Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arlington Falling Down On Snow Removal

Over the past few years, we were beginning to think that Arlington was getting the hang of decent snow removal. Well, think again!
Above are photos of our street--just four blocks from Arlington's government complex at Courthouse Plaza--a full three days after the storm finished.

It's not for lack of effort--we know that Arlington's road crews have been working 12-hour shifts since the snow began Friday night. Part of the problem, however, is a shortsighted approach to plowing streets during and immediatley after a major storm that then leads to bigger problems down the road.

The basic approach to plowing in Arlington is to create a single lane down the middle of a road, rather than plowing curb to curb. Of course, in many areas it is impossible to plow curb-to-curb because Arlington has no snow emergency regulations that keep cars out of curb lanes. But even where there are now parked cars, the plowing is usually confined to a single lane.

This approach, of course, means that snow is piled up IN THE ROAD on the days after the storm, where it often gets a hard freeze, making later removal much more difficult.

Arlington needs to get serious about snow removal, especially this year. There's an excellent chance that this won't be the last major winter snowstorm of the season--indeed, the Capital Weather Gang blog at the Washington Post had an excellent discussion of the factors that created this blizzard and the likelihood that those conditions will persist for much of the rest of this winter. If that happens, we're going to need a much better response.

Needless to say, there are many cities in the northeastern and midwestern U.S. that are larger and more complex than Arlington, and that are able to deal with snow of this magnitude without closing down for several days.

As for Arlington schools, winter has just begun and they've already eaten up three snow days. It easily could've been more--if the storm had started last Sunday night, instead of on a Friday night, they would have lost an entire week. The schools don't have much of a plan in place either--they could easily assign alternate bus routes that stick to major roads, but they insist on a lowest common denominator approach--if there is one hilly street with ice on it, then it's too dangerous to send the kids to school. A couple more storms like this one and the kids will still be in school come July!
Anyway, it will be nice--we guess--to have a white Christmas. Happy Holidays everyone!!

Imperfect Health Care Bill Is Still Progress

There is little question but that the health care bill about to be passed by Congress is far from perfect. Nonetheless, it is a giant step in the right direction, and will eventually be looked back upon as a significant achievement.

Most human progress occurs incrementally. People are conservative by nature, accepting change in small bites (or, increasingly, bytes). Indeed, it would be impossible to re-make the health care system all at once, and it would be impossible to pass a "perfect" health care bill.

The Democratic party will probably even pay a steep price at the polls in the mid-term elections for the health bill, but it will be worth it as it's the right thing to do.

Over the coming years, Congress will have to tinker further with health care reform as the effects of change and reform become evident and we learn of things that did, or didn't, work out.

As is the case with most legislation that gets this emotional, the opponents of the health bill will soon realize that the roof hasn't caved in--that their health care really hasn't changed that much; likewise, the proponents will discover that many of the changes they had hoped for didn't materialize the way they wanted. But for several million Americans, life will improve significantly as they find themselves with access to adequate medical care. And that's progress.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Great December Blizzard of 2009

The Curmudgeon home and car, buried in record-breaking DC snowstorm!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


We loved this photo, which a friend sent us. Her sister's friend hung a dummy from the roof. She had to take it down after two days for fear of causing a traffic accident and because a few people tried to effect "rescues" (and weren't too happy to learn it was a fake)!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Curmudgeon on Author BUZZ Radio Show

Next week the Curmudgeon will be a guest on Deidre Hughey's Author BUZZ internet radio show, based in Raleigh, NC to discuss Landstrike. The show will run live from 2-3 pm, and the podcast will be available after that. Join us if you can!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Pessimistic About Copenhagen

Today, a vital week of talks begin in Copehagen on the future of the planet. We're not too optimistic, for several reasons.

First, absent dramatic progress in reducing greenhouse emissions, it is probably already too late to stop significant additional warming throughout the rest of this century. The changes necessary to achieve those reductions are likely far greater than the world is willing to agree to.

Second, political support for reigning in carbon emissions has been eroding due to a well-financed campaign to create doubt about the existence and causes of global climate change. The campaign has, of course, been championed by the fossil fuel industry, and lately has been heartily embraced by the political right wing. If the U.S.--the biggest energy hog in the world--doesn't commit to significant changes in its ways, why would anyone else?

Third, the economics of fossil fuels are, unfortunately, such as to make it highly unlikely that the world as a whole will rapidly substitute renewable energy sources. Each time the price of oil and other fossil fuels increases, the incentive to find those resources in less accessible parts of the globe grows. As a result, we are not likely to reach a point of "peak oil"--the point at which overall production begins to decline, anytime soon.

Further, if developed nations reach agreements to limit the use of fossil fuels, that will just make them less expensive (because there will be a greater supply) to the less developed world. As long as there is an abundant supply of inexpensive fossil fuels, it is likely that someone will "cheat" on any accord and continue to use them.

Fourth, as the world population grows, and as the middle class portion of that population grows even faster, the new demand for energy grows at a huge rate. We might be able to satisfy the new demand with renewable sources--although we aren't now--but just keeping up is difficult.

That doesn't mean the world shouldn't try. We're in favor of the Copenhagen meetings and an aggressive plan to reduce emissions. And we're still personally committed to reducing our own carbon footprint, if for no other reason than to tell our grandchildren we tried.

More than likely, however, the world is going to have to get used to the effects of global warming. We doubt they're quite as bad as some alarmists would have us believe (albeit they're trying to effect behavior change, so some alarmism is in order); by the same token, the skeptics who say "no problem" are wrong--there will be significant, adverse changes, many already taking place.

We just hope we don't get so far past the point of no return that the effects really are catastrophic, something we probably wouldn't see until around 2100. Catastrophic would be significant melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps, and attendant other changes.

We suspect that in another 20 years, the skeptics will finally have lost the battle--the trend will be clear, but it may really be too late.

One aside: recently, hackers broke into computers of climate researchers in England and released a large number of emails that skeptics have used to create doubt and confusion about climate science. Based on news reports that other climate researchers have been the subject of computer hacker attempts and outright physical break-ins, there's little doubt that this was part of an orchestrated campaign, probably funded by segments of the fossil fuel industry, to throw mud on the climate science.

Some day, we'll be exposed to the emails from the other side--those seeking to manufacture doubt about the science--and it won't be a pretty sight. It will probably occur in the context of litigation, and perhaps some whistle-blowers, just as it did with the tobacco industry. When that finally happens we'll see who's really manipulating the science--and public opinion.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Seeing Red In Georgia

It's hard to find a redder state than Georgia. (True, Utah is bright red, but Georgia has more rednecks, so it has the upper hand.)

In Georgia, Republicans control the state House and Senate, the governorship, most statewide constitutional offices, both U.S. Senate seats and a majority of the congressional delegation. And these aren't "moderate" Republicans, either--they're mostly from the hard-core social conservative side of the party.

Now Georgia's Republicans are facing yet another sex scandal like those in other states. This time, it's the Speaker of the House, Glenn Richardson (why are so many conservatives named Glenn?), who is resigning in the wake of allegations of a "full-out" affair (his wife's description) with a lobbyist.

Richardson, of course, has been an aggressive "family-values" conservative, so he deserves to fall hard. For some reason, however, he isn't resigning immediately, but rather on Jan. 1. (We think that any politician who vocally espouses "family values" and then gets caught with his or her pants down deserves the media ridicule; in contrast, the frenzy over Tiger Woods is hardly justified.)

Apart from the sex scandal, however, let's look at how Georgia has fared under Republican rule. Surely, with all that freedom, capitalism and patriotism, the state must be doing well relative to less red states.

Well, let's see: Georgia accounts for one out of six bank failures in the U.S. (25 out of 150) in 2008-09. It has the 8th highest new foreclosure rate in the nation. Unemployment was 10.2% there last month, just above the national average. Not exactly a beacon of economic prosperity.

(And Georgia's politicos have been lobbying Washington for additional TARP bailout funds for smaller banks in Georgia--how ironic.)

So much for being "in the Red."

Salacious Salahi

Sorry, but we just can't get enough of Tariq and Michaele Salahi, the White House party crashers.

It seems that Michaele in particular is a Zelig-like figure, appearing with the rich and famous, all who are wondering "who is this brazen blonde, anyway?"

Courtesy of the Washington Post's fine investigative team, we now know this, in addition to the couple's prior fabrications: Michaele showed up--with a television crew in tow, evidently as part of her audition for Bravo's upcoming "Real Housewives of Washington, D.C." series--at a Redskins cheerleader alumni event and even managed to dance (badly, we're told) with them at halftime of a Redskins game. The other cheerleaders all wondered who she was, especially after she couldn't even perform the squad's signature dance for after the 'Skins score a touchdown (a dance not seen too much this season).

Michaele also sent a polo magazine a photo of her with a couple of state beauty pageant queens, indicating that she (Michaele) was, herself, a former Miss America. Of course, there's no such record, unless she meant a former Miss Fraud America.

More stories have emerged of the Salahis penchant for stiffing vendors. One, a company that supplies performers and impersonators for parties, is getting even: they've added a look-alike couple you can hire to "crash your party". (Our bet is that they are a big hit!)

The Salahis have also hired new legal counsel, the NY law firm of Dewey and Lebeouf, to fend off all the lawsuits and other legal entanglements of the faux celebrity couple. We sure hope the lawyers at Dewey got a big upfront retainer, because these are clearly the kind of folks who don't pay their bills!

Sadly, while we still hope Michaele ends up in prison orange, the more likely outcome is that she cashes in with a book deal, TV appearances, a Lifetime movie, and the other tawdry accoutrements of American scandal celebs.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Salahi Sleeze

As the facts trickle out, we're learning a lot more--none of it all too surprising--about Tariq and Michaele Salahi, the so-called White House party crashers.

Based on the emails they've released (which may be selective) they probably didn't quite just brazenly "crash" the party. But they certainly aren't honest, and apparently haven't been for some time.

To say they were "invited" is clearly incorrect. It's quite apparent that the Salahis crave publicity and attention, and desperately wanted into President Obama's first state dinner. Hey, they don't call them "Desperate Housewives" for nothing!

The Salahis sought access through a connection they made with a Pentagon staffer--who evidently had a connection with the Salahis lawyer. After a day of frantic emailing, the staffer left Michaele a phone message saying she was unsuccessful. The Salahis say they didn't get the message, but their credibility on such matters is highly suspect. (They decided just to "drop by" the White House to see if they had made the guest list, as if it was a neighbor's glitzy holiday party.)

So what was this all about, anyway? Just like the "balloon boy" stunt in Arizona, this was all about getting on unreality television. Michaele has been auditioning for Bravo Network's upcoming series, the Desperate Housewives of Washington, D.C. What better way to burnish her credentials than to get into Obama's first state dinner.

Unfortunately for Michaele, the harsh glare of the media spotlight is now revealing a woman whose whole lifestyle is based largely on deception. The Salahis apparently need a high profile lawyer because they've had quite a history of stiffing people. Today's Washington Post has a juicy piece detailing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid claims the Salahis have left in the wake of their celebrity polo "charity" event, which, of course, is much more about them than about any charitable undertaking. Other reports have the Salahis being escorted out of a recent Congressional Black Caucus dinner because they weren't invited to that one either (guess they just dropped by).

The best one we heard, on the radio the other morning (granted, radio is about the most unreliable source of anything factual) was that after spending seven hours in the beauty salon getting ready for her shot at White House stardom, Michaele walked out without so much as a tip for anyone at the salon. Now that's how to treat the little people!

For its part, Bravo will probably drop Michaele from its Housewives series. But it SHOULDN'T do so. There is nothing more Washington, D.C. than someone getting caught up in a scandal, and then running around with lawyers and publicists trying to "manage" the story. So here's Bravo's chance to follow the action in a "real-life" (but kind of make-believe) situation of the sort that has made Washington famous. If only the story would end up with Michaele in standard issue orange prison garb, to give viewers the happy ending we so desperately crave.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

How Any Douchebag Can Get A Gun, No Questions Asked

Here's a pretty shocking video from the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, which was put together by one of the survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre. He shows you how easy it is for any douchebag in the world to legally purchase a gun--for example, an assault rifle--for cash, with no background check and "no paperwork," at one of the hundreds of gun shows that tour around the country every year.

Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin would be proud!!

Breathing Easy!

Hooray--as of today, Virginia's restaurants are smoke-free!

Monday, November 30, 2009

See The Blind Side

If you haven't seen "The Blind Side," yet, go see it! Blind is the true story (not "based on a true story" or "inspired by a true story") of how NFL pro football player Michael Oher--a very large black man who plays tackle for the Baltimore Ravens--was adopted, for practical purposes, by a wealthy white family in Memphis while he was in high school and living on the streets in a housing project. (That's Michael and his real-life adoptive parents to the right.)

The Curmudgeon got dragged to the movie by the rest of the family over the holiday weekend and is glad of it. It's a terrific story. Sandra Bullock is great as Leigh Ann Tuohy, the real-life petite, blonde, strong-willed mother who took in Michael as a boy and helped nurture him to success.

It's a good movie to drag the kids to as well. Our 14-year-old even conceded that he liked the flick!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Post Goes Rogue

It's no wonder newspapers are going down the toilet. The Washington Post is covering Sarah Palin's "rogue" book tour like it was the New Hampshire primary, with stories--sometimes multiple--every day.

Dear Post: please get this straight. Book tours are for the purpose of selling books and making money. If Ms. Palin wants coverage in your rag for her book, she (or her publisher--also going down the toilet) should PAY YOU in the form of taking out an ad.

There's nothing newsworthy about her book tour, unless you're also going to include articles about every speech and public appearance made by Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and the half dozen or so other potential GOP candidates for Prez in 2012.

Please, give it a rest. Who cares if a line of brain-dead Palin adorers lined up at Ft. Bragg--or anywhere else--to have her sign their books. Give us a Palin-free newspaper, at least for a few weeks, and stop promoting her book for her.

Manufacturing Doubt on Global Climate Change

Dr. Jeff Masters, at Weather Underground, has a terrific--if lengthy--piece comparing today's global warming deniers (or "skeptics") to the "scientists" funded by yesteryear's tobacco industry to contest the causal connection between smoking and disease. It's worth a read on a slow day before Thanksgiving:

The Manufactured Doubt Industry

Monday, November 23, 2009

California To Set Television Energy Standard

A few days ago, the California Energy Commission voted to set standards for electricity consumption by large, flat screen televisions. (See HERE.)

The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents television manufacturers, predictably attacked the decision, saying the industry could regulate itself.

Of course, the industry hasn't done so. Thank goodness California is stepping in.

We purchased our nice big flat screen about a year ago. We love the crisp, clear hi-def images, but we're not too keen on the power usage. Since purchasing our new television, our power bill has increased by about 10%. There's no question that our wonderful new television is using electrons like crazy.

Not surprisingly, as more and more households make the switch to more and more of these energy hogs, our efforts to curb carbon emissions, reduce oil imports from politically hostile or unstable regimes, and avoid construction of new power plants are thwarted.

The California standards are likely to be followed for televisions manufactured for sale throughout the U.S., so they will effectively set a national standard.

As for the CEA--well, you've had several years to do something and you didn't. And wouldn't. We're glad someone's stepping up.

Soccer Championships Should Be Decided By Playing Soccer, Not Kicking PK's

If the barons of Major League Soccer want to know why the game isn't more popular in the U.S., all they have to do is look at how the MLS championship was decided yesterday.

After a full season of games and play-offs, the two contenders--Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake--battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation. They were still tied after another 30 minutes of extra time. So, rather than continue playing SOCCER until a winner emerged, the entire season came down to a round of penalty kicks.

It would be like deciding the World Series with a home-run derby; the NBA championship with a 3-pt contest; or the Superbowl with a series of ever longer alternating field goal kicks.

Penalty kicks are not soccer. They don't even require all that much skill. Some people think it's a "dramatic" way to finish games (Real Salt Lake made the championship game by winning it's division in yet another PK finish), but if that's so, why not just create a game based around shooting PK's?

The problem, of course, is that modern soccer has evolved into a defensive struggle in which teams seldom dare to take chances in order to score. A ridiculous number of games end in 0-0 and 1-1 ties, and the concept of "sudden death" overtime has never caught on.

Because the game is difficult to resolve within the game format, modern soccer has devolved into PK contests that demean the sport.

MLS should ban the PK as a means of deciding games that require a decision. Such games should be decided on the field, in a sudden death format, with no limit on the time to be played until the game is finished. Those games will have dramatic finishes, you can be sure.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fun At The Miami Book Fair

We had a great time at the Miami Book Fair International this past weekend. The photo is of our Landstrike booth in the heart of the street fair--a four block area of downtown closed off for nothing but books!

Vendors who'd been there many years said the crowds were down this year. That may be so, but there were plenty of people strolling through, especially Saturday afternoon. And why not--we had three straight days of outstanding weather--sunny, blue sky, low humidity, temps in the upper 70's, low 80's.

We learned a little about Landstrike too. Turns out it's a big hit with teen boys, some of whom evidently were in disaster mode due to the release of the mega-disaster movie "2012." We had plenty of interest from all ages, races, creeds and sexes, but the teen boys were drawn to our booth like flies to honey.

Our favorite was a sixth grade Latino boy who dragged his mom all the way back from the fair exit, as they were leaving, so he could purchase the book. When it turned out mom didn't have any cash--and so had to call dad to come over as well--the boy started reading the book while waiting. By the time the transaction was done, he was well into chapter one and looked like he'd be reading it every step of the way as his family left the fair.

We were pleased to see so many boys interested because it's a difficult group to get to read anything!

So, if you've got a teen boy on your holiday gift list, and he's a reader of action-adventure books, consider Landstrike (the paperback is available on Amazon.com and BN.com for about $15).
[We also found that quite a few adults preferred to download the book to their Kindle readers--they took our card, and sure enough we had a nice little spike in Kindle downloads over the weekend.]
Overall, we enjoyed the fair. Our neighbors, all selling their books, were a terrific group, and helped each other out when they could.

One downer, however, was the five Author Solutions ("ASs") booths around the corner from us. Author Solutions is the parent for a group of self-publishing companies, including our publisher, Xlibris. As we discussed in a prior post, Xlibris (and other ASs companies) pushed some of their authors into ridiculous packages, costing $4000-$10,000, in which they were required to purchase a couple hundred books and then give them away at the fair.

Not only were these packages huge rip-offs for the authors, but they pissed off just about every other legitimate seller at the fair. Many fairgoers suddenly thought they were going to get free books from everyone! Unfortunately, for the most part you got what you paid for at the ASs booths--we picked up some of the free books, and while a couple were not too bad, several were completely unreadable.

If the Miami Book Fair is going to attract quality exhibitors in the future, it will need to make a choice: ban ASs's free book scam that rips off unsuspecting authors, or turn the whole thing into a freebie fest and just forget about the fair's reputation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Montgomery Co. Gets Smart

Turns out there is some good news out there. Montgomery County has adopted a plan to encourage denser "car-free" growth along it's mass transit corridors, reversing a long-standing policy that has contributed to sprawl and intensified traffic problems there.

As the Washington Post explained in its story on the matter: "Most suburban growth plans--including Montgomery's, until Tuesday--discourage development in congested areas, including those near public transit, and encourage construction in more sparsely populated communities, on the theory that new developments should arise where traffic is still tolerable."

Anyone who's lived in the Washington, D.C. metro area for the past 25 years can tell you how poorly that theory has turned out. Washington is a sprawling city, with developments stretching in all directions over a radius of at least 30 miles. Traffic is worse than ever, with little prospect of improving, and open farmland and forest around the city has all but disappeared.

Arlington County, which has the advantage of being small and having NO large open space to speak of, has pioneered smarter development of denser projects near mass transit hubs. We can't say it's exactly "car-free" over here, but Arlington has grown, and continues to grow, more smartly.

When we moved to the Washington area in 1980, Montgomery County--and Fairfax, too--had quite a bit of open farmland. Now the largest crop in both those counties is townhomes. Much of the development in both those counties has been done in a way that they feed into major highways, without creating the necessary connections for local residents on short trips to by-pass those thorofares, thereby contributing to congestion.

It's interesting to visit Europe, where many cities and towns have very strict zoning regulations that prevent sprawl and preserve the countryside. Those towns and cities seem to end abruptly, unlike American cities, which seem to go on forever, gradually diminishing to smaller developments that sooner or later get absorbed by larger ones. If Europe had American style development laws, there'd be no countryside left.

Montgomery's decision is a good step in the right direction. Washington's outer rim of counties need to consider some similar steps to rein in unmitigated sprawl.

Off To Miami

With the off-year elections over (and depressing), with the days getting shorter, and the weather getting crappy, we haven't been inspired to write much of late.

This weekend, however, we'll be in warm, sunny Miami, promoting our book Landstrike at the Miami Book Fair International.

We'll have a full report when we return, or maybe while we're there. If you're in South Florida, come see us!

Wish we could also report on one or two golf courses down that way, but we'll be working all weekend. Maybe next trip!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Thank You Indeed!

Now GOP Has To Solve Intractable Problems

Republicans in Virginia cruised to a big victory last night after a decade long losing streak. It was a bad night for Democrats, erasing several years of hard fought gains in the House of Delegates and giving Republicans control of the coming reapportionment process.

While part of the blame goes to Creigh Deeds for running a poor campaign, there is plenty of blame to go around. First, history was never on the Democrats' side this time around: not since 1973 has the party in power in the Presidency won the Virginia governor's mansion. Still, that's not enough to explain a landslide 59-41% drubbing.

"Governor" Tim Kaine--who's real job of late has been DNC chairman--can take part of the blame. Democrats have held the governor's mansion for the past 8 years, yet Virginia's main problems have been pretty much the same, especially for the past 4 years. True, those problems are largely in the domain of the legislature, but try telling that to voters.

Another factor is exhaustion after the Obama victory in Virginia. Democrats worked hard for Obama to carry Virginia and give it two Democratic senators and a majority Democratic delegation to the U.S. Congress. With George Bush gone, there just wasn't the enthusiasm among Democratic voters this time around, as reflected by turnout. Meanwhile, conservatives who were lukeward to John McCain last year are now energized, while McDonnell & Co. managed to avoid the kind of divisive campaigns that their predecessors have waged (i.e., appealing to hard core conservatives at the expense of moderate independents).

Nonetheless, Deeds was a big factor, as evidenced by his loss even of Democratic leaning Fairfax County. It was clear throughout the campaign that Deeds had no real understanding of Northern Virginia. He lacked the sophistication of a Mark Warner, or Jim Webb, or Tim Kaine, whereas McDonnell, for all his truly conservative views, still projected that sophistication.

You can blame Terry McAuliffe in part for this. Had he not jumped into the race (and yes, we did support him in the primary, although we always had big reservations) Brian Moran would have won and done much better in NoVa (probably preventing the loss of at least three legislative seats).

There is a silver lining in all this, however. With their sweep of statewide offices and their large majority in the House of Delegates, Republicans now have to prove they can govern. It won't be easy. Their party is still badly divided between myopic small-county cultural conservatives who could give a damn about Northern Virginia's growth problems, and more practically minded pols who realize they have to solve problems if they want to continue in office.

With the far right punishing anyone who even thinks about raising taxes, McDonnell will find his options severely limited. The logical way to fund transportation improvements is to raise gasoline taxes. Those taxes are low in Virginia and have not kept up with the inflation of gas prices. McDonnell says he has a plan to improve roads without raising taxes, but his plan won't work. The bottom line is that it takes revenue to build roads.

Apart from transportation, the Commonwealth faces a dire budget situation that will be painful to resolve. Although an improving economy nationwide will help, McDonnell will again face tough choices with very limited options.

Finally, the culture warriors on the right will no doubt push McDonnell, Cuccinelli and their brethren in the general assembly to enact unpopular laws that will reignite the left.

Unfortunately, Democrats are still faced with the nasty prospect that McDonnell and his cronies will control the upcoming reapportionment process, which will make all that more difficult for Democrats to gain legislative seats in the coming decade.

Democrats now need to find some new leadership at the statewide level. We hope that out of chaos, strong new leaders will emerge!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Terrible Night For Dems In Virginia

Pretty disastrous night for the Democratic Party in Virginia, although it doesn't look like the GOP will pick up as many House of Delegate seats as they might have. More a reflection on the top of the ticket.

Tomorrow: we'll analyze the silver lining in this election.

Monday, November 02, 2009

NFL Should Boost Prostate Cancer Research And Awareness

Now that October's over, we miss all those splotches of pink in NFL football broadcasts.

You see, October is breast cancer awareness month. Pink, of course, is the breast cancer ribbon color, and those breast cancer folks really know how to do up publicity. They had NFL players wearing pink shoes, hats, ribbons, patches; they had refs wearing pink stripes, looking just like the candy-stripers of yore at hospitals. They even had the White House adorned with a huge pink ribbon.

You'd think breast cancer was the only one with a month, ribbon and color. But it's not. It's just that the other cancers haven't caught up in the market for attention.

Now we have nothing against raising awareness of and research on breast cancer. But we think the NFL's priority on pink was a bit misplaced.

You wouldn't know it, but September--also a big month for professional football--was prostate cancer awareness month. Prostate cancer has a ribbon, too--it's sky blue.

You'd think pro football would get on the prostate cancer bandwagon AT LEAST as much as for breast cancer. After all, the NFL is, quite literally, sponsored in large part by the penis. Viagra and Cialis ads compete for attention for men with "erectile dysfunction," which can be caused or contributed to by prostate problems. Then there's all the ads for Flomax, for men who have trouble peeing because of a benign enlarged prostate.

Not to mention that the audience for pro football is just a little skewed toward MEN, and all the players are men.

Prostate cancer is pretty deadly, killing an estimated 28,000 men each year (breast cancer deaths among women are higher, at about 45,000).

So where was all the sky blue and prostate cancer awareness in the NFL in September? There wasn't any (unless you're a Carolina Panthers fan, whose colors include sky blue).

Pink in October is fine. But if the NFL is going to promote breast cancer awareness, it ought to at least put prostate cancer on the same footing!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Xlibris's Shameful Miami Book Fair Promotion

The Curmudgeon will soon be in Miami (Nov. 13-15) to promote his novel, Landstrike, at the Miami Book Fair International. The Miami fair is one of the largest in the world, so it will be a great opportunity to meet readers, not to mention bookstore owners, publishers and the rest of the industry.

We'll have a half-booth all to ourselves at the fair. The cost for the booth is modest--less than $500--plus we'll invest in a few marketing materials to liven the place up.

Pity, then, the poor self-published authors who are shelling out between $4000 and $10,000 to Xlibris Press (with whom we self-published) for the opportunity to "optimize" their book's "exposure to the multi-ethnic community of Miami." The gory details are HERE.

This has got to be the biggest rip-off in the self-publishing industry, and book fair officials aren't too happy about it either.

Xlibris, which can get an entire booth for $650, is charging an outrageous sum to self-published authors who simply don't know better. Our experience with Xlibris is that it is a lot better at promoting itself than promoting its authors.

For $10,000, an Xlibris author will get the privilege of a 2-hour book signing slot at the Xlibris booth. (The Curmudgeon will get three whole days at his little booth.)

For that $10,000, the Xlibris author will have to give away his/her books. They're not allowed to sign them. Fortunately, 150 paperback books come with the package--but those books would cost the author $1500, and cost Xlibris even less. And the author could sell them--for a profit--if he had his own booth, instead of giving them away at the Xlibris booth.

The rest of the package isn't worth much. There's an email marketing campaign that Xlibris normally charges $599 for--and that's pretty inflated as it is (and largely worthless). Xlibris also promises a few bookmarks and posters, as well as an "author video" and press releases before and after the event. None of that is worth much.

For about $3000, the author could easily get his/her own booth, print up some very nice posters and other handouts, shoot a video and then sell his/her books at a profit to offset those costs. The author would still have plenty of money to fly down to Miami and stay in a very nice hotel.

Of course, for Xlibris, this is the deal of the century. They're making several grand on each author they can dupe into signing up for this boondoggle. Maybe they should change their motto to "Xlibris: YOU Write OUR Own Success!"

Arlington's Stance on I-66 Is Killing Democrats

One issue that's killing Democrats in Virginia is Arlington's steadfast opposition to widening I-66.

Because Arlington is a Democratic stronghold, statewide candidates who want to court Arlington voters are required to adhere to the I-66 orthodoxy here. That, in turn, hurts them in the larger--and Democratic leaning--counties outside the beltway (Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun). Folks in those counties want better roads, and none is more inadequate than I-66.

Our friend Ben at NLS recently posted his reasoning on why widening I-66 would do no good (it's in the context of a rebuttal to the Washington Post's inexplicable endorsement of Arlington delegate Bob Brink's Republican opponent).

We disagree. Ben's reasoning is that putting more people on I-66 will just add to congestion in Tyson's Corner. That ignores the two fundamental bottlenecks on I-66.

Heading westbound, traffic gets jammed where the double lane Glebe Road on-ramp meets double-lane I-66. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that having a two-lane on-ramp merge into two lanes of interstate highway will quickly jam things up. Adding an additional lane from Glebe Rd. to the Dulles Access Rd. (267) would greatly ameliorate the daily traffic tie-up on I-66 in Arlington. The sad thing is that Arlington's elected officials oppose this fix, even though it is mostly people living and working in ARLINGTON (those getting on at Glebe Rd.) who are hurt by the current abysmal design.

On the eastbound side, there is a similar problem, where the Sycamore Street ramp meets I-66. Too much traffic is coming in from this ramp, causing traffic to slow to a crawl. A little over a mile later, much of that traffic gets off at Glebe Rd. (again proving that much of I-66 traffic is people living and working in Arlington, not just pass-through traffic from the outer suburbs). After Glebe Rd. the traffic clears up. An easy solution to this problem is to extend the ramp from Sycamore St. all the way to the Glebe exit ramp.

These fixes won't solve all of I-66's problems, but they would at least resolve most of the particularly aggravating traffic jams that occur outside of rush hours or against rush hour traffic.

Arlington officials are doing no good for the majority of Arlingtonians by opposing these fixes. While we intend to vote for Bob Brink--because we don't think he's really part of that problem--we do think the Post has a point: it may take getting rid of a few Arlington Democrats to save the rest of Northern Virginia's Democrats, and to bring some sanity to the transportation issue.

Grim Time For Deeds and Dems

A final spate of polls is out in advance of next week's election here in the Commonwealth and there's nothing but bad news for Creigh Deeds and Democrats, as Bob McDonnell has a double-digit lead heading down the stretch.

Here's the data:

Survey USA:
McDonnell 58%
Deeds 41%

Public Policy Polling:
McDonnell 55%
Deeds 40%

Washington Post:
McDonnell 55%
Deeds 44%

There was on tidbit in the polls that we thought was quite interesting--and telling. Survey USA broke out voters who had already voted. The percentage was small--8% of the sample said they'd already voted (presumably via absentee ballot).

Of those, a significant number split their votes. McDonnell leads among early voters by 52%-45%, close to his overall poll numbers. But for Democrats Jody Wagner (Lt. Gov.) and Steve Shannon (Attorney General) the numbers were flipped: both lead their opponents among early voters, Wagner by 53%-44% and Shannon by 56%-44%.

Although none of the polls show Wagner or Shannon beating their opponents, we'll hold out some hope that ticket splitting will give one or both of them a chance to eke out a win.

The biggest problem appears to be turnout, however. Democrats simply have no enthusiasm for Deeds, so many say they don't intend to vote.

This is a tragedy for the entire Democratic ticket, including legislative seats. It looks like the Deeds drag is going to wipe out several years of steady Democratic gains in Virginia, with losses likely in the House of Delegates.

All of which is really too bad for Northern Virginians, who will continue to suffer from lack of transportation funds at the hands of skinflint Republicans, and who will see little progress on other fronts as well.

We'll close with this plea: if you're a Democrat, or an independent, and not enthused about Deeds, please, still go out and vote. You can still make a difference in the other statewide and local races, even if you don't vote for Deeds.

Monday, October 19, 2009

No Subsidy For New News Reporting

Today's Washington Post devotes a large story and a central op-ed piece to a proposal to have the federal government, via the FCC, subsidize a "new model for news reporting."

Sorry, bad idea. Really bad idea.

The reason the Post is giving so much press to this is that former Post Executive Editor Len Downie is one of the figures behind the effort.

Downie argues that the type of journalism that "holds accountable those with power and influence" is now "at risk" due to the decline of the profitable daily newspaper. Accordingly, "American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting news reporting--as society has, at much greater expense, for public education, health care, scientific advancement, and cultural preservation, through varying combinations of philanthropy, subsidy and government policy."

One problem with the argument is that the news industry is already re-inventing itself quite nicely WITHOUT any government subsidy. That's the word from a report authored by Downie and other journalism professors, and featured in the Post's news story today.

Another problem is that the report in any event appears to focus primarily on print media. It is certainly true that traditional print media is in big trouble financially. But the news media in the U.S. is a little bigger than traditional daily newspapers. It includes television and the internet, which have steadily supplanted newspapers and magazines as the primary sources of Americans' "news."

If anything, it appears we are suffering not from too little news, but too much. Just witness how a family in Colorado allegedly manipulated and duped the entire nation's media over the "balloon boy" incident last week. (Even if the story wasn't a hoax, it wasn't really a story in the end.)

We think there's a vital role for newspapers to play, and Downie and company outline a number of steps that would be useful in supporting that role, including encouraging more non-profit news organizations and supporting print media via philanthropies and universities.

What we don't agree with, however, are two proposals. One is to "reform" public radio and television to be more oriented to local news. Why do we need that? In Washington, we have four private local news stations on the air, some of which have several hours per day of "local" "news" (mostly puff pieces). We also have a cable oriented 24-hour per day local news station, along with local cable weather. We're saturated with local "news" already, much of it irrelevant. Why should taxpayers pay for a "public" incarnation of the same?

A better "reform" of public radio and television would be to finish the conversion of them to what they primarily are now: non-profit organizations, relying on viewer/listener contributions to support themselves. There's no need for a continued government subsidy. Indeed, many programs on public radio and television could easily support themselves on advertising, probably using no more air time than they do now for their periodic fund appeals.

The other proposal, which is far worse, is creation of a "national fund for Local News" from "fees the Federal Communications Commission collects from or could impose on telecom users, broadcast licensees or Internet service providers." The resulting fund would issue grants to "local new organizations for innovations in local news reporting and ways to support it."

This, of course, would be a terrific source of funds for journalism professors such as Downie, but other than that it's hard to see any benefit. Local print media can and will re-invent itself--indeed is re-inventing itself now--without such a fund.

More importantly, we're wary of getting the government involved in the news gathering business. Nothing good ever comes of that, even in the most well-intentioned democracy. As Downie points out, one of the major responsibilities of local news organizations is to hold government accountable. Hard to do when the government is holding the purse strings.

We hope that locals news does successfully re-invent itself. We think it will. Just like politics, we think all news is, fundamentally, local, and there will always be a demand for such. Just keep the government out of it. Please.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Raise The Threat Level

The sillier our media get, the more ill at ease we are that something really bad is about to happen.

On that basis, we should raise the threat level.

Yesterday, and today, the media went crazy over a total non-story. For awhile, everyone thought a 5-year-old kid, aptly named Falcon, was up in a crazy helium balloon. Turned out, he was taking a nap in the attic of his home. About as thrilling as "police arrest wrong man, then promptly let him go." No news.

Now, in the old days of once a day 7:00 pm news, this story would've been over before it had time to get reported. We never would've even heard about it--appropriately.

But now, having mistakenly gone crazy over the story yesterday, the media can't let it go.

Meanwhile, we get the distinct impression it was all a publicity stunt by the family, which, it turns out, has a healthy history of self-promotion.

Can we get back to the real news.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jody Wagner for Lt. Gov.

As we just posted, it looks like Bob McDonnell is going to capture the governor's mansion.

We hope independent minded voters will take a hard look at the Lt. Governor's race, however. Virginians are famous for splitting their tickets in statewide races. While the Lt. Gov's race hasn't gotten all that much attention, the dynamics between Democrat Jody Wagner and Republican Bill Bolling are much different than in the governor's race.

Although Bolling has been Lt. Governor for the past four years, many Virginians have no idea who he is. He hasn't made much of a mark. He didn't challenge McDonnell for the GOP nomination as governor, and that tells you a lot. Really, who in their right mind wants to run for RE-ELECTION as Lt. Governor? That tells you a lot about Bolling right there.

Whatever you think of McDonnell's political and social views, he is charismatic. Bolling isn't. And he's just as conservative--maybe more so--than McDonnell.

In contrast, Jody Wagner is a dynamic candidate, with much more personality than Deeds. She has demonstrated her service to the Commonwealth as state treasurer under governor Warner, and Secretary of Finance under governor Kaine. These are low profile, but very important, administrative posts, which Wagner has filled in a non-partisan professional manner.

The interesting thing when you hear Jody speak, or talk with her, is that you don't get a sense that's she particularly ideological. She's most comfortable talking about the nuts and bolts of government. That's good. Although the Lt. Gov. job is largely ceremonial, it should be a stepping stone for nomination to run for governor, and Wagner would be a good one.

We hope she won't be lost in Deeds' shadow, or tarred for his campaign's lapses. Independent voters gave Tim Kaine a lackluster GOP Lt. Gov. If we have to have McDonnell as governor, let's at least pair him with a dynamic Democratic Lt. Gov. in Jody Wagner.

Deeds Making No Headway

For awhile, it looked like Creigh Deeds had some momentum as voters acquainted themselves with the real Bob McDonnell via his thesis.

But that momentum appears to have evaporated. A spate of recent polls show Deeds stalled about 6-9 percentage points behind McDonnell, who's done a good job of ignoring the jabs, and successfully tagged Deeds for "going negative" in the campaign. Virginia independents have shown a clear penchant in recent years to punish the candidate who goes most negative, so it looks like some of Deeds' recent work is backfiring.

An interesting contrast to Virginia is New Jersey, where incumbent Democratic governor Jon Corzine has steadily closed what had been a huge gap against his challenger, Republican Christopher Christie. The charts below, from Pollster.com, tell the story pretty well:

We said all along that Deeds was going to have to do more than just paint McDonnell as the super-conservative that he is. So far, Deeds hasn't managed to convince some Democrats, and many independents, that there are good reasons to vote FOR him.

Barring some major development in the next couple weeks, it looks like the Governor's mansion in Virginia will switch parties.

It's too bad--we thought all along that both Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe were more attractive candidates than Deeds. Unfortunately, they beat the crap out of each other in the Democratic primary, making way for Deeds. We hope something will change in the final days of the campaign, but we're not too optimistic.

Smoke From The Health Care Lobby

Someone should put up a "no smoking" sign in front of the health care lobby.

In a last ditch effort to scare Americans from health insurance reform, they've released a "study" purporting to show that universal healthcare will increase premiums for private insurance by $4000, on average, over what they would have been.

Talk about blowing smoke. We got a notice TODAY--note that health reform is not law, yet--telling us that our nanny's health insurance with Blue Cross is going up $100 a month. That's a 27% increase in ONE YEAR. And nothing's changed about her health over the past year or two.

We got news for you. Health insurance premiums are going up no matter what.

We're fortunate that we can afford this outrageous increase for her. But if our nanny was on her own, there's no way she could fork over an additional $1200 in one year. She'd be just another of the tens of millions of Americans literally forced off the rolls of healthcare insurance and required to fend for herself.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Facebook: To Friend or Not To Friend

The other day, we had dinner with one of our "real" friends, who also happens to be a Facebook friend. We got into a discussion about the do's and don't's of "friending."

It is quite a minefield. For example, what about friending your children? Some children don't want their parents friending them, as it makes them feel like they're being spied on. Others don't mind--but please, please don't try to act like a real friend by making comments, etc. on their FB pages! All that does is expose them to ridicule from their adolescent FB friends.

(The Curmudgeon's children have allowed us "in"--we try to be respectful. We can't understand most of the lingo in the comments on their pages anyway.)

Clear taboo: don't friend friends of your children. They'll think it's creepy, and maybe it is.

Other categories get even dicier. Our friend--the real one--is a senior faculty member at a medical university, and he also treats patients. He's gotten friend requests from both students and patients, both of which make him uncomfortable. We agreed that patients are a pretty clear no-no. Students are a closer question--probably depends on what you feel comfortable with. At a minimun, he shouldn't initiate either form of such contact!

What about co-workers? Co-workers fall into all kinds of different categories, the most awkward of which are those you directly supervise. Can you be "friends"? Again, probably depends on what you're comfortable with. (Since the Curmudgeon no longer has co-workers, it's a purely theoretical issue for us; but, we probably would've been ok with FB friending co-workers in the past.)

Of course, there's old boy and girlfriends. But if you can't friend them on FB, then what's the fun? Just make sure you keep them as FB friends only.

Our general rule is that we'll accept a friend request from anyone we actually know. Sometimes it's someone we've met fairly recently, but that's an opportunity to test out a potential new "real" friendship.

We have gotten friend requests--on the rare occasion--from people we don't know. We generally turn those down, unless we can find some valid connection. Sometimes, it's just a case of mistaken identity. Other times, who knows--FB is a friendly place, but there are always a few bad apples out there, FB stalkers.

You can also--with some time and trouble--work out your FB privacy settings to give some friends more access than others. We kind of wish there was a way to subcategorize (maybe there is, for all we know) your FB friends. Like "true friends," "family," "acquaintances," "co-workers," and other.

With a little effort, we've gotten most of our family to join FB, and it's proven a good way to keep up with each other, share photos and exchange information. Still, there are times when we wonder--what does mom think about all this!

McDonnell Should Apologize

At a recent McDonnell rally, one of his supporters, Sheila Johnson, mocked Creigh Deeds by imitating his mild stutter while addressing the McDonnell faithful.

Courtesy of Not Larry Sabato, the video is now widely available:

So far, the McDonnell campaign has refused to apologize. They should.

And Sheila Johnson especially should apologize. An African-American, Johnson is worth several hundred million dollars as the co-founder of the Black Entertainment Network and other business enterprises. She should know better. Imagine if a prominent Deeds supporter had mocked her heritage!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deeds Continues To Close

The latest PPP poll, released today, shows Deeds continuing to close on McDonnell, but the gap remains significant.

McDonnell leads by 48%-43%, which is considerably narrower than his 51%-37% lead two months ago, and tighter than his seven point lead a month ago. The question is whether Deeds can close the gap in the time remaining.

We talked briefly with Deeds by phone today. He's been riding Metro in NoVa the past couple of days, which is a good way for a slice of NoVa voters to see him. We get the sense that Deeds--a notoriously slow starter, but strong finisher--is starting to hit his stride in what remains an uphill battle for him.

The best news in the PPP poll was that a large majority of the undecided voters are Democrats. That gives Deeds an excellent opportunity to pick up additional ground, if he can connect.

Deeds has a fundamentally sound record as a legislator from the standpoint of most Democrats, and we urge him to help voters get to know him better.

Recently, Deeds penned an op-ed in the Washington Post specifically aimed at Northern Virginia voters. While it may not be what some wanted to hear, we applaud him for not pandering to NoVa voters. He is also uncharacteristically realistic--let's face it, the Governor in Virginia is a weak position, with power residing in the decidedly divided legislature. To get anything done, Deeds will have to persuade at least some GOP members of the House of Delegates to go along.

We hope those Democrats still sitting on the fence will give Deeds a good look, ultimately opting to come out and vote for him. If the undecideds break his way, he has a good chance of winning--a win that would give Obama a boost as well.

A Good Month For Low Carbon Emissions

Too bad not every month in Washington can be September! With near perfect weather, we've run the air conditioning for just a half day (it got up to about 88 degrees and upstairs was pretty toasty) and haven't yet turned on the heat (that could change tonight).

Good for the bottom line, too (unless you're a utility company!).

Read It For Yourself

McDonnell's real blueprint for Virginia:


Brainwashed By Fox

Recently, one of the Curmudgeon's aunts asked for an intervention with her son, who she says has been brainwashed by Fox News.

We don't watch Fox ourselves because it's obviously anything but fair and balanced. Indeed, if Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels were still around, he'd love Fox News. On Fox, everyone marches in right-footed sync.

Just to get an idea of what's going on, however, we did watch a bit of Fox News. Yep, if that were your only source of information, you'd be as brainwashed as if you got all your news from your church (churches, synagogues, temples and mosques being poor sources of balanced news).

Unfortunately, we have to rely on a fake comedy news show, the Daily Show, to do the most effective job debunking Fox, a frequent target of Jon Stewart's barbs. One story we'd seen on Fox was about an elementary school in New Jersey that was supposedly spreading socialist propaganda of President Obama by having a class of students sing a song about him.

Fox had gotten hold of a youtube video of the students singing and was milking it for all it was worth--indeed, the propaganda network was likening it to Hitler's Germany or "pure Khmer Rouge stuff." Well, it does take one to know one.

So here's what we got from the Daily Show later on: the video was made shortly after Obama's inauguration, Obama had nothing to do with it, it was during black history month, the parents were notified in advance of the lyrics to the song, no one complained beforehand, or afterwards (until, many months later, Fox rounded a local white lady who decided she was, after all, upset about it). And really, the song was pretty innocuous.

But what we liked best was the clip Jon Stewart's people found of an elementary school group near New Orleans singing a song about President Bush, FEMA and the hurricane recovery efforts. In this particular video, First Lady Laura Bush was right in the middle of the students, singing along. Well, so much for hypocrisy.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
America: Target America
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

As for our cousin, we're hoping we can give him a half hour dose, per day, of the Daily Show, just to give him a bit of perspective.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obama Opposition Not Racist

How soon we forget.

Some on the left are now saying that opposition to President Obama's policy proposals is fueled by racism. We don't doubt for a second that there are still plenty of out and out racists in the land whose hatred is inflamed by having an African-American President.

But opposition to Obama's policy proposals, particularly on healthcare, while sometimes vehement, can't be ascribed to race.

Indeed, the GOP's reaction to Obama--so far--has been far more respectful than to Bill Clinton when he was President. Yes, we forget easily. During the Clinton years, the right wing hate machine was in full gear, churning out despiccable lies and falsehoods about both Clintons. With Republicans in control of Congress, they launched "investigation" after "investigation," going after the Clintons and their allies on the weakest of claims, fanning the flames whenever possible.

Fortunately, Republicans don't control Congress now. Furthermore, whenever the right wing's attacks on Obama go over the line, the public reacts negatively. Many voters who disagree with Obama on certain policies still like and respect him, and won't stand for personal attacks.

(This is, in part, a reflection on the contrasting personalities of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. You always got the feeling that Clinton was a bit of a rascal, whereas Obama comes across as serious and somber, with stronger family values and a stronger family than most GOP'ers, who've been rocked by adulterous scandals.)

Today, we recall Franklin D. Roosevelt fondly, as one of our most popular Presidents. And he was popular. But that didn't mean everyone liked him. To be sure, there was a hard core group of right wingers who despised him, and their attacks on him were as hard-hitting as many of those on Obama.

Obama is right to reject the racism card. He's pushing for change--it's what he campaigned on. Problem is, a lot of people are scared by change. That doesn't mean you don't keep pushing!

Yes Virginia, We Have A Race!

The polls are in and they clearly show a much tighter race for the Commonwealth's next governor. Voters, especially women in Northern Virginia, are bothered by the social conservatism of Bob McDonnell reflected in his master's thesis; at the same time, they're wary of Creigh Deeds, who is still much an unknown quantity.

On the polling front, we have three recent ones. McDonnell leads in all three, but his lead is much smaller than a month ago, with a lot of voters undecided.

Rasmussen has it the closest, with McDonnell leading by a statistically insignificant 48%-46% margin. Daily Kos gives McDonnell the biggest margin, at 50%-43%. In between, we have the Washington Post, where Deeds had the most movement from the prior poll, closing the gap from 54%-39% to 51%-47%.

So where are we? McDonnell's master's thesis, in which he laid out a conservative "family values" political agenda intended to undercut working women, has clearly hit home with working women in populous Northern Virginia.

McDonnell says the thesis is old news and his views have "changed," but he has not been specific. He says "judge me on my record," but his record is in many ways consistent with his master's thesis, so we urge voters to do just that.

On the other hand, Deeds is having trouble convincing voters to vote FOR him. He is a weaker candidate than Tim Kaine and much weaker than Mark Warner when he ran for governor. He still hasn't taken on transportation, and has largely failed to connect with NoVa voters. (We feared this back during the Democratic primary.)

To win this race, Deeds is going to have to come on strong. We're waiting and watching!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is Deeds On The Move?

There are some signs of life in the Creigh Deeds campaign.

A poll released this week has Deeds just five points behind his opponent, Bob "Women Should Stay In The Home" McDonnell, Deeds best showing since shortly after he won the Democratic primary in June. Deeds also outraised McDonnell in funds in the most recent reporting period, by a pretty good margin. And, with less than two months to go to the election, voters are starting to get a little interested in the race, with the Deeds campaign showing some uncharacteristic energy.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the new poll, from Clarus Research, comes from an organization that we haven't seen poll in the Commonwealth before, so we're still a bit skeptical. We're waiting to see numbers from Public Policy Polling and Survey USA, both of whom have been surveying the state every few weeks, to see if there are any real trends. We would expect Deeds to improve his standing after the Washington Post pulled back the mask on Bob McDonnell and revealed the scaly lizard skin underneath.

Likewise, on the money front, while Deeds is raising some big bucks, McDonnell still have about a million dollars more in the bank. That's a big delta with less than two months to go.

And while the Deeds campaign appears to have come alive, McDonnell's campaign continues to operate as a well-oiled machine.

Historically, the governor's mansion in Virginia goes to the party out of power in the White House. That alone makes Deeds an underdog. It's still McDonnell's race to lose. We hope Deeds has the momentum to pull off the upset.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What Tune Will Your Car Sing?

One of the great things about our Prius is just how quiet it is when in electric mode.

Cars of the future, especially the all electric ones, will be stealthy, especially at speeds under 20 mph, where road friction and aerodynamic drag don't really come into play.

Quiet cars is a good thing, right? (Boats, too--electric boats are coming!) Well, yes, unless you're blind, or you're the type of pedestrian (child, elderly) whose attention to his/her surroundings is less than it should be.

One solution, being batted around in industry circles and safety regulatory agencies these days, is to require electric cars to emit some kind of sound, at least at low speeds. Of course, that sound needn't necessarily be that of engine noise.

Indeed, cars of the future may emit unique "drive tones" (the term is already copyrighted) like your cell phone's ring tone. An interesting proposition. Will our little Prius's successor be rolling down the highway emitting the guttural guitar sounds of Jimi Hendrix, or bouncing to the rap tunes the kids favor?

And how will that sound when it's all mixed together?

The next generation of autos will be interesting. Along with drive tones, expect all kinds of light variations as manufacturers begin to embed colorful LED lights both inside and out. Car shapes may change radically as well, as an electric engine is a lot smaller than today's gas powered models, eliminating the need for a lot of the gear under the hood. Eventually, these cars will drive themselves, as well.

What will we do, while the car's driving itself? Why, we'll blog, download new drivetunes, Facebook, etc. The same things we do at home now!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

Although it's been 8 years, the memory of 9/11 still burns raw in our heart and soul. Sadly, we're still at war in Afghanistan, and the murderer behind 9/11 is still at large.

September 11, 2001 was a much different type of day than today: it started as a classic beautiful fall day, with crystal clear blue sky and warm sunshine, unlike today's rainy, overcast and chilly weather.

It didn't take long for it turn into one of the ugliest days in history. The Curmudgeon, arriving at work early, was in his office overlooking the White House, working on a legal brief that needed to be filed later in the week.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Curmudgeon was taking our youngest, Aidan, to his first day of Montessori pre-school at Key Elementary School. Decked out in his new clothes and a nearly empty backpack, Aidan smiled proudly for the camera as his photo was taken with mom kneeling by his side on this momentous new day. The time was 9:02 a.m.

Not too long before that, one of the associates working with the Curmudgeon had come by with news that a plane--presumably a smaller one--had struck one of the World Trade Center towers, which was now in flames. We watched briefly on a little television in the next office over. It seemed like a bizarre accident--how could a plane hit a skyscraper on such a clear day?

After getting back to work, more urgent word came through: a second plane, clearly a large passenger jet, had just struck the other tower. Clearly, this was some horrific act of terrorism. After watching the replay a few times, we couldn't bear any more. Back to work, struggling to concentrate. It seemed to be a major problem for people in NY--nothing we could do.

But then the quiet in the Curmudgeon's office was disturbed by the slightest of sounds--a little whiff on the window, like a small gust of wind had struck it. But there was no wind that day; the sound was out of place. With his concentration shot anyway, the Curmudgeon got out of his chair and walked over to the large window, with its expansive view to the west, from Rosslyn all the way down to Crystal City.

Something was clearly wrong. A huge column of thick black smoke was expanding into the air over the Pentagon. The Curmudgeon raced into the adjacent office, where 3-4 other attorneys were glued to the television. "Forget the television, look out the window," the Curmudgeon screamed. The others in the room looked at him like he was crazy, then turned their heads to the window, letting out a collective "oh shit."

Just then, Mrs. Curmudgeon was crossing the Roosevelt Bridge on her way to work. She still had her camera and snapped some shots out the window of the dark cloud of smoke billowing ominously above the Pentagon.

In the Curmudgeon's office, we finally realized all of America was under attack. We looked anxiously out at the White House, a block away, and the Treasury Building, just across the street. Would they be targets? Were we safe?

Rumors were rife. The phone was ringing. The Capitol had been struck; no, a colleague could see the Capitol from his office. Another caller said she heard the State Dept. had been truck bombed; no, we could see Foggy Bottom, no smoke coming from there. Other cities had been hit--the Sears Tower in Chicago was in flames; no, a partner in our Chicago office said no such thing had occurred.

Then there was a rumble from a secondary explosion at the Pentagon. Time to get out. The street was a madhouse. Secret service agents were expanding a cordon around the White House; cars jammed the street while others tried to get out of parking garages; a mass of people was moving in both directions.

As we headed for home, believing we would have to walk back to Arlington, we noticed people going into a Metro station. Surprised to find it running, we endured a short, but intensely quiet, trip home. As we walked the final four blocks home, we could see the black smoke from the other side of Arlington, and hear the emergency vehicles racing up and down Lee Highway. Suddenly, a military fighter jet roared overhead, causing many to instinctively drop to the sidewalk. No--it's ours. Too little, too late.

The rest of the day, of course, was spent in front of the television reliving the horrible spectacle as the two towers came crashing down and the shock sank in. We had to retrieve our two boys, then ages 6 and 3, early from school. So much for Aidan's big first day! We wanted to shield them from the horror, but it was impossible. Still, they didn't really fully grasp what was going on. Thankfully, they eventually went off and lost themselves in play, as only children can do.

It's sad that the Bush administration used 9/11 as an excuse to go after Iraq, rather than focusing on the real target, Bin Laden in Afghanistan. We could've gotten him back then, and we could've avoided a trillion dollar mistake.

Are we safer today? We doubt it. We can never forget 9/11.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SC Rep. Wilson's "You Lie"--Mild By Historical Standards

It's no wonder South Carolina is Jon Stewart's favorite state--it's politicians continue to give unlimited fodder for comedic relief.

All we can say is that Joe Wilson's "you lie" outburst is mild by SC standards. At least he didn't get up and nearly cane someone to death like SC Rep. Preston Brooks did to Massachusetts' Charles Sumner on the House floor before the Civil War.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Obama's Education Speech: Don't You Republicans Feel Silly Now!

In a brilliant stroke, President Barack Obama today gave a speech to students at Arlington's Wakefield High School (where the Curmudgeon's son is a freshman) in which he stealthily laid out his socialist political agenda.

For example, the President repeatedly focused on the value of a good education. Well, every right (wing-nut) thinking American knows that most education in our country is provided by the guv'mint, therefore that's socialism, plain and simple.

And Obama pounded home the theme of hard work. Why, that's just code for letting the government take care of you.

He urged students to stay in school so they could be successful in life. Again, staying in school simply gives the guv'mint more time to brainwash you into a limp wristed, socialism-loving liberal.

Thank gawd all those Republican haters kept their kids at home to avoid the President's propaganda campaign. We hope they were all watching some enriching, family-oriented Fox television.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Obama To Wakefield

Just learned tonight, at our soon-to-be high school freshman's orientation, that Wakefield High School will be hosting none other than President Barack Obama on the first day of school next week.

How cool is that!

Will Va. Gubernatorial Race Tighten After McDonnell Thesis Sinks In?

Now we have a more interesting gubernatorial race after Bob McDonnell's masters thesis denigrating working women surfaced over the weekend.

Will it make things tighter and turn this into a winnable contest for Creigh Deeds?

We'll see. The two most recent polls, completed before the thesis made its impact, are from Rasmussen and Public Policy Polling, with McDonnell up by 9 points and 7 points respectively.

These two organizations are expected to release additional polls later in September. If Deeds hasn't closed to within statistical insignificance by then, he's in trouble.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Will The Real Bob McDonnell Please Stand Up

Finally, we are getting a better picture of the real Bob McDonnell, courtesy of the Washington Post (where's the Deeds campaign?). Yesterday's Post has a must-read on McDonnell's master's thesis when he attended evangelical Christian Regent University in 1989, shortly before being elected to the General Assembly.

For anyone in Northern Virginia that might be fooled by McDonnell's "Nova's own" yard signs, his master's thesis shows him to be more along the lines of the "Christian right's own."

In his thesis, McDonnell laid out a 15 point action plan he thought the Republican Party should follow to protect American families. It was anti-working woman and sounded like something that far right Delegate Bob "Taliban" Marshall would eagerly embrace. Jerry Falwell would be proud.

For his part, McDonnell says his "views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older." Well, we'd like to know just which views from that thesis have changed.

George Allen liked to portray himself as some kind of moderate, too, until the inner George Allen got the better of him and exposed the real man with his "maccaca" gaffe. The thing about the maccaca comment is that it fit perfectly well with a number of other hints we had that he was a racist.

We don't believe for a second that McDonnell has changed his stripes. Rather, he's clever enough to see that the overt appeal to the GOP right by other candidates has cost the party the middle--the moderate independent voters who decide Virginia elections.

While the revelations about McDonnell's thesis will give some of those voters pause, the Deeds campaign still needs to give those same voters a reason to come out and vote FOR him. So far, Deeds' campaign has been pretty anemic, perhaps in part because he has had to build up a war chest following the primary battle.

Post Labor Day, we hope to see Deeds kick into a new gear!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It Takes Balls

Mrs. Curmudgeon has rounded up a number of stray soccer balls in our house to donate to a group that gives them to poor kids around the world. She collected about 20, and that still leaves us with AT LEAST 10 more that we couldn't part with for various reasons.

That got us looking around, and we realized that our house is just full of balls of various types. It would be an interesting contest to guess just how many we have--my guess is around 350, maybe as many as 500.

In addition to the soccer balls, we have various basketballs, mini-basketballs, mini-soccer balls, baseballs, softballs, footballs (are footballs really balls?), super balls and rubber balls. Then there's Mrs. Curmudgeon's collection of tennis balls, which somehow find their way all over the house, and my collection of old, used and discarded golf balls, which occupy two bins in a corner of the basement.
You've heard of yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales, etc. We're going to have a ball sale.