Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's Home Run

Okay, so here's the deal: due to some connectivity issues, I was not able to post yesterday about the President's speech, so I'll post a quick, belated word about it today:

In short, I think Obama nailed it. He mixed realism about what we face with optimism that we can conquer it, and the "we will emerge stronger" line was right out of the park. After the partisan rancor over the stimulus package, I think Obama did a great job of recapturing the narrative and explaining how the stimulus will benefit us as a nation. I also think it speaks highly of him that he set out such an ambitious agenda--fixing health care within the year, helping turn the economy around, halving the deficit by 2012, etc. It's a very lofty plan and cynics would say it can't be done, but he has a mandate roughly on par with what Reagan enjoyed during his 1980s revolution.

Cool side note: Obama gave Tom Perriello's first bill a shout-out, albeit not by name. He mentioned early in the speech that there will now be a $2500 tax credit for higher ed funding--that was Tom and Lloyd Doggett of Texas, who got together on the bill and it ended up in the stimulus. Much props, Tom & Lloyd!

Which leads me to what I think was the most important part of the speech: when the President asked all Americans to go back to school for at least one year of higher education to remain competitive in the global economy, given the new affordability measures coming through Congress. It's a good idea on its own, but it says something larger about what kind of administration we have. President Obama asked us to stand up and take part in fixing our country's problems. 

To paraphrase part of Mark Warner's stump speech, if President Bush had asked us on September 12 to get off of foreign oil so we can stop funding both sides of the war, every patriotic American would have asked, "How can I help?" Or if he had asked my generation to learn Afghani tribal languages and join the intelligence community, many of us would have gladly signed up. We have seen a decline in our civic-mindedness as a country over the past years, and Obama is trying to tap into that. Based on the way he ran his campaign, I think he can do it, and the country will be better as a result. 

Pray for Vito

Some troubling news from Charlottesville this past weekend. Congressman Perriello has rushed home from D.C. to spend time with his father Vito, who is apparently very ill. Vito is highly respected in Charlottesville for his work as a pediatrician; he's also one of the nicest people I know, and if you've ever met him, you know exactly what I mean.  You won't find a friendlier, more welcoming group of people than the Perriellos, and whether you voted for Tom or not, his family needs our prayers.

If you'd like to send an e-card to the family, click here. The University of Virginia Health Systems will print out the cards for the family, and I know they would appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Up Through Downtown

I had a really cool experience this past weekend, and it's one that should encourage Martinsville residents of all political leanings. Last Sunday, the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society and the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association sponsored a tour of buildings in Uptown that either have been or could be turned into loft apartments. At left, you'll see one I wouldn't mind getting my hands on if I had the money: the old Masonic lodge that also housed the C.W. Holt women's clothing store. Interesting side note, the first floor housed the Obama-Warner-Perriello campaign office. Last summer, area residents knew it as the building with the giant Obama face painted on the window, but now it sits empty--I could easily see our old office accommodating a retailer or even a bar or restaurant. On the top two floors, the interior is spacious, versatile, and vacant. The building needs repairs and modernizing, especially on the top floor. But the arched windows give a great view of Martinsville and the mountains in the distance. This could be an insanely cool apartment or two, not to mention that the first floor would be perfect for just about any retailer, bar or restaurant. 

One of the stops on the tour was a young family's emerging loft apartment, which only a few months ago was an empty office. There was a good story about it in Sunday's Martinsville Bulletin; apparently they renovated the space for less than $5000, saving money by DIYing the labor. I met the folks who live there now, and they told me about further renovations they plan to do down the road. Guess what, Martinsville--they're young, and they're returning to the area instead of sprinting away at full speed.

The takeaway lesson from all this was that small towns across America are beginning to rediscover their downtown areas, which have long been neglected due to the proliferation of malls and chain stores. As gas prices start climbing again, there's a lot of interest in returning to a more logical system--walkable urbanism. That's where urban design is headed, and that's what young professionals are beginning to expect when they look for a place to live. Revitalizing Uptown Martinsville will go a long way toward halting the "brain drain" of young people who feel they must leave town. Recently I wrote about stores leaving our local mall and leaving empty storefronts in its wake. Now is the time for local entrepreneurs to retake what was once a bustling center of the community and build new prosperity. Places like Uptown should take advantage of the megamalls' plight and breathe new life into their communities.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Roanoke Times Gives Tom Some Props

There was an excellent article in yesterday's Roanoke Times about Tom Perriello's time in office so far. I can't justifiably summarize it, so your best bet is to read the whole thing. But it did bring up two points I'd like to talk about briefly. 

First, the article quotes a George Mason University political scientist who says as long as Tom maintains independence and doesn't turn into a "party robot for Pelosi and Reid," it will help him to win re-election, despite his vulnerability as a freshman congressman. I think he's absolutely right about that--we met quite a good deal of Republicans throughout the campaign who switched their allegiance to Tom because of his moderate, Mark Warner-esque approach to public policy. Not only does that play well in the Fifth District, but I think it's a winning playbook for Democrats nationally. I have a sneaking suspicion it hasn't occurred to Nancy and Harry that maybe we're in the majority in spite of their leadership, rather than because of it. Pelosi said the stimulus bill would be posted for 48 hours before the vote, then rescinded that promise at the last minute--that's no way to engender bipartisanship or public confidence, and Tom called her on it by voting with Republicans to request more time.

Now, a money quote:

Boucher's district neighbors Perriello's, and the two split representation of Henry County. Boucher said he speaks to Perriello often about how their partnership can benefit Southwest Virginia as well as passing on his own experiences from more than two dozen years in Congress.

"Tom is terrific," Boucher said. "He's tremendously respected on both sides of the aisle. ... He has made a good impression in his first month."

You may have seen the incredibly nasty attack ads that have been running against Tom throughout the Fifth. It's one thing to disagree with his votes and try to win back a seat perceived to be vulnerable. But these ads attack Tom for his character and portray him as a cookie-cutter politician who can't be trusted. I'm here to tell you that whether you agree with him or not, Tom is one of the most genuinely nice, principled people you'll ever meet. He's the closest you'll ever get to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and he genuinely wants to help our area get back on its feet. If you still want to beat him, fine--but you're gonna have to do better than outright lies and ad hominem attacks. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Florida School Board Exhibits Homework Sanity

I found this article today from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Apparently when Broward County isn't hand-counting their dangling chads, they have time to actually do a pretty cool thing. Their school board passed a requirement that teachers assign less homework after parents complained that students were overwhelmed. One school board member noted having spent four hours helping her 12-year-old grandson finish a project earlier this week. You might expect something like that at college, but I remember plenty of nights just like that one in middle and elementary school.

I'm all for offering the best education possible, but too much homework runs counter to everything education is trying to accomplish. There's no quicker way to make a kid hate learning than to saddle him or her with hours of repetitive, mindless busy work that accomplishes nothing and doesn't stimulate the mind. Some homework is necessary to make the lessons stick, and it's important for students to engage with what they're learning, but there's a much better way to do it than passing out worksheets and making kids jump through ridiculous hoops. It's also worth noting that homework overload disproportionately affects low-income and single-parent kids who may not have a support network to help with homework and offer encouragement. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jeff Frederick Betrays Democracy

This morning the nonpartisan redistricting bill was killed in a House subcommittee. It was 4-2, a strictly party line vote. Think about that: four guys destroyed a bill that passed the State Senate unanimously--God forbid something like that get to the floor to be discussed. And guess who was on that subcommittee? None other than our good friend Jeff Frederick, nutso extraordinaire and chair of the Virginia GOP. 

Ok. Deep Breath. I'm about to go on a rant. Normally when I disagree with something a party does, I try to at least understand where they're coming from. There are a lot of issues that thoughtful people can legitimately disagree about--abortion, gun control, and the death penalty are a few that come to mind. Even the stimulus, which I have avidly supported, falls into that category.

But this is such a flagrant, shameful, unabashed, self-interested, shortsighted, anti-democratic power grab that it deserves no sympathy whatsoever. When the people elect their representatives, we have a republic. When representatives choose their constituents, it's tyranny. It's oligarchy. It's everything we claim to be against as a nation. Period. Both parties gerrymander districts to their advantage and it's a national disgrace. And it happens because of partisan hacks like the ones who occupy the House subcommittee on Privileges and Elections (emphasis on "privilege"). Not only did they shoot down the redistricting bill, they also killed a proposal to allow no-excuses early voting. I'm frustrated by that as well, but to be honest, I still haven't gotten over being infuriated by the flagrant partisanship on display here. 

I applaud Creigh Deeds for his tenacity in introducing this bill every year; if he's governor this time next year, hopefully he'll finally be able to get it done. And if one of his opponents is governor, even McDonnell, there remains an obligation to get this done. Giving the people of Virginia fair, legitimate, competitive elections is without any question the right thing to do, and it's something that one might expect to gain actual bipartisan support--to some extent it did, since all Senate Republicans, to their great credit, voted for this bill. I'm actually somewhat encouraged that Jeffy Fred's influence wasn't so great as to prevent the Senate GOP from stating their support. Maybe this is a small sign that his crazy train is finally leaving the station--if I were a Republican, I'd certainly be running like hell from the guy who presided over the disastrous losses of 2008.

The patriotic idealist in me wants everybody to get along and do what's best for the country and the state; the vindictive partisan in me says that if Dems control the GA and the governorship, we should lock in our recent gains and make the other side bleed for idiocy like this. And that's exactly why people like me do not need to be the gatekeepers to power. 

VPFF to Endorse McAuliffe

Tim Craig of the Washington Post is reporting that Terry McAuliffe will receive the endorsement of the Virginia Professional Firefighters Association on Wednesday at a ceremony in Richmond. 

If it takes place, the firefighters endorsement could be a huge boost for McAuliffe's campaign.

In past races, the firefighters' union have provided valuable grassroots support to political candidates, including President Barack Obama last year. In 2006, the firefighters appeared to be an major assett to Sen. James Webb (D-Va) in his race against former senator George Allen (R).

The firefighters could help McAuliffe neutralize concerns about whether he has enough experience to oversee a major crisis. They could also serve as an important validator in rural Virginia.

I'm not sure I agree that it will erase concerns about whether or not McAuliffe can handle a crisis, and I definitely don't buy that it will validate him in places like the 5th and the 9th--I'm not aware of a large VPFF presence in the Southside (correct me if I'm wrong, Jim), and I think rural voters will be wary of him for a good long while. Plus, the fact that Deeds already has IUPA and other public-safety endorsements just brings the two candidates to parity in my mind, at least in terms of labor endorsements. 

But what it does do is take some wind out of his opponents' sails. It also mobilizes a statewide canvassing army marching under McAuliffe's banner. Ground game is everything, especially in low-turnout primaries--these guys alone could give McAuliffe the turnout edge to win the nomination and will be a big power in November. This could make McAuliffe look stronger to in the eyes of the base. But there's the rub: whoever gets the nomination will presumably have VPFF support anyway, and Moran has already responded by saying the Fairfax branch broke from the state union to endorse him instead. At first that struck me as a weak response, ringing of "me too" desperation. But from a turnout perspective I think it's significant: in vote-rich, blue-leaning Fairfax, the defectors could drive up Moran's numbers and cause a real trench fight on Primary Day. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

GOP Chair Steele Kisses Talk Radio's Ring

So much for a new direction for the party. Funny clip from Glenn Beck's Fox show, wherein the new Republican chair Michael Steele pretty much apologizes for the party not being conservative enough during the stimulus debate--I can only guess it's in reference to the three moderate GOP senators who broke ranks and voted for the stimulus, as everyone else on that side of the aisle marched in lockstep with Eric Cantor. An exact quote: "You have absolutely no reason, none, to trust our word or our actions at this point." Wait for that one to be deployed liberally throughout the 2010 election.

If you're not familiar with Glenn Beck, he's slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. He's prone to vein-popping outbursts and makes Rush Limbaugh look like John Warner. Republican readers, to the extent that you value my opinion, I really think this is a big part of what's wrong with the GOP. Michael Steele leads the party of Lincoln and he's kissing the ring of some far-right egomaniac with a microphone who pitches tantrums when he doesn't get his way. If I were in Steele's shoes, I would be much more concerned with winning back the moderates who flocked to Obama than appealing to a fraction of the electorate. I understand holding onto the base, but there comes a point when he should be able to tell Glenn Beck what he can do with his ratings.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Deeds Gives the Cav Daily a Shout-Out

This past week, all four candidates for governor gathered at the Virginia Capital Correspondents Association dinner to try their hand at comedy. The results are a bit sad, but hey, they're politicians. Based on what's in this video, the two funniest are Terry McAuliffe and, as much as it pains me to say it, Bob McDonnell. But the coolest part of the night comes in the last 15 seconds of the video, where Creigh Deeds quotes my old newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, where I wrote for two years at U.Va. Our motto was a Jefferson quote that hung on the wall outside our office: "For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error as long as reason is left free to combat it." 
Thanks Creigh!

And There Was Much Rejoicing

The stimulus bill finally passed both houses of Congress this weekend and President Obama will sign it into law early this coming week. On many levels, I'm relieved. From a political standpoint this is Obama's first big legislative victory, but more importantly I think it can have a real impact on the economy. In the short term, it can put people to work through public works projects that have been long overdue. Long term, the health care, education and infrastructure projects will pay dividends many years into the future--better roads and improved transportation coupled with broadband connectivity can link rural communities to larger urban areas, and green projects will help build a new energy economy and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

This is also a win for Congressman Perriello, who will have his first bill, the CLASS Act, pass into law as part of the stimulus. This will improve access to tax credits for higher education funding and allow greater opportunity for students throughout the country to go to college. Go Tom!

But all of this comes with a caveat: this thing better work. Every Democratic congressman and senator needs to direct as much of this stimulus to their districts as possible--and I mean legitimate, crucial, tangible improvements to the lives of their constituents. Things that can't be called "pork." In 2010, a Democrat driving through his or her district has to point to Stimulus High School and say, "Yeah, we spent a lot of money, but your kids have a modern school building and good teachers. And this road I'm driving on, which brought in new companies? You're welcome." 

Throughout this debate, I've been just as puzzled as I was frustrated that House Republicans were so obstructionist, even after the president extended a bipartisan hand. If the bill had failed and the economy worsened (as many think it will), the country would blame them. They're betting that the stimulus won't help and they'll have a compelling argument in 2010--even though their plan would have run up just as much debt without producing direct results. We got a stimulus by the skin of our teeth, thanks to the three remaining moderates in the Senate's GOP caucus. This is a monumental opportunity. Let's not squander it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Follow-up: FDF Hacks Attack Perriello

Earlier this week I blogged on an incredibly distorted and misleading headline from the Franklin News-Post

At about that same time, an ad went up blasting Tom Perriello for voting in favor of the stimulus package. It's sponsored by Freedom's Defense Fund and plays like a sequel to the infamous New York Lawyer spot from before the election. It says he voted for "sexual diseases" and all sorts of other nefarious things--I guess trying to prevent STDs from spreading is somehow a vote for sexual diseases. Never mind that the stimulus bill would bring $8.5 million into struggling local schools that have faced layoffs in recent months; never mind that Tom co-sponsored a part of the stimulus that will provide tax credits for low-income students trying to go to college.

Dem Bones has a good perspective on it, and aznew has a good link at Blue Commonwealth. One thing's for sure--the 2010 campaign has already started, and they'll be coming after Tom with the same lies and distortions from before.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Henry Co: Religious Melting Pot?

Really cool article from today's Martinsville Bulletin. Spiritual leaders from local Jewish, Christian and Muslim congregations held a public forum Monday at Patrick Henry Community College to answer questions and discuss religious pluralism. Some good quotes:
Talking about Jews considering themselves the chosen people of God, Socol said, “This chosenness does not mean we are better than other peoples but that we are obligated to lead an ethical life” to inspire others.

“We are the classic example of ‘You don’t have to be wrong for me to be right,’” she added.


Wolfe asserted that religious tolerance is only the beginning.

“Freedom comes and is asserted at its best when we move beyond just tolerating somebody” to learning from others, he said.
I wasn't there, so I can't speak to the overall crowd dynamic, but other than one guy who took issue with the whole concept of tolerating non-Christian beliefs, it seems to have gone quite well. This type of dialogue is very encouraging on many levels. I must confess I was not aware of this much religious diversity in my hometown. 

I don't pretend to know as much about theology as Dem Bones, but I've always gotten the impression there is more common ground than division between what these three faiths basically believe--monotheism, shared prophets such as Abraham, and the like. I think most religious violence stems from a lack of understanding, and it would do us a great service to learn more about those who see things differently. 

Anti-Tom Bias at the Franklin News-Post?

Check out this article from today's Franklin News-Post about Congressman Perriello's vote to reauthorize S-CHIP. Judging by the headline and subtitle, one would think Congressman Perriello went out of his way to raise the tobacco tax and knowingly damage the economy: 
"Perriello votes to double cigarette tax"
"Although congressman says it will likely have dramatic impact on jobs and revenues across the country."
The fact that it was actually a bill expanding health care coverage for underprivileged children is apparently not headline-worthy. Interestingly, the meat of the bill is buried toward the end of the article, including the part where Tom rips the decision to include the tax increase:
Perriello (D-Albemarle County) said he supported the reauthorization of SCHIP, but he added that he was disappointed that the Senate version included a "disproportionate increase in the excise tax rate on tobacco products."


"Because 99 percent of smokers make less than $250,000 a year, imposing such an onerous excise tax on tobacco will unfairly punish tobacco consumers - many who are members of the working poor - hard-working men and women living from paycheck to paycheck," Perriello said.
Tom voted for S-CHIP because it's the right thing to do. By voting for the bill, which originally did not include the tobacco tax, he was not only honoring a campaign promise, but expanding health coverage to 55,000 Virginia kids. 

This article, at least the headline and subtitle, reads like a Goode campaign press release. It's flagrantly obvious what's happening here. I wonder why the News-Post is deliberately trying to tear down Tom--is it just sour grapes? After all, they shared a street with the former congressman's offices and were in the nerve center of his fiefdom. Or, in light of a recent Martinsville Bulletin article wherein Goode takes credit for bringing defense jobs to Martinsville, does someone at the paper know something about Virgil's future political ambitions?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ballot Access Blues

In the words of some Martinsville natives I've known for years, this just ain't right. Chris Guy at Fred2Blue posted a story on Del. Bobby Orrock (R-54) and his bill aimed at making it even harder for third-party and independent candidates to attain ballot access. Chris posted the money paragraph:

... (iii) makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to pay or receive compensation on a fee per signature or on a basis related to the number of signatures obtained for circulating election-related petitions or completing and submitting voter registration applications;...

Chris notes that the Libertarian Party sent an e-mail to supporters, wherein it was clear they were none too thrilled.

Our ballot access laws are already a sham, not just in Virginia but in the nation as a whole. Over years of two-party dominance, the Ds and Rs have passed regulation after regulation that, taken as a whole, make it effectively impossible for any other party or candidate to compete. Granted, some version of the two parties will always dominate no matter what--that's just the nature of having to win 50% +1 vote (unless we revert to a parliament or adopt proportional representation--both about as likely as John Lennon singing at the next inauguration). 

Having said that, there's no reason smaller parties should be barred from even holding a few seats here or there. Locking out any possible form of competition is every bit as reprehensible as gerrymandering and it is every bit as destructive to our democracy. Think about it: no matter how badly either party screws up, they know that all they have to do is wait and their fortunes will eventually reverse themselves. In the last hundred years, both parties have presided over unnecessary wars, played economic roulette with the livelihoods of all Americans, spent copious amounts of monopoly money and basked in endemic corruption, and yet they remain in power. It would do both of them some good to sweat a little from time to time, and it may even help reduce the average person's cynicism and breathe new life into American politics.

You may have gathered from a recent post that I'm not a big fan of the libertarians' economic philosophy. Their unrestricted trade, let-the-market-run-rampant worldview is demonstrably harmful to the middle class, and I shudder to think of them at the reins of government. But to their credit, at least the LP is ideologically consistent--they're against government involvement in pretty much everything, including social issues like gay marriage, and they're not so sure invading everybody is such a great idea. You can make a good case that they have a more credible claim to "conservatism" than most conservatives. Heck, I'd rather run against them and have a real debate than run against these Rovian clowns who shout us down and scare people into supporting things like the Iraq War. 

A Short Apology

Sorry for not keeping things as up to date recently; I started a new job last week and my blogging habit is still getting used to the new routine. I'll try to do better this week.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Libertarian Lunacy--Stimulus Through Inaction

Harvard Economist Jeffrey Miron posted the Libertarian stimulus plan this morning at CNN, proving unequivocally that academic econ is devil magic. This is relevant not because the Libertarian Party is suddenly going to storm the 2010 midterms and implement radical, Ron Paul-like revolution, but because their ideology has taken root in Republican circles, and it seems like a good idea to respond to this lunacy.

Miron discusses some awesome stimulus ideas that his Ouija board told him about (apparently all economics PhDs come with one). They must look brilliant to him on paper, but they completely fall apart in the real world. For instance, this nugget from the section addressing labor unions:
Laws that protect unions are problematic. Unions raise wages above market levels, increasing unemployment. 
So unions distort the wage market, but outrageous CEO compensation does not? The executive class can demand exorbitant compensation and benefits, but American workers should shut up and accept the market wage for their work? This is patently absurd--think about who defines the "market wage" in each case. An employer offers a job for a certain salary and the prospect either accepts or asks for more--it's just that for a CEO, the "employer" is the shareholders. The only difference between what unions do and what CEOs do is that executives are asking for things they don't need to support their families or do their jobs. The irony is that the anti-union sentiment is inconsistent with free-market ideology--the union is a market force and it is therefore setting the market rate for wages, completely independent of government intervention. It is true that unions sometimes make mistakes and overreach, but until corporate tax codes change in favor of middle-class workers, unions are the best chance we have for working Americans to make a better wage.

Miron also advocates increased carbon taxes to combat congestion and global warming. I can't fault him for his motives here, it's actually pretty commendable from the standpoint of wanting to lower emissions. But I've blogged before about how disastrous a national gasoline tax would be for small town, middle-class workers who have to commute in order to work. It would disproportionately affect areas like Southside, where there is no public transit to rely on and commuting is the norm.

But here's the most outlandish part of Miron's stimulus:
The Obama fiscal stimulus risks reviving this insanity, since both the House and Senate bills require that certain stimulus-funded projects use U.S. equipment and goods. The administration should oppose these provisions. More generally, President Obama and his economic advisors should state -- no, scream -- that America is unambiguously committed to free trade.
Let's see, we're in a near-depression in large part because millions of Americans no longer have a job. Therefore, the solution is to completely embrace "free" trade and allow even more manufacturing jobs to hemorrhage overseas? I agree that we can't put up a wall around our country and expect it to work out well--the world economy and the American economy are inextricably linked in a major way. But by the same token, if the U.S. economy collapses because everyone's out of work, the rest of the world will suffer and we won't buy foreign goods. We may not be able to go completely protectionist, but we can set standards for who we trade with--namely that potential trade partners meet environmental and labor standards at least on par with our own. And yes, Prof. Miron, that means encouraging union organizing in foreign countries, because if the market wage is equally "distorted" everywhere, there is less incentive to ship American jobs overseas.

There's plenty more where that came from.

Look, I'm not saying Prof. Miron is a bad guy or that he doesn't know his stuff. Clearly he's a very intelligent man, or he wouldn't be a Harvard PhD. But the problem with guys like him is that they live in the world of theory--everything is an abstraction that makes academic sense, but has little to no basis in reality for everyday Americans. They see everything through that lens, and the scary part is that they often end up having pull in the halls of power. Let's hope our elected officials have better sense than to let this sort of approach govern policymaking--if this guy has his way, we're in for a much longer and deeper depression than we have right now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Danny Marshall Gets an Opponent

From the Danville Register & Bee this evening:

Former Danville Mayor F. Seward Anderson has announced plans to challenge Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville, this year for his House seat in the General Assembly.

Anderson, a Democrat, said he mailed his papers Monday to the state Board of Elections to declare his candidacy. He also has filed papers with the city registrar.

“My focus will be job growth, education, transportation and working as hard as possible to obtain more funding from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund,” Anderson said Tuesday.

Anderson, a financial advisor with Wachovia Securities, served on Danville City Council from 1982 to 1996, including 10 years as mayor.

Marshall having an opponent should definitely be interesting. To be honest, I don't know enough about Anderson to have an opinion just yet, but I definitely think Marshall is beatable. What do you think of the former mayor?

GOP: All Spending is Bad Spending

I found this on CNN earlier and thought it was pretty interesting. It's a list of things the Republican senate leadership objects to in the current stimulus bill. According to the GOP, all the things on this list are hunks of pork that should have no place in the stimulus, and in fairness, some of these things are pretty worthless--note the $246 million to buy film for Hollywood motion pictures and $248 million for furniture at Homeland Security.

Don't get me wrong, the stimulus isn't perfect. But when they start nitpicking over things like energy efficiency and canal inspection, they're showing the kneejerk ideological groupthink that threaten to derail the whole stimulus plan. The all-spending-is-bad-spending approach is pretty toxic in an economy as bad as this one, where there basically is no choice but to act. Curiously this mindset didn't seem to have as much weight when it was Wall Street who needed a bailout.

And as for this controversy about the $400 million for STD prevention, I have one question: why is this such anathema to the Republicans? It seems to me that if you want to 1) lower health care costs by preventing STDs, 2) promote public health and safety and 3) reduce the abortion rate, this item should be a no-brainer. I guess running to that old standby the culture war is one way to stir up opposition to the stimulus, but wow.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

McDonnell to Step Down

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell announced today that he's stepping down as Attorney General to focus on running a full-time campaign for governor. This is not an uncommon practice among past AGs who have run for governor. I've embedded the YouTube clip of his full announcement.

It's interesting that he's trying to take such a bipartisan tack--it's as if he's taking a page from the Mark Warner playbook. In the same breath that he talks about values and the Boy Scout Jamboree, he also talks up the environment and protecting the waterways. Apparently Bob's campaign doesn't think moving right is necessarily an awesome idea.

Bobby's moderation, at least in terms of rhetoric, brings up an important question: what will the hardliners say? Specifically, it will be interesting to see how J-Fred responds. Will there be a battle of egos? Will Virginia's 2009 race become a microcosm of the national party's principles-versus-sanity debate? It would make for good political theater.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Deeds' Redistricting Bill Gets Unanimous Senate Support

The Star City Harbinger has a good snippet today about Creigh Deeds' perennial fight to rationalize Virginia's redistricting system:

For the last seven years, State Senator Creigh Deeds has gone to bat for a non-partisan redistricting proposal; today’s unanimous vote in the Virginia State Senate makes it three consecutive years that proposal has received support from a bi-partisan coalition in the Virginia Senate [See: Richmond Sunlight, SB 926, 2009].

It isn’t sexy.  It isn’t soundbite worthy. But it is the key to ensuring political competition and bipartisanship in a state government nearly paralyzed with gridlock.  Deeds says,

“This important reform can change the way we do business in state government by putting an end to the bitter partisanship that keeps us from moving Virginia forward. With the next redistricting just around the corner, my proposal ensures that the electorate chooses their elected leaders; not the other way around.”

The operative word here is non-partisan. A good example of how this might work would be districting by a panel of retired judges--since they spent their careers striving for neutrality and no longer have a stake in the system, they should be pretty fair and impartial. Hopefully this would produce as many competitive districts as possible, as opposed to bipartisan redistricting, which only produces equal numbers of safe districts through wheeling and dealing.

This may be a case where Deeds' Senate seat could pay dividends, and based on the fact that his campaign issued a press release about it, they seem to be hoping so. If it manages to pass the House (a big "if" given the potential for GOP stonewalling--there's a reason he's tried this seven times) Creigh can point to this as a concrete achievement while his opponents are gallivanting about the state. Of course, it will get no media play, and the average voter won't care. The only people who are paying attention are partisan primary voters--many of whom may not be thrilled about nonpartisan districting, given the current balance in our House delegation.

But having said that, I really have to applaud Sen. Deeds for consistently pushing for this badly-needed reform. Gerrymandering is a disgrace to democracy no matter which side practices it, and as Deeds says, the people should pick their representatives--not the other way around.

Congrats to the Steelers

Great game last night. I've always had a soft spot for the Steelers, and I'm glad to see it. Though I admit I was sweating the Cardinals toward the end--James Farrior and Heath Miller being U.Va. guys, I worried their bad karma might rub off on the Steelers, and they nearly pulled a Wahoowa and collapsed right after the first half. Being a Wahoo myself, I've seen it happen more times than I care to remember, but thankfully, it seems the Scott Stadium curse was broken in time to spare me more athletic devastation.