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.