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.