Friday, January 29, 2010

WaPo: 5th District Tea Party, GOP Hold Foot-Shooting Party

This article in the Washington Post speaks volumes about the division in the Fifth District GOP. For the most part, the article gets it right--although I think it drastically overestimates Tom's vulnerability and makes the Fifth sound like an oversimplified backwater. Still, give this a look:

As in New York, Republican leaders in Virginia are backing a moderate state lawmaker, Sen. Robert Hurt, whose record enrages many conservatives, including a disparate band of Tea Party activists. To them, Hurt is not a real conservative because of his past support for tax increases, and they're promising a third-party challenge if he wins the nomination. And lurking on the sidelines is Virgil H. Goode Jr., the former GOP congressman who lost to Perriello by 727 votes and has hinted at running as an independent.

"We want a conservative, not a situational Republican," said Laurence Verga, a business owner from the Charlottesville area and one of five Tea Party candidates in the Republican primary. "I really believe the 5th District congressional election is about the soul of American politics." (My emphasis)

But that's nothing compared to this:

It started when national and state Republican leaders began urging Hurt, an affable lawyer from rural Pittsylvania County, to get into the race. Hurt had name recognition and a political base. And his moderate views -- he voted for a $1 billion tax package in 2004 and for smaller tax increases in a roads plan in 2007 -- might play well with independent-minded voters.

But many conservatives were angered not just because they oppose Hurt's moderation but also because they are deeply resentful of being told who their candidate will be by party leaders in Richmond and Washington. Their anger grew when Hurt's supporters successfully pushed for a primary over a convention, giving him a more inclusive format that tends to favor moderates. Hurt also received $7,000 from U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House minority whip, confirming Tea Party suspicions that the GOP was fully involved.

"The fact of the matter is that Robert Hurt is the establishment candidate, and it appears that the GOP is doing everything it can to make sure he is the nominee," said Bill Hay, who leads the Jefferson Area Tea Party organization in the Charlottesville area. "That's causing a whole lot of bad blood right now between some of the Tea Party people."

Wow. Robert Hurt = the establishment. I never would have thought I'd hear conservatives throwing around that meme. Far be it from me to tell the righties how to run their primary, but I'd be embarrassed if 5th District Dems had this kind of discord.

But this is the most beautiful quote of all:

One option is to unite behind a single candidate. But they also discussed the possibility of recruiting Goode, who has not ruled out an independent bid. That would almost certainly split the Republican vote and deliver the victory to Perriello, which doesn't bother some.

"If Robert Hurt wins, then we have an ideologically inconsistent congressman for a couple of decades," said Bradley S. Rees, a conservative blogger and talk-radio host in Bedford. "I would rather we had an ideologically consistent Democrat who we can hammer on their records. We'll get Perriello in 2012 -- with a stronger, more consistent candidate."

Sure thing, buddy, we'll do that. We'll be happy to take you on with two more years of incumbency under our belt. Who is giving these guys their advice? I'm starting to think the activists have reached a saturation point where nobody's really sure what the right move is anymore. I can kind of respect the idea of demanding some sort of ideological commitment from a nominee, but their comes a point when it's just too much too ask of a general electorate. I never thought I'd see the day when Robert Hurt would be vulnerable from his own right--it will certainly be an interesting one to watch.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tom on Southside's New Energy Economy

Congressman Tom Perriello gave Southside Virginia quite a shout-out from the House floor this past Tuesday, and I wanted to pass it along:

My favorite quote from the whole speech: "...and spending one billion dollars every day on oil that goes overseas to some of the countries that hate us the most is one of the dumbest strategies imaginable." Call it like it is. Way to be, Tom!

State of the Union

Last night I gathered with about 20 or so Martinsville-Henry County Democrats to watch the State of the Union and Governor McDonnell's response. The crowd was very receptive and enthusiastic, and I think they'll be energized for the coming election. I don't want to simply echo what the rest of the blogosphere is saying about SOTU, so I'll try to keep my comments fairly brief.

Overall, I think the President did a pretty good job. It was encouraging to see him out front, in his element, delivering a pep talk we all desperately needed to hear. I was especially glad to hear his plan to give the $30 billion in repaid bailout money to community banks--McDonnell's line about the closest government to the people being the most effective could also be applied to financial institutions. I'll expound on this in an upcoming post about the "move-your-money" phenomenon, but I trust my local credit union a lot more than I would ever trust Bank of America.

I was also glad to hear Obama talking up Stimulus/Recovery Act projects and the huge middle-class tax cuts his administration has put in place over the last year. By the way, Dems need a major PR blitz on these issues--why we cede the "cutting taxes" line to the Republicans is beyond me, especially since the Bush tax cuts mostly benefited the wealthiest Americans and helped create the massive deficit they're suddenly so concerned about. We also need major damage control to defeat the "the stimulus failed" meme; imperfect as the bill may have been, the fact remains that it very likely kept a lot of cops, teachers and road workers out of the unemployment line. Without it, there's little doubt that unemployment would be much higher and state and local governments would have fewer resources to deal with that burden.

The export-oriented language was good to hear, though I do have some concerns. Obviously it's desirable to shoot for more American exports, thus creating more jobs here at home. Ending corporate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas is a common-sense policy we should have been pursuing years ago. (It was a major applause line for Dems, but GOP Inc. stayed silent and seated. To any conservative Tea Party readers, that should tell you everything you need to know about who really cares about saving American jobs.) However, I would have liked to hear more about fundamental trade reform. If we really want to bring back some manufacturing jobs, we have to renegotiate NAFTA (as he promised during the campaign) and we need to use our leverage in the WTO to make trade fair. That means no more child labor, uniform environmental restrictions and labor laws comparable to those of the U.S. and Europe. President Obama did mention a lack of enforcement in the current trade agreements, so hopefully we'll be moving in a positive direction.

The spending freeze? I'm skeptical. The cynical part of me says it's a gimmick that plays too much into the Republican narrative. On the other hand, it is true that our deficits are a serious problem--though it's blatant hypocrisy for Republicans to blame Obama for the deficits they built over eight long years. Yes, the stimulus is a big part of it, but that's what we call emergency spending--and it would have been a lot more manageable if we hadn't already been in a big hole. Regardless, I do admit that we need to address the deficit or it will eventually bankrupt us. So let's build roads, pay teachers, and create a better health care system, but let's pay for those things with real money.

As for McDonnell's response...*yawn*. It was standard Republican trope after standard Republican trope. It's as if Bob studied "Reaganomics 4 Dummies" flash cards before he went into the GOP-only HoD Chamber last night. He might as well have just yelled out "Drill, Baby, Drill!" over and over again--by the way, did anybody else get a really ominous feeling when his General Assembly colleagues got so excited about oil drilling off Virginia's coast? I hope they realize that one accident would turn our fisheries into toxic sludge and destroy our coastal tourism.Oh, and McDonnell's comment about defeating terrorists instead of protecting them was simplistic, jingoistic, inflammatory, and dishonest. For a governor to spout such nonsense on a national stage is inexcusable.

Although I guess it's pretty cool that a Virginia governor has given the SOTU response twice in the last four years. Anyway, I'm breaking my promise about a short post.

UPDATE: Rep. Tom Perriello nails it in his response to the State of the Union address:

“Tonight, I heard our President talk about jobs. I heard our Governor talk about jobs. I won’t stop until we turn this talk into real action and results for working families.

A year ago, we took dramatic steps to stop the bleeding and we’re starting to see the signs of recovery. Now we must be the change we promised by getting lending going to our small businesses, investing in our transportation infrastructure, and educating our workforce. It’s time to change our economic strategy from speculation on Wall Street to job creation on Main Street.

America can out-compete any country in the world if we reward innovation instead of failure, get our fiscal house in order, and restore the promise of the middle class.” (My emphasis)

Well said, Tom.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sierra Club Campaigns for ACES

Last night I attended a really interesting meeting at the Danville Public Library auditorium. The event was put on by the Sierra Club, which is building grassroots support in the Fifth for the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as Cap and Trade. Congressman Perriello took a courageous stand earlier this year by voting for it--even though the pundits all said he shouldn't. The Danville Register-Bee covered the event:

About 30 people brainstormed ideas to build support of the American Clean Energy and Security Act — also known as the cap-and-trade bill — which aims to reduce pollution and create green energy jobs. The legislation has received both strong praise and criticism for its plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

Trieste Lockwood, clean energy field organizer for the Sierra Club, said the organization has not had a strong presence in Southside for some time. Lockwood said the Sierra Club’s goal in Southside was to support 5th District Rep. Tom Perriello’s vote for the bill in June 2009.

“We’re working to support this bill because of all the clean energy jobs it will create in the country,” Lockwood said. “It will create a million jobs in the country and 45,000 in Virginia. I feel this area specifically will largely benefit because of the agricultural and manufacturing history.”

Local companies such as Red Birch Energy in Bassett and Piedmont BioProducts in Gretna are aiming to repurpose the local agricultural sector, transforming former tobacco fields into clean energy production in Southside. Lockwood and others said the ACES bill would further increase the green energy industry locally.


Lockwood said she was happy with the turnout and seemed optimistic for establishing a grassroots base in Southside in favor of the ACES bill.

“It’s good to know that people in the Southside care about the energy plan and the jobs it will create,” she said. “It’s this set of smart policies that will help clean energy happen in Southside.” (My emphasis)

This is very encouraging--Tom has taken a lot of flak from the righties over his ACES vote, even though the legislation will create forty-five thousand jobs in the state and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It's ironic that the supposedly security-minded Republicans would oppose something that will stop billions of dollars from going to unstable countries that don't like us. Then of course, there's the whole "clean" aspect of clean energy; it would be nice to stop ripping up the atmosphere and polluting our rivers.

Props to Trieste and all the Sierra Club volunteers who came out last night!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Verga Supports Uranium Mining

Over at the Republican blog Bearing Drift, Laurence Verga has come out in favor of repealing Virginia's "irrational, unconditional" ban on uranium mining in the state. He says mining at Coles Hill in Chatham would create jobs.

Pittsylvania County has the largest deposit of undeveloped uranium in the country, grabbing editorial attention from such heavy hitters as the Wall Street Journal. If uranium mining in the region is found to be environmentally safe, we must mine there if we are serious about energy independence and economic development in a region with an unemployment rate far above the national figure.

The National Research Council is finally set to begin an environmental impact study, which is expected to take 18 months. In the meantime the General Assembly should repeal its irrational, unconditional ban on uranium mining and replace it with code that awards immediate approval upon projects that successfully complete an environmental impact study. (My emphasis)

My first instinct is to say Verga's sealed his fate in this end of the district--he has walked into a massively controversial issue and put up his flag on the side of the mining company. It's true he left some wiggle room when he appealed to environmental safety, but my suspicion is that mainstream Pittsylvania voters won't buy it. The Chatham area seems at best evenly split on uranium, and the anti-mine crowd may have a slight lead in public opinion.

I've posted before about why I think it's very unlikely that mining can be done safely, and why it wouldn't necessarily be good for Chatham even if safety were not a concern--in the post, Verga says the mine could generate $8-10 billion of economic development cash "in an area that so desperately needs good-paying jobs." Well, there's the rub: who gets that cash? How much will the miners be paid? Generally speaking, mining towns aren't exactly hubs of commerce--one look at Appalachia can demonstrate that. Once the mine is empty, the miners lose their jobs and the towns are right back where they started--most of the profit goes to the mining company and their shareholders.

But for me, the biggest concern regarding uranium mining is Mr. Verga's deregulate-everything economic ideology. There are smart people out there who say uranium mining can be done safely with the proper oversight. Okay, for the sake of argument, let's assume they're right. How much regulation and oversight will Mr. Verga tolerate? Some estimates say there is forty years' worth of uranium beneath Coles Hill. In that time, how many Laurence Vergas will come along and decide that such regulation is simply an unnecessary burden on the free market, and that it would be best to get out of VUI's hair? With that $8-10 billion in revenue, how many politicians will VUI attempt to influence?

We can't leave something as delicate as a uranium mine vulnerable to the political winds--perhaps after the environmental safety study is done, we can conduct a study on political safety.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

McDonnell Punts on Transportation

The Roanoke Times ripped Governor Bob McDonnell today for his apparent reversal on transportation. During the campaign, it was one of the most crucial issues facing the state, and he lambasted Creigh Deeds for his plan (or lack thereof). But the Times points out that suddenly it can wait, and now Mr. McDonnell is sounding an awful lot like his old opponent:

On the campaign trail last fall, Gov. Bob McDonnell promised Virginians he had a plan to fix the state's broken transportation system.

In 19 pages, he detailed how he would fund highways, rail and other improvements without raising taxes. Now, when it is time to put his plan into action, he punts.

Last week, he announced he would not pursue transportation reform during the General Assembly session. He said lawmakers would not have enough time to evaluate his plan, and he would not have enough time to sell it.

No offense intended, but the plan is not very hard to evaluate. It is loaded with the same gimmicks Republicans have talked about for years. Everyone is familiar with them.


He could at least try to deliver and make transportation funding the priority he claimed it was.

Instead, McDonnell says he might call a special session of the assembly later in the year. First he wants to spend time working with lawmakers and using the persuasive powers of his office to find a deal that all sides can agree to.

If that sounds eerily familiar, it is. McDonnell's opponent, Creigh Deeds, said that was what he wanted to do. McDonnell dismissed it as no plan at all then.

The article then concludes that McDonnell may be coming clean with the public, but I'm not sure that's quite it. For the sake of our own future prosperity, I hope the governor is finally being honest with himself--has Mr. McDonnell looked at the balance sheet and realized the unsettling truth that in order to pave our roads and pay our teachers, a tax hike may be inevitable? Has he seen what's becoming necessary and begun preparing for a long fight? Will he abandon his ideological instincts and do what's in the best interests of Virginia? If he does, it certainly won't make him the next RNC chair.

But it will make him a good governor.

Perriello Responds to MA-Sen

Congressman Perriello nails it yet again in his response to last night's election results. This quote embodies Tom's strengths as a legislator, and shows why the righties have a much tougher fight on their hands than they realize. From
And already, some Democrats were trying to quash the impulse Bayh and Lieberman had Tuesday, and rejecting the idea that the solution for 2010 would be to play dead. "What people are upset about is a lack of leadership and a lack of solutions -- not doing too much," said Rep. Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat from southwestern Virginia, who is one of the GOP's top targets for defeat in November. "There's certainly an omnipresence of risk aversion among politicians that prevents us from doing what's necessary. We need wartime consiglieres, not risk-averse politicans right now." Perriello won election in 2008 by defeating a six-term incumbent Republican by 727 votes -- you might expect him to be one of the most risk-averse politicians out there. But he told Salon Tuesday he wanted more action, not less: "We should stop worrying about protecting our own jobs, and start worrying about protecting the jobs of the American people." (My emphasis)
He's absolutely right. What happened in Massachusetts (and for that matter what happened in Virginia and New Jersey) have a lot more to do with stasis than change.

There's plenty to be said about the poor quality of the candidates involved in Democrats' recent losses, but it has now been a full year since President Obama took office. Think about what's happened since then--continued bank bailouts while homeowners lose everything, resulting in a banner year for the very fat cats who caused the crisis; impotent attempts at re-regulation on Wall Street; continued offshoring of jobs; skyrocketing unemployment and a mismanaged stimulus; and, perhaps most importantly, a pathetically inept attempt at health care reform that has now consumed more than half of President Obama's first year in office.

I don't think anybody expected the economy to turn around overnight, and I think Americans are inclined to be forgiving on the Afghanistan escalation. But when you win historic majorities on the strength of campaign promises that you don't even come close to delivering, your support will evaporate very quickly. It is now clear that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi do not have the intelligence, forcefulness or spine to lead the party's legislative branch. They should be replaced as quickly as possible, and President Obama needs to get off his duff and take ownership of his own agenda. He'd better show some passion and drive, the way he did during the campaign, or he will be a one-term president.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coakley FAIL

Wow, Massachusetts. Just wow.

Boston, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Republican Scott Brown has won Tuesday's special election for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy, CNN projects based on actual results.

Brown, a Massachusetts state senator, had 53 percent of the vote to 46 percent for state Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic contender, with 69 percent of precincts reporting in results from the National Election Pool, a consortium of media organizations including CNN. Independent candidate Joseph Kennedy, a libertarian who is not related to the Kennedy political family of Massachusetts, had 1 percent.

As Lowell Feld tweeted during the immediate aftermath, "Ted Kennedy replaced by a teabagger. Think about that." Indeed.

UPDATE: Peter Daou on MA-Senate: Dems squandered support through inaction, ineptitude and over-compromising. From HuffPo:

It took more than half a decade, countless American and Iraqi deaths in a war based on lies, a sinking economy and the drowning of an American city to finally kill Bush-Cheney-Rove's dream of a conservative realignment.

Democrats, controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, have managed to kill their own dream of dominance in 12 months.

How did it happen?

Theories abound, but two diametrically opposed narratives have taken hold:

The first, promulgated by conservatives, is that the new administration has moved too far to the left and alienated a large swath of independent and moderate voters.

The second, pushed by progressive activists and bloggers, is that the administration hasn't been true enough to fundamental Democratic principles, has embraced some of Bush's worst excesses on civil liberties, and has ditched popular ideas (like the public option) in favor of watered down centrist policies, thus looking weak and ineffectual. (My emphasis)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Music Monday: "The Breeze" by Dr. Dog

Today's Music Monday comes from the new album by Dr. Dog, Fate. There's no proper video, but check out the album cover based on an old Bonnie & Clyde picture. Here's "The Breeze."

To me, this whole album has sort of an Abbey Road feel to it, mainly because of the harmonies and guitar tones. There's also a really neat reprise at the end of the record that pulls in elements from all the songs, including the Strawberry Fields-ish keyboard part in this one. Give it a listen and you'll see what I mean. It also has a cleaner, less lo-fi sound than their earlier albums--though still distinctively Dr. Dog. I first got into these guys when their previous album We All Belong came out, and it became obvious very quickly that they've listened to their share of Beatles records. They're quite capable guitarists and again, I can't say enough about the three-and-four-part harmonies they put together. Standouts are "Ain't it Strange" and "We All Belong" from the We All Belong album, as well as "The Breeze," "The Old Days" and "My Friend" from Fate.

Dr. Dog is from Philadelphia and has made a name for themselves in the indie music scene. I've highlighted some of their songs above, but really you can't fully appreciate them until you listen to a full album. It appears the boys are already working on a new album, titled Shame, Shame, which will be out in April. Await it patiently.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Is Goode Preparing a Run?

The rumors have been flying around for a while, and now the Washington Post has lent credence to the possibility:
Former Virginia congressman Virgil Goode said in an interview today that "a couple of groups" have asked him to run for his old seat in central and southside Virginia's 5th Congressional District -- and while he didn't say he would, he didn't say he wouldn't, either. Goode, a lawyer from Rocky Mount, said he's paying close attention to the seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democrat Tom Perriello, who unseated Goode two years ago by fewer than 1,000 votes. (My emphasis)

Goode said his hope is that Republicans will nominate a candidate "who shares most of my beliefs and my ideals." Goode demurred when asked whether that description describes Robert Hurt, the state senator from Chatham County who enjoys the backing of a number of state and national Republicans but is not viewed as sufficiently conservative by local Tea Party organizers. Conservative activists are also rankled that party leaders have anointed Hurt without regard to the views of local Republicans. (Last week, House Minority Whip Eric I. Cantor disclosed that he had given Hurt $7,000 from his leadership and campaign committees.)
Hmm, how bout that. Other than the fact that there's no Chatham County, this was a pretty interesting piece. I certainly think Goode would enjoy a good deal of residual support if he were to run, and frankly I'd be surprised if he didn't. Is the chaotic GOP/Tea Party scene in the Fifth about to get even crazier? Let's hope so; for sheer entertainment value, this thing is better than Survivor!

Governor McDonnell

Bob McDonnell was sworn in as Virginia's 71st governor yesterday in front of an enthusiastic Richmond crowd. I'll save my criticisms for another post, because frankly I don't envy him. He's walking into a storm of problems that any governor of either party would have a tough time facing. Moreover, I don't think anyone who watched last fall's campaign would deny that he and his campaign earned it. They worked their buts off, ran a smart campaign and made a case that won Virginians' support. So today, congratulations are in order. I truly hope Gov. McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bolling and Attorney General Cuccinelli can make some sense of this catastrophic economy and bring Virginia through as a stronger state.

I actually thought it was a pretty great speech, and it can be viewed here; for some reason I can't embed it successfully.

Congratulations, McDonnell and the Republicans. Good luck, and we'll be seeing you in the fall.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kaine & Armstrong Nail It at State of the Commonwealth

At Gov. Kaine's final State of the Commonwealth Address this past Wednesday night, he pointed out one of the biggest problems facing Virginia and the biggest roadblock (pun unavoidable) to addressing that problem: Transportation and the Republicans, respectively. From the speech:
The largest obstacle to solving our transportation needs is a philosophy, espoused by some, that it is always wrong to raise taxes or fees. Thank goodness that previous state leaders did not hold that view—if they had, we would have no community college system, dirtier rivers, a lackluster school system and even fewer roads. Virginia is a state with a very favorable tax burden and we should do all we can to keep it that way. But, no state or nation can maintain its economic edge with a declining infrastructure. Eventually, we need leadership in this collective body to find a path toward responsible advances in road investments.
Our incoming governor is one of those who espouses that philosophy. In a WDBJ-7 interview, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong brought home in very real terms what that means for Southside residents, saying, "There are huge transportation needs that aren't being met and sooner or later you're going to feel that." Armstrong went on to reference the real harm that will come from a lack of revenue--not just more congestion in NoVa and Hampton Roads, but lost opportunity in rural communities.

For a long time now, we've been promised that Interstate 73 would be built and US 58 would finally be four-laned from Stuart to Hillsville. We've been given more IOUs than we can count, and we're starting to lose track of them. I-73 would run through Henry and Franklin counties on its way from South Carolina to the northern tip of Michigan; a fully four-laned US 58 would skirt the North Carolina border from the Port of Virginia all the way out into the heartland. Those two road projects could give the Southside a fighting chance to get back on its feet and finally start growing again.

Sadly, it looks like Bob McDonnell and Richmond Republicans are about to hand out another stack of IOUs. Kaine and Armstrong are absolutely right--no one likes taxes, and we should do everything we can to keep them as low as possible. But there comes a point when there's nothing left to cut. There comes a point when doing nothing costs a lot more than investing in the future.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Va-05: Hurt's Fundin' Conundrum; Verga Makes it Rain

It looks as if the Republican circular firing squad is in full swing here in Virginia's Fifth District.

Last week, State Sen. Robert Hurt's campaign said it was likely that they will raise money during the upcoming General Assembly session. Under state law, it is illegal for legislators to accept money for state-level campaigns during the session; since Hurt is running for a federal office, that law will not apply to him. Though he's not technically breaking any laws, raising money during the session would certainly fly in the face of those ethics rules, and that point was not lost on the Verga camp, which promptly let him have it:

"Does anyone think that a lobbyist in Richmond wouldn’t give Hurt a donation to his federal campaign in an attempt to influence him?" said Matt Mackowiak, a Verga consultant. "It might be legal under the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law."

Couple that with today's press release from the Verga camp and you've got a veritable catfight:
"On Senator Hurt's brand new website he has the bold-faced lie that he has 'consistently opposed tax increases that did not put the people
first.' Does he think that the people are dumb enough to forget that he voted to raise your taxes by $1.4 billion, the largest tax increase in Virginia history, and he even tried to raise taxes unconstitutionally? Shame on Senator Hurt for belittling the citizens of the 5th District who certainly haven't forgotten as we are still paying for his tax hikes daily. People are tired of career politicians like Senator Hurt who distort their atrocious record to further their own aspirations."

Senator Hurt has voted 6 times for higher taxes. Below is a summary of those votes:

In 2002, Hurt Voted To Increase The Excise Tax On Soft Drinks. "Increases the amount of tax in the current top bracket from $6,000 to $7,200 for gross receipts exceeding $10,000,000 but not more than $25,000,000. It also adds two additional brackets: for gross receipts exceeding $25,000,000 but not more than $50,000,000, the tax is $18,000 and for gross receipts exceeding $50,000,000 the tax is $33,000. The soft drink excise tax is imposed on every wholesaler or distributor of carbonated soft drinks." (HB 193, Passed, 84-Y; 12-N, 01/24/02, Hurt Voted Yea)

In 2004, Hurt Voted Against Lower Tax Rates For Businesses. "Phases in lower rates based on growth for each of the four BPOL categories by five cents and allows only a $25 fee rather than $50, for businesses that start up in the last six months of a taxable year. These changes are effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2005." (HB 461, Defeated: 38-Y; 60-N, 02/17/04, Hurt Voted Nay)

In 2004, Hurt Voted For The Omnibus Tax Bill Proposed By Mark Warner That Raised Virginia's Taxes. (HB 5018, Passed: 52-Y; 46-N, 04/13/04, Hurt Voted Yea)

In 2006, Hurt Voted To Increase The Fees In Order To Obtain A Hunting Permit In State Forests. "Increases the fees to obtain a hunting permit or a trapping permit in a state forest from $10 to $15." (HB 260, Passed: 89-Y; 9-N, 01/23/06, Hurt Voted Yea)

In 2006, Hurt Voted For A Bill That "Conforms The Amount Of Virginia Estate Tax Due From An Estate To The Maximum Amount Of The Federal Estate Tax Credit For State Estate Taxes..." (HB 40, Passed: 93-Y; 7-N, 02/02/06, Hurt Voted Yea)

In 2007, Hurt Voted For Tim Kaine's Unconstitutional Transportation Bill that Would Have Imposed Taxation Without Representation Through Unelected Regional Taxing Authorities. It Also Imposed A Diesel Tax Increase. (HB 3202, Passed: 64-Y; 34-N, Hurt Voted Yea)
Wow, them's fightin' words, and that's quite an impressive list. So Verga's beef with Hurt is that he helped Mark Warner balance the state budget and asked millionaires to pay their fair share, i.e. the estate tax. I'm curious as to how Mr. Verga expects to pay teachers, soldiers, sailors, cops and road workers if not with tax revenue.

If his campaign finance practices are any indication, then maybe he'll pay them out-of-pocket. Last week, CQ Politics reported that Laurence Verga has loaned himself nearly $227,000 since the end of December 2009. It's certainly his prerogative to do that, but it should offer some perspective on his campaign's claims about his fundraising prowess.

Two things are becoming very clear about this race: Verga is taking great pains to establish himself as the anti-Hurt, and Hurt is on the verge of pulling a Creigh Deeds and trying to run a front-porch campaign. I guess we'll see if there are enough Tea Partiers at the primary to torpedo Hurt's ambitions.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Music Monday: "Night is the Day Turned Inside Out" by Beulah

Here's a live performance of Beulah's "Night is the Day Turned Inside Out." Take a listen to this clip and know why Beulah became known as "the best band you've never heard" back in the early 2000s.

This video is from the DVD A Good Band is Easy to Kill, which followed Beulah during one of its last tours. The song is the closer for their 2001 release, The Coast is Never Clear, which I highly recommend--standouts from that album are "Hey Brother," "A Good Man is Easy to Kill," and "What Will You Do When Your Suntan Fades." They do an excellent job of blending trumpets, flutes and even dulcimers with compelling indie pop. In 2003, the band released Yoko to critical acclaim, and a lot of reviewers said it was their best yet--I highly recommend that one too, and if you're interested in purchasing any of their records, please visit their website or check on iTunes.

Sadly, years on the road and the demands of their growing families ultimately led Beulah to call it quits in 2004. To this day I'm bummed that these guys never became a household name--in a time when mediocrity is allowed to pollute the airwaves, it would be nice for a truly great band to make it big every once in a while. I suppose the decaying major record labels are too risk-averse to pursue anything outside their set formula these days--does anyone really think today's Capitol Records executives would have the foresight to sign the Beatles? No one should be surprised that their business model is going down in flames. Fie on the labels and everything they stand for. There, that's my rant for this post.

Nevertheless, Beulah built (and continues to build) quite a following among small-label music lovers, and lead singer Miles Kurosky is set to release a solo album in March. If you like what you hear of Beulah, be sure to check out his website and keep an eye out for that record. Thanks for reading, and see you next Music Monday.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

War Re-Enactment Turns Uncivil

Here's a lighthearted story for your Sunday afternoon. From the Charlottesville Daily Progress:

This time both sides won.
The Union and Confederate cavalry commanders who engaged in a horseback scuffle as they re-enacted the Battle of Stanardsville were found not guilty of reciprocal assault charges in Greene County General District Court on Wednesday.

During the scuffle, the Confederate commander, Doug Nalls, lost his hat and fired his revolver. At issue was whether the hat was knocked from his head by a blow from Joseph Ferguson, his Union counterpart; whether Nalls fired his gun deliberately; and which happened first.
Greene County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronald Morris said he thought there was evidence to support assault charges against both men.
“What went on here went way beyond what was authorized,” he said.
What wasn’t in dispute was the bad blood between the two men, even before the battle began.
According to Confederate witnesses, the two had sparred verbally in the hours before the battle.

But here's the best part:

One re-enactor, Michael Kamei, testified that the Union commander used terms to the effect of “blaggard” and “knave.”

No, wait, this is the best part:

The Confederate colonel’s father, Wayne Nalls, testified that he waded into the fray on foot, to try to separate the men.
“And I told them both to shut up,” he said.

Basically, there's nothing about this that isn't hilarious.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Verga, Joe the Plumber Come to Danville

I headed down to Mary's Diner in Danville this morning and had the privilege of seeing Joe the Plumber endorse Lawrence Verga for Congress. There were about 15 to 20 people in attendance, which was pretty good considering the time of day, the temperature, and the $25 fee to get in. Verga had some very professional literature, bumper stickers and a banner behind the podium, as well as a couple of staffers. In short, it feels like he has his act together--especially when you consider his online presence. It's clear to me that he's in this for the long haul, and I wouldn't expect him to be dropping out anytime soon. He seemed to have a pretty good response from the crowd--I would put him as one of the frontrunners to become the anti-Hurt in this nomination.

There are quite a few YouTube clips to go through, so here's a short rundown if you don't have time to watch them all: according to Verga, the country is headed in a terrible direction due to Obama/Dems in Congress; Tom is an accomplice, but the biggest problem right now is the GOP establishment backing a "liberal" candidate (Sen. Robert Hurt). Verga is an unabashed supply-side, Reaganomics, business conservative. How do you bring back jobs? Easy, cut the corporate tax rate. He says he's the only true conservative candidate who can pull off a win and "make change" in Washington. Re-claiming the term much?

Here's the first clip, followed by a Q&A session. The speech was preceded by an invocation in which an audience member thanked God for his "alliance to the United States" and asked for guidance in taking back the country from people who are "trying to take our freedoms." For the sake of privacy and YouTube time constraints, that part is not included in the video; other than that, the clips are pretty complete:

And the Q&A:

Then it was time for Joe the Plumber. He spoke for a good long while, and it had sort of a stream-of-consciousness feel. Nevertheless, he came across as very folksy and related well to the people in the room.

Part 1:

Part 2:

I sat next to Joe during Verga's speech and had the opportunity to talk to him a bit afterward. He asked if I was a blogger and if so, what my views were. Wanting to be above-board, I told him that I'm a left-of-center blogger. He was very nice about it and we had a brief, respectful conversation about policy--I told him I thought our problems have a lot more to do with trade agreements than corporate taxes, and it seemed like he sort of nodded. We shook hands and I left. Anyway, I was encouraged that there are at least a few times when Tea Partiers and Progressives can talk instead of yell.

UPDATE: Here's the article from the Danville Register & Bee.

Martinsville & Henry County Dem Committees Vote to Merge

Back in November, I attended a meeting of the Henry County Democratic Committee. At that meeting, the County Dems voted unanimously to adopt a resolution merging with the Martinsville committee. I just got back from the first meeting of the Martinsville-Henry County Democratic Committee, where the merger became official and officers took their seats.

This is an encouraging sign, and one that has lessons for localities all over Virginia--dividing committees might have made sense back in the 70s and 80s, when population growth and differing electoral climates made the city and county more distinct. Now that times have changed, that redundancy simply doesn't make sense, and it causes all sorts of headaches for unsuspecting field organizers who come into our area to campaign. I suspect a lot of money, time and headaches could be saved if Virginia became a state of cooperative regions instead of fiefdoms. A Southside regional authority could coordinate landfills and recycling much more efficiently, and might even save money on education and law enforcement. Not to mention the potential benefits of a Southside economic development alliance that could brand and recruit for the whole region.

Here's to a united front in Martinsville and Henry County, and here's to getting back on our feet. Let's start by re-electing Tom!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ezra Klein: After Health Reform, it's Time for Senate Reform

I've been feeling this way for a while, especially after watching the shameful spectacle in the Senate last month.
In today's Senate, 55 votes isn't enough to "win," or anything close to it; it's enough to get you five votes away from the 60 votes you need to shut down a filibuster. Only then, in most cases, can a law be passed. The modern Senate is a radically different institution than the Senate of the 1960s, and the dysfunction exhibited in its debate over health care -- the absence of bipartisanship, the use of the filibuster to obstruct progress rather than protect debate, the ability of any given senator to hold the bill hostage to his or her demands -- has convinced many, both inside and outside the chamber, that it needs to be fixed.

This might seem an odd moment to argue that the Senate is fundamentally broken and repairs should top our list of priorities. After all, the Senate passed a $900 billion health-care bill Thursday morning. But consider the context: Arlen Specter's defection from the Republican Party earlier this year gave Democrats 60 votes in the Senate -- a larger majority than either party has had since the '70s. Democrats also controlled the House and the presidency, and were working in the aftermath of a financial crisis that occurred on a Republican president's watch. This was a test of whether a party could govern when everything was stacked in its favor.

The answer seems to be, well, not really. (My emphasis)
He's absolutely right. The once-noble U.S. Senate has become one of the most undemocratic institutions in the country. We now have a system where every single senator possesses, in effect, veto power. The fact that a handful of senators can kill legislation supported by huge majorities in the House (which is by definition closer to the will of the people) should infuriate you regardless of your party affiliation. Simply put, the current Senate rules are a slap in the face to the separation of powers that the Constitution so carefully constructed, and we have to change those rules.

There is no shortage of reform proposals floating around, but I'll point out a few I think are worth looking at.
  • First of all, the cloture threshold should either be lowered to 55 or the filibuster should be done away with entirely. The idea that we should have a supermajority requirement for anything other than a constitutional amendment is simply preposterous.
  • The Senate must become more representative by population. I think this is one of the biggest factors in creating deadlock. When our nation was founded, the Senate was elected by state legislatures and it therefore made sense for each state to be equally represented. Now that we elect senators directly, the old arrangement defies Supreme Court precedent--in Reynolds v. Sims, the Court held that state legislatures have to be apportioned by population. The "one-person-one-vote" rule has stuck, and rightly so--without it, small counties could outvote big cities despite population disparities as big as 41-1, and Henry County voters would essentially have "more" of a vote than Fairfax County voters. But that is still happening at the Federal level, and it seems fundamentally unfair that Wyoming and the Dakotas can together outvote New York, Texas and California.
  • As a solution to the above problem, Larry Sabato has suggested adding as many as two senators to the largest states, thereby creating a more representative Senate. No state would lose senators, but some states would end up with a total of three or four. I think this is an idea worth considering, and it has the advantage of being workable since nobody stands to lose representation.
  • This is an idea I haven't heard anyone else mention, so I'm claiming it as a 220 South exclusive. I say we keep the current two-senators per state setup, but add 100 National Senators to be elected at large from one nationwide district. This would be party-list proportional representation as is done in some European nations: instead of voting for an individual candidate, you would just vote for a party. The seats would then be assigned by proportion of the national vote--if your party wins 55% of the vote, then you've got 55 shiny new senators. This system would preserve the states' current equality while truly honoring the one-person-one-vote principle. Those senators would have purely national issues at heart, and they wouldn't have to worry about bringing home the bacon to their states.
Oh, and House members should have a four-year term. This constant campaign crap is ridiculous.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Music Monday: "Ghost of the Knoxville Girl" by Doug & Telisha Williams

The first Music Monday of 2010 has a local flavor, featuring Martinsville musicians (and my friends) Doug & Telisha Williams. From their recent album by the same name, here's "Ghost of the Knoxville Girl."

The song is an answer to the Louvin Brothers song "The Knoxville Girl." In that song, a woman is murdered by her jealous lover. This song is based on the idea that the woman's ghost has become a protector--she hangs around and exacts revenge on abusive husbands and boyfriends so that other women do not suffer her fate. It's a really creative and empowering idea for a song, and they pull it off expertly.

Doug & Telisha Williams are a husband-and-wife duo who have released three albums and tour relentlessly around the country. They're Martinsville natives who still live in the city, and they're very involved in revitalizing the area through the arts. Even their latest album was homegrown--it was recorded at nearby Snow Creek Sound with full instrumentation and backing from an impressive list of musicians. They've played a number of shows at Martinsville's Rives Theatre, including the most recent Jingle Bell Jamboree.

A quick Google search will show that The Ghost of the Knoxville Girl album has gotten quite a few props across the interwebs, and it's one I recommend highly. You can learn more about their music at their website. On top of all that, they're really cool people, so if you like what you saw, go check them out.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Best Story Ever: Joe The Plumber to Campaign for Verga

I hope you had a great New Year's celebration, and hopefully you've all recovered from whatever shenanigans might have occurred.

It's now time for the first 220 South blog post of 2010, and it's a doozie. From Southside Central, which said about all there is to say about this story--I'm not sure I can improve on it, so here goes:

Remember “Joe The Plumber”? He’s coming to Virginia to support a 5th District Candidate. This article is brought to you by the “We Can’t Make This Crap Up” Department.

Joseph Wurzelbacher is coming to Arch’s Frozen Yogurt in Charlottesville on Friday to help raise money for Laurence Verga. You can attend the reception for only $25 (!). But you want a “private signed photo session”, don’t you? Well, you’re in luck, folks! That’s all yours for the Low $ale of the Century price of just $50!

Verga (and the other candidates) are doing anything that they can to raise money, but this event is quite bizarre. Let’s take a look at the potential hilarity… C-List political celebrity, frozen yogurt shop, middle of January. Well, at least the frozen yogurt shop will have plenty of space inside to fit all of the people that flock to this one (at least 5, I’m guessing).

It would be a cold day in hell before I’d head to this fundraiser. But come to think of it, being in a frozen yogurt shop with Joe the Plumber in Charlottesville in the middle of January probably would be an apt description of a cold day in hell. :D

Hah, well said. I'm curious to see how this plays out for Verga, at least in the eyes of the teabaggers. Does Joe the Plumber still have any sort of resonance or credibility with the Republican base, and will those good vibes help the Vergmeister's street cred?

I have to hand Verga some props on this one--even if they don't raise a huge amount of money, it may be a smart move in terms of earned media coverage. I would bet Arch's will get a visit from at least a few Charlottesville stations, and if nothing else it shows that his staff is thinking creatively.