On April 29, on the site’s 8th anniversary, Virginia Political Blogs will be shut down. Its purpose has been served, and it no longer plays a useful role in political discourse in Virginia, with that having moved largely to Facebook and Twitter. You can download a list of all member sites as OPML, should you so desire.
Recently, we gathered a dozen power-users in a room and listened as they talked about what they loved about vpap.org -- and their frustrations with the site.
Near the top of their gripe list was the inconsistent way local and state political organizations were listed in our database. They said this made it confusing to search for political party groups.
As we listened, the VPAP staff nodded our heads in unison.
It would take longer than it's worth to explain how, say, the Republican Party of Halifax County became "Va Rep - Halifax Co." Suffice it say, the recent focus group was a wake up call to find a better solution.
I'm pleased to announce we've found one. For the most part, political party organizations are now listed by their most common name. (However, we continue to abbreviate "Virginia" as "Va." So, "Republican Party of Virginia" is the "Republican Party of Va."
We did decide to continue standardizing names of local political party units. If you want to find the Loudoun County Republicans, look for "Republican Party - Loudoun County" and if you want to find the Wythe Democrats look for "Democratic Party - Wythe."
In the course of this data work, we also made sure our data makes a clear distinction between official units of a political party and the clubs that promote one party, but are not recognized as an official party organization.
This is all pretty geeky stuff. I'm certain our power-user friends will take notice. But we also believe these changes make it easier for someone who is new to the site to find they are looking for.
Thanks for everyone's input. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Virginia Public Access Project
Republican Ken Cuccinelli is about the last person you'd expect to see on a donor list to the Senate Democratic Caucus. But the Democrats sent out an email solicitation in January that Cuccinelli couldn't resist.
"I wanted to see if they really were breaking the law at the very same time they were loudly (and apparently hypocritically) wailing about our election laws," Cuccinelli said Friday in an email.
The former Attorney General was referring to an email solicitation that Democratic Sen. Don McEachin sent on January 9, one day after the 2014 General Assembly had convened. McEachin later apologized, saying he did had not authorized the email, despite a state prohibition on legislators' fundraising while the Assembly is in session.
Cuccinelli -- who at the time was in his final hours as Attorney General -- donated $5.
Four days after the appeal, the Senate Democratic Caucus mailed out $1,655 worth of refund checks.
"They returned my $5, as I expected they would if the donation went through," Cuccinelli said.
The refund can be seen HERE.
By James A. Bacon
On Oct. 25, 2013, Chris Urmson, a leader of Google’s autonomous car project, proclaimed that legal and regulatory problems posed no major barrier to the commercialization of Self-Driving Cars (SDCs). When accidents did occur, he told attendees of the RoboBusiness conference in Santa Clara, Calif., data collected by the cars would provide an accurate picture of exactly who was responsible. He shared data from a Google car that had been rear-ended by another driver. The annotated map of the car’s surroundings clearly indicated that it had halted smoothly before being struck by the other vehicle.
“We don’t have to rely on eyewitnesses that can’t act be trusted as to what happened—we actually have the data,” Urmson said. “The guy around us wasn’t paying enough attention. The data will set you free.”
The very same day, Toyota settled a case in which an Oklahoma City jury had awarded $3 million for a 2005 incident in which a Camry driven by 76-year-old Jean Bookout had accelerated out of control. Bookout had said she tried to use the foot brake and emergency brake to no avail. Toyota lawyers had argued that she must have hit the gas instead. At issue was the performance of an electronic throttle control system that replaced mechanical links between the accelerator pedal and the throttle in older models. Siding with Bookout, the jury bought the story that the electronic throttle was flawed.
Google may have data on its side but accident victims sometimes have judges and juries on their side. Toyota had won all previous unintended-acceleration cases and an exhaustive study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could find no flaw in the brake’s computer code, but the judge instructed the Oklahoma City jury that it could find a product defective even if no defect could be identified.
“It opened the floodgates,” says Chris Spencer, a Richmond, Va., attorney who has represented automobile manufacturers in hundreds of cases, including dozens that have gone to trial and reached a jury verdict. “All a lawyer has to do is get his client to say, ‘I did nothing wrong but something went wrong – it must have been the vehicle’s fault.’”
(Cross posted from the Datamorphosis blog.)
Few would dispute that SDCs are safer overall than human drivers. Few would contradict the view that accidents, injuries and fatalities will decline as SDCs comprise an increasing share of the automobiles on the road. But the very thing that makes cars safer – the increasing use of software-controlled electronics – may make car makers more vulnerable to lawsuits. Without significant updates to tort law, the inability of auto manufacturers to disprove a negative – that their software is not flawed – could hinder the adoption of technology that could save thousands of lives every year.
There are roughly six million traffic accidents every year in the United States. Most of the time, humans are at fault. Sometimes mechanical failure or road conditions are to blame. Before the advent of electronic parts, explains Spencer, if the car failed, the failure usually was visible in the form of a blown tire, worn brake or some other damaged part.
But car mechanical systems are giving way to electronic systems. Electronic sensors flash a light if an engine part is nearing failure. Antilock brakes take over when the brakes are about to lock up. The steering wheel, once connected to the axle by a steering column, now guides the car by means of electric signals. Cars use cameras and lasers to survey the environment around them; road-recognition software tells them if the driver is drifting over a lane and sends a warning. Soon, cars will be communicating with one another, sensing immediately when vehicles ahead are slowing, and slowing instantly in response.
For the most part, that’s a positive trend. Electronics parts don’t get distracted, they don’t get tired, and they see as well on a rainy day as a bright sunny day. ”Cars can sense things faster and better than you can,” says Spencer. “They can respond faster and better than you can. They have all these wonderful features. The general public sees them as a great leap forward.” The problem is, he adds, “If you build it, they will sue.”
The electronics systems in today’s cars are enormously complex. “The most modern jet fighter in the U.S. arsenal, the F35, is thought to have 18 million lines of code,” says Spencer. “A modern vehicle has 100 million lines of code when you include the infotainment.”
Writing software is an art. One programmer can’t easily tell what another programmer has done. If a car malfunctions, it is exceedingly difficult to find a flaw in the code – and it’s almost impossible to rule out the possibility that a hard-to-identify defect lurks in the code.
There is a rich vein in the popular imagination of renegade computers and demon-possessed machines. “Autonomous machines scare the hell out of us,” Spencer says. Factor in the experience that most Americans have had with computers – unexplained crashes, disappearing files, degrading computer performance, bizarre error messages, viruses and malware, frequent software updates and patches – and it’s not surprising that some jurors do not regard software code as infallible.
Compounding the problem for defense attorneys is the fact that witnesses are not reliable. “Any trial lawyer will tell you that if you put a person on each corner of an intersection and had a crash, you’d get four different stories, six if you counted the drivers.” Spencer quips. “People see, hear and describe the same things very differently. Try to get an accurate statement from a witness of a crash that unfolded in milliseconds” – it’s almost impossible. Yet jurors may believe a little old lady who swears she didn’t push the accelerator when she meant to push the brake.
The Oklahoma case was settled so it can’t be overturned, and it does not create a binding precedent. But lawyers do look to history to guide them, suggests Spencer, and the case will encourage more lawsuits. While the tort system is good at providing redress in individual cases, it also can stifle and punish innovation. Autonomous cars and SDCs have the potential to save literally tens of thousands of lives.
Spencer offers no specifics on how the tort system should be reformed, but Don Howard, a Notre Dame philosophy professor, and Mark P. Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, do. In a recent Wall Street Journal column, they wrote:
The self-driving-car solution is clear. Congress should pre-empt [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] and the trial lawyers and pass a National Autonomous Vehicle Injury Act. The Fords and Nissans and Googles and Qualcoms should voluntarily create an Autonomous Vehicle Event Reporting System. And industry players should also create a National Autonomous Vehicle Compensation System.
This advance in automotive safety is too important to leave to the vagaries of the tort system, Spencer argues. “You can’t stop driverless cars. They can do too much good.”
Both stories brought to mind the countless troubles trying to keep too many secrets under wraps can set in motion.
On Nov. 22, 2013 the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was observed. For the school children of 1963 that sucker punch was stunning in a way nothing has been since.
The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, better known as the Warren Commission, published its report on Sept. 24, 1964: Lee Harvey Oswald was found to have been a lone wolf assassin. Since he was put down by a self-styled executioner two days after Kennedy fell, the commission’s investigators never heard Oswald's testimony.
Much of how those investigators operated and too much of what they found was kept in the dark. Unfortunately, the cloaked-in-secrecy aftermath of the JFK assassination created a void that attracted speculation. Some aspects of the Warren Commission’s findings were puzzling. For instance, its famous “single bullet theory” had one projectile traveling circuitously, almost magically, through two victims.
In 1965 gunmen murdered Malcolm X in an auditorium in Manhattan. A sniper killed Martin Luther King as he stood on a motel balcony in Memphis in 1968. Two months after that Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in a Los Angeles hotel. Unfortunately, the official stories on those three shootings were widely disbelieved, too. Everything baby boomers have seen since this tumult has been tinted by the cynicism it spawned.
More scrutiny of how those assassination inquiries were conducted might have led to different conclusions. Moreover, even if casting more sunlight on those probes had yielded no significant changes in the bottom lines, millions of citizens would surely have felt more comfortable about the good faith of the processes.
It took revelations that spoke of bad faith to steer us away from blithely tolerating so much secrecy. Among them were: the My Lai Massacre horrors; the publishing of the Pentagon Papers; the Watergate Scandal hearings; the Iran-Contra Scandal hearings; the bogus justification for invading Iraq.
Over the years such revelations changed America. Perhaps led by the baby boomers we have become a people who expect their government to lie. We also expect to be subjected to a steady stream of lies every day from advertising for mammoth corporations -- companies that, like our government, routinely spy on us.
It’s no wonder that today there are those who see fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden as a hero. He revealed to many of them that the Patriot Act of the Bush administration's era wasn't so much about promoting patriotism. It was about spying. Some people who read the news regularly already knew that.
Nonetheless, Snowden’s stunt put him on the celebrity map. By simultaneously leaking classified information about how far-flung our government’s surveillance has been and going on the lam, Snowden instantly became the darling of at least two large groups: 1. Government haters, in general. 2. Folks who like pouring pop culture into their tall glasses of politics, like a soft drink mixer.
To a third group, Snowden’s weak imitation of some previous brave whistleblowers has been at least as annoying as it has been edifying. Still, Snowden does deserve plenty of credit for launching new discussions of how much spying, by any entity, we the people should countenance.
Which, right away, leads straight to one galling conclusion: to some extent, spying is here to stay. If you use credit cards, cell phones and the Internet you're going to be tracked. Plus, the practice of security cameras and phone cameras recording images of everything is only going to increase.
So, rather than bellyaching about officials watching us, what we should be doing is demanding to watch the watchers. We should be calling for sunlight into the operation of governments at all levels. We should insist on knowing the sources of all the money flowing into elections and lawmaking. We should be able to see through corporate veils that hide malfeasance, too.
We can also try to outlaw some kinds of information gathering. Maybe that will work, but it’s more important to accept that privacy, in its old fashioned sense, is a horse that left the barn years ago. Wise up, rather than dwelling on protecting an individual's privacy -- secrets, again -- society's more important need is for openness where it counts most.
Truth is more important than privacy. Sunlight should be a big political issue of this election year, maybe the biggest. But it probably won't be, because the people financing political campaigns don't want it to be.
Single Bullet Theory?
Great name for a band.
-- 30 --
Thinking about the brouhaha over the baseball stadium issue sometimes brings to mind memories of particular games. Six years ago I covered the last time the Richmond Braves played at The Diamond. Here’s what I wrote for Richmond.com:
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
On a warm sunlit Labor Day afternoon, before a nearly packed house (12,167 officially), the Richmond Braves put on a crowd-pleasing display, soundly defeating the visiting Norfolk Tides by a score of 9-3.
After the second out of the ninth was recorded the fans came to their feet in anticipation of the final out. Braves pitcher Brad Nelson walked Brandon Fahey. Then leftfielder Scott Thorman lost a routine popup in the sun and there were two on base. The last putout was made by R-Braves centerfielder Carl Loadenthal, who caught a fly ball off the bat of Luis Terrero.
With that last putout, 42 years (43 seasons) of Braves baseball on the Boulevard ended. Basically, the team’s owner, the Atlanta Braves, decided it would rather its Triple A farm club play its home games in Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta.
A sign of the change was in the press box, as a reporter for the Gwinnett Daily Post, Guy Curtwright, was covering the game.
Leonard Alley, who was the official scorer for Braves games for 30 years (1977 to 2006) sat to my left. Alley’s familiar presence added to the sense of history that was in the air throughout the stadium. There were lots of reminders in the signage. Sitting to my right, Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Paul Woody recalled the last game played at Parker Field in 1984.
That night fans were allowed to grab souvenirs, because the grandstands were going to be demolished soon, anyway, to make way for what became the Diamond. Lots of people walked out of there carrying old wooden seats, signs and so forth, they had liberated. We laughed remembering the mood of that bizarre scene, which may have been somewhat wilder than the Braves management had imagined it would be.
After a few innings in the press box, I left to walk around the stadium to take in the sights from different angles. Behind home plate, next to the camera platform, a young woman wearing a No. 18 Ryan Klesko jersey walked by, which for one fan brought to mind the night at the Diamond 15 summers ago, when Klesko (who played for the R-Braves in 1992-93) won an extra-innings game with a home run.
"It was my birthday," said Jack Richardson.
Naturally, longtime fans were waxing nostalgic. Charlie Diradour said he’d been coming to Braves games since the late ‘60s. His favorite player, or moment?
"Seeing Chico Ruiz play baseball the way it’s supposed to be played," said Diradour, "at his age! That’s what Triple A baseball is all about. Players on their way up ... and, on their way down."
Ruiz was an extremely popular R-Brave who played here for what was most of his career (1973, 74, 76-84). While he wasn’t on hand for the occasion, several other popular former R-Braves were. Among them were: Ralph Garr (1969-70), David Justice (1988-90), Dale Murphy (1976-77), Tommy Greene (1988-90) and Johnny Grubb (1988). There were long lines to get their autographs.
There was a silent auction underway during the game. Autographed baseballs and jerseys drew bids from fans, with the proceeds going to Children’s Hospital. Murphy’s jersey beat Lopez’s $435 to $425.
After the game some of the former Braves players came onto the infield to unfurl a banner for the fans to see.
"Thanks for the memories," it said.
Many fans lingered as the shadows lengthened, clearly not wanting the day at the ballpark to end. Kids crowded up the fence just behind the Braves dugout, hoping to pick up souvenir bats or balls. A few of them were rewarded. Invited guests posed in groups on the field for pictures.
The Diamond’s giant sound system switched from its usual peppy pop music to "Auld Lang Syne."
The Governor’s Cup is the International League’s prize which goes to its champion. The R-Braves won it five times: 1978, 1986, 1989, 1994 and most recently in 2007.
Richmond’s two winners of the circuit’s Most Valuable Player award have been Tommie Aaron in 1967 and Brett Butler in 1981. Winners of the Rookie of the Year award were Dale Murphy in 1977, Glenn Hubbard in 1978, Brook Jacoby in 1982, Brad Komminsk in 1983 and Chipper Jones in 1993.
Winners of the Manager of the Year award were Eddie Haas in 1982 and ‘83; Grady Little won it in 1994.
How long the City of Richmond will go without a professional baseball team to call its own is anybody’s guess. At this point the regional cooperation it will take to make that happen seems out of the picture. Tomorrow the fiberglass Indian figure (a sculpture by Paul DiPasquale) that has peered over a concession stand roof for all of the Braves games at the Diamond will watch the franchise pack up its balls and bats, and fade into the sunset.
Richmond finished its final season on the Boulevard with a 63-78 record.
Note: Here's a short list of some of the standout players who have worn the uniform of the Richmond Braves: Tommy Aaron, Sandy Alomar, Steve Avery, Dusty Baker, Jim Beauchamp, Steve Bedrosian, Wilson Betemit, Jeff Blauser, Curt Blefary, Jim Breazeale, Tony Brizzolara, Brett Butler, Paul Byrd, Francisco Cabrera, Vinny Castilla, Bobby Cox, Mark DeRosa, Joey Devine, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Estrada, Darrell Evans, Ron Gant, Jesse Garcia, Ralph Garr, Marcus Giles, Tom Glavine, Tony Graffanino, Tommy Green, Johnny Grubb, Albert Hall, Wes Helms, Mike Hessman, Glenn Hubbard, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, David Justice, Ryan Klesko, Brad Komminsk, Javy Lopez, Adam LaRoche, Mark Lemke, Rick Mahler, Andy Marte, Kent Merker, Dale Murphy, Joe Niekro, Phil Niekro, Larry Owen, Gerald Perry, Chico Ruiz, Paul Runge, Harry Saferight, Jason Schmidt, Randall Simon, John Smoltz, Mark Wohlers, Brad Woodall, Tracy Woodson, Ned Yost and Paul Zuvella.
by James A. Bacon
Apple, Google and other collosi of Silicon Valley are re-shaping the world with their technology but you could never imagine them as masters of innovation by viewing their corporate campuses. While the office interiors may be arrayed with java bars and collaborative workplaces to stimulate creativity, the building exteriors are for the most part bland steel-and-glass boxes of a type that can be found anywhere in the United States. Moreover, surrounded by parking lots and landscaping, the buildings are isolated — islands in a sea of mulch and asphalt. Creativity and interaction end at the front door. The streets, sidewalks and other pieces of the public realm are innovation dead zones.
That was the impression I gained from the Bacon family’s whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley earlier this week that took in the corporate headquarters not only of Apple and Google but Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo! and LinkedIn. Perhaps we arrived at the wrong time of year, the wrong time of the week or the wrong hour of the day but we saw almost nothing going on. Most of the street-level activity at Apple was generated by tourist traffic to the Apple store. The environs of the famed Googleplex were even more desolate.
I was expecting bustling outdoor scenes like those shown in the movie, “The Internship,” in which Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn finagled their way into summer jobs at Google and into movie goers’ hearts. We didn’t see bupkis. I sneaked around the back of one of the buildings in the Googleplex and did discover an inviting patio with bright umbrellas but didn’t see anyone except a couple of maintenance guys standing around and shooting the breeze. As we drove around the Google corporate campus with its dozens of buildings, we did espy one multi-colored Google bike leaning against a wall and we did spot one fellow riding down the road, but we saw hardly anyone walking outside. Undoubtedly, billions of neurons were burning brightly inside Google’s buildings — but there was no sign of the company’s massive brainpower on display outside. It turns out that, according to CNN, much of the movie wasn’t filmed at Google at all — but the Georgia Institute of Technology campus in Atlanta!
Who cares whether the innovation occurs inside or outside? Why mess with a proven formula? More to the point, what does a techno-tard like me have useful to say to the likes of Apple and Google, two of the greatest wealth creation machines in human history?
I didn’t visit Silicon Valley with the idea of lecturing the region’s political, business and civic leaders how to improve, which would be incredibly presumptuous on my part. I visited to learn what lessons other communities might learn. Scores of regions around the United States yearn to re-create some of the valley’s technology magic, and I worry they could draw the wrong conclusions. The one dimension of Silicon Valley that others can most readily replicate is its “suburban sprawl” pattern of development — and that would be the worst possible lesson to take away.
I would humbly suggest that Silicon Valley has been insanely successful in spite of its dysfunctional human settlement patterns. Combine world-class research universities, the largest venture capital community in the world and an unparalleled workforce, then shake and stir. You’ll get technological innovation. Silicon Valley’s corporations can create a built environment that discourages interaction outside the firm and it doesn’t matter — the advantages of a Silicon Valley location far outweigh the drawbacks. But no one else has Silicon Valley’s potent mix of research universities, venture capitalists and the smartest engineers drawn from around the world. Other communities need every competitive advantage they can muster — and smarter land use patterns is one of them.
As Hans Johannson has argued in his book, “The Medici Effect,” innovation comes at the intersection — the intersection of different industries, disciplines, cultures or ways of thinking — that allow people to make unlikely combinations of ideas. Some places lend themselves to that kind of interaction, others don’t. Based on her experience living in Greenwich Village a generation ago, renowned urbanist Jane Jacobs brilliantly argued that sidewalks, small parks and mixed uses lent themselves to the kind of meetings and encounters, often serendipitous, where different perspectives and ideas can collide. To spawn entrepreneurship from the ground up, those are the kinds of neighborhoods and communities that aspiring tech centers should be creating.
The built environment of Silicon Valley is Northern Virginia with palm trees — predominantly single-family houses, strip malls and office parks. Thanks to municipal codes and NIMBYs, the region can increase density only sparingly, so it cannot grow “up” by building taller buildings. But wedged between the bay to the north and mountains to the south, it cannot grow “out” through additional sprawl. As a consequence, real estate prices are incredibly high. The cost of housing across the Valley and throughout the entire Bay area is consistently cited as one of the greatest hindrances to living there. The number of homeless in the San Jose metro region, according to the Wall Street Journal, numbers roughly 7,600. To adopt similar land use policies would suicidal for any other region.
Municipal leaders recognize these shortcomings and are attempting belatedly and with mixed results to deal with them. I will discuss two such initiatives in Sunnyvale, as time permits.
The nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project has posted first-quarter campaign finance reports filed by major party, leadership, and local committees.
This integrated data allows a number of sorts, including:
- Sorting a committee's donors by occupation
- Viewing a committee's donors by locality and ZIP code
- Seeing each contributor's complete donor history back to 1997
Common Good Virginia (Gov. Terry McAuliffe)
Dominion Leadership Trust (Del. Bill Howell)
Majority Leader PAC (Del. Kirk Cox)
Stronger Together (Lt. Governor Ralph Northam)
Commonwealth Victory Fund
Democratic Party of Virginia
House Democratic Caucus
Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus
Republican Party of Virginia
House Republican Campaign Committee
Virginia Senate Republican Caucus
VPAP has also posted first-quarter campaign finance reports filed by candidates running in local elections in nine cities.
May 6 City Council/Mayoral Elections
The next filing deadline for these candidates is April 28 and will cover activity between April 1 and April 25.
November 4 City Council/Mayoral Elections
The next filing deadline for these candidates is July 15 and will cover activity between April 1 and June 30.
In 2009 I covered the baseball stadium debate for Richmond.com. What I wrote in the way of analysis made no secret of my skepticism about the merits of the $783 million Highwoods Properties development plan, which included what it called Shockoe Center.
Five years ago I saw building a baseball in Shockoe Bottom as another build-it-and-they-will-come folly in the making. When the Highwoods plan was withdrawn from consideration that summer I was delighted. Thus, my opposition to building a baseball in the Bottom is nothing new. So much for disclosure.
Five months ago, when Mayor Dwight Jones' announcement revived the twice-killed idea of dropping a baseball stadium into that same neighborhood, it was disappointing. Although Jones once favored keeping professional baseball on the Boulevard, I won't try to explain his squirrelly change of mind.
However, my own thinking about the issue has evolved in the opposite direction. Since the critical and box office success of the Oscar-winning film, “12 Years a Slave” (2013), Richmond's slave jail history leading up to the Civil War has become more interesting to a lot of people, here and elsewhere. No doubt, there are folks at City Hall who wish that movie’s release could have been delayed a year or two.
Having grown up in Richmond, I’d like to better understand the slave market business that once thrived in this city. Accordingly, I’d also like to learn more about how that aspect of local history was rather effectively covered up for so long. Regarding the institution of slavery, it's time to shine a new light on how our history books were cooked, back in the day. A fresh look needs to be taken at how the truth was systematically processed into palatable lies -- denial.
For instance, in 1961 my seventh-grade history book, which was used in all of Virginia's public schools, had this to say at the end of Chapter 29:
Life among the Negroes of Virginia in slavery times was generally happy. The Negroes went about in a cheerful manner making a living for themselves and for those whom they worked. They were not so unhappy as some Northerners thought they were, nor were they so happy as some Southerners claimed. The Negroes had their problems and their troubles. But they were not worried by the furious arguments going on between Northerners and Southerners over what should be done with them. In fact, they paid little attention to those arguments.In 2014, to think building a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom will really facilitate the scholarly investigation of that neighborhood’s history and archeology is just more denial.Please do put me on the growing list of those who believe a world-class slavery museum in Shockoe Bottom, sans ballpark, will draw tourists from all over the world. Still, I don’t quarrel with those who oppose baseball in the Bottom for other reasons. Richmond residents who oppose building a new stadium anywhere, saying that with schoolhouse roofs caving in taxpayers ought not to spend another nickel on spectator sports, have a good point. Those who assert that a lot of Flying Squirrels fans aren't likely to go to the Bottom for games probably know more about local baseball fans than the mayor does.
So now I've become a member of an ad hoc group which advocates letting the voters weigh in. Although the Citizens Referendum Group has to collect a whopping 9,800 signatures on its referendum petitions, advocates for building Shockoe Stadium who stand opposed to our petition drive have a tough job on their hands, too. They have to convince voters that too much democracy can be a bad thing.
My personal reason for having taken up this cause stems, in part, from being asked to write a story about a benefit show in December for STYLE Weekly. Click here to read my review of the “Billy Ray Hatley Tribute Concert at the National.” After spending the afternoon backstage, watching the musicians and stage hands put the complicated show together, and then being there for the show to feel the vibe from the connection between those on stage and in the audience, I was knocked out.
The common desire to celebrate Hatley’s contributions as a musician/songwriter and to help out his family was uplifting. Filled with admiration for the effort it took to put that show together, I decided to act on something that I had been fretting about for months.
As a co-founder of the Facebook group Referendum? Bring It On!, my pump had been primed by the discussions that followed the failed referendum attempt last summer by Charles Samuels, the Second District's representative on City Council. When I saw the slickLoving/RVA public relations campaign come out, I realized that without a hard pushback from propaganda-savvy people, the developers would win this time around.
After so many years of watching the parade go by and making my wisecracks as a commentator, I decided to cross the line and become an activist. For a worthy cause, I decided to take on the rather frustrating job of helping to assemble a group of people to put a referendum on the ballot.
A meeting was held later in December at Gallery 5. The concept continued to take form with posts by several people on the Facebook page. In February Reva Trammell called for a referendum at a Council meeting. Then Don Harrison asked me to appear on WRIR’s Open Source show to talk about a referendum. Paul Goldman called with an offer to write the language for a referendum and the suggestion of a meeting to discuss the project. Subsequently, there was a series of meetings at the Main Library during March.
At the third meeting Goldman handed out court-approved petition forms with two propositions on them. Members of the group left the confab determined to get the job done. As April began the CRG’s website went live. After a decade of hearing from boosters and experts and politicians, we are working to let the people speak. Join us, if you like.
Now, I'll close with two questions: Who’s against democracy and why?
Last month, March 18, a few days after Virginia Beach’s GOP Mass Meeting, the city of Richmond chose to “slate” its 55 delegate votes to the Republican Party of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District Convention in favor of the challenger Reid Nicholson of Hampton to incumbent RPV 3CD Chairman Chris Stearns of Portsmouth.
Among a spartan crowd in attendance, sixteen properly prefiled delegates for Stearns were told “Thanks, but no thanks” for their participation.
“As Chairman of the 3rd, I wish I could’ve done more to prevent the removal of party activists at the Richmond Republican Mass Meeting last night,” wrote Stearns on Facebook at the time. “That being said, my fellow libertarians really need to get a clue – you can always complain about the Republican Party or how bad the direction in which our nation is headed, but you can’t do anything about your grievances if you don’t show up.”
Truer words never spoken.
But the fight over the meeting isn’t over yet.
A group of anti-slating supporters has officially contested the results of the meeting over irregularities regarding verification of voting credentials and improper recognition of proper and outcome-determinative motions.
It would appear they have a good case.
What those contesting the results of the meeting are asking for is either a “do over” or more appropriately, just “elect” the sixteen properly prefiled delegates to the 3rd District Convention.
The right thing to do is seat the delegates. After all, Slating is Evil.
J.R. Hoeft is the founder of BearingDrift.com.
Here are large donations that PACs recently reported to the State Board of Elections:
Communication Workers of America - Virginia
- $10,000 from Communication Workers of America
Democratic Party of Virginia
- $10,000 from Virginia House Democratic Caucus
House Republican Campaign Committee
- $15,000 from Verizon
Virginia Senate Republican Caucus
- $15,000 from Williams Mullen
State law requires non-candidate political committees to report any single donation of $10,000 or more within three business days.
Here are large donations that PACs recently reported to the State Board of Elections:
Common Good Virginia
- $25,000 from WalMart Stores, Inc.
Commonwealth Victory Fund
- $15,000 from Williams Mullen
House Republican Campaign Committee
- $20,000 from Williams Mullen
State law requires non-candidate political committees to report any single donation of $10,000 or more within three business days.
Paperwork is one of life’s banes and I have great sympathy for those who decide to file government paperwork only when it’s absolutely required and not a moment before it is due.
But it still has to be filed. And for some of Virginia’s congressional candidates, getting the forms in seems to have been a challenge.
Consider Virginia’s 10 congressional district race and a niggling personal financial disclosure form that all candidates are required to file with the Clerk of the House of Representatives…
No filings for Bob Marshall, Rob Wasinger or Marc Savitt. The filings were due March 27th.
And on the Democratic side, John Foust asked for, and received, two extensions on his report. He finally got around to it.
Or let’s consider the 7th district race — the one that has caused so much consternation among some. Eric Cantor has filed his paperwork. Prof. David Brat asked for and received a 60 day extension. His report was due April 14. It has yet to be filed.
It’s a small thing and again, I detest meddling, invasive, government forms as much as the next guy. But if one is going to demand accountability from one’s opponents, a small thing like this matters.
Or at least it does as a matter of law.
Howie Lind is out with another attack ad, slamming Barbara Comstock for no apparent reason. While the ad is generally nonsense, there was one thing that jumped out at me when I saw it (other than the fact that Craig Orndorff seems to be the only person under 70 that Howie knows) – this building in the final shot.
I consider myself a fan of old architecture and I’m intrigued by this building – and also because it doesn’t look like anything I’m familiar with in DC, Maryland or Virginia. Some folks have suggested it might be the Naval Academy, but it doesn’t look like any buildings on the Academy’s grounds. It also doesn’t look like most of the State Capitol buildings on the East Coast.
Can you name this building?
And, more importantly, can anybody figure out why Howie took a picture in front of it instead of somewhere instantly recognizable, like the U.S. Capitol?
So what's the problem? Only 14% of the town recycles and many households still use those iconic, tiny blue bins. As Ariel Wittenberg reports, now Fairhaven is looking to invest in bigger recycling bins to encourage bigger savings:
Department of Public Works Superintendent Vincent Furtado said that his office recently came to an agreement with ABC Disposal to start using larger trash and recycling carts, much like those now being used in New Bedford.Yes, recycling conserves precious resources like wood, metal, oil (plastic is made from petroleum), energy and water. Yes, recycling conserves space in our increasingly-crowded (and sometimes dangerous) landfills.
Residents will be able to throw any recyclables, be they paper, plastic or something else, into the carts, which hold 96 gallons. The recycling carts are a third bigger than the 64-gallon trash carts, something Furtado said is meant to encourage more recycling in town.
"We will only pick up what fits in those containers," Furtado said. "The hope is that will make people think about what they put in each of them." [...]
"What's the difference between throwing a milk carton in one container or the other? Well, in one it costs the town money and in the other it won't," he said. "When the town saves money, the taxpayers save money."
But even if you're some selfish jerk who doesn't care about any of that, recycle because it saves you money.
By Robert Warren
President Obama has said that he has a pen and he has a phone, and he will push his agenda with or without Congress. He has also said that he can do what he wants. So far, so true. However, every Congressman and congresswoman has a pen and a phone, and maybe they ought to actually think about using them to do what the American people want and what the Constitution requires.
With executive order after executive order, Obama has violated the rule of constitutional law. He has unconstitutionally rewritten the Affordable Care Act and most recently the minimum wage acts. His Attorney General has refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and advised the Attorneys General of the fifty States to cease and desist any defense – this before a judicial conclusion has been rendered. Without question, the Obama administration has used various federal agencies to attack opposing groups and even specific individuals.
I suggest that these abusive executive orders and blatantly unconstitutional actions be met by the House of Representatives with “legislative orders” that are intended to restore constitutional balances and the rule of law.
Let’s take a few areas where the House of Representatives might act within their discretion and possibly push that discretion a bit:
Obama has issued nearly 40 executive orders to change Obamacare and to create political advantages for the upcoming elections. None of these executive orders stem from or have the benefit of legislation. The House could request a stay of all current and proposed executive orders associated with Obamacare until the Supreme Court has had an opportunity to address the constitutionality of these orders. It is now clear and unequivocal that the administration’s lies about healthcare costs, accessibility of insurance, impact on the medical profession and direct damage to the lives of individuals have created a complex legal problem and completely destabilized a huge portion of the public and private sector.
The power to make war is vested with the Congress, and this was intentional to make sure the people’s representatives had a say in the commitment to war. Obama has and continues to pursue military misadventures all over the globe, and the Benghazi debacle among others has been the result. The vacillation and lack of coherent policy has led to adventurism by both the Russians and Chinese and caused great consternation among our allies. Now the Secretary of Defense is proposing truly draconian cuts to the defense budget. Since the Congress has the war making powers, they could use them in constitutional and unconventional ways to insure proper advice and consent, and appropriate funding of the military in an increasingly dangerous world.
The IRS scandal is particularly vexing. It is obvious that this agency of government has been used by elements of the Obama administration to undermine and damage anyone considered an enemy of the administration. Virtually hundreds of Tea Party organizations have been abused, and this abuse has reached down to the level of specific individuals. I cite Dinesh D’Souza among others.
On the other side of the IRS scandal, the Obama administration has effectively blunted the House investigations into the IRS actions. Lois Lerner, a key to unlocking the IRS scandal, has so far refused to testify before the Congress. If the executive branch of the government can create abuses using the IRS, then shouldn’t Congress place Lois Lerner in custody as a potential enemy combatant (Patriot Act) or member of a criminal organization (RICO) or because she is obviously in contempt of Congress?
The Congressional approval levels are phenomenally low. The liberal media, of course, blames the Republicans for being contentious. My take on the low polling numbers are: the Democrats dislike the make-up of the House, and Republicans not only dislike the make-up of the Senate but also dislike the complete lack of action and the very obvious wait until November’s election strategy. What concerns me is would anything change even if Republicans took the Senate and increased their majority in the House? Would Obama, having a veto pen and already willing to ignore the Constitution, actually change his behavior? Frankly, I doubt it.
This leaves me with the conclusion that the best answer is to fight fire with fire. If Obama wants to use executive orders then let’s have our Congressional representatives use legislative orders. If he wants to use his pen and phone, then let our Congressional representative use their pens and phones. Passivity in the face of unconstitutional behavior is a bad idea and possibly worse, a tyrannical idea.
Thomas Jefferson uttered some rather compelling words, “When
government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” It is time to put fear where it belongs.
Dr. Robert A. Warren is the founder and past president of the Colonial Area Republican Men’s Association (CARMA). The group’s blog can be found here.
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I love this precedent! Wonder if it will stand up in court? I have my doubts. I think General Mills has had one too many bowls of Cocoa Puffs.
Perhaps we’ll just keep our policy as is after all.