Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recently spotted

A friend recently spotted this billboard on Rt. 11 just inside the northern Staunton city limits. It is visible while driving south. The disclaimer says the Augusta and Staunton Dems paid for it.
In spite of some GOP bloggers saying the local Democratic committees aren't engaged in this race, things like this shout otherwise.
According to one political insider who has seen some polling, the rumblings of discontent about a congressman staying in Congress so long, when he said he wouldn't, is gaining some traction among Valley voters. In fact, she said it is resonating even louder in the wake of the past week's economic and political meltdowns. All long time incumbents seem to have some risk - they've been there for many terms, they got us into this mess, and they seem impotent to fix it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chicken Feed: Candidate Fundraising

The Daily News-Record reports that donations to John McCain and Barack Obama are running pretty close in zip codes beginning with 228 - Harrisonburg, much of Rockingham, a little of Augusta, and parts of Shenandoah and Page. According to the article, McCain raised $39,520 and Obama $36,166 through August from donors in those zips. To put it another way, that is about 52% for McCain and 48% for Obama.
Seems to me this is great news for the Democrats in general and Obama specifically. The area covered by those zips is bright red Republican. Some of the reddest in the Commonwealth. At least in past national elections when GOP candidates could count on 60% to 70% of the donations. Or more. Could all that be changing?
Now, I know that dollars don't vote, but dollars give campaigns the ability to influence the vote. Dollars open campaign headquarters and pay for phone banks. Dollars indicate a level of enthusiasm. A donor talks to friends and family. A donor wins other votes.
It was interesting that a doctor who donated to McCain only did so because he is infatuated with Palin and her anti-choice stand (Gobble... didn't she say she made the "choice" to have this last child? A choice she'd quickly deny other women.). Wonder what he'll do if McCain dumps her from the ticket, as many conservatives are now urging? He didn't seem too enthused about McCain - will he want his $2,300 back?
Valley Republicans have to be concerned about recent trends. They've been squabbling among themselves with bitter divides between the conservative and flat earth groups. The fundraising advantage that they once enjoyed is shrinking. The rapidly disappearing big edge they had in volunteers and enthusiasm. The fact that Democrats don't seem to be intimidated any longer by Republican taunts, bullying, and theft of campaign signs. Yeah, they still have the local newspapers, especially the News-Record, to sound the call for them. But, there is increasing parity between the parties in the Valley - a good ingredient for a robust democracy.
It is amazing what 8 years of incompetence does to a political party. Simply amazing.
Federal candidates have limits on contributions and many other rules they must follow. In Virginia there are few limits other than disclosure. If you want to check federal or state campaign contributions in your area, or contributions from specific industries or interest groups, you might check these sources:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What's your coop like?

So, which presidential candidate is most like Shenandoah Valley voters. Me, myself, and I.... let's see: three vehicles for two people (splurge), but only one house (nice but less than half the value of McCain's cheapest). Does a paper plane count? It is fuel efficient!
It is always interesting listening to Republicans charging that Democrats are elite. It certainly isn't true here in the Valley. Actually the opposite is true. It isn't true of the 2008 presidential candidates either. While the GOP went bonkers over a recent big Hollywood fundraiser for Barack Obama, John McCain is no stranger to Hollywood and raises plenty of money there, too. According to an interview I heard with former (he can't stand the lies and Palin) McCain friend and supporter, Andrew Sullivan, there is no bigger D.C. celebrity hound than John McCain. If there is a party with a sports, or TV, or movie celebrity, John and Cindy McCain will be among the first panting at the door. 
Barack and Michelle Obama have a very nice home and one car. They share space in my paper plane.
Ya know, although Obama is black (well, half black and half white), he and I have far more in common than do John McCain and I. We were both raised in modest circumstances and had to work our way up (he climbed way higher than me). Actually, he probably had a tougher start - at least I had two parents raising me. We've each been married to the same woman (well different women for each of us) for many years. We both live in middle (me) or upper middle (him) class circumstances and share those middle American hopes, dreams, and values.
On the other hand, John McCain is what, in the top 1 to 2% of wealth in the country? Owns more cars and homes than all but the privileged few. Married into to the big money (I am jealous of that) after kind of dumping on his first wife. John McCain and I have little in common. He has almost nothing in common with most folks in the Shenandoah Valley. Not money. Not lifestyle. Not values.
So, how come so many think John McCain is just like them? It is all a carefully crafted image that is a big fat lie. It is all chicken sh*t. Maybe someday voters will look beyond the hype. Maybe?

Blue Birds

Back in August the Augusta, Staunton, and Waynesboro Democrats hosted Paint the Valley Blue at the Frontier Culture Museum. The event was one of the largest Democratic events in the central valley in recent years.
Now the Lexington/Rockbridge Co. Democratic Committee has planned a Go Blue Virginia rally on Tuesday, October 7 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at W & L's Evans Dining Hall. Music will be provided by Robin and Linda Williams. Short speeches. Dinner. Contact Joe Skovira at 540.348.1093 or jskovira@embarqmail.com for more info.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ugly ducklings in our midst

The ugly fact of racism has been raising its hate filled head in the Valley recently. A Barack Obama sign defaced by thugs in Rockingham County. Numerous reports of stolen and vandalized Obama signs in just about every locality up and down the I-81 corridor. Shots fired at an Obama sign in Augusta County. Because other signs of candidates from both parties are left standing and not vandalized, it seems pretty apparent that this goes beyond the normal theft of signs. It is the blind politics of race hate - pure and simple.
Now comes more news about prejudice, workplace intimidation, indeed, racial terrorism in the central Valley. On several occasions in 2007, Doug Mason, a black man, showed up at his job at Massanutten to be "greeted" by a noose. According to an EEOC lawsuit, L.A. Pipeline Construction Co. violated the law by subjecting a black employee to openly displayed nooses and racial slurs at an Elkton worksite. The company was aware of the problems but took no action to prevent it. The Daily News-Record has the stories here and here.
Now comes the story that many area legislators will consider amending Virginia's hate crime law so hanging of a noose is prosecuted in the same way as burning a cross. A burning cross, the most infamous symbol of the KKK, was used to intimidate blacks who spoke out, registered to vote, or in any way tried to assert their rights during the terrible Jim Crow years. A hanging noose was similarly intimidating in an era where the U.S. southern states experienced about a lynching a week. Both are well established symbols of racial hatred designed to threaten or incite violence against a fellow human being simply because of skin color.
Delegate Todd Gilbert says the noose is on par with cross burning.
Delegate Matt Lohr and Senator Mark Obenshain say they will consider amending the law to make penalties for hanging a noose similar to burning a cross. 
Senator Emmett Hanger sees no use for additional laws on this issue, believing there are sufficient remedies available.
I won't post their comments, rationale, and occasional back stepping - you can read it online at the DNR website.
Racism is a problem that begs for more than a legislative solution. In addition to changing Virginia's hate crime laws, this is an issue for the greater society - churches, schools, civic clubs, neighbor to neighbor - we all must act with conscience and conviction. Don't listen to racial jokes. Better yet, correct the "comedian" and tell him or her you find it offensive. If you hear racial slurs, tell the speaker you don't accept such language in your presence. Teach your children that racism is a great moral wrong. Teach them it is an evil to be exorcised from American life.
Teach your children well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Counting Eggs

Saying the complexity and loopholes of our current tax system have made it unfair and have created a huge and oppressive bureaucracy, Sam Rasoul has proposed replacing it with a graduated flat tax. Rasoul says his proposal would be revenue neutral, much simpler for taxpayers, reduce taxes for most households earning less than $50,000, close loopholes that have upper income taxpayers dodging their fair share. Check out the details of Rasoul's plan.
The concept of a flat tax is a often pushed by conservatives and libertarians. If you Google "flat tax" you'll find about 1.1 million hits, many from groups like the Heritage Foundation and Hoover Institution. A primer on the flat tax is on Wikipedia, but as on all online (and other) sources, read with a jaundiced eye. It is important to note that Rasoul's plan is actually a graduated flat tax which has some aspects of a flat tax while retaining several progressively higher tax rates as incomes increase. This compromise is probably more politically palatable than a pure flat tax.
While I'm not ready to endorse a flat tax, or even a graduated flat tax (simplification yes!), I applaud Rasoul for creative thinking and putting tough issues like this one on the table. That alone puts him head and shoulders above his opponent. This should be a topic in their upcoming debate and in future debates that we all hope the incumbent will agree to.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jeff's Soapbox

A new blog, Jeff's Soapbox, has emerged in the Shenandoah Valley and piedmont. The creation of Jeff Price, Jeff's Soapbox promises to discuss rural issues in Amherst, Augusta, Buena Vista, Lexington, and Rockbridge.
CCC first mentioned Jeff Price in an August post, New Bird in the 24th, when there were many reliable rumors that Price would run for the House of Delegates. As he began visiting local Democratic committees, CCC again noted his commitment to party activists that he would indeed be running. Price has now visited all the local committees and held discussions with local leaders about his plans to run. He's also been in contact with candidate recruitment folks at DPVA.
Now, there's Jeff's Soapbox. A way to listen, to communicate, to get the pulse of voters. Well Jeff, welcome to blog world and welcome to politics in the Valley. May your blog get lots of hits and may your campaign be a great success and liberate the 24th from being held hostage.

How Green Is My Valley?

Anne Nielson of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley writes a thoughtful column, Judge Candidates' Environmental Stances, in today's Daily News-Record. If environmental issues matter to you (shouldn't they matter to all of us?) Ms. Nielson's observations deserve our attention. A few tidbits:
  • John McCain formerly supported attempts to cap greenhouse emissions and believes climate change is caused by human activity, but he hasn't mentioned it since winning the nomination (right shift?). However, his running mate said, "...a changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other, I'm not one who would attribute it to being man-made."
  • Jim Gilmore's stance on climate change is unknown, he doesn't talk about it.
  • Barack Obama and Mark Warner support cap-and-trade proposals to limit carbon emissions. In 1986 Joe Biden offered the first bill to limit global warming pollutants.
  • Sam Rasoul "calls on Americans to rally to a national effort to meet ... environmental, security, and employment problems."
  • Bob Goodlatte supported an amendment to K-12 curriculum include "diversity of scientific viewpoints" on human impact on climate change and encourages more coal-fired power plants.
  • Janice Lee Allen's views are unknown except for a vague statement on her website about "creation of a universal organization to monitor pollutants."
There are differences, very real differences, between the candidates. Read Nielson's commentary for more info. Research the candidates' positions. This fowl doesn't want our chicks' futures to be foul. Vote Green.

Green Jobs! Where are the Green Candidates?

Our economy is on the brink. Climate change threatens our globe. On Saturday, September 27, all across America, people will rally for Green Jobs Now! to send the message to politicians of both parties that going green can create good jobs while helping to clean up the environment for future generations.
Going green is good for everybody - and Sam Rasoul knows it. He's been talking about alternative energy sources, green jobs, and growing a sustainable economy throughout the campaign. All the while, his opponent has been virtually silent on the topic.
In Virginia's 6th District, the rally will take place at noon at Monument Terrace in Lynchburg (map). One of the featured speakers will be Sam Rasoul who plans to focus on how going green can help create good jobs throughout the region. If you can join Sam and Green Jobs Now! in Lynchburg, do it. If not, you can learn more about the issues and other ways to be involved at Green Jobs Now!
And, on Election Day, be sure to VOTE GREEN by casting your ballot for Sam Rasoul, Mark Warner, and Barack Obama.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Let the cackling begin

Finally, Bob Goodlatte has agreed to a debate (of sorts) with Sam Rasoul. Hopefully, you'll be able to catch it on WSVA 550 AM at 10:00 AM on October 9. WSVA has a big coverage area, so you should pick it up throughout the northern part of the valley.
At this point, it looks like it will be a radio event (kudos to WSVA) but I am hopeful that a TV debate in front of a live audience is in the future. Nothing quite like voters being able to see the candidates and judge their demeanor as well as their words.
Janice Lee Allen will apparently be included in the WSVA debate, but I'm not really sure why. Her campaign has generated little interest and fewer ideas. Her signs are mostly on VDOT rights-of-way rather than placed by permission on private property.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Counterterrorism czar believes in Obama

Richard Clarke, who was a counterterrorism advisor to both President Bushes as well as President Clinton spoke in Harrisonburg on Sunday. His message was simple: Barack Obama has demonstrated the judgement and independence to be President of the United States. Obama is ready to lead on issues of foreign policy and national security.
Clarke, who is part of a distinguished team of national security advisors to Barack Obama, noted that the Democratic candidate was right on Iraq when it was an unpopular position. Obama's call for timetable for withdrawal, opposed by McCain, was called for by the Iraqi government and recently agreed to by the President Bush.
On issue after issue, Clarke said, Barack Obama has been right; John McCain has been wrong.
Clarke praised Joe Biden's choice as vice president. Biden's background in foreign and military policy will make him a vital part of the White House team. By contrast, other than gazing across the Bering Strait, Sarah Palin has virtually zero background or qualifications that would make her an asset. Clarke believes she was picked for purely partisan political purposes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good
Jim Webb has been named one of the 75 most influential people in America by Esquire magazine. In a wide ranging interview that covers his past careers, his writing, and his current work as a United States Senator we find out more about what makes him tick. The following excerpt is about the issues he sees as currently among the most urgent (the interview was done before last week's collapse of financial markets) facing our nation:
We need to reorient our national security policy, which is a lot more than Iraq. What in classical terms you'd call grand strategy: how we connect with the rest of the world . . . .
Economic fairness. We have calcified along class lines in this country like we haven't seen since Teddy Roosevelt's days. And it's very difficult to get the right kind of discussion going on that -- up here, or anywhere, really. We're doing everything we can to inject that into the debate. And to get some corrections into the body of law that eliminate, basically, special favoritism.
Accountability issues. Infrastructure. We have a decaying infrastructure at a time when so much of our money is going out into other countries where they're building really first class, twenty-first-century infrastructure. We're in danger of becoming a third world economy.
On every single, every single issue that I have to take a vote on up here, we start off with: What's fair? Not which pressure group is calling the most or any of those things. We talk about what is fair to the spectrum involved, what's fair for the country.
Read the entire interview with Senator Jim Webb.
The Bad
My heart almost went out to the lonely boys at the GOP booth at the African-American Festival in Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park. Reflecting the Republican's deep pockets, most likely from lobbyists' donations, they had lots of signs, bumper stickers, buttons and other campaign paraphernalia. Much of the day it was just the two of them and they busied themselves arranging and rearranging things on the table. A few festival goers stopped by, fewer still took anything. They were joined by several other young men and later by the congressman himself who huddled with them for a while before venturing out to shake a few hands. Notably absent were leaders of the local committees. Maybe they'll roost there some today? 
By contrast the Democratic booth had regular traffic and by mid afternoon had run short of Obama signs, bumper stickers, and buttons. Just about everyone who stopped by wanted something and many left a donation. One Democrat commented, "we've got a problem getting enough stuff . . . but what a good problem it is."
Yeah, I almost felt sorry for the lonely boys. Almost.
The Ugly
Bob Goodlatte has received a 2007 grade of F from TheMiddleClass.org which uses analysis of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy to highlight bills that impact the middle class and the aspiring middle class. The site gives detailed background about the legislation and helps voters find the resources to help them influence their representatives.
Goodlatte joined fellow Virginia representatives Thelma Drake, Virgil Goode, Eric Cantor, Tom Davis,  and Randy Forbes with failing grades. He's running at 43% for 2008, on track for another F under even the most lenient grading system! The last time Mr. Goodlatte passed was 2003. You can check out Goodlatte's votes here. It is embarrassing, no make that disgusting, that voters in the 6th district are represented by a man so family unfriendly.
We have a chance to retire Bob by electing Sam Rasoul to the House of Representatives. I can guarantee Sam won't get a failing grade on issues critical to American families. Everything Sam does, from refusing PAC money to taking on tough issues like affordable and accessible health care, speaks to his commitment to average American families.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Green eggs and ham

Who is the Independent Green Party of Virginia? Even after knowing, I'm not sure I know.
Also known as the Indy Green Party, it broke away from the Green Party in 2003. In 2008 they became loosely affiliated with the Independence Party of America. Their key issue seems to be fiscal conservatism (I wonder how they are reacting to today's socialization of the debt of big companies) and rail. They call themselves a "values conservative party" with the slogan "Fiscally Conservative, Socially Responsible" and "More Trains, Less Traffic." They also advocate "more candidates, less apathy" which apparently means they'll work with almost any minor party and independent candidates
It seems their guiding light is Glenda Gail "for rail" Parker, their 2008 nominee for U.S. Senate. Ms. Parker's central issue (one I might find some agreement with) is increasing rail opportunities for moving people and goods. 
The Indy Greens nominated (kind of a loose term because they'll apparently "nominate" about anyone opposed to one of the major parties) a number of candidates for the House of Delegates. Most received very few votes although one or two topped 30%. An Indy Green endorsed, not nominated, candidate for the Loudoun Co. Board of Supervisors won in 2007.
In 2008, the Virginia Indy Greens launched a petition drive to put Michael Bloomberg on the ballot for president (Ron Paul was VP). They got more signatures than needed but Bloomberg declared he was not a candidate. They flirted with the idea of nominating T. Boone Pickens as a way to promote his wind power/natural gas energy plan (which has some interesting aspects). When Pickens shunned them, the party turned to Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party as their nominee.
The Virginia Indy Greens have endorsed five candidates for House of Representatives, including Janice Lee Allen in the 6th district. As noted above, this probably means little since the Indy Greens apparently endorse almost any minor party or independent candidate who talks about fiscal conservatism. Allen is highlighted on the Indy Green website, but I didn't see any indication that she claims them on hers.
On a side note, a veteran Shenandoah Valley political reported told this old bird that talking to Ms. Allen is a frustrating hoot. She apparently jumps around with little focus, talking about an issue and shifting suddenly into some religious jargon, or relating it to something in her past. This particular reporter would just as soon not interview her again. Good luck!

Ballot Birds

The Virginia ballot for President and Vice President will be as follows:
  • Democratic Party - Barack Obama and Joe Biden
  • Republican Party - John McCain and Sarah Palin
  • Independent Green Party - Chuck Baldwin and Darrell Castle
  • Libertarian Party - Bob Barr and Wayne Root
  • Green Party - Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente
  • Independent - Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez
Looks like the guy at the fair seeking signatures for the Constitution Party didn't have much success.
What will the impact of the minor party candidates be on the race in battleground Virginia? Only two tickets, led by Bob Barr and Ralph Nader, enjoy the name recognition and some resources to have any impact. The others might as well not even be on the ballot - cumulatively they'll be lucky to get 1/2% of the vote. 
Ralph Nader is well known and does have a following. He may appeal to some progressive Democrats, but the sense seems to be that most of his former supporters wish he'd just go away. He's been there, done that and sounds like a tired old war horse who is best left out to pasture. Nader will be lucky to get 1%.
On the other hand, Bob Barr has some appeal to the same Republicans who supported Ron Paul in the primaries - an outspoken group who were willing to put their money where their mouth is. As McCain flop flops on issues, some libertarian leaning conservative Republicans will find him totally unacceptable. Barr will have some appeal because he's new on the presidential scene, has media savvy, and because he's outspoken and takes controversial stands. Barr gets a fair amount of publicity for a minor party candidate. It is possible Barr will get 3-4% of the popular vote, all out of McCain's weathered hide. In a tight race, that could make all the difference and help turn Virginia Blue.
In the U.S. Senate race the Virginia ballot will be:
  • Democrat - Mark Warner
  • Republican - Jim Gilmore
  • Independent Green - Gail Parker
  • Libertarian - William Redpath
The two minor party candidate will have almost zero impact and one may wonder why they are even on the ballot. Of course, the same can probably be said about Gilmore.

Peckin' for votes in Waynesboro

Former Mississippi Governor, Ray Mabus, is making a small town tour telling voters "yes, we will" elect Barack Obama. After earlier Thursday stops in Danville and Martinsville, Mabus talked to some 50 Democrats who packed themselves in a classroom at Waynesboro's Rosenwald Community Center.
Using humor and specifics on issues ranging from heath care to veterans, to the economy, Governor Mabus made a compelling case for Barack Obama's election. His personal style seemed to connect with folks, few of whom have been involved in the campaign before Thursday. I predict many left with a new sense of urgency about getting personally involved and spreading the word to friends and neighbors.
Mabus, who knows Bill Clinton well and served as his ambassador to Saudi Arabia, confided to a small group afterwards that President Clinton was a "bit miffed" when he became one of Obama's early supporters and began drumming up support among southern Democrats. But, Mabus noted that Clinton is fully on board with Barack Obama.
If you get a chance to hear Governor Mabus, do it. He is funny, informative, and inspiring. For complete coverage on his visit to Waynesboro, check out the Augusta Free Press.
Also, congressional candidate Sam Rasoul was present and met many new voters before Mabus arrived. He seemed to get a good reception. One newspaper reporter related to a small group that while Rasoul was very accessible, Bob Goodlatte seemed to be dodging the press and canceling interviews. 
H/T: Cobalt6

Big Bird vs Dumb Cluck

Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore debated in front of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce yesterday. With Warner's huge lead in the polls it was expected that Gilmore would try to land a few punches, maybe even a haymaker. Not even close!
Right off the batt, the candidates were asked about the breaking financial crisis. Warner placed the blame squarely on Washington, saying the Bush administration and various regulatory agencies has been "asleep at the switch" over the past six to eight years. Warner suggested a single agency would be better than a "mishmash" of agencies with sometimes conflicting goals and powers.
Gilmore flipped flopped as fast as John McCain has since declaring the economy "fundamentally sound" earlier this week. Gilmore, has long advocated privatization and less regulation, came out for more oversight of the mortgage industry. He missed with his jab when repeating the tired old GOP mantra about Barack Obama raising taxes (yes, you should be worried about paying your fair share if you make more than $250,000 a year).
The candidate's sparred over off-shore oil and other issues, but in the end, Mark Warner emerged the winner as Gilmore never came close to landing a punch. As one of the most successful modern Virginia governors, Warner is known as a straight talking, pragmatic political leader who solves problems across party lines. He has nearly 100% Democratic support and is attracting the vast majority of independents and many Republicans.
On the other hand, Gilmore's tenure as governor was a disaster as he ran the state budget into the ground. His politics of division and fear got him elected once, but won't again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Virginians won't get fooled again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Information is power

Online line information can empower us to take action to better our lives and help us keep up-to-date without driving or spending time going through a phone tree or on hold. Virginia government has two examples of using agency websites to give citizens, the customers, information they need.
The Virginia State Board of Elections has a link that will allow you to check the status of your registration. Simply go to the SBE website and click the big red check mark. Enter your name, birthdate, and locality and your registration status is confirmed. But, there is more than that! Keep clicking and you can find your polling place with directions, which legislative districts you live in, and much more. With over 200,000 newly registered Virginia voters since the first of the year, many may have questions about their registration and other aspect of voting. The SBE website has an abundance of other information about running for office and stats on previous elections. Check it out.
The Virginia Department of Health has a similar abundance of information on food safety, emergency preparedness, tick borne diseases, etc. They recently added a link with information about smoke-free restaurants in each locality. My only gripe - I wish they'd link this right on the main page of VDH rather than bury it under restaurant inspections. Hope they keep it updated as more restaurants go smoke free.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ugly bird

The ugliness of racism has raised its head in the campaign. A large Obama sign near Fulks Run was defaced by vandals who painted "KKK" three times across its face. They also drew a slash across a nearby Mark Warner sign. The Daily News-Record has the full story
There's an informative thread on RocDem about other examples of racism that have emerged in this year's campaign. Much of it apparently coming from conservative groups, like Focus on the Family, that profess "Christian beliefs."
Guess they never read the part about loving thy neighbor . . .

Monday, September 15, 2008

Big Time BBQ

Mark Warner hosted his almost annual BBQ at his 100 acre farm on the banks of the Rappahannock River on Saturday. It was the kind of hot and muggy afternoon where sitting in the shade only gave scant relief from the blazing sun. Occasionally, a whisper of breeze came off the river providing a moment of respite. On such a day, you might expect folks to seek shelter in air conditioning or at the local pool (if it didn't close on Labor Day).
But, on this sultry Saturday in King George County several thousand people from all over Virginia, and beyond, converged on Rappahannock Bend Farm to pay respect to the next U.S. Senator from Virginia and to help him (and us) achieve that goal. Milling around the lawn, they enjoyed fresh squeezed lemonade, sweet tea, draft beer, and conversation. There were activities for kids - a treasure hunt, hay rides, and for those who brought a swim suit, the shallow pool. Spotted among the crowd was our former Waynesboro chair, Marlana Lewis, and her family who traveled from North Carolina to be part of the fun.
Waiting in line for a cold beer, I had a conversation with a couple of middle aged men who quickly introduced themselves as Republicans but "long time Warner supporters." One related how embarrassed he is by his own party's nominee. The other said he was even considering voting for Barack Obama.
Lines for the hot dogs, hamburgers, and BBQ were long but kept moving thanks to an efficient staff. Many were King George youth volunteering to raise money for local ball teams, schools, and charities. The pork BBQ, with two types of traditional sauces, were especially popular and the lines did slow a bit while approaching the pigs who dressed for the occasion, including lipstick. Cluck! Where was the chicken BBQ? 
The line to greet and speak with Mark Warner was always 75 to 100 feet long. Mark greeted each person and took time to share a few words and thoughts. While I (and nearly everyone else) was wilting in the heat, Mark seemed totally unruffled by it and was totally absorbed in conversation with supporters.
Governor Tim Kaine arrived a little late as he'd been at the meeting of the Democratic Party in Fredericksburg and at another event in that bustling city. Quickly a line developed to spend a moment chatting with Tim and his wife. Also spotted nearby was Rep. Bobby Scott talking with a group of supporters from Hampton Roads.
After three hours, belly full and shirt sweat soaked, I had to leave and get on the road home. On the walk back to where we'd parked (acres and acres of cars!) the stream of people just arriving continued on the short walk to the BBQ and their chance to meet with Mark and Tim. I can't remember appreciating air conditioning in the car so much!
I hope Mark had some time with his family and for relaxation on Sunday - he's back on the campaign trail bright and early this morn with breakfast in Charlottesville and a stop in Nelson County. For my part, I'm home reenergized by Mark Warner's dedication to the commonwealth and the people. I'm nauseated by one of his opponent's negative ads I just saw on TV. Inspired by Mark and disgusted by Gilmore, I just made a donation to Mark's campaign and urge you to do likewise.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's debatable

Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore have agreed to a one-hour televised debate on October 3 at 7:00 PM. Roanoke TV station WSLS (Ch. 10) will make the feed available statewide. This will be the third debate between the two, but the first to be televised across the commonwealth. The moderator and format of the debate are still being worked out.
So, now that the Senate candidates have agreed to a debate, how about you, Mr. Goodlatte? Don't you believe the voters of the 6th District deserve the same chance to hear from you and Sam Rasoul? The opportunity to compare your stands? The chance to see you side-by-side and compare your demeanor, your knowledge, and if you will give straight forward answers to difficult questions?
You've been stonewalling, Bob. Trying to run out the election clock. Mr. Rasoul has proposed a series of six debates for the 6th District. It is time for you to step up and meet your opponent and the people of this great district.
Contact Bob. Tell him to agree to no fewer than three debates, with one in each region of the district.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Putting pressure on the old bird

Sam Rasoul is keeping up the pressure on Bob Goodlatte to participate in debates. Rasoul has proposed six debates with two in each of the major regions of the sprawling 6th District. Goodlatte has not agreed to any debates, but his spokesman says he hasn't ruled it out.
As expected, Goodlatte is blaming the congressional schedule for making it hard to agree on debate dates. But, Goodlatte has attended a convention watch party and other events although Congress has yet to recess. Truth is, Goodlatte doesn't want to debate and he'll stall, delay, explain, and complain for as long as he can - at this point he's running the clock out. Goodlatte fears questions about how little he's achieved, his blind partisanship that has him joined at the brain with George Bush, and his broken promise.
To her credit, Janice Lee Allen is calling on Goodlatte to debate. But, with her polling about 3%, her inclusion in a debate would be, at best, a distraction that would take time away from the incumbent and Rasoul - the only individuals with a shot to win. Before getting her own podium, she should demonstrate double digit strength in an independent poll. Ms. Allen got a little free PR on NBC29 tonight. While demonstrating her ability to push in the stakes of a yard sign, she accused Rasoul of being a big taxer (huh? has she even listened to him?), and then out of the blue said "someday there will be no food on the table . . ." (Where did that come from?).
Keep up the pressure Rasoul. The voters deserve to hear the leading candidates in this race. Our democracy demands it!

Chitty chitty bang bang

A few days ago the Virginia State Crime Commission held hearing about the so-called "gun show loophole." The commission investigated the loophole in the aftermath of the horrible shootings at Virginia Tech which led to, among other things, enhanced procedures to identify mentally ill individuals. 
While gun dealers and stores must follow laws requiring background checks of purchasers, sellers at the numerous gun shows that are held throughout the state are deemed "private sellers" and have no such obligation. In this almost totally unregulated environment, purchasers may be mentally ill or have felony convictions and no one is the wiser.
Republicans on the commission made it clear that they will not require individual sellers to do background checks on buyers. With so many individual sellers, it would be cumbersome, impractical and unenforceable. Some suggested that an individual who sells a certain number of guns each year would have the same requirements as a licensed dealer. That too, would be clumsy and enforcement difficult.
The Roanoke Times suggests an approach that has potential to be workable, enforceable, and improve public safety by helping to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. I'll take this idea a step further. The gun show organizer would be like the dealer and individuals at the gun show who wish to make a purchase would have to produce an ID and go through the basic background check. They'd then get a "pass" that, along with an ID, would allow them to purchase guns from sellers at the show. Anyone could come into the gun show but only individuals with the "pass" could make a gun purchase.
Sure there would be ways to dodge the law (there is with any law). Someone could negotiate a deal that would be consummated later on the parking lot out of the back of a pickup. 
I'm sure some would see this as a "huge" inconvenience. But, I think preventing another Virginia Tech or a single murder would be well worth the few extra steps it would take to make that gun purchase. Simply common sense.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

There's something going on here . . . revisited

At the big Paint the Valley Blue event held in mid-August in Staunton, Senator Creigh Deeds was visibly moved by the enthusiasm of nearly 500 Democrats at a BBQ and rally. He exclaimed. "there's something going on here . . . ."
He is right, there does seem to be a bit of a Democratic resurgence in the Valley. PTVB was but one indicator. How about Obama headquarters in Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, and even Bridgewater! Democratic yard signs seem to be in abundance, although I'm hearing about folks being frustrated with the lack of signs available at the HQ. 
Rumors are the Goodlatte folks are a bit surprised at the tenacity and strength of Sam Rasoul's campaign. While early on some Virginia Democrats weren't paying too much attention to the 6th District, Rasoul's ability to put on an aggressive campaign (while not accepting PAC money as his opponent does), has gotten notice. Below Sam and Layaly join Senator Jim Webb in an August event in Harrisonburg.
And, the new found energy in the Democratic Party seems to be already carrying over to 2009 when voters will elect a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and all members of the House of Delegates. Already, Jeff Price of Amherst County has announced he'll seek the Democratic nomination for the 24th House District. Jeff is said to be making the rounds of local committees and beginning fundraising (which is tough in the middle of the '08 election). There are strong rumors of an individual putting out feelers to challenge Steve Landes . . . or was it Chris Saxman? Likewise there is a persistent buzz of Democratic challenges in other districts from Shenandoah County through Roanoke. Many of these candidates are new to politics and have not been overtly partisan in the past.
A common thread runs through all the rumors and buzz - a knowledge that there has to be better way to govern than what the Bush administration or the do-nothing House of Delegates have provided. Government built on consensus and solving problems, rather than division and confrontation. Government that is not blindly partisan. Government that puts people first.
Perhaps it is really true - two party competition is returning to the Shenandoah and Roanoke valleys.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Corn pone, porn pone #3

CCC has several earlier posts about the August obscenity trial in Staunton. Now Dr. Marty Klein, a certified sex therapist, sociologist, and writer has described his visit to Staunton for the trial. He notes he was in town to testify, but I don't recall seeing him in the courtroom, and since the defense didn't put on any witnesses, he clearly didn't take the stand.
Kline's article is on alter.net where he discusses obscenity, local community standards, freedom of expression, and his subsequent visit to Monticello. You can tell, he isn't happy
So people of Staunton, don't shake my hand, don't welcome me to your pretty little town, don't be so damn friendly. I hate what you did to my country last week. You spurned Jefferson, denied Madison, spit on the America you claim you love.
I suspect his won't be the last word, and the Staunton jury won't have the final say, in this legal quagmire.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Registering young chickens

The ACLU of Virginia recently sent a letter to a number of local registrars urging them to allow students to register and to vote in their locality. The letter begins:
The ACLU of Virginia has heard troubling reports that general registrars in some localities have been prohibiting or actively discouraging students from registering to vote at the address where they go to school. With only a month left to register for the upcoming elections, I am writing to urge you to allow students to register in the locality that they consider to be their residence, without subjecting them to extra requirements or questioning.
Kent Willis, the ACLU executive director, then continues by explaining the State Board of Elections requirements and relevant case law.
With a number of colleges in the 6th District, this issue directly affects places like Roanoke, Salem, Lynchburg, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, and Rockingham County. All of those registrars were contacted and I can imagine some clucking about the intrusion!
The ACLU also sent press releases to college newspapers.
The registration deadline is October 6. Hopefully registrars will work with students to assure that all can register in the locality where they are actually residing most of the year - in their college community! Typically, those age 18 to 25 are the lowest voter turnout group. With high interest in this national election, 2008 gives a great opportunity to bring younger voters into this rite and responsibility of citizenship. Requiring them to vote by the cumbersome absentee ballot process, when they actually live at college nine months out of the year, seems to be placing an unreasonable obstacle to that participation. 2008 is, more than with any other voter group, about young voters' futures. Lets encourage them to vote rather than place roadblocks.

Counting the corn

At a pair of press conferences yesterday, Sam Rasoul pledged to being some sanity back to the federal budget. Rasoul said he'd join with other "Blue Dog" Democrats to introduce the "Earmark Eradication Act of 2009" that would end the practice of members requesting targeted federal spending for their district or state. “Balancing our budget is not just a matter of balancing our checkbook, it is a matter of national security,” he said. “We are undermining the viability of our economy by ratcheting up this debt.”
Examples in the 6th district include Goodlatte earmarks of $245K for the farmer's market in Roanoke and $9.5 million for a flood control project on the Roanoke River. Rasoul said such funding should go through a rigorous process to determine their worth and that individual legislators should not be able to add dollars to the budget for pet projects that have little national importance.
Nationally, one of the most notorious national examples is Alaska Senator Steven's "bridge to nowhere." Is that the same bridge Sarah Palin was all for . . . . before she opposed it?
At the Roanoke press conference Rasoul was introduced by Evelyn Bethel, the Roanoke treasurer. Before the conference in Verona, Rasoul was endorsed by Staunton City councilmen Bruce Elder and Ophie Kier.
Bob Goodlatte has called for deficit reduction and getting a handle on the federal deficit, but he's voted with budget busting Bush 99% of the time. And although he's criticized them, he's just as guilty as many other members of Congress of using earmarks.
Bob, this all sounds like a good first question if we can ever get you to agree to a debate with Sam. He's been asking you to talk issues with him and constituents. Now is the time!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Can we trust Bob?

Can we trust Bob? Just before he was first elected, The Roanoke Times reported (May 28, 1992):
Republican congressional candidate Bob Goodlatte says he believes so strongly in term limits that he'll limit himself to 12 years in Washington, even without a constitutional amendment requiring it. "One has to be committed to achieving reforms in Washington," Goodlatte said Wednesday. "I think that simply to say you support something without standing behind it does not carry that weight."
That is one promise Bob has broken not once but several times. This year, Sam Rasoul will help Bob finally become an honest man, truly committed to the reforms he called for to win that first election, and, after 16 long years, standing behind his "strong beliefs."
Can we trust Bob? You decide! Don't be a dumb cluck.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day - Democratic style

Buena Vista Blue is the way I'd describe the traditional Labor Day parade in the small 6th District city. Lots of balloons and signs for Barack Obama, Mark Warner, and Sam Rasoul. Dozens of Democrats joining the parade. Mark Warner and Sam Rasoul zig zagging the street, shaking hands, greeting voters. Great speeches by those candidates plus our 2009 candidates Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran.
A good time was had by all - except for maybe some Republicans, especially lonely Jim.
A couple of great pics from the parade and the start of fall campaign to turn Virginia Blue.
Cobalt6 has more pics and commentary.

Biking the beat

More and more police departments are putting cops on bikes to save gas money, reports The Roanoke Times. While this might be something with new emphasis in the wake of $4 a gallon gas, it certainly isn't new to all police departments.
Officers on bicycles have many other advantages in community-based law enforcement. Officers get to know people in various neighborhood, keep their fingers on the pulse of what is happening, and build a relationship between the department and people on the street. Another plus, an officer on a bike can cut through traffic jams and be more stealthy, perhaps shortening response time and allowing him to come upon illegal activity unnoticed.
There are downsides to police on bikes. Obviously, they can't catch a crook fleeing at high speed nor can they cuff the guy and put him in the back seat. The amount of "police gear" they can carry is limited. Older officers, or those not in fairly good shape, may feel discriminated against. And not all terrain (think about Lynchburg's or Staunton's hills) is conducive to bicycle patrols. Ditto the outlying rural areas - but some residential areas and villages in our counties might be good targets for two-wheelin' cops. Outfit the cruiser with a bike rack, park in the middle of the village and make the rounds via bike. I like it!
On balance, I think police should use more bike patrols in our cities and towns of the Shenandoah Valley. A little more Mayberry would be a good thing.