Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mark Sanford Resignation Watch BEGINS

This is just unbelievable. My first thought when I heard and read the latest on South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's most recent admission was, why is he even talking about this. From his own lips to the throngs of Reporters' ears, Mark Sanford has "crossed lines" with other women besides his Argentinian mistress - but he never had sex with them. (Doesn't this has a familiar ring to it?)

At some point, when you are in a really deep hole, the need to stop digging has to cross a person's mind. This doesn't seem to be the case with Governor Sanford. While sex scandals aren't unknown in politics, and it doesn't necessarily mean that the person at the center of attention of the scandal needs to resign, but was it necessary to even mention other women when one torrid affair is plenty. At this point, it comes down to his judgement. This has proven to be suspect.

We can just look at how hard he pushed back on the Federal Stimulus Funds that would have helped South Carolina's crumbling school. Even his own party didn't agree with him about not taking the stimulus funds and the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled against him. Then he takes off and doesn't tell his staff where he is going. They don't even have a way to contact him in case of a state emergency. One wonders if he even really wants to be Governor based on this behavior.

Mark Sanford had been rumored to be a 2012 Republican Candidate for Governor. Without a doubt, this aspiration is in the trash. The watch begins to see how long it takes for Mark Sanford to come to the conclusion that he has lost the ability to serve as Governor of South Carolina.

Is it finally over? Al Franken declaired the winner of the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race by Minnesota Supreme Court

It appears that three things need to happen now for Al Franken to be on his way to Washington, D.C. First, former Minnesota United States Senator Norm Coleman needs to stop filing lawsuits to delay the certification. Second, the Minnesota Secretary of State's office needs to certify the election and declare All Franken the winner. Lastly, Governor Tim Pawlenty needs to sign the election certification and then it will be all over except the swearing in ceremony.

As painful as this has been, this is probably an example (not going to say it's a good example) of how the process is suppose to work, every vote is counted and scrutinized, so that the winner can be determined. Minnesota didn't recount only 10% of the votes and election irregularities were investigated. But, Iran has to work these things out for themselves and doesn't need the United States interfering... If they want to see how we do things, then...

Clean, renewable wind energy could provide 20% of Virginia's power and create over 1,000 jobs!

According to an article by Ricardo Lopez of the Virginian Pilot today, a study by the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium has determined that a wind farm off the coast of Virginia Beach is a viable option. Some key findings out of the study:

  • Cost of a wind farm is comparable to current/traditional fuels.
  • Current/traditional fuel prices will not remain the same.
  • Initial cost of wind farm is high, but will pay off over the long run.
  • Will not be paying fuel costs over the course of time, just maintenance and operational costs.
  • Project could provide up to 20% of Virginia's energy needs.
  • Project could create around 1,100 jobs.
There was initial talk about building wind farms along the Blue Ridge Mountains a few years ago, but it was met with opposition due mainly to concerns over migrations patterns of birds. The location of the wind farm off the coast of Virginia would not impact bird migrations patterns. While the aesthetic look is not great, it is a whole lot better alternative than seeing oil and gas drilling platforms off the coast and nearly zero chance of environmental disaster from fuel spills. This is just a report, but things are moving in the right direction.

Picture by: http://www.meteorologynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/offshorewindturbines.jpg

Monday, June 29, 2009

North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Honduras. Western Hemisphere political instability heats up.

It seems like these days as soon as you turn your head one way, something else happens right behind you. That’s the case in Honduras where a coup d’√©tat took place on Friday and by Sunday a new president was sworn in. The reports on the reasons behind the coup come down to Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya’s ability to run for re-election. In Honduras a person cannot run for successive terms as President (sounds just like Virginia’s Governorship). President Zelaya was pushing a non-binding referendum to be voted on this past Sunday on the issue, to show the level of support from Honduran citizens. The Honduran Supreme Court ruled that the referendum was unconstitutional and the vote would be illegal. President Zelaya vowed to follow through with the vote, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. That same day, President Zelaya was arrested by the Honduran military and expelled from the country and flown to Costa Rica.

The coup has been denounced by the usual suspects in Latin America such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Cuban Communist government, as well as expressions of concern about the situation in Honduras by President Obama. The Organization of American States is to meet in emergency session today and the United Nations has condemned the coup. On Sunday, Roberto Micheletti was sworn in as provisional President of Honduras. Despite these unfolding events, protests have been relatively low-key and non-violent. This situation will continue to be monitored.

This isn’t the only unrest occurring in Central America. A few months ago, Mexican military began engaging the drug cartels inside Mexico, along the United States-Mexican border. In a number of instances, the Mexican military was outgunned by the cartels prompting strong criticism from the Mexican government of the United State’s weak gun laws, where there is evidence of American made guns finding their way into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels.

In other international hot spots:

Iraq – United States forces are pulling back from the major cities. This is seen as a major step towards eventual withdrawal but some experts are skeptical that the United States will be able to fully withdraw from Iraq by 2011.

Iran – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is dispelling reports that Iranian authorities shot and killed Neda Aga-Soltan. The picture of Neda lying on the grown and bleeding to death, has fast grown into the international symbol of the Iranian protests since the crisis began nearly three weeks ago. The protests have also exposed major rifts within the Iranian Ruling Council and Clerics. One of the original Iranian Revolutionary Clerics and former Iranian President, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is seen as one of the most powerful of the Iranian Ruling Clerics, has denounced the moves by the Iranian Government by against the protesters.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lynchburg Democrat Shannon Valentine kicks off re-election for House District 23


Whenever you say Lynchburg and Democrat, most people think you're joking. The Democratic House of Delegate member from District 23 is no joke. In a part of the state where Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church are the 800 Lb gorilla in the room and the surrounding areas are all represented by Republicans and two "Independents" (Watkins Abbitt I-Appomattox and Lacy Putney I-Bedford), Delegate Shannon Valentine is the only member of the Lynchburg area delegation that demonstrates any understanding of social and economic justice and how issues directly affect people from their doorstep to the curb.

Shannon Valentine is recognized as one of Virginia's most effective legislators and continues to demonstrate willingness to cross the isle to work with Republicans and Independents. This doesn't seem to be enough for the likes of Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church who will be heavily backing Republican nominee and Lynchburg City Councilman Scott Garrett. Keep in mind, Liberty University pushed hard to have their students registered to vote in Virginia for the 2008 Presidential Election.

All those registrations showed up in Lychburg's Ward III Precinct 4. From 2004 to 2006 the total number of votes cast in those elections combined for that one precinct was just over 2,500 votes. In the 2008 General Election, the total number of votes cast was over 3,600 (3,000 votes exactly went for John McCain in that precinct). Obama narrowly lost Lynchburg by 1,366 votes. So, now you see why some in the Democratic party are worried about Liberty University's impact.

While these are disturbing numbers, people need to keep in mind that the person that recommended that Shannon run for the House of Delegates as his successor in 2005 was none other than, former Lynchburg Republican Delegate and current Secretary of Natural Resources, Preston Bryant. That speaks volumes to Shannon Valentine's broad support in the Lynchburg community. It doesn't say much for Republicans in Lynchburg either. But, each election is different and Shannon's not taking anything for granted. Listen to her announcement speech and my interview with her:

Valentine Re-election Announcement Speech


Valentine Podcast Interview with Off K Street


As you can hear, she is no joke and is passionate about the work she is doing in Richmond. This is one of the seats that Democrats must hold if they are going to have a chance to regain control of the House of Delegates heading into the 2010 General Assembly and Redistricting process. Show your support by contributing to her campaign or if you have time to phone bank or go door-to-door, it will go a long way.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Q and A with Democratic Gubernatorial Candiate Creigh Deeds

I was able to get a few minutes with Senator Deeds as he was leaving. Here is my interview with the Democratic Gubernatorial nominee:

Creigh Deeds in Lynchburg Today and thoughts on events of the past few weeks

State Senator Creigh Deeds, Democratic nominee for Governor, is bringing his campaign to the Hill City this morning at 11:00 am at the Starlight Cafe on 5th Street. This will be the first Deeds event that I have attended in the campaign season. My hope is to get a few minutes with Senator Deeds to get a few comments and post as a Podcast, which will be a first for this blog.

Thoughts on recent events of the past few weeks:

There has been very little good news out there over the past few weeks, with the exception of the Primary Season coming to and end. Half a world away, Iran continues to be in crisis over their elections and what now appears to be significant voter fraud in more than 50 cities where the number of ballots cast exceeded the number of registered voters. Things have calmed down significantly, but this could be the calm before the storm. What is most significant is that these events have seen Iranian Women taking a big leadership roll in the protests and opposition.

Two prominent Republicans, Senator John Ensign of Nevada and Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, have admitted to extra-marital affairs. Senator Ensign and Governor Sanford had been reported to both be exploring runs for President in 2012. Ensign was the Chair of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and Sanford was the Chair of the Republican Governor's Association. Both have resigned from their respective post, dealing another blow to Republican hopes of a resurgence in 2009. The fact remains, the more self-righteous you are the harder the fall. The Republican Party, from top to bottom, keep stepping in it. They are proving that they are their own worst enemies.

Liberty University has finally figured out a solution to their bad press and publicity problems over the last month. Both the Democratic and Republican clubs on campus are recognized as unofficial campus organizations. There is more to this story, but all of this could have been avoided if they had not singled out the College Democrats. Again, and example of the hard fall of the self-righteous and being their own worst enemy.

Lastly, this week has seen the passing of entertainment Icons. Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson have all died this past week. Shockingly, both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson dying on the same day. All three of these people were part of my childhood pop culture. It is going to be a little strange as we move forward after all their deaths. The Vegas Impersonator industry is going to see a huge increase over the next twenty years, as well as Elvis and Jackson sightings. May they all rest in peace.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some "Steamy" reads from Governor Mark Sanford

It just goes to show you that being a human with "needs" has no party affiliation, but it sure seems of late that infidelity and scandal are closely tied to the Republican Party. At first, when the reports started coming out that Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina goes off, unaccounted for, for days at a time a scene from Band of Brothers came to mind. The one where Lt. Dyke is walking alone in the Ardennes Forest during a lull in the fighting around Bastogne. Nobody in Easy Company likes the guy and no one knows where he is. He's aloofe and disconnected with reality. Well, the real story about Governor Sanford is much juicier than this.

The State Newspaper out of Columbia has obtained the emails between Republican Governor Mark Sanford and his Mistress. I'm not a smoker, but I needed something after reading this stuff. Men, don't let the ladies see these letters. Ladies, don't let the men know you've read them. WOW! So much for traditional marriage and family values.

The rumor out of Alaska is that Republican Governor Sarah Palin is thinking of not running for re-election next year. First it was Nevada Republican Senator, and NRSC Chairman John Ensign caught steppin' out on his wife and family. Now, Mark Sanford. Does Sarah Palin know something that we don't or is this her way of clearing the field. Who's next, Mississippi Republican Governor Hailey Barbour (sorry I had to put that image in people's minds)?



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Delegate Shannon Valentine Re-election Announcement this Saturday

Delegate Shannon Valentine (D-Lynchburg) is making her Re-election Announcement and Campaign Kick-off this Saturday at 10:00 am at her Campaign Headquarters on the corner of 12th and Main Street in Lynchburg. Please contact Leigh Anne or Jason at 434-528-6090 for more information or directions to the Headquarters.

Afterwards, there will be a Door-to-Door Canvass, so be prepared to do some walking. This is one of the top targets for the House Republicans. Her opponent is Lynchburg City Councilman Scott Garrett. This will be a tough campaign and Shannon needs all the help anyone can give (money, phone banking, canvassing, hosting an event, etc.).

Shannon Valentine is one of the best Legislators in Virginia. Her door is open to everyone, which is much more than can be said for the rest of the Lynchburg General Assembly Delegation. Hope to see everyone there!

Roanoke Times on Healthcare Reform

In this part of the state, The Roanoke Times is by far the best traditional news outlet. They get hammered from conservatives and the business lobby on a continuous basis. They call it like they see it. Dan Radmacher is also one of the best Editorial Page Editors in the state of Virginia. My apologies for the love fest, but they are a rare breed out in this part of the state.

The Roanoke Times has an excellent Editorial in today's edition on Healthcare Reform. This is something that has frustrated me for a long time with progressives, liberals, Democrats. GROW A FREEKIN' SPINE. Hit these guys back. We have 47 million people that either don't have access to quality, affordable health insurance or have been denied coverage due to a "pre-existing condition."

Whether you support a single-payer system or a public option, the 800 Lb gorilla in the room is the profit motive behind private health insurance. No matter how many times it is said, NO ONE IS BEING FORCED INTO A GOVERNMENT RUN SYSTEM WITH THE PUBLIC OPTION. But, conservatives and private insurance still keep on beating that drum, demonizing anything that comes from the Federal Government. Like profits over people give citizens a reasonable choice (expensive or very expensive health insurance).

Sorry folks, but the train pulled out of the station on affordable private health insurance a long time ago. There are far too many people that are victims of the profit margins of private health insurance. Private health insurance and keeping cost low through competition in the same sentence is a farce and rings hollow. The latest polls show that over 70% of the people in this country want some form of a public option so they can have an affordable choice. Geeturdun! American can't afford to wait any longer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Experts say expanding food stamp program helps the economy. Imagine what $125 million in unemployment benefits would have done?

I found this very interesting. According to a Media General News Service story out of Hickory, NC, the Food Assistance/Stamp Program helps generate economic activity.

Some experts think the best way to stimulate the economy is through food assistance money, formerly called food stamps. A recent study by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center supports that theory, estimating the $1.6 billion in food assistance money distributed in North Carolina has resulted in $2.8 billion in economic activity.

“When a person spends food assistance money at a local grocery store, that is a sale the store may not have had otherwise,“ said John Quinterno, research associate at the center. “Then, that money gets turned over several times, generating economic activity. “

“Food stamps are an ideal economic stimulus tool because they are always spent locally and have a widespread ripple effect,“ said Louisa Warren, policy advocate for the North Carolina Justice Center, which houses the Budget and Tax Center.

“Families use food stamps at local grocery stores, and that money is passed on to employees, who spend it in other stores, and suppliers, who use it to pay their workers,“ she said.
Imagine that? A “big government program” that helps the economy. Go figure. If we expanded the Food Stamp program to cover more people and also added in the $125 million in unemployment benefits that would also help part-time employees (not a permanent expansion), just imagine the benefits to the foundation of the economy. Being able to buy food and also clothes. This makes too much since and would prove that progressive economic policies work better than pure free market systems.

Here’s what is truly remarkable:
In an effort to increase economic demand and stimulate the economy, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide $4 billion nationally in added benefits over the next six months.

The Agriculture Department estimates every dollar in food stamps expands the economy by $1.84.

For the center’s study, Quinterno said they used a more conservative $1.73 for every dollar, with a result of $2.8 billion in economic activity since the beginning of the recession.

So, again, turning down the $125 million to extend unemployment benefits was a bad move on the part of Virginia General Assembly Republicans, specifically House of Delegates Republicans. I am pretty sure that this money would have a similar effect on the economy. Lastly, this is money that every person with a job has paid into the Unemployment Trust Fund. Why shouldn’t they have access to it?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Iranian Election Crackdown: Voting irregularities point to Ballot Box Stuffing

Tammany Hall. William M. “Boss” Tweed. These are the names associated with machine politics, voter fraud, and ballot box stuffing in the United States. According to reports coming out of Iran’s Guardian Council, which oversees elections, that “the number of ballots cast in dozens of cities exceeded the number of eligible voters there”. When I read this, the scene that came to mind is where Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis, in the 2002 movie Gangs of New York, are trying to get their voters to the polls by whatever means necessary in the New York City elections.

They got their respective “organizations” to round up any warm body, and get them to the polls. Men with beards and long hair voted early, came back and got a shave and voted again, and then came back and got a haircut and voted for a third time. As the counts were coming in the most memorable line from that scene came from “Boss” Tweed, played by British actor Jim Broadbent. As the numbers are coming in, a staffer states the number of votes are exceeding the number of registered voters. What do they do? “Boss” Tweed says “Whoever has the most votes at the end of the day, wins!”

Most elections observers around the world thought something didn’t sound right when they called the election within a day in Iran. So what? They do that here in the United States, and within a few hours of the polls closing. The problem with calling the election for a winner in Iran… they vote by paper ballots that have to be hand counted. This takes a while to do.

It was reported that it would take at least three days before there was any indication of a winner. Iranian Government officials called this thing about as fast as the major news outlets do here in the United States. This is the spark that started the protests in the streets. With this latest revelation, it will be much harder for the Iranian Government to continue to certify the election and not throw out the results of the entire election. I expect there will be increased calls for a new election and if not, expect more protest and violent clashes with government authorities.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Consumer Credit Reform: Payday Lending declines 84 percent in Virginia, but most shift to Car Title Lending

Reading the Dena Potter's (no relation to Harry Potter) article in the Virginian Pilot brought a big smile to my face. I worked extensively on this issue over the last several years and without a doubt, Payday Lending is one of the worst types of businesses out there. Cloaked in the veil of helping poor people out, people that are in a financial bind that don't have access to quick cash to get you over the rough spots, these guys are beating it out of town. Why?

When this business was authorized to be exempt from the state's usury laws (which have been around since Colonial Virginia) in 2002, they were able to charge Annual Interest Rates in excess of 36%. On a one week loan, lenders charged $15 for every $100 borrowed for a maximum of $500 per borrowed week. This ends up being an additional $75 on top of the $500 borrowed, if a person takes the maximum. Most people that are in this situation can't pay off a $575 loan in one week, so the Payday Lenders suggest that if this happens they can just get a new one week loan to pay off what they couldn't pay. Thus beginning the cycle of debt that is almost impossible to escape.

The average Payday Loan borrower took out between 10 to 13 loans in a year which quickly adds up to an APR of close to 400%. This is what is called "Compounding Interest." Compounding Interest is good if you are investing money. But if you are borrowing money with compounding interest, you will quickly find that the original amount, or the principle, has been rapidly exceeded by the interest rate. In the case of Payday Loans, the $15 per every $100 borrowed has been "rolled over" several times to where a borrower isn't paying back the principle any more, but the compounding interest generated from the repeat borrowing. The financial hole that has been dug is deep.

From 2002 to 2006, Payday Lending stores expanded so rapidly that there were twice as many Payday Lending storefronts in Virginia than where McDonald's. Three times more than Starbucks. That's a lot and speaks volumes to the need for small dollar short term loans. But the question became, do these loans need to be based off compounding interest so that a borrower is likely to become trapped in the loans? Payday Lenders got a foothold in Virginia and fought hard against interest rate caps or any restrictions.

From the 2006 through 2009 General Assembly session, grassroots and consumer protection groups fought for interest rate caps and restrictions to reign-in Payday Lending, and won some major reforms. A 36% interest rate cap was included in compromise legislation, along with limiting the number of loans a borrower can take out in a six month period as well as doubling the repayment period based off the borrower's pay period. The Payday Lending industry was able to get additional fees included that negated the 36% interest rate cap. The the Payday Lending industry found a loophole that allowed for open-ended lines of credit based off of credit card billing period, in order to get around the compromise legislation and started shifting to more lucrative Car Title Lending.

The Virginia General Assembly closed this last loophole for Payday Lenders, but did not address the Car Title Lending industry. Instead, they were given a warning that they were next and they needed to figure out a fair way of doing their business. Car Title Lending operates pretty much the same way, except they use a person's car as collateral. They treat the loans as open-ended lines of credit at twice the assessed value of the car. The problem with this is the car being used as collateral is actually a secured loan. The same grassroots and consumer protection groups fought to move the Car Title Lenders under the Virginia Consumer Finance Act which would address this aspect of Predatory Lending. They will have to take this up after the 2009 Virginia Statewide races and House of Delegates contests, but it is clear that the momentum is on the side of grassroots and consumer protection groups.

Iranian Crackdown: Are we witnessing the start of the next Iranian Revolution?

CNN continues to offer excellent coverage of the Iranian Election Fallout and Crackdown. At this point, once everything settles down and order is restored, I'm not so sure that any of the key players in these events will be able to push forward with the kind of government that they want. Those key players being the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Mir Hossein Moussavi. This has the potential to turn into something much different.

In my final post from last night I commented that the greatest concern with these events is who will emerge as the leader, the real reformer, from the Election Fallout and Crackdown? The message is clear that large numbers of the Iranian population don't want Ahmadinejad as the President and they want the Ayatollah and the Iranian Ruling Council to loosen up on the restrictions they have implemented over the last 30 years since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. when the Shah cracked-down then, the US backed Iranian Government was overthrown. The end result is what you have right now and in many ways is as repressive now (if not more so) as the Shah's regime prior to 1979.




This is more than dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ruling Council. The economy is in bad shape in addition to the message being sent that the people want more freedom and civil rights restored. This is a dangerous combination when you have bad economy and social change mixed together. Sometimes the devil you don't know is the one that we need to be the most concerned about.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iranian Election Fallout: The moment of truth

This is inspirational. In defiance of the Iranian Ruling Council and Ayatollah Ali Khameni, people are gathering and starting to march on Tehran. Pray for the safety of the protesters and marchers that sanity wins the day and for a peaceful resolution. Totalitarianism can no longer exist. The voice of the people of Iran will be heard.

Note: This picture was from earlier in the week.

LU College Democrats lose Club Sponsor and President in the same day

As they say, when one door shuts another one opens. This has been just a despicable series of events over the last week at Liberty University. Liberty University College Democrats Advisor, Maria Childress has been dismissed as their sponsor and advisor and Club President Brian Diaz has resigned and will be transferring to a different school.

The story about the misdemeanor traffic, assault charges, and court records of Maria Childress first appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch on Thursday and then was picked up by WSLS 10 (Roanoke) and reported by them first think Friday morning. The court records that have been obtained by these traditional news outlets are public record, but a closer examination of the assault charges reveals that they were filed previously by the same people. First by Barbara Ann Stanley Childress (Maria Childress' former mother-in-law) and the latest that did stick by Billy Franklin Childress (former father-in-law). It is clear from looking at the court records that issues have developed between Maria and her former in-laws. These are separate issues from the issues with Liberty University and the College Democrats.

My first question about this whole series of events is, why was the Richmond Times Dispatch be reporting on this latest story (article found in the metro business section) as the first paper to report on Maria Childress' court record? How would the Richmond Times Dispatch even know that Maria Childress even had a court record and or even have the investigative instincts to even look in that direction? Why is it that the story went from Richmond to Roanoke before it was reported in the Lynchburg News Advance this morning?

Now, to be fair, there are more things in the court record and only relate to traffic and car equipment issues. These are things that Maria is dealing with or had dealt with, and she will have to address as she moves forward. But, it's laughable for Jerry Falwell, Jr. to accuse Maria Childress, Brian Dias, and the LU College Democrats of distorting facts and issues when the only conclusion I can come to is that Falwell and Liberty University are perpetrating a character assassination campaign against a 2004 LU Alumni who went to work for them after she graduated. It seems that working for Liberty University is like working for the MOB. Defy or step out of line at your own risk.

Maria still has a job at Liberty University in a capacity that she will have little or limited contact with the students, as the secretary of the Honors Program in the Student Affairs Office (hum, OK?). At some point, when this whole thing has come to a final resolution, I hope that Maria has her chance to tell her side of the story.

As for Brian Diaz, good luck. He will be moving onto a better school that doesn't crack-down on opposition political parties like they are the Iranian Ruling Council.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Iranian Elections Fallout: Fanning the flames of freedom by saying very little

Today, both houses of Congress passed resolutions condemning Iran's crackdown on protests and demonstrations and in support of the Iranian people's right to self determination. While this is a fine and mostly for show, I think that President Obama is taking the right approach to the situation by saying just enough. But for most Republicans and some Democrats, they want the President to send a stronger message than the nuanced statement that he made earlier in the week.

The Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei, has basically drawn the line in the sand today. In a very straight forward speech that lasted two to three hours, he unequivocally stated his support for Ahmadinejad and the results of the election and wants the protests to stop. In layman's terms, GET OVER IT! YOU LOST! The next step is what will the opposition do? Will they defy the Supreme Leader or will they comply.

My understanding of international affairs/relations is that sometimes, the less you say the stronger the message. This is a situation where letting things take their course in Iran, without bold and strong statements from the United States Congress and the White House, would serve our interest best.


Healthcare Reform: Providing the least amount of coverage to maximize profits

Let's not kid ourselves. Private Health Insurers are in the business to MAKE MONEY. They are not bound by the Hippocratic Oath nor any measure of human ethics. The goal of private Health Insurance it to provide the least amount of coverage, pay out a little as possible to health care providers and professionals for their services, and maximize their profits.

Paul Begala has a commentary up on CNN.com about the little known practice of "rescission" where private Health Insurers kick people off their coverage for pre-existing conditions or getting treatment that was not covered by the insurer. This next part is astonishing:


The subcommittee's chairman, Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan, called the
hearing to highlight the obnoxious and unethical practice called rescission. His
researchers produced performance reviews of insurance company bureaucrats who
were praised and rewarded for kicking people off their coverage.

Then Stupak asked three health insurance executives the big question: Will
your company pledge to end the practice of rescission except in cases of
intentional fraud?

All three health insurance executives said no.

I posted on Health Care Reform yesterday and made a specific mention of this in the post. Besides having quality, affordable health care for everyone, this practice of denying treatment based on pre-existing conditions or kicking people off their policies for the same or similar reasons has to end. There have been several proposals that would turn Health Care into a not-for-profit business, which still doesn't mean a whole lot because you can still make lots of money as a non-profit, but it would at least take a bit out of the profit motive for kicking people off their coverage or denying treatment.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Liberty University sinks to a new low with character assassination campaign against LU College Democrats Advisor

I'm just going to let the Richmond Times Dispatch article speak for itself, but if this is how Liberty University treats their alumni that go to work for them and a disagreement develops, let this be a warning to anyone who goes to work for the Jerry Falwell CLAN. Liberty University is RADIOACTIVE and anyone that stands shoulder to shoulder with them or takes their money does it at their own risk. This is not very CHRISTIAN. Shame on Liberty University and Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Healthcare Reform debate ramps up amid charges of “Socialized Medicine”

The Healthcare Debate has been percolating since President Obama was elected. Now the fight to change our national healthcare system has begun. It is clear to everyone, without sounding repetitive or cliché, the system is broken and doing nothing is not an option. The goal of having quality, affordable healthcare for everyone is going to be a very tough fight.

The devil is in the details and the detail that the President has put out there is how much this thing is going to cost Americans. $1 trillion over 10 years. Senator Ted Kennedy’s version is estimated to be over $1 trillion and Senator Max Baucus’ plan is estimated to be around $1.7 trillion over 10 years. All of these versions have a public plan option as part of the package, allowing citizens a choice of staying with or purchasing private health insurance or a public option.

Recent healthcare reform plans put forward by the Republicans suggest a co-op exchange system that looks interesting, but no direct government competition with private insurers. Several of the proposed plans the Republicans have put forth would require people to purchase private health insurance. (No option or choice) The bottom line, someone is going to lose and lose big. Will corporate health insurers take the hit or will the 47 million uninsured Americans, projected estimates rising to 51 million Americans, be the victims again of healthcare reform that favors corporations? As a reference, the Kaiser Family Foundation has a side-by-side comparison of all the current Healthcare Reform proposals.

Republicans, beholden to corporate health insurance, continue to parrot the commercials and talking point of groups like Conservatives for Patients Rights. They want healthcare reform that is based on “the four pillars of Patient’s Rights,” which are choice, competition, accountability, and personal responsibility. This sound perfectly fine and acceptable, but what do they really mean by competition, accountability, and personal responsibility? Rick Scott, founder of Columbia Hospital Corporation and Solantic Corporation, is the face and the driving force behind Conservatives for Patient’s Rights. While admirable and a compelling life story of perseverance, drive, and ambition, there is nothing in his materials that takes private health insurers out of the decision making tree between the patient and doctor.

The fight for Healthcare Reform comes down to private insurers continuing to exert their influence or the Federal Government expanding its roll. I for one don’t like anyone having a say as to what treatment will or will not be accepted or covered. My doctor and I have to make that decision, not a government bureaucracy or some corporate stooge crunching numbers behind a desk. In my opinion, one thing that is certainly unacceptable are private insurance companies denying treatment to people based on “pre-existing conditions.”

There are lots of supporters for a Single-Payer style of health insurance, but the majority of the public is wary of anything that looks like government controlled healthcare that gives them no choices of doctors or treatment, which is a misconception. The proposal that President Obama and many Democrats are pushing isn’t necessarily universal healthcare, but would make health insurance more affordable with the public plan option and would not deny treatment because of a pre-existing condition. Again, the Republicans are offering their versions, none of which (that I have read or come across) takes private health insurers out of the decision making tree or addresses the issue of denying treatment due to pre-existing conditions. At this point, the Democrats can’t agree on a plan and Republicans continue to scream “socialized medicine” while offering warmed over and recycled private health insurance proposals that don’t address the skyrocketing costs or expanding coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Liberty University Democrats Update: LU and College Democrats closing in on a resolution

According to today's News Advance, the LU College Democrats have submitted a form of an apology and a proposal to be a recognized club on Liberty University's campus once again. Negotiations are ongoing but appear to be coming to a final resolution. One of the points to still be worked out, if the College Democrats want to have campus recognition, is their ability to endorse candidates as a club. If they plan to endorse Democratic Candidates, Liberty University will not grant them recognition. If they agree not to endorse Democratic candidates, then they will likely be recognized by the University.

If this is the case, then will this stipulation apply to the College Republicans as well? If not, I don't see how the LU College Democrats can operate as a campus club or organization if other clubs and organizations are not compelled to comply with the same rules and stipulations as they have been presented with.

This hark-ens back to the earliest days of the Christian Church, where the Romans governed and had control over most of the people (alive at the time) in the known world. Christians were persecuted and had to meet in secret to worship in accordance to their beliefs. The symbolism of this is eerily uncanny. Those that were once persecuted for their beliefs and forced to meet, worship, fellowship, in secret or in places that didn't openly display their faith or have public recognition, are now guilty of the same persecution of a group that does not share the same vision of fairness, equity, or interpretation of the Bible.

These courageous young men and women have to make up their own minds and come to their own conclusions, but if the same stipulation of not being able to endorse Democratic candidates is not imposed on other political clubs that Liberty University "recognizes", they should reject this latest offer of recognition from Liberty University.

One last thought, or question. Mr. Mark Hine has never explained where he got the idea that the Democratic Party supports Socialism, or Hate Crimes? I have read nothing or seen nothing that indicates to me or states Democrats support Socialism or persecuting/harming marginalized groups and people. If his preference is to only give his support to groups that support family values and protects traditional marriage, that also support concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few or a social and religious elite, then give the the groups that will fight for individual freedom and the protections of the individual to make their own choices and decisions how they want to live their lives, not by a narrow and rigid vision of self righteousness which is advocated by Liberty University and all it stands for. It seems that the Ruling Council at Liberty University has a lot more in common with the Ruling Council of Iran than they want to admit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iranian Election Update: 7 DEAD, PROTESTS CONTINUE, RULING COUNCIL AGREES TO PARTIAL RECOUNT



It goes without saying that these are incredible images and events coming out of Iran. Some of the discussions now are around the plausibility of Ahmadinejad actually winning. The consensus seems to be yes, but not by as much has he did. With the surge in the last week by Moussavi, and the support he was getting from moderates and young voters, as well as the implausibility that Ahmadinejad won Moussavi’s home town and region has people asking some hard questions about ballot tampering and voter intimidation. There is also the fact that Iran votes by paper ballots and hand counts them, so it is also implausible that the ballots could be counted within a few hours, if not a day. No wonder people are protesting in the streets. These are scenes that haven’t occurred at this level since the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution.

The unfortunate down side to this is, according to reports on the news this morning, there are now 7 dead. The Iranian Ruling Council has agreed to a partial recount, but it appears that the end result will still hold. 53 million ballots were printed and 39 million were used. The rest are missing. Things could, and probably will, get worse.

A good friend and my Professor of Middle East Politics while I was at North Carolina Central University, Dr. Rolin Mainuddin, forwarded me this link to the Middle East Report Online. It is an article by Shiva Balaghi. This gives a little bit more background and insight on Mir Hossein Moussavi, who is not an unknown in Iranian political circles and is credited with steering Iran through the years of the Iran-Iraq War as the Prime Minister. While it appears that he is more of a moderate and less likely to spew the fiery rhetoric of Ahmadinejad, it does not appear that much would change under Moussavi regarding relations with Israel or Iran’s nuclear programs.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iranian Presidential Election Update: Ahmadinejad silent on guarentee of safety of chief rival

According to CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, in an interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President declined to state whether the Iranian government would guarantee the safety of his main rival in the disputed Presidential Election. Well, this is how they do things over there. If you are on the loosing end of a Presidential election, it looks like you'd better beat it out of town or you might go to jail.

Record turnout for this election, a median age of 27 for Iran's population, this is a young country. We take lots of things for granted as far as our Democracy. In many countries where they have moved away from totalitarian governments to western style democracies, they are still feeling their way through a representative process that includes citizen participation in the selection of their leaders. You have to be very courageous to run for elected office in places like this.

The results of the election don't match up to the reports from the average citizen that wants to have better relations with the international community and a change in leadership. I hope that the Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad didn't steal this election. If they have in-fact rigged the election for Ahmadinejad, this could be 1979 all over again.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Iranian Election Results and N. Korea Nukes!

As it stands right now, current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been declaimed the winner of the Presidential Election in Iran. But, not all the ballots have been counted and with turnout being reported in the 70 to 85% range, there are questions about voter intimidation and election tampering. This is a very volatile situation, some speculating that the calls for change could turn violent.

North Korea, reacting to the latest round of sanctions passed by the United Nations, has stated it's intent to beef-up it's nuclear capability by proceeding to weaponizing it's plutonium. This was not totally unexpected, but it is another set-back and the march to possible confrontation continues. Let's cross our fingers that sanity finds it's way to North Korea.

Economic Recovery: Democrats vindicated on their handling of the economy or is the jury still out?

With the Republican Party being relegated to backbencher status since the 2008 General Election, there has been heavy snipping from free market conservatives that with Democrats in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress the economy will fall off the cliff. According to a piece on CNNMoney.com, the Blue Chip stocks have moved into positive territory for the first time since January. While the market has been mixed over the last few weeks and there have been modest gains, the Dow Jones Industrial has been in positive territory for 12 out of the last 14 weeks of this year, an increase of 33%. This is the best stretch since March of 1975.

While I don’t see this a total vindication for Democratic Party economic policy, the Republicans and free market conservatives are finding it harder to point to examples of where the Obama Administration and the Democratic controlled Congress are making thing worse than what was handed over to them. Indications of a turnaround are starting to increase, with first-time unemployment claims falling sharply and a slight uptick in consumer sales showing that some confidence is starting to creep back into the overall economy. There is still a long way to go, but we have to keep in mind that the current Congress and the Obama Administration has only been in control since January and the economy started its collapse back in August/September of 2008. Housing sales started to tail-off in 2007. There is still a glut of houses still on the market and new home construction, while there has been a small increase, is nowhere near the level it was prior to 2007.

What does all this mean? It means that when free market conservatives removed barriers and did away with financial regulations that allowed Adjustable Rate Mortgages, Interest Only Mortgages, allowing traditional Banks to operate as Brokerage Houses and Brokerage Houses operate like traditional Banks (Derivatives), the stage was set for the economic situation we are in now. This happened during a Republican Administration and during the bulk of time that Republicans were in control of Congress up to the 2006 mid-term Congressional Elections. The voting public is showing signs that the turnaround isn’t happening fast enough and there are still millions of people out of work, with unemployment hitting 9.4%. President Obama’s approval of how he is handling the economy has now slipped under 50% for the first time since his inauguration. Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, see this as their opportunity to get back on track, charging that the President’s economic plan and handling of the budget deficit isn’t working.

One thing that we need to keep in mind, back before President Roosevelt came into office in 1933, Free Market Conservatives had won another four years of control of the White House and Congress. The 1929 Stock Market crashed and they made the decision to just let the market work itself out. Those moves and decisions helped to move the economy from a deep recession to mild depression to the Great Depression. The Roosevelt Administration tried lots of things to get the economy moving and put people back to work. The same charges that Republicans like Mitch McConnell are leveling where also thrown at President Roosevelt. The difference now, a lot of the moves to address the crisis where started by the Bush Administration and have been either carried over or modified by the Obama Administration. Cleaning up a mess like this, that can effectively be argued started back during the deficit spending of the Regan Administration, is going to take a long time. There are signs that things are turning around, but we still have a long way to go.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Iranian Presidential Elections: Can Moussavi spark the next Iranian revolution?

While Virginian’s went to the poll to select our nominees in the General Election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and House of Delegates, dramatic developments have been occurring during the closing days of the Iranian Presidential elections. A name that hasn’t been heard of since the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Mir Houssein Moussavi, is on the verge of ousting current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran’s national elections. Mir Houssein Moussavi was Prime Minister of Iran during the entire Iran-Iraq War. While the Ayatolla’s are still the ultimate decision makers in Iran, Moussavi is seen as a reformer and his election to the Presidency would be a dramatic departure from the inflammatory rhetoric of Ahmadinejad.

There have been discussions and comments in the blogs and traditional media that President Obama’s approach to foreign policy of, engagement with an “open fist”, has helped shift the discussion in Iran about their relationship to the rest of the world. But, Iran is also dealing with significant domestic issues such as a deteriorating standard of living, rising unemployment, and rising inflation. Ahmadinejad’s once solid support with poor and middle class voters has declined significantly as questions about his ability to deal with the national economy have helped to open the door for Moussavi and a call for change. The number of people turning out to vote today is sending a huge message that there is a need for change in leadership in Iran. This call for change is being fueled by younger voter and have helped Moussavi’s rapid climb in the polls leading up to today’s election. Whatever the result of Iran’s Presidential Election, there is also concern that with feelings so high, there could be violence once a winner is announced.

There is no expectation from the international community that Iran will change their stance on developing their nuclear program, but anyone other than Ahmadinejad as President of Iran would be a welcome change. We will have to wait and see. The outcome of the election will take time to sort out because Iran uses paper ballots and they count them by hand. Ironic isn’t it?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Biosolid Public Meeting today in Campbell County

Today from 5 to 7 pm in the gym of Rustburg High School, the Department of Environmental Quality will be holding a public meeting to discuss and answer question about the application from Nutri-Blend, Inc. to spread treated sewage sludge in 163 fields across Campbell County.

There is also a public comment period from June 12th to July 13th. Click here for the public notice.

Campaign Finance Reform and Free Speech: How much is too much to buy a Judge?

For those of us who get involved in campaigns, the issues of campaign contributions and free speech are discussed as often as we breath air. Here in Virginia, in order to become a judge a person has to be appointed and then voted on my members of the General Assembly. In 39 other states, Judges are chosen in partisan elections. This is how it’s done in West Virginia and with the generosity of Massey Energy’s chief executive, Don Blankenship, bankrolled the judicial campaign of West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin. So, how much did Don Blankenship give to Benjamin’s campaign for the West Virginia Supreme Court in 2004? $3 million!

Most Congressional campaigns don’t even come close to costing $3 million. So, what did Don Blankenship get for $3 million in campaign contributions to Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin? According to two Associated Press stories in the Virginian Pilot on June 8th and 10th, a favorable ruling in a case that Massey Energy appealed involving another coal company, Harmon Mining Co. In this instance, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Benjamin declined to recues himself from the case despite an obvious conflict of interest and favorable bias towards Don Blankenship and Massey Energy. The Supreme Court Justice that Benjamin defeated, former Justice Warren McGraw, had voted against Massey Energy in the case in question. With Justice Benjamin, the ruling went the other way on a 3-2 vote and overturned the $82.7 million verdict in favor of Massey Energy. $3 million to bankroll a Supreme Court campaign seems like a bargain in comparison.

This past Monday the United States Supreme Court, who do not campaign for their lifetime appointments (wink), ruled 5-4 that in this case the refusal of the justice in question to remove himself from hearing the case that involved “the most generous supporter of his election deprived the other side of the constitutional right to a fair hearing.” The justice ruling in the majority were Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. Ruling in the minority were Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Writing for the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy stated:


"Just as no man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, similar fears of bias can arise when - without the consent of the other parties - a man chooses the judge in his own cause," and went further to say "Not every campaign contribution by a litigant or attorney creates a probability of bias that requires a judge's recusal, but this is an exceptional case,"
Chief Justice Roberts wrote the dissent and stated:

"But I fear that the court's decision will undermine rather than promote these values," as to maintaining and independent judiciary.
The ruling by the majority of the United States Supreme Court overturns the favorable verdict that involved, now West Virginia’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Brent Benjamin. The ruling did not imply misconduct or wrong doing, but sent a clear message that with such disproportionate financial support for a candidate in a Judicial campaign there is very little way for impartiality to be maintained when cases come before them involving the campaign benefactor.

While there are those that would argue that this ruling stifles free speech, I am of the opinion that this type of support does more to stifle the free speech, civic participation, and access to elected leaders for the rest of society that can’t give $3 million to a campaign. While we don’t electe our Judges or Justices here in Virginia, we do elect the people that vote on their confirmation to the bench. Virginia has the most lax campaign finance laws in the nation at the state and local level. Anyone, any business or company, can give to a campaign with no limit on the amount of the contribution. The only requirement is to fully disclose the amount given and by whom.

Thank goodness for the Virginia Public Access Project that tracks in-state contribution. We know who and what businesses and industries have the greatest access in the Commonwealth and who they have access to. It’s pretty clear that very few of us have the access to our elected leaders that these folks do and that we have very little influence except if public opinion is so overwhelming that elected officials risk being voted out. Elected official know two things for sure, money and votes. If you don’t have money but you can organize people, you have influence. If you have both, you have even more influence. And President Eisenhower warned us about the Military Industrial Complex.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Democratic Primary Results - 2009 (Unofficial)

It finally over and now it’s time to unite. Before we do, a quick review of the results from yesterday’s Primary:

Governor

Creigh Deeds 159,324 (49.73%)

Terry McAuliffe 84,640 (26.41%)

Brian Moran 76,405 (23.84%)

Creigh Deeds’ win will be examined and analyzed as to what was the key to victory. My take is that he was consistent and stayed relatively positive throughout his run. Terry McAuliffe was a shooting star, and burned out fast towards the end. His high octane style with his access to high level surrogates got people’s attention. In the end, the voters wanted to see the substance behind the glitz, and they just couldn’t find it. Brian Moran spent way too much money on high level staff and consultants, as well as lots of money on instate politicos that promised much be delivered nothing. I don’t want to take anything away from any of these folks because the world of the operative is tough, and if you aren’t successful at some level they can’t command the rates they charge. But this was a complete failure. All three have their drawbacks and strengths, but Creigh’s tortoise strategy of slow and steady, it won the race.

Lieutenant Governor

Jody Wagner 212,460 (74.21%)

Mike Signer 60,976 (21.30%)

(John Bowerbank) 12,826 (4.48%)

Jody Wagner out lasted them all and held off a scrappy effort from Mike Signer. So, what does such a decisive victory mean? It just means that she won the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor. There have been a lot of Wagner supporters who questioned the reasoning and rational for Mike Signer’s candidacy. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The first impression Wagner made on me was her enthusiastic support for Right-to-Work and everything that comes along with it. It made me take a harder look at her to see if she understands social and economic justice and everything that comes along with it as well.

Mike was the darling of the blogospher and picked up a ton of positive press and free media. He was only in the race for four or five months. He tapped into support and a donor base that Jody didn’t have access to. Mike got into the race because none of the candidates at the time were talking about issues that directly affect people from the doorstep to the curb. I am going to support Jody Wagner in every way that I can, but I also hope that she was listening to the message sent from the 26% that did not support her. Now, on to beating Bill Bolling.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Polls are Closed, now for the Results...

The only thing left to do is wait...

Democratic Primary Results

Republican Primary Results

In other News: Sewage Sludge Hearing in Campbell County this Thursday!!!

Many thanks to Ed Foster from Lynchburg for his Letter-to-the-Editor in Today’s News Advance about the Department of Environmental Equality public information meeting at Rustburg High School this Thursday, June 11th, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. I posted on this issues in May. While this is a meeting in Campbell County, this process of applying for permits to spread/distribute Sewage Sludge is happening across Virginia. The science needs to be done to determine if it is safe to spread. This is a water quality and public health issues. Anyone in the Lynchburg area and Campbell County that is concerned about this, should attend the meeting.


Sludge hearing

If you live in Campbell County, biosolids may be coming to a field near you. The state Department of Environmental Quality has received a permit application from NutriBlend for spreading biosolids on 163 fields throughout the county. The DEQ will be holding a public informational meeting at Rustburg High School on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. I urge all interested citizens to attend, ask questions and give public comments. DEQ employees say they want the public to be more involved in the process and to have more input in when and where biosolids will be spread. Let’s find out if this is true.

ED FOSTER
Lynchburg

Democratic Primary 2009: Final thoughts and where you vote

It's all over but the smilin' and the cryin'. Oh, and the votin'. I'm glad this is over today. I'm ready to win back the House of Delegates and sweep the top of the ticket. Here are my final thoughts on the 2009 Democratic Primary.

Governor has been a tough one for me. I’m not a big fan of T Mac, but he will have boat loads of money. While he starts with high negatives in the polling data, his deep pockets and access to big donors will be able to drive up McDonnell's negatives and make the race a really nasty one.

Brian Moran has run a terrible campaign and doesn’t even deserve consideration. I still like him, but I’m not voting for him. Prior to McAuliffe's entry into the race, it seemed that Brian Moran had the advantage being from vote rich NOVA. He spent way too much money at the beginning of the race on really expensive operatives and consultants. It's obvious now, that was waisted money. He also couldn't re-adjust is strategy to account for McAuliffe. His campaign just went down the tubes from there.

Creigh Deeds has run the best campaign I’ve seen since 2002 when I was in Oklahoma running the Democratic Coordinated Campaign. This race had four Democrats running for Governor and a little known State Senator from rural Oklahoma (is there any other kind of Oklahoma? Yes.) came from way down to restauranture Vince Orza and got into the run-off. He then wins the run-off to face former Congressman and Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Steve Largent. He wins the General Election by less than 7,000 votes state wide. His name? Governor Brad Henry. I am seeing parallels with Deed's campaign to this one that I worked on. Deeds didn’t have the money to go head to head with anyone and he did the only thing that he could. He kept on doing positive narratives of him. I don’t necessarily agree with him on everything, but I think he can win in the General. I think that Deeds will win today if he has any kind of GOTV plan.

For Lt. Governor it is no secret that I have endorsed Mike Signer. I think that by attrition Wagner will have rope-de-doped her way to the nomination. But, Signer has gotten a ton of free press and has really work the rest of the state. With over 40% still undecided heading into today, Signer has a small, outside chance of pulling off the upset. Regardless, I am going to support the nominee whether it is Signer or Wagner.

Lastly, if you don't know where you vote here is the link to the State Board of Elections web site where you can enter your locality, address, and get the information about your poll location. Whoever you support, just remember to vote.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Virginia Democratic Primary: Last poll results before Tuesday, June 9th

The last round of poll results are out. Public Policy Polling out of Raleigh, NC has the latest and it looks like Creigh Deeds has taken a decisive lead for the Democratic nomination for Governor. Here are the numbers:

PPP – (June 6 to 7) 1,082 likely Virginia Democratic primary voters, MOE +/- 3.0% (automated)

Democratic Governor

Creigh Deeds 40%

Terry McAuliffe 26%

Brian Moran 24%

Undecided 10%


PPP also polled the Democratic Lieutenant Governor’s race. Jody Wagner has increased her lead, but the number of undecided’s still very high in this race. Since Bowerbank is still on the ballot, he was included in the survey:

Democratic Lieutenant Governor

John Bowerbank 06%

Mike Signer 12%

Jody Wagner 41%

Undecided 42%


While Wagner has had a double digit increase in her poll numbers, the number that still jumps out is the high number of Undecided’s. What is holding back Democratic Primary voters from getting behind Jody Wagner with less than two days until the Primary?

One last thought. I am not a fan of automated polling and prefer live interviews like the Suffolk University poll that came out on June 4th. But with a large enough sample and the primary within five days of the survey I would say that the PPP numbers are relatively accurate. The next question, besides who’s going to win on Tuesday, is the weather? From all indications, expect scattered showers and thunderstorms.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How solid or soft is the support of any candidate?

Vivian Page made some good points but this has nothing to do with mail pieces or literature. This has to do entirely about wanting the candidate you are backing, to win. It also has to do with how solid or soft the support of a candidate is, if they are being held accountable for oversights of details and making sure that candidates are fully vetted. I actually stumbled across this. I was fully willing to let this pass, but I started doing some checking and here is how this developed.

I contacted someone (a Democratic Chair) that I knew in the Roanoke Valley who was listed as a supporter of Mike Signer and they said they were supporting Jody Wagner and that they had given that endorsement that day (Friday). So I went to Wagner's website and saw the list of Committee Chair endorsers. I saw John Lawrence's name up there and contacted a Lynchburg City Committee member (Martha Hicks). I asked if this was true and she checked. What was correct was that he is supporting Jody, but he didn't give his permission to use his name in a list of endorsements (as Martha has posted, John Lawrence also wasn't overly concerned either).

Calling the Wagner campaign was not going to tell me anything that contacting the people on the list they rolled out on Friday that I couldn't confirm for myself from talking directly with them. What was the Wagner campaign going to say other than yes, all these people have endorsed us. Some of them were correct and some were not. I had another conversation with a different SWVA Dem Chair yesterday and it became apparent what the strategy was for the Wagner Campaign. They have been doing a final call around to local committees chairs to see if they have moved and I suspect that they rolled out the line, "Senator/Delegate/Sheriff, Coucilwo/man has endorsed us. Why not jump on board." And that's perfectly fine. Then there's the attention to detail part of this story. A chair, like John Lawrence, says that he is voting for Jody Wagner, but he doesn't say one way or the other that it is OK to use his name on a list of endorsements. This is where the staff person, or the candidate, needed to ask the question "Can we list/use your name as an endorser of the campaign?" With John Lawrence, it looks like that question wasn't asked.

Like I said in the first sentence of the post, something always happens in the closing days of an intra-party contest. This one is about attention to detail, but to be fair, the Signer campaign had one that was not solid either. In my post on why I am supporting Mike Signer, I said that prior to John Bowerbank's exit from the race I was inclined to support Jody Wagner. But that all changed when I saw the video of her enthusiastic support of Right-to-Work. I have also explained my position on that as well.

Then I took a harder look at Jody. There is nothing in her list of issues or campaign platform that shows her understanding of social and economic justice issues. She has a list a mile long of institutional endorsements that on the surface is very impressive, but when you dig deeper there is not much else there. Then I looked at where she stands on the lifting the Uranium Mining Moratorium and also any statements about the Fly Ash contamination of the well water around the Battlefield Golf Course in Chesapeake. I still haven't come across any position or statement. The Virginia Beach City Council has made their position very clear on the Uranium Mining issue since they get their drinking water from Lake Gaston, which is downstream from the proposed Uranium mine in Pittsylvania County. These are issues that are in her backyard.

I've just gotten back into active partisan politics but I'm a primary voting Democrat and I didn't get one piece of mail, not even a robo call from the Wagner campaign indicating to me that my vote was important to her. I got both from the Signer Campaign and two mail pieces from John Bowerbank who dropped out. Well, some might say Boo-Ho. So what that you didn't get contacted by the Wagner Campaign. What does that mean. Here's what it means. Jody Wagner is taking grassroots support for granted. She hasn't done a very good job of connecting to the grassroots beyond the elected officials and Committee Chairs. And, she is almost, almost, devoid of support in the Netroots Community (KathyinBlacksburg is one that I know is supporting her).

Leaning on Democratic Elected officials and Committee Chairs to influence the Democratic electorate to fall in line is not a good strategy. Hillary Clinton used this strategy and it didn't work too well. Jody Wagner just hasn't done a good job of earning grassroots support beyond the institutional level as evidenced by the 63% of the Democratic electorate polled last week that were still undecided for Lt. Governor.

I'm not slamming her, but being very honest and calling her out on some things that she and her campaign have taken for granted. If she does win, and that's not a guarantee, I hope that corrects these oversights and learns more about how things directly affect people and that she does a much, much better job of connecting and cultivating the grassroots and Netroots. She just hasn't show me that, yet. Right now, I'm leaning pretty heavy on Jody Wagner to make a point, but I would, and will be, just as critical of any candidate or elected official if they took grassroots support for granted or their constituents. For example, Senator Max Baucus of Montana scheduling Health Care Reform Town Halls and not being present at any of them, and to top it off, sending a video to be played at each of them explaining why he can't be there. Give me a break!

I want the best candidate to win the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor. I just think that people need to take a harder look at Jody Wagner and where she stands on some important issues before they make up their mind on Tuesday.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Did the Jody Wagner campaign have permission to publicize endorsements?

Something always happens in the closing days of an intra-party contest and this race is no different. In an efforts to create the impression of a Democratic electorate falling in-line behind her, it appears that the Jody Wagner Campaign has publicized names as endorsers that they didn't have permission to publicize. According to a source in the Lynchburg City Democratic Committee the Chair of the Lynchburg City Democrats, John Lawrence, had said privately to the Wagner campaign that he was supporting Jody Wagner but he did not give them permission to make public that endorsement.

If this is true, as it appears to be, then this raises the question of how many of those Committee Chair Endorsements are that solid and have given permission to the Wagner Campaign to publicize their names? By listing the names of the Committee Chairs as endorsers, it helps create an impression that support of the rest of the Democratic Committees comes with it. To my knowledge, just because an individual that happens to be an Executive Committee member of a local Democratic Committee is supporting a campaign, it should not be implied that the rest of the Democratic Committee is supporting that candidate.

There is no doubt that Jody Wagner has a solid hold on the institutional support in the Democratic Party, but anytime you run for office you have to earn people's support. At times, Jody Wagner has appeared to me like she is just expecting everyone to fall in line behind her because of he time spent as a Democratic Party insider and having worked in both the Warner and Kaine Administrations. Hillary Clinton had the institutional support from across the National Democratic Party and Barack Obama snuck-up on her with a grassroots movement that party insiders couldn't touch.

If Jody Wagner wins on Tuesday, she will have my support. Not because she is supports the things that I do or shares my vision, but that having Bill Bolling as our Lt. Governor again is bad for Virginia. During the Primary, she just didn't earn my vote. Heck, she didn't even send me a piece of mail. John Bowerbank sent me two pieces of mail (one after he dropped out) and I even got Mike Signer's newspaper. Did Jody Wagner just assume that I was voting for her? I don't know and maybe this was a staff oversight, but you have to cover all your bases and earn every vote.

So, this raises another question. If the Wagner campaign has publicized the endorsements of these Democratic Party Chairs without their permission, creating the false impression that the rest of the Committees are supporting her too, then how close is Mike Signer coming to pulling off the upset? There were more than 63% undecided in the Democratic Lt. Governor contest as of the first of the week. Has the Wagner Campaign done some polling and saw that those undecideds were breaking hard for Mike Signer? Who knows, but creating false impressions of support from listing endorsements that you don't have permission to publicize might indicate that the campaign is in trouble. We shall see on Tuesday.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Michael Signer for Lt. Governor Schedule of Events through Tuesday, June 9th

If you are still trying to decide who to vote for on June 9th for Lt. Governor, you have five more chances to meet Mike Signer as he crisscrosses the Commonwealth through Tuesday. Listed below is Mike’s schedule through Tuesday. He has been endorsed by 2005 Lt. Governor Candidate Leslie Byrne and Retired Four Star General and former Presidential Candidate Wesley Clark. Mike is the best candidate to take on Bill Bolling for the General. Come out and see why:

Saturday, June 6th

9:00 am
Roanoke for Signer Breakfast and Rally
The Roanoker Restaurant
2522 SW Colonial Avenue (off of Interstate 518-U.S. 220 South and Wonju St.)
Roanoke, VA 24015

12:00 pm
Signer for Green Energy and Green Jobs
Red Birch Energy
5757 Virginia Avenue (U.S. 220)
Bassett, VA 24055

2:00 pm
Danville Clean Energy Forum and BBQ
Short Sugar’s Bar-BQ
2215 Riverside Dr. (U.S. 58 East)
Danville, VA 24540

5:00 pm
Chesapeake Democratic BBQ and Rally
1517 Pine Grove Lane (off of Dock Landing Rd.)
Chesapeake, VA 23321

Sunday, June 7th

5:00 pm
South Hill for Signer Rally
Mecklenburg Senior Center
411 King Street (East Virginia St. to Meadow St.)
South Hill, VA 23970



Please visit the Mike Signer for Lt. Governor web site for more information.

The Tennessee Valley Authority gets it about Fly Ash, when will Dominion Power?

There is an excellent Associated Press article in today’s Virginian Pilot about the coal ash spill that has destroyed the ecosystem and the drinking water in the Emory River region of Tennessee. In the end, when corporations screw up taxpayers get stuck with the bill. It’s just getting started in Chesapeake. Dominion Power should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But, who will stand up to the most powerful political force in the Commonwealth of Virginia? Will it take the Battlefield Golf Course being designated a Superfund Site to knock these guys down a few pegs? Any thoughts?

South Carolina Legislature and SC Supreme Court smack Gov. Mark Sanford for turning down Federal Stimulus Fund to help SC Public Schools

Even the Republican controlled South Carolina legislature knew better than to turn down Federal Stimulus money that needed to go to their crumbling schools. And this guy is a potential Presidential Candidate for 2012? When the other two branches of state government and your own political party tell you that you are wrong to be pig headed, then maybe they’re right. But Sanford just doesn’t get it.
The two-term Republican said he would abide by the court ruling, but called
it a bad day for South Carolina and the country.

"This decision is terrible news for every taxpayer in South Carolina, and
even more so for future taxpayers who will ultimately bear the responsibility of
paying for this so-called 'stimulus' without seeing any benefit from it," he
said in a statement.

A bad day for South Carolina? Wouldn’t see any benefit from it? Educating kids won’t yield benefits for South Carolina? I think he can kiss is aspirations for President good-bye. I hope we don’t have anyone like that in Virginia. Oh! My mistake. We do. The entire Virginia Republican Party.

Tracking the latest polls for the Virginia Democratic Primary: UP FOR GRABS! GOTV

Here is a list of the latest independent polls heading into June 9th Primary on Tuesday:

Suffolk University Poll – June 1st to 3rd (Live Interviewers) 500 likely voters, MoE 4.4%

Deeds 29%

McAuliffe 26%

Moran 23%

Undecided 22%

Research 2000/DailyKos – June 1st to 3rd Democratic Prim Voters, MoE 5%

Deeds 30%

Moran 27%

McAuliffe 26%

Undecided 17%

It’s pretty clear that Criegh Deeds has the BIG MO heading into Tuesday. Still a lot of undecided’s, but if the race stays within the Margin of Error (MoE), McAuliffe has the advantage because he invested in a Field Program, thus better able to GOTV his voters. He also has the money to saturate the airwaves with his ads. Bottom line: UP FOR GRABS! It all comes down to GOTV (Get Out The Vote).