Monthly Archives: December 2004

Virginia News: Gilmore for Security Post?

The Virginia Pilot thinks former Governor Jim Gilmore would be a good choice for Secretary of Homeland Security.

Of huge importance, Gilmore also champions the need for careful balance between civil liberties and homeland security. His commission recommended creation of an independent board to monitor that relationship. “We must resist the urge to seek total security,” Gilmore wrote in a cover letter to the commission’s final report.

Let’s hope so.

Virginia News: Schrock Returns to Congress

Rep. Edward L. Schrock (R-Va.), who did not seek re-election after accused of hypocrisy for his stands against gays, has been hired by U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) as “the top staff person for one of the subcommittees of the Government Reform Committee, which Davis chairs and Schrock has served on.” Regarding the charges, which Schrock never admitted to, that he solicited sex from gay men while voting and campaigning against gay rights, Davis said,

“A, I don’t care. B, What my employees do in their private lives is not my concern….Professionally, the taxpayers will get their money out of Ed Schrock. We don’t have any hiring discrimination on this committee.”

Good for Davis, if he doesn’t care that Schrock may be gay; not so good if he doesn’t care about hypocrisy.

Update: Alas,

In one of his final votes this fall, Schrock voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would prohibit gay marriage.

Michael Rogers, a gay activist who publicized the allegations about Schrock, called the vote hypocritical. But the conservative Christian Coalition praised Schrock for standing by his political principles despite alleged turmoil in his private life.

Virginia News: Freedom – American Style?

A student refuses to write a letter to Marines as demanded by his teacher. Angered by the assignment, he says either that he wishes “American soldiers — and indeed all Americans – would die” (his teacher’s recollection) or that the Marines “might as well die, as much as I care.” Either way, not pretty, but teenagers are known to say some outrageous things as they try to sort out their political views. And in this case, the kid’s not even a teenager, but an 11-year old with a “foreign sounding name.”

So what was the consequence? The kid was suspended and sheriffs showed up at his home — a month later — to interrogate his mother for two hours.

They asked how she felt about 9/11 and the military. They asked whether she knows any foreigners who have trouble with American policy. They mentioned a German friend who had been staying with the family and asked whether the friend sympathized with the Taliban. They also inquired whether she might be teaching her children “anti-American values,” she said.

…[The mother], a U.S. citizen, and her husband, an Israeli citizen who manages a Leesburg moving company, say the investigators’ visit and the school’s response were a paranoid overreaction in a charged post-9/11 environment. But law enforcement officials say the terrorist attacks and the Columbine school shootings require them to consider whether children who make threats might post a danger to their classmates. The case illustrates the balancing act that schools and law enforcement must find between the free speech of minors and community safety.

…His parents said the boy’s words were those of a confused adolescent, whose views of the world are still being formed. They believe that authorities were called partly because he has a foreign-sounding name and accented English from years of living abroad. The family lived in India, Europe and Israel before moving to the United States in 2000.

The Washington Post editorialized.

Did it really make sense to send law enforcement officers to interrogate his parents, especially if the questioning had a political tone? It is true, as Loudoun Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson suggested, that the county needs to take threats of violence in the schools seriously; if not, he told The Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman, “something tragic [could] happen down the road that we could have prevented.” But so far as is known, Yishai [the boy] made no credible threat of violence directed at teachers or students. Although Yishai’s mother acknowledges that he has been a rambunctious student, no previous incident at school was grave enough to result in serious disciplinary action or even a letter in Yishai’s file. Moreover, if school officials or the sheriff’s office regarded Yishai as a genuine threat to public safety at Belmont Ridge, why did nearly a month pass between his outburst and the investigators’ visit to his home?
Perhaps the idea was to scare Yishai straight or to impress on him the indecency of his views. If so, there were probably better ways to deliver the message, starting with the teachers, guidance counselors, principal and other administrators at his school. Let the deployment of sheriff’s deputies to a schoolboy’s home be a last resort in the event of a specific, well-founded threat of violence.

One would certainly hope that schools use this type of likely immature reaction to teach a lesson.

Yishai said he has learned that it is not worth challenging authority. “At the end of the day, you lose,” he said, adding: “All of these freedoms and things they’re supposed to uphold, they bash them.”

Not the lesson I’d hoped for.

Virginia News: What Does Paul Trible Think?

Paul Trible, former Senator and now the chairman of another group that includes business folks wanting greater investment in core infrastructure in the state, the Foundation for Virginia, has an op-ed in the Hampton Roads Daily Press. He cites transportation as unfinished business for the group but makes no suggestions for solving the problem. What I’d curious about is the Foundation’s stance on the “Charter Schools” idea that will separate UVa., Tech and W&M from the rest of the state’s colleges. There are those who think the rest of the Commonwealth’s higher ed institutions will get the short end of the stick. And that’s where Mr. Trible’s views as president of Christopher Newport University will be of interest.

Virginia News: The Miller Win

The Hampton Daily News editorial page thinks Paula Miller’s victory in Norfolk yesterday might send a chilling message to the no-tax crowd.

Essentially, the contest pitted a pragmatist against a populist. Former TV reporter Miller pitched her candidacy in moderate, bipartisan terms; her Republican opponent – Regent University fund-raiser Michael Ball – adopted the have-it-all-for-less posture of the departing Drake.

This time the have-it-all-for-less pitch tanked.

Ball appears to be a decent enough fellow – he was gracious in defeat – but public patience may be running out with the proposition, lovingly advanced by the noisy wing of the GOP, that somehow you can continuously cut taxes while still fulfilling the state’s core commitments to public services, i.e. education, public safety and transportation.

But there was also a little assist – $50,000 – from the newly formed political action committee “Leadership for Virginia.” Created and funded primarily by Republican businessmen and entrepreneurs (whose patience was long ago exhausted by the fiscal folly of populism and who are willing even to put money behind Democrats to get the point across), this PAC will be active in the House races in 2005, particularly in support of those members who supported Warner’s budget compromise.

The long-term intent of the PAC, says one of its organizers, is to get Virginia “to pay its bills” and discourage the free-lunch politics of recent years. That’s an admirable ambition, and now the House of Delegates has one more member – Del.-elect Paula Miller – committed to it.

Though the turnout (22+%) might have been better than expected for a special election, the margin was so thin (less than 100 votes) that we can’t read too much into it. Yet, it suggests that painting no-taxers as out of touch with reality might have traction. Or at least that being a no-taxer doesn’t always get you elected. But the greatest damage to the GOP is the continued erosion of business support for their candidates. The question is can Dems keep their support without giving away the store. Next November could be fun.

The Virginian-Pilot is also looking forward to November and thinks “moderation” was the winner.

The precinct results make clear that Republicans abandoned Ball and crossed over to the Democrat.

They rallied behind Miller’s urgency for bipartisan problem-solving in Richmond, particularly for transportation, law enforcement and education.

And for at least two reasons, it’s a bigger setback for the right wing of the Virginia GOP than the closeness of the results would suggest.

First, the district was remapped three years ago to include some of the city’s most reliably Republican precincts along Little Creek Road.

This was intended to make it very hard for a Democrat to oust Drake. It was so hostile that Democrat Del. Don Williams, now a city councilman, gave up without a fight. Ball inherited not only that friendly district but the warmest embrace of Drake and the right’s standard-bearers, including U.S. Sen. George Allen and Attorney Gen. Jerry Kilgore. Yet he still lost.

Second, the district is tailor-made for the anti-tax message the Virginia GOP has ridden to dominance. The district includes seven miles of bayfront homes hit with huge real estate assessment increases in the last several years.

Ball relentlessly attacked tax increases secured last winter by Gov. Mark Warner and endorsed by Miller. In daily mail drops, Ball promised even more cuts in car taxes, real estate taxes, the gross receipts tax, and refunds of state surpluses.

That these promises failed to carry him to victory in the conservative 87th District is evidence perhaps that voters are wising up to the right wing’s funny math. Just two of Ball’s ideas, for example, would have cost Norfolk 172 teachers and aides, several dozen deputies and blown a hole so large in Norfolk’s budget that it would have required a 20-cent property tax increase to fill.

For 10 years, the Republican right has pretended that Virginians can have tax cuts without losing essential services. Tuesday’s election suggests that the truth may be catching up with that fantasy. That realization will be tested much more thoroughly in general elections in 11 months.

Virginia News: Huh?

Can someone tell me what the editorial page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch is saying with this brief editorial?

Fairfax Delegate Chapman Petersen will seek the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor. The 36-year-old Petersen is known as a proven vote-getter in (or in at least a few precincts in) Northern Virginia. But how will he compete against a Republican in other regions where the GOP generally runs up large margins? George Mason professor Toni-Michelle Travis says, “He’s going to have to find a way of balancing his Northern Virginia agenda with an agenda that answers questions from downstate areas, which are depressed and downtrodden.” If the Democrat follows that brilliant advice from the urbane about the provinces, he’ll be sure to pick up, oh, about three votes.

Virginia News: Who Pays for Eavesdropping

Here’s who footed the bill for the GOP eavesdropping.
RNC — $200,000
Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore — $125,000
U.S. Sen. John W. Warner. — $125,000
U.S. Sen. George Allen — $100,000
Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford — $50,000
Reps. Frank R. Wolf, R-10th — $30,000
Thomas M. Davis III, R-11th — $30,000
Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th — $30,000
Eric I. Cantor, R-7th — $30,000
Rep.-elect Thelma Drake R-2nd — $25,000.
Former GOP chairman Gary R. Thomson — $50,000
Former Speaker of the House S. Vance Wilkins Jr. of Amherst & Wilkins former chief aide, Claudia D. Tucker of Amherst — $35,000.

That’s more than the $750,000 total fine. The excess will help pay legal fees that amount to more than $160,000. Keep in mind that the Dems lawyers got more than $300,000, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Virginia News: Shear to Dems: ‘Leave Kilgore Alone’

Speaking of the scandal, Mike Shear of The Washington Post seems to want the Dems to stop pestering Jerry Kilgore about his involvement.

For months, Democrats have been pushing to discover what Kilgore knew and when he knew it. They hinted that Kilgore might have known more about the eavesdropping than he was letting on.

It now appears that Kilgore knew less. In a sworn deposition in the lawsuit, Kilgore said he stopped Anne Petera, his top aide, before she could even spill the slightest detail about the eavesdropping. He said he directed Petera to talk to his chief legal counsel about whatever it was she was about to tell him.

Democrats, including Kaine, quickly shifted their argument. They are now accusing Kilgore of burying his head in the sand.

Can you imagine what Kilgore would have done if Petera came to him with evidence that the Dems had eavesdropped on a GOP conference call? I’m betting it would not have been the Sgt. Schultz reaction: “I know nutting.” And I wonder if Shear would have thought the GOP was overreacting. Just wondering.

Virginia News: Guns at the Capitol

Gun nuts are trying to overturn a ban on bringing guns into the Capitol.

Gun-rights advocates want to change a new state regulation approved by senior Virginia lawmakers without fanfare that bars anyone without a concealed-weapons permit from openly carrying weapons into the state Capitol in Richmond.

The restriction, approved by the Joint Rules Committee earlier this spring, went unnoticed by many for months because the measure was not subject to a vote by the full legislature.

Advocates such as the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) yesterday called the committee’s action a “stealth” change that could lead to a restriction of Second Amendment rights in local jurisdictions such as Fairfax County.

“It’s wrongheaded,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of VCDL,
which began a lobbying campaign to reverse the ban. “It’s one more thing that doesn’t need to be done against a right we have. They are needlessly impeding that and it’s wrong. This new ban needs to be rescinded as soon as possible.”

Mr. Van Cleave said people who are forced to leave their guns in their cars when visiting the Capitol will not be safe in Richmond, which has a high crime rate.

What are they going to do? Shoot somebody who looks crosswise at them?

In Virginia, a permit is required to conceal a handgun on one’s person, not to own a handgun or carry it openly. More than 20 states, including West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Delaware, have similar open-carry laws. It is illegal to carry handguns openly in Maryland and the District.

Statistics show that permit holders rarely commit violent crimes.

Yeah. And I’m sure statistics show that people who don’t carry guns rarely commit crimes. So?

Some Republican lawmakers have told VCDL they will consider reversing the ban in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 12.

Who wants to bet that one of those lawmakers is Del. Dick Black (R) of Loudoun County?