Friday, September 25, 2009

Hummer Drivers' Moral High Ground

You know, you have to love science sometimes. Like when they do controlled studies of personal behavior and attitudes like this.
Hummer Owners Claim Moral High Ground To Excuse Overconsumption, Study Finds

Hummer drivers believe they are defending America's frontier lifestyle against anti-American critics, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
The authors explain that Hummer owners employ the ideology of American foundational myths, such as the "rugged individual," and the "boundless frontier" to construct themselves as moral protagonists. They often believe they represent a bastion again anti-American discourses evoked by their critics.

"Our analysis of the underlying American identity discourses revealed that being under siege by (moral) critics is an historically established feature of being an American," write the authors. "The moralistic critique of their consumption choices readily inspired Hummer owners to adopt the role of the moral protagonist who defends American national ideals." - ScienceDaily
So, basically, if you don't drive a Hummer the Socialists/Communists/Terrorists/French win. Nevermind the fact that Hummer itself will soon be a communist company.

Two Thoughts On Christiantity

Two very good and interesting thoughts on the meaning of Christianity in modern America, or at least, that's what I took from them.

Our Trespasses


On "Real" Christians and Christian Privilege

This second one, especially, struck me. Here's an excerpt.
Frankly, it's hurtful to me when Christians address what happened to me by saying, "Those aren't real Christians," expecting me to salve their discomfort about the baggage of privilege by not disagreeing. People who would never in a million years think to try to console a victim of a hate crime with "All [white/straight/cis/abled] people aren't like that!" nonetheless responded that way to me when I was targeted and threatened by droves of self-identified Christians.

I already know that all Christians aren't like that—and everyone who said it to me knew I was well aware of that fact. But in the wake of large members of a certain segment of Christianity attacking me, most of the Christians I knew felt obliged first and foremost to distance themselves from the group that hurt me, and do it in a way that protected their idea of Christianity, that reasserted their privilege—a privilege that is shared by the very people who attacked me, solely by virtue of their calling themselves Christians.

And they expected me to be comforted by it. - Shakesville
I resonate with this critique. I am a Catholic, and yet I find myself in complete disagreement of so much that purports to be "Catholic" today. It keeps me from my faith and my church, and I resent that. And yet, I cannot not be Catholic, it's just who I am. It's a constant struggle.

Two thoughts today, and a million more unsaid.

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lynching a "Fed" [Updated]

[Update] As it turns out, this was a suicide. A tasteless, divisive suicide. See the update below. -P13

I wish that headline were hyperbole.
A U.S. Census worker found hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery had the word "fed" scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.

Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher, was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky. The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, did not say what type of instrument was used to write "fed" on his chest.

The Census Bureau has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation. An autopsy report is pending. - The AP
This is where militant anti-government rhetoric spawned of an inability to come to terms with November 2008 gets us.

The census is the way in which we measure and apportion the basic unit of our republic, representation. It is the duty and responsibility of every American, and especially every American elected official, to encourage and promote participation in the census. It doesn't matter if it's a county where "Feds" may not be welcome, Federal responsibility, and authority, extends there. We fought that battle in the 1860s.

I sincerely hope that Republican leaders step up and speak out against this despicable act.

[Update] It is also despicable to commit suicide, and try to place blame on others in the staging in an attempt to enable insurance fraud.
The Kentucky census worker who was found hanging from a tree with the word "fed" written on his chest was not the victim of foul play, authorities announced today.

Instead, they believe 51-year-old Bill Sparkman killed himself and set up the scene so that it would appear he'd been murdered. Sparkman apparently hoped his son would then be able to collect on a life insurance policy.
I apologize for being taken in by this self-destructive hoax.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bob McDonnell's Own Words

Bob McDonnell in his own words, then and now.

"We report, you decide."

(With a tip-o-the-hat to Blue Virginia.)

Republicans Vote For A Public Option

Our Democratic Congress has moved to extend unemployment benefits for people suffering from the Great Recession.
Jobless workers in imminent danger of losing their unemployment benefits would get a 13-week reprieve under legislation approved by the House on Tuesday.
Democrats said the relief was still needed despite signs that their policies were reviving the economy. Republicans said the high jobless rate proved that the Obama administration’s economic strategies were not working.

Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.

The bill, if enacted, would offer a reprieve to more than 300,000 jobless workers who otherwise would run out of unemployment compensation at the end of September, as well as to the more than one million people expected to exhaust their benefits by the end of the year. - The New York Times
When Democrats run Congress, they lend out a helping hand to Americans in need. If the Republicans were still in charge, you can be certain that unemployment benefits would have been allowed to expire with a dismissive "get a job!" from Congress.

It's interesting that 104 Republicans voted in favor of this extension of benefits. After all unemployment insurance is a national, public, fully-funded insurance option available to people who have lost a critical part of their economic security. If the public option is bad because it's socialist and an intervention in the economy, how can unemployment insurance which is essentially the same damn thing, be okay?

In fact, we should all ask our Congressmembers this question. If they're okay with public unemployment insurance, how can they oppose public health insurance?
Dear Congressman,

Thank you for voting to extend the availability of public unemployment insurance benefits to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in this great recession. Given your previous opposition to public insurance programs, such as the public option for health insurance, I was surprised to see your vote in favor of HR 3548.

I assume your support for public unemployment insurance extends to public medical insurance? After all, unemployment insurance is a national, public, fully-funded insurance option in a marketplace where alternatives, like AFLAC, are available from private vendors. The plans for a public option in medical insurance are no different.

If your mind is not yet made up, I ask you, as my Representative in the House, to vote in favor of a public insurance option for health insurance just like we have for unemployment insurance. Your reputation for integrity and principle requires philosophical consistency. Here is your opportunity to demonstrate it.


Your Constituent
Take the opportunity to write your members of Congress an email or letter, today. As always, feel free to copy my language above.

Oh, and as for the characterization that the stimulus bill did not create jobs? Well, economists say otherwise.
IHS Global Insight, an economic consulting firm, estimates that the stimulus has increased the 2009 gross domestic product by about 1 percent over what it otherwise would have been, with the benefit almost entirely in the second half of the year.

The firm also forecasts that the package will, in total, result in about 2 million more jobs than otherwise would have existed at the end of 2010. Moody's estimates that the initiative will increase employment by 2.5 million jobs. Both estimates are below the 3 million to 3.5 million jobs the Obama administration estimated the package would create or save because the firms assumed more modest ripple effects from the stimulus spending than administration economists did.

Still, Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's, said, "I don't think it's any accident that the economy has gone out of recession and into recovery at the same time stimulus is providing its maximum economic impact." - The Washington Post

A Zogby Interactive Poll

I signed up to be one of the people participating in the most inaccurate polls ever, the Zogby Interactive polls. In this poll are the general political questions you get with any poll (approve/disapprove, right track/wrong track), and other questions which are more interesting, like this one:
Some say that the Obama administration is trying to grow the size of the federal government to the point where it could control most aspects of American life. Do you agree or disagree?
__ Agree
__ Disagree
__ Not sure
Those "some" do say a lot, don't they?

And then there's this one.
Do you consider yourself to be mostly a resident of: your city or town, America, or the planet earth?
__ My city or town
__ America
__ The planet earth
__ Not sure/refused
I'm not sure why Earth wasn't capitalized there. I thought lower-case it meant "dirt." Maybe only "America" was allowed to be capitalized. Still, an interesting question. I think I might've characterized the "earth" option as "the global community."

Another one.
Do you consider yourself a NASCAR fan?
__ Yes
__ No
__ Not sure
__ Refused
It's the "Refused" option that gets me here. Maybe there are some Upper West Siders who refuse to admit their fascination with motorsports?

Here's a fun one.
Would you consider yourself to be a member of the "investor class?"
__ Yes
__ No
__ Not sure
__ Refused
Immediately followed by.
How often do you shop at Wal-Mart?
__ Every week
__ A few times a month
__ A couple times a year
__ Never
__ Other
__ Not sure
__ Refused
Now, I understand the "Refused" option on these a bit more. Still, an interesting segmentation of respondents. Wal-Mart truly has a "low-class" image if shopping there is used to segment political survey responses. The poll closes with typical income questions, so the presence of the "investor-class" and "Wal-Mart shopping" question must serve some purpose other than as a proxy for income.

All in all, I get a conservative frame feeling from this poll, but I'm definitely biased so I may have my sensitivity turned up way too high. What do you think?

I am enjoying being a poll respondent, if you're interested, you can sign up too.

Deeds' Transportation Plan

One of the critiques of Creigh Deeds has been the perception that he doesn't have plans for Virginia. Now, this isn't true, but perceptions matter. So, in answer to these criticisms, Creigh has written an editorial in The Washington Post summarizing his plans. Unlike his opponent, whose funding solutions are based on wishful thinking and raiding the education budget, Creigh Deeds has an actual plan to finance our roads based on what has worked before.
The day after I'm elected, I will begin assembling a bipartisan commission to craft a comprehensive transportation package. Like Gov. Baliles did, I will appoint Republicans, Democrats and independents along with private-sector leaders and transportation experts. The commission would begin work in December and issue its report early next year.

There must be a nexus between funding and those who use our transportation system -- Virginians and those from other states. Virginia needs a bipartisan plan that must have enough funding to deal with our multibillion-dollar backlog and make the needed investments for our future. All funding options are on the table except taking money from education and other obligations met by Virginia's general fund. - Creigh Deeds
Unlike his opponent, Sen. Deeds has the courage to admit our transportation funding crisis will not be alleviated by gimmicky solutions. He is willing to risk his election to speak the truth about transportation to Virginia.

Bob McDonnell? As is his wont throughout his career, he will exploit circumstances to advance an ideological agenda.
Bob McDonnell has pledged not to sign a transportation bill with new revenue. His approach is to pay for transportation with money from the general fund. As The Post's Frederick Kunkle has reported, "general funds are raised from a variety of sources, such as individual and corporate income taxes. These funds can be spent . . . at the discretion of the General Assembly and the governor. The majority of the money in the general fund goes to education (45.9 percent), with the rest to health and human resources (24.2 percent) and public safety (11.1 percent)."

I do not support taking funds from these critical priorities to pay for roads. More important, neither will the General Assembly. Republicans and Democrats are on record opposing McDonnell's funding proposals.

McDonnell's idea of using general funds for transportation is not new. In 2007, an editorial in the Daily Press of Hampton Roads said that McDonnell urged "the General Assembly to exploit the gap in state road funding as a rationale for reducing state spending on education, public safety, health care and conservation. That such an ideological purpose lies behind the Republican transportation proposal has been implied all along. McDonnell made it explicit." - Creigh Deeds
Creigh Deeds knows how to make this work because he has already made solutions like this work as a Senator in the Assembly. He is the candidate for all Virginia, because he believes in the things that unite us, rather than divide us.

Vote Creigh Deeds for Governor on November 3.

P.S. Go read Vivian's latest post analyzing Bob's plans for Virginia.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"The Perfect Crime"

This speaks for itself. Except maybe to say, "only in America."
Again, my dad didn't care about abortion. He wanted to hurt people, upset people. He enjoyed making people suffer.

His goal was to be shot on a sidewalk. His goal was to make someone so angry, to make them feel so terrorized, to make them feel the only way they could make him stop was to kill him.

His pro-life stance was the most perfect crime I personally know of. - James. M. Pouilon
(With a tip-o-the-hat to Waldo.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Demography and Democracy

One of my favorite Virginia bloggers, Jamelle, has been blogging at the League Of Ordinary Gentleman of late. That blog has a great post up about demography, democracy and President Obama. Here's a taste.
There must be an honest and thorough acceptance of the fact that rural people do not get extra votes, that the middle of the country has no special privilege to lead, that white America is not the natural ruling constituency of the United States, that “traditional America” is not America. Demographic trends are not destiny. It is not certain that the number of Hispanic Americans will continue to change, nor that Americans will continue their long migration into the cities. But both appear likely, and if white people and rural people lose their status of political privilege because of demographic change then they must recognize that this is the simple business of democracy. Democracy permits no privileging of one demographic or another beyond their quantity. Indeed, democracy is the privileging of number over every other consideration. - The League of Ordinary Gentlemen
The entire post is well worth your time. Go. Read.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Worst GM Ad Ever

Is this going to sell cars?

This is the worst car ad I have ever seen. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.

And we, the American taxpayers (and the UAW) own this company. Lovely.

Here's the kicker for me, and it's not nice. I am not buying a car from that man, and I'm not trusting that man to sell me a car. He and I have nothing in common. Nothing. Even his judgment is questionable, thinking this was a good idea. Among the great things that VW (and others) do in their marketing, is that they make ads that get me to identify with the people in them. The people in those ads are "me" and therefore, that car is "me."

Who is the "me" in this GM ad? Octogenarian plutocrats? How many American cars do they buy?

My wife and I will be in the market for one, possibly two new cars in the next year. GM is not on our list. This ad doesn't put it on our list. It is the worst ad ever.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

20% Isn't Worth It

There's a computer program in Europe that can understand legal systems, and it illustrates some interesting things. For example, economically rational predictions are often wrong when applied to the real world.
Game theory looks at how strategic interactions between rational people lead to outcomes reflecting real player preferences. In the Ultimatum game, for example, two players decide how a sum is to be divided. The proposer suggests what the split should be, the responder either can accept or reject this offer. But if the responder rejects the split, both players get nothing.

Researchers have found that often proposers offer 50:50, even though the responder might accept less. They also found that responders always reject splits where they get less than 20 percent. In economics, this would be considered irrational, because the responder loses too, but this illustrates that fairness is a very important element in strategic interactions. - ScienceDaily
This doesn't come as a surprise, but it is interesting to see it reflected in computer system designed to deal with intellectual property rights. Just something to think about when "trickle down" economics is discussed. The policies of the past decade have reduced the bottom 40% of America to less than 20% of the national income. Even a computer rejects that deal.

Something to think about.

Justice Sotomayor

Justice Sotomayor

I just wanted to type that today. A bit of a reminder of the difference a year or two can make.

Did you imagine we'd see this day, so soon? The day a black President shook hands with a Hispanic Justice? Sometimes, you can actually see progress happening, and the photos from yesterday are one of those moments. There's still a long way to go, with rumors of Justice Stevens' retirement proliferating, and the health of Justice Ginsburg always a question. These are the reasons that the Supreme Court has been a voting issue for me since 2000. These are the reasons it is so critical the Senate approve President Obama's judges as swiftly as is reasonable.

But for today, America's highest court became a little bit more like the nation it servers. And we are all better for that.
Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was born in Bronx, New York, on June 25, 1954. She earned a B.A. in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the university’s highest academic honor. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 1979-1984. She then litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she served as an associate and then partner from 1984-1992. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992-1998. She served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998-2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role on August 8, 2009. - Official Court Biography
(With a tip-o-the-hat to MyDD.)

Bring Back Books Behind Bars

Virginia's concept of prison seems to be heavily skewed towards punishment over rehabilitation. That may be the way our state likes it, but even given that, this seems ridiculous.
The three inmates are among thousands who have received books from the Quest Institute, a Charlottesville-based nonprofit group that has filled such requests for two decades.

But the group's popular Books Behind Bars program might have become a victim of its success.

Virginia prison officials banned the program last month, saying that the security risks are too great and that it creates too much work for busy corrections officers.

The sudden halt has prompted protests from prisoner advocates who say Books Behind Bars -- which has put as many as a million books in cells statewide -- is a relatively low-cost way to help inmates who want to learn. - The Washington Post
Why was the program ended? Because a CD and a paper clip somehow found their way into prisons in two books. Of the over ten thousand books sent to inmates, two mistakes were enough to end the program.
Allison said volunteers, who search the books before they are shipped, overlooked two items this spring -- a compact disc packaged in a textbook and a paper clip. She said both were found by corrections workers, who examine each package that enters the prison, before they made it into an inmate's hands. Those two mistakes should not justify killing the program, she said. - The Washington Post
Here's the kicker, the books program has been instrumental to inmates getting their GED, a basic requirement for finding a job after serving their time.
One inmate who had gotten a Books Behind Bars shipment sent a letter to Allison to say he had become the first in his family to receive a general equivalency diploma.

"The free books you send me are a blessing," he wrote. "I read everyone of them from front to back." He asked her to send Shakespeare and Ernest Hemingway. - The Washington Post
I know Virginia is a "tough on crime" state. But some of our prison and punishment policies are 19th century in their severity. This is a double whammy on our commonwealth, as a higher prison population drains resources that might otherwise go to roads and schools. When combined with the fact that inmates who get out of prison are now being denied tools to rehabilitate themselves (books), thus increasing the likelihood of commiting more crimes (public safety risk) and therefore returning prison (increasing state costs), we seem to have guaranteed a vicious cycle for our citizens who find themselves in the criminal justice system.

Sen. Jim Webb has been a leading voice on the incarceration rate issue. Part of the answer has to be improving the opportunities and incentives for ex-convicts to go straight. It seems to me that Books Behind Bars is an incredibly simple and obvious piece of the solution. Let's bring it back.

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

Canvassing This Weekend

The Deeds campaign is putting on a big canvassing push this weekend. Come out and help our Democratic candidates, one door at a time.
We have a BIG weekend ahead of us. We are launching a statewide "Doors for Deeds" competition this weekend. We are tasked with knocking on 30,000 doors statewide for the Democratic ticket. We want to show to the campaign that Loudoun can really come through. This means a lot!

Times and locations:

Doors for Deeds

Sat Sept. 12th 10 AM Ida Lee Park Recreation Center
Sat Sept. 12th 2 PM Ida Lee Park Recreation Center

Sun Sept. 13th 12 PM Ida Lee Park Recreation Center
Stephen Korda
Field Organizer Loudoun County
Virginia Victory 09
I know how hard it can be to take that first step into volunteering and activism. Knocking on doors seems so aggressive and uncomfortable to many, but it is how elections are won. Think about it this way, how aggressive and annoying would you be if your teacher was giving your kids a bad deal? Or a hospital was denying service to your mother or spouse? These are the issues at hand. School funding and curriculum, health care, these issues are the reason we fight for Democrats. And when we win, it makes a difference.

Here in Virginia, the most reactionary Republican ticket in history wants to turn back the progress of the past eight years. Led by a man who only recently came to terms with the concept of women in the workforce, they will pursue an agenda that will defund our schools, reduce services and push a socially conservative vision for our commonwealth. Stopping that is worth a couple hours of footwork in your neighborhood.

And the good news? Our candidates are worth supporting. Creigh Deeds knows what it means to struggle and succeed, and he has a passion for making sure every Virginian has the opportunities he had. Jody Wagner knows what it means to fix a fiscal mess, and make sure that the things that are important in Virginia, have the money necessary to see them done. And Steve Shannon has made his entire career protecting our kids from predators and criminals.

The fight is here. The time is now. Come out this weekend.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The President's Plan: Public Option

The Public Option is in President Obama's Plan.
Offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice. The President believes this option will promote competition, hold insurance companies accountable and assure affordable choices. It is completely voluntary. The President believes the public option must operate like any private insurance company – it must be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. - The White House
That is what consistent, progressive pressure and advocacy can do, folks.

Now, on to Congress.

By the way, if you want to petition Rep. Joe Wilson to apologize for calling the President a liar during the speech, there's a Twitter petition.

I'd like to add emphasis to a point made by Tom Schaller on
But it’s amazing to hear a Republican talk about making sure that every American has access to health care regardless of pre-existing conditions. If the GOP really means that, Obama can hold their feet to the fire and ask him them either (a) how they plan to do that via the insurance companies; or (b) failing that, how they will do it without having some sort of public option when the insurance companies refuse to cover those who have potentially costly pre-existing conditions that no premium amount would ever cover. -
This is an important and critical observation. The Public Option is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. On this ground, we can win the fight, by turning the tables and forcing the Republicans to show they don't have a better idea to achieve the same ends. After all, they have stated they support the goals of health reform, and only disagree on the means.

An Interlude: Best Ad In Europe

The rumor is this was voted the best ad in Europe a bit a go.

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

Exoskeletons Are Here

Perhaps the future of healthcare is an Exoskeleton Public Option!

Brought to you by names that come straight out of dystopian science fiction!
Great grandma can soon put aside that powered wheelchair she uses to terrorize the residents at her rest home. Japan's robotics venture Cyberdyne's robot-suit "HAL" (Hybrid Assistive Limb) is now available for rent and is being tested on the streets of Tokyo. - Hplus Magazine
Yeah, a robot named "HAL" (think 2001) made by Cyberdyne Systems (think Terminator). Who exactly thought that was a good marketing idea?

We Can No Longer Wait

I had tears in my eyes when this was over.

DDay at Hullabaloo is right, the current model is insurer-assisted suicide. Just like police, fire, schools, finance, and transportation, the time has come to establish a public player in the health insurance market, to set the standards for competition. The time is now, we can no longer wait.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to Terry at BlueCommonwealth.)

Ask, Today, For Health Reform

There are a ton of videos floating around, explaining health care reform and advocating for change. But this one from Robert Reich hit home on an important fact we knew a month ago, but seems to have been lost somewhat since the beginning of September.

Did you catch the difference in Reich's video? He reminds us to write our Congressmembers, and President Obama, now, and tell them how we feel. After writing numerous letters in July and August, I mentally let the issue slide after Sen. Warner said he would not oppose the public option. Mr. Reich reminded me that this is not enough. Sen. Warner and my Democratic candidates expected a lot of me in 2008. In 2009, I expect a lot of them.
Dear Senator Warner,

Tonight, our President speaks before you and will tell you that he supports a public option. He joins a majority of America in this belief. It is right that he comes to Congress to ask for your support as our Senator. After all, there is a reason that James Madison and the other framers, so many of them Virginians themselves, placed the legislature first in our system.

With that primacy comes both responsibility and opportunity. There is a responsibility to seriously and deliberately consider the weighty issues placed before the Senate. But there is also an opportunity to be in the right place, at the right time, and change the course of the waters of American history.

These next few weeks are one such opportunity for you and your colleagues in the Senate. America needs real health reform, and that means a market-based check on the insurance market that has both the size and strength to set the standard by which health insurance coverage will be measured. It means a national, robust, fully-funded public option, available on day one.

This is my seventh letter to you, sir, asking for your support of this important initiative. I was happy to hear that you would not oppose a public option if it came up for a vote, but not standing in the way is not how to lead. Leadership means being at the front of the line, not a bystander. Your life has been one of leadership, demonstrable, results-oriented leadership. I proudly campaigned and voted for that leadership, and I’m asking for it to shine through at this critical time.

Please sir, millions of us, myself and my small, Virginia employer among them, need a real alternative in the flawed health insurance market. May your voice sound loud and proud for the real reform on the table today. Speak out, now, for the public option.


Take the time to write your own letter, or call the Senator, today.

Senator Mark Warner
Phone: 202-224-2023
Fax: 202-224-6295

Lest one think that supporting the public option is a sign of creeping communism, and perhaps that's why Sen. Warner hasn't come out in favor of it, Sen. Webb has been on the side of you, me and the public option for months. It's not like Sen. Webb is known for his liberal credentials. His support is just further proof that the public option is the right answer for health reform. It is important to acknowledge that support, and thank the Senator for it.

Senator Jim Webb
Phone: 202-224-4024
Fax: 202-228-6363
Dear Senator Webb,

In anticipation of tonight’s speech by our President, I wanted to send you a short note to again thank you for your support for the public option. This fight is upon us, and your voice and strength on this issue are appreciated by this Virginia family.

Please honor your commitment to a strong, national, fully-funded public option in the coming weeks of debate. A strong, national public health insurance option is the only way to ensure real competition and reform.


This battle is upon us, and now is the time to make our voices heard. Call, email and fax our Senators and Representatives, today.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cities Are Safer For Kids

There is a lot of discussion of the value of living in urban locations versus suburban locations. From sprawl to pollution, the trend in planning has been towards infill and density. Now it turns out there is an even further case for urban living.
Prof. Christian Holz-Rau and PD Joachim Scheiner from the Department of Transport Planning at the Faculty of Spatial Planning at TU Dortmund have been recalculating. Their surprising result: life in the city is much safer than in the countryside or in the suburbs.
The results of the analysis show that the risk of fatal accidents is already 40% higher for the population of the populous surrounding districts than for city inhabitants. For inhabitants of the countryside the risk to die in traffic is even twice up to three times as high. With regard to accidents with severe injuries the situation is similar but not so obvious. Accident statistics regard everybody as severely injured who needs in-patient treatment. In rural districts the risk of severe injuries is 70-100% higher than in cities. - Science Daily
Once again, science has challenged the conventional wisdom, and it is the conventional wisdom which was found lacking. Go science!

Monday, September 7, 2009

LCPS Statement on The President's Speech

Here's what the Superintendent of Loudoun schools has to say about the President's speech.
September 6, 2009

Dear LCPS Parents:

Last week the U. S. Department of Education sent an email to all principals in America advising them that President Obama would make a brief speech to students on Tuesday, September 8, about the importance of achievement, dedication to studies, and staying in school. Speeches with similar themes were given in the past by President Ronald Reagan and by President George H. W. Bush, although not on the first day of school. Unfortunately the email was not sent to superintendents or other school officials. We issued a memo to LCPS principals to let them know that they were not expected to stop all school activity at noon for everyone to hear the President's speech at the same time. This was important because the chosen time for the live broadcast of the speech is on the first day of school and during the lunch hour for many of our students. Nothing in last week's memo indicated that showing the speech was prohibited. At the time of the memo we had not encountered any public or parental commentary on the speech.

All of that has changed and now a number of parents and others have weighed in with support for or opposition to the President's speech being shown in our schools. This controversy, unfortunately, is occurring throughout our Nation. In order to try to respect the wishes of all parents, we have issued additional guidelines to all principals. Recognizing the differences that exist between our elementary, middle, and high school students, these guidelines are different for elementary schools than they are for middle and high schools. Our intent is to be sure that students have an opportunity to hear our President speak to them but also respect the wishes of parents who do not want that hearing to occur in school. My hope is that everyone will take advantage of the White House's posting of the speech on Monday to assuage any fears they may have.

We do believe that it is important for our young people to hear from the President of the United States of America, and we also hope that many parents will take advantage of the White House web cast or the posting that will occur on the LCPS website to view the President's speech with their children to reinforce the important messages of working hard in school and sustaining effort as a student.

In any case, please be assured that middle and high school students will be given the opportunity to view or not to view the speech whenever it is shown in their schools. In addition, parents of elementary students will receive at least one day's notice before the President's speech is shared with students and will be told the explicit procedures to follow if they do not wish their children to be part of the viewing.

It is unfortunate that we live in a time when a speech that I believe will serve a good purpose evokes such strong, accusatory responses from those who support and don't support the showing of the President's speech, but that extreme reaction may reflect more the political times in which we live than the importance of encouraging our students, by every means possible, to do their best in school.

We look forward to working with you and your children this year as we attempt to create a Climate for Success for every student. I hope that this controversy will not mar what is traditionally a very successful opening of school in LCPS.


Dr. Edgar B. Hatrick
If I have a moral objection to my kids learning math, because I'm suspicious of the way numbers turn into other numbers, as if by magic, can I have them "opt out" of that?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

An Interlude: College Football

You know, back when I was at UVA, and The Pep Band was the official band, we'd win games against William and Mary. Now, William and Mary has a scramble band and wins games against UVA (at UVA, no less).

Oh yes, this is a ridiculous overstatement, but they did blame the Pep Band for UVA Football not doing "better" then.

Perhaps there is a Pep Band curse.

It makes a lot more sense then, say, taking logical action like firing Al Groh or something.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Whither Not Larry Sabato?

Well isn't this interesting.
My name is Ben Tribbett. I'm the new Executive Director for Accountability Now and in charge of political action for Firedoglake. Since 2005 I have written the largest state blog in the country at "Not Larry Sabato," covering Virginia politics. Prior to that I ran local, state and federal campaigns for Democrats in Virginia. - Firedoglake
Good for him, good for Firedoglake.

And this news was NOT broken on NLS!

Bob McDonnell: Dad

I'm the father of an amazing daughter. I'm 34. When Bob McDonnell was 34, he had two daughters, one a wonderful 5-year old girl who would grow up to serve her country in the U.S. Army. Family life is critically important to Mr. McDonnell. Family dinner every night is important. While he was in graduate school at Christian Broadcasting Network University (now Regent), it is likely he had dinner with his wife and daughters every night.

That means that while he was writing a thesis which called the advances in women's rights illogical and ill-founded, he came home to a house full of women. He actually sat and wrote a detailed thesis calling for the rolling back of the advances and opportunities then afforded to his wife and daughters, and came home to eat dinner with them every day.

As a husband and dad, I cannot imagine coming home to dinner with my family knowing I had spent that day fighting to limit their rights, reduce their opportunities, even stifle the equality of their pay. And the kicker is, he didn't stop in 1989, realizing it was a "youthful" (at 34?!) indiscretion. In 2001, a full twelve years after writing the thesis and in the full bloom of his career in the Assembly, he voted against equal pay for women and men.

And then he went home and had dinner with his wife and daughters.

It takes principles and values to do that. It takes true commitment to a cause. I don't happen to share that cause. I happen to disdain those principles and values which would limit my daughter's future, but I cannot deny the commitment.

Censoring The President [updated]

So President Obama is giving a talk to students around the country next week. It is going to be aired in schools, and aimed at motivating students to respect and take responsibility for their own education. But for some reason, some people have a problem with that. In fact, some elected officials want to give people the right to censor the speech.
Rep. John Kline (Minn.), the ranking Republican on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, and House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) urged the early release of the text in a letter to the White House on Wednesday, saying parents and teachers should have ample time to review the president's words before deciding if children should hear them. - The Washington Post
No. Simply no. If the President wants to talk to students, he gets to talk to students. Did anyone ask the parents of those kids in Florida if they wanted a story read to them by George Bush?

For that matter, do parents get a say when Congressmembers and state legislators visit classrooms every year, sometimes handing out campaign materials? No. And they shouldn't. Parents do not have an absolute right to raise their children in any way they please. They cannot, for example, raise them to go around throwing stones at women who don't cover their calves - that's assault. When you choose to send your kids to public schools, you know they're probably going to be exposed to things you don't like. Barack Obama is President of the United States, and the children of America overwhelmingly supported him last year. He has not just a right, but a responsibility to serve as an example for today's kids. He's doing that.

Trying to keep kids from seeing or hearing President Obama speak is not going to make him less of our President, and it's not going to help the kids either.

[Update] Gah.
Loudoun officials sent a note to principals Tuesday advising them to keep their first-day schedules intact. "We have got way too much to do that day," said School Board Chairman Robert F. DuPree Jr. "Loudoun County Public Schools is not going to be interrupting the school day." - The Washington Post
I get the argument, the first day of school is important. However, it seems to me that it's probably the most interruptable day of the school year. The kids aren't going to know the day is off kilter, it's the first day.

Ted Kennedy's Memoir

The media is abuzz with the news of Ted Kennedy's forthcoming memoirs. Though the Times wasn't supposed to get a copy, they did, and the Post is reporting on both that story, and the memoir's contents.

Two important pieces of information are revealed in this reporting, relevant to the ongoing battle over Sen. Kennedy's legacy. First, Kennedy says definitively that he wants his legacy to be real health care reform.
The book ends with Kennedy's hope that readers will be inspired to take up his unfinished cause of health-care reform.

"If you persevere, stick with it, work at it, you have a real opportunity to achieve something," he wrote. - The Washington Post
This comes as no surprise to the people who have been fighting this battle on Capitol Hill and in our neighborhoods for the past six months. Indeed, there is a strong movement to rename the core bills currently under consideration in honor of Sen. Kennedy.

Another interesting tidbit from the Post's article is this:
Kennedy had been working on the autobiography for two years, and finished just a few months before his death last week. He reportedly received an $8 million advance.

Kennedy drew on notes in a personal journal he kept for almost 50 years, beginning with his brother John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign. He also relied on interviews conducted for a five-year oral history project by the University of Virginia. - The Washington Post
It is fantastic to hear that UVA has been recording oral histories, including Sen. Kennedy's. I hope some day I will be able to take my daughter to my alma mater and let her hear the voice of the man who was singularly responsible for so much of the progress and opportunity she will be able to take advantage of in her life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An Interlude: MBAs

At one time, I had four MBA's working in my group, I was the PM. I was 25 at the time.

And then there's this. And this. And finally this.

Creigh Deeds in Leesburg on Friday

Sen. Deeds is coming to Leesburg to meet voters on Friday.
1. Creigh Deeds will be walking downtown Leesburg this Friday from 3:15 until 4:30PM. He will be starting his walk at the new Shoe's Cups and Corks Club Coffee shop at 17 North King Street. Let's give him a welcome to Leesburg by coming out to meet him!

2. The Coordinated Campaign is planning a door to door canvass this Saturday at 10AM and Sunday at noon. The meet up on both days will be at Ida Lee Recreation Center
Please come out and work for our victory in November.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Post on McDonnell's Thesis

Here's an editorial comment from The Washington Post on Bob McDonnell's thesis.
Nonetheless, in his 14 years in the state's General Assembly, Mr. McDonnell did aggressively pursue a socially conservative agenda largely in line with his thesis. As governor he could do the same, although he would be constrained by a legislature at least partly controlled by Democrats. He could not ban abortion and contraception, but he could help restrict access. The Bob McDonnell who wrote that thesis would make a divisive, disruptive and partisan governor -- a sharp departure from the tradition of generally pragmatic executives who have helped make Virginia one of the better-managed states in the union. Virginians deserve specific answers about where the thinking of his early middle age has shifted, and where it remains consistent. - The Washington Post
It's interesting that the Post's position largely legitimizes the initial critiques from the Virginia (and national) blogosphere. Worth reading, for example, is Mary Sue Terry's commentary.
When I was 30, I was elected to the House of Delegates. And then at 37, I was elected as Attorney General of Virginia and entered my 8th year of public service. My parents were rural school teachers. My mother taught school because she not only loved helping young people but because her income was an essential part of our family’s finances. They had seen that my sisters and I had gotten a good education. And now I was seeking to live out the other two values that our parents had taught us:work hard and make a difference for others.

That’s what I was attempting to do at the age of 38, when I stepped into the same office that Bob McDonnell just left. That’s what I was doing when he wrote his thesis about women in the workforce. I wonder now what he thought then of women in elective office. - Mary Sue Terry
Think about that. As a woman ascended to office of Attorney General, Bob McDonnell was writing a thesis decrying women working outside the home. And this is the man who now wants to be Governor of Virginia. How does he view Jody Wagner's candidacy? Do we want Virginia to move forward into the 21st century, or backwards into the 19th?

Creigh Deeds, Jody Wagner and Steven Shannon represent the best of Virginia's pragmatic, forward-thinking, Democratic traditions. Bob McDonnell lambasted those traditions and lived a plan to roll them back during his political career. Take the time to make a difference and work for our Democratic candidates today.

The Media Should Ignore Lies

Following-up on some earlier thoughts on evidenced-based journalism, I'd like to link to a remarkably practical editorial by a professor at Washington and Lee.
As the saying goes, what really matters isn't what people think, it's what they think about: Debunking falsehoods is fine, but the more that news media embrace it as if it's a cure-all, the worse we'll all be. The solution isn't to refute, it's to ignore. End the practice of rewarding the most sensational, the most irresponsible, the most baseless allegations with top-of-the-news billing. The media bury worthwhile news all the time; how about burying the worthless stuff?

There, however, the problem isn't so much with reporters, it's with their bosses, the ones who insist on running the screaming footage from "town meetings,'' on giving dramatic lies a prominence they don't deserve -- ensuring an audience, but while ensuring the lies a public life no reasoned refutation can end.

"He said, she said'' has always been a dubious way to report the world. "We say'' helps, but only a little. The real solution is simple: It's called news judgment. - Edward Wasserman
I submit that the solution to the decline of ratings and newspaper circulation is not more sensationalism, but less. If traditional media is to decline, may it decline gracefully, not into tawdry, tabloidism.

(with a tip-o-the-hat to Hullabaloo.)