It's been weeks since the Boston Marathon bombing and no one in Congress is seriously proposing doing any further damage to the Bill of Rights.
Frankly, I'm shocked.
Apparently we've made a little progress in the dozen years since 9/11.
Oh, sure there are already "Boston Truthers," who are even more demented than the "9/11 Truthers" or the "Birthers," but really they are just a reflexive response by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party to try to blame everything on Barrack Obama. And even some of the president's usual critics aren't buying the "government plot" version of Boston. Since we've got the two guys who did it on video and we killed one and captured the other, there's not really fertile ground for a conspiracy theory go grow in.
Unless you really are ready for a tin-foil hat.
Not that some haven't tried.
Former Rep. Ron Paul, and unsuccessful candidate for presidential candidate as both a Libertarian and a Republican tried to sound the "tyranny of government" trumpet, deriding what he said was the "military occupation" of an American city in the search for the bombers.
He apparently missed the television footage of Boston and Watertown residents standing in the streets to give the police a rousing ovation for doing what public safety workers are supposed to do -- keep the public safe during an emergency. They looked more like citizens proud of their country, their state and their hometown than victims of tyranny, but maybe that's just me.
But the remarkable things to me is that Congress did not rush back into session, to enact national "stop and frisk" laws or to pass a law repealing the Miranda decision or to ban pressure cookers.
Unlike the era after 9/11 when the Bush Administration and Congress competed to see who could do the most damage to the Bill of Rights.
I think that didn't happen this time because we learned something from 9/11.
None of the emergency security measures we passed made us any more secure, while they made us less free.
While the privacy, dignity and rights of Americans have been violated for so long now at our airports by TSA that we've almost gotten used to it, it's important to remember that the mall cops who want to cavity search grandma and use their super cameras to look under our clothes have never stopped a terrorist. Both the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber were stopped by alert passengers.
We've learned that, as Ben Franklin warned us, trading freedom for security would leave us with neither.
I think that's why there hasn't been another wave of public bed-wetting in the wake of the first successful large-scale terrorists attack here since 9/11. There's a realization that trading freedom for safety only leaves us less free and no more safe.
Only took us a decade to learn what Dr. Franklin knew almost 250 years ago.
Monday, May 6, 2013
It's been weeks since the Boston Marathon bombing and no one in Congress is seriously proposing doing any further damage to the Bill of Rights.
Posted by Virginia Pundit at 12:02 PM
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I thought I was on the pro-gun side of the ongoing argument over gun control.
I grew up in a house where we hunted and fished and their were always long guns and pistols in the house. I don't have the knee-jerk anti-gun reaction that spurs some of my friends on the left anytime a gun makes the news.
At the same time, I've thought some of the people on "my side" of the argument presented ridiculous arguments that made anyone willing to say publicly that they believed the 2nd Amendment gave individual Americans the right to keep and bear arms vaguely ridiculous by association.
The first of those is that more guns equates to fewer gun homicides. That's contrary to the evidence and to common sense and no one really believes it, even the people who make the argument.
Look, here are the facts, our liberty to keep and bear arms comes with a cost, just like all our other liberties. Some of our civil rights mean that guilty criminals will go free, that hateful speech will at times dominate the national chat room and that zealous believers in ancient superstitions will try to contaminate our science and history text books with fairy tales and arrant nonsense.
In the case of our right to bear arms, the cost is that a number of people who would otherwise remain alive will be killed. We've measured that cost and found it worthwhile. Just as we measure the costs of additional traffic fatalities and find that we can justify the number of people who have to die for us to have speed limits in excess of 25 miles-per-hour (Everywhere, except Williamsburg of course).
The other argument that makes me ashamed to be on the pro-gun side is that our Founding Fathers approved the 2nd Amendment so that we would have the option of rebelling and overthrowing our government.
It's a silly argument. First, the Founding Fathers feared nothing more than "the mob." They'd just spend a lot of time setting up a government that avoided empowering the mob. To think they then inserted a provision to allow that government to more easily be overthrown is to cast the Founding Fathers as Founding Fools.
In fact, they inserted the right to bear arms into the Bill of Rights in the context of the need for a strong militia. To uphold the state, not to overthrow it. Our current militia is the National Guard. Does anyone think there's any chance of the Virginia National Guard overthrowing the Commonwealth's government? No, of course not, it's lunacy. So, by the way, is the idea that a few gun nuts and their AR-15 is going to pose much of a threat to the U,S. Armed Forces. As far as I know not even the most rabid gun proponent is arguing for a tank in every garage and ICBM in every back yard. Get out of your "Red Dawn" fantasy life and come back to reality.
So what of the proposals made by the anti-gun side?
First, let's identify what concerns they are seeking to address. Nobody is trying to ban handguns held for personal protection or rifles and shotguns used for hunting.
The concern is to try to minimize the damage a nut can do when he starts firing at random people in a public setting. Those are what the cases that have brought gun control to the center of the public consciousnesses now are about.
One proposal was to ban the military-style assault rifle that seems to be the weapon of choice for these suicidal sociopaths.
I'm against that. Because it doesn't really do anything. The assault rifle ban would outlaw weapons that are functionally the same as weapons that still remain legal, based entirely on what they look like. It doesn't do anything. I gives the illusion that we've done something and make everyone feel better.
The same is true of a proposal to limit magazine sizes. If you limit the magazine from 30 rounds to 10, it just means the shooter has to change magazines a couple of time, costing him mere seconds. It doesn't really have an affect, except to lull those who've become worried by the recent rash of public shootings back into complacency.
So, although I initially thought it worthwhile, I decided that magazine restriction didn't bear supporting either.
That left the one proposal that -- before the pro-gun movement jumped the shark -- everyone seemed to agree on, universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill. Everybody, from the greediest gun-grabber to the looniest firearm fetishist, seemed to agree on that.
And we know it works. We've had instant background checks in Virginia for more than 20 years. In that time they have kept thousands of guns out of the hands of felons and whackjobs. That's easy to overlook because the guys who are denied a gun don't make any public impact. And, all to often, guys who slip though the cracks, like the Virginia Tech shooter, become the central figures in yet another nightly news nightmare.
The fact that the system isn't perfect doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Our criminal justice system isn't perfect either. We don't throw up our hands and throw open the prison doors.
Background checks do nothing to limit the rights of "law-abiding American citizens" to own and bear firearms.
But now the pro-gun movement has decided that even background checks are an "infringement" of the right to bear arms. Because that's apparently the only absolute right in the Bill of Rights.
The are fighting against the very idea of taking a vote on background checks.
Well, this is my stop. This is where I get off. I can't agree with that and I don't think much of reasonable America can either. This is the moment when the pro-gun movement has tied its fate to its most radical proponents and decided it doesn't care what mainstream America thinks.
And so, this is probably the high tide of the pro-gun movement.
And I only ask that my former allies do us one favor. If you can't agree to reasonable background checks that would keep guns out of the wrong hand, just dispense with the talking point that you care whose hands they end up in and admit that the net affect of your lobbying makes us less safe.
And please, in the name of everything decent, just stop the sham and pretense that you give a damn about the victims of random shootings and their families. You should be ashamed to speak their names, which should lay like ashes on your tongues. Because by your actions you are guaranteeing that there will be many, many more just like them.
Posted by Virginia Pundit at 12:30 PM
Monday, April 1, 2013
Okay, so their slogan is "It's not TV, it's HBO."
The title of this post, cribbed from what someone once said should be the slogan for Duke's mayonnaise, with an expletive deleted, would be just as fitting.
How much HBO has changed the rest of television came to me again last night, as I was watching the "Game of Thrones" season premier.
Younger readers, those who don't remember what it was like before cable, might not understand HBO's importance.
Before cable, children, we had the three network affiliates and PBS. And usually the reception on the PBS channel was horrible.
After cable, we had a couple of dozen stations at first.
But, with the exception of sports on ESPN, music videos on MTV, baseball on TBS and WGN and wrestling on TBS and USA, almost everything on cable was stuff you'd already seen on the three networks.
Most of basic cable channels' programming was syndicated reruns of old situation comedies and cop shows.
It was once possible to watch television 24-hours a day and see nothing by "MASH" reruns. While it might still be possible to do the same thing with the various "Law & Order" franchises, basic cable has much more programming now. Old reruns are pretty much contained on TVLand and couple of similar channels.
HBO was the catalyst for the change, showing other cable channels how rewarding original programming could be. And, in the process, upgrading the quality of television.
That wasn't the original idea. Home Box Office was supposed to be the channel that brought you major moves and sporting events, like championship fights, for a premium.
However, as cable evolved, studios and promoters realized that they could make more money by putting their product on pay-per-view than by selling it to HBO.
That left HBO with time to fill.
And boy did they fill it.
Starting with "Sex And The City" and "The Sopranos," HBO rolled out a series of critically-acclaimed shows and turned Sunday into "must see TV" night. (NBC had the original "must see' night on Thursday with four sitcom, most prominently "The Cosby Show" and "Cheers" leading into a blockbuster drama -- first "Hill Street Blues," then "L.A. Law" and finally "E.R." ).
Following "The Sopranos" success came, in no particular order, "Six Feet Under," "Big Love," "Atlantic City," "True Blood" and ""Game of Thrones.'
Even the failures, "Deadwood" -- which I liked, and which certainly holds the record for the television show with the filthiest language -- and Carnivale, which was cancelled just as I was beginning to figure out what was going on, interesting.
HBO hasn't done as well with comedies, with only "Entourage" standing out. I suppose "Curb Your Enthusiasm" could be considered a success, it's been on a long time. But to me Larry David is like Jim Carey and Adam Sandler, I can't stand him so I change the channel as soon as I see him, So I've seen maybe three minutes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in all the years it's been on.
Once HBO had some success with original programing, other cable channels followed.
Showtime, once HBO's rival for movies and sports, became perhaps its biggest rival in original programming, with its best shows also premiering on Sunday nights from "The L Word" to "Dexter" to "Weeds."
Then, even basic cable channels began to get into the act, USA network has had a number of original shows the best of which are probably "Burn Notice" and "Suits." FX came out with "Sons of Anarchy" The most praised cable show of the last five years, "Mad Men," is on AMC, a channel originally intended to air old movies.
At this point, we've reached the best -- and the worst -- of all possible television worlds. While there are so many excellent shows on television right now there really isn't time to watch them all -- even with "On Demand" and DVRs -- there's also worse garbage than ever as well. Network television has fallen into a terrible rut of cop shoes, standard sitcoms and reality dreck. (To be fair, cable has its share of bad reality shows too. Bravo, for example is responsible for the whole "Real Housewives of..(fill in the blank)" genre and MTV brought us "Jersey Shore.").
One thing I'm not sure I do like is that cable has redefined a television season as 13 or 14 episodes. Network seasons used to be about 25 episodes long. So you got half a year of new shows, then a round of reruns and maybe a summer replacement show. Now, there's a pretty long wait for your favorites to come back on. You really need that "Previously on...." segment to catch back up to where you were.
"Mad Men" is scheduled to return next week, and for the life of me I can't remember what was going on when the last season ended and it usually skips a year between seasons.
Posted by Virginia Pundit at 11:26 AM
Monday, March 25, 2013
Look, I get it.
I grew up in Richmond. I know we're all required to run to the grocery store and buy up all the bread, milk and toilet paper at the first mention of the word "snow."
Since I have a lot of teacher friends, I even know that some of us begin gleefully planning for snow days in advance. Or so I read on Facebook.
Just as an aside -- any significant snowfall in Virginia means that a couple of people who would otherwise be alive will be killed in traffic accidents and it's likely that thousands will lose power for a period ranging from 30 minutes to a week.
(My wife would tell you that the power issue is most critical. Because I become a particularly bad- tempered troll when the power is out.)
Some people's jobs get tougher when it snows. Mine does, but I'm really think of VDOT workers, police and fire department personnel and folks who work for the electric company. I guess my job has taken a new level of getting worse when it snows now that we are supposed to post video to our website. I guess I'll have to go out and stand in the snow so people will believe me that it's snowing, the way television reporters do.
Seems like an awful high price for people who already get two months a year off to get an extra vacation day.
But I digress, my topic wasn't the childish fascination that teachers have for snow. No, what I can here to talk about today was driving. And how people in Virginia can't do it if it snows.
I understand that it's unfamiliar. It doesn't snow here a lot. But it's really simple to improve safety on our roads during bad weather.
First don't drive if you don't have to.
But if you have to, try to refrain from two really bad habits that Virginia drivers have in all seasons, but which are particularly dangerous in the snow.
First, stop following people so closely. The difference between allowing correct spacing between your car and the vehicle in front of you and running 10 feet off that guy's bumper -- no matter what the speed limit -- has little impact on your time of arrival at your destination. It can be measured in seconds. However the time you'll lose if that guy should have to slam on his brakes - of if he does so without reason, see below -- could be much longer. It might be measured in eternity.
In the snow this is even more important. The two times you are most likely to have traction problems in the snow are when you are accelerating and when you are braking. So you should do both gradually.
And that means increasing following distance. Ideally, in situations where the road surface may be slippery, you should leave enough space that if that driver were to totally lose it and wreck, you could take you foot off the accelerator and coast to a stop short of that vehicle. Other drivers sometime won't let you get that much space, they'll cut in front of you which means they are following the vehicle that was in front of them too closely and you're now following them to closely.
Do your best and if you do have to brake, do it gradually.
Which brings us to the next bad habit -- don't ride the brake.
There's a pedal on the floor of your car that is used to control your speed. It's called the accelerator. If you want to go faster you press down, it you want to slow down you put less pressure.
There's another pedal on the floor board. That's the brake. The purpose of the brake pedal is to stop
your car or to reduce speed very quickly in an emergency.
On the interstate, unless something very wrong is going on in front of you, you should not have your foot on the brake pedal.
People in Virginia love the brake for some reason. I've seen people applying their brakes on I-64 when there wasn't another car between them and the horizon. This is one of those things that I don't understand -- like the reverence for the loser generals on Monument Avenue or the popularity of NASCAR -- despite having lived here most of my life.
I often wonder why those drivers are braking. Some, I think, are doing it bring their car out of cruise control. You can accomplish the same thing by flipping the cruise control switch on and off without hitting the brakes.
Because when you hit the brakes that affects everybody behind you.
My Dad, who had a world of good advice that I usually didn't listen to, once gave me a driving tip that should be a required part of every Driver's Ed class in America.
"If you are the cause of another driver having to use his brakes," Dad said. "That's poor diving on your part."
When roads are bad that's all the more reason to keep your foot off the brake, braking is one of things most likely to cause a skid. If you're maintaining proper distance, you shouldn't need to brake.
The one factor during bad weather that you don't have much control over is other drivers. I've been in two accidents in winter weather, in both of which I stopped short of a wreck in front of me and the driver behind me slid into my car.
There's not much that you can do about that. But the less you apply your brakes, the less the guy behind you will think that he needs to apply his.
The less either of you touch the brake pedal the safer you and everybody else will be.
Posted by Virginia Pundit at 11:44 AM
Thursday, May 3, 2012
The three incumbents running for Williamsburg City Council were all re-elected Tuesday, despite the fact that next Thursday they will almost certainly approve a budget that increases taxes, possibly multiple taxes.
When City Manager Jack Tuttle proposed a budget two months ago that included increases in the real estate tax rate, personal property tax rate, cigarette tax and in EMS fees, I wrote that he'd "thrown the three incumbents up for re-election a live hand grenade."
When it became apparent that only one challenger would run, with three seats up for grabs, there seemed to be a good chance that Mayor Clyde Haulman, Vice Mayor Paul Freiling and City Councilwoman Judy Knudson would end up in a game of hot potato with that grenade, with whoever got caught holding it getting an unpleasant surprise.
Challenger Ginger Crapse, though in her own words "a rank amateur" as a politician, latched on to the tax increase issue with laser-like focus and showed message discipline worthy of Jim "No Car Tax" Gilmore or George "Liberal, Lenient, Parole System" Allen.
Crapse even got some odd "good luck" on the campaign's final weekend. She was out campaigning door to door when she saw a house on fire and ran into it to alert the residents. While Crapse may have dramatized her role in the incident a little -- some published reports had her "kicking in the door," which didn't happen, and the residents said they already knew there was a fire -- the fact remains that Crapse saw a burning building and ran into it to try to help people. She ran to the sound of the guns. A lot of people would not have done that.
But neither anti-tax fervor nor firefighting helped Crapse much on Election Day. In a very low turnout election, she finished nearly 300 votes behind Knudson, 400 behind Haulman and Freiling.
And it wasn't really a surprise.
As the campaign played out, two things were obvious -- that Williamsburg didn't care too much about this election and that Crapse had failed to spark a tax revolt.
The lack of enthusiasm for the election was likely because for the first time in five election cycles there was no candidate from the College of William & Mary. The presence of student candidates had boosted participation in Council elections by students (who wanted to elect one of their own) and by townies (who, by and large, wanted to prevent that from happening). When then-student Scott Foster broke through in 2010, leading the ticket and amassing more votes for Council than anyone has in the last ten years, the urgency went out of that effort.
So turnout dropped to under 15%. That could have helped Crapse. But it ended up making no difference.
Why didn't her anti-tax message resonate more with Williamsburg voters?
Some of the reasons are peculiar to Williamsburg. The city has a very low 54 cents per $100 real estate tax rate. It's lower than either of the adjacent counties. That may be a situation that's unique in Virginia. The reason Williamsburg has such a low rate is that it relies much less on the real estate tax to fund government than other Virginia localities. For years, tourism-related taxes, principally the hotel room tax and the meals tax, have provided more than half of the city's budget. That percentage has fallen some during the Great Recession, but Williamsburg still depends less on the real estate tax than most localities.
A second uniquely Williamsburg factor is that city voters are spoiled. For their Yugo level of real estate taxes they've enjoyed a Cadillac level of government services over the years, with tourists footing the bill. They don't want to lose those services.
As an example, in most localities in Virginia, and probably in most in the United States, garbage pickup is once a week. You pay a fee for it and you have to pull your can out to the street. Until two years ago, Williamsburg had two garbage pickups a week, for no fee and the garbage men would go around to the side or the back of your house to get the trash and then take the empty cans back.
When the city cut back to one pickup a week two years ago, still with no fee and still without requiring residents to pull the cans to the street, many residents reacted as if the world would end. It didn't and the city saved about $800,000.
So, I think it's fair to note that Williamsburg voters are more predisposed to favor increased taxes to reduced services than most across the state.
Still there are some lessons from Williamsburg that could be applicable to other local government or even the state when tax increases are needed. And, yes, sometimes they are needed.
1. Don't make a tax increase the first option - It certainly wasn't in Williamsburg, which last raised taxes more than 20 years ago. City Council has cut the budget in four of the past five years to deal with the recession. They've cut services. They've cut personnel. They've cut back on employee benefits. As a result the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, even with the tax increase, is smaller than the FY 2009 budget.
2. Explain why it's necessary -- In Williamsburg a tax increase was needed because the city got hit with a perfect storm of forced expenditures and reduced revenues at the same time. State-mandated increases in VRS contributions from city employees and for school teachers hit the same year that the city's percentage of children in the Williamsburg-James City County school system went up for the first time in 20 years, likely because the recession left some folks who would have bought houses in one of the counties renting in the city. The city's costs for employee healthcare were also up. In addition the city's real estate revenues were off because of reduced assessments. And the room, sales and meals taxes, while recovering, have yet to regain pre-recession levels. The end result was a hole in the budget of about $900,000, which the tax increases and further cuts in expenditures would fill.
3. If you have to raise taxes make it as little as possible - Taking a page out of the General Assembly's book, the current Council asked Tuttle and Finance Director Phil Serra to come back with more optimistic projections for room and meals tax revenue, which would cut about $300,000 out of the hole to be filled. That's possible because, as Crapse rightly noted in the campaign, for years Tuttle and Serra have lowballed those revenue estimates. That's a conservative form of budgeting that has led to the city generally outperforming the budget and guaranteed that any end-of-the-fiscal-year surprises were good ones. Council may yet regret this decision.
4. All taxes are not created equal - The proposed budget include a 3-cent increases in the real estate tax, a 50-cent hike in the personal property tax and a nickel increase in the current 25-cents per pack city cigarette tax. To the extent that any organized opposition has been raised to the increases, the jumps on the personal property tax and the cigarette tax have been most strongly opposed. Businesses in the city feel that the personal property tax hike hits them disproportionately because they pay the tax on more categories of property than private citizens. Freiling, at least, has publicly agreed with this and might favor a larger real estate increase and smaller personal property tax increase. One city convenience store has said the cigarette tax already put them at a competitive disadvantage to stores in the counties, which can't levy such a tax. They fear an increase would put them at a bigger disadvantage. As a smoker who spends a lot of time in the area, I'd be surprised if people are price shopping for cigarettes. Especially since it's almost impossible to remember exactly where the city stops and the counties start. Look at Williamsburg on a map some time; it's shaped like an amoeba.
5. Play your cards close to the vest - Although all three incumbents made it clear they "weren't necessarily opposed to a tax increase," none of them exactly jumped out in front and led the parade for it. Haulman at one point said, "This isn't our budget, it's the city manager's budget." All three said it was "too early to tell" about the tax increase because of lingering uncertainty about the state budget and the school system's budget. Freiling probably came the closest to advocating the tax increase when he said the hole in the budget was so large that he couldn't see how the city could fill it "without some increases in revenue."
The bottom line was that the three incumbents knew the election was on May 1 and they didn't have to go on the record voting for a tax increase until May 10.
Monday, January 9, 2012
With the opening of the Virginia General Assembly upon us in two days and with chaos threatening to reign in the Senate, is there a quasi-power sharing agreement that would satisfy by both sides and avoid a lot of aggravation?
There very well might be.
Democrats are claiming that Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling can't vote on organizing the Senate. Republicans claim that vote gives them the majority. Ironically, the two parties are taking the opposite positions that they took the last time the Senate was deadlocked 20-20, in 1996. At that time the lieutenant governor was a Democrat, Don Beyer.
A judge refused to grant an injunction against Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote because the issue was not "ripe," since he hadn't yet done so. The lawsuit filed by Democratic Caucus Chairman Sen. Donald McEachin is still in front of the court. If, really when, Bolling casts his tie-breaking vote, the Democrats could go back to court. Of course, that would require them to walk off the floor, denying a quorum in the Senate until the issue could be resolved. And that's complicated by the fact that Bolling, like the governor or a member of the legislature can't be compelled to answer to a civil suit during the General Assembly session.
So chaos could ensue.
But it's not necessary. Because there could be a deal that gives both sides part of what they want.
Bolling put out a well-reasoned memo dealing with what issues he believes he can cast a tie-breaking vote on and which he cannot. He believes that he can vote on organization, but not on issuing debt, constitutional amendments or final passage of the state budget. I think his analysis is right.
Which could cause problems for Republicans, as well as Democrats. They now need consensus with Democrats on the budget and they are unlikely to get it if Democrats feel that Republicans are trying to grab power they didn't win at the polls.
But there would seem to be a deal out there.
In recognition of their victory at the polls and Bolling's tie-breaking vote, Republicans would be recognized as the majority and control the floor. Sen. Tommy Norment would be the Majority Leader and Republicans would chair every committee.
But, reflecting what each side earned in November, instead of the 10-6 majorities Norment has talked about on committees, each side would have an equal number of seats on committees. This would allow Democrats to kill some bad social issues bills coming over from the House in committee, which probably wouldn't really make Norment, Bolling or Gov. Bob McDonnell -- who could avoid having to sign nutty social issues legislation while auditioning for the vice presidential nomination -- unhappy either.
Democrats would probably also want a pledge that Norment will not, as he's threatened, "revisit" last year's legislative redistricting. From a good public policy perspective, that's a good thing. Redistricting shouldn't be on the line in every election, to be engaged in whenever the majority changes.
In return, Democrats could probably agree to pass the incumbent protection Congressional redistricting plan that all the incumbent representatives signed off on last year. True some think that would lock in the current 8-3 Republican edge. I don't, because that edge isn't natural anyway. Virginia's not a 75% Republican state so there's no way the GOP will hold that kind of advantage long term. In the incumbent protection plan the 2nd District and, to a lesser extent, the 5th would remain "swingy." The 10th would also probably become a swing district once Rep. Frank Wolf retires. The Democrats could probably get a better deal out of the federal courts. They might still have that opportunity. Just because the "incumbent protection" plan passes the legislature doesn't mean it will clear the Obama Justice Department, which could very well prefer the Democratic plan which offered the possibility of electing another African-American to the U.S. House.
This is a deal that could satisfy both sides. Nobody gets everything they want. Nobody gives up everything. That's sort of the point of a "power sharing" agreement. And it's the best both sides can probably get and still get on with the people's business. Democrats will have to recognize that they have lost the majority. And Republicans will have to recognize that 20 seats in a 40-member body don't justify 63% of the committee seats.
Both sides will have to recognize that they will have to compromise and cooperate to handle the range of complex issues, from the budget to uranium mining to highway funding to support for public and higher education that constitute the real work of the 2012 legislative session.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
The fact that Newt Gingrich is leading the polls in the Virginia Republican Primary but didn't gather enough signatures to get on the ballot sort of sums up his presidential campaign so far in a nutshell.
But Gingrich wasn't the only candidate who failed to make the ballot. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose campaign thus far had seemed to be deficient in brainpower, charisma and debating skills, but not in money or organizational expertise, also failed to turn in enough signatures to qualify.
Michele Bachmann, John Huntsman and Rick Santorum didn't bother to turn in any signatures. Not much of a surprise for the latter two. They've just been hanging around. Neither has gotten a bump as the Republican's "flavor of the month" to be the Not-Mitt Romney candidate. Hell, even Donald Trump got a bump and he never got in.
In fact, only Romney and septuagenarian Libertarian Ron Paul made the ballot. The first is the definition of the smooth, well organized, Establishment Republican. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling heads his campaign in Virginia and there wasn't much chance he wouldn't get the necessary signatures. The second is a cult figure who has never won much besides straw polls, but his Paulistas can managed a signature gathering campaign.
While Gingrich and, to a lesser extent, Perry and Bachmann have been whining about how tough Virginia's ballot access laws are -- they require 10,000 signatures, including 400 from each of the state's 11 congressional districts -- the fact is everyone knew what the rules were from the jump.
And how hard can it be? In 2008 Democratic candidates like Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, neither of whom were exactly at the crest of a rising tide, made it onto Virginia's ballot.
They had help though. The Democratic Party of Virginia gathered signatures for all of the candidates at various events. The Republican Party of Virginia didn't make that kind of effort this year. They aren't required to, of course, but it might have helped.
Republican incompetency has taken a good deal of fun out of what could have been a very exciting year in politics here.