Thursday, December 31, 2009
Yet again, former VP Dick "Dark Side" Cheney has flapped his irrelevant gums regarding President Obama's foreign policy decisions. This time, he's politicizing Obama's response to the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day.
"As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.
Army Maj. Sherri Sharpe was honored recently for defending the United States and protecting Americans’ freedoms, while helping the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq.Sharpe, who grew up in Martinsville, was given an American flag that flew in her honor over the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 2 at the request of 5th District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m honored,” Sharpe responded Wednesday, as her parents watched the ceremony at Perriello’s office uptown. Kimble Reynolds Jr., regional director for Perriello, read a letter from Perriello, who was unable to attend.
Sharpe will be redeployed to Iraq in October 2010, and it will be her fourth tour of duty in combat.Hats off to Maj. Sharpe, and 'attaboy Tom for recognizing her accomplishments. Here's a brief list provided in the article. Again, these are quite impressive:
Sharpe will be redeployed to Iraq in October, and she called that part of her job. She has been in the United States since 2007, and during that time, some soldiers have had two tours of duty.
“It’s my time to go again,” she said. “I believe in what we do there,” Sharpe said, adding that she has seen positive results.
This will be her fourth tour of duty and her third to Iraq. She also did a tour in Afghanistan, she said.
•Serving as a platoon leader in Afghanistan, predominantly stationed at Bagram Air Field, in 2002. She remembers the first day little girls were allowed to go to school because it had been illegal under the Taliban, and she remembers American soldiers handing school supplies to boys and girls. According to Internet reports, many schools had been closed for years because of civil war and political unrest.When you raise your glass to the New Year tonight, give a nod to people like Maj. Sharpe. Here's hoping 2010 will be the year we get closer to peace.
• Serving as a platoon leader in Iraq in 2003, moving several places while providing air support for the U.S.-led ground invasion of Iraq and finishing in Balad. She remembers flying “hero missions” in which KIAs (those killed in action) were flown to Kuwait so they could be transported back to the United States. She said it was a meaningful mission. “We were taking care of our own,” she said. She also remembers flying a man who had been exiled from Iraq for 18 years back to his homeland. He didn’t know whether his family was alive or dead but was grateful to be able to find out. And there were others like him, she said.
• Serving as company commander in Taji, Iraq, in 2006, in which she said her main responsibility was to bring all the soldiers in her command home alive. Everyone under her leadership did make it back alive in all three of her tours, she said. She led about 65 soldiers as a platoon leader in her first tour in Iraq, about 65 in her tour in Afghanistan and 83 as a company commander in her second tour in Iraq.
• Flying Chinook CH 47 helicopters, the largest the Army uses, for most of her career.
• Serving as an assistant professor of military science at Virginia Military Institute from December 2007 to December 2009.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Today's Music Monday comes from one of my new vinyls. With a special nod to two of my Brosville-area readers, here's the Avett Brothers with the title track from I and Love and You.
The Avett Brothers hail from North Carolina, and over the last several years they've built up quite a devoted following in the indie music scene. They merged punk, bluegrass and rock instrumentations to create a unique sound that raised plenty of eyebrows, and by all accounts they put on a pretty kickin' live show. The album mentioned above is their first major-label release, coming out on American Records. Check out I and Love and You, and also look into their previous album Emotionalism.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I hope this holiday season finds you warm and safe. As you know, a ton of snow fell on us in the Fifth District this past week, and many of us are still digging ourselves out (this is me getting my truck free!). As cold and frustrating as all this snow can be, these are the times when Virginians show our spirit of giving.
This weekend I was helping a friend cut up some trees that were down across our road when four more neighbors showed up with chainsaws to pitch in and clear the road. On road after road, people were lending their plows, shovels, and backs to pull neighbors out of ditches and clear driveways. This was one of those moments when a community really comes together and shows the real meaning and beauty of this holiday season, even if it might mean a big January for chiropractors.
This season is a time to be with the ones we love and be thankful for everything that has blessed our lives. In addition to my wonderful family, I am truly thankful to have supporters like you. It is with your help and inspiration that I have been able to go to Washington and fight for Central and Southside Virginia and challenge politics as usual. I am so grateful for the opportunity and trust you have given me.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday.
Well it's Christmas Eve, so that means it's time to take a break from politics and blog about the greatest Christmas movies ever. In no particular order:
Home Alone: The first one, and maybe the second one too. Home Alone 3 was an abomination of cinema.
Christmas Vacation: "Eddy, if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet I wouldn't be any more surprised than I am right now."
Charlie Brown Christmas: See a forthcoming post
A Christmas Carol (the one with George C. Scott, who is still the best Scrooge of all time)
UPDATE: How could I forget A Christmas Story? (The one with the Red Ryder BB Gun) A classic, of course.
NPR interviewed President Obama yesterday and asked him about anger from the left over the Senate's health care bill. From Political Junkie with Ken Rudin:
And so I actually think that, considering how difficult the process has been, this is an end product that I am very proud of and is greatly worthy of support. This notion, I know, among some on the left that somehow this bill is not everything that it should be, that we still need a single-payer plan, et cetera, et cetera, I think, just ignores the real human reality that this will help millions of people and end up being the most significant piece of domestic legislation at least since Medicare and maybe since Social Security.And in his New York Times blog, Paul Krugman pointed out that it could have been much worse:
I have to say he has a good point. I still have big problems with the fact that the public option ended up being dropped and I think the Senate bill is deeply flawed. We should work hard to make sure the bill that comes out of conference committee looks better, and in a way that can actually pass through the sausage factory again. But I remember those miserable August days all too well--it looked as if Jim DeMint and the Republicans really were going to succeed in turning health care reform into "Obama's Waterloo."
Howard Fineman, last summer:
When the history of President Barack Obama’s first year in office is written, scholars will try to answer this puzzling question:
How did a gifted, charismatic young Democrat — who won the White House by a large margin and brought in huge congressional majorities — manage NOT to enact fundamental health care reform, a goal his party has been seeking since Truman?
Yes, I know, someone is going to tell me that this isn’t fundamental — but the truth is that the bill the Senate is about to pass looks a lot like the Obama campaign plan, so something real has happened. Give credit to Obama, or Harry Reid, or whoever; the fact is that four months ago the usual suspects were gleefully writing the obituary for reform, and have been sorely disappointed.
Earlier this week I wrote that it might be a good idea to kill the bill and start over. It's now clear to me that not only is it flat out not going to happen, it would be a terrible idea--to start over now wouldn't mean starting over, it would mean giving up. I say that because the political will would be exhausted and the media would immediately set an "Obama failed" narrative that would be very difficult to overcome. Even if we could start over, it would add months to the process and stick a big fat do-nothing label on the current administration and congress, in an economy that is likely to generate anti-incumbent feelings anyway. On top of all that, we could still end up with a bad bill.
So let the bill pass. It's not perfect, but neither was the first Civil Rights Act--and barely a year later, activists forced Washington to pass something that actually had teeth. We can learn a lesson from that great legislative victory. Progressives should keep fighting for a single-payer system that would guarantee basic coverage to all Americans, regardless of ability to pay. But for now, we've pulled off something pretty impressive.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Back at the beginning of this decade, Apple introduced the iPod portable mp3 player. Since then, that little gadget has revolutionized pretty much every aspect of the music industry, from major labels on down to independent local artists. On top of that, the iPod has a tendency to make its way into every facet of its users lives--I know that's true for me. Then Web 2.0 came along, and suddenly we had blogs, podcasts, Facebook and RSS feeds; the new web tools merged perfectly with the portable phones and music players we all started carrying around--think about the way you get your news, listen to music, keep up with sports, conduct business or keep in touch with friends. Now think about how you would have done those things fifteen years ago.
So it should be little surprise that the last decade's advances in personal entertainment would eventually have their effect on religion as well. NPR reports:
It's another Sunday morning at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Southern California. But some congregants are holding more than just the printed page, thanks to their iPhones. That's because they have access to the entire Bible on the device.
Technology is producing a new form of religious interaction. There are over two dozen Bible apps for smart phones. And beyond Scripture, people are using gadgets for devotional purposes.
"We believe that technology can bring people closer together and closer to God," says Bobby Gruenewald, a pastor at Lifechurch.tv. The Web site brings worship services to approximately 60,000 computer screens each week. Gruenewald tries to allay fears of social and religious isolation by pointing to earlier concerns about telephones and VCRs.
"When they were invented, people made these bold predictions that people are no longer going to need to meet with each other," Gruenewald says. "But we have this history now to look back and say that humans are actually pretty capable of integrating technology into their lives." (My emphasis)
On top of that, podcasting seems to be a growing practice among churches, especially in the Emerging/Emergent Church (see emergingchurch.info, emergentvillage.com or Homebrewed Christianity for more info). For those of you unfamiliar with podcasting, it's basically like downloading a radio show (or in this case a worship service) to your iPod so that you can listen at your leisure. There are podcasts for just about everything you can imagine. I have some personal experience with this--never one to wake up too early, podcasting was pretty much the only way I could get to church in college!
For some context, the Danville Tea Party apparently paid for a plane to fly over rush-hour traffic last week with a banner reading "OBAMA STOP DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY" in tow. Quoth the Bee:
Yowzers, that's harsh! There seems to be a lot of this going around in the Tea Party movement--how many "Keep The Government Out of Medicare" signs did you see at town halls last summer? And let's not forget Rep. Kevin Brady's angry letter complaining that the DC Metro didn't adequately prepare for the Tea Party's anti-government protests back in September.
Perhaps the Danville Tea Party’s next meeting should be buzzed by an airplane towing a banner that reads — in five-foot-tall letters, of course — “FISCAL CONSERVATIVISM BEGINS AT HOME!”
In case members of the Danville Tea Party missed it, retired City Manager Jerry Gwaltney gave the Coleman MarketPlace project an extra $465,000 without Danville City Council voting on it. They should know about that, because two members of City Council — Wayne Oakes and Fred Shanks — have been spotted at local Tea Party events.
But for now, the only member of Danville City Council who seems willing to raise a stink about it is Adam Tomer, a Democrat.
So, the question we have to ask the high-flying members of the Danville Tea Party is why a Democrat is leading the charge for fiscal accountability on Danville City Council — and whether their group is even concerned with how taxpayer money is spent outside the Beltway.
Based on their latest stunt — and the group’s silence on the Coleman MarketPlace appropriation — it appears they have no interest in an issue so close to home. That’s too bad, because it’s all taxpayer money. (Bolding added by me for emphasis)
This is why "lower spending" and "small government" are brilliant as campaign slogans, but useless as policy. They're utterly meaningless and universally meaningful at the same time--everyone wants to cut everything except the program that benefits them, and it looks like the Tea Party is no exception. I guess it's true what they say: Where you stand depends on where you sit.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Politifact.com is out today with its list of the Biggest Lies of 2009, and our favorite hockey mom sits right at the top. From the article:
Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.
The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.
Ah, yes, the Facebook declaration. What's really amusing about her lie is that she not only repeated it numerous times, but actually managed to get her party's top dogs to chant it like a mantra throughout the summer. To be fair, President Obama and several other Democratic politicians made their way onto the list as well for broken promises or half-truths. But I think it's hard to argue that any lie was as blatant, cynical and underhanded as to tell the people who need health care reform the most that their government wants to kill them. If this is the great new hope of the Republican Party's renewal, then they're in big trouble.
This song is from the album Songs for Christmas. The five-disc compilation actually started as a series of Christmas presents to friends and family. Each year from 2001-2006 (except 2004 for some reason), Sufjan and company sequestered themselves wherever they could and self-recorded a Christmas EP. They performed holiday-themed originals as well as renditions of old classics, all with Sufjan's quirky-but-brilliant instrumentation. They then mailed out the results as Christmas cards. Fortunately, some ne'er-do-well leaked the results and the ensuing web phenomenon prompted a commercial release of the whole set. Here's a link to the buying emporium known as Asthmatic Kitty Records. It's well worth purchasing the physical product rather than buying on iTunes--you'll get some awesome stickers, a songbook and a swell comic book illustrating the story of Sister Winter! Standouts on this record are too numerous to mention, but a handful are "Sister Winter," "Christmas in July," "I Saw Three Ships," and "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!"
Sufjan Stevens is also known for his ambitious quest to record a concept album for every state in the Union. So far he's gotten through Michigan and Illinois (or as he calls it, Come on! Feel the Illinoise!--critically acclaimed and often called the best album of 2005). I really believe this guy is one of the most talented and innovative musicians around today, and I highly recommend you check out his work.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Rep. Perriello is getting big props yet again for his courageous stands in Congress. Adam Clymer of The Daily Beast had this to say:
It is hard to think of this Congress, as it deals with the most important domestic legislation since the 1960s, as remotely related to the Congresses of that decade, when Republicans gave Lyndon Johnson the margin of victory on civil rights despite arguments they were surrendering a chance to embarrass him....
But every now and then, there are exceptions. Consider Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello, a 35-year-old freshman from Virginia, an upset victor in 2008 in a conservative, basically Republican district. ...Stuart Rothenberg, who writes the authoritative Rothenberg Report newsletter on election prospects, said Perriello was in “deep, deep trouble,” holding one of the 12 most vulnerable House seats.”
Yet Perriello voted for the climate bill. Then, after an August of 21 town meetings, typically lasting five hours with four different tea party groups weighing in, he voted for the health-care bill. Rothenberg wrote that he “seems more interested in doing what he thinks is right than getting reelected.”
Rothenberg may be right. At a town meeting in Buckingham in August, one listener told him that if Perriello voted for the health-care bill, he would personally work to ensure Perriello’s defeat next year. The congressman replied, “That is absolutely part of the democratic process and I encourage that. If the worst thing that happens to me is that I get to be part of the House for two years and part of the greatest democracy ever invented—I can live with that.”
He refers to intense town-hall meetings as “very exciting, a positive thing in a democracy.” He voted for the health-care bill, after supporting the Stupak antiabortion amendment, as a “moral necessity” to help Virginians. But, in an interview, he said he took as much satisfaction from a White House event where a community health center in his district got a $5 million grant.
Of 13 Democratic freshmen in districts won by McCain, Perriello was the only one to vote for both bills. Perriello acknowledges those votes could make him a one-termer. “If you want to stay here too much,” he says, “then you never get done what you came here to do.”
After watching the Senate butcher the health reform legislation, it's refreshing to see that there are still people in Congress who will do the right thing--whether they think it will get them re-elected or not.
And for what it's worth, I think the folks who make doom-and-gloom pronouncements about Tom's fate in 2010 are seriously mistaken. Virgil Goode learned a profound lesson last year: underestimate Tom Perriello at your own peril. We're talking about a guy who faced down warlords in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. I don't think he's all that scared of the Republicans.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
However, I feel that I cannot pass up this little gem. Mr. Norris has politicized even the birth of Jesus by suggesting that He would have been aborted under the affectionately-known Obamacare. From Townhall.com:
Lastly, as we near the eve of another Christmas, I wonder: What would have happened if Mother Mary had been covered by Obamacare? What if that young, poor and uninsured teenage woman had been provided the federal funds (via Obamacare) and facilities (via Planned Parenthood, etc.) to avoid the ridicule, ostracizing, persecution and possible stoning because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Imagine all the great souls who could have been erased from history and the influence of mankind if their parents had been as progressive as Washington's wise men and women! Will Obamacare morph into Herodcare for the unborn?Good point, Chuck, and with unassailable logic. But as we near the eve of another Christmas, I wonder: what would Jesus have to say about the fact that we're taking money away from poor people in order to prop up multimillionaire bank barons? Or the fact that your ability to see a doctor depends on your access to money, or that we've so secularized Christmas that it's nothing more than a buying spree? What about the richest nation in human history allowing poverty, homelessness and hunger to persist while we build bombers and tanks?
I can read the Bible too, Chuck. And I think Jesus is a lot more concerned about our pharisees, our money-changers, and our outcasts than anyone on your side of the ideological spectrum seems to be. Abortion is a moral issue, and I have my own issues with it. But the fact that Chuck Norris and his ilk are exploiting faith to scare and provoke people into supporting a status-quo political ideology is reprehensible.
(H/T Drew, formerly of Dem Bones. Thanks for the link.)
UPDATE: Tripp Fuller has an excellent post on this topic over at Homebrewed Christianity.
Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.
Instead, it fines Americans if they do not sign up with an insurance company, which may take up to 30 percent of your premium dollars and spend it on CEO salaries -- in the range of $20 million a year -- and on return on equity for the company's shareholders. Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG. (My emphasis)
Almost immediately after the health care fight began, cowardly Congress-critters started selling out the core principles of reform and President Obama sat on the sidelines as his campaign promise was picked apart and betrayed. Apparently the "no-public-option" scare from earlier in the summer was simply a harbinger of things to come. After a months-long circular debate, the Senate bill is now nearly worthless. Without a robust public option, a national mandate is nothing more than corporate socialism.
It's time to either restore the bill to its former glory or start over completely. And here's a tip for President Obama and the Senate Dems: this time instead of coddling the very people who are profiting from the unmitigated national disgrace that is our health care system, stand up for the people. It's time for single-payer Medicare for all. Maybe once they water that down and compromise it away, we'll end up with something approaching the original version of this bill.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Wow...harsh. Nazi comparisons being turned against their own leaders? The times they are a-changin'. Having said that, throwing out cameramen does sound like something Tucker would do.
If you want to talk about heavy handed actions, what about Watkins refusing to allow filming of the meeting, only after Hurt’s man LaCivita speaks with Tucker after a person starts setting up his camera. and then later throwing out one of the other candidates campaign manager for filming. What did Tucker have to hide?
It is obvious to anybody that Watkins is a spin artist of the first magnitude. Watkins could be the Joseph Goebbels of the 5th district. (My emphasis)
Laurence Verga was the first candidate to release a statement. He seems to be trying to position himself as one of the frontrunners among the Tea Party activists. Thus saith the Vergmeister:
Wow, I actually agree with Laurence Verga about something. He raises a very good point: I doubt many localities budgeted for a June primary when they were trying to figure out how to pay their teachers. Moreover, any GOP nominee is almost certainly doomed to squeaking out a measly plurality and walking into the general election at a huge disadvantage.
“A primary will place an unnecessary burden upon localities, costing them thousands of dollars at a time when their budgets are already overly stretched.
“Based upon the current shape of the field, the primary will likely be won by a candidate with less than 20% of the vote, with Democratic voters potentially deciding the race.
Today only strengthens my resolve to run a vigorous grassroots campaign against the establishment and their preferred candidate, so that I may be able to fight for the conservative principles and values of the citizens of the 5th District in Washington.”
I always knew the Fifth District GOP was lacking in some common sense. But they alienate their base at their own peril--Tucker and company are playing with fire.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
It's a sign of the times in which we're living. I worry that too many folks in our government still don't understand how bad things really are getting out in the real world. Imagine if even a fraction of the Wall Street bailout money had gone toward addressing this problem--there is no excuse for a nation that remains as wealthy as ours to allow kids to go homeless. After all, it's pretty hard to pull yourself up by the bootstraps when you can't even afford them to begin with.
In the last three months, close to 200 students in Roanoke City have been classified as homeless. It's up 34 percent since last November.
"It's a struggle, a lot of families report [say] I didn't want to be here [in the shelter], this is embarrassing," says Horn who often talks with the parents facing financial difficulties.
Please keep stories like this in mind and try to give whatever you can to local homeless shelters and charities.
Here's Nada Surf's video for "Whose Authority," from their most recent album Lucky:
If the cyclist looks familiar, that's because it's actor Michael Maronna, who portrayed the elder Pete in Nickelodeon's Pete & Pete. He was also in an E*Trade commercial several years ago. At about the time Pete & Pete was coming to a close, Nada Surf released the Ric Ocasek-produced High/Low, containing their big hit "Popular." Following the Great Music Purge of 1998, wherein the NSync/Limp Bizkit military junta seized airwaves across the country, Nada Surf began a productive career on Barsuk Records. In addition to Lucky, I recommend their albums Let Go and The Weight is a Gift. They also put on a great show--I saw them at Charlottesville's now-defunct Starr Hill music hall in 2006.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Virginia's car tax rebate is a poorly conceived, inefficient, enormously expensive form of local tax relief that the state never should have taken on and no longer can afford. Yet getting rid of it is a political nonstarter.
That has been the conventional wisdom since Republican Jim Gilmore rode a "No Car Tax" bumper sticker into office in his 1997 gubernatorial campaign. The next year, he signed into law a convoluted taxpayer reimbusement program that was to start Virginians down a path toward a total phase-out. The effort stalled when the promised bite out of state revenues grew voraciously; lawmakers capped the damage to the state treasury at $950 million a year....
Still, we hope the departing governor will not leave the state with a budget dependent on eliminating this huge obligation -- only to have it restored immediately by lawmakers and a newly installed Gov. Bob McDonnell at the cost of cuts of their choosing.
Sigh. The last line of the editorial picks up a bit on the issue discussed below:
At some point, local governments know, spending cuts become as painful as tax increases to people in their communities.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
A little over a month after cruising to victory against Sen. Creigh Deeds in the gubernatorial election, Governor-Elect McDonnell has announced how he plans to "balance" the budget: cut even more spending without raising a dime of additional revenue. From the Roanoke Times:
I suppose Mr. McDonnell hasn't been reading the news over the past year or so. Otherwise he would realize that Governor Kaine has already cut billions from the budget--affecting pretty much every crucial state service, including education and law enforcement. Locally, both school systems have cut budgets and jobs, and the New College Institute and Virginia Museum of Natural History have taken big hits. I'm not exactly sure what else Bob thinks we can cut.
RICHMOND -- Governor-elect Bob McDonnell and a key legislative ally warned Tuesday that they will nix any efforts by outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine to increase taxes to balance Virginia's budget, and will rely on spending cuts to close a shortfall of as much as $3.5 billion.
"He [Kaine] and I have met and I've asked him, and I think others have as well, to balance the budget through a full range of spending cuts," McDonnell said during an appearance before state newspaper reporters and editors at the annual Associated Press Day at the Capitol.
The most logical thing to do would be to find extra money somewhere. Maybe by re-instating parts of the car tax?
Well, there you have it. McDonnell and the Virginia GOP have now restored their golden calf--the car tax rebate is off-limits! I suppose restoring the estate tax is off the table too.
Kaine also is considering cutting the amount of money it sends to counties, cities and towns to provide car-tax relief, an idea that a senior Republican legislator dismissed Tuesday.
"I do not see it going anywhere, and that's why I think it's counterproductive to put it in the budget," said Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, during a panel discussion on the budget.
Lawmakers voted in 2004 to cap spending for the program at $950 million annually. McDonnell said Tuesday that he would consider any move to reduce those payments to be a tax increase.
My biggest worry is how this will affect our public schools and universities. I think Martinsville's best hope for recovery and renewal is embodied in the New College Institute, which has the potential to become a four-year university in the heart of the city. There currently does not exist such a public university in this area of the state, and it would provide a dramatic boost to the local economy--not only by creating a huge new market and bringing in a younger demographic, but by generating a knowledge economy in the Southside. As I mentioned above, they've already had to take cuts. I worry about the effect of the Republicans' starve-the-beast mentality on our most-needed public services. I guess if you destroy the state, then the market takes over, ushering in a Libertarian utopia....or something.
I've said it before on this blog and it bears repeating now. I don't like taxes either. No one does. But somehow or other we have to pay our teachers, cops and road workers. Somehow we have to build roads and bridges, otherwise there will be no way for the economy to function. We all benefit from those public services, and it's only fair to expect everyone to pay based on their ability to do so. But I guess that's not how things are going to work for the next four years.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Pay attention class; THIS is how you build a movement.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Environmental activists gained more momentum this year than in the past decade against the destructive, uniquely Appalachian form of strip mining known as mountaintop removal, though they have yet to mobilize the millions of supporters they want.
The activists have harnessed the power of the Web, social networking and satellite phones. They've chained themselves to heavy equipment, blocked haul roads and climbed trees to stop blasting. They've marched for miles, hung banners and been arrested.
They've even enlisted support from celebrities like actress Darryl Hannah, country singer Kathy Mattea and attorney Robert Kennedy Jr., who is expected to attend a rally Monday at the state Department of Environmental Protection in Charleston.
Perhaps the most telling anecdote about how much impact the movement has had can be seen in Big Coal's counter-efforts:
That's peachy, isn't it? Poor coal, getting picked on by those mean ol' tree-huggin' pinko commies. Too bad one of the anti-MTR activists quoted in the piece is an ex-Marine living in the shadow of a mining site. In the quote above you see the most egregious of the Rovian tactics adopted by anti-change special interests: if anyone disagrees with you, they hate America. This is exactly how the insurance industry has managed to turn well-meaning Teabaggers against their own economic interests in the health care debate. It's an incredibly cynical line of attack, and it also betrays the hypocrisy of their free-market rhetoric--apparently politicians should never intervene in the free market, unless it's to protect existing industries and wealthy campaign contributors.
The industry fights back by equating support for coal with patriotism, and by portraying opposition to mountaintop removal as opposition to gainful employment.
Virginia-based Massey Energy organized a ''Friends of America'' rally on Labor Day. A ''Faces of Coal'' ad campaign focuses on people whose jobs the industry says are at risk. TV ads tout the ways the industry benefits communities.
''Although the industry has always had challenges,'' Hamilton says, ''I'm not sure they've been quite as dramatic or as threatening as they are today.'' (My emphasis)
And what about that Marine who is now fighting mountaintop removal? He had the most insightful quote of all:
''It's not part of the national conversation yet, but it definitely needs to be because it's an indication of what's wrong with our country -- corporate greed,'' says ex-Marine Bo Webb, whose Naoma home sits below a mountaintop mine and within 10 miles of three coal-waste dams.Well said. Corporate greed is what wrecked our economy, first by shipping manufacturing jobs overseas and freezing middle-class wages, then by obliterating the stock market and demanding taxpayer bailouts.
I'm always fascinated to think about how "mainstream" political issues get that way. This will certainly be an interesting movement to watch as it gains momentum, and I'll personally do whatever I can to help. Please visit ILoveMountains.org for more info on how to get involved and take action. Let's save our mountains.
Monday, December 7, 2009
The early 1940s were a unique time, when I think our nationhood and territorial integrity truly were at stake. Take a moment some time today or over the next few days to think about what it must have been like to live in those times. Then make a conscious effort to exercise one of your freedoms, and really think about it while you do. Too often we take our freedoms for granted, and we shouldn't forget how close we came to losing them.
What's really scary about this is how many people use the New River for recreational purposes, either fishing or watersports. Moreover, how much of that pollution makes its way into other waterways, including our fisheries?
As a side note, it's truly depressing to read the comments on this story at the link above.
Twenty-nine years ago tomorrow, John Lennon was shot dead outside his apartment in New York City. I wasn't around for that, but I've heard plenty of folks talk about where they were or how they found out. What I do remember is December 1, 2001, when George Harrison passed away after a long struggle with lung cancer. Two talented lives that changed music history were sadly cut short.
For that reason, I've picked out two of my favorite Beatles songs featuring John and George. The first is the video of "Rain," prominently featuring John's laid-back, psychedelic vocal delivery.
There's not much in the way of a Beatles video for the second song, but I found a stellar George performance from the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. Arguably the best song on the White Album, here's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
And there you have it. I agonized over this decision, mind you.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
And part 2:
My favorite quote:
"It's not enough just to get the stock market up above 10,000 again, we've got to get those unemployment numbers down, we've got to take the bailout money that's coming back and reinvest it in a real jobs agenda."The media betrays its cluelessness every time they refer to an uptick in the stock market as a sign of recovery. The fact is, the poor and middle class were struggling mightily long before reality caught up to Wall Street. There are plenty in Washington who haven't made that connection, but it's an enormous relief to know that Perriello gets it. Not only does he get it, but folks are starting to take notice, and I think it can only help him next year.
H/T: Left of the Hill, Blue Virginia
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
And with that, globalization came home for me in a very real way. I didn't quite understand it yet, but my family had just walked into a much different world. And for my hometown of Martinsville, it was only going to get worse.
On that day, the former textile giant Tultex filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, putting more than 1,100 people out of work. Literally overnight, Martinsville's unemployment rate shot to nineteen percent. By the time the company finally closed down several months later, 3,300 former employees had lost their jobs.
No job, no severance, no health care. Just in time for Christmas.
My family didn't end up losing our house, and my mom found another job in Danville a few months later. But to this day, my parents still struggle as a result of what happened at Tultex. After working at Tultex for twenty years, my mom never received her severance package, nor did any of the other employees who lost their jobs in 1999-2000.
Today the Martinsville Bulletin began a series of retrospectives on the fall of Tultex and the absolute devastation it wrought on our community. Today's article reminded me of the most reprehensible part of the whole saga: the reaction of then-Governor Jim Gilmore, who not only did nothing, but actually went out of his way to betray the unemployed.
“One of the biggest letdowns was the sense of disbelief at how the General Assembly and the governor turned their backs on us,” said Paula Burnette, Iriswood District member of the Henry County Board of Supervisors now and a decade ago.The General Assembly, especially with the leadership of Delegates Ward Armstrong and Brian Moran, tried to pass an extension of unemployment benefits for the laid off workers. Gilmore vetoed it. Last year, I talked to a staunch Republican acquaintance of mine about Gilmore's Martinsville appearance early in his senate campaign. His exact words were, "I can't believe that man even has the nerve to show his face in this town." But hey, at least the unemployed didn't have to pay the car tax.
Former governor Jim Gilmore was in office when the company closed in 2000 following the layoff of 1,130 people on Dec. 2, 1999. When he learned of the economic devastation in Henry County because of the closing, Gilmore said he was unable to help because “‘If I do it for one group, I’ll have to do it for others,’ or something like that,” Burnette said.
Gilmore “never even came to visit or see the people. He never bothered to look them in the eye and at least say, ‘I’m sorry for what you’re going through.’ That utter lack of compassion for a fellow human being was beyond belief,” she said. (My emphasis)
Among the indignities the Tultex closing inflicted was the way the company treated its departing workers. As mentioned above, severance and other benefits were out of the question. But this quote from today's article highlights an especially disgraceful aspect of the closing:
Ideally, the closing “would have been handled in a different manner,” Vaughn said. As it was, employees were told to leave and not take anything with them.Not only that, but the employees who were allowed to clear their desks were watched intently by company personnel. I guess the higher ups didn't want anybody getting out with an extra stapler.
Later, when the Tultex building was for sale, Vaughn recalled the company he worked for considered buying the facility. Vaughn was among those who walked through.
“I always kept photos of my wife and kids on my desk to kind of remind me why I was working,” Vaughn said. Apparently, many Tultex employees did the same thing.
“The one thing I remember from when I walked through the building was all those personal items I saw around work stations and on desks,” Vaughn said. “It was kind of like walking through a battlefield or a ghost town.” (My emphasis)
To this day, Martinsville has not recovered. Instead, even more jobs have left due largely to outsourcing and other problems. There are signs of hope and undercurrents of change; the focus of the article was how Martinsville-Henry County as a community came together to help each other during the aftermath. I remember that clearly, and that same spirit is helping us redefine ourselves now. Renewal will happen, but there's no denying that we took a big hit and there's still a long way to go.
In future posts, I will go into greater detail about what caused the collapse and how we can address those issues. In the meantime, thanks for reading.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Overall, I liked the speech. I think President Obama did a very good job of explaining why we're there to begin with and why it's worth staying a bit longer. I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard that the Twin Towers had been hit; I remember the fear (as well as the unity) that followed the attacks, and the overwhelming sense that my generation had just walked into its defining conflict. Let there be absolutely no doubt that the threat of terrorism is very real. I don't pretend to have all the answers for what needs to happen, but from what I've seen and read recently, it seems to me that we just flat out haven't taken Afghanistan as seriously as we should have. I think invading Iraq will be remembered as the biggest foreign policy blunder of the early 21st Century, because that's where most of our resources and energy have been directed over the last eight years. We never should have allowed ourselves to be distracted by a threat that could have been contained.
So basically I see this surge as the US finally doing what we should have in 2001. For the sake of our own security as well as that of Afghans, I think President Obama is making the best call, and for that matter the only call he can make. Leaving now would be repeating the mistake we made after the Soviets left: allowing a state to fail after flooding that state with guns and trained insurgents. After eight years, hopefully we're getting back on track.
I will, however, admit that I'm nervous--I'm skeptical that we can secure the Graveyard of Empires by 2011. I worry that Americans and our allies may not have the stomach for the kind of stay that might actually be required. Building states is not a quick or easy task, and Americans have understandably lost a lot of interest in fighting this war. I also wonder if this is the right number of troops; the last thing we need is more of the "Rumsfeld Doctrine" nonsense that sent US troops into Iraq with inadequate strength; I hope that line of thinking is long gone and the commanders truly believe this is the necessary number of troops.
Ultimately, though, we have to remember that both Iraq and Afghanistan are wars the president inherited. He had a series of less than desirable options to choose from and he would have been heavily criticized regardless of the strategy he picked. President Obama had no choice but to respond in the way he thinks is best for our troops and best for America. Give our soldiers a mission and let them have what they need to accomplish it, then get out. While he was "dithering," it seems that Mr. Obama was considering his options, talking to his generals and agonizing over what decision to make. That's the leadership we should have had in the runup to the war in Iraq. I trust and hope that he made the right call; only time will tell.