28 December 2006

The Randy Pat School of Politics

We are Virginians. Once we strove for political greatness. We burned with a vision of enlightened, democratic self-government. Our land was home base for Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe. Our Constitution was a model for other states as they joined the new republic.

That was then, this is now. Now, many our elected officials' behavior and ideology is humiliating on so many levels. I won't raise the ghost of Allen's macacagate. I'm not going to crack on Goode's bigoted gaffe. I don't need to go to Washington in order to prove how far we have fallen from our heritage. I need only to go to Richmond.

Evidence #1: Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31/PW) attempts to take away the state Senate's right to propose new taxes. Introduced on 12/15/06, HJ 580 reads:
Constitutional amendment (first resolution); bills raising revenue must originate in House. This proposed amendment is similar to the origination clause of Article I, § 7 of the United States Constitution. Amendments by the Senate would be subject to the same limitations generally applicable, such as the single object rule of Article IV, § 12.

The House Republicans wouldn't be introduced to a tax bill if it were wearing an Armani tux shaking hands at a black-tie reception. So if the Senate doesn't propose them, pray tell, who will?

[This is gonna have to be an ongoing series, so TBC...]

27 December 2006


Looking for that special bottle for New Year's Eve? Want something good under $40? Kick Korbel to the curb and pick up one of these local vintages instead:

Kluge Estate 2003 SP ~ $38

Ingleside Virginia Brut Rose ~ $27

Horton Vineyard's Sparkling Viognier ~ $25 (the one I'm popping next Sunday)

Barboursville Brut ~ $15

There may be others out there too -- as I find, I will post. Support your local vintners!

E Notes from the Holidays

Well I took an inadvertant vacation over the holidays and came back to my desk with a bushel and a peck of environmental stories to skim through. Here's the best of the best from the Lost Days of Christmas:

Robert Novak whined about industry having to take a few for the team after a century of preferential treatment and government subsidization. I tell ya, I'm just cryin' for all those coal, auto, and gas executives who won't be able to afford the 2007 Hummer.

After 6 years of steady dismemberment, the Endangered Species Act is making a comeback, thanks to both polar bears and orcas.

Yes, Virgilia, there IS an green take on the immigrant issue, and you can read about it here.

The Best Unintended Irony Award goes to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson, attending the US-China Economic Dialogue, who asserted that "our governments can lead by creating good environmental policies that yield positive economic results." (If ya need it explained, you need to watch the Wal-Mart movie or read No Logo.)

Affordable Housing Alert!

Courtesy alert re: Post-Holiday Cville Council Agenda

City Council to Decide Fate of Affordable Housing Investment Proposals on Jan. 2

WHAT: Next Tuesday, Jan. 2, Charlottesville City Council will take into consideration a comprehensive set of proposals to consolidate, dedicate and expand funding for the development of affordable housing in our area. Citizens have repeatedly said that affordable housing is a major unmet need in our community, and this is our chance to make sure that Council gets the message that it's time to INVEST IN HOUSING!

WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 2 -- arrive by 6:45pm in Council chambers (2nd floor of City Hall).
The Council meeting starts at 7:00pm and there will be a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. Supporters can either sign up to speak (limit: 3 minutes each), or just sit in the audience and wear one of the "INVEST IN HOUSING!" lapel stickers that will be handed out at the door. The more people who turn out, the bigger impact we'll have.

Absolutely. Just shoot a quick e-mail to all Councilors (via council@charlottesville.org) and let them know that you want to see more dollars invested in affordable housing. Encourage them to adopt the recommendations that they'll be considering at their Jan. 2 Council meeting.

In a nutshell, the proposals that Council will be considering would:

* double the amount of local funding available for affordable housing
development (which would still amount to less than 1% of the City's budget!)

* create dedicated, ongoing sources of financing for affordable

* target a variety of unmet housing needs in our community, from
supportive rental housing for the very low-income elderly and disabled, to
revitalization of public housing, to homeownership opportunities for low-income
residents, to workforce housing for moderate-income families

* institute measures to promote environmentally-friendly construction
and protect low-income neighborhoods from gentrification

* support a regional approach to affordable housing and encourage
greater City-County cooperation in this regard

In September 2006, Mary Brooks from the National Housing Trust Fund Project came to Charlottesville to lead a workshop for two dozen community leaders on strategies for creating a dedicated local fund for affordable housing (as hundreds of other localities have already done -- see http://www.policylink.org/EDTK/HTF/default.html). In November 2006, City Council's Housing Advisory Committee (comprised of representatives from affordable housing organizations, neighborhood advocates, business leaders and real estate professionals) unanimously adopted a proposal to create such a fund.

The Committee's full proposal can be downloaded here -- https://www.onlinefilefolder.com/index.php?action=getshare&type=0&user_num=13905&share_id=96604&hash=dafdee21db0ce6de60e1d9ba929ff8d6

A Daily Progress article on the proposal can be found here -- http://www.dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP/MGArticle/CDP_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1149191908352

City Manager Gary O'Connell subsequently incorporated all of the provisions of this proposal into his recommendations to Council on strategic new directions for the City. Council reviewed the housing portion of these recommendations at a work session on Dec. 14 and agreed to take them into official consideration at a regular Council meeting in January. This discussion is the main item on the agenda for the Jan. 2 Council meeting.

21 December 2006

Dandy-lion break

Ok, the whole Virgil Goode/anti-Muslim/racist/immigration policy thing is making my gut ache and my head explode. So I needed to take a little break

I visited the sea lions.

20 December 2006

U.S. v. Them

Not content with letting Senator-unelect George Allen get all the negative attention, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va, 5th Dist.) has put his ass on his shoulders by sending an anti-Muslim letter out to various constituents.

There aren't too many people, even Republicans within the 5th District, who are willing to go as far as Goode did in claiming that "American citizens [need to] wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration" to prevent a crimson tide of Middle-Easterners from taking over control of our nation. The only thing this letter proves is that Goode is a racist, a xenophobe, and, possibly an uneducated hack, since the Muslim representative from Minnesota has every right (and quite good reason) to request a Koran rather than a Bible--for that matter he could legally swear on Oxford's Unabridged Dictionary if he so wants.

No, I'm not proud to call Virgil Goode my representative--I worked for his opposition. But the stink being raised by leftists on some blogs has predominantly ignored the underlying need for immigration reform, and the reasons why Goode's immigration position finds traction with Americans from all walks, from George W. Bush to Bubba George Spradlin.

Folks, individuation is a well-known psychological process engendered by physical necessity and has documented by such great minds as Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Darwin, Stiegler, Bohm, and Erikson. It starts when we're babies learning to differentiate between ourselves and our mothers once we're out of the womb. In the effort to define who we are, we define a lot of who we are not. Similarly, every tribe or nation since the dawn of human socialization has had to define who "we" are compared to "them" when faced with other people. We use a lot of different measures to come up with those definitions: physical characteristics, language and artistic skills, geographical location, ancestry, religious beliefs, cultural values, ethics and activities are just some of the variables that get thrown into the mix.

To repeat: Every tribe or nation since the dawn of human socialization has had to define who "we" are compared to "them." That is what immigration policy is about--setting the standards that create the definition of "us." Or, in this case, U.S.

The problem as I see it is that we are stuck thinking of ourselves as a "nation of immigrants," and, thus, unlike most western hemipshere countries which are also nations of immigrants, we've never put a premium on our own national culture. A lot of people would be surprised to think of the United States as having a national culture. The basis of our culture is not built on the 20th-century marketing of McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and Hollywood. It's built on the Bill of Rights, and we've been developing it for over 225 years. The freedoms granted under that document are what have allowed the McCokeywood popular culture to develop.

I don't fear Muslim input because Muslims are a very small percentage of the population--on par with Hindus, Buddhists or Jews--and Islam is not easily reconcilable to our principles of democratic government. But Judge Smails' points and mine from the afore-linked Waldo debate are born from the same set of reasonable doubts: Does American immigration policy threaten the fundamental rights guaranteed to every United States citizen by allowing those who do not share our governing principles and ideals to take part in our political system and, thereby, giving them the power to change it?

Goode's plan and attitude both blow technicolor chunks, but liberals taking irrelevant potshots at xenophobia do nothing to address the fundamental issues of immigration policy debate. A lot of the people with whom Goode's immigration ideas have traction aren't actually xenophobic--they are voters whose voices are being marginalized by new demographics within their districts and who have therefore become reasonably worried about whether these cultural differences will result in substantive changes in the laws which grant their freedoms and rule their lives. No one assuages such worry or converts anyone by using brute force and name-calling.

And, lest anyone think there's nothing to it, any part of the Constitution can be changed by a significant percentage of the voting population. It's a breathing, flexible document, so, yes, it could be strongly amended and sections repealed and replaced. If such events happen, will we still be the United States, or some other nation?

I see language as one of the issues, because 400 years of American history and centuries of law upon which these defining documents are based are written in English--how could a Spanish-speaking U.S. possibly understand the richness and depth of that legal heritage enough to respect and build on it?

Smails [and Goode] sees religion as one of the issues, because Islam does not respect cultural diversity--it does not tolerate religious freedom and it does not honor "equal rights" for all citizens in the same way we Americans understand and use that phrase. Could a politically-connected, predominantly Muslim group gain enough pull in the halls of U.S. power to use our separation clause against us by forcing us to condone their intolerance in the name of tolerance?

I invite everyone who is willing to consider the possible ramifications of open-door immigration and discuss policy measures that address it without fearmongering and fingerpointing to continue our debate here and give Waldo a well-earned rest. (51 posts! Is that a new one-day record for a single topic?)

19 December 2006

Brand Name Goodness

Charlottesville's new logo is causing a bit of a stir among area blogs. My favorite para in the article is the second one:

“This brand is our personality, our values,” said Mark Shore, director of
the Charlottesville-Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau, which
spearheaded the new branding initiative. “A community’s values are the same by
which a brand’s values must convey.”

Yes, Charlottesville, we have a Brand Name and it conveys "creativity, history, and elegance." I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm feeling about as elegant as Roseanne Barr on a night out at McDonald's. However, considering that both Roseanne and McDs are brands in themselves, perhaps I shouldn't diss our decision to Go Commerical.

This is exactly the kind of idiocy that cries out for a culture jam. (Seriously. 22 months to come up with that logo? Seriously.) Ironically, though, since we're also going to be marketed for our "creativity" any jamming or busting will probably just get played up as part of our innate, elusive, laid-back counterculture mystique and make us that much more wildly hip. IOW, the only way not to play into the Charlottesville label is to be so uptight or far-right that Donna Reed wouldn't want to live here. And that would suck.

15 December 2006

Personal Waste

Here in America, we live in a disposable society--paper cups, plastic razors, polyester clothing. Disposable diapers, disposable people. As a whole, we have a pathological need to bypass the process and get to the result--whatever result--as quickly as possible. A lot gets thrown out--both literally and figuratively--and not even half of the trash is chaff.

Ever asked yourself just how much you (and your family) throw away in a day? Set aside a designated wastebasket this weekend and use only it. Hide all the other trash cans from yourself for 48 hours. Watch how much you accumulate. Then ask yourself, is this the way I dispose of the other things in my life as well -- the messy relationships, the untidy feelings, the whimsical goals and dreams which don't fit my chosen lifestyle or would offend my friends or family?

Then get a recycling chart and go through your trash and see how much of your waste can actually be reduced and reused if you separated it out, made room for it in your recycling bin, and took it to the center. I'd bet that there's a proportional relationship between what you toss literally and what you toss metaphorically. At the very least it would make a useful, self-reflective exercise.

We live in a disposable society. It's not our fault--it's the way we were raised and what we were taught to value. But we can change our own selves and our own habits once we become conscious of them. And if enough of us make that change, then the world will change with us.

07 December 2006

Conservation--Thought for the Day

An interesting practical conundrum always arises when trying to conserve anything: At what point can conservation of natural resources become detrimental to human development? Ecologically, we are aware that everything we do impacts our environment and yet we are a natural consequence of the organic evolution of animal life. Balancing what we need with our supporting planet's needs can become an exercise in tightrope-walking, and too much conservation inarguably results in humans losing mobility and access--regressing our quality of life to an earlier state of cultural development.

Historic conservation has to play a dicier game, mincing designations about what stages and kinds of cultural development are worth preserving. Such conservation essentially provides a 3D record of human history, much like the geological strata of the Grand Canyon describes earth history in rock and minerals. Now Albemarle County has to answer the question: At what point can conservation of historical resources become detrimental to human development?

Article at: County takes over church fight

05 December 2006

A Woman's Beard

Usually, I do not digress into the strictly personal in this blog. This time I just need to. I'm sure you've been there yourself.

There are dates, which are events when you go out with someone with whom you share a mutual attraction with the implied purpose of getting to know each other to determine your levels of compatibility and exclusivity. Then there are undates, which are events when you go out with someone whose personality and/or company you enjoy just to have fun together, but without the compatibility/exclusivity component. Then there are beard dates, which are events when you go out with someone who is a friend specifically to give you the appearance of having a compatible, exclusive companion when you know you are facing an awkward social situation.

The purpose of having a beard is obvious to anyone who has been forced to to fly solo at a cousin's wedding where obnoxious relatives invariably spend half the reception trying to matchmake you with hopelessly inappropriate partners from the vast, gathered network of friends of the family. A beard means you do not have to deal with dirty Uncle Sal's hand on your bottom in the waiting line. A beard means you do not have to please your mother by dancing with the pimply college freshman son of her former college roommate. A beard means you do not have to suffer the indignity of making nice over the buffet table with last year's jerk who ran off with cousin Amy, sister of the bride & maid of honor, because she invited him as her date but she is currently parked next to the wedding cake posing for an hour's worth of formal pictures.

Beards are necessary and good. Beards are the lubricant that make being single tolerable when singles are forced into sticky, intolerable social situations. But not all beards are created equal.

Being a good beard requires three things:

  1. Being socially adept in strange situations,

  2. Being a good enough friend to read your date's feelings and provide the support she needs to get through the day/evening, and

  3. Being loyal to your date for the entire date.

An undate, by definition, means that either or both of you are free to scope the scene for future real dates, invite other friends to join you, and generally behave as friends do--pretty much anything goes as long as you're having fun and you know your friend has a safe ride home. A beard date, by contrast, must put the comfort zone of his date before his personal pursuit of fellowship and sexual company. After all, the whole point of asking a friend to be a beard is to avoid being left alone with people with whom you don't want to be left alone.

I know that last seems like a no-brainer, but for some reason, in practice, it isn't. I should know. I spent a very peculiar evening recently in the company of a beard friend who spent all his time hitting on another woman, which left me to be preyed on by a short, porcine, over-cologned salesman with pick-up lines circa 1979. Brown. Leisure. Suit. Hell.

I think I have identified something the Cville single scene sorely needs: Not an [wink] escort company, not speed dating at Rapture, not 3,000 adults surfing Match.com -- rather, a Professional Beard Service. All I need is a grant to get it operational.

22 November 2006

The Return of Voodoo Economics

A rash of headlines from today's papers makes me think it is time to bring back the National Debt Clock. If we do it, though, can we please place duplicates on the lawn at the White House and the front steps of the Capitol?

George W. Bush considers plans to hand Asian free trade nations the keys to the U.S. treasury in exchange for forgiving his narrow-minded focus on oil, thus letting us rack up even more debt with them. (NY Times)

The lame-duck Republicans have a snit over budget cuts when they are asked to control their spending, and decide to leave the entire mess to the new Democratic Congress, thereby tying up the Dem agenda for 2007 while they reinstitute the pay-as-you-go policies that worked so well at reducing national debt until dismantled in 2002. (Seattle Times/AP & The Hill)

The unemployment rolls expanded by another 12,000 jobless this last week before Thanksgiving. (Richmond Times-Dispatch/AP)

21 November 2006

Can She Get the Daily Double?

From Wonkette's Yeas and Nays: "Education Sec. Margaret Spellings was on 'Celebrity' Jeopardy, set to air today. It will settle definitively and objectively whether she’s purposefully mendacious or just dumb."

I tried to find a way to say it better, but failed. Air time: NBC-29 @ 7:30 pm. This may be the one night to tune into a game show. Bring popcorn.

Livid with VSL

I hope that the Daily Progress article entitled "Law may cost city $1.2 million" has not escaped anyone's attention today. One alternatively appropriate title could be: State flushes local revenues down toilet.

Are there a few other local citizens are as outraged as I am over the Virginia State Legislature's predilection for using the localities as whipping boys? According to the report,
Charlottesville could see a $1.2 million drop in communications tax revenues beginning Jan. 1 when a new state law takes effect.

Instead of Charlottesville collecting the taxes from landline telephone and cable television service providers at a 10 percent rate, the state will collect the taxes at a new 5 percent rate and remit the proceeds to the city. That means a savings for local landline and cable customers.

I've lost count of the number of unfunded mandates the State government has passed down to the localities. Too often, Council has had to explain from the dais how we (the local gov't and the property taxes that prop it up) are responsible for picking up the tab on everything from social services to educational testing to public works repairs to transportation improvements because the State has cut its funding for this or that program and refuses to raise taxes in order to pay for its necessities. Now those narcisstic, impotent wannabe brokers in Richmond are messing with our ability to get the money to do so. I am livid.

The situation is untenable. If certain lobbies or interests don't like the way in which we try to close the gap between what we have been ordered to handle and what we can raise the money to pay for, they merely have to go to Richmond and scream "Dillon Rule!!" until our chain gets yanked by greasy, pig-eyed politicians who are more concerned about who is screwing whom than who they themselves are screwing over. There is a sick, S&M quality to our state versus local dynamic which needs to end.

20 November 2006

Cville Budget 2008 Begins

A recent discussion on City infrastructure in the Cville News blog led to a mini discussion on the City budget.

For all of you who want to voice your opinions and concerns on capital improvements, I recommend you go to tonight's City Council meeting, 7 pm, Council Chambers in City Hall. The first report on tonight's agenda is the 2008 FY Budget Guidelines. Get into the process on the ground floor to effect the changes you want to see.

17 November 2006

UN Climate Change Talks in Nairobi

From The UN Climate Change Conference:
Kenya hosted the second meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 2), in conjunction with the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 12), in Nairobi from 6 to 17 November 2006.

The conference also included, from 6 to 14 November, the twenty-fifth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 25), the twenty-fifth session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 25), and the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG 2) including an in-session workshop.

Kyoto Protocol enthusiasts can get the best of the blogging from the Nairobi talks at Calvin Jones's Climate Change Action

Hoyer -- The Sensible Choice

Democrats Pick Hoyer Over Murtha for House Majority Leader (Washington Post)

I don't know why Nancy Pelosi thought that she had enough pull in the modern climate to install Murtha to begin with. The Democrats won their majority because several key races featured conservative/moderate Democratic candidates, not because the public has recently decided, in some political American Idol vote, that Pelosi's agenda is The Bomb.

The most telling paragraph from this article is:
Pelosi's aggressive, last-minute campaign for Murtha in the face of overwhelming support for Hoyer left many Democrats worried that she has become too reliant on a tight inner circle, too reluctant to listen to the broader Democratic caucus and mistakenly convinced that she can dictate the direction the caucus must take.

I applaud the House's choice of Hoyer; he has the authority and presence of mind to counterbalance the fears of some moderates and recent Dem-returnees brought on by overblown liberal rhetoric. We got in because the majority of Americans thought/wished/hoped that we could bring common sense back to Washington. Having a Democratic insiders' clique controlling Congress would not be a valid way to prove that our party is more mature or better able to meet the needs of the country than the insider's clique which still controls the Executive Branch.

16 November 2006

Debunking a Myth

Another NY Times:
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 15 — Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday put the blame for global warming on “a frightening lack of leadership,” saying the poorest people in the world, who do not even create much pollution, bear the brunt of rising temperatures.

“The impact of climate change will fall disproportionately on the world’s poorest countries, many of them here in Africa,” Mr. Annan said in a speech to a major climate conference here. “Poor people already live on the front lines of pollution, disaster and the degradation of resources and land.

“For them,” the United Nations leader said, “adaptation is a matter of sheer survival.”

Story continues here....

Annan clearly hasn't bothered to talk with fellow laureate Wangari Maathai on this subject. The noted ecologist and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize is on record--in a critically acclaimed film, no less--stating that often it is the very poor, especially in third-world nations, who have the worst ecological practices, because they are too willing to strip off and sell or trade their natural resources without the tools, knowledge, or technology to replace them.

Perhaps it's just the difference of 3 years (Annan won the NPP in 2001). Or perhaps it's just the difference between Ghana and Kenya. Or perhaps -- just perhaps -- Maathai is correct. How many times in world and even US history have we seen it happen where those who control an area's natural resources end up controlling the power and the wealth as well? Isn't that what our Civil War was about?

DNA Test Yields Clues to Rt-Wing Extremists...

From the NY Times:
New DNA Test Is Yielding Clues to Obsolete Fundie Thinkers Neanderthals

If we give them enough time with this double-helix thing, maybe they can figure out what causes regressive, species-destructive behaviors in our race too.

Seriously, though, it's an interesting article and I am always amazed at how much information scientists in this field can extrapolate from so little material.

15 November 2006

Wake-Up on Sunday

WNRN's Rick Moore will be featuring two local watershed activists -- Pat Calvert from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Chris French from Rivanna Conservation Society -- on his Sunday Morning Wake-Up Call.

Topic: The Chesapeake Bay clean-up and how our region is effected.

Station: 91.9 in Charlottesville (88.1 Staunton; 89.9 Lynchburh/Amherst/Sweetbriar)

13 November 2006

Seasonal Taster's Choice

'Tis the season for Pumpkin brews!! I know most of you are familiar with Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale, available at grocers nearly everywhere now, but if you are looking for something a little different to curb your cucurbita cravings, here are some other brews you should explore:

Stone Cat Pumpkin Porter, spicy, hoppy, and dark with hints of butternut with that pumpkin.

Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, from the makers of the incomparable Midas Touch Golden Elixir, a brown ale with a touch of brown sugar and malty pumpkin.

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, their Old Brown Dog Ale provides the base with added pumpkin and other gourds as well as pie spicing.

09 November 2006


Of the Nations in the Top 10 Highest Standard of Living, 6 are in Northern Europe:

1. Norway
2. Sweden
4. Belgium
7. Iceland
8. Netherlands
10. Finland

It's interesting to note that these 6 countries are also listed in the Top 10 Nations with the least percentage of population living in poverty. The United States, while listed in the former, is not listed in the latter.

Looks like I know where I'm emigrating to, if and when I need to emigrate.

Allen Concedes

Congress is officially bluer than a clear sky on a summer day. Catch the video at the Washington Post's home page.

[PS: Has anyone else noticed that our little Senate race rated a mention on the front page of The Times, Le Monde, and the Int'l Herald Trib? Not bad. Guess that makes us international celebrities now.]

Cville's Future: A Long-Term Investment

One of the issues that has been brought up frequently in the past year is how to grow our economical base here in Cville. It's an issue tied in to the growth of Albemarle County and resultant sprawl, and anyone who has sat in on a Board of Supervisors session or gone to an Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population meeting--or even read the local papers more than once a week--is aware of how anti-growth our area is becoming.

It's not all growth that most Cvillians object to. In particular, it is the wasteful retail sprawl growth that rips up our beautiful rural character while providing very little for our long-term economy that is most offensive to us. To address that, both the Albemarle BoS and the Charlottesville City Council have had an informal, ongoing dialogue with the public and with the organizations that matter (e.g., Chamber of Commerce, Planning Commissions, Darden, etc.) about what kinds of development and business we should be trying to attract. Often, casually (in public at least), biotechnology and other, similarly high-end industry has been suggested.

Buried beneath the election & Rumsfeld snapshots in yesterday's Daily Progress is a great article on just that kind of industry, and the investment/commitment level attracting it would require. According to interviewee Steven Burke,
Smart places and smart policy leaders will work to apply the technology appropriately to their dominant natural or economic resources, and not just work to gain another drug company. The technology has application to far more than human health. The engine, then, will be sector and regionally driven. For that reason, the North Carolina Biotech-nology Center has established five regional offices across the state of North Carolina, to both target and capture specific areas of application.

It's time for a clear assessment of our potential economic strengths as a region, beyond that of Colonial Tourist Mecca, and I am very much looking forward to that discussion.

08 November 2006

Pombo Flushed

From The New Republic's article, "A roundup of House races that defied the odds.":
Biggest Rematch K.O.: Jerry McNerney defeats Richard Pombo in California's 11th.

This cycle saw many, many rematches between candidates who faced each other in 2004, and, for the most part, those who lost in 2004 lost again this year. Republican Max Burns in Georgia's 12th district looks like he will fail to retake the seat he yielded to Democratic Representative John Barrow two years ago; Pennsylvania's Jim Gerlach is fending off a strong challenge by Lois Murphy, the Democrat he barely defeated in 2004 (though the final decision is still pending). In this strangely-shaped San Joaquin Valley-Bay Area district in California, McNerney, a wind engineer who's never held public office, was a write-in candidate in 2004, and arch-conservative local boy Pombo crushed him by more than 20 points. This year, however, McNerney overtook Pombo 53-47.

Ok, fellow tree-huggers, I promised champagne for this one. I'll let you know when we break out the bubbly (and other forms of fermented fruit).

Gin Rummy

The Dems call gin, and Rummy's out!

From CNN:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush announced Wednesday that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down from his post.

"The timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon," Bush said in a White House statement Wednesday afternoon.


"I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made" in Iraq, Bush said.


As a footnote to last night, I'd like to articulate my thoughts on how articulation effects public election.

IMO, Al Weed was, by far, the most articulate candidate in the state of Virginia, but I've been naysayed by many people (and not just at yesterday's polls), who thought that either Goode or Oddo were more articulate. So, for an exercise in semantics, I thought I'd analyze their stylistic differences under this one word's usage.

First, we need an agreed-upon definition -- we'll use Merriam-Webster's:
Function: adjective
1a: divided into syllables or words meaningfully arranged : INTELLIGIBLE
b: able to speak
c: expressing oneself readily, clearly, or effectively (an articulate teacher); also: expressed in this manner (an articulate argument)
2a: consisting of segments united by joints : JOINTED (articulate animals)
b: distinctly marked off

Function: verb
1a: to give clear and effective utterance to : put into words (articulate one's grievances)
b: to utter distinctly (articulating each note in the musical phrase)
c: to give definition to (as a shape or object) (shades of gray were chosen to articulate different spaces -- Carol Vogel)
d: to give shape or expression to (as a theme or concept) (a drama that uses eerie props to articulate a sense of foreboding)
2a: to unite by or as if by means of a joint : JOINT
b: to form or fit into a systematic whole (articulating a program for all school grades)

Weed: IMO, he was the most articulate orator because he was the best of the 3 candidates at fitting his various platform planks into a systematic whole (verb, def. 2b) and therein communicating to the voter a strong sense of his overriding policy and ethics.

Goode: Others have said Goode was the most articulate orator because he gave the strongest expression of his individual points (adjective, def. 1c): E.g., Immigration = hates; Gays = hates; Earmarks = likes.

Oddo: Surprisingly (to me), a couple of people have even remarked that Oddo was, ITO, the most articulate of the 3 candidates, because his speeches were concise, stayed on message, and were united in theme (poss. adjective, def. 1a or verb, def. 1a/2a).

I guess articulation depends on how much the individual expects from a candidates' communication skills. Fortunately, votes themselves are more black and white.


As I'm sure everyone knows by now, Virginia passed the marriage amendment. Want the news on it, you can find stories in the Times Dispatch, Washington Times (yes, occasionally I check the Times--it reminds me why I became a progressive activist), The Pilot Online, and just about every other paper in our regional virginity, oops, I mean, vacinity.

I work in a law firm and see a lot of civil litigation come through, much of which will be effected by the "unintended" consequences of this amendment. Every time I find an example from which I can extrapolate a logical extension of how the new law will effect practice, I will post it here. As an exercise in and demonstration of what is now at stake due to our state's folly.

Here's Example #1:

The elderly widow who made a contractual arrangement with her nephew who lived nearby that he could work the family farm and receive ownership of it once she passed, in exchange for taking care of her in her home in her final years. He did and the agreement was obliquely referenced in the will, though the specifics were not written into the testamentary document. She had 2 children, neither of whom lived anywhere near her, who inherited the remainder of her estate. They contested the agreement, on the basis that the homestead was the bulk of her estate and surely she didn't mean to leave them so little. They wanted to sell the farm and split the profits. Under this amendment, they would conceivably win.

07 November 2006

Election Insanity

I voted. First thing this morning. Webb, Weed, no, yes, yes, in that order. The rest of this day -- at least, up until I can sit down with a beer and the election results -- is going to be insane.

Is anyone else having a tension meltdown?

06 November 2006

Marriage Amendment on Council Agenda

Tonight's Charlottesville City Council agenda includes a resolution to oppose the Marshall-Newman amendment.

Are we the coolest city on the East Coast or what? Not only will this be a great municipal demonstration of what "Virginia values" really are (pro-independence and pro-tolerance, contrary to the Allen & Goode ads), it will give this topic a much-needed awareness boost in the news tonight and tomorrow as we head to the polls.

I encourage all citizens to get down to City Hall tonight at 7 pm and weigh in on it.

02 November 2006

Punching the One-Way Ticket

Another little-seen article, this time from the Daily Progress:
Businesses and insurance companies are starting to eye the potential savings of outsourcing health care from the world's richest country to the developing world.
. . . .
With an estimated 45 million uninsured Americans, some 500,000 trekked overseas last year for medical treatment, according to the National Coalition on Health Care. Asian hospitals in Thailand, India and Singapore have long been swarmed by medical tourists looking for tummy tucks and face lifts, but many glitzy, marble-floored facilities are now gaining reputations for big-ticket procedures including heart surgery, knee and back operations.

More article at Businesses May Move Health Care Overseas

Are there any other Boston Legal fans out here who recognize this plot? Oh, that's right. It's for real. So, raise your hand if you want to be packed off to the Pakistani border for your open heart surgery. If you do, you might want to rethink buying the round-trip ticket.

Aqua morte

We interrupt Mid-Term Madness for a little-seen Washington Post article:
A perennial and pernicious Russian problem -- death by vodka -- has taken on alarming dimensions in recent weeks as dozens of people have died and thousands more have been hospitalized after drinking bootleg liquor laced with brake fluid, lighter fuel, disinfectants and other poisonous agents.

Tainted Vodka Kills Dozens as Russians Turn to Bootleg Liquor

It seems that ours is not the only nation returning to Depression-Era tactics.

30 October 2006

Legislating "Normal"

On November 7, Virginia will ask its voters to cast their ballot on the following question:

Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:

"That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage."?

This is the innocuously labeled "Marshall/Newman Amendment," more dangerously called the "Marriage Amendment." Why is its popular name dangerous? Because most of us are for marriage -- therefore, we don't mark the widespread implications of that second paragraph.

This legislation attempts to codify what "normal" is in American society, but we haven't seen that kind of "normal" since 1958. Families are not nuclear anymore -- in a single home, you can find half-siblings, step-siblings, and foster kids, sometimes with or without 2 parents of the opposite sex. Not to mention, the occasional relative or friend who is helping out a single mom or dad by moving into the house. There are also hard-luck adults who move in with various family members until "he gets on his feet." And elderly widows and widowers living with their children, grandchildren, or younger siblings.

Voting "yes" on this Ballot Question could destroy families in the name of saving marriage for heterosexual unions. How? Because it undermines a household's ability to support itself by taking away its right to claim dependents as dependent, dispose of its monies and personal property as necessary, and make agreements with other adults in the household for the care and feeding of all residents.

Before you vote, ask yourself this: What are the "effects of marriage"? What are the "rights, benefits, obligations, [and] qualities" of marriage?

Right #1: Your spouse is automatically listed as a member of household for all insurance purposes.

Under this amendment, foster children, step-children, and other extended family members who may be living with you in your house, either permanently or semi-permanently, will lose all insurance protection that they may have been able to naturally claim as members of your household.

This will effect presumed coverage in all auto, health, fire & disaster, life, personalty, house and rental policies.

Why? Because that right will no be longer extended to "other legal statuses" between unmarried persons. If you think that insurance companies' lawyers will not use this clause to deny coverage of claims, then you do not know insurance companies or lawyers.

Right #2: Your spouse is automatically a dependent or member of household for all tax purposes.

Under this amendment, your right to claim deductions for step-children, foster children, and elderly relatives in your full-time care as dependents on your taxes could be challenged.

Why? Because that right will no longer be extended to "other legal statuses" between unmarried persons. Do you think the IRS or VA Dep't of Taxation will let this slide?

Right #3: By right, your spouse has holds a property interest in all assets and personalty you acquire as a household.

Under this amendment, all property and business agreements and any disposition of assets that are made with someone who is not your spouse can be challenged in a court of law.

Why? A court could not enforce any such agreement or disposition because to do so would recognize a partnership that is not marriage and accord it a legal status on par with marriage. The proposed amendment makes it unconstitutional for a Virginia court to do.

If you are in business with your brother, you cannot make arrangements to give or leave your half of the business to your brother.

If you are elderly and have help in taking care of your needs and property, you can not make arrangments to leave that property or other compensation to your assistant.

You can not have a living will enforced on your behalf by anyone other than a spouse. If your spouse predeceases you, too bad.

Your right to put any land into a conservation easement can and will be challenged by the heirs of your body.

If you have a family business run by you, your mother, 2 of your kids, a cousin, and a nephew, you can not dispose of it according to each person's interest in the company because to do so would approximate the rights of marriage.

If you believe you have a right to own your property and manage your personal business without reference to or fear of a court system unable to enforce individual contracts you make. If you believe you have the right to protect and support all the children and elderly in your household and be compensated for that protection. If you believe that you have the right to die with dignity and leave your assets where you designate, then please VOTE NO to No. 1 on Nov. 7.

Dom & Jerry

From Grist:
A year ago it was virtually unthinkable that Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) -- right-wing darling, fundraiser extraordinaire, champion of polluting industries, and enemy No. 1 of the environmental community -- could be unseated by any Democrat, much less one with zero political experience to his name. But now, a week and a half before Election Day, the rookie Democratic challenger in California's 11th District, Jerry McNerney, is giving Pombo a run for his (prodigious amounts of) money.

Story continued at http://www.grist.org/news/muck/2006/10/26/pombo_race/index.html

W00t!!! If Jerry knocks that lard-arsed land baron off the Congressional map, the Dom Perignon is on me!

29 October 2006

Stranger than Webb Fiction

From the Washington Post:

Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) has accused his Democratic opponent, James Webb, of writing inappropriate sex scenes and demeaning descriptions of women in his fictional books, the latest character attack in a close and nasty campaign.

Full story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/27/AR2006102701000.html?nav=rss_email/components?nav=slate

Just to make sure I am reading everything correctly, Allen actually thinks that what is written in fictional books should count against a candidate's character? By that rod of assize, shouldn't Allen's character be judged on the basis of his sister's "fictionalized" memoir, Fifth Quarter, in which she relates stories of her eldest brother's abuse of her and her other siblings?

George, when it comes to domestic violence and disrespect of women, I find your truth to be stranger and more disturbing than Webb's fiction.

23 October 2006

Obama '08 !!!

From the Chicago Tribune: Obama Reconsiders Presidential Run
Oh YES! On the heels of Mark Warner's withdrawal from '08 nomination contention, I dreaded being stuck with Senator Clinton. But hope is renewed, and the Dems may have a contender I can vote for instead of just with. Frabjous day!

22 October 2006

Ballot Spoilage in Va?

Recently and for reasons relating to this November's election, a little birdie told me I should check out spoilage statistics in Virginia.

For those not familiar with the term in this context, "spoilage" is decaying green stuff in the polling booth. All those hanging chads in Florida in 2000? Spoilage. All those provisional ballots that got tossed out in Ohio? Spoilage. Any time someone who is legal to vote, wants to vote, has taken the time to vote, and has his or her vote discarded, it's spoilage. There are hundreds of creative ways to spoil an electoral count and we've seen most of them in the past 3 elections. But have we seen them in Virginia?

Two of the most vile ways to spoil a vote, IMO, are caging lists, which are technically illegal, a fact which did not stop Katie Harris from using them in Florida in 2000, and discriminatory placement of equipment and staff, a more subtle voter purging method used by Blackwell in Ohio in 2004.

[For the record, it's not just the Reds that plays the ballot rigging game -- Boss Daley in Chicago kept IL staunchly Blue by soliciting the votes of the undead.]

What infuriates me about both of these methods is the blatant discrimination of the disenfranchisement. These tactics are designed to target black and hispanic voting precincts. I'm fairly sure that the Powers that Spoil don't care about the actual skin color of the people whose rights they violate. These voters could Scandanavian, Siamese, or Scottish -- as long as they were in Blue-voting districts, they wouldn't care and the results would be the same. But these 2 ethnicities are experiencing this form of discrimination precisely because they have experienced other forms before: They are the least educated, financially solvent, and upwardly mobile demographics, and thus tend to live in the lower income precincts. The intentional discrimination our society metes out has led to a computer statistics program essentially taking away their rights to vote, and eliminating their communal voice. Voting is basic to empowerment, and I'm incensed by tactics designed to hit those who need the most empowerment.

We need electoral reform -- not just campaign finance reform, but process & ballot accountability reform.

To get back on point: I have not managed to dig up any proof of spoilage in the last few election cycles here in Virginia, but I have looked at a set of statistics from FedStats and the State Board of Elections that make me curious. I learned something new: Most of the counties & cities in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia have a much higher percentage of blacks than the rest of the state. Virginia's average African-American demographic percentage is 19.9%. The 5th District's average is 26.9%. The 5th CD is made up of 18 counties and 5 cities and, in spite of having a reputation for being White Redneck World, only 5 of those 23 municipalities are more than 5% below the state average.

There are 7 counties and 1 city in the 5th CD where the black population is significantly greater (more than 10%) than 19.9%, yet they've consistently voted Republican: Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and Pittsylvania Counties, and Lynchburg City.

The 5th CD areas with an even higher percentage of blacks (e.g., Brunswick with 56%, Danville with 44%, and Martinsville with 42%), are all bluer than sky. It seems very strange to me that counties like Buckingham, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg which are 38% black are not showing at least a purple tinge in their ballot tallies.

I also noted that Fluvanna & Greene counties have voted consistently Republican, although a high percentage of their residents commute to and, thus, take part in the liberal Charlottesville/Albemarle culture. We have always been a strong Democrat seat but, due to gentrification, there has been a mass exodus of the lower and middle lower income residents to Fluvanna & Greene. It seems unnatural that our former population, which voted Democrat while living here, started voting Republican when it fled to cheaper housing in the surrounding counties. Are they voting? Are their votes being uncounted or discarded?

I know the CW about Virginia politics: If we vote Democrat at the state, we'll vote Republican at the federal and vice-versa. It keeps the balance between our parties Since most of our governors have been Dems, no one thinks to question it. But that old truism hasn't held true: the increase in state Republicans (Delegates and Senators) as well as the split vote in the 2005 Gubernatorial election indicate that Virginians, if on form, would have voted for more Democrats in the federal Senate, Representative, and Presidential elections.

This could all be BS, OR there could be some teeth to it. What has been reducing the effectiveness of the black vote in this district? Is it apathy or is it something much less natural? What has been preventing any evidence of purple tinge in our state-wide federal voting? Is it just not our color anymore? I'm suspicious. I want to hear some other peoples' thoughts and theories.

20 October 2006

Green Evangelism

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
— Genesis 1:28

Word on the street is God is pro-environment. Who knew?

Apparently, Bill Moyers did. In the first of a series of Grist articles, Moyers was interviewed regarding his new PBS special Is God Green?. In one of the interview's choicest statements, Moyers said:
The next film I do should be about how environmentalists view religion ...

The fact of the matter is, progressive Christians and mainstream churches and the environmental movement have had a lot in common for some time now. It's the conservative evangelicals who have been, and I use this word advisedly, brainwashed by the political right and the political right's religious allies.

The James Dobsons, the Pat Robertsons, the Jerry Falwells have demonized environmentalism as the work of Satan or Hollywood wackos or treehuggers. Orwell was right: you can change the language until you change behavior. By demonizing good, serious, sincere environmentalists, the political right and its religious allies were able to make it impossible for people in the pews, people in the churches, people in the local congregations to hear environmentalists.

Whoa. These sentiments echo a "debate" I had recently on the cvillenews blog about Phillabaum's ELF arson plea. [ELF = Earth Liberation Front] I call it a "debate" because the position of nearly everyone was that "Yes, Virginia, extremists do get lots of media attention and thereby benefit moderates by making them seem, well, moderate." The only difference of opinion was actually whether such attention-grabbing behavior thus served some Greater Good.

To get back to Moyers's purported next topic, this environmentalist views religion in a very different way than most. As the evangelists fear, I am indeed a pagan. I don't practice or preach my religion. I live it, and part of my manifestation of my religion is my environmental work and advocacy. Contrary to evangel opinion, I've met extremely few other pagans doing the kind of hands-on, community-minded, politically active environmental work that I do. In fact, I left public worship within the "pagan community" precisely because they weren't putting their energy where their beliefs were. I have found a lot more satisfying friendships, acquaintances, and working colleagues among the Christians in the eco-field than I do from any other religious group.

As an active treehugger, I'm pleased to see the green wave hit more moderate and conservative Christians. Perhaps it will lead to a better interfaith understanding.


Another from the Washington Post, Politics section, GOP Aims to Scare [Up] Voters:
With top Republican strategists now privately predicting substantial House losses, President Bush and top GOP officials plan to spend the final days of the 2006 campaign attempting to rally partisans and limit conservative defections with dire warnings about the consequences of a Democratic Congress.

Amid predictions that demoralized conservative voters might sit out the election, Bush and other senior Republicans will escalate charges that Democrats will raise taxes, weaken national security and liberalize social policies. Bush struck those themes in campaign appearances yesterday in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and White House senior adviser Karl Rove said he "will consistently refresh that message" between now and Election Day.

Both Bush and Clinton campaigned yesterday in Virginia for Allen and Webb respectively. (Isn't it nice to be so important?) So, let's compare Presidential records:

The worst scandal to rock the Clinton Administration was an adulterous affair. The worst scandal to rock the Bush Administration thus far is an out-of-control war funded by a out-of-control debt.

After 8 years, Clinton left us with a checked North Korea, a limited bin Laden, no war, and a $237 billion surplus. After merely 6 years, Bush has allowed Kim Jong Il to build his bomb, has increased the likelihood of anti-American terrorism, wasted our international political capital on an unsupportable war, spent all of the surplus and created $8.54 trillion in debt.

Who in their right mind thinks that's a fair trade? So why should anyone fear Democrats?

Daisy Cheneys

From Michael Abramowitz on the Washington Post's Front Page:
The growing doubts among GOP lawmakers about the administration's Iraq strategy, coupled with the prospect of Democratic wins in next month's midterm elections, will soon force the Bush administration to abandon its open-ended commitment to the war, according to lawmakers in both parties, foreign policy experts and others involved in policymaking....

Ah, Iraq.... As much as I hate the war, it is so satisfying to see Big Oil and the Neo-Cons going at it like WWF SmackDown contenders. The only thing spoiling my view of this match-up is the knowledge that both groups are backed by Dick Cheney. Which means no matter who wins control over Iraq & its oil, the Cheney White House is set to make another multi-trillion dollar fortune by the end of Fiscal Year 2006.

After 6 years of cataloging his political mayhem, I'm quite sure I like him almost as much as he likes Hugo Chavez.

18 October 2006


I fell off the political commentary wagon for a year, but it's time to reinhabit my blogger home again, if only because it's election time and I need some kind of residency in order to vote.

We will return to our regularly unscheduled venting tomorrow!