Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pop and Politics

Dedicated to the upstanding volunteers on the Rand Paul for Senate campaign in Kentucky (Warning – potentially offensive lyrics):

Well maybe I’m the f***** America;

I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.

Now everybody do the propaganda;

And sing along to the age of paranoia.

On Political Violence – 2010

A Jack Conway (D) supporter was stomped on by a Rand Paul (R) supporter in Kentucky the other evening. And there’s video:

Note: Paul’s people got YouTube to take the video down, but DailyKos preserved it first:

I suspect you didn’t actually click play and watch the video. Go do that. Seriously.

The kicker? The police questioned the stomping victim.

Then there was the anthrax scare sent to the campaign office of Rep. Raul Grijalva. Earlier this year, Rep. Grijalva had to close another campaign office earlier this year because someone shot at it.

Here in Virginia, Rep. Tom Periello’s brother had his home address posted to Tea Party lists, and subsequently found his gas line severed.

For the past two years, our elected representatives have been under threat. Literally under threat on their lives, simply for doing their job representing their constituents.

In what world is this okay? In what America is beating up, shooting at, and threatening other Americans a legitimate expression of political views?Great coverage of this over at The Huffington Post.

And Aznew expresses his outrage over this incident at Blue Virginia.

A Curious Observation

Conservatives have been bloviating, ranting, foaming at the mouth this campaign season about government spending too much.

I read a posting this morning from one of my Facebook friends, an avowed conservative from Arizona, that talked about the city of Mesa trying to pass a ballot initiative allowing the city to spend $99 million to build a stadium complex to keep the Chicago Cubs in Mesa for spring training.

The Cubs new owner has threatened to move the team’s spring training facility to Florida, after being in Mesa since 1953, if a new complex is not built.

On Tuesday, Mesa voters will decide whether to allow the city to spend up to $99 million on a new spring training facility for the Cubs ($84 million for a small-scale Wrigley Stadium and $15 million for infrastructure) that would include a private development, Wrigleyville West.

When the Ricketts family purchased the Cubs from the (Chicago) Tribune Co. last year for about $845 million and announced they were entertaining an offer to move the team to Naples, Fla., where they were being courted for a new facility, (Cubs legend Ernie) Banks initially supported the move, citing first-class golf courses he liked to play on and a lot of Midwesterners who frequent spring training there.

But, with the Cubs generating $138 million a year in economic impact and steeped with history and tradition, and with fans coming to Arizona from all over the world, Banks said he now believes it’s important for the Cubs to remain in Mesa to retain and create more jobs in a slow economy.

So let me get this straight – when the President and the Democratic Congress spend money (aka, “the stimulus”) to retain and create jobs in a slow economy, it’s socialism. But when your baseball team is threatening to leave your quaint little town (in a “Red” state, nonetheless) that they are in for one month a year, this type of government spending, to retain and create jobs, is perfectly fine.

The hypocrisy is baffling.

Note: Bob, if you read this, I’m not saying you’re a hypocrite, just pointing out the hypocrisy of the whole right-wing mantra against any kind of government spending.

Links We’re Reading – October 18 – 23, 2010

Remember Art Linkletter?

The Tea Partiers belong to a different tradition-a tradition of divisive fundamentalism. Like other fundamentalists, they seek refuge from the complexity and confusion of modern life in the comforting embrace of an authoritarian scripture and the imagined past it supposedly represents. Like other fundamentalists, they see in their good book only what they want to see: confirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Like other fundamentalists, they don’t sweat the details, and they ignore all ambiguities. And like other fundamentalists, they make enemies or evildoers of those who disagree with their doctrine.

  • How Tea Partiers Get The Constitution Wrong – A great fisking of Tea Party principles, such as they are.
  • The Sistine Chapel – A pretty cool site by the Vatican that allows a 360 degree, zoomable view of this masterpiece. Okay, not political, but cool nonetheless.
  • Closeted Discoverers: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Scientists – When even members of the academic research community are fearful of revealing their sexual orientation, we as a society are not close to achieving equality. Fixing things like this is what achieving a “more perfect union” is all about.
  • Persistence: Being Too Dumb To Quit Is Helpful – From a dad blogger I know, this is a nice reminder that sticking with things yields benefits and results. I thought it useful to link to given the frustration experienced by many Democrats this year.
  • Republican Blogger Reaction To Racist Emails – If you haven’t been following the saga of racist emails sent by the (now former) Virginia Beach Republican Chair, head over to Blue Virginia and check it out. It’s fascinating.
  • DARPA Funded Hundred-Year Starship Program – The US Government is investing in a long-range plan to create the capacity to colonize other planets. I love it.
  • Fox News Viewership Plunges 21% While MSNBC Grows – “The cable news ratings for the third quarter of 2010 were released today, and Fox News is showing signs of decline as their viewership has decreased by 21%, and their top shows all posted double digit losses, while MSNBC’s shows grew and the network attracted more younger viewers.” Is the tide finally turning? Are people finally realizing that Fox is nothing more than an arm of the GOP, spewing false information?
  • Raul Grijalvas Office Hit By Terror Attack – It’s funny, but I don’t see a lot of Democrats sending death threats to and shooting into Republican campaign offices.
  • Loudoun County Moon Tree – Did you know that there’s a tree in Hamilton that was grown from sees that orbited the moon in 1971? How cool is that! (with a tip-o-the-hat to my friend Keith.)
  • Muslims Wearing Things – “Former NPR analyst Juan Williams, among other ignorant people, has an irrational fear of Muslims, and thinks you can identify them based on what they look like. Here I will post pictures of Muslims wearing all sorts of things in an attempt to refute that there is such a thing as “Muslim garb” or a Muslim look.” Awesome.
  • Bank of America’s Foreclosure Mess Won’t Disappear Quickly – “Having convinced millions of Americans to buy homes they couldn’t afford, Bank of America is now revving up its foreclosure efforts on these same homeowners. At the same time, having sold tens of thousands of these same terrible loans to investors, it is going to spend tens of millions of dollars on lawyers to keep from having to buy back their junky loans.” There. Are. No. Words.

    Barnett To Debate Wolf Tonight

    The two candidates for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, among whom we’ll be choosing in the election booths next Tuesday, November 2nd, will be having their debate tonight.

    The first and only debate of the congressional campaign in Virginia’s 10th District will occur tonight.

    The debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, begins this evening at 7:00 PM at Dominion High School. The address of the school is 21326 Augusta Drive, Sterling, VA 20164. The event is open to bloggers and members of the press, who are requested to arrive early and check in at the media table.

    If you would like to cover the debate but are unable to attend in person, a recording of the entire debate will be available on our website an hour after its conclusion. Check in at at 10:00 PM for a full replay.

    Jeff Barnett will be available after the debate to take questions from the press.

    Click through for a map of the debate location. Come out tonight!Here is the location of Dominion High School on a map:

    View Larger Map

    Rational Debate Erupts in the Loudoun Blogosphere!

    John Stevens and my own Stevens (Miller, that is) have an interesting set of posts up. Read John’s first at Our Loudoun Schools, and then read Stevens’s response at Without Supervision.

    Logic! Reason! SCIENCE! Well, maybe not science.

    I am excited to see something that is rarely seen in the Loudoun blogosphere, a calm rational substantive debate based on thoughtful interpretations of the facts.

    Constitutional Amendments on the Ballot

    There is only one office up for election on the ballot this year, and you should vote for Jeff Barnett on Tuesday, November 2nd. But there’s more to vote on than that office. On the ballot this year are three proposed Amendments to the Virginia Constitution, and a school bond issue.

    The proposed Constitutional Amendments are as follows:

    Proposed Constitutional Amendments (Statewide Ballot Questions)

    Question 1: Shall Section 6 of Article X of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to authorize legislation that will permit localities to establish their own income or financial worth limitations for purposes of granting property tax relief for homeowners not less than 65 years of age or permanently and totally disabled?

    Question 2:  Shall the Constitution be amended to require the General Assembly to provide a real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability?

    Question 3:  Shall Section 8 of Article X of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to increase the permissible size of the Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the “rainy day fund”) from 10 percent to 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s average annual tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years? –

    And the School Bond question is:

    School Bonds (Loudoun County Ballot Question)

    Question: Shall the County of Loudoun, Virginia contract a debt and issue its general obligation capital improvement bonds in the maximum amount of $27,820,000 to finance, in whole or in part, the cost to design, construct and equip the new Leesburg Area Elementary School (ES-15)?

    Follow below the jump for some explanation of what the voters of Loudoun are being asked to approve of in these referendums.The first two constitutional amendments are geared at allowing localities (Counties, Cities, Towns) more freedom to manage their taxing structure. Under the Dillon Rule, localities need specific state dispensation to do, well, anything. These Amendments give localities that dispensation to exempt certain groups (disabled veterans, seniors on small fixed incomes) from paying local property taxes.

    Here is the explanation from the state of the first of the Amendments, which explains the logic behind the first two Amendments:

    Present Law

    Under the Constitution, the General Assembly may give localities the power to grant full or partial exemptions from real estate taxes to persons 65 years of age or older or for persons permanently and totally disabled. The exemption applies to owner- occupied property used as the sole dwelling of such persons. The exemption is currently available only to such persons who bear “an extraordinary tax burden” in relation to their income and financial worth.

    Proposed Amendment

    The proposed amendment (i) removes the requirement that tax exemptions are available only to such persons who bear “an extraordinary tax burden,” and (ii) gives the General Assembly authority to permit localities to determine their own income or financial worth limitations for tax exemptions for persons 65 years of age or older or for persons permanently and totally disabled.

    The third Amendment grants more freedom to the Assembly to save money within the budget for the future. The Constitution requires the state budget to be balanced. That means that the Assembly must have explicit authority to not spend all the money it has every two years (since we have a biannual budget cycle). If the Assembly didn’t spend all the money it got, the budget wouldn’t be balanced! The “rainy day fund” provides a way for the Assembly to carry surplus budget money over from budget cycle to budget cycle while keeping the budget balanced under the Constitution.

    Right now, the rainy day fund is limited to 10% of the budget. The third Amendment on the ballot would allow the Assembly to increase that to 15% of the budget.

    The school bond question is one which is often confused and misunderstood. Voting “yes” on the Bond question does not give the County permission to issue bonds. The county inherently has the authority to issue bonds, regardless of whether or not they put it to a voter referendum. The ballot question on bonds is necessary for the County to issue bonds at the lowest possible interest rates. Thus, voting “yes” on the bond question allows the County to get the most favorable interest rates on the bonds, which saves us money on interest payments.

    If you vote “yes” on the school bonds, you are basically voting to avoid having to pay more taxes to pay higher interest on bonds in the future. Voting yes is a very good idea.  

    The Cost of Getting Towed

    Loudoun is a County of Home Owners Associations (HOAs). One of the defining characteristics of HOAs is the debate over, and enforcement of, parking regulations. The HOA where I live, for example, has no assigned parking. It also was built at a time when planners included sufficient parking for the number of townhouses to be built. These factors make my neighborhood a great place to live. This doesn’t mean that people from anywhere can park wherever they like for as long as they like, but it does mean that when we have visitors for a couple days, they do not need to worry about where to park.

    That doesn’t mean that people don’t get towed. If a car is left too long in one spot, or is clearly not owned by someone who lives here, it will be towed away. I know that other HOAs are much more aggressive in their towing policies than mine. That brings us to the issue of towing enforcement and costs. As of right now, there are no rules on how much a towing company can charge someone to get their car back.

    Ever accidentally park your car in an unauthorized space? Then you would know that exorbitant towing fees often ensue.

    Towing fees normally total $125 with administrative or storage fees sometimes included. However, many Loudoun residents were facing towing fees of up to $600. – The Loudoun Times

    $600 is a lot of money to be able to get your car back. Especially when that car is so necessary to simply live life in Loudoun. Luckily, our Board of Supervisors, at the behest of Leesburg’s own Kelly Burk, is doing something about that. This month the Board voted unanimously to establish an Advisory Committee to look into and manage towing fees. The goal is to bring Loudoun more in line with neighboring jurisdictions when it comes to commercial towing.

    If you’re one of the constituents who complained to Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) about the wide variance of prices charged by Loudoun towing firms – she and the rest of the supervisors heard your call.

    The board voted at its Oct. 19 meeting to form a citizen advisory committee to ensure fees charged by towing companies in Loudoun are fair. The committee will include one towing representative, one government representative and one citizen.

    Virginia code allows for two types of towing enforcement regulations: police tows, or law enforcement towing, and non-consensual towing, which is the towing of vehicles that have trespassed onto private property. Other regional jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, already have towing advisory boards. – The Loudoun Times

    I am glad that the Board has established a Committee to investigate towing prices. Towing impacts people with low incomes quite harshly. A lot of towing happens in rental complexes and townhouse communities where the residents are often in the lower tiers of County income. Thus, high towing fees when these neighbors do get towed impact them more heavily than others who have more disposable income to work with each month. Also, people with higher incomes often live in single-family homes on private parking, and can park without any worries about towing. This is not true of renters or people in townhouse communities whose cars and trucks must be parked in community parking lots. Thus, people with lower incomes are not only more impacted by the cost of towing, they’re more likely to be towed in the first place!

    Now, I’m not against all towing, far from it. Follow below the fold for some further explanation.Lest someone think I am against all towing, please understand that I believe that towing is a perfectly valid way to enforce community rules. It can be critical for ensuring people get what they signed up for when they moved into a neighborhood. I am not against towing. I simply believe that the cost of being towed should be proportional to the infraction. If getting your car out of impound for an HOA parking violation costs 25-50% of your monthly mortgage or rent, that is not proportional, that’s simply taking advantage of someone with no option but to pay.

    It is great to see Supervisor Burk was able to get the unanimous consensus of the Board on this issue. There are very few things of substance on which this Board votes unanimously. (Indeed, it often appears that the Supervisor from Sterling votes “no” simply out of spite.) Supervisor Burk excels in heads-down leadership that focuses on getting things done, and it is this kind of leadership that leads to 9-0 votes.

    So yes, the Board can make progress to get things done for the residents of Leesburg and Loudoun. Supervisor Burk has shown us how.

    (Crossposted from Leesburg Tomorrow.)