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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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:

 
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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.

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.

Meyer Asks BOS Not To Appoint Him

As we said earlier today, our sources indicate that the BOS is not planning to appoint anyone currently running for office to replace departed supervisor Shawn Williams. Republican candidate Ron Meyer, in what we think is probably a scripted move, has issued a press release, saying he would rather not be considered for such appointment. It’s a deft move, since appointing him while he is a candidate would look like (and be) political opportunism on his part and that of the remaining eight board members (consisting of seven Republicans, zero Democrats, no Independents, and Scott York). Instead, by saving them from that problem, Meyer is also making himself appear noble, as though he were humbly declining to accept a crown that was his for the taking. Ah, theater, thy name is politics.

Somewhat fumbling his otherwise impressive throw, Meyer’s statement also says he hopes whomever the board appoints will work with him on his dead-on-arrival plan to “realign” Shellhorn Road. That’s a bad move because we expect the board’s appointee will do just that, which has every likelihood of revealing how unworkable his plan is, when it collides with reality. If that happens before election day, Meyer is sunk. If his appointee can make it look feasible for two months, however, and enough voters are fooled, it may see Meyer win the election, only to be made to look the fool himself for a full four years, as he is forced to admit it couldn’t be done.

Statement from Shawn Williams

Former Broad Run supervisor Shawn Williams posted this statement to his Facebook page today:

Yesterday I resigned my position as the Broad Run District representative on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. I want to apologize to my family, colleagues, neighbors, friends and constituents for this disappointment. My understanding is that a succession plan is currently being worked out that will ensure the Broad Run District has good representation on the Board of Supervisors.

On Saturday night after a long neighborhood party I confronted my good friend and neighbor after he gave me what I know was intended as friendly advice. I want to specifically apologize to him and his family for my actions. This poor decision highlights a personal shortcoming that can no longer be denied or compartmentalized. It has become painfully clear I need help with my alcohol abuse and I am getting professional help. Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.

Thank You … Shawn

The comments have been, as of this writing, unanimously supportive. Unlike a lot of elected officials whose private problems come into public view, Shawn isn’t denying that his exist, nor that he needs to confront and defeat them. Being a supervisor is a lot more work than I suspect most people know. It’s only fair and reasonable that he should devote his energy to coping with his personal life, and let the rest of the board worry about the county at this time. It’s also very uplifting to see so many people, of so varied a range of political persuasions, showing our neighbor some compassion. Some will say he should have resigned sooner, but his board service seems never to have suffered from the issues he’s dealing with at home. I really don’t think anyone can say he failed as a public servant, so any such sniping says a lot more about the sniper than it does about the target.

Wild speculation is everywhere as to who, if anyone, the remaining board members will appoint to replace him. We have some solid info on that, but will keep it to ourselves, other than to say it will not be anyone currently running for office.

Shawn Willliams2012

SCC Rules in Favor of S/C/C/ Greenway

Two years ago, Del. David Ramadan compelled the State Corporation Commission to “investigate” tolls on the Greenway. The nature of the investigation is kind of hard to discern, but it appears to have been authorized under Code §56-542(D). That’s the section that authorizes the SCC to set tolls in the first place. The first part of the section authorizes the SCC to set a schedule of tolls that is

…reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained, not likely to materially discourage use of the roadway and provide the operator no more than a reasonable rate of return as determined by the Commission.

Okay, so SCC sets the rates according to the above criteria. Now the second part of that same section authorizes SCC to investigate and to order the substitution of a new schedule of tolls that is

… reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained and which will not materially discourage use of the roadway by the public and which will provide the operator no more than a reasonable return as determined by the Commission.

No, that’s not the same section. That’s two different parts of the same paragraph. The first requires the SCC to set tolls by three criteria. After investigation, however, the SCC is allowed to change tolls so that they match the same three criteria. And, golly(!), after investigating the tolls they set already by those criteria, SCC has found that those tolls do, in fact, meet those criteria (and so they stay exactly the same as they are now).

This was the obvious and inevitable conclusion of any such “investigation” from the start. This whole thing (two years of it!) has been a complete waste of time and money. Del. Ramadan (like candidate Meyer) has gone out of his way to irritate the Greenway’s operators, when he should have been passing legislation to help them institute distance-based billing. Now, as he completes his last term in office, Ramadan leaves a final example of waste and political theater, at taxpayer expense (and lost opportunity, at his constituents’ expense).

I’ll say again that he made a memorable speech when he announced his departure from the house. It is sad, then, in more than one way, that this failure is his closing moment as a legislator.

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