Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ringing Out the Old, Hopes For the New

New Years Eve... bad news, good news. The bad news is obviously the tanking economy and the impotent fellow still in the White House. The good news happened on November 4. Most of America, indeed the entire world, is looking forward to 01.20.09.
While the economy continues spiraling down, people seem to be raising their glasses. Sales to individuals at ABC stores increased 8.1% from July to November. While not entirely recession-proof, the business of drinking is certainly faring better than cars, houses, and eating out. Part of the increase may be due to 76 more stores being open on Sundays - on July 1, ABC stores in several Hampton Roads cities and in Richmond were allowed to operate seven days a week. About one third of the state's 333 stores are now open on Sunday. Hey, what about drinkers in Roanoke, Staunton, and Harrisonburg... is going to a restaurant their only choice to drown out another Redskins loss? 
Staunton City Council's legislative "wish list" includes a ban on using handheld devices like a phone or blackberry while driving. As a person who has barely avoided being clipped by yacking drivers on numerous occasions, I hope the General Assembly will pass this much needed legislation. Teenage drivers already face this ban, but they aren't the only idiots trying to multi-task while operating 2,000 lb. battering ram.
Stay warm and have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Did Bob Just Announce He's Running in 2010?

Bob Goodlatte will no longer be the big Republican bird on  the Agriculture Committee in the House of Representatives. When the GOP was in the majority, Goodlatte was chair of the committee. Since January of '07 he's been the ranking Republican. Now, because of a 6 year term limit, Goodlatte is out of that leadership position.
But, he's landed in a newly created position, vice-ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Because this committee deals with courts and laws, it is seen as one of the more powerful in the House. Approximately one-third of all bills pass, in full or in part, through this committee before reaching the floor. Previously he'd been 5th ranking Republican; now he's number 2. So, this is basically a lateral move for the congressman. But, with agriculture being so important to the 6th District, he may be left out in the field on some issues of importance to his constituents.
Out of 11 representatives, the Commonwealth has four members on the Judiciary Committee - other Virginia congressmen on the committee are Democrats Rick Boucher and Bobby Scott and Republican Randy Forbes.
Saying "I would love to one day serve as chairman of the Judiciary Committee," Goodlatte more than strongly hinted he's running for Congress again in 2010 (and '12 and '14?). Of course, for Bob to get the Big Bird's chair, the GOP would have to recapture the House (they currently hold 178 seats in the 435 seat chamber - down from 232 in 2005-06). And, the current ranking Republican, Lamar Smith of Texas, and the House Republican Conference may have other ideas.
So much for term limits Goodlatte advocated and promised when first elected.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

LEADERSHIP, For a Change

Seems most Americans have had their fill of George W. Bush and his chicken shit presidency. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, 75% of Americans are looking forward to 01.20.09. Although Bush has been on a legacy tour trying to rehabilitate his reputation, only 20% say he inspires confidence.
Bill Schneider, CNN's senior political analyst commented:
"Things started out well. When President Bush first took office in 2001, more than 60 percent saw him as strong and decisive. That impression was confirmed after the September 11th attacks. The public still saw Bush as strong and decisive when he took office a second time in 2005.
"But no more. The public has completely lost confidence in this president."
Here on CCC, I usually stick to Shenandoah Valley issues, so what gives with this national poll? Well, last night at a local wateringhole and restaurant, I had an extended conversation with two prominent Republicans - one a businessman and the other a former elected official. Both voted for McCain. Each speaking independently said the right man (Barack Obama) got elected. Both said the current president had taken the country into the dumper. I got the distinct feeling they were speaking for a large group of disgruntled and pragmatic Republicans. The poll's national numbers may be reflected in local sentiment as well.
Interestingly, both support Creigh Deeds for governor (although each commented negatively on some of his "Democratic" stands, especially in regards to unions). Both thought Deeds is a common sense guy, with well thought out positions on issues facing the Commonwealth. Both though he needs a public speaking coach! The GOP's presumptive nominee, Bob  McDonnell, does not inspire either of them. Both said Moran was okay, but I got the distinct feeling they would evaluate him vs. McDonnell if Moran were the nominee. Neither would support Terry McAuliffe - calling him a "carpetbagger" and "Clintonista." Both think Moran and McAuliffe have NOVA advantages in fundraising and exposure and they are not optimistic about Deeds' chances to win the nomination against such odds.
As I explained to them, Senator Deeds will stay in the General Assembly and work on solving Virginia's problems. Moran decided to leave the legislature to concentrate on raising money and making appearances. McAuliffe is a national political figure with zero Virginia experience, but with a NOVA connection and huge fundraising ability. On the NOVA field, the fight is between Moran and McAuliffe. But, I think Creigh will serve his constituents, Virginians, and himself well by his decision to stay in the legislative fray. His opponents may split the $ and votes in NOVA and other urban areas while Creigh will be dealing with the tough issues facing the General Assembly. Creigh needs 34% - there is a clear path to him winning the nomination as Moran and McAuliffe beat on each other. Game on.
h/t to Crooks and Liars for the Dr. Seuss graphic and heads up on the poll.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Almost Christmas

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Hope your family is gathering, the hearth warm, the pantry full.
Speaking of pantries, yesterday I stopped by the Verona Community Food Pantry to drop off a donation and to volunteer to help get them an online presence. The parking lot was full, the staff was hustling to keep up with all the clients. With layoffs, heating bills, etc. lots of people need help. Send your donation to Verona Community Food Pantry at PO Box 187, Verona, VA 24482.
Cold today so I made Broa, a Portuguese Corn Bread. Very interesting round loaf with nice crust, a light texture, and earthy flavor. And corn!
Sunday evening we visited Monticello for an evening tour that included going to the 3rd floor Dome Room which isn't on the normal tour. I've been to TJ's place 8-10 times (2nd time in the Dome) and I always learn something new about the man and Monticello. As we gathered in the new gift shop/museum who should walk in but the former deposed Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, Vance Wilkins. I was glad he, and his extended family, were in the other tour group - it would have sickened me to hear any of his BS comments about wingnut Virginia Republicans being the natural heirs of Jefferson's legacy.
Merry Christmas to all. Even Vance.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Call in the dogs

I'm a little tired of blogging right now. Both at CCC and other blogs where I occasionally post. I'm taking tax classes to volunteer with AARP Foundation. Working on a couple other projects. The holidays are here quicker than I or my family could ever have thought!
Started some beef jerky today. Will give most of it away as gifts. Also into making bread - loaves, buns, sourdough... whatever. Will probably make salt risin' in the next few days. If you've never had salt risin' bread you've missed a real treat. If someone in your house has made it, you can attest to the distinct smell as the starter gets going. It can be dicey to make, but, it is so worth it! I got some of the "yeast" from King Arthur Flour - will be interesting to see if this makes it a bit more predictable and if it tastes like the "old fashioned" way of making it.
So, I'll sign off Coarse Cracked Corn for a while. Hell, I might wake up inspired and post tomorrow morning. Or, it may be next year. So, in the words of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, I'll...
...piss on the fire, call in the dogs, and head it on back to Bowlegs...
At least for a while...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bowing at the Alter

In what has become an annual pilgrimage, a host of legislators bowed at the alter of Dean Welty and the Valley Family Forum at their annual "Unveiling" last Friday. Attending werethe predictable Republicans: Del. Matt Lohr of Broadway, Del. Steve Landes of Weyers Cave, Del. Chris Saxman of Staunton, Del. Ben Cline of Rockbridge, Sen. Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, and Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel of Winchester. Noticeably absent was Sen. Emmett Hanger who, while he may agree on some issues, is clearly not in lockstep with this crowd . Todd Gilbert was also a no-show.
According to Welty, the mission of the Valley Family Forum is
"Our purpose is no different tonight than [in years past]. Our purpose is to defend and rebuild the moral foundation of the nation. Unless we rebuild the foundation that protects our culture, we cannot survive."
No real specifics there, but one can assume they want to ban all abortions, give vouchers or tax breaks for private schools and home schoolers, support abstinence-only sex education, promote prayer in public school, make their God a player in public policy.
So, what did the legislators offer up? Off-shore oil drilling. Anti-union legislation. Kicking Planned Parenthood out of sex education classes. Requiring parental permission for students to join clubs.
I guess off-shore drilling might connect to families by providing some jobs, but it is difficult to see the relationship to VFF goals. How about green jobs like might be provided by wind power? Unions are anti-family? Huh? So, because you disagree with organization's stand on choice/abortion, the state shouldn't work with Planned Parenthood in preventing teen pregnancy? That's hardly productive solution!
Some of the ideas made some sense, but probably aren't high on the VFF wish list. Lohr suggested easing some mandates of SOLs and NCLB because of the coming budget cuts to public schools. And, Landes' idea about donating unused medications to free clinics has merit and should be explored.
Read more at the DNR and check out the long list of comments in their online forum. Make your own comment. Those comments and common sense tell us the "family values" pushed by Valley Family Forum are out of the mainstream of many families in the Shenandoah Valley and most people in the Commonwealth. We can hope that, as they make decisions affecting us all, legislators will listen to the other voices that make up their constituencies. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

News Affecting Valley Barnyards

Disaster Areas - Governor Tim Kaine announced that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has designated Albemarle, Buckingham, Caroline, Fluvanna, Franklin, Goochland, Greene, Hanover, Henry, Isle of Wight, Lunenburg, Powhatan and Rockbridge counties primary natural disaster areas due to reductions in farm production caused by drought and excessive heat that occurred this year. Farmers will be eligible for low-interest loans and any supplemental relief that might be provided by Congress in the future. Farmers in adjacent counties (in the Valley: Alleghany, Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Page, Roanoke Rockingham) have received contiguous disaster status and also may be eligible for federal aid.
Waste Not - Poultry waste is a huge concern for the Chesapeake Bay. With 2007 sales of turkeys, chickens, eggs totaling $937 million, poultry is Virginia's #1 agricultural industry. Much of it is located in the central Shenandoah Valley. Raising poultry creates about 400,000 tons of waste annually. If not properly handled, nutrients from the waste get into the surface water, steams, and rivers eventually finding their way into the Bay. There, those nutrients cause algae booms that deplete oxygen in the water causing dead zones. Don't blame the birds for all this foul mess - nutrients come from other livestock, humans, and overuse of fertilizers on farms and front yards! Another major factor is the huge population growth along the Chesapeake's shores and tributaries in eastern Virginia, the D.C. area, and Maryland.
Valley farmers are already taking dramatic and expensive steps to better manage manure and fertilizers. Governments are enacting new policies such as limiting development along shorelines and tributaries so the natural processes can help break down the nutrients before they get into the Bay. Perdue Farms has a plant that burns the litter to generate electricity.
Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay.
Gas Tax? - The EPA has proposed a cow and pig gas tax? Yep, that right! Cows and pigs eat their feed which ferments during the digestive process creating methane and nitrous oxide which is released to the atmosphere in farts and burps. Under part of the Clean Air Act, the EPA is studying these emissions to determine if they are creating greenhouse gases that are hazardous to human health.
Under the proposed rules, a farm with more than 25 dairy cows or 50 beef cattle produces 100 tons of carbon equivalent each year and would need a permit and pay the gas tax - about $175 for each dairy cow. A Shenandoah Valley dairy farm milking 125 head would have tax of $21,875.
The EPA study will continue through 2009. For now, you can get more info at which has a Fart Chart where you can a state-by-state whiff of this breaking issue.
What's next.... a limit on how many beans I can put in my chili?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dems Playing Chicken

Brian Moran has decided to resign from his seat in the House of Delegates and concentrate on running for Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Governor Tim Kaine has already announced that a special election will be held on January 13 to elect a new Delegate for the 46th District, which includes part of Alexandria and part of Fairfax.
Moran's decision is surprising to some political analysts and others (folks in his district, perhaps) because they didn't see it coming and because of its timing. In the past many candidates running for statewide office have given up their seats in whatever elective office they held in order to run for the higher office. It has even become a bit of a tradition to do so. But it often it occurs after the candidate has the party's nomination. Brian Moran made the decision before the hens got up.
Beyond that, Moran's calculus is factoring in several advantages:
  • Legislators are prohibited from fundraising during the session of the General Assembly. By opting out now, Moran can solicit all the funds he wants during a time when he'd have been "blacked out." Moran must figure Terry McAuliffe will seriously challenge him for those dollars, especially out of NOVA. Senator Creigh Deeds will be on on the fundraising sidelines for the duration of the session.
  • While Senator Deeds is committed to his duties in Richmond, Moran can join (well, not actually) McAuliffe on the campaign trail across the state. We'll see him speaking to civic clubs and local Democratic groups and attending ribbon cuttings. Time is money. Money is time, I guess.
  • Perhaps Moran heard McAuliffe's comment last week about his opponents being "stuck in the legislature." Stuck on fundraising? Stuck on old ideas? Stuck because McAuliffe sees himself above it all?
  • Some pundits think Moran has made a good decision by getting out of the General Assembly in what looks like a tough year. Difficult votes on the budget and other issues will be cast. Republicans will undoubtably put forth bills designed to put Democrats in difficult positions. According to these pundits, Moran can take the high road while avoiding controversy. Flip side - is Moran being a chicken? Will Deeds show leadership by taking on the tough issues? Will Deeds make news while Moran seems impotent?
Clearly, Brian Moran thinks Terry McAuliffe is running (so does just about everybody else) and that McAuliffe will challenge him for NOVA dollars and votes. Moran wants to take McAuliffe head on in battling for money and time. 
If you, like me, think Senator Deeds is refusing to chicken out by meeting his commitments to his constituents and the state by sticking it out and tackling the very tough issues... perhaps you'd like to send him a few bucks now since he can't raise any during session.
But, forgetting politics for a minute, how about those Richmond Spiders!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Free Speech, Fair Elections

On behalf of a Jill Borak and Charles Epes, a pair of Virginia voters, the ACLU, the Rutherford Institute, and The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, have sued the Virginia State Board of Elections on the ban of political buttons, caps, shirts, etc. inside of polling places. The plaintiffs want the ban ended before the 2009 statewide elections.
The groups representing the plaintiffs represent the political spectrum with the ACLU generally seen as "liberal" while the Rutherford Institute is considered "conservative." On this issue, the groups are in agreement that the ban is an unconstitutional limit on freedom of expression and that the policy is open to differing interpretations that led to inconsistent enforcement on Election Day.
Robert M. O’Neil, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression:
Election Day should be a time for celebrating the personal freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. On that of all days, government should not be telling citizens how to express themselves.
John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute:
Thomas Jefferson understood that the first duty of government is to protect the freedom of expression. Regrettably, the State Board of Elections shirked this important civic duty when it adopted what essentially amounts to a dress code policy.
Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia:
The State Board of Elections has not only misinterpreted the state law, but in the process it has unnecessarily and unconstitutionally banned passive personal expression that has no history whatsoever of disrupting the voting process.
There is a good chance the complaint will never actually be heard in court. The State Board of Elections may rescind or change the policy. If the board doesn't act, Delegate David Englin, an Alexandria Democrat, has drafted legislation to overturn the policy. Although the issue may not be decided by a judge, the suit over an unpopular and controversial policy will force policy makers to reexamine their actions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Counting kernels

According to reports, Senator Creigh Deeds, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor, said Republican Bob McDonnell was "unfit to be Governor." A Deeds' spokesman elaborated by describing McDonnell as being part of the hard-right ideology and partisanship that characterized the administration of Jim Gilmore.
Deeds is in a tight race for the nomination against Brian Moran and Terry "exploring a possible run" McAuliffe. According to a new Rasmussen poll, Senator Deeds has the highest favorability ratings among Virginia Democrats with 55% giving him a "favorable," including 23% who had "very favorable" view of the Senator. The other Democrats were close, with McAuliffe garnering a 52% "favorable" and Moran 48%.
The poll shows close head-to-head match ups between each of the Democrats and McDonnell. One advantage for the Republican is his early strength among unaffiliated voters who prefer him to any of the Democrats This is likely due to him being the only Republican on the block while the Democrats, who are still being generally polite to each other, are beginning to take off the gloves. I predict many of these unaffiliated voters will come home to roost when the Democrats hatch a nominee.
The poll is interesting, but let's get real for a moment. We're 11 months out. Virginians are election-weary and more focused on the economy, hanging on to their jobs, the holidays, President-elect Obama, and a million other things than they are on the gubernatorial race. Democrats have 2.5 candidates angling for the June primary. McDonnell is scurrying around the state trying in vain to make news. The state budget is in free fall. 
Yeah, the poll makes for interesting reading and its findings have a little something for everybody. But, stay tuned... those 11 months promise a lot of cracked eggs.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fresh litter

Because of the collapsing economy and the budget crisis facing Virginia, the City of Harrisonburg could see a cut of $3.2 million in state aid for 2010. The figures are from projections from the Virginia Municipal League. The same dire predictions are being hashed out in city and town councils and boards of supervisors across the state.
In a related story, the Virginia Retirement System reports the value of its investments has dropped over $14 million since June 30, about 1/4 of its value. VRS provides pension benefits to 136,000 employees and has over 345,000 active members - state and local employees, school teachers. It is the 24th largest public or private pension fund. Officials said payments to retirees and beneficiaries are not in jeopardy.
Across the mountain at the University of Virginia, head football coach Al Groh has shaken up his coaching staff. Several assistants, including Groh's son, will retire or "pursue other opportunities." Us chickens know when a head has been chopped off! 
In spite of saying "there are no scapegoats here," the head coach keeps his job. UVA was 5-7 this year. Does this sound like an investment bank taking bailout billions and firing the middle management while the CEO keeps his multimillion dollar salary? No scapegoats here?
One more story about our collapsing economy. Everything from toilet paper to peanut butter is affected. Popcorn, too? The size of the product shrinks while the price stays the same. But, the shrinkage is not very noticeable to the average consumer. You were shorted a couple ounces of Jiff peanut butter by an enlarged dimple in the bottom of the jar. Individual sheets of toilet paper shrink. Be a smart consumer - learn more at Mouse Print.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide

As you shop for gifts for family and loved ones, you might also want give a gift to help others in your community. Here's my short list of possibilities:
  • The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. The seven food banks serving Virginia are asking Governor Kaine and the General Assembly for an emergency grant of $1 million to help them through the winter. Obviously your donation can go a long way! Or, drop off canned goods (you know there are things in your pantry that you'll never use) at grocery stores
  • Perhaps you'd rather give to (or volunteer with) a food pantry that serves meals and provides food directly to folks needing it. Most communities have several of varying sizes and clientele. Two of my favorites are Trinity Church in Staunton and Verona Community Food Pantry (PO Box 187, Verona 24482).
  • The American Red Cross. You can target donations to a local chapter if you wish.
  • The Salvation Army. At least drop your spare change in the Red Kettle. How about donating clothes, coats, toys, household goods, etc. to their store? You can shop there for great bargains, too. Goodwill Industries provides education, training, and other assistance to homeless people and others working to get out of welfare dependency. They also accept donations of clothing and household goods... and more. You can shop at their stores, too.
  • Your local volunteer rescue squad or fire department.
  • The local chapter of the Humane Society or SPCA.
Want to give a gift of charity and let the recipient of the gift pick the charity? Check out You choose the amount and give a Good Card (or email) to a family or friend who then picks their favorite charity from hundreds of worthwhile charities. Social networking with a conscience.
As always, take time to check out any charity you give to. A good source of information on the strength and work of thousands of charities is Charity Navigator.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Playing chicken

The Virginia GOP met over the weekend at a very high priced coop, The Homestead, in Bath County. As expected, Jeff Frederick held on to his chairmanship, but that certainly doesn't mean all the hens are happy. The internal divisions remain sharp as some activists wonder if the divisive and often abrasive young chair can pull the party together in time for the 2009 elections. As Phil Cox, campaign manager for presumptive gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell said, “We can keep doing what we’re doing and we can keep losing.”
Apparently, there was no agreement on Frederick's "Statement of Republican Principles" that all candidates would have to sign to win party support. It sounds like a "loyalty oath" that would likely demand adherence to Frederick's and the ultra-conservatives' views. Hard to know exactly what the document includes and who supports or doesn't support it as the executive committee met behind closed doors.
Meanwhile, there was grousing about the cheap breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, blame for George W. Bush, the media, and others for Gilmore's crushing defeat, and conservative bloggers tilting the table for their guy for A.G., Ken Cuccinelli.
To the east in Charlottesville, that liberal hatchery, the Democratic Party of Virginia was meeting with a far more festive atmosphere. Announcements of inaugural events, smiles, cheers, pats on the back were all the order of the day.
Democrats are blessed with three (or two??) candidates for Governor. Creigh Deeds got moderate applause when he was introduced to speak, and some people had buttons for Brian Moran. Brian stayed in NOVA to attend a family function and was represented at the podium by a surrogate. Terry McAuliffe, who claims he is only exploring a run and will make a decision in early January, also spoke. For now, at least, everyone was friendly and spoke no evil of an opponent. But on NBC29 News a few rotten eggs were thrown when McAuliffe commented that the other two seemed "stuck in the legislature." Detractors called McAuliffe a "carpetbagger," said the DNC didn't make progress until it got rid of "his sorry fanny." A party activist from central Virginia urged McAuliffe to "go away." Cluck, Cluck- there will be broken eggs before we get to the June primary.
By the time the candidates for Lt. Governor, Jody Wagner and Jon Bowerbank, addressed the Democrats, folks were getting ready to wrap up the meeting - so their comments were short. Wagner seemed to have broad support in the room and many learned of her popcorn business, Jody's Popcorn. A blog named Coarse Cracked Corn is clearly impressed! There are rumors (and winks) that the state chair, Richard Cranwell, is considering jumping into the race. That might make for an interesting winter and spring as Wagner has already picked up a number of influential endorsements from Democrats.
Also speaking was candidate for Attorney General, John Fishwick, While many Democrats have heard of him, few know much about him. Vivian Page's blog takes a closer look.
Recited by various speakers were the stats from the election, many of which we've all heard before. First time Virginia has gone blue in a presidential race in 44 years, first time we had two Democratic Senators since the early 70s... the long list of accomplishments of '08 is indeed impressive (and depressing to GOP birds). A few other interesting tidbits - Mark Warner carried all but six localities (a couple of them here in the Valley). Obama improved upon Kerry's percentages in almost every locality. Several Democratic congressional candidates raised more money in their races than Jim Gilmore was able to raise for a statewide race.
On to '09 and kicking the right wing GOP out of one of their last roosts for blocking progress in Virginia - the House of Delegates.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The slowing economy is being felt in the Shenandoah Valley and across Virginia. A few recent examples:
  • Just before Thanksgiving, Valley Building Supply closed its Waynesboro store, laying off 19 people and relocating about half a dozen to their Staunton location. The company blamed the move on the slowdown in building and the economy in general.
  • Intermet Corp, a manufacturer of cast-metal auto parts with a foundry in Radford, may lay off 140 people after the first of the year. And, Acumet Global Technologies will close its Wytheville factory during 2009 with the loss of over 160 jobs. Acumet is a supplier to the auto industry. Most of Virginia's connection to auto manufacturing (about 11,000 jobs) is found in southwest Virginia.
  • Pilgrim's Pride has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after losing $802 million in the 4th quarter. Bankruptcy will allow for a reorganization that will allow them to continue operating and may save most of 700+ jobs at their Broadway plant. They also have scores of growers in Rockingham and surrounding counties. Like others in the poultry industry Pilgrim's Pride has been hammered by rising feed costs.... especially corn!
  • Furniture frame and seating manufacturer, Frank Chevan, will close most Bedford operations and consolidate in Roanoke. Up to 90 jobs may be directly affected. One of Chevan's customers, Hooker Furniture, which is also located in Bedford, has already cut its 270 employees to a 4-day week.
  • Shorewood Packaging will close its plant in northeast Roanoke, costing 45 jobs in mid January. The company makes a variety of consumer packaging products.
In tough economic times some folks look for old fashioned ways to make money. Virginia ABC agents announced they had found the beginning of a moonshine still near Mt. Crawford. An arrest was made after they found two 55 gallon barrels of mash (corn?) and a still. The last moonshine operation discovered in Rockingham County was in 2006 in the Fulks Run area.
Tomorrow, the Labor Department will announce new unemployment numbers. Some analysts predict the loss could be as much as 250,000 jobs nationwide.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Down on the farm

In November, Governor Kaine and his cabinet visited several locations in Augusta County and Staunton. One prominent stop was at Delta Springs Farm in western Augusta County which is known for its environmental stewardship. In this short video, Governor Kaine, Charles Hor, and others discuss modern farming and the benefits of good environmental practices.

The Farm Team

Mary Sue Terry broke the mold (in both senses of the word) of Virginia politics when she was elected attorney general in 1985. The first female to hold that post in Virginia, Mary Sue was an important force in Virginia and Democratic politics during the 1980s and early 1990s. In politics timing can be everything - in 1993 she lost the Governor's Mansion to George Allen during a time when Republicans and conservatives were surging in Virginia. After that loss (for her, for Democrats, and as it turned out, for the commonwealth), Mary Sue returned to her roots in rural Patrick County. She continued to make public appearances and spoke to many groups including a high school graduation here in the central Shenandoah Valley. But, her political involvement was very low key. The Roanoke Times has an interesting article on the political career and life of Mary Sue Terry.
Today, many Virginians would probably say "Mary Sue Who?" It has been 15 years since she left the bright lights of electoral politics. Virginia's population has dramatically changed, too. I don't have the numbers, but a significant portion of the voting age population is too young to remember her or they moved to Virginia in the years since Mary Sue was front page news.
Yes, timing is everything and lots has changed since 1993. Mary Sue Terry is today reemerging as a political force in Virginia. Many political observers thought her election in '85 signaled a new era of women in politics. Yes, some progress has been made as there are more women in local and state offices (see prior post). But, there have been limits - this year, for example, Virginia Democrats made gains in the House of Representatives and bumped off the one woman, Republican Thelma Drake, who had served there.
Mary Sue and a group of influential women have joined together to encourage and help aspiring Democratic women fulfill their political dreams. The Farm Team has a simple mission:
The goal of The Farm team is a simple one: recruit, develop and elect women to office. We hope this website will be a resource for women who aspire to hold elective office and for those who wish to support them.
Visit The Farm Team to learn about its origins, other women (and men) who are involved, upcoming regional meetings, and the resources they are bringing to the table. They are not just talk - as Mary Sue says:
This group is not in the business of tilting at windmills.
The Farm Team has picked one statewide candidate, Jody Wagner, as their first and most visible project. Wagner, a former Treasurer of Virginia and Secretary of Finance, is a candidate for Lt. Governor. Mary Sue might have cracked the glass ceiling in 1985, but Wagner would be just the second woman to hold statewide office. The Farm Team is also recruiting and nurturing candidates for school boards, boards of supervisors, and city councils. They are indeed serious about building a strong farm team that will change Virginia politics forever.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just hatched

State Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel, a Republican from Warrenton, delivered a son on Wednesday morning at the Fauquier Hospital. A sign of changing times - it is believed she is the first sitting member of the General Assembly to give birth. Mother and son are doing fine. Congratulations to the senator and her husband. More.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Are we dumb clucks?

Think you are smarter than a politician? Do you know what is in the First Amendment? How about the role of the Electoral College?
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) is a nonpartisan educational organization whose "purpose is to further in successive generations of college youth a better understanding of the values and institutions that sustain a free and humane society." ISI has developed a short quiz which tests knowledge of government, history, and economics. In a press release earlier this month, ISI said Americans, including elected officials, earned a failing grade on American history and economics. The public got an average score of 49% while elected officials scored 44%. Less than 1% scored an "A."
One might scratch and peck at the questions that are included, or the wording of certain questions, or a hidden agenda of ISI, but the quiz has already prompted editorial comment and discussion. For example, Kathleen Parker wonders if Americans are too ignorant to vote in her recent column, Voters Fail the Test
We could also legitimately ask "Would history have been changed if John McCain had used this basic quiz to vet potential VP candidates?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Golden Eggs

At a time when the national economy and the state budget are in crisis, the news coming out of James Madison University seems to send a very mixed signal. According to the Daily News-Record, JMU President Lynwood Rose received a pay raise of 16.9% this year. The increase of $66,000 brings his total salary with benefits to $456,287. Not included are are a large home and '08 Lincoln provided by the university or health insurance and retirement benefits provided by the state.
President Rose has done a fine job at JMU. According to officials, over $310,000 of that amount is funded by the JMU Foundation. University and college presidents make, and deserve, competitive salaries. The DNR article has details about college presidents' salaries at public and private schools around the commonwealth.
The problem is the perception. The perception is the problem. The Governor and General Assembly are trying to plug a $2.5 billion hole, that may get deeper, in the state budget. JMU has already cut $5.4 million from its budget. For President Rose to receive such a disproportionate pay hike sends the wrong message to everyone - JMU students and parents; JMU faculty and staff, especially those who may lose jobs; donors to the JMU Foundation; the entire community; and to every taxpayer.
President Rose found a goose that laid golden eggs. Perhaps he should consider not taking all of those eggs - at least for now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Axe Is Falling

Seems some Virginia Republicans are already sharpening their axes to lop off the head of Jeff Frederick, chair of the Virginia Republican Party. This video was posted in Jeff Frederick Retreats to the Bunker at The Contemporary Conservative, a Richmond area blog. After all CCC's posts about Frederick, I had to roost it here also. WARNING: Put down your egg basket lest you break them all laughing. h/t to Cobalt6.

Full Nest

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe visited the Waynesboro Democratic Committee last night as part of his statewide tour exploring a run for the Governor's Mansion. He told the party faithful that his rise in politics is similar to Mark Warner's. McAuliffe pointed to his experience in business and nationwide, indeed worldwide, contacts to attract businesses to the commonwealth. There's more in the Augusta Free Press.
For the nomination, McAuliffe is taking on Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Brian Moran. Deeds, who represents a district running from Bath Co. through Rockbridge Co. and across the mountains to Charlottesville, is well known to 6th District Democrats and should enjoy a strong base of support in the region. Deeds just picked up the support of Senator Chap Peterson of Fairfax Co. who is hosting a campaign event for him.
The endorsements are flying and some spurs are coming out as this contest heats up. Since he's also from NOVA, McAuliffe's entry probably threatens Moran more than Deeds, but any time there is a 3-way contest all sorts of things can happen. Feathers may fly at the DVPV quarterly meeting in Charlottesville the first weekend of December!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chopping the Chicken's Head Off

With Virginia turning presidential blue for the first time since 1964 and with the RPV chairman, Jeff Frederick embarrassing many with his hateful rants, some Republicans are questioning if he is the far right guy to head the party.
Influential (in some Republican circles) Kenny Klinge, a lobbyist and longtime GOP activist, has called on Frederick to resign. Saying all that matters are results, Klinge says Frederick lack judgement and maturity, failed to raise needed money, has a poor relationship with the Republican congressional delegation, and has been repudiated by Bob McConnell and others. Klinge concludes that he knows a bad chairman when he sees one and JEFF FREDERICK IS INCAPABLE OF PROVIDING THE LEADERSHIP THAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY NEEDS IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH THESE GOALS IN 2009 [emphasis his]. Klinge's email was apparently received by many Republican activists and forwarded far and wide, we can imagine.
A couple of weeks ago, Republicans in the House of Delegates, met behind closed doors in Glen Allen to lick their wounds and plan for the upcoming state elections. Their pollster and others warned that moving farther to the right, as urged by Frederick and many others, could leave them as the minority party in the House of Delegates. Guess their big elephant ears were deaf to that message as a week later many were calling for cuts to public education and health care - programs that have broad public support. Hey guys, there are lots of Dems who have the GOP backs covered on this one!
Many of the younger generation of Republicans, in the House of Delegates and local committees, are kindred spirits of Frederick's. They love and believe in his in-your-face conservatism. They share generational bonds and don't trust an old bull elephant (Klinge was RPV executive director in the early 1970s!) rushing in and telling the herd what to do. Many of those Jeff Frederick acolytes are found grazing right here in the Shenandoah Valley. Where will their loyalties lie - is it true an elephant never forgets? Or remembers?
Stay tuned. Next month the Virginia GOP meets at The Homestead. Klinge and his allies may push a vote of no-confidence. If they win, Frederick may see resignation as a graceful way to exit stage right. Or, it could mean a formal vote to remove him. The rules give Frederick plenty of hope of avoiding the chopping block - such a vote requires a month notice and a 3/4 vote of the GOP governing body. The RPV could be running around like a chicken with its head chopped off well into 2009.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Talking Turkey

Thanksgiving Week. A time for family, food, and football. We are planning a big spread with grilled/smoked turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn puddin' and limas (aka succotash), and much more. The kids will be home. The wood stove warm. The food and fellowship great.
Thanks. Giving.
While we pause to give THANKS, may you also think about GIVING to those who have lost a job, or been set back by illness, accident, or other misfortune. Your table, like mine, may be overflowing with the abundance of our great country, but that won't be true for some families and many children.
Please consider making a personal or a group donation to a community food pantry, such as the Verona Community Food Pantry (PO Box 187, Verona, VA 24482) that is serving nearly 2000 families in Augusta Co., Staunton, and Waynesboro. A little inquiry should yield names of several in your area. Or, make a donation of money or canned goods to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank that assists those pantries in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia. Support food drives at grocery stores, restaurants, and community organizations.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving. After saying thanks, please remember the Giving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Virtual Corn

A bag of mixed maize today:
Scratch and Sniff   A Richmond judge has ruled that Scott Hoover, a W&L professor, is a "virtual representative" for all Virginians who purchased scratch-off lottery tickets. Hoover applied lessons from his course in business statistics to determine that prizes were seemingly being awarded at a slower pace than the laws of statistics would dictate. He then discovered that the Virginia Lottery was promoting and selling tickets although some of the top prizes had already been awarded. His suit alleges that over a five year period the lottery sold over 26 million tickets for which the big prizes were no longer available. That netted the Virginia Lottery $85 million.
Egg All Over His Face   Cobalt6 has smacked down Rick Howell for his back stabbing commentary in the Roanoke Times. Cliff adroitly rebutted every point the self-appointed howler and wannabe pundit made... or didn't make.
Follow the Corn   Do you know which legislators received donations from beverage distributors? How much did the payday lending parasites donate to your delegate to keep the regulators off their backs? Did your senator go to a Redskins game, big hunt, or theme park on the tab of Dominion Resources or Appalachian Power?
The Virginia Public Access Project has added information about lobbyists' donations and activities designed to win the hearts and minds... err votes... of those who represent us in the General Assembly and executive branch. VPAP's website is easy to navigate and, for the first time, includes lobbyists' spending for a 12 month period ending with April 30.
David Poole, VPAP's executive director said, "VPAP's mission is to take public information that's impenetrable and make it understandable, or at least publicly accessible. It became a natural next step to put these disclosure reports on the site."
Payday lenders? Well, they spent more than any other group, $4 million. Must be nice profits in those $500 loans! The folks at Dominion Resources love their sports so it probably isn't too shocking that they spent thousands on NASCAR and Redskins tickets.
There's more at the Roanoke Times.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Counting Corn

Lawmakers in Richmond are signaling significant cuts to public education, Medicaid, and other services in efforts to off-set a $2.5 billion shortfall in the state's $77 billion two-year budget. Governor Kaine and some lawmakers want to spare public education, or hold cuts to a minimum, but others like Lacey Putney (I-Bedford) said 50% of the budget cannot be exempted.
School Boards and superintendents will be watching closely as the Governor and General Assembly look at specific numbers and proposals in December. With 75% to 80% of a typical school division budget committed to personnel costs, finding big savings during the current budget year will demand tough decisions. 
In times of a tight budget, one does wonder why the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee traveled to the Hotel Roanoke for its annual policy retreat. Don't they have meeting rooms in the newly renovated State Capitol? Would meeting there have saved taxpayers a little money? In times like these, every corn kernel counts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Breaking Eggs

Jeff Price, Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates, District 24, held a roundtable on education issues with teachers in the Rockbridge/Lexington area. I haven't heard much about the discussion, but Jeff is to be applauded for getting an early start learning about one of the most complex and expensive parts of state government. SOLs, LCI, NCLB... it goes on and on. Kudos to Jeff and the folks who took time to meet with him.
A. Gene Hart is seeking the nomination to challenge Matt Lohr for the House of Delegates, District 26. Hart is a Harrisonburg attorney who graduated from UVA Law School and is a veteran. Hart has just started raising campaign contributions and putting together an organization.
Rumors persist that Democrats will field candidates to challenge Chris Saxman and Steve Landes. Guess potential candidates sense the blue tide rising!
The Sixth District Democratic Committee meets tonight and there is rumor of a potential candidate to challenge Bob Goodlatte in 2010 will speak. The echo chamber has the name of Drew Richardson bouncing off the walls. You'll recall that Drew joined the 2008 nomination battle against Sam Rasoul rather late in the game. He got little traction among party activists, in fact, some of the tactics he and his rookie campaign manager used angered many. Rasoul left the door open to another run... for something. So, if Richardson or someone else announces tonight, it will be a shot across his bow, a warning that he's already had his run at the office.
In a related story, Rick Howell, a former member of the Sixth District Committee, used his pen to smack Sam Rasoul after the fact. Howell, who claims to be a Democrat, worked tirelessly to undermine Rasoul since before he was nominated. I suspect the publication of this half baked commentary on the same day that the committee expects to hear from a candidate is more than just happenstance. It would be very interesting if Rick appeared at the meeting - some on the committee are hinting at a resolution booting him from the party. Bigger gonads than Democrats in the U.S. Senate?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trickle down

Virginia's budget woes are trickling down to localities more and more every day. CCC has previously posted on the grist shortage that is impacting local governments, schools, and families. If you are like me, you are being a little more diligent about turning off lights and switching to energy efficient bulbs when the old ones die. We've turned the temp down a couple degrees and are using the wood stove more. Actually, we've done those things already and we never go to Starbucks and rarely go out to eat or the movies. What's left?
Counties and smaller cities across the commonwealth are finding new ways to save a few dollars. Staunton has turned off lights in parking garages during the day and is setting stop lights to blink at night to save electricity. Might also save gas for motorists? The Queen City is also combing public notices in newspaper ads. Bath County is giving a serious look at a four day school week to save on transportation and heating costs. Attendance at the Virginia Association of Counties Conference in Hot Springs was way down as localities trim travel costs. Hiring freezes are in place just about everywhere... most troubling when it affects public safety. There's more in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Rural Localities Stretch Dollars.
Virginia isn't alone in scrambling to deal with the Bush downturn... recession... depression whatever you want to call our current situation. Yeah, I think the word depression is right-on in some communities. The hardest hit states are those which enjoyed housing booms that melted down in the subprime loans - California, Rhode Island, Florida, Arizona, and others. Compounding the situation is rising unemployment just as state unemployment funds are running on empty. States that rely on tourism are struggling. Oil producing states were doing well when oil was well over $100 a barrel, but are hurting as prices have been on a downward slide. And the prospects of a dismal holiday shopping season means less revenue from sales taxes, less part time employment... bad news all around for state and local government.
So, things are tough in Virginia and our localities, but it is worse in other places. The New York Times has more in Facing Deficits, States Get Out Sharper Knives.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Herky Jerky

With deer season upon us, hunters in Virginia will harvest thousands of deer. Some will be filling their freezers and enjoying venison for months. Others will donate deer through Hunters for the Hungry (or call 800.352.4868) which does an outstanding job bringing together hunters, butchers, and food pantries to provide quality meat to folks in need. BTW, Hunters for the Hungry also sells cookbooks, prints, caps, etc. and accepts donations to support this worthwhile program.
Mullins Slaughter House in Stuarts Draft is one of four butchers in the Augusta County area that work with Hunters for the Hungry. The butchers charge a minimum fee for butchering, cutting and wrapping. Last year in Virginia, over 370,000 lbs. of high quality protein, or nearly one and a half million 4 oz. servings, were provided. Check out the News Leader article for more info.
Other hunters will use some of their kill to make deer jerky. Now you can enjoy the joys of jerky with almost any meat, but most popular in the Shenandoah Valley is venison or beef. Traditionally, jerky was sun-dried or smoked but today most people probably use the oven or a dehydrator - which lends a great aroma to the house or garage! A charcoal or electric smoker has the advantage of lending a nice smoky flavor which can be varied with the type of wood used. I've sometimes used a smoker to begin the drying process and then moved the meat to an old forced fan dehydrator that I've had for a quarter of a century and have also used for fruits and veggies. One problem is that the smoker doesn't hold enough!
For me the bottom line is ease of use, consistent quality, and food safety. The dehydrator wins on all three points. I bet newer ones are even better. Let me reemphasize the food safety point - you don't want to get sick from something so good! Follow directions and recipes carefully.
I shouldn't admit this during hunting season, but I actually like beef jerky better. For both venison and beef I prefer whole muscle meat over ground. Prime cuts are nice, but not necessary. On the other hand, I stay away from cuts that are too fatty, stringy, or tough. Look for specials!
You can buy a jerky marinate such as Jim Melton's which is available online or at his shop in the Dayton Farmer's Market. Or, just buy his jerky - excellent but a bit pricy. Plus, for many of us the fun is in the making!
My recipe is less than exact and changes slightly each time depending on my tastes at the moment and what I have in the pantry, but here are the basics for red meats:
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (omit if using smoker)
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (more or less)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper (fine grind)
  • 1 1/2 lbs of beef or venison, thinly sliced across grain
Mix ingredients and place in glass bowl or sealable plastic bag. Add meat. Cover bowl or seal bag and refrigerate for at least 24 to 48 hours, mixing several times. Remove meat and drain excess marinate.
Place in dehydrator (or smoker) and sprinkle with coarse black pepper if desired. Dry following dehydrator instructions. Store in a glass jar or plastic bag.
What's your favorite jerky recipe? Would love for you to post it here. Experimenting is half the fun. The other half is in the eating!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Big Bird in the Valley

Governor Tim Kaine visited the Valley with stops at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center, Woodrow Wilson Birthplace, Blackfriars Theatre, Delta Springs Farm, and the Stonewall Jackson Hotel.
Below, Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press talks with the Governor about the budget shortfall:
At every stop the Governor was ask about the budget and about continuing various programs of importance to Valley tourism, business, and agriculture. In addition to the AFP, there is more coverage and a photo gallery at The News Leader. and a shorter News Virginian article, that focuses more on a possible role for Tim Kaine in the Obama Administration.
It is interesting to note that local members of the General Assembly apparently didn't show up to greet the Governor. While I certainly wasn't at every event, the pictures and stories in the media don't indicate that Senator Hanger, Delegate Saxman, or Delegate Landes were present at any of the events. From what I can tell, there was no partisanship evident at any stop, either by Kaine or members of his cabinet.
A few officials from local government did join the Governor at some events. Staunton City Councilman Bruce Elder is in the video and he, along with Councilman Dave Metz, joined the entourage to Delta Springs Farm in Mount Solon. It surprised everybody to see a green Staunton trolley traveling Freemason Run Rd. and turning in the long drive to the beef and poultry farm. Also at the reception were officials of Farm Credit, the Headwaters Soil & Water Conservation District, the Virginia Turkey Federation, and others. Thought we might see Larry Howdyshell, a member of the Board of Supervisors and farmer who lives just a few miles down the road. But again, no local officials of the Republican persuasion were present at this nonpartisan event.
Before heading to tour a poultry house, Charles Horn described a number of innovations such less tilled land, green cover crops, protection of streams, and management of animal wastes that have earned his farm recognition as an environmental steward. Because of biohazards, only the Governor and cabinet members donned the blue biohazard coveralls and jumped on the trolley for the short drive to walk with the birds. 
Pictures from the Delta Springs Farm tour and all the other day's stops are on the Official Site of Governor Tim Kaine. Scroll down to Staunton Cabinet Community Day on November 13 and click on the links of the events of interest.
A proud day for Belle Rose, the Coarse Cracked Corn and Wheat chicken feed once produced at nearby Swoope Milling Co.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grist shortage

Virginia's newspapers are filled with stories about too little grist in the mills of government. Tight times for families and tight times for state and local government, too. I thought some stimulus might prod us out of the Bush recession... depression? I heard the comedian Rush Limbaugh blaming it on Obama... Limbaugh is right in time for the holidays, a big dumb turkey.
Back to the main point. I guess only the feds can write the checks that might stimulate the economy enough to hopefully at least get it in a holding pattern rather than the downward spiral we've been witnessing this fall. 
Virginia government is tightening its belt to reduce what looks to be about $2.5 billion in red ink. The cuts are trickling down to local governments and showing up in hiring freezes and cuts in services. Some examples:
  • School divisions in the Valley are already cutting back on such things as field trips and instructional supplies. With about 80% of school spending going toward personnel, finding deeper cuts are tough during a school year. Short term, i.e inadequate, fixes could be reducing sports travel, use of facilities after hours, energy savings, etc. If the downturn continues into the spring when the 09-10 school budgets are being crafted, with schools facing 10% or greater cuts from the state, expect no raises for staff, more health insurance cost passed on to the employee, and growing class sizes. Local governments will provide little or no relief and some could cut local funding to boot!
  • Local governments will face shortfalls. Across the state, Virginia Beach is struggling to close a $22 million gap. Other than public safety, the city is putting everything on the chopping block. Closer to home, it was reported on TV that Waynesboro has an across-the-board hiring freeze that does impact the police department. The chief noted that, like most small cities, there are already vacancies and it takes months to get a new hire trained on on the streets.
  • Speaking of public safety, the Virginia State Police Academy has been postponed twice due to lack of money. The General Assembly has authorized over 2000 troopers but has failed to fund 108 of those positions. And that may get worse. The State Police say they need about 600 new troopers for "new crimes" like identity theft, terrorism, and a variety of internet crimes. To meet that need they are diverting officers from traditional duties on highways. Response times have already gone up. Did the speed limit on I-81 just go up?
  • VDOT and many localities say they are "ready" for winter weather, but don't expect the service you've become accustomed to. The cost of chemicals has gone up sharply. Plus, a lot of plowing is done by staff working long hours, i.e. overtime pay. VDOT and cities will cut back on both! Smaller snowfalls will be left to melt on their own. Subdivisions won't get plowed. The biggest changes may be in NOVA which apparently has been getting "enhanced service" that will sharply reduced. The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a cold, snowy winter in Virginia!
  • Our state colleges and universities are looking at sharp cuts that may require internal restructuring down to eliminating many basic office expenses and travel. At Virginia Tech they are anticipating cutting programs and people. They've already planned for budget cuts of 3% to 5% but fear those numbers are just a start. It will be the same at JMU, UVA, and others.
So, across the board it looks like the grinch has stolen the extra grist we thought we put up for the winter. There are rays of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy forecast: Governor Kaine just announced Virginia will have $90 million more (total of $128 million) to help low income families heat their homes. The deadline for applying for assistance has been extended to Dec. 1.
The other ray of hope - 01.20.09.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taking care with words

Several conservative editors in Virginia have taken Governor Tim Kaine to task for saying, in the wake of Obama carrying the state, "Old Virginny is dead." By the editor's accounting, the Governor is bringing up long-dead racism.
"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" was the state song until the late 1990s when it was retired. Although written by a northern black man, James Bland, the lyrics are in the language of slaves... "Massa and Missis." We'll never know, but Bland may well have been a 19th Century Stephen Colbert, skewering racists with their own warped beliefs.
I don't think Governor Kaine had any racist intent in his choice of words. I doubt he has a racist bone in his body. But, he could have disarmed the editors and conservative critics by substituting "Virginia" for "Virginny" or by simply using the term "New Dominion" or something similar. Words matter and it is important for all of us, especially people in places of public trust whether elected or not, to use them carefully. Lesson learned, Governor?
So, when did racism vanish from Virginia? It certainly was alive and well in the 1960s - I still have a KKK flyer I pulled off a telephone pole in my hometown. Racism flourished even after Loving v. Virginia removed it from laws affecting our most intimate relationships. In spite of the huge step of Doug Wilder's election as Governor in 1989, it was still alive and well but not quite so public. By observations of the past week it is still here - one man, when seeing my Obama button outside the polls, screamed in my face, "I'll never vote for his black ass...." And judging by some letters to the editor in couple western Virginia newspapers... I won't even go there.
To anyone who believes racism is dead, I say, "none are so blind as those who will not see." But, tremendous progress has been made since the decades of Jim Crow. Many people - black, white, famous, and not-so-famous have driven stakes in the evil heart of racism in Virginia and everywhere - Mildred Loving did it. So did Doug Wilder. So too, Barack Obama. But, it isn't yet dead.
Yes, words matter. And words can evoke emotions and feelings deeply hidden in our shared heart of darkness. Be careful with words. I hope I've taken my own advice.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thanks but no thanks, Terry

Terry McAuliffe, the former DNC chair and advisor to Hillary Clinton, has filed papers to set up a committee exploring a run for Governor of Virginia. McAuliffe says he'll tour the state over the next two months to assess his prospects. Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Brian Moran are already in the race.
I say, "thanks but no thanks, Terry." You may live in Virginia but you aren't really a Virginian. Creigh and Brian are well steeped in everything Virginia.... issues, policy, facts, and figures. You, Terry, are clueless. I've heard you speak and it was truly inspiring... but you are not the right guy, right now, for Governor.
Terry, take your tour. Virginia is a beautiful state. Have fun. Then withdraw and let Virginia Democrats nominate a candidate who can continue the tradition of a well-managed state government.

Where in the world is Chris?

Where's Chris? Chris Saxman, that is.
Delegate Saxman has been AWOL since his man, McCain, took a drubbing in Virginia last Tuesday. Not only did Virginia go Democratic for the first time since 1964 under his leadership, Saxman's hometown, Staunton turned blue.
Saxman was co-chair of McCain's campaign and had spent weeks discounting the polls and justifying the negative robo-calls that, in the end, may have done more harm than good. He'd dropped the hint that a job in a McCain administration sounded good and he was more than willing to give up his seat in the House of Delegates.
Out at the grist mill there is talk about Delegate Saxman not really being interested in representing this district, but sees it as a stepping stone. He floated his name as a potential candidate for U.S. Senate - that was mostly about getting play in the media and buzz among GOP activists. He's boxed in by Bolling running for Lt. Governor again - yep, Chris really wanted to run for that. With nowhere to go that met his ego, Chris hoped McCain would whisk him away to the nation's capitol.
There is also talk about Saxman being one of the least liked legislators by his colleagues in Richmond. Perhaps it is his self-righteous attitude. There's a hint of arrogance and an unwillingness to compromise. Perhaps that is why he isn't considered a very effective as a legislator.
Residents who journey to Richmond to be citizen-lobbyists report that when pressed on issues with which he disagrees, he is known to change the topic to something totally irrelevant or cut the meeting short - disrespecting his own constituents. He is right and his mind is set in stone, so why waste his valuable time in discussion?
So, as the parties eye the 2009 elections, the speculation that he'll have an opponent isn't too surprising. One name that surfaces is Bruce Elder who previously challenged Saxman and has built a resume on Staunton City Council. There is also talk, without a name as yet, of an individual from Bridgewater who is interested.
It appears Republicans will be challenged throughout their stronghold in the Shenandoah Valley. Jeff Price of Amherst Co. has already announced he'll challenge Ben Cline. And, most Democrats, seeing Valley cities turning blue, expect to nominate candidates to challenge Matt Lohr and Steve Landes as well.
Early prediction: although Democrats won't bump off all of these entrenched incumbents, their new-found strength in Virginia increases their odds of capturing control of the House of Delegates. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

GOP Exit Strategy

All the national right wing pundits are trying to downplay the Obama landslide by saying America is a center-right country. If only Republicans would be more conservative, they'd win more elections.
Of course, much of that talk is pure chicken litter designed to make the losers feel better and the give them some hope to reconstruct the tattered GOP. The reality is that Americans are totally angered with conservative incompetence that brought us Iraq, torture, Katrina, and a recession (or worse)! Americans are also frustrated with lack of progress in dealing with health care financing and a host of other issues.
Local politicians have heard the pundits and are echoing "center-right" at every opportunity. State Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) expressed that view to the News Virginian which reported:
Though a Democrat carried Old Dominion for the first time since 1964, Virginia remains a state right of center.
That’s the assessment of state Sen. Emmett Hanger, the Mount Solon Republican who has endured assaults from within his own party...
Hanger went on to explain that he supported Gilmore as a conservative but that he was too "combative" to appeal to many voters. Stealing a page from Mark Warner, Hanger went on to talk about working across party lines and getting away from the Rovian politics of "warfare." To give Hanger credit, he has in recent years been more bipartisan in tone. But, when he was elected to the Virginia Senate, his campaign engaged in some pretty nasty stuff. Perhaps his tone changed from the vantage point of incumbency and after seeing that many in his party - swacgirl, Kurt, yankee phil, and Anne to name a few, can go even lower in the gutter.
Truth is, the core activists of the Valley GOP are far right. Very far. While Emmett Hanger may be right of center, the swacs see him as a liberal and maybe even a socialist too willing to work with Democrats. Those wingnuts have a pretty good hold on the local GOP committees and in 2011 Hanger will have a hard time winning the nomination. 
Unless they take this "exit strategy." As they are totally disillusioned with America for electing a liberal, radical, socialist, friend of terrorists, and African-American to the White House (I had one person tell me that's why it is called the "White House"), maybe they should just move. And I have a great place: Alaska!
What's good for them in Alaska?
  • Open space - live far away from liberals
  • Sarah Palin.
  • Ted Stevens - master of jailhouse leadership.
  • Books banned in libraries.
  • Drill here, drill now.
  • Todd Palin and his successionist movement. If it is successful, you can ban the Democratic Party.
There is one downer for these right wing fanatics if they take my advice and move to Alaska: they'll live in the most socialist of states. Yep, the State of Alaska takes money (about $6 billion per year) from from oil companies and doles it out equally to each and every resident ($1,200). From each according to his ability, to each according to each according to his need? But, you'll feel better 'cause you'll have the bucks to buy Ann Coulter's latest drivel. 
Let me know when you are ready to go... I'll chip in for some snow shoes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History Made

Yes, we all know that history was made on November 4, 2008 with the election of Barack Obama. But, we all need to remember the milestones in American history that brought us to this point. Some, certainly not all, of those moments:
  • The slave ships that arrived in Jamestown in the early 1600s
  • The election of Abraham Lincoln, a devastating Civil War, and the 13th Amendment
  • Jim Crow
  • Harry Truman desegregating the Armed Forces
  • Brown v. Board of Education and other cases fought and won by the NAACP
  • Jackie Robinson
  • The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s which produced the Civil Rights Acts and, vitally important, the Voting Rights Act that empowered all Americans to participate in their democracy
  • The election of African-Americans to more and more offices at the local, state, and national levels - including the historic election of Doug Wilder as Governor of Virginia.
Sure this list could be longer and more inclusive, but you get the point. Barack Obama's victory is the latest, but not the last, step in our nation's promise to live up to our finest ideals of equality and government of the people, by people, and for the people. "Yes We Can"
Yes, November 4, 2008 will be always remembered as one of the finest moments in American history. But, please remember all the other fine moments that made this day possible.

Monday, November 3, 2008


The national presidential popular vote (which doesn't matter except pride and in creating the "mandate") will be Obama 52%, McCain 47%, with 1% split between various minor party candidates. Those candidates aren't really important except in a handful of very close states where it is possible it could tip things. But, if the popular vote and the electoral vote fail to jive, like happened in 2000, it could really matter!
The Electoral Vote will be Barack Obama 319 and John McCain 219. Two states that I have in the Obama column might flip to McCain, Virginia (13) and Florida (27) bringing his total to 259, still 11 short of 270. On the other hand, Ohio (20) and North Carolina (15) could go for Obama, padding his lead. If the underlying trends are more powerful than the polls are detecting, Obama's electoral vote total may be as high as 353.
Virginia will go for Obama by a margin of 51% to 48%, delivering the state's 13 electoral votes to a Democrat for the first time since 1964. Obama will rack up huge margins in NOVA, Richmond City, Charlottesville, and in some parts of Hampton Roads. He'll also do better in many rural areas than did Kerry and Gore. The remaining 1% will be split between the minor party candidates, with Barr and Baldwin leading that bunch. Most of their votes come from McCain's hide.
The U.S. Senate race in Virginia is a done deal, the only surprise being how big is Mark Warner's win. Warner will carry every congressional district and all but a handful of deep red localities. Final result - Warner 64% (could be higher) and Gilmore 35% (or lower). End of Gilmore's political "misadventure." Possible beginning of a future president in Mark Warner.
What about the makeup of the U.S. Senate? Even if it is a so-so night for Democrats, they'll pick up seven seats in the U.S. Senate. If the wave really washes out incumbents, add two or three to that number. Can you say "FILIBUSTER PROOF." I don't think the Dems quite get that. My prediction is the new Senate will be 58-42... until they kick Lieberman out of the party. Then it is 57-42-1 or 57-43. 
In the House races in Virginia, Democrats will certainly pick up one seat in the 11th District. If voters are in an upset mood, Tom Perriello may knock off Virgil Goode... a very "good" thing. If there are very angry voters, maybe the Dems can pick up one other seat. In the 6th District, Bob Goodlatte will probably keep his seat. Sam Rasoul ran a good issues-oriented race, but Goodlatte's name recognition, PAC money, and flood of TV/radio ads over the final weeks will give him the victory.  My prediction is Goodlatte 55%, Rasoul 42%, and Allen 3%. As I predicted way back in April, other than her hometown, Allen is not a factor and her campaign a complete joke. There has been little polling on this race, so beyond the outcome, it almost impossible to predict percentages. I hope I am way off base and Rasoul pulls off an upset - he's smart, focused, and will represent the voters well... if he gets the chance.
Democrats will gain 28 seats in the House of Representatives. Again, if voters' anger is intense enough, the party of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson will pick up 35 to 40 seats.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Joke Is On Sarah

I was willing to give Sarah Plain (I mean Palin... slip of the typing fingers) the benefit of doubt, but when two Canadian radio comedians can totally fool her into thinking she was talking to Nicholas Sarkozy, we all have to wonder if she's ready for prime time. Even after saying completely absurd things like "from my ass I can see Belgium" and describing Ms. Sarkozy as "hot in bed" Sarah never gets it until the so-called Masked Avengers tell her she's been pranked.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat?

For every piece of sweet candy there is something sour. For every beautiful princess there is a scary witch. For every treat there is a nasty trick.
Treat #1
On top of receiving endorsements from The Roanoke Times and The News Leader, Sam Rasoul also raised over $100K through online donations. I'm proud that a few of those dollars, about .001% as it turns out, came from me. I'm also proud to have done some volunteering on his behalf. It is a remarkable achievement for a candidate in western Virginia. Sam's fundraising success is an especially sweet treat because he, unlike his opponent, refused contributions from PACs, lobbyists, and even from the party which nominated him. It is truly a grassroots campaign.
Trick #1
Bob Goodlatte is running an aggressive TV ad campaign. He would not be spending all that money, all across the district, if he didn't feel threatened. There has been little reliable public polling done in this race, but one has to believe Goodlatte's internal polling is telling him something. The ad I've seen most often makes it appear to be "plain folks" are supporting Bob - in reality the people are local GOP activists like Bill Shirley, the Augusta chair. Is that the guy who got it by default after the Michael/Roller bloodletting? Where's Kurt?
Treat #2
Students at Spotswood High School in Rockingham County went narrowly (112-107) for Barack Obama. Student mock elections don't always predict the percentages of how the general population will vote, but they can illustrate some general trends. In this case, it may well reflect that Obama is faring better in this area than the previous two Democratic presidential nominees. Kerry and Gore both got less than 25% in Rockingham.
Trick #2
True to form, the Daily News-Record's story on the Spotswood Mock Election tricked readers by mostly quoted students supporting McCain who questioned the motives (and intelligence) of their classmates.
Treat #3
Nationwide, Barack Obama defeated John McCain 60% to 35.5% in the Youth Leadership Mock Election that is organized by the Center for Politics at UVA. About 3 million students participated in in this nationwide election. In Virginia, it was very similar with Obama winning 59.72% and McCain 35.56%.
Trick #3
About 5% of the students' votes in the Youth Leadership Mock Election went to various minor party candidates and probably to Homer Simpson and Mickey Mouse. So one can wonder how seriously some students took this instructional activity. On November 4 these candidates will probably get 1% or less. But, I've recently spotted Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin signs in a very Republican area - does this signal conservatives' unease with McCain/Palin?
Treat #4
Chris Saxman says he'd give up his seat in the House of Delegates to serve in a McCain administration.
Trick #4
John McCain would be president. Trick #4.1 Sarah Palin would be vice president.
Now that's some scary stuff for Halloween!