The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A quick look at Mark Warner's record.

During the 2004 Presidential campaign President Bush so proudly stated that "results matter". I agree W, but I would argue that results can be both negative and positive - and positive results are what REALLY matter.

I found the "bullet points" listed below on the Draft Mark Waner 2008 site. These bullet points highlight many of the positive trends/results that the Warner administration can claim as their own.

Warner's Record
  • Turned a $6 billion deficit into a $544 Million surplus
  • Eliminated or merged more than 70 duplicative or unnecessary boards and commissions and eight state agencies
  • Salvaged Virginia's threatened AAA bond rating
  • Double-digit unemployment has plummeted in 12 of 13 of the most distressed counties
  • 2nd lowest jobless rate in the nation
  • 97% of all eligible children enrolled in heath care
  • Single largest investment in K-12 education in state history
  • Second largest increase in college and university funding in the nation
  • Highest math SAT score increase in the nation
  • The Council of Chief State School Officers Most Prestigious 2005Distinguished Service Award
  • 700 miles of broadband connecting nearly 700,000 citizens and more than 19,000 businesses

Sure, politicians probably get too much credit when things go good, and too much blame when things go bad. I tend to agree with that general sentiment too. But when you consider the outright incompetence, smoke and mirrors management style, and fiscal mismanagement of Mark Warner's predecessor in the Governor's mansion, these "results" are welcome.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

AG's Race Takes Another Step Towards Completion

Bob McDonnell was certified as the winner of the Attorney General's race by a whopping 323 vote margin. This election, the closest in Virginia history, is a likely precursor to the 2009 Governer's Race. If Creigh Deeds ultimately loses he will nonetheless be in the driver's seat for the Democratic nomination. I have yet to figure out how the most conservative Republican running statewide beat the most conservative Democrat running statewide. Although I predict that if there is a rematch at the top of the ticket, Creigh will win hands down.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Merck To Cut 7,000 Jobs

How this will affect the Elkton plant is unknown. No announce was made regarding which manufacturing plants would close or lose jobs. Merck is facing the triple threat of Zocor losing its patent, Vioxx litigation and an unimpressive pipeline of new drugs. Merck stock dropped on the news.

The Medicaid Conundrum

Today's DNR pick-uped an article from none other than the Washington Post. It only ran half the article, the full article from the Post is here. Essentially, the article discusses the Medicaid cuts and "reforms" passed by the House of Representatives. The interesting thing was that the article asserts that there is a split between the Congressional Democrats and Democratic governors on this issue. Congressional Democrats are using the cuts as part of a political attack on Congressional Republicans. The governors on the other hand, are looking at the potential explosion and Medicaid costs over the next ten years and are desperate to find ways to control those costs.

While I think these articles make more out of the divide among Democrats than is in fact there, it does raise important issues. Basically, how to fix a system that is increasingly straining state budgets. Some of the reforms proposed in the legislation have in fact been floated by Democrats as a way to help control costs. Specifically, the ability to charge co-pays and co-insurance for doctor's visits and penalties for using the emergency room instead of a general practicioner for minor medical problems. These are sensible reforms. Co-pays discourage unnecessary medical treatment. The key is to find the amount that will be enough of a financial disincentive to make Medicaid recipients seek treatment only when needed. The problem is that there is no real oversite of the amount of co-pays on the working poor. States could essentially price the working poor out of health care altogether, or worse, create a incentive to drop one's income below the poverty line in order to get more coverage.

The fact is there isn't a divide on this issue in any real sense. Governors want more control and there is nothing wrong with that. What ultimately unites the legislators and the governors is the desire for the nation's most vulnerable people to continue to get access to healthcare and for any savings from Medicaid reforms to remain in the program. What no one wants is for the nation's poor carry the burden of tax cuts for the wealthy. If you work full time and still are in poverty, you need more help not less.

David Ashe is Virginia's Paul Hackett.

Here's a good read from our friends over at Raising Kaine discussing Virginia's 2nd Congressional District candidate David Ashe. It seems logical to compare David Ashe to former Ohio congressional candidate Paul Hackett. Both Ashe and Hackett are attorneys, Iraqi War Veterans, U.S. Marine Reservist, and former Democratic congressional candidates.

Unfortunately Ashe and Hackett lost their bids for Congress in 2004 to uber conservative "rubber stamp" (Hackett's description of his opponent) candidates in heavily gerrymandered Republican districts. The good news for both Hackett and Ashe is that they both did well enough last time around that both plan to run for office again in 2006. David Ashe will again take on Thelma Drake, whereas Paul Hackett is seriously considering running for U.S. Senate in Ohio.

Comparing Thelma Drake to David Ashe is akin to comparing a wheel barrel to a dump truck. Nevertheless, winning the 2nd Congressional District - which is home to Pat Robertson's media/religious/real estate business enterprises - will be an uphill battle for Mr. Ashe. Regardless, if the Democratic Party of Virginia can continue find candidates like David Ashe even partisan gerrymandered Congressional Districts - like the 2nd District - will not be enough to protect partisan "rubber stampers" like Thelma Drake.

Best of luck to David Ashe, we will be following this one closely.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


It was an unusual day in a little community 70 miles west of the state Capitol of Richmond, Virginia.

A special emergency meeting of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisor was called under a little used Code provision to address a matter of pressing urgency for the citizens of this little rural county. The emergency, it seems, was the question of fair representation on the Prince Edward County Planning Commission.

The special emergency meeting was held on November 22, 2005 at 12:15 PM, during what was normally lunch hour, during a typical work day. The Court room was tense. Security was tight with a heavy presence of armed police security personnel. It seems that the County Administrator Mildred B. Hampton expected trouble and ordered up deputies with enough guns and ammo to put down a sizable citizen insurrection.

However, given the fact that the meeting was not publicized and that it was being held in the middle of a work day, the few citizens in attendance (a half a dozen or so) were far out numbered by County elected officials, high level County administrators, the County attorney, and the armed guards.

The discussion was brief as was the meeting. Three Supervisors, Pattie Cooper-Jones, Sally Gilfillan, and Lacy Ward presented what seemed to be anything but seditious rhetoric. Their comments were measured, logical and simply asked that the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors be fair and to allow all electoral districts representation on the County Planning Commission. These three Supervisors came to make this seemingly reasonable request as a result of ongoing citizen complaints concerning the failure of the local Planning Commission to perform due diligence in the review of several important zoning questions.

After Supervisors Cooper-Jones, Gilfillan and Ward made their presentations, the other five Supervisors had their turn to speak. But there was no rebuttal. The five Supervisors, including Chairman William Fore, Vice Chairman Howard Simpson, and Supervisors Charles McKay, Bobby Jones and James Moore were silent.

This silence, however, belied the iron will of the silent majority. When the vote came to give fair representation on the Planning Commission, the five silent Supervisors took firm control of the situation and voted the measure down five to three.

Having grown up in Prince Edward County I maintain an interest in the affairs of the Community. This strange meeting was videoed and that video is now available for interested citizens to see.

No shots were fired. No arrests were made. Nobody got hurt. But this was not a good day for democracy in the Heart of Virginia. Fair representation on the County Planning Commission is still an elusive democratic ideal that is not available to citizens of Prince Edward County.

Why? That is a good question.

PHOTO CREDITS: Courthouse exterior and interior photos are from the Prince Edward County web-site. Police photo is a visual simulation of police security at the meeting from the Google archives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

This is my favorite holiday by far, with fantastic historical roots in the founding of our country. Nothing better than setting a day aside to thank God that we are blessed to live in America. What better way to celebrate than to eat more food in one day then much of the world eats in a month. Plus, its not a Hallmark holiday and hasn't been exploited by corporate America into a day a consumerism (with the exception of the Turkey industry of course). So I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and takes time to reflect on the things that hold our country together and unite us.

Chavez makes good on promise of cheap heating oil

Here's an article detailing Venezuela's (i.e. Hugo Chavez) agreement with two Massachusetts heating assistance nonprofit organizations to provide below market value heating oil to qualified low-income residents.

Unfortunately, according to the above article this much needed heating assistance is something that our own Congress has been "reluctant to do".

It's nice to know that the low-income citizens of the United States can't count on their own government to offer help in a time of crisis, but they can always turn to the despotic Hugo Chavez for help.

Only in America!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

That time of year again...

Ok, we know that Christmas must be around the corner because the right-wing-noise-machine is starting to run their annual "War on Christmas" talking points. Yep, the holiday season officially begins once the first "War on Christmas" salvo is launched!

I prefer to call it the "War on the Constitution" instead. This would seem more appropriate to me.

As always, the usual suspect - Jerry Falwell - is leading the annual charge to promote this "war" (along with Bill O'Reilly, James Dobson, et. al.). Here is a good article discussing just how Jerry and friends plan on going on the offensive so they will win this war in the name of baby Jesus.

Once again, I'm glad to have some help on this blog. It just might give me the motivation I need to start blogging again - even with college football season in full tilt and a new baby girl at home!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Issues That Time Forgot

Today the DNR has an article outlining the problems that Medicaid is facing as the population ages. A report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Comission lays out the looming crisis to the states Medicaid system. Unfortunately this article does not appear at the DNROnline but the report is at the JLARC website. With estimates of a 500 million dollar shortfall why was there no discussion of the problem and solutions in the last election. This is where modern politics is killing us. Here in the 26th, Matt Lohr won a delegate seat largely based on his party affiliation and a promise to support the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage. The first is not a issue at all and the second is only an issue if you believe that outlawing what is already illegal is constructive use of state resources. So this begs the question why don't candidates talk about Medicaid and social services for the elderly? Let me propose an answer.

  1. People are too lazy to be informed. - One does not need to watch, listen or read the news in order to have an opinion about gay marriage. It fundamentally is a judgment call, you are either for it or against it for wholly personal reasons. To have an opinion about Medicaid would mean to know about what Medicaid does and how its costing us so much money. So when a candidate talks about gay marriage you can either agree or disagree regardless of whether your actually informed about the subject.
  2. Complicated problems don't make sound bites. - An adjunct to the point above. Condensing the problems of an aging population into a 30 second commercial is impossible. The media certainly doesn't want to cover it because it would take longer than the entire 30 minute news program to cover let alone the 2 minutes given to a single story. Most people hate politics so they are not going to sit through anything longer than a minute or two about anything. Again, gay marriage is a better issue, its easy, fast, subject to soundbites.
  3. Politicians don't like issues with painful solutions. - No way to fix Medicaid other than cut seniors and poor people from the roles, cut spending elsewhere to pay or raise taxes. No one wants to do any of these because, if you advocate raising taxes your a tax and spend liberal and if you want to cut Medicaid roles your a heartless conservative. Both of those lables are highly sound bitable and are easy for the laziest of voters to understand.
The solution begins here in the blogosphere where partisans can put down there weapons and stop stumping for their parties like they route for their sports teams. Someone is going to pay these bills either the poor and the elderly or the rest of us. Its only a matter of time.

Renewed Life?

Will has been engulfed in NCAA football hysteria, so I have joined up to lend a hand. Hopefully together we can get this blog rolling.