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:

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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):

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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.

 

Jebbie, We Hardly Knew Ye

Jeb Bush Boring Supporters
Jeb! (which in Spanish means “Wake Up!”) was chosen as Jeb Bush’s campaign theme because “Me!” sounded too vague and “Blah!” too edgy.

Jeb Bush is toast, the annointing is canceled, because after his disastrous debate performance the other night, all those rich people who wasted millions of dollars on his presidential campaign will decide to do something more useful with their remaining cash, like burning it in the backyard to make s’mores.

Anyone not from Florida may wonder what all the fuss is about, and most of those in Florida are probably nodding sagely and saying “Yeah, we could have told you he did not have that much going on upstairs.” The only people troubled or vexed by Bush’s humiliating implosion will be the few, the shallow, the bandwagon-jumping political establishment and consulting class folks who saw patronage and paychecks in them thar legendary hills of Tallahassee.

Politics, which can be defined as a jobs program for blabbermouths, provides speaking opportunities for people whose minds are not sharp enough to normally merit anyone paying attention to what they say.

Many of the blowhards in politics are in it for one thing and that is to draw a paycheck. Of the rest, most seek ego fulfillment, which may seem to us a thin motivation, but when a very rich person is trying to upgrade from a great yacht to a better yacht, and something gets in the way of that purchase, you’ll see how big a factor mere ego can be. Political careerists will say ANYTHING to keep hold of the power position that delivers the cash or recognition they so desperately need. A few people thereby occupy positions of policy influence for years and years, solely because they can work the system.

In addition to all the economic and social destruction delivered by our oligarchic government, they irritate us to no end. We are a nation of spectators, which probably is not so great from the standpoint of personal life value, but no one can deny we the people can set a high bar for entertainment. So when a politician is boring, it pains us. Because Person A is in politics – either as an office seeker or a political consultant or an “expert” commentator – Persons B through ZZZ are often forced to listen. This is annoying for the listeners, particularly when the yammerers are spouting formulaic nonsense, as they so often do.

But that is how Jeb Bush became a “frontrunner” in the Republican presidential primary before any polls were taken and Bush’s only recent accomplishment had been the trail of dozing millennials left behind his every public appearance.

(Full disclosure: Jeb Bush’s mother says he’s not boring.)

Thus, when an opportunity arises to shut the doofuses up, to mute the speakers, to draw the curtains, well, gosh darn it, people really love that sort of thing.

Now, we’ve seen all of the “Bush dynasty” that we will ever likely see. What the hacks have lost is America’s gain, and worth savoring, because chances to derail another ensconcing are few and far between. The ruling class generally does not tolerate opposition, and that is why every Cantor-ization is so treasured, and why a Donald Trump who thumbs his nose at both the Party and the Media Commentariat brings such joy to the commoners.

Bruce Lee once said the focus of life should not be on increasing what we can take on, but decreasing distractions – “hacking away” at non-essentials. That’s advice we should especially heed today, with so many voices coming at us from so many directions. As we close the chapter on Jeb! our lives will actually get better.

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.

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.

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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.

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.