Monthly Archives: December 2010

I hate to say I told you so, but…

Back in August, those who wanted to see holiday displays continue on the grounds of the Leesburg courthouse were vocal champions of the First Amendment.  The grounds should be open to everyone, they said, and they were delighted to have the ACLU on their side. Here are some typical comments on the Loudoun Times-Mirror site at the time, in response to those who argued that all displays should be prohibited:

“Public property should actually be FOR the public, and allowing public use by all is not “establishing” any one of them. Everyone should have equal access, in my opinion.”

“Let everyone have an equal chance to display.”

“If we are to protect individual freedom, we must protect the ability of all to express their opinions, whether we personally agree or not. Allowing freedom isn’t abridging it, and a free for all is just that:  free.”

“Tolerance means to respect (and ALLOW) others their differences.  Their difference doesn’t harm you by existing, even if you disagree with it.”

“I think it would be nice if displays could continue, and include not only serious representations of beliefs involving faith and/or no faith, and yes that would mean we’d have to welcome the onanism of the attention seekers too.”

“The American Civil Liberties Union, AG Ken Cucinnelli, Barbara Munsey, many others, including myself all say the same thing: no harm in allowing all points of view.”

That last comment is from TMitOH, by the way – the individual who rounded up all the angry speakers by leading them to believe that the board was poised to ban the baby Jesus, or send them to prison for wearing Christmas sweaters, or some such thing.

We were additionally told that raising concerns about vandalism and escalating animus due to the perceived offensiveness of this or that display was fearmongering about a “non-existent” security issue, that once the equal access policy was implemented the agitation would “run its course” and settle down, and that democracy is messy and can make people uncomfortable (with this I agree).

Well, it’s not August anymore, and the equal-access-for-all crowd has morphed back into the special rights crowd. The fun started when the ten lawn spaces were assigned to the applicants exactly as advertised; on a first-come, first-served basis. Complaints ensued. The nativity scene should automatically get the favored corner spot no matter who applied first, argued the complainants, because of “tradition.” Well, equal access law doesn’t grant super-special privileges to any faith tradition on that basis, and neither does our policy, so the answer to that was “no.” The policy adopted by the board is exactly what was praised by the ACLU and embraced by the pro-display, pro-freedom of expression public.

Judging from the comments on the current LTM article, the policy they were so in favor of then is now completely unacceptable. The problem now is that other points of view are “defacing” what they feel is their exclusive Christmas display privilege. Pointing out that there is no such special privilege gets one called “pig” and “freak.”

This is what I told the board in early September:

“Back in 2008, there was a holiday display and invocation that included the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faith traditions. Some people did make valid arguments that it shouldn’t be at the courthouse, and I respect that. Maybe a different public site would address those concerns – I can’t speak for others.  But in spite of that I think, rather than making people angry, it brought them together. I wish it could have continued in that direction. And that was the first and last time that happened.

Now what we have is anger and division. I’m not saying that most of the people upset about this are trying to divide us; I don’t think that’s true. But the loudest voices, and the voices getting the most attention, are the militant ones – and no matter what you decide, the people who are angry now are still going to be angry, either because there are no displays, or because they don’t like the other displays.

Look, I’m not particularly clairvoyant, nor do I possess any other special powers. You could see this coming ten miles away.  It’s not very jolly, is it? Nor very Christian. I’m not sure she’s explained this fully, but could it be that the person who created the “Letter from Jesus” display – she used to be a Christian, and now identifies herself as an atheist – left the faith because of behavior like this? Who could blame her?

The text of “Letter from Jesus” is in the comments over there. It’s worth a read.

And please, don’t forget to check out Loudoun’s Alternative Gift Fair. Happy Holidays – all of them – to all.

“Obama’s Critics Are Wrong”

A friend and fellow Loudoun Democrat forwarded a wonderful op-ed by Frank Schaeffer. As a bit of background, Frank Schaeffer is the son of one of the founders of the religious right who has since come out strongly in favor of a more progressive America.

This post-election season, his reminders are worth reading.

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe, the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition — from both the right and left.

As the president’s poll numbers have fallen over the last two years, so has his support from some on the left that were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago; all those lefty websites and commentators that were falling all over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the 2008 election.

The left’s lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling “prophecy” — snipe at the president and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn’t have anything to do with it! The left wanted a rock star and got a president smarter than the talking heads. They wanted miracles and got hard work instead, they wanted magic and got the slogging reality of trying to govern. – Frank Schaeffer

The entire thing is well worth your time, if only for the itemize lists of challenges and solutions that the Obama Administration has already faced and implemented.

Governing is hard, but luckily Democrats do it well. After all, we’re the party that thinks Government should do stuff to make things better. Funny thing about that, in the past few years, we have!

So many things to be really angry about…

…so little time to blog.

FuryI am furious that an outright MAJORITY of DEMOCRATS can’t get DADT repealed. Strike that. That a MAJORITY OF DEMOCRATS won’t live up to their own bloody platform. EQUALITY, GODDAMNIT!!

I am furious that an outright MAJORITY of DEMOCRATS can’t get it together to extend unemployment benefits and extend tax cuts to 98% of Americans. WITHOUT giving away $708 BILLION dollars to folks who already have more money than the bottom 50%.

I am furious that every single TV news outlet except for Comedy Fucking Central let the Republicans get away with filibustering against health care for 9/11 first responders.

I am furious that Fox News is on every day, all the time, in my office break room. I sprain my eyeballs rolling them every time I go in there. If I change the channel, it’ll be changed back within 15 minutes.

I am furious that Democrats in the Senate and in the House have acted for the last two years like compromise would work with people to whom “compromise” means “give me everything I want”. They should NEVER have passed bills to assuage Republicans when they ended up not getting a single Republican vote.

And now we’ve lost the House. And did we learn anything from it? No.

Fury.

Sen. Herring Stands His Ground

The Loudoun Times-Mirror does a good job of covering the latest dust-up over transportation. Though, I do the story a disservice in calling it a dust-up. To summarize, in the Fall the Governor asked Democrats for ideas to deal with the transportation funding problem in Virginia, seeing as his ABC privatization plan was a feverish dream of pink elephants. Our own Sen. Mark Herring responded with no fewer than five constructive ideas on November 1st. The Governor and his team never responded, but some of the ideas the Governor announced shortly thereafter sounded very familiar to Sen. Herring.

In a bid to share the political burden of tough choices on road funding across both parties and chambers in Richmond, McDonnell’s letter asks Herring and others for “specific ideas and concrete input on how best to increase transportation funding.” The letter set a Nov. 1 deadline for response.

Herring responded on Nov. 1 to McDonnell and several staff aides, with five specific and more general transportation related initiatives, some of which he sponsored in the past General Assembly session. They include privatizing Virginia’s interstate rest areas, changing the state’s revenue sharing program, the creation of a “bipartisan blue ribbon transportation commission,” and the formation of a state “infrastructure bank” to provide financing for qualified roads projects in the state and “leverage resources to stimulate public and private investment.”

“I never heard back from them,” Herring said Dec. 10, referring to the Governor and his chief policy aides. But Herring said when McDonnell made his transportation funding plans known at a state conference on Dec. 9 in Roanoke, “one or two things the Governor mentioned [as part of his plan to fund roads] sounded very familiar.” Herring believes at least one of his ideas was taken from his letter and included in the Governor’s proposal. – The Loudoun Times-Mirror

And now, Republicans are accusing the Democrats of having no ideas on Transportation.

This is classic Republican projection. They accuse Democrats of doing the very things they, themselves, do as a matter of course. Another term for these kinds of accusations are “lies.”  I, for one, am ecstatic to see Sen. Herring pushing back. Far too often, Democrats in the past have taken these kinds of slanders in stride, believing in the inherent goodwill of their fellow elected officials, Republican or not. Sen. Herring has shown that falsehoods about records and actions must be, and can be dealt with swiftly and directly.

Thank you Sen. Herring, for standing up for yourself, and for the rest of us here in Loudoun and across Virginia.

Event Reminder!!!

INVITE DETAILS

“Cherish Choice – A Woman’s Constitutional Right Under Attack in Virginia”

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What you need to know that’s happening, and an opportunity for action to defend a woman’s right of choice.  So please join us for champagne, hors d’oeuvres, a concert violinist, and an informal conversation on a most distressing issue — Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s current attacks on a women’s basic reproductive rights here in Virginia — and how we can fight back.

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John and Holly Flannery will host and introduce: NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene, so Tarina can update us on the status of Choice in the commonwealth, what’s at stake in the upcoming General Assembly session and 2011 election, and what you can do to make a difference.

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DATE AND TIME: Saturday, December 11, 4pm-6pm

PLACE: The home of John and Holly Flannery

Ithaca Manor, 38469 Triticum Lane, Lovettsville, VA 20180

SUGGESTED DONATION: $50 to support NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

It’s never too late to start doing the right thing

Honestly, I haven’t paid much attention to the latest excrement from the desk of Mr. Delgaudio, only enough to know that it has gone viral (and if someone from the UK could explain what a “Merino-faced numpty” is, that’d be great). Folks who know what he is are less inclined to give him attention. Phyllis Randall provides a nice summation of the dilemma in her comment at the Loudoun Times-Mirror site, pointing out that it’s really the responsibility of those in the party he has made his nest in.

She’s right. And where is the evidence that this isn’t true?

“There is only one logical reason [for the refusal of the LCRC blog police to condemn the behavior]; they along with others in their LCRC circle agree with the stuff Delgaudio has been saying.”

Unfortunately, as much as this silence should be pointed out, it also permits a very poor and distorted framing of what this is about.  Contrary to the language of many commenters on both threads, the behavior at issue is not antics, it has nothing to do with the ‘politics of personality’, and the problem with it is not that it causes embarrassment to the LCRC or to actual Republicans, although I’m sure that it does. If the primary concern is bad publicity and the damage Delgaudio’s (and Black’s) hate speech will do to the cause of electing Republicans, even the well-meaning participants in this conversation have badly missed the mark.

The TSA email that’s currently garnering so much attention shouldn’t be – at least not as if it represents a new low point of Delgaudio’s career as a professional bigot. It doesn’t. It’s merely one more of many carefully calibrated look-at-me outbursts, one correctly described yesterday on the local NBC affiliate Reporters Notebook as “dumb” and “nuts,” but nothing really groundbreaking.  

No, the low point was reached earlier this year, and the Republican leadership in this community utterly failed its responsibility to condemn the amoral little predator who claims to be one of them.

Referring to another human being as “it” is not an antic. It is not clowning. It is not a PR problem. It is not indicative of a colorful personality. It is not hyperbole. It is not the same thing as saying that the other human being is wrong, or sick, or even immoral. It is a statement that the other human being is not, in fact, a human being. It is a statement that the other human being is not, in fact, a human being.

With the pathetic* exception of Lori Waters, our supervisors – Mr. Delgaudio’s colleagues – easily made this distinction and called his behavior morally unacceptable:

Not so for anyone in his own party. I have yet to hear anyone who claims to speak for Republicans in Loudoun County make this distinction and single out this behavior for the condemnation it merits. This goes for both the smarmy LCRC operatives who are busy trying to shut up the dissidents, and those who only wish the “embarrassment” would stop. This was true back in January, and it is true today.

If there were ever a time for disciplinary action, this would have been it. If there were ever an event that would cause the supposed moderates in the LCRC and in elective office to stand up publicly and say that this violates basic human decency, this would have been it. But no one did. They all responded as if this was just another PR problem for them.

Let’s be clear: This is a measure of basic human decency. Anyone who fails to recognize this behavior as distinct and requiring specific condemnation cannot be trusted to govern. It doesn’t matter how moderate you say you are if you can’t be trusted to do the right thing when it matters.

*I highlight “pathetic” here rather than something else only because Ms. Waters’ reaction struck me as more clueless than cruel when confronted with the realities of public restroom use. I could, of course, have misread the situation.

Hail? Fail.

(I guess since the Washington football team is headquartered in Ashburn, Loudoun County, this is relevant)

I feel sorry today for all of the fans of the Washington NFL team. Many of you are die-hards, living and dying by their performance on Sundays. You watch the games, buy the merchandise, put up with unbearable traffic to go to FedEx Field, and support the team through thick and thin. But you are being used.

And Daniel Snyder, team owner, is the one using you. He’s been the owner now for over 10 years, and has produced 2, yes, 2 playoff appearances (with only 1 win) in that time. A once-proud franchise that won 3 Super Bowl titles over 10 seasons (1982-91) has been reduced to the laughingstock of the NFL because of his ineptitude as an owner.

A story in Sunday’s Washington Post about the stability of the New York Giants franchise showed the disparity between the 2 franchises. In the 10 years since Snyder has been the owner, he has employed 6 coaches (and 1 interim coach after Norv Turner was fired). The Giants? 2 coaches in those 10 years, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 1 championship. My team, the Philadelphia Eagles? The same coach since 1999, 5 NFC Championship appearances, and 1 Super Bowl appearance. It’s no wonder both of those teams are among the league leaders every year. Consistency, and sound personnel management.But I will give Snyder credit where it is due – he knows how to market the franchise. Every year, his team falters, and in the off-season, he makes a big splash, makes big news, and rejuvenates the fan base once again. Fans who were down at the end of the season are excited again, they buy new merchandise, flock to training camp in Ashburn, and fill the stadium in September, before reality sets in.

Dana Stubblefield. Deion Sanders. Jeff George. Jeremiah Trotter. Marty Schottenheimer. Steve Spurrier. Adam Archuleta. Albert Haynesworth.

Do all of those names have a certain theme? Yes, those were all big-name, splashy, off-season signings that never panned out for the team. In fact, one could say that those names have contributed to keeping Washington’s football team in a ten-year slump.

But it’s not as if the draft has been any better for them. Heath Shuler. Desmond Howard. Taylor Jacobs. Michael Westbrook. Andre Thomas. Rod Gardner. Jason Campbell. Devin Thomas. All high draft picks (1st or 2nd round) that did relatively nothing for the team. And they traded draft picks to get Donovan McNabb, who isn’t lighting up the scoreboard so far.

But Snyder plays all of the fans for their loyalty. He will continue to make flashy off-season moves to excite you, so that you will buy the gear, watch the games on TV and listen to the radio shows (and patronize their sponsors), go to the games, spend $8 for a beer, pay $30 to park in the parking lot after a 2-hour commute in and out, and go to Ashburn every summer.

And every fall, the story will repeat itself.

But you can’t fire an owner, so what’s a fan left to do? Easy. Stop buying the gear. Stop watching the games. Stop buying tickets and going to Landover. Stop going to Ashburn in the summer. Hit Dan Snyder where it hurts, and where he will get the message – in his wallet.

As long as you keep buying into the same old story year after year, the result won’t change. As an Eagles fan, I’m absolutely delighted to see Washington’s team struggle. But as someone with friends who are fans, I feel for you.

Don’t be a patsy. Don’t let Snyder use you like this.  

Return of the Loudoun Alternative Gift Fair

It’s heartening to see (thanks, Paradox) that such a large majority of us think an appropriate role of government is that activity we sort of blandly refer to as “providing human services.”

Besides our collective ~cough~ responsibility to help each other, individuals can choose to support these agencies by shopping for the gift of a service to someone in our community who needs a hand. Here are some examples:

  • $25 provides a textbook and supplies to enable one ESOL, GED or basic literacy student to participate in tutoring or classes (Loudoun Literacy Council).
  • $10 will provide the gift of transportation to and from a doctor appointment, shopping or an errand to a frail senior citizen or disabled adult who is unable to drive or use public transportation (Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers).
  • $50 will give the gift of a rental subsidy to a Loudoun neighbor. People with chronic mental illnesses want food, clothing, shelter, friends, money in their pockets, recreation – the things we all want. Among all of these, stable and affordable housing is the cornerstone of their being able to live successfully in their own communities and reach their full potential (Friends of Loudoun Mental Health).

In addition to these, there are seven other local nonprofits represented, and 100% of the proceeds will help deliver services to Loudoun residents in need. An “any amount” option makes it easy for both a small child and a large donor to give according to their ability. What’s not to like?

Loudoun was just (again) named as the most affluent county in the nation, so chances are pretty good that you either are someone or know someone who does not need or want another “thing.” If you think it’s time to say no to compulsory consumerism, giving a meaningful gift is a great way to go. Check it out.

This project is made possible by a partnership between Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES and  Loudoun Cares.

Majority of Loudouners Support Public Services

Loudoun County recently completed a survey of County residents regarding the human services that the County provides.

Loudoun County recently released an assessment of human services provided by local government and non-profit organizations over the past year.

Beth Rosenberg of the Loudoun County Department of Family Services said the county contracted with the University of Virginia in April 2009.

The university mailed surveys to 2,200 households in Loudoun County, a “scientifically significant, random sample,” she said. Surveys were mailed in June of this year, and the county sent a mailing reminding participants to complete the surveys in July. – Leesburg Patch

(Incidentally, that story link is from Leesburg Patch, a new microtargeted news site from AOL. It’s worth a read!)

When you dig into the survey results themselves, you find out some interesting things.

The opinions about human service revealed in the general population survey illustrate a central tension. Despite significant concerns that human services are often abused or cheated, do not solve underlying problems, or may lead people to become dependent on them, about three-quarters of county residents say that providing human services is the right thing to do – including a clear majority of respondents who are the most skeptical of human services in general. And eight in ten county residents agree that some tax dollars should be used to pay for human services. – Loudoun County Community Assessment

That point bears repeating, with emphasis. “About three-quarters of county residents say that providing human services is the right thing to do – including a clear majority of respondents who are the most skeptical of human services in general.”

The most important question to ask the “always lower taxes, every year” crowd is “which services would you cut.” The vast majority of Loudoun residents support providing public human services. And that includes a majority of Republicans. Cuts due to falling revenues do not fall on the amorphous “budget.” They fall on specific services, which hurt specific people.

So in the 2011 elections, Republican (and Democratic) candidates who campaign on the mantra of doing more with less, and keeping taxes low must answer the question of how, and what cuts to what services.

Because as this assessment shows, we need those services. And that “we” is us, the people of Loudoun, who will be voting in November.