Thursday, May 28, 2009

McAuliffe For Governor

Time for us to get off the fence. After a lot of pondering, we've decided to support Terry McAuliffe for governor of the Commonwealth.

Personally, we like all three candidates. They bring different strengths and weaknesses to the race; any of them would be a good governor, certainly better than Bob McDonnell, masquerading as a moderate.

In the end we had to go with the man we thought would run the best campaign. The winner of the Democratic primary will have to battle not just McDonnell, but history. The Virginia governor's mansion typically goes to the party out of power in the White House, an edge for the GOP this year.

Of the three Democratic candidates, we think McAuliffe will do the best job running against McDonnell. McAuliffe has demonstrated his ability to raise scads of money, which will be needed in this race. Don't think McDonnell will somehow limit himself to Virginia donors--there are only two gubernatorial races this year, and the GOP is going to go all out to win in Va.; it will be a national race.

More importantly, however, McAuliffe has run a clean, upbeat, well-oiled campaign. Everything seems to be professionally done (sometimes overdone), there is great attention to detail, and the campaign has been strategically sound.

Equally important--and a question mark for us at the beginning of the campaign--T.M. has shown a good deal of substance on the campaign trail. We don't think he'd just be an empty suit in the Governor's Mansion if elected.

In contrast, Brian Moran--the frontrunner before McAuliffe jumped in--has been a disappointment. Once McAuliffe got in, Moran got defensive and started making mistakes. His strategy has been shaky, which suggests to us that he won't be a strong enough candidate against McDonnell. Moran has also tacked to the left in a desperate effort to outflank McAuliffe--apparently without success--which would also hurt him in the general election.

Creigh Deeds is a tougher call. Mr. Deeds has deliberately run a low key campaign, knowing he couldn't keep up with either McAuliffe or Moran on the fundraising front. Deeds barely lost to McDonnell in a statewide race for Attorney General four years ago (but he trailed Tim Kaine in almost every corner of the state).

The primary appeal of Deeds is that he is a "real" Virginian, whose moderate views make him much harder to tag as some kind of "liberal" by the McDonnell crowd. Deeds would bring out some Democratic votes in southwest Virginia that would be difficult for anyone else to get.

On the other hand, Deeds will get little enthusiasm from African-American voters, a critical component of any Democratic victory in November. Indeed, it's just hard to picture Deeds getting anyone excited about his campaign outside southwest Virginny.

Not surprisingly, there's been a little posturing this year over who's the most authentic Virginian, a jab at McAuliffe who's been on the national stage for many years. Yet, similar sentiments could have been held against Mark Warner when he ran for governor, and look how he turned out.

Three-four months ago, we couldn't have seen ourselves endorsing Terry McAuliffe. But come November, we're going to need his energy, the money he can raise, and the enthusiasm he can generate.

Come June 9, we intend to cast our ballot for Mr. McAuliffe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Miles Grant In 47th

We heartily endorse Miles Grant for delegate in the crowded five-man (where's the women in Arlington?) field for the Democratic nomination in the 47th district, which covers most of central Arlington.

Let us start by saying that all five candidates to succeed retiring delegate Al Eisenberg are good Democrats. We suspect that any of them would represent Arlington and the views of Arlingtonians ably in Richmond.

We like Miles Grant because he is the "greenest" of the five. Miles headed up Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, a local grass roots group that has done a lot to promote a green Arlington. He also has a blog, The Green Miles, devoted to environmental issues. Miles has also been endorsed by the Sierra Club. Miles will bring a truly well-informed voice to the table on environmental issues pending in Richmond.

At the same time, Miles has views on other issues that accord with those of the majority of Arlingtonians--liberal on social issues, but favoring fiscal soundness.

The other four candidates are Patrick Hope, Alan Howze, Adam Parkhomenko and Andres Tobar.

Hope is the candidate of the Arlington Democratic Party insiders. That's another way of saying he's a bit of a hack--he's done the Dem Party thing in Arlington and now thinks it's "his turn." We haven't been impressed with Hope as a candidate. One of the things we like about Miles is that he retains his independence from the party machinery.

Adam Parkhomenko has emerged as a bit of a favorite in the race. He worked hard on Hillary's campaign in Virginia. We don't necessarily see that as a plus given the way Obama trounced Hillary in the Commonwealth and in Arlington. Nothing against him, but he seems awfully eager. Maybe too eager, as when his yard signs started appearing in road medians four months before the primary, a violation of Arlington rules on campaign signs. Either Parkhomenko didn't know the rules--a bad sign for someone wanting to be a delegate--or he ignored the rules for his own benefit--a much worse sign.

Alan Howze works for IBM--a place where we have good friends--and previously worked as Gov. Warner's political director. He knows his way around, but his campaign has been a bit lackluster.

Andres Tobar is President of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations. We don't know much about him, but frankly he would bring a needed perspective to the General Assembly.

All in all, however, we're most impressed with Miles Grant, who has run a good campaign, made effective use of technology to reach out, and whose record on environmental/energy issues is impeccable. Our vote is for Miles.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More On Virginia Polls

Last week we criticized the Washington Post for not reporting on polls of the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The Post has since endorsed Creigh Deeds in the race, but has yet to report on a number of recent polls taken in the race.

Mark Blumenthal, the force behind the popular website, comments this week in the National Journal on the Post's decision to exclude the polls.

Like the Curmudgeon, Blumenthal favors reporting on the polls, with appropriate caveats to educate readers.

Blumenthal also points out--as did the Post--that polling in a primary where turnout is quite unpredictable, but likely small, is perilous under the best of circumstances. We agree, but that's where the power of multiple polls comes into play.

If in the Virginia race we had one poll saying Moran was ahead, one with Deeds ahead and one with McAuliffe ahead, all with somewhat different methodologies, it would be pretty easy to say the polls don't tell us anything.

Instead, we now have six straight polls--since mid-April--by four different pollsters with different methodologies, all showing McAuliffe ahead. See the chart for details. That's pretty consistent. We also see consistency of trends in successive polls taken by the same pollsters--if we saw inconsistency there, we'd have to conclude that the samples they were taking were unstable.

In any event, the Post may have valid reasons for not reporting on each individual poll, but at some point the political analysts at the Post owe their readers a more in-depth review of the polling results.

McAuliffe may not win the election. That wouldn't necessarily mean the polls are incorrect--they all show large numbers of still undecided voters, and turnout will still be key, so things could change easily. Our bet, however, is that right now McAuliffe is truly leading, with just a couple weeks to go.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

PPP: Deeds Gains On Moran, McAuliffe Still Leads

Public Policy Polling, based in NC, released a new poll on the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary last Friday.

The PPP polls are useful because they have been asking the same questions periodically since January, giving us some ideas for trends in the race.

In the most recent poll, McAuliffe leads Moran and Deeds by nine percentage points, 29% to 20% for each of the latter.

In a poll two weeks earlier, Deeds trailed badly; but he has since been airing some television commercials, which may have helped him close the gap with Moran.

The race is still wide open, with 31% undecided and more than 40% of those expressing a preference saying they could change their minds. Turnout will also be an important factor.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

An Episode of "24" We'd Like To See

At some point soon, we'll weigh in on the "enhanced interrogation" debate, although in the larger scheme of things we'd rather see everyone discussing the economy.

Meanwhile, we leave you with this thought on an episode of "24" we'd like to see:

Jack Bauer has a suspect in custody. A terror incident is imminent and the suspect is the only lead the feds have. Time is running out. Jack has to get the information, or thousands will die.

So he waterboards the suspect. And then he waterboards him again. And again. And again. And after he's waterboarded him 183 times, the suspect finally confesses. Meantime, six months have passed and the feds have found another way to crack the case.

McFarlane Exit Great News For DC United Fans

Good riddance to Victor McFarlane.

DC United has announced that McFarlane has withdrawn as an "owner" of the local soccer franchise (Major League Soccer actually owns the team).

McFarlane, head of a Los Angeles real estate management company, purchased an interest in the team a couple years ago. To much fanfare, he announced that he would be leading an effort to put the team in a new soccer-only stadium.

The problem was, with McFarlane, it was never about DC United getting a new stadium. Instead, it was all about Victor. What he wanted was to leverage a stadium into a large mixed-use real estate development that his company would develop.

No one in the DC area really knows McFarlane, so it is no surprise that local politicos were loathe to give him some lucrative real estate deal as part of getting a new stadium built. He almost bamboozled officials in Prince Georges County--a terrible place for a new stadium--but the terms of the deal were so ridiculous that even P.G.'s political operatives (no strangers to inside deals) balked.

There was never any indication that McFarlane cared much about DC United--or even soccer for that matter. We're glad to see him go.

McFarlane's exit clears the way for the team to look for an opportunity to build a stadium, without having it be part of some huge real estate deal. That's good, as it opens up many more possibilities.

The most logical is staring DC United officials every time they set foot on their home pitch at RFK Stadium. Dilapidated RFK sits on an enormous site in eastern D.C., with some prime river front acreage. The thing to do is build a new soccer-only stadium (which would seat about 25,000 spectators and take up a lot less room than the current stadium) on a corner of the property, then tear down RFK and re-develop the site--not for McFarlane or DC United's benefit, but for the benefit of Washington, DC.

That would give DC United the new stadium it needs; give DC United patrons a convenient venue; and give DC a spectacular new site for development. (What they should've done, a few years ago, is build both the Nationals stadium and a soccer stadium on this site, with parking and Metro access, but too late for that.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

McAuliffe Continues To Lead In Two New Polls

Two new polls are out, both showing Terry McAuliffe leading rivals Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds in the Va. Democratic gubernatorial primary.

1. Daily Kos:
McAuliffe 36%
Moran 22%
Deeds 13%
Undecided 29%

2. Survey USA
McAuliffe 37%
Deeds 26%
Moran 22%
Undecided 14%

Both polls indicate that a large percentage of voters indicate they could change their minds, so while McAuliffe has made big in-roads, he's hardly locked it up.

Both polls also asked about match-ups between each of the three Democrats and Republican nominee Bob McDonnell. Suffice it to say that McDonnell leads all three in both polls, by roughly 6-12 percentage points.

We don't put much stock--yet--in the numbers for the match-ups with McDonnell. It's too early with three Democrats duking it out for the nomination. At the same time, whichever candidate gets the Dem nomination will have his work cut out for him.

Guest Blog From An Unhappy Idol Fan

The following is a guest blog from none other than Mrs. Curmudgeon, who just had to get her bruised feelings over American Idol off her chest:

OK, once again world events small and large confirm that in a close race I am out of step with the popular majority -- every time. First it was Ronald Reagan. I just couldn't convince myself that he was ever playing anything other than a bit part in a B movie. And, he won. At Wimbledon last year, Roger (Federer) vs. Rafa (Nadal). Roger lost. Earlier this year it was Hillary. She lost. More recently it was the Caps. They lost. And, now . . . Adam (vs. wet-boy Kris) . He lost.

I started feeling that "it's too good to be true" sensation about Adam's ascendancy to the Idol throne after Gokey was ousted leaving wet-boy, wife -in-the-cage Kris standing, small and shivering, in the shadow of Adam the Great Song-Slayer. Then, on Tuesday, I felt the plates shift underneath again when Simon -- Simon! --said -- after Adam's unbelievable, heart-stopping rendition of Sam Cooke's "Change is Gonna Come" " You're 100% back in the game." Uh-oh. What did that mean? I was ready to get on my knees, business suit and briefcase and all, and praise the Lord Jesus after Adam was done . . . but this was all the commentary that Simon could muster?

My first reaction was that clearly some people should not have telephones because some serious network abuse must have been going on for Adam Lambert not to have won American Idol. It's hard to believe there are enough 13-year old girls in Oklahoma with automatic speed dialers for Kris Allen to overtake Adam Lambert. I need to complain to the FCC or the FTC -- this is just wrong. We need a Congressional investigation.

Maybe all the red state viewers decided to flick off California and its attempt to sustain gay marriage by voting against Adam. (I'm not saying Adam has anything to do with gay marriage in California -- I'm just saying that there are people out there who would jump to this conclusion and take irrational actions.) Maybe it was his hair, his eyeliner, his nails . . .

Maybe he is just too talented. Now, that's a disturbing thought.

I'm sure if AT&T and Idol were ever persuaded to release the calling pattern records I could come up with some popular culture theory of why a guy so clearly above the rest of the field in vocal talent (not to mention, charisma, personality, creativity and good looks) in a singing competition didn't win.

But, I've moved beyond these issues. Really.

The big loser here is the American Idol franchise. This was the very best opportunity for AI to finally, officially equate itself with discovering and "making" a global superstar. Look at the rest of the field; David Cooke, Jordan Sparks, Taylor Hicks (what happened that year?), Fantasia (sorry, she's just not that good). I like em' all but with the exception of Carrie Underwood, none of them will every break through into lasting music legacy or "stardom" (whatever that is). Adam Lambert could have been the one.

The good news is that Adam Lambert will succeed anyway. But for the AI contest, he'd still be doing bit parts in musical theater in San Diego or wherever (with his Dad still grumbling about how he never liked sports and he's not done much with himself -- yes, don't deny it-- I heard you say these things!) Adam needs a stage -- a big one. With lots of wardrobe changes. Maybe his own TV show. Fox could do a another singing contest but in this one, Adam would sing all the songs. They would be from different genres and we could call in and vote for our favorite. Here's Adam Lambert singing "Afternoon Delight" Here's Adam Lambert singing "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" I'd watch that. Maybe Queen should invite him to be their new lead singer. They need one. I think Freddy Mercury would love it. Maybe Adam should just do a tour by himself (I can see Cher as a great warm up act!). I'd go see that. Oh, and by the way, I am a female in her 40s with lots of disposable income-- I will pay to see and hear Adam Lambert (but, sorry, not Kris Allen).

The bad news (and here, I'm hoping that it's actually not that bad for Adam -- that he is truly as smart and gracious as he appeared and isn't crushed by this AND that he has lots of really good producers around him offering him many opportunities to do just what he wants and deserves AND that he has lots of good people around him to support him and keep him grounded as the public celebrity takes over his life. Hhmmm . . . need a good lawyer? I'm available.) . . . is that I do not get my weekly Adam Lambert fix.

I'm feeling very sorry for myself but I'll be watching out for when Adam Lambert emerges post-Idol.

And, as for Kris? Congratulations, good job buddy. Go take care of your marriage because she didn't look too happy in the few times AI let her out of her cage.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Moran Goes After McAuliffe On Hillary Support

Frankly, we expected it sooner given the Moran campaign's desperation. Brian Moran is running ads--on African-American radio--going after Terry McAuliffe for his support of Hillary over Obama in the Dem presidential primaries.

We don't think it will work--it certainly shouldn't. Yes, McAuliffe supported Hillary. No big surprise there, as he's been with the Clintons for years and owed his DNC chairmanship to Bill. We're sure Obama didn't begrudge McAuliffe's work for Hillary in the primaries.

But, as McAuliffe points out in a well done counter ad, as soon as the primaries were over and Obama secured the nomination, the T-meister enthusiastically supported Obama and raised money for him.

Sorry Brian, but its slipping away . . . slipping away.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

WaPo's Lame Reasons For Not Reporting Va. Polls

Yesterday's Washington Post carried a defense of it's decision not to report on a trio of recent polls on the Democratic primary for Virginia governor. See "Polls In Va. Governor's Race Haven't Met Post's Standards."

Aside from actually reporting the results of the polls it says it isn't reporting, the Post's defense was pretty lame.

The Post haughtily told its readers that "[o]ur responsibility is to scrutinize the data we report as carefully as we do the sources we quote in our stories." Sadly, in the Post's view, "[n]one of the recent polls in the Virginia governor's race meet our current criteria for reporting polls."

You see, "the basic test of any poll is how reliably the opinions of those surveyed reflect those of everyone in the population of people that interests us, in this case prospective voters" in the primary.

That all sounds nice, but the Post offered only a couple reasons for excluding two independent polls that came out recently. First, the Post says it is very difficult to estimate "how many and what types of people might vote" a month out from the primary given the possibly low turnout. While it's true that turnout is difficult to forecast, this excuse would knock out ANY poll. Most polls get at this question by asking respondents if they are likely to vote in the election of interest. You can usually at least get a good idea of how "likely" voters will cast their votes.

In short, reason one is really no reason at all. It's an inherent difficulty in ALL elections.

The second reason the Post offered up is that the two independent polls were "robopolls." In other words, they were automated telephone polls, in which respondents are asked by a recorded voice to press numbers on their telephones to indicate their preferences.

The Post shouldn't be excluding all robopolls. At least one of the "robopolls" that the Post failed to report on was conducted by Public Policy Polling in North Carolina. In the last election cycle, PPP had an excellent record in forecasting votes in the Democratic presidential primaries and in the general election.

There is no real evidence that a good robopoll is any less accurate than one conducted by a human. The Post--as newspapers like to do--simply cites anecdotal evidence on the subject by quoting "experts" on both sides of the issue. So what?

The Post complains that robopolls tend to be shorter than ones conducted by humans. While true, that does not necessarily make them less accurate. If anything, the sub-questions in longer polls, broken down by various demographic groups, can often be quite misleading because there are so few respondents in each "cell" of the poll that the margin of error is off the charts.

One of the advantages of the PPP robopolls, ignored by the Post, is that it can conduct polls with the same relatively simple questions on a fairly regular basis leading up to an election and develop a trend line.

PPP has done just that in Virginia this cycle, conducting the same poll each month in Virginia since January. The results seem to make sense with what's been going on. The number of undecided voters, while still high, has steadily gone down each month, from 53% in January, to 46% in Feb., 45% in March and 36% in early May.

As the undecideds have gone down, all the candidates have gone up, but McAuliffe has gone up faster. That makes intuitive sense--McAuliffe entered the contest later and was more of a wild card, and he's been spending more money, which would account for a surge as undecideds start to formulate their preferences. The last PPP poll, taken at the beginning of May, still showed more than a third of voters undecided, and many others indicating "soft" support for their candidates (i.e., saying they could change their minds).

The last PPP poll was also quite consistent with another robopoll, from Survey USA, taken a week earlier. Survey USA also had a pretty good track record in the last election cycle. Consistency across different polls is usually a sign that the numbers they are reporting have some reliability.

So, our bottom line on these independent robopolls is that they should be reported by the Post and other media, albeit with appropriate caveats.

On the other hand, the Post was correct to omit reporting on an internal poll conducted by the Moran campaign and then released after the independent polls showed Moran behind by McAuliffe by as much as 10 points. We agree that internal campaign polls should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Campaigns only release what they want, and a campaign pollster can easily manipulate the results (for example, Moran's pollster could overload his poll with Alexandria residents to skew the result for public consumption).

We're not saying the independent polls that the Post overlooked will necessarily be right, or reliable. The Post is certainly free to point out the limitations of such polls when it reports them. (Heck, we wish the Post would point out how poorly hurricane predictions have been in the past when it, inevitably, carries some story with the latest prediction from some group of purported experts.)

But the Post's reasons for excluding them altogether, as not meeting the Post's "standards," really don't pass muster.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Looking Forward To A Looonnnnngggg Summer

Let's face it: summer is from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

And that means this summer is the longest possible.

That's right: Memorial Day is early this year, on May 25, while Labor Day is late, on Sept. 7. That gives us at least an extra week.

So enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Verizon Yahoo Sucks

Just blowing off steam here--in the past hour, Verizon Yahoo has asked me to re-log in 5 times. You're supposed to be able to log-in for two weeks, but at least twice a day for the past week I've had to log-in again.

The reason for this appears to be so that Yahoo can lobby everyone with an ad to switch to Yahoo Search. I wish they had a button that said: NO THANKS--I'M HAPPY WITH GOOGLE, NOW LEAVE ME ALONE.

It's bad enough that I have to share my email screen with all kinds of ads, the most recent of which are disgusting ads showing yellow (or worse) teeth. Who needs that?

Could be time to switch to Gmail. (Hear that Verizon Yahoo?)

Geoge Will--Hypocritical To The Grave

At age 68, George Will has been writing columns in the Washington Post for nearly 30 years now.

So who did he write this about? The ____ administration is "careless regarding constitutional values and is acquiring a tincture of lawlessness."

Surely, you say, it had to be about the W Bush administration, sanctioning torture, holding prisoners without trial, withholding documents from Congress, altering reports on global climate change, holding secret meetings with oil industry lobbyists and acting with "expediency" regardless of what the law required.

No, Will spent a lot of time defending W's administration, although he was critical of Iraq policy. Instead, he wrote it today about the Obama administration. Conservatives are as apoplectic about Obama as they were about Franklin Roosevelt throughout the 1930's.

(Will's complaint concerns the treatment of secured hedge fund creditors in the Chrysler bankruptcy. Those creditors are in court, where the rule of law is being observed.)

Will, of course, is as hypocritcal as any of the other conservative commentators--most of whom would've done the Republican party a huge service had they been constructively critical of W Bush, instead of trying to defend his record.

Thirty years ago, Will was sometimes objective and often interesting. Today, he's a cranky old hypocritical man. We'd like to see the Washington Post dump Will and find a new, more interesting conservative counterpoint, one who might even give life to the movement--which desperately needs it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Waffle House: The Waitress Is Always Right

We've always said you're taking your life in your own hands if you just have to go out to Waffle House at 4:00 in the morning:

MANNING, S.C. -- A waitress at a South Carolina Waffle House has been arrested and accused of shooting a customer who complained about the service.

The Clarendon County Sheriff's Office says 29-year-old Yakeisha Ward of Manning is charged with assault and battery within intent to kill.

Deputies say Ward worked at a Waffle House in Manning and was involved in a fight about 4:30 a.m. Sunday.

Lt. Tommy Burgess says the fight started when customer Crystal Samuel complained about the quality of service in the crowded restaurant.

"I thought I was gonna get me an All-Star," Samuel told WLTX-TV. "Grits, sausage, toast, eggs and a waffle."

Samuel said service was slow and when the food finally arrived she began arguing with Ward.
Samuel admits throwing a waffle at the waitress.

"I did actually throw some food but it didn't hit her," said Samuel. "That's when she (Ward) jumped across the counter and we got into it," says Samuel.

Burgess says Ward went to her van to get a gun.

Samuel was hit in the arm when Ward fired as those trying to break up the fight pointed the gun to the ground and a bullet ricocheted.

It was unclear if Ward had an attorney.

Mr. Deeds Gets Slammed

Ok, he really slammed himself. Yesterday, Creigh Deeds ran into the back of another car, slightly injuring two passengers in the other vehicle.

What's remarkable about the story, however, is that Deeds was driving himself.

C'mon, you don't really think Terry McAuliffe is driving himself around the state?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thank Goodness for Jack Bauer

Last night, Jack Bauer saved thousands of DC Metro riders from an awful bio-neuro death. We're so happy.

We don't understand why the writers at "24" had to call the terror destination within Metro "Washington Center" instead of Metro Center. I mean, they did use the Red Line, which is real, and even had their terror suspect enter at a real Metro stop, although he was clearly riding a train from some other city.

Speaking of which, wasn't it weird that Jack Bauer's daughter (Kim) was sitting in a waiting room at LAX waiting for a flight from Washington to LAX?

We're kind of bummed that the main mass terror threat is now over. What will they do in the final two-hour episode? (Oh yes, we forgot: RETRIBUTION.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

McAuliffe Breaking From The Pack

Terry McAuliffe appears to be breaking away from the pack in the lively three-way race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Virginia.

A recent poll from Public Policy Polling has Mr T. at 30 percent, followed by Brian Moran at 20 percent and Creigh Deeds at 14%. That obviously leaves a lot of undecideds out there--including us.

(The same poll has Jody Wagner leading in the five person Lt. Governor nomination race, but really just about everyone--70%--is undecided on that one, probably because none of the candidates is very well known.)

If McAuliffe begins to emerge as a favorite, we could easily envision a surge of support for him amongst the undecideds, many of whom are trying to figure out who's going to win.

Let's face it: all three are attractive candidates, with similar positions on the issues. The real question for many Democrats is "which one can win?"

Republicans in the Commonwealth probably think that McAuliffe's long-time Clinton connections, out of state fundraising and suspect status as a true "Virginian" make him a juicy target for Bob McDonnell.

On the other hand, McAuliffe has proven his ability to raise money--lots of it--in a contest that will have a national profile. You can bet that McDonnell will be raising significant amounts of money from out of state, thus neutralizing that particular issue.

Furthermore, Virginia's a big state and the constest will largely be fought in the mass media, where money counts. Although we've poked a little fun at Terry M. a couple times here, he has, so far, run a very professional campaign, without doing anything that would hurt him in the general election (unlike Brian Moran, who's gambled on the gay vote).

At this point, we think it's McAuliffe's to lose (in the June primary). Unless he makes a gaffe. or one of the other two candidates drops out, he'll probably cruise to a plurality victory.

Friday, May 08, 2009

WR Grace Acquitted

The Curmudgeon's old boss, David Bernick, has been defending W.R. Grace and a number of executives in a federal criminal trial for the past two and half months, arising out of operation of an asbestos mine in Libby, Montana.

Today, the Montana jury acquitted Grace and the executives. See "Jury Acquits W.R. Grace, Three Execs In Asbestos Case."

We're not surprised. Bernick is an amazing trial attorney, and his team included some superb lawyers and staff we've worked with before.

Still, we're just as happy to be home peddling our book, playing a bit of golf and hanging out in the blogosphere.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Idol Voters Blow It

We can't believe Idolette Alison Iraheta is off the show while boring Kris Allen is in the Final Three.

Is there some movement out there to keep Kris on just to dis Simon and make the show less interesting?

Anyway, Alison has a great recording career ahead of her. Kris, not so much. And the final two has to be between Adam and Danny, which was clear 10 weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Can Jack Bauer Save Metro?

With just three hours--two shows--to go in this season's "24" Washingtonians are biting their fingernails over whether uber-agent Jack Bauer, seemingly dying (yeah, sure, he's gonna die) of a neurological bioweapon, will be able to save Metro from an attack by some shadowy group of right wing super-patriots.

Metro? Does it have to be Metro? C'mon guys, we all ride Metro. Can't you just have them attack some made up suburb, like Edgeboro?

By the way, for a smart guy--always a step ahead of everyone else--why doesn't Jack realize that he's had a bunch of these days before and they always seem to come to a head in the 24th hour?

Jack: "Madame President, this will all be over in three hours."

President Taylor: "How do you know?"

Jack: "It's just a feeling. But I've been through this seven times now over the past few years. Each time, it seems like the problem's been solved, only to have it get worse. But then, exactly 24 hours after the day started, just when you think all is lost, I somehow manage to stop the terrorists, who usually seem to be the kind of patriotic, right wing, torture-loving Americans who would embrace a television show where torture always works."

Let's hope Metro is spared.

Ray'sing Hell In Arlington

Everyone in Arlington knows that THE place to get a burger is Ray's Hellburger. (Arlington is also home to the original Five Guys, so our County's a true burger haven.)

Now, even the President and Veep know it, too.

Imagine the surprise of Ray's regulars, standing in line on a dreary Tuesday (yesterday) when Obama's motorcade pulled up and the Prez (and that guy Biden) joined them in line for a delicious cheeseburger.

The Curmudgeon picked a bad day to have a bagel at home.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Arlington County's Parks & Recreation "Cost-Recovery" Model

Last Tuesday, April 28, the Arlington County Board formally adopted a "cost-recovery model" proposed by the Arlington Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources (DPRCR). Had it not been for the Arlington Soccer Ass'n (ASA) blowing a late whistle and issuing a yellow card, the Board would've adopted this misguided proposal without the least amount of thought going into it.

As it turned out, the Board issued a number of caveats before buying into the DPRCR model, only because about 60 soccer parents let the Board know, at the last minute, that they would not be happy if the model were to lead to a new tax on youth sports in Arlington.

Fortunately, the Board is now on notice that there is significant political opposition out there to monkeying around with the kids' sports leagues for revenue. Although we fully expect to see DPRCR make an attempt to pad its budget with hundreds of thousands of dollars in new fees on youth sports, we hope the Board will be a little skeptical.

Here's what happened. A few months ago, DPRCR rolled out a so-called "cost-recovery model" as a means to justify imposition of new fees. DPRCR had meetings with various user groups, including ASA. The youth sports leagues voiced a number of concerns about the model, resulting in ZERO changes in the model. At the same time, DPRCR indicated that it would seek a fee of up to $10 per player per season to be tacked on to all youth sports.

Then, as budget discussions and meetings began this Spring, DPRCR notified the youth leagues that it would NOT be seeking the fee (yet) as part of the upcoming budget. Accordingly, ASA and other groups stood down. But what DPRCR DIDN'T say was that it was still going to seek approval of the cost recovery model that stood as its basis for seeking the fees.

As a result, the cost recovery model snuck through to the County Board without the Board ever hearing any public comment on it. Various interested County Commissions, such as the Sports Commission, remained in the dark as well.

Then, five days before the County Board meeting at which the cost recovery model was to be formally adopted, DPRCR notified the Sports Commission that it was on the Board's agenda. DPRCR did not notify ASA at all; instead, ASA learned of the pendency of the model from the Sports Commission. However, when ASA asked to be heard on the issue, it was told that the period for public comment had already passed.

Fortunately, ASA has an email listserv with nearly 10,000 names on it (both parents of more than 5000 youth soccer players), so it was quickly able to get word out that the Board was about to adopt a model that inexorably would lead to a kiddie tax on youth sports. Although the email didn't go out until the day of the County Board's meeting, Board members still received more than 60 emails on what they had previously thought was an uncontroversial cost recovery model. Of course, they thought it was uncontroversial because DPRCR had skillfully managed to sneak it through without letting the public know what was going on.

County Board members have been quick since then to say that the cost recovery model is simply "conceptual," and to make clear that there will be plenty of public comment before any youth sports tax (or "fee" as they prefer to call it) is imposed.

While we're happy that County Board members have somewhat backed away from the DPRCR model, they really ought to send it back to DPRCR for additional input, and schedule a public forum at which BOARD MEMBERS can get INPUT from affected parties--not just from DPRCR.

As it stands, the model is quite flawed. We won't go into all the reasons here, this already being a long post. The basic problem is one of fairness. Conceptually, it makes sense for DPRCR to set cost recovery "targets" for various activities. In this case, DPRCR set forth a pyramid under which activities are classified into different levels of community versus individual benefit. At the tip of the pyramid are activities that involve 100% individual benefit (and thus merit 100% cost recovery), whereas at the base are activities that can be viewed as 100% community benefit.

By way of example, a specialized class that teaches someone a skill is highly individual, while open parkland is communal.

Unfortunately, however, DPRCR made some nonsensical judgments along the way, such as placing tennis courts and dog parks in the 100% community benefit level, while placing youth sports at a level judged as "primarily" bestowing an individual benefit. A youth playing ping pong, pool or basketball in a community center is considered to be primarily "communal," while that same youth, if playing ORGANIZED basketball or soccer is considered primarily "individual."

The County Board should've asked a lot of questions of DPRCR as to how it came up with these inconsistent classifications, but it didn't. Indeed, the County Board spent more time discussing whether a new hotel development should be required to have overhead garage doors on its parking garage than it spent discussing the merits of the cost recovery model.

A good question asked by ASA officials in a letter (posted online) to the County Board was why their kids should have to pay a new fee while adult tennis players and dog park users get free use of County facilities; or why a bunch of Alexandria cab drivers can use the Barcroft synthetic soccer field day in and day out for free while ASA kids have to pay a fee to practice on some muddy field with clumps of weeds growing out of it.

We fully anticipate that the revenue hungry DPRCR will seek to impose some sort of fee on youth sports by next Spring (2010). It should be an interesting battle, especially if DPRCR can't cure the inequities inherent in its flawed model.

We have the following advice for the County Board if such a fee becomes necessary: 1. make sure everyone, not just youth sports, is paying a fee; 2. tie the fee to improvements in recreational facilities as opposed to padding the DPRCR payroll; and 3. keep the fee very low (below $5). If recreational users can see the money being put to good use to improve facilities, they are much more likely to accept it. In constrast, if youth soccer parents playing at Bluemont have to pay for the privilege while their childless neighbors get to play tennis, for nothing, on nice courts right next to the soccer field, they're going to be upset.

A Great Pandemic Read

As the fear of the great swine flu pandemic of '09 begins to ebb (thankfully) we highly recommend a terrific--and terrifying--book for those interested the last true influenza pandemic, the outbreak of 1918 that killed as many as 100 million people worldwide, decimating some small communities.

It is "The Great Influenza" by John Barry. Meticulously researched, well told and absolutely fascinating in every detail.

(Barry's book on the massive Mississippi River flood of 1927--"Rising Tide"--is also fabulous; if it doesn't stop raining here soon, we'll be recommending it as well!)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Is Moran The Odd-Man Out?

It's increasingly looking to us like Brian Moran is the odd man out of the Democratic gubernatorial triumvarate.

Ever since Terry McAuliffe got into the race, Moran has struggled to define and position himself, without much success.

Most recently, in desperation, Moran made a play for the gay vote, which would cost him big in the general election IF he were to get there. Just shows he doesn't think he's going to make it without the gamble.

We've been ambivalent all along, and still are. But it's starting to look like this to us: either go with McAuliffe and set up a well-financed national Democrat who looks good on TV against a very credible Republican opponent. It would be real test of just how blue Virginia has gone.

Or go with Creigh Deeds, a very moderate, aw-shucks rural rooted Democrat in a rematch of his extremely close loss to McDonnell four years ago. The theory for going with Deeds would be that Virginia isn't quite ready for someone as closely aligned with the national Democratic party as the big T.

Moran is in the middle, but it's not a particularly appealing middle, and his desperation has worn on us. We think we're down to choosing between two candidates at this point, and we're still decidedly undecided.