“Truth is not determined by majority vote.” ~ Doug Gwyn

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Black Hole (picture by NASA/Dana Berry/SkyWorks Digital): Where Political-Speak Goes to Die

“I think politicians are so far out of step with what people really want.” ~ Paul Weller

“I think people are tired of politicians trying to poke each other in the eye.” U.S. Senator Mark Warner (and former governor of Virginia)

I read the news today, oh boy . . .

Apparently, Virginia’s Republican representatives in our state legislature (with the exception of two House Republicans) are taking a page out of the Governator’s book and are refusing to accept $125 million slated for expansion of unemployment benefits. This money was to come to the Commonwealth from President Obama’s stimulus plan.

Yep, just as the extremely beneficent and perceptive (decoded as self-serviing and clueless) Governor Sarah Palin is rejecting much-needed stimulus money in Alaska, the Republicans here in Virginia are turning their noses up at $125 million worth of hope for out-of-work Virginians.

I read all about this political fiasco in an e-mail from Stand Up For Virginia, in which I could sign a petition and/or leave a comment. I receive a lot of political e-mails, and when I agree strongly with something, I will sign petitions. If I had the money, I would make small contributions. But this particular e-mail knocked me for a loop.

Here is a sample of the information contained on the site:

black-hole-blowing-gas
Black Hole Spewing Gas: Politicians Pontificating

Nearly 300,000 Virginians are unemployed—with unemployment rates in places like Martinsville as high as 20.2 percent.

Yet on Wednesday, April 8, Virginia’s Republican-dominated House of Delegates followed the lead of gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell and rejected $125 million in federal unemployment funds for Virginia.

As news media reported GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell “favored rejecting the jobless money  and  McDonnell opposes unemployment stimulus,” all but two House Republicans voted to reject expanding unemployment benefits for struggling Virginians.

The $125 million is money from the federal government paid for by Virginians’ tax dollars. These funds, which are part of President Obama’s stimulus plan, would have gone to displaced workers in Virginia and helped to stimulate our economy.

Despite the highest unemployment rates our state has seen in decades, the Republican-dominated House chose to play political games instead of protecting our future.

“When are we going to tell the Congress of the United States that they don’t set the public policy of Virginia on a state administered and a state run program like unemployment insurance,” said Republican Delegate William Fralin in remarks from the floor of the General Assembly (Available on YouTube).

In these tough economic times, rejecting $125 million will hurt both businesses and families in Virginia. As the state unemployment trust fund approaches insolvency, these funds could have delayed rate hikes for businesses. At the same time, the funds would have helped Virginians who have been laid off get the job retraining they need. http://www.standupforva.com/

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”  ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

I will have to admit, I was completely blown away by the position that the Republican representatives took. I would have thought that accepting $125 million in taxpayer money for a state that has an unemployment rate of 20 percent in some areas woud be so obvious that considering rejection would be moot. Obviously, I was thinking with a completely different mindset from Virginia Republicans.

My mindset is based on facts. For one thing, there is no cost to Virginia for two years. The total cost to employers for unemployment tax would be approximately $4 per person, an increase of $1. Nevertheless, look at the following statistics which detail Virginia’s long-standing trend to support businesses over citizens (all facts taken from Stand Up for Virginia website):

291,000 Estimated number of unemployed people in Virginia
6.6 Percent Statewide unemployment rate in Virginia
20.2 Percent — Unemployment rate in Martinsville, the highest rate in the state 
$125,000,000 Amount of federal funds for unemployment that Republicans rejected
49th Where Virginia ranks among the fifty states in unemployment taxes paid by businesses
$4.58 Cost per worker per year to expand the unemployment program
$.01 Approximate cost per worker per day to expand the unemployment program
8,000 Number of people seeking part-time work and unemployed people training for work who would have been covered under the expanded benefits proposed by Governor Kaine

“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence.  Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”  ~ William E. Gladstone, 1866

I am perplexed as to why Republicans in the Legislature fail to see the necessity of accepting this stimulus money, especially in light of Virginia’s unemployment figures.  But then again, I should not be surprised by the way that politicians neglect the needs of their constituents—if only to prove a point. To them, it’s all a big game.

Sure it’s all fun and games until someone falls and puts an eye out . . .

I cannot help but wonder if Virginia’s Republicans are living in some kind of bubble, one that does not allow penetration of  the reality of our state’s rapidly increasing socio-economic problems.

“What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.” ~ Edward Langley

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Two Black Holes Merging: Politicians Speaking at Each Other

In an editorial, The Washington Post called out “Virginia’s let-’em-eat-cake Republicans,” saying that the GOP “would rather give lip service than genuine financial relief to the states unemployed.”

But let’s let the words of these political jackasses speak for themselves:

“[The federal government is] going to dangle this money in front of us to tempt us to change some sound policies that have worked so well for this commonwealth for so many years.(Del. Kathy Byron, R-Campbell County; also posted on YouTube).

Okee dokey, then. Virginia ranks at almost the bottom of the list for the unemployment taxes paid by businesses. Sound practices for business but not necessarily the unemployed.

Here’s another one that I like, just for the sheer lack of logic behind it: 

“I have a lot of people who are unemployed, and I feel we have made an effort to address that.” (Del. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County), who has an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent in his district).

I understand perfectly, now. You have made an effort to address it, and I’m certain that all of the individuals who are making an effort to survive truly appreciate it.

But the best one has to be this:

“We are being used. Actually our constituents . . . who are now unemployed are being used by this administration to hold a gun to the head of this General Assembly with the assistance of the governor to force through a bad bill.” (Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Fairfax, also a candidate for Attorney General).

Excuse me, Senator, but did you just have the audacity to say we are being used? So we should refuse this money because you want to prove a point to the Obama administration even though the unemployed of whom you speak actually feel that you and your fellow Republicans are the users?

“In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”  ~ H.L. Mencken 

Of course, I had to respond; although I’m certain that my response was much longer than what they had hoped to receive. Here are some highlights from my dissertation: 

We are regular, hard-working, law-abiding citizens just like anyone else. We do not use or deal illegal drugs, use 10 credit cards, or live in an especially large house. In fact, our house is an old brick rancher, built in the 50’s. We do not go out, throw extravagant parties, buy clothes, jewelry or cars. Of our two vehicles, one is completely inoperable at the moment because the repairs will cost about $400.

I’m not sure what the Republicans in the Commonwealth’s Legislature are thinking by refusing this much-needed funding for unemployment. We have families who are living in cars, people at grocery stores who are counting every penny and putting things back, and everywhere you turn, people have that hollowed-eyed look of desperation because they have lost their jobs, their homes, or fear that they may lose everything tomorrow.

I campaigned for the Democrats in the 08 election. In the next state election, I will do everything in my power to make sure that we can replace as many Republicans in the legislature as possible, even if it means traveling to small counties and knocking on doors.

This kind of political posturing is inane. Exactly how is this decision by the Republicans benefitting Virginians? How are those in need who have turned to their government for help supposed to feel? That we do not matter enough? That our concerns are paltry in comparison to making a point to President Obama’s administration? That only those who are financially secure should be able to survive in this economy?

I’ll tell you what I believe this posturing truly reflects: a complete and total disconnect with what the American public wants and needs, and in particular, a total disregard for the welfare of the constituents of Virginia.

Telling the Congress of the United States that “they don’t set the public policy of Virginia” is so ludicrous as to be deemed on par with Governor Palin’s refusal to accept all of her state’s stimulus money. Sarah Palin cares about Sarah Palin, and obviously, Republican Delegate William Friam, Bob McDonnel, and their Republican cohorts are as unqualified to lead and represent as the Governor of Alaska.

. . .  these people need to stop generalizing about people on unemployment and assistance. Most of those on unemployment want to work, provide for their families, improve their quality of life.

Do not assume that you are dealing with the dregs of society who will not challenge you. Do not make the mistake of believing that you are dealing with a populace that will blindly follow you into the abyss. Do not underestimate the power of grass roots movements in removing from office those who do not truly represent the people.

To close, I will use the words of the inimitable Albert Einstein: 

“All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field.”   

More later. Peace.

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Barack Obama Comes to Richmond, Virginia

After Eight Years of Mangled English, Finally an Orator To Make Us Proud

Worth the Wait

We made the trip to Richmond yesterday to see Barack Obama speak at the Richmond Convention Center before an estimated crowd of 13,000. The line to get in stretched around the block on both sides of the building. Outside, it was like a Grateful Dead concert with hawkers selling t-shirts, hats, buttons, cotton candy, candied apples, and even recycled cotton shirts. If you didn’t see a button you liked, you just had to move a few feet, and look at someone else’s board, and odds-on, there would be one that would probably be more to your liking. There were police on horses for crowd control, and guys with sandwich boards standing next to the line, chatting while protesting. I didn’t see any McCain people, but maybe they weren’t on our side of the building.

Parking in the capital city was at a premium, and the parking police were having a field day. I was foolish enough to think that we would be able to get a space under the Convention Center, so I did not wear walking-friendly shoes. Not to worry though; I simply took off my boots, and walked in my socks most of the way there. (Since I spent most of my youth in bare feet, it really didn’t phase me; my family was a bit aghast, though. Why do things like that still surprise them?)

The Convention workers were trying their best, dontcha know, to move people up into the nosebleed section, but since I really can’t do stairs or heights, we bypassed them and moved to the floor where the action was. Obama was scheduled to begin at 12:15, but nothing started until 1:30. (Turns out, he was at a meeting with his foreign policy advisors and the press at the Jefferson Hotel, trying to clarify remarks made by Joe Biden regarding a possible test of Obama’s abilities once he is in office.*) The crowd was a bit restless, but not too impatient. After all, Obama was coming to a red state, and we were all probably going to be a part of history in the making. Who couldn’t wait for that?

Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia opened, and former Governor Mark Warner, who is running for Senate followed. But the undoubted star of the show was Senator Barack Obama. The crowd was electrified, and so was I. The man is a born orator. His cadence is natural, and he knows how to speak to a crowd. There is none of the stilted awkwardness that I sense in John McCain. Everything that I have seen on television when watching Obama is amplified when seeing him in person. He truly connects with his audience without being hammy or overwrought. It ended far too soon, and unfortunately, in the smash of people trying to get autographs and handshakes, neither Corey nor I were able to get close enough. Still, the aura of the man (I know that’s hokey) traveled, and we were really glad that we made the trip.

Favorites Parts of the Speech:

  • We are the United States of America. We are a nation that’s faced down war and depression; great challenges and great threats. And at each and every moment, we have risen to meet these challenges — not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans. With resolve. With confidence. With that fundamental belief that here in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us. That’s who we are, and that’s the country we need to be right now. 
  • There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation — we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Virginia and all across America who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America —they have served the United States of America.
  • This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven’t seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? When we allowed the same divisions and fear tactics and our own petty differences to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession?
  • Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other’s success?

  • I ask of you what’s been asked of the American people in times of trial and turmoil throughout our history. I ask you to believe — to believe in yourselves, in each other, and in the future we can build together. 

    Together, we cannot fail. Not now.

  • We can do this. Americans have done this before . . . .

    Now it falls to us. Together, we cannot fail. And I need you to make it happen. And if you stand with me, I promise you we will win this election, and then you and I — together — will change this country and change this world.

Yes, I’ll admit it, I was teary-eyed, cynic that I am. Leave me alone already.

Um, This is Awkward Joe:

I really don’t know what Senator Joe Biden meant when he said the following at a Seattle fundraiser on Sunday:

“Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

I think that he was tring to say that as a new president, Obama will face crises just as any new president will, but that’s not how it came out. It was almost a Sarah Palin moment, and of course, Sarah Palin loved it. Her response? “He told Democrat donors to mark his words – that there were ‘at least four or five scenarios’ that would place our country at risk in an Obama administration,” Palin said.  “I guess we’ve got to say, ‘Thanks for the warning, Joe!”

Obama’s camp tried to undo the damage by insisting that Biden was just reciting history and affirming that Obama’s is the man for the job. As for the man himself, at his meeting at the Jefferson Hotel, Obama said that “Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes, but I think that his core point is that the next administration’s going to be tested regardless of who it is.”

Still, it was a weird moment whatever the intent.

Correction

I made a mistake. I know, I know. I’m actually admitting it. Corey was stupefied, to say the least. I said that the last time Virginia went to a democrat was in 1976, during the Carter election. I was wrong. It was in 1964 during the Johnson election. Can you believe it? Not only did I make a mistake, but I actually put in print that I was wrong? Who woulda thunk it . . .

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