Monday, November 30, 2009

Music Monday: "Crooked Legs" by The Acorn

No, The Acorn is not in any way related to nefarious videos which may have surfaced. They're a band from Canada, and this is the video for "Crooked Legs," from their 2007 album Glory Hope Mountain:

Glory Hope Mountain is a concept album about the lead singer's mother and her journey from Honduras to Canada. The album name is a rough translation of her Spanish name, Gloria Esperanza Montoya. In this song, she's apparently escaping from an abusive father and violent family background under cover of darkness. It's a very compelling and complex album, and one I highly recommend. It's easy to make a concept album sound cheesy, but to be such a young band (this is their first full-length LP), The Acorn pulls this one off quite expertly. "Hold Your Breath" and "Antenna" are also standouts on this record.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

FAIL: U.Va. Fires Groh

Come on. Did anyone even doubt this at all? The answer is no. And yes, this does merit its own post, apart from the "quick hitters" listed below.

As an alum, there is an element of sadness about it. I don't think there's any doubt that Groh bleeds blue and orange, and I hate to see a fellow Hoo get so drastically owned. But everyone had high expectations and he consistently failed to meet them. It sucks, but it was time. Plus, the 42-13 score against Tech yesterday and 1-8 record against them overall makes this a no-brainer, and a call that should have been made sooner. The $4.3 million contract buyout removes any sympathy I might have for him.

Thanks for trying, Al. Now go coach defense in the NFL.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving; Happy Advent

Busy busy week, with family and turkey and what not. I hope you've all had an excellent Thanksgiving holiday. Between the copious quantities of turkey and stuffing I ate and my disgraceful performance in at least two pickup football games (from which I'm still recovering), I lost every shred of dignity over the last several days. Nice.

But seriously, I had a great Thanksgiving and I hope you did too. Today is also the first Sunday of Advent, the preparation for Christmas. Huzzah!

Here are a few quick hits that I found interesting over the last few days, but didn't have time to write about:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Perriello Props: Tom Co-Sponsors Anti-Hunger Legislation

This past Sunday, local churches and poverty activists held the STOP Hunger march in Uptown Martinsville. As part of the weekend's events, president of the Bread for the World Institute Rev. David Beckmann spoke to the Morning Star Holy Church on Sunday morning. Here's a bit of what he had to say. From the Martinsville Bulletin:
“For Christians who care, because God does, it is not enough to support a local food bank, as important as that is. We have to let Congress know we care about” hunger on a larger scale, Beckmann said.

Fifth District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Albemarle County, is a co-sponsor of foreign aid reform legislation to relieve hunger and poverty, but neither of Virginia’s senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, are co-sponsors, Beckmann said.


According to the Bread For the World Web site, the “Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009” would strengthen the capacity, transparency and accountability of United States’ foreign assistance programs to adapt and respond to challenges of the 21st century. It includes a statement on the reduction of poverty and hunger as U.S. policy.
The article continues to point out that Rev. Beckmann and Rep. Perriello were to appear together at Bethel United Way of the Cross in Danville.

Many Americans, including myself, are taking a big hit as a result of the Great Recession. But as tough as things are, we cannot allow ourselves to forget how the economy is impacting the "least of these" all over the world. Not only is hunger spreading throughout our communities here at home, but nearly half the world's population lives on less than $2 per day. That was true long before anyone had even heard of derivatives.

The issue of global poverty may well be the defining moral problem of our time. It's good to see that Congressman Perriello grasps the gravity of the issue, especially as we head into the holiday season. Let's hope this legislation makes a difference in the lives of people who need it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stunner: Imported Chinese Drywall is Toxic

You may be familiar with the old axiom that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect different outcomes. Take a look at this clip from CNN and ask yourself why we as a nation have not applied that knowledge to our trade policies:

It's been barely a year since the media firestorm over lead showing up in Chinese-made toys, and now this has come to light. At what point are our leaders going to step up and realize that our trade agreements are not only destroying our economy, but actually threatening our health?

This is not about "free trade" versus "protectionism," and the problem is much larger than NAFTA or CAFTA. First, the current rules for international trade are anything but free--because of the WTO's anti-democratic negotiating structure, poorer and less developed countries are drastically under-represented while larger, more developed powers run the meetings. But even with a numbers advantage, the developed countries still do not even represent the interests of their own people; they represent the interests of their top companies. Moreover, the WTO prefers to hold its meetings behind closed doors, away from the cameras and any shred of accountability. We end up with a system that favors the profits of large multinational corporations over basic fairness and human rights. Suddenly it's okay to make your goods in China, where environmental and labor laws are barely a shadow of what they would be in the US or Europe. Hire kids and pay them $1 per hour if you like, and dump your waste wherever. Thousands of middle-class American workers find themselves without a job, and many are forced into poverty. And if they find another job (probably for much less than they made before), then when they go to the store to buy drywall for their house or a toy for their children, they're putting their health on the line. It's a global race to the bottom, with everyone ultimately losing.

Conservatives threw a hissy fit when President Obama put a tariff on Chinese tires, saying it was just a handout to the unions. (They apparently don't have a problem with $400 billion handouts to insurance companies as part of Medicare supplemental insurance, which health reform will abolish.) I think what we need is more tariffs at higher percentages--say 99%--on things like furniture and textiles. Not only that, but we should renegotiate all of our agreements to favor fair trade practices. After all, the problem isn't trade itself, but trade rules that favor 19th-century working conditions. The only way you revive the economy is to stop the hemmorhaging of American jobs into other countries. If the manufacturers won't do it themselves, then we'll have to give them a little push.

Music Monday: Andy McKee Plays "Drifting"

Andy McKee is a better guitar player than you.


Friday, November 20, 2009

In Case You Missed It: Flooding and Uranium

There was an interesting article in the Danville Register & Bee several days ago regarding how last week's flooding might have impacted a proposed uranium mine in Pittsylvania County. It didn't really attempt to offer an answer to that question, basically just quoting people for and against mining. But it does raise a lot of serious questions that mining advocates should have to answer.

Dueling quotes; cue the banjos!

Jack Dunavant, head of Halifax-based Southside Concerned Citizens, which opposes uranium mining, said alpha radiation from tailings, which contain 86 percent of the radiation found in natural uranium, would be washed downstream in a flood and be deposited in fertile low lands where animals graze and crops grow.

“All the animals would be subject to it,” Dunavant said.

Alpha radiation is “the most insidious and dangerous of all” types of radiation that causes birth defects and affects the genetic code, Dunavant said. It can be ingested when consumed in food, drank from water or breathed from mist while a person takes a shower, he said.

To be fair, gamma particles are actually the most dangerous, and those wouldn't be an issue while the uranium is being mined. But Dunavant is exactly right that alpha particles are still pretty nasty things once they get into your system, and they have a variety of ways to do so. Alpha particles are a big reason why Homeland Security is worried about dirty bombs. The Coles Hill site where uranium may be mined is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which extends into North Carolina and ends up on the coast. If alpha-laden uranium tailings made their way into the floodwaters, they could eventually contaminate an enormous area, including farmland, fisheries and recreational areas.

Now a quote from Patrick Wales of Virginia Uranium:

VUI would build a tailings-management system meeting stringent guidelines under the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and other agencies, Wales said.

Tailings-management facilities have separated the tailings from interaction with the environment at locations all over the world, Wales said. Tailings are typically covered and lined underground with multiple layers of synthetic and clay liners to prevent interaction with surrounding groundwater, Wales said.

“These facilities are designed for severe weather,” Wales said.

A few feet of water can also be kept on top of the tailings to prevent dust.

All that sounds fine and dandy. But my biggest concern is the very real fact that things break. What if those tailings aren't contained properly? What if the containment systems themselves turn out not to be as good as originally thought? What if those regulatory agencies fall victim to budget cuts or overzealous deregulators? Even the most well-designed facility is going to have some flaws. If something were to go wrong and nuclear material were released into the watershed, there would be no undoing that damage.

Area farmers have built primitive ponds to successfully contain water with no government oversight, Wales said. In addition, rains have occurred for hundreds of millions of years and VUI’s operation would not increase the amount of radiation already in the rock, Wales said.

Huh? Farmers build ponds? I really wish the author had included the exact quote here instead of a paraphrase. I seriously hope Wales is not suggesting that open ponds would be a good place to put mine waste. We saw how well that worked out for the coal ash pond near Harriman, Tennessee, where a dam broke and flooded the town with toxic sludge. And as for the second part of his quote, I think what he's trying to get at is that the uranium in question is already part of the water table, but again I wish the actual quote were there. Even if that's his point, I still don't see why it's a good idea to bring that uranium to the surface.

One closing statement from a concerned area resident, who summed it up nicely:

Karen Maute, a county resident and uranium mining opponent, said last week’s flooding should “give pause” to people downstream and give notice to everyone of the consequences of the long-term storage of waste.

Mining and milling will be a finite operation, but the resulting waste will be around for thousands of years, she said.

Well said.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Levi Johnston is a Jackass

Say what you will about Sarah Palin, her supporters, and their delusional view of American politics. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, as are her supporters. Were she ever to become president, I personally would lose all faith in American democracy and gnaw off my own leg. But I've always said the one caveat to that is to leave her kids out of it; President Obama was absolutely right to reject those who wanted to make Bristol Palin's pregnancy into a campaign issue, and as far as I'm concerned it's still off-limits.

The one guy who most aggressively refuses to respect that line, though, is Levi Johnston. Every time he opens his mouth he embarrasses himself, Bristol, her family and their child. What a narcissistic, self-serving tool. I mean, take one look at this guy:

My snap judgment, knowing nothing else about him, would be something like, "Hey, that guy looks like a giant douche." All he's really missing is a popped collar and a sideways Boost Mobile hat. Now take this caricature of a teenage male egomaniac and add the fact that not only did he knock up the governor's daughter, then abandon her and their kid before going on to badmouth her family to the national media, he's now actively trying to make money off of it. Not only is he having his little media tour and stripping for Playgirl, he has also appeared in a Wonderful Pistachios commercial. The ad makes a not-so-subtle quip about how now he uses "protection," i.e., the protective health benefits of eating pistachios. Tee-hee, that has two meanings! Ugh. Really? Did they have a fifth grader write that? What an unmitigated jackass. And way to make light of a serious social issue. Stay classy, Wonderful Pistachios.

I actually have a lot of respect for how Sarah Palin has handled this situation; she's certainly shown a lot more patience and restraint than the little twerp deserves.

Rep. DeFazio: Fire Geithner

Interesting story over at HuffPo, and consistent with similar rumblings I've heard out in the interwebs. Here's a video from MSNBC of Rep. Peter DeFazio (D - OR) suggesting that President Obama's two top economic advisers be fired:
Money quotes:

"We think it is time, maybe, that we turn our focus to Main Street -- we reclaim some of the unspent funds, we reclaim some of the funds that are being paid back, which will not be paid back in full, and we use it to put people back to work. Rebuilding America's infrastructure is a tried and true way to put people back to work," said DeFazio.

"Unfortunately, the President has an adviser from Wall Street, Larry Summers, and a Treasury Secretary from Wall Street, Timmy Geithner, who don't like that idea," he added. "They want to keep the TARP money either to continue to bail out Wall Street...or to pay down the deficit. That's absurd." (My emphasis)

Huh. Imagine that. Paying people to work on roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects allows them to support themselves and put money back into the economy. And not only do those projects put people back to work, they create the engines for future prosperity and economic growth. I've been wondering for a while now if it would be smarter to simply re-start Depression-era programs such as the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps. Conservatives will undoubtedly cry foul, but there's no question that those programs benefited our country during the Depression and helped millions of families stay afloat when workers could find no other jobs. And with the real unemployment rate (see bottom line on chart) now at 17.5%, soon there may be no other choice. When the economy runs out of buyers for a good or service (in this case, employees), sometimes the government is the only buyer left. We may have reached that point.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Ad: Keep Fighting, Tom

Americans United for Change has a new ad running in the Charlottesville and Roanoke media markets. Glad to see a counter to the reprehensible U.S. Chamber of Commerce/Americans for Prosperity ads which distort the bill and demonize our representative.

Schilling Show Fail

Conservative Charlottesville radio host Rob Schilling is up in arms. He has posted a blog decrying the fact that UVa College Republicans were not allowed to protest at Rep. Tom Perriello's Charlottesville office. The group showed up hoping to protest Tom's vote in favor of health care reform and were met by police, who told them to leave. Here's the video of the apoplectic College Republican chair, Joshua Lambert:

Never mind that there already was an Americans for Prosperity protest (and simultaneous counter-protest) at that same office. By all accounts, it was so obnoxious that nearby business owners made it clear they wanted the protesters gone and the protests to stop. What it comes down to is that the police were there at the request of property owners, not on the orders of Tom or anyone associated with his office. Charlottesville business owners asserted their private property rights; isn't that what conservatives are supposed to be all about?

And as Lambert noted in the video, they were not told to get off the premises, they were simply told they could not protest in the parking lot. Police let them know they were welcome to share their concerns inside the office, but apparently that wasn't the appropriate venue--in the video, Lambert actually said, "we can't really say what we want to say if we walked in the front door." Huh?

But my favorite quote is this, from Schilling's blog:
Lambert and other aggrieved citizen groups are seeking legal support to assist in re-establishing their abridged rights.
Sigh. I'm reminded of all the times I've heard someone like Rush Limbaugh accuse liberals of having a "victimization complex."

By the way, does anyone else find this whole thing ironic? This same group of people just elected an attorney general who sees the Establishment Clause as an impediment to his dominionist worldview, and now they're worried about their First Amendment free speech rights. Beautiful.

Terrible News Out of Ferrum

Tragic hunting accident near Ferrum College. From WDBJ7:

Students at Ferrum College gathered Wednesday morning for a private memorial service to remember the student who was shot and killed Tuesday.

Twenty-three-year-old Jessica Goode of Northern Virginia was shot in an apparent hunting accident Tuesday. Another student was injured in the shooting.

Jason Cloutier allegedly fired on them Tuesday afternoon about a mile from campus. Regis Boudinot was hit in the arm with the same bullet that killed Goode.

The students had been in the woods working on a science project.

"When the blast went off he said she looked at him and said 'I'm going to die,' and she collapsed before he could do anything and she died almost instantly," said Kimberly Boudinot, Regis' stepmom.

Cloutier is facing three charges, including manslaughter. Authorities say he was trespassing on county property. He's currently being held on $20,000 bond.

Truly horrible. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victim's family and friends, and all the students at Ferrum. Nobody should have to deal with this kind of thing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Greatest Political Ad Ever

From Ron Ferrin for Congress, a new YouTube ad promoting the Tom-as-Pelosi's-puppet narrative. Since that narrative worked so well for Virgil.

I'm not sure I understand the part about "maybe they were just trying to get used to his voting record" and how an ad about pronunciation relates to that, but hey, whatever works. And is that a homemade green screen or just a really bad backdrop? But I actually give Ferrin some credit for this. At least it required a little more creativity than "Tom is just like Pelosi!!!! Socialists are coming!! AHHH!!!"

Danville TEA Party Calls Off Effigy Burnin

Just like a bunch of PC...conservatives?

Coleman said Monday the owner of the property in Blairs has pulled the plug on the event because of the negative attention the rally has garnered. The bonfire originally included burning effigies of Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th District, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in response to their support of the health care legislation.

“The media attention has gotten pretty large,” Coleman said. “(The property owner) didn’t want to be viewed poorly, and of course we didn’t want that for them.”

News of the event quickly spread online to national news outlets, blogs and even Comedy Central. The effigy burning is “definitely ruled out” for the future, Coleman said, but the intention was to teach “a history lesson” and compare the event to the birth of the Sons of Liberty after the 1765 Stamp Act.

“I feel like I obviously handled this poorly, as far as the press goes,” Coleman said. “We really should have thought this through more … and seen how this was going to affect not only us, but other TEA parties and the TEA party movement in general.”

Coleman, who seemed disappointed, would not say whether he had received any specific requests from other TEA party movements to cancel the event, but said that “I’m always in contact with other TEA party leaders and I always take their feedback into consideration.”

Coleman was later quoted as saying, "Nigel SAD!" He then ran out of the room sobbing.

Meanwhile Feda Kidd Morton, who is running for the GOP nomination to run against Tom, did little to cast herself as the reasonable stateswoman rising above the fray:

Morton praised the Danville TEA Party for “engaging voters of the district to voice opinions on the health care debate.”

“Perriello’s blatant disregard for the opinion of his constituents voiced in town halls he hosted shows his lack of commitment to those who elected him and the needs of his district,” she said in an e-mailed statement. “I have tremendous respect for the TEA Party’s effort and its commitment to protecting our liberty.”

As far as the political ramifications are concerned, Waldo Jaquith has an interesting take on it over at his blog.

By the way, at what point did Ben Tribbett become a quotable expert on the Fifth?

Liberal political blogger Ben Tribbett, who runs the popular “NotLarrySabato” blog, called the planned burning “stupid,” but acknowledged that there seems to be much discontent with Perriello in the 5th District after his votes for both health care reform, which angered conservatives, and the Stupak-Pitts abortion amendment, which angered liberals.

“Tom has walked himself into a corner on both sides,” Tribbett said. “… And it doesn’t put him in a great position politically for 2010.”

He couldn't be more wrong. I've talked to only a handful of people who aren't happy with Tom's vote on the Stupak amendment, and none of those folks say it's actually a dealbreaker. (The Stupak amendment prohibits federal funding for abortion.) The vast majority of people I've spoken with are just elated that our guy came through on the most important issue facing Congress right now when so many Dems from districts like ours are caving to special interests. Moreover, anyone who has talked to Tom for more than five minutes or has even a basic understanding of the Fifth should be unsurprised that he would vote for Stupak. Yes it's the right political move, but it's also what Tom happens to believe. Most Dems in the district understand that, and I just don't see how he's "walked himself into a corner."

Monday, November 16, 2009

(Belated) Music Monday: Rogue Wave

I've decided to start a new weekly post called Music Monday. It's basically just a way of making Monday a bit more entertaining and taking a minute to enjoy something outside of politics. Because of internet connectivity issues, this one arrives pretty late in the day, but nevertheless, here goes.

This is Rogue Wave, performing a live version of "Bird on a Wire" (and no, it's not a Leonard Cohen cover) Enjoy:

I first saw these guys live when they opened for Nada Surf. I've now seen them three different times, twice at the now-defunct Satellite Ballroom in Charlottesville. Each time has been better than the last, and they really put on an excellent show. This is a much different version of the above song than what appears on the album. Usually it irritates me when bands do that, but Rogue Wave has a way of making it work really well. If you ever have an opportunity to see them, I can't recommend it enough. They're also a good bunch of guys; the drummer especially was good about hanging around afterward to talk to fans.

Thank You Tom!

After losing my internet for a while (Comcast is awesome), I've finally managed to get my internet back online and thought I'd share a few thoughts from Friday. I went to Tom Perriello's office in Uptown Martinsville, where a goodly number of local supporters came out to thank the congressman for his vote on health care reform last weekend.

The atmosphere was one of optimism and hope, with lots of excitement in the air. It was a feeling of energy that I personally haven't felt since the runup to the 2008 elections; it's the feeling we were missing in 2009. We are on the verge of passing real health care reform, and despite the lies and scare tactics of AHIP and AFP, our congressman had the backbone to do the right thing. Here are a few pictures of the rally:

All this occurred within fifty yards of the old campaign offices, where we made phone calls for hours on end and worked to get our candidates elected.

A lot of pundits will say that he health care fight will damage representatives like Tom, but I think it would have hurt him a lot more to vote against it. Because he voted to stand up to the insurance companies and offer his constituents a real set of choices in health coverage, the folks you see standing here to thank Tom will also be the people who go back to the campaign trenches next year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

60 Plus Association Comes After Perriello

After Tom's incredibly courageous decision to vote for health care reform last Saturday night, we knew it was only a matter of time before the status quo crowd came after him. First was a parade of Americans for Prosperity astroturfers showing up at his district offices, and now comes an ad campaign from the 60 Plus association targeting Dems across the country who voted for reform. Below is the version running in North Dakota that targets Rep. Earl Pomeroy:

Never mind that the money being cut from Medicare (a government-run health plan that many of last summer's town hall attendees apparently didn't want to part with) comes from eliminating corporate subsidies--aka welfare for insurance companies--and attempts to close the "donut hole" in Medicare Part D. Never mind that this bill actually tries to improve the quality of Medicare while cutting government waste. I thought conservatives liked the thought of making government more efficient. I guess fiscal concerns don't apply when insurance industry handouts are at stake.

Fun fact: these ads which are about to launch come from the same folks that brought you the racially-tinged Willie Horton ad back in 1988. Not only that, but the 60 Plus Association also backed Bush's scheme to privatize Social Security. Of course, that plan would have subjected retirement accounts to the whims, er, wisdom of the stock market. That would've just been so peachy for anyone retiring in the last two years or so. It's enough to make you wonder who really has the interests of our seniors at heart and who is merely banging an ideological drum.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans' Day

Happy Veterans' Day everybody. There's no point in me going into great depth about why this is important, because it should be obvious to all Americans. Regardless of your political affiliation or opinion of any particular war, our veterans deserve the utmost respect and we should do everything possible to honor them. My grandfather fought the Nazis in World War II and I grew up hearing firsthand accounts of that war. Still, I can't imagine what those guys and gals have to go through in combat, or what they live with afterward. If you're a veteran, thanks for everything.

Here's a quick clip of President Obama at Arlington National Cemetary this morning:

PS: If you're reading this blog from the UK or Europe, happy Armistice Day.

McDonnell's Mentor: Islam "Not a Religion; Violent Political System"

During the campaign, Bob McDonnell was often referred to as "Pat Robertson's Manchurian Candidate." After a recent episode of The 700 Club, that nickname is even more disturbing. From Rosalind Heldermann's WaPo blog:

In a broadcast of the 700 Club Monday night, the Virginia Beach pastor had some choice words about Islam in reaction to the shootings at Fort Hood. Robertson said that Army Maj. Nidal Hasan's troubles were overlooked because of a politically-correct refusal to see Islam for what it is.

"Islam is a violent--I was going to say religion--but it's not a religion. It's a political system. It's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of governments of the world and world domination."

"They talk about infidels and all this. But the truth is, that's what the game is. You're dealing with not a religion. You're dealing with a political system. And I think you should treat it as such and treat it's adherents as such. As we would members of the Communist party and members of some Fascist group." (my emphasis)


It's really a shame that this is how Robertson chooses to respond to the terrible tragedy at Fort Hood. The way I see it, it's actually pretty understandable that people react this way--the same thing happened after 9/11 and, for that matter, the same thing happened to the Japanese in World War II. We humans are imperfect, and we're prone to showing our ugly side in the aftermath of a tragedy. It's a sad statement about the human condition, and it's something we have to overcome.

But Robertson had an opportunity to provide leadership to his viewers and instead, he appealed to our darker nature. He could have reminded his audience of the Christian notion that we are all broken and therefore capable of great evil. He could have cautioned his followers that most Muslims are in fact peace-loving people attempting to live normal lives and that folks like the gunman are only a very small, very warped segment of that population. It could have even been an instructive tale that this is what happens when evil people hijack a faith to justify murder, so don't ever let anyone convince you that it's okay to hurt someone in the name of God. But he didn't. He chose confrontational theology, and his worldview will have sway in the Governor's Mansion for the next four years.

It's worth noting here that I think the secularists are also wrong when they point to religious violence as a reason to abandon faith. The answer to religious violence is not less religion, but better theology. Christianity produced the Crusades, the Inquisition, sectarian violence and abortion clinic bombers; it also produced Martin Luther King, Jr and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Could Be Virginia: Why Not to Drill

A story out of Australia illustrates why some of us don't think drilling off the coast of Virginia is such a great idea. Aside from the fact that it wouldn't reach the market for years, won't lower crude oil prices and won't be anywhere near enough to satisfy our oil needs, it has the potential to wreak havoc on Virginia's economy--think about damaged fisheries and lost tourism dollars, not to mention the billions of dollars in cleanup costs.

The spill off the coast of Australia has been going on since August, and began when a pipe on the sea floor burst open. It has still not been plugged and continues to expand by about 300 barrels per day, contaminating an enormous area of ocean and killing unknown quantities of wildlife. Money quote from the Guardian article:
Still, Llewellyn says experience from previous oil disasters suggests the damage will be long lasting. "We know that oil can be a slow and silent killer. Impacts from the Exxon Valdez disaster are still being seen 20 years later, so we can expect this environmental disaster will continue to unfold for years to come," she said.
In case you're inclined to say "People first, let's get the oil even if it kills some fish," don't forget that what's in the ocean tends to end up in a lot of our food. It's not just an issue of seals dying, it's toxic waste going right onto your dinner plate. Let's hope Governor-Elect McDonnell (sigh) doesn't get too Drill-Baby-Drill crazy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Health Care Passes: Great Success!

While out of town and away from my computer this past weekend, health care reform finally passed through the U.S. House of Representatives. This is such excellent news for all Americans who have ever had to struggle to pay a medical bill or missed treatment because they didn't have insurance.

Even better news, the Fifth District's own Tom Perriello voted in favor of the legislation. A strong public option and new protections for consumers could have huge payoffs for Southside residents who have lost their jobs or can't afford their current health care coverage. Predictably, the Right is already coming after him for this vote, and today's news that Chris LaCivita (of Swift Boat fame) will be joining Robert Hurt's staff as campaign manager, is just one more indicator of how dirty they plan to play against Tom. Be ready to fight back hard.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Obama Autotune Feat. T-Pain

A little something to lighten the mood:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Red Dawn

If you're a Republican and you volunteered or even worked for the party this year, you deserve congratulations. Campaigns are long, stressful, exhausting and brutal affairs, and I'm sure plenty of folks spent plenty of hours making phone calls and pounding the pavement for your candidates. You deserve props, even though I think you backed the wrong people.

But if you're a Democrat, last night sucked. Not only did we lose all three top-ticket races, we even lost good down-ticket candidates; I'm more disappointed about losing Shannon Valentine in Lynchburg than any other race in the state (or the country for that matter). We lost a lot of ground last night. Sure the economy played a big role, as did Virginia's tendency to vote against the current White House (though I don't think last night was a referendum on President Obama--he's still fairly popular in Virginia and most voters in VA and NJ said he had no bearing on their vote). There's an excellent analysis at Blue Virginia and Ben Tribbett is spot-on in his piece at FireDogLake. There's no need to completely re-write the post-mortems, but I thought I'd offer a few observations of my own:

More than anything else, I think this year the GOP just wanted it more. They got out their base, first to volunteer and then to vote. In contrast, the term "circular firing squad" comes to mind when I think about the aftermath of the primary. There's a good argument that Wagner and Deeds ran up sizeable margins in their nomination, and so party disunity should not be seen as a major factor. But the problem with that argument is that even though the opposition vote was split, over half of primary voters supported someone other than Creigh Deeds, and did so passionately. I have to believe there were hard feelings left over from June; I've heard too many horror stories from field organizers to believe otherwise. Whether the primary itself demoralized the grassroots or merely created faults that ruptured when Deeds failed to reunite the party and became Republican-Lite, something kept Democrats at home. It's easy to blame Deeds for that, but frankly I would have liked to see more support from his former opponents. While Creigh could have done more to unify the party, at some point the Democratic base becomes culpable. Whatever our qualms about him or any of the candidates, we're still Democrats and we should have worked harder.

We also got lulled into a fantasy world last year and prematurely declared ourselves a blue state. Like it or not, Virginia is still a place where Democrats have to fight like hell for every single vote, and it will be for some time. Let's not forget that next year.

The easiest target and probably the biggest factor is that Creigh Deeds ran an abysmal campaign. I hate to say that about a guy I respect so much, but there's no denying it. The fact is, we had to pick from three less-than-good choices in the spring and I still maintain that as a candidate (not as a campaigner), Deeds was the most electable of the three. He did seem to have the broadest appeal and with a better campaign, he would have been much more competitive.

I also agree with those who say we need to nominate strong progressives in order to keep the base energized and draw strong contrasts with the right, but we have to be careful not to overdo it (i.e. not nominate the lefty equivalent of Cuccinelli--the GOP got lucky this year). Had Moran been our nominee, his leftward movement during the primary would have caught up with him; McAuliffe's ties to the Clintons and highly partisan background would have destroyed him in the rural areas, where any statewide candidate still needs to at least compete. Not to mention his dealings with Global Crossing; whether he did anything wrong or not, the appearance was there and it was bad.

I will never understand why Creigh's campaign did (or didn't do) a lot of things--skipping the Shad Plank, being MIA for at least a month after the primary, and the thoroughly baffling decision to bring abortion into the race back in August are a few things that come to mind. I also don't understand the lack of visibility. Here in Southside, I started seeing McDonnell-Bolling-Cuccinelli 4x8's popping up everywhere back in June--and they were completely unopposed. I didn't see Deeds 4x8's until late August, and to this day, I have yet to see any for Wagner or Shannon. We had coordinated yard signs, but that just isn't gonna cut it for name recognition.

We are now 364 days away from the polls closing on the 2010 midterms. This one's over and it's time to move on. Let's push our candidates and officeholders to their best, and then let's stand behind them. We need to be ready for a fight, particularly in the Fifth. The big guns are out and the Republicans smell blood. Let's be ready.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Night 2009: Official Theme


Alright, readers, this is it. We've all heard the old cliche that "the only poll that counts is on Election Day." As cheesy as it sounds, it's true. So get out and vote if you haven't already. Go vote!

Just got back from voting here in Henry County at the Mountain View VFW. Voter #197 at 10:30. I didn't see poll workers for either party, but there was a goodly number of yard signs, about evenly matched by party--multiple coordinated Dem signs as well as a smattering of Wagner signs. I saw none for Shannon, but I guess the coordinated signs count. Also saw some McDonnell/Bolling/Cuccinelli signs, plus some for Del. Merricks, who is unopposed.

Side note: plenty of elderly white folks getting out to vote. Not exactly Creigh's demographic, but to a larger point, VFW is not the safest place for older folks to be voting. The parking lot is one giant hill and I've seen plenty of people nearly fall getting out of their cars there before.