Monthly Archives: August 2005

Potts & Kaine

Good move by Kaine, no matter how the conservatives want to spin it. If the debate is held the same day as the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate, which seems to be the plan, it will blunt anything Kilgore has to say and make the story all about his not wanting to debate Potts. It also gives Kaine a chance to show himself as the more moderate of the three candidates.

Look for Potts to eventually endorse Kaine.

For us or Agin’ Us

Here’s the typical right-wing tactic. To my post yesterday about Rat Robertson, Steve Sisson asks, am I “pro-Chavez,” the duly elected socialist president of Venezuela?

You see, if you criticize a truly wacko right-wing nut, you are considered a socialist. Perhaps Steve’s remark had to do with my saying that Venezuelans were “a little smarter” by voting for their economic interests than were American voters last year who seemed to vote against their own interests by electing Bush, who has systematically favored the rich and dismantled middle class programs, yet gets their votes. So I must be a socialist. The fact is that American-backed capitalism hasn’t work for a huge portion of the Latin America. So Venezuelans, at least, are up for trying something else.

Socialism doesn’t have much a track record, and I know too little about Chavez and his program to comment, but my guess is if he sticks to socialist principles, his regime, too, will eventually fail. Equal poverty doesn’t hold much long-term attraction.

But the long-term prospects for American-style capitalism aren’t too promising, either. At the rate we’re going, we’re all going to have to work longer than ever before, and the divide between the workers and the capitalists will continue to grow because we’ve got not a pure capitalist system but a form of corporate welfare and privilege.

But back to the bait-and-switch. Can you imagine what the outcry would be from the right if Michael Moore called for an assassination of anyone? The Venezuelan government is right to say if Bush were truly dedicated to fight terrorism, he’d have Robertson arrested. After all, we’re tracking down Muslims who call for an Islamic jihad and shipping them off to Guantanamo. But instead, the Bush administration is supporting his right to free speech and saying his remarks were simply “inappropriate.” Wearing white in winter is inappropriate; Robertson’s remarks have done damage to the U.S. relationship with an entire continent. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Robertson was simply a “private citizen.” Yeah, so are the jihadists.

I don’t think Robertson should be arrested. Besides, he does progressives more good by spouting his ignorance and hypocrisy. But we’re getting closer in this country to being just like the Taliban by suggesting that criticism of Robertson makes one a socialist, and hence, the enemy of America. The administration, of course, is making it a proposition of you’re either for us or against us. Iraqi War dissidents are defeatists who don’t want to win the war on terrorism.

Pretty pathetic. And Americans are catching on.

Killing for Christ

That paragon of Christian hypocrisy, Pat Robertson, said Monday that the U.S. should kill Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. I guess that’s what Christ would have done, don’t you think?

I’ve been criticized before about my lack of patience with the American Taliban. Folks say I’m anti-Christian. But when such a supposedly mainstream, highly respected leader of Christianity like Robertson says things like this, what am I to believe? Christianity has been hijacked by the right-wing nuts.

Chavez has responded by saying such remarks will test Bush’s anti-terrorism policy.

Or does it just apply to Muslims?

The stupidity of Robertson’s remarks is evidenced by the opinion that he just played into Chavez’s hand. Certainly, his reputation will improve in Latin America if people believe the U.S. wants to assassinate him.

[L]eftism is on the rise again in Latin America for a reason, namely the burgeoning feeling around the region that a decade of U.S.-backed capitalist reforms has simply widened an already epic gap between rich and poor—and that the Bush Administration is indifferent to it.

I guess the South Americans are a little smarter than U.S. voters. They know where their economic interests lie, and they’re not going to back the very people who are oppressing them.

Funding the Fanatics

Want to know how crack ideas like “intelligent design” make it to the mainstream? It’s all about money. Say what you will, the right is willing to put its money where its mouth is.

Potts, Whitley and the Right Side Blindness

The right side of the political spectrum continues its wringing of hands over the press that gubernatorial candidate Sen. Russ Potts gets. The latest is a pretty innocuous article by Tyler Whitely of the Richmond Times Dispatch. It treats us to few bits of real news (that Potts says he won’t run again after this race being one of them). One Man’s Trash’s tirade against RTD is inexplicably described as “incisive ” by Bacon’s Rebellion. And of course, Commonwealth Conservative is also upset with Potts and calls Trash’s post “analysis.”

While the right gnashes its fangs over Potts and the press he gets, it ignores Jerry Kilgore’s patently absurd promises. Granted, Potts has thus far not said exactly how he will pay for his transportation programs, but he makes clear that more revenue — and he uses the word taxes — are needed. In fact, Norman at Trash rants about Potts saying he’ll fund transportation by “putting everything on the table.”

“Everything, then means everything that can be taxed. How visionary.”

Of course, clear vision is not something their candidate seems to have when it comes to how he’ll pay for his promises. The Hampton Roads Daily Press editorial page, which also criticizes Tim Kaine and to a lesser extent Russ Potts for fuzzy math, takes particular aim at Kilgore for outlandish, irresponsible politicking.

As for Kilgore … well, Kilgore appears to be operating on the basis of some sort of new math where, apparently, it just doesn’t matter if the numbers don’t add up.

Check these off: Kilgore embraces all of Kaine’s tax cuts and adds repeal of the 2004 state budget agreement. He would have voters decide for themselves on taxes via referendums, but also wants new regional transportation authorities with taxing powers.

That’s just for starters. Earlier this month Kilgore got on a dizzying roll.

He started out in Norton by making a big pitch for the so-called Coalfields Expressway, a $4 billion, 51-mile boondoggle for three rural southwest Virginia counties. Kilgore promised to make the road a priority, despite the fact that the federal government recently pulled out of the project, citing ballooning costs.

Kilgore also called for expansion of the Governor’s Opportunity Fund (that’s the money the governor hands out as “enticements”), urged the doubling of tax credits for economically distressed areas (“good money after good money,” he said) and pledged to abolish the estate tax.

Warmed up, Kilgore trotted over to Henry County and said he wanted a new four-year college for Southside. “We can’t wait. We have to work on that (a new college) immediately,” he told a crowd.

Finally, appearing in Charlottesville before local government officials, Kilgore was back on the subject of roads. He opposes increases in the state gas tax, but told local government officials that he would complete old road projects, widen Interstate 66 within the Washington Capital Beltway and get the third crossing of Hampton Roads done.

The money for these fine transportation undertakings will be drawn from the state’s general fund, the principal source of revenue for education. Or so he says.

And where exactly does that leave Kilgore’s commitment to the traditional Republican principles of smaller government and fiscal responsibility? He’ll need to say, because from this vantage point it’s hard to see.

I just wish the right would be intellectually honest. I think starting the conversation by saying you’re against tax increases is bass ackwards. Star with what you expect from government and then determine how to pay for it. But taxes seem as far as many on the right can go with respect to financial planning. Letting your candidate off the hook by passively endorsing outlandish promises suggests that principle is not at the heart of the right’s agenda.

Where There’s Smoke, Tighten your Gluts

Because somebody is about to be blowing up your ass. And it may be the House GOP leaders.

They’re proposing again to eliminate the estate tax. As Washington Post writers Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Jonathan Weisman recently put it

The very rich and the merely rich are fighting over the fate of the estate tax.

So far, the very rich are winning.

But they are helped by Times-Dispatch writer Michael Hardy, who begins his story today “House Republicans yesterday promised to fight for tax relief for family-owned businesses….”

To be fair, it’s not just the House GOP. Our fair-haired Democratic nominee for governor is not be outdone by Jerry Kilgore. Tim Kaine, too, wants to eliminate the estate tax. But the rouse they all allow to fester is that eliminating it will somehow save family-owned businesses. But what if we kept the exemption at what it currently is – $3.5 million? Here’s what Birnbaum and Weisman found out.

Clearly, however, the benefits would not be widespread. A new study by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that a $3.5 million exemption in 2000 would have forced a mere 94 family-owned businesses and 65 family farms to pay any estate tax — which works out to 0.007 percent of adult deaths that year. Only 54 such enterprises would have had to liquidate assets to pay the taxes, the study added.

Fifty-four, or on average, about one per state. Ok, who is the most powerful small businessman in Virginia? Whoever he is, he’s got the power to move the entire political machinery to his singular benefit.

Truth Hurts?

The Wall Street Journal is miffed at news coverage of the economy.

Media coverage of President Bush’s tax cuts has been particularly slanted. During the 2003 tax-cut debate, three of every four major TV network news stories were negative. The favorite criticisms were liberal echoes that it would bust the budget and favor the rich.

Do you think the fact that the cuts did “bust the budget and favor the rich” have anything to do with the coverage? Or like my previous post suggests, there should be both sides of an argument presented even when the other side is patently preposterous?

Kilgore: the Waffler

AP conducted an interview with Jerry Kilgore, revealing him to be wildly inconsistent in his principles. Consider this section about his transportation ideas.

Kilgore’s opponents also say his plan to require voter approval of any tax increase is evidence of weak leadership. Not true, Kilgore says.

“It’s being the ultimate leader,” Kilgore said. “I’m willing to step up and lead for the regular citizens out there who feel like they don’t have a voice when taxes are raised.”

Lead for the regular citizens? He’s passing the buck and he calls it leadership. Imagine George Washington taking a vote as to whether to charge or retreat in battle.

He is unswayed by public opinion polls showing a majority of Virginians support the $1.4 billion tax increase passed by legislators, without direct voter input, in 2004.

“I still believe that raising taxes is met with opposition from regular voters,” Kilgore said. “That’s what I’m hearing when I’m traveling around Virginia _ that people don’t want more taxes, they want less taxes, and people want a government that truly considers the money that they take in to be the citizens’ money, not government’s money.”

He’s kind of like George Bush: Don’t confuse me with the facts. Even though a majority of voters say they support the tax increases, “regular” voters don’t. So he just called the majority of Virginia voters irregular. What is an irregular voter? One who thinks? Or maybe he means the people who just vote once in awhile, whereas regular voters vote regularly. Or maybe one who wears shirts with one sleeve longer than the other?

Giving voters the final say on tax increases also is a key part of Kilgore’s transportation plan. He favors establishing regional transportation authorities that can plan projects within their areas and levy new taxes, provided they are approved in a referendum.

“It will be a devolution, if you will, from the old hierarchy of the Commonwealth Transportation Board deciding everything to empowering a region to make decisions,” Kilgore said.

Ah-ha. Now I get it. This is a religious educational matter. He’s sick and tired of these folks who have studied the issue and have a certain expertise in transportation matter, like the folks on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, making all the decisions. He wants regular voters (Christian voters?) to make the decisions based on a 30-second TV commercial or a chat with their buddies at the water cooler who know all the answers. And for the kids, what will we teach them about transportation matters? We teach them devolution, not that evolution crap.

AP writer Larry O’Dell then reveals Kilgore’s hypocrisy.

While he wants voters to approve any tax increases, Kilgore believes the governor and legislature need no guidance on tax cuts. He has pledged to finish the car tax rollback begun by then-Gov. Jim Gilmore in 1998 and to cap real estate assessment increases at 5 percent.

Why can’t we vote on decreasing taxes, too?

Then Kilgore blabbers on about property taxes.

He says his plan to curb soaring property tax bills is superior to Kaine’s proposal to give localities the option of exempting from taxation up to one-fifth of the assessed value of homes.

“Mine’s real, not optional,” Kilgore said.

You see, the people are smart enough to vote intelligently on referendums but apparently not smart enough to vote to lower their property taxes.

He said local governments are cutting tax rates by a penny or two but still enjoying a windfall because of rapidly escalating assessments.

…”What matters to the people I’ve been talking to on the campaign trail is the number they write in that little box up in the right hand corner of their check,” Kilgore said. “If it goes up it’s a tax increase; if it goes down it’s a tax decrease.”

So Jerry, I’ve got the answer. If the problem is assessments are going up, let’s make them go down. Don’t fund the schools; let the roads deteriorate; cut police and fire protection. Soon no one will want to live there, and housing prices will tumble and tax bills will go down. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. And I think, Jerry, you are certainly capable of understanding no-brainers. If fact, I think you could specialize in them. You have the gray matter it takes.

O’Dell also has the temerity to suggest that taxes and Terri Schiavo will not be the hottest issues.

While hot-button social issues receive their share of attention, transportation is likely to emerge as a key issue of the next governor’s term. Along with the regional transportation authorities, Kilgore proposes spending general funds _ which come largely from income and sales taxes _ for transportation. Highway construction and maintenance now is financed primarily through user fees, including gasoline taxes and tolls.

Regardless of the funding sources, Kilgore vowed to act quickly.

“You can’t wait until the third year, you can’t hold study commissions all around the state,” he said. “You’ve got to be decisive. We know what the needs are.”

Yeah, Jerry, you got to be decisive. But you want to wait until we can hold referendums to determine how and when we spend money for transportation. Gee, do the voters get to decide when to spend the money? And who we hire to build the roads? And what color stripe we use for passing lanes?

Along with the story, there are excerpts from the interview. They are breathtaking in their inconsistency.

He knows what we need to do immediately for transportation — hold a referendum — but guns require a bit of study.

On whether the one-gun-a.m.onth law should be repealed:

“We need to recognize that one gun a month was passed at a time when Virginia’s laws were lax in a lot of areas. …We’ve done a lot to improve our laws, to prevent those who want to buy guns just to commit crimes from using Virginia as that vehicle. …I would be interested in doing a study of what technology has brought to the table in the arena of one gun a month.”

And then this:

On why he does not also advocate a regional approach to zoning and land use decisions:

“Because those decisions really have always been the local decisions about schools and fire and police, those issues that affect the local budget. Roads are normally regional.”

But wait a minute, schools aren’t necessarily a local decision.

“I’ve always favored state intervention when local school districts prove time and time again that they can’t get the job done. We have other areas with the same socio-economic barriers that are performing and performing quite well on the standards. …It’s a commitment issue.”

And on hot button issues like gay adoption, he’s opposed to it but would let the courts decide, although he doesn’t explain why Kaine then can’t say that he’s opposed to the death penalty but would follow the law.

“We’ve known from generation to generation that the best place for a child is with a loving mother and a loving father. …We have to consider the interest of that child above everything. …I do oppose gay adoption, but courts are free to look at the entire criteria, from home life to lifestyle, in making that order.”

In other words, again Jerry will let somebody else lead the way.

‘Democrats’ Divide’

Dan Balz has an analysis piece in this morning’s Washington Post on how the battle over John Roberts is dividing the Washington establishment of the Democratic party from grassroots activists.

There are also abiding tensions over what political strategy might be most effective in carrying the party back to power. Some elected officials, according to critics, have been slow to appreciate how the power balance in the Democratic coalition has shifted — away from established interests and toward citizen activists who tend toward a more aggressive brand of politics.

Party leaders in Washington trying to manage this unruly alliance as they prepare for Roberts’s confirmation hearings face a delicate choice, according to party strategists and other analysts. They can risk heading into the 2006 midterm elections with a demoralized base. Or they could potentially turn off swing voters, who may view Bush’s nominee in less ideological terms and could recoil at a party they perceive as driven by die-hard activists.

… After representatives of several liberal advocacy groups complained Tuesday about what they regarded as a flaccid strategy, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), the party’s longtime liberal leader, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, issued blistering statements criticizing Roberts’s record. They said it is so conservative that it is far outside the ideological mainstream.

Yesterday, conservative interest groups and some Republican leaders condemned Kennedy and Leahy, saying they were letting the groups lead the party. “Someone needs to remind Senators Kennedy and Leahy that their constituents are the American people, not far-left third-party groups in Washington,” Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said in remarks prepared for delivery in West Virginia and released by his office in Washington.

The irony, some might say hypocrisy, of Mehlman’s statements is that the GOP is increasingly held hostage by the right wing nuts. And it has apparently served the party very well. After all, regressives are often cited as forming the electoral difference in Bush’s re-election.

Balz cites tensions between the DC Dems and the Democratic wing of the Democratic party over the party’s unwillingness to make the Bush tax cuts the issue in the 2002 elections. The DC doyens’ strategy failed, of course. And the Democratic establishment’s initial backing of the Iraq War also proved harmful to Kerry’s chances last year.

According to Balz, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee waited until the final week of Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett’s Ohio congressional campaign before giving him some money. He almost pulled off an incredible upset. Could earlier money have made a difference?

Exactly why are these guys the experts?

With Cindy Sheehan’s successfully focusing war opponents, it seems the progressives were right all along.

By the way, anyone notice that The Washington Post had no story in the paper this morning about the 1,600 anti-war protests last night that were spawned by Sheehan – except for mention of the protests in Dana Milbank’s “Washington Sketch” column and two op-eds this morning? On the Post web site, you can find such a story, but not by a Post writer. It’s an AP story.

Geez, the anti-war folks can’t get any better treatment than the Washington Mystics, whose season has been covered largely by short wire reports.