Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Straw Poll in Bedford

Waldo has been talking about the straw poll in Northern Virginia (and who hasn't been?) and the effects of it and whether it is a viable example of a candidate's standing in the public at large.

There have been many stories about it. So it comes as no surprise that Fifth District Democrats will be polled at their Annual Dinner on March 31st ($35, talk to Cheryl Oliver) about their preference for Senate and Fifth District Congressional candidates. I disagree with the need for this type of poll.

I think this tries to create some excitement, which is a good thing. We need more excitement in the Democratic Party. Passion for ideals is part of what has been missing in the Democratic Party and their message.

I just wonder if the potential blowback in terms of talk on the internets and in the streets is something Fifth District Democrats are ready for. Also, I wonder if other events such as debates won't suffer from a lack of publicity. That's where the real talk on real issues takes place.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Headline Says It All

Cost of Iraq war could surpass $1 trillion
Estimates vary, but all agree price is far higher than initially expected

(This excellent article by Martin Wolk, the Chief Economics Correspondent for MSNBC points out some information all citizens should keep in mind. What is the real cost of the Iraq War?)

By Martin Wolk
Chief economics correspondent
Updated: 7:25 p.m. ET March 17, 2006

One thing is certain about the Iraq war: It has cost a lot more than advertised. In fact, the tab grows by at least $200 million each and every day.


White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was the exception to the rule, offering an "upper bound" estimate of $100 billion to $200 billion in a September 2002 interview with The Wall Street Journal. That figure raised eyebrows at the time, although Lindsey argued the cost was small, adding, "The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.


The most current estimates of the war's cost generally start with figures from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which as of January 2006 counted $323 billion in expenditures for the war on terrorism, including military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just this week the House approved another $68 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would bring the total allocated to date to about $400 billion. The Pentagon is spending about $6 billion a month on the war in Iraq, or about $200 million a day, according to the CBO. That is about the same as the gross domestic product of Nigeria.

Does Conservatism now mean they would like to spend ALL of your money? The Iraq war is unconstitutional, and plans need to be made along the lines of what Jack Murtha suggested last winter.

I will cite one example of what I think is one of the biggest lies of the Republican House members: Virgil Goode has completely followed the Bush regime in every program they wanted. Any deviation from it was approved by someone else. Recently, Virgil Goode gave the ill-gotten gains in the form of illegal campaign contributions away. Do you know who he gave them to? Around half went to a non-profit agency of some sort. Other money went to the SPCA, and a huge amount was spread around the Fifth District firehouses and rescue squads. Not only is the money not his to give away, it was given partially to people whose funding he has voted against time after time.

Two Hundred Million Dollars a day. You can all imagine for yourselves what that would buy. How much could our share of $200M a day do for local business development, roads, schools and other needs. It could rescue some areas from feeling like they have no choice but to accept things like a waste dump in place of true economic opportunity.

Virgil doesn't want to end the war, he wants to continue the status quo.

Not only is the war wrong, for too may reasons to list here; it is also a colossal waste of the treasury of this country. I am a veteran, and I am as interested in taking care of our troops as much as any flag-waver. But I am not for treating our soldiers and airmen like so much chattel, to be stop-lossed away from their families, given sub-standard equipment if at all, be subject to questionable food and water. The current administration is willing to break the military even further (Abu Ghraib, anyone?)than it already is.

We as citizens have to stand up for the troops and our country and say 'enough'; enough Iraqi civilian deaths, enough soldier deaths and no more troop placements sent to Iraq.

Friday, March 17, 2006

More Ruff Business

A friend of mine, Lisa, of Honesty Counts had her letter to the editor published this week in the Farmville Herald. Since they are for some reason, unwilling to leave these letters up, here it is:
March 7, 2006

Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to one sent by Republican State Senator Frank Ruff (District 15) and published in many local papers on Friday, March 3, 2006.

I found it extremely hilarious to have someone (and especially a Republican politician, no less) finally put into print that the problems with jobs in Southside Virginia (and especially the 5th District) had become worse in the last 10 years—the exact length of time that Virgil Goode has been in office. I’m sure the connection was not lost on others who read it. And, if it was lost on them, then they can now relate his statement to the economic reality of this district.

In addition, Senator Ruff talks about Virgil’s integrity and honesty. Let’s not get too hasty in casting stones at others (namely Bern Ewert and Al Weed) who, like me, are upset about what’s going on in Washington. Personally, I’d prefer to wait until we see the paperwork about the donations to Virgil’s campaign by MZM and check it against the timing of his voting as well as his very small record of sponsoring and writing legislation actually benefiting Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. While the MZM PAC information is available on the Internet, the earmark documents themselves will tell the whole story about “Representative A.” Even the news media is interested in seeing this information, as the ongoing investigation into Virgil’s activities have been covered in several national magazines, including Time, Newsweek, USA Today and U.S. News and World Report, as well as many of the current political talk shows on regular, cable and satellite channels. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire—so we’ll just have to wait and see whether it will take a garden hose or an ocean to put it out.

Perhaps the next time someone wants to promote another candidate’s character as “unquestionable,” he will have be sure to have his letter checked and approved by the campaign of the candidate in question. This letter certainly didn’t do it for me. As a matter of fact, his letter associating and supporting others with questionable actions in their recent past leads me to wonder what I will find when I check Ruff’s own background when he runs for State Senate again in my county.

Lisa Blanton
Cumberland, Virginia
All I can say, is that Frank Ruff has a lot of balls saying that Virgil has an unreproachable character. As I said in my other entry on this subject, all the people in Central Virginia who have Frank Ruff for a Senator should look closely at someone who seems as frighteningly out of touch as Frank does.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Senator Frank Ruff Opens Mouth, Removes All Doubt

From Republican State Senator Frank Ruff in, well, every paper in the district:

'Rep. Goode Has 'The Highest Character'

Editor, The Herald:

I write in amazement that Congressman Virgil Goode's potential opponents in this fall's election have made the following statements regarding Mitchell Wade and his company:

Al Weed was quoted saying, "there is a strong taint about the whole thing."

Bern Ewert said that he was "very sad about this continuing story" and that he wanted to "bring honest representation to Washington."

Let me clearly state what the people of the Fifth Congressional District already understand - that we presently have good and honest representation in Virgil Goode and there is absolutely no "taint" surrounding his name.

I have been privledged to know Virgil Goode for over 30 years. I have always considered Virgil a man of the highest character, integrity and honesty.

Virgil Goode has been working tirelessly to bring jobs and economic opportunity to our communities. Our region has been devastated by the loss of jobs over the last decade and Congressman Goode is constantly working to revitalize the economy in our communities.

I find it truly amazing that anyone would even consider running for any office by attacking an incumbent whose morals are beyond reproach for working to create needed jobs.

Virgil Goode's character is beyond question - his political opponent's motives, in my opinion, are not.

Frank Ruff

Let's take a close look at this. A Republican state Senator from the Fifth Congressional District writes some astroturf for consumption by the newspapers in the district. He asserts that Virgil Goode, who was named as 'Representative A' in Mitchell Wade's indictment for illegal campaign contributions, "... has been working tirelessly to bring jobs and economic opportunity to our communities." How, you might ask?

By passing only one bill in the House of Representatives in his entire ten-year career there, and making sure that he had all those checks and cash from Wade and his employees so he could locate a few offices in the district. Other than that, Virgil Goode has done little or nothing to bring anything to this district, other than national scorn for yet another politician who claims he can't tell that contributions are overwhelmingly outside his district.

Let's look at another part of that astroturf, shall we? Ruff said, "Let me clearly state what the people of the Fifth Congressional District already understand - that we presently have good and honest representation in Virgil Goode and there is absolutely no "taint" surrounding his name." This was in response to Al Weed's comments that there certainly was "...a strong taint about the whole thing." I have a question: what is Ruff smoking? Does he really believe that Virgil has no taint after national publicity about his taking illegal campaign contributions has embarassed us here in the Fifth?

Here is the next bit of incredulity from Frank: "I find it truly amazing that anyone would even consider running for any office by attacking an incumbent whose morals are beyond reproach for working to create needed jobs." Whoa, Frank, sit down. I know you are getting up in years, but you shouldn't be allowed to have your staff write such a clearly clueless statement that even you know isn't true. Hellooo? Republicans stock-in-trade is all about attacking whomever gets in their way, even fellow Republicans. Remember George W. Bush's treatment of John McCain in South Carolina in the 2000 Presidential contest? If there is a way to assasinate character, the Republicans have used it. Remember John Kerry in 2004? The Swift Boat Liars for Half-truths and Innuendo? And morals beyond reproach? Who do you think you are kidding, Frank? Virgil Goode has toed the line on all things Republican, which make his morals look pretty suspect to me. Like when he voted to turn down funds for first responders in the House, then gave his ill-gotten campaign contributions to firehouses and other organizations in the Fifth. Like when he voted over and over again against the little guy on the bankruptcy votes, the worthless bills he has introduced in Congress that went nowhere and many others. When was the last time you heard Virgil complaining about the treatment of POW's in Iraq? Or complaining about the fact they didn't have enough good quality armour for the troops in Iraq? Or complaining about the worst deficits in our nation's history? He is strangely silent on these and other issues due to one fact; he is a shill for the President's policies in Iraq and at home.

Frank sez, "Virgil Goode's character is beyond question - his political opponent's motives, in my opinion, are not." Now that's the way to show true Republican morals, Frank; make sure you deride and question the motives of the opponent. Is this part of some GOP handbook on how to assasinate the character of the people you don't like?

One only has to wonder where the rock is that Frank Ruff has been hiding under. He himself sounds frighteningly out of touch, or another shill for Republicans everywhere, or both. Virgil says that he didn't know where the contributions came from, and if he is that naive, he doesn't belong in Washington. If Frank Ruff thinks Virgil is A-OK with him, then the residents of Ruff's district here in Virginia should look long and hard at him to determine if he is the kind of representative we want in the General Assembly. Honestly, that letter sounds like a campaign advertisement. Somewhere, Jefferson and Madison are spinning in their graves.

For more information about Virgil, see numerous posts by Waldo on his site.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Happy Story

(This is reprinted from a post I did last Friday on 'Daily Kos'. There is a tradition of a community blog post on Friday nights, and I got my chance to host last Friday.)

I love camping. I was taken camping by my parents when I was literally weeks old. Growing up in Colorado, I got used to being in the outdoors, going hiking, camping and sometimes just daytrips to the mountains to escape the oppressive heat of Denver in the summertime.

One of the types of camping or daytrips I remember well is when we would go to one of our favorite campgrounds, Cold Creek, a National Forest Campground, and eat breakfast. Cold Creek is outside Denver in the mountains, about 8,000 feet above sea level. All of us would get up really early and get in the car or truck, depending on which we had. We used to have a 1959 Ford station wagon that we would take everywhere. If it wasn’t for the fact that transmissions kept being eaten up by that car, it might still have been around today. When running, that car could go places no ordinary car could go. We also had a 1965 Chevy Suburban (in the days of 39-cent gas) that I wish I had to this day. I did end up with a later model of a Suburban, but that’s another story.

We would pile in, using the blankets and pillows that had been put in there by my Mom, and we mostly would sleep the 40 or so miles to the campground. Shortly after sunrise, we would pull into the campground and look for our favorite spot. ‘Our spot’ was the one that had a pull-through and a stairway that went up to a nice shady spot in the tall pines. Of course, at 7 AM the shady spot was still a little chilly, even in the summer. My brother, sister and I (before the late arrival of my younger brother) would play in the sun and go to our favorite lookout rock across the campground road. There was the usual teasing and one-upsmanship among us; as I remember, my older brother was teasing my younger and only sister pretty heavily in those days.

We would usually bring a camera, so we would take pictures of our outing, and these became the basis of a family collection that lasts to this day, including weeks-long vacations later on. I especially liked photography, and still do. (For instance, a few years ago my partner and I went to California to retrieve some of my belongings and take a vacation. We were amazed at how many digital pictures we took. Over 2700 in two weeks) The kids had a pair of binoculars, and we would take turns looking out over the forested vistas.

Our parents would call us when the breakfast was ready; in later years I would help in preparing it because I love to cook. If you have never smelled breakfast cooking over an open fire in the woods, you are missing a treat. I can remember it to this day. We would all sit at the table and eat, trading comments like most families do. I think our family was special; we all could get along and work things out because we were never talked down to. Our parents talked to us to stimulate our brains and to have rational discussion. Of course, growing up it helped that they were FDR Democrats. (My Dad used to pat my young daughters on the head and say, “Nice little Democrats.”)

After we all ate, it was time to play. We usually had brought a glove and a ball to throw around, as well as a Frisbee. We also would go on hikes that would take around an hour to complete. Being out in the forest, away from the hot city, was an energizing experience. It taught all of us the value of nature and that preserving it for everyone was the right thing to do.

I look back on those days, and other trips our family took, and I relish and treasure them. I would give anything to see my Mom again, if only for 5 minutes, out in the campground. She couldn’t stand high altitudes, so just going was a sacrifice for her, one among many she made for her family over the years. The camaraderie and togetherness we had as a family was mostly due to her hard work and stubbornness. We went on many trips together, and later in life they always had a genealogy component to them, something she worked on for forty years so we would know who we are and where we came from. February 23, 2006 would have been her 77th birthday.

There were many happy stories that came from our trips to all kinds of various places. Now, as an adult I have taken my infant daughters camping (20 years ago), and continued the traditions of a respect for nature and a respect for their family members. The stories are passed down, generation to generation, as well as the photographs, which my sister is now working on so they can be preserved indefinitely.

Remember the good times with your family. I know not everyone got along with his or her families the way ours got along and still do. As I know all too well from my personal experience with homelessness, in the end all you have left is your family.

Time to go camping with my (new) family again this year.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Music I Can't Get Enough Of

There are a few groups whose music I can't get enough of:

Rise Against
Green Day
Jack Johnson
Mike Doughty

Since I am sort of laid up, I am playing my hard-drive-encased tunes while I blog and write generally.

What are some of your favorites? Songs as well as groups qualify.

Friday, March 03, 2006

My Aching Back

I found out yesterday that I had broken a vertabrae in my back. This is three weeks after I tried to help move a refrigerator. I am not upset by this, but I am surprised. Surprised that it took three weeks for someone to figure out that it was broken.

I have been in some pain, and I kept believing it had been a muscle strain or something like that. Now I will have to wear a brace for two to three months, and all the things I wanted to do will be done either with help, or by someone else entirely. On the bright side, it gives me more time to write.

Don't forget that I am hosting the 'Happy Story' tonight on Daily Kos, around 8PM EST.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

To My Readers

I have been trying to get over a back injury from two weeks ago. I have seen a few doctors, gone to physical therapy, and had an MRI. It is still bothering me. I have a history of back problems in the past.

Hint: Don't try helping move a refrigerator when your back is, at best, in tenuous shape.

Anywho, I haven't been able to finish my second post that was promised in the story below. I apologize for that, and I hope to have it done by the end of this week.

Also, I will be doing the "Happy Story" diary over at Daily Kos on Friday night at around 8PM. Hope you will join me there as well. Thanks to Carnacki and the white trash poet for the chance to participate in a kos institution.