At long last, my right to vote has been restored

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

by Frank Anderson

With trembling hands, I opened the letter that came in the mail today from the Secretary of the Commonwealth.  The moment I've been waiting for has arrived.  
The fight, of course, is not over and will not be over until every free citizen of Virginia has the right to vote.  In the meantime, now that I'm allowed to, I plan to become a notary public so I can help others complete the Application for Restoration of Rights.
I'm about to drive to the Fairfax County Board of Elections to register to vote, but first I'd like to thank some of the people who have been advocating on my behalf, and people who have been fighting for voting rights for all Virginians.  I don't have time to list everyone, so this list is by no means complete:

-Stephen Spitz, Andrea Miller, Ruth Fischer and all of PDA Virginia
-State Senator Chap Petersen, who wrote a letter to Tim Kaine urging him to reverse his decision denying my restoration of rights.
-Delegate Charniele Herring, who spoke out against McDonnell's proposed (and retracted) restrictions on the restoration process
-Michael Paul Williams of the Richmond Times Dispatch and other reporters who brought attention to Virginia's voting rights problems
-Patricia Hynes, who joined us in the streets and in the halls of Congress
-Blue Virginia and Not Larry Sabato for raising awareness about voting rights issues
-Editorial boards of the Washington Post and other newspapers who supported ending Virginia's unfair lifetime disenfranchisement laws
-Kent Willis, ACLU Virginia
-Adisa Muse, Virginia Legislative Black Caucus
-Krysta Jones, Virginia Leadership Institute
-Mike Signer, senior fellow at Progressive Policy Institute, Adjunct Professor at Virginia Tech
-Erika Wood, Brennan Center for Justice
Howard Highland, Esq., W&L Community Law Center at the Oliver Hill House
-Fairfax County Democratic Committee leaders and members who called Governor Kaine and who approved a resolution in support of the Democracy Restoration Act
- Lillie Branch-Kennedy, Executive Director, Resource  Information Help for the Disadvantaged/Disenfranchised
-All other coalition members of Virginia Restore Our Vote

Is Ken Cuccinelli Virginia's Rod Blagojevich?

Monday, June 28, 2010

If you're a Republican, you know things are bad when the conservativeRichmond Times-Dispatch editorial board writes about "The Stench" you are creating. Which is exactly what happened yesterday regarding Ken Cuccinelli, $55,000 in campaign contributions he received last year from U.S. Navy Veterans Association founder Bobby Thompson, and of course the quid pro quo:
...First, Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs had notified Thompson's group that it no longer qualified for an exemption from state registration requirements. Next, Thompson made an unsolicited $5,000 donation to Cuccinelli's campaign. Four days later, Cuccinelli suggested moving the Office of Consumer Affairs from the Department of Agriculture to the attorney general's office. Cuccinelli later asked Thompson for more money. Thompson obliged with $50,000. Three weeks later Cuccinelli held a press conference to reiterate his suggestion about moving the Office of Consumer Affairs.
In sum, unless you believe the utterly implausible notion that this was all just a wild coincidence, it looks like Ken Cuccinelli may be involved in some really bad...uh, "stuff" here. As in, bribery, public corruption, and wire fraud ("any criminally fraudulent activity that has been determined to have involved electronic communications of any kind, at any phase of the event").  Given that a number of states are already investigating the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, and given that Senator Webb has asked the IRS to investigate this situation, at some point somebody's going to start talking to the feds. At that point, they're going to be looking at a possible plea bargain: reduced sentence for the "small fry" in exchange for evidence against public officials like our most excellent Attorney General.  How does Cooch get out of this mess?  It's hard to see, but at some point he's likely to try and distract everyone by announcing, "hey, I'm giving back the money, so there's no story anymore, move along now!" Except that will be a bunch of bull. It's like if you robbed a bank, you don't get away with it because a year later, you announce that you're returning the money you stole.  Sorry, but you're still going to jail.
The bottom line is that, at this point, it doesn't matter whether or not Cooch gives back the $55,000 he took from U.S. Navy Veterans Association founder Bobby Thompson. Let me repeat that: it doesn't matter whether Cooch gives back the money.  Barring a wild, implausible coincidence of events, it looks like Cooch took a large sum of money in exchange for a specific action requested.  Which, come to think of it, is eerily similar to what former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich did:
Blagojevich has also been charged with...
abuse of power concerning release of US$8 million of state funds to Children's Memorial Hospital expecting to obtain a $50,000 campaign contribution.[3][6]
- seeking graft in the form of $2.5 million in campaign contributions (through 2008) from companies and individuals who have received state contracts or appointments.[18]
Blagojevich is a Democrat, Cuccinelli's a (far-right-wing) Republican, but in the end, corruption's corruption. And, as the Richmond Times Dispatch pointed out yesterday, it creates a "stench" unless it's cleaned up quickly.

Winners and Losers: Virginia 2010 Primary Edition

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Here are a few "winners" and "losers" from last night. This list is certainly not comprehensive, so feel free to add your own in the comments section!Winners
Gerry Connolly: He gets to face the same opponent - Keith Fimian - he defeated easily (55%-43%) in 2008. That doesn't guarantee him victory in this wild and crazy election year, but Team Connolly has got to be happy right about now that they don't have to face Pat Herrity this fall.
Vincent Harris: The Too Conservative blogger and political consultant took a lot of crap for his (paid) support for Keith Fimian, but in the end Vince laughed last, as Fimian won easily (56%-44%) over Pat Herrity last night for the 11th CD Republican nomination.
Jim Moran: As The Green Miles wrote last night, "Whenever VA08 Republicans are posed with a choice between a candidate voters might actually like and the candidate who most rabidly espouses radical hard right ideology, they choose Teh Crazy every time." Last night, "Teh Crazy" was purist conservative Patrick Murray, who defeated "progressive" Republican Matthew Berry 52%-48%. The only question now for November is Jim Moran's margin of victory.
UPDATENorm Leahy points out that Eric Cantor was a big "winner" last night. Unfortunately.
Scott Rigell and Glenn Nye: In the 2nd CD, wealthy used-car salesman (and former Barack Obama donor) Scott Rigell won the Republican nomination to face Glenn Nye this fall. However, Rigell only received 39.55% of the vote, not particularly impressive. Also, there's a third-party, conservative candidate in this race, Kenny Golden.  If Golden can pick 5 or 10 percentage points among all those conservatives who didn't support Rigell last night, it could boost Nye to victory in November.
Chris LaCivita: His candidate this cycle, State Senator Robert Hurt, cruised to the Republican nomination in the 5th CD. On the downside, Hurt received under 50% of the vote and will likely face a conservative, third-party challenger (or two) in addition to Rep. Tom Perriello this fall.
2nd CD Tea Party: Their endorsed candidate, Ben Loyola, received just 26.6% of the vote last night, losing handily to establishment candidate (and former Barack Obama donor and "Cash for Clunkers" recipient) Scott Rigell. Then, as Bearing Drift reports, the fun really began, as the Hampton Roads Tea Party Chair called the bottom three candidates - Scott Taylor, Ed Maulbeck and Jessica Sandlin - "selfish" for not dropping out and throwing their support to Loyola. Way to unify the party heading into the General Election!
5th CD Tea Party: Couldn't coalesce around a single candidate to challenge Robert Hurt, but instead had 6 - count'em! - candidates to splinter the vote among themselves.  The predictable end result, as most of us have been predicting for months now, was Hurt winning easily over the crowded Tea Party field. Is this disorganization and lack of discipline the Achilles Heel of the Tea Party movement, just as with many other movements?
"Joe" the "Plumber": The candidate he endorsed, Laurence Verga, received a grand total of 802 votes (2.27% of the total) in the 5th CD Republican primary. It appears the "plumber" just got flushed (or clogged, I can't decide on the metaphor here).
Krystal Ball: Her only real hope of winning this November was to have Catherine "Bullet Box" Crabill as the Republican nominee or at least as a third-party protest candidate. At the minimum, a poor showing last night by Rep. Rob Wittman would have been encouraging news for Ball. Instead, we saw Wittman annihilate Crabill and cruise to an impressive victory.  Bummer for Ball.

Coochland Uber Alles

Sunday, June 6, 2010

by Kindler

Most American politicians can be placed somewhere on a continuum, between the desire to use their office to solve and manage actual problems of society, to the drive to impose their ideological vision upon reality, whatever it takes.  Increasingly - and tragically - while Democrats have become the party of problem-solving, most Republicans seem to have lost interest in any actual, pragmatic policies.  When epithets like "socialism" and conspiracy theories like the birthers' dominate a political party's discourse, clearly that party's relationship to reality has become pretty shaky.Which brings me - once again! - to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  It is hard to think of an office holder less interested in performing the actual responsibilities of his job.  Those responsibilities are laid out at the AG's official website.  They are serious matters, involving the provision of all manner of legal support to the operations of Virginia state government.  They require vigilance in tracking down and bringing to justice all manner of criminals, from the pettiest sex offender to the loftiest corporation.  The Attorney General has grave responsibilities to keep Virginia citizens safe and secure, to keep Virginia agencies functioning on a sound legal basis, and to keep the public informed and engaged on all of the above.
How much of his time and our money is Cooch spending on performance of his Constitutional duties?

Go to his office's "News Room" and you'll see a whole page of news releases about his legal challenge to the President's health care law.  Yet this lawsuit does not fit anywhere within the stated duties of the Attorney General, and cannot be considered an appropriate part of any state government's role since the concept of state nullification of federal law was discredited by a little civil war you may have heard about some years ago.The extraordinary contradiction between Cooch's attack on University of Virginia for conducting climate change research, on the one hand, and defense of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church for disrupting American servicemen's funerals to protest against gays, on the other, shows his loyalty, not to any core American principle like free speech, but only to whatever advances his ultraconservative agenda.
Clearly, he is not interested in being the chief legal problem-solver and advocate for Virginia's residents.  Instead, he sees his office as a platform for advancing an extreme right-wing religious/ideological agenda.  And that's a problem for those who care about effective democratic (with a small "d") governance.  Because the record of ideologues who capture government institutions is not a pretty one.
The great political philosopher Hannah Arendt capped off her three-volume study, The Origins of Totalitarianism, with the conclusion that at the heart of the power of the Nazi and Soviet regimes over their people was how they used ideology to warp reality.  Ideologies, like religions, are designed to provide total explanations for everything that happens in the world.  They are in that sense, comforting, particularly to loners using their TVs or computers as their primary connections to the rest of us. Ideologies, as Arendt describes them, start with a single premise and expand upon it by using "logic as a movement of thought - and not as a necessary control of thinking."  In other words, you start with premise "A" and use it to derive "B", which leads to "C" and "D" and so on - until you have "explained" everything without having to deal with any actual empirical evidence.
The problem with hijacking the logical process in this way is that it takes ideologues and their devout followers farther and farther away from verifiable reality.  If you start with the premise that all truth and wisdom come from the Bible and the "free market", and then consider that climate change is not accounted for in either, it must seem "logical" to therefore conclude that climate change is simply a vast hoax perpetrated by commie environmentalists who oppose both God and capitalism.  And taking this "logic" a step further, scientists who find evidence of global warming must be faking their results and perpetrating fraud upon the rest of us.  So to someone whose mind is that far gone along this ideological track, overturning a 200+ year tradition of academic freedom in order to pursue a scientist who dares to engage in such blasphemous research is the height of common sense and reason.
Indeed, to such an ideologue, just doing his job as it is legally defined must sound like the height of irresponsible absurdity.  How can he do his job when the Federal government is perpetrating such horrendous crimes as attempting to provide health care to poor people?  No, just meeting his responsibilities must seem as ridiculous to Cuccinelli as it would be for Clark Kent to simply perform his job as a journalist and skip all that Superman stuff.
Cooch is, as Dan Akroyd used to put it in his best Chicago deadpan, "on a mission from Gahd."  Unfortunately, that leaves Virginians without anyone minding the business for which the Office of Attorney General was created.  You can bet that if the massive oil spill happening in the Gulf of Mexico were erupting off the coast of Virginia instead, BP would have nothing to fear from this AG.  No, laws will not be enforced as they must in the Commonwealth for the next four years because our chief legal advocate is off on a crusade that will not do any of us a bit of good.
It's a sad situation, and a rare one in American politics, where mushy moderates are much more common than radicals.  But it's a lesson for why we need to continue to elect problem-solvers, not ideologues, to public office, and why we need to strongly oppose Cooch not just for his individual policies or actions but for the whole dangerous tendency of blind extremism that he represents.

My (Snarky) Virginia Endorsements for June 8th

The following endorsements are made in good, snarky, blogger fun. Having said that, there is a grain of seriousness in here, as of course I wish the Republicans will nominate the craziest, most far-right-wing, unelectable people for the general election. Either that, or - paradoxically - let's hope they nominate someone who is completely unacceptable to the far right wing, prompting them to bolt and support a  third-party candidate, as Laurence Verga campaign manager Bill Hay worries in today's Washington Post.Virginia CD #1
Go Catherine "Bullet Box" Crabill!  The deal here is that if Crazy Crabill defeats Rep. Rob Wittman for the Republican nomination on Tuesday, then Democratic nominee Krystal Ball has a shot at winning in November. If not, then Ball - as strong a candidate as she might be - almost certainly won't win. So, again, go Catherine Crabill, the "blue team" is rooting for you! :)
Virginia CD #2
I've got to disagree with Bearing Drift on this one. Bert Mizusawa has far, far too impressive a resume -- "a Brigadier General in the Army Reserve, and one of the Army's most highly decorated officers... a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College and is a graduate of National Defense University's CAPSTONE program" -- to be the Republican nominee in this district. Instead, I strongly endorse Regent University grad, Obama donor (and also Louise Lucas donor), used-car dealer, and "Cash for Clunkers" beneficiary Scott Rigell for the Republican nomination in the 2nd CD. It should be hilarious watching Glenn Nye tear Rigell apart for hypocrisy, among other things.  Go Scott Rigell! Heh.
UPDATE: Also, see Dan Sullivan's excellent diary on this subject.
Virginia CD #5
On this one, I've got to go with the Bearing Drift guys: Feda Morton for Congress!  As far right wing as you can get, Morton also -- according to The Hook - is the "traditional family values candidate who once lost custody of her children" and is now "in the news again for alleged plagiarism." As one commenter wrote at The Hook, "Man. This woman is a disaster." Exactly, which is why I strongly endorse her for the Republican nomination against the superb Rep. Tom Perriello. I also strongly encourage any and all tea partiers to run as third, fourth, or fifth party candidates this November. The more the merrier, I say!
Virginia CD #8
Who cares, Jim Moran's going to romp in this rock-solid "blue" district over either Matthew Berry or Patrick Murray. Yawn. Also, as Loudoun Insider at Too Conservative points out, the two Republican candidates are apparently in a "we may lose, but at least we'll be pure" contest.  The only question is, will that "purity" allow them to break 40% of the vote in Arlington and Alexandria this November? I doubt it, but stay tuned!
Virginia CD #11
I had always assumed that Keith Fimian was the more right wing candidate in this race, but after listening to this past Friday's WTOP debate between Fimian and Pat Herrity, I'm not so sure anymore. Given this, I guess I'd have to go with Fimian for the Republican nomination, given that he's already a proven loser (by 12 points in 2008) against Rep. Gerry Connolly.  Plus, there's the "Real Keith Fimian Story", and quite a story it is! Heh. With that, I say, go Keith Fimian!

How Predatory Lenders Thrive in Virginia

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

by Dan Sullivan

Staunton City Councilman Bruce Elder won't let the payday loan battle go. Delegate Cline (R-Rockbridge) doesn't foresee any action on the issue. Since 2007, Elder has played a key role in a grassroots effort to reform the industry. The industry stole the march long ago. Democrats share the low ground.As 2011 and 2013 approach we ought to measure who we support a bit more judiciously. Democrat does not reliably equate to progressive. And some Democrats just plain fail to measure up. Though rarely does a single issue serve as a reliable litmus test, this one provides an appropriate reference point because it embodies a broader social aspect: the role of government and the relationship of wealth and its influence to governance. That Senator Saslaw (D-35th) ends up the patron of SB 606 allowing effective 250%+ interest rates and enlists Delegate Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) to do his bidding in the House is curious. No Republican to hang this one on, though it is informative that Governor McDonnell's new Commonwealth Chief Information Officer didn't eschew a little gratitude.
The industry generously reaches out to both sides of the aisle. These bills generally originate in the Commerce and Labor committees of our general assembly. The three largest payday loan industry contributors have managed to grease the palms of 12 of the 15 current committee members in the Senate (including the recent Democratic nominee for governor) and 16 of the 21 in the House. Only one Republican and seven Democrats have failed to score. The three largest contributors have spread $125,000 to the 36 members who accepted these donations. But the two committee chairmen, Saslaw [$25,437] and Delegate Kilgore (R- Lee, Scott, and parts of Washington, and Wise) [$14,075] were most highly regarded amongst peers. Senator Norment (R-3rd) [$21,869] rounds out the top three overall. By the way, Delegate Cline has received $750; a real bargain for the kind of advocacy he delivers.
Dan Sullivan :: How Predatory Lenders Thrive in Virginia
Of the potential statewide candidates mentioned yesterday by Elaine and in comments by readers, a few are not tainted. Unannointed committee members include Senators Herring (D-33rd) and McEachin (D-9th), so they deserve special regard. Senator Peterson (D-34th), Delegate Surovell (D-Fairfax), Jon Bowerbank, and Terry McAuliffe all failed as objects of industry attention. But Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-Patrick and parts of Carroll, Henry, and the City of Martinsville) finishes among the highest non-committee recipients with $5,500 from these predators, well ahead of Senator Edwards (D-21st) with $1,100, Delegate Alexander (D-Norfolk) with $250, and another recent statewide candidate, former Delegate Brian Moran ($3,500).That the Virginia Organizing Project views Saslaw's bill as a positive development underlines how ineffectively the industry is regulated. That fellows like Bruce Elder keep their focus is hopeful. That we keep issues like this as part of the equation for supporting Demo

Barack Obama: "A Full and Vigorous Accounting of the BP Oil Spill"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

This is good, now let's hear a clear, compelling, powerful moral narrative about the policies that led to this disaster, how this situation stemmed directly from our addiction to fossil fuels (and our failure to kick that addiction), how the power of corporations vis-a-vis government oversight and regulation is completely out of whack (in favor of the "robber barons"), and how we need to move forward to a completely different energy economy. I'd also love to hear that, in addition to the moratorium on "new" offshore oil drilling, that current oil rigs will not be allowed to operate unless and until they can prove that they truly have "fail safe" methods to deal with any contingencies and to prevent a future catastrophe like this one. I'd give the oil companies 60 days to present their plans to the federal government. If acceptable, they can continue drilling. If not, they should be shut down until they prove they have satisfied the stringent requirements to drill in our waters. Period. Unfortunately, to date, I haven't heard either the compelling moral narrative or the tough, new conditions for offshore oil drilling. The question is, why not?