The Commonwealth of Virginia's Ultimate Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Beatles Lose Out to Eddie From Ohio

Well, it's now "interim-ly" official. As opposed to being the only state with a state song emeritus and nothing else, we've not got a state song emeritus, and an interim state song, and a promise of an even larger net to be cast to find a permanent state song.

But god bless the Senator from Western Fairfax. His attempt on the floor to amend the Senator Colgan's SB 682 to make The Beatles "The Tax Man" our state song is maybe the funniest thing I've ever seen any legislator do. Now, I'm afraid I'll have to cross the aisle and agree with Senator Houck that considering our tax burden relative to the rest of the Union we aren't really the Commonwealth of the Taxman. But it probably has more to do with Virginia than Shenandoah. Senator Watkins made an impassioned plea on the floor against Shenandoah, pointing aspects of its story which may make it in the near term as controversial as our state song emeritus. And I agree with the reasoning of the 10 Senators who voted against it, most of whom are on record saying that it doesn't make sense to have a song which isn't about Virginia as our state song, even if only for an interim period.

For my money, CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain?" would have been a much better choice. Sure, it's not really a happy, uplifiting song, but the protagonist does visit our fair Commonwealth, seeking shelter from the storm.

If the Senate could pick a song for itself, I think they should pick "Why Can't We Be Friends?" by War.

Alito Confirmed

There are a few things that haven't pleased me about the Bush Administration, but I must say that the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts and now Justice Samuel Alito are two tremendous achievements for conservatives.

I hope that Republicans will make sure to hold the following Senators accountable for their 'NO' votes on Alito this fall:

Nelson (D-FL)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Chafee (R-RI)
Cantwell (D-WA)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Finally!

Virginia Tech finally got that goose egg off of the ACC win column with a gutty 76-70 win @ Wake Forest this afternoon. The Hokies won the game despite missing the services of starters Coleman Collins and Deron Washington, as well as senior reserve Shawn Harris. Wake Forest was playing without their best player, Justin Gray.

The best part of the game was the coming-out party of freshman forward A.D Vassallo who scored a career-high 29 points. The Hokies have desperately needed a third scoring option and may now have found one in the 6'6" 213 lb. Puerto Rican with the sweet outside shot (Vassallo hit 4-5 from 3-point land against Wake).

The win is a big one for Virginia Tech as they have some very winnable games coming up on the ACC schedule. If they can gain a bit of confidence headed into the back stretch of the season, the Hokies still have a chance for a respectable finish in the ACC. In fact if you compare last season's ACC results to this season's, Virginia Tech actually isn't too far behind where they were last year despite the 0-6 start. This year VT has lost @Duke, @MD, @FSU, and at home against UVA, Duke and UNC. In those same six games last season, VT was 2-4 beating both Duke and Virginia at home. Last year VT also played Wake only once, but they lost the game in Blackburg. The two teams will not play again this season, so last year's 2-5 record through those seven games translates to a 1-6 record this year. A win at Charlottesville, where the Hokies lost last year, would make this year's ACC record a wash when compared to last year.

The Hokies remaining schedule looks like this:
GT @ VT
BC @ VT
VT @ Clemson
VT @ UVA
NC State @ VT
VT @ Miami
FSU @ VT
Clemson @ VT
VT @ BC

I think that the Hokies have a good opportunity to make a late run in the conference and possibly finish with 6 or 7 wins headed into the ACC tourney. As a 6-10 record in the ACC would mean an overall record of 16-13, I think that would assure them of an NIT bid. Let's see if Seth Greenberg can parlay their great effort today into future success down the road.

And now let's see if the Hoos can do what VT couldn't by beating Duke in Durham this evening.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Is Hillary Doomed?

A CNN/Gallup poll released this week showed that 51% of Americans said that they would DEFINITELY NOT vote for Hillary Clinton for President in 2008. I don't care how you spin it, that number is pretty sobering. Now I don't think that number is necessarily solid, but it's definitely not a good place to start for teh presumptive Democratic nominee.

The problem Democrats have is that, beyond Hillary who is their best alternative? Would they go with past losers Gore, Kerry or Edwards? Should they choose the talkative Joe Biden? What about the anti-charismatic Evan Bayh? Or perhaps the future lies with the "southern moderate" Mark Warner.

Democrats should be concerned that Hillary seems to have the nomination on lock-down despite the fact that she appears unelectable to much of America. Fortunately, I doubt they'll be able to do anything about it.

McDonnell Releases Legislative Agenda

On Wednesday, Attorney General Bob McDonnell released his agenda for a "Safer and Stronger Virginia." The platform includes the following proposals:
  • longer prison sentences for convicted sex offenders
  • an improved sex offender registry
  • targeted efforts to combat gangs, drugs and identity theft in the Commonwealth
  • increased cooperation and coordination between federal, state and local authorities to strengthen homeland security
  • fulfilling a campaign promise to reduce the number of frivolous prisoner lawsuits
  • strictly defining "public use" so as to protect the private property of Virginia's property owners
Bob McDonnell is clearly getting off to a strong start as AG with a clear agenda and purpose. He has already set about building a strong platform from which to run in 2009 and will be a force to reckon with should he choose to pursue the Governorship.

The Virginia Boom

Over at Commonwealth Watch, NJB has a good post about the population growth in Virginia since the 2000 census. He says:
Virginia remains the 12th largest state in the country, though it gained more people than all except six other states (California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina).
Here, again, is another reason that the Warner-Kaine tax increase logic is so fuzzy. Not only do we have an enormous surplus, but the tax base is ever expanding, particularly in the wealthiest parts of the state.

It also gives the Virginia GOP a good reason to be on its toes as we near another redistricting effort in 2010.

New State Song?

The Roanoke Times reports that, on Wednesday, the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology approved a bill that would make 'Shenandoah' the interim state song, replacing 'Carry Me Back To Old Virginny' which was declared the state song emeritus by the General Assembly back in 1997. Senate Bill 682 was approved today by the Senate on a vote of 38-0, with Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke) not voting.

Personally, the song I favor as a replacement is 'Old Dominion' by the group Eddie From Ohio. Here's the song's chorus:
When you're talking home
you mean the Old Dominion
just southeast of heaven to the surf and the hills
she's the best of thirteen sisters
and thirty seven more
sweet sweet virginia always keeps an open door
You can read the rest of the lyrics here. For those not familiar with EFO, the group is comprised of three former Virginia Tech students and one former JMU student. It is a wonderful song that covers the best of what Virginia has to offer from "the surf" to "the hills." Unfortunately I doubt there will be much support for a state song by a group with another state's name, particularly given the ongoing tiff with Ohio over that whole "Who has more Presidents?" thing.

It seems as though the legislators intend to get this state song issue resolved before the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, I'm just afraid that any 'American idol' style competition will prove to be a disaster and leave people with hurt feelings. I'd prefer the General Assembly just make the decision for themselves.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

And then it is heard no more; it is a tale

In just two short weeks, I've learned two striking things about politics in our commonwealth. First of all, despite what voter turnout may indicate, Virginians are very much interested in the direction of their government. Alright, the cynical of you may think that of course people get involved, greed is the base motivating factor of all human existence. And its true. Everybody wants something; at least most of these people want it for at least one more person other than themselves, though. Even I was a little surprised by the level of activity. The second thing I've learned is that most people have no idea what they're doing when it comes to grassroots politics.

Certainly, some of it is innocent enough, to be blamed on the little focus that is given in American classrooms to civics education. Indeed, I get a little proud when someone calls me and tells me they were told to call their congressman, or ask to speak to their Representative, or plead us to do something about Social Security. Other misguided attempts at activism are a little more disturbing. Today I recieved several hundred pages of photocopied federal agency forms, mostly from human resources, from a gentleman who lives in Delegate Moran's district (who as so much admitted he suffers from schizophrenia) outlining his belief of systematic torture within the USDA, his release from the USDA, and his banishment from his local public library. He sent a copy to both his delegate, senator, all the members of the Courts committee and several federal representatives. Needless to say, it went straight in the trash (but only after I scanned it for possible threats), much like the letter from one Jack Mills, who is apparently quite fond of the word pettifogger.

pet·ti·fog·ger
noun
  1. A petty, quibbling, unscrupulous lawyer.
  2. One who quibbles over trivia.
I first crossed paths with Mr. Mills last week when he was wheeling his report around to all the new members. I looked out the door, got up with a smile to meet this new visitor, stuck my hand out but was met with a report in my chest. "I'm Jack Mills and I want a judge impeached." He then began to expound upon the supposed sins of this particular judge, which he claims include child abuse and molestation. Not the judge directly, mind you, but because of his gross incompetance. The disturbing thing about Mr. Mills is how disconcerting his claims sound, prima facie. Certainly you have to be rather doubtful about the details, but this is the sort of thing that involves you from the get go, which is a particularly unfortunate thing when your co-worker needs your help and and when said co-worker is also of the sort that has little tolerance for anyone who doesn't reside in the district. Being the naive young idealist (or perhaps just terribly shy and polite man) that I am, I got about 5 minutes of Mr. Mills before I was pulled away. I learned later that Mr. Mills is somewhat of a fixture at the General Assembly Building, one of those eccentric figures who is tolerated but ignored, to the point where you almost have to pity him if his allegations are by some twist of fate true.

Other activism faux pas are not so disturbing as they are just embarassing, particularly if the group committing them is on your side. The VCDL is particularly guilty of such breaks in convention. They have a nasty little practice of having all their members mail all the delegates in the General Assembly. Now, from what I understand they've backed off their pace of several years ago. However, our inbox will often be flooded with emails by activists from Richmond, Falls Church, Newport News, and every other locality NOT in our district imploring us or if so much as directing us to vote down a ban on soft grips, you know, the kind that's not as rough on your hands when you're holding your favorite pistol. Now here's a dirty little secret: If they're not from the district, we simply do not care. Emails will be deleted, letters trashed, phone calls get a quick nod and then "Have a good day." Personal visits get a slightly different response, but certainly constituents come first. Some may throw their hands up at this. How dare we ignore the people of Virginia?!!!!! The people's voice must be heard!!!!

Here's the problem: there's only so much time in the day. Do you honestly think we are going to tally up the responses and inform the delegate from Bumbleville, who has been in subcommittee since 7:30 and is heading to floor before his bill comes up in General Laws while he's supposed to be at the caucus meeting, about how the people of Bumtropolis feel about hb2341, The Virginia Organgrinder Registration Act of 2006? More importantly, should the delegate really care? Chances are he'll never have to work for your vote. And emailing all the Committee members? Try public comment. Certainly legislators want citizen input, but trust me; just about every bill will have SOMEONE saying SOMETHING about it. A subcommittee hearing on a "fish bill" today was met with an overflowing crowd of citizens ranging from suit-clad businessmen to flannel-wearing farmers to bushy-bearded environmentalists. I can assure you your voice is being heard. Now some may take offense to this, thinking that only lobbyists get our attention. First of all, lobbyist is a very loose term. Doctors, farmers, anybody with an agenda counts as a lobbyists. You don't need a crackberry, a checkbook (but only between sessions), and an id badge. If you've got an issue, we've got a second. I for one take a moment with anyone who comes to the office. Naturally, though, the delegate will only see constituents or lobbyists working on our issues. Secondly, constituents will always come first. A lobbyist will wait outside, and if they don't, you better believe there's going to be a stern word from the LA.

However, we still have problems with simply misguided communication. A particularly annoying bill was HB1368. This has got to be the absolutely worst piece of legislation proposed in at least the past decade. For those non-wonks, HB1368 is a bill the would require the unanimous permission of any homeowner within 65 yards of a playing field in order for a game or practice to be conducted before 8 a.m., after 6 p.m., or on a Sunday. Obviously this could have a quick squelching effect on athletic events in the Commonwealth. But there are some things to keep in mind here. First of all, even the sponsor Delegate Hull admitted that this was a terrible piece of legislation. He only introduced in on request (though I'll admit he ended up shooting both feet by admitting that it was bad in public. Come on, you still introduced it for the constituent; at least let him THINK you agree with him. Don't embarass the poor guy by making him look like a mean man sneering at the children from his porch, no matter what the case may be). Secondly, they know how to kill these things. At least let it get out of Committee and become a real problem before you go absolutely nuts. I swear to god, I think every little league dad and soccer mom was in contact with the General Assembly over the past week. They could have waited until it reported out, or at the most gotten their top leaders to speak against in committee. Nope, they did mass organization. And it was a very disparate group.

Of the hundreds of emails I recieved on hb1368, only five were from constituents. The rest were either from NOVAites or those from the Beach or Richmond. Many were quite polite, but some were quite outragreous in their rhetoric. Call me a crummudgeon, but to me totalitarianism requires a slightly more egregious offense to human decency than preventing a football game from taking place close to a home. Yet such claims were bandied about with little regard for their impact. A quite common fallacy was that this would somehow halt all athletic activity in the commonwealth, turning our children into mush-headed vegetables. Even in NOVA, though, I think children should have been able to get a little bit of physical activity. I will admit that some were very well-written and even poigiant, such as one woman who related an anectdote about a dying relative who was soothed by the sound of playing children. However, there were some other lapses of judgement in prose, such as one email (that was merely related to me) that implied that this was somehow part of an insidious plot by the religious right to instill our Sabbath in "heathen" children. On the other hand, though, I did in fact recieve one email (from a Soccer coach, no less) that praised the bill as a positive move towards instilling young athletes with solid Judeo-Christian values.

Perhaps the most annoying part of all this was that many parents made no bones about emailing multiple delegates, not even bothering to bcc the recipients. I need not make my point again, suffice it to say that I hope groups will take a lesson and conserve their meager time and resources. With this, I must give praise to a certain group. Now pay attention. This is the ONLY time this will ever happen on this blog......

Kudos to Equality Virginia for its great job of organizing its activists. They only email their General Assembly members. They only bring us their constituents. The group that I spoke with was polite and well-informed. I'll admit that there are some rogue agents who go out on their own and hunt everyone down, sometimes quite rudely. Also, they send invitations for their recpetion to everyone, but quite frankly, it's suicide for a Republican to show up. Seriously, they have people taking notes at these things. And we'll probably never agree on all the issues surrounding sexual politics. But at least I can tolerate listening to them, and at least I know they understand the principles of influence.

Even the state government could learn a lesson from them. We are flooded constantly with government reports and files. Do you know how many different ways you can read the budget? There's the popular version, the summary version, the line-item, etc. etc. We simply do not have the room to keep all of the paper that is generated each session. And for what? We don't keep things that are outside of our area of experise (for example, I don't think Allen Louderback kept too many reports from the Virginia Sentencing Commission), and even if we do need numbers, we can just call the agency up, or better yet, get the report off the net. Hopefully one day they'll learn.

But so it is. Lobbyists come and go. The pages toss the 20-page report from the Dr. Suess Memorial Commission, Division of Turtle Stacking on my desk. And I do my best to make sure my fellow citizens get a fair shake from their delegate, above all the sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Gay Marriage Amendment

I see from today's WaPo and RTD that the Virginia Senate has passed a gay marriage ban with identical language to the House version, essentially assuring that the measure will be the subject of a referendum.
Now that the ban seems all but a certainty, I'd like to raise a few questions that I think don't get enough time in the debate. However, let me preface these questions by saying that I'm glad to see states pursuing these avenues in the democratic process, rather than relying on litigation to try and resolve what is clearly a political question.
Now, the questions:
1) Why do we refer to a religious ceremony and the civil ceremony by the same name? That is, our belief that "marriage" is between a man and a woman comes from the Bible. Why don't religious conservatives object to the fact that two raving atheists can be married just like the same as those married before God?
2) Given that we allow two atheists to have their civil commitment called "marriage", how is letting two God-fearing women get "married" any different?
3) Assume, arguendo, that a bill was proposed to call only religiously recognized unions marriage, and all other unions "civil unions" -- do you think opposition to gay "civil unions" would be as strong?
4) Why do we care if two people of the same sex make contracts with each other? If "Adam and Steve" want to exercise power of attorney for each other, why do we care?

I'm actually genuinely interested in responses, since I've always sensed there was something about this debate I was missing. I mean, we've let Brittany Spears get married twice -- clearly the institution of marriage could use some work. How about we attach a marriage education plan to the gay marriage ban?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

House of Delegates Recap

NLS has an interesting post assesing the true scope of the damage in the House of Delegates. All in all, the outlook is not as grim for Republicans as the doomsayers are making it out.

That said, the GOP still has a lot of work to do if it hopes to remain in control of the General Assembly for the forseeable future. We cannot continue to just throw just any candidate out there and expect to win. We must actively recruit the best possible candidates and work to keep the grassroots strong and involved. We must continue to be a party that advances ideas and solutions, not simply objects to whatever the opposition puts forth. We have advanced many of those ideas here, and we call on others to continue "spreading the gospel" of the Republican Party to the voters of Virginia.

Starting to Buy into Coach Leitao

After tonight's 71-51 victory over Miami, UVA has won 4 out of its last 5 in ACC play, and could have won the 5th but blew a 5 point lead to Florida State with under two minutes to go. I didn't see the development early on in the year, but I'm convinced that Leitao is a spectacular coach. He has almost nothing to work with (besides spectacular point guard Sean Singletary, that is, who went for 29 tonight) and he has turned this team into a defensive juggernaut. Don't look now, but UVA is tied with one other team for second in the ACC standings 6 games into the conference season. Now I'm not optimistic that it will last, but Leitao has already exceeded expectations. In the last two weeks, I've become a fan of this man and his scrappy well-coached team. Such a dichotomy from Gillen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Congrats to Chris Peace

Congratulations are in order for Delegate-elect Chris Peace who was elected to the 97th district seat this evening defeating Democrat John Montgomery. Now we need to get Mick Staton elected in the 33rd Senate District.

It just never ends.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Canadian Elections

Our neighbors to the north are headed to the polls today to elect their new government and all indications are that the Conservatives will be the new ruling party in Canada tomorrow morning. Keep tabs on the election results here, while the blogosphere offers BlogsCanada a self-purported place for "multi-partisan political punditry."

Oh, and start practicing saying "Canada's Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper." It sounds good.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Super Bowl Set

It will be the Pittburgh Steelers representing the AFC against the NFC's Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL from Detroit Rock City on February 5. This will be the first Super Bowl for the Seattle franchise while the Steelers will be playing in their sixth. However, it will be the second Super Bowl appearance each for coaches Mike Holmgren and Bill Cowher respectively. If Seattle were to win, Holmgren would become the first coach to win the Super Bowl with two different teams after leading the Green Bay Packers to the Lombardi trophy back in 1997.

However, as I said last Wednesday:
I like Bill Cowher to finally earn his due respect and become a Super Bowl winning coach while also sending Jerome Bettis' career out on a high note.
I still do. Go Steelers.

Tax Hike Tim

I'll say this for Tim Kaine, at least he doesn't waste time.

The reactions to Kaine's tax hike proposal are already coming fast and furious. Having been out of town all weekend I haven't had time to look things over just yet, but I encourage you to keep tabs on things through our friends at Commonwealth Conservative, One Man's Trash and Bacon's Rebellion (just keep scrolling).

I particularly like this item on a proposed SUV tax, courtesy of Norm Leahy:
[T]he rationalization for the higher fees is absolutely precious:
...even with proposed increase, registration fees will be $24 to $30 below Maryland.
And so it's come to this: using Maryland as a yardstick for Virginia taxation.
This, my friends, is just typical of the type of completely inane and imprudent thinking that has been brought to our Commonwealth courtesy of the Chichester Cabal.

Death Tax Bill on Deck

Delegate Robert Tata's bill to reduce the estate tax, HB 40, is expected to be considered tomorrow morning by the full Finance Committee at 8:30 AM. The following Delegates are members of said Finance Committee:
Del. Harry J. Parrish (R) (Chairman)
Del. Harry R. Purkey (R) (Vice chairman)
Del. Kathy J. Byron (R)
Del. C. Charles Caputo (D)
Del. Benjamin L. Cline (R)
Del. Mark L. Cole (R)
Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick (R)
Del. Franklin P. Hall (D)
Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R)
Del. Robert D. Hull (D)
Del. William R. Janis (R)
Del. Joseph P. Johnson, Jr. (D)
Del. Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr. (D)
Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R)
Del. Kenneth R. Melvin (D)
Del. Samuel A. Nixon, Jr. (R)
Del. John M. O'Bannon, III (R)
Del. Robert D. Orrock, Sr. (R)
Del. Stephen C. Shannon (D)
Del. R. Lee Ware, Jr. (R)
Del. Vivian E. Watts (D)
Del. John J. Welch, III (R)
You can contact these legislators through the Virginia House of Delegates website. Encourage them to keep this important legislation moving forward.

Q and O on Roy Blount

ODBA member Q and O has some strong thoughts on the race for House Majority Leader. While they stop short of endorsing any one candidate, they do have this to say about Blount:
After spending a half hour listening to him, I think...let's see...how do I put this...

I would rather lick fire ants off a stick than see Roy Blunt as Majority Leader. I'm not at the point of making a firm endorsement of either Reps. Shaddeg or Boehner, but the sun will set in a blazing red sky to the east of Casablanca before I'd want Roy Blunt as Majority leader.
Wow. And that's just the beginning.

Aside from simply skewering Rep. Blount, Q and O had these encouraging words about Rep. John Shadegg:
He was, at times, candid to the point of bluntness about how he thought the Republican leadership had gone astray from the limited government ideals they espoused in the 1994 election.
I couldn't agree more. What the GOP needs more than anything right now is a good House-cleaning. I don't think it does any good to remove Guy #1 then turn around and promote Guy #2 to #1 and say "problem solved!" The American people just aren't going to buy it. I think Shadegg is the right guy to help get the GOP back on track up in DC and avoid disaster come November.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Heath Shuler to run for Congress?

For all the Redskins fans out there who remember the true low point of the post-Gibbs era (I), even more terrible news. Heath Shuler is running for Congress from North Carolina. Fortunately, Redskins fans have begun the drive to keep him out of DC forever more. Remember how bad it was the first time? Think if he had some actual power.
(Oh, and the Stop Shuler website is fantastic. Read about Shuler's primary opponent.)

Kaine to deliver Democratic Response to State of Union

The Washington Post has confirmed that Gov. Kaine will deliver the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address.
I give the Democrats credit on this selection. Picking an "Outside the Beltway" figure who had electoral success in a Republican state is a surprisingly smart move. Certainly it is better than allowing Sen. Biden to get on area and wander off into memories of college, or his son playing baseball, or whatever whim strikes him.
For myself, I'm torn. Much as with Gov. Warner, I particularly enjoy seeing Virginians do well, regardless of the circumstances. On the one hand, if we have to have a Democratic president, I would much prefer it be Warner than HRC. On the other, if the Democrats nominate Warner, he would have a pretty good shot at winning.
I guess the level of talent produced by our fine Commonwealth is both a blessing and a curse.

The Media and the Future of the GOP

Read this excellent editorial by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. She does a good job of examining how things have changed for the Dems and why their attacks on Sam Alito have met with such complete failure. Here's a taste:
Eleven years ago the Democrats lost control of Congress. Then they lost the presidency. But just as important, maybe more enduringly important, they lost their monopoly on the means of information in America. They lost control of the pipeline.
Read the rest, it's worth it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Conservatives on Mark Warner

National Review Online has two interesting articles this morning on our former Governor and his future political prospects.

Jim Geraghty looks at how Warner's particular brand of politics plays with the Howard Dean wing of the party. Meanwhile a portion of John J. Miller's article from the most recent National Review looks at Warner's prospects for 2008 against the juggernaut that is Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately you can't read the whole article online, for that you'll just have to pick up the magazine.

It is interesting that even conservatives are beginning to notice Mark Warner's potential for being the anti-Hillary, particularly in light of HRC's embarrassing "plantation" comment this week. If Mark Warner is somehow able to grab his party's nomination for President in '08, just remember who he'll have to thank for it. That's right, a group of Virginia Republicans, who single-handedly turned a floundering Governorship without any major successes into a supposed "blueprint" for Democratic success in the South.

Lighthorse Harry and the Attorney General

Attorney General Bob McDonnell delivered his first formal remarks yesterday and in doing so invoked the words of Lighthorse Harry. It was the real Lighthorse harry, not the SST contributor, who said in his eulogy of George Washington that "Vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand."

McDonnell used these words to speak of upholding the high standards of the Office of Attorney General, supporting the Constitutions of the United States and Virginia, and ensuring that all Virginians are availed of their rights and freedoms under those documents.

In terms of legislative priorities, McDonnell reestablished the themes he talked about in his campaign, protecting children from violent sexual predators, removing the scourge of drugs from our communities, guarding Virginians from ever-advancing methods of identity theft, and ensuring preparation for and defense against threats to our security. McDonnell also invoked a plank of the Freedom and Prosperity Agenda by promising greater protections for private property owners.

McDonnell closed with this call to service:
With all these actions, this office will stand prominently in defense of our most fundamental principles and sacred obligations. We do not know all the issues that may confront us in the next four years. But we do know the reliability of those shared values that created this Commonwealth and have sustained it for almost 400 years.

I earlier mentioned Edmund Randolph, who served as both the first Attorney General of Virginia and the first Attorney General of the United States under President Washington. In his final years, Randolph wrote a History of Virginia that traced our story from the settlement at Jamestown through the Revolutionary War. While Randolph covered all the major events, he focused on what he called the “Virginia character.” He outlined the origin of the “Virginia character” through the early days of suffering and starvation in Jamestown. He detailed its principles through Bacon’s Rebellion and the Stamp Act. He catalogued its traits of integrity, reason, moderation, and forcefulness. Randolph did all this in order to show how this character acted under the supreme test of Revolution. During the “season which tried men’s souls,” he wrote, “Virginia produced public agents suitable to every crisis and service.”

We in Virginia are the heirs to and guardians of that character, and you, today’s public agents, must continue to rise for each modern day “crisis and service.”
The speech is a positive statement about the man we have elected as our 44th Attorney General and the things he hopes to accomplish over the next four years. I look forward to seeing what Bob McDonnell does with the office. I believe he'll make us proud.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Dan Marino for Our Time

Peyton Manning is quite possibly the greatest choke artist in the history of professional football. For 16 weeks of regular season games, he looks unstoppable. He puts up ridiculous numbers, scorches every team he faces, and is a fantasy league king-maker.

Come playoff time, however, Manning is completely worthless. I mean seriously, has there ever been a QB that has looked so much better than everyone else during the regular season and so pedestrian during the playoffs. Even the Dan Marino comparison is kind of unfair b/c Marino always played well in the playoffs but just couldn't get it done in the Big One.

Courtesy of the world's greatest sportswriter, Bill Simmons, comes this tidbit of info on Peyton:
Manning lost only five games in Isidore Newman High in New Orleans, but three of those losses came in the state playoffs. He did not win a state championship. He lost only six games at Tennessee, but famously three of those losses were to Florida, and the Volunteers did not win the national championship until after he left.
Furthermore, since entering the NFL, Manning's record as a starter in the regular season is 80-48. His record in the playoffs is 3-6.

Now, I admit that I've never been a Manning fan, but even the most die-hard Manning booster must admit that the guy has consistently had trouble winning the big game. Given that this year's Colts team was the best they've ever had, if Manning ever does manage to win a Super Bowl, I'll be surprised.

As an aside, I'll be rooting for Pittsburgh and Carolina this weekend. I like Bill Cowher to finally earn his due respect and become a Super Bowl winning coach while also sending Jerome Bettis' career out on a high note.

Allen leads big in first poll

Chad Dotson points us to this Washington Times article that shows Sen. George Allen leading Democrat Harris Miller 57% to 27%. That's not a bad place to start.

Speaker Howell on the GOP agenda

"Bipartisan cooperation" seems to be the buzzword running through Richmond these days and it shows up again in the RTD's article outlining Speaker Howell's view of the GOP agenda for this session.

Obviously the focus is going to be transportation and Howell has come out against any raising of the gas tax, which is encouraging. This line is also encouraging: "A real solution won’t be provided by just throwing more money at the problem (like raising the gas tax) and sending a blank check to VDOT."

There appears to be momentum for some form of tax relief, particularly a Back-to-School Tax Holiday. However, the cause of fiscal responsibility suffers when we focus solely on tax cuts and pay no attention to the runaway spending that Democrats use to justify tax increases. Speaker Howell did pledge to "carefully examine" the proposed new spending initiatives, but one must wonder whether the will exists to go any farther.

"Bipartisan cooperation" is all well and good, and is certainly necessary to have an effective state government. However, it is too often the case that fiscal disipline is the first casualty when legislators start talking about ways to spend their constituents' money.

The A-Team Is Ready

The recent hiring of former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie to be the treasurer George Allen's PAC has raised a lot of eyebrows among '08 watchers. Over at South of the James, Conway says that the move is already paying off dividends in the key state of Iowa.

However, Conway also reminds us that Allen must first navigate the '06 waters before he can completely turn his sights to '08. He does a good job looking at the lay of the land for this fall, specifically focusing on two figures that may have an impact on the election, Mark Warner and Jack Abramoff.

Harris Miller appears to be the Dem pick to face off against Allen and he appears to have the support of Mark Warner, which is certainly important. However the extent to which Miller can recast himself as a poor man's Mark Warner is a much larger question. Over at the Mason Conservative, Chris says that Allen is ready for Miller, and I agree. Chris points out the inherent differences between a Gubernatorial contest and a Senate race that will make it much harder for Miller to win than it was for Warner and Kaine.

Believe you me, George Allen understands the importance of this year's election. That is why he has people like Ed Gillespie to keep the '08 fires burning while he concentrates on getting re-elected. If Allen crosses the finish line weakly this November, his Presidential stock will be hurt. If however, he soundly defeats a strong challenger who boasts the backing of Mark Warner, his position will be strong headed into the '08 primary season.

I don't expect anything less than a total, focused effort from Allen this fall. Besides, the excitement of the '08 speculation will energize Virginia's Republicans and ensure that they come out in droves to get an early seat on the bandwagon.

Virginia Blog Carnival

The latest entry is up over at Virginia Centrist. Loads of good stuff over there, so check it out.

Indictment Handed Down in Behl Case

The RTD reports that a Mathews County grand jury has indicted Ben Fawley for the murder of VCU student Taylor Behl last fall. This will certainly be an interesting case to follow as it appears that the physical evidence is rather slight. We can only hope that justice will be done.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Marriage Amendment On Track

In the vast African plains of the which roam with Republican state senators, SJ 92 (companion to HB 101), which will amend Virginia's constitution to keep marriage between a man and a woman is on track. The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee reported it out favorably, with only 3 arch-liberal Democrats who sit on the committee (Janet Howell, Benny Lambert, Mary Margaret Whipple)opposing. With moderates like Ken Stolle and Jeannemarie D. Davis on board this train will be arriving on your ballot and mine in November 2006.

On the house side of things, I'm a little surprised by a few of the votes on Friday by some of our newly elected Democrats. Shannon Valentine and David Bulova (replacing "yea" votes of '05 Preston Bryant and Chap Petersen) are voting to the left of their district by standing in opposition. The same can be said of Chuck Caputo and David Poisson, but their election as "moderates" meant comparing them to Chris Craddock and Dick Black (so you could argue that they went after the gay vote so hard they had to risk reprisal from their otherwise pro-marriage amendment districts). Marsden ducked the vote, which may be good fodder for those on both side of the aisle who are looking to put up a fight with him next time around. Sophomore Vienna Delegate Steve Shannon, the lone member of the Northern Virginia Democratic delegation to vote for the final passage, probably made the wisest move, that is, voting for all attempts to delay and amend the bill before finally consenting.

Did they all really sign?

This is my favorite commending resolution so far... and here's where you can count for yourself.

Now This is a Fan

Apparently a 50-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers fan had a heart attack on Sunday shortly after Jerome Bettis fumbled the football while trying to run it in for a touchdown from the 2 yard line. Fortunately he survived.

And Chad Dotson thought he was dedicated.

The Freedom and Prosperity Agenda

I have been informed that members of the General Assembly were hard at work putting together legislation intended to advance each of the 11 planks of the Freedom and Prosperity Agenda in the upcoming session. I had intended to do some research today to find out precisely which bills corresponded to which planks. Fortunately, I read One Man's Trash first and saw that Norm has already done the legwork. With apologies to Norm for my free-riding (though I've added links so you can read the bills for yourself), here they are:
· Eliminate the War of 1812 tax (BPOL) – Del. Tim Hugo, bill number has not been assigned yet

· Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) – will not be introduced until the next session of the General Assembly

· Eliminate the Death tax – Del. Bob Tata, HB 40

· Eliminate the prepayment of the Sales and Use tax – Del. Tom Gear, bill number has not been assigned yet

· Redefine and limit the public uses for which private property may be confiscated – Thirteen bills have been introduced that relate to this topic. In the coming days we will endorse one of the following or, in fact, one or more of these bills may be merged together:

– Del. Steven Landes, HB 924;

– Del. Salvatore Iaquinto, HB 902, HB1278

– Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, bill numbers not assigned
yet

· Constitutional Amendment to base real estate taxes on the acquisition value of the property – Del. Jeff Frederick, HJ 56

· Parental choice in education – Sen. Stephen Martin, SB 189

· Protect the transportation trust fund with a Constitutional Amendment – Sen. Jay O’Brien, SJ 49

· Proposals for new taxes must contain sunset provisions – Del. Jack Reid, HB 1052

· Freedom and Fiscal Accountability Act for Virginia’s Public Colleges and Universities – will not be introduced until the next session of the General Assembly

· Eliminate the Car tax – Del. Mark Cole, HB 140
This is a great place to start in terms of a conservative agenda for this session. It is imperative that the GOP be on the offensive with a positive vision for Virginia's future. Governor Tim Kaine MUST work with the GOP in order to get anything done, so let's use that to our advantage. If we sit back and become a Commonwealth version of the national Democratic party by simply yelling "NO!" at everything that comes down the pike, we will be in great danger of losing the General Assembly in '07. Now is the time to advance our conservative vision for expanding freedom and limiting the extravagant and irresponsible use of resources by our state government.

A View of the Globes from the Right

National Review points us to this conservative review of last night's Golden Globe Awards and all of the absurdity contained therein.

I knew the show was getting off on the left foot when the first award went to George Clooney for his role in Syriana. It will be interesting to see if the Academy rewards the most deserving film of the year (Walk the Line) or bows to the political pressure (Brokeback Mountain).

Personally, I was most disappointed that Jason Lee didn't win for his hilarious role in NBC's My Name is Earl. Also, I hope Geena Davis will find solace in her Golden Globe once her terrible show Commander in Chief gets cancelled.

State of the Commonwealth Reax

Yes, I did watch Tim Kaine's speech last night. Although I'll admit I did flip over to the red carpet coverage at the Golden Globes a couple of times. I stopped after I thought I saw Preston Bryant and Eva Longoria in the same camera shot.

All in all, it was a fairly unsurprising speech. Kaine talked mainly about spending gobs and gobs of more money on education and transportation. He pledged to work in a bipartisan fashion, as if he had a choice. And he provided very little in the way of specifics. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Roanoke Times, and Washington Post each have decent coverage of the speech.

Around the blogosphere, Chad Dotson has the rundown, while OMT's Norm Leahy links to a very relevant column in the RTD focusing on transportation. I look forward to more reactions especially from Bacon's Rebellion and Waldo Jaquith.

From my perspective, Kaine is certainly right that something must be done on transportation, and soon. I resist the easy solution of simply throwing more money at the problem and I believe that there will be a vigorous debate over the issue in the months to come. As Kaine pointed out last night, this is a problem that affects ALL Virginians, not just those in the DC suburbs or Hampton Roads. I was encouraged by AG Bob McDonnell's response here:
Tonight, the Governor outlined his vision for the Commonwealth. As the former chief patron of legislation to lock up the Transportation Trust Fund, I was encouraged to hear the Governor continue his support for this proposal, and am hopeful we will continue to increase public-private partnerships as part of the transportation discussion. Improving transportation is but one of many challenges we will face in the years ahead. Working together, we will build a stronger and more secure Commonwealth.
I hope that all Virginians will be engaged in this effort and will demand openness and accountability from their legislators.

Finally, I have to say that Tim Kaine's eyebrow is certain to have a place of prominence among the Virginia electorate for the next four years. That thing is out of control.

Kaine announces support for slowing growth

I knew from the rhetoric on the campaign trail that Kaine was considering this, but his speech on Monday makes it clear that the Kaine administration will be supporting strong curbs on new development:
"In a 37-minute speech to the General Assembly, Kaine (D) proposed giving local governments more power to slow growth, require traffic studies and coordinate with transportation planners. Reprising a popular line from his 2005 campaign speeches, he said money alone would not clear roads."
As one who grew up in Northern Virginia, and will be returning there soon, I have to admit I'm of two minds about allowing localities to limit growth, which I'll try and lay out below:
PRO:
Traffic in Northern Virginia (and recently, Richmond and Norfolk) is a mess. New housing fast outpaces road construction, and barring the miraculous construction of mass-transit, a curb on new development is necessary until the road system can catch up with at least current development. To the extent that counties like Arlington and Alexandria, which are somewhat effectively served by Metro, wish to allow more dense housing close-in, that's fine. But when one lives 15 miles outside DC (Reston, Great Falls, McLean, Springfield, Vienna) and the commute can stretch over an hour, something has to be done.
CON:
Idealogically, I'm not thrilled with the idea of government telling business what it can and can't do as property owners. More realistically, I'm worried that a cap on new housing is going to exacerbate the problem of too little affordable housing. No matter what they say, localities are always going to welcome in high-cost housing, because the increased tax base more than supports the costs of additional schools, etc. as well as drives up median income figures, supports businesses, and the like. But those same counties are much more likely to disallow higher density housing, which would create more traffic on less land, and might be a net drain on county financial resources. People are commuting into DC and NoVa from West Virginia already -- can we afford to make it any worse?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Super Bowl Virgins

The rise of parity in the NFL has resulted in a number of NFL teams punching their first-ever tickets to the game's biggest stage over the past few years. Among the recent first-timers include the Panthers (2004), Buccaneers (2003), Falcons (1999) and Chargers (1995). This year's team hoping to break the seal on their Super Bowl dreams are the Seattle Seahawks, who entered the league in 1976, the same year as Tampa Bay.

In fact the two NFL Conference games offer a stark contrast in terms of historical success. In the AFC Championship game, the Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to the Denver Broncos. Pittsburgh has been to 5 Super Bowls, winning 4 of them, only losing back in 1996 to the Dallas Cowboys. The Denver Broncos have been to 6 Super Bowls but have only won two, losing in 1978, 1987, 1988 and 1990 before finally winning back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999.

In the NFC, the Carolina Panthers will travel to the Seattle Seahawks. As mentioned, Seattle has never been to the Super Bowl in their 29 years of existence. In fact, I didn't even know Seattle had a football team until this year. OK, I'm exaggerating, but the Seahawks have had a pretty bland history. Their all-time record of 230-248 pretty much tells the story of a team not known for being either very bad or very good. The Carolina Panthers, on the other hand, have already been to one Super Bowl and are entering their 3rd NFC Championship game despite only having been in existence since 1995. Despite losing on a last-second field goal in Super Bowl XXXVIII to the New England Patriots, it is safe to say that Carolina's greatest contribution to the NFL so far is still the Top Cats.

Frankly, it ticks me off that a team like Carolina can come in the league and get to the Super Bowl in less than 10 years while my Detroit Lions have been in the NFL since 1934 and have never been to a single Super Bowl. Only the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles have been in the same city longer than the Lions, and each of those teams have been to the Super Bowl. While the Lions do have 4 NFL Championships, they have not played for a title since winning it all in 1957. Now THAT is futility.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Northern Virginia housing prices down 10%

From The Chronicle:
You don't have to work in real estate to know there's been a change in the market. One of the agents in my office commented that property values in Northern Virginia have dropped about 10%. She based her opinion on list prices, not sold properties, as many of the properties listed in the past few months are still for sale.

A homeowner recently asked me why the market has changed. In the spring we had a shortage of inventory, creating a seller's market. Now we have a glut. Price reductions are rampant as homeowners who must sell lower their asking prices in hopes of attracting an offer.
...
That brings me back to the question of why buyers aren't buying. There are plenty of buyers out there and lots of houses from which to choose. But if, as Gladwell believes, the more choices you are given, the more overwhelmed you become, then it follows that buyers are not making offers because there are too many houses from which to choose, hampering their decision-making ability.

Gladwell's blink theory could help explain our current market condition. It mirrors the feedback I am getting from other real estate agents. Buyers may look at ten or 15 houses, find one that has all the features they want, then hesitate to make an offer. They know there are more houses to look at, and perhaps one that might appeal to them more. The sense of urgency to buy now or miss out is gone.

Further hindering the decision-making process are the steadily decreasing asking prices. Some buyers are waiting to see if prices will come down further. Active listings in Northern Virginia in September 2005 (the latest month for which figures have been posted by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors(r)) were up 89% from the same time last year, and the number of units sold this past September was 14% lower than in September 2004.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What does 'Republican' mean?

I recently had the opportunity to speak with John Taylor, President of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy and progenitor of the Freedom and Prosperity Agenda. Taylor got me fired up about the conservative agenda in Virginia. We seem to agree that one of the biggest problems facing the GOP in Virginia has been a lack of ideas. As I have said before, ideas are absolutely necessary to winning elections.

After talking to Taylor, I was beginning to have a tiny bit of faith that the conservatives in the Virginia Senate might begin moving things in the right direction this session. Unfortunately, after reading this post on One Man's Trash this morning, that faith is pretty much shattered. Apparently, there are only 4 individuals in the Senate Reublican caucus who truly care about the integrity of our Party.

Allowing Potts to retain his Chairmanship after his conduct this past year is a complete joke and the worst kind of political backscratching. This has nothing to do with Pott's so-called "principles." Anyone who thinks Potts gives a whit about the Republican Party is either very naive or very foolish. It is clear that Potts' only principle is to look out for No.1.

Folks, there is a big difference between having a"Big Tent" and allowing individuals to align themselves with your party while at the same time doing everything in their power to undermine your ability succeed. There is plenty of room in the GOP for all kinds of views and all kinds of people. What there shouldn't be room for are saboteurs of Russ Potts' ilk.

They should've lost this one at Roanoke....

Under any circumstances. Don't. Just don't. I don't care how good it may look in those previews. Hell, I caught a glimpse of the HBO making of the other night. It was 10 times as entertaining, so don't be fooled!

I felt lucky enough to get a chance to see the very Commonwealth -centric Terrence Malik flick at a screening in Richmond courtesy of the Virginia Film Society. The movie stars Collin Farrell as John Smith, Christian "Waiting for the next Batman movie" Bale as John Rolfe, and the gorgeous young Q'Orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas. The movie which clocks in at over 3 hours is a non-stop subdued introspective look at events through the eyes of the main "characters." The term is loosely applied, as these actors are really just portraits of characters. And that almost sounds like how I describe the acting and development in one of my favorite films, Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, but believe me when I say you can only take so much of your spoken dialogue in a hushed montone incomplete sentence-structure voice over. Go watch the Disney musical and enjoy the fun songs rather than have anything to do with this awful movie. Don't go see it.

By the way, it was shot completely inside the Commonwealth except for a few scenes in England, including the one where Pocahontas says "Did you find your Indies, Captain Smith" and then Phone Booth looks back at her and says wistuflly "I think I may have sailed past them."

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Third Man

No, I'm not talking about that classic film noir with Orson Welles, I'm talking about the latest entry in the race for House Majority Leader, Arizona congressman John Shadegg.

While Blunt and Boehner represent politics as usual, Shadegg is a true lion of the conservative movement in the House. That's why he's already been endorsed by the National Review, Redstate.org, and others.

Shadegg's announcment is good news for conservatives, now we just need to make sure he gets the job.

Conservatism: A Winning Philosophy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the United States this week is a good reminder for those of us conservatives who might be wallowing in some self-doubt, or at least disappointment in our fellow man, that conservatism is alive and well and is making great progress around the world.

Following the trend seen in Germany, Australia, poland and elsewhere, our neighbors to the north in Canada are 10 days away from potentially electing their own Conservative government.

So what's the problem with conservatism in the United States? Well, actually nothing. Conservatism is alive and well and frankly, stronger than ever here in the U.S. The problem with the GOP is a few greedy, power-hungry individuals who care only about protecting their own rear-ends. While negative public perception of the GOP certainly doesn't help advance teh conservative agenda, the ideas are still strong, and they are winners.

Stick to those ideas, and the results will follow.

Depressing

How much does it suck that Maryland has a Republican Governor and the Old Dominion about to inaugurate our second consecutive Democrat.

A lot, I say.

Northern Virginia ignored again...

As Chad notes, Gov.-elect Kaine's inauguration is scheduled for Saturday, and promises to be a good event, if you could get tickets.
BUT, further showing their scorn for Northern Virginia (said with tongue firmly in cheek) and its many Redskins fans, the Inaugural Ball is scheduled for 6 PM. For those of you keeping track, that is smack in the middle of the Redskins game on Saturday.
Shame, Gov.-elect Kaine, Shame!


UPDATE: Of course, those of you who choose the Ball will miss the Redskins advancing to the NFC Championship, assuming Brunell doesn't die of old age in the middle of the game. Go Skins!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ideas Win Elections: Glamour Doesn't

That is the title of an editorial in London's Daily Telegraph by Mark Steyn explaining the reason for recent conservative successes in Australia and Canada, and the respective failure of conservatives in England. Conservatives in Virginia and around the United States would do well to remember it.

Here are some real ideas we conservatives can get behind. Why don't we?

Harrington comes up short

With 20 of 21 precincts reporting in the 23rd district, Democrat Shannon Valentine leads Republican Mike Harrington by nearly 2,000 votes. This is a discouraging loss for the GOP which loses yet another seat in the House of Delegates. The loss of this one seat may not seem like much, but it is part of a disturibing trend of recent success for Virginia Democrats.

I still believe that, all things being equal, Virginians are likely to choose Republicans over Democrats to represent them, but we can't just throw an (R) out there everytime and expect to win. If the Virginia GOP isn't careful, all these paper cuts are going to bleed us to death.

Kennedy's questioning of Alito

I know he's not going to, but it would make the rest of my year if, in answering Kennedy's "questions" about recusal re: Vanguard holdings, Alito made some kind of subtle reference about Chappaquiddick like:
"Senator, after realizing I had a pontential conflict in the case, I vacated the decision and had it reheard by a different panel. I would have done so earlier, but I was a 'jumble of emotions', and my conduct was 'inexecusable'" (a not-so-subtle reference to Kennedy's professed reason for not reporting the accident)

UPDATE (1): Does anyone know how many times Sen. Kennedy failed the bar? Because I've never heard one man so mischaracterize the law in my entire life. I'm not sure Kennedy has ever heard of "qualified immunity", and even if he has, he clearly skipped that entire section of the law in law school and since.

Outlook 2006

With the announcement that Democrat Harris Miller will be challenging incumbent Senator George Allen, the GOP is feeling pretty good about retaining that seat this November. Unfortunately, that feeling is not particularly widespread as we head into the Congressional midterm elections.

The Frist-DeLay-Abramoff group of scandals have put a harsh spotlight on Congressional Republicans and the results do not look pretty. An AP Poll released this weekend showed that Democrats lead Republicans by 13% in a generic Congressional poll. Now it is true that most Congressional races are decided by the candidates, not simply party labels, but the margin is severe.

On the Senate side, John J. Miller over at the National Review has a review of the key Senate races going into the fall. While the outlook appears to have Republicans retaining control of the Senate, the loss of a couple of seats certainly appears possible at this point. Miller warns that if seemingly safe GOP incumbents like Arizona's Jon Kyl or Missouri's Jim Talent start to fade, control of the Senate could be in doubt. On the other hand, if the GOP is able to gain unexpected ground in places like Washington or Nebraska, then things could be rosier.

I have been astounded at the NRSC's inability to field top-flight candidates in what should be competitive Senate races. In 2004, under the leadership of George Allen, the GOP did a bang-up job of recruiting and the result was a net gain of four seats. As I said above, congressional races ultimately come down to two competing personalities. While national issues and scandals can certainly have an effect, these races will come down to the citizens of individual states and districts determining what issues matter to them and chosing which candidate will better represent them on Capitol Hill.

Political Correctness run amok

From today's Washington Post, further proof that political correctness has (a) run amok and (b) gotten truly ridiculous:
"CHEAP SHOTS: To avoid insulting native American heritage, the Seattle Times decided to limit severely the use of the term Redskins in the paper -- even if a team with that name will dominate news coverage this week. The Times will not use the moniker in headlines or captions. Reporters can use it only once, as a first reference, in all stories. The Redskins will be referred to almost exclusively as Washington -- which could get a little confusing for local readers who also live in that state."
My favorite part is the "one use only" rule. Will there be a penalty for a second use? If so, what? Attend sensitivity training over the weekend instead of watching Washington's team play the Seahawks?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Cantor to be new Majority Whip?

The National Review online is reporting that Congressman Cantor appears to have the necessary 116 votes to be the Majority Whip.
Given the increasingly bad press the GOP caucus has been getting over the Abramoff scandal, I'll be suprised if Blunt is able to hold on to the post, given his close ties to DeLay. The real question is: What moves can Cantor (and whomever is elected Majority Leader take to help distance the majority of the caucus from the few bad apples ruining it for everyone?
Either way, congratulations to another rising star from the Commonwealth.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Alito time!

Confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito begin this week, which will explain those strange sounds you'll hear emanating from our nation's capital as liberals go to '10' on the freak-out scale.

Be sure to follow all the fun over at great blogs like Redstate's ConfirmThem and NRO's Bench Memos. In the meantime read this column by Rich Lowry to prepare for all the liberal talking points

Gregg Williams is being groomed

ESPN.com reports that part of Gregg Williams' new contract with the Redskins is the provision that, if he is still with the team when Joe Gibbs retires and he is not named Gibbs' successor, then he shall receive $1 million.

That's a pretty nice guarantee and it virtually ensures that the Redskins will likely have stability at the coaching position for some years to come, something that has escaped the team since Gibbs' first retirement. This is a great deal for Williams who will have the opportunity to take over one of the NFL's all-time greatest franchises, unless he foolishly decides to leave and try his hand somewhere else.

While some might be concerned by Williams' 17-31 record as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, I firmly believe that Williams will be able to learn a great deal from that humbling experience as well as by roaming the sidelines with Gibbs for a couple more years.

I believe that the powerful mojo of Coach Gibbs has finally vanquished the bad karma of Little Danny Snyder and that the Skins are now headed back in the right direction. It's about time.

Kaine-Bollling-McDonnell

Like it or not, this is the team that will be leading our Commonwealth for the next four years. The RTD has this little profile on the three. It notes interestingly that none of the three men were actually born in the Commonwealth.

The relationship between Kaine and Bolling will certainly be the most interesting to watch since Bolling may well have some sway over how smoothly Kaine's agenda advances in the General Assembly.

In addition, Warner's decision last week to call for DNA testing of an executed individual may well set up an interesting confrontation between Tim Kaine and Bob McDonnell. While the RTD article notes that both men are Roman Catholics, don't make the mistake of thinking that will make the task of squaring their death penalty stances any easier.

I am not one who believes that Bolling and McDonnell will go out of their way to undermine Kaine's governorship in hopes that he fails miserably and one of them might be elected afterwards. However, I don't expect them to make his life a bed of roses either.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fight For Old D.C.

This afternoon our beloved Washington Redskins make their triumphant return to the playoffs facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Redskins lost to the Bucs 36-35 earlier this season on a phantom two-point conversion by Mike Alstott.

Interesting tidbit of information: Joe Gibbs is the third winning coach in NFL-playoff history with 16 wins in the postseason, tied with former Steelers coach Chuck Noll. If Gibbs is somehow able to get the Redskins to the Super Bowl, he will tie Don Shula with 19 playoff victories. If he is somehow able to win that game, he will tie Tom Landry for the most playoff wins all-time. It should be noted however that Landry and Shula each have two Super-Bowl rings, while Gibbs has three.

HAIL TO THE REDSKINS, BABY!

UPDATE: Ok, the Skins had no business winning that game. That was the ugliest win I have ever seen. Skins prevail 17-10. Oh well, bring on the Seahawks!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Vick is Gone

Well, it's official. Marcus Vick has been dismissed from the Virginia Tech football team.

Apparently, in addition to his on-field transgressions, Vick was caught speeding with a revoked license on Dec. 17 in Hampton.

I must say that, despite my calls for his removal, I am not happy that his career has ended this way. Marcus is a very taleted player who has done great things for the team on the field this year. Unfortunately, there is a level of maturity that has escaped him to this point in his life. I wish Marcus the best in the future and I hope he will eventually grow up. I would not be surprised to see him go ahead and put his name in the NFL draft and be drafted.

I agree with this decision and I am glad that Virginia Tech can now move on and start a new era. While many Hokies are predicting doom and gloom for years to come, I am confident about VT's future. We have had some tremendous recruiting classes in recent years and there is a great deal of talent on both sides of the ball. While I doubt the Hokies will be competing for an ACC championship next year, I do think we will still be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC for years to come.

Let the Sean Glennon (or Cory Holt, or Ike Whittaker, or Greg Boone) era begin.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Thomas R. Morris to be named Education Secretary

According to the AP:
Thomas R. Morris, president of Emory & Henry College, will be appointed secretary of education in the cabinet of Gov.-elect Tim Kaine, The Associated Press learned Thursday.

The appointment is one of the most important for Kaine, who aims to establish a program to train pre-kindergarten students to read, and it completes his cabinet for a four-year term that begins Jan. 14.

Morris will be introduced during a news conference at Richmond's Arthur Ashe Elementary School on Friday, according a senior state official who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of upstaging the announcement.

I suppose that puts the Houck for Education speculation to rest...

Kaine's Cabinet Down to One Vacancy

The RTD reports that Tim Kaine has asked Mark Warner's Transportation Chief Pierce Homer to stay on in his current position. Transportation has been a central issue to Kaine since he won election to the Governor's mansion in November.

That announcement means that only one of the top administration posts remains unfilled, Secretary of Education. The article indicates that the mystery name will be forthcoming tomorrow.

UPDATE: The Virginian Pilot reports that the EdSec will be Emory and Henry President Thomas Morris. Looks like disappointment again for Russ Potts.

NASCAR Hall of Fame looks South

Richmond is officially out of the running for the NASCAR Hall of Fame according to this story from the RTD. The finalists are Charlotte, Atlanta, and Daytona.

Selfishly I hope that Charlotte wins because its closest. I also think it would be a good locale because it is smack-dab in the heart of racing country and is easily accessible from many nearby states. Daytona makes sense because of the history, but is pretty out of the way. Atlanta has sort of become the new capital of the South, but it is already overloaded with tourist attractions.

In any case, you can be sure that wherever they build it, I will go.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Time to Cut the Cord on Vick

As a Hokie fan, I am extremely proud of what our football team has accomplished this year. Finishing 11-2 is nothing to scoff at and there are many great players on this team, like Humes, Tapp, and Williams that should be recognized for their efforts. However, as I said yesterday
I was also extremely embarrassed by the conduct of Marcus Vick in Monday's game. His intentional stepping on Louisville DE Elvis Dumervil's leg was a no-class act that unfortunately colored VT's Gator Bowl victory.

I am obviously not alone in thinking so as the Roanoke Times' Aaron McFarling, the RTD's Bob Lipper, and even Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver have weighed in with similar thoughts. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done with the video being played repeatedly on ESPN and the story being talked about in the pages of USAToday.

Frankly, those who are saying this is just part of the game or an isolated incident are fooling themselves. This is a continued pattern of bad behavior on the part of Marcus Vick. I believed that Marcus deserved a second chance at Virginia Tech, and now I believe he has used it up. Anyone who has read this blog knows how dedicated I am to Virginia Tech. I love the school and I will always support the Hokies. But Virginia Tech is bigger than one player, even if his last name is Vick.

Frank Beamer has done an excellent job building the football program and part of that success has been in recruiting. VT has three very capable individuals ready to step into the QB position should VT do the right thing and give Vick his walking papers. As we saw last year, VT will only go as far as their QB will lead them. I am more than ready to give Glennon, Holt, or Whittaker an opportunity to lead this team, even if it means losing a game or two more than we would with Vick at the helm.

I encourage all Hokie fans who are as fed up with Vick as I am to email Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver (weaverj@vt.edu) and express your displeasure.

Family Foundation on Senate Ed & Health

The Family Foundation is urging everyone to contact Senators Wampler, Stosch, and Chichester regarding the changes on the Senate Education and Health committee. Though we won't know what happens to Sen. Potts until session gets underway, we know now that Senators Bolling and Mims will need replacements. These are two pro-life votes and we need to make sure they stay that way.

Wampler is the Chairman of the Committee on Committees.

UPDATE- The link up before was from a forwarded email. Go to the Family Foundation website to get plugged into their grassroots system.

http://www.familyfoundation.org

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Kaine Lies Again

According to an email from the Kaine team I received a few minutes ago, The Beach Boys will be headlining at Tim Kaine's inaugural concert on Friday January 13th at the Kaplan Arena at William and Mary Hall.

What he really means is Mike Love, replacement member Bruce Johnston, and nameless stand-ins will be headlining. I'd never felt any problem seeing Love use the Beach Boys mantle. Though often lampooned for the way he prostituted himself on numerous episodes of Full House and other formulaic family sit-coms in the 1980s and 1990s, he was a principle lyricist on some of the band's most popular hits, and a lead vocalist. You could argue that all the mistakes he made getting in the way of Brian Wilson's musical growth were in what he perceived to be Brian and the band's best interest.

But last month, he stepped over the line. He's filing suit against Wilson for the 2004 release of Smile. Smile was the follow up to Good Vibrations (1966) had it been completed. Wilson's personal demons and Love's fear that the sound was too far removed from their musical roots shelved the album in 1967. Wilson, in a great story of redemption and personal triumph, finished the album and released it in 2004. Love claims that the Beach Boys' imagery and iconography was used to promote the album. Love claims Wilson "shamelessly misappropriated Mike Love's songs, likeness and the Beach Boys trademark, as well as the ‘Smile' album itself."

Which would all be fine and good if Love didn't tour to this day as "The Beach Boys" knowing full well that he owes so much of his personal success to his genius cousin. Until Love relents, I will therefore, refuse to acknowledge him as a Beach Boy.

Not like anyone asked me, but still.

Gregg Williams is staying in DC

Despite being the hottest name on the potential NFL head coaching list, Redskins' Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has decided to stay put, reportedly agreeing to a new three-year deal worth around $8 million, a record for an assistant coach.

I have to hand it to Little Danny Snyder on this one. Holding on to Gregg Williams for at least another year is cruicial for the Skins. Perhaps Williams just wasn't too keen on taking another head coaching job so soon after the beating he took in Buffalo, but the fact remains that many teams were courting his services and his departure seemed a forgone conclusion to many.

Frankly the Skins have a great chance to get to the Super Bowl this year after the way they have dominated the NFC with an 10-2 record. However, even if that doesn't happen, the braves will surely be back on the warpath next year with a pair of capable chiefs leading the way.

Until then, lets focus on getting our revenge down by the bay. GO SKINS!

3 For Virginia

I'd like to congratulate UVA and Virginia Tech on their bowl victories and also extend a special congratulations to the West Virginia Mountaineers for getting their second-ever bowl victory in dramatic fashion last night over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

If you recall, I was in Morgantown this fall for the final (at least for a while) meeting between VT and WVU. At that time I realized that WVU was a lot better than many people were saying. Throughout the season I continued to believe that WVU was under-ranked in the human polls, and that view was confirmed by the computer polls, which had WVU in the Top 10 going into last nights game.

Well, WVU certainly proved themselves worthy of a Top 10 ranking last night after beating UGA in Atlanta. Rich Rodriguez has done a fine job there and I expect WVU to continue to be a BCS player for years to come.

As far as UVA and VT go, it is great for both schools to end their seasons with a win, but looking closer the future seems dramatically different for the Commonwealth's premier programs. UVA's win may have silenced the FireAlGroh crowd temporarily, but the may struggle again next year breaking in a lot of new talent. Among the graduating seniors for UVA are QB Marques Hagans, K Connor Hughes, RB Wali Lundy, OL D'Brickshaw Ferguson, and LB Ahmad Brooks. In addition, I would be surprised to see Kai Parham give up his final year of eligibility to rake in NFL cash. That will put Groh in a tough spot next year to try an compete with the best of the ACC. However, I will point out that I was very impressed by the coming-out party of Chris Long in Nashville and look forward to seeing him bust some heads for a couple more years.

For VT, the comeback win over Louisville was nice, and an 11-2 record is nothing to scoff at, but for a team that expected much more, there is a bit of disappointment to the season. Frankly the hokies failed to show up in the two most important games of the season and as a result it cost them a chance at either a National or an ACC Championship. The big-game mentality and preparation is certainly something that must be addressed in the offseason for the Hokies.

In addition, I must say that, as a Hokie fan, I was flat-out embarrassed by the behavior of Marcus Vick in yesterday's game. His stepping on the leg of Lousiville DE Elvis Dumervil was clearly intentional and is indicative of an attitude problem that remains uncorrected. Despite all his talent, Marcus has a penchant for making incredibly dumb and selfish decisions. Frankly, VT has three capable QB's behind Vick that could very well step in and do the job without the behavioral problems that have plagued Michael's little bro. Perhaps it has come time to cut ties to that part of VT's past and look now to the promising future of the program.

VT is likely to be a preseason Top 10 team again next year and they will certainly have the talent to once again make a run at the ACC crown. Whether of not they can make another run at a National title will depend largely on whether they can find a way to maintain a consistently high level of play and discipline, regardless of whether they are playing Duke or Florida State.

3rd House, 4th Senate Up for Grabs Today

The Times Dispatch outlines what's at stake today at the polls in two special elections, with another special election coming next Tuesday and a few more in the foreseeable future.

Here's hoping for some Republican victories. Get out there and vote if you are in those districts...every vote will count.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Thrilled About the Skins

The playoffs have been a long time coming, but the Skins' victory over the Eagles today was exciting to watch, especially since the Skins had to gut it out and it was not an easy win. The defense looked very poor at times in the first half but it was amazing in the second half despite losing several players in the secondary.

On an another note, great seasons for both Tiki Barber (1,860 yards rushing, 530 yards receiving) and Thomas Jones (1,334 yards rushing). Good to see Cavalier running backs who I loved watch in college representing the school well...Barber finished second in the NFL in rushing...barely, and Jones finished in the top ten as well.