Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Addressing the Uranium Hype

There was an excellent post over at Dem Bones on Monday regarding the uranium mining debate in Pittsylvania County. The text was written by a guest poster named Linda, who points out that uranium is not exactly a renewable resource that will promote energy independence. One of the many money quotes:
Outside of total depletion of land values with uranium mining, I've never met a rich miner, no matter the substance he or she was mining. So the question I would ask here is, "hugely profitable" to whom? As I mentioned previously, uranium prices are subject to fluctuation and have no historic bearing to help determine the actual price of yellowcake on the market. To state that yellowcake is a "potent source of local and state tax revenue" is making a promise based upon a theory.
I encourage you to head over and read the full post, particularly if you're following the mining issue. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

McAuliffe in Martinsville

Terry McAuliffe came to Martinsville's Binding Time Cafe today for a brief stump speech/question and answer session. He spoke for about 20 minutes to a crowd of about 15 people, plus staff and reporters. The interesting thing upon walking in was seeing that he was followed by not one but two trackers--one from the Moran campaign and one for McDonnell. It was an interesting dynamic, but a civil one. Terry joked with them by name about having to hear his stump speech all the time.

I thought McAuliffe had some good ideas, and he seemed to have a good deal of support in the room. As for the substance of his speech, McAuliffe focused on jobs and energy policy. When it comes to creating jobs, he pointed out that the Governor's Opportunity Fund is pretty small compared to similar funds in neighboring states--and says we've missed out on big opportunities that went to other states as a result, including a solar panel manufacturing facility that ended up in Tennessee. McAuliffe also suggested that Virginia invest in offshore wind farms using turbines and wind blades made here in the Old Dominion. T-Mac also wants to see the state invest in high-speed rail, first linking the D.C.-Richmond and other metropolitan areas, then branching out to the rest of the state. 

One idea that should play well in Southside is four-laning U.S. Route 58, which runs from the coast through Martinsville on its way to Ohio. The idea is that we could build distribution centers for goods that come to port in Virginia, with an eye toward 2014. What's so important about 2014? That's when a new deep-water lock will open in the Panama Canal that will allow a huge influx of goods from Asia. A robust Route 58 would help Virginia compete for those goods--other states are positioning themselves to be the port of choice, and Terry wants Virginia to be in the game. It's not an idea I've heard other candidates talk about, and I think it's a good one. 

On uranium mining, McAuliffe repeated his previous stance that we should wait for the health and safety study to be completed before making any snap judgments. Yes, it's a bit of a punt, but it's a fairly understandable one. The fact that he promised not to take any money from Dominion Power helps me give him the benefit of the doubt. The most interesting thing I heard him say from a Martinsville perspective is that he would crack down on Payday Lending institutions, basically kicking them out of the state entirely. 

As with my blogs on visits to the area by Jody Wagner and Mike Signer, this is not an endorsement. I am simply trying to report what McAuliffe said and did while he was here, and throw in a few things I liked. In all honesty, I'm still undecided--but I will say I think McAuliffe has proven he's a strong, legitimate candidate. When he first entered the race, I basically wrote him off as a curiosity, not thinking he would garner much support against longtime legislators. Among other indicators, the poll numbers out today have proven me wrong. However, he clearly has a strong organization across the state and has undoubtedly lived up to the fundraising hype--not to mention his charisma and public speaking ability. That's not to say he's perfect; I think he has several flaws that will make him vulnerable in November, which I will get into in a later post. 

Time will tell--June 9 will be here before we know it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stand Up For Virginia

Today marks two weeks since the GOP-controlled House of Delegates gave your tax dollars away to other states whose legislators actually want to help the people they represent. Interestingly enough, it's also two weeks since Bill Howell and Morgan Griffith handed the Democrats a giant election issue on a silver platter. 

If you're as frustrated as I am by last week's vote to reject stimulus funding and unemployment benefits for Virginians who need help, go check out the Stand Up for Virginia petition. I have also placed a link on the right of the screen. Tell the General Assembly that assistance for part-time workers who lose their jobs is absolutely crucial in a time where often a part-time job is the only thing workers can find. Just today, GSI Commerce announced it will close its call center in Martinsville, costing 279 more jobs--many of them hourly and part-time--in a city that already has 20.2% unemployment. 

Tell them to reverse their clueless decision or face the consequences in November.

Uranium Roundup: VMNH Geologist Supports Mining

The Uranium Roundup for this week:
  • Chatham-Blairs District Supervisor Hank Davis wants state and federal authorities to investigate lead levels near the Coles Hill site. Ever since VUI conducted exploratory drilling in the county, several residential wells have been found to have high levels of lead contamination. VUI says they have nothing to do with it, but Hank Davis wants to respond to residents' concerns. Davis will introduce the motion at tonight's Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors meeting in Chatham.
  • Virginia Tech geochemistry professor Robert Bodnar got a $60,000 federal grant to study the uranium deposit in Chatham. I'm encouraged by the fact that it's federal money and not funded by any dubious sources, which should lend some credibility to whatever he finds. One thing about the article troubled me though:
    Much of his research throughout his career has centered on how mineral and ore deposits form so similar deposits can be found, he said.
     Given the political firestorm that has been the Coles Hill fight, I think the last thing we need is to find even more big uranium deposits.
  • A geologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville has come out in favor of mining at Coles Hill. Dr. James Beard cited the potential economic benefits for Southside and said the danger posed by the mine is minimal. I'm curious to know if Dr. Beard is the anonymous geologist who responded to several previous Roundups. If that's the case, he's a very intelligent, thoughtful commenter and even though I disagree with him, he's a great addition to this blog. 
That's the roundup after a few weeks of relative silence. I'll update Wednesday with the news from Pittsylvania's BOS meeting and whatever else comes up between now and then.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Deeds Rips Opponents on Fundraising

The three contenders for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination held a debate at the College of William and Mary yesterday, and Creigh Deeds came out swinging:
"We will not be the party of the middle class if the nominee of this party is beholden to Donald Trump or Wall Street interests or to tainted defense contractors that got millions in earmarks from his brother in Congress," Deeds said during his closing statement. "We will have lost our way if we allow the Wall Street establishment or a corrupt political establishment to control our agenda for the next four years." (Emphasis mine)

Creigh is trying his hardest to make up for lost time. I personally had all but written off his candidacy until recently. But between his Q1 fundraising efforts, recent southwestern Va campaign swing and Moran's emerging, incident (are we calling it a scandal yet?), I'm beginning to think Deeds is on the verge of turning the race on its head. 

RIP Ray Nance: The Last Bedford Boy

I thought I'd pass along this bit of information from WDBJ7's news tonight. The last surviving "Bedford Boy" has died at age 94.

A Bedford County man who was part of the D-Day invasion and a member of the group known as the "Bedford Boys" has died.

Ray Nance was the last member of the group. According to obituaries in local newspapers, he died Sunday at age 94.

Nance landed on the beaches of Normandy as an Army Lieutenant almost 65 years ago.

He was a member of the group know as the "Bedford Boys" and was featured in a popular book by Alex Kershaw. Nineteen servicemen from Bedford County were killed in the allied invasion of Normandy.

Bedford suffered the highest proportional number of casualties on D-Day of any town in America. We may not always agree about the merits of any given war, but I think we can all agree that the Axis Powers had to be stopped. Guys like Ray Nance put their lives on the line to stop what I believe was the biggest evil of the twentieth century. If you get the chance, I encourage you to visit the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. It's awe-inspiring.

Thanks, Ray.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

McCain Campaign Manager Gets It

Where was this during the campaign? 

John McCain's 2008 campaign manager Steve Schmidt spoke to the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay rights group, on Friday. In his speech, Shmidt said a lot of things that were, well...sane. Among other things, he pointed out that being in favor of gay marriage is entirely compatible with the conservative philosophy that government should stay out of your personal life. On the role of personal responsibility in any marriage, straight or gay, Schmidt struck gold:
He added: "If you are not willing to accept and faithfully discharge those responsibilities, you shouldn't enter the state of matrimony, and it doesn't make a damn bit of difference if you're straight or gay. It is a responsibility like no other, which can and should make marriage an association between two human beings more fulfilling than any other."
Schmidt also pointed out that, schocker of shockers, the Republicans need to become competitive among younger voters if they want to remain relevant in future generations:

Schmidt told CNN that the GOP must become more open if it wants to reverse a shrinking coalition, especially among younger, more accepting voters.

"People are turned off in large measure by what they see as intolerance coming out of the party," he said.

That's a refreshing change from the "you-damn-kids" wing of the GOP that dismisses young voters as naive little children who are too idealistic for our own good and need to stay out of big-people business.

Dem Bones has good commentary on Shmidt's take on religion and politics. Basically, Schmidt pointed out that the Republicans have allowed themselves to become a largely religious party, and one based on a very narrow section of Christian theology at that. He says the GOP should not be surprised that more moderate Christians and people of other faiths have fled the party in droves. 

If I were a moderate Republican, I would be very encouraged by what this guy had to say. However, I think this might cause quite a stir in conservative circles--look for Schmidt to be publicly flogged on the talk radio circuit.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Today We Are All Hokies

Two years ago today I was a writer for U.Va.'s student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily. It was spring of my third year and I had just gotten back from a weekend in Fredericksburg, where my car broke down. I had gone up that weekend to see a friend at Mary Washington, and literally minutes after entering the city, I heard a loud thud under my hood and the steering wheel locked up. Thankfully I was able to get it off the road safely and managed to find a way to the dorm where I would sleep on the floor that night, but my car was out of commission and I had no way back to Charlottesville. Rather than allow me to hitchhike, my parents decided to come all the way up to Fredericksburg to take me back to Charlottesville and somehow retrieve my car from the shop. I finally got back to school Sunday night. 

After leaving class on Monday morning, I got a call from my mom. I was expecting my parents to call, because they were supposed to bring my car back to Charlottesville from Fredericksburg and then I would meet them for lunch. When I answered, she said they were on their way. But she also asked if I had heard what was going on at Tech; I couldn't say I had. Apparently there had been some kind of shooting at a dorm--two people had died and the media was calling it a "lover's quarrel." I thought it was strange and certainly tragic, but I had no comprehension of how bad it actually was. Anyway they were almost there, and let's meet at Qdoba on the Corner. On the way, I ran into the paper's editor-in-chief and told him what I had just heard, assuming we'd be writing an above-the-fold story about it that day. He looked surprised and headed off to our offices, and I said I'd meet him there after lunch. Within hours, he and another writer would be headed off to Blacksburg, where they would spend the night in the back of their car, alternately sleeping and e-mailing the office staff updates on what had happened. At lunch, my parents said they had seen several state police cars speeding toward Blacksburg while they were at breakfast near a major highway.

In the time it took to eat our food and for me to head back to the Cavalier Daily office, the extent of what happened had become apparent. Normally the Cav Daily was a bustling, happy and energetic place--you were there to write a story and were expected to uphold journalistic standards, but you were also surrounded by your friends. If your article was about something ridiculous a fraternity house had done, you made jokes about it. There was always laughter in the basement, as we called it. But when I walked in, there was no laughter. People walked around with blank stares on their faces and just looked stunned. The television was on and I could see WDBJ7 news anchors speaking on CNN above a Breaking News heading. I asked my news editor what had happened--the last I heard, it was a lover's quarrel and they were chasing down the guy that did it. Her response was simply, "22 dead." Surreal doesn't even begin to describe how it felt, especially when the numbers started climbing even higher.

Everyone was on Facebook looking for their friends, frantically dialing cell phones to see if everyone was okay. I remember looking at my "Friends at VT" screen and thinking in despair that there was no way they all could have gotten out unharmed. Thankfully I was wrong; after several hours of phone calls, Facebook and instant messenger I found out that all my friends were okay, though several of them were in Norris Hall when the shooting started. Several lost friends. The rest of the day is mostly a blur, though I distinctly remember seeing two of my friends from high school on national TV talking about their friend being listed as "missing." 

My job for the rest of the day and the rest of the week was basically to keep up to date on press conferences and keep writing stories about the shooting. Several of our writers went home to be with friends--my news editor got word that night that her friend's sister Reema was one of the victims, and she decided to spend the rest of the week at home. In all truth, I probably should have done the same. That was one of those days when all you really want to do is go home and hug your friends.

Two nights after the shooting, the U.Va. community gathered in the outdoor amphitheater on Grounds for a candlelight vigil. In all my time there, I've never seen that amphitheater that full for anything. The big "Z" painting on one of the steps had been painted orange and maroon, and everyone was either wearing a "'Hoos for Hokies" t-shirt or a VT-colored ribbon. Beta Bridge had been painted blue, orange and maroon with the "Hoos for Hokies" phrase. At the end of the vigil, everyone signed these giant banners to be sent to Tech. I reconnected with people I hadn't spoken to in years and patched up relationships that had gotten sour. Everything that divided people became absolutely trivial after April 16. At least something good came out of it--people often ask how God could allow these things to happen. I don't think it's a matter of whether or not He allows them, but that He can bring something good out of even the worst tragedy. I don't know much about theology, but that's my two cents.

As time went by, it faded into the past and became part of the new normal. But it still intrudes on our everyday life--one night the following semester, we were on our way to a party and one of my newspaper friends asked our editor how her friend's family was doing. They were doing okay...getting by. In Southside and Southwest Virginia, it didn't take long to just become "what happened" or "when that happened." Rarely does the word "shooting" enter the lexicon. And on the one-year anniversary, the U.Va. chapel rang 32 dissonant chimes at noon. I looked around and didn't see anyone moving in any direction; everyone was just frozen, looking at the ground and listening to the bell, not saying a word.

I guess the whole purpose of this post was to remember how what happened ended up profoundly affecting people miles away. I hope I achieved that, and I hope you found this to be worth reading. There's a reason I didn't name the person who caused all this turmoil; contrary to what the national media seems to believe, I think it's better to focus on the lives of the victims and the outpouring of support from all over the country. Even from Hooville.

If you want to comment, feel free to do so, but please keep the following in mind: The thing that infuriated me more than almost anything in the following days was how many people on both sides of the gun debate used Virginia Tech to advance their own agenda. I wish I could remember the name of the congresswoman and the paid spin doctor who declared that this was proof their side of the issue was right. No one wanted to hear their bloviations. These were people my age; they were friends of friends who would never be coming home, not from some faraway battlefield but from college, and they hadn't even held a single funeral yet. No one knew exactly how this had happened, but already political entrepreneurs took it upon themselves to read their pet worldview into a situation about which they knew nothing. Both sides did it and both sides made asses out of themselves. Debating gun policy could have waited a while longer. For that reason, please leave the gun debate out of any comments. There's a time and a place for that, and I'd be happy to have a discussion about it at a later date, but please keep any responses to this article strictly about the victims or your reactions to what happened that day.

Thank you for reading. 


Goode Ties Himself to Tea Parties

The TEA Party phenomenon came to Southside today and yesterday, led by our former congress critter Virgil Goode. But he's not running...he's just filed the paperwork. You'll be intrigued to note that 220 South made a trip to the Martinsville event, sort of like an embedded journalist. I had to be as discreet as possible, since Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle tells us that you interfere with outcomes by observing them. Therefore, no photography; however, I can offer thoughtful commentary.

While embedded in Uptown Martinsville, I was able to uncover some shocking news. The media refuses to report it, and only talk radio has the integrity and patriotism to point it out and sound the alarm. Prepare yourself; this will be difficult to hear. The Henry County Wingnuts Association, with principled guidance from truth defenders Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Hazmar the Traveling Gypsy Soothsayer, have discovered the following: Barack Obama is apparently an anti-Christian secret socialist bent on destroying our constitution and our republic. These shocking secrets are being suppressed by the Administration in an attempt to dupe the public into complacency. Our governor, our entire congressional delegation, and Lucifer himself are all complicit in this endeavor.

There were lots of amens and lots of prayers about protecting our country from "liberals" and "socialists" who apparently don't believe in God. After several speeches by local (extremely) conservative politicians, Virgil spoke for about 16 minutes. There were plenty of digs at Obama, Pelosi, Webb, and of course, Perriello...or as Virgil calls him, Pe-urello. He even attacked Mark Warner--a tremendously stupid move in a place like Martinsville where the man is adored. He even went as far as accusing the Martinsville Bulletin and its owner (whom he singled out by name) of being a liberal rag, albeit not in those words. The reason? They happened to cover it when our governor, congressman and a bunch of elected officials and dignitaries came to town last week. Never mind that they were also there to cover this outpouring of conservative anger at having lost the election. There was lots of talk about "politically correct loans"--i.e., money for minorities. Goode also talked a lot about Somalian immigrants coming to "this country" to get on welfare and food stamps--hey, at least he's branching out from just talking about anchor babies. 

I could continue on, but there's almost too much to talk about. During this event, the crazy poured out like manna from heaven, and I had to wonder if this is really the future of the Republican Party. It would have been one thing to criticize the spending--I freely admit that there is a lot of money being spent, and that it's fair for the opposition to criticize that. But it's quite another thing to accuse Obama and his supporters of conspiring to undermine capitalism and destroy democracy. The opposition in any government has a critical function--if they're raising legitimate policy concerns about specific issues, then fine. They can be a moderating influence and lend a lot to a country's internal dialog. That's their job. But if they're stonewalling absolutely everything and screeching out conspiratorial rhetoric, they're not only failing to contribute, they're not doing their job.

And on the day they protested about skyrocketing taxes, the largest middle-class tax cut in history went into effect. You know, like Obama promised during the campaign?

As Virgil Goode gears up his 2010 non-campaign, we should keep in mind the fact that he has totally embraced the TEA party phenomenon. Not only did he speak in Martinsville, he also appeared at Smith Mountain Lake last night and will show up at a TEA party in Lynchburg tomorrow. I think by going this route, he has further alienated himself from moderates in the electorate who flipped for Perriello at the last minute. If this is the new Republican Party, then I think they're in much worse trouble than they realize.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Badass Awards

Several things occurred in the last few days that have caused me to distribute what I refer to as the "Badass Awards." These accolades go to those individuals who have done something particularly, well, badass. Rather than define the term I'll provide a few examples; for instance: Doc Holliday as portrayed by Val Kilmer in Tombstone--"I'm your huckleberry." Or Jack Bauer...I don't care if it is a "Republican show," 24 is awesome. If you can see Jack Bauer, Jack Bauer can see you. And if you can't see Jack Bauer, you may be seconds away from death.

Anyway here goes:
  • Captain Richard Phillips. What more can really be said here? A hat tip also goes out to his crew, who stood up to pirates with AK's and retook their boat. 
  • The Navy Seals who popped the three pirates just as they were about to shoot Captain Phillips. I saw a documentary about Seals school one time...those guys are absolutely ridiculous. I'd never want to make one of them mad, but if push ever comes to shove, I'll be very glad those dudes are on our side. Talk about real-life Jack Bauers.
  • The guy in Botetourt County who stopped a crazed intruder trying to potentially harm his family. The family was sitting in the living room Friday night, when a would-be intruder started banging on the door and screaming, trying to get into the house. When the bad guy broke through the sliding-glass door and charged, the homeowner fired his weapon. He did what he had to do to protect himself and his family, and I would've done the same thing. The shooting is being called a justifiable homicide.
  • President Barack Obama. While Republican talking heads were predicting that the situation would end badly and end up embarrassing the administration, President Obama was busy proving that Dems can fight too--we just pick the right ones. I thought the president handled this situation exactly as he should have. Moreover, I think this should serve as a model for how the USA should conduct foreign policy in the future--avoid the use of force until it can no longer be avoided. That is, until American lives are at risk. When, and only when, there is absolutely no alternative to using force, have a plan, do it right the first time and resolve the situation before it becomes a quagmire. 
Anyway, I thought this would be a nice change of pace from the standard fare. I hope you enjoyed it.

Q1 Fundraising: Signs of Life from the Deeds Campaign?

The First-Quarter fundraising numbers have been released along with a Research 2000 poll, and it looks like there's great news for McAuliffe. T-Mac is in the lead with 2.5 million on hand, including 760,000 from in-state donors--that's more than either Creigh Deeds or Brian Moran. It's not a surprise that he's making it rain, but it is noteworthy that he's beating the two established in-staters in Old Dominion-based fundraising. Moran is behind McDonnell by one point, with McAuliffe only trailing McDonnell by five points. 

The question I want to ask is, "Where did Deeds come from?" Creigh now has $1.4 million in cash-on-hand compared to $825,000 for Brian Moran. In 44 days he has come away with more cash-on-hand than Moran produced in a full quarter of fundraising. Deeds took a lot of heat for hanging onto his seat and staying in session instead of campaigning full-time; the assumption was that Moran would absolutely smoke him in fundraising due to his full-time campaigning advantage, and I had all but written off the Deeds campaign. I saw Terry and Brian everywhere, with Creigh nowhere to be found. Between that and the GA fundraising hiatus, I thought it would either be McAuliffe or Moran carrying the party into November. 

But this gives me some pause. That amount of fundraising in that little time is no mean feat, especially in an economy as lousy as this one. If Deeds steps up the full-time campaign now that he's out of session--as his fundraising numbers indicate he should be able to do--this thing could turn into a three-way race again very quickly, especially since the poll found that 40% of Democrats are undecided in the primary. The flipside of that is that Deeds is furthest behind McDonnell--by 7%. Then again, Perriello was down 30 points to Goode in mid-August.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Update: Ward Armstrong on the Rejected Stimulus Funding

I'm glad we have a delegate who's actually standing up for us in Richmond:

It also doesn't hurt that he's in such a powerful position as minority leader. Let's give him a new title; I think "Speaker of the House" sounds about right.

Also, Tim Kaine, Tom Perriello and Sen. Roscoe Reynolds came to Martinsville's unemployment office on Friday, where they dropped their two cents on the GA's partisan chicanery.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mike Signer in Martinsville

Mike Signer made a campaign stop at the old Henry County Courthouse in Uptown Martinsville on Thursday. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera and so was not able to get a picture, but the Martinsville Bulletin has a pretty good one today. As an aside, Signer also ripped the legislature on their absurd vote to let our tax dollars go to other states.

As with my post on Jody Wagner's visit to the area, I will refrain from endorsing any of the candidates for the time being, but I will say that I thought Signer was impressive, and I think he has some good ideas. I also found him to be an eloquent spokesman for progressive ideas, and that will not only help him in the primary, but it will also help our party if he gets the nomination. 

His staff handed out a media folder containing a bio, press release, economic plan and legislative agenda. I thought the campaign lit was especially clever; it reminded me of the Perriello ads, and it offered a clear vision for the kind of LG Mike Signer wants to be. The front fold simply read, "Can you name 4 things a lieutenant governor does?" followed by four empty fill-in-the-blank slots. I don't think most people can, because I don't think there are four things in an LG's job description. Basically Signer wants to be an active LG who actually does something. He mentioned social justice campaigning and working with the legislature, as well as campaigning around the state for positive change. It's certainly a change from previous LG's we've had, and it would set him up as a killer 2013 gubernatorial candidate if he were to win.

Looking through his legislative agenda, I really like his idea for a "Come Home" Act that would offer reduced rates on student loans for college grads who go back to their hometowns to work. Something like that could have a real impact in a place like Martinsville, where the youth population has been leaving in droves. I also like the plan to link our Urban Crescent to rural communities in order to increase opportunity and produce economic growth in small towns.

The bottom line based on my interactions with Wagner and Signer is that I've been very impressed with both of them. I think both are highly qualified and both are more than able to take down Bill Bolling. It's going to be a tough decision, but I'm very optimistic about our choices.

House GOP Betrays Southside

The Republican-run House of Delegates shot down a proposal yesterday to expand unemployment benefits to part-timers and laid-off workers in retraining programs. The plan also would have given the state access to $125 million in federal stimulus money. The proposals were part of amendments proposed by Gov. Kaine to make the state eligible for federal stimulus money. 

*Deep breath.*

This is an absolute betrayal beyond words. This reminds me of Gov. Gilmore's infamous move back in 2000 to deliberately screw Tultex workers out of unemployment benefits that had bipartisan support in the GA. Sure, some will say there's no need to help part-timers, but that reaction fails to see the big picture--in Martinsville and places like it, your chances of finding a full-time job are slim to nil, even when the national economy is supposedly "good." Instead, you might take two or three part-time positions that pay crap in order to make ends meet, and if you lose one of those you're in a real bind. I try to be patient with the other side and I try to acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons to disagree about political issues. But this failure to act warrants no such understanding or respect. The Republicans in this case have so flagrantly put their own agenda ahead of what's best for the people they are supposed to represent. They are so diametrically opposed to anything involving the government, especially the Obama Administration, that they are willing to leave places like Martinsville out to dry.

There are two Republicans in the House who actually deserve some praise on this issue. The only two Republicans to actually support this legislation were from the Southside--Del. Danny Marshall (R - Danville) and Del. Donald Merricks ( R - Pittsylvania). To their great credit, they broke with their party and actually did what was right for the people they represent. Kudos to them for trying to do the right thing, even if their own party wouldn't let them.

Aside from the staggering moral repugnance of what the GOP leadership did yesterday, I don't think enough can be said about how outrageously stupid this is from a political standpoint. It seems to me like some votes should be no-brainers--you never vote against children or veterans, and you never allow yourself to be perceived as anti-middle class during the worst downturn in a generation. And it wasn't just the party's legislators--Bob McDonnell came out against the unemployment benefits before the vote yesterday. 

I think it's very telling that this story was the front-page, above-the-fold, full-color story in this morning's Martinsville Bulletin. We have 20% unemployment. We take these things very seriously. What the GA did yesterday should be on every piece of literature printed by the DPVA in 2009. Every Democrat in the state should take note; the messaging here pretty much writes itself. Let's make 'em pay for it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ward Armstrong Endorses Jody Wagner for Governor

House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong has announced his support for Jody Wagner in the Lt. Governor's race today. From the Washington Post:

Former finance secretary Jody Wagner picked up the endorsement of the highest ranking Democrat in the House of Delegates, Ward L. Armstrong, in her bid for lieutenant governor.

Armstrong, the House minority leader, cited Wagner's experience as a member of Timothy M. Kaine and Mark R. Warner's administrations.

"Having seen firsthand the work she did in the Warner and Kaine administrations to help fix the state's fiscal problems...I know she has the right experience to balance our budget and maintain Virginia as the best managed state and best state for business,'' Armstrong said. "As an elected official, and more importantly as a Virginian, I trust Jody Wagner to keep Virginia moving forward."

Three other Democrats are running: Jon Bowerbank, a businessman from Russell County, Pat Edmonson, a member of the Virginia Beach School Board and Michael Signer, an attorney who worked for former governor Mark R. Warner.

I had heard that this was coming. It will be interesting to see how this affects the LG race on the Democratic side. With the recent PPP poll that showed a substantial lead for Wagner, it appears there is some momentum moving in her direction; then again, a lot can happen in the two months remaining before the primary.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dem Bones in the Washington Post

Dem Bones got a shout-out in yesterday's Washington Post for a blog he posted on a controversy in the gubernatorial race. Rather than summarize the post, I'll go ahead and put it up in its entirety:
The Roanoke Times editorializes on Mike Huckabee's thoughtless jokes (here and here) at Republican rallies for gubernatorial hopeful Bob McDonnell:
He jokingly urged Republicans to let the air out of Democrats' tires and do whatever it takes to keep them from turning up at the voting booth in November. He called it "the Lord's work."

It was a bad joke, not funny, especially when allegations of voter suppression still dog elections. The Republicans who heard him laughed along, compounding the slap at the most fundamental right of our democracy. Maybe he could make some equally tasteless Polish joke next.

Worse than his lame attempt at humor was Huckabee's attempt to reinforce the urban-rural divide in Virginia. He would have Republicans play Northern Virginia against the rest of the state. That sort of divisive politics might work well on the national stage, but it has no place in this year's gubernatorial race. The next governor must represent all Virginians, not just the ones Huckabee thinks live in the right place.

The editorial board, for the second day in a row, scolds McDonnell for not dumping Huckabee, then and there, and re-focusing on the issues. And they offered similar rebuke to Terry McAullife and Creigh Deeds, who "could not resist attacking," for "overreacting" and, therefore, giving the jokes "wider play than they warranted." As such:

The campaigns owe Virginians an apology for derailing what had been shaping up into a substantive governor's race.

While I won't and can't defend Huckabee's poor taste in jokes, I too thought the outcry against the jokes was a little over the top. They clearly were jokes, just very bad ones, and I seriously doubt that Huckabee genuinely endorses voter suppression tactics. I, however, am not sure that McAuliffe and Deeds deserved this condemnation, as they were rightfully doing their jobs in calling out divisive rhetoric, no matter the harmless and humorous intent. And, funny how in rebuking McAuliffe and Deeds for giving Huckabee's jokes wider play, this editorial highlights his jokes for at least another day.
There are some good points in this post. It may surprise some of this blog's conservative readers, but I actually have a fair amount of respect for Mike Huckabee. His comments pitting NOVA against the rest of the state were way out of line, but most of the time I get the feeling Huckabee says what he really believes and sticks by it, whether it's necessarily popular or not. I would never vote for him, but I give him props for honesty.

Congrats on the shout-out, Drew!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Frederick Tweets on Being Ousted: "OMGZ guys, WTF was that?! >:-( :*-( "

No more Twittering past the graveyard, I suppose. Jeff Frederick is out. So saith the GOP central committee earlier today by a vote of 57-18:

Members of the Republican Party of Virginia’s central committee have voted to remove state party chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick. The unofficial tally was 57-18 with one abstention.

The first two hours of the meeting were marked by presentations from Frederick’s opponents and by two lawyers hired to defend the 33-year-old House of Delegates member from Prince William County. Frederick did not speak on his own behalf.

That sound you hear is the collective sigh of relief from the handful of moderates-in-exile scattered throughout the state GOP. They may finally be poised to retake their party and stage a resurgence. But wait! The plot thickens:
Earlier in the morning before the meeting began,  about 50 Frederick supporters gathered outside the hotel, held signs and chanted “elected, not selected,“ a reference to the state party convention that elected him to the post last year.
Frederick has vowed that if he loses his job today, he will fight his ouster by running again for the job when the full party convenes for its state convention at the end of May.
That other sound you hear is the Jeffophiles forming a mob with torches and pitchforks. 

There's a good take on this over at Fake Virginia: in a nutshell, Jeff's ouster will touch off an even larger civil war within the Republican Party and deliver a big advantage to the Democrats in November--Bob McDonnell came out against Jeff Frederick, so the hardcore loyalists may stay home. Unless, of course, McAuliffe gets the nomination, which would force the disaffected Republicans to vote for McDonnell. I could definitely see something like that unfolding, especially because Frederick's refusal to concede certainly won't help reconciliation. But I do think it depends on who the GOP elects as their new leader at the convention in May. If they put away the Frederick faction, choose someone on this side of sanity, and take a more moderate approach, I think Democrats might end up losing sleep over this.

I personally want the Republicans to be as big of a threat as possible, and here's why. While Jeff Frederick was running the party into the ground, a few state Democrats have begun the same toxic infighting that has cost them elections in the past. One manifestation of this was the recent blowup at Blue Commonwealth. The minute a party loses its external threat, it has no more incentive to stay united. Right now Democrats' biggest weakness is disunity--we have multiple candidates for two of the three up-ballot offices while the GOP already has much of their nomination work taken care of. The last thing I want is for our 2008 gains to be wiped away by redistricting because we were mad at each other.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Martinsville Launches Green Panel

Pretty cool article from the Bulletin this week. The city of Martinsville has launched its going-green panel to come up with ways of saving energy.
Before the next meeting April 20, committee members were tasked with investigating whether the state Office of Pollution Prevention could help the city’s efforts, researching green programs in other cities and finding out how many tons of waste the city and schools create.

An energy audit of city and school facilities is set to be completed by the end of May. The audit is examining electricity use in the buildings, traffic and streetlights.

The Green Committee aims to increase recycling, reduce waste, create more green space and take other measures to shrink the city’s carbon footprint, which is measured by the city’s environmental practices and amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
Not only will this help make our city a little cleaner, there's the added benefit that turning Martinsville into a green-conscious city will make it a more attractive place to live, particularly in Uptown--especially to young professionals who will be the key to reviving our area. I am often frustrated with our local governments, but this is very cool. Big props, Martinsville.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools

Well, sadly I couldn't think of a good April Fool's joke, but luckily Fred2Blue had quite an excellent substitute for one. 

Glenn, let's get this crazy train a rollin'! From Fred2Blue:

Martinsville Unemployment Breaks Tultex Record

Breaking news over at the Martinsville Bulletin tonight:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville’s jobless rate in February reached a record 20.2 percent, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) announced today.

The city again has the highest unemployment rate in the state, a distinction it held for many months before Williamsburg’s jobless rate hit 19.5 percent in January, VEC statistics show.

Martinsville’s previous unemployment record was 19.6 percent, set in December 1999 due to Tultex’s closing.

Unemployment rates for Henry and Patrick counties were not immediately available.

Further details on local jobless rates will be reported in the Martinsville Bulletin on Thursday.
Sadly, I can't say this surprises me. I was chatting with a local business owner today and we both noticed the same thing: Southside has known the economy was in trouble for a long, long time. A year or so ago, when the Dow was up and the media was telling us how great everything was, we were very puzzled as to what exactly they were talking about; we sure as hell didn't see what they did. Now that we're running to the lifeboats, it's almost amusing to see the talking heads suddenly get it after years of steaming toward the iceberg.