worked for the medical school, writing grants. But that was just my day job.

I also wrote poetry and belonged to the St. Marks-in-the-Bowery Poetry Project. Luminaries of that writers’ cooperative included Allan Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Richard Hell (also here), Ann Waldman, and of course, Jim Carroll. I certainly wasn’t one of the luminaries, but my poetry was decent enough that I once got to read it once on WBAI, the New York Pacifica station.

And, of course, I had a nodding acquaintance with my neighbor, Jim Carroll.

One day I walked out of the small corner candy store. and there he was, leaning against a car, waiting for somebody. I had just seen him perform at a lower Manhattan club with the ironic name The Ritz. It was a retro 1950s Punk Rock club with Zebra striped banquettes, plush purple velvet upholstery, and Formica tabletops. The place stunk of stale beer and cigarettes.

When Carroll broke into his hit song, “People Who Died,” the crowd of young people shouted out the chant at the top of their lungs, raising their clenched fists in the air. It was part keening for those we had lost and part a howl of protest at life itself. It was tribal, cathartic, and ecstatic.

So, when I saw him just hanging out on the corner where I lived, I introduced myself and we had a conversation about his performance, the St. Marks Poetry Project, and the neighborhood. After that, I used to see Carroll a lot. We had a few things in common besides writing poetry. Both our fathers had been bartenders, so we knew what it was like to have an absent parent – bartenders don’t usually work 9 to 5. We swapped tales of the mean things we had done to guilt our fathers for not being there for us during normal waking hours, which was usually when they slept.

One day I told him about a woman I had seen at open mike night at St. Marks. I think her name was Helen. She was a burn-out case. Jim laughed, “She was a bag lady even when I was there.”

I asked him how somebody like that would know when it was time to quit poetry and leave Manhattan. I wasn't really thinking about Helen, though. I was thinking about my growing sense of futility at chasing the seemingly elusive dream of success as a poet. It was increasingly looking like the old Zen conundrum of seeing the reflection of the moon in a lake and thrusting your hand into the water to grasp that reflection. The mirror-like reflection shatters into a million pieces and the water just runs through your fingers, but you can never grasp a reflection. Is that what my dreams and ambitions were like? An impossible to realize mirror image of reality?

As if knowing what I thinking, Jim fixed his pale blue eyes in a laser-like stare and said, “Karen, you will know when it’s time to quit and go home.”

And I did. Our paths certainly diverged. I moved to Fort Lauderdale, met my husband, Dan, and started a completely different life. Jim really and truly cleaned up his act and went on to be the brilliant writer and poet he always was meant to be. And he stayed in Manhattan, which for him was always home. It's where he lived and where he died.

Jim Carroll was compassionate, talented, and smart. But I find it amazing that he died of something as mundane as a heart attack at 60 years old. I never figured him to live so long or die of natural causes. Rest in peace, Jim Carroll. You wrote our pain, you chanted our nightmare, and you lived our worst fears. It was not an easy road but you traveled it and wrote it with your own grace and dignity.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Market-Based Reality and Economic Theory 101

Everybody likes to tout the "free market" as the solution to every problem from health care reform to protecting the environment. Let's be clear, there is a lot that a market-based economy gets right. But not everything. Yet, it would be foolish to throw the baby out with the bath water.

So, I'm all for market-based solutions to our problems, but I'm against the unexamined, knee jerk reaction of some on the right that the markets are all wise, all rational, and all accurate. Far from it. And Elaine from Roanoke explains, in what should be Economics 101, exactly what the free market is, including some of its very real limitations.
principles of free market capitalism are competition and the supply-demand curve. Ideally, competition will keep the markets efficient. The supply-demand curve, in a perfect world, will regulate price. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an ideal world...

Examples of how business can get around having competition include: the concentration of the market by the most successful groups who destroy their competition (i.e., the auto industry in the 20th century), thus creating a few market actors who divide up the market (oligopolies) and avoid the hassles of competing (plus, avoid that efficiency); or the creation of monopolies that ideally should be regulated by government (i.e., cable TV companies).

The creation of such oligopolies is what has happened in the health insurance market. Most areas of the country are dominated by one or two insurance industry actors who collude on prices; they don't compete. That's why there has to be some alternative to them, like a non-profit public option, if we are to control these people and their demands on our pocketbooks.
Elaine goes on to explain the law of supply and demand and the difference between elastic demand - the kind where people stop buying discretionary goods, like cosmetics, fashion, and new iPods, when prices go up beyond what they can afford - and inelastic demand.

The inelastic demand, the demand for basics of survival such as food, housing, and health care, are the goods we will continue to pay for regardless of price increases because we need them to survive.

That difference is important. It's why a monopoly, like the insurance industry, can raise premiums, deny claims even to those who have paid their premiums for years, and throw people out of plans when they get sick. They can do those things with impunity because there is little regulation to stop them and no competition. People can't vote with their pocketbooks.

As I said above, I don't favor throwing out the baby with the bath water. So, the alternative isn't ditching the market-based economy altogether. That's because the economic alternative, socialism, really is not more efficient. Critics of socialism have a point that too much government intervention and central planning stifle the incentive to be productive and to innovate. Without a monetary reward, entrepreneurs won't experiment or take risks to produce new products and services. Government sponsored socialism does not create wealth.

But the current cowboy capitalism of the past couple of decades has not served us well either. Perhaps the situation is not quite the all or nothing - either/or - situation that ideologues on both sides pretend that it is.

Overall, a market-based economy with less regulation works well. But what many on the right seem to want is no regulation at all. Indeed, they come close to being economic anarchists.

But just as every sensible person realizes that you need laws and regulations in other areas of life, so you need them in the marketplace too. First, let's take an example from something other than economics.

We all want the maximum freedom to come and go as we please, to make decisions about where to shop, what we can say, what movies we can watch, what we can read. We want these basic freedoms. But nobody wants to walk out on to a lawless street where muggers are free to hit us over the head and grab our money - or worse. We understand that to preserve freedom for everybody we have to curtail illegitimate freedoms. Criminals don't have the right to grab what is not theirs from us. So, although most of us do not want to lose our liberty, we support law and order, police, and jails. But we want the right balance.

The same should be true in the economic order. We should want the most freedom and least regulation to encourage entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to produce goods, provide services, invest in promising enterprises, and make a profit that rewards them for their risks and their work.

But markets don't work perfectly. That's because we don't live in a perfect world. That's why we have government - a government democratically elected by the citizens - us!

We need sensible regulations in food production to ensure that we don't get sick from food borne illnesses, a real problem as more and more people have evidence-based concerns about our food supply. We have seen first hand over the past few years what inadequate oversight has done in this vital area, as people have gotten sick from lettuce, spinach, peppers, and peanut butter.

It's just not realistic to expect consumers to equip their homes with laboratories to conduct their own food safety experiments before making a peanut butter sandwich for their children. The same is true for making sure toys are safe, drinking water is clean, etc. Ensuring safe, wholesome food and other goods is a real and legitimate function of government oversight, just as much as protecting our streets and keeping them safe.

Then we get to proper oversight to ensure transparency in our financial system. The current economic meltdown was caused by huge financial companies that were too big to fail, but did fail. Without the government's timely intervention last year's financial meltdown, we would be in far more dire straights than we currently find ourselves in.

Large oligopolies, like AIG, created and sold exotic mortgage backed derivatives that nobody in their industry even understood. To this day, nobody really knows how many toxic assets still exist on the major banks' books. Left largely unregulated, these companies created a domino effect that rippled through our economy, taking down businesses as far away as Europe and Asia. They are largely responsible for the severe drop in revenue in states as disparate as New York, California, and Virginia. Virginia is one of the better managed states. But even here, the rise in foreclosures and the drop in consumer spending dried up two of the state's most reliable revenue streams, property and sales taxes. Because of that were plunged into a frantic attempt to stave off a deficit. States, unlike the federal government, are not allowed to run deficits, so our commonwealth has been frantically cutting costs, often cutting not just fat but muscle and bone to do so.

Additionally, many of us have witnessed our 401Ks plummet in value. For many of us, that is our nest egg, our retirement funds, our college funds for our children. Without proper oversight, small investors get hurt and hurt badly - but the huge bonuses for Wall Street moguls just roll on, business as usual.

Large corporation left unchecked, have also watched profits, in the good times, gobbled up by greedy CEOs and top executives, while small investors had little return on those investments. Just as bad, while CEO salaries have soared, their employees' wages have stagnated for years, even before the economic downturn. Heck, I began writing about this in 2005, when our economy was roaring great guns, profits were soaring, and wages were languishing.

So what is to be done?

Markets are good, but they need rules. They need regulation. And they need oversight. Consumers need protection so they are ensured that the goods they buy are safe and wholesome. Investors need transparency so their investment choices can be rational and evidenced-based. And workers need protections that provide for safe working environments and fair wages. And businesses need oversight to make sure they provide these things.

There will always be a debate about how much is too much oversight or how large is too large for the government. It's a fair and necessary debate. But the notion that markets run best with no rules is not a free market, it's an anarchy. The notion that there is no legitimate role for government and that any regulation is an illegitimate encroachment is a recipe for more disaster.

We need to find the right mix between regulation and freedom. Both freedom and fairness do not need to be mutually exclusive concepts. Heck, even a game like Monopoly has rules that all the players abide by. And nobody plays football or baseball without rules and referees.

The economy, though, is more important than a game. It's our livelihood and the key to our future. It is the very heart and soul of the American Dream. And that can't be left to economic anarchists and cowboy capitalists with no sense of fair play.

So, don't throw the baby out with the dirty bath water. But dry the baby, wrap it in a blanket, and watch over it so it can grow and thrive.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Public Option According To Robert Reich

H/t to Vivian Paige.



This is a concise, simple explanation of the public option, a plan which has been made unecessarily complex by pundits and politicians with a vested interest in killing it.

Thanks to Robert Reich for boiling it down to the simple, non-scary concept that it actually is.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Jackson Miller Ducking Debates in Prince William County

In the continuing "he said/she said" soap opera over whether Delegate Jackson Miller, from the 50th District, turned down the NAACP debate with his challenger Jeanette Rishell in Prince William County, Norma Fields, the NAACP member who attempted to schedule the debate has chimed in with her version of the events.

Tired of being accused of partisan bias in leaking the fact that Miller turned down the October 17 forum, Ms. Fields provides her version and the time line of her attempts to arrange this event.
We offered the same opportunity to the candidates in the 52nd District and both candidates accepted.

My contact with the Miller campaign was Cory Bliss. I will not question Mr. Miller’s integrity, as he unfairly did mine, but I will suggest that perhaps Mr. Bliss did not keep him informed of our conversations. I telephoned Mr. Miller in July to schedule a forum between him and Mrs. Rishell for Oct. 17. Cory called me a few days later, informing me that Delegate Miller was considering the invitation. Several weeks passed with no word from the campaign. During this time I left one or two messages. None were returned. I sent an e-mail inviting him to the forum; no response.

Cory called Aug. 21, leaving a message that Miller could not fit Oct. 17 into his schedule.

I have no memory of Cory mentioning Miller had a family obligation on the 17th.

I called Cory on Aug. 24, asking him to provide me with any date that fit their schedule. He agreed to get back to me by week’s end. When I did not hear from him by Friday, I called him and left a message requesting a date.

Mrs. Rishell called Friday, leaving a message requesting confirmation of the forum date/time. I called Cory on Aug. 31; he informed me that Miller’s schedule would not allow him to participate. After learning this, I called Rishell’s campaign to let them know Miller had refused our invitation because he could not fit the forum into his schedule, and that we intended to proceed anyway. I was surprised and disappointed by Mr. Miller’s refusal.
I don't wish to question Mr. Miller's integrity either. I don't know the man. But I do know Jeanette Rishell and she's not a liar.

Further, I have been a political scheduler so I know all the tricks of that trade and how the game is played. Of course, Jackson Miller, and his campaign scheduler wouldn't out right tell the NAACP that they didn't want to debate Rishell at that particular forum. Instead they used stock phrases to duck the debate. Let's examine one of the most abused of those phrases (which I am embarrassed to admit I used far too many times myself)

Phrases like "my schedule will not allow it..." are logically silly when you look at them literally. Schedules can't permit or refuse invitations, people do. And they make their decisions based on what they think will further their interest. I'll get back to this point in a minute.

When a candidate's scheduler gets an invitation in July for a debate in mid-October and doesn't give an answer by the end of August something is going on. And to hang it on "a family obligation" is as lame as it gets. Here's why.

If Miller had a family obligation back in July and really wanted to do the debate, his scheduler would have been back on that phone immediately to try to reschedule it. Instead, they hemmed and hawed and stalled as long as they could and then came up with as transparent an excuse as you could find. Again, if Miller had a scheduling conflict with a family event that he knew about in July or early August, there was plenty of time to suggest an alternative date by October 17. If the NAACP or Ms. Rishell had refused that alternate, Miller would have been off the hook.

So, why didn't he do that?

Because campaigns, and especially good schedulers, make a calculation when accepting any invitation. Before doing so, they estimate how much benefit the candidate will get from a personal appearance.

I'm willing to bet that Miller's scheduler, Cory Bliss, doesn't think he's going to pick up enough votes from an NAACP appearance to make it worth the candidate's valuable time. That doesn't make either of them a racist. It makes his scheduler a pragmatic campaigner who is trying to utilize his candidate's time where it will pick up the most support, and in Bliss' calculations an NAACP event is not it.

Now, Miller's and Bliss' foot dragging might fool some bloggers on both sides of the aisle. But it doesn't pass the smell test with this former scheduler. I know the tricks. I know the pet phrases and Bliss used them all.

It's time for somebody to be honest.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Benefits Bearing the Union Label - Happy Labor Day!

H/t to Lowell for this:




Excerpt from speech:
So let us never forget: much of what we take for granted-the 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, health insurance, paid leave, pensions, Social Security, Medicare-they all bear the union label. It was the American worker-union men and women-who returned from World War II to make our economy the envy of the world. It was labor that helped build the largest middle class in history. So even if you're not a union member, every American owes something to America's labor movement.
There's much more, especially on healthcare reform, so go over for the full report at Blue Virginia.

Irony Alert - the RPV Needs Business 101

Actually, they may simply need one of those "Basic Business for Dummies" books that are ubiquitous in Borders and Barnes and Noble. I'll explain in a minute.

First, though, it seems the Virginia Republicans want you to know they have a sophisticated sense of humor and they appreciate irony. According to this press release, from August 5,
RICHMOND - Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins today noted the obvious irony inherent in Creigh Deeds' fundraising event with President Barack Obama tomorrow, given that Deeds notoriously picketed the very hotel franchise hosting the event. Obama is scheduled to appear with Deeds Thursday evening at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner less than seven months after Deeds joined hotel union workers picketing the Hilton in Crystal City in Arlington.

"This is rich," said Chairman Mullins. "Creigh probably doesn't know if he should grab a sign and start marching up and down the sidewalk or go on inside and start grabbing fat checks from donors. What a quandary."
Unfortunately, the only quandary is why Republicans don’t know the difference between a corporate owned hotel and a franchise, owned and operated by a separate company. Perhaps if Republicans, like Mullins and Bob McDonnell, spent more time in college taking business classes than writing theses on how to turn the Republican Party into a theocratic organization, they would understand what a franchise is.

I’ll go into more detail in a minute, but first here’s an email I received from an official of Unite HERE, Local 25:
Ok. I think the main thing is that the republicans were too lazy or uninterested to find out that the Hilton Cc is a franchise owned by csx while the Mclean is owned by Hilton which actually does have a good record with us.
So, the Hilton that Obama and Deeds appeared at has a good labor record with Unite HERE, but the one in Crystal City does not. And they are actually owned by two different corporations.

The difference is the McLean Hilton is owned outright by the Hilton Corporation, which has very different corporate policies than the owner of the Crystal City Hilton, which is a franchise of a Kentucky company called Columbia Sussex Corporation.

Columbia Sussex holds a lot of franchises of big name, well known hotels and it doesn’t limit itself to Hiltons, though it owns a few of those throughout the country. It also owns the Sheraton Inner Harbor in Baltimore. In fact, it owns Holiday Inns, Courtyard Marriotts, and Crowne Plazas all over the country. And everywhere it goes, it foments union problems by trying to break pre-existing union contracts that were in place before they bought their hotel franchises.

Whatever you think of unions, it’s simple Business 101 to know the difference between a franchise and a company that is owned and operated by a parent corporation. So, even though both the McLean Hilton and the Crystal City Hilton share the same name, they are not owned and operated by the same central company. Columbia Sussex pays for the name, as they do for their Sheratons and Holiday Inns, etc. Here’s the complete list, from their own website, of all the different franchises they hold besides the Crystal City Hilton.

As the Unite HERE official, who contacted me, points out, the Republicans were too lazy to check their facts.

Intellectual laziness from a party that stresses respect for hard work, failure to understand the basic definition of a franchise from a party that claims to champion and understand business, dishonesty from a party that says it upholds traditional values – now that’s irony!

Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Pull the Trigger for a Public Option

My friend, Ben Tribbett, sent out an email asking for those of us who support a public option to help by "pulling the trigger" for a public option. In order to help the campaign to keep that in any health care reform, go here to contribute to Firedoglake's campaign to keep the public option alive and in any health care bill that gets through Congress.

I am going to keep the link up in my sidebar as well because I can't think of a more worthy effort.