Thursday, June 26, 2008

Awayness the Rerun

Due to a large number of personal arrangements and obligations, I will be away from Leesburg Tomorrow until Monday, I expect. Please accept my apologies for the absence, but I blog to remind people that we have to stick together, and stand up for each other in this journey through life, and for me, that means stepping away for a few days right now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leesburg Considers Combining Commissions

During tonight's Town Council meeting at 7:30, the Council will be debating its last major legislation before the new Council takes office at the beginning of July. It will be proposed and debated that the current ordinance covering Boards and Commissions be repealed and a new one take its place. The new ordinance streamlines and standardizes much of the language surrounding Boards and Commissions, but also introduces one major change. If passed, the IT Commission and the Cable Television Advisory Commission will be combined.
Section 2.99 Technology and Communications Commission
(a). The Technology and Communications Commission is hereby established and created.
(b). The Technology and Communications Commission makes recommendations to the Town Council for the efficient, economical, and productive use of technology and telecommunications for the Town's citizens and businesses.
(c.) Additional Powers and Duties:
i. To make recommendations regarding the operation, staffing, maintenance, capital improvements and funding of the Department of Information Technology.
ii. To maintain a continuous oversight and review of cable system operations and advise the Town on grantee's compliance with the terms of this contract.
iii. To encourage the use of access channels among the widest range of institutions, groups and individuals and to monitor grantee's access policies and practices, including charges

for these services, to insure compliance with Section 5.1-40 et seq. of the Town Code.
iv. To encourage and make recommendations on the on utilization and enhancements to the Town’s public access communication channels and internet websites. - Proposed Leesburg Ordinance
This will combine two related duties, both concerning technology, but in doing so may actually create more problems than it solves.

Let me say in advance that I am not opposed to reforming the ordinance covering Boards and Commissions, nor am I opposed to combining the Cable and IT commissions, per se. I believe that properly executed, this could be a better, more efficient mechanism of government for Leesburg. Let me also say, in the interests of disclosure, that I am a member of the Cable Commission, but am always happy when the Town looks to work more efficiently and have no problem if the ordinance passes and I am no longer asked to serve on the new Commission (I am certain my family will be happy to have me back at home those evenings!).

That being said, I fear that those involved in making this decision are unaware of the wide gulf that exists between the largely advisory responsibilities of the IT Commission and the largely regulatory responsibilities of the Cable Commission. The IT Commission is generally responsible for helping the Town and its residents with IT issues. This means holding forums on online privacy and safety, evaluating technologies for the town IT staff, and generally serving as a panel of questions to whom the Town's questions can be posed.

The Cable Commission, on the other hand, has a much more involved legal duty. It is tasked with monitoring and implementing the cable franchise agreement between the Town of Leesburg ant the companies that provide cable television to Town residents, Comcast and Verizon. This means awareness of the many layers of law that limit the commission's freedom of action (the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Virginia state code on the matter, relevant Leesburg Town ordinances, as well as the actual Franchise Agreements themselves), understanding of easements and rights of way, and serving as an ombudsman and often referee for disputes between customers and cable providers. In any given month the cable commission will have to deal with customer complaints about cable TV service, timelines on reburying cables which have been left exposed, public access television processes and requests, and franchise enforcement, as well as a variety of related issues such as easements for new cables and recommendations for informing residents about the end of analog television next year.

All of these items take up a full docket on the Cable Commission's monthly meetings. And the vast majority of these items are required to be considered each month by law, ordinance or contract. If the proposed Technology and Communications Commission were to only meet monthly, little time would remain to deal with IT issues once the required Cable issues were addressed.

And this concern is not based on speculation. The Comcast representative at Leesburg's Cable Commission meetings has said that most localities who combine their Cable and IT Commissions wind up with a super-Cable commission, with the IT responsibilities withering over time, due to the fact that is is only the Cable issues that have legal precedence and standing from and Act of Congress on down.

Tonight, Leesburg is debating a change which has deeper implications than may otherwise be realized. Before a decision is made, the Council should understand the likely outcome of the ordinance is a decline in the level of advice the Town will receive on IT issues.

[Update] Last night, the Council voted to combine the commissions, passing the new ordinance. Time will tell what that will mean for how Leesburg deals with technology and cable issues. I believe that Leesburg residents will be able to make the most of the new commission, with sufficient time and cooperation, and I look forward to the new Council's initiative in ensuring the new Commission has the support and information it needs to work in the interests of the residents of Leesburg.

Netroots Rising

The blogger who has done the most to help me get on my feet and pushed me to keep writing and thinking is Lowell Feld of RaisingKaine. He and I do not necessarily agree all the time, but it is thanks to him that Leesburg Tomorrow is here today. Lowell was one of the leaders of the "Draft Jim Webb" movement in 2006, and we all know the impact that has had on our political discourse, with Sen. Webb a leading contenter for Sen. Obama's VP pick.

Lowell has written a book about the rise of the Netroots in the past few years: Netroots Rising. Lowell has also created a blog around the topics covered in the book (also called Netroots Rising) in which he excerpts some of his excellent interviews with luminaries of the Virginia blogosphere.

If you want to know how the Netroots took shape in Virginia, and where it may be going, there's no better place to start than Lowell's book.

"Go. Read."

It's like Iran-Contra, but Lamer

It seems the Administration cannot even come up with a new arms scandal, having to wash and reuse the basics of the Iran-Contra arms deals of the 1980s, this time with China, Albania and Afghanistan.
A military attaché has told the investigators that the United States ambassador to Albania endorsed a plan by the Albanian defense minister to hide several boxes of Chinese ammunition from a visiting reporter. The ammunition was being repackaged to disguise its origins and shipped from Albania to Afghanistan by a Miami Beach arms-dealing company.

The ambassador, John L. Withers II, met with the defense minister, Fatmir Mediu, hours before a reporter for The New York Times was to visit the American contractor’s operations in Tirana, the Albanian capital, according to the testimony. The company, under an Army contract, bought the ammunition to supply Afghan security forces although American law prohibits trading in Chinese arms. - The New York Times
The article is a microcosm of the greed, corruption and fraud that so envelops things The Executive tries to hide from public eyes. Illegal trans-shipments of Chinese ammunition that often did not work to American allies actually fighting terrorists in Afghanistan in the name of profit sounds like the plot of a bad liberal fantasy, but in this case, it's the truth.

And the only reason it is worth a mention in the Times? Because they broke the story in March, with little fanfare, and Representative Waxman released some details of an current investigation to try to drum up media interest in a hearing on the matter.

Yep, but how about them new game shows!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why VA-10 Matters

Just in case you thought the fight for one more seat in Congress, ours, doesn't really matter, OpenLeft reminds us that it matters more than those of us actually knocking on doors may realize.
7. Feder/Wolf. This one may surprise you, because VA-10 is a very tough district, and Judy- while being a remarkable candidate and raising a ton of money- is a ways from the top of the DCCC targeting. VA is a really important state in Presidential politics, though, and winning upsets in the DC market gets lots of national media attention and shakes people up (see Donna Edwards). But I mostly have her on this list because of Judy's savvy knowledge and passion on health care- if she is in the Congress, it improves our odds dramatically of getting a good universal health reform bill passed. Given her knowledge, skill, and connections, she would be one of the highest impact freshman members of Congress of all time. - OpenLeft
Here at Leesburg Tomorrow, Judy has always been a superstar for her fight for universal and quality healthcare. It's great to see the national blogosphere taking a notice as well. And in this case, even putting its money where its mouth is.

It's nice to know that the nation has our backs as we fight for a progressive Loudoun, and a progressive 10th District.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Great Friend

Jessica B. - 1977 - 2008

A Fredericksburg bicyclist was killed yesterday after being hit by a car on Hartwood Road in Stafford County.

State Police Spokesman Sgt. F.L. Tyler said Jessica B., 31, of Fredericksburg was struck while riding a bicycle on Hartwood Road, almost a mile north of U.S. Route 17.

Tyler said Fredericksburg resident Candice Virginia Bushey, 30, was driving a 1996 Ford Contour southbound on the road and hit the bicyclist from behind shortly after 9 a.m. yesterday.

State Police said the victim died at the scene. - The Free-Lance Star
[Update] There is a memorial website up for Jess:

Solar Building Materials

It would be pretty amazing if we could build structures out of materials which had solar power properties built into them. Until then, perhaps we can drape our buildings in solar textiles.
These new materials, known as solar textiles, work like the now-familiar photovoltaic cells in solar panels. Made of semiconductor materials, they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity.
"Surfaces that define space can also be producers of energy," says Kennedy, a visiting lecturer in architecture. "The boundaries between traditional walls and utilities are shifting." - ScienceDaily
I'm sure Christo will take the lead.

Then there's architecture made out of water.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Kos Proto-server Has Died

Long live the server.
Plans had been in place to move mail and search to a new server for a while, but such a major move requires planning and thought. On Wednesday, all those plans went out the window. The old server froze up again for the second time in two days, so I went and hard rebooted it since nothing else would bring it back in that situation. I waited and waited for it to come back up, but it never did. Growing a little concerned, I connected to its serial console and saw that it was waiting at a single user prompt - /var was corrupted. I ran fsck to fix the errors as suggested, but it was bad. Very bad. Scores of hard read errors scrolled by while I watched helpessly, the superblock was completely hosed, and the "lost+found" directory was gone. I was also given the impression by the folks at the data center that that server was making a loud racket while I was trying to resuscitate it. I ran it a second time, but all the same errors went passing by while I sat and waited for it to get fixed. It wanted me to fix the filesystem again, but I could tell it was never going to get properly fixed, so I tried rebooting. Miraculously, it came back. Why it managed to come back I have no idea, but it gave jotter and I the time we needed to get the important stuff off of it before it failed for good. It even kept running until I pulled the plug on it once the switch was complete, still working away. - DailyKos
For the geeks who read, you know the emotional attachment that accrues to some equipment. My company had a server - "gizmo" - which was shut down a couple years ago. Gizmo not only served my current company, it came with us from a PREVIOUS company.

Serve on Kos server, your time was well spent.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Worst. Science Teacher. Ever.

Only in America.
A school board in central Ohio voted Friday to move ahead on firing a science teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs in class and using a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.
A report by independent investigators found that Freshwater also taught creationism in his science class and was insubordinate in failing to remove a Bible and other religious materials from his classroom.
"With the exception of the cross-burning episode ... I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Friday. -
No, You do not get to start a sentence "with the exception of the cross-burning episode." Anything that comes after that is simply irrelevant, period. Once you've got a "cross-burning episode" you're done. That's it.

As an aside, a friend's wife is a science teacher in southern Ohio. They don't believe in evolution either. Perhaps I'm one of them high-falutin' liberals, but I kinda think belief in the scientific method, and theories that are shown to be highly likely from it (like gravity, evolution, and germs) should be a pre-requisite to be a science teacher.

Republican Paradoxes

It seems that the Republican Party's modus operandi is "say a thing, do the opposite!"
Just to name three.

And then there's this poignant reminder as well (watch to the end, it's short).

Come out and help us change course in America, one door at a time, by meeting at the LCDC Headquarters on King street at 9am tomorrow and going out to talk to our neighbors.

Don't Mow on Bad Air Quality Days

This issue has been mentioned before, but as we get deeper into the summer season (and with the Solstice upon us) allow me to make the small request that folks refrain from using blowers or gas mowers on Code Red and Orange air quality days.

In bright sunlight

* nitrogen oxides
* hydrocarbons and
* oxygen

interact chemically to produce powerful oxidants like ozone (O3) and peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN).

These secondary pollutants are damaging to plant life and lead to the formation of photochemical smog. PAN is primarily responsible for the eye irritation so characteristic of this type of smog. - Kimball's Biology Pages
Essentially, when we use motors and engines on bright, hot, days, the fumes they emit yield a lot more actual pollution, compared to the fumes themselves, thanks to basic chemistry. We cannot all work from home on bad air quality days (though some of us can, and do. I cut a deal to do this very thing with my boss this summer), but we all can choose to put off mowing or running the leaf blower until a few days later. (I'm looking at you, Prius owners with perfectly manicured lawns! :)

There are a few more things we can do as well. The first, of course, is the aforementioned working from home on bad air quality days. Most folks in Loudoun can probably do their job from home at least some of the time, so before you head home today, ask your boss for permission to work from home on Code Red air quality days. They get announced on the radio just like school closings, and are officially designated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The whole point of the designation is to inform people when it's better for us all to not drive, so let's make that happen.

Another thing we can all do is ask our homeowners associations and local governments to refrain from powered landscaping (i.e., mowing and blowing) on bad air quality days. You can contact members of the Leesburg Town Council here, and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors here. Take a moment to click through, and email your representative, letting them know that you'd like the Town and County to adopt a policy of avoiding powered landscaping on Code Red and Code Orange days. We should have our governments lead by example on this.

Little things like this are not going to solve the big problem that is climate change, but it will help with the small problem of local air quality. And it will get our organizing institutions (governments, businesses, households) thinking about air quality as a quality-of-life issue worthy of action. It's a start, and we have to start somewhere. Not all of us can buy a Prius and live in Arlington.

An Interlude: Alright

A video for your Friday. I will admit to an affinity for Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation 1814" album, which I won off a radio station in 1990.

You gotta love the zoot suits.

An Interlude: Well Written

Garrison Keillor is an American treasure, and this week he waxes eloquent on music, race, America and Barack Obama.
This is what we do in the big city: we look at each other. I take my sandy-haired daughter on the subway down to Houston Street and she sits, holding my hand, gazing into faces and because it is the subway and not the Cold Spring Harbor Sailing Regatta there is an astonishing variety of faces, all shades, all shapes, all hairstyles from punk to post-hair. Back where I come from, we are rather similar — it's like the old joke about the little ant who was confused because all his uncles were ants — but in New York there's plenty to catch your eye. I have to remind her of the five-second rule. You can stare at anybody for five seconds but then you have to look away. Look but don't make a scene. - Garrison Keillor
Go. Read.

Do Doctors Sell Their Reputations?

I have a number of good friends who are doctors of one sort or another. Heck, my wife has a PhD. Even in Bush's America, where education is a sign of "elitism" to be derided, not achievement to be celebrated, the MD and PhD still carry weight in the realm of public opinion. That is why many companies gladly do all they can to influence people with letters after their names. They want to get credible support for their products by whatever means works.
Pharmaceutical companies regularly sponsor leading specialists with "generous fees to peddle influence" and promote drugs to the profession and the public, writes Moynihan.

Drug companies will pay influential doctors up to $400 an hour to act as key opinion leaders, and some doctors earn more than $25,000 a year in advisory fees. - Science Daily
I'm not against Doctors making money, nor am I opposed to companies hiring consultants to help evaluate their products. I do worry about the impact of such fees on neutral evaluations, however. Fundamentally, experts trade on their expertise, which is manifested by reputation. When reputation is suborned to an agenda (whether for money, see Cunningham, Duke, or out of misguided loyalty, see Powell, Colin) and loses its independence, it becomes a tool of fraud and corruption far to quickly and easily.
According to Richard Tiner, medical director at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, although "the work might help to promote a particular medicine" it should be considered payment for work done, and not a bribe. The best antidote to concerns about independence would be more transparency--all company payments to speakers should be routinely disclosed at medical meetings, he adds.

But David Blumenthal, from Harvard University, believes that payments to key opinion leaders are not in the public interest or in the interests of the patients served by these doctors, and calls for a major cutback in industry influence over the medical profession and its education. - Science Daily
This is among the thousands of side symptoms and issues driving health care reform. As we discuss fixing America's health care system in the coming year, we should be sure to follow the money in our evaluations, to see who benefits from opposing a fix, and how.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Supervisor Waters' Future

There were some interesting comments from Supervisor Waters' in Leesburg Today, surrounding the discussion of joining a coalition of localities like Loudoun seeking stronger Federal support for local energy initiatives.

The Board has voted to join a coalition seeking Federal funds for local energy initiatives.
Despite concerns raised by some supervisors, the county board Tuesday voted to join the Climate Communities Coalition, a national group that works with local governments to obtain federal funding to address issues related to climate and energy efficiency. - Leesburg Today
Loudoun's two Republican Supervisors voted against this sensible idea. While Supervisor Delgaudio's opposition is unsurprising, as he opposes every good idea as a matter of principle, Supervisor Waters' opposition was presented in some very interesting language.
Waters said she was also concerned that the coalition would be using a group hired specifically to obtain federal earmarks, an activity she said she could not support. - Leesburg Today
Supervisor Waters also questioned the contents of a specific bill the Coalition was supporting. For a local government official, Supervisor Waters is certainly taking great interest in highly technical details and policies at the Congressional level.

Opposition to Congressional earmarks while on the Board of Supervisors is not a policy choice, it is a campaign position. Supervisor Waters seems to be setting herself up to run for Congress in 2010, laying the groundwork for a run with positions guaranteed to please her conservative allies. These positions include opposing this anti-climate change coalition while on the Board, and saying she opposes earmarks, which is always the easy position for the party in the Congressional minority to take. Furthermore, she already abdicated her responsibility to govern by voting against a responsible and reasonable budget for Loudoun, choosing instead to simply hone her "anti-tax" credentials, instead of being part of the solution to our county's major revenue problems. Problems which, incidentally, she was part of creating on the previous Board. This is in line with her positions on many issues, where it is always easier to pass the buck elsewhere, or ignore a problem then do the hard work of coming up with a solution. Passing the buck and blaming others, after all, allows her to remain pure and attractive as a candidate for higher office.

It's too bad for the Republicans that Judy Feder will win the seat in November, and turn Virginia's 10th blue, as Supervisor Waters' selling out the interests of her constituents (i.e., Federal funds for energy efficiency) for her political future will yield her few benefits. Furthermore, does Supervisor Waters realize that Sen. Holtzman-Vogel is also understood to be eying Rep. Wolf's seat when he is out of office? There's a primary worth watching, an oil heiress and Bush Republican versus a conservative Supervisor more interested in problems than solutions.

It seems clear that Supervisor Waters is more concerned with her next election for higher office in three or four years than serving the interests of Loudoun today. Elections have consequences, and in Broad Run, it means a Supervisor whose words may be of Ashburn, but whose actions are aimed thirty-five miles east.

Judy Feder's Campaign Surging

Judy Feder came and spoke to the LCDC last night, as she has all year. She spoke of the importance of this year's election, and the great ticket we have with Sen. Obama and Gov. Warner running at the top. Mike Turner was there as well, looking quite comfortable and happy after his great run and 1 vote victory in Loudoun. Mike spoke of his happiness with his campaign and, once again, offered his full support and endorsement of Judy. All in all, Loudoun's Democrats are coming together to fight for Loudoun's votes in the fall.

This has been a great week for Judy, as she develops the tools and foundation necessary to take on an aged institution in Frank Wolf. First the DCCC added Judy's campaign to the "Emerging Races" program, which is for districts that the Democrats believe they have a chance in, with some time and energy. Furthermore, Judy's warchest has exceeded $1 Million, but to take on Frank Wolf, she's going to need $1 Million more. To help her get there, the head of the DCCC himself, Chris Van Hollen, will be headlining a fundraiser for Judy next week.

The Feder campaign is part of the combined campaign initiative here in Loudoun, which has set up shop in Ashburn, and will be launching canvasses this weekend. The goal is to promote our fantastic slate of candidates, Sen. Obama, Gov. Warner and Judy Feder, in a major drive to victory. Assisting in this effort will be volunteers from the Obama campaign, as well as a number of Obama Organizing Fellows. These dedicated volunteers will be knocking on doors in our neighborhoods to make sure we identify and activate supporters of Democratic principles throughout Loudoun.

If there is one truth of this year's election it's this: We need to elect more Democrats. It not only means elevating Sen. Obama to the White House and Gov. Warner to the Senate, it also means extending our majorities in the Congress, so that good ideas don't get stuck behind obstruction and obfuscation. With Judy Feder's campaign and the combined campaign, you can make a real difference in our future, by creating the environment for positive, progressive change in America, starting in Virginia.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Internet Remix

Freaking Awesome.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to Kos.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Absolute Power (Adapter)!

The number of power cords and adapters we have stored in various boxes and drawers is a little ridiculous, as is the waste they represent. I applaud any initiative to standardize some universal power cord/charger mechanism.
A technology that could help the environment by eliminating the need to ship a power adapter with every electronics device got a vote of confidence Friday from consumer electronics maker Westinghouse Digital Electronics.

Westinghouse said it had committed to using a smart power technology developed by a start-up company, Green Plug, that aims to let people use a single "universal adapter" to power their laptops, cell phones and other electronics gear.
Besides helping the environment, the Green Plug technology will also help Westinghouse to cut its costs, Chang said. Eventually it could stop shipping power adapters with its products because customers will already have a universal adapter at home, he said.

Each adapter will act like a hub that several devices can plug into. The first are expected to go on sale in the first quarter next year for under US$100, Chang said. The adapters also will shut off the power supply when a device has finished charging or is turned off, giving further energy savings. - The Industry Standard
A device which not only reduces the number of cords needed and simplifies our lives, but also helps conserve electricity? Sign me up.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to the ur-blog.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Jim Webb Fights Dominion Rates

I normally look askance at Federal officials making hay out of state matters, but in this case I am happy that any attention has been brought to the issue of Dominion's rate increases and the SCC.
U.S. Sen. Jim Webb said Thursday he's concerned about Dominion Virginia Power's request to raise rates about 18 percent because of high fuel costs. The Virginia Democrat sent a letter Thursday to the State Corporation Commission regarding the proposal, which would be the company's largest one-time rate increase since 1970.
"In this time of economic uncertainty, an increase in energy costs could compel individuals and families to choose between putting food on their table and paying their energy bill," Webb wrote, also asking that small businesses be taken into account. -
Under the current (state) laws directing the SCC, these rate increases are practically automatic. It will take a reform of the principles on which the SCC makes decisions to change it from a corporate partner to an advocate for the residents of Virginia. That change needs to come from the Assembly, by electing people dedicated to making it happen, but attention from Sen. Webb can help by keeping the issue alive.

There is a reason many are advocating for Sen. Webb to be Sen. Obama's VP selection. This interview below is a nice encapsulation of our junior Senator.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to RaisingKaine.)

Fixing Healthcare Means Electing Democrats

When Democrats get into office, they work to fix the healthcare problem in America. The evidence for this spans all levels of government, from our local officials all the way to the Presidency. There is a direct link between electing Democrats and helping with healthcare. In Loudoun, electing Democrats resuled in a local prescription discount plan. In Richmond, many of the improvements to 2008 session bills proposed by the Governor are improvements in healthcare, including:
Adding behavioral health drugs to the Medicaid preferred drug list, allowing Medicaid clients to use these less expensive medications. This move will save taxpayers $1.5 million over the biennium without any impact on the health of Medicaid clients.
Changing language to provide eligibility to the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan to include immediate coverage for the birth of a newborn of a FAMIS enrollee for up to two months after birth, since the mother has already demonstrated eligibility to participate in FAMIS. This will make FAMIS consistent with Medicaid.

Changing language to authorize an increase in Medicaid rates for ambulance providers. Considering the providers already are paid much less than market rates, an increase in their rates is appropriate and will avoid any potential impact to service. The increase would be paid from balances in other underutilized Medicaid services.

Allow the Secretary of Health to use up to $500,000 each year in funds recovered from private health insurance for public health services to match, dollar for dollar, a private donation to establish a pilot health insurance program in Hampton Roads. The pilot program will offer health insurance coverage for low-income, uninsured workers employed by small businesses. The employer and employee would each cover one-third of the cost, with the remaining third, up to $75 per month, paid by the pilot program. - Governor Tim Kaine
At the Federal level, our Democratic Congress has been leading on healthcare, only to be stymied by the Republicans and the President. Who can forget that it was the Republicans in Congress that prevented SCHIP from being extended, and the President who used executive power (inappropriately) to reduce SCHIP's reach?

A critical element of fixing healthcare is electing leaders who know how to get it done, and are committed to ensuring everyone in America has the opportunity to live a healthy life. Senator Obama has already announced his commitment to the issue, and is planning on working a bill in his first 100 days in office. Furthermore, it's clear that Sen. Obama's proposals on healthcare will do more for Americans than Sen. McCain's.

It's clear, you do not fix healthcare without electing Democrats.

In Virginia's 10th District this year, we have an amazing opportunity to help elect one of the wisest voices in this generation's healthcare debate: Judy Feder. Judy's experience and perspective will be critical to helping President Obama achieve true healthcare reform, as she has a unique perspective on the problems and issues faced when trying to fix the system.

(Judy Feder on healthcare reform.)

If solving healthcare means electing Democrats, then electing Democrats means finding voters and getting them involved. Each one of us can help in that effort. Throughout Virginia, Democratic organizations are working to find, inform and involve citizens in the fight for their futures at the ballot box this November. Here in Loudoun, the coordinated campaign is walking our blocks, connecting neighbor with neighbor to talk about what is at stake this year. There are canvasses this Saturday and next Saturday, and every volunteer is valued!
1.) The coordinated campaign has signed a lease and will be moving into our new office within two weeks. The new office is at:

44340 Premier Plaza
Suite 130
Ashburn VA 20147

2.) The coordinated campaign is happy to announce that we will be working very closely with Barack Obama's and Judy Feder's campaigns. Both campaigns plan to use our new office space with us and work together to build events, register voters, recruit volunteers and identify potential voters. We all look forward to winning our three very important elections this fall and continuing to build the Democratic Party here in Loudoun County.

3.) We will be canvassing Leesburg once again this Saturday June 14. We will be meeting at the LCDC office at 9:00 am. We have moved up the time in order to avoid the heat of the middle of the day. We would appreciate it if you could come join us and knock 40 doors with a family member, friend or neighbor.

4.) Saturday June 21 the Coordinated Campaign is launching a statewide Canvass Kickoff. We will be staging canvass launches from the LCDC office in Leesburg, our new office in Ashburn, and from the City of Winchester. It is our goal to have over 300 canvassers across the state out knocking doors for our Democratic candidates. We would really appreciate a strong turnout here in Loudoun County. Please mark your calendar and call Andrew Bray to let us know if you can join us.

Andrew Bray
VA Victory 08
(540) 230-1298 (c)
So come out and lend a hand if you can. We are all part of the solution to the healthcare crisis, part of the solution to getting our troops safely out of Iraq, part of the solution to the course correction our country so clearly needs. The solution starts with us, by getting out and making sure people committed to solving our problems are put in office.

Hope to see you Saturday.

An Interlude: Barry Goldwater

A thought for Friday.
"There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs.There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling meas a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.' " -Barry Goldwater, Speech in the US Senate (16 September 1981)
And, FYI, a video of Gov. Kaine's presentation on Transportation is now up on a previous post about his Town Hall visit.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

John McCain Is A Sex Fiend

Did you know that John McCain opposes requirements that health insurers cover contraception and is in favor of abstinence-only education?

It's true.

Yep, that's McCain's policy, either no sex, or risky ignorant sex, nothing in between. How fiendish.

An Interlude: Your Lying Eyes

Go check out this video and count the passes between the people in the white shirts.

Interesting effect, to say the least, and potentially relevant to a lot of fields that require accuracy of observation.

Battleground Virginia

Virginia, as most know, is a critical battleground in 2008.
Over the past few weeks, political commentators across the country have been calling Virginia a key battleground state in the race for the White House.

With Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, Mark Warner running for U.S. Senate, and a candidate in every one of our 11 congressional districts, we have a unique opportunity to turn Virginia blue for the first time since 1964.

If we can stop John McCain here, Virginia's 13 electoral votes could help push Barack Obama over the finish line this November. - The Democratic Party of Virginia

This message is for all my good friends who read this blog to humor me, but don't really get active in politics. I'm making a personal appeal to you this year to do one thing for change in America. Just one thing. Donate some money once, volunteer for your local progressive candidate once, go to a Drinking Liberally meeting, once (I suspect that should be a popular one), even attend an event and cheer, once. Just make the decision, this year, to not only vote, but take one small action that might get someone else to vote our way too.

When you do, I promise you'll find it interesting, so come back and post a comment, let me know what you've been up to. We're all in this together, and together we can be the change we need.

Loudoun Offers Prescription Discounts

Every resident of Loudoun County is eligible for the County's new prescription discount program.
Loudoun County has launched a discount card program to help consumers cope with the high price of prescription drugs. The county is making free prescription drug discount cards available under a program sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo) that offers average savings of 20 percent off the retail price of commonly prescribed drugs.

The cards may be used by all county residents, regardless of age, income, or existing health coverage, and are accepted at many of the county’s pharmacies. A national network of more than 59,000 participating retail pharmacies also will honor the NACo prescription discount card. -
This program is the fruit of one of the first initiatives this Board of Supervisors undertook when sworn in in January. It is a manifestation of the philosophy the Democratic majority has brought to the board. Our government now works for the citizens, seeking ways to help them live their lives a little better and easier, and putting plans in place to deal with the pressing issues of the day when other levels of government fall short.

It is easy to criticize government when it fails, but we do well to recognize our elected officials when they implement plans like the Prescription Discount Program. Kudos to the Board of Supervisors, for getting this excellent plan done.

The Injustice Of Deportation

Is there a anti-immigrant crusader who will stand up an cheer this?
Jose Andrade is a bashful 13-year-old living in Leesburg. He's a graduate of Catoctin Elementary School, and in a few days, he will have completed seventh grade at J. Lupton Simpson Middle School.

His teachers describe him as a pleasure to have in class, a hard-working student with a positive attitude who takes pride in his work, although on occasion he can be a class clown.

His Boy Scout troop leader calls Jose the most dedicated 13-year-old Scout in the troop.
A native of El Salvador, the teen has until July 16 to leave the country – alone and without his family. - The Loudoun Times-Mirror

(Image from The Loudoun Times-Mirror.)

The deportation of children, alone and without help, is the policy followed by the Administration and advocated by those who oppose immigration reform. It is the undeniable, real result of the alienation and abuse of a minority community with few rights and no recourse to the American legal system.

Typically, those who are anti-migrant also consider themselves "pro-family." The deportation of a child, alone, is the most anti-family act that can be undertaken. Nonetheless, pro-family organizations like the AFA oppose immigration reform and support draconian deportation. Their hypocrisy on such matters is deplorable. And the answer is not as easy as "they should all go home."
Torn between loosing her son and abandoning her two younger children, Mirna tears up when she talks about having no choice but to let Jose go back to El Salvador without her. - The Loudoun Times-Mirror
Jose's mother is here legally, and her other two children are U.S. Citizens. It is unconscionable to insist that two citizens and a legal resident leave the country to remain united with their son and sibling. It is an impossible choice, and yet one that current policy forces parents to make.

Our immigration laws and policies are not just broken, they are fundamentally unjust and harmful to those who are most vulnerable. In a nation that is supposed to provide "equal justice for all" there are people who have a very difficult time with the definition of "all." Justice for all means everyone, not just people who look like you. Tearing a family apart for the sake of bureaucracy is not justice, it is a crime.

York Proposes To Raise Taxes, Maybe

During the bruising battles over property taxes in March and April, much ado was made of one penny. A $1.15 tax rate, the County Administrator's original proposal, was only supported by three members of the Board. A narrow majority, consisting of four Democrats and one Independent, voted in favor of the final $1.14 rate, while Chairman York decried that the rate should have been lower.
"If anyone wants to say that growth pays for itself, they ought to pay close attention to what's happening here," York said. "I don't work for the schools, and I don't work for the county government. I can't support $1.14, because I know the pain it's going to cause several families." - Leesburg Today
Fast forward two months, and now that tax rate's insufficiency has been made clear, as Chairman York suggests raising commercial taxes while trying to deny suggesting higher commercial taxes.
Loudoun County officials may have to impose a new commercial real estate tax to pay for road improvements and ease traffic congestion that threatens to bring down Loudoun’s quality of life, Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (I) told local business leaders today.
In an interview after his speech, York emphasized that he is not proposing that the new commercial real estate tax should be levied. His point, he said, is that “nothing should be off the table” as the board prepares to revise its countywide transportation plan this summer. - LoudounExtra
At last night's Town Hall meeting with the Governor, Chairman York presented a Board of Supervisors Resolution calling for the Assembly and Governor to take action on the transportation crisis. As such, it is clear that Chairman York sees and understands the criticality of the traffic and transportation issue in Loudoun. What is interesting is that he recognizes the issue now, sufficiently to lobby the Assembly and float a commercial tax, while he was completely silent on the issue when debating property taxes two months ago. Taxes are taxes, revenue is revenue. If Loudoun is going to "more aggressively address road transportation needs," as per Board of Supervisors policy, then new revenues are going to be needed. Furthermore, enhanced revenues were needed in April as much as they're needed today. And yet, $1.15 was anethema in April, but today raising commercial taxes is "on the table." Perhaps our Board Chairman should have considered commercial taxes in April, instead of abdicating leadership to responsible Supervisors who passed a fiscally sound budget.

I'm not against raising commercial taxes, per se. I think it is an option that should be considered, and has worked for improvements on the Rt 28 corridor (as Chairman York himself noted in Leesburg last night). I am, however, concerned that our Chairman made political hay over taxes at the expense of our Democratic Supervisors who actually decided to govern in April, but conveniently agrees today with the philosophy those same Democratic Supervisors used to justify their property rate vote in April: It costs money to govern and solve problems. That means finding ways to raise that money. For localities in a Dillon rule state that are responsible with their credit rating and long-term fiscal management, that sometimes means taxes.

Importantly, the Chairman floated-but-not-really the idea of commercial taxes before the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce. One of the biggest critiques of revenue plans from the right has been "it will dry up business development in Loudoun." But from the position of the Chamber of Commerce's resolution presented at last night's Town Hall and the address by the Chairman, it is clear that Loudoun's businesses understand what is at stake, and are not opposed to doing their part. It is important to remember this fact as the anti-tax forces trot out the tired "taxes are bad for business" trope during the debates to come. There is no evidence that marginal tax rates actually impact the rate of new business creation in Loudoun. The burden of proof in this issue is on the anti-tax forces, and it has not been met.

I'm glad Chairman York is starting to understand that progress on problems isn't free. And I look forward to his voting with the Supervisors who courageously passed a responsible budget in April going forward. It will take real investments in Loudoun's infrastructure and Loudoun's future to absorb and balance the development decisions made over the past five years, and that means paying our way, together.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gov. Kaine in Leesburg Tonight [updated]

Gov. Kaine will be in Leesburg this evening for a Town Hall with Loudoun residents.
Governor Kaine's Town Hall

Wednesday , June 11th
Starting at 7:00 PM

Come meet Governor Kaine tonight, June 11, for a town hall meeting at Harper Park Middle School at 701 Potomac Station Drive in Leesburg to discuss his transportation plan. The Governor's plan will be taken up for consideration when the General Assembly reconvenes for a special session on transportation on June 23. The town hall meeting will begin at 7:00 PM and is open to the public and media.

Come out and show your support for our Governor.

For details regarding the Governor's transportation plan, go to:
Nothing will get done on transportation this session without a lot of loud pressure from citizens here in Loudoun and throughout northern Virginia. It's critical that we give the Governor the support he needs to get something done.

That means telling our Delegates who enable Republican obstructionism in the House of Delegates (like Joe May, Bob Marshall and Tom Rust) that they need to vote their district, not their Party, by supporting a realistic, actionable solution in the House. If they do not, we will remember who ignored our pleas for help while we sat in traffic, wasting gas costing $4/gallon.

We will remember, and we will vote.

[update] I went to the Town Hall last night for about 30 minutes, as I had commitments to the family that prevented my attending longer. It was relatively well attended, with a representative sampling of local officials, including Scott York, Mark Herring, Dave Poisson, Kelly Burk and Marty Martinez (among many others). The Governor made the case for new revenues for transportation, noting that while Virginia is 5th in the nation in income, we're only 36 in the country in spending. While that's a good thing, it illustrates the key contention that "you can't cut your way to prosperity."

There were a number of folks asking questions from thin slivers of the political landscape, such as the anti-tax crusader who asked to governor to fix the transportation problem by cutting school and medicaid funding. Personally, I feel that it is a poverty of character to cut resources for our children and sick so that you and I can get to work a bit faster.

Or the gentleman who asked about the "group of criminals" that met in Loudoun earlier this month, and why the Governor allowed that to happen on commonwealth soil. The question was quite nonsensical in its conspiratorial assertion that (If I understood the questioner correctly) many public officials (Secretary Albright, for example) were criminals by association for having taken photos with people who were at said meeting. The Governor answered with more aplomb than I certainly could have gathered, "I wasn't aware of the meeting, so I cannot comment."

Then there was the gentleman railing about increased traffic enforcement on I-495 as a violation of our 4th Amendment rights. While I, too, am concerned about our liberties, traffic enforcement is as much a public safety issue on I-495 as one of civil liberties.

Ultimately, the Governor came to make a reasoned presentation on his solutions to the transportation funding problem, and was greeted frequently by scurrilous screeds barely formed as questions. It is a testament to his patience and respect for every voter that he happily engaged in the Town Hall discussions last night.

The quote of the night, however, goes to Supervisor Burk who asked the Governor if, after he got all the legislators down to Richmond, and assembled in their halls, he would lock them in and throw away the key until they got something done. It was funny, but to the point. We elected our leaders to act and solve problems, and we expect them to do so. The governor has stepped up to do his part (twice), it is up to the Assembly to do theirs.

[update 2] Loudoun County Traffic has a video of the Governor's presentation. Fair warning, it's 39 minutes long, but worth watching (kinda like Sen. Obama's race speech).

Dave Kirsten for Obama At-Large Delegate

You may have seen some posts here referencing my friend and District Chair, David Kirsten. He is a dedicated Democrat who has worked tirelessly and ceaselessly to turn Loudoun Blue from his position as District Chair. He is always available for a canvass, willing to drive anywhere at anytime to drop off materials, and will make a phone call for you if you need help. All in all, he represents the values of community and cooperation which are the core of our Party.

And he is asking for the vote of State Convention participants to be an Obama Alternate.

Hello from Leesburg VA! One of Virginia’s northernmost southern towns nestled in Loudoun County Va. My name is David Kirsten and I ask for your vote as I run for State At-Large Delegate for Barack Obama!

Philosophy: When asked what separates a Democrat from a Republican, I sum it up in one word “empathy”. Democrats can place themselves in the shoes of others and strive to help them in their lives while Republicans loose sight of the word’s very definition.

Obama Supporter: Empathy for others is a cornerstone of Barack Obama’s campaign and why I supported Obama from the start. I went door to door to obtain petition signatures to put Obama on the ballot for the Virginia Primary. As a Notary, I notarized dozens more. I also went door to door as part of the GOTV effort in Virginia and organized many door to door events myself echoing Barack Obama’s message of change.

Political History: Change is a factor in my political life. A former member of the USAF serving during Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 90’s, I was a Reaganite Republican. It was Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich’s broken contract with America, the hypocritical Clinton impeachment process and George W. Bush that convinced me I was never really a Republican at all. In 1999, I walked into the Loudoun County Democratic Committee’s (LCDC) door and simply said “Put these hands to work!” Since then I have been making up for lost time while a Republican!

2000-2000 Marched in protest at George Bush’s inauguration “Hail to the Thief!”

2000-2002 LCDC Democratic Issues Committee member

2003-2003 LCDC Bylaws Committee Chairman

2000-2004 LCDC Precinct Captain, Leesburg District, Smarts Mill Precinct

2004-2004 LCDC Reorganization Committee Chairman

2004-Present LCDC Leesburg District Chairman

Federal Campaigns: Gore for President 2000, Chuck Robb for Senate 2000, John Stevens for the 10th Congress 2002, Kerry and Edwards Presidential 2004, James Socas for the 10th Congress 2004, Judy Feder for 10th Congress 2006, Jim Webb for US Senate 2006, Judy Feder for 10th Congress 2008, Barack Obama for President 2008!

State Campaigns: Mark Warner for Governor 2001, Tim Kaine for Lt Governor 2001, Donald McEachin for Attorney General 2001, Tim Kaine for Governor 2005, Leslie Byrne for Lt Governor 2005, Creigh Deeds for Attorney General 2005, Mark Herring for 33’rd State Senate District

Local Town and County Campaigns since 1999!

I ask for you vote!
Virginia has been turned blue by people like David Kirsten, who realized that they were not Republicans and did something about it. And it is people like David Kirsten who are fueling our success, success harnessed and directed by our Presidential Nominee, Barack Obama. If you're attending the State Convention, please consider David Kirsten as an at-large delegate for Senator Obama.

[update] And if you're going to the convention to vote for Sen. Clinton's delegates, may I recommend the Blue Slate, which includes the blogger I admire most in Virginia, Vivian Paige.

Loudoun's Congressional Primary - An Analysis

Last night Judy Feder won the nomination to be the Democratic Party's nominee for Congress in Virginia's 10th Congressional district.
District-wide, Feder defeated Waterford-area resident Mike Turner by more than 2,000 votes. However, in Loudoun's unofficial results, Turner won the county by one vote-1,316 to 1,315.

In Loudoun, 2,639 voters cast Democratic ballots and 5,503 cast Republican ballots. - Leesburg Today

Judy Feder's Nomination
(From the State Board of Elections.)">State Board of Elections.)

The most interesting results from the primary came in from our own Loudoun County, where Mike Turner served as the LCDC's Precinct Operations chair in 2007, and developed strong connections throughout the County. In Loudoun, Mike beat Judy, but only by one vote.

Judy Loudoun Nomination Votes 2008
(From the State Board of Elections.)

In my opinion, the 50-50 split of Loudoun's vote is the result of two fantastic candidates, both of whom were very well known in Democratic circles (Judy as the 2006 nominee, Mike from his work with the LCDC) campaigning hard for every voter. As with the Presidential primaries across the country, their race strengthened and deepened the Party in Loudoun. Judy and Mike activated overlapping, but not coterminous voting groups, and there is nothing like getting active in a primary to solidify the allegiances of "leaning" Democrats, and bring new volunteers into the process. All of this will be helpful to the Obama-Warner-Feder ticket in Loudoun come November 4th.

Mike Turner has enthusiastically endorsed Judy for Congress, and promises to work his "tail" off to see her elected in November. Speculation has already begun as to whether Mr. Turner will turn his fantastic showing in Loudoun into a future campaign in the County.

It must be observed that the Republican turnout far outstripped the Democratic turnout in Loudoun's primary, reversing the turnout results from the Presidential Primary in February. Clearly, Loudoun's Republicans have felt the decline of their influence, and are recommitting themselves to turning out their voters. While this may help Frank Wolf in Loudoun in November, there is a real question as to whether it will help Jim Gilmore against Mark Warner. Loudoun's Republicans put up many signs at polling places for Frank Wolf and for the Loudoun Republican Committee, but very few for Jim Gilmore. In fact, the only Gilmore sign I observed yesterday was actually on the back of a Loudoun Republican Committee sign, facing away from the voters as they entered the polling place (though facing them as they left). Furthermore, at that polling place, there was only that one Gilmore sign, to four or five Loudoun County Republican Committee signs. Clearly, Loudouns Republicans are concerned with improving their own brand, and they do not see Jim Gilmore as helping to do that.

Loudoun will be a difficult and hard-fought battlefield for all contenders in November. It is clear that the Republicans are reviving their core voters for this year's elections, it is vital that Loudoun's Democrats retain and extend our enthusiasm and bring every Democrat and friends of the Democrats to the polls.

[update] Judy Feder has thanked Mike on her website for the fantastic campaign. It's time to come together an make VA-10 a Democratic seat!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Justice From the Governor

Yesterday, our Governor demonstrated that executive power can be exercised to achieve justice with mercy. In this case, the Governor commuted the death sentence of a mentally impaired prisoner to life in prison.
“Over the course of those 18 months, there has been no discernible improvement in Walton’s condition and no evidence that his mental impairment is temporary. Walton differs in fundamental ways from other death row offenders. He lives in a self-imposed state of isolation that includes virtually no interest in receiving or understanding information. Walton communicates only infrequently, almost invariably in response to direct questions, and those responses are minimal in nature. He has nothing in his cell other than a mattress, a pillow and a blanket. He shows no interest in contact with the outside world and has no television, radio, magazines, books or stationery. He has no personal effects of any kind. This minimal existence has been in evidence for the past five years.

“In light of this information, I am again compelled to find that one cannot reasonably conclude that Walton is fully aware of the punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it.

“Given the extended period of time over which Walton has exhibited this lack of mental competence, I must conclude that a commutation of his sentence to life in prison without possibility of parole is now the only constitutionally appropriate course of action. - Governor Kaine
In the Old Dominion, the commutation of a death sentence, any death sentence, is an act of political courage. In doing so, the Governor has shown his dedication to the principals of law and justice which he holds dear, while also recognizing the rare value of mercy so absent, and yet so priceless, in today's political culture.

If we are to have a real conversation about corrections reform, the conversation must include the death penalty. This is not to say it is illegal (it clearly is not), nor that it should never be used, but it is to say that a system which appears to seek vengeance over justice is a system worth questioning. Because of the Governor's actions, many conversations will be started, and new grounds for compassion and consideration found.

Thank you, Governor Kaine, for having the political courage to start the conversation, even if it starts with an argument.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to Vivian Paige)

Monday, June 9, 2008

An Interlude: Monday Night Funny

Some funny for your Monday night.

Ride The Snake!

Vote For Judy Tomorrow!

(Note, the two exclamations are utterly unrelated.)

Vote For Judy!

To all Democrats in the 10th District, please come out and support our next Democratic Congressperson from Virginia, Judy Feder, by voting for her in the Democratic Primary tomorrow, June 10th.

Judy is asking for your vote:
Dear Fellow Democrat,

Today I am writing to ask for your vote on June 10th. In 2006, with the help of the LCDC and Democrats across the 10th , we gave Frank Wolf his closest race in a quarter century. He knows that coming back at him is the way to win - that's how he did it.

Our friends and allies know it too. That's why I'm proud to be able to claim the support of every U.S. Senator, Member of Congress, Virginia Delegate, and labor union that has chosen to support a candidate in this race.

If you elect me as our party's nominee, I can promise to be the strongest, best funded candidate to ever challenge Frank Wolf, and with your help defeat Wolf in November.

On the day after the primary, I will not only be one of the best funded Congressional challengers in the country, but I will be able to compete with Frank Wolf dollar for dollar in a way we never could in 2006. Ours is a challenging district - one of the most expensive media markets in the country. What I learned in 2006 is that the Congressional leadership won't get involved in your race until you raise over a million dollars. I'm already there and they're already involved!

In addition to the necessary funding, I bring to my candidacy years of experience in public service -- as the Dean of the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, as a national health care advocate, as a senior congressional staffer and executive branch official, and as an educator who has trained our next generation of civilian and military leaders.
No one is more committed to universal coverage than I am. My plan for universal coverage offers Americans a choice of health plans and in doing so it's in good company. Senators Obama, Clinton and Edwards health plans all offered choice. Mine is a similar not competing plan to Senator Obama's and I look forward to working with him to make it a reality after his election in November.

As your nominee, I will continue to fight for our Democratic values with you and for you. I am the candidate to defeat Frank Wolf, and I respectfully ask for your vote on June 10th.

Judy Feder

Visit my website at to find out more
The County Website will tell you where to vote, and polling places open at 6am. So take a few minutes out of your day and help the fight for a more progressive America. Vote for Judy Feder tomorrow.

Recovering Energy, Everywhere

There's a funny thing about our mobile world, it wastes energy, energy we could recapture and reuse.
"Remember those ideas that suggested hooking gym machines to the power grid? Well, the Times is reporting that something like this to harness free energy is about to become a reality — the footfall of trudging shoppers is to become the latest source of emission-free energy. 'Engineers who have modelled the effects of the technology at Victoria Underground station in central London have calculated that the 34,000 travelers passing through every hour could power 6,500 lightbulbs. - Slashdot
I think the future of our energy grid is decentralization. I think a diversity of interesting point sources and sizes will lead to greater overall power availability and stability while reducing the need for a ton of new, polluting generating capacity. What's needed is the legal and financial incentives to make it happen. For example, the SCC needs to mandate that Dominion power connect to any point source that can prove it provides power to the recognized standard, and pay market rates for that power. In this way, solar homes would have a market advantage over non-solar homes in terms of operating costs, and there would be a market incentive for decentralization of power generation.

Of course, such a move would need to be dovetailed with strong, local pollution standards, as simply hooking a gas generator up to each house would be a bad idea, but there is a middle ground in which Dominion Power is no longer given incentives to increase power use to grow its revenues, but instead grows its revenues through improved power availability, stability and efficiency across its service area.

Dominion Powerless

I see Dominion Power as having one essential job: to deliver electricity to my house. Debates over generation and transmission and regulation and rates can come and go, and sometimes obscure the fundamentals of the issues at hand, but we must always remember, Dominion Power has only one, essential job: delivering power to our homes.
About 33,700 of Dominion's 97,000 customers in Loudoun were without power Wednesday night. As of about 10:10 a.m. today, Dominion reported that 104,958 customers were without power across Northern Virginia, which was down from 278,500 customers Wednesday night (out of a total of nearly 795,000 customers). - LoudounExtra, June 5, 2008
For 22 hours, my house was without power. We lost some food, and the poor dog was uncomfortably hot, but we came out none the worse for wear. That being said, the question must be asked: Why were we without power for 22 hours?
As of 4:20 p.m. Friday, Dominion was reporting that about 9,829 customers were without power across Northern Virginia, which was down from a peak of about 298,000 customers Wednesday night (out of a total of nearly 795,000 customers). - LoudounExtra
If an event short of a hurricane or earthquake can take out over 37% of the customers on Dominion's northern Virginia grid, then Dominion Power is failing in its most simple, fundamental responsibility.
Earl and Eileen Cherry of Warrenton said they were spending as much time as they could in their basement, the coolest part of their house, but were getting edgy after four days without power. They said they have been eating out, mostly at McDonald's, and have delayed leaving for vacation because they can't wash their travel clothes and don't want to leave the house empty without power. - The Washington Post
While 37% of Dominion's customers in northern Virginia lost power last week, and some remain without power today, Dominion Inc., Dominion Power's parent company, made $1.6 billion in profit last year. I suspect that a few extra hundred million in power grid improvements in northern Virginia would have done wonders to the stability and availability of power after a series of summer thunderstorms, but that's just my opinion.

Dominion's answer to the power problems faced by our region is bigger transmission lines and more power stations. The debates over these two issues have been both ceaseless and heated. Meanwhile, we have more code red days and more power outages.

I will give Dominion the benefit of the doubt that they need more transmission capacity into our area in order to stabilize power availability on the hottest days of the summer. (Though I will take issue that overhead lines are the best option.) However, I find Dominion's solution to the generation question puzzling at best, ironically misguided at worst. New coal plants do not solve the power problem, they exacerbate it.

Here's how:

1. A big reason for power stability and availability problems is peak demand in the summer. This stems from more air conditioning being available.

2. The hotter it is, the more air conditioning is demanded.

3. More air conditioning means more power use.

4. More power use means more generation from existing sources, most of which are fossil fuel-based.

5. Fossil-fuel power generation contributes to global warming.

6. Global warming exacerbates warmer, violent weather.

7. Warmer weather creates more demand for air conditioning, and violent weather impairs power availability and stability.

Thus, it would seem logical to seek to generate new power from sources that did not contribute to warmer, more violent weather, since warmer and more violent weather negatively impacts power availability and stability. To generate additional power from sources that contribute to global warming is to invite future power outages and trouble for Dominion Power.

On the face of it, new coal plants aren't just a bad idea for the environment, they're bad business for Dominion Power! By exacerbating the very problems that get them in the biggest trouble with their customers (power outages), they are setting themselves up for a worse reputation, lower stock prices and more regulation in the future. I am certain that the shareholders in Dominion Inc. would be concerned with that.

This is neither good policy, nor good business.

Dominion Power, in its own interest, should make a concerted effort to generate electricity in more climate-friendly ways, so that it is able to maintain the stability and availability of power across its grid in the height of summer. And that does not mean a token wind farm on a mountaintop, it means a concerted effort to reduce demand (i.e., conserve) while expanding non-polluting generation capacity, in order to stay in business for another 100 years.

And so, I will continue to hold Dominion Power responsible for keeping my power on, regardless of the weather, unless there is a hurricane or act of God. The company is a regulated monopoly and has only one job, to keep the lights on, along with a public mandate to keep doing it for generations to come. It is their responsibility, as a public utility, to plan for the long-term, even if it means a few hundred million less in profits in the short term. If the answer is obvious to one simple ratepayer in Leesburg, it is probably obvious to many other customers as well. And we will be watching. If Dominion does not act, we will be asking our legislators in Richmond to force them to, and no corporation wants that.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sen. Obama's Nimble Campaign [updated]

It's nice to see a Democratic campaign that has been as nimble and effective in reacting to circumstances as the Obama campaign. Such ability to react within the same news cycle was key to Pres. Clinton's victory in 1992, and is a key to Sen. Obama's weathering of adversity during the primary. (Incidentally, geeks have a great solution to the "news cycle amplifies crap" problem.)

A worrying trend that has emerged in recent elections is the advent of viral emails that reinforce lies about particular candidates, and how these lies settle into the subconscious and effect voters' opinions, even when the allegations have been thoroughly debunked. This is why rapid and overwhelming response to false allegations is absolutely critical to modern political campaigning. Sen. Obama learned this lesson with the church controversies of the primary season, and is now sending signals that he will not let himself be swiftboated in the General Election.
At Mr. Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, where for two months separate teams had focused on Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain, aides are adjusting their duties. One area in particular where Mr. Obama is adding muscle is a team that is tasked with tracking down rumors and erroneous statements circulated on the Internet.

“The growth of the Internet, which has been a fabulous asset for helping to build the Obama community, is also a place where erroneous e-mails live,” said Anita Dunn, a senior campaign adviser. “That’s a challenge I don’t think previous campaigns have had to deal with to the extent that the Obama campaign has.” - The New York Times
It is a good sign that our nominee is paying such close attention to even the least crap circulating on the Internet. It means they are fighting for their reputation and fighting for the truth. It's a good indicator that they will fight hard for facts and reality as an Administration, too.

But the most critical skill these actions demonstrate is the ability to deal with change, and adapt to it. In fact, it is this ability which some research demonstrates is at the heart of the difference between conservatives and liberals. There is no doubt that we are living in a time of widespread change. Our demographics are changing, our economy is changing, our family structures are changing, and the risks and opportunities our country faces are changing. It is critical that our next President is not only willing to adapt and pivot to deal with the fluidiy of circumstances, but is actually good at it.
The practical application of this study is that in times of change and upheaval, when the correct course of action may change from day to day, we are better off with liberal minds in charge, since they would be more likely to recognize that their standard response needs to change. One would imagine this could be relevant come November. - Leesburg Tomorrow, September 19, 2007
Now, to make sure we put someone with the flexibility and judgment to lead America through the times ahead in the White House come next January.

(With a pretty huge tip-o-the-hat to OpenLeft.)

[update] Here's a link to the Obama campaign's website to fight rumors and smears: Fight The Smears. This is the kind of fast response and public repudiation which will be critical to keeping the truth in the spotlight.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Tom DeLay Abuses Sea Life?

Once again, the incomparable Hunter.
Tom Delay, Indicted Republican: Unless he proves me wrong, [Obama] is a Marxist.

Hunter, Blogger: Unless he proves me wrong, Tom Delay lures children into his van with candy, gasses them to death with bug spray, and uses their powdered bones as an aphrodisiac when making love to all the animals at the San Antonio Sea World. - DailyKos
As my wife would say, "in Bush's America, if you say something, it must be true!"

T-minus seven-and-a-half months, and counting, left in Bush's America.

Clinton Court Speculation

This throwaway line appeared in the Washington Post this morning.
"I think she'd make a fantastic partner in government," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel, the dean of the New York delegation, "but I shouldn't have even said that." Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) suggested a Supreme Court seat. [emphasis mine -P13] - The Washington Post
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Sen. Clinton would make an excellent and inspiring Supreme Court Justice. From there, she would fight for the interests of the people for generations, and establish a long and loud voice for progressive values and justice through whatever political winds blow. She would be a strong counterbalance to the appointment of Samuel Alito, while doubtless being able to work with Chief Justice Roberts, as she proved with her bipartisan efforts in the Senate.

Of course, to make that happen, we need to elect Barack Obama in November. So volunteer, give, and vote.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Northern Virginia Progressive Endorsements

It is with humility that Leesburg Tomorow joins its more influential and more widely trafficked brethren, Anonymous is a Woman, Blueweeds, Bryan Scrafford, Not Larry Sabato, and RK (Leesburg Tomorrow's blog mater) in endorsing Jim Moran, Leslie Byrne and the 10th District's next Representative, Judy Feder, for Congress.

Jim Moran - 8th

While the corporate media only seems to focus on Jim Moran when he makes a misstatement or a mistake, the truth is that Jim is working hard for Northern Virginia and the nation on a wide variety of issues everyday. Jim was an early vote against the war in Iraq and has continued to oppose the war, even moving away from his former DLC allies over this and other issues (e.g., "free trade" vs. "fair trade"). Jim has been a strong voice for Northern Virginia on the House Appropriations Committee, has done great work on the BRAC issue, and is a strong environmentalist. In addition, Jim and his office have been great friends of the netroots and the Virginia progressive blogosphere. In contrast, Jim's opponent is an unknown who has made no case for replacing the 9-term incumbent. Elections are not about achieving the perfect, they are a choice between the candidates on the ballot. In this matchup, it's Moran by a mile.

Judy Feder - 10th

The 10th CD primary offers Democrats an easy choice. In 2006, Judy Feder gave Frank Wolf the toughest race he's seen in more than a decade. This year, Judy is building on what she accomplished the last time around. For 2008, she has started earlier, is raising more money, and has built a highly capable campaign team -- all in a district that is trending blue and in a year which has seen record Democratic turnout across the country. Needless to say, the Republicans are worried, and justifiably so; perhaps that's why they've already begun attacking Judy.

Electability is essential, but Judy offers much more. First and foremost, she is one of the leading experts in this country on health care. This could prove to be a tremendous asset to President Obama as he works to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable, universal health care coverage. In addition, as a veteran of the health care battles of the 1990s, Judy will help President Obama and the Democratic Congress avoid past pitfalls in getting this done.

In addition to health care, Judy believes in balancing the federal budget, paying as you go, getting out of Iraq responsibly, ending our oil addiction, and protecting our environment. As a member of Congress, she will bring her tremendous work ethic and intellectual rigor to these and other issues. We strongly and enthusiastically endorse Judy Feder for Congress!

Leslie Byrne - 11th

We join Jim Webb, Chap Petersen, Donald McEachin and many others in enthusiastically endorsing Leslie Byrne for Congress. Leslie is a proven winner, having carried the 11th district in 2005, with 55% of the vote. Leslie is a strong progressive, something she has proven her entire career. Leslie is effective, having introduced and passed more legislation than any other freshman representative while in Congress. Leslie has principles; in 1993, she voted against NAFTA out of concern for labor rights and the environment. Leslie has guts; she did the politically risky thing and voted for President Clinton's tax package. Several Democrats lost their seats because of this vote, but it was the right thing to do, leading to balanced budgets and contributing to the years of prosperity in the 1990s. Finally, Leslie has her priorities straight, fighting for working people as opposed the powerful special interests and the super-rich. We strongly urge all Democrats in the 11th CD to vote for Leslie Byrne on June 10.