CREW Spin-off Goes After Comstock

The American Democracy Legal Fund, created about a year ago as a more overtly political spin-off of David Brock’s Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has sent a letter of complaint to Democratic Representative David Skaggs (co-chair of the Office of Congressional Ethics), alleging misconduct by Barbara Comstock. The full text of their complaint (which actually names quite a few members of Congress), essentially says she has signed a contract requiring her to tailor her legislative agenda to the tastes of the National Republican Congressional Committee, in order to get their help in her next campaign. ADLF says this is a misuse of government resources, in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 1301.

ADLF has gone after Comstock before, shortly after coming into being last year. Comstock’s office isn’t commenting, but NRCC’s spokesman says, “This ridiculous complaint is by a partisan complaint factory and completely without merit.” I’d be surprised if it goes anywhere with the current congressional majority (if there is one). But CREW has been around for over a decade, meaning that ADLF was created by experienced watchdogs. If nothing else, they may be compiling good material for future challengers.

Barbara Comstock Professional Republican
Barbara Comstock

Tony Buffington No-Show for LWV Debate

Rich Jimmerson, independent candidate against Republican nominee Tony Buffington for the Blue Ridge district Loudoun board seat, debated an empty chair last night, as Buffington didn’t show up for the League of Women Voters debate in Leesburg. Karen Jimmerson (Rich’s wife) reports that Buffington never even responded to the invitation.

This is not a good moment for Tony Buffington.

NoBuffington

The League is the gold-standard for debates. Locally, it has a reputation for being mildly right of center, but I have never heard them accused of being partisan in their debates. I have done two League debates, and was perfectly fairly treated, both times. There is simply no excuse for not responding and, absent an extreme circumstance, no excuse for not appearing.

My first debate was scheduled to be against then-supervisor Steve Snow. He had said he would come, but changed his mind and didn’t. My second was against Del. Tom Rust. The second one was easy. Debating an empty chair, however, is hard. That’s because you are either listening to a question or speaking an answer at all times. When your opponent shows up, you get to think about your answer more, while your opponent is speaking. Also, rebutting your opponent is often easier than just thinking up your own answers all the time. Everyone told me that it was the defining moment in that race, and I won largely because he wasn’t there (in all humility, people like Mark Herring also told me I looked pretty good). So, this is all to the best for Rich. But don’t anyone think he had it easy. It’s much harder to carry the whole thing on your own, than it is to switch off of your opponent.

Special Prosecutor Ends York Investigation

Special prosecutor Theo Stamos has replied to a complaint brought by Loudoun resident Sally Mann, stating that 31 of the 36 alleged reporting violations Mann claims to have found in Scott York’s campaign finance reports are barred from prosecution by the statute of limitations, and the rest haven’t yet triggered a review by the registrar. Stamos’s letter spells out the law, explaining that there is no violation that can be looked into by a prosecutor until the registrar determines there is something improper in a filing. Even then, the registrar must notify the campaign, which has ten days to provide corrections.

In the event a campaign has filed an incomplete report, the general registrar shall notify the campaign in writing of the deficiency. The campaign has ten days to supply the missing information or it will receive a civil fine. If the filing remains incomplete for more than one hundred twenty days, the matter shall be forwarded to the appropriate Commonwealth’s Attorney unless the campaign is granted an extension. (from Theo Stamos’s letter to Sally Mann)

Theo Stamos must be getting kind of tired of Loudoun county. I don’t think I’m betraying any confidences when I say that she told me herself, during the Delgaudio-removal effort, that she had no intention of being used as anyone’s political weapon, regardless of party affiliations. Since York is running as an independent in a race that has a Republican nominee, I think our own Commonwealth’s Attorney, Jim Plowman, could have used his prosecutorial discretion and drawn the same conclusions Stamos has drawn, without any fear of being called partisan for it. At the same time, he’s running for re-election himself, so I don’t blame him for being particularly white-glove about this. (But I wouldn’t blame Theo Stamos, either, if she asks him to start sending this noise to someone else for a while.)

Scott York, Loudoun Chairman
Scott York (R, R, I, R, I, ?)

Moderate Candidate Speaks. Both Members of the Crowd Go Wild.

nba-empty-arena-5466472539

The political CW is that the middle (that is, moderate, centrist, independent voters) decides who wins competitive elections. All races for president are competitive, so the middle is choosing our presidents. Yet, it is the candidates on the far ends of the spectrum that turn out the people at their campaign rallies. Ben Carson just drew 2,000 here in Loudoun. Dr. Carson is a soft-spoken man, but what he says is pretty intense: he’s anti-choice, says Muslims have to renounce their faith to run for office, and has compared Obamacare to slavery. Bernie Sanders just drew 19,000 to a rally in Portland. Bernie is… well, Bernie is a Socialist. ‘Nuff said, eh?

This is primary season, of course, so we’re not going to see candidates playing to the middle right now. After the two major parties choose their nominees, both will, to some extent, push Mitt Romney’s famous “reset button” and find their inner moderates. At that point, however, their rallies will shrink. The Americans who will choose our next president just don’t tend to find our candidates exciting enough to gather in very large numbers. Are we bored? Lazy? Disgusted? Probably some mixture of them all. But, if moderates choose the president, and no moderate ever really runs, one has to wonder if our system isn’t failing its purpose of representative democracy as a result.

A Moment of Sympathy for Boehner

When your enemy has reached the point where, for whatever reason, they can do you no more harm, any sympathy you might have for their travails emerges.

I’ve thought John Boehner was a posing, lying, self-serving jerk since I first saw him at work as speaker of the house. For four years, he has relentlessly trash-talked the president, worked against everything the Obama administration wanted to accomplish (regardless of whether or not it was a good idea), and devoted his utmost to making sure the rich got rich while the poor got nothing. He has been, for all that time, the perfect Republican.

Today, with his announced resignation–universally attributed to effective maneuvering by the minority fraction of his own party that is dominated by the professionally ignorant far right–we learn a bit about what it must have been like to be John Boehner for the last four years. In a word, I would guess what he feels is, “unappreciated.” Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli, now president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, issued this jaw-dropping statement:

As Speaker of the House, John Boehner was hostile towards conservatives and our principles. Rather than fighting President Obama and his liberal policies, Speaker Boehner embraced them and betrayed his party’s own voters.

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One can only imagine Boehner reading this, and wondering if Cooch is smoking dope. “Embraced” the president’s policies? I missed those policies. Which ones were they?

Boehner’s departure has implications. First, it has already set off a fight over who will replace him. Imagine Dave LaRock as the next speaker and you’re probably picturing what the fight is all about as of today. Second, it means Boehner must have realized his “cut it in reconciliation” trick for defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t going to work. That means there will be a government shut-down (something Cooch’s crew helped bring about last time, and will probably eagerly encourage again). Third, it means the Tea Party faction has (by the luck of numbers small enough to be a minority, but big enough to be necessary to outvoting the Democratic caucus) taken control of the United States congress. Ted Cruz loves the Senate Conservatives Fund, and is probably already looking around to see whom in his part of the legislature, this is going to spill over onto next

With all this vitriol, schadenfreude, and blood-lust in the air, I have to admit I do feel, just a teeny, tiny bit, some sympathy for John Boehner. He tried his best to ruin every effort made by Barack Obama. He couldn’t do it, but he tried his best. And now, when he’s being forced from power largely because of that failure, his critics claim he didn’t even try. That he “embraced” what he tried his best to destroy. Man, that’s gotta hurt.

John, I’ll never vote for you, nor send you a donation. But, if you’re in town, let me know. First round’s on me.

 

It’s Not Like Those Are Real Jobs, Right?

Dick Black tweeted what he apparently thinks are the comparative resumé items of note for himself and Dr. Jill McCabe, his challenger. Because someone who still had an ounce of sense in them deleted that tweet shortly after, here it is for you:

BlackTweetMcCabe

McCabe’s list is actually somewhat longer than what Black admits to. She’s been part-owner of a small business, a department head at a large business, and, well, done some other stuff. No reason to get into it, as the tweet above really makes its own point, and it’s not about anyone’s resumé.

I do think a couple of the entries on Black’s side are kind of funny: Herpetologist? No, that’s not a person who specializes in sexually transmitted diseases: it’s a person who studies snakes. I’ve been following Col. Black’s career for a number of years, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that one mentioned. Frankly, snakes aren’t something I think a career politician ought to bring up, but maybe I’m overly sensitive.

A couple more that caught my eye were these: “Juris Doctor” and “Career Prosecutor.” Both of those are oblique ways of avoiding having to use the word “lawyer.” See, a “juris” doctor is a holder of a law degree (that’s as opposed to a real doctor, who holds a medical degree, like Dr. Jill McCabe). Republicans, many of whom are lawyers, tend to think the world has too many lawyers in it, so, obviously, attorney Dick Black wants to avoid using that word. But, it’s important to the point (he thinks) he is making to have his list be as long as possible. So there it is, really, twice, just in stealth mode.

Someone pulled the tweet already, but the attentive Huffington Post caught it and wrote about it today.

(Herpetologist? Seriously?)

Charlie King’s Senior Staff Quits

Ashburn Rising reports that Charlie King’s campaign manager, Tom Julia, has quit the campaign. Amazingly, they also quote him as saying he is not endorsing any candidate for chair. Perhaps because it is the right thing for an officer of a party to do when he can’t endorse his own nominees, Julia has also resigned from the RPV.

The Loudoun Times-Mirror confirms the departure and resignation, adding also that senior campaign staffer Chad Campbell has also quit King’s campaign. They report that Republican David O’Connell will serve in place of both Julia and Campbell.

It’s true that campaign staff come and go, but local races don’t have much “staff,” with the manager often being the only paid worker on a campaign. To lose his manager this close to election day is not a good thing for King.

King-Charlie-Campaign-300x300

Who Tries This?

Yet again, someone has tried to board a plane with a loaded pistol in their carry-on bag. According the WaPo, TSA finds one this way about once each month at National Airport alone.

A lot of people talk about “responsible gun owners.” That’s a concept I like, but we need to get a little more specific about what it means. I’m pretty sure all rational people agree that there are some folks who should not have guns. I’ll push that concept one bit further and say most rational people agree that there are some people who should not be allowed to have guns. Those three extra words make a big difference, to some folks, because they naturally suggest that someone, somewhere, will have the authority to decide who will, and who will not, be allowed to have a gun. Right now, we seem to operate on the assumption that, until proven otherwise, everyone is fit to have a gun. Alas, one of the ways we learn who is not fit to have a gun is that the person in question kills one or more people by shooting them for no good reason. That person is typically no longer allowed to own a gun. This seems bass-ackwards, to me.

Opponents tend to extrapolate from any gun control proposal whatsoever all the way to the doomsday scenario: that those in favor of gun control will never stop until no one can have a gun, ever again. So, they reason, all efforts at gun control must be opposed, as all efforts at gun control are really just another step towards universal confiscation.

Now, I have direct personal knowledge of the fact that not everyone who proposes more gun control secretly seeks universal confiscation. That’s because I am one such proponent. I have two guns and I don’t want to give them up. But, when I read that, once very single month at one airport alone, so-called “responsible” gun owners are so careless that they actually try (let’s hope it’s through mere negligence) to get a loaded pistol onto a plane, I cannot help but wonder if, by that act alone, they have demonstrated they are not fit to have a gun. That they should not have a gun. That they should not be allowed to have a gun.

A well-trained, well-regulated sector of citizens who choose to carry guns might actually make the world a slightly safer place. I rather like the idea that anyone who wants to be ready to defend themself, their family, their friends and neighbors, and maybe even just the rest of us out on the wild and dangerous streets of America, might be able to use a pistol in order to do so. But only if they’re fit to have one. Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect that there would be far fewer than one pistol found heading onto a plane every month if all gun owners had to take substantive training, pass reasonable tests, and demonstrate their proficiency periodically. Such a set of requirements need not (nor would they necessarily be proposed to) lead to universal confiscation. Quite the opposite. I believe it would give all Americans who are worried that people carrying pistols might be more dangerous to society than if they all just left them at home, a reason to calm down. Every gun you saw, and every gun carried on the street, would either be in the hands of a person with established qualifications and actual knowledge of how to use it safely, or in the hands of a crook. Yes, making guns illegal doesn’t seem to stop crooks from having them. But the mere legal ownership of a gun doesn’t make the person who owns it, nor those of us who travel the same streets (or airports) as that person any safer.

Responsible gun owners (they exist; I like to think I am one) get proper training. I did. I took a class, passed a test, and I go to a shooting range periodically to make sure I haven’t forgotten so much that I’m more dangerous than useful. I know quite a few shooters who do as much or more. I respect them. They are fit to have their guns, at least most of them. So what would be so bad if that much instruction and demonstration of competency were simply required? Wouldn’t a responsible gun owner do that much anyway? Wouldn’t the only burden felt be felt by irresponsible gun owners? Do we mind if irresponsible gun owners find reasonable training and competency requirements burdensome?

Yes, if one thinks that any gun regulation is just another step in the direction of universal confiscation, this idea would be as intolerable as confiscation itself, and, thus, yet another non-starter (if one thinks that way). But, what if it’s not? What if honest people really meant it when they said, “We’d be happy to let anyone have a gun, and carry it wherever a gun can safely go, provided they meet the same training and competency requirements that typical responsible gun owners already voluntarily impose upon themselves.” Take it as given, for the sake of answering, that those honest people don’t want to confiscate all guns. What would be wrong with that?

Until we have some kind of competency requirement before a person can have a gun, we’re just going to keep finding out who’s not competent after they do something stupid. Like try to take it on a plane, or kill someone for no good reason. Because, at the rate we’re finding those incompetent people, I’m increasingly unable to feel that just owning a gun makes a person a responsible gun owner.

Life Expectancy

On average, we are all living longer. As has been the case for a long time, women live longer than men. Most of us know that. Some of us know that there is also a gap in life expectancy by race. White people live longer than black people do. Gender dominates, though, as black women live longer than white men. But, as a species, we are all living longer than we used to, with black lives gaining a bit faster (but still strikingly shorter) than white lives. Here’s the data from the CDC:

 
LE

Note that women outlive men, regardless of race, although white women live longer than black women. Here’s the breakdown as of 2013:

White Female 81.4
Black Female 78.4
White Male 76.7
Black Male 72.3

Elsewhere, of course, the data is mangled:

[S]ocial security is [not] a good deal for black men, who live on average to be 67, just when they can draw social security at the full rate. In effect, since white women live on average to age 82, one can argue that social security is an income transfer from black men to white women.

As you can see, the life expectancy at birth for black men hasn’t been as low as 67 for over 15 years. At 72.3, it’s still remarkably below that of white men, at 76.7, a fact which deserves substantial consideration. But the statement above isn’t just wrong, it’s a lie: their data for white women is current (not the 80 it would have been in the last year it was 67 for black men), meaning they are deliberately comparing out-of-date information with up-to-date information. (Note also that the silly “income transfer” argument would apply as well to men transferring to women.)

Then again, one might expect this kind of mismatch when even a simple metaphor eludes a person:

…when I bring this point up to black men, you should see the light go off in their heads.

The light goes “off?” Something tells me those men are brighter than he thinks.

Pink Floyd Got It Right

China proposes, according to CNN, to land a probe on the “‘dark side'” of the moon. Yes, if you think I nested the quotation marks there, you’re right. No less than three times in their story do CNN refer to some part of the moon with those two words, always in quotation marks. That might be fine, if anyone were being quoted. But no source is given for that phrase, and no explanation of what it means is really offered either. From the text, one can infer that what the Chinese are planning to do is land a probe on the far side of the moon, the “back” half that we can’t see from Earth (actually, owing to the inclination of the moon’s orbit, and the fact that it sort of rocks this way and that, we can see rather more than half of it from Earth, but you get what I mean, I’m sure).

Astronomers have long found this enduring misnomer to be painful, as it ought easily to be the case that everyone can see (literally see) that the side facing the Earth changes from being wholly illuminated, to partially illuminated, to unilluminated (well, except for the faint glow of reflected Earthlight, which is pretty cool, when you look at it), back to partially illuminated, and repeat. What this means is that, in a way, there is a dark side to the moon, but it’s not the side that faces away from the Earth: it’s the side that faces away from the Sun. While the moon keeps one face towards Earth all the time, it shows its entire globe to the Sun, once every complete lunar orbit (it really takes a little longer than that, because the Earth-moon system also orbits the Sun, which I can make plain on the back of a paper napkin at the bar in Clyde’s, but not on this blog). This means that while, yes, there is a dark side to the moon, that side is constantly changing. Which is not true of the far side, which is the side the Chinese plan to explore.

No, that wasn’t important, but it irks astronomers and I once wanted to be an astronomer, so, on their behalf, I have groused about it here.

(Of course, there is still another view on this, starting at 1:35, here.)

Ramadan Finds the Time to Campaign

for someone else!

Earlier this year, Del. David Ramadan announced that he would not run again for his seat in the General Assembly. Back then, his reasons were the burden to his business and the time it would take to run a campaign. From The Washington Post:

Ramadan, who represents parts of Loudoun and Prince William counties, cited his upcoming election fight and suffering business interests as reasons for his departure.