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Thoughts about carpetbagging…

September 26, 2022, 9:00 AM

Lately, I have had very mixed feelings on the subject of carpetbagging when it comes to Congressional races.  First, though, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, “carpetbagging” is an American term that was historically used to describe northerners who came to the south following the Civil War, and who were perceived to be exploiting the local population for their own gain.  The term comes from their luggage, which was typically a traveling bag made out of scraps of carpet.  In modern usage, it is generally used to refer to anyone who is running for political office in an area where they have no local connections.  Among others, Hillary Clinton fits the modern definition of a carpetbagger when she ran for a US Senate seat in New York, as she had never been a New Yorker prior to her running for the Senate.

The reason that I have very mixed feelings about carpetbagging comes from two people who have a history of running for Congress, and who have had varying results.  Additionally, I feel cursed by being able to see the issue from both sides.  Of the two politicians that I’m thinking of, one of them is David Trone, who has represented Maryland’s sixth district in Congress since 2018.  The other is Jennifer Lewis, a politician from Waynesboro, Virginia who has become something of a perennial candidate, having unsuccessfully run for Congress in Virginia’s sixth district in 2018 and a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2019, and who is now is running in the sixth district again this year.

In the case of David Trone, the sixth district was not his first rodeo when it came to congressional races.  Trone first ran for Congress in 2016, when he ran for the eighth district seat, which was open that year after incumbent Chris Van Hollen declined to run for his House seat again in order to run for the Senate to succeed retiring senator Barbara Mikulski (he ultimately won).  Trone ran in the Democratic primary for the eighth district, which was a nine-way race between a bunch of politicians whose names I won’t bore you with because unless you live in Montgomery County, you’ve probably never heard of any of them and never will.  I lived in the eighth district at that time, and I recall having voted for Trone in that primary, because he seemed reasonable enough.  He finished second in the primary behind Jamie Raskin, who took the nomination with 33.6% of the vote to Trone’s 27.1%.  For a nine-way primary, Trone did respectably, but with this being a first-past-the-post system in a single-member district, Raskin advanced to the general election, and Trone was eliminated.  I figured that would be the end of Trone, politically, since Raskin would probably hold the seat for a while, and Trone would return to the private sector and his Total Wine & More business.

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A reminder about party affiliation in Maryland…

March 14, 2022, 2:40 PM

As we move ever closer to the midterm elections in Maryland, and the primaries that accompany them, this seems like the perfect time to remind everyone about the way that primaries are conducted in Maryland.  Specifically, Maryland, along with 13 other states plus DC, conducts closed primaries.  That means that the only way to participate in a primary election is to have registered your political party choice with the state voter registration system ahead of time, usually before a deadline. In the case of Maryland, that party deadline is June 7, 2022.  Party registration in a closed primary state is not something to be taken lightly, and determines which candidates you get to vote for in the primary.

All of this about party registration should not be confused with any actual political leanings that you may have.  In a jurisdiction that skews very heavily in one direction, and where party registration is required in advance in order to vote for a given party’s primary candidates, the only way that you get any say in your local governance is to register in that party.  In a situation like this, the primary election for that party is the election that decides the result, and the general election is just a formality, because the nominee of that party always carries the race by a very large margin, and the other general election candidates know that they have no real chance at winning.

(By the way, if all of this sounds vaguely familiar, this is not the first time that I have written about this subject.)

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What is the point where elected officials have killed their credibility?

November 18, 2021, 11:41 AM

Starting Saturday, November 20, Montgomery County, Maryland implements mask mandate number three.  This is based on rules that the Montgomery County council, sitting as the Board of Health, determined in August and October, where seven consecutive days of “substantial” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (50-100 cases per 100,000 people), based on raw case counts, automatically triggers an indoor mask mandate, and seven consecutive days of “moderate” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people), again based on raw case counts, automatically rescinds an indoor mask mandate.  This continues until 85% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  The result of this auto-on, auto-off policy has been a yo-yo effect, where it’s masks one week and no masks the next.

For some history on this, the Montgomery County government first implemented a mask mandate in April 2020, not long before the governor issued a statewide mask mandate.  That mandate was rescinded in May 2021 when everyone else did after the CDC said that fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks anymore.  When the county had reached a 50% vaccination rate, they abandoned their own COVID rules and began following the state’s guidance instead, which included no more masks and a full reopening of everything.  Then in August, after the CDC revised its guidance again, and the county council watched as case numbers went up, Montgomery County started implementing its own rules again separate from the state, and brought back the mask mandate.  The idea was that the mask mandate would last until there were seven consecutive days of “moderate” transmission, after which time it would automatically be rescinded.  This happened in late October, and the mask mandate was rescinded effective Thursday, October 28.

Right after this is where they started to shoot their credibility, and it demonstrates what is wrong with looking at raw case numbers as a metric for determining public policy.  On October 30, two days after the mandate was rescinded, they were already talking about reinstating the mask mandate, as they soon returned to “substantial” transmission territory, and announced a return to masks less than a week after they were rescinded, to be effective on Wednesday, November 3 (i.e. six days from rescission to reimplementation).

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Virginia governor’s race? Not at all surprised…

November 3, 2021, 4:17 PM

On the evening of November 3, I, like so many others, checked in on the various news websites to learn that Republican Glenn Youngkin had defeated Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election.  I saw this result, and I was like… meh.  The pundits all said it would be close, and the results seem to bear that out, with Youngkin’s winning with 50.9%, McAuliffe’s coming in with 48.4%, with Princess Blanding, who was running on a “Liberation” ticket, taking the remaining 0.7%.  In any event, it seems like Youngkin did his homework and pulled it out.  It seemed like he had the better campaign overall, while McAuliffe tended to run on, “Hey, remember me?  I’m not Donald Trump.  I was also your governor back in 2014, and I’d love to have another go at it!”  In other words, while McAuliffe may have done his homework in 2013 and come out on top, the same can’t really be said for 2021.  I also did quite a bit of traveling through various areas of Virginia during the last few months of the campaign, and I saw way more campaign signs for Youngkin in my travels than I did McAuliffe signs, to the point where seeing a McAuliffe sign in my travels was noteworthy.

Terry McAuliffe’s win in 2013 was unusual because it broke the pattern of Virginia’s voting opposite of the president’s party.  Virginia, along with New Jersey, votes for its governor in what is called an “off-year election“, the year after the presidential election.  Since Barack Obama had been reelected president in 2012, by the usual Virginia pattern, Republican Ken Cuccinelli should have won.  I would suggest that people just didn’t want to vote for someone like Cuccinelli, because based on the public statements that I’d heard him make as attorney general, I had long come to the conclusion that he was nuts.

In any case, the pattern is well-established.  Looking through the list of governors of Virginia, the trend of voting opposite the president has been the case since 1977, when Republican John Dalton was elected governor while Democrat Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  That followed two other Republican governors that were elected following Nixon victories in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, which followed 80 straight years of Democratic control of the governor’s office.  Following Dalton’s tenure, there were three more Democratic governors, which corresponded with the Reagan and Bush presidencies.  Then there were two more Republicans that corresponded with the Clinton presidency, and then two more Democrats that corresponded with the George W. Bush presidency.  The pattern then continued in 2009 with a Republican for Obama’s first term, and then McAuliffe broke the pattern in 2013 during Obama’s second term.  After that, the governorship fell right back into the pattern, with a Democrat’s being elected in 2017 while Republican Donald Trump was in the White House.  And now the pattern continues, with a Democratic president in Joe Biden, and a Republican governor’s being elected in Virginia.

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I believe that we have finally reached the other side of this thing…

May 25, 2021, 9:37 PM

On Friday, May 14, 2021, a number of state governments rescinded emergency orders requiring the wearing of face masks in public for people who have had all of their shots for COVID-19, i.e. “fully vaccinated”, on the heels of earlier announcements providing dates for when nearly all COVID restrictions would be removed.  And with that, I think that it is safe to say that we’re finally on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that life will return to normal.  Ever since the middle of March 2020, when the response to a novel coronavirus started becoming out of proportion to the actual threat, and fear began driving the narrative, I’ve been looking forward to this time, when the world finally started returning to normal.

Truth be told, I took a dim view of the official response to this thing from the beginning.  From the outset, my stance has been that almost all of these various “precautions” were unnecessary, and that the best advice for the public was (A) wash your hands at frequent intervals, and (B) be careful about how much you touch your face.  This is the same advice that we give about nearly every communicable disease, and it’s served us quite well.  I didn’t see any reason why this one should have been any different.  Lockdowns, social distancing, masks, limits on gathering sizes, closed restaurants, closed drinking fountains, plexiglass shields, one-way aisles, contactless everything, the constant cleaning and “sanitizing”, temperature checks, and all of the rest of it is all just security theater, i.e. “the practice of taking security measures that are intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it.”  In other words, these measures were there primarily to placate a certain vocal subset of people who were afraid, and their fear was then projected onto the rest of us.  In the end, though, as long as there was no vaccine for it, there was nothing that most of us could reasonably do to prevent its transmission.  It was a problem that was beyond most of our capabilities to solve.  With that in mind, I wasn’t worried about it, and trusted that the scientists whose job it was to solve it would come through.  For the rest of us, there was only one single action that was “doing our part”.  That action was getting vaccinated against COVID-19 when it became available.  Nothing else made a bit of difference.  But until that time came when a vaccine was available, we just had to wait.

Unfortunately, though, we all know how much people hate to be told that they have to wait for something to be solved, and can’t do anything about it in the meantime – especially when they’re scared.  And for a mass hysteria event, we apparently just can’t have that.  Unfortunately, telling people to wait doesn’t look good for politicians, whose constituents will demand that something be done about it after the media has whipped them up into a frenzy – especially during an election year when many of them were trying to keep their jobs.  You know that people would practically crucify any elected official who got up and said, “I’m sorry, but there is really nothing in my power that I can do to solve this at this time.  Until a vaccine becomes available, we just have to wait.”  So, instead, they pander to the masses, going out and doing things that make it look like they’re doing something, i.e. security theater.  When they make it look like they’re doing something, the masses eat it right up.  They stepped in and shut down businesses (and destroyed many people’s livelihoods in the process – see my Gordmans entry), enforced social distancing rules on everyone, and required masks.  Everyone was impacted in some way, and it sure looked like something was being done while we waited.  Especially with the use of mask mandates, they put the pandemic in your face – and on your face – all the bloody time.  As far as the politicians were concerned, mission accomplished.

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Reimagining how we elect our local officials…

October 1, 2020, 11:17 PM

There comes a point where you have to admit that a process is broken.  In this case, I have reached that conclusion with the way that we elect the county council and county executive in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Our current county executive, Marc Elrich, is the result of such a broken system.  Elrich is a real stinker in my book for a number of reasons, and I admit that I didn’t vote for him in the primary or the general election, because I saw his being a stinker from a mile away.

But this entry isn’t about Elrich specifically.  Rather, it’s about the process that brought him into office.  And ultimately, the problem is that Montgomery County is using a bipartisan process for electing its officials when the county is overwhelmingly one party – Democratic, in this instance.  The way that it works should be quite familiar to most of you: candidates of a given party run for office and compete in a primary election in the spring to determine who will be the nominee for the general election the following November, where all of the various parties’ nominees compete, and the winner of that contest takes office a few months later.  Many, if not most, jurisdictions use this to choose their elected officials.  However, it does depend to a large extent on having multiple viable political parties.  It starts to fall apart when one party completely dominates the process, and none of the other parties’ candidates have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being elected.  In that case, the dominant party’s primary is the “real” election, and the general election is a formality.  In other words, the result is already a foregone conclusion after the primary is done.

This situation is not unique to Montgomery County by any means.  DC is similar, with the Democratic Party’s being the dominant political party over everything else to the point that the other parties don’t matter (save for an at-large council seat that is required to be a different party than the others), and the Democratic primary is generally considered to be the deciding contest for the mayoral race.

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I want to see a primary challenge in 2020…

February 18, 2019, 2:20 PM

So with the 2018 midterm elections behind us, that means that it’s presidential season again.  This one is already shaping up to be an interesting one, with a large field of Democratic candidates, and a few possible primary challengers for Donald Trump.

As of this writing, there are eleven declared candidates on the Democratic side of things.  A big field like that should produce a good nominee.  By comparison, in 1992, the last time that the Democrats (or anyone) unseated a sitting president, there was a field of nine candidates.  At this point, I am taking a watch-and-see attitude, because I consider it to be too early to really judge it all yet.  I expect that we will see even more candidates emerge on the Democratic side before it’s over, and there is still much to happen before I really dive in and pay attention to them like I mean it.  I’m more hopeful about certain candidates than others, but again, it’s still too early.

In the meantime, I am more interested in what the Republicans are doing at this stage in the process.  As I indicated in the title, I want to see Trump fend off a primary challenge from within his own party.  I have seen lots of discussion and speculation on possible Republican candidates to primary the president, and they all seem like they have potential.  I’ve heard Utah senator Mitt Romney‘s name get thrown around as a potential primary challenger, along with former Ohio governor John Kasich, former Senator Bob Corker, and Maryland governor Larry Hogan.  In addition, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld has formed an exploratory committee, though hasn’t formally declared.  All of them seem like decent enough politicians.  They should run.

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Preserve community heritage, and keep names local…

July 23, 2015, 3:23 PM

In the wake of the June 17 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, a movement has come up to remove things related to the Confederacy from places of honor, and relegate them to history.

That said, if things go that way, a lot of things named for people who fought for the Confederacy will be up for renaming soon.  Among other things, there is discussion about renaming Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia.  In addition, there has been longstanding discussion in Staunton, Virginia about renaming the city’s public high school, currently named for Robert E. Lee, if it moves from its current, dated building to a new building on a different site.

Now as far as I’m concerned, history is where the Confederacy belongs.  I mean, the south lost the Civil War 150 years ago.  It’s time that people stopped fighting it, already.  However, when it comes to naming places for people, there are different ways to go about it.  One way is to name things for a prominent national figure, either current or historical, and the other is to search for someone with a direct connection to the area.  If the title of the post didn’t give it away, I support the latter more than the former.

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My thoughts on the election now that it’s finally over…

November 9, 2012, 12:35 AM

First of all, aren’t you glad it’s just over with now?  Our election cycles run for far too long, especially when you consider that the New Hampshire primary was on January 10 this year, which meant that candidates started running well before that.  The 2012 election cycle started up right after dust settled from the 2010 midterm elections.  That’s far too long, in my opinion.  Considering that this year, Mitt Romney became the presumptive nominee in May, I think we could safely adjust the schedule a bit.  Basically, imagine the primaries in the summer.  Have New Hampshire in May.  Then have nominees by September.  Skip the conventions, because all they are is a coronation for the nominee that is known months ahead of time, and then vote in November.  The goal in this compressed schedule is to give the American public some peace and quiet in between elections.

Now as far as the contest itself goes, I think this was the biggest dog and pony show that I’ve ever seen.  The moment that I laid eyes on the Republicans’ field of candidates, I knew that President Obama was getting a second term.  Realize that the Republican Party didn’t want to “put out the good silverware” for a race against a popular incumbent president.  I’m sure that’s really why the likes of Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, etc. didn’t run.  The party didn’t want to dirty up its better names on a race against an incumbent.  Then once the crazies that did run on the Republican side actually opened their mouths, I really knew that they had no chance.  Thus I felt confident for just about the whole season that the end result of the contest was settled.  Basically, barring a major scandal or a major blunder on the Democratic side, President Obama was in, bottom line, end of story.  Thus my view that the whole campaign was basically a dog and pony show.  I was pretty sure that the Republicans knew that they had no chance in 2012, but they still had to put on a good show and run someone to at least make it look like they were interested to keep their faithful engaged.

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Hurricane Sandy, early voting, etc…

October 30, 2012, 12:16 AM

First of all, hello from Aspen Hill, Maryland, where I live, and where the power is still on (as of this point in the writing at least) despite the pounding we’re getting from the wind and rain of Hurricane Sandy.  This was the view off my balcony about two and a half hours ago:

View off my balcony during Hurricane Sandy

Note the blurry areas on the trees.  As this was a fifteen-second exposure, the blurry areas are where the trees were moving around in the wind.  I just hope that the lights continue to stay on, and that the 22 cans of food that I bought at Shoppers on Saturday are just my being paranoid about this, and that I won’t actually have to open them with a manual can opener and prepare them on the stove.  So I guess we’ll see how that goes.  I’m rooting for no power outage, but that might be a tall request considering that this is Pepco we’re dealing with, and that the power grid in the Washington DC region is amazingly fragile.  My parents, who live out in the sticks, never lose power, and where I live in the suburbs of Washington DC, you can just look at a power line funny and the entire street goes dark.

But I didn’t start writing this entry to talk about Hurricane Sandy, though I certainly hope that everyone in the storm’s path is in a safe place to wait out the storm, and that everyone who still has their power keeps it throughout the storm.  Tonight, I want to talk about the election.

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Now this is what civil disobedience is meant for…

March 9, 2010, 7:21 PM

I read an article on The Washington Post‘s site on my lunch hour at work today, where Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has urged Virginia state colleges to rescind policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Basically, Cuccinelli contends that the colleges have no legal right to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that only the General Assembly can ban such discrimination. According to the article, the General Assembly has declined to make that move numerous times, including this week.

I took a few things from this. First of all, Virginia apparently got the administration that it deserved. They voted for these knuckleheads, and they got exactly what they deserved – people who want to take Virginia a few decades backwards on social issues. Bob McDonnell certainly got high points from me during Virginia’s gubernatorial race last year for the privatize-the-liquor-stores bit, and the reopening-the-rest-areas bit. And Creigh Deeds was certainly a weak candidate. But considering that McDonnell wants to cut spending on public education and the attorney general wants to roll back protections for gays and lesbians has me really annoyed. We don’t want Virginia to turn into a state as backwards as South Carolina, where a state lawmaker actually introduced legislation to ban paper currency. I like to say that Virginia can produce an educated citizenry. However, if you can’t pay your professors…

Additionally, this is what civil disobedience is meant for. I’ve thought for a while that a lot of the civil disobedience that happens at protests and such is just for show. I don’t quite see how sitting in the street until you’re arrested (in a pre-arranged arrest, no less) and things of that nature get much accomplished. However, these state colleges should respectfully tell Ken Cuccinelli to go shove it, and that they will continue to maintain their non-discrimination policies that protect people based on sexual orientation regardless. After all, the heart of civil disobedience is in protesting an unjust law by blatantly disobeying it.

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The 90-day campaign promise has begun…

January 17, 2010, 10:12 PM

How appropriate that I am writing this from my parents’ house in Virginia where, in traveling to get here, I passed three shuttered rest areas. While my sister was out getting married (more on that later), Republican Bob McDonnell was being sworn in as the 71st Governor of Virginia.

The reason I mention this is because during the gubernatorial campaign, McDonnell made a promise to reopen the rest areas that were closed last summer. I certainly could have used one or two of those on the way down here. It is very convenient to exit the highway into a rest area, get out of the car, go in, do one’s business, and then hop back in the car and go. Compare that to the alternative. That involves taking an exit to a local road and finding a place, and you’re never sure what you’re going to get, plus having to battle local traffic. I got off at Woodstock to use the restroom on the way down, and battling local traffic was not exactly a walk in the park. And if you’re stopping just to take a potty break with no intention of buying food or gas or otherwise, that’s what rest areas are for. Otherwise, you’re just clogging up local roads and such and eating up parking spaces for a non-revenue (for the private operator) visit. If you are also buying food or gas or what have you, then by all means, take the exit and use the restroom while you’re at it. But otherwise, that’s what rest areas are for. Get off, use the restrooms, stretch your legs, and then get going again.

So Mr. McDonnell has 90 days – until April 16th – to hang out the welcome sign on the rest areas that were closed. It appears that he intends to honor that promise (he’d better).

Either way, the clock is now ticking. McDonnell had better get cracking.

It’s not often that I agree with Republican candidates’ ideas, but…

August 30, 2009, 10:47 PM

I’ve been kind of halfway following the gubernatorial race in Virginia this year, even though I’m no longer a Virginia resident. Part of that is because I did most of my growing up in Virginia, part because my parents still live there, plus half of the Washington Metropolitan Area, where I now live, is Virginia.

And Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has been saying a few things that resonate with me that seem to make sense. For one, he wants to reopen the closed rest areas within 90 days of taking office (though to his credit, Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds also wants to reopen the rest areas, promising 60 days). The other thing that McDonnell wants to do is privatize Virginia’s liquor stores.

THANK YOU!

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I understand saving money, but when six of the facilities you are closing were renovated less than three years ago…

August 9, 2009, 8:40 PM

New Market rest area, one of the rest areas that was not closed.Virginia recently executed a plan to permanently close 19 rest areas in order to save money and help close a state budget shortfall. I can see closing a few rest areas, because there are admittedly some places where the rest areas are fairly close together, such as Mt. Sidney and New Market, which are 29 miles apart – most certainly the close spacing referenced in this article in The Washington Post. Now, the state is aiming for rest areas every 120 miles, or roughly two hours’ driving time.

Among the rest areas that I’m familiar with, on I-81, both Mt. Sidney (near Staunton) rest areas are now closed, as is the southbound rest area near Troutville (Botetourt County), as well as the southbound New Market rest area (northbound, pictured at right, remains open). On I-64, both Goochland County rest areas (near Richmond) are closing, and on I-66, both Manassas rest areas are closing, though due to the presence of a tourist information center on the westbound Manassas rest area, the facility remains open until mid-September. Then on I-95, both rest areas in Ladysmith are now closed, as well as both car rest areas in Dale City (truck facilities remain open at Dale City). That leaves no rest areas between Richmond and DC traveling northbound, and one southbound.

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Friends don’t let friends wear mullets…

April 2, 2009, 9:26 PM

The fashion faux pas of the century:

Mullet lady on the Metro

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