Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Final Push: A Word to Democratic Readers

This is it. We're coming up on Zero Hour, and it's time to get involved if you haven't already. I have to confess that I haven't been as involved as I should've been with this campaign. I could give a number of reasonable excuses relating to time or whatever else, but my lack of involvement is a symptom of a larger problem. Today I plan to spend most of my time making phone calls and volunteering in various ways for the Deeds campaign. I will keep working as much as I can until Tuesday.

There's plenty to criticize about the Democrats' efforts in this election, and there will be plenty of time to analyze the results after Tuesday, whatever the outcome. But if we let the media narrative keep us at home this weekend and we end up with a GOP sweep, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves.

And for those of you who are deterred from volunteering or even offering genuine support because you don't think our ticket is progressive enough, quit fooling yourself. Bob McDonnell will opt-out of health care reform, decimate education and let our roads turn to rubble; Bill Bolling will spend the next four years running for governor and skipping meetings; and Ken Cuccinelli will impose his fundamentalist, far-right brand of conservatism on the Attorney General's office at the expense of anyone he deems "immoral."

You may not agree with everything our candidates stand for, but who do you honestly believe is more likely to stand up for the progressive values in which you believe? Who will side with the middle class, fight for education and come up with a realistic transportation plan? Who will continue the legacy of Mark Warner, Jim Webb, Tim Kaine and Tom Perriello? I think you know the answer.

So go knock doors. Make phone calls, talk to your friends and neighbors, or write a last minute lettor to the editor. If you just can't bear to do any of those things, at least go out and vote and drag your like-minded friends with you to the polls. We may very well lose anyway, but if you and I sit around and do nothing, it becomes a sure bet.

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Jody Wagner Ad

This was posted at Blue Virginia and I thought it was pretty funny.

Va-05: Rees to Run as Third-Party Candidate

On his blog last night, Bradley Rees announced his intention to withdraw from the race for the Republican nomination to run against Congressman Perriello in 2010. He will instead run as a member of the Conservative Party, citing disillusionment with the GOP establishment. You may remember Rees being the first candidate to announce his candidacy against Tom. Money quote:

As such, it is my duty to announce that, as of today, I am withdrawing from consideration for the Republican nomination, so that I can devote my time, via my blog and my upcoming radio show, to exposing some of the charlatans and even outright liars who have corrupted the party I would have been proud to represent.

Starting in January, I intend to begin laying the groundwork and getting my support structure in place to run on the Virginia Conservative Party platform. It may amount to only drawing enough votes from the Republican candidate to ensure Tom Perriello a second term. If so, so be it. Maybe then, the party will understand that we are trying to save the GOP from its worst enemy: not the Democrats, but themselves.

Strong words from Mr. Rees. In light of recent events in NY-23, is this the new dynamic of the conservative movement? Are we seeing the birth of a new party? Should be an interesting one to watch. And no, I don't think Rees is to be taken lightly; from what I've seen, he's been a pretty serious campaigner. He also seems to have some support in the TEA Party movement, and they certainly have a strong presence here in the 5th.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NASA Launches Ares 1-X

This is pretty cool:

I really believe the space program will be America's lasting historical legacy. I think if we could look into the future, say five hundred years from now, historians would most remember our contributions to space exploration. From landing on the Moon to sending robotic probes to the inner planets and the outer solar system, 20th and 21st century America opened a new frontier. The knowledge we have gained and will gain from continuing to push our technology to its limits is what will become legendary. As important as things like the health care debate seem today, future generations won't care about triggers and opt-outs. They'll want to know what we did to advance the human species.

I actually think the Bush Administration was on the right track with this. Back in 2005, Dubya announced the Vision for Space Exploration, laying out a plan for NASA to retire the shuttle, finish the International Space Station and get back to the Moon while planning for a manned trip to Mars. Now, the VSE is still inadequate in my view--it cut funding for unmanned scientific experiments, for one thing. It also plays into deep flaws within NASA that will unnecessarily raise costs, such as over-reliance on semi-private aerospace firms like Lockheed and Boeing, who make their living off of gaming government contracts. Plus, there's always a danger that the whole thing could devolve into "flags and footprints" instead of doing serious exploration. But overall, I'm encouraged by yesterday's successful launch and I hope this is the start of a renaissance for NASA's manned spaceflight operations--America should have the best space program in the world, and I think the previous administration was trying to accomplish that. There, I said something nice about G-Dub. :)

If you've never taken the time to watch JFK's "We choose to go to the Moon" speech, here it is. If you don't get chills from this, I'm not sure what to tell you.

Ken "Crazy Eyes" Cuccinelli

While recently watching one of his campaign ads, it occurred to me that our friend Mr. Cuccinelli exhibits a physical feature that could be referred to as "the crazy eyes." See photo at left, or for that matter any ad wherein he looks directly at the camera.

Now, normally I wouldn't make fun of a candidate's physical features. Unless of course we're talking about Joe "Judas" Lieberman and his striking resemblance to Droopy of Looney Tunes fame. What would prompt me to such a hurtful course of action, you ask?

Why, none other than Mr. Cuccinelli's remarks to the editorial board of the Virginian-Pilot, as quoted in their endorsement of Steve Shannon for Attorney General. Now, somehow I missed this when the endorsement came through on Monday, but better late than never. Kenny, let's get this crazy train a-rollin! Excerpt:
He declined to commit to a nondiscrimination policy against gays and lesbians observed by former Attorney General Bob McDonnell: “ My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that. ... They don’t comport with natural law. I happen to think that it represents (to put it politely; I need my thesaurus to be polite) behavior that is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society.”
Wow. So he's basically okay with using sexual orientation as a criterion for employment in the state's law firm? And this guy actually has people convinced that he's a moderate, to the point where he has a substantial lead in the polls? Oh, another little gem from the article:
He sponsored a bill to waive unemployment compensation costs for companies that fire workers for not speaking English on the job. The measure would have affected only legal workers because illegal immigrants don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.
Wonderful. The editorial concludes by saying Cuccinelli would be an embarrassment to the state of Virginia. Usually I think it's a bit of a stretch to call someone an embarrassment; even if I disagree passionately with a candidate or an officeholder, "embarrassment" just seems a bit excessive. For example, I don't necessarily think McDonnell would be an embarrassment...just a bad governor. But when a man who thinks the state should hire based on sexual orientation is on the verge of getting elected, that's pretty damn embarrassing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Game 1

Well, I guess I'm a Phillies fan this week. I can handle that, even though I'm a Braves fan. I've never been able to truly despise the Phillies, despite their annoying habit of owning the NL East for the last two years. I grew up watching the rookie league Martinsville Phillies at English Field (old logo seen at left), back when our city had an Appy League team.

Fun fact: English Field now carries the unfortunate moniker Hooker Field, named for the neighboring Hooker Furniture offices and factory. True story.

So with that I extend an olive branch to the Phillies. After all, the most important thing to remember is that Yankee Stadium is the epicenter of evil in the modern world and Alex Rodriguez is the father of all lies.

However, I will grant a special exemption to Derek Jeter. He's a cool guy and he plays the game the right way. Also, he did well for us in the World Baseball Classic. Would that he were a Brave.

As of this writing, it's the top of the 8th and the Phillies have a 2-0 lead following two Chase Utley home runs. Sweet.

UPDATE: Hah! Base hit, 4-0 Phils. Top 8th.

UPDATE: Sit down A-Rod! 6-1 Phils win it.

US is Far Behind in High Speed Rail

This is an interesting read from Monday's Baltimore Sun. It details how the U.S. has allowed other countries to get a huge lead in the development of high-speed rail systems linking their cities. One money quote shows how we've missed an opportunity to take part in a burgeoning worldwide market:
If you want an illustration of how the American obsession with roads at the expense of rails has cost this country, look to China. That country is building an extensive high-speed rail system to connect its cities. And who is supplying its billions of dollars' worth of locomotives and railcars? Siemens (Germany), Shinkansen (Japan), Bombardier (Canada) and Alstom (France).

This is a part of the equation that the folks at libertarian think tanks don't take into account when they pooh-pooh the idea of a national high-speed rail network. They dwell on the admittedly enormous cost of building - proponents estimated it at $600 billion over the next 20 years - but not at the costs of failing to get on board. Already, our reluctance to play in the high-speed rail market, which has been around since Japan took the lead in the 1960s, has cost the United States the opportunity to be a player in one of the world's leading heavy industries. Do we surrender that to other countries in perpetuity? (my emphasis)
The article goes on to point out that pretty much every major advance in transportation infrastructure over the years--canals, the transcontinental railroad, interstates, etc--has required a major role for the government. Yes, those things cost a lot of money, but the payoff has been worth it.

If we should have learned anything from this recession, it is that there is no cosmic law keeping America on top of the world economy. Our fellow industrialized nations are our competitors for jobs and growth; at a minimum we have to keep pace with them. High speed rail is where the world is headed. If we don't lead, our place in the world will continue to decline.

If the feds can't or won't get on board with high speed rail, then this is an area where Virginia should lead. A system linking the Southwest, D.C., Tidewater and Richmond, with spurs into smaller rural communities, could have enormous economic development potential. That's why it's so important to get out and vote for Creigh Deeds, Jody Wagner and Steve Shannon next Tuesday. As their opponents have made clear, the alternative is a transportation "plan" consisting of discredited ideas that will only lead to more gridlock and less innovation.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Call to Action: Mountaintop Removal Has Begun at Coal River Mountain

Disturbing news out of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal coal mining has begun at Coal River Mountain in the southern part of the state. Here's the breaking news alert from

Just last night, we confirmed reports that Massey Energy has begun blasting on Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has stated that the mining operation on the mountain is "actively moving coal." Workers were seen throughout this past week moving heavy equipment up to the mining zones, and blasting and plumes of smoke were seen and heard near the Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment on Friday.

The Brushy Fork impoundment is an enormous retention pond holding 8.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry waste. If the impoundment were to fail due to the blasting, hundreds of lives will be lost and thousands more will be in jeopardy from an enormous slurry flood.

A 2006 study confirmed that Coal River Mountain—the highest peaks ever slated for mining in the state—is an ideal location for developing utility-scale wind power. Local residents have rallied around this proposal as a symbol of hope, a promise of a new and cleaner energy future, but that hope may be destroyed unless quick and decisive action is taken right now. (bolding added by me for emphasis)

Moreover, this is a clear example of the old energy regime attempting to quash its competitors in the new energy economy. A proposed mountain wind farm that is gaining support could have a tangible impact on the local economy:

A wind assessment study conducted by Coal River Mountain Watch and Downstream Stategies revealed that Coal River Mountain has enough wind potential to provide electricity for over 150,000 homes and create stable, well-paying jobs—forever.

The proposed wind farm would help diversify the local economy in an area historically dependent upon sparse, temporary coal mining jobs, pumping $20 million per year in direct local spending during construction and $2 million per year thereafter. Destroying the mountain will also be destroying one of the best wind power sites in West Virginia.

Aside from being positively garish, the results of mountaintop removal are incredibly toxic for the local environment and surrounding communities. Here's a quote from a local Eyewitness News story about the effects of mountaintop removal:
"Twenty-two year old Josh McCormick is dying of kidney cancer. Twenty-six year old Tanya Trale has had a tumor removed from her breast; her husband has had two tumors removed from his side and both have had their gallbladders taken out. Rita Lambert has had her gallbladder removed; so has her husband and both parents. Jennifer Massey has a mouthful of crowns and so does her son after their enamel was eaten away, and six of her neighbors - all unrelated - have had brain tumors, including her 29-year old brother, who died. Bill Arden is one of those neighbors. He survived his brain tumor, but Arden's eight-year old boxer named Sampson did not. What do all of these people have in common? They all live within a 3-mile radius of Prenter Hollow in Boone County, West Virginia. And all have well water."
Pretty damning. But of course it's not the coal companies' fault. Matter of fact, we're mere moments away from perfectly clean coal which will solve all of our problems.

This is a call to action. Mountaintop removal has to be stopped, not just because of the wind farm that won't get built if this mountain is destroyed, but because of the poisons these local residents will consume if the mining is allowed to continue.

Last November, we voted for change. Call President Obama and tell him to live up to his promise to hold special interests accountable and move America forward with a new energy economy: 202-456-1111.

Roanoke Times Endorses Deeds

Yesterday, Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds swapped newspaper endorsements from one end of the state to another. Locally, the Roanoke Times threw its weight behind Sen. Deeds, citing the transportation issue among other things:

McDonnell boasts that he has a plan while Deeds only promises to work with the General Assembly to develop one.

McDonnell would have a point if not for one thing: His plan, as detailed as it may be, is a farce. It is a compendium of rejected ideas, supplemented by revenue from sources unlikely to pan out, topped off with money stolen from an already inadequate general fund.


Deeds could have shown more political leadership by putting forth a specific proposal with clear sources of revenue. But he at least has the guts to tell Virginians the truth: Either the state's transportation system gets a large infusion of new revenue or the consequences will be dire. (my emphasis)

I think that is my single biggest issue with McDonnell and the single thing that I respect most in Sen. Deeds. McDonnell wants to pretend that low taxes and disappearing acts with general fund money will fix our roads. It's an attractive argument; don't get me wrong, I think taxes should be kept as low as state services will allow, particularly on the middle class. But Creigh is talking to us like adults: this is something we have to fix, and we have to pay for it somehow. Yes, that means taxes. But if we don't fix our infrastructure, our long-term economic competitiveness will stagnate and decline. In other words, pay a little money now or lose a lot of money later.

The endorsement continues:

McDonnell, who declined repeated attempts to arrange an interview with the editorial board, has tried to brush aside criticism of a thesis he wrote while attending Pat Robertson's Regent University, saying what he wrote 20 years ago is irrelevant to today's race. And it would be, if his record throughout his tenure in elective office didn't so closely reflect the principles laid out in the thesis.

Virginia voters should realize that, all his talk about jobs and the economy aside, McDonnell is an extreme social conservative -- one who, for instance, thinks abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape or incest. (my emphasis)

McDonnell has done a very good job of portraying himself as a moderate. Unfortunately his "centrism" appears to be a fairly recent phenomenon. For those of you in the Democratic sphere who think Creigh might not meet your progressive pedigree, keep in mind what's at stake in this election. A Governor McDonnell would mean four years of worsening traffic jams, crumbling infrastructure, and a starve-the-beast approach to governing, from education to the governor's opportunity fund. And that's just what he would do without an Attorney General Cuccinelli.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

George Will to Cheney: You Should Have Dithered Before Iraq

It's not very often I find myself agreeing with conservative columnist George Will. Having said that, I have a lot of respect for him as a writer. I think he's a smart man who sticks to his principles and who is not afraid to call out members of his own party when they need it. Beck and Limbaugh would do well to learn from Will; he actually uses these splendid things called rational arguments.

Last week, former Vice President Cheney accused the White House of "dithering" in its decision on what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan. George Will's relevant smackdown, from ABC's Roundtable this morning:
"A bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. So for a representative of the Bush Administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point. We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action." (emphasis added)

Read more at:
Amen. The last thing we need is a hasty, hotheaded, kneejerk escalation in the Graveyard of Empires. I don't pretend to know what the answer is in Afghanistan, other than that I don't think there is an easy or good option at this point. Whatever we end up doing, I just want there to be an actual plan and a clear picture of what "victory" or "success" looks like
Amen. The last thing we need is a hasty, hotheaded, kneejerk escalation in the Graveyard of Empires. I don't pretend to know what the answer is in Afghanistan, other than that I don't htink there is an easy or good option at this point. Whatever we end up doing, I just want there to be an actual plan and a clear picture of what "victory" or "success" looks like.

So by all means, President Obama, dither.

Frontline: Derivatives warning

I found a recent PBS Frontline documentary that is well worth watching, if you have roughly an hour to set aside. For some reason I can't get the video to embed, so just follow the link. It deals with a woman by the name of Brooksley Born, who headed the Commodities Futures Trading Commission during the mid-1990s. Born became alarmed by the rise of the shady derivatives market on Wall Street and its potential to cause...well, basically what happened last fall. She attempted to use her authority at the CFTC to reign in the derivatives market after the near-collapse of a major hedge fund. This is the story of how Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers and Bob Rubin (and to a lesser extent Tim Geithner)--all Clinton Administration economic advisers--bowed to bank pressure and led the charge to shut her up, cripple her agency and leave Wall Street to its own devices. It's also instructive, because many of the same folks are now back in power at the Obama White House. Comforting.

I hope President Obama (and all succeeding presidents) will learn 2008's lesson: some regulations exist for a reason. No clear-thinking American would suggest we don't need checks and balances in our government; the idea that we should remove them from our financial system should be seen for the absurdity that it is.

Favre Blows It; Yankees-Angels, Who Ya Got?

I've always kind of been a Steelers fan, and they're quickly becoming my favorite team. Concurrently, there seems to be broad bipartisan consensus that Brett Favre is a giant tool, his name to be mentioned in the same breath as that of T.O. So imagine my glee today when I saw this:

Glorious. Just glorious.

I'll likely offend some sensibilities here, but the Yankees are an evil empire and must be stopped. Go Angels.

As an aside, the MLB should've been done by now. I'm as much a baseball fan as anyone else, but when you can see the pitcher's breath, it's time to pack it in.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Franklin (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)

Sad news out of Franklin, Va. The International Paper mill there will be shutting down completely and permanently, putting 1,100 people out of work. If you're reading this from Franklin, you have my genuine sympathy. I remember when Tultex had a closing of similar magnitude back in 1999--it was devastating.

After that Tultex closing, then-Governor Jim Gilmore vetoed a bipartisan proposal to extend unemployment benefits for the laid-off workers, saying he didn't want to treat one region of the state differently from another.

Here's hoping for a quick recovery in Franklin. And here's hoping that whoever our next governor is, he's not so blinded by ideology that he refuses to help his constituents when they need it most.

White House: Deeds Should've Listened to Us

This WaPo article today is pretty damning:

A senior administration official said Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. "I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. "You don't do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they've got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them."

A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "Obama, Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path." (Emphasis added)

Ouch. Well, he's certainly taken some kind of path. Don't get me wrong, I still completely support Creigh and believe he's the better candidate; but watching the Deeds campaign has been like watching a Redskins game.

Inouye May Remove Anti-Rape Amendment

This is the most infuriating thing I've seen in a long, long time:

An amendment that would prevent the government from working with contractors who denied victims of assault the right to bring their case to court is in danger of being watered down or stripped entirely from a larger defense appropriations bill.

Multiple sources have told the Huffington Post that Sen. Dan Inouye, a longtime Democrat from Hawaii, is considering removing or altering the provision, which was offered by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and passed by the Senate several weeks ago.

Inouye's office, sources say, has been lobbied by defense contractors adamant that the language of the Franken amendment would leave them overly exposed to lawsuits and at constant risk of having contracts dry up. (Emphasis mine)

Wow. Can't have that. God forbid that a victim of a brutal rape facilitated by corporate negligence would see that justice is served; that could really cut into the bottom line. It's outrageous enough that thirty GOP Senators voted against this common-sense amendment to begin with. But now one of the longest-serving Democrats in the Senate wants to remove it because he's afraid of a defense contractor getting called out for its own negligence? If Inouye succeeds in removing this amendment, he should be publicly read out of the party for betraying basic human decency.

Call Sen. Inouye's Washington office and tell him to stand on the side of justice: 202-224-3934.

1 in 5 Martinsville Residents Lives in Poverty

Here's a sobering statistic from our friends at the USDA Economic Research Service: one in five Martinsville City residents lives in poverty. Danville is in even worse shape, with a poverty rate of 22.8%.

Henry, Pittsylvania, and Patrick Counties come in at 16.1%, 12.1% and 15.0%, respectively. I'm not even sure where to begin with this, but it's certainly very sobering. This is why it's so frustrating when the media latches on to meaningless indicators like the Dow reaching 10k. I say meaningless because that sort of news doesn't put food on anyone's table; it just gives clueless, simple-minded talking heads something to talk about.

For a full list of the statistics from around the state and to see where your hometown stands, take a look at this link. (h/t Mark Brooks at Heartland of Virginia)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wonkish Rant of the Day

A story in today's Washington Post says a lot about the problems facing local governments in the state of Virginia. The story is about how Fairfax County is considering the possibility of seeking city status in order to exercise greater control over its own affairs, particularly in terms of transportation. Because of Virginia's strict adherence to the Dillon Rule, localities have very little authority of their own (though independent cities can do more than counties or towns), and must depend on the good graces of the General Assembly to do pretty much anything. Not surprisingly, this power disparity has led to all sorts of messy disputes between localities--if you live anywhere near the dividing line between a city and a county, you know exactly what I mean.

As for whether or not Fairfax County should move forward with plans to become a city, I'll leave that debate to the Fairfax citizenry and blogosphere. But this episode brings up something we should be spending a lot more time talking about, particularly in an election year: why are we still allowing Richmond to micromanage our local governments? For that matter, why aren't more statewide Republicans bringing attention to this? A lot of conservatives I've talked to are big proponents of devolving some federal and state power to the localities, which should in theory have a better grasp of the community's day-to-day concerns. But I've never heard McDonnell, Bolling or Cuccinelli make any statements to that effect, and in fact I've heard at least Bolling defend the Dillon Rule. I guess where you stand depends on where you sit.

The most compelling argument I've heard for the Dillon Rule is that it's a useful economic development tool--it's easier to recruit new companies using one set of statewide regulations rather than countless variations by locality. But that by itself is not a good enough reason to tie up the time and resources of local officials with trips to Richmond to beg for more. We can preserve the positive aspects of the Dillon Rule without treating our elected officials like petulant third-graders.

Instead of incentivizing division and discord among localities, why not encourage cooperation? The General Assembly should close the power gap between forms of government and treat counties like legitimate governing entities. Then, offer new benefits to regional forms of government, such as considerations in the transportation funding formula and increased autonomy. To me, regionalism just seems to make more sense all around. Services as basic as landfills, recycling services and emergency response could be provided much more efficiently, and economic development might be an easier task when a whole region speaks with one voice.

McDonnell's Donors: Whose Payday Is It?

A recent News 7 story caught my eye. The story was about a Franklin County man stuck in a predatory loan, and it reminded me of how pervasive the industry is--especially when it comes to the coffers of Virginia political candidates. It's worth it to follow the link and take a look; this is happening all over rural Virginia.

Before moving on, I feel I must give a hat tip to Republican Del. Dave Nutter, who is quoted in the above story as supporting tighter regulations for payday lenders. It's not very often that a conservative comes out for new regulations; this is certainly a testament to how truly awful payday loans actually are, and proof that Nutter, at least on this issue, gets it.

But does Mr. McDonnell get it? One of the most-repeated memes in Virginia politics is that payday lenders have deep pockets and politicians reap the benefits. I was interested in finding out how true that is in this particular election, and I headed over to our good friends at

It turns out that at least one payday lender in Virginia has been quite kind to Bob McDonnell's gubernatorial campaign. McDonnell received $10,000 from Ace Cash Advance, which is based in Irving, TX. McDonnell is the only candidate who has received money from Ace Cash Advance in this election, though they also donated $2,000 to the Virginia GOP Senate caucus. A bit of Googling will bring you a few horror stories from Consumer Affairs, such as this one:

Ace Cash Express began calling me at home, no big deal. I was polite with them although they were very rude, and said enjoy the money loser! before hanging up on multiple calls.

Then Ace decided to call my work. I am a supervisor of a night call center, and when they call there is no secretary at night so I pick up the phone when there is a call. So when Ace called at 4:30 PM (shortly after I had arrived) I explained that I cannot receive calls regarding this at work. The girl said she did not care, and would continue to call until I paid. I explained that that is against the law specifically the FDCPA and I asked for her name, and explained I would be contacting her supervisor, as well as, the attorney general, and a lawyer if they were to call my work again.

Read more:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Breaking News: Obama Wins Heisman; GOP Apoplectic

This just in from the AP: President Barack Obama has been named the winner of the 2009 Heisman Trophy. The decision comes only a few days after Obama announced his intention to play in the Sugar Bowl.

The Heisman Trust noted that he still has four years of eligibility left over from college, and since he's pretty good at basketball, he's probably awesome at football too. Naturally, the Republican reaction has been harsh.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele made his feelings known on Sunday's Meet the Press.

"We are so super pissed that Obama gets to win the Heisman," Steele said. "He doesn't even have that good of a passing game!"

Conservative talk radio is in near meltdown, with Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity questioning why the Heisman Trust hates freedom.

Rush Limbaugh was quoted as saying, "This is Obama's America, isn't it? We're on our way to Canadian-style football, I don't even wanna buy a team anymore!" Limbaugh went on to conjecture that a grand, Chicago-based conspiracy is to blame.

But Fox News commentator Glenn Beck was philosophical about the developments.

"Don't step on the white ones," Beck said, pointing at the studio floor tiles. "Hot lava."

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin also weighed in during a pretend press conference in her basement.

"It's gotta be all about rushing yards, and such as, also folks are just real concerned about the quarterback sneak, sneakin' in to raise yer taxes," Palin said. "Are we gonna make a triple play and keep the socialists from scoring a touchdown? You betcha!" Palin added that she can see Brett Favre's ego from her house.

Even some of the president's allies were less-than-enthusiastic about the award.

"I mean, I guess it's pretty cool," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "The congratulatory resolution will probably pass with or without the Blue Dogs...I think." Pelosi added that bipartisanship is still the goal on the resolution, noting that the word congratulations is not absolutely crucial and could be replaced with way to not screw it up.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said she wished the President would pick one battle and win it before training for the Sugar Bowl.

At least one close Obama associate has maintained strong support for the decision. When asked about the reaction to his boss receiving the Heisman Trophy, Vice President Biden became visibly upset.

"I just think that's really unfair," said Biden, wiping away a tear as his voice broke. "That's my teammate...that's my quarterback. If you guys do that, man, that's unfair!"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

WaPo Endorses Deeds

The Washington Post has an editorial today endorsing State Senator Creigh Deeds for Governor.

Money quote:
Mr. Deeds has run an enormous and possibly fatal political risk by saying bluntly that he would support legislation to raise new taxes dedicated to transportation. It is a risk that neither Mr. Kaine nor Mr. Warner felt they could take. But given that the state has raised no significant new cash for roads, rails and bridges in 23 years, Mr. Deeds's position is nothing more than common sense. It is fantasy to think that the transportation funding problem, a generation in the making, will be addressed without a tax increase. A recent manifesto from 17 major business groups in Northern Virginia, calling for new taxes dedicated to transportation, attests to that reality. (Emphasis mine)
You know, I don't like taxes either. Nobody does. They're a pain. But I do like having schools, bridges, roads, public safety services and a first-rate military to protect our country's borders. The money has to come from somewhere; since we all benefit from those things, we should all pay. And we should be highly suspicious of anyone who tells us we can have those things without paying for them.

The endorsement also touches on one of McDonnell's most ridiculous attacks: linking Deeds to legislation pending on Capitol Hill. The only thing more absurd than using Congress to scare people about a gubernatorial candidate is the fact that Deeds has let the other side get away with it for so long. Deeds camp, if you're reading this, it's time to call BS.

The conventional wisdom during the primary was that the WaPo endorsement helped pull Creigh across the finish line. Let's hope history repeats itself and this is the start of a momentum shift.

The NRA Ad: What do Republicans Have Against New York?

Over the last few weeks, I've been noticing a perplexing ad from the NRA. You've all seen or at least heard about it by now. For some reason, the group feels it necessary to portray a stereotypical New York mobster endorsing Bob McDonnell's campaign.

Aside from the fact that it's an insult to New Yorkers as well as Italians, I just don't see the point of this ad. I understand the argument that Mayor Bloomberg shouldn't have investigated Virginia gun stores in connection with his city's crime issues, but the ad doesn't even try to make that point or connect Creigh Deeds to the investigation. It's just slash-and-burn regionalism. "Send New York a message by voting Bob McDonnell for Governor"? Seriously?

It reminds me of a similar ad that ran last year during the Perriello campaign, when the Goode camp did its best to make Tom into an evil, litigious Yankee transplant--in spite of the fact that he was neither a practicing attorney nor a citizen of New York. The negativity ultimately backfired--I've heard many anecdotal accounts of votes flipping Tom's way because of Virgil's nastiness.

The GOP may reap some short-term gains by pitting states and regions against each other, but what are the consequences? In fairness, I know this was not a Republican ad per se, but there's no denying the NRA is a large part of their coalition. It seems reasonable to assume that plenty of voters won't make that distinction and the ad, no surprise, isn't playing well up north. If I were a Republican strategist looking to rebuild the party after 2008, I certainly wouldn't want to be alienating anyone, not even by proxy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Trip to the Doctor

Earlier this week, I started to develop a cold. I tried to ignore it for the first day or so, thinking it was just allergies due to the changing weather and what not. But by Wednesday morning I wasn't feeling any better and decided to make an appointment. When I called, I found out that I couldn't get an appointment until Thursday afternoon. Not a huge deal; it's just a cold. So I went earlier today.

After waiting a while in the lobby, I went back and saw the nurse. She asked me a few questions and told me the doctor would be there soon. When he came in, he was perfectly nice and helpful and I left with a prescription.

When I paid my bill I found out my insurance (which I just received about two months ago) didn't cover this type of visit; instead it fell under my deductible. I thought I had three doctor visits per year on my insurance plan, but apparently I was wrong. I ended up paying the entire cost out of pocket. The same thing happened at the pharmacy when I went to get my prescription filled. I paid much more than I thought I was going to for both the visit and the medicine--despite having paid my premiums on time.

The point of this is not to badmouth either my doctor or my insurance company; my doctor can't help it that our current health care system is deeply flawed. The point is that we already have all the things the anti-reform crowd wants you to be afraid of: wait lists, denial or abrogation of coverage, skyrocketing costs and an additional layer of bureaucracy between doctors and patients, to name a few. For me, the wait wasn't especially long and I won't have to lose my house for this trip to the doctor. But too often, that's not the case--whether a patient can't find a specialist in their small rural community or they just can't pay.

Progressives don't want handouts; we want fairness. We don't expect equal outcomes; we expect equal opportunity. And it's real damn hard to have either one of those things when you can go bankrupt because you got sick.

It's time to pass real reform.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

FAIL: When Twitter Attacks

From the National Republican Congressional Committee's Twitter account, via Politico:
"Funny Video: Moonbattery: Hitler Reacts to ObamaCare Maneuvers"

Hitler, played by Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, is trapped in his bunker with his generals, and rants [in the phony subtitles] about President Obama's revisions to his socialized medicine plan -- and how only he and Nancy Pelosi are still fighting the good fight.

"What the hell are the Democrats doing?" Hitler screams. "At least I have Pelosi on my side. What's wrong with them?... I socialized medicine overnight and everything's going great... Like Pelosi, I don't give a s**t about the American people."

Look, I'm not going to go on a rant about how this is an outrage and the GOP should immediately apologize. What's more entertaining here is what a breathtakingly idiotic move this was. It never ceases to amaze me how many people--in both parties, as well as outside of politics altogether--still don't seem to understand that things like Twitter and Facebook are public. Stupid things you say there are accessible by anyone with an internet connection. Oh, and thanks to screenshots and digital archiving, your inarticulate blathering will be preserved for posterity.

The best part is the follow-up, wherein the NRCC apologized:

UPDATE: NRCC spokesman John Randall says they have pulled down the Tweet and offered a mea culpa:

"We saw the video this morning and thought, like other parodies, that it was funny," Randall just told me. "In 20-20 hindsight, we realized it was in poor taste and pulled it down... I don't want anyone to think we're comparing Democrats to Nazis and to Hitler." (emphasis added)

Nooo...really? Poor taste? How did you come to that stunning conclusion? I suppose as a blogger I should be more sympathetic, but wow.

Congressman Perriello opens the Martinsville office

There's a great post over at What IS Right for Virginia regarding a cool event that happened yesterday afternoon: Congressman Tom Perriello has officially opened his Martinsville district office. Appropriately enough, his congressional office is in the same building where so many volunteers spent so many hours working to get him elected--while being told at every turn that he couldn't win.

The cool thing about this office is its location; it's in the heart of Martinsville's re-emerging Uptown district in a street-level space that had been sitting empty for years. Let's hope some more of the old storefronts start filling up again soon, and this time for good!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Is McDonnell even aware of Southside's transportation problem?

So just before re-launching the blog, I watched the People's Debate sponsored by AARP and the League of Women Voters. Lowell has a great play-by-play over at Blue Virginia.

But one thing jumped out at me about McDonnell's response to a transportation question. He said something to the effect that transportation issues make it difficult to attract jobs to Northern Virginia. Huh? He does realize this debate is televised statewide, correct? As someone who lives in Martinsville, where unemployment still hovers around 22%, I'm more than a little put-off by that. Don't get me wrong; I've driven around Northern Virginia in the last few weeks and I'm sure issues of congestion and damaged roads do give potential employers some pause. It's not an easy place to get around, particularly if you're not familiar with the area. But that statement did nothing to convince me that McDonnell has a plan for (or is even aware of) the transportation issues facing the Southside.

Bob, what are you going to do to make U.S. 220 a safer place to drive? Will you push for completion of Route 58, even if it means taking big bad federal stimulus dollars? What about the long-promised Interstate 73 linking South Carolina and Michigan by way of Henry County and the Roanoke Valley?

220 South: Back on the Road

My friends,

Several months ago I shut down this blog due to work-related requirements to be unbiased. I felt I needed to keep myself from taking public stances regarding political affairs and the like. Also, I mysteriously vanished in order to find myself. I could make an Appalachian Trail joke, but I believe I'll refrain....for now.

But now I feel I can no longer keep silent. Watching recent events, I became aware of a very serious threat not just to my community of Martinsville, but to the state as a whole. We are on the verge of a potentially catastrophic turn of events, and all good citizens must heed the call of duty. For the threat we face is one as old as man, and now is the time to act. We must meet this threat to our prosperity head-on.

The threat to which I'm referring is, of course...


But seriously, I've decided to re-start the blog and I hope to pick up pretty much where I left off. There's still a chance I'll have to shut down again at some point down the road, but for the time being I'm looking forward to getting back on the scene and hopefully helping Creigh win the Governor's Mansion.

On a side note, this picture was taken along Route 57 near Bassett High School in Henry County last week. Also, you may have noticed a creative alteration of the photo that attributes larcenous motives to the bears in question. For funzies. It is a tad disquieting though, given that Yogi and the boys are apparently just chillin' out in that area--particularly since outdoor recreation areas are pretty close by.

Anyway, thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy 220 South, version 2.0.