Sunday, October 31, 2010

I remember

Because many American memories are short... a reminder.


No real choice in VA06? Rather than not voting, send a message by writing-in R.U. Kidding.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween??

I'm ready. Lights off. Big dog (but friendly Golden Retriever) outside. 

to this stupid "holiday"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Constitutional Change - two outta three ain't bad

In much of the 6th District there is little compelling reason to bring voters to the polls on November 2. In spite of some grousing by tea party types that Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R) is just another "power-hungry career politician," the incumbent will again break his five term "pledge" and coast to victory by defeating Libertarian Stuart Bain and independent Jefffey Vanke. Neither Bain nor Vanke has made even a anemic blip on voters' radar.

Yes, there are spirited contests in some localities. For example, Harrisonburg has six candidates (two Republican, two Democratic, and two independent) vying for two city council seats. There is also an election for a couple of school board seats. A drive through the "Friendly City" shows far more local candidate than congressional signs and we might expect turnout there to be higher than in surrounding areas.

Virginia voters will vote on three constitutional amendments. One will raise the cash cap on the so-called "rainy day fund" by 50% to rebuild it faster. This fund is essentially a saving account in which the General Assembly deposits funds during "good times" and make withdrawals during shortfalls caused by economic slowdowns. The General Assembly passed the proposal unanimously... most Republicans like the idea of shrinking government by taking some money out of current budgets while Democrats laud the safety net.

Voters will also consider two other amendments, one dealing with with property tax exemptions for senior citizens. Currently a locality must get permission from the General Assembly to give tax breaks to low income or disabled seniors. This amendment would allow local governing bodies to make their own decision.

The other amendment intends to help veterans (or their surviving spouse) who were totally disabled during their service by exempting them from local property taxes on their home. This break would apply to some 7,000 veterans across the Commonwealth.

You can read the actual text of the amendments at the State Board of Elections. Typically, voters go along with the General Assembly and approve amendments (simple majority vote does it) to the state constitution. Should they do so this time? My position - two outta three ain't bad:
  • Increasing the rainy day fund makes sense to me. Perhaps it is the teaching of my depression-era parents, but in my personal life I've operated on this principle. Seems like a good idea for the Commonwealth to sock away funds for the tough times, too. Vote YES on ballot question #3.
  • I also like the idea of giving local governments the ability to grant tax exemptions to certain senior citizens without having to ask permission of the General Assembly. This is a decision best left to local officials based on local circumstances. Vote YES on ballot question #1.
  • While I generally support the notion of a tax break for disabled veterans, I do not support the General Assembly doing so with local tax dollars. The previous amendment grants more autonomy to local governments, this one encroaches on it. For that reason alone, voters should vote NO ballot question #2.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Coarse Cracked Corn has reported on it before... the tea party is fueled by the money and organizations who are the very antithesis of all the good common folks, angry and frustrated by the Bush recession, who turn out for their rallies and pump money in their coffers. The unseen elites of the tea party are largely funded by billionaires far right wing David and Charles Koch who love flying well below the national media radar. They have radar for something beyond celebrity scandal?

Now a new report, Tea Party Nationalism, documents how opportunist racist, white nationalist, and militias groups are working to control the supply of tea. Guess they don't care for black tea? This isn't to say that all tea party types are racist, in fact, the more formalized parts of the movement have made specific statements repudiating the racist signs and comments that sometimes spew forth at rallies. Individuals with clear ties to racist and xenophobic organizations/websites have been booted out. But, it is accurate to say that some hate groups see the Tea Party as a vehicle for a larger audience and greater credibility.

Equally subversive since the local Chamber of Commerce is seen as non-partisan in most communities, is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's behind-the-scenes role in the Tea Party and the barrage of conservative ads attacking progressive candidates, 99.9% Democrats. Now the U.S. Chamber is made up of big business, big banks, big drug companies... the very groups that most in this populist revolt disdain. As Dana Milbank states in a Tea Party of populist posers:
There is genuine populist anger out there. But the angry have been deceived and exploited by posers who belong to the same class of "elites" and "insiders" that the Tea Party movement supposedly deplores. Americans who want to stick it to the man are instead sending money to the man. 
It is likely the Tea Party will enjoy electoral success this November. They won't have the numbers to run government, but they will probably run the Republican Party driving out the last few moderates as the GOP tilts farther right. Is that possible? When the reverse Robin Hood agenda of the Tea Party elites becomes clear, these good everyday populist folks will indeed have been fooled again. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Saving for a sunny day

About a year ago we bought a rain barrel from The Rain Barrel Company. Although it only one porch roof is drained to the barrell, it has been filled, used, and quickly replenished even during a year when rainfall hasn't been as regular as farmers and homeowners would like. We used it to water flowers and shrubs - the plants certainly like it better than our well water. The savings are double if you have chlorinated city water - the plants love the chemical free water and you get a break on the water bill! Rain barrels are centuries old but are increasingly relevant because of the need to conserve this precious resource and rising water bills.

The company is making its last bulk delivery of 2010 to Virginia this week. Available in black, the 60-gallon barrels will sell for $65.00 (they are $94.00 and up in retail stores) and are ready to us with a brass spigot, mosquito/leaf screen, and overflow. Learn more.

The Rain Barrel Company is delivering to Virginia this week and you must pre-order your rain barrel.
Wednesday, October 20 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM at the Best Buy parking lot, 1560 West Kroger Center, Richmond.

Wednesday, October 20 from 5:00 to 6:00 PM at Toy's R Us parking lot, 590 Branchland's Blvd., Charlottesville.

Thursday, October 21 from 8:00 to 9:00 AM at Regal Cinema Seminole Square, 2306 India Dr., Charlottesville.

Thursday, October 21 from Noon to 1:00 PM at the Walmart parking lot, 1028 Richmond Rd., Staunton.
 To reserve your rain barrel call 919.602.6316 or email Include your name, daytime phone number, and how many rain barrels you are ordering.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The ABCs of privatizing Virginia's liquor stores

Privatize ABC sales? On one hand I can relate to the idea - this seems like something private business could do more appropriately than government. But, since the Commonwealth has a monopoly on liquor sales, it also makes great profits that go to the public good. The governor wants to sell the ABC stores for ideological reasons but mostly to infuse big bucks into transportation. Does his proposal make sense and cents - there will societal costs and impacts on future state budgets! From all the rhetoric, it is hard to tell the best course of action. But one thing is clear - in spite of the governor's assurances, there are many more questions than answers.

The Rockingham County Democratic Committee will take up the issue  7:00 to 8:30 PM on October 21 at the Rockingham County Administration Building (Supervisors Meeting Room). The guest speaker/moderator will be Doug Smith, director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. Smith is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He was formerly on staff with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland and previously served as Senior Web Strategist for He is a graduate of James Madison University (B.S.), Lexington Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was  a 2005 Sorensen Fellow of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership program (UVA), and is a graduate of the Citizen's Planning Academy in Hanover County, Virginia.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Things are upbeat down on the farm

For some reason The Progressive Farmer began showing up in my mailbox a few months ago. I'm not a farmer (but live in farming community) and I've never subscribed, but I find some articles interesting and helpful to a rural homeowner. Besides, it helps me better understand some of the issues facing my neighbors.

The October issue featured a story, "Confidence High Among Ag Business," that caught my eye. Perhaps because the MSM seems to like bad economic news better than good, this story resonated with my gut feeling that things really are getting better... just wish it would do so a bit quicker. Farmers' confidence can be inflated or deflated based on all sorts of things ranging from the weather (both at their farm and around the globe) to general economic conditions. While confidence varies by ag sector and by region, the upbeat feeling is a good harbinger for the U.S. economy over the next 12 months.

Among the findings of the Ag Confidence Index is that 26% of ag businesses expect sales to increase over the next year while 61% think sales will remain stable and only 13% expect a decline. Other questions focused on prospects for the coming year. Ninety-one percent thought things would stay the same (55%) or improve (36%). Only 9% forecast worsening prospects.

Other interesting articles in the October issue discussed no-till and minimum tillage conservation practices that are making great strides at cutting soil erosion caused by both water and wind. In the lower 48 states, it is estimated that cropland erosion dropped 43% between 1982 and 2007. That's good news not only for our fields but also for streams and rivers, our air quality, and for conservation of water resources.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hypocrites at the Chamber

On a recent road trip to the southwest, I caught lots of campaign ads along the route and occasionally saw some of the more vicious ads on TV. It is nasty out there. Everywhere! One constant thread is the nastiness and blatant hypocrisy of the Chamber of Commerce.

CCC has commented on growing hypocrisy and partisanship of the Chamber of Commerce in earlier posts. It is an organization with a reputation in many communities of being business-oriented and conservative but not openly partisan. The chamber could be fair, it could host local candidate forums in a nonpartisan manner, and its information (although conservative) was generally factual and could be trusted. But, as far as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is concerned, those days are apparently a thing of the past. Various groups and even the national media are finally picking up on and commenting on recent trends in the chamber's new status as an international trade association that pits nation against nation in an attempt to get its laissez-faire way.

The chamber's hidden sources of funds supporting their attack ads are the focus of much of that attention. Are they using foreign funds to influence American elections? We don't know because the chamber won't say, but the probable answer is yes... just as they use funds raised in the U.S. to influence politics in other nations.

But if we pay close attention, the chamber's hypocrisy is shoved right in voters' faces. Take the recent ad attacking Tom Perriello. The ad doesn't mention Perriello's opponent or even the election (but if you are running an ad in this season the intent is obvious) and is clearly designed to damage the Democrat. Regardless of its veracity (not much), the ad strikes this bird as blatantly hypocritical when it says: "Government run health care. Medicare cuts. Have you had enough? Tell Congressman Perriello, stop hurting Virginia families."

So the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is upset with health care reform and upset with cost savings in Medicare? The chamber defending Medicare? In all likelihood the chamber would dramatically gut or dismantle Medicare if it were not so popular. Hypocrisy!

Health care reform helps many small businesses which the chamber purports to represent at the local level. But, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with its international business mindset, isn't really looking out for the little guys any more. Maybe it is time for those folks to wonder why they pay dues to a trade association that is increasingly removed from Main Street realities.