Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Blue Dog FAQ"

From a fantastic cartoonist and fellow Wahoo, Jen Sorensen.

Tour Leesburg Development Thursday

Are you doing anything Thursday evening? How about going on a tour of development going on in Town?
Leesburg Bus Tour Scheduled for July 30, 2009

Free Tour of Town Development Activity will be on
Thursday, July 30, 2009 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.

Leesburg, VA (July 23, 2009) – As part of the Town’s ongoing efforts to provide more information to the public about current land development activity in Leesburg, the Town Manager’s office conducts quarterly bus tours. These tours highlight major road projects, current rezoning cases, active residential & commercial construction, proposed and recently completed projects, and key Town Capital Improvement Projects. The next tour will be on Thursday, July 30, 2009 and will depart at 6:00 p.m. from the corner of Wirt and West Market Streets. The tour bus can accommodate 21 passengers. The tour is free, but reservations are required. Participants are requested to arrive at least 10 minutes before the departure time. The tour will last approximately two hours.

To register for the tour, please contact Tara Belote in the Town Manager’s office at 703-771-2708.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Who Health Reform Helps

One of the most frustrating things about the Republican opposition to real health care reform? The fact that this reform would greatly improve the lives of Republican constituents.
For many of the 60 million people living in rural America, inadequate and unaffordable healthcare is an immediate and growing problem.

"Reform is a big deal here. We're on the edge," said Brian Wolfe, an Iola family doctor. Half his patients rely on government aid for the poor and elderly and some who need care don't seek it because they can't pay.
...
Rural residents are heavily represented among the 46 million Americans lacking health insurance. Many are too poor to pay for a doctor's visit and too far from cities to reach emergency rooms and free clinics.

Additionally, rural resident are disproportionately losing jobs and insurance or their seeing benefits cut as employers fire workers and cut costs in the continuing recession.

When rural residents do seek care, many find long lines for a shrinking number of primary care physicians and specialists.
...
A study released on Tuesday by the Center for Rural Affairs argued that rural areas need a public option. People living in rural regions tend to be older. They suffer from more chronic health problems, but have less access to private employer-based insurance because so many are self-employed or work for small businesses.

"Rural people have much to gain from inclusion of a public health insurance plan option in health care reform legislation, possibly more than any other group in the nation," said Jon Bailey, director of analysis at the Center for Rural Affairs. - Reuters
FiveThirtyEight did a fascinating analysis of the likely beneficiaries of health care reform with a public option, and the Blue Dog Democrats opposing the public option. The Blue Dogs (like Republicans) are opposing legislation that will greatly improve the health care options of their own voters.
The bottom line is that the health care bill, among other things, is designed to help out the poor and the uninsured, and somehow or another will tax the rich in order to do so. I can understand if, say, Jason Altmire from PA-4 wants to vote against the health care bill. His district is suburban and pretty well off, and almost everyone there has health insurance. But Mike Ross of the Arkansas 4th, where almost 22 percent of the population is uninsured? This is a bill designed to help districts like his. And the same goes for most of the other Blue Dogs. A lot of the time, these guys are stuck in a tough spot between their party and their constituents. Here, those interests are mostly aligned. If a lot of the people on the top half of this list are voting against health care, first check the lobbying numbers, and then check to see if they're still in office four years hence. - FiveThirtyeight
Health care reform isn't difficult because it's a bad idea, or because we cannot pay for it. It's difficult because the interests arrayed against it are so strong, so entrenched and so able to get their falsehoods echoed throughout the debate, that they can convince elected Representatives to do actual harm to their own re-election chances, by twisting the debate and spending money.

Winning this fight is about more than solving our health care crisis (though that will greatly fix a lot of other problems too). It's also about showing the entrenched interests who have gotten their way over the past decade that their time is over. That the good of the people is the policy and the agenda now. If we win this fight, it will be the biggest fight won over embedded, moneyed, regressive interest groups in a generation. And that's a win almost as big as health care for all.

Contact your Senators!

The AP's "Fact Checking"

The AP has a snap article out "fact checking" Obama's press conference.
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's assertion Wednesday that government will stay out of health care decisions in an overhauled system is hard to square with the proposals coming out of Congress and with his own rhetoric.

Even now, nearly half the costs of health care in the U.S. are paid for by government at all levels. Federal authority would only grow under any proposal in play. - The Associated Press
Neverminding the fact that it is possible to have the authority to do something without actually doing it (like, say, ending the war in Iraq), this kind of snap article, which frequently compares apples to oranges and cherry picks its "facts," is political hackery, at best. While most of the commentary about the press conference I've read has been pretty well informed, even nuanced, the AP has been notorious over time for its willingness to simply echo Republican opinions as "news." (A habit not exclusive to the AP, of course.)

Of course, when you look at the byline and notice that the "fact check" article is from the AP's Washington Bureau, you understand why it says what it does. Ron Fournier, the AP's Washington bureau chief, is essentially a Republican partisan. Here's what Media Matters had to say about him during last year's campaign.
The Fournier revelation came as no surprise to anyone who has read his recent campaign work, which has routinely been caustic and dismissive of Democratic contenders. In two "Analysis" pieces and a column, Fournier questioned whether John Edwards was a "phony," announced the Clintons suffered from "utter self-absorption," and claimed that Barack Obama was "bordering on arrogance." That's the right of a pundit. But at the same time, Fournier avoided raising any doubts about Sen. John McCain, and in fact rushed to his aid in print during the senator's time of campaign need.

That ethos seems to have been adopted by the larger AP political team, which, honestly, writes as if it's completely in the tank for McCain. "Atrocious" is how Talking Points Memo blogger Josh Marshall has classified the wire service's campaign performance this year, as the AP again and again has turned a blind eye to the Republican candidate's obvious flip-flops. - Media Matters
I had hoped to expect better from the premier wire service's bureau chief in our nation's capital. But I expect to much.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

McDonnell's ABC Privatization Gimmick

Bob McDonnell has found his "No Car Tax" pledge - privatize ABC stores to pay for road improvements.
Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, proposed Tuesday handing over about 330 state-run liquor stores to private operators to pay for road improvements -- a novel way to fund fixes but one that confronts many of the same obstacles that have stalled previous efforts. - The Washington Post
It's a beautiful idea from a framing perspective. It's pro-business and anti-government. It is clearly designed to attract Virginia's business conservatives who are somewhat skeptical of Bob McDonnell as the arch social conservative candidate. It appears to address the key issue in Northern Virginia - roads and traffic. And it forces the Deeds campaign to react, rather than act, on the roads issue in the campaign.

Just like Jim Gilmore's "No Car Tax" gambit in 1997, it's kinda brilliant. Just like Jim Gilmore's "No Car Tax" gambit in 1997, it would bankrupt the commonwealth.
For example, privatization of the liquor stores would generate at least $500 million in one-time payments to the state, plus income and property taxes over time, according to McDonnell. But about $100 million in annual earnings generated by the stores that goes to the state's general fund would be lost.

Similarly, McDonnell's proposal to divert a fraction of sales tax receipts collected in Northern Virginia to regional road projects would leave a $105 million annual hole in the state's budget that pays for schools, public safety and other core services. - The Washington Post
That's a $200 million / year hole in the state budget. A budget that is already in deficit this year due to the economy. With rest stops having closed up and down the commonwealth's highways on Monday, and with pink slips in the offing for thousands of state employees, Bob McDonnell wants to eliminate critical sources of revenue for the administration of our state.

The issue of ABC privatization can be considered on its own merits. There are many good reasons to get the state out of the business of selling alcohol. And there is a long and healthy debate to be had there. I believe we should privatize the ABC stores in Virginia, I just believe we must do it in a way that is revenue-neutral to the general fund over the long haul. We as Virginians need to understand that privatizing ABC stores, if done in the fashion proposed by Bob McDonnell, will lead to higher taxes in the future, since that future ABC revenue will be lost. This is exactly what happened with the "No Car Tax" policies of the Gilmore administration ten years ago.

Bob McDonnell's roads "plan" is not a plan. It's a pillage. It's a gimmick. And it's not what's best for Virginia.
"We're not going to take money from public schools and higher education and human services to build roads," said Democrat Richard L. Saslaw (Fairfax), the majority leader of the state Senate. "A 6-year-old kid could have come up with that plan. That's no plan. That's just simply taking money from the general fund." - The Washington Post

[Update] I'm having a bit of a debate about this with some friends over Facebook, and I credit my friend Gordon who pointed out that $100 million is only 0.5% of the budget, and the state should be able to cut that much. I respectfully disagree. We have the $17B budget we have after closing rest stops, laying off 1500 state employees and allowing our gaping transportation crisis to grow. There is nothing left to cut without severely impacting the quality of government in Virginia.

My friend commented, "Perhaps, then, it's a sign that VA needs to drastically reevaluate what it's actually spending its money on? It might look bad to cut things like education funding, but it might also be the case that the c'wealth isn't getting any benefit from what it's spending the funding on!"

I see this as a common response in these kinds of debates. There's a fundamental assumption that Government spending is always inefficient or ineffective. The facts speak otherwise. Virginia's government spending is quite simply the most efficient, best in the nation. Third-parties have validated this with a long string of "best in the nation" rankings through the course of the Warner and Kaine administrations. From "the best state for business" to "the best state to grow up in" to "the best performing government," Virginia is the best-run state in America. Slashing funding sources for that excellence is a guaranteed way to ruin the success we've had over the past eight years.

We are getting the maximum benefit we can from what we're spending money on. We need to sustain our current revenue streams to keep it that way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Are Sen. Webb and Rep. Scott Supporting Frank Wolf?

Somehow, in the midst of the primary, I missed the news item that Frank Wolf has indicated he plans to run for re-election in 2010.
After raising just $2,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31, there has been some speculation on Capitol Hill that Rep. Frank Wolf (R), who turned 70 earlier this year, might be considering retirement rather than running for a 16th term next year.

But while Wolf had “no comment” on his anemic first-quarter fundraising during a brief interview on Capitol Hill last week, he did say that “of course” he’s running again in 2010.
...
Two names being floated as possible challengers by Democrats on Capitol Hill are state Sen. Mark Herring and state Del. David Poisson. Herring won a special election in 2006 to a Senate district that stretches across parts of Loudoun and Fairfax counties. He could not be reached for comment Friday or Monday.

Poisson, a former Capitol Hill staffer, was elected in 2005 to a seat that includes part of Loudoun County.

“I am flattered to be among those mentioned, but my attention is entirely focused on being re-elected” to the House of Delegates this fall, Poisson said. - Roll Call
Rep. Wolf has stepped up his fundraising, but nowhere near the levels of previous cycles. As of this month, he has raised a little more than $116,000 and has more than $119,000 on hand. That means his burn rate is about equal to his income rate, not necessarily the best trend for an incumbent. Of course, he's an incumbent without an announced challenger, so it's understandable he's not working as hard this year.

Of course, when you dig down into his recent campaign finance filing, you discover this.
Top 20 Contributors to Campaign Cmte
1 - SAIC Inc - $5,000
2 - ITT Industries - $2,500
3 - Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn - $2,000
3 - National Assn of Retail Druggists - $2,000
3 - Republican Main Street Partnership - $2,000
6 - AECOM Technology Corp - $1,000
6 - Jacobs Engineering Group - $1,000
6 - McGuire, Woods et al - $1,000
6 - National Air Traffic Controllers Assn - $1,000
6 - Rolls-Royce - $1,000
11 - Bob Goodlatte for Congress Cmte - $435
11 - Rob Wittman for Congress - $435
11 - Senator Bobby Scott for Congress - $435
11 - Webb for Senate - $435

- OpenSecrets
Sen. Webb and Rep. Scott? What the heck are they doing giving to Frank Wolf? I know that Virginia has a history of bipartisan cooperation among its Congressional delegation on issues that affect the commonwealth, but, actually giving money to the other side? That, to me, seems to be going to far.

Democratic elected representatives should not be giving money to a Republican representative in a cycle where the district will be redrawn and Frank Wolf's fundraising is not necessarily spectacular. Every year that goes by, Rep. Wolf gets closer to retirement, and every dollar that he fails to raise adds to that consideration. Bobby Scott and Jim Webb should ask for their money back. The 10th District deserves progressive representation.

Of course, I'm sure it would help for a Democratic challenger to emerge. We are into the 2010 election cycle now. Yes, it's ridiculous, but that's the world we live in. Perhaps if there were an announced Democrat, Rep. Scott and Sen. Webb would have given even more to him or her. I, as a Democrat and active canvasser and committee member, will certainly expect Sen. Webb and Rep. Scott to give the maximum to the eventual Democratic nominee in VA-10 in order to make up for their lapse of judgment in giving money to Rep. Wolf.

Yes, we have majorities, and yes we are now governing, but the fight for progressive policy and principles never ends. The fight for a Democratic democratic government never ends. At a minimum, Democrats should support Democrats, not Republicans. Especially Republicans like Frank Wolf.

An Interlude: UVA Traditions

So UVA Magazine is running a poll - "sea of orange" versus "coats, ties and sundresses."

If you went to UVA, click through and vote for your preference.

Too bad "bring back the Pep Band" wasn't an option.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Will McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli Say No?

By now, you've probably seen or heard the video of Republican candidate for the Assembly, Catherine Crabill, warning darkly of violent reactions from "the bullet box" against the current "Marxist" government in Washington.

Oh, and she believes the government was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing as well.
As far as the Bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City which happened during this season of other horrific events, I did and do believe that our government was culpable in the OKC bombing. - Catherine Crabill For Delegate
When Rev. Wright said "god damn America" Barack Obama felt the need to distance himself from those remarks. Well, the time has come for McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli to come out and state their position on Catherine Crabill's opinions and candidacy. Are they willing to share a ballot line with her? If so, what does that say about their judgment, their beliefs?

If one can be judged by the company one keeps, which seemed to be the fundamental Republican theme of campaign 2008, then Virginia Republicans in 2009 must answer, will they keep the company of Catherine Crabill?

Virginia would like to know.

[update] Aznew said it better.

[update 2]Del. Pollard has responded to his opponent's speech.
Delegate Albert Pollard's Statement on Recent Remarks from Catherine Crabill

Washington, Madison and Monroe were born in my legislative district and to be bullied by a politician would be to dishonor them and the men and women who have died to protect this great country.

Given this rich history, it particularly disappointing that a major party candidate from this region wants to use the Constitution as a justification to bully and threaten people who don't agree with her. I won't let bullies wrap themselves in the flag and say that the majority vote is somehow is not the "right type of America" - attempting to scare others into doing dangerous things.

Sadly, what my opponent recently spouted is the logical extreme of the rhetoric in Washington and, increasingly, Richmond. It can be a short trip from over-heated rhetoric to furious anger to absolute rage.

In short, my opponent threatened to overturn the ballot box with the bullet box. She doesn't realize the founders turned to the bullet box so they could have the right to a ballot box.

While some might be saddened for the future of robust political debate in this district and country, I know that we continue to be the best region, in the best state in the best country in the world.

Delegate Albert Pollard

###

While Serving in the House Delegate Albert Pollard has concentrated his efforts on the core issues of environmental protection, fiscal discipline and education. Pollard is the President of a company that manufactures and sells portable sawmills across the United States (www.lumbersmith.com). Albert resides with his wife in Mollusk in Lancaster County, Virginia with their three children.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Democratic Events in Loudoun [updated]

The time has ccome to gear up again. To once more take to the streets and phones for the future of the Commonwealth. Yes, yes, it seems like we do this every year. That's because in Virginia, we do this every year. Here in Loudoun, the Democratic Committee has done it's best to keep their calendar of events up to date, because there is always something you can do to help our team extend progress ever farther and wider.

Just in the next few days, here is a smattering of things going on.
Del. Dave Poisson Canvassing
4pm - Today, Thursday, July 16
Call Megan to get details - 845-325-5996

Organizing for America - Phone Bank for Health Care
10am - Saturday July 18
22189 Withers Grove Ct. Ashburn

John Bell for Delegate Canvassing
10am - Saturday July 18
14522 John Marshall Hwy, Gainesville
Call Jared to get details - 703-622-1485

Del. Dave Poisson Canvassing
10:30am - Saturday, July 18
Broad Run High School - 21670 Ashburn Rd
Call Megan to get details - 845-325-5996

Stevens Miller for Delegate Canvassing
11am - Saturday, July 18
22360 S. Sterling Blvd Suite D105, Sterling

Del. Dave Poisson Canvassing
1:30pm - Sunday, July 19
Broad Run High School - 21670 Ashburn Rd
Call Megan to get details - 845-325-5996

John Bell for Delegate Canvassing
12 noon - Sunday, July 19
14522 John Marshall Hwy, Gainesville
Call Jared to get details - 703-622-1485

Stevens Miller for Delegate Canvassing
12 noon - Sunday, July 19
22360 S. Sterling Blvd Suite D105, Sterling

So come out and start working for our candidates this year. The time has come, once again, to make a difference.

[update] I Just got this update from the John Bell campaign.
Friends,

I hope your summers have been going as well our summer has here on the John Bell for Delegate campaign. Every day we talk to people that are ready to fire Bob Marshall and have a delegate that actually represents their views in Richmond.

This weekend we will be canvassing in Loudoun County in the Carter precinct, which is located just northwest of the Dulles International Airport. We will be meeting at the Caribou Coffee located at 42385 Ryan Road at 9:30 and again at 12:30. If you want to come knock on some doors but can't make it at these times feel free to give me a call at 703-622-1485 and we can arrange another time.

In addition to canvassing we are phone banking now as well. Our phone lines have been installed and we are phone banking from the office from 10 to 8 Monday through Thursday and 10 to 6 on Saturday.

As always if you would like to help the campaign out in some other way please feel free to contact me at the number listed above or by e-mailing me at Jared.J.Madison@gmail.com.

Thank you for all that you are doing and I look forward to seeing you on the trail!

Jared Madison
Field Director
John Bell for Delegate
If you don't know John Bell, you should. He's an amazing candidate who has worked tirelessly for progress in his neighborhood and thie region.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bob's For Jobs

Bob's for Jobs, unless it's a Democratic governor funding those jobs, or a Democratic Congress providing money for people who don't have jobs.

Bob McDonnell is a candidate for Governor who has consistently, throughout his career, stood in the way of government's efforts to help the people it serves. And yet Bob McDonnell is running to be the chief executive of our commonwealth's government.

The Roanoke Times does a great job digging into the facts and background of Bob McDonnell's campaign themes versus his real voting record while in the Assembly in a recent editorial.
Last week, McDonnell and Bolling staged an announcement of their four-point job creation plan that would: double the amount of money in the Governor's Opportunity Fund, appoint Bolling as a job czar, put a deputy commerce secretary in charge of rural job growth and halve the number of new jobs businesses must create to gain a tax credit.

Some of it makes sense.

"The Governor's Opportunity Fund can be a powerful weapon in the fight to attract new employers to the commonwealth," said McDonnell, noting the fund is half what it was in 2002.

Interesting comment coming from a former House member who voted thrice to slash the fund. Surely, he didn't frown on the fund then because a Democrat held the governor's post.

McDonnell really should explain himself.

So, too, should Bolling, who blames the last four years (translation: the Kaine years) for "the highest prolonged rate of unemployment in 20 years." Has he missed the nationwide recession? Better yet, where was Bolling the last four years?

Granted, being in the opposition party minimized his exposure. But what has he done as lieutenant governor to inspire confidence that he'd do any better at job creation if given another four years?

Voters, especially jobless voters, will recall Republicans voted against accepting stimulus money that would have extended their unemployment benefits. - The Roanoke Times
"Bob's For Jobs" is one of those slogans, like "Clear Skies" or "Healthy Forests" which means the very opposite of what it says, and is used to distort the actual impact of a Republican or his policies. Both "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" were initiatives of the Bush Administration aimed at actually removing environmental regulations on skies and forests. Similarly, "Bobs For Jobs" Bob McDonnell has actually opposed measures that would help people find and hold jobs.

The measure of the man is in his actions. Creigh Deeds has fought for the education of our kids, and the prosperity of our hills and valleys for a dozen years, Jody Wagner helped turn a fiscal nightmare into the model of budgetary stewardship. Bob McDonnell? He's stood on the sidelines and said "no." Bill Bolling? He's sat complacently in his office, watching his party crumble around him.

Virginia knows the Democratic party has served her well, and our Democratic candidates will continue her legacy of success.

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

Conservatives Coming For Our History

Maybe it shouldn't be surprising that 35% of Texans (and half the Republicans there) are in favor of seccession, today, but I have to admit it surprised me when I read about it on OpenLeft. It must be uniquely frustrating to see your favorite son president go out with a whimper, not a bang, and watch the Democrats take power in Washington. Luckily, the conservatives in Texas don't have to worry about that. If they don't like history, they will just rewrite it, and teach the revision to their kids.
The conservative reviewers say they believe that children must learn that America's founding principles are biblical. For instance, they say the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution stems from a scriptural understanding of man's fall and inherent sinfulness, or "radical depravity," which means he can be governed only by an intricate system of checks and balances. - The Wall Street Journal
The context here is a review of the recommended curriculum for teaching U.S. history in Texas. This is the position of three of the six curriculum reviewers reporting to the Texas State Board of Education. They posit that the reason for the American system of government is scripture and the fall of man, and that thesis should be reflected in the history curriculum.

I guess when you can't rewrite scientific theories, you turn to rewriting history. After all, there's no "scientific method" of history. There is high-quality scholarship and the accepted and validated facts as written by the framers themselves, which state clearly that the structure of the system was the result of big-state/small-state compromise and the need to balance of interest against interest. But there's no repeatable experimentation yielding the same results the way there is in science. Never mind that there is nothing in any original source documents about about Christ and the fall of man. History is what we say it is, nothing more!

This is as insidiously dangerous as creationism, and perhaps more threatening to the foundations of our country. Kids and adults understand who they are through the lens of history. Having lost one creationism battle (though they still fight that war), religious conservatives are opening a new front in the teaching of history. The end result could be curriculum that makes many students of non-Christian faiths uncomfortable with the idea of being an American. That outcome flies in the face of the whole purpose of public education. Being an American is not about being Christian, or any other ethic, cultural or religious designation. Being an American is about upholding the Constitution, standing for civil liberties and civic responsibility, and always striving for a More Perfect Union.

Of course, when you actually look at the changes the conservative curriculum reviewers specified, some more practical things become clear. So I will leave you with one of their suggested changes as the last word.
Some suggestions put forth by outside analysts appointed to review Texas K-12 social studies standards. Read the full report by each reviewer at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/teks/social/experts.html
...
* Replace references to America's "democratic" values with "republican" values

Reviewer David Barton suggests swapping out "republican" for "democratic" in teaching materials. As he explains: "We don't pledge allegiance to the flag and the democracy for which it stands." - The Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Our Broken Mortgage System

How broken is our mortgage system, the one that creates incentives to kick people out of their homes, instead of keeping them in their homes? It's so broken that mortgage holders are suing themselves.
Wells Fargo holds the first and second mortgages on a condominium that is going into foreclosure. As holder of the first, they are suing all other lien holders, including the holder of the second, which is Wells Fargo. It gets better. The company has hired a lawyer to defend itself against its own lawsuit. The defense lawyer even filed this answer to the complaint. -Slashdot
I know that it is popular to rail against government waste, fraud and abuse, but who is going to rail against this bank spending money suing itself and defending itself from that same suit? Where is the value in this? This is destroying value, not creating it. What if cramdown legislation had passed, and the people who had been in that condo had been allowed to stay, with a different mortgage? And payments were still being made? Maybe Wells Fargo would have lost a little bit of money on the loan, but don't you think it's likely they're losing a lot more money suing themselves?

Am I missing something?