Friday, December 11, 2009

An Open Letter To President Obama, Senators Webb And Warner, And Representative Scott

Loyal reader, you know how often in the past I railed at President Bush and the Republican Congress for their borrow and spend operation of the Federal Government. I attacked them repeatedly for nearly doubling the national debt during the years of the Bush Administration. You also know that nearly two years ago I warned then-candidate Barack Obama about making promises to the voters that we as a nation couldn’t afford to keep. (I’m Sorry Mr. Obama—No You Cant. You also probably noticed that I pretty much stopped talking about the national debt after Mr. Obama was elected president.

Well, this morning I was reading the nearly full-page editorial in the Richmond Times Dispatch criticizing President Obama for being a hypocrite on the issue of debt. My thought was, “How amazing that you now attack Mr. Obama for increasing the national debt when for the eight years of the Bush Administration you kept silent.” As this thought crossed my mind I realized that I was as guilty as the RTD for not discussing the debt issue since Mr. Obama took office. To the extent that my silence was caused by partisanship on my part, I apologize. The following is long overdue.

Dear President Obama, Senator Webb, Senator Warner and Representative Scott:

Let me begin by telling you that I am a life-long Democrat. I voted for all four of you in the two most recent federal elections. And it is likely that I will vote for you again when you next face reelection. Therefore, you can be assured that in writing this letter I have no partisan objectives.

Mr. President, in the nearly eleven months you have been in office the federal government’s debt has increased by $1,452, 862, 303, 218.05. That’s an increase of nearly $1.5 trillion dollars in less than one year—more than 13.5%. I realize that much of this increase can be attributed to the one-time (hopefully) rescue of the banking industry from the results of their own mismanagement and the economic stimulus package that was enacted at the beginning of your administration. However, debt is debt. We owe it regardless of the purposes for which we incurred it.

Mr. President, I understand that most of the current national debt was incurred during the administrations of your predecessors. I also know that when you started your campaign to be our president you could not have known of the economic crisis that would soon affect the United States and the world. Without that knowledge you made promises to the American people, which, in normal circumstances we could have afforded. Unfortunately, the recession has increased federal spending considerably while it has also reduced revenues below anticipated levels. We no longer can afford everything we want.

What does it mean to have a national debt of $12 trillion dollars? For one thing it means that we have a huge annual debt service. In fiscal year 2009, for example, the United States government spent just over $383 billion in interest on our debt. That amount is actually a decrease from previous years because during the current economic downturn Treasury is able to borrow money at depressed interest rates. But even if the debt service were to stabilize at the current amount, think of all the money we are wasting on interest payments. $383 billion would pay the entire yearly budgets of the Departments of Education, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, State, and Homeland Security, as set forth in your 2010 budget, with almost $10.5 billion left over. Even if we were able to bring our annual budgets into balance, which your budget doesn’t project as happening anytime in the next ten years, we would still be paying at least six department's budgets worth of interest every year indefinitely into the future. Mr. President, “that’s real money,” and it will keep the government from doing many things that are required for national security or are desired by the American people.

Mr. President, you have promised to cut the annual federal deficit in half by 2012. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Cutting by half means we will still be spending nearly half a trillion dollars per year more than we collect in revenue. That will be an additional increase of over two trillion dollars in our national debt by the end of your current term. It will require the Treasury to borrow that amount of money to keep the United States from defaulting on its debts.

There is only a finite amount of credit available. The United States has already borrowed more than $12 trillion of it and we will have to continue to increase our borrowing so long as we spend at a deficit rate. Every dollar the United States borrows means that there is one dollar less available for other borrowers. Further, there has to be some point beyond which our creditors will be very leery of lending us more. What happens on the day that the Treasury needs to borrow a few billion dollars to meet our obligations and nobody is willing to lend it?

Senators Webb and Warner and Representative Scott (my representative), you are a big part of the problem. It is the Congress that passes the appropriations acts that permit much of the government to operate each year. Each year that we have a deficit is a year in which you in the Congress have appropriated more than our revenues will cover. It is your votes on appropriations bills, either in committee or on the floor of your chamber, that fuel the annual increase in federal debt. It is you and your fellow legislators who must stop our overspending addiction by stopping the practice of appropriating more than we can pay for. You have to sift through those appropriations bills to make sure that every appropriation is necessary and will benefit the country as a whole rather than just one locality. Although you may feel secure in your reelection in seeking or approving more spending, the national interest requires that you have the courage to say "no."

There is only a short amount of time left to bring our spending under control. Each year that we procrastinate will make it harder to ever balance our budgets. At some point our total debt will become so great that our children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren will never be able to pay it off. Mr. President, you and the Congress need to make the difficult decisions that will enable us to eliminate our annual deficits and begin the process of paying off our debts. You need to do that now.



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Charter Schools, New Buildings And Other Panaceas (Part II)

Well Mayor Jones proposed it, the School Board accepted it, the City Council approved it and the Richmond Times Dispatch gave it its blessing. The “it” I am referring to is the plan to spend $175 million of our money to build a new high school, a new middle school, and two new elementary schools in the City of Richmond. The mayor proposed the construction plan at a meeting with Richmond’s School Board on October 20. On November 16, the board voted to substitute the mayor’s plan for the construction plan it had approved last year. And, on November 23, the City Council went along and approved the new plan. All of this despite the fact that the new construction plan will cost us $25 million more than last year’s plan. The mayor said he will find the extra money. Hey, it’s only a 20% increase.

Members of the School Board and the City Council as well as the mayor are ecstatic about the new building construction. They all seem to think that building new schools will fix what ails Richmond Public Schools. And our beloved RTD agrees. In their editorial dated November 13 the RTD editors state:

Physically attractive plants can help to lure families who live in the city but whose children attend schools outside the local public system. The Jones plan offers Richmond an opportunity to rise to the occasion not only academically but artistically. 1

Gimme a break, RTD. Do you really think that parents are opting out of Richmond Public Schools because of the absence of physically attractive plants? You need to give Richmond parents more credit than that. The fact is that Richmond parents are opting out of RPS because they do not believe that their children can get an adequate education in city schools. As they should be, parents are more concerned with what goes on inside the schools than with what they look like. If RPS were educating Richmond’s children at the level they deserve, if Richmond’s students were performing at a high level rather than just passing (that’s what accreditation means, dear reader, just passing), if the bulk of our students were graduating from high school, if our graduates were all being accepted to the country’s best colleges or all getting the best jobs, I assure you that Richmond parents would not care if it was all happening in old schools.

Reader, I received a wonderful public school education in New York City. All the school buildings I attended were 20 or 30 or more years old and it didn’t affect the quality of my learning. And you know, my elementary and junior high schools, with renovations and upgrades, are still operating today when they are obviously much older. Last year, when I was vacationing in Edinburgh, Scotland, I saw students attending schools that were considerably older than any school in Richmond and they seemed to be doing quite well.

Look, I have nothing against new school facilities. If we can afford them, we should build them. But we must not think for one second that new schools will solve RPS’s problems. Sure, our new schools will make us feel better when we see our richer neighbors in the counties building new schools. But they will not give our children the superior education that we owe them. That will take a lot of fixing of what goes on inside our schools and what goes on in RPS administration.

Mr. Mayor, members of the City Council, members of the School Board, it is time to seriously tackle our public school problem. We have to stop the constant abandonment of our city by parents who believe that there children can receive a quality education only in Chesterfield, Hanover or Henrico counties. And we need to do that on a school-by-school basis. First we have to make sure that each of our public schools is, in fact, providing at least as good an education as the schools in the counties. Then we need to go into our communities and sell parents on their local neighborhood school as the best choice for educating their children. And, we need to do it now.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Charter Schools, New Buildings And Other Panaceas (Part I)

Yesterday, in its lead story the Richmond Times Dispatch revealed that Virginia “gets F on charter schools in report.” I know that Monday is a slow news day but, come on, is this the most important event that took place in the world over the weekend? It wasn’t until I read past the headline that I realized that this wasn’t even news. The F that Virginia received was from the Center for Education Reform, an organization that is a strong advocate of (you guessed it) charter schools. If the Center had rated Virginia higher than an F, that would have been a real news story. Let’s be honest. The Center’s rating is based on the sole fact that Virginia has a small number of charter schools.

Which brings us to today’s RTD editorial. The RTD editors agree with the Center’s conclusion that Virginia’s charter school law is “abysmal.” As evidence the editors go back to the simple fact that Virginia has only three functioning charter schools, much less than other states. The editors then switch to their other hand and acknowledge the argument by the Virginia Education Association that Virginia has so few charter schools because it has other types of innovative schools. However, they reject this argument as “risible.” (For those of you who are vocabularily challenged risible means laughable or ludicrous.)

Now the editors come to the meat of their argument:

The Center's report follows closely behind a new poll showing that most Virginians think highly of their public schools; all the same, a majority also would like to see more educational choices available. Regardless of political party, most Virginians would support tuition tax credits and even school vouchers.

Stop! Dear editors, what poll are you referring to that shows that “most Virginians” would support tax credits and school vouchers? Well this maven may have been born and raised in the past century, but I have learned to do Internet research. So, it didn’t take me long to find out about this poll. I found a RTD article on November 17, 2009, which begins with, “Virginians like their public schools but would still like more public options.” It relies on a poll “sponsored by several organizations supporting school vouchers and tax-credit scholarship programs.” 1

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that this fight was fixed. But to rely on a self- serving poll “sponsored” by organizations supporting vouchers and tuition tax credit for the conclusion that most Virginians support vouchers and tax credits is like relying on a poll sponsored by foxes that concludes that most chickens want to be eaten. RTD editors, I find your reliance on this poll to be itself risible.

Trusted reader, I am not opposed to charter schools. Our public schools are not doing as good a job educating our children as they should and every type of innovation must be considered. What I do object to is those “true believers” who tell us that charters schools are the only way to save our children. They want us to believe that merely because it is a charter school, rather than a normal public school, such a school must necessarily perform better. I was having a facebook discussion with a friend (I’m sorry to admit, dear reader, that I do use facebook on occasion) about charter schools. I asked what benefit the children in my neighborhood school would gain from the opening of the Patrick Henry charter school in Richmond next fall. He replied that we could also make our neighborhood school into a charter school, as if that would automatically make it better.

I’m not sure whether Virginia’s charter school laws need to be fixed. After all, it’s not as if there are hundreds of people in line to open charter schools in the Commonwealth. Nor do I see evidence that school boards across Virginia have conspired to deny charter applications. If there is such desire to open charter schools in the Old Dominion let’s see some people put in the hard work that the proponents of the Patrick Henry school put in and let’s see them file their applications for charters. If after that happens we see evidence that school boards are routinely denying charter applications then the law needs fixing.

The charter school “true believers” are always reminding us that charter schools are public schools. And they certainly expect that public moneys, both state and local, will be made available for them to operate their schools. Yet they object to school boards, which are accountable for those public funds, having any authority to decide whether their application for a charter has merit and from reviewing their operations to assure that public funds are being properly spent. I know that if Richmond Public Schools misuses public money I can hold my school board representative accountable and vote her out at the next election. But who do I vote against if a charter school misspends public funds? I have no representative on its managing board.

(To be continued)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Only One Man To Blame For Fort Hood Shootings

When this maven was a wee little boy I often watched television with my mother. I remember that when a particularly nasty crime was reported on the local news she would say, “Let him not be Jewish.” You see, this was back in the 1950s when the Holocaust was still very recent history and even here in the US of A Jews weren’t feeling too secure. It was also during the Red Scare and after the spy trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, so I guess Mom was justified in fearing that all Jews might be blamed for the criminal act of one person who happened to be Jewish.

These memories popped into my consciousness this week when it was announced that Nidal Malik Hasan, an American Muslim, was the person who went on a shooting spree, killing more than a dozen people, at Fort Hood, Texas. Soon after Hasan was identified, Muslim groups throughout the country felt the need to condemn Hasan and to make it clear to the rest of the American people that Islam did not encourage or condone such killings. In this country, after 9/11, Muslims are sort of feeling what my mom was feeling back in the 1950s. Don’t blame us for the act of one man who is Muslim. For me, it was déjà vous all over again.

I wonder what it is about us Americans that we always spread the blame. In World War II, after we were attacked by Japan, we assumed that all people of Japanese ancestry were our enemies. We placed good and loyal Americans in concentration camps just because their parents or grandparents were born in Japan. After 9/11, we just assumed that all Arabs and all Muslims were our enemies. Many good and loyal Americans were the victims of hateful acts and words because of the acts of 19 criminals who happened to be Muslims. Maybe it’s just that xenophobia is built into our genetic code. But, I wonder if we’d be blaming all Baptists if the Fort Hood shooter happened to be a Baptist named Jones.

So, to American Muslims I say that I understand how you feel. It is unfortunate that the Fort Hood shooter was a Muslim. I don’t blame you or Islam for his acts. We’ve got enough problems in this country. We cannot afford to start distrusting our neighbors.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Millions And Billions And Trillions Of Jobs

Reader, I know you’ve been waiting on the edge of your seat for the rest of Mr. Jobs Governor’s plans to flood Virginia with tons of new jobs. It would take many hours to discuss them all, so I’ll stick to the highlights. Okay, fasten your seat belts.

Small businesses: Mr. Jobs Governor will spur the growth of small businesses. How? Well if you look at the details of his plan, he will do it by streamlining the application process. Come on, Bob. This is not a plan. Do you really think that people are not opening small businesses in Virginia because the process is too burdensome? Nonsense! The fact is that nobody is going to open a small business unless s/he thinks it will make money. If they don’t believe that now is the right time to open a business because of the economy the mechanics of getting an application processed will not change their decision.

Keeping Virginia Competitive: This has nothing to do with attracting new jobs. It is just Bob McDonnell’s way of assuring voters in his political base that he is anti-union and opposes the “card check” proposal before the Congress.

Boosting Virginia’s Tourism, Hospitality and Film Industries: Bob has eight specific ways of doing this. He will “double the funding” of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and increase funding of the governor’s Motion Picture Fund by $2 million. Well, Jobs Governor, where is the money going to come from? New taxes are off the table, so what current programs will you cut to get the extra money? Other things in this category involve encouraging groups to stay in Virginia for conventions, making Virginia the center of the sesquicentennial observance of the Civil War and promoting wine tourism in Virginia. These all sound nice, Bob, but just saying things does not make them so. Bob does make two proposals in this category that I support—preserving 400,000 acres of open space and reopening rest stops on the interstates.

Making Wallops Island the top commercial spaceport in America: This one is wonderful. It immediately brings to mind Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine in the original Star Wars movie. I would just love to see all those aliens running around Wallops Island. But, let this maven be serious. There are several commercial spaceports developing in the United States and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island on the Delmarva Peninsula is one of them. But again in this proposal Mr. McDonnell is dealing with promoting, encouraging, recruiting and vague things like that. The only concrete thing he proposes is a ten-fold increase of funding “bringing them to $1 million annually” for spaceport operations. Jobs Governor, I thought you were serious. We can’t be competitive with Spaceport America in New Mexico and Space Systems International at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on one million dollars per year. This proposal will not produce any significant number of jobs in Virginia in the next few years.

The Jobs Governor has myriad other plans for creating jobs. None of them can work until the recession is over. It is clear to me that the only job Bob McDonnell will create if elected is his own.

That’s all, folks.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hundreds Of Jobs, Thousands Of Jobs

The United States (as well as the rest of the world) is suffering through the worst economic contraction since the 1930’s. Millions of men and women have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Nationally, the unemployment rate has risen to 9.5%. Here, in the Commonwealth, we have been more fortunate. Our statewide unemployment rate is about 6.5% (as of August). The only states with lower unemployment rates are Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming, all with smaller populations and economies than Virginia.

Experts in economics give various explanations for this mega-recession. They all involve greed, under-regulation, large numbers of defaulting loans, and stuff like that. (Despite Republican Bill Bolling’s attack ads, none of these experts blame the recession on the “tax and spend” policies of Democrat Jody Wagner.) The damage to our economy has been severe and it has taken significant actions by the Federal Government, under both Presidents Bush and Obama, to avoid an even greater catastrophe.

Most experts believe that the economy has probably reached its lowest point and that recovery is starting. However, unemployment rates stay high and people are hurting. Despite our lower rate, here in Virginia tens of thousands of people are still unable to find work. Further, in some areas of the state unemployment rates are much higher.

So, along comes snake-oil salesman Bob McDonnell and dubs himself the “Jobs Governor.” Despite the world-wide recession, despite the fact that economic recovery in Virginia is tied to economic recovery in the rest of the country, despite the fact that Virginia is already one of the best-managed states and one of the best in which to do business, Bob McDonnell wants us to believe that he alone can bring jobs to Virginia.

Well, dear reader, we will look at the “Jobs Governor’s” plans in just a moment. First, however, the maven must give a very short and overly simple economics lesson. Why, you ask, do people lose jobs during a recession? The answer is quite simple. During a recession many businesses, both large and small, experience a significant drop in revenues. To offset these losses the company must cut its expenditures if it is to stay in business. One of the easiest ways to do that is to cut its payroll. Therefore, the loss of jobs. When will companies start hiring again and create more jobs? They will start rehiring when they are doing enough business to produce sufficient revenue for them to conclude that bringing on more workers will be profitable. Until that time it is unlikely that they will rehire their laid off workers (or other workers).

Despite the economic realities, the “Jobs Governor” is promising that if we elect him he will bring large numbers of jobs to Virginia. How will he do it? For sure, he won’t do what Franklin Roosevelt did during the 1930s depression. FDR put people to work by having the Federal Government hire them to perform needed work in the country. Bob McDonnell’s philosophy of government precludes him from turning the Virginia government into a major employer of those currently unemployed. So, how is Dr. McDonnell going to cure our unemployment sickness? Let’s take a look:

First, Bob proposes some “New Job Initiatives.”

1. He will expand the use of the Governor’s Opportunity Fund
2. He will appoint Bill Bolling as “Virginia’s Chief Jobs Creation Officer."
3. He will designate one Deputy Secretary of Commerce to work exclusively on rural economic development.
4. He will provide a tax credit of $1,000 per job for every company that creates 50 new jobs. In economically distressed areas the employer would only have to create 25 new jobs to qualify for the credit.

Governor’s Opportunity Fund : I won’t comment on this one because Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate is proposing more or less the same thing.

Making Bill Bolling the jobs “czar:” As my children would say, “Big Whoop!” Reader, what has Bill Bolling done in his entire private-sector and public careers that would qualify him to be “Virginia’s Chief Jobs Creation Officer?” Hey, I’m not even sure what a jobs creation officer does. Does he run a big manufacturing plant that turns out 20 or 30 new jobs every day? Does he lead posses into other states to capture jobs and bring them back to Virginia? Does he kidnap business executives and hold them until they agree to hire more people in the Commonwealth? Give me a break, Mr. Jobs Governor. This is nothing more than an idea to make Bill Bolling feel more important and to deceive the electorate.

Designating a rural development Deputy Secretary of Commerce to work exclusively on rural economic development: You know, I had no idea what this meant until I looked at the details of Dr. McDonnell’s economic plan. There it says, “We will place a greater emphasis on rural economic development by designating a Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade to do nothing gut recruit new business to rural parts of Virginia, where jobs are desperately needed.” Mr. Jobs Governor, this is another case of merely giving somebody a more glorified title. How exactly can a deputy secretary recruit new business during a massive economic downturn. Do you really think there are thousands of potential entrepreneurs out there that would gladly open businesses in rural Virginia if we only had a designated deputy secretary to recruit them? How can a designated deputy secretary convince existing businesses to move to rural parts of Virginia? If it was in their economic interest to do so, they would have already moved. This is another case of voter deception.

$1000 tax credits: Look, Dr. McDonnell. Whether they are large or small businesses, companies exist to make money. They will only hire more workers when they believe those workers will produce more revenue for the company than the cost of their salaries. Your plan is to grant $1,000 tax credits for each job when a company creates at least 50 jobs. (The threshold is only 25 new jobs in an economically distressed area.) Okay, let’s say that the average salary of the workers in these new jobs is $25,000 per year. To hire 50 new workers is going to cost the company $1,250,000 in salaries. The tax credits you will give them total $50,000. I may not be a businessman, Mr. Jobs Governor, but it doesn’t make sense to me to increase my company’s costs by $1,250,000 in salaries per year to save $50,000 in taxes. That’s a net loss of $1,200,000 I’ve incurred by creating jobs in Virginia. I’m sorry Bob, your offer of tax credits will not produce a single job in Virginia so long as the country is suffering through this recession.

Well, it seems that looking only at his “New Jobs Initiatives,” Bob McDonnell is not much of a jobs governor. So what else does Bob propose? To find out, tune in later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Virginia—A Male Dominated State?

I was researching the boundaries of some of the congressional districts in the Commonwealth when I looked at the photographs of our representatives. Guess what? They are all men. And, of course, both of our U.S. Senators are men. At the state level, only about 15% of the members of either the Senate or the House of Delegates are women. All of our state-wide offices—governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general—are men.

Loyal reader, did you know that the voters of Virginia have never elected a woman as Governor? They also haven’t ever elected a woman as Lieutenant Governor. Only once have we elected a woman to be our Attorney General. That was Mary Sue Terry who served from 1986 until she resigned to run for Governor in January 1993.

Now, we may ask, trusted reader, why a state like Virginia has elected so few women to public office. Aren’t we the state that made history by electing an African American to be our Lieutenant Governor in 1985 and our Governor in 1989?

This year we in Virginia have the opportunity to elect a woman—Jody Wagner—to a state-wide position. Don’t misunderstand me. I would not vote for or against a candidate simply because she is a woman. So I wouldn’t ask you to do that either. However, in the case of Jody Wagner, she is clearly the better-qualified candidate.

If you take a minute to get past Bill Bolling’s ridiculous attack ads (the only things he hasn’t blamed on Jody, yet, are the biblical plagues), you will see clearly that Jody is the one to vote for. During the past eight years, Jody has worked for both Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kane in positions involving the financial operations of Virginia government. She deserves at least part of the credit for Virginia having the best managed state government and for Virginia being one of the best states in which to do business. Jody understands the workings of Virginia government better than any of the candidates running for any state office this year.

And Bill Bolling? During the last eight years he has presided over the Virginia Senate and served in that Senate—four years each. That’s it! There is nothing in his resume to suggest that he is qualified to be Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, and the past four years have proved it. His record as Lieutenant Governor since 2006 is unremarkable at best. (Why else the attack ads? If he had done a good job, he could have run on his record.)

So, in voting for the clearly better candidate, we Virginia voters can also elect our first female Lieutenant Governor. This is our best opportunity in twenty years to make a dent in the male-dominated government of the Commonwealth.

Bill Bolling: Look In The Mirror

Unless you don’t have a television, you must have noticed that all statewide Republic candidates are in attack mode. It’s hard to watch any show on any network (broadcast or cable) without being inundated with attack ads against Creigh Deeds, Jody Wagner and Steve Shannon. Sometimes I find it pretty funny. First there’s a McDonnell ad telling us that if Creigh Deeds is elected he will raise taxes by the billions of dollars. That’s followed by a Bolling Ad making the exact same claims about Jody Wagner. When they come back-to-back, it’s hard for this maven to figure out who the real Democratic villain is.

But, the attack ad that almost led me to award Bill Bolling his second chutzpah award of the campaign season is the one that accuses Jody Wagner of not only wanting to tax every activity each of engages in every day, but also of running a negative campaign against Bill Bolling.

Come on Bill, since September I have only seen one positive ad from your campaign (at least here in Richmond). The rest of your campaign has been nothing but attack ads filled with lies, deception and misinformation about Jody Wagner. Where do you get the gall to accuse Ms. Wagner of running a negative campaign? Come to think of it Bill, I will change my mind and give you that second Chutzpah award. You richly deserve it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ken Cuccinelli: You Better Believe Him

I am often worried about how an election will turn out. Last year at this time, because of a shortage of money, sabotage of my campaign by a supporter of one of my opponents, and a string of organizational endorsements for another opponent, I was worried that I might not win the election for the School Board here in Richmond. (Of course my worries were validated on Election Day.) In many presidential elections over the years I was worried that the Republican candidates would be elected over the Democrats who I felt were much better qualified. In all those elections, I worried about the outcome.

But this year is the first time that I am more than worried; I am afraid of the outcome. In previous years, I never felt that election of the opponent to my candidate could actually turn out to be dangerous. I always felt that we would just have to wait for the next election. But this year there is the possibility that Ken Cuccinelli will be elected our next Attorney General, and that scares me.

Ken Cuccinelli, when in friendly audiences, has made it clear that he intends to be an Attorney General like none before. He intends to use the office to effectuate his agenda. He intends to use the office to turn this state back, not to how it was before former Governor Warner was elected, but to how it was in the good old days of states’ rights. In Republican debates, interviews by friendly reporters and at “tea parties” in Virginia, Ken has made it clear that he will enforce only those laws that he agrees with. He has also made it clear that he intends to fight the Federal Government in every instance in which it tries to implement a program in Virginia that he opposes. Ken has gone so far as to promise to sue the Federal Government to protect Virginia’s “sovereignty.”

Although I have previously pointed out how right-wing a Republican Ken is, his philosophy on the use of the Attorney General’s office is downright dangerous. Ken wants to undue all the progress that the Commonwealth has made in the past several decades, and to do so he has revived the doctrine of nullification and the cry of state’s rights. Nullification first arose during John Adam’s term as president when the Republican supporters of Thomas Jefferson argued that a state could nullify the effect of a federal law by blocking its implementation in that state. It is based on the theory that the sovereignty of states is superior to the sovereignty of the United States.

Nullification has raised its ugly head several times during the life of the United States. In the 1950s and 1960s several southern governors like Orval Faubus and George Wallace used the nullification doctrine, which they called “state’s rights,” to rule that the Supreme Court’s ruling outlawing school segregation would not apply in their states. They used their powers as governor to try to block integration in their states. It took the intervention of the federal government to assure that the law was implemented in those states.

I really thought that the principle that the United States Constitution and laws affected under that constitution were the “supreme law of the land” had been well established. But now Ken Cuccinelli has promised to ignore the words of Article II, Paragraph 7 of the United States Constitution and to decide himself which federal law will be enforced in Virginia. He also promises to decide which laws of the Commonwealth he will enforce.

Ken Cuccinelli acknowledges that it may take time to achieve his objectives. As quoted by the Washington Post, Ken has said, “It isn’t one dramatic step on any given day or getting one bill passed. It’s the gradual, slow, drip-drip-drip impact you can have.” 1 This is why Ken intends to be Attorney General for a long time.

Dear readers, if we the people of Virginia elect Ken Cuccinelli as Attorney General, Virginia will start moving back to the state’s rights days. Ken’s “drip-drip-drip” will gradually erode your liberties. I hope you choose to vote for Steve Shannon, Ken’s opponent, so as to stop this threat to the wonderful state that Virginia has become. The choice is yours.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Biased Reporting

A short time after it runs its feature on Creigh Deeds next Sunday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch will endorse Bob McDonnell for Governor, Bill Bolling for Lieutenant Governor, and Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General. Over the years the TD has consistently endorsed Republican candidates in major elections. I understand the policy position of the TD ownership and I have no problem with it. It’s their paper and they can do with it whatever they want.

But, dear reader, when this bias passes into news reporting, this maven must protest. Today’s paper marks the second time that I have seen the TD running unflattering photos of Creigh Deeds. Each time they have shown Deeds frowning. These photos are the type that I would expect the Bob McDonnell campaign to use in their attack ads against Deeds. They make it very hard for the voter to like Mr. Deeds. After all, who wants to vote for someone who is always frowning?

I am sure that Bob Brown, the TD photographer who covered the gubernatorial debate, must have gotten at least one shot of Creigh Deeds without a frown on his face. Yet the editors chose to run this photo.

The TD is the daily newspaper for Greater Richmond. Regardless of its editorial bent toward supporting Republican candidates, it should be neutral in its news reporting. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I hope that between now and the election the TD stops showing its bias in the photos it uses in its news reporting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Has Bob McDonnell Changed His Stripes? Part 3

Before I get to the substance of this posting, let me make one thing clear. I am not against religion. I am not against Christianity. In fact, some of my best friends are Christians. I do not object to our national or state leaders praying or reading their chosen scripture to help them make the really tough decisions that we ask them to make. I would prefer a leader that understands that there is a higher power in the Universe to one who thinks that he or she is the fount of all knowledge. Having said that, let’s get back to young Bob McDonnell’s thesis.

Bob McDonnell believed that all the significant institutions in society—the family, the church and the state (he was referring to civil government, not the Commonwealth of Virginia)—were ordained and established by God. Further, God has assigned to each of these institutions a specific role. As Bob put it on page 12 of his thesis,

“Each institution in society has been instituted by God for specific limited purposes. Therefore, a good idea does not necessarily translate into good policy, unless it is instituted in a proper means by an institution with jurisdiction.”

The first of God’s institutions, according to young Bob, is the family. Since God created the family in the Garden of Eden, it is an institution that precedes and is not subject to definition by the state. In Bob’s words on page 13,

“The family, as a God-ordained government has an area of sovereignty within which it is free to carry out the duties it owes to God, society, and other family members, under the covenant [of marriage].”

[Young Bob then goes on to describe the role of the Church. My maven’s license does not extend to theology, so I’ll skip over that.]

Bob McDonnell describes the role of the state (or government) in the following words on page 14 of the thesis:

“The civil government was ordained to secure the inalienable rights of individuals created in the image and likeness of God, and to facilitate a society in which other institutions are free to perform their covenantal duties to God and others. . . . Government authority is constrained both by this limited delegation from God, and by the covenant which the people have established with their leaders, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the constitution of the United States and the several states, and statutes passed pursuant thereto.”

So, it takes until page 14 of his thesis for Bob to get to the constitution and laws as affecting the authority of government, and then only in a subsidiary role to God’s assignment of jurisdiction in scripture.

Dear reader, I am somewhat troubled by Bob McDonnell’s view, which appears to be that the rules of God set forth in the Christian Bible are controlling over the law as established by the constitution, statutes and court pronouncements of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Does this mean that, if elected, Mr. McDonnell will consult scripture first before deciding whether he will carry out laws passed by the General Assembly? Does he believe that laws enacted by the Congress or the General Assembly of Virginia are only valid if they are consistent with God’s division of jurisdiction among the family, the church and the civil government. Does this mean that if he takes the constitutional oath of office that requires him to swear or affirm that he will “support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia” that he will be adding the unspoken caveat “to the extent they are consistent with the institutions ordained by God?”

Mr. McConnell says that he has changed some of his views since he wrote his thesis. Does this change include his views on government I have just described? This is the question we should be concerned with, not whether Mr. McDonnell still believes that feminism has caused the downfall of the Republic. The citizens of Virginia have a right to know whether Bob McDonnell intends to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth as written, without first deciding whether he thinks they are consistent with the Bible. Instead of telling us what a good father he has been to his daughters and how well he has treated his female subordinates, let Bob answer this basic question.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blame It On Jody!

Three years ago I brought to your attention the Republican campaign tactic of using the “Big Lie” to try to win elections. 1 The theory is that the voters are basically stupid and that they will believe anything you say. In fact, the bigger the lie the more likely they are to believe it.

So, Republican Bill Bolling’s attack ad against Jody Wagner, Democrat candidate for Lieutenant Governor, does not surprise me. In the ad, Bill blames Ms. Wagner for everything that has gone wrong with the world, the nation and the Commonwealth in the last eight years—

· Jody raised taxes for each of the last eight years (“Every tax increase, every year.”)
· Jody caused billions of dollars in budget shortfalls.
· Jody caused huge government debt.
· Jody raised taxes on senior citizens.
· Jody is responsible for all the jobs lost in Virginia.
· Jody has “made a bad economy worse.”

Nowhere in this ad “sponsored” by Bill Bolling is there any support for these statements. It’s just accusation after accusation after accusation. Not only does Bill make Jody the scapegoat for things that have happened, he even blames her for imaginary disasters. If it sounds good, blame it on Jody!

Bill, why the big lies? Are you afraid that you can’t be reelected based on your own record?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Has McDonnell Changed His Stripes? Part 2

Let’s talk about Bob McDonnell’s views on the state’s role in regulating the sexual behavior of consenting adults.

For those of you who are not lawyers: In 1965 the Supreme Court of the United States issued the landmark decision in Griswold v. Connecticut. The Court declared unconstitutional the Connecticut statute outlawing the sale of contraceptives in the state, ruling that the law violated the privacy rights of married couples.

On pages 7 and 8 of his thesis, the 35 year old Bob McDonnell criticizes the Court’s ruling, endorsing instead the view that states had the power to “regulate the legal and sexual relationships of marriage.” On the following page, Bob says that the effect of the Supreme Court decisions in Griswold and other cases was to abandon the sanctity of the traditional family and replace it “with the perverted notion of liberty that each person should be able to live out his sexual life in any way he chooses without interference from the state.”

So, incredulous reader, Bob McDonnell believes that states should have the authority to regulate sexual relationships. He further believes that the idea that people should be able to choose how to live their sexual lives without interference from the state is a “perverted notion of liberty.”

Does Bob McDonnell really think that the Commonwealth of Virginia should be snooping around in your and my bedrooms to assure that we are not practicing that “perverted notion of liberty?” He certainly did when he wrote that thesis.

But he says that some of his views have changed since he was a young and rash 35. I certainly hope this is one of them.

Christian Right Poised To Rule Virginia

The leaders of the Christian Right in Virginia are feeling good today. The Washington Post poll shows all of their candidates—Bob McDonnell for governor, Bill Bolling for Lieutenant Governor and Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General—with significant leads over their Democratic opponents. If they can just get through the next twenty four days without the electorate finding out the truth and changing its mind, they will have one of their own in each of the top three positions in Virginia government. Then they will be able to push their agenda for “fixing” the Commonwealth.

Wait, maven, what are you talking about? Do you just assume that all Republicans are from the Christian Right?

No, trusted reader, I realize that Republicans cover a wide spectrum of views and policies, just like Democrats. But these three birds of a feather—McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli—are way out on the right wing of their own party. This is possibly the most conservative ticket that the GOP has ever nominated.

Maven, maven, maven! You are exaggerating as usual. How can all three of them be as right-wing as you suggest?

Reader, you just need to look at their records as members of the General Assembly. All of them have consistently voted the “right” way on every issue supported by the Christian Right. All of them consistently received ratings of from 90 to 100 by the Virginia Family Foundation. All of them receive A or A+ ratings from the National Rifle Association. They have consistently voted against women’s reproductive rights and against any restrictions or controls on the ability of Virginians to acquire or carry guns. They were the leading proponents of what became Virginia’s constitutional marriage restrictions.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the right-wing bloggers around the state. They are positively salivating over the possibility of these three getting elected. Take a look at McDonnell’s, Bolling’s and Cuccinelli’s campaign web sites. They are equally committed to what they refer to as traditional Virginia values, the values pushed by the Christian Right and other ultra-conservatives.

Take a look at Bob McDonnell’s master’s thesis. Oh, I know that he was only thirty-five years old when he wrote it. I also know that he says he has changed some of his views in the intervening years. But, exactly what views has he changed? He doesn’t really say. If you think that his views are main-stream, take a look at some of the statements in the thesis that I quoted last month. 1

Now, we don’t know what Bill or Ken may have said in their theses, but we can look at the annual report card of the Family Foundation to see Ken Cuccinelli’s voting record in the Virginia Senate. It was an off year for Ken (last year he was the Family Foundation’s Legislator of the Year) because he only received a 91 rating. He missed out on getting the 100 because he voted in favor of SB507, which would have allowed expanded off-track betting on horse races. But let’s look how Ken did vote:

· He voted to withdraw state funding from Planned Parenthood.

· He voted to ban state funding of embryonic stem cell research.

· He voted in favor of a “Choose Life” license plate, with proceeds going to pregnancy resource centers.

· He voted against broadening Virginia’s Family Life Education course to include anything other than abstinence.

· He voted against expanding Virginia’s domestic partners benefits law to include life insurance.

· He voted for allowing state police chaplains to pray “in Jesus’ name.”

Trusted reader, I think Ken Cuccinelli’s own voting record has shown him to be a right-wing Republican.

Although I don’t have information on Bill Bolling’s votes in the General Assembly in 2005 and earlier, just look at his own web site. 2
Bill brags that he opposes women’s reproductive rights, that he opposes any restrictions on gun ownership or possession, and that he not only supported the so-called marriage amendment but used his own funds to campaign for its passage.

Reader, if these three men of the Right are, in fact, elected on November 3 (and the choice is yours) it should be a very interesting four years in the Commonwealth.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Has McDonnell Changed His Stripes?

Hopefully, the Deeds for Governor campaign will be spending more time on positive ads rather than the negative stuff that’s been keeping them distracted. However, that doesn’t mean that this maven cannot spend some of his time analyzing Bob McDonnell’s master’s thesis. Between now and the election, when the inspiration comes to me, I will be looking at some specific issues raised by Bob’s thesis. (I know that last month, in a fit of cutting and pasting, I set forth most of the significant things that Bob said in his thesis. However, it is clear to me that was just too much material to digest.)

Sadly, Bob McDonnell lives in an evil, dangerous world. On page 20 of his thesis Bob says:

“. . . [P]olicy decisions must be made with the cognizance of the nature of man. . . . [M]an’s basic nature is inclined toward evil, and when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish and deter.”

Later, on page 61, Bob says:

“Policies, however, must be sufficiently realistic to acknowledge that man lives in a broken and sinful world formed by his inherent selfishness. . .”

I am glad I do not live in Bob McDonnell’s world. I see people as basically good. Certainly they make mistakes and sometimes succumb to the urge to do bad things. But, on the whole, I believe that the citizens of Virginia are good and decent people. Not Bob.

So, how does Bob’s world view reflect on his view of the proper role of government? On page 14 of the thesis, he says:

“The state alone . . . bears the authority to punish wrongdoers, for the civil ruler is a minister of God to execute judgment and encourage good.”

Perhaps Bob’s view of the role of the civil ruler served him well as the Commonwealth’s head prosecutor. As prosecutor it makes sense to see your job as a battle against evil. However, I’m not sure this is the kind of world view we want in the man who will be our next governor.

Bob McDonnell says he has changed many of the views he expressed in his master’s thesis when he was only 35 years old. Perhaps his view of the world is one of them.

There You Go Again, Bob

This maven has observed ten or eleven gubernatorial contests in Virginia. In every one of them the Republican candidate has accused the Democratic candidate of intending to raise taxes if elected. This is such a standard part of Republican campaign rhetoric that I assume it’s required by the rules of the Virginia GOP. So, it came as no surprise to me last night that I saw and heard—

I’m Bob McDonnell, and I approved this message. . . Then comes the standard attack. Creigh Deeds intends to raise taxes. In fact, Creigh Deeds has promised that if elected he will raise our taxes. This ad even goes so far as blaming Creigh Deeds for possible increases in federal taxes. All this Deeds devilry will cost the average Virginia family thousands of dollars.

You know, loyal reader, my three young ‘uns received wonderful public school educations in the Commonwealth. All of them took civics in middle school and government in high school. All three of them learned that in Virginia only the General Assembly has the constitutional authority to enact legislation, including laws that raise taxes. They understand that no Virginia governor has the authority, under our constitution, to raise taxes.

Which leads me to conclude that either—

Bob McDonnell is deliberately deceiving the voters of Virginia, or
Bob McDonnell slept through his civics and government classes.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ernesto Sampson Is A Republican, Right?

This maven is always fascinated by politics. While up in Northern Virginia last week, I was looking at the political signs and saw some for Bob McDonnell, which read “Fairfax’s Own.” Has Bob McDonnell moved without telling me? Hey, all’s fair in love, war and politics, right?

Signs are so interesting. In some districts, it is common for candidates to identify their party affiliation. Unless, of course, their party is in the minority. In a predominantly Republican district, it seems that a candidate will use bigger letters for the word “Republican” than for his/her own name. In other districts, those where Democrats are dominant, a Republican candidate will certainly try to hide that fact.

So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Republican Ernesto Sampson, running for the 69th District Delegate seat made vacant by the retirement of Democrat Frank Hall, doesn’t highlight his party affiliation on his campaign signs. After all, the 69th is a predominantly Democratic district. In fact, Ernesto is so shy of the fact that he is the nominee of the Republican Party that he doesn’t seem to mention it on his campaign website either. Yup, Ernesto would like us all to forget that he represents the GOP.

If you look at his website to see why he is running, you would think that Ernesto is a Democrat. He promises that he will carry out President Obama’s education plans. Ernesto seems to be the only Republican in the country who has something good to say about our president.

The one thing on his website that indicates that Ernesto is, in fact, a darling of the GOP is the long list of Republican politicians who support his candidacy. Mr. Sampson has been endorsed by Delegates Sam Nixon, Manoli Loupassi, Tim Hugo, Bill Janis and Chris Peace, all of whom are not only Republicans but vote very conservatively in the House of Delegates. He is also endorsed by the chairs of the Richmond and Chesterfield Republican parties. So despite the sheep’s clothing that Ernesto Sampson wears, he is definitely a wolf… I mean Republican.

Getting back to his campaign signs, Ernesto Sampson does something strange. His is the only political sign I’ve seen this year that has the candidate's picture on it. Now, a picture takes up a lot of room. Putting your picture on a campaign sign cuts down room for displaying your name in the biggest letters possible. So, why would Ernesto Sampson waste space by putting his photograph on his signs?

There is one thing I forgot to mention. Not only is the 69th District predominantly Democratic, it also has an African American majority. Could it be that Ernesto Sampson put his photograph on his campaign signs so that African American voters can see that he is also African American? Can it be that Mr. Sampson is playing the “race card”? This maven certainly hopes not.

But, I am being too suspicious of Mr. Sampson just because he is hiding his Republican affiliation. I am sure that the only reason he put the picture on his signs is so that we can all appreciate how handsome he is.

Why Deeds Will Lose

Last week I was up in the Democratic hotbed of Northern Virginia. I was talking politics with some friends and asked who they were voting for for governor. They were all voting for Creigh Deeds. I asked them why. The only answer I received was “because he’s not Bob McDonnell.” Ay, dear reader, there’s the rub. None of them were particularly enthused about Creigh Deeds—he was just the ABM (Anybody But McDonnell) candidate. Even this late in the campaign, my friends really knew nothing about Senator Deeds. And, if he weren’t running against ultra-conservative Bob McDonnell, they had no reason to vote for him.

But, you may ask, isn’t Creigh Deeds the one who won the Democratic primary by a landslide? Isn’t he the one who received half of the votes cast in a three way race, in which he had by far the smallest campaign chest? How can someone who was so popular among Democrats in June be virtually unknown now?

Let’s look at Creigh Deeds’ campaign message. It is very clear to this maven that Senator Deeds is running as the ABM candidate. His campaign ads tell us why we shouldn’t vote for Bob McDonnell, but say nothing about why we should vote for Deeds. What is Senator Deeds’ campaign theme? What has he done to demonstrate that he is the person who should be our next governor? What do we know about him? About his family? What does he believe in?

On the other hand, let’s look at Bob McDonnell’s campaign. It has stayed on message from the beginning. He is “The Jobs Governor.” He has the attractive family. He is the guy with solutions to all Virginia’s problems. Even when he has been attacked based on the views he expressed in his master’s thesis, he has stayed on message. He runs some defensive ads, but mainly it’s still family and jobs.

What has happened to the effective campaign Deeds ran in the primary? Has he forgotten that he won the primary because he was the only candidate who was NOT running negative attack ads against his opponents? In the primary campaign Deeds was the one with the family (I remember that he went away to college with only a few bucks in his pocket and mom’s advice). Deeds was the one who stayed on the positive message of what a good governor he would be.

So, where did it all go bad? Surprisingly, it was when Bob McDonnell’s master’s thesis was made public. Somebody on Deeds’ campaign staff decided that this was the weapon that would win the campaign. Suddenly, all of Deeds’ campaign was focused on that thesis and how it affected McDonnell’s votes in the legislature. Gone was “Deeds will be a great governor” as a campaign theme. In came “Bob McDonnell voted against abortion and contraceptives for married couples.” And now, with the ads issued in response by the McDonnell campaign we have a “he says, he says” dispute with nobody knowing who is telling the truth. This is NOT the kind of campaign that wins elections in Virginia.

And now, this maven is getting e-mails from the Democratic governors and from the Virginia Democratic Party and from the Deeds campaign begging for more money. They all tell me that if they only have enough money they can prevent the Republicans from reversing last year’s great victory. But will more money make a difference? Not if it is going to be spent on more of the same. This campaign will not be won by money. It will be won only by a campaign message that tells me and a million other Virginia voters why Creigh Deeds is the right man to be our next governor.

Is John O’bannon Too Conservative For The 73rd?

One of the hotly contested House of Delegates races in the Richmond area is in the 73rd District, where University of Richmond professor Tom Shields is trying to unseat incumbent Republican John O’bannon. For reasons too complicated to discuss here, I attended a debate between these candidates last month. Just to see what these guys stand for, after the debate I looked at their campaign websites.

On Doctor O’bannon’s site (John is a physician), he brags about his record, including three items that show that he “Shares Our Virginia Values”—

· 100% rating from the Family Foundation
· “A” rating from the National Rifle Association
· Never voted for a tax increase

I have no intention of taking on the NRA (they being heavily armed), and (since he’s a Virginia Republican) I’m not surprised that John has never voted for a tax increase. But let’s look at this Family Foundation 100% rating.

As you know, the Family Foundation is a conservative lobbying group that is pro-life, pro-family, pro-parental authority, pro-constitutional government and pro-religious liberty. Each year the Foundation issues a report card rating the members of Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates. As explained in its report card, a 100% rating means that a legislator voted “profamily” on all of the foundation’s chosen bills, and a 0% indicates that a legislator voted the "wrong" way on those same bills. In the House of Delegates, nearly all of the legislators that were rated 100% are Republicans (Lacey Putney of the 19th District is an Independent), while all those that rated low (nobody was so bad as to rate a zero) were Democrats.

So, how did you have to vote (and how did John O’bannon vote) to rate a 100% rating from the Family Foundation? These are some of John O’bannon’s “profamily” votes:

· John voted to require abortion clinics to provide information that fetuses experience pain.

· John voted to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.

· John voted to prohibit state funding of embryonic stem cell research.

· John (a physician) voted for a two-year delay in implementing the recommendation that 6th grade girls receive the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer.

· John voted for offering women seeking an abortion an ultrasound of their fetus.

· John voted against adding sexual orientation to the state’s non-discrimination in hiring law.

· John voted against including life insurance in Virginia’s domestic partner benefits law.

Based on this record, is John O’bannon a bit too conservative for voters of the 73rd District? In less than four weeks we'll know.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Chutzpah Award For Bill Bolling

The TV ads being run by and for incumbent Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling tell of all the things Bill plans to do if he is reelected. But, wait a second. Isn’t Bill the incumbent? Why has he done none of these things during the last three and three quarter years serving as Lieutenant Governor?

He uses the motto “New Ideas for a Better Virginia.” I don’t understand, Bill. Did it take you nearly four years in office to suddenly come up with new ideas? Have you been doing nothing since the last election, Bill?

Bill has ideas to bring jobs to Virginia. Bill has proposals for boosting the economy. But apparently Bill’s ideas and proposals will only work in a second term.

For running an ad campaign which treats the voters of Virginia as idiots, the maven grants a chutzpah award to Bill Bolling.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The World According To McDonnell

The following are some quotes from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell's masters thesis. Trusted reader, I leave it to you whether you want a person with this basic political philosophy to be the chief executive of our beloved Commonwealth.

The modern American experience can be seen as an ideological battle between the forces of democratic capitalism and socialism, with the latter's attempt to "substitute the power of the state for the rights, responsibilities and authority of the family."

The vast majority of American children have been educated in the public school system, in which text books and courses of instruction are increasingly oriented to humanist values and a secular philosophy. The undermining of respect for parental authority in favor of state direction or individual autonomy, and the simultaneous purging of religious influence in the public schools has impaired the development of healthy family members. Values that had historically provided strength to the family, such as firm discipline and corporal punishment, patriotism, and academic achievement, were either attacked or given token attention.

The Declaration of Independence, the charter of American liberty and foundation for the U.S. Constitution, declares that our concepts of rights, duties, and authority are derived from the Law of Nature and Nature's God. From this Judeo-Christian heritage of the founding fathers, it is clear that the Creator is a God of order and authority, not chaos and autonomy. Each institution in society has been instituted by God for specific limited purposes.

The family as an institution existed antecedent to civil government, and hence is not subject to being defined by it. It is in the Law of Nature of the created order that the Creator instituted marriage and family in Eden, where he ordained that "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to this wife, and they shall become one flesh." Family arises out of this divinely-created covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, the terms of which can neither be originally set nor subsequently altered by the parties or the state. . . The family as a God-ordained government has an area of sovereignty within which it is free to carry out the duties it owes to God, society, and other family members, under the covenant.

In addition to the family and the individuals who comprise them, God has ordained the institutions of civil government and the church as the foundation of order in society. . . [I]t is these three which have sovereign spheres of jurisdiction in which to exercise authority delegated by God. Although there is some overlap and partnership in pursuing the ends of a just and moral society, each institution has certain responsibilities given exclusively to it.

The church has a monopoly over the administration of the sacraments and it alone possesses the "keys of the kingdom" to preach the gospel and determine church membership. As the mouthpiece of the Creator to be salt and light to individual souls and social institutions, the church has the teaching authority to expound upon the Scripture, and, along with the family, to care for widows, orphans, and the poor and disadvantaged. It should be the primary source of support, counsel and restoration in the event of family dysfunction.

The civil government was ordained to secure the inalienable rights of individuals created in the image and likeness of God, and to facilitate a society in which other institutions are free to perform their covenental duties to God and others. The state alone, with the exception of parental discipline of children, bears the authority to punish wrongdoers, for the civil ruler is a minister of God to execute judgment and encourage good.

Government, by definition, is to provide leadership to encourage righteousness and justice among and discourage wrongdoing among the governed. To that end, however, government is enjoined from replacing family function with agencies of the welfare state, such that dependency and apathy are generated. While families may fail in providing a high standard of care, unless there is abuse, the permissive intrusion of the government is unwarranted.

The state, more directly, may intervene to protect individual members of families, and within its police powers, may do what is necessary to advance their health, safety, and morals. However, government at all levels must "support family parenting as the first premise of its social, economic, and fiscal policy."

The family is a self-governing institution upon which the natural law confers the duties of procreation, nurture, and socialization of children through marriage.

The normative view of institutional interaction in society is seen as a symbiotic relationship of unique entities with the compatible goal of serving other human beings and glorifying God. Both church, in its provision of financial and spiritual support, and the state, in its protection of life, liberty, and marriage, have a role to strengthen and promote healthy family life. The family, in turn, must inculcate religious values, tithe, and give time for ministry in order to support the church, while exercising the discipline of self-government and stewardship necessary to produce good citizens for the body politic.

It must be made clear that the government has no independent authority to prescribe conduct for the family, rather the authority arises out of the state's duty to protect the marital covenant and individual family members.

For at least 8 years, Republican domestic policies have demonstrated that man is capable of doing good only in an atmosphere of liberty and faith, not compulsion and atheism. However, man's basic nature is inclined towards evil, and when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter.

There should be no intervention where Constitutional and statutory powers do not allow, where principles of federalism grant exclusive state authority and where family autonomy circumscribes. Policies presupposing that government is a benevolent agent of social change fail to understand the social and legal order, and function as a long-term detriment to building strong families. . . Policies, however, must be sufficiently realistic to acknowledge that man lives in a broken and sinful world formed by his inherent selfishness, but should be geared to facility the model.

Despite improvements made in the 1986 Tax Reform Act, Republicans should still work to eliminate income graduation, deduction ceilings in the tax code, and advocate the modified flat tax proposal of the 1984 platform. A taxation system that procures revenue based on an ability to pay, and awards deductions and distributions based on need, is socialist in its underlying philosophy, and impairs the family's ability to transfer property.

Notwithstanding Democratic rhetoric to the contrary, it is not uncompassionate and anti-family to mandate parental consent for all decisions made by minors in and out of school, and to refuse government aid to families who reject the traditional values of responsibility and accountability. While no government program can make people be good, policies should reward people when they are, and not subsidize them when they are not. For example, every level of government should statutorily and procedurally prefer married couples over cohabitators, homosexuals, or fornicators. The cost of sin should fall on the sinner not the taxpayer.

The real enemies of the traditional family - materialism, irresponsibility, feminism, lust, and ultimately selfishness - are largely outside the sphere of federal impact.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I’m Sure He’s Changed His Mind

There’s been a whole lot of flak lately about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell and his Master’s thesis at the College of Law and Government, CBN University (now called Regent University). Apparently Mr. McDonnell made some rather derogatory assertions about single mothers and working women in that thesis and some people (especially Mr. McDonnell’s opponent Democrat Creigh Deeds) think it demonstrates that he is unsuitable to be governor.

I think that this is all rather unfair. We all said things when we were young and immature that we regret saying now. Even this maven sometimes shutters in embarrassment when I am reminded of things people claim I said as a high school junior or a college sophomore. The thesis that is causing such a fuss was written by Mr. McDonnell in 1989, when he was only—let me see, 1989 less 1954 when he was born—35 years old. (I had thought he must have been younger. Thirty-five years old is not exactly a high school junior or college sophomore). But Mr. McDonnell has said that he has changed his mind about a lot of things since he wrote that thesis and I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

Lots of people are zapping Mr. McDonnell for saying that the Supreme Court was stupid in ruling that states could not outlaw contraceptives, or that mothers working outside the home are one of the leading causes of family breakdown. Others criticize him for his proposal of fifteen steps that the Republican Party must follow to save America. He says that he no longer believes some of those things, so why harp on them.

I’m much more interested in the political philosophy that the young and obviously immature Bob McDonnell set forth in his thesis. A person’s philosophy probably demonstrates better what kind of officer he will be than a few hastily-typed statements.

Young Bob McDonnell’s political philosophy was not based on the constitution and laws of the United States or the constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Rather, it was based on the Christian Bible—old and new testaments. Young Bob believed that all of society was created by God, “a God of order and authority, not chaos and autonomy.” It follows that “[e]ach institution in society has been instituted by God for specific, limited purposes.” The major institutions created by God are the family, the church and the state. (Apparently, Bob McDonnell’s God was not much interested in the individual.) Each is sovereign within its own realm.

In young Bob McDonnell’s thesis, God ordained the family to carry out the functions of procreation, nurture and socialization of children “through marriage.” The family must be the primary caretaker of its members and therefore must become economically self sufficient. In time of need, the family may seek help from relatives or the church (but apparently not from the state).

According to young Mr. McDonnell, God gave the church a monopoly over the sacraments and the sole authority to preach the Gospels and determine church membership. It also has the responsibility, along with the family, to care for widows, orphans and the poor and disadvantaged. In case of family dysfunction, it is the church (not the state) that is ordained to support, counsel and restore the family.

In young Bob’s thesis, God created civil government to protect the inalienable rights of individuals and to facilitate a society in which the family and church are free to perform their “covenantal” duties to God and others. The state has the sole authority to punish wrongdoers (except for the exclusive authority of parents to discipline their children). Although there may be instances in which the state may use its police powers to advance the health, safety and morals of family members, in general God has ordained the state to “support family parenting as the first premise of its social, economic and fiscal policy.”

So, it appears that to the young Bob McDonnell God’s hierarchy was family first, church second, and the state third. Mr. McDonnell clearly believed in a minimal role for the federal and state governments, mostly to create an environment in which the family (as God’s primary institution of government) can thrive. If the older and wiser Bob McDonnell were to follow the philosophy of his younger self, this maven would be concerned over the direction the Commonwealth would be heading in the next four years (should he be elected).

But, I am sure he has changed his mind.

Monday, September 07, 2009

You Just Can't Trust Him

Well, I've read the release of the president's proposed speech to America's children. Clearly, we were absolutely justified in fearing this man talking to our vulnerable young 'uns. From beginning to end, the entire address is a socialist manifesto. You just have to read between the lines.

He says: Hello everyone - How's everybody doing today?
He means: Greetings comrades.

He says: When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn't have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school.
First, this is a clear admission that he is not an American. Second, he is trying to justify his socialist plot to make everyone in American poor.

He says: I'm here because I want to talk to you about your education and what's expected of you in this new school year.
Clearly his tone is dictatorial.

He says: But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world - and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work to succeed.
This one is really devious. He is trying to blame the failure of public schools on the students rather that on the true villain - public education itself.

He says: Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer.
That guy Marx-Lenin would have loved this socialist drivel. Obviously not everyone is good.

He says: What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
What he means: Your skills and talents belong to the government.

He says: We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that - if you quit on school - you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country.
What he means: Workers of the world unite!

He says: I did some things I'm not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have.
I told you not to vote for him!

He says: Young people like Jasmin Perez . . . Andoni Schultz . . . Shantell Steve . . .
He only uses foreign kids as examples. What about John Smith and Mary Jones?

He says: I'm thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who's fought brain cancer since he was three. He's endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries.
What he means: Lobby your representatives to pass socialized medicine.

He says: I know that sometimes you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality show star; when chances are, you're not going to be any of those things.
What he means: Don't believe the American dream.

He says: If you get in trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave.
Clearly, he's soft on crime.

He says: Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
More socialist drivel.

He says: It's the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution.
What he means: Start planning the socialist revolution.

He says: So today, I want to ask you, what's your contribution going to be?
What he means: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

So dear reader, you can see how fortunate we are that school boards and superintendents throughout our land will protect our children by not letting them watch the prez today.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Henry Marsh Sure Plays a Mean Game of Chess

Whether you love him or hate him, one thing you have to admit. State Senator Henry Marsh is brilliant at playing chess on the political game board. For example, just this year Senator Marsh made these great moves*:

· Pawn to King 3 (Dwight Jones from House of Delegates to City Hall)
· Pawn to Queen 3 (Delores McQuinn from City Council to House of Delegates 70th District seat)
· Pawn to Jack 2 then to Knight 3 (Carlos Brown from Henrico County through 70th District to House of Delegates 69th District seat)
(Actually, we won’t see whether that last move is successful until after Tuesday’s primary election.)

Yes, dear reader, as long as the voters ratify Senator Marsh’s moves, he will be one hell of a chess player.

*My apology to real chess players.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Carlos Brown, Where DOES He Live?

Last week, I wrote about the primary race in Virginia’s 69th District for the Democratic nomination for the vacant House of Delegates seat. I mentioned that Betsy Carr and Antione Green were each my friends and were each running for the 69th District seat. I explained that because of this I felt I could not endorse nor campaign for either of them. I mentioned the third candidate running for the seat, Carlos Brown, and said only that I did not know him. Well, being a maven, I need to know everything. So, I started researching Mr. Brown and found out that…

This is not the first time that Carlos M. Brown has run in a Democratic primary for a vacant house seat. Only about six months ago, Mr. Brown was running in the 70th District for the seat vacated by Dwight Jones when he was elected mayor. And, according to Olympia Meola’s story in the Times-Dispatch, at the time he declared his candidacy in the 70th District Mr. Brown was not a resident of the district. He lived in Henrico County, outside the district. He had to find some place in the district to call his home so that he could qualify for the primary election. 1
Apparently, this was not a problem for Mr. Brown, because by December 6, Ms. Meola reported that Mr. Brown “now lives in the district.” 2

Mr. Brown lost the primary election. However, he had so much fun in that contest that he eagerly awaited another chance to run. And would you believe it, less than four months later, Frank Hall, the incumbent in the 69th District, announced that he was leaving the House of Delegates to take an appointed position in state government. This was another chance for Mr. Brown to run for a vacant house seat. There was a bit of impediment to Mr. Brown running—he did not live in the district. (It is not clear whether he still lived in his Henrico County residence or the residence he had established to run in the 70th District back in December.) Well, this was really no problem for our nomadic friend Mr. Brown. As indicated in Ms. Meola’s April 8 article in the Times-Dispatch, “He is currently working on establishing permanent residency within the district boundaries.” 3

Mr. Brown was apparently successful in his latest relocation because according to the Virginia State Board of Elections he now lives at 5926 Fairlee Road in the City of Richmond (or at least gave that as his address in filing his candidacy papers). On the other hand, the Virginia Public Access Project, which keeps track of political contributions in the Commonwealth, indicates that Mr. Brown’s campaign headquarters are located at 3029 Four Mile Run, which is a considerable distance outside the 69th District.

So now you have the story of poor Carlos Brown who can’t figure out where he lives. In the last six or seven months he has relocated from Henrico County to a residence in the 70th District and then to a residence in the 69th District. For the sake of Mr. Brown let us hope that future elections do not require him to relocate again.

This would be quite funny were it not for the fact we are talking about the person who will represent the residents of the 69th District in the House of Delegates. Our representatives in the General Assembly are elected from local districts, not at large. Presumably this is to guarantee that citizens of the Commonwealth are represented by people who live nearby and understand the issues they face. This intent is clearly violated when individuals jump from district to district to find some election they can win. I’m not sure where Mr. Brown lived last November, but that is the place he is best qualified to represent. His changes of residency, first to the 70th District and then to the 69th District, just to run for election did not change that.

I don’t know about you, but I sort of resent people who move into a state or local election district just for the purpose of running for office. Mr. Brown’s itinerant behavior should not be rewarded by electing him to the House of Delegates.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

OMG, Is It Doug?

I’m sitting in the den, minding my own business, watching the evening news, when I see that face and I hear that voice. My blood pressure starts to rise. My mouth starts to salivate. Is this a dream? Can it be real? Yes, it is! It’s Doug Wilder on the tube threatening to support Bob McDonnell, the Republican, for governor. There is even some speculation that Doug is going to become a Republican. Wow!

Okay, I need to calm down. I can’t allow myself to get obsessed about Doug again. I know that for more than two years Doug provided tons of material for this maven. I know that since Doug has dropped out of the public lime light my writing production has gone way down. With Doug back, this maven could soar again to his great levels of sarcasm and invective.

No! I will not allow Doug Wilder to draw me down that path again. I realize that I am a Doug Wilder addict. So, I can’t even allow myself to think about Doug. Let him do what he wants. This maven will just ignore him.

To the Republicans I anglicize an old Yiddish curse that my grandmother used to use—a plague on you! May Doug bring you all the grief that he brought to the citizens of River City!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Brian, You Make Me So Mad!

They’re back. Just when this political junkie had gotten used to seeing real “commercial” commercials on the tube, the political ads are back. Republican Bob McDonnell has been running these ads setting out his background, record and philosophy and has dubbed himself the “jobs governor.” Democratic Creigh Deeds tells us how little money he had when he left for college, explains his philosophy and then claims to be the best qualified Democrat to be governor. Democrat Terry McCauliffe is running ads explaining his programs and arguing that his business experience makes him the most qualified candidate to be our next governor. All of the McDonnell, Deeds and McCauliffe ads are positive. They say nothing about the rival candidates. (This, of course, is much easier for McDonnell because he doesn’t yet know who is opponent will be.)

Then there are the ads being run by Brian Moran. Rather than explaining why Mr. Moran should be our next governor, his ads attack Terry McCauliffe. I don’t know who is running Mr. Moran’s campaign, but they seem to be forgetting that Brian Moran and Terry McCauliffe are both Democrats. They also seem to have forgotten that the objective in this year’s contest for governor must be to keep the Republican Bob McDonnell from winning. By running these attack ads, the Moran campaign is giving Mr. McDonnell ammunition to use against Terry McCauliffe should he win the Democratic nomination. It is also making it a lot less likely that there will be a united Democratic party in the Commonwealth to run the fall campaign.

This maven has not yet decided who he will vote for for governor in the upcoming Democratic primary election. But I do know that any of the three Democratic candidates would make a better governor of Virginia than would Bob McDonnell. I also know that only a united Democratic campaign can keep Mr. McDonnell from being our next governor. That is why I am so angry at Brian Moran.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jody Is The One

As I said the other day, the person is more important than the issues in most elections. This is especially true in the primary race for Lieutenant Governor between Jody Wagner and Mike Signer. You and I both know, trusted reader, that the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia does almost nothing. The only constitutional duty of the Looie is to preside over the state senate. Also, the General Assembly, in its wisdom, has chosen, over the years, to make the Looie a member of various statutory boards or commissions. But aside from that, it’s four years of doing almost nothing. So, the policy positions of Lieutenant Governor candidates don’t mean a hell of a lot.

Based on the experience of the two candidates and the time I have spent talking with Ms. Wagner, I have no doubt who I am voting for. Jody Wagner has had more experience in state government than Mr. Signer. She is also a person who I trust to do the right thing no matter what job she is doing. Finally, since I am a loyal Democrat, I see Jody as the best candidate to run against Bill Bolling.

So, next Tuesday, I urge you to vote for Jody Wagner for Lieutenant Governor in the Democratic primary.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No Liberty At Liberty

It didn’t shock me too much to read that Liberty University has banished young Democrats from its Lynchburg campus. Liberty is a private institution so it need not concern itself with such Un-Liberty type stuff as the First Amendment. And, let’s face it, Liberty’s founder, the late Jerry Falwell, did not intend for it to be educating Democrats. The university’s major purpose was and is to produce leaders for what we affectionately call the Religious Right. So the big news story should have flashed when Liberty first authorized the young Dems to function, not when it withdrew that authorization.

However, it seems to this maven that Liberty University needs to change its name. When Mr. Jefferson inscribed the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” into what became our Declaration of Independence, I can’t help thinking that “liberty” included the right to think and express one’s views. By taking the position that doctrinal purity is more important than the right of its students to express their views, the university has forfeited the privilege of calling itself “Liberty.”

I call on you, my loyal readers, to come up with suggestions for the new name for that peculiar institution in Lynchburg. If I don’t hear from you, I will have no choice but to rechristen (no pun intended) Mr. Falwell’s university by myself.

Our Next Delegate in the 69th

When I decided to run for the School Board last year I sought the advice of my state delegate Frank Hall. After talking for a while, Frank gave me this one great piece of advice—elections do not turn on issues, they turn on personalities. If people like you they will vote for you even if they do not fully agree with your positions on the issues. If people don’t like you, they will not vote for you even if they love your positions on the issues.

Well, it’s nearly a year later. Frank’s advice didn’t help me win my election, but it sure explains how I’m going to vote in the Democratic Party primary elections next week. Let me start with the contest to replace Frank Hall in the House of Delegates (Frank has moved on to an appointed office in the Commonwealth). The candidates are Carlos Brown, School Board member Betsy Carr and former president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, Antione Green.

Frank Hall’s principle leads me to a great case of heartburn in this election. I consider both Betsy Carr and Antione Green to be personal friends. I have known Betsy for four years. We work together in the Micah Initiative. During my campaign last summer she helped spur me on to do the grunt work of politics—knocking on doors and shaking hands. I think that Betsy is highly qualified to serve us in the House of Delegates. I would not only like to vote for her, but I would have liked to work on her campaign. But… I met Antione last year at the Crusade school board candidate forum. We quickly became friends. Although the Crusade did not endorse my candidacy, Antione and I met many times over the summer and fall discussing school issues and the campaign. I think that Antione is highly qualified to serve us in the House of Delegates. I would not only like to vote for him, but I would have loved to work on this campaign.

As you might guess, I have worked on neither Betsy’s nor Antione’s campaigns. I just couldn’t get myself to campaign against either of them. How will I vote next week? I can’t tell you now. It will be either Betsy or Antione and I probably won’t decide until I am at the voting machine.

But, you may ask, what about the third candidate, Carlos Brown? I don’t know Carlos Brown. It is possible that last year I shook his hand during the campaign, but I don’t remember. I have received several pieces of his campaign literature. I read what he stands for. I notice that he is endorsed by Mayor Jones and State senators McEachin and Marsh. Those endorsements do not sway me one way or the other.

I will not vote for Mr. Brown. Why? He’s not my friend. I don’t have any personal feelings for him. And as Frank Hall taught me—voters choose based on the person, not the issues.

My advice to you, trusted reader—vote for Betsy Carr or vote for Antione Green. They are both good people.

And to Betsy and Antione I say—Good luck next Tuesday. Whichever one of you wins the primary, be assured that I will work to get you elected next November.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Five Bucks Well Spent

I must admit that this maven is not a theater critic. Nonetheless, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you lay down five dollars to see “No More Raisins, No More Almonds” playing this weekend at the Virginia Holocaust Museum. This play, written by a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust and performed by students from Colonial Heights Middle School, shows how children caught up in the horror coped with their daily lives. The music is wonderful and the performances outstanding. It will probably be the best five dollars you have spent in a long while.

“No More Raisins, No More Almonds” will be performed on Saturday, May 2, at 8:00 PM, and on Sunday, May 3, at 4:00 PM and again at 7:00 PM. The Virginia Holocaust Museum is located at the corner of 20th and East Cary Streets in Richmond.

You’ll be sorry if you miss this one.