Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SUSA Poll: Deeds Slipping Badly

Ouch! We hope it's summer doldrums, or Democrats are all on vacation, or something: a new Survey USA poll of Virginia voters has Bob McDonnell leading Creigh Deeds by 55%-40%. Not good.

(Republicans have big leads in the Lt. Gov. and AG races as well.)

The poll does appear to skew significantly GOP in terms of party identification of respondents, so it may be a bit of an outlier. We hope so!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Catching Up With Creigh

We had an opportunity to catch up with Creigh Deeds last night at a fundraiser in Georgetown.

Sen. Deeds certainly seems ready for the task ahead, brimming with energy and ideas. Standing in a very warm room, a little sweat dropping off his face, Deeds explained his plans to make Virginia a green energy leader, to deal with health care in the Commonwealth, to improve education and to make it so Virginians can get around the state.

As our host's dog walked by a couple times, Deeds couldn't resist giving the pup a pet or two. We sensed that he'd just as soon spend more time with the canine than with the rest of us, but who can blame him.

Deeds described himself as a "nomad" these days, traveling about the state. With his home in Bath County, down in the southwest (but not the far southwest, as he was quick to point out), he pretty much spends every day on the road. That's good--it makes him fully aware of the true extent of the transportation crisis facing the commonwealth's citizens.

The Senator also gave a nice explanation of the importance of the governor in the redistricting process that will take place after the 2010 census, and the incredible importance of that process to Virginia's political calculus going forward.

Deeds projects a down-home, aw-shucks manner, but you can tell he's a sharp cookie. We would like to see him be a bit crisper in answering questions and discussing policy issues--his approach will work well in the general store down home, but NoVa audiences will expect a little more polish.

Part of the good news for Deeds was that the crowd assembled for this fundraiser consisted of a fair number of Democrats who had supported his two opponents in the primary. It appears that the prospect of Bob McDonnell as governor is enough to unite party after the tough primary battle.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nervous About Health Care

Henry Waxman had it right: "if this [health care reform] was easy, we would've done it a long time ago."

It's not easy, and it sure isn't cheap.

Most Americans believe that their fellow citizens should have access to fundamental health care of some sort. You'd find few hard-hearted souls who'd let a fellow die of a heart attack simply because he didn't have insurance.

And most would provide more comprehensive care to children for a number of reasons: kids can't help what their parents do; they generally are less expensive than adults; and if you give them good care when they're young, they'll be healthier as adults.

We're not sure Congress should jump into comprehensive care for everyone--yet. A couple years ago, we listened as Howard Dean outlined a plan to gradually expand health coverage to the un- and under-insured. He argued to cover all the children first, then expand Medicaid to certain adults, and finally to cover everyone.

An incremental approach might still be best, especially given Congress's proven ability to screw up major legislation.

We don't know enough about the various competing proposals in Congress to endorse one over the other. We do know this: private markets can't solve the health care coverage issue. Further, the alleged "savings" in administrative costs being touted by the Obama administration are surely overstated--there's simply no way we'll pay for universal health care out of such savings, much of which are phantom in any event.

Also, there simply has to be some limit on the extent of coverage that's going to be offered to someone entirely on the government's dime, while folks who can afford it will have to be given the opportunity to pay for more.

The whole process makes us nervous. The last President borrowed at least a trillion dollars to fight an unnecessary war. This administration--which we still fully support--has gone deep into hock to prevent a depression, with encouraging results. We're not sure it makes sense to borrow more trillions to finance universal health care.

In short, the whole process makes us quite nervous.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Public Landstrike Book Signing at Marineland

On Saturday, August 1, the Curmudgeon (aka Ken Bass) will be signing copies of his novel, Landstrike, at Marineland, just south of St. Augustine, Florida.

The event is open to the public, from 6-9 pm, and admission to the park is free. Books will be available for sale (hardcover only, $25, cash or check).

It will be a fun evening, with light refreshments. Ace Hardware will be on hand with hurricane preparedness kits, and our friends from the St. Augustine Record will also be there. We'll have a special appearance by Mark Sudduth, from, with his famous Chevy Tahoe, used for remote hurricane surveillance.

If you have friends or relatives in Florida, let them know!

(We'll also have a smaller book signing in the lobby of the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine on the evening of Friday, July 31 if that's more convenient).

North Polar Sea Ice May Be Headed To New Record Low

Just a few months ago, global warming deniers were trumpeting--falsely it turned out--data they claimed showed that north polar sea ice was at a level not seen in nearly 40 years. This was supposed to show that global warming had stopped, and indeed that we were headed to a new ice age.

The truth is that sea ice at the north pole has been shrinking dramatically, and is poised to set a new record low this summer. Courtesy of "Cryosphere Today" the attached graph shows that the current extent of north polar sea ice is below last year's level, which set a record. If the decline continues at the same pace, by September the Northwest passage will be wide open to shipping and very little sea ice will remain.

Fortunately, the melting of the north polar sea ice does not raise sea levels, as it is all over water, rather than land. However, such melting does contribute to further warming in northern latitudes, as it replaces reflective white ice with heat absorbing dark water. If that in turn accelerates melting of the Greenland ice sheet, it will contribute to rising sea levels.

Those of us on the U.S. east coast are enjoying an unseasonably pleasant summer--so far (and we hope it continues). But don't let that fool you: it may be nice here, but the earth is still running a fever.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Curmudgeon's Radio Interview

To listen to the podcast of the Curmudgeon's radio interview on (re Landstrike), go to:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Curmudgeon On Radio

Next Wednesday (July 15) the Curmudgeon will be on radio, in his alter ego state as Ken Bass, author of Landstrike. We'll be on the internet radio/podcast of, at 9:00 pm, talking about--what else--Landstrike.

For more details, go to We hope you'll give us a listen, or catch the podcast later!

UPDATE: To listen to the podcast, go HERE.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Independence Day In Telluride

One reason you haven't seen much here in the past few days is that we were off in Telluride, Colorado most of last week, having far too much fun to blog.

It was our second consecutive Independence Day in the quaint mountain town, and there's much to be said of it.

Telluride sits at the end of a box canyon, at an elevation of 8750 feet. It's a liberal town with a strong outdoors orientation. As best we can tell, the economy is based on festivals in the summer, skiing in the winter, and famine in between.

The red hot real estate market has cooled off a bit, which may be just as well. One of the floats in the Independence Day parade--indeed the winning float--was an ode to the financial excess of yore, proclaiming "Party Like It's 2006."

Our Telluride favorites? The local newspaper, The Daily Planet. Not only an interesting spin on the local news, but sufficient national news to keep you in touch with the world.

Also, Baked in Telluride, the local bakery, which has everything from fresh bagels to pizza and burritos, and the perfect hangover-busting breakfast sandwich--the bacon, egg & cheese croissant (nicknamed, by us, the "greasy bloater").

We liked the hike up to Bear Creek Falls, on a gentle grade. Well worth the trip, and with the thin air and our beating heart, like making a walk into a hard jog's worth of exercise.

On the 4th of July, the kids loved the fish catch. The local fire department, which runs the entire day's activities, sets up a couple large tanks of water in the town park, fills them with trout, then lets 20-25 kids in at a time to chase the trout around with their bare hands. Catch a trout and you get $1.

At the end of the day, the fireworks rival those in D.C., only they're a lot LOUDER by virtue of echoing endlessly off the walls of the box canyon. (A quick thunderstorm right before the fireworks doused many watchers in the park with a cold rain while supplying nature's own fireworks, but it was still worth the show.)

We also tried some fly-fishing. Fun, but expensive, unless you have your own gear--probably cost us more than $80 per fish caught, so you might want to sneak in with the kids on the 4th and try catching one with your hands.

Last year, we spied Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and little Suri gnoshing on ice cream in the town, but alas, this year there were no celebrity sightings. Perhaps when the Telluride airport re-opens with its new, longer runway (at the highest altitude of any commercial airport in the nation), the celebs will return.

Sanford Stays While Palin Goes

Oftentimes, politics doesn't make much sense, at least on the surface.

In South Carolina, Gov. Sanford--who abandoned the state for a few days to be with his paramour, lied to his staff about it and then gave a practically incoherent press conference to explain his actions--will probably stay in office.

Why? Because the Republicans who control the state would rather have him, crazy as he is, than the Lt. Governor in office. There are a couple reasons for that. First, the Lt. Governor, Andre Bauer, has his own problems and is a political enemy of Sanford. Bauer could easily do something just as strange as Sanford, and the GOP could ill afford the double whammy. (Bauer is rumored to be gay, but he denies it, which of course is meaningless.)

Second, if Bauer moves up, then Glenn McConnell, who is the powerful President Pro Tem of the state senate, would have to move into the Lt. Governor's office. That would be horrid exchange for him--the real power is in leading the Senate, not in the largely ceremonial Lt. Governor's office.

McConnell would probably decline to move, setting off a constitutional crisis and perhaps a scramble for power, all looking quite unseemly.

Can Democrats take advantage of the GOP's woes in the Palmetto State? While we'd like to think so, we doubt it. More likely, the mess will help scramble the Republicans and bring some new faces to the fore.

Maybe it's time for our old friend Oscar Lovelace--who scored nearly 40% of the votes in a primary contest against Sanford two years ago--to jump back in. We bet a lot of SC Republicans now wish they'd cast their lot with Lovelace back then, rather than giving Sanford a second term.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, Governor Sarah Palin says she's stepping down. Her press conference to explain why was about as incoherent as Sanford's. She says she's resigning because she isn't seeking a second term--she doesn't want to subject Alaska's voters to a lame-duck governor.

That, of course, is complete nonsense. Instead, she'll subject them to a special election and deprive them of the governor they elected for four years (not three). She could easily be a "good" lame duck governor if she wanted, but instead she's resigning.

Will Palin still pursue the GOP presidential nomination? Hard to tell. We certainly thought it was a mistake when NC Sen. John Edwards left his seat to run for President full-time. Without being governor, Palin loses her platform of legitimacy and simply becomes someone whose sole ambition is to be President. (Ok, so that's a lot like Huckabee and Romney, but that's really the point--don't the Republicans have anyone they'd like to elevate on the basis of merit, rather than raw ambition?)

How about this for the GOP: a family values ticket, with Palin at the top, Sanford as VP, Ensign for Sec. of State, Vitter at Treasury, and Larry "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Craig at Defense.

PPP Poll: McDonnell Has Small Lead Over Deeds

Now that we're in the doldrums of summer (politics-wise; we love this part of summer otherwise), we have our first post-primary bounce poll in the Va. governors race, from PPP, which gives Bob McDonnell a small lead over Creigh Deeds, 49%-43%.

We'd expect PPP, and perhaps a couple other pollsters, to start doing polling at regular intervals from here on out, giving us a good trendline as the race heats up after Labor Day.

Both Deeds and McDonnell enjoy solid favorability ratings, so we guess it won't be too long before they both begin tearing each other down!

We don't expect much movement in the polls until the campaign gets underway in earnest come September.