Peace, Out from the Left

This blog has been a fun effort for me and I think we’ve proven our point that the left and the right can work together. Our readership has never grown to what we would have liked, but, really, that’s not exactly a surprise.

With the 2015 elections over, this is a good time to say good-bye. FirewallNoVa Right now has complete control of your television set (or, at least, that part of your screen you devote to this site).

Life is too short for most things, but too long to say “never.” I might be back, someday. As always: watch the skies.

 

JPS

Democrats Sweep Sterling

Here is an interesting line from departing Sterling Supervisor, Eugene Delgaudio’s, Web site:

Kathleen Murphy, Jennefer (sic) Boysko, John Bell, took all 3 of Sterling’s House of Delegate seats.

That’s a remarkable observation, partly because Boysko and Bell were two of the only three seats to change parties. Looking down the list, it now seems that absolutely all of the Sterling district’s elected representatives who ran as party nominees are Democrats, except one:

  • Supervisor-elect Koran Saines
  • Chairman-elect Phyllis Randall
  • Delegate-elect John Bell
  • Delegate-elect Jennifer Boysko
  • Delegate Kathleen Murphy
  • State senator Jennifer Wexton
  • State senator Barbara Favola
  • Attorney General Mark Herring
  • Lt. Governor Ralph Northam
  • Governor Terry McAuliffe
  • Senator Tim Kaine
  • Senator Mark Warner
  • Vice-president Joe Biden
  • President Barack Obama

The only Republican still representing Sterling is freshman member of Congress, Barbara Comstock, and she did not win a single precinct in the Sterling district[*]. (A quick, but not necessarily definitive, scan of results of the above races suggests that all of the people above won the Sterling district.)

This is finally it: Sterling is a thoroughly Democratic stronghold, with the leadership at the local level that it deserves.

Sup. Delgaudio thanks the voters. We feel the same way.

[*] The astute politico will note that, actually, there are still several other Republicans who represent Sterling: the county’s constitutional officers. I’m giving myself the slack necessary to limit this post’s observations to people in law-making capacities (and Joe Biden).

The Pictures Tell The Story

Saw these two signs, promoting some prominent Republican candidates, at the new Ashby Ponds polling place:

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Say, is that a Post-It note on the “Plowman” sign? Let’s look closer:

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Yes, it does appear to be a Post-It note. Let’s be sure we can read it:

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Ah, must have been on top of a stack, left for a volunteer. But, is there something hidden immediately behind it? Let’s see:

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My goodness, there’s another sign, covered up by this one. Whose can it be?

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Ah, Republican unity. Charming.

SCV Opposes Recall of CSA License Tags

In the Deep South of Virginia, in bucolic Brunswick county, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are mounting a simulation of the end of the Civil War, by challenging Gov. McAuliffe’s order recalling Virginia license tags that bear the Sons’ symbol (which is largely the Confederate States of America’s unofficial “battle flag”). The simulation results from the fact that Leonard Tracy Clary (described as the Sons’ “Virginia division commander”) has no chance of winning.

The reason he can’t win is a combination of two facts: first, the Supreme Court has ruled that states have no obligation under the First Amendment to issue tags with symbols on them that the state doesn’t want to issue; second, license tags are state property. In Walker v. Texas, the Supremes ruled that the state (in that case, Texas, but applicably to all states) is speaking when it issues a tag with a symbol on it, and that the state gets to decide what it says. Although all state action is limited by what the constitution (of the state and of the United States) permits, the Supremes observed that government function would be virtually impossible if one were to read the First Amendment in a way that meant the state could not choose to refrain from some speech. As license tags are made and issued by the state, it’s the state’s call as to what they look like and, to the extent that they say anything, it’s the state’s call as to what they say (or don’t say). In other words, your First Amendment right to put a CSA flag sticker on your bumper isn’t equal to a First Amendment right to make the state put a CSA flag symbol on its tags, or even on some of its tags. (I don’t believe the Walker case argued an Equal Protection claim, which would have said that, if Texas puts anyone else’s logo on its tags, it has to put everyone’s logo on some of its tags, but I suspect the outcome would be the same, as long as the Supremes continue to regard those symbols as state, not private, speech.)

Division commander Clary’s claim (from the press reports) appears to be slightly different from Walker’s. Walker argued that his application to have Texas make tags with the logo was denied unconstitutionally. Clary is claiming that, as he already has a tag, Virginia can’t make him give it up. I think this argument is doomed, however, as Clary’s tag is Virginia’s property. Any of us who possesses a Virginia tag can be asked by Virginia to give it back, regardless of the reason. So I don’t think Clary’s case will last very long, much less succeed. I believe one has to pay a small fee to get a tag with a logo on it, so Clary can expect to get his money back. After that, however, I think he’s still got a First Amendment option he can spend that money on, one that ought to have been the way to avoid all this fuss in the first place…

 

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Kuesters, Maloney, and FDK

If you’re wondering what “FDK” is, read something else. If not, then you know that bringing full-day kindergarten to Loudoun county would cut the list of Virginia jurisdictions that don’t already have it from four down to three, and that doing so has become one of the short list of critical issues in this campaign cycle. Of course, it matters most in the race for school board, where the choice in Broad Run is between the incumbent, Republican-endorsed Kevin Kuesters, and his returning challenger, Democratic-endorsed Joy Maloney.

Here’s the short version: Maloney is solidly in support of FDK, Kuesters thinks it isn’t worth the money.

The longer version is where policy gives way to politics, as both of them know how popular the idea of FDK is in Loudoun county. Thus, for Joy Maloney, the fact that she is with the majority on this issue is something she wants known as widely as it can be. For Kevin Kuesters, the fact that he’s, at the best, on the fence about it, just isn’t going to win him many votes. So, Joy has the relatively easy task of telling voters she will try to get them what they want, while Kevin is stuck trying to look like he’s in favor of something that he actually doesn’t support. And that’s where you find out if a politician will talk straight or not. Alas, Kevin’s not.

Now, for what it’s worth, I get along with Kevin pretty well on a personal basis. He’s a pleasant guy who, with me, proves that two people with opposing political views can be mutually cordial. However, we’ve never run against each other in an election. Joy (who is also a very nice person) has fairly put it out there, in her campaign materials, that Kevin isn’t backing FDK. Here’s one of her flyers:

Comparative Mailer1

 

And, albeit a bit hard to read (for the lack of a lot of pixels), here’s Kevin’s online denial (from a Facebook ad):

kevinad

Let’s blow that up a bit:

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It says, “Joy Maloney’s mailer is dishonest.”

Is it? She does cite a reference. Let’s look at Kevin’s full statement from Ashburn Rising:

I will not support expanding full-day kindergarten just so the third graders reader better,” he said, also requesting more information [from school staff] about benefits in the senior year of high school.

That could be read as leaving him with an open mind, but still in need of convincing. That bit about “third graders” is an example of what we lawyers call “weasel words,” which are qualifiers that let you avoid the hard implications of whatever else it is that you’ve said. But, Kevin’s apologists might jump on the fact that Joy’s mailer kept the definite part (“I will not support expanding full-day kindergarten…”) while leaving out the weasel words. Those words, his apologists might say, make a difference.

Except they don’t and here is why: Kevin made his comment about third-graders in December of last year. In January of this year, in Leesburg Today, he said this:

There is clearly a strong belief that FDK is a valuable and desirable program offering for schools, which is a real benefit for property values. It is also true that FDK assists with childcare expenses and logistics for parents who do not have to arrange for half-day schooling and half-day childcare. On the other hand, research consistently shows that by third grade there is no statistical difference between the academic performances of students who attended FDK versus those who attended half-day kindergarten (except at-risk kids). As a school board member, I have to decide if the actual benefits (perceived value, short-term performance and childcare) outweigh the actual costs ($50 million one-time construction costs, $12 $14 million recurring annual costs).

In other words, Kevin had already made up his mind that his weasel words really didn’t matter. Moreover, he says he has to balance the needs of the students against the impact on the taxpayers. As a former member of the board of supervisors, I can say with certainty that such balancing is not the job of a member of the school board. The school board’s job is to develop a budget that will meet the needs of the students. While the Code of Virginia imposes a duty of frugality on school boards, it does not authorize school boards to knowingly exclude funding a program just to ease the burden imposed on taxpayers. (I will add that a bit of Googling will show you that research on the benefits of FDK are far from consistent in proving what Kevin asserts above: there’s a lot of evidence that FDK, if followed by appropriate first-grade and later curricula, has lasting benefits.)

Bottom line: Joy’s mailer is not dishonest. She’s holding Kevin Kuesters to his own position, which he now knows is not the one that the voters want him to take. Dirty politics is what you get when people make stuff up, lie about their opponents, or attack each other’s character. Joy’s mailer is as clean as it gets. Kevin may wish he’d said something else, but it’s the political process doing its job (and a political candidate doing hers) when all a campaign is doing is holding an elected official accountable for his public record.

Joy Maloney supports FDK. Kevin Kuesters doesn’t. That’s as clean as it gets.

 

More Powerful People Agree: Ryan’s Hypocrisy Good For Them

The utter inanity of suggesting that Paul Ryan’s insistence that he be allowed all the family time he wants, as a condition of being Speaker (when he has consistently opposed parental leave) is somehow good for working parents (particularly moms) is earning the criticism it deserves. See, when a very, very powerful person demands an accommodation like that, he (or she) can get it. Thus, when other very, very powerful people (like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg) say that a very, very powerful person’s ability to obtain an accommodation like that somehow strikes a blow for the rank-and-file working class, it proves they all live in an alternate universe, where the powerful believe their privileges were earned, and the powerless have only themselves to blame.

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

If Paul Ryan wanted to use this moment to earn some valid praise, he should declare himself willing to reconsider his views on parental leave, now that he’s finally aware that asking for it is justified, but getting it isn’t as easy for the rest of us as it is for the Speaker of the House. He won’t, of course, but, oh, if he did!

Matt Letourneau Admits He Was Fooled

Dulles district supervisor Matt Letourneau got raked over the coals in a letter to Leesburg Today, for not warning his constituents that Dominion Virginia Power planned to run power-lines directly along Route 50. Big ones, too. Like this one:

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Letourneau didn’t warn anyone because (he says) he didn’t know. His challenger, Anjan Chimaladinne, is pointing out that, after having multiple meetings with Dominion, months ahead of time, Letourneau should have known. Anjan is right, and it proves conclusively that he should be the next district supervisor.

Albeit with different boundaries, I was the previous Dulles supervisor. I regularly met with representatives of businesses and other groups that wanted to build projects in our district. As a Democrat, I knew that a lot of those projects were sponsored by entities that don’t typically support us lefties. Still, we met, and, as best I could, I made sure I was able to pass reliable, complete information to my constituents. Letourneau, as a Republican, particularly as a Republican associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and most particularly as a Republican associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in his capacity as a public relations expert on energy, should have known what Dominion was doing.

In a stridently defensive letter of his own, Letourneau goes on at great length, recounting the extensive history of his many contacts with Dominion, including the public-input phase that he apparently wants credit for having helped orchestrate. A funny thing to brag about, however, when, in his own words, Letourneau says, “the public outreach process was for show.” After all those meetings, how could Letourneau not have known that?

…the public outreach process was for show.

In his letter, Letourneau starts out by attacking the writer of the letter complaining about his ineffectiveness, saying it was written by, “a long-time Democratic activist.” Why that’s a defense, he doesn’t say. What’s important, however, is that Letourneau, a long-time Republican activist, is supposed to be the friend of business (as all Republicans say they are). If anyone should have been able to build a relationship of trust with, and get straight information from, Dominion Virginia Power, wouldn’t a Republican say he should have been able to do it? Instead, Letourneau still wants you to vote for him, even though he didn’t know what Dominion was up to, because he got fooled, and he says we shouldn’t blame him for that.

I don’t recall anyone, ever saying my mistakes as a supervisor (yes, I made some) were excusable in those cases where somebody played me. Most certainly, I would not have suggested that being played was an excuse when the issue involved something that was a bedrock Democratic strong-point. Here, an elected Republican whose professional resumé emphasizes his fondness for the energy business community, just got played by one of the biggest energy businesses in Virginia.

If a pro-business Republican, particularly this pro-business Republican, can’t protect you from the public-relations trickery of a major Virginia business, what good is he to you?

If I still lived in the Dulles district, I would vote for change. I would vote for Anjan.