The 2011 Scott and Toddy Show: or Let’s Not Define Civil Discourse in VA-36 or VA-44

(I’m having difficulty uploading the recording I made.  It may have to follow.  Maybe that’s what I get for using Windows Media Player instead of a real audio program.  I can hear it fine on my machine. Where I reference time hacks on my recording, the time is very rough.  For some reason, I can’t see the time hacks on my playback. )

Today was the 2011 Annual Town Hall Meeting sponsored by Senator Linda (Toddy) Puller (VA-36) & Delegate Scott Surovell (VA-44).   (I’ve linked to both sites, but Puller’s is, as of today, 29 January, woefully out of date). It should have been titled differently.   I came away feeling as if I’d just attended a report on a Democratic Committee strategy session, and not a report of legislation.  This is the third such town hall I’ve attended – two under Surovell’s predecessor Kris Amundsen, and one with Surovell.  I presume there was one last year, but I never heard about it.  Probably because I’m not on the Democrat’s mailing list.  I don’t know why—I’m on the Republican’s list, and I give them exactly zero percent more credibility than I give the Democrats.

I simply cannot understand how an elected official can stand in front of constituents and vilify “the other side” while barely defending positions on budget, transportation, education, child care, health care, redistricting, and other issues.

Toddy spoke first.  After  lamenting that she was in Richmond during the storm and came home last night to find her driveway not shoveled (in all fairness – she can’t do it, but it doesn’t seem to me it’s her constituents’ worry that whoever was supposed to have done it did not), she whined that the legislators only had a week to submit bills.  Not that they follow that rule; she did note that every day someone asks unanimous consent to submit another bill.  Why have a rule you’re not going to follow?  And how on the planet of the gods can a legislator not know what legislation s/he intends to submit in a given year.  What are they waiting for?

Since 1994, Toddy has been fighting for studies of one form or another for US-1 – that glorious highway that defines Virginia east of I-95 from Prince William County to DC.  It’s poorly constructed, with little to no capability to handle the number of cars that traverse it each day, and sadly in need of work.  However, the other side of that issue is that there is apparently no will on the part of the County or the State to enforce laws on the highway, either.   I’m almost convinced there are massive magnets built into intersections for the 6-or-so-mile stretch, given the number of people who think intersections are THE place to change lanes.  And for that stretch of highway, people seem to have forgotten that if you miss a turn, you go down, turn around, and come back.  No, on US-1 you cut across three lanes of traffic, right-of-way be damned.  I’m personally convinced that vigorous enforcement of existing laws on just the 4-mile stretch from the beltway to Ft Belvoir would easily solve both traffic problems and the lack of funding for transportation.  At about 19:00 on the link (audio of the townhall) she starts talking about it.

Then she complains about lawyers arguing over the meaning of law.

Toddy then spoke about how she, as Chair of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, is holding the governor’s privatization plan hostage (starting about 23:00 on attached).  Governor McDonnell proposes to privatize alcoholic beverage sales in the state, but the Democrats in the state see alcohol as a revenue producer and don’t want to give it up.  I’m not sure where “retail sales” is a governmental function in anyone’s constitution, but there you go.  Toddy should assign the proposal to the Alcoholic Beverage Control subcommittee (there is no other appropriate subcommittee), but has to date not assigned it, nor has she scheduled any action on it.  She bragged that she won’t do anything with it before the House does, since the House is controlled by the governor’s party.   Her words – that way he can’t blame the Senate Democrats for voting it down.  At least she admits to being a coward, and brags about stymying the bill.

She dismisses the governor’s transportation plan, but claims that transportation is her #1 issue.   Apparently his plan involves general fund monies, which she opposes.

I’m not sure what Scott spoke about.   He starts about 26:45 on the attached, and rails against Republicans for a while.  This is a guy who was formerly Chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, so one expects partisanship, but this is ridiculous.   I felt he was giving his presentation in that Chairman role, and not as a state Delegate.  Maybe it is just his mannerism, but every second or third sentence, he looks at Toddy as if for approval.  He sure seems like a Toddy clone.  At least his predecessor – you know, the one who didn’t decide to retire until after the Republicans ran someone against her, and after primaries, so the County committee could name the nominee – was her own person.

First, he complained that he’s not in the Senate, then that he’s not in the majority.  Then he bitches about the press (about 29:58).  And the governor’s definition of “surplus”, referring to the governor’s “budget gimmicks”.   On transportation, he admits that looking at only one’s district is parochial and small-minded, but then complains that he didn’t get enough in the 44th.  Listen about 36:13 – one of the problems in the House is the Tea Party.  Apparently he doesn’t like states’ rights, from the way he dismisses them “or whatever”.  Actually, that’s probably right – he doesn’t think the state should tell the county how to live its life.  Not sure what kind of a reading of the Bill of Rights leads one to think that if the states have primacy over the federal government, then counties should have prmacy over states.  I don’t read it that way.

Redistricting was a big deal.  But my delegate has absolutely no say in anything, if you listen to him.  It’s someone else’s say.  Listen to Toddy starting about 53:25.  Listen carefully. “I have to lose 10K people and probably in PWC.  The growth is in PWC and Lorton.  We will be trying to redraw the PW lines to help Sen Colgan’s district ‘cause his is very very Republican and he’s the only one who could win that district.”  Then Scott says “Toddy left out the part where the AG sues somebody.”  Neither the senator nor the delegate admitted to having a clue how redistricting works.  When asked if it follows a formula or is it a partisan heyday, Toddy blamed politics.  She swears the House of Delegates doesn’t want to be nonpartisan.  She says the Senate will be fairer, implying that the House will not.  They both claimed that “both sides” have hired lawyers.

Then there was the Cuccinelli bashing.  Mind you, if any politician ever needed bashing, it is Cuccinelli, but this was not the place for it.  This was the place, I thought, for talking about issues.  Apparently I was in the minority today.  He blasted the AG opinion that says the state may not appropriate monies to charity.   Much as I dislike Cuccinelli, I do agree that the state has no business providing my tax dollars to charity.  At 44:51, he states the AG is not very popular.   In fact, the statements on the questionnaire didn’t ask about the AG.  At about 45:10, he states the Senate is considering legislation to restrict the AG power for the next three years.  (Addendum;  this post in the Washington Post addresses it.)

Surovell spoke about his survey.  He noted the 283 (46.2% of respondents) who want to raise taxes rather than cut government.   However, 283 respondents of the 8000 surveys sent out is 3.5%, so the real answer is probably somewhere between 3.5 and 46.2%.

Neither individual spoke about any issues s/he had not specifically introduced bills for.  Surovell lamented the fact that he’s limited to 15 bills, but his 15 include solar tax credits, funding  a local charity (a GREAT organization, by the way, but still a charity) and providing credit for students who study piano.  Notwithstanding that he apparently doesn’t give a rat’s ass about cello players, or tuba players, or harpists, can one honestly and with a straight face lament one can’t do enough, while simultaneously sponsoring legislation for piano credit at the high-school level?   At least his constituent survey showed him that of the 2.25% of his constituents who even gave the question any credibility, 48% oppose it.

Toddy was masterful at finishing up the remarks with redistricting, so the initial questions all dealt with redistricting, and they got to electioneer while ostensibly answering questions.
Now, I’ve not been to town halls in other districts.  I only became involved in state issues after moving here to Virginia.  If most town halls go this way, it’s no wonder people blew up at them.

Support your children

So, I’m keeping half an eye on the “path to citizenship” proposals being considered again.  I call them the “let’s reward criminal behavior” proposals.  In case it’s not clear, I am fully supportive of immigration — legal immigration — such as that my great grandparents and others of their ilk practiced.   I support nothing that ignores the fact that many people’s first action on American soil is  law-breaking.

I see many arguments for allowing those who were brought here as children, having no say in the matter, a path to citizenship.  I understand the argument that it is unfair to children that they be labeled as “illegal” as they didn’t choose — they did what their parents directed.

No dice.  The question should be addressed to the children.  Particularly to those in high school, or who want to go to college in the US.  Maybe an essay contest.   Describe why your parents would choose to raise you in a country where you have no legal rights.   You may address the issue from any angle you choose.  Did they not want you educated?  Do they not want you to vote?  Are they trying to teach that you can get something for nothing?  Why would they do this to you?

The arguments that “it’s for the children” ignores the fact that the parents — those biological units who are responsible for a child’s welfare — have elected to model illegal behavior as the norm.  We should be deploring the fate of these children with parents so unconcerned.

And we should be asking their home countries to take them back until they can model the right lessons.

What Michelle Obama SHOULD have said …

The 7-year-old told the first lady during a visit last week to New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in the Washington, D.C., suburbs that her mother had said President Obama was “taking everybody away that doesn’t have papers.”

The girl then adding that her mother “doesn’t have papers.” Mrs. Obama tried to reassure her that the president was working to solve the immigration problem and “everybody’s got to work together in Congress to make sure that that happens.”

Mrs. Obama’s response should have made these points:

– Parents are responsible for following laws

– Parents are responsible for teaching their children that we are a nation of laws

– Parents without papers are not legally living in the United States; they are breaking the law

That doesn’t necessarily make the parent a bad person, but it does make the parent a criminal.   “Criminal” means “breaking the law.”

Criminals are those people who choose not to follow laws.  Adults are responsible for the choices they make.  If they make choices that hurt their families, they are still responsible for the choices they make.

America welcomes immigrants.  Many, if not most, Americans trace their ancestry to immigrants within just a few generations.  Immigrants bring incredible diversity to a melting-pot nation.

As it was, Mrs. Obama told that little girl that everything would be okay; that people would be rewarded for breaking the law; and that Congress would overlook all kinds of lawbreaking if it got them votes.

Even the Wall Street Journal tells only half a story …

I’m only partially joking.  The Wall Street Journal pegs the cost of federal government shutdown at $100 million per day in lost productivity.  If you look at the money the government spends when it is “productive”, are we really losing anything?

Those of us who live in the DC area can see that, while the national news may show a snow-covered capitol building, the real story is the 20-30″ of snow the region cannot adequately remove.  The major streets, congested at best on a normal day, are restricted to 2/3, or even 1/3, their normal width — removing a lane.  Add to that lane markers are not visible, and the “me first” mentality of this area, and you can imagine how many lives and how much property was saved by this shutdown.

Imagine the “me firsters” parking in lots that are clogged with snowbanks.  Hell, parking is atrocious enough on the best of days in this area.  (Governments at all levels will “help” us, though, by mandating hi-rise construction near Metro stops so we can pay a corrupt quasi-government entity for poor, unsafe service while sharing oxygen atoms with the neighbors — but that’s another story altogether.)

If only the House and Senate would stay away rather than stay in session, we could probably save that $100M several times over.

But it doesn’t apply to the elite

Governors, mayors, and all officials were asking people to stay home so plows could get through.  This is one of the heaviest single snowstorms to hit the DC area since recordkeeping began.

But the Democrats held a winter meeting.

Obama thanked Democrats for being “willing to brave a blizzard. Snowmageddon here in D.C.”

During the Christmas snowstorm, some were so hot to vote on their health insurance bills (not healthcare — we haven’t seen a healthcare bill yet), both Jim Webb and Barbara Mikulski touted their willingness to drive (or be driven, in Mikulski’s case) through snow, against advice.

Asking the wrong question

I love pollsters.

That’s said only partly tongue-in-cheek.  They provide such amusement.

Today another asked the wrong question.

(Paraphrasing) The caller said “Sen. Harry Reid’s health care reform bill will raise taxes and costs and bring nothing new to the American consumer.  Do you agree Congress should defeat this bill and start anew at health care reform?”

You could almost hear the disappointment in the caller’s voice when I said “no”.

Not that I don’t want this bill defeated; I do.  I think it’s full of nonworkable “solutions” that only congressional staffers and special-interests (not necessarily even health-related special interests) could devise.

But Congress?  Come on.  The same organization that gave you TSA, which proved last weekend how well it can do its job?  The same organization that gave us the IRS, the Department of Education, the Department of Homeland Security, and two constitutionally ineligible Cabinet secretaries?  The organization that oversees the notoriously bureaucratic and inefficient Department of Veterans Affairs medical system?

Surely you jest.

Now, had the caller asked the right questions:

– Do you agree with the Senate’s Health Care proposal? (No)

– Do you think the Congress should start over? (A big YES, but that’s separate from “Do you thing Congress should start anew to devise a health care plan?”)

– Do you want Congress to pass a health care reform?  (Maybe, but I want to see what they define as “reform”.)

He might have had very, very different answers.

Rules don’t apply to politicians

Saturday, the DC area had a major snowstorm, with up to 23 inches of snow in most areas.  The Virginia Department of Transportation responded to over 2900 accidents; I don’t have figures on the District and Maryland.

Governors of both Maryland and Virginia asked people to stay off the roads.  DON’T GO OUT.  Nowhere in the warnings did I see “unless you’re a politician.”

But Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland are proud of the fact they went to the Capitol for a vote that could have been taken later.  Jim Webb and Mark Warner “braved the elements” — (“Webb, who lives in Falls Church, used his Jeep to plow through the snow, his office said.“) To vote on a bill that no one but the politicians want — that is really the pet project of  a few senators (see how Sen Nelson held things up — and he is only one person.)

Braving the elements is not the honorable thing to do here, folks.

What’s the hurry?   Were the politicians so worried they’d lose a vote if they waited until streets were clear?  Maybe that should tell them something.

I guess THEY don’t have to listen to governors.  After all, they’re the elite.

Hypocrisy

You can’t rail against rationing health care, then pass laws that outlaw medical procedures because you don’t like them.  That’s rationing the health care people can get.  Or if you decide your medical plan can’t cover certain procedures, that’s rationing health care.

You can’t argue that the “other party” will stand between a doctor and patient, then define which medical procedures that doctor and that patient have as options.

You can’t insist your tax dollars won’t pay for one thing without allowing there are lot of things that are an anathema to many, even most, taxpayers.  Therefore, you can’t single out abortions without singling out plastic surgery, war, congresscritter staffs, bailouts, government takeovers of private industry, and myriad other things.   When you’re ready to present a menu from which ALL Americans can pick and choose, you’re free to not fund health care.

Now it’s up to the General Assembly

We need the Virginia General Assembly to keep the theocrats in check, now that they think they have some kind of mandate.  (It amuses me they’ll assume “mandate” on issues they didn’t mention during the campaign.)

They need to be reminded it’s GOP, not GOD.

Thank the gods it’s almost over

I’ve been listening to campaign bullshit for two years (can’t find an exact date, but it seems one of the AG candidates has been running since the day after his last election).   This became a race between the feel-good-do-something-even-if-it’s-wrong-and-let-the-government-solve-it-for-you crowd and the holier-than-thou-you-must-live-by-my-moral-code crowd.   In an hour and a half, the ads will cease, at least.  By Thursday, most of the crying and recriminations, at least in public, will be over.