Braving nearby thunderstorms, over a hundred friends and supporters of State Senator Emmett Hanger showed up at the home of Tom and Peggy Sheets last night. (Fortunately, the rain held off until later in the evening.) The event featured nationally-known musicians Jimmy Fortune (one of the Statler Brothers) and Robin Williams (half of the Robin and Linda Williams duo). After playing their musical set, Fortune and Williams made very gracious and heartfelt appeals to the guests to help re-elect Emmett Hanger. Williams stressed that the senator is a strong "reasonable voice" in Richmond whom we should not take for granted, to which Fortune said "Amen." Fortune went on, "Emmett's always been a good friend of mine. I'm here not so much for politics, but just to support my good friend, Emmett Hanger." He also quipped "And I don't want him in Nashville, OK?" A bit later, the Senator strapped on a guitar and entertained the crowd with a "one-hit medley" of a song he wrote, earning (wryly begrudging) admiration from Mr. Fortune and loud applause from his supporters. I play guitar, and I must say, he certainly impressed me.
Besides the musical stars, there were a number of big names in local politics as well, including Delegate Steve Landes, Augusta County supervisors Larry Howdyshell and David Beyeler, as well as County Treasurer Richard Homes and Commissioner of Revenue Jean Shrewsbury. Staunton Republicans Cliff and Erma Fretwell, Richard and Elnora Hazlett, and James and Stacey Morris were also there, besides many others from the surrounding area. We all had a wonderful time, enjoying great music, a lovely setting, and fine catered food and beverages.
Later on, the host Tom Sheets introduced Senator Hanger, recalling when the two of them used to ride the same school bus together. Sheets said his grandmother often asked why Emmett was always carrying a stack of books home with him but Sheets wasn't. The folks got a hearty laugh from that. Sheets said that he is now making up for not doing his homework by asking all the guests to do their "homework" in getting out the vote for Emmett Hanger. Finally, Senator Hanger spoke briefly about his re-election bid:
I intend to win this election with your help, and I can with your help, and I was telling someone this a while ago. You know, God has a plan for us all, and if I happen not to win the election, but have friends like you behind me anyway, that's what it's about. The election is secondary to that. Just an affirmation of the fact that you have friends, that you've accumulated friends over time and that people will stand with you at critical junctures in your life, and I thank you for that.
I spoke with quite a few people at last night's event, including many I had never met before, and every one of them expressed a strong belief that re-electing Emmett Hanger to the state Senate is crucial to the future of Virginia. It may be getting late in the campaign, but Sen. Hanger's supporters are devoted to the cause of good, thrifty government, and they will be sparing no effort to help him stay in office over the next ten days. Personally, I am proud and deeply honored to play a (small) role in Senator Hanger's campaign, and however it turns out, I will have no regrets. Many, many thanks to Tom and Peggy Sheets for helping keep a good man like Emmett Hanger in the state Senate.
I have very little patience for strident personal attacks and incessant bickering, so I refuse to take part in the blog frenzy sparked by Republitarian two days ago. The facts of the DWI cases were verified by The New Dominion, and everyone can decide for themselves whether they are relevant to the 24th district senate race. Phil Croninger, Tom Krehbiel, and Virginia Virtucon each seemed to think that this flap reflected poorly on Hanger's campaign, but it was really just the doing of one over-eager blogger. If any of them had the first-hand knowledge of local politics in this area that I have, they would have arrived at a different conclusion about which side is really "playing dirty." I thought "Bloggers4Hanger" was just a parody blog all along, aptly mocking the hyperbolic rhetoric on Bloggers4Sayre. After my May 19 post, I never bothered to link to it. When it started getting semi-serious about actual issues, it "jumped the shark," and it is just as well that it has been taken down. I don't approve of the "eye-for-an-eye" approach to politics, and I know Emmett Hanger doesn't either.
Also, someone has been defacing Sayre road signs with the phrase "Eats Babies," and several of the Bloggers4Sayre complained about this, implying that Hanger supporters might be behind it. Not bloody likely. These are the same people, of course, who suggest that I am working on behalf of MoveOn.org, and who have often shown hypersensitivity to any kind of criticism, so their protests should be taken with a grain of salt. I noticed a post from one of them yesterday on BNN-Virginia ("Scott Sayre Eats Babies"), but it was later deleted from Bloggers4Sayre. Interesting...
Doug Mataconis has more guts in standing up to "The Base" than most other right-of-center bloggers in this state: "Sam Brownback Is A Moonbat." It is in reference to Sen. Brownback's statement that any scientific research that contradicts the book of Genesis should be dismissed as part of an atheistic agenda.
Along with the many sweet satisfactions of middle age come any number of aggravating aches, pains, and other health annoyances -- you know, the kind that advertisers on the evening news seem to target. The same thing also applies to our distant avian relatives on the evolutionary tree of life. George and especially Princess have been prone to various minor ailments over their seven-plus year lifetimes, from routine molting to occasional bumps and bruises.
George (left) and Princess (right), on May 19.
This week, somehow, Princess hurt her left foot, the "good" one that she relies upon for perching and hopping about. When I noticed blood in her nest, we were terribly worried and thought about taking her in to see the vet. Since we have had bad luck with pet care, however, we decided to take care of her ourselves. (Princess does not like to be handled, but even after I hold her when we need to examine or treat her, she still trusts me enough to let me pick up the wooden stick in the cage while she is perching on it.) We used hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant and a special antibiotic styptic powder, and so far Princess seems to be improving. She may end up losing a claw temporarily, but we're pretty sure she will be fully mobile before long.
George has been doing just fine in recent months, singing loudly almost every day, in keeping with all the bird mating activity that is evident outside their window.
In the mercantalistic (corruptly regulated) economies that predominate in Latin America, the only reliable path to success is through the "informal" sector -- street vendors and small shops that operate without licenses and trespass upon private property. Scoffing at the law has become a universal custom. Every once in a while, however, the government decides enough is enough, and the police crack down. That is what happened in Lima Peru last week, as several thousand petty merchants and their families were forcibly evicted after a month-long siege. From BBC:
The mayor of Lima, Luis Castaneda, had said the traders were illegally occupying the land which belonged to the local authority.
Last week, the government declared a state of emergency, suspending constitutional rights in the Santa Anita area of east Lima where the market is located.
MSM on Chavez
Jim Faranda wrote me to make the point that the mainstream media [or their op-ed voices, rather, have] paid little or no attention to the shutdown of Venezuela's opposition broadcast media by Hugo Chavez. Good point, and it is indeed ironic, given that journalists ought to share a professional commitment to press freedom. I guess I just haven't been paying as much to our dumbed-down broadcast news lately. So what's the latest with Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan?
Meanwhile, Chavez staged another mass rally in Caracas yesterday; see BBC. Tens of thousands of his supporters are apparently very happy that their range of television choices has been narrowed. It's amazing what people will do for a free hot meal or perhaps a new article of clothing, and it's amazing that even the BBC is blind to the standard "rent-a-mob" tactics used by dictators. Or maybe it's not so amazing for a news service that hired the likes of Greg Palast...
UPDATE: Thanks to Randy Paul (who is leftist but not an apologist for Castro or Chavez), I came across an English language pro-freedom blog from Venezuela: Caracas Chronicles.
With barely one week to go in the primary campaign, increasing attention is being paid by many commentators to the "horse race" aspect. For example, "SWAC Girl" began a recent post by asking "What are Hanger's polling numbers?" She was trying to downplay the significance of the endorsement of Emmett Hanger by Delegate Steve Landes and the lack of endorsements [of her candidate Scott Sayre by Republican] elected officials, possibly worried about the effect this may have on voters. I say, chill out: "Que sera, sera." [!]
That being said, let's get this straight: Emmett Hanger does not consult public opinion polls every time he makes a decision. He never has, and he never will. Some people say that show's he's "out of touch" with his constituents; I call it leadership. In that regard, it's well worth reading the statement he made when he announced his candidacy for reelection on April 25:
True and effective leadership, in my opinion, should be capable and willing to be visionary, recognize problems, and develop long term strategies to resolve those problems. Therein is the problem. Modern politics fosters "leaders" that in essence are followers. In order to be successful in modern politics you must convince people that your ideas are exactly what your constituents already believe to be the solution. In essence you must follow their lead.
That must change. You should never support someone to represent you that doesn't represent your basic viewpoints, but on the other hand you should not support them just because they have taken a poll and are telling you exactly what they know you want to hear.
I am prepared to continue providing leadership in the General Assembly, not only for the Republican Party, but for all of the citizens of the Commonwealth. I am prepared to confront the challenging issues of our day and attempt to forge consensus on how to address them. There is much work to do, but much of the foundation has been laid over the past several years to allow us to build an even better and stronger Virginia.
The contrast with the solicitous approach of Scott Sayre could not be starker.
More Sayre bloggers
Evidently, their 14-to-2 blogospheric preponderance (formerly 15-to-1) in the battle to unseat Sen. Hanger wasn't enough, so the bloggers4sayre have recruited threefour more bloggers "to help in the conservative battle in the blogosphere." It's funny how the self-proclaimed "Davids" seem to think they need more reinforcements to stand up against us "Goliaths."
Fred in Richmond!
Fred Thompson was the featured speaker at the Republican Party of Virginia's annual Commonwealth Gala dinner in Richmond last night, and he declared that the Republicans were about to rebound and hit the "comeback trail," with him in the lead. I certainly hope so; the party is in danger of cracking up over immigration, the war, and other vital issues. Whether or not he has much of substance to offer, he possesses the stylistic "mojo" of a winner. Thompson filed preliminary papers for a possible presidential run last week, and assuming the money starts flowing in as everyone expects, he will probably declare his candidacy later this month. Possible problem: When I saw the photo of Thompson with his wife Jeri in the Washington Post, I assumed it was his daughter.
In Saturday's News Leader, Al Dahler urged voters to vote to uphold fiscal responsibility, the meaning of which is obvious to all but a few hard-core ideologues, but he doesn't name the candidates.
CORRECTION: On Tuesday I cited an earlier op-ed piece by Mr. Dahler and referred to him as a "'progressive' (leftist)." After contacting him, I learned that he used to be a member of the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee, and that he does not consider himself a leftist. My apologies for the major-league goof; at least I acknowledged multiple meanings of "progressive" in my blog post.
Plame memo, in full
This is a potential bombshell news item, but it somehow escaped my notice last week: Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO), of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has released the entire text of Valerie Plame's February 12, 2002 memo (only excerpts had been released previously), and it indicates that she did suggest that her husband Joe Wilson would be a good person to make a fact-finding trip to Niger, even before Vice President Dick Cheney was involved. This contradicts her testimony before Congress. See nationalreview.com ; hat tip to Junkyard Blog.
D. J. McGuire tries valiantly to explain something he previously dismissed as unlikely: the entry of a Democrat (David Cox) into the state senate race. D.J. says, "The Democrats think Sayre will win." ... More to the point, the Dems want Sayre to win." Contrary to D.J., I really don't think the Dems really expect Cox to have much of a chance in the November election in any case, given the solidly conservative makeup of the electorate in this area. To me, the nomination of David Cox by the Democrats looks like a strategic move to minimize the likelihood of what is (for them) the worst-case scenario: a victory by Scott Sayre in November. Thus, the Democrats seek to galvanize moderate and liberal voters who haven't been paying much attention to local politics lately and stoke their fear of the right-wing agenda Scott Sayre supports so that they will vote against him in the primary election.
D.J. argues that the Libertarian candidate Sime will be forced to hunt for votes toward the liberal side of the political spectrum. Possibly, but I think more voters will make their choices according to character, practical questions, and specific issues than on ideological purity. What I wrote on Dec. 9, 2005 is especially pertinent to electoral contests such as the upcoming one in which a third party makes a strong challenge. It calls attention to the craving among voters for pragmatic, results-oriented legislators, not ideological mouthpieces:
Those who attempt to portray political leanings as falling somewhere along a one-dimensional right-to-left scale simply do not grasp the underlying political dynamics in this country, specifically the latent impulse for fundamental reforms and the intriguing drama about who will capitalize on it.
What struck me as particularly odd was D.J.'s assertion that "Hanger cannot rely on a single Democrat to support him in a primary." In this respect, he is contradicted by most of the other Bloggers 4 Sayre, who have been harping on the support among some Democrats that Sen. Hanger enjoys. See, for example, "Elle", "Yankee Phil", and "Spank That Donkey". Ironically, I agree with those folks that the senator does enjoy a wide base of support across party lines, but I don't see that as a bad thing, necessarily.
I have to credit D.J. for spreading the word about a new (anonymous) blog whose main purpose seems to supporting Emmett Hanger: Teddy's Truth. (Might it be the same guy who did the defunct satirical, hard-edged "Bloggers 4 Hanger"?) I bring this up primarily to make it perfectly clear that I am not the "Andrew" who has left comments there. I will respond to D.J.'s challenge regarding limited government after he responds to the questions I asked him in a comment on his blog post of May 19, and I can promise that I won't take as much time as he has.
Sen. Hanger recently spoke with the editorial staff of the News Leader, reaffirming his commitment to the Republican Party, regardless of the outcome on June 12. He stressed that what is at stake is truly monumental: "This primary for the 24th Senatorial District will determine the direction of the Republican Party in Virginia."
Some of the photos I took at the fund-raising event last week are now posted at EmmettHanger.com. I'm still working on the videos...
After racking up 12 wins and only five losses between May 11 and May 27, the Nationals are now back to losing more often than not. Oh well... One bit of bright news recently was Friday night's game against the San Diego Padres, in which they faced down the awesome ace pitcher Jake Peavy, winning 4-3 in ten innings. Another feat to remember was the upper-deck home run on Sunday afternoon by Ryan Zimmerman. In spite of rainy conditions, it reached the high-altitude yellow seats in left field of RFK Stadium; see MLB.com. Based on the typical trajectories in Robert Adair's book The Physics of Baseball, and assuming the ball was about 60 feet up and 370 feet from the plate when it hit the stands, I estimate that it would have traveled about 420 feet if there had been no obstructions.
The Nationals will move into their new stadium next April, so this will be the last season for sluggers to try to match some of Frank Howard's tape-measure blasts into the upper deck of RFK Stadium. The seats where the longest of those balls landed have been marked for posterity with white paint. Who knows what the future holds for that grimy but lovable old hulk of a stadium?
On South Capitol Street, meanwhile, construction on the Nats' future home is progressing steadily, with nearly all of the grandstand structure completed. This will be a big "feather in the cap" for the Clark Construction company. For information on how to get in line for season tickets at the new venue, see the Washington Nationals Web site. Hurry, hurry! Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! The Web cam image below is reproduced with permission, courtesy of Ox Blue:
The mail bag
Bruce Orser pointed me to an interesting thread about construction of the new Yankee Stadium at baseball-fever.com; the new stadium in Washington was also mentioned by someone who criticized the lack of cantilever overhang in the upper decks.
One of the new Bloggers 4 Sayre, Leslie Carbone, compared the 24th district senate race to the situation in Pennsylvania last year, when Senator Rick Santorum lost his bid for reelection in part because many conservatives stayed home to express anger for his support of his colleague in the Senate, Arlen Specter. Carbone is worried because "some Republicans--including former Senator George Allen--are thinking of endorsing liberal [emphasis added to express my incredulity] incumbent Emmett Hanger..." She believes that it is both morally and political wrong for Republican officeholders to endorse members of their party who are not rock-solid, true-blue conservatives. She cited her Nov. 11, 2006 post: "Pennsylvania conservatives proved that Sen. Santorum was too treacherous to win re-election." "Treacherous"? Is that what being loyal to an incumbent of one's own party is? I would venture to say that Santorum's defeat last year proved (among other things) that the Pennsylvania conservatives who didn't bother to vote for him were too spiteful and short-sighted to see the consequences of giving away the election -- and thus, the U.S. Senate -- to the Democrats. I am fairly confident that conservatives in Virginia are wiser than that.
What Ms. Carbone fails to realize is that the strident rhetoric and exclusionary attitude of many hard-line conservatives have been undermining the Republican Party, corroding the bonds of trust that are essential for any political organization to succeed. This trend has been building almost since the outset of President Bush's second term; see my Mar. 30, 2005 post. (That was back when I identified myself as a strong conservative, before Bush blew his window of opportunity for reform.) Ms. Carbone stands in opposition to the current Republican Party of Virginia leadership -- RPV Chairman Ed Gillespie and Vice-chairman Charles Judd -- who want the party to appeal to a broader range of the electorate.
More generally, pontificating about what is or isn't "moral" in the political sphere is usually problematic. Politics always has and always will involve pragmatic bargaining among leaders and factions who share common interests, and compromising over principles will be necessary from time to time in order to get anything done. Ideological purity or majority status: take your pick.
Speaking of "strident rhetoric," Jim McCloskey's cartoon in today's News Leader really hit the nail on the head: "The Sayre campaign staying on message." I'm glad to see that the News Leader's editorial staff has been paying attention to the recent SWAC-area blogospheric cacaphony.
Sayre rejects gas tax
I got a campaign flyer in the mail today from Scott Sayre, and he says: "Gas prices are high enough. There is no reason to raise the gas tax." Who is he to say how high gasoline prices should be? Has he ever heard of free markets? (After all, he's a businessman.) And where is the money going to come from to pay for improvements to I-81 which he favors, anyway? Just how is he going to "fund it and fix it"? There are two fundamental alternative approaches to the energy problem and the related transportation problem: Either fashion public policies based on the acknowledgement that fuel and roads are scarce and becoming scarcer all the time, or else pander to folks who just want to put their heads in the sand and "let the good times roll."
Today's Washington Post focused on the pricing structure for the Washington Nationals' new stadium, with comparisons to other big league ballparks. The box seats between the dugouts will cost as much as $400 each, rivaling the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers! There will be a fair number of bleacher and upper-deck seats in the $20-$30 range, and a small section of seats going for $5 each, sold on the day of the game only. That's good, but it's not good enough, and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) complained about the lack of affordable tickets given that the city is paying for the stadium. Team President Stan Kasten came right out and admitted, "We want to make the most money we can." Well, it is a business, after all.
"The sports industry is fast learning that you cannot price your best and most visible seats too high," said Marc S. Ganis, a Chicago-based sports marketing consultant. "There is always a market for those great seats, especially those that are in the television camera angles. With a new stadium in the nation's capital, where visibility and proximity to power is most important, these seats should sell very easily."
Web site enhancements
In response to a recent surge of interest in the stadium impressions feature, I have put the fans' impressions right on the stadium pages themselves, rather than on a separate page. Fans who have registered for this Web site will notice in the left side navigation bar a link to a special page that shows the last date when each respective stadium's impressions were updated. (That page is server-intensive, and I would probably face extra charges from the Web hosting company if a large number of people used it routinely.) Later on I may create an XML/RSS feed to help keep track of when new impressions are added by fans. Anyway, thanks to Wesley Johnson and other fans who have taken the time to share their impressions of Wrigley Field, Miller Park, and other ballparks.
Also, I have added an automated baseball news update feature in the right column of the Baseball blog page. It is a service of Fresh Content.net (which I found out about from Donald Sensing), and if it performs satisfactorily, I will add similar automated news updates to other category blog pages.
Ending days of suspense, Congressman Bob Goodlatte announced he is endorsing incumbent state Senator Emmett Hanger in the upcoming primary election. As reported by the News Virginian, Goodlatte told a group of people gathered at a fundraiser for Sen. Hanger in Mount Crawford:
I have known him for more than a quarter century and he is a reliable guy. ... He has the same values I have. He stands for limited government, free enterprise and strong families.
This endorsement was not a huge surprise, because the party leaders in Richmond and Washington are keenly aware that the survival of the party depends on upholding common sense and shunning the vitriolic bullies who have sullied the image of the Party of Lincoln of late. Hopefully, sweet reason will prevail once again after the primary election, and those who have been led astray by the fringe elements will return to the mainstream of the party.
"SWAC Girl" was not happy at all by the interest Senator Hanger has expressed in helping rebuild the local Republican Party committees, which have been experiencing serious tensions (to put it mildly) in recent months:
It speaks volumes when a candidate lashes out like this. He has no message and therefore resorts to baseless lies and threats. Those lambs who follow him had better watch out -- looks like the good Senator is leading them to slaughter.
If I didn't know better, I would say that sounded like a threat!
Arin Sime Q & A
Myron "Republitarian" asked six questions of Arin Sime, the Libertarian candidate for the 24th senate district, and he received six thoughtful answers.
It was 63 years ago that American, British, and Canadian soldiers waded onto the beaches of Normandy, beginning the liberation of France. What seems like an inevitable triumph in retrospect was anything but that for those who experienced the massive operation first hand. I'm a bit late in acknowledging this anniversary, but I came across an excellent batch of photos from D-Day at slate.com. Hat tip to Michael Oliver.
Remembering the Six Day War
This week many PBS stations broadcast a documentary program, "Six Days in June," about the Six Day War, which took place 40 years ago this week. It was then that Israel achieved one of the most stunning strategic victories in history by crushing the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Ironically, the blitzkrieg attack borrowed heavily from the early successes of Nazi Germany in World War II, catching the enemy air forces on the ground. There followed several decades of bitter recriminations among Arab nations, ashamed at their military incompetence and inability to stand up to the tiny nation of Israel. This is what led many of them to adopt the cowardly tactics of terrorism. The final chapter in the historic collision between Zionism and Arab nationalism has yet to be written, so we cannot yet say for certain what the ultimate result of Israel's military victory will be.
Here we go again: fourteen months ago I had a blog post with the very same title, but this time conservative Republicans in the Senate are the ones holding things up; see Washington Post. Frankly, I can't blame them. I wish a compromise were possible, but in the current political climate, I am very skeptical of any "comprehensive" approaches to immigration reform. To me, it sounds like they just want to say, "Well, at least we tried." Until more political leaders candidly acknowledge the function that illegal immigration serves to paper over the deep contradictions in the modern-day American economy (i.e., free market ideals versus entitlements in practice), no reform proposal will accomplish very much.
I will have much more to say on this subject tomorrow. In the mean time, I have compiled a special Immigration blog archive page. Future topical blog archive pages may include the Hanger-Sayre primary race, Republican party problems, entitlements, etc.
My letter endorsing Sen. Hanger
The Staunton News Leader printed my letter to the editor endorsing Senator Hanger today. They have strict guidelines on length, so several sentences were stripped down to the bare bones of subject and predicate. For the record, here is the unedited letter I submitted:
As someone who has been active with the local Republican Party for nearly five years, I have a lot to say about the upcoming primary election between state Senator Emmett Hanger and Scott Sayre. I have nothing against the challenging candidate, Mr. Sayre, and if he wins, I plan to support him in the November general election. The problem is that many of the people working on his behalf have been spreading misleading information, and the voters deserve to know the truth. Contrary to much of what has been written and said about him, Senator Emmett Hanger is a solid, responsible conservative leader who stands by his principles and refuses to buckle under pressure. Unlike his opponent, Senator Hanger is not beholden to any special interest group, and he is not by any stretch of the imagination a "professional politician," as some people say. Indeed, because of his modest nature, he is often slow to respond to unfair accusations about his record.
When Senator Hanger agreed to the compromise tax package in 2004, he did so to defend the state's solid financial record. Wrongly described by his opponent as "the largest tax increase in Virginia history," it included several provisions to ease the burden on people in rural parts of the state such as ours. Furthermore, Senator Hanger has worked long and hard on behalf of tax reform, successfully pushing for the abolition of the state "death tax," and reducing other taxes. With his seniority, he has the clout to get things done in Richmond. As for Mr. Sayre's no-tax-hike pledge, do you remember what that "read my lips" boast did to George Bush the Elder? Big mistake. The use of such pledges as a way to "starve the government" is fiscally irresponsible.
His critics often charge that Senator Hanger is "out of touch" with his constituents, perhaps because he does not consult public opinion polls every time he makes a decision. I do know this: whenever I have contacted Senator Hanger in the past to voice my opinion on policy questions, he has always responded promptly and courteously. I don't always agree with him, but I can't think of anyone with better judgment and in-depth knowledge of policy issues. Losing a dedicated public servant like him would be a tragic blow to all of Virginia, not just our area.
As Senator Hanger stated in his conversation with your editorial staff, this primary election "will determine the direction of the Republican Party in Virginia." I stand with him and all those who want the Republican Party to expand its base of support by adopting a friendlier, more welcoming attitude. I call on all voters in the 24th senate district who believe in the old-fashioned virtues of fiscal responsibility and good, thrifty government to vote for the man I am proud to support: Emmett Hanger.
Andrew G. Clem
Staunton Republican Committee
Senator Hanger: responsive
I thought it might help to provide an example of Senator Hanger's responsiveness that my letter mentioned. With his permission, I am reproducing below the contents of an e-mail message that he sent to me in March 2005. This was before I became disillusioned with the ability of conservatives to enact a genuine comprehensive market-based reform agenda. I was asking Sen. Hanger to explain why (I thought) the state budget estimates were being manipulated to justify higher taxes than were necessary, and his response set me straight on a few things:
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Actually the fiscal situation last year was not misrepresented. State law allows us to appropriate money based only on reliable forecasts of what will be coming in and Virginia historically has used conservative estimates.
As you may be aware, additional money was used to allow the state to meet it's obligations back to the localities. This was a great help in taking the pressure off of local real estate taxes and other fees.
The additional money coming in is a good thing but most of it can be attributed to the red hot economy in Northern Virginia fueled by federal spending on Defense and Homeland Security and paid for with federal red ink.
The average family in our area saw their taxes decrease as a result of the changes. Obviously if they are a heavy smoker there was a direct new cost, but everybody's income tax went down except for those with high incomes over 62 in age.
It is common in good times for there to be a growth in revenue above the projected numbers by at least a $billion. With that we can make sure that the state continues to meet it's obligations back to the localities and that we grant additional tax relief as well as handle a few unmet needs. I introduced legislation this year to repeal the estate tax and further reduce the sales tax on food. We put money aside for the rainy day fund (saved).
We also put $360 million in transportation funding form the general fund. We shouldn't do this in the long run or we will back in trouble again.
On Friday afternoon, I joined in a panel discussion on the topic of immigration reform for the WVPT-TV program "Virginia Viewpoints," at the gracious invitation of the host Chris Graham, who edits The New Dominion. The show will be broadcast Tuesday evening at 7:30, just after the polls close. (I was relieved to learn that whatever I said would not end up having an effect on the primary election, in case of gaffes.) The other panelists were Linda Jones, who has been a regular on that program, as well as fellow blogger Phil Croninger, and Rick Castaneda [!], of the Hispanic Council in Harrisonburg. Like me, the latter two were first-timers on the show. We barely scratched the surface of the issue, but the tone was positive and constructive at least. I made my usual points about the lack of attention to using free market solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, both in terms of U.S. domestic and trade policies, and the policies of countries in Latin America. There is a huge pressing need to create more opportunities for workers in countries south of the border, and we Americans could make things a lot easier by easing import restrictions on things like textiles and food.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to bring up a brief personal anecdote from 1993 or so: I was arguing with someone in Charlottesville about how important it was to pass NAFTA, and I tried to emphasize the necessity of setting up a system to oversee the burgeoning economic interchange between Mexico and the United States: "It's either NAFTA or a wall along our border." Too bad NAFTA has not been implemented the way it was supposed to be...
The Senate's NO vote
The discussion topic was especially timely because of what had just taken place on Capitol Hill. Whatever legislation that had resulted would have been a hideously complex set of measures that would not have dealt with the fundamental problems. The Federation for American Immigration Reform was performing the herculean task of keeping track of all the amendments that were attached to the bill, no doubt diluting its intended effects.
Regarding the collapse of the compromise immigration package in the Senate, the Washington Post pointed out the underlying reasons for the failure of the compromise measure: the fact that compromise is a dirty word in the Bush administration.
Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg said until the president leaves office, the prospects for bipartisan cooperation will remain slim. "The reason we have this [polarized] politics is George Bush," he said. "Not the Democratic Party or even the Republicans in Congress. The climate of this era has been set by Bush."
The end result of the Rovian strategy of polarized hard-ball politics is that policy-making in Washington has ground to a halt, leaving the door wide open for extremists such as the Minutemen to take matters into their own hands. Way to go, Karl!
In terms of politics, grass-roots conservatives have begun to defect from Bush in droves, leaving him without much of a support base. He is already a lame duck president, with 19 more months to go.
Sen. Hanger on immigration
On May 18, I analyzed Scott Sayre's position on immigration, agreeing with some parts but mostly very critical of what seems to be an insincere attempt to use this as a "wedge issue" for electoral purposes only. (Taking his cue from Karl Rove, perhaps?) As far as I can tell, Sayre offers no constructive solutions, just the lame slogan "What part of 'illegal' don't they understand?"
Emmett Hanger, on the other hand, has been grappling with this issue for several years, and is determined to have the courts revisit the matter of verifying the legal residency of public school students. (As things stand, public schools are prohibited from asking.) He wrote the law requiring verification of legal presence in order to qualify for any type of public benefit, and he wants to make sure that our public schools are only open to those who are here legally, or have begun the necessary legal steps. His approach is "common sense," pragmatically dealing with the current reality, while defending national security and our nation's heritage of justice and fair play.
The News Leader printed a letter by Daniel Piper aptly rebutting the Sayre campaign's distortions. You can read for yourself the bill (SB 1204) that Sen. Hanger sponsored this past session at leg1.state.va.us:
In-state tuition rates; prohibited for certain individuals. Prohibits the board of visitors or other governing body of a public institution of higher education in the Commonwealth from authorizing in-state tuition rates for individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States. The bill also provides that, notwithstanding the provisions regarding the governing bodies' mandates, any person shall be eligible for in-state tuition who: (i) has resided in Virginia while attending high school; (ii) has graduated from a public or private high school in Virginia or has received a General Education Development (GED) certificate in Virginia; (iii) has resided in the Commonwealth for at least three years on the date of high school graduation; (iv) has registered in an institution of higher education; (v) has provided an affidavit stating that he has filed an application to become a permanent resident of the United States and is actively pursuing such permanent residency or will do so as soon as he is eligible; and (vi) has submitted evidence that he or, in the case of a dependent student, at least one parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis, filed, unless exempted by state law, Virginia income tax returns for at least three years prior to the date of enrollment.
Sayre has been deriding those stipulations as meaningless, accusing Hanger of "false advertising." A better way to look at it is to see those stipulations as a very effective "lever" that will force many illegal immigrant families to seek regularized status. While many people would regard that as nothing more than a "loophole," it's certainly better than the status quo, in which millions of immigrants hide and/or work in exploitive conditions, for fear of being deported. In any case, because of opposition by the House of Delegates, Sen. Hanger's SB 1204 did not pass this year.
Negative? Who, us???
Sometimes dead-serious blogging is even funnier than the kind of parody news you find on The Onion. Take this self-contradictory blog post by "Yankee Philip", who tries to defend the "Bloggers 4 Sayre" from all the criticism for their nastiness during this campaign:
There was a lot of sarcasm. There was a lot of humor. There were no hostile or malicious comments. The name calling and threats did not come from the Sayre supporters. The name calling didn't just come from the Senator's supporters either. The only time any of the Sayre people seem anyway negative is in defense, in responding to belligerant behavior.
I swear, those people must live on a different planet... Hat tip to Thomas Krehbiel, who observed, "Not understanding what sarcasm means could explain why Bloggers 4 Sayre doesn't play very well with others."
When this is all over, I half expect Alton Foley to be revealed as a covert operative for the Emmett Hanger campaign! NOTE to you folks in Rio Linda: the smile means I'm just kidding!
The final stretch...
As expected, we've been bombarded with a frantic, last-minute advertising and mailings from the Sayre camp, much of which is patently bogus. Members of right-to-life groups were targeted with a blue postcard from "Pro-Life for Sayre," a pretend organization with the same mailing address as the Sayre campaign itself. Ditto for hunters and gun-rights folks. NOTE TO MR. SAYRE: You're wasting your time; Emmett Hanger has impeccable credentials on both those issues! Today I received the first (and only) issue of the "Shenandoah-Blue Ridge News-Times," a pretend newspaper that just happens to cover the 24th senate district. In addition, the local GOP leaders who support Sayre even appeared on a television ad I saw today, and boy did they look worried! Finally, I got phone calls today from the malevolent Grover Norquist and Dr. Kurt Michael urging me to vote for Sayre. More on Grover tomorrow...
According to "Not Larry Sabato", the 24th Senate District "Leans Hanger." Staunton's Clifford Garstang, a Democrat, agrees with NLS but doesn't "think it will even be close." (Once again, a key assertion made by D. J. McGuire -- in this case, that Democrats expect and want Sayre to win -- is contradicted.) Garstang lays much of the blame on Sayre's out-of-control "blogging friends."I don't know what the final results will be, but there is no question that the momentum has shifted since Chris Graham opined three weeks ago that race was "Scott Sayre's to lose..."
The Tate scandal
Speaking of Not Larry Sabato (a.k.a. Ben Tribbett), he sparked a scandal by accusing Shaun Kenney, communications director for the Virginia Republican Party, of leaking information about the impending indictment of Mark D. Tate, a candidate for the senate seat being vacated by Russell Potts. It involves campaign funding violations, but it is hard to say whether it was just a technical error or something really bad. This story actually made the Washington Post. What raised my eyebrows was the fact that the prosecutors are tied to Virginia Conservative Action PAC, which endorsed the opposing candidate, Jill Holtzman Vogel and is also backing Scott Sayre! To me, that smelled fishy right off the bat. I wonder how far this web of nefarious politicking stretches?
It seems that Hugo Chavez is trying to change the subject as protests against his suppression of the free press continue. Last week he called for turning his "Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas" (ALBA) into a military alliance. The leftist trade group was created in opposition to the U.S.-led "Free Trade Area of the Americas," and Chavez says that military cooperation is necessary for the four countries -- Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Bolivia -- to become more independent of U.S. influence. The other left-wing government in Latin America, Ecuador, is also considering joining ALBA. See CNN.com. In point of fact, none of those countries are adjacent to each other, and the idea that any of them might come to the other's assistance in case of foreign invasion (by the gringos?) is pretty far-fetched. But if your regime is based on discarded romantic notions like creating a workers' paradise, it probably makes perfect sense. Once again, whatever rhetoric comes from the mouth of Chavez must be taken with a grain of salt, and it may bear no relation to reality at all.
Fujimori extradition to Peru?
It appears that Chilean courts are getting close to the point where they might approve the extradition of ex-president Alberto Fujimori back to Peru. See CNN.com. I tend to think that some Chileans are dragging their heels on this case just to irk their rivals to the north, even though the two governments have been getting along better in the past year or so. Ironically, Peru's president Alan Garcia is having a measure of success right now, to the surprise of most foreign observers (including me), so Fujimori would be in a weakened political condition if he is sent back to his home country. Not much is left of his political party, originally called Cambio 90. Its leaders Victor Joy Way and Martha Chavez have faced a variety of criminal charges relating to corruption during Fujimori's rule.
Since Grover Norquist was kind enough to call me yesterday, asking me to vote for Scott Sayre, I thought I would scour my archives and find out when I began to express worries about his malign influence in the Republican Party. Why should you care who Grover Norquist is? Well, he is the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, the organization that has been planning to defeat state Senator Emmett Hanger ever since the mid-2004 tax compromise. They have pumped lots of money and resources into the Sayre campaign, and I think it is safe to surmise that Sayre would never have been a candidate had they not recruited him. Norquist's ATR is the central nexus of power in the movement to unseat any Republicans who refuse to bend to their demands on tax cuts, though a variety of spin-off organizations do more of the work at the state and local level. I should state at the outset that one of the first things that really impressed me about Emmett Hanger was his awareness of what Norquist was doing in Washington and in state governments.
I noted on Aug. 4, 2004, "Grover Norquist has been defending a Saudi financial supporter who has proclaimed sympathy with the cause of the terrorists."
Upon the occasion of the second Bush inaugural festitivites, in January 2005 I wrote:
Also present at that forum was Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist who has earned a reputation as a political bruiser in Washington. Norquist emphasized the goal of enabling individual Americans to achieve their own financial freedom, as part of the vision of an "ownership society." Thomas noted that Norquist seems not to care whether the Social Security system goes belly up, and Norquist didn't try to deny it. My sense is that Norquist's focus on tax cutting blinds him to the urgency of other structural reforms, such as tort liability.
On Mar. 30, 2005, I identified Norquist as one of the "rogues in the GOP," along with Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay. Those three men were the core group of Republicans who favored hardball tactics and dirty dealing to get their way in Washington. Of the three, only Norquist remains in power. On May 10 of that year, I warned that Norquist's arrogant hubris (e.g., mocking the Democrats as "neutered" farm animals) might "end up ruining the Republicans' ability to govern effectively as a majority party." Indeed, it did.
On the other hand, Norquist did reach out to gay Republicans, in spite of anger from the Religious Right: see Oct. 21, 2005. For Norquist, "traditional family values" have little or no meaning; it's all about amassing power and money.
So even if Norquist is unsavory, what does that have to do with the political races in Virginia? For anyone who has been wondering from whence all of the mean-spiritedness in the Hanger-Sayre race emanated, this quote by Norquist from 2003 should clear things up:
We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals -- and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship.
Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.
SOURCE: Denver Post, "Rancor becomes top D.C. export: GOP leads charge in ideological war," May 26, 2003. (Archives $$$) (Hat tip to "Cobalt 6".) Just remember, whenever you hear Sayre supporters putting down Emmett Hanger for his "get-along, go-along" approach to politics (what normal people call serious negotiations), it boils down to an excuse for even harsher rhetoric and sharper divisions in our state and country than we have experienced recently. It's the exact opposite of what we need in time of war.
A house divided against itself cannot stand.
-- Abraham Lincoln, 1858
Sayre's bogus mail
"Teddy Roosevelt" (apparently a pseudonym ) has much more detail on the bogus mailings sent out by the Sayre campaign last week; I covered it briefly yesterday (scroll down), but I should have emphasized it more. I have seen so many dirty tricks and distortions by the Sayre campaign that I have become jaded and blase about it.
RSS feed glitch
For arcane technical reasons, my RSS feed was not working for the past few days, which is why my blog posts were not showing up on Virginia blog net news. I have made a temporary fix: eliminating accented characters from the first few sentences of my recent blog posts. I should have a permanent fix by tomorrow.
It was a beautiful clear, sunny, mild day, so I took a brief walk through Montgomery Hall Park before church this morning. Because it's the middle of breeding season, however, most of the birds were keeping a low profile so as not to attract predators to their nests. Today's highlights are listed below. I also heard a Red-eyed vireo and some Blue-gray gnatcatchers, but no Scarlet tanagers, to my surprise.
Click on the adjacent image to see a brief video clip of a male Downy woodpecker feeding one of his offspring inside the nest hole.
Just in time for the primary election tomorrow, I have finished editing the video I took at the fundraiser on May 31, featuring Jimmy Fortune and Robin Williams. (See my June 1 post.) It lasts just under three minutes, and features warm endorsements from Mr. Fortune and Mr. Williams, as well a brief excerpt of the senator himself performing a song he wrote. To view it, just click on the image above. (Apple's QuickTime format.) I am in the process of setting up a YouTube account, and hope to have the video uploaded later today. On the upload page, it says it "may take several minutes," but on the help page it says it "may take several hours."
The heartfelt appeal Senator Hanger makes at the end of the video really makes it clear what this election is all about. He talks about looking out of the best interests of all Virginians, not just those who belong to any particular political party. He pledges to continue defending rural Virginia, and the quality of life we who live here are privileged to enjoy. The more you listen to him, the more you will understand: Senator Hanger gets it. To hear audio clips from Senator Hanger, his wife Sharon, and others, go to his Web site: emmetthanger.com.
The fate of the Virginia GOP
Sunday's Washington Post examined the Virginia primary elections, and quoted various analysts who expect turnout to be low. That might help the challengers such as Scott Sayre, many of whose supporters are part of the well-organized "insurgency." The race in the 24th senate district has become highly visible in the past couple weeks, however, so I don't think that will apply here. The Post article identifies main "targets" of the anti-tax movement: Senators Walter Stosch (Majority Leader), Martin Williams, and our own Emmett Hanger. The Club for Growth is identified as a key player in this effort; our own delegate Chris Saxman is a prominent member of that organization. Scott Sayre was quoted as saying Sen. Hanger is a moderate who is not in step with the conservative sentiment of most Virginians, apparently unaware that conservatism is by its very nature moderate.
Whither the conservative soul?
Beyond the immediate struggle within the Republican Party lies to broader struggle to define the nature of conservatism in America. Several months ago I read Andrew Sullivan's book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back, which scrutinizes the pernicious impact of the Religious Right on modern politics. In case you are not aware, Sullivan is a renowned conservative commentator who recently moved his blog to The Atlantic Monthly. In some respects, his criticisms parallel those of John Danforth, who wrote Faith and Politics; see my Oct. 4 post. [link fixed] Sullivan's primary purpose is to highlight the sharp contradiction between fundamentalism (which is religious) and conservatism (which is political). For the past two decades, those two approaches to life co-existed in relative harmony, thanks to the efforts of televangelists such as the late Jerry Falwell. Now, however, the latent tensions between them are becoming as obvious as night and day.
Sullivan emphasizes that conservatives are essentially skeptical about words and cautious about deeds: "The defining characteristic of a conservative is that he knows what he doesn't know." Fundamentalists, in contrast, are certain that they possess the Truth, and therefore tend to regard any opposing opinions or belief systems as inherently subversive. For them, honest disagreement is impossible, and moderation or compromise is a vice. (Anyone who reads the local SWAC blogs will find this doctrinaire closed-mindedness on open display.) Those who have studied what Jesus said in the Gospels know that the self-proclaimed arbiters of moral correctness (e.g., the Pharisees) were often the furthest from God.
Two months ago, Al Dahler had a very good column in the News Leader along the same lines as Sullivan. He is keenly aware of the intellectual roots of 20th Century conservatism in 18th Century liberalism that underlay the U.S. Constitution, and the perversion of its meaning by many politicians whose only concern is how to win the next election:
Many contemporary religious personalities wrap themselves in conservatism to camouflage their theocratic ambitions. In Augusta County and throughout Virginia, people confound the concepts of political conservatism and religious fundamentalism and often use them interchangeably or in conjunction with one another. Conservatism is a political theory while religious fundamentalism is a set of religious beliefs. The two concepts are not correlative; rather, their intentions diverge. Claiming to be a political conservative and a religious fundamentalist is, in reality, an oxymoron.
Finally, Sullivan emphasizes that "Tradition is not a static entity" for conservatives, whose task when governing is to adjust to social evolution as soberly and as prudently as possible. (Sullivan slips in an argument on behalf of gay rights.) I came to a similar realization about the nature of intellectual conservatism toward the end of my graduate studies at the University of Virginia. In Chapter 2 of my dissertation, I quoted British philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote about striking a balance between continuity and change:
Moreover, to be conservative is not merely to be averse from change ...; it is also a manner of accommodating ourselves to changes, ... For, change is a threat to identity, and every change is an emblem of extinction. ... And it is by some such subterfuge of conservatism [defending identity in the open field of experience] that every man or people compelled to suffer a notable change avoids the shame of extinction.
In other words, true conservatives do not cling to the past at all costs (as a reactionary would), but rather seek to preserve what is good from the past, and dispense with what is no longer practical. Emmett Hanger knows what is good about life in the Shenandoah Valley - Blue Ridge Mountain region, and as a genuine, thoughtful conservative, he is determined to preserve it.
UPDATE: Multiple spelling corrections. Obviously, I've been in a hurry!
Thanks to BNN
I would like to acknowledge the prompt technical assistance from the folks at Blog Net News in getting my RSS feed back online last night. Just in time!
Meet David Cox
After tomorrow, depending on who wins the GOP primary, there may be increasing attention to the Democrats' nominee for the 24th district senate seat: David Cox. Cobalt6, a new Democratic blog in this area, has a profile on him. (That's where I got that quote by Grover Norquist yesterday.)
One of the signs that summer has finally arrived (de facto, at least) is the sweet smell of Honeysuckle flowers (pictured above) hanging in the air almost everywhere you go. Other such signs include the flowers on catalpa trees coming into bloom, and the appearance of lightning bugs in the evening. In another week or two, the leaves of mimosa trees will emerge, followed soon thereafter by their puffy pink flowers.
Right to the bitter end, supporters of Scott Sayre are tarring incumbent Senator Emmett Hanger with the unfair label of "RINO." As election day dawns, therefore, it behooves us to take a look at the facts to see which candidate has stronger credentials as a Republican.
Over 25 years as an active Republican, including service as Augusta County GOP chairman; well-known and respected by his constituents.
No known experience in politics, a proverbial "dark horse" until February.
Long record of legislative accomplishments on behalf of conservative causes and success in negotiating deals in the Virginia General Assembly.
Long record of success in business since leaving military service.
Endorsed by former Senator George Allen, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Congressman Virgil Goode, House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell, House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, Delegate Steve Landes, and nearly all local GOP elected officials, who are accountable to the general public.
Endorsed by nearly all local GOP committee chairmen, accountable to whomever they can muster at mass meetings.
Has pledged never to raise taxes, letting the Democrats take credit for fiscal reponsibility.
In contrast to the challenging candidate, who is a political novice, Emmett Hanger worked his way up through the system, beginning in 1979 when he was elected Commissioner of Revenue for Augusta County, the first Republican to win county office since Reconstruction. A few years later he won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1995, he ran for Virginia State Senate and defeated the incumbent Democrat, Frank Nolen. All this while, he was helping to build the Republican Party in the Shenandoah Valley - Mountain region, playing a key role in helping the GOP gain a majority in the Virginia state legislature. For this lifetime of hard, devoted work, he is now being attacked -- or dare I say "betrayed"? -- by a small but vocal fringe group who presume to embody the real Republican Party.
In terms of policy and ideology, there is no question that Emmett Hanger belongs on the conservative side of the spectrum. He has been unwavering in his commitment to the sanctity of life and Second Amendment rights, having received superlative ratings from the National Rifle Association. For Mr. Sayre to suggest that he can claim support from that organization is an outrage.
I have long had ambivalent feelings about moderate Republicans, some of whom lack all conviction, but I have refused to join in demonizing them as "RINOs," as many on the Right are fond of doing. As I wrote on May 21, 2005:
GOP moderates are often called "RINOs" (Republicans in name only) by the hard-core conservative activists, the kind who gravitate toward Grover Norquist and Karl Rove. Even though I'm usually on the conservative side of things, I have a strong distaste for harsh rhetoric those guys specialize in, and I don't take kindly to impugning the motives of people who share party affiliation or general leanings. Moderates have a vital role to play within the Republican party and within Congress.
By the twisted standards of today's world, sadly, past Republican presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower or Teddy Roosevelt would probably be considered "RINOs" just because they put the public interest first and foremost. On Jan. 3 of this year I wondered whether the late president Gerald Ford would be considered a "RINO" by the Republicans of today, based on his desire to heal the wounds of Watergate and work with the Democrats in Congress. On Jan. 18 I asked the same thing about Newt Gingrich, who has a "dangerous" tendency to use his brain and speak his mind. As many will recall, I raised hackles on May 18 by suggesting that many Republicans who demonize others as "RINOs" are themselves the ones who have strayed from the party's traditional doctrine. Get the picture?
It's now up to the voters to define the mainstream of the Party of Lincoln...
For whatever reason, uploading the Emmett Hanger campaign event video to YouTube failed after several attempts. Finally, I got lucky late this afternoon. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"
So, the good guys won, after all. All that sacrifice and work finally paid off! Our incumbent state senator Emmett Hanger overcame a ferocious challenge to win renomination last night as the Republican candidate for the 24th District State Senate. As soon as the polls closed, we Hanger supporters gathered to watch the election results coming in, and our patience was tried by the slow tabulation. (Coincidentally, we also got to watch my television debut as a panelist on WVPT's Virginia Viewpoints show hosted by Chris Graham, but it was hard to stay focused on that.) For some reason, however, Wards 3 and 4 in Staunton were very slow in reporting their vote totals. Even though we were pretty sure by 8:15 PM or so that Hanger had won, it was not until about 8:45 when the Staunton votes were all counted that we could let loose and celebrate.
And speaking of "sweet," as soon as we received confirmation of the big win, we all headed down to Wright's Dairy-Rite in Staunton to celebrate the historic triumph of reason and hope over hatred and fear. The Senator treated all his supporters to a milk shake or an ice cream sundae. Yum! It was a fitting treat for those who really deserved it -- hence, "just desserts." The atmosphere was jubilant, as upwards of fifty friends and supporters crowded into the old-fashioned drive-in restaurant that is one of Staunton's iconic landmarks.
I was glad to meet a number of Emmett's key supporters, especially his legislative aide Holly Herman. His wife Sharon joined him, as did their daughter Heidi and her family. Also joining in the festivities were Delegate Steve Landes, Augusta County supervisor David Beyeler, County Treasurer Richard Homes, and Commissioner of Revenue Jean Shrewsbury, along with Tom and Peggy Sheets, who hosted the big fund-raising event on May 31. Staunton Republicans Stacey Morris, Cliff and Erma Fretwell, Ray and Carol Ergenbright, Richard and Elnora Hazlett were there, as well as Hanger campaign volunteers Carol Brown, Craig and Shirley ???, and Kathryn ???, a JMU student who belongs to a pro-education organization called Century 21. I am extremely proud to have worked with all these fine folks as a member of the the Hanger team. (I didn't bring a notebook, so I apologize for not getting more names correctly.)
Today's News Leader had an unusually long and blunt editorial about this primary election and the ramifications thereof: "Time to clean house." For the benefit of those who have been observing the Hanger-Sayre race from a distance, without first-hand knowledge of the shame and agony that we true "grass roots" party members have been enduring, here are some key excerpts:
Local Republican party politics have been spinning out of control for several years now. Increasingly nasty campaigns have made a mockery of the principles and ethics of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan by embracing the tactics of Republican advertising spinmeister Scott Howell, White House wormtongue Karl Rove and the libertarian guru of slash-and-burn, Grover Norquist. Since the failed Republican gubernatorial candidacy of Jerry Kilgore through the failed senatorial campaigns of George Allen and Scott Sayre, an even more pernicious trend has emerged: Vile, abusive, truth-twisting (when outright falsehoods were not being spread) and ad hominem attacks made via cowardly, anonymous blogs run by the very people who claim to be the leaders of the local Republican party.
It is time for the adults to seize the steering wheel from the hands of the willful children and plot a more reasonable course. It is time for local Republicans to engage in reasoned discourse and put the rancor away. That cannot happen, however, without cleaning house.
Betrayal is a serious matter and insubordination must be dealt with swiftly. It's time to clear the underbrush of the snakes. Better yet, the snakes should resign. Today.
Those of us in the local Republican Party who supported Emmett Hanger -- in the face of extraordinary pressure and intimidation -- put our reputations (or even our careers) on the line in endorsing him, and we made it clear that our fundamental purpose was to restore the party's good name and get it back on track to governing in responsible way. We supporters of Emmett Hanger have been a strong majority on the Staunton Republican Committee all along (hence my election as secretary in March), but you never would have known it from the news about endorsements or public events that were supposedly sponsored by our committee -- without our approval, or even advance consultation! Before the primary election, I tried to be discreet about all the dirty tricks and charades that were being perpetrated by the other side, not wanting to be accused of "airing dirty laundry." As of now, all bets are off. As I wrote yesterday, "It's now up to the voters to define the mainstream of the Party of Lincoln..." The people have spoken.
A blog too far?
As for the blog war in which I became embroiled, it became clear several weeks ago that "Bloggers 4 Sayre" had passed the point of diminishing returns, with an overloaded roster of bloggers most of whom were smart enough to stay out of the fray -- B4S "in name only," you might say. Adding the heavy-weight "reinforcements" from outside the 24th District late in the game looked desperate to me, a sign that our side had grabbed the momentum. Likewise, piling on their puny blog opponents (Myron and me, basically) with preposterous slurs and insinuations backfired terribly. Fortunately, some of those bloggers refrained from the filthy mud-slinging, showing that there is some hope for reconciliation within the Republican Party -- once they express contrition for siding with those who tried to wreck the party, that is. As for the hot-headed zealots, however, they should consider "spending more time with their families."
Sign envy? NOT!
I think Emmett Hanger's big win validates my long-standing skepticism of the efficacy of yard signs. Sure, it's good to show your support, and it keeps up morale to see signs sprinkled about here and there, but let's not get carried away, folks! When I saw the dozens of Sayre signs outside the polling places (just like outside Blue Ridge Community College during the forum on May 29), it reminded me of the similar absurd deluge of Kerry-Edward signs outside the polls on November 2, 2004 -- all for nought. Can you say "overkill"? When you've got a weak candidate with a simplistic message, you're going to need a lot more than bombastic blogs and huge signs to change anybody's vote.
Another lesson is the importance of holding open, fair elections -- primary as well as general elections -- under the supervision of a public board. When I think of how, without a fair and transparent process, the nomination might well have been "hijacked" by the local "Mayberry Machiavellis" in the same way that they have hijacked the Republican Party leadership positions in recent years, my past opposition to the use of public funds for political parties' nominations is called into question.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project Emmett Hanger raised $232,321, of which the largest portion (about a tenth) came from Leadership for Virginia, which lobbies for Northern Virginia interests. In general, Hanger drew support from a much broader, diverse range of individuals and interest groups than his opponent did. Mr. Sayre raised $152,707, but that does not include money spent on the anti-Hanger radio ads or other propaganda campaigns waged by outside PACs. Of that total, nearly one third came from Harrisonburg businessman Walter Curt, and I learned last night why Mr. Curt has a grudge against Senator Hanger. Another big contributor to Sayre was former House of Delegates Speaker Vance Wilkins, who sent an unusually harsh and bitter letter attacking Emmett Hanger. Apparently, he can't forgive Hanger for not coming to his defense during the sex scandal which (among other things) led to his resignation in 2002.
The election results
I was guardedly optimistic about Senator Hanger's chances, and the 53%-47% election result was about what I expected. I must say, Myron deserves credit for his very accurate prediction, based on the high turnout. The vote totals highlight one very interesting fact: the localities in which the pro-Sayre "SWAC job" bloggers reside, and where they focused the bulk of their campaign efforts, were the very places where Emmett Hanger won by the biggest margin. If that is not a stinging rebuke to their negative political style, and definitive proof of their utter political incompetence, I don't know what is. Will higher-level Republican officials in Virginia take notice?
In that regard, it is perhaps a fortuitous coincidence that RPV Chairman Ed Gillespie announced that he is resigning his position to go work in the White House, replacing Dan Bartlett as Counselor to President Bush; see rpv.org. Indeed, the party needs a fresh start, from top to bottom.
Among the other incumbent moderate conservatives being challenged in the Old Dominion, Senate Majority Leader Walter Stosch (Henrico) survived by a narrow margin, but Martin Williams (Newport News) was defeated by Patricia Stall, and Brandon Bell (Roanoke County) was defeated by Ralph Smith. Oddly, the Washington Post emphasized that most moderates in Virginia were defeated, but their article ignored the two GOP senate incubments who overcame their challengers: Emmett Hanger and Walter Stosch. Perhaps this was because those two leaders are more conservative than moderate. In any case, the primary elections yielded a mixed message overall, neither confirming nor invalidating the effectiveness of the anti-tax, anti-government movement -- VCAP and the rest of their ilk. Those groups live to fight another day...
After retrieving Emmett Hanger road signs this wonderful morning, I headed over to Bell's Lane where dozens of Red-winged blackbirds were making noisy displays. Birds of all kinds were singing loudly, as if to celebrate the primary election victory of our conservation- minded state senator. "Save our habitat!" At my final stop I fortunate to see a Green heron for the first time this season, or two of them, rather, in the top of a tree. I also made my first definite sighting of a Willow flycatcher performing its distinctive "fitz-bew" song; see photo. Today's highlights:
The Washington Nationals beat the Baltimore Orioles in three straight games, playing in Camden Yards, no less. The 9-6 win on Wednesday night was especially sweet; credit goes to Felipe Lopez, whose triple to the right-field corner the 13th inning drove in three runs. Chad Cordero blew his sixth save opportunity of the year in that game, but redeemed himself with a save in last night's 3-1 win. Starting pitcher Jason Simontacchi showed steady improvement after early failures this year, going seven-plus innings. It was only their second series sweep this year. See MLB.com. Apparently, not many fans in Baltimore took the rivalry with Washington very seriously, as attendance for all three games was in the low 20,000s. Perhaps this sweep will convince them that the Nats are deserving of more respect!
Only two Nationals have a reasonable shot at the All Star game this year: Dmitri Young and Cristian Guzman, both of whom are batting above .320 right now. "Golden boy" Ryan Zimmerman is getting his share of clutch hits and home runs (10, leading the team), but his batting average is only .250. It looks like Nick Johnson, the guy Young replaced, will need at least another month or two of rehabiliation before he will be ready to resume play. Thanks to Dmitri Young, there's no hurry.
Thus far, it's been a very good road trip. Last weekend, the Nats took two out of three games from the Twins in the Metrodome -- the first time Cristian Guzman had played there since he left Minnesota. This weekend, the Nats head up to Toronto to play the Blue Jays, who used to be the team's regional rivals when they were called the Montreal Expos.
Roger Clemens is back
In the Bronx last Saturday, Roger Clemens eased fans' concerns about whether his 44-year old body is up to major league stress requirements. In his first big league game since signing with the Yankees, he struck out seven batters over six innings, as the Yankees beat the Pirates, 9-3. Clemens seems to have adapted his style to his abilities: as Dave Sheinin wrote in Washington Post, Clemens was "more deceptive than overpowering, more savvy craftsman than savage brute..." As us middle-agers know, the mind gets sharper while the body gets frailer.
It would have been a shame if my recent time-consuming political pursuits had not borne fruit, but fortunately the good guys won -- by a narrow margin. A month ago, it looked like the challenging candidate had a solid lead, but incumbent state senator Emmett Hanger proved to be the "comeback kid."
The mail bag
Bruce Orser pointed me to another new batch of Citi Field construction photos at baseball-fever.com.
For folks like me who don't live and breathe politics 24/7, the past couple days have been quite a welcome relief. Here are a few random, disjointed musings about what various people thought the primary election meant, and what is on tap for coming months:
At The New Dominion, Chris Graham doubted the sincerity of the early gestures of conciliation by the local GOP leaders who had endorsed Scott Sayre. They seemed to think that Sen. Hanger was chastened by the close primary election results, in which he almost lost his seat. Graham disagrees vehemently, saying "Hanger doesn't feel anything close to chastened after beating back Sayre's challenge." Nor should he: He withstood a fierce, well-organized, well-funded challenge without changing his laid-back style or backtracking on policy issues. He held his ground, he played on his own old-fashioned terms, and he ended up winning the battle, anyway.
If I were to quibble with Sen. Hanger's fiscal policy positions, it would be more on the spending side, doing more to scrutinize and put the brakes on state expenditures. As Sen. Hanger says, in boom times such as we have been in, a revenue surplus is what you expect -- which is why the state government should put away money in a "rainy day" fund.
In an interview with WHSV TV-3 Staunton GOP chair Anne Taetszch said she will now support Emmett Hanger this fall; "We're all in the same party. We all come together." It's too bad she didn't make that clearer during the primary campaign. But is reconciliation within the party really possible after everything that has happened? One of the leading local Republican activists, a Sayre supporter, once chided me for (supposedly) thinking that politics was all about hand-holding and singing "Kubayah." I guess from the perspective of one who believes that politics is always a hard-ball, winner-take-all sport, anyone like me who strives for reasoned compromise is a fool.
James Atticus Bowden surveyed the four big GOP senate primary races, and observed, "The difference between the losing and the winning among Hanger, Stosch, Bell and Williams is very local and idiosyncratic." He claims credit for the "peasant rebellion" that unseated Marty Williams, and looks forward to further progress in the next election cycle. To the contrary, I don't think the Republicans can continue on the current path toward populism without some major shakeout or defection.
Richmond Democrat observes, "The infamous 'Bloggers for Sayre"' (aka the 'SWACtion') bet everything on a challenge to the Republican incumbent, and may have actually cost Sayre the race." Gee, do ya think?
Waldo Jaquith scorns the anonymous SWAC bloggers who are universally assumed to be the leaders of the Republican Party in these parts. (Hey, don't ask me, I'm only the secretary. ) Those folks "bet everything on Hanger losing," but may try to cling to power nonetheless. Waldo concludes, "As a rational human, I hope they never work in politics again, but as a Democrat, I hope they stick around."
The bottom line is that, given the very high-profile endorsements of Sayre by the local GOP chairs, and the very high importance that Sayre attached to those endorsements in his campaign, the Republican candidate for the 24th district senate seat this fall will be at a distinct disadvantage as things currently stand. Now, given Emmett Hanger's superb level of respect from most Valley residents, perhaps he could afford to lose a few percentage points. But in a three-way race, maybe not. It should be fairly obvious to everyone that the seven GOP chairs who endorsed Sayre will be a serious detriment to Hanger in the fall campaign if they continue to occupy their present positions. If enough Sayre voters defect from the GOP and vote for Arin Sime, moreover, it could prove to be the decisive factor in losing the general election, and possibly GOP control of the state senate.
A couple weeks ago, Richmond Democrat took note of a news item I wrote for the Staunton GOP Web site, about the SWAC breakfast meeting in February attemded by new RPV Vice Chair Charlie Judd. "RD" found it ironic that I would report on Kurt Michael's praise of two of the "SWAC jobbers," in light of the subsequent blog attacks against me. He didn't notice, however, (and I suppose hardly anyone else noticed, either) the permalink to my Feb. 12 post on the subject of blog credibility which I had embedded in my name at the end of the story. Also, I had thought the tongue-in-cheek tone of "a novel form of political communication and opinion shaping that is gaining in credibility" (as if blogs were a new fad) would be obvious. I guess my subtle, dry Midwestern humor (Bob Newhart, Johnny Carson) doesn't always come across -- hence all the smiley faces for the sake of clarity...
Finally, the Richmond Democrat has revealed the identity of the anonymous pro-Hanger blogger "Teddy Roosevelt"! And to think that two different people in the last few days told me they thought it was ME! Whoever "Teddy" is, he must have a lot of talent and/or time on his hands to produce that hilarious farewell musical animation, which is a must-see.
The New York Times explains how technology turns many of us into unwitting "energy hogs." DVD players, computer peripherals, etc. that never turn off per se [but instead switch to "standby" mode] are consuming hundreds of extra watt hours per home every month. "Indeed, the Department of Energy estimates that in the average home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off." Sadly, I'm afraid that syndrome applies to me, even though I'm always turning off lights in rooms if nobody is there. Our household did buy those new-fangled fluorescent light tubes that supposedly save you a lot of money over the long term, but I still need to turn all those machines OFF in an efficient, routine manner. I was pleased to learn how energy-efficient iMacs are compared to Mac Pro desktop units and other PC brands, but it's a small consolation. Hat tip to Connie.
With political chores behind me, I finally had some time to help with the Cerulean warbler survey this morning. This project is being conducted jointly by the Audubon Society and the National Park Service. Cerulean warblers have declined in numbers over the past century, and some scientists have recommended that the species be listed as "threatened." Audubon staff member Aimee Weldon is coordinating the project in this part of Virginia.
Indigo Bunting [NOT a Cerulean warbler!], at an overlook in the Shenandoah National Park.
Following the assigned survey transect, Jacqueline and I hiked along the Appalachian Trail a couple miles north of Swift Run Gap, in the Shenandoah National Park, east of Harrisonburg. Our planned trek was cut short, however, when we encountered a Black bear foraging in the underbrush, about 30 yards ahead of us. It seemed like a full-size adult to me, and showed no fear at all when I made noise in hopes of coaxing it to leave, since it was blocking our advance. After I got a quick video clip (not as good as I wanted), I finally complied with Jacqueline's urgent pleas and retreated. So much for finishing the circuit hike!
As for the survey results, I saw one Cerulean warbler, and heard four more altogether. I didn't see or hear any Kentucky warblers, Canada warblers, or the other bird species which we were asked to search for. Nevertheless, it was a pretty good day of birding, at the peak of breeding season. Today's highlights include [two] first-of-season species.
Indigo bunting (M)
Redstarts (M, F)
Chestnut-sided warbler (M)
Black and white warbler
Yellow-throated vireo (FOS)
Scarlet tanagers (M, F)
E. wood pewee
UPDATE: I have added four species that I had neglected to include yesterday, one of which -- the Veery -- was the first one I had seen in over two years. The song of the Veery is indescribably beautiful; it actually sounds like they are singing through a long plastic tube, such is the unique resonating quality of their larynxes. These members of the trush family are shy and elusive, however, so I was lucky when one responded to my "pishing" lure and perched nearby for a few seconds.
BELOW: Fritillary butterfly, at one of the scenic overlooks.
Hummingbirds continue to visit the feeder on our back porch almost every day, so I assume there must be a female raising her young in this neighborhood.
Over the past week, we've had one no hitter, by Justin Verlander of the Tigers, and two almost no-hitters, by Curt Schilling of the Red Sox and [Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs. Schilling went eight full innings before giving up any hits, and Zambrano went seven-plus].* For the aging Schilling, that was a shame, as he may not get many more chances. For the young Zambrano, it was all the more frustrating because the Cubs failed to get any runs, and he ended up losing the game. Doh! Verlander's no-hitter on Tuesday was the first in Comerica Park history. Today's Washington Post had an interesting list of the longest periods ("droughts") that various teams, stadiums, and individual pitchers have ever gone without any no-hitters:
New York Mets -- 7,214 games
Roger Clemens -- 682 games
RFK Stadium -- 999 games (!)
San Diego Padres -- 6,094 games
Pedro Martinez -- 442 games
Verlander is a graduate of Old Dominion University, where he played baseball, and is a native of the Old Dominion (Virginia).
* [Corrected for spelling and facts.]
Nats avert sweep in Toronto
The former Montreal Expos had a rough time up in Canada this weekend. Their vulnerability in starting pitchers was "exposed," once again, and the bats cooled off just when they were needed most. At least they averted getting swept by the host Toronto Blue Jays this afternoon, pulling out a 4-2 victory.
As we know from his conduct of the war in Iraq, President Bush is nothing if not resolved to persevere in the face of adversity. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that he is not giving up on his "comprehensive" immigration bill. After intensive lobbying of congressional leaders by President Bush, Sen. Harry Reid agreed to put the immigration measure back on the agenda; see Washington Post. I would agree with GOP Senators Jim DeMint (SC) and Johnny Isakson (GA) that there is no reason to tie border enforcement to amnesty. I wonder if those who insist on such a linkage are really trying to sabotage border security by making it harder to pass. I am certain that such is the motivation of most senators who have been attaching amendments to the immigration bill, to "muck it up."
Back in the real world of immigration, meanwhile, there are more and more signs of policy breakdown. Yesterday they reported that the backlog of pending FBI background checks on applicants for naturalization has doubled in the past two years, to nearly 330,000. This validates my frequent argument that anyone who is serious about enforcing our immigration laws must be willing to pay for extra bureaucratic screeners. That implies higher taxes.
Another example of the routine abuse of "amnesty" is that the special waiver for Central American refugees continue to get their "temporary" resident permits renewed, even though the security situation no longer warrants it. The problem is that the economies of El Salvador and Guatemala would face immediate crisis if the flow of remittances from workers in the United States were cut off all of a sudden. (Of course, such a prospect is not remotely realistic, but it's worth contemplating, anyway.) Washington Post
Congressman Bob Goodlatte was interviewed for WHSV TV-3 this afternoon, and made clear his opposition to President Bush's immigration proposal, especially the amnesty provisions. Good!
To me, all the posturing and maneuvering over the immigration issue is tragic and almost too painful to watch. I think a big part of the problem is that President Bush forfeited credibility by adopting the hardball expedient tactics of Karl Rove, which often help to win elections in the short term, but generally fail to address the underlying policy dilemmas in the long term. (That is the same problem I had with the immigration policy of defeated Virginia senate candidate Scott Sayre.) Without strong leadership and a clear strategy, sooner or later, all those short-term compromises on principle come back to haunt you. And that is why I think this country is just not ready to face up to the hard choices on immigration and social policy that will be necessary for true "reform" to work.
With my ambiguous heritage (raised in the Midwest, but a long-time resident of Virginia), it's not surprising that my pronunciation and word usage defies simple categorization on a regional basis. (For example, in my youth I said "pop," and now I say "soda.") Take the quiz yourself at angelfire.com; hat tip to Dan [Connie]! I am rated as:
43% (Yankee). Barely into the Yankee category.
Of course, in baseball terms I am a very strong "Yankee," and a "Nationals" fan to boot. You can't be more of a loyal, flag-waving patriot than that!
Since November 2005, Peru's former president Alberto Fujimori has been living in Santiago, Chile (under house arrest for the first few months), after a failed attempt to return to Peru to run for president. The Peruvian government is in the process of filing for extradition to face corruption and human rights charges, and Chilean officials are dragging their heels. Now the Japanese People's New Party has offered to let Fujimori run as one of their candidates for senate in the elections to be held next month. Fujimori was granted citizenship of Japan after taking refuge there in 2000, and married a Japanese business woman last year. The Foreign Minister of Peru, Jose Garcia Belaunde, criticized this maneuver to avoid extradition. See BBC. I think I can see how this will probably play out: Peru is a poor country with a less-than-perfect legal system; Japan is a rich country in which bribery is almost universal. You do the math.
High-altitude soccer debate
Last month the International Football Federation (FIFA) voted to ban international soccer matches over 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level, which would leave out Bogota, Colombia, Quito, Ecuador, and La Paz, Bolivia -- almost all of Bolivia, in fact. Athletes from normal altitude places can be at a major disadvantage because of altitude sickness. Last week soccer officials from South America met in Paraguay, discussing how to react to this ban, which seems unfair to them. See BBC. When I traveled to Bolivia in 1985, I learned that soccer teams from foreign countries schedule their arrival for just a couple hours before the match begins, before the soroche takes effect. The symptoms get worse after several hours, and for some people it takes several days to get over it. The standard remedy is coca tea.
The recent Hanger vs. Sayre state senate campaign has left quite a legacy in terms of blogging issues to be resolved. Waldo Jaquith recently got into quite a dustup with Carl Kilo (who called him a liar) over the alleged false identity used by a commenter. Techno-wiz Waldo has been tracking down the IP address of blog commenters, and concluded that Carl was hiding behind the pseudonym "Teddy's Turds," a reference to the Teddy's Truth blog. I'm not an expert in such things, but it seems very unlikely that someone could have planted a fake IP address in that comment, or that it could be a pure coincidence.
I communicated briefly with Carl a few times earlier this year, even offering (semi-seriously) to help with a legal defense fund on one occasion. That's why I was deeply disappointed to learn that he had divulged to someone else a personal e-mail message that I sent to him. (An excerpt of it, without the proper context, was posted by Alton Foley on his blog.) If it weren't for that grievous lapse of ethics on Carl's part, I might be more sympathetic or willing to believe him.
Phil Chroniger has a fair and balanced take on that, noting correctly that both Waldo and Carl have ambiguous records when it comes to blogging standards.
There is anonymous commenting, and then there is anonymous blogging, which is one of my pet peeves. Unlike me, Republitarian seems to have an "anything goes" attitude about that. His post did inspire a good comment thread, at least, and some folks acknowledged the ethical pitfalls. I have a hard time linking anonymous comments with freedom of speech, as some do, but I will grant that many of our Founding Fathers used pseudonyms such as "Publius." That was in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, however, when people were still killing each other over political differences.
As most folks know, my observation about the anonymous Bloggers 4 Sayre sparked an avalanche of vitriol against me, which in retrospect was probably the moment when the Sayre campaign went into decline.
Blogs are many things to many people, and it would be vain to expect everyone to abide by the same standards of conduct. For example, I "speak" to a general (though small) "audience," maintaining a relatively formal, polite tone, and aside from occasional jests, I refrain from addressing individuals in the second person. (That's you, for you folks in Rio Linda.) Exposing an individual to embarrassment or ridicule in the blogosphere with words such as, "so, John Doe, are you still my friend?" can be abusive and threatening. Blogs are for public discourse, e-mail is for private discourse.
On a more light-hearted note, I enjoyed Whackette's "Ten Commandments for bloggers," which was inspired by the Vatican's "Ten Commandments for drivers." Overall, the rules she drew up are very appropriate, though most of the blog commandments (eleven, actually) were obviously directed in satirical fashion at a certain group with whom I am familiar. For example, "Convincing 'well respected' bloggers to join your cause and blog with you doesn't raise your credibility, it just lowers theirs." (Sorry, Leslie. ) Whackette forgot to include one very important commandment, however:
Thou shalt honor thy blogparents.
Otherwise, they may disown you.
Close but no cigar
One week after Scott Sayre lost to incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger by six percent, "SWAC Girl" still can't get over the narrow margin of defeat. She keeps talking of Sayre as if he had been the underdog in this race, which is contradicted by a number of indicators. For one thing, Sayre stated quite clearly that he expected to win, which is why he declined to answer the question of whether he would support Hanger if Hanger beat him. Furthermore, his demeanor at public forums (BRCC, Staunton GOP) suggested that he believed he would win; see May 29.
For another thing, the pro-Sayre bloggers were positively gloating about their anticipated victory as the campaign progressed, and jeering those of us who supported the incumbent. "Spank That Donkey" wrote on June 8 (not posted until June 13) that the hoped-for endorsements of Sayre by Delegates Saxman and Cline "probably would drive the last nails in Emmett's coffin, in this race." From late May through early June, moreover, General Grievous' Dog had daily blog posts (invoking those Star Wars characters) warning us Hanger supporters of impending doom. "SWAC Girl" drew attention to that at least once, but the link in a blog post she made points to a page that has no longer exists. Yes, the sophomoric "GGD" has apparently deleted all of his pre-election blog archives! "Blog credibility," indeed; what a weasel.
In light of all the hardball politicking that has happened in this area, I find "SWAC Girl's" righteous indignation a little hard to swallow: "as a Republican volunteer I resent the fact he actively recruited democrats to cross over and vote in a Republican Primary." (She consistently uses small d for democrat and large R for Republican; what's that all about?)
UPDATE: After thinking about it, there are two possible reasons for the small d: either she means to disparage the other party as not worthy of a capital letter, or she is making a sharp distinction between Republicans and those who believe in democracy. Either way, it sends the wrong message about the Party of Lincoln. FACT CHECK: "SWAC Girl" stated that Sayre was "outspent 4:1 by the Hanger campaign," but VPAP data show that the actual margin was 3:2 ($232,321 to $152,707) -- and that does not include the anti-Hanger radio ads sponsored by VCAP, etc.
As for reuniting the party in the wake of the bruising primary campaign, I think the first step would be to refrain from insinuating that our party's nominee is a "RINO" or a closet Democrat. It would probably help to apologize for past statements along those lines. Republicans should all agree on the general commitment to restrain the size of government, and not spend so much time quibbling over how much restraint is necessary. Beyond that, I think it's best to refrain from further comments on this topic, and hope (against hope) that time will heal the emotional wounds caused by this primary race.
Groan... Speculation about third-party presidential candidacies this far in advance wears my patience thin. Likewise, polling numbers about Fred vs. Rudy or Hillary vs. Barack bore me to tears. I'll start paying more attention to Decision 2008 this fall.
In the wake of the primary elections last week, the big question is whether the factions of the Republican Party in Virginia can get back together again in time for the fall campaign. Thursday's Washington Post points to a big part of the problem: the absence of a clear statewide leader capable of imposing discipline on the various unruly activists. Because of the fractiousness, the party is in danger of losing the two senate seats held by incumbents who were defeated by anti-tax advocates in last week's primary race. The Democrats need to win only four seats to take control of the senate, so this is no time to get complacent. Everything now hinges on whomever is selected to replace Ed Gillespie as RPV Chairman. The current Executive Director Charlie Judd (whom I had the pleasure to meet when he visited Staunton in February) seems to have the most endorsements lined up so far but former lieutenant governor John Hager is mounting a serious challenge. Talk about a thankless job, when you spend all day fending off petty grievances and trying to broker deals among rival factions, trying to keep everybody on board. Will the mainstream conservatives resist the pressure from those who are threatening to defect from the GOP if they don't get their way?
Thomas Krehbiel was amused by "Spank That Donkey's" claim regarding Bloggers 4 Sayre vs. the Old Dominion Blog Alliance (in reality, the former is a large subset of the latter), so he decided to compile the number of posts each member of B4S did. For the most part, his findings were in accord with my offhand impression. He summarizes:
135 of the 193 posts, or 70%, were authored by Spank That Donkey, SWAC Girl, and Yankee Phillip. Only 10 of 18 bloggers posted more than once. Four bloggers (Scott's Morning Brew, Riley, Not O'Reilly, Black Velvet Bruce Li, and Jim Hoeft) did not post at all.
Gore on Iraq, 1992
Finally, in the tables-are-turned department: then-candidate for vice president Al Gore made a campaign speech in 1992 criticizing then-President George H. W. Bush for ignoring the links between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. Kind of ironic in retrospect, wouldn't you say? See it for yourself on YouTube. Hat tip to Stacey.
This morning I helped with the Audubon-National Park Service Cerulean warbler survey for a second time. (My first such effort was six days ago, on June 16.) It was in the same general area of the Shenandoah National Park as before, near Swift Run Gap, only a few miles to the south. There were no bears or skunks blocking my way this time, only a box turtle. I saw two Cerulean warblers this time (rather than one), and one of them came to within 30 or so feet of me, right next to the parking lot on Skyline Drive. I heard but did not see three more. I thought I heard some Canada warblers, but they turned out to be Hooded warblers singing an odd variation of their usual song. Perhaps the best part was seeing a family of Black and white warblers, with the father feeding one of the youngsters. Today's list of highlights bears a stunning resemblance to the list of birds I saw in that general area last Saturday:
Redstarts (M, F)
Chestnut-sided warblers (M)
Black and white warblers (M, J)
Scarlet tanagers (M, F)
E. wood pewee
Indigo buntings (M)
I also happened to see a Hairy woodpecker out back this evening, a young male. It's rather unusual to see them in town.
One of the elementary norms of politics is that disagreements among members of a political party should be kept out of the public eye whenever possible. Unfortunately, that does not seem to have occurred to the less-temperate bloggers in this area who tried and failed to unseat incumbent state senator Emmett Hanger. "SWAC Girl" accuses me of trying to "split the party," which is extremely ironic in light of the nasty "guerrilla" campaign she and others waged on behalf of Scott Sayre, and the unexplained ice-cold hostility she has shown toward several Staunton GOP members (including me) since last fall. She plays hard-ball politics as a vengeful "blood sport," almost reminding one of the Clintons (!), whereas I would just as soon try to get along with everybody. Which approach do you think is more likely to heal the wounds in the Party of Lincoln?
Not only did "SWAC Girl" improperly leak a private communication intended only for party members, she wrote that I am "posing [emphasis added] as secretary of the committee," apparently on the grounds that guests had to be excused from the meeting when I was elected in March. (This was done for the sake of order; indeed, a fist fight almost broke out after the meeting formally adjourned and guests were allowed to return to listen to Delegate Chris Saxman.) The election results were accepted by all members at that time, however, and no Staunton Republicans have challenged my election since then. What's more, "SWAC Girl" attended both of the committee meetings since I was elected without questioning my position. There are proper ways of handling disputed elections, and creating a public scandal is not one of them. MEMO TO "SWAC Girl": Your young protege Alex was no more elected secretary of the committee than he is a lawyer. If you and Dr. Michael had only refrained from trying to take over our Staunton GOP meeting in March, there would have been no reason for us to hold an executive session. Butt out, OK?
"Spank That Donkey" likewise seems to think I am trying to "split the party," offering a bizarre interpretation of my motivations. From what I can tell, he seems to be threatening to take his "ideologically Center-Right group [!!??] over to Arin Sime, the Libertarian Candidate." MEMO TO SPANKY: The party is already split, and it has been for almost a year now! How are we supposed to get back together again if we are prevented from meeting as a group and hashing things out? Just read the next-to-last sentence again:
Please be aware that our primary objective is to get our party back to the way it used to be, with friendly, open meetings held on a regular monthly basis, reconciling the factions and working toward our common goals.
What in the world is so wrong about that? Beyond the SWAC area, meanwhile, in the far reaches of Appalachia, Carl Kilo weighed in on this. MEMO TO CARL: You might want to get first-hand accounts from both sides of the story before commenting.
For the record, I sent the meeting call out last Thursday, after conferring with my colleagues on the Staunton Republican Committee about the need to repair the party's negative image stemming from the Hanger-Sayre primary race. Some time after 10:00 PM on Friday I got a call from Dr. Kurt Michael, chairman of the Augusta GOP, asking me if I would stand by the letter which explained the reasons for the meeting. I replied affirmatively, and asked him if he had any problem with the letter. He said, no, he did not. Just to make sure, I asked him again, saying that if he did have a problem with the letter, that this would be a good time to say so. He clearly stated once again that he did not have a problem with the letter, and the conversation ended.
At or about that same time Friday evening, however, Kurt was conferring about this matter with Congressman Bob Goodlatte (!), "SWAC Girl," and the Staunton GOP chair and vice-chair Anne Taetszch and Bruce Grover. That meeting was the prelude to this weekend's disgusting blog attacks against me. Now why couldn't Kurt just be honest and tell me what his objections were so we could work things out? Is leaking party secrets and defaming other party officers the way a responsible party leader deals with disputes? I don't think so.
As for the issues under dispute, there was no "purge" of members, as SWAC Girl claims. The RPV state party plan (ARTICLE VII, Section D) clearly states that
A member of an Official Committee other than an ex-officio member automatically loses his committee position if he is absent three (3) consecutive meetings without representation by a person holding a proxy...
There is a nearly identical provision in the Staunton GOP Unit bylaws. Please note the word automatically; there was no discretion on my part whatsoever. (Unfortunately, there was lax observance of the Staunton GOP bylaws in the past, but because of various disputes, we agreed at the February meeting to get serious about the rules.) In fact, most of those whose membership has lapsed had not attended a single committee meeting since March 2006.
Also, the bylaws specify when the meeting calls must be sent, not when it must be received, as SWAC Girl claimed. This provision was included in the resolution:
Such call shall include a written agenda and be mailed not less than a week before the meeting.
Clearly, we have met all the requirements for holding a meeting, so notwithstanding the declaration of our obstructionist Chair, it will be 100% legitimate. In this regard, it should be noted that when we called the meeting in April, to give Emmett Hanger the same opportunity to address the committee that Scott Sayre had had in February, Ms. Taetszch did everything she could to try to stop the meeting from taking place. She simply refused to acknowledge the provision in the bylaws by which the committee members themselves can call meetings. It's all part of a pattern. As it says in the letter we wrote, her
repeated cancelation of meetings (or the abrupt adjournment thereof) have prevented our Committee from functioning as a group, and we are presently at an impasse.
How long can this insanity go on? Let us meet, for crying out loud! As for "SWAC Girl," many of us have become increasingly annoyed by the self-serving and extremely partial way she abuses her office in the party. During the Hanger-Sayre campaign, the e-mail newsletters she sends out became steadily divorced from reality, filled with blatant falsehoods and distortions. It is sadly typical of the people in that faction of the party whose partisan zeal is so strong that it colors everything they see and hear.
Leaving no doubt that they deserved the 2006 AL championship, the Detroit Tigers spoiled the Nationals' return to their home turf last week, sweeping the D.C. team in a three-game series. In the second game, the score was 15-1, the worst defeat ever for the Nationals. Ironically, I was in Northern Virginia that day, and briefly considered squeezing in an evening trip to RFK Stadium, but my schedule wouldn't allow it. How fortunate for me! The last time I saw the Nats play, September 30 last year, they lost 13-0 to the Mets.
Fortunately, the Nationals bounced back in the weekend series against the Indians, taking two out of three games. That was a very difficult home stand, against the top two teams in the very competitive AL Central Division. Until yesterday I hadn't noticed that the Mets have been in a slump lately, which is why the Nationals "climbed" to within nine [games] of the NL East Division leaders. They're still in last place, but they have positioned themselves very well for the latter half of the season, raising hopes that they might finish within close range of the .500 mark, or -- dare we dream? -- even above it!
Guzman's season-ending injury
This has been shortstop Cristian Guzman's best year of his career so far, batting .329, putting him in contention for the All-Star Game. In a bitter twist of fate reminiscent of 2006, however, he tore a ligament in his thumb yesterday, and had surgery on it today. That means the end of the 2007 season for him, which is a shame. Felipe Lopez will replace Guzman at shortstop, and Ronnie Belliard will fill Lopez's spot at second base. As a second-stringer for the Nats, Belliard has shown promising signs, getting several clutch hits. See MLB.com. Now the question becomes, how much will the Nationals' owners be willing to pay Guzman when his contract expires? His terrible 2005 season and his absence during 2006 made General Manager Jim Bowden look bad, but Guzman has redeemed himself and Bowden this year.
The Richmond Democrat took note of the latest flareup among local Republicans, especially my use of the phrase blood sport to describe the methods used by "SWAC Girl" and a few other local GOP bloggers and activists. (For you folks in Rio Linda, that phrase comes from the 1996 book by James B. Stewart, Blood Sport: The President and His Adversaries. It details the various scandals of the Clinton administration, from Troopergate to Whitewater to Vince Foster, focusing on the ruthless manner in which the Clintons rose to power.) For obvious partisan reasons, RD is hyping the conflict between the Staunton GOP factions just a tad, portraying this Thursday's meeting as some kind of big showdown. Personally, I'm not spoiling for a fight, but I do share the strong commitment of my Republican colleagues to convene in regular monthly meetings like a normal committee is supposed to do. If that can be done on a consensual basis rather than by forcing the issue by invoking provisions of the bylaws, fine. In that regard, I was pleased that "SWAC Girl" began her recent post on me by acknowledging that "Give-and-take is the name of the game in politics." Well, that's certainly a step in the right direction.
F.T. Rea was musing about the barrage of strident rantings by certain SWAC bloggers against me, and an intriguing thought occurred to him:
It hit me this morning -- maybe the SWACters are moles!
Maybe, just maybe, they are in deepest cover -- donkeys to the bone wearing blow-up rubber elephant suits. Maybe their true mission is the destruction of the Republican Party as we know it in Virginia.
Personally, I think the likelihood of that is extremely low, no more than ten percent. I just think that, like most "pseudo-conservatives," they are a little bonkers.
Manassas Park woes
I'm not a fan of Black Velvet Bruce Li, but he has drawn attention to an emerging problem that I am quite familiar with: the crime wave associated with illegal immigrants in Manassas Park, one of the outer suburbs of Washington in Northern Virginia. There was a rape that took place in broad daylight there a few weeks ago. Many residents (legal) have been complaining more often that their municipal government is failing to deal with rising gang activity and the widespread overcrowding of private homes, as immigrant homeowners (Latin American, mostly) rent out rooms to newly arriving laborers. I have noticed several times in the past few years the large number of small box houses from the 1940s that have been renovated and expanded. I thought that was a positive sign of immigrant assimilation, but there is a dark side to that trend, apparently.
One of the leading intellectual lights at the University of Virginia while I was in graduate school there was Richard Rorty, a professor in the philosophy department. I probably saw him speak once or twice, but I didn't have the background in his field to really grasp what he was getting at. One June 11 he passed away after losing a battle with cancer. Perhaps his most famous book was Irony, Contingency, and Solidarity, a collection of essays defining his "pragmatist" philosophy. German postmodern philosopher Jürgen Habermas wrote an obiturary for Rorty, which concluded:
One small autobiographical piece by Rorty bears the title 'Wild Orchids and Trotsky.' In it, Rorty describes how as a youth he ambled around the blooming hillside in north-west New Jersey, and breathed in the stunning odour of the orchids. Around the same time he discovered a fascinating book at the home of his leftist parents, defending Leon Trotsky against Stalin. This was the origin of the vision that the young Rorty took with him to college: philosophy is there to reconcile the celestial beauty of orchids with Trotsky's dream of justice on earth. Nothing is sacred to Rorty the ironist. Asked at the end of his life about the "holy", the strict atheist answered with words reminiscent of the young Hegel: "My sense of the holy is bound up with the hope that some day my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law."
Hence the above photo of one of our orchids that just came into bloom, coincidentally. I agree with Andrew Sullivan: "Keep the orchids, dump the Trotsky. Like every other human being dreaming of 'justice on earth,' Rorty died without its coming to pass." It's ironic (!) that the "pragmatist" remained devoted to a utopian world view, like John Lennon. He was intellectually courageous, nonetheless, not some politically correct weenie of the sort that abounds in academia these days.
Elections for mayor were recently held in Argentina, and President Nestor Kirchner suffered a major embarrassment when the candidate he endorsed in the capital Buenos Aires lost by a 61 to 39 percent margin. The victor was Mauricio Macri, a member of congress who runs the soccer club on which Diego Maradona used to play. Opponents of Kirchner hope that Macri can serve as their leader as the October 28 presidential elections approach. The loser was Education Minister Daniel Filmus. Kirchner has gained a reputation for his political acumen, but staking his reputation on a candidate who attracted so few votes raises big questions about his judgment. See CNN.com.
I underestimated Kirchner when he first took office in May 2003, but over the past four years he has managed to take full credit for Argentina's strong economic recovery. After the government defaulted on much of its foreign debt in late 2002, it was punished by the IMF and was condemned private banks, but in the end didn't really pay a heavy penalty. Because of widespread insurance coverage and the custom of bailing out creditors whose loans to sovereign states go bad (e.g., Mexico in 1995), the larger countries in the developing world can usually get away with it. In effect, Argentina robbed the wealthy industrialized nations by extorting a forcible "loan."
In the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post, David Ignatius picked up on a recent joint TV appearance (on the Charlie Rose Show) by three former national security advisers: Henry Kissinger (who also served as secretary of state), Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft. The two Republicans and one Democrat agreed that the United States must reassess its overall strategic posture:
Their collective message was this: In a radically changing world, America needs to be less arrogant about its use of power and more willing to talk to other nations.
Of course, such words would be regarded as defeatism or even treason by many flag-wavers, but it is indeed "Wise Advice" offered by the foreign policy realists. To my chagrin, I let my post-9/11 patriotic sentiment sway me from my realist intellectual roots, hoping that a determined show of force in Iraq might tip the balance in the Middle East toward more democracy and freedom. I stand corrected. The lack of success in stabilizing Iraq is beginning to have negative consequences on U.S. interests elsewhere in the world, and the sooner we face up to this harsh fact and readjust our commitment of precious resources, the better. Much as we might yearn for a more pragmatic, broadly-appealing approach to foreign policy, however, it probably won't happen during this administration. After all, President Bush essentially ignored every recommendation made by the Iraq Study Group last December. Perhaps the news that Senator Lugar is calling for a fundamental change in U.S. policy in Iraq may change things.
Blind stubborness in foreign policy is not restricted to the Bush administration, however: Michael Lind wrote a piece arguing in favor of "Liberal Internationalism" in The Nation. (Hat tip to Dan.) To me, that course of policy seems like wishful thinking, hoping that rising powers such as China can be "tamed" by the proper trade inducements. But the general thrust of refraining from trying to impose U.S.-made solutions around the globe is certainly appropriate, and in keeping with what the above-mentioned realists are advocating.
More GOP "Apostasy"
Robert Novak wrote about "Arnold's Apostasy: Is Arnold Schwarzenegger a Republican?" (Hmmm, that's a familiar theme! ) The Governator got burned when he tried to push legislative redistricting reform in 2005, and since having a "conversion experience" on the need for bipartisanship last year, he is reluctant to spend any of his political capital to help fellow Republicans in his state by making a deal on redistricting.
COMMENT by: Dan Clem, of Vermillion, SD on Jun 27, 2007 16:37 PM Hi Andy,
I'm glad you enjoyed The Nation's article on Liberal Internationalism! However, I found your characterization of the article to be somewhat dismissive: "that course of policy seems like wishful thinking, hoping that rising powers such as China can be 'tamed' by the proper trade inducements."
The article reads like a mantra for those of us who have been staring in disbelief since the bellicose days leading up to the Iraq invasion. The author's statement that "the United States after Bush should reassert sovereignty and nonintervention as the basic organizing principles of foreign policy" really hits home. "If global peace is the goal of liberal internationalism, the means to this end are the self-determination of sovereign peoples and a global concert of power."
Indiana Republican Richard Lugar is one of the true voices of reason and wisdom in the U.S. Senate. All along, he has been a supporter of the Bush administration policy in Iraq, urging patience and determination. This week, however, he has changed his tune, and now is calling for a fundamental reorientation of the U.S. approach to rebuilding Iraq, and doing so urgently:
The longer we delay the planning for a redeployment, the less likely it is to be successful.
The president has an opportunity now to bring about a bipartisan foreign policy. ... I don't think he'll have that option very long. (SOURCE: Washington Post.)
I'm not convinced about the need to make such a major change right away, but I have no doubt that his general recommendation is appropriate. Making strategic decisions based on U.S. domestic political considerations is a little problematic, in my view. I was pleased, at least, that neither Lugar nor Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) will go along with the Democrats' call for a timetable for troop withdrawals. President Bush argues that the "surge" will start to pay off in the foreseeable future, and his adversaries say the surge has failed. Both are wrong. Truth be told, no one can say with any certainty what the consequences of the surge policy will be, because ultimately it all depends on political repercussions in Iraq that are largely beyond our control. This conflict is of a very long-term nature, and we should not worry too much about day-to-day signs of progress or failure.
Indeed, the Pentagon announced making plans earlier this month for a continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq in future years, though at a reduced level. One way or another, we are in Iraq for the long haul. The question is whether we are going to put further strain on our troops in a long-shot bid for some kind of military victory via Bush's surge policy, or scale back our military presence and let the Iraqis pick up more of the slack. Or not -- after all, it's up to them.
Battle in Baqubah
U.S. forces have launched a major offensive to root out insurgents in the Sunni stronghold of Baqubah, where Al Qaeda has established a base. "Operation Arrowhead Ripper" is one of the biggest offensives in recent years, made possible by the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq. Many terrorists have been killed, and a torture chamber was discovered, both encouraging signs of progress; see BBC and independent journalist Michael Yon.
No green card?
Army Specialist Alex R. Jimenez, one of the U.S. soldiers in Iraq who has been missing since May 12, had petitioned for a green card for his wife, Yaderlin, a citizen of the Dominican Republic whom he married in 2004. Because she illegally entered the United States in 2001, however, U.S. officials are holding up the application. Can you imagine the torment this wife of an American hero must be suffering? I'm all in favor of strict enforcment of immigration laws, but this strikes me as sheer bureaucratic stupidity. See CNN.com.
George has stopped singing for the past couple weeks, and Princess has stopped flirting. Indeed, neither of them are doing much of anything right now, other than irritably scratching themselves. Yes, it's molting season once again, as they shed their old feathers and start to grow new ones -- a process that takes up much of their energy reserves. Over time, those feathers really accumulate. We collect the clean ones and may make a decorative pillow out of them some day.
This is one day's worth of feathers shed by Princess and George.
Or at least some of them did, anyway. I hate to disappoint all my "well-wishers" from the Other Party,* but the meeting call I sent out last week was ruled invalid this afternoon. (I can't go into details, obviously, and we await a fuller explanation of this.) At any rate, half of the active committee members showed up at City Hall this evening to voice their opinions on what should be done to repair the party's image in the aftermath of the bloody Hanger-Sayre primary race. [We made it clear to everyone present that the meeting was strictly informal.] (Suspiciously, the outside doors were locked even though we had reserved a room, but the janitor let us in.) Several people spoke about their own experiences with intimidation by certain party officers outside of Staunton, complained about the smears and distortions contained in the other SWAC-area blogs, and offered suggestions about what to do in the immediate future. In the end, we agreed to send a letter to our Chairperson, Anne Taetszch, outlining the steps that must be taken to restore mutual trust and respect so that we can function as an effective party organization once again. The atmosphere was upbeat in spite of the negative ruling, and the members present are all determined to press on with efforts to restore the good name of the Republican Party in Staunton.
* NOTE: The first part of that sentence was meant in the same ironic tone that the referenced blog post was, and likewise will probably go right over the heads of those folks from Rio Linda. Well, I was warned I might become the "John McCain" of the Virginia blogosphere...
Two reporters were present: Bob Stuart from the (Waynesboro) News-Virginian, and Christina Mitchell of the (Staunton) News Leader [link updated].
What is so sad about this situation is that it was totally unnecessary. On various occasions, we have alerted various party higher-ups about what has gone wrong, but nothing was done to fix it. "A stitch in time saves nine." I have spoken to several elder party members who say that nothing like this has ever happened in the local Republican Party for as long as they have been involved -- i.e., as far back as 1947, in one case.
Brown replaces Blair
In the United Kingdom yesterday, Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as prime minister of Her Majesty's government. This has been one of the longest, most deliberate transitions of leadership in British history. For over a year now, almost everyone has known that Tony Blair would step down before much longer, and everyone has known that Brown was almost certain to become the successor. So what does this mean for U.S.-British relations? According to the BBC,
After all it has hardly helped Tony Blair back home - he has had to live with the tag of "Bush's poodle".
But, as Republican Congressman Mark Steven Kirk points out, with Mr Brown's "microscopic" profile he will not have much influence.
Many Republicans are putting their faith in the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy to fill the void left by Mr Blair.
The reality is that Mr Brown's links to the Democratic party are in far better shape than his ties to the Republican administration.
Much will depend on who wins the presidential election next year. Brown has long been a rival of Tony Blair within the Labour Party, and there was a sharp rift when he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Regarding Iraq, Brown made it clear he has no intention of withdrawing additional troops [below] the current 5,000 man level.
Saxman on tax pledge
In the Sunday News Leader, Delegate Chris Saxman tried to justify having signed the Americans for Tax Reform's pledge to not raise taxes. (This was a major issue during the recent Hanger-Sayre primary contest.) Saxman defended himself against charges that he is an "extremist." I was confused by this sentence: "This increase in revenues is directly related to the strong performance of the economy, not the tax increases of 2004." (Can't it be related to both?) Then he changes the subject to spending restraints, blurring the critical distinction between the two sides of the fiscal ledger. He aspires to be a "responsible steward... of government revenue," but in the end it seems to me like he is arguing favor of choking the state treasury, forcing someone else to worry about which government programs to cut back on funding.
As rumored last week, Alberto Fujimori, former president of Peru, announced that he will run for a seat in the senate of Japan, a ploy by which he hopes to avoid being extradited to Peru. He is currently under house arrest in Chile, and the case is such a hot potato that it is doubtful that any judge will make a definitive ruling on the extradition request any time soon. This is a truly bizarre situation, and apparently there are no legal impediments to such a candidacy under Japanese law, since Fujimori holds dual Peruvian-Japanese citizenship. For details, see CNN.com. It would be interesting to find out how many people have served as elected government officials in more than one country. Golda Meir, the former Milwaukee schoolteacher who became prime minister of Israel in the 1960s, might be one example.
Will everyone have an iPhone in the future? If Apple's marketing department achieves their goals, we will all own one of those incredible devices some day, and we will wonder how we ever got by without one. Telephoning, Internet browsing, music listening, and personal organizing all in one tiny box. Like a Ronco multi-function kitchen utensil, it slices, it dices, and probably cuts julienne potatoes. See apple.com. To me it looks just a little too big to be convenient, but I'll have to see one up close to make up my mind. Apparently, the iPhone runs Mac OS X, Safari, iCal, Mail, etc., and I wonder how long it will take to boot up if you just want to make a quick phone call. Some people worry about the exclusive cellular telephone deal with AT&T, so there will be a lot of scrutiny to see whether Apple might be exploiting its monopoly position in this sector -- which is pretty ironic. That highlights the real revenue-generating side of the iPhone, which is not the hardware but rather the various (pricey) service options that customers will have to pay month after month after month. What about the Clems? Jacqueline is very eager, but we may hold off for a few months until the technological kinks are worked out...
Venus and Saturn converge
I had to wait a while for the clouds to move out of the way, but I finally got a good view of Venus and Saturn right next to each other in the southwestern sky tonight. Saturn was dimmer than I would have thought, but still visible to the naked eye. As detailed at skyandtelescope.com (link via Connie), they are presently less than one degree apart in the night sky, which is quite rare, although perhaps not quite as unique as the planetary "triple play" (Mars, Mercury, Jupiter) last December.
I finally had some time this morning (enough of politics already!) to follow through on a commitment I had made last spring, helping with the invasive plant control project in the Shenandoah National Park. I joined other volunteers who were clearing garlic mustard plants from the edge of a wetland area near Big Meadows, where several endangered plants species are found. The park and the Blue Ridge in Virginia constitute one of the "Important Bird Area" that was designated by the Audubon Society. We were treated to constant visits by a large number of birds:
But the biggest surprise came in the afternoon, when the others were already gone and I was clearing the garlic mustard weeds on my own. I was hunched over, scouring the underbrush for the nasty intruders, and upon turning around I noticed a Black bear not 15 feet away from me! We startled each other, and both of us gave ground slowly. It was not full grown, so I figure it was probably two years old. The bear hung around, which was fortunate because a dozen or so hikers (mostly teenagers) was approaching along the trail, and I signaled to them to be quiet and hurry over to look. They did, and most of them got to see the bear before it wandered away, and they were very appreciative of that wildlife encounter. Unlike my last encounter two weeks ago, I had no video camera to record the event this time. Then, on my drive home, I saw two more adult bears foraging alongside Skyline Drive, and further along, a skinny bear cub (probably just a few months old) standing along the retaining wall. I stopped to look, and after I drove off I could see it crossing the road in my rear view mirror. That made four bears in one day, and I'm pretty sure that sets a record for me.
Bald Eagle comeback
It's official: The Bald Eagle is no longer an endangered species. See audubon.org