Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tom's Stimulus Projects: Searchable by Google Map

Quick note: I'm still around and have no plans to shut down the blog. The lack of posts lately is entirely due to my overwhelming schedule and the overall craziness of February. Things should calm down by early March.

I wanted to pass along something really cool that Congressman Perriello's office put together last week. Behold a searchable Google map of all the Recovery Act/Stimulus projects in the entire Fifth District:

View 5th District Recovery Act Projects in a larger map

This does two things: first, it debunks the thoroughly preposterous narrative that the Stimulus didn't benefit the Fifth District; and second, it provides some transparency on what those projects are. Say what you will about the Recovery Act--the Right loves to thrash it, but there's virtually no doubt that it kept the economy from going completely off a cliff. Without it, unemployment would have been much higher and our public services--especially education--would be in shambles. To borrow a Tea Party slogan, that truly would have been "stealing from our grandchildren."

Big props to Tom for securing the funds for these projects, and big props to Jessica for taking the time to put together this map.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Music Monday: "Penny on the Train Track" by Ben Kweller

Here's Ben Kweller, playing "Penny on the Train Track" live on David Letterman:

This song came from the 2006 album appropriately titled Ben Kweller. As you might imagine, the rest of the album also evidences a strong Tom Petty influence, and I highly recommend it. The production is a departure from his earlier albums--it's more wall-of-sound than his previous efforts--and it comes across very well. His songwriting and lyrical creativity reached a new level on this record, and if I'm not mistaken, Ben Kweller played all the instruments on this one himself.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Va Dems Secure Broadband Grants for Southside, SW

As if to put an exclamation point on the previous article, the news broke today that Congressmen Perriello and Boucher as well as Senators Warner and Webb have come through for us with two stimulus grants. The funding will go toward expanding broadband infrastructure throughout Southside and the Southwest. From the release:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner and Representatives Tom Perriello and Rick Boucher today announced two grants totaling more than $21.5 million to expand broadband Internet infrastructure in Virginia. The grants, awarded through the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will support the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas, enhance and expand public computer centers, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. These investments will help bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth and create jobs.

The grants are funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, supported by Senators Webb and Warner and Representatives Perriello and Boucher.

The two grants announced today will add 575 miles of new high-speed Internet infrastructure in Southern Virginia. The grants were announced during a press conference call with White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner, and Representative Tom Perriello.

Webb and Perriello have especially good quotes:

"These projects are valuable in terms of attracting new businesses, allowing medical professionals to give better care, and giving tens of thousands of local residents access to the internet," said Senator Webb. "Southside and Southwest Virginia have been hit hard by the economic downturn. It is our duty to provide this part of the Commonwealth with a fair shot at the future. I have consistently fought for the expansion of high speed internet in Virginia's rural areas and I am pleased the American Recovery and Recovery Act prioritized this funding."


"This is a huge boost for Southside Virginia, benefiting our kids' educational success in the short term and building our region's long-term competitive advantage for the 21st Century," said Representative Perriello. "I'm thrilled these stimulus funds will expand Internet access for consumers in our small towns and rural communities, giving our workforce the competitive edge they deserve."

Rep. Boucher also pointed out that all major infrastructural improvements in our nation's history have required a boost from the federal government--subtly demolishing the "wasteful spending" argument that will inevitably be leveled by the right. No, Tea Partiers, not all government spending is bad, and I for one am glad our elected officials want our communities to be included in the 21st century economy.

"If any Democrat can win in 2010, it's Perriello."

The Danville Register & Bee wrote an absolutely glowing editorial about our congressman today. After all the vein-popping hyperbole coming out of the Tea Party/far right in this district, it's encouraging to see this sort of thing:

In his first year in Congress, Perriello has worked on behalf of veterans, green energy jobs and, like Goode, he has helped to steer federal dollars to Fifth District projects. He has voted against President Barack Obama on some issues and supported gun rights and worked against federal funding for abortion. But he has also voted for the federal stimulus, cap and trade and a health care bill.

His opponents are stumbling over one another to get rid of him. They may succeed. We shifted our longtime support from Goode to Perriello two years ago because it became clear that Goode, for whatever reason, no longer believed he could be effective in Washington. Perriello had no such qualms about “working a double shift” for the Fifth District. He has done that — and more — over the past year.

Perhaps most telling is what the first man to enter the race against him had to say:

“Tom Perriello is a man of principle,” said Bradley Rees, a Bedford County FairTax advocate, blogger, radio host and possible independent congressional candidate. “He will come out and state his principles on any given agenda item and you can expect him to vote that way … I admire his principles. I admire his stance on what he believes. I just happen to not believe the same thing.”

That’s some of the fairest criticism of Perriello we’ve heard over the past year. Ironically, Perriello is as frustrated with Washington as some of his most strident opponents.

“I have several major disappointments,” Perriello said of the past year. “I think the Democratic Party screwed up a lot in Washington, but it was very clear the Republicans were directed not to work with us in any way. I understand it’s a nasty place; it’s a political place. I’ve got thick skin. But when your country’s on the verge of depression, that’s not the time to say ‘Let’s tee up in 2010.’ It’s time to come together.”

The hypocrisy and vitriolic anger of these times doesn’t change the fact that Washington was spending too much money before Perriello’s party won control of Congress, and problems like health care and energy independence were ignored for years.

None of that will matter to those who have already made up their minds, so Perriello’s political future will rely on turning out his political supporters — not an easy task in a midterm election.

But this is a man who has already surpassed expectations. If any Democrat can win in 2010, it’s Perriello.

The Register-Bee picked up on something much of the media either can't see or refuses to see--whether you agree with him or not, Tom Perriello is working his butt off for his constituents. He has the courage to state what he believes and stand by it, even if he takes flak for it. And as the article notes, he goes out of his way to listen to people who disagree with him. People respect that, and it resonates well across the district.

All through the 2008 campaign, people told me there's no way Tom could win; he was toast before he even started. The same people are now calling him "one-term-Tom." We'll see. The right underestimates Tom at their own peril.

Robert Hurt Votes Against Jobs Bill; Also Opposes Mom, Apple Pie

In what can only be described as a thoroughly baffling move, Sen. Robert Hurt has voted against a bipartisan bill that would have extended unemployment benefits for laid-off workers. The bill, S.B. 239, was specifically directed at workers enrolled in retraining programs, and qualified those workers for up to 26 weeks of additional benefits. In today's vote, all 22 Senate Dems voted in favor of the bill, and yes, to their great credit, half the Senate GOP voted yes. It was actually introduced by Republican Sen. John Watkins of Midlothian. Special thanks to Martinsville's own Roscoe Reynolds, who was a co-sponsor.

Sen. Hurt, however, was one of nine Republicans in the State Senate to vote against the bill. More importantly, he was the only senator from the Southside to take that stand. For some reason, Hurt turned down a bill that should have been a political no-brainer. There are just some things you NEVER vote against under any circumstances, and unemployed workers certainly fall into that category. Moreover, the bill is funded by stimulus money, so Hurt can't even pull out the "we-don't-have-the-money" defense. I'd be very interested to see his statement when this inevitably becomes a media storm. For Robert Hurt to represent Southside and vote against helping unemployed workers is not just a terrible strategy, it's also woefully out of touch.

I'm not even angry about this. Just very, very puzzled. The only explanation I can think of is that Sen. Hurt is doing damage control with the Tea Party/extreme anti-spending wing of his party--maybe he thinks voting against anything connected to the stimulus will undo some of the damage he's taking for his vote on Mark Warner's budget. The problem? It won't work. He has just demolished his "sane moderate" image and, if this becomes a big story, he has alienated countless voters in what should be his strongest region. I wonder how much of this has to do with campaign consultant Chris LaCivita?

Now the bill will go to the House of Delegates. Will Morgan Griffith and his merry band reprise their notorious anti-stimulus/anti-middle class vote from last year? Only time will tell.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Music Monday: "The Real Me" by The Who

I think the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake "Wardrobe Malfunction" was the best thing to happen to the Super Bowl in years. Ever since then, it seems the NFL has had no choice but to put real musicians on for their halftime show--Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, The Who, etc. I guess when you can't cover up an abject lack of talent with sex and fireworks, it narrows the field. Anyway, I thought The Who did a stellar job last night, playing classics from their heyday. I don't know who he is, but their drummer fit in quite well; it can't be an easy task to fill John Bonham's shoes.

There was, however, one song I thought they should've played. Here's "The Real Me," from the chronically-underrated Quadrophenia album.

Don't get me wrong, Tommy is a classic. It was the first rock opera and has rightfully earned its place in music history. But as a fully realized, conceptually straightforward and coherent narrative, Quadrophenia is a far better album. Tommy has a tendency to ramble toward the end, and I personally still don't get how a deaf, dumb and blind kid could be redeemed by a pinball game. On the other hand, Quadrophenia hits you with "The Real Me" right away and builds into a few more rockers before the close of side 1. The album is energetic and more well-developed than its predecessors, and the whole thing just flows really well.

On top of that, the storyline is excellent--it presents an image of an adolescent British kid trying to fit into the youth culture of the day (is he a Mod or a Rocker?) and find his way in society. It is specific to 1960s/70s England, but the themes are pretty universal.

And as for the music itself...well, I mean it's The Who, man!

Congrats to the Saints

In honor of the Saints' victory in the Super Bowl, I've decided to post this video. A friend of mine sent it to me, and I don't think you can go wrong with a funny dog.

Though I was pulling for the Colts, I find it very difficult to be upset at a Saints victory. There's no doubt New Orleans could use a pick-me-up in light of the devastation that still exists in much of the city. Plus, I have mad respect for Drew Brees--not only is he a great player, but by all accounts he's also a good guy who does a lot for his community.

It sucks that football is over...but now it's only a few weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Friday, February 5, 2010

McEachin Nails It on the Budget

State Sen. Donald McEachin absolutely throttled Gov. McDonnell for his myopic no-new-revenue-ever mantra in the face of the worst budget crisis in decades. This originally appeared at Blue Virginia and I wanted to pass it along, because frankly I think this needs to be VA Dems' operative message going forward in the McDonnell Administration. Below is some text from the film if you don't quite have time to watch the whole thing.

Mr. President, I for one cannot cotton, cannot accept the notion that we are about to even begin to conceive of crafting a budget that contains no new revenue. I'm happy to work with any member of this body in moving towards that reality. But make no mistake about it, Mr. President, we are morally bankrupt if we decide to balance this budget on the backs of the poor, on the backs of those who are vulnerable, on the backs of those who live in the margins. We are morally bankrupt, Mr. President, if we decide to balance this budget by putting more people out of work.

We all said we were for jobs, Mr. President, but what we have failed to tell the people of Virginia is that these budget cuts, we're no longer talking about fat, we're down to bone. As the Senator from Fairfax has said, we're down to amputations, Mr. President. We cannot put more people out of work, it is wrong, we ought not be about that business, and the words coming that have been coming from this side of the aisle, by those who have taken to this floor, have been trying to draw the connection between these budget cuts and loss of jobs.

We need 8,000 jobs a month just to catch up with the 201,000 jobs we've lost since 2007. I do not see any leadership from the third floor in that regard, and quite frankly Mr. President, after this past campaign, when we saw "Bob for Jobs," I expected better, and I do consider that to be a failure of the standards of leadership.
"We're down to bone" is something Richmond Republicans apparently don't understand--they seem hell-bent on wrecking even the most fundamental state services until nothing is left. Are conservatives the new anarchists?

Big hat tip: Lowell at Blue Virginia.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I-73 Clears a Hurdle; What Greens Should Learn

Those of you who have spent time driving along this blog's namesake between Roanoke and Martinsville may have noticed something: the smattering of road signs labeled "Future I-73 Corridor." As I've stated before, those signs have been there so long they've become almost a joke--in fact, I've given thought to re-naming this blog "Future I-73 Corridor." Maybe on April Fool's Day? We'll see.

Anyway, after over a decade of talking about and planning for the eventual construction of Interstate 73, the project cleared a significant legal hurdle last week. From the Martinsville Bulletin:

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed the appeal of Virginians for Appropriate Roads over construction of Interstate 73.

The court’s order was filed Monday.

The appeal was of U.S. District Senior Judge James C. Turk’s ruling in July against Virginians for Appropriate Roads, which sued federal and state highway and transportation officials.

The citizens group challenged the Federal Highway Administration’s Record of Decision on March 30, 2007, approving construction of I-73 between Interstate 81 near Roanoke and the Virginia/North Carolina state line.

The suit claimed that the highway administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not adequately considering alternatives to the approved corridor, including an upgrade of U.S. 220; not postponing environmental impact statement until construction funds for I-73 were available; and not considering the environmental impacts of the interstate project, according to court records. (My emphasis)
Pay attention, fellow progressives; there's a lesson here for environmentalists. I'm as green as they come--I completely support alternative energy, smart growth and cleaner lifestyles. I thoroughly oppose offshore drilling, uranium mining and nuclear power among other things. I'm also a big fan of the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House last year. But I think sometimes well-meaning Greenies are guilty of oversimplifying the ease with which our favored changes can be made.

For example, in the above quote, Virginians for Appropriate Roads wanted to see if U.S. 220 could simply be upgraded instead of building a new interstate. Anyone who has driven 220 for any amount of time can tell you how damn-near-impossible that would be. Route 220 is basically an old dirt road that got paved over, with steep hills, narrow lanes, hairpin turns and all. Throw in the fact that it's crawling with 18-wheelers and it becomes a remarkably unsafe and unsettling place to drive. Upgrading it would require just as much work (and probably just as much environmental impact) as building a new road altogether. Moreover, using a lawsuit to stall I-73 was a terrible idea from a strategic standpoint: holding up a project that would bring tangible economic benefits to places that badly need them is not exactly a PR win.

I guess what I'm saying is that we need to be honest about the fact that this is still an incredibly complicated issue; there's still a delicate balance between industry and environmental progress. Yes, we're trying to make a cleaner, greener world that will ultimately benefit all of us, but there are a lot of working-class people in our state who depend on the current economy for their livelihood. The biggest example of that is coal, which is basically the entire economy of the Southwest--it will take a long time to dislodge that, and we have to have an alternative to offer the folks who will lose their jobs when the mines close. Environmentalists should focus on promoting economic growth through green jobs and go into the big battles with a sense of humility. The I-73 case is a teachable moment, and I think we'd all do well to learn from it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Music Monday: "Blue Ridge Mountains" by Fleet Foxes

After a one-week hiatus, Music Monday returns with the Fleet Foxes playing "Blue Ridge Mountains" live on Letterman. Here's the video:

The Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut album drew rave reviews and put them on the indie music map. I'm not really sure how to categorize the songs or what genre they fit into--maybe a bit of country/folk-rock? Whatever you want to call it, it's pretty excellent. It doesn't really sound like this, but for some reason it reminds me of Rubber Soul. The full instrumentation and intricate harmonies give the album a really unique sound and I highly recommend giving it a listen. "Sun it Rises," "Quiet Houses" and "Blue Ridge Mountains" are songs that stick in your mind. It's smooth, mellow and complex, and it's a great soundtrack for driving around the Virginia countryside. See you next Music Monday, and enjoy the Fleet Foxes.