Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rove on running mates

On Face the Nation in early August, Karl Rove thought Barack Obama would pick Tim Kaine as his running mate. Rove sought to diminish the Virginia governor:
With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he’s been a governor for three years, he’s been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that he’s done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America. And again, with all due respect to Richmond, Virginia, it’s smaller than Chula Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Mesa or Gilbert, Arizona; north Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada. It’s not a big town. So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I’m really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States?
This bird thought an adaption of Rove's quote was appropriate:
With all due respect again to Governor Palin, she's been a governor for less than two years, she's been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that she's done. She was mayor of a small town in Alaska. And again, with all due respect to Wasilla, Alaska, it’s smaller than Chula Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Mesa or Gilbert, Arizona; north Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada. It is about the same size as Bridgewater, Covington or Lexington. It’s not a big town. So if he were to pick Governor Palin, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I’m really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States?
Republicans would be howling if Obama pickcd Tim Kaine. Where is their outrage now?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Picture = 1000 words


Mark Warner has declined an invitation from the League of Women Voters to debate his opponent, Jim Gilmore. The Warner campaign said it could not commit to a specific date by the League's deadline. 
Gilmore and his supporters are accusing Warner of ducking him and the issues. "What is Mark Warner hiding?" asked Gilmore.
While this debate was to have been televised statewide, Mark Warner is hardly "hiding." He previously debated Gilmore at an event sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association and both candidates have committed to a September 18 debate hosted by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce. There are also several events at which the candidates will jointly appear, beginning this weekend with the Labor Day parade and speeches in Buena Vista.
Hopefully, the senatorial candidates can agree to one debate that will be televised statewide. The voters and the commonwealth demand it.
Likewise, Bob Goodlatte should agree to debate challenger Sam Rasoul - hopefully several times, with at least one televised in major markets in the 6th District. Should Janice Lee Allen be included? Only if she can demonstrate sufficient support, at least 10%, in a reputable and independent public opinion poll.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A different kind of Democrat?

Sam Rasoul, the Democratic candidate for House of Representatives in the 6th District, seems to be staking out slightly different turf in his quest to unseat an entrenched incumbent. Rasoul told the Daily News-Record editorial board that his personal and religious views tell him abortion is wrong. However, Rasoul noted that "there is a difference in what I believe is my job as a legislator and what my personal convictions are . . . I don't feel the government should have the right to come and tell, during the first trimester, what [a woman] can or cannot do with her body."
Rasoul's libertarian views about keeping government out of a woman's and a family's decision comes as a refreshing difference from the GOP/Goodlatte mantra that would find government involved in our most personal lives. Many in the Valley are suspicious of "big brother" intrusions and Rasoul's position will find support from many.
Another issue where Rasoul's position resonates with frugal Valley voters is the national debt. With the national debt now at over $9.6 trillion and growing by $1.9 billion a day, Rasoul stands in sharp contrast to Goodlatte. The incumbent talks-the-talk but fails to walk-the-walk on the deficit and debt. He's known for "bringing home the bacon" and supporting Bush's budget busting continuation of the Iraq War. Rasoul vows to fight the special interests that are feeding at the trough of the federal budget and considers our debt to be a "national security" issue.
Rasoul also expressed strong support for public education and said he would oppose vouchers and tax credits. Not only would such schemes undermine public schools, they are simply another special interest grab that will make the deficit worse.
If you look at Rasoul's positions on these and other issues you'll find him an interesting mix of political ideologies. Sometimes more conservative, sometimes more liberal, sometimes libertarian - much like the voters in the 6th District. If elected, Rasoul would seek pragmatic solutions that reflect voters' views. A refreshing change after years of our "representative" marching in lockstep with Bush and the far right elements of the Virginia Republican Party.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

At this moment in our history . . .

Mark Warner rocked the Democratic National Convention and the "Warner Watch Party" I attended. As Warner took the podium the 25 or so folks who had been enjoying friends and food became quiet, intently watching and listening to our former governor and next senator bring Virginia values to the national stage.
Warner had many great lines, but his closing quote from Virginian and founder of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson, captured the essence of this historic turning point in American history. Sorry, I won't cite the quote here. You'll have to watch Warner's great speech to hear, in context, Jefferson's wisdom for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jeepers Peekers

Are you in compliance with the Code of Virginia that establishes a Putative Father Registry? This 2006 law enacted by the Virginia General Assembly is supposed to protect the rights of men who father a child out of wedlock. "How?" you might ask - by having men register the who and when (and lots more) of a sexual encounter. Then, if a child is born because of the liaison and placed for adoption, the commonwealth will notify the father so he can assert his parental rights. Gee dear, that was great sex. Now can I borrow your laptop?
But, the flip side also applies - a failure to register will mean the father waives his parental rights. The Department of Social Services will make little or no attempt to determine a child's father, to notify him about adoption proceedings, or to obtain his consent for an adoption.
Obviously, few men know about the registry and even fewer wish to register their sexual encounters with Big Brother in Richmond. So far, only about 65 men have used the system. Dumb clucks one and all.
There is so much wrong with this law that is is hard to know where to begin. There is no guarantee that information entered online is true. Because the registration includes employment and address information there is potential for abuse and harassment. And how about privacy of everyone, but most especially the hen who might not even know if the rooster registers the ins and outs of their special evening? 
Know the law - check out the details of the Department of Social Services Putative Father Registry and, if you had that special evening, be sure to register. How many eggs have you fertilized?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Judging judges

Virginia is one of only a couple states in which the legislature selects judges. Since judges have set terms (varies by court) with no limits on the number, the legislature also reappoints judges. In cases where the legislature fails to fill a vacancy, or if a vacancy occurs when the legislature is not in session, the governor or circuit court judges (depending on the vacancy) makes the appointment.
Giving legislators this much power over the Virginia judicial system seems to violate our cherished separation of power and checks and balances. The lengthy and clumsy process can also means judgeships are empty for months forcing courts to use substitute or retired judges, delays in cases being heard, and dockets to burst. And justice for all?
The process also creates a potentially unhealthy local political dynamic in which judges get appointed based more on connections with local politicians and bar associations than on experience and expertise. Lawyers, who have rarely seen the inside of courtroom are often appointed to a judgeship where they know little of procedures and processes. Most often, this occurs at the General District and Juvenile & Domestic Relations District courts because they are "entry level." Judges of circuit courts and appellate courts are more often chosen from sitting judges who have a track record. District courts handle most of the cases affecting everyday folks - family and juvenile issues, traffic, civil disputes, minor crimes, etc.
Lest you think there is a shortage of lawyers wanting to be judges, think again. Generally, when a retirement or vacancy is known in advance, there is lots of behind the scenes jockeying to line up political support. Promises are made and campaign donations are probably tallied up. Why would a lawyer take a likely pay cut to become a judge? Perhaps power? Perhaps a change? Perhaps to tap into the Virginia Retirement System which fast tracks judges to full benefits much faster than state employees, teachers, and most others covered by the program.
This year, with control of the General Assembly divided between the parties, vacancies went unfilled. Governor Tim Kaine then made the appointments. Now, House Republican Leader Morgan Griffith is complaining that the governor didn't get input from the House GOP caucus. Of course, Griffith forgets that the hard partisan line taken by the House is partly responsible for the deadlock that resulted in the governor making the appointments. Duh!
Any change to the judicial selection process would require an amendment to the Virginia Constitution, a lengthy and difficult process with many political roadblocks. Models can be found in other states that either elect judges in a nonpartisan elections (nonpartisan but still very political) or have a nonpartisan judicial selection commission. In the federal system judges are appointed, for life, by the president with approval from the Senate. This rooster prefers a nonpartisan commission.
As The Roanoke Times notes, convincing the General Assembly to change the judge selection process will not be easy - politicians rarely want to give up power. But, taking politics (as much as possible) out of what should be an independent branch of government is a good thing (no matter what the politicians say). Hopefully this year's impasse will prompt those very politicians to look at meaningful reforms. Maybe it is an issue we can bring to the forefront in 2009 when we elect a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and all 100 delegates.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

VeepStakes, part one

Barack Obama's selection of Senator Joe Biden as his VP running-mate has many Republicans, even here in the Old Dominion, concerned. Biden has a solid reputation as a straight shooting working class Democrat who will appeal to a broad swath of middle class Americans. Many former Hillary supporters will rally to Biden joining the ticket. His long experience in the Senate and reputation as "big thinker" on foreign and military policy will strengthen the ticket nationally and be a valuable asset in the Obama administration. Like a great president from Illinois, Obama is comfortable with and wants a team of rivals in his inner circle. One last point - Biden sought the presidency, but his age suggests he probably wouldn't run in eight years. Hillary Clinton and her supporters will recognize that her opportunity awaits. I predict that, with his working class roots, his Pennsylvania heritage, and his Catholic upbringing will make Biden a very attractive choice for many Americans. Biden is an excellent choice and one the CCC previously predicted.
As the speculation centered on Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket, Bob Goodlatte was practically begging John McCain to choose a conservative. Goodlatte is smart enough to know that his base in the 6th District is conservative. And those conservatives don't like or trust John McCain. Unless McCain picks someone who will energize this base, many will sit out the election - they won't donate, they won't help, and many won't vote. Locked in his first competitive race in years, Goodlatte is understandably worried. After all, he's holding his nose while running with Jim Gilmore. If the national ticket fails to inspire, Mr. Goodlatte will be hanging out there all alone.
Goodlatte seems especially concerned that McCain will try to pick someone like Joe Lieberman who has been at his side, correcting McCain's numerous misstatements on Iraq and terrorism. Lieberman is a former Democrat, is pro-choice, and seen by many right wingers as a "liberal" on social issues. Another potential choice, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, might be an attempt to off-set Biden's appeal in that state, but he is also pro-choice. Mitt Romney - will born-again Christians vote for a Mormon? Those I know find him a total turn-off. Many conservatives in the 6th might prefer a Mike Huckabee type of candidate. While that might help Bob, it would sink McCain in state after state. Seems there are no good choices for McCain - if he goes right to help right wingers like Bob, he alienates the moderates and independents he needs to have a prayer of winning. If he opts for a moderate, the wingnuts sit out '08.
I might be crowing about my prediction of Biden joining the Obama ticket, but I don't feel nearly so cocky about predicting McCain's choice. There aren't any good ones. McCain is unpredictable. I don't think like a Republican. Thank God. My early guess is that he doesn't pick anyone I've named above - he's gotta roll the dice. I do know McCain doesn't care one bit what will help right wingers like Goodlatte - his "maverick" reputation is mostly earned by stomping on the toes of his own party.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pop Corn

High school football kicks off the 2008 season with a few games tonight. Next week there will be a full schedule of high school games and many colleges will open their seasons. One sign of the impending end of summer.
Barack Obama's visit to Virginia continued for a second day with a stop in Chesterfield County where he was joined by Governor Tim Kaine - which reignited the speculation that Kaine would be Obama's running mate. But in comments to the press, Kaine sounded like he was off the list. He's leaving Friday night for Denver - we'll be watching the radar to see if the plane makes an emergency landing in Springfield!
I only own one house and feel pretty fortunate to have that. My guess is most Virginians are similar. But John McCain has what.... nine houses? Don't ask him, he lost count. Yet, he's a regular guy, one of us. Really? McCain worked hard for what he's gotten. What? Cluck, cluck . . . you say he married it and got free beer to boot.
President Bush has a ranch where he cuts brush and hides from the press. He likes his ranch (also Dad's place in Maine) so much that he's on pace to vacation nearly 500 days during his two terms, passing the former vacationer-in-chief Ronald Reagan who could only manage 436 days off. So John McCain, who has nine houses on seven properties, doesen't have any problem finding a comfortable vacation spot to kick back, take an afternoon nap, and sip a Bud or two. Sounds like he doesn't need 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Welcome to our hen house

Barack Obama campaigned in Virginia yesterday, including stops in Martinsville and Lynchburg. With his town hall meeting at E. C. Glass High School, Obama was in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia.
Sometimes Valley folks think of the district as running along the I-81 corridor from Shenandoah County to Roanoke, but as you can see on the map, it extends onto the foothills to include Lynchburg. Beyond Jerry Falwell (R.I.P) and Liberty University (do they have a course on evolution?), many in the Valley are not too familiar with the "City of Seven Hills" which has about 70,000 residents, an interesting history, and vibrant economy.
The 6th District has several different media markets and you may have missed detailed coverage of Obama's town hall meeting. Check out the links:
Obama's town hall meeting at a high school named for Carter Glass brings to mind some ironies of American and Virginia history. Glass was a newspaper publisher and politician who served in House of Representatives (he was a leader in creating the Federal Reserve), as Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of the Treasury, and as a U. S. Senator. Glass was an ardent segregationist and was an influential leader in the Virginia Constitutional Convention (1901-02) that instituted a poll tax and literacy test to disenfranchise African-Americans. Glass was later a leader in the Byrd Machine that dominated state politics until the 1960s. Glass could never have envisioned the day when "his" Democratic Party would nominate an African-American to run for the highest office in the land.
It ain't your father' or grand father's Democratic Party any more! Cluck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hiding in his coop?

With the entrenched incumbent hiding in his coop and apparently not willing to debate or appear with his challenger, Sam Rasoul has taken matters in his own hands. The Rasoul campaign will sponsor a YouTube debate moderated by the Lynchburg Ledger. All of the candidates have been invited to participate. Residents of the 6th District can submit questions at by September 4. Editors at the newspaper will select which questions to put before the candidates who may respond starting September 6 via YouTube videos.
Come on, Bob. Get out of your coop and have a conversation with your constituents. How many elections has it been since you had to answer some questions and talk about the issues? Cluck, cluck.

Goin' for the grits

Barack Obama and Mark Warner will campaign together in Martinsville. The invitation-only town hall meeting will focus on trade policy and jobs in a region hammered by job losses due to plant closings and moving overseas. The audience will include families and workers impacted by the failures of Bush administration trade policies. Later in the day Obama will join Senator Jim Webb in Lynchburg.
At a hastily called press event by the McCain campaign, retiring Representative Tom Davis, a northern Virginia Republican, bashed Obama for pandering to a community with high unemployment. Davis said Obama lacked the "courage" to come to Fairfax with his trade message. Scratching in the litter, trying to dig up something that sticks - Davis is practicing the politics of division of NOVA versus the Southside region. Glad this bird is flying at the end of this term.
Obama's stops in Virginia mirror Mark Warner's rural strategy that won him the statehouse and will send him to the U.S. Senate. To carry Virginia, a Democrat must do well in regions like the Southide, the Southwest, and the Shenandoah Valley - areas that for too long have been taken for granted by Republicans (who then ignored them once in office) and thought by Democrats as not winnable. By going to Martinsville (can you say NASCAR?) and Lynchburg (ground zero of the Bible belt) Obama is signaling that every Virginia vote counts and that the commonwealth will be a battleground.
I don't read too much in the fact that Governor Tim Kaine will not be joining Obama at these stops. The governor has plenty to deal with on the state budget that is turning red as the national economy continues to falter. A few days ago CCC posted that Kaine's VP star was fading. Some pundits think these Virginia campaign stops signal Kaine is the guy. Not that the budget woes disqualify Kaine, but they have already prompted partisan attacks that may be a distraction. For the reasons expressed earlier, I still think Senator Joe Biden will be crowing in Denver. We'll know soon!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

There's something going on here . . .

Augusta, Staunton, and Waynesboro Democrats Painted the Valley Blue last night at a huge event at the Frontier Culture Museum. As he began speaking, Senator Creigh Deeds exclaimed, "There's something going on here . . ." then went on to explain this was the largest gathering of Democrats in the Augusta County area since he's been in office. Deeds, from Bath County, previously represented the western part of Augusta County in the House of Delegates and is a candidate for governor in 2009. As the News Virginian and The News Leader reported, about 500 area Democrats joined to make a statement - we are in the Valley and we are here to stay.
Other speakers included congressional candidate Sam Rasoul, who drove home the point that true change means getting the special interests out of Washington. Governor Mark Warner addressed the crowd by telephone as he was hobbled by a basketball injury and ordered off his feet for a few days. Warner joked that the doc told him a 53 year old should give up hoops.
Below are a few pictures, with comments, from Paint the Valley Blue. More pics are found at The News Leader's photo gallery. Our friends at Cobalt6 have even more.
Sam Rasoul, candidate for the House of Representatives, tells supporters he plans to change Congress so it works for the people rather than the special interests.
Levar Stoney, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia, took some ribbing for wearing a red shirt to Paint the Valley Blue. He commented to one Democrat, that he wore it to sneak in the GOP leaning Valley, but could see from the numbers of enthusiastic Democrats that it wasn't necessary. Stoney is a JMU graduate and was elected twice as student body president.
Senator Creigh Deeds fires up the crowd to get involved in the November elections. 
The entrance to the Frontier Culture Museum was filled with campaign signs. Many in attendance took signs to place at their homes at the end of the evening.
The decorations were stunning.
As the pavilion began filling and people were finding seats, it became apparent that the color of the evening was blue. A tourist at the museum approached the entrance table saying she wanted to buy some Barack Obama buttons (they are pretty scarce). The ticket takers scrambled to find four and the grateful tourist handed them a check for $400 and wished our campaign in the Valley well. Wow!
Sam Rasoul chats with supporters before the great beef BBQ, baked beans, cole slaw, and all the other fixin's dinner.
Senator Frank Nolen listens intently to the speakers. Nolen held the Augusta Committee together during the lean years and is still instrumental in energizing the party faithful. He later conducted an auction to benefit the local committees.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Polling grist

A WDBJ poll shows the incumbent, Bob Goodlatte, with a large lead over challenger Sam Rasoul in the race for the 6th Congressional District. In the poll conducted by Survey USA of 592 likely voters (MOE ±4%), Goodlate has 59% to Rasoul's 30%. Seven percent are undecided and Janice Lee Allen barely registers at 3%.
Goodlatte, who is seeking his ninth term (he broke his promise to step down after six), has a huge name recognition advantage over Rasoul, which probably accounts for his lead with about 100 days left in the campaign. Rasoul has been conducting a grassroots voter contact campaign to counteract that advantage. While I wouldn't characterize Valley Republicans as "worried," they have certainly taken notice of Rasoul's aggressive campaign and the attention he's been getting. Goodlatte is having to get out and work like he hasn't in a long, long time.
The numbers will tighten after Labor Day when voters pay more attention to the congressional races which often gets lost in the media coverage of the presidential and senatorial contests.
As CCC predicted in earlier posts, Janice Lee Allen is barely a blip on the radar screen. Three percent may be her high point.
Any word of possible debates between Goodlatte and Rasoul? Last week's 5th District debate between Virgil Goode and Tom Periello is getting attention - a good thing for voters and our democracy. Hope to see something similar here in the 6th District.

Flying with big birds

A couple weeks ago CCC posted speculation about Jody Wagner as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. Yesterday she made it official and has launched a campaign website.
Although she joins the race for the Democratic nomination months after Jon Bowerbank, a Russell County supervisor, she has been flying with the big birds of Virginia Democratic politics. Wagner was state treasurer in Mark Warner's administration and secretary of finance in Tim Kaine's. Her background, credentials, and statewide connections are eggsactly the pedigree that CCC believes makes her the favorite in this race.
Republican Bill Bolling, who will seek reelection as lieutenant governor, was quick to begin the name-calling. His campaign spokesman cackled that Wagner is another "liberal Democrat."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Corn pone, porn pone #2

I'll admit I am a bit surprised that the jury convicted the owner and the corporation of selling obscenity. I just didn't think the prosecution put on a very strong case and I figured it would be hard to get 7 jurors to agree in such a controversial case and topic. But, there were several things yet unknown in yesterday's post.
  • The defense team didn't put on any defense. True, they were limited by some of the judge's rulings (couldn't tell of internet access, for example), but I (and many other courtroom observers) found it quite surprising that they offered no evidence and no testimony. For example, they could have put on a therapist who would testify about the use of sexually explicit videos in marriages with sexual dysfunction issues. They could have put on the owners of Pamela's Secrets in Harrisonburg and found out why the advertise in The News Leader nearly every day. They could have . . . . but they didn't. Overconfidence? Arrogance? Did they think they'd so totally dismantled the Commonwealth's case they didn't need to present their own? 
  • The second DVD was "pretty rough" in the words of one deputy who saw parts. Anal followed by oral intercourse. Simultaneous multiple penetrations. I can imagine all the jurors were sufficiently shocked and didn't find any scientific, education, political, or any other value in the raw edged animalistic sex. It was this DVD which got the convictions.
  • Ray Robertson, once he got warmed up, made a passionate moral plea about Staunton being a special place that they had an opportunity to preserve. The jurors seemed very intent on his words. 
Appeals will certainly follow and in a case with so many contested rulings by the judge, etc. the defense will find numerous grounds to take the case to the next level. But for now, the entire highly touted defense team has to be wondering where they screwed up and what to do next. As for Rick Krial, the owner of After Hours, he must be wondering what the f*^$ happened.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Corn pone, porn pone

Belle Rose has spent about a day and a half observing the so-called "Porn Trial" in Staunton Circuit Court. You can check out the media's reports at The News Leader, the News Virginian, NBC29 or TV3. Will probably return tomorrow.
Rather than relate the "facts" I'll just scratch around with the dirty birds. First, my bias - I'm almost an absolutist on the First Amendment freedoms of expression. Certainly child porn is not protected but I believe consenting adults have the right to read, view, see, hear pretty much anything else. While there may be other restrictions, this post will focus on obscenity and pornography issues, not things like national security or slander.
A few pieces of grit:
  • While you never know how a jury will react and decide a case, the Commonwealth's Attorney, Ray Robertson has a weak case and is out gunned at practically every turn. One "star" witness, retired police chief Butch Wells, was rejected by Judge Wood as an expert/qualified witness on the topic of contemporary community standards/views on obscenity. The judge applauded Mr. Wells' honesty and insights into the community he served for over 30 years, but agreed with the defense that he was not an expert nor did he have special insights that qualified him. The jurors themselves will the the standard bearers for what are the community's views on adult sexual materials, obscenity, etc.
  • The jurors spent nearly four hours viewing two DVDs that Mr. Robertson thinks are obscene. The screen was turned so that the jurors, the judge, the lawyers, and bailiffs could view the videos. The audience listened to moans, groans, sexual talk sprinkled with some dirty words - but saw nothing. It was surreal and pretty boring for the audience. I was a little surprised that a few in the audience whispered and there were some grins - all of which the jurors could see if they looked away from the screen.
  • The jurors did a great job paying attention without too much visible emotional response. There are three female and four male jurors. I'm no judge of age, but two of the men are clearly senior citizens, one seems to be in his 50s, and the other about thirty. All of the women seem middle aged. I watched a young reporter writing down every move - a scratched nose, a yawn, looking away, or a slight grin. My observation is they were at various times shocked, bored, sleepy, amused, and by the end of the day numb.
  • The defense will probably put on quite a show with a variety of witnesses on the First Amendment, the Miller case and other decisions shaping the legal definition of obscenity, and on "community standards." Since the prosecution seemed somewhat ill-prepared on these so far, I imagine the next day will be interesting as Robertson stumbles into his cross examination. 
  • For all the news coverage and supposed interest in the case against After Hours Video, its owner and an employee, the courtroom is basically empty. TV and print media account for about half of the audience that usually numbers in the mid teens (people can come and go at any time). There were several senior citizens who appeared to me to be part of a church or other anti-porn group, but I really don't know who they were. A few employees of law offices and police officers make up most of the rest of the audience.
  • To most objective observers, Ray Robertson has a hollow case so he must have some political or hard core personal moral motive. But, is it worth getting your clock cleaned in the courtroom and your reputation as a prosecutor sullied? Wasted dollars. Wasted police time. Wasted court time. Am I also wasting my time?
The defense begins its case tomorrow and perhaps we'll have a decision by the weekend. Or not? Maybe the jury will return guilty verdicts, but I think the very best the prosecution can hope for is a hung jury.  Ray Robertson has misrepresented the good people of Staunton.

A Virginia VeepStakes - Nope!

Barack Obama has been in Hawaii for a little R&R and a lot of preparing for the convention and the selection of the VP. A couple of Virginians are figuring prominently in those plans.
Mark Warner will be the keynote speaker. A great opportunity for Governor Warner to showcase himself nationally and to promote the kind of centrist, pragmatic approach that made him a successful governor and that will elect him to the U.S. Senate by a landslide. Yes, it will be a 15-20 percentage point win! Or more.
The selection of Warner to deliver the keynote address is probably a signal that Governor Tim Kaine's chances to be selected VP are quickly dimming. It seems pretty unlikely that two Virginian governors would figure so prominently at the Democratic Convention. The grist mill says Kaine has seemed a little glum in the last few days. Cluck.
While Kaine certainly remains in the very short list of potential Obama running mates, two senators are, I believe, more likely choices - Evan Bayh and Joe Biden.
Senator Bayh campaigned with Obama last week and as a former Clinton supporter might bring some of her supporters on board. He's a solid choice from the heartland and probably a safe choice for the ticket. But, is he a compelling choice? And, with a Republican governor poised to appoint a replacement, the political calculus of the U.S. Senate may weigh more heavily on the decision.
With the Russian invasion of Georgia and international issues, at least for now trumping the economy, Senator Biden's expertise in foreign and military policy might be much more appealing to Obama. Biden is a bit of a loose cannon and has been known to let his mouth get him in political trouble, but there is little doubt he is one of the finest minds on international issues, connecting the dots, and seeing the big picture. Senator Biden has been pretty quiet recently - not wanting to insert foot? Another plus for Biden is the fact that Delaware's governor is a Democrat.
This bird doesn't gamble, but if I did I'd be betting on Joe Biden as Barack Obama's running mate. Of course, I like my crow with Tabasco sauce.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Corn on the cob

Sweet corn is showing up at farmer's markets and farm stands. Nice time of the year.
The "porn trial" started in Staunton today - jury selection was the main thing on the court's docket today. By lunch break three jurors - one man and two women - had been selected. Since this is a misdemeanor trial, seven jurors are needed. Guess they'll get into opening statements and calling witnesses tomorrow, if jury selection concludes today.
A group called Virginia Veterans for Obama has a online petition - Congressman Bob Goodlatte Does Not Support Our Veterans. Recently the congressman sent a mailing falsely claiming he had supported Senator Jim Webb's G.I. Bill:
“Recently, the Congress passed, with my support, important legislation that expands the education benefits for our returning service members.”
Mr. Goodlatte actually opposed the bill and only voted for it to save face after the provisions were included in war funding legislation. If you believe that Mr. Goodlatte should fess up to false statements made during his reelection campaign, sign the petition.
Flowers bloom in the spring, campaign signs in the fall. This year they've been popping up earlier than in some elections as more and more are appearing well before the traditional Labor Day campaign kick-off. Signs don't vote or win elections, but they can give a sense party activism and, if you know whose yard it is, a notion of where support of coming from.
Because he spent a year running for the Democratic nomination, Sam Rasoul's signs have been spotted around the district for months. They even caused a bit of a stir in Botetourt County back in April. In July, Goodlatte signs started appearing, first in the southern end of the district and later in the more northern areas. A big Goodlatte sign on church property caused a controversy and was removed. Bet there are more instances of this around the district. Although I've passed through her hometown of Bridgewater several times recently, I've only spotted one Janice Lee Allen sign, which was actually on Rt. 11 near Verona. Her campaign may have gone mort. 
Other than on properties of a few well known fanatical GOPites, I have yet to see a Gilmore sign legally in a yard - but many have been planted in VDOT right-of-ways. On the other hand, I've counted a fair number of Mark Warner signs, some at homes where Democratic signs are not the norm.
Barack Obama signs are scarce as hen's teeth at the area headquarters. Rumor is that the campaign is waiting on a VP name before printing new signs and bumper stickers. Still, you can spot them throughout Rockingham and Augusta counties. There have been a few letters to the editor in the DNR complaining of stolen Obama signs. A few McCain signs are beginning to appear - most clustered with other Republican signs.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cluck, cluck, cluck

Three stories caught my eye today - each about a different, but perhaps overlapping political/economic trend affecting the Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.
Cluck No. 1
According to the Tax Foundation, the state/local tax burden on Virginian's has crept up to its highest level in about 30 years. Virginia currently ranks 18th out of 50, which according to the foundation, places the state firmly in the middle. In 1993 the commonwealth had its lowest ranking at 35. New Jersey is No. 1 followed by New York. On average, Americans pay 9.7% of income in state/local taxes, in Virginia it is 9.8%.
Republicans will probably squawk about the new numbers and attempt to use them for political gain against Mark Warner and in next year's House of Delegates and gubernatorial races. But, their cackling will probably sound hollow considering that Virginia ranks high in per capita wealth, the state gets high marks for sound fiscal management, and enjoys a record for keeping the tax burden fairly stable. Some state's have wild swings from year to year depending on the economy. 
Tax burdens can vary widely by locality with huge differences in land values and tax rates. I suspect the tax burden in most of the Valley of Virginia is among the lowest in the commonwealth.
Cluck No. 2
The value of Virginia farmland far exceeds the national average and is the highest among neighboring states. The average agricultural acre in Virginia is valued at $5,900 (includes improvements) while the U.S. average is $2,350. In North Carolina it is $4,800 and West Virginia lags the region at $2,700. Various factors can influence values which can differ widely in different parts of the state. Some acres are simply better for crops or pasture than other acres. Analysts also point to high crop prices, favorable tax rates (land use taxation in Virginia), and lower interest rates. Prices are also driven up by development - in Virginia's northern Piedmont and Chesapeake Bay regions and parts of the Valley growth is certainly impacting values. Pretty basic supply and demand - eggs get more expensive when the hens aren't laying.
Cluck No. 3
The Rockingham County Fair is going green with recycling receptacles for aluminum and plastic, a "Green Tent" with recycling displays and information, and just outside of gate 4, the nonprofit Computer Recycling of Virginia will accept computers and small electronics for free. TVs and larger appliances will not be accepted. Recycling is one the easiest things the average family can do to protect the environment - the fair's emphasis on going green is something to crow about. Good job Rockingham County Fair! 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Flying High

The times are indeed, changin'. The News Leader's editorial, "Red state, blue state," notes that in the not so distant past, the lack of electoral competition in the Shenandoah Valley meant that area voters were often taken for granted. Confident Republicans rarely campaigned here while intimidated Democrats thought it was a "waste of time and money." 
Virginia has been trending blue for several election cycles - the statewide elections of Mark Warner, Jim Webb, and Tim Kaine as well as Democrats recapturing a majority in the Virginia Senate and gaining seats in the House of Delegates are ample evidence. Change sometimes comes more slowly to the Valley. But, with the opening of Obama headquarters in Staunton and Harrisonburg, with high energy local committees recruiting volunteers and organizing events like Paint the Valley Blue, and with a energetic campaign by congressional candidate Sam Rasoul, it is clear that two party competition is back! That is good for voters and good for democracy.
The strong competition has spawned exciting creativity as illustrated in this new sign.
Want one of these limited edition signs of your own? Email for info.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Bird in the 24th

Rumor in the corn mill is that Jeff Price of Amherst County is preparing to seek the Democratic Party nomination for the 24th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. The district includes all of Rockbridge County; the Cities of Buena Vista and Lexington; part of Amherst County comprised of the New Glasgow, Courthouse, Temperance, Monroe, Elon, Pleasant View, Amelon, and Madison Precincts; and part of Augusta County comprised of the Middlebrook, Spottswood, White Hill, and Sherando Precincts. The seat is currently held by Ben Cline
Price is director of marketing & sales at Virginia Lime Works, a family-owned business in Madison Heights, Virginia, specializing in lime mortars, cements, stucco, paints, and related products used in renovation and restoration of historic properties. Price's website is currently under development, but a link subscribes you to his email list.
Cline is part of the House GOP conservative bloc that obstructed solutions for Virginia's transportation problems in the recent special session. He usually votes the party line, even when contrary to the needs of his constituents.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lonely Bird

One of the quietest booths at the Augusta County Fair has to be the Constitution Party. The coyote hunter is a close second.
The Constitution Party is attempting to get the 10,000 signatures needed to be on the Virginia ballot this November. The deadline is noon on August 22. According to their website, they've collected 9,000 signatures, but it doesn't appear they are adding many more at the Augusta County Fair. For one thing, the guy basically waits for fairgoers to come to him and few seem to be doing so. They just don't give a cluck. Also, you need more signatures than required since some will be declared invalid for not being registered voters and for other reasons. The party claims to be on the ballot in about half the states.
The Constitution Party's nominee is "Dr." Chuck Baldwin, a minister who attended Liberty Bible Institute at Liberty University. He holds two honorary doctorate degrees. Mr. Baldwin founded Crossroads Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida and is a conservative radio talk show host. The church boasts that it has hosted speakers such as the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, and former Ambassador Alan Keyes.
Never heard of the Constitution Party? Their "Seven Principles" are:
  1. Life: For all human beings, from conception to natural death;
  2. Liberty: Freedom of conscience and actions for the self-governed individual; 
  3. Family: One husband and one wife with their children as divinely instituted;
  4. Property: Each individual's right to own and steward personal property without government burden;
  5. Constitution: and Bill of Rights interpreted according to the actual intent of the Founding Fathers;
  6. States' Rights: Everything not specifically delegated by the Constitution to the federal government is reserved for the state and local jurisdictions;
  7. American Sovereignty: American government committed to the protection of the borders, trade, and common defense of Americans, and not entangled in foreign alliances.
Hum, which faction of which party should these guys be roosting in?
Also seeking a spot on the ballot in Virginia and across the country are Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, and independent Ralph Nader. Nader (so been there, done that) is attempting to get on ballots in 45 states and claims to be on 28 already and has finished his petition drive in Virginia. Some political pundits think Barr could attract 2-3% of conservative Republican voters if he is successful at getting on the ballot.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Terms of endearment?

Yesterday, a caller on WSVA's "Candid Comment" asked how can we get term limits for members of Congress? He didn't seem to know the process, but he was absolutely right about the difficulty. The 6th district's own congressman, Bob Goodlatte is a great example of why implementing term limits will be so tough.
The Constitution places no limits on the number of terms or years that members of Congress may serve. Terms cannot be limited by a simple bill, it could only be done by a constitutional amendment and that is tough two-step process:
  1. Amendments may be proposed by a 2/3s vote of each house of Congress (the very people we are trying to limit) or by a national convention called by Congress at the request of 2/3s of the state legislatures. The national convention route has never been used to propose an amendment; but more on that in a moment.
  2. After being proposed, amendments must be ratified by legislatures in 3/4s of the states or by conventions in 3/4s of the states (Congress picks the method of ratification; all except the 21st Amendment have been ratified by state legislatures).
So, the process of amending the Constitution, with supermajorities and multiple steps, makes formal changes to our fundamental law unlikely. Indeed, we've only had 27 amendments in over 200 years and the first ten, the Bill of Rights, may almost be considered part of the original Constitution, a few others corrected flaws (12th, for example), and two off-set each other (18th and 21st). This is as is should be - changing the Constitution should only occur with very broad consensus of both national and state governments and the people.
Back to the national convention method of proposing amendments, which has never been done. This method has been, and could again be used, to put some pressure on our national legislature. If a large number of state legislatures petitioned Congress to call a national convention on term limits, it may pressure Congress to act on its own (I seriously doubt they'd call a national convention). This was part of the process in getting the 17th Amendment proposed and in forcing Congress to pass the Graham-Rudman-Hollings Act (supposed to control deficits, but part was unconstitutional so it obviously wasn't effective). But, it may be tough to get state legislators to push such a proposal since, by implication, voters may want term limits for them, too!
Now back to Bob Goodlatte and how does he represent the problem with getting an amendment on term limits? When he was first running for Congress, Goodlatte advocated term limits. It was part of the Republican Contract with America. Of course, once in office and with Republicans holding the majority, the zeal for term limits faded. Goodlatte didn't push it. The joint resolution did come to a vote in the House of Representatives barely getting a majority and nowhere close to the 2/3s needed.
Goodlatte also promised that, even without constitutional limits, he'd only serve six terms. Of course, he's broken that promise to his constituents and is breaking it again by running for re-election in 2008. He's running with huge financial support of PACs, which helps perpetuate long tenures of office and separates legislators from the very people they were supposed to represent.
So, as long as the fox is guarding the henhouse, it is unlikely we'll see the kinds of reforms that will truly change the way Congress, and our democracy, works. This alone is enough reason to support Sam Rasoul for House of Representatives.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A fair day

It is county fair season. White eggs, brown eggs; Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns, and many other breeds of chicken will be on display at fairs all over rural Virginia. Fairs reach back into our agricultural roots, provide rides and amusements to kids, live entertainment, and serve up fresh lemonade, BBQ, and funnel cakes.
Albemarle County fair was last week - weather was good, but organizers were disappointed by turnout. Could it be that the age of the county fair is passing, diminished by suburbia, satellite TV, MySpace, and video gaming? Plus, during a tough economy, the entrance fee, charges for rides, and fairly expensive food makes for a costly family night out.  Augusta's fair is this week and from the program and long list of exhibitors it appears to have grown. Time will tell if attendance will follow. The weather looks cooperative. Many fairgoers think the Rockingham County Fair, next week, is the gold standard of county fairs in Virginia.
Fairs are also political events with local parties setting up booths and candidates working the crowds. I'm not sure how well balloons and bumper stickers competes with chickens, canned veggies, cows, and kiddie rides, but the politicos are working hard. One new aspect of fair politics is the Obama folks looking for new voters to register. You can spot them with an Obama button and a clipboard working the crowds around popular displays and events. With a close race expected in November, newly registered voters (if they vote), could make all the difference. The Obama folks are confident that they will get them to the polls.
Other grist
Rumor is the Obama campaign, which just opened offices in Harrisonburg and Staunton, may open part time offices in Lexington and Bridgewater. They have recruited a big volunteer base. Now, that's grassroots! Pecking for votes all over the 6th district!
Another rumor is the McCain campaign will respond by opening a HQ in Harrisonburg. This should be safe turf for a Republican and even the rumor of this office is an admission of how much trouble McCain and the Republicans are in.
The Gilmore campaign continues wallowing in chicken litter. The other day at an event in Culpepper, only 12 people showed up. A similar thing happened on his recent trip along I-81. Several stops were at businesses where he had a captive audience; those that weren't attracted little attention. Local Democrats are reporting that well-known Republicans are actually coming by and asking for Mark Warner yard signs and bumper stickers. Rumors are flying like feathers that Gilmore's donors are disappearing and his quest for party money will be like scratching for a bug in dry dirt.
Finally, Chris Saxman and Matt Lohr held a press conference in Harrisonburg to talk about ethanol and talk about McCain's energy policy. CCC has discussed ethanol in several earlier posts. Senators Webb and Warner recently asked the EPA to back off the ethanol mandates to ease the pressure on corn as poultry and livestock feed. So, nothing really new from the two McCain surrogates. What interested this bird were the visual images on TV3 and in the DNR - on TV3 the shot was tight and showed Saxman, Lohr, and about three others. The front page pic in the DNR looked like Lohr lost in a cornfield. My guess it they were mostly talking to themselves. Cluck.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Registered chickens

An article in the Washington Post points out one reason Virginia Republicans are increasingly nervous about the November election - since January, over 147,000 people have registered to vote and more than half are under the age of 25. The increase is unprecedented and most observers believe it is the result of enthusiasm for Barack Obama and vigorous grassroots efforts by his campaign and other Democratic groups' to reach out to new and younger voters. That effort can be seen in the Obama campaign opening nearly 30 offices across the state.
The voter registration increases are seen throughout the Shenandoah Valley as well. For example, Augusta County registrations increased from 40,405 in January to 41,329 in July. And that was before the Obama campaign opened offices in Staunton and Harrisonburg.
The Republican reaction is, of course, more fear mongering. The GOP state chair, Jeff Frederick, says it is "coordinated and widespread voter fraud" and talks about corruption, identity theft, and tainted registrations. He offers no substantive proof of such allegations, preferring instead to use one or two isolated examples along with vague suggestions, innuendo, and the language of fear.
Voter registrars and electoral boards across the commonwealth see absolutely no evidence of an increase in fraudulent registrations or other problems Mr. Frederick cites. The Republicans and their lying friends on the wingnut blogs are deep into the politics of desperation.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Flying High

Virginia's Secretary of Finance, Jody Wagner, has resigned effective at the end of next week. Saying she enjoyed the job, Wagner says she will look into "other options," thought to be a run for Lt. Governor.
Jon Bowerbank, a member of the Russell County Board of Supervisors, has already announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor. Bowerbank has run an aggressive early campaign, calling local party activists, politickin' at the State Convention, and mailing literature to local leaders. While he's gotten his name "out there" to some extent it has been lost in all the excitement surrounding Obama, Warner, and the spirited congressional races around the state.
Ms. Wagner, 52, is an attorney from Norfolk and is one smart lady. I knew her personally through a series of political events about 15 years ago and it was clear, even then, she was on the way up in Virginia politics. I've followed her rise in government since that time. So, even though Mr. Bowerbank has a head start, if Jody enters the race, we can expect a spirited battle. 

Friday, August 1, 2008


Top Business Bird
According to Forbes, Virginia ranks 1st as the "Best State for Business," a spot it has held for three years. Virginia's lead over Utah, Washington, North Carolina, and Georgia (which jumped from 15th) is razor thin. Virginia was lauded for a good regulatory environment, lower energy costs, and and educated labor force. Areas where Virginia "declined" are in prospects for future growth and in business costs.
When a politician tells you that Virginia has burdensome regulations on small business, it isn't necessarily so. Could it be that the lack of regulations is why many of the state's rivers and the Chesapeake Bay are under stress?
Forbes noted that Virginia business costs (highly weighted by the magazine) increased mostly because of a rise in labor costs, which are "now approaching the national average." In other words, in spite of being an educated labor force, Virginian's are paid less. Perhaps this is related to the weak union environment? Good for business, not so good for families. Guess your take on this ranking depends on whose chicken is getting plucked.
If you are familiar with Virginia's demographics and disparity of wealth, you have figured out that Virginia's economic engine is driven, to a large extent, by Northern Virginia. If you took NOVA out of the equation (Forbes noted the proximity to D.C. as important in the educated labor force stat), the commonwealth would probably fall to the mid point of the 50 states. Salaries for chickens in NOVA far outpace those in the Southside, the Valley, and Southwest. Ditto the commitment to K-12 education.
So, what is good for business isn't always good for the environment, or workers, or people in all parts of this diverse state. So, it is true - there really are lies, damned lies, and statistics!
In a Related Story?
Lobbyists in Virginia reached a new #1 record for spending to influence members of the General Assembly - over $20 million. Much of this was spent by business lobbyists to reduce regulations and create a favorable environment for their interests. Does all this grist influence delegates and senators to support business interests? Does Forbes like it? Apparently so.
Case in point - Virginian's overwhelmingly supported strong regulations on the predatory payday lending industry. Many local governments, led by Bruce Elder's efforts in Staunton, urged the General Assembly to take strong action. Payday lenders responded by spending $3.8 million (almost 20% of total spending by lobbyists) to defeat the most significant regulations. Payday lenders are still clucking along in their butt-ugly coops and the little birds are getting plucked.
Want to learn more about the grist your legislators are getting and who they are getting it from - Check out the Virginia Public Access Project. Find out who lobbies in Virginia at the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
On the Road Again
A study's says Virginia's 57,867 miles of roads and highways rank 16th in the nation in performance and costs. The conservative Reason Foundation. noted that "Virginia is the only state that spent more money on maintenance than it did on capital and bridge work . . . it really shows up in overall performance of the system."
The study noted that rural and western states tend to do better in this survey because of lower traffic volumes and many of their roads are newer. Eastern states and urban areas have older infrastructure. Virginia, which is a mixture of both illustrates the issue. The push to fix roads and to build new ones was driven by NOVA and Hampton Roads - regions with older infrastructure and rapidly increasing traffic counts. While there are issues in rural areas, I-81 for example, this issue is most keenly felt in those two areas.
The General Assembly, which failed to act during a special session on transportation, probably assured that the state will slip a few points in next year's survey. This was one area where business lobbyists (many of whom favored a long-term transportation commitment) clout couldn't overcome the short-sighted, no-tax, something-for-nothing legislators in the House of Delegates.