Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gone Fishing: Shutting Down "Dem Bones"


I must regretfully, but hopefully temporarily, discontinue Dem Bones. This past week, I was offered a wonderful job opportunity, and because of the nature of the position, the time and energy necessitated therein, I will no longer be able to actively blog here. And just when I was hitting my stride, gaining national exposure!

The purpose of this blog was to report, in a fair-minded fashion, local and national politics, cultural and demographic trends, and pressing theological issues. I tried to create, foster, and facilitate an atmosphere where differing, oftentimes opposing, viewpoints can discuss important contemporay issues. I feel that I - that we! - have been successful in that endeavour.

I have truly enjoyed this experience, finding and gaining confidence in my voice. While my writing here has also provided a sense of escape from the stressors of my newly previous job, nowhere have I been most rewarded than by this community. I have been immensely proud of all of you - a diverse group, both theologically and politically, of sisters and brothers with one common goal: to transcend our polarized culture and to engage, genuinely, in fruitful dialogue with each other. We didn't have to agree - in fact, we seldom did! - but we did try to get to the heart of the issues, to emerge past the vitriolic grenade-lobbing all to commonly employed by both sides of the ideological divide. And we did it respectfully. Thank you for letting me get to know you, to grow through deeper understanding.

In leaving, I would ask that we all carry this ethic forward. We have much more in common than we have in difference. Recognize that people of differing worldviews are good, well-intended people, loving of God and nation, hopeful of humanity, and desirious of a prosperous, safe community. Especially for our children and the ensuing generations, we all want to leave the world in better shape than we recieved it. Our differences, important and valid to be sure, are minor in comparison to these over-arching commonalities. While it is all too easy, cognitively speaking, to revert back to our polarized and politicized stations, when relating with others please be mindful of this truth. Do not let our disagreements divide and embitter us, but shape and mature us, together in common purpose.

Thank you for reading this blog, for your time and for your attention. Until we meet again, grace and peace be with you.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reclaiming the Blairs Event

I normally don't blog on Letters to the Editor, but I wanted to make a quick exception. Today the Danville Register & Bee ran three Letters to the Editor by people closely involved in the organization of the visit by Secretaries Chu and Vilsack in the region. While the tea party incident has dominated the news coverage, reclaiming the importance and specialness of the event is necessary.

Buddy Mayhew, the farmer and host of the town hall meeting, wrote on how the event highlighted the potential of the Southside. Money quote:
But most of all, I want to thank Rep. Tom Perriello for bringing the focus on energy and agriculture to Southside Virginia. Although I have been a longtime Republican, I can still recognize when a Democrat is working hard on our behalf. I encourage everyone to step back and take a good long look at the job our new congressman is doing.

It was an honor and a privilege to host this event on my farm, and to meet and hear three of the leaders of our country in person. It made me proud all over again to be an American.
Todd Haymore is the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In his letter he states that he is proud of the Southside area, its past and its future:
Pittsylvania County always has been considered a top agriculture county in the state. For generations, this has been a traditional agricultural area, and no doubt that strong base will live well into the future. But recently the area has embraced cutting-edge agricultural enterprises that I believe will serve it well in the new ag economy.
Again, I’m proud to be a product of the community — a community with a “can-do” attitude — that understands that overcoming challenges and adversity represents new opportunities for success and prosperity. Just as important, I’m very pleased that the nation is paying attention to what is happening in Pittsylvania County and the greater Danville region.
Finally, Ken Moss offered a tour to the Secretaries at his business, Piedmont Bioproducts. Like Mayhew and Haymore, Moss believes the visit highlighted this area's potential:
The tour was completed and summarized with the fact that our region has all of the necessary components needed to see this new green industry develop and prosper, from natural resources to people to technical expertise and research support. Secretary Chu later commented that what he saw in Gretna represented the future and it is something real.

This event was as tremendous positive reflection on our region, and we all should be proud of that fact and do our part to continue to convey this message to our political leaders inside and outside of the immediate areas.
While the incident with the tea partiers has captured the news cycle, we must remember that it was an honor to host the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture in the Southside.

Another Goode Speech

Here is a Goode speech he gave in Franklin County at the beginning of the month. He mainly hits on government spending, cap and trade, and, of course, illegal immigration. Check it.


Given the storm of blog posts, though diminishing in pace and volume, I can't - and shouldn't have to - respond to all the claims being made regarding the recent tea party incidents. One post, however, especially since it is an in-district blog, offered me a quick and easy opportunity to respond.

Jerry Fuhrman, the editor-in-chief of the blog From on High, offers his thoughts on media reports, this blog, and push back against the Charlottesville tea party claims. Money quote:
It wasn't 5th District Congressman Tom Perriello's office that called the police and had tea party protesters removed from in front of Perriello's office. It was ... someone else ... who didn't like the idea that tea party protesters were in front of Perriello's office.

Why anyone ... else ... would be concerned about protesters being in front of Perriello's office remains a mystery.

See the exhaustive - and too-shrill-by-half - excuse-making here. And here.
Get it? With a slew of mischevous ellipses, Fuhrman heartedly implies Perriello, his staff, and/or those blogging the facts are lying. Despite the mudslinging, which I can handle, this is the important part:
This can be easily resolved, by the way. Calls to the police on emergency communications lines (9-1-1) are a matter of public record. Charlottesville police should reveal the name of that individual who called and lodged the complaint. (emphasis mine)
Mr. Fuhrman, not a bad idea! As I noted in my two previous posts, the Daily Progress did just this. Again:
(UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello’s office did not contact police about protesters gathered outside his Charlottesville headquarters, according to emergency communi-cation center records.) [emphasis mine]
Now, I don't know who called the police, but this exonerates Perriello's staff. I am told, for what it's worth, that it was a neighboring business. But, no matter who it was, the matter here is that Perriello and his staff, supported by factual evidence, were not involved.

Please stop with the insinuations. Take a deep breath. Given your general distaste for our congressman, save your energy for a legitimate reason to be upset with Perriello.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breaking Through the Allegations: Perriello, Tea Party Protesters, and the Police (Day 2)

Another day of developments. Let's get to them.

Yesterday I mentioned that a tea party meme was emerging within the district, and today it solidified: Rep. Perriello is censoring and intimidating citizens, those who respectfully disagree with him (1, 2, 3, 4). Here is a nice right-wing political cartoon stating such.

With regard to the Charlottesville event, where cops were unfortunately called, matters seem to have calmed; the facts have emerged, and the truth has settled. Again, as the Daily Progress reported, according to "emergency communication centers," the Perriello office did not call the police. Helping to clear the air, Instapundit, a highly trafficked conservative blog, linked my to blog:
REP. TOM PERRIELLO DIDN’T CALL THE COPS ON TEA PARTY PROTESTERS. According to this report, it was the neighbors.
Well, then he back-tracked somewhat, but I do appreciate the intellectual honesty of Instapundit.

Although the facts are coming to light in the tea party incident on Buddy Mayhew's farm, you wouldn't know it from the heated rhetoric. Nigel Coleman, the Danville Tea Party Chair, who is at the center of this incident, gave a for-the-most-part thoughtful comment today on this blog. Money quote:
I have tried not to just wildly sling allegations at Rep. Perriello. His office told me that they did not know we were there. I take them at their word. However being tailed by the police and haing [sic] Bobby visited by officers seems to step over a line. Someone alerted security to our presence, they explained this to Bobby Conner when they were at his house. There were other groups there and I hope no one is trying to just single out Perriello.
Coleman, to get to the bottom of his concerns, then sent a letter to Attorney General Mims asking the AG to investigate whether or not Rep. Perriello or his staff had involved the police in the event on the farm, an incident that Coleman believes led to intimidation and harrasment:
If such coordination between the police and Rep. Perriello's office did in fact take place, we believe it is compelling to learn under whose direction and instigation. If you find that it was instigated by Rep. Perriello and/or a member of his staff, we believe the line has been crossed and legal action is required.
Soon after this letter was sent to the AG, however, the Danville Tea Party sent out this press release, with Coleman listed as the contact person - a press release full of "wildly slung allegations." It begins:
Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., may be using the state police and local law enforcement to harass and intimidate citizens who have publicly expressed opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trillion-dollar health care reform legislation, a local TEA Party leader charged Tuesday in a letter urging state Attorney General Bill Mims to conduct a formal investigation.
This press release is unfortunate, implicating Perriello in some anti-tea party conspiracy. Let me repeat: Perriello and his staff were not involved. In fact, Perriello learned about the incident the next morning.

Clearing up any remaining confusion to the incident the Danville Register & Bee contacted the police and event attenders. As the newspaper reports, and I stated yesterday, Buddy Mayhew had discussions with the police beforehand concerning any protests on his property:
Organizers held the event on private property, which allowed the property owner to decide whether law enforcement could remove people.

Buddy Mayhew, who owns the farm where the community forum was held, said he hadn’t heard about the incident until afterward.

Mayhew talked to sheriff’s deputies before the community forum began Saturday about whether they should ask anyone to leave his property. He said that if protesters were there and behaving, then they could stay.

“But if something occurs that is of a disruptive nature, that has no place to be there, you have my permis-sion to ask them to leave,” Mayhew said he told the deputies. (emphasis mine)
And, the police reported how they responded during the event:
Sgt. M.C. Davis of the Virginia State Police said that the security detail with the secretaries of energy and agriculture brought the local authorities’ attention to a group of people, which included Bobbie Conner and Nigel Coleman, during the community forum. Coleman is the chairman of the Danville Tea Party Committee, and Conner is its vice chairman.

“Obviously, you look into these things when people act differently than the rest of the crowd,” Davis said.

Conner and Coleman were standing beside a block of seats, about six rows back. The group talked audibly to each other during the forum and looked upset at times with the secretaries’ answers and some questions. They left just before the question-and-answer session ended.

Sheriff’s deputies approached them after seeing the group pull protest signs out of their car, said Capt. Donald Motley of the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.

“When they were approached by law enforcement, the event itself was over,” Motley said. “They told them that if they were going to put those up, they would have to leave.” (emphasis mine)
So, the Secretaries' security details initiated contact with the local police to keep an eye on the tea party protesters, because of their loud and agitated behavior. Only when they decided to display signs and protest were they asked to leave. Like Coleman claimed, however without the malicious intent, the police followed up on Monday:
The state police followed up on the incident Monday when a trooper visited Conner’s house.

“They were questioned about their actions during the meeting,” Davis said. “We were trying to inquire that they were asking a question and didn’t know how to go about it.”

The trooper got the information he needed, and the investigation ended.

“As far as I know, it was over with,” Davis said. “They were satisfied with the answer they received.” (emphasis mine)
Again, I am sure that the presence of the police is a distressing affair - especially when their presence is seemingly unexpected and unwarranted - but when confronted by the police, one should be careful not subscribe malicious intent onto one's ideological opponent. It is an illogical, though somewhat understandable, mental shortcut. One, however, should be hesitant to make these judgments public - that elected officials, cabinet secretaries, security details, police departments, event hosts, and event attenders are all mashed into some nefarious and oppressive plot. Question the incident, yes, but don't malign folks seemingly to further your ideological agenda. Perriello and his staff were not involved, and Perriello and his staff should not have been the targets of such hasty conclusions.

And to the lesser matter of a staged Q&A. Saith the Register & Bee:
The Monday police visit to Conner’s home and the request for the Tea Party members to leave on Saturday have led to other allegations from the committee that the event was staged. Organizers and those who asked questions deny that claim.
The newspaper then interviews several people who asked questions and could not find any truth to the claim of a staged event.

So after two incidents with tea party protesters and the police, two newspapers fact-checked the claims, calling those involved, and found that Rep. Perriello was not involved. While I do not expect the meme to discontinue over night, we should all relax now that the facts have emerged.

Carry on.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Breaking Through the Allegations: Perriello, Tea Party Protesters, and the Police

Over this past weekend it appears that a tea party narrative has been forming: Rep. Perriello will do everything in his power - even utilize the full extent of the law - to hide from tea party protesters. Of course, this is patently absurd. Here's what happened.

Last week tea partiers protested outside Perriello's Charlottesville office, and during the demonstration, the police were called. Tea partiers felt that Perriello's office called the police, angry at the protest outside. Today, the Republican blogosphere is going crazy about this (1, 2, 3). But after some fact-checking, the Daily Progress discovered that Perriello's office did not call the police. A neighboring business, apparently, did so. Saith the Daily Progress:
(UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello’s office did not contact police about protesters gathered outside his Charlottesville headquarters, according to emergency communi-cation center records.) [emphasis mine]
Lowell has a scanned copy of the clip if you want to see it.

On Friday, at the opposite end of the district, Danville, tea partiers also demonstrated on Perriello's office. On Saturday, they again showed up when Secretaries Chu and Vilsack visited the area to talk about rural economies, agriculture, and green energy. At the event, several tea partiers were apparently asked to leave the premises. Star News out of Danville/Reidsville even had a special show last night discussing these allegations, nevermind interviewing clearly sympathetic to the tea partiers. Since I was at the event, I can offer my eye-witness perspective, and I called Perriello's Press Secretary, Jessica Barba, for an on-the-record accounting of the events. Importantly, this event was hosted by the USDA and the Obama Administration, so Perriello had no control over the event, as it wasn't organized by his office.

Tea Partiers have been stating that the questions were staged at the event, seen in Perriello's calling specific people by name, and that Perriello purposefully and deliberately overlooked their questions, afraid to answer the tough questions. On Star News, the tea party organizer, Nigel Coleman, made these assertions - assertions corroborated by Del. Danny Marshall, though, Marshall fairly would not subscribe intent to Perriello. Here's what I saw: there were between 200-250 people at the event, and, since I was in the back during the Q&A, I can say that dozens upon dozens of people raised their hands to ask Perriello and the Secretaries questions - too many for each potential questioner to ask his/her question. To me, the Q&A did not look staged, and because of the slew of raised hands, no one was purposefully overlooked during the questions. Barba said that no one was given a question beforehand and that no one was purposefully neglected in the choice of questioners. She highlighted that, to the contrary, Perriello has held townhalls throughout the district, and that Perriello has much experience - even enjoys - taking the tough questions.

Tea partiers have implied either that Perriello asked the police to remove dissenters from the property or that the police department - or some other agent - was overzealous in the defense of Perriello, even intimidating protesters days later. As Star News put it, citizens were silenced. I did not see anyone asked to leave the property, and, obviously, I cannot speak for the police department. Barba said that Perriello had no knowledge that protesters were asked to leave the premises; he was even surprised to learn about the incident the next morning. With this in mind, according to Barba, Perriello and his staffers were not involved, in any way, with the actions of the police. On Star News, the event host, Buddy Mayhew, stated that he had told the police department, days beforehand, that, as it was his private property, he did not want any demonstrations - of any kind - on his property; he did not want to distract from the purpose and specialness of the event.

As an office policy, Barba said, no staff person is allowed to call the police unless there are threats of physical violence. The voicing of our disagreement are First Amendment principles, and the Congressman welcomes differences of opinion. By all accounts, the protests were/were to be non-violent, and as the facts show, Perriello and his staff did not involve the police in either circumstance.

Psychologically speaking, the presence of police is distressing and anxiety-provoking to be sure. To subscribe ulterior motives, however, contrary to the facts on the ground, to Rep. Perriello or his staff is intellectually lazy at best, partisan-hackery at worst. I do not know the intentions underlying these assertions, but I would ask that people take a deep breath and let the facts emerge. Don't jump to hasty, unfounded conclusions, and do not demonize the Congressman, because of disagreement, for these unfortunate incidences.

Of note, Rep. Perriello has met with Tea Partiers before in Charlottesville. According to Barba, to her knowledge and to the knowledge of Perriello's scheduler, there has been no request for tea partiers in Danville to meet with Perriello - Barba and the scheduler will double check to be sure. She also said that Perriello would be happy to meet with the tea partiers in Danville in the future.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wall Street Journal Late to the Party

The Wall Street Journal has this article on the overall reaction to Perriello's ACES vote. As it is several weeks late, the article doesn't offer anything new.

In fact, I would argue readers of this blog have a more complete picture.

Demographic Trends and the Diminishing Importance of the Culture Wars? (updated)

The Center for American Progress released a rather convincing study proposing that the culture wars, because of trending demographics, will, in the coming years, no longer hold any political salience. Those demographic shifts:
First, Millennials—the generation with birth years 1978 to 2000—support gay marriage, take race and gender equality as givens, are tolerant of religious and family diversity, have an open and positive attitude toward immigration, and generally display little interest in fighting over the divisive social issues of the past.
Second, the culturally conservative white working class has been declining rapidly as a proportion of the electorate for years.
Other demographic trends that will undermine the culture warriors include the growth of culturally progressive groups such as single women, and college-educated women and professionals, as well as increasing religious diversity. Unaffiliated or secular voters are hugely progressive on cultural issues and it is they—not white evangelical Protestants—who are the fastest-growing “religious” group in the United States.

These demographic trends are having their greatest effects in America’s metropolitan areas, especially the largest ones, and it is here that the culture wars are dying down the fastest.
To which the study concludes:
The culture wars as we have known them are likely coming to an end. Demographic change is undercutting both the level and salience of conservative cultural views, thereby reducing the effectiveness of such politics. That will not prevent conservative activists around particular culture wars issues from continuing to press their case. Indeed, reaction to their current desperate plight may lead them to intensify their efforts in some states, especially where demographic change has been slow or where local right-wing culture war institutions retain strength. But there will be diminishing incentives for politicians to take up these causes for the very simple reason that they are losers.
That last sentence is important. In theory, with these demographic trends and their likely resulting electoral mandates in mind, law makers will be less inclined, vis-a-vis the decreased political incentive, to use the culture war issues as part of their platforms, thereby diminishing both the political strength of these issues and the politicization of culture.

While the long-term prognosis of the culture wars looks bleak indeed, the current political atmosphere has also relegated these issues to the margins. The current economic and healthcare crisis, not to mention the continued importance of Iraq and Afghanistan, are the national priorities - the attention grabbing, higher-order concerns. But, don't be lulled into a sense of complacency. In the near future, however, if conditions improve, we could easily see their re-emergence, and long-term, don't count out the possibility of a re-fashioned movement or the emergence of new, unforseen issues.

Update: interviews Ruy Teixeira, the author of the CAP study, on this issue.

(h/t Mother Jones via Tripp)

Roanoke Times Political Cartoon on Perriello

The Roanoke Times has a great political cartoon on Rep. Perriello's ACES vote and the ensuing reaction from the tea partiers. Good catch by Paul Wiley, and check out his new blog.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Roanoke Times Profiles Rees

The Roanoke Times did a short profile piece on Bradley Rees, Republican congressional candidate, a couple days ago. Of note, Bradley Rees didn't seem happy with the article, and as best as I can tell, it's because a third of the article centers around Virgil Goode and the possibility he will re-run for his old seat. Money quote:
"While the members of this campaign hold Virgil Goode in very high regard and have the utmost respect for his service, this election is too critical for some 'Rocky II' rematch fantasy that will leave a younger, slightly more invigorating candidate like Tom Perriello in a better position to win," said Michael Ernette, campaign manager for Rees.

Cabinet Secretaries Visit Southside

Yesterday, two of Pres. Obama's Cabinet Secretaries, Secretaries Chu (Energy) and Vilsack (Agriculture) visited Pittslyvania County as part of the White House's Rural Tour. About 250 people showed up to Buddy Mayhew's farm to listen to the Secretaries, along with Rep. Perriello. The purpose of the event:
The tour is an attempt by the Obama administration to tell local citizens how it’s revitalizing and rebuilding rural America. Another goal is to give those citizens a way to tell his administration their concerns.
The three officials stressed the importance, among other things, of "government support to rural communities," the positive long term affects of ACES, and the leadership this district could provide for the development of the next generation of energy. Money quote:
"I’ve been bragging about you an awful lot up in Washington,” he said. “Telling everyone that we are at the cutting edge of Southside Virginia.”

Perriello said he has learned a lot about the opportunities that are available. He said the community will survive the tough times and lead “the commonwealth and lead the country in areas that we’re frankly better at than anybody else.”
I was at the event yesterday and noticed that people from all over the state traveled to talk with the Secretaries to voice their concerns, and I also was pleased with the focus of the event, as during these difficult times, Southside rural and agricultural communities have suffered. To me, underlying the existence of the event is a continued interest by President Obama on Southside Virginia, a promise he made during his campaign stops within the area.

Interestingly, after protesting at Rep. Perriello's office on Friday, several TEA Party protesters attempted to protest during the event but were kicked off the private property by security.

(Photo by Jim White)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From Science Class to History Class: An Emerging Culture Wars Frontline?

The Wall Street Journal has an article suggesting that there might be a new frontline for the culture wars in public school. Historically, the main debate has centered around evolution and the science classroom, but according to the WSJ, emerging debates could spill over into the social studies classroom. Key excerpt:
The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state's social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history.

Three [of six] reviewers, appointed by social conservatives, have recommended revamping the K-12 curriculum to emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history. Two of them want to remove or de-emphasize references to several historical figures who have become liberal icons, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall.

"We're in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it," said Rev. Peter Marshall, a Christian minister and one of the reviewers appointed by the conservative camp.

Three other reviewers, all selected by politically moderate or liberal members of the board, recommended less-sweeping changes to the existing curriculum. But one suggested including more diverse role models, especially Latinos, in teaching materials. "We have tended to exclude or marginalize the role of Hispanic and Native American participants in the state's history," said Jesús F. de la Teja, chairman of the history department at Texas State University. (emphasis mine)
Keep in mind that the Texas Board of Education is not a meager influence on the academics of the rest of the country, as Texas is a third of the textbook market. Since textbook companies don't want to have many differences in copies, what happens in Texas to some extent affects the rest of the nation:
The standards that the school board eventually settles on won't dictate day-to-day lesson plans; that is up to individual teachers. But they will offer clear guidelines for educators -- and also for publishers.

Nearly every state has its own curriculum standards, and there are scores of social studies texts to choose from at most grade levels, so what happens in Texas won't necessarily affect other states. But the Texas market is huge, so most big publishers aggressively seek approval from the board, in some cases adopting the majority's editing suggestions nearly verbatim. (emphasis mine)

Given the debate over displaying the Ten Commandments on governmental property, this, to me, is a derivative argument. The argument is similar: the Bible and the faith of the Founding Fathers has had a lasting affect on the greatness of this nation, and the lack of recognition to these historical "truths" is naive. Naturally, strict adherents to the separation of church and state, me included, will argue against the intrusion of theology into public classrooms.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Southside House of Delegates Fundraising Numbers (updated)

Here are the fundraising numbers for Southside House of Delegates races, with continued interest in the 58th district race (Bell vs Neff). Since our last report, several candidates have dropped out (1, 2). For more information on the Governors, Lt. Govs and AG fundraising numbers check out Lowell's post.

Candidate (Bold - incumbent) Amount Raised Expenses Cash on Hand
District 9

Charles Poindexter (R) $995 $1,335 $13,471
District 10

Ward Armstrong (D) $32,743 $15,436 $76,837
District 14

Danny Marshall (R) $16,412 $14,327 $29,047
Seward Anderson (D) $23,309 $18,249 $25,517
District 16

Don Merricks (R) $15,425 $296 $32,197
District 58

Rob Bell (R) $74,490 $12,812 $582,210
Cynthia Neff (D) $29,919 $20,838 $83,985
District 60 (open seat)

David Guill (D) $132 $0 $2,472
James Edmunds (R) $19,110
no data $32,645

For the second quarter in a row, Seward Anderson outraised Del. Marshall, though overall, their war chests are relatively equal. Cynthia Neff's haul, while still solid, is surprising compared to her gold rush last quarter, but Del. Bell, with an impressive quarter, still has an ungodly warchest. David Guill turned in another disappointing (non-existent?) quarter, while James Edmunds numbers, for some reason, are still not yet available on-line - though I have seen plenty of his signs in that district.

Update: I found some of James Edmunds' numbers in VPAP's downloadable lists. Don't know why VPAP has his numbers on their list but not on his own page. Importantly, the list just had his funds raised and cash on hand, not his quarter expenses.

Goode's Anemic 2Q Haul (updated)

Former Rep. Virgil Goode has been saying for weeks now that he is close to making an official announcement about running for his old seat against Rep. Perriello. Today, we may have more clarity to Goode's position.

Last quarter, April through June, Goode raised an anemic $154.

Although we won't be 100% sure until Goode reveals his future himself, this seems pretty conclusive. Goode does not look to be running.

Update: The Lynchburg News & Advance interviewed Larry Sabato, apparently the only political science professor in the state, about Goode's fundraising. Saith Sabato:
The lack of campaign contributions is a sign that Goode might be leaning toward not running, said Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“That to me is a signal that he’s not running,” Sabato said. “Let me add, Virgil’s full of surprises.”
Duh. Of note, according to the article, Rep. Perriello also had a solid quarter raising $215k.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Center of Attention: Perriello on ACES

Since Rep. Perriello's vote on ACES, there has been a deluge of television ads within our district both supporting (1, 2, 3, 4) and denouncing (the NRCC) his vote - not to mention the editorials, both for (1, 2, 3) and against (1, 2). And forget counting the blog posts and the Letters to the Editor.

With this in mind, the New York Times has an article on the attention Rep. Perriello has drawn over his ACES vote. Money quote:
The freshman Democrat from southern Virginia, who has little name recognition outside his district and little influence over the legislation, declared a couple of weeks before the vote that he would support the bill. And so much of the media attention and lobbying efforts were on the powerful committee chairmen and a number Midwestern Democrats that seemingly held the fate of the bill in their hands.

Much has changed in two weeks.

Since Democrats squeezed out a 219-212 vote on the legislation, no single member of Congress has been the subject of as much scrutiny -- and political sparring -- as Perriello.
The reaction to Perriello's vote, naturally, has broken down partisan lines. While the Republicans have been using the vote to bruise Perriello for his next election, Perriello thinks this strategy might backfire:
"These are the kinds of bills that we came to Washington to pass," Perriello said. "What I think you're seeing is a new generation of politicians that are more interested in solving the issue than scoring the political points."

Adding that even if voters punish some Democrats in 2010, the long-term impact of the legislation will result in more voters turning away from the Republican Party. "It may not backfire [on the Republicans] next year but it will backfire over time," he said. "I think it's a short term political risk for the Democrats, but its a long-term risk for Republicans because of the national security and economic impacts."
Of course, it's too early to tell how this vote will affect Perriello's future, to which Larry Sabato opines:
At the moment, the energy issue is being used primarily to rile up each party's political base, Sabato said. "Democrats think the bill is terrific, and Republicans think it is awful," he said. "The battle is partly to motivate base voters for a relatively low turnout midterm election."
Like it or not, that is probably a fair assessment.

The Right-Wing New Athiests

Robert Wright has a great post dismantling the surprisingly hawkish foreign policy of the New Atheists. Wright begins:
It must strike progressive atheists as a stroke of bad luck that Christopher Hitchens, leading atheist spokesperson, happens to have hawkish views on foreign policy. After all, with atheists an overwhelmingly left-wing group, what were the chances that the loudest infidel in the western world would happen to be on the right?

Actually, the chances were pretty good. When it comes to foreign policy, a right-wing bias afflicts not just Hitchens's world view, but the whole ideology of "new atheism," especially as seen in the work of Hitchens allies Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.
Wright then objects to how the New Atheists posit that religious is poisonous and how this understanding, negligent of the facts on the ground, necessitates a militant approach to the Middle East. To which Wright brilliantly concludes:
If some Jihadists are motivated partly by fear that the west threatens their religious culture, is the optimal counter-terrorism strategy to have know-it-all westerners tell them their God doesn't exist?

The history of the Abrahamic faiths suggests not. Making Jews, Christians, and Muslims feel threatened by other cultures has often brought out the worst in their religions, whereas doing the the opposite -- putting them in "non-zero-sum" situations, where win-win outcomes are possible -- has brought out the best.

Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris should of course write what they want, even if it's likely to increase the amount of religious radicalism in the world. But if they're going to style themselves as soldiers in the war on terror, that will just go to show that the "God delusion" isn't the only kind of delusion.

Agreeing with Wright's conclusions, Matthew Yglesias offers this thought:

I think another way of thinking about it is that Dawkins has basically tried to reformulate atheism in the evangelizing and illiberal mode of illiberal evangelizing religion. Thus, much as right-wing Christians and right-wing Muslims can simultaneously loathe each other and have structurally similar views, so, too, can “new atheists” join the party. Elsewhere you have a liberal ethic adhered to by people who identify with different spiritual traditions and also by what I think are “normal” atheists, just people who don’t identify with a religious tradition, rather than people who want to construct a self-conscious atheist identity and go to battle over it.
I am actually shocked that the New Atheists employ such a hawkish worldview, as a non-purposive cosmology - especially without an afterlife - should, in my mind at least, engender a peaceful relational ethic. Not being an atheist, though, I cannot speak for the New Atheists, but Bob, an agnostic, judiciously corrects their error.

Christian Coalition 2.0

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Ralph Reed is starting a new brand of the Christian Coalition. Money quote:
“This is not going to be your daddy’s Christian Coalition,” Reed said in an interview to describe his new venture, the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “It has to be younger, hipper, less strident, more inclusive and it has to harness the 21st century that will enable us to win in the future.”
And while there are myriad other faith- or family- or freedom-touting organizations, such as Focus on the Family or the original Christian Coalition, Reed does not believe there is one that has captured the national mode of religious conservatives quite like Coalition did in the 1990s.
The article continues:
“The bottom line is we [Republicans] need everything,” said [public relations executive Mark] DeMoss, who until recently had office space in the same building as Reed’s firm. “Better technology, better organization skills, better messaging, better candidates, better leadership. Ralph is addressing a good part of it, and I believe he’ll probably do good things with it.”
This would be Ralph Reed's first return to the political arena since his failed Lt. Gov campaign in Georgia, a campaign in which his close ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was revealed. Whether or not his former "sins" come back to haunt him, according to the article, critics on both sides of the ideological divide agree that Reed is a formidable organizer.

Given the current temperature within the political atmosphere (i.e., the reaction against the Religious Right and the politicization of religion), I wonder if there is available room for another conservative evangelical/political organization. And if there is, how will this new organization gather the attention of the electorate in ways that similar organizations currently are not? My gut feeling, and correct me if I am wrong, is that Americans, outside of the conservative evangelical base, will barely notice.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

When cheetos attack:
Authorities said a couple got into a fight using Cheetos. The Bedford County [Tennessee] Sheriff's Department said a 40-year-old man and 44-year-old woman became involved in a 'verbal altercation.' Somehow, the orange puffy snacks were used in the assault.

Deputies said they were charged with domestic assault. No one was hurt.

... [B]oth posted bond of $2,500.

The Presidency and the Papacy

Last winter, I wrote:
[Compared to the President Bush, the US-Vatican] relationship is likely to change under the Obama Administration as, needless to say, President-elect Obama and Benedict XVI will have several differences of opinion. Watch for US Catholic leaders to apply pressure on Obama over his stances on abortion and stem-cell research, among others. At the same time, the Vatican will want a positive relationship with Obama to help promote international peace and the safety of Christians throughout the world. In this good cop/bad cop approach to the Administration, the Pope, naturally, will be "above the fray."
Needless to say, this theory has proven correct, as American Bishops have protested several of Obama's policies, seen especially in their anger over Obama's invitation to speak at Notre Dame's commencement ceremony. The Vatican, however, has not taken an antagonistic approach towards Obama.

Because of President Obama's recent meeting with the Pope, the relationship between the presidency and the papacy is again under scrutiny. To give more credence to this theory, The New Republic last week stated:
The conservative minority among the bishops as well as political activists on the Catholic right have insisted on judging the president only on the basis of his support for legal abortion and stem cell research.

But the Vatican clearly views Obama through a broader prism. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio in Washington, has privately warned American bishops that harsh attacks on Obama threaten to make the church look partisan.
No one pretends that the Vatican is at peace with Obama's views on the life issues, and Benedict mentioned the church's resistance to abortion at three different points in this week's economic encyclical, "Charity in Truth."

But the pope and many of his advisers also see Obama as a potential ally on such questions as development in the Third World, their shared approach to a quest for peace in the Middle East, and the opening of a dialogue with Islam.
Last week, the New York Times also highlighted the difference in relationship between American Bishops and the Vatican. Money quote:
Both the pope and the president recognize that despite their differences, they have an opportunity to join forces on international issues that are mutual priorities: Israel and the Palestinians, climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, increased aid to poor nations and immigration reform.
“You’ll never get Rome to admit it,” Father Christensen said, but the Vatican has a different approach than the American bishops to working with governments. “Some of the critics of the president think you have to be at war, and the pope is saying, there’s a different way to proceed here and it’s very essential to the church’s approach, in that what you want is consensus.”
Even after six months in office, it is clear that the Pope views Pres. Obama as an ally in world affairs, despite Obama's relatively contentious relationship with Catholic leaders stateside. Expect this complex dynamic to remain constant over Obama's presidential tenure.

Vatican Hearts Harry Potter Movie

The Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, gave positive ratings for the new Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In the past, the Vatican has expressed disappointed in J.K. Rowlings' books for her lack of an explicit transcendent power. In terms of the movie, however, the Vatican lauds the new Harry Potter for a couple reasons. Most importantly:
L'Osservatore said the latest installment nevertheless makes clear that good should overcome evil "and that sometimes this requires costs and sacrifice."

"In addition, the spastic search for immortality epitomized by Voldemort is stigmatized," the review said.
The Vatican also lauds the "correct balance" in the movie's treatment of adolescent love.