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The Russians Control the Weather (sorta)

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

One of my dad’s favorite stories about local culture is of a local preacher who was convinced of a number of conspiracy theories. These included a mass plot to round-up all civillians on 1/1/2000 (brought on by arrows painted on the road that turned out to be a bicycle race) and that man never landed on the moon. He also spoke of the Russians having a weather machine that would doom us all. Well, it turns out that he sort of right on that one. From the LA Times:

In the snow-hushed woods on Moscow’s northern edge, scientists are decades deep into research on bending the weather to their will. They’ve been at it since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin paused long enough in the throes of World War II to found an observatory dedicated to tampering with climatic inconveniences.

Since then, they’ve melted away fog, dissipated the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl and called down rains fierce enough to drown unborn locusts threatening the distant northeastern grasslands.

…..

In Russia, nobody rains on the parade — because the Russian government doesn’t allow it.

“Victory Day is the most sacred holiday for us,” says Bagrat Danilian, deputy chief of cloud seeding at the observatory. “When veterans go out to celebrate in Moscow, we create good weather for them.”

All it takes, he says, is sacks of cement — 500-grade, to be precise. Drop the powder down into the clouds, and they vanish.

A fascinating read, particularly for those growing weary of the winter weather that is gripping the Shenandoah Valley

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Our Man Mitch?

December 3, 2009 1 comment

For someone who recently has begun making sport out of saying no to a possible presidential bid, Mitch Daniels sure is making a heck of alot of sense whenever he does speak (though some may argue that commonsense’s natural momentum is away from those seeking higher office). From the Washington Times (h/t Brothers Judd), Daniels of fiscal conservatism as a moral issue:

“The essence of our nation is the protection of individual liberties,” he says in an interview with The Washington Times. “That means, for example, never take a dollar from a free citizen through the coercion of taxation without a very legitimate purpose.

“And then we have a solemn duty to spend that dollar as carefully as possible, because when we took it we diminished that person’s freedom. Otherwise, that citizen could spend that dollar on something he or she chose. This is an obligation of everybody who serves in government.”

On the issues any 2012 contender will need to address:

For one thing, “a colossally unsustainable [national] debt load — an unfair, even immoral burden we’ve deposited on our young people,” he says.

“The threat of Islamic fundamentalism coupled with its ability to take advantage of modern technology,” for another.

And then there’s “our reliance on energy purchased from people who use the money in ways contrary to American interests.”

And perhaps most refreshing–modesty and austerity (a topic he gave an entire commencement address on this past spring):

A Princeton graduate from a modest family background, he conveys in conversation the image of the quiet-spoken libertarian-populist for whom braggadocio is simply unthinkable. Getting him to talk about his accomplishments isn’t easy. “I want to look to the future,” he says.

….

Ask him to crow about his gubernatorial accomplishments, and he flatly refuses. Press him by asking if there’s anything he’s proud of having done in office, and you learn he is “pleased” he took a state that was in bankruptcy when he came into office “and put it in the best fiscal position ever,” though he acknowledges that holding on to that status is tough in this economy.

The article goes on to cite some of his accomplishments as Governor. He has been able to govern the way Bob McDonnell promises to–conservative principles guiding real results. Through initatives such as privatizing the state’s toll roads and keeping an eye on state payroll (actually managing to REDUCE it, of all things), Daniels has been able to cut property taxes by a third statewide and affect the largest tax cut in state history.

Perhaps his biggest watchword? Accountability. The state’s DMV went from being a joke to winning an award for the best in the nation. The average time spent in an office is SEVEN MINUTES. How was this accomplished? By rewarding good employees and punishing or removing bad ones. Sorta sounds like a business, no? Yet Mitch Daniels seems to be the only one with the courage to do it.

I encourage any conscientious conservative serious about cutting government size and scope to look into this man.  I will admit he has one mark against him–in his first year in office he proposed a 1% income tax hike. But when the state legislature balked, he simply took out his scissors and not only made state government work with less but work better. His humility may prevent him from talking about higher office, but one things for sure: I’d rather spend the next two years convincing him to run only to see him decline than to jump on the Cheney 2012 bandwagon.

Verga Shakes Up 5th District Race

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

As former resident of Charlottesville and a Republican who was caught off guard by the loss of Virgil Goode last year, I’ve been watching the race for the Republican nomination in Virginia’s 5th District very closely. Given the make-up of the district and the various factions of the party dwelling within, I’ve viewed it as a bellweather for primary fights to come (plus its pretty easy to watch from the neighboring Sixth).

Although all the candidates bring their own values and personalities to the table, I’ve been impressed time and time again with candidate Laurence Verga. When I first heard of him my first response was “Who is this guy? That’s not a Virginia name!” Yet both in listening to him speak and reading his campaign announcements via my inbox, I’ve come to see Mr. Verga as the kind of candidate we need to embrace in the coming cycle–a principled outsider with real world experience. Mr. Verga is not a long time party activist, nor is he a current officeholder. What he represents is a heavy thinker on the issues facing America and someone whose extensive success in the business world can lead to real principled, conservative leadership in Washington. That’s why I was glad to see Mr. Verga come out today and denounce the NRCC’s premature involvement in the 5th.

Read more…

California Here We Come

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Richard Reeves is not someone I would agree with a great deal, but I’m afraid he was spot on in his column last week where he lamented the downward spiral of his home state:

You may have noticed that the governor and legislators of the Golden State finally produced a “balanced” budget with a deficit in double-digit billions. But, hey, who’s counting?

He lays blame at the feet of California’s often insane patchwork of direct democracy. Both conservatives and liberals have abused this system to the point where voters will simulatenously support huge new spending iniatives and giant tax cuts:

Sure, the state’s chief justice, Ronald George, traveled to Cambridge, Mass., to tell the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that the state is “dysfunctional.” His reasoning:

“California’s lawmakers, and the state itself, have been placed in a fiscal straitjacket by a steep two-thirds-vote requirement — imposed at the ballot box — for raising taxes. … Much of this constitutional and statutory structure has been brought about not by legislative fact-finding and deliberation, but rather by the approval of voter initiative measures, often funded by special interests.”

Read more…

The ties of the Working Families Party

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Every once in a while a little quirk of a state’s politics makes national news. A recent example is New York’ 23rd, where two of the three major third parties made news–the Conservatives for embracing Doug Hoffman over the Republican nominee, and the Working Families Party for having had allowed Dede Scozzafava to run on its line in the past. New York law allows candidates to run on multiple party lines and to have those votes added to their total. Generally speaking the Liberal Party endorses the Democratic candidate and the Conservatives the Republican, but this is not always the case. A key case of this was the 1980 Senate race, when Republican nominee Alfonse D’Amato won over Democrat Elizabeth Holtzman and Republican turned Liberal nominee Jacob Javits. It happened the other way in 1968 when liberal Republican/Liberal Party cincumbent Charles Goodell split the liberal vote with the Democrat, leading to the election of Conservative Jim Buckley.

At any rate, the Atlantic (courtesy of City Hall) shows how the Working Families Party actually has four different avenues to wield influence. The graph is below, but the post is more detailed.

There may be something to be learned here for state parties, even those affiliated with “the big two.”

Last of the ’09 Victories

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

From up north, from stunning news from Nassau County, New York (better known to the TV watching populace as Long Island), one of the 10 richest in the country. From the New York Times (free subscription):

Nearly three weeks after Election Day, the recount in the race for Nassau County executive is expected to conclude on Monday. Edward P. Mangano, the Republican challenger, has a slight lead over the Democratic incumbent, Thomas R. Suozzi.

Although Mr. Suozzi held a 237-vote lead on election night, out of about 245,000 ballots cast, he has trailed Mr. Mangano since the recount began on Nov. 9. As of Wednesday, with all but a handful of the ballots counted, Mr. Suozzi trailed by 217 votes. Tallying was halted for Thanksgiving and will resume on Monday morning. But the results may not be conclusive.

Although the race certainly didn’t draw a great deal of national attention, the outcome is one to pay attention to as Republicans consider how they will win back the suburban voters they won in the 80’s and 90’s but dawdled away in the earlier part of this decade. As I mentioned earlier, Nassau is one of the ten richest counties in the country, putting it in that same lofty territory as Loudon, Prince William and Fairfax counties here in our own commonwealth. For the Virginia-centric, it is also analgous to Prince William to Fairfax. Just as with Prince William, Nassau was reliably red until the dawn of the tech age*. Nassau has seen its Republican State Senators erode, and county council control shifted to the Democrats. It went for Barrack Obama with 53%, lower than Prince William’s 57% for Obama but still a solid win.

Yet, this year, like Prince William, Nassau County has gone for a candidate (though by smaller margins) that ran on core Republican principles of cutting government waste, fixing tax problems, and generally efficient government. The same can be said for all of the aforementioned exurban counties, along with the urban county of Fairfax. If Republicans want to win in 2010 and 2012, there’s something to be said for the results in Nassau County and Virginia.

*Nassau went for Clinton in 1992 but just by a slim plurality. 1996 was the first year it went solidly for a Democrat, a trend it has continued since.

Remember what you’ve got

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

This story from Maryland caught my eye, because it relates to something I’ve been pointing out to young people (read: high schoolers) for a while. From WTOP:

Carl Snyder, like many young people, registered to vote when he got his first driver’s license.

With an October birthday, the Tuscarora High School student planned to vote shortly after he turned 18 in the November 2008 presidential election.

As has been the history in Maryland, he expected he would also vote in the February primary, since he would turn 18 before the general election.

All that changed in 2007 when his father, Cliff Snyder, read a Washington Post article about a “quiet loss of voting rights.”

His first thought was what kind of voting rights were being lost?

Cliff Snyder read that the Maryland State Board of Elections, acting on the advice of the attorney general, had reversed the long-standing position that 17-year-olds who would be 18 by the general election were eligible to vote in the primary as well.

Although Cliff is a Republican and Carl wanted to vote for Obama in the Democratic primary, the Army microbiologist and trained lawyer went to court on his son’s behalf. He recalled how he had voted in the 1973 primary despite not turning 18 until the period in between the primary and general himself.

I myself participated in the 2004 nominating process and was a delegate to the 2004 State Convention. I turned 18 right before the Convention, but I also attended the District Convention (where I actually served on the Nominations committee) that May before my birthday. I recognized my right to participate in the nominating process since I was a fully registered voter. Virginians are allowed to register to vote and have all the rights of registered voters as long as they’re 18 before the next general election.

I think this only makes sense–individuals who are going to vote in the general have every right to select the nominees that will represent their party in that election. To do otherwise is to have an arbitrary rule needless discourage full participation in the democratic process.