Political Gamesmanship Again/Still in Virginia

State Senator Linda (Toddy) Puller, D-36, announced her retirement. She did so at the beginning of the session, to allow her compatriots to play their games.  Now, I notice that for the first time in years, she has updated her photo, no longer using the one from before her stroke, but rather one that makes her appear much more frail.  (NB: Though her body is frail, and has been for years, her mind is still extremely strong.)  She’d have had a harder time winning elections with the new photo in campaign ads, but is more realistic now.  And yes, people will make decisions based on photos, unfortunately, so Puller has been demonstrating she is very politically astute.

So Scott (“Isn’t-it-Nice-I-Got-Named-to-a-Leadership-Position-Again-in-Time-for-an-Election”) Surovell has declared his intent to run in her place.  No surprise there.   Dems hand-picked their Fairfax County Chairman to replace Kris Amundsen, who conveniently decided to announce after primary day that she wouldn’t run again; now they elect Surovell chair of the caucus (read:  special-interest group) in the House.  No good little Democrat Party Member would announce against him.

According to Megan Howard, Surovell’s Legislative Assistant, Scott will not resign his current position in order to run.  Think about that.

Democrat Paul Krizek has announced a run for Surovell’s seat.  What’s he going to do?  Challenge Surovell in a primary?  Or will they hold a firehouse primary so they can run Scott for both seats and promise the likely opening to Krizek?  Will they truly force a special election on the voters (of course, assuming the Republicans, Libertarians, or Independent Greens actually bother to run a candidate)?

No Republican, Libertarian, Independent Green (well, maybe the IG; they’re not very politically savvy) can announce now, because that would be tantamount to acknowledging Surovell is a shoo-in — which he is, but mostly because no one will commit to the effort to take him on in an issues-based race.  So toady publications like the Connection newspapers run items like this, probably weekly or biweekly, for the next year so Google searches have lots of name recognition for searches when election season rolls around.

Hey, Republicans and Libertarians, THIS is how you take elections.   NOT by nominating someone no no one has ever heard of, or leaving it to the Independent who spent $5 on an election and still managed nearly 30% of the vote.

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Barriers to entry

I’ve been taking a lot of flack from self-defined “one-issue” voters lately. What’s annoying is that these are really not one-issue people at all, but they think they are. They (most of them) think “conservative” is an issue and the Tea Party defines “conservative.”

I refuse to vote the self-identified “conservative” candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial race.  Because every gun-rights group in the Commonwealth has endorsed him, I’ve been called stupid, a traitor, a “liberal” (as a pejorative, of course), misguided, and other terms.

What many of these people – people who have known me for years – fail to realize is that gun-rights is simply the barrier to entry.   After that, you other positions come in to play.  If you don’t support my gun rights, I don’t recognize your “right” to my vote, pure and simple.  That lets out Terry McAuliffe, though I have a strong handful of other reasons.  My only other absolute barrier is a conviction that the Tennessee constitution got it part right (“Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.”) and I’d carry that to “any elected office”.  Those are the barriers to my vote.

After the barriers comes the curtain – the other civil rights.  Candidates can pass the curtain if I disagree with them on these issues, but only if they have very very strong credentials and a record of respecting others’ beliefs and practices.  Among these are the right to marry the person I choose; the right to confer with my doctor and elect those medical procedures best for me; the right to speak my mind even if that speech might offend your god; the right to be treated equally under the law; and the right to insist that your religious preference not affect mine.    In other words, believe what you want, but don’t restrict others.  After that, I assess life experiences and personal characteristics.  And I consider whether my votes can help keep the government split.  That is, all else considered, let’s assure that no one party controls the Governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature.

It’s that latter set of criteria that many of my gun-rights acquaintances don’t understand.  I believe that in their minds, those rights are inextricably linked, and individuals can have differing opinions on each and every one of them.  It’s a matter of prioritization, and deciding which have to be met and which can be squishy.  In my mind, the gun-rights question must be met, and a combination of the others must be met.  Cuccinelli can’t meet any of them.

Both barriers are in place for LG.  That’s a shame, because the LG is an important person in Virginia, with tie-breaking authority in our evenly divided State Senate.  “None of the Above” as a write-in is the only option.  I feel this is a cop-out, but it is the only way an American has to show that no candidate is acceptable.   We are literally prevented by election law from expressing our opinions.  Even a “none of the above” is seen only in the category of “write-ins” – also-rans – unless there are enough of them the same.   If all voters would write in, maybe the message would be carried, but there are just too many who are happy to select all the people with the same letter after their names, no matter their qualifications.

I am still seeking the election that has a slate of candidates without barriers.

Re-election

Imagine this.

You’re the boss; you own a small company with about 200 employees who are the face of your  business to the public; what they say binds you.

You hire Bob Brightguy, and tell him go forth and do.

Then you go do something else for a while.  Services are rendered and billing works in your name.

When it’s time for contract renewal, you look over the list of employees up for renewal, you say “Oh, I know that name.  Yeah, keep him.” and you go play more golf.

That’s what WE THE PEOPLE seem to be doing with our elected officials.  They’re our employees!

We’re not paying attention to how Bob Brightguy votes on routine issues. Does he go along to get along, doing as the party says?   Does he introduce legislation that’s good for the entire county/state/country?  Does he automatically say “no” to ideas that aren’t part of his list of interests?  Is he swayed by unions, associations, lobbying groups, or individuals with deep pockets?  What other sources of income does he have besides what WE THE PEOPLE pay?

When it’s re-election time, we get bombarded with “look what I did for you” mail, e-mail, and phone calls.  Well, to be even more frank, often we get “look what a scumbag the other guy is” instead, or “Fred Flamelight hates redheads, so vote for me.” communications instead.

Can you name one piece of legislation your State Delegate or Senator introduced?  Do you know how s/he voted on legislation that’s important to you?  Do you look to see whether the legislation s/he votes for is giving power to the government or taking it away, and cast your votes accordingly?

What is your federal representative an expert on?  What Committees does s/he sit on?  How does s/he vote on routine issues?  Is s/he party-line, and does that meet your approval?

I ask all this because I was part of a discussion recently where someone was complaining about a ballot issue on our November ballot, and whining that s/he didn’t know anything about it until s/he got to the polls.  ( I’m leaving alone for now the whole issue of a responsible voter learning BEFORE election day what will be on the ballot.)  The issue was a Constitutional Amendment, which by law our legislature must pass it in identical form two years in a row; then they must pass a bill dictating exactly the wording to appear on a ballot.  So by the time the voters see it in November, it has been through the General Assembly twice.

Confidence in our politicians has dropped to atrocious levels over the past few decades, yet WE THE PEOPLE don’t know what our legislators stand for.  Often we don’t know their real stance on issues of importance to us, we don’t know whether their voting record matches their campaign promises, and sometimes we just vote because s/he has a D, R, L, IG, S, or I after his name.

Wake up, voters.  Pay attention – or you get the government you have now, with an approval rating in the cellar and the power to do just about anything they want because they know you won’t listen to anything but Fox or MSNBC, if that.

An open letter, and a promise, to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Governor McDonnell, you have the power to stop this atrocity.   The government of Virginia is poised to retrogress to a patronizing, sanctimonious mass of social laws designed to step on women.

I urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject in whatever form the “personhood” bill and the “ultrasound” bill reach you.  Reject them outright.

I am so repulsed by the ideas espoused in these bills that I will make a promise.

I will promise, should these bills pass with or without your signature, that I will not cast a vote for a Republican in Virginia until they are repealed.  Nor will I cast a vote in a national election for any ticket with which your name or your endorsement is affiliated.

I will do what I can to get other women and others who value individual freedom to join me.

Voter ID laws

Voter identification laws are getting a lot of attention in Virginia this legislative season.

Proponents are correctly noting that ID requirements can help to prevent voter fraud.  Opponents are correctly noting that voter fraud is not a big issue.

Opponents are also claiming that voter ID laws disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, and minorities.   In some way, that’s true.  Those groups are less likely to have ID, though with the possible exception of elderly individuals born before widespread (one might even say mandatory) issuance of birth certificates.  Opponents are claiming that minorities and the poor are less likely to have driver licenses — also (perhaps) true, but irrelevant if the acceptable forms of ID are not limited to drive licenses.

The real purpose of voter ID laws is to prevent unscrupulous political operatives (are there any other kind?) from offering to drive any group of people to polling places (to “exercise their god-given rights”), extolling the virtues of their candidate (and the “evils” of his opponent) during the drive, and thus swaying the elections.  This type of community do-gooder action (“driving people to the polls”) is touted highly, but is actually most often buying a vote.  If an individual calls a campaign headquarters and asks for a ride, it would be reasonable for that campaign to presume the individual will vote for its candidate.  For a campaign to go out to seek out people to take to the polls is disgusting.

I would surmise that amongst those people who would likely not have gone to the polls otherwise, there will be a percentage who do not have, for one reason or another, an ID.  I’d like to see actual data, but apparently it doesn’t prove a thing or the sides would be trotting it out.

Now, one might argue that it is a damn shame there are groups of people in any area who might be subject to such practices.  I’d agree.  That’s also irrelevant to the voter ID issue.

So one party is always afraid the other party will perform such “community service.”

It just so happens this time it’s the Republicans who believe the Democrats have more to gain by using this tactic.  This time, the Republicans believe the Democrats buy votes with promises of government programs (or loss of same).  It has not always been this way.

What we’re paying Legislators to do

Sometimes even I wonder why I rail so about politicians and government?  Is it blinders?  Am I just so opposed to government (as it is) that I can’t see the good?  Perhaps.  But then I go looking for something, and the inanity strikes me over and over again.  Do we really need to pay people to do these things?

While tracking the status this morning of a bill that would require committee and subcommittee votes to be recorded* I came across the House Rules Committee’s probable agenda for yesterday.

Glad to see they’re doing such important work.

Later, they’ll tout in their campaign literature and session reports how busy they were, and how much legislation they had to plow through.

So thrilled that Dave Albo found something important to introduce, now that his abusive Virginia driver fees were repealed (and cost the state a BUNCH of money in collecting and then refunding).

Albo – HB94 – School boards, local; meeting procedures  (Requiring local school boards to use Roberts Rules — at least he requested in Committee that it be stricken.  He might be redeemable.  Might.)

Brink – HJ128 – Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week; designating …  (Surely he doesn’t think designating a week is going to do a single thing for any baby?  “Oh, no, I have to wait until tomorrow to shake this baby senseless; this is awareness week!“)

Cox – HB349 – Virginia War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission (Virginia War of 1812???)  (This one is actually a funding bill, requiring the commission to be funded or to die)

Crockett-Stark – HJ98 – First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson Day; designating …

Englin – HJ105 – Virginia Cider Week; designating …

Englin – HJ143 – Spay Day; designating …

Filler-Corn – HJ107 – Hold Out for Hunger Day, designating …..  (Let’s legislate something so we can guilt people into donating …)

Gilbert – HJ49 – Governor’s Executive Reorganization Plan  (Must have been contentious.  Two people in Rules don’t want the Governor’s plan, which eliminates a number of entities.  Or perhaps they just don’t want to approve  anything the Governor does.  Hard to tell without recorded votes.)

Hugo – HJ142 – Asian Lunar New Year Day; designates day designated as new year (Because if we don’t legislate it, the Asian Lunar New Year might happen everywhere else but Virginia.  Who says time can’t stand still?)

Hugo – HJ144 – Small Business Day; designating … (Because the legislature can’t leave them alone to just do their jobs the rest of the year.)

Hugo – HJ145 – Preeclampsia Month; designating …. (Guess that’s how we get around the whole prenatal care thing … one month a year we write on the calendar that women should be watching for symptoms.)

Marshall – HJ93 – Local Government Education week; designating …  (I’m not really sure local governments would be happy if their citizens REALLY understood everything they do!  Sounds like an excuse for them to publish more flyers.)

Orrock – HB79 – Disability Commission; establishing work groups …  (“Shall establish,” not “may establish.”  Strike 1.  Commission was set to sunset in July; this allows it to continue.)

Sickles – HJ120 – Mesothelioma Awareness Day; designating … (Excuse me? Is there anyone with a television who isn’t aware of mesothelioma?  And that lawyers will “help” you get money.)

 

 

* Not recording committee and subcommittee votes allows the chamber to send a bill somewhere that legislators don’t have to go on record as supporting or opposing.  This happens frequently.

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.

Cuccinelli the politician

The saint of the social busybodies, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, sponsored a brief in the DiGiacinto v. the Rectors and Visitors of GMU case. The wording in the brief came eerily close to a page from the Brady Bunch’s playbook.   It went so far as to assert that preschoolers would be at risk if a gun owner carried into a campus building.   This after he told the Virginia Citizens Defense League last year the case was “indefensible.”

Well, yeah, it was indefensible, thus the emotion-laden, “think of the children” far-out scenarios.  This is the page from the Bradys — if you can’t use logic, then scream with emotion, invent situations, and portray gun owners as idiots who turn from polite citizens off campus to raging lunatics the moment they step on campus.

Guess the Brady’s made a bigger campaign contribution.

There’s one good from this, albeit a small one.  Cuccinelli’s silent.  That is also unusual.

Politicians, again …..

Politicians (less perhaps some local officials) seem to want to perpetuate the idea of stupid voters.

Just got a call from “Votertalk2010”.  Call sponsored by Pat Herrity, candidate for Congress.  Claims to be the only candidate with a record of cutting spending, and asking if I would support sending him to Congress to cut spending.

Like he can do it himself.

If I really thought he both would and could, sure, I’d send him.  I’d probably have to fight him on several of his other issues, the ones he doesn’t address in this phone call, but I’d vote for him.

However, the survey “will end without a “yes, no, or repeat” answer”.

Guess it ended.

Why do candidates sponsor such polls.  These polls measure one thing, badly, and assume voters will be forthcoming.  But since most of the calls I get require yes/no answer to questions that don’t have yes/no answers, or that are so poorly worded as to defy such a response, I have to wonder what on the gods’ planet they’re trying to accomplish (besides wasting polling money).