Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two Californias

Excellent piece by the great Victor Davis Hanson on National Review Online:

Two Californias
Abandoned farms, Third World living conditions, pervasive public assistance -- welcome to the once-thriving Central Valley.

The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.

During this unscientific experiment, three times a week I rode a bike on a 20-mile trip over various rural roads in southwestern Fresno County. I also drove my car over to the coast to work, on various routes through towns like San Joaquin, Mendota, and Firebaugh. And near my home I have been driving, shopping, and touring by intent the rather segregated and impoverished areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove, Parlier, and Selma. My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and almost no ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma mater, two miles away) is 94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and well below federal testing norms in math and English.

Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the rural roads of California are fast turning into rubble, poorly maintained and reverting to what I remember seeing long ago in the rural South). First, remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a general depression in farming — to such an extent that the 20- to-100-acre tree and vine farmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California, for all practical purposes has ceased to exist.

On the western side of the Central Valley, the effects of arbitrary cutoffs in federal irrigation water have idled tens of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land, leaving thousands unemployed. Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areas — which used to make harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipment — have largely shut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or south of the border. Agriculture itself — from almonds to raisins — has increasingly become corporatized and mechanized, cutting by half the number of farm workers needed. So unemployment runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World. There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie business — rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant inspections — but apparently none of that applies out here.

It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel irrelevant. But in the regulators’ defense, where would one get the money to redo an ad hoc trailer park with a spider web of illegal bare wires?

Many of the rented-out rural shacks and stationary Winnebagos are on former small farms — the vineyards overgrown with weeds, or torn out with the ground lying fallow. I pass on the cultural consequences to communities from the loss of thousands of small farming families. I don’t think I can remember another time when so many acres in the eastern part of the valley have gone out of production, even though farm prices have recently rebounded. Apparently it is simply not worth the gamble of investing $7,000 to $10,000 an acre in a new orchard or vineyard. What an anomaly — with suddenly soaring farm prices, still we have thousands of acres in the world’s richest agricultural belt, with available water on the east side of the valley and plentiful labor, gone idle or in disuse. Is credit frozen? Are there simply no more farmers? Are the schools so bad as to scare away potential agricultural entrepreneurs? Or are we all terrified by the national debt and uncertain future?

California coastal elites may worry about the oxygen content of water available to a three-inch smelt in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, but they seem to have no interest in the epidemic dumping of trash, furniture, and often toxic substances throughout California’s rural hinterland. Yesterday, for example, I rode my bike by a stopped van just as the occupants tossed seven plastic bags of raw refuse onto the side of the road. I rode up near their bumper and said in my broken Spanish not to throw garbage onto the public road. But there were three of them, and one of me. So I was lucky to be sworn at only. I note in passing that I would not drive into Mexico and, as a guest, dare to pull over and throw seven bags of trash into the environment of my host.

In fact, trash piles are commonplace out here — composed of everything from half-empty paint cans and children’s plastic toys to diapers and moldy food. I have never seen a rural sheriff cite a litterer, or witnessed state EPA workers cleaning up these unauthorized wastelands. So I would suggest to Bay Area scientists that the environment is taking a much harder beating down here in central California than it is in the Delta. Perhaps before we cut off more irrigation water to the west side of the valley, we might invest some green dollars into cleaning up the unsightly and sometimes dangerous garbage that now litters the outskirts of our rural communities.

We hear about the tough small-business regulations that have driven residents out of the state, at the rate of 2,000 to 3,000 a week. But from my unscientific observations these past weeks, it seems rather easy to open a small business in California without any oversight at all, or at least what I might call a “counter business.” I counted eleven mobile hot-kitchen trucks that simply park by the side of the road, spread about some plastic chairs, pull down a tarp canopy, and, presto, become mini-restaurants. There are no “facilities” such as toilets or washrooms. But I do frequently see lard trails on the isolated roads I bike on, where trucks apparently have simply opened their draining tanks and sped on, leaving a slick of cooking fats and oils. Crows and ground squirrels love them; they can be seen from a distance mysteriously occupied in the middle of the road.

At crossroads, peddlers in a counter-California economy sell almost anything. Here is what I noticed at an intersection on the west side last week: shovels, rakes, hoes, gas pumps, lawnmowers, edgers, blowers, jackets, gloves, and caps. The merchandise was all new. I doubt whether in high-tax California sales taxes or income taxes were paid on any of these stop-and-go transactions.

In two supermarkets 50 miles apart, I was the only one in line who did not pay with a social-service plastic card (gone are the days when “food stamps” were embarrassing bulky coupons). But I did not see any relationship between the use of the card and poverty as we once knew it: The electrical appurtenances owned by the user and the car into which the groceries were loaded were indistinguishable from those of the upper middle class.

By that I mean that most consumers drove late-model Camrys, Accords, or Tauruses, had iPhones, Bluetooths, or BlackBerries, and bought everything in the store with public-assistance credit. This seemed a world apart from the trailers I had just ridden by the day before. I don’t editorialize here on the logic or morality of any of this, but I note only that there are vast numbers of people who apparently are not working, are on public food assistance, and enjoy the technological veneer of the middle class. California has a consumer market surely, but often no apparent source of income. Does the $40 million a day supplement to unemployment benefits from Washington explain some of this?

Do diversity concerns, as in lack of diversity, work both ways? Over a hundred-mile stretch, when I stopped in San Joaquin for a bottled water, or drove through Orange Cove, or got gas in Parlier, or went to a corner market in southwestern Selma, my home town, I was the only non-Hispanic — there were no Asians, no blacks, no other whites. We may speak of the richness of “diversity,” but those who cherish that ideal simply have no idea that there are now countless inland communities that have become near-apartheid societies, where Spanish is the first language, the schools are not at all diverse, and the federal and state governments are either the main employers or at least the chief sources of income — whether through emergency rooms, rural health clinics, public schools, or social-service offices. An observer from Mars might conclude that our elites and masses have given up on the ideal of integration and assimilation, perhaps in the wake of the arrival of 11 to 15 million illegal aliens.

Again, I do not editorialize, but I note these vast transformations over the last 20 years that are the paradoxical wages of unchecked illegal immigration from Mexico, a vast expansion of California’s entitlements and taxes, the flight of the upper middle class out of state, the deliberate effort not to tap natural resources, the downsizing in manufacturing and agriculture, and the departure of whites, blacks, and Asians from many of these small towns to more racially diverse and upscale areas of California.

Fresno’s California State University campus is embroiled in controversy over the student body president’s announcing that he is an illegal alien, with all the requisite protests in favor of the DREAM Act. I won’t comment on the legislation per se, but again only note the anomaly. I taught at CSUF for 21 years. I think it fair to say that the predominant theme of the Chicano and Latin American Studies program’s sizable curriculum was a fuzzy American culpability. By that I mean that students in those classes heard of the sins of America more often than its attractions. In my home town, Mexican flag decals on car windows are far more common than their American counterparts.

I note this because hundreds of students here illegally are now terrified of being deported to Mexico. I can understand that, given the chaos in Mexico and their own long residency in the United States. But here is what still confuses me: If one were to consider the classes that deal with Mexico at the university, or the visible displays of national chauvinism, then one might conclude that Mexico is a far more attractive and moral place than the United States.

So there is a surreal nature to these protests: something like, “Please do not send me back to the culture I nostalgically praise; please let me stay in the culture that I ignore or deprecate.” I think the DREAM Act protestors might have been far more successful in winning public opinion had they stopped blaming the U.S. for suggesting that they might have to leave at some point, and instead explained why, in fact, they want to stay. What it is about America that makes a youth of 21 go on a hunger strike or demonstrate to be allowed to remain in this country rather than return to the place of his birth?

I think I know the answer to this paradox. Missing entirely in the above description is the attitude of the host, which by any historical standard can only be termed “indifferent.” California does not care whether one broke the law to arrive here or continues to break it by staying. It asks nothing of the illegal immigrant — no proficiency in English, no acquaintance with American history and values, no proof of income, no record of education or skills. It does provide all the public assistance that it can afford (and more that it borrows for), and apparently waives enforcement of most of California’s burdensome regulations and civic statutes that increasingly have plagued productive citizens to the point of driving them out. How odd that we overregulate those who are citizens and have capital to the point of banishing them from the state, but do not regulate those who are aliens and without capital to the point of encouraging millions more to follow in their footsteps. How odd — to paraphrase what Critias once said of ancient Sparta — that California is at once both the nation’s most unfree and most free state, the most repressed and the wildest.

Hundreds of thousands sense all that and vote accordingly with their feet, both into and out of California — and the result is a sort of social, cultural, economic, and political time-bomb, whose ticks are getting louder.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Keep Christ in Christmas!!!!  Please pray for our troops overseas and their families back here at home for their sacrifices for our country and advancing freedom around the world!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Census Results

While driving to work this morning, I listened to C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program with Census Director Groves who discussed the macro-level results of the 2010 census released on Tuesday.  The population of the United States as of April 1, 2010 is 308,745,538. That is a 9.7% percent rise in population since the 2000 census.  California remains the most populous state at more than 37 million people, while Wyoming remains the least at just more than 500,000 residents.  A definite shift is happening in terms of residents flocking from the Northeast and Midwest and moving to the South and West.  Texas gained the most House seats (+4), while Ohio lost the most House seats (-2).

It was an extremely informative interview with Director Groves and one I would encourage everyone to watch.  Click here for a link to C-SPAN's web page on this issue with a link to the video of this morning's program.

Director Groves explained that the micro-level data is currently being produced by the social scientists and mathematicians and will be finalized over the next few weeks and months and will then be provided to the state legislatures for gerrymandering.  Even those states that did not gain or lose seats can change the district maps based on the micro-level data.  The effects of these state-by-state changes to House districts, whether added, lost, or redrawn, will be part of the 2012 election cycle.  The significant gains made the Republicans within the state legislatures and governorships this past November will play a major role in the gerrymandering process and could spell long-term doom for the Democrats in many of the "purple" states.  As President Obama once told us, "Elections have consequences".

Friday, December 17, 2010

AG Cuccinelli's Speech at Heritage Foundation

Thanks to Nathaniel Ward and the gang at Heritage for uploading the Cuccinelli speech at the Heritage President's Club meeting earlier this month. Definitely worth the time to watch!!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Va. AG Cuccinelli Speaks Following ObamaCare Ruling

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli speaks following today's ruling on ObamaCare.

Judge Hudson's Ruling on the Virginia Health Care Lawsuit

BREAKING NEWS: Judge Rules Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

A victory for liberty!!!!   More to follow throughout the day...

Don't Touch "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Excellent opinion piece in the Washington Times from our friend Howie Lind...

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently testified to Congress that members of the U.S. armed forces who oppose lifting the ban on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should leave the military.

Maybe Admiral Mullen should heed his own advice and resign since he is so far out of step with "his" military. The majority of service members and uniformed leaders of the military do not want any changes to the current policy toward gay service members.

The proponents of changing this policy to allow gays, lesbians, and transgenders to serve openly in the U.S. military repeatedly point to two "polls", the first one that 70% of Americans agree with the change, and the second one that a "strong majority" of current service members want to change the policy based on a recent survey given to the military.

These are both wrong. Regarding the national "poll" of Americans, Admiral Mullen and other leaders in favor of lifting this ban have not explained at all to the public the negative consequences of this new policy. This is like asking Americans if they want world peace. The answer, of course is yes. For the survey to active duty military members, the question was NOT asked, "should the policy be changed?" But, rather "How should the change be implemented?" That makes a huge difference as to who actually fills out the survey especially since only 6 percent of the military responded to the survey.

The purpose of the U.S. military is to protect our nation through deterrence first; and if that fails, then through armed conflict. The fundamental ability for our military to fight and win wars is accomplished via unit cohesion. That means at the individual squad, ship, and aircrew levels, all service members must operate at 100% effectiveness. These service men and women eat, work, sleep, and bathe in very close proximity for extended periods of time. Open homosexuality at this level will degrade the cohesiveness and thereby, the combat effectiveness, of our nation's warriors.

There is no civilian comparison to this type of environment. So asking this question to the general public -- most of whom of have never served in the military -- is meaningless. This is not a civil rights issue. It is an issue of human sexuality.

And this is not about being anti-gay. It is about being pro-military and supporting the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who do the tough work of defending our country.

Howie Lind
Commander, US Navy (retired)
McLean, VA

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ruling In Virginia Health Care Lawsuit Coming Midday Monday

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office has alerted the media that the district court decision in the lawsuit Virginia has brought over Obamacare will be handed down midday on Monday. This will be the first major decision at this level in any case brought by a state against the health care law.

Detroit News: Pence Could Steal Palin's Thunder

From a few days ago in the Detroit News:

GOP Prospect Could Steal Palin’s Thunder
By Nolan Finley

If Mike Pence keeps talking, the left will soon have to stop talking about Sarah Palin.

Pence is the Indiana congressman who is weighing a run for the presidency in 2012. He stopped by Birmingham last week to speak to the Detroit Economic Club. It wasn't all that far into his speech before you realized that this guy has a message that could catch on, particularly if voters remain in their current mood.

"To restore American exceptionalism, we must end all this Keynesian spending and get back to the practice of free market economics," Pence told the audience. "The freedom to succeed must include the freedom to fail. The free market is what made America's economy the greatest in the world, and we cannot falter in our willingness to defend it."

For most of the rest of the speech, Pence laid out a blueprint for restoring the economy that focused on simplifying the tax code; adopting sound monetary policy, perhaps even a return to the gold standard; developing homegrown energy sources; reforming regulations to make them friendlier to job creators; and committing fully to free trade.

It's a message tailor made for the tea party movement, particularly on tax policy. Pence would replace all federal taxes with a single, flat income tax in the range of 17 percent, and get the government away from using taxes to manipulate behavior.

"You should someday be able to file a tax return of 140 characters or less," Pence joked. "You could Twitter your taxes."

But Pence is not a tea party maverick. He has worked within the system very effectively since first being elected to Congress in 2000.

He's thoughtful, respected by his colleagues for his intelligence and depth, and affable. "I'm a conservative, but I'm not angry about it," he once told an interviewer.

A speech he gave to Hillsdale College that was reprinted in the school's Imprimus magazine on how the office of the presidency has been distorted from the Founders' vision is burning up the Internet.

Liberal mouthpieces are desperate for Palin to emerge as the leading GOP presidential candidate, and try to pretend that the former Alaskan governor and vice presidential hopeful is the way-out-front candidate.

Pence and other rising GOP stars — including his fellow Hoosier, Gov. Mitch Daniels — are forcing them to take notice. His speech at the Townsend Hotel was covered by CNN, Fox and other national outlets.

Pence makes the pitch for returning America to its founding principles seem entirely reasonable, and quite doable. Nothing about him appears out of the mainstream.

He channels Ronald Reagan as well as anyone in the GOP stable, deftly comparing the "new normal" ideology of 2010 to the national malaise of the Jimmy Carter years. Like Reagan, he rejects the notion of lost American greatness.

Here's how he closed his speech:"I choose a boundless American future built on the timeless ideals of the American people. I believe the American people are ready for this choice and await men and women who will lead us back to that future, back to the West, back to American exceptionalism."

Mike Pence is no Sarah Palin. And that should worry the daylights out of the left.

Friday, December 10, 2010

WI Gov Elect Successful In Sending Federal High Speed Rail Funds Back to Washington

Even before taking the oath of office as governor of Wisconsin, Governor-elect Scott Walker has already achieved one of his major campaign promises -- to send taxpayer-wasted high-speed rail grant money back to Washington.  Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced that the grant funds would be rescinded. 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pulled $1.2 billion in stimulus rail funds from Wisconsin and Ohio, because their new Republican governors didn’t want them. Thirteen other states will share the money for their high-speed trains. Walker said he now hopes Washington will focus on the “true needs” of Wisconsin and other states – and that’s quote, “fixing our crumbling roads and bridges.”

Walker said LaHood assured him the state won’t have to pay the federal government for what it spent on the new train. LaHood agreed to let Wisconsin keep two-million-dollars for upgrades on Amtrak’s current high-speed Hiawatha train from Milwaukee-to-Chicago. But the stimulus funding that was lost included $72-million for a new train shed and a maintenance base for the Hiawatha. Outgoing Governor Jim Doyle had said a separate $12-million-dollar grant for the Hiawatha line would also be in danger – but there was no word on that from Washington yesterday.

Gingrich, Cuccinelli Highlight Heritage Foundation President's Club meetings

The RC Blog spent the last two days at The Heritage Foundation's President's Club meetings in Washington, D.C. and was (as we always are...) overly impressed with the work of Heritage's staff.  President Dr. Ed Feulner announced to the 1,200+ record crowd that Heritage membership has now grown to over 700,000.  There were a number of panel sessions during the afternoon, including the impact of ObamaCare and where the Conservative party goes next after the 2010 elections. 

In the evening, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave the keynote address at the dinner.  Gingrich continues to show why he is one of the party's most strategic thinkers.  Truly a man of genius and intellect!!

The highlight of Day Two was the morning speech by Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli.  The RC Blog has attended more than 15 Heritage President's Club meetings over the years and has never seen the membership audience respond to a non-keynote speech as they did this morning for Cuccinelli.   He has captured the attention of leading Conservatives nationwide with his message of liberty.

I will post the videos of the President's Club speeches once Heritage posts them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Catholic Church Elevates Wisconsin Site Where Nun Saw Virgin Mary In 1859

The Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday designated a Wisconsin spot where an apparition of the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared three times to a Belgian-born nun in 1859 as the only one of its kind in the United States.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion, just east of Green Bay near Lake Michigan, has long been a popular destination for the faithful. But it was only in the last two years that the Diocese of Green Bay undertook the official process to earn the distinction that now puts it in company with renowned holy apparition sites including Lourdes, France; Guadalupe, Mexico; and Fatima, Portugal.

Green Bay Bishop David Ricken approved the sightings as legitimate apparitions after a two-year study by a commission he appointed. Ricken announced the distinction at a special Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at the shrine, where he read from a decree that stated the apparitions witnessed by Sister Adele Brise in 1859 “do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.”

Brise was 28 at the time of the visions, and had immigrated to Wisconsin from Belgium with her family about four years earlier. Brise would recount that a lady dressed in dazzling white appeared to her and claimed to be the “Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners,” according to information provided by the Green Bay diocese. The apparition asked Brise to do the same, and to gather children and teach them what they should know for salvation.

After receiving the apparitions, Brise established a Catholic school and a community of Franciscan women.

Such sites of confirmed apparition earn that designation only by a Catholic bishop’s decree. A spokesman for the Green Bay Diocese said there are only 11 other such sites worldwide, none in the United States.

(Source: Associated Press)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Further Proof that California is Going Crazy!

Heard about this article on Mark Levin last night and couldn't believe the content.  Is it any wonder that California is having significant fiscal and social problems!  What a disaster on the Left Coast!!!!!

Oakland Soon will Issue Municipal ID Cards
By Cecily Burt
Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND -- Oakland will soon be following in San Francisco's footsteps by offering a new municipal identification card to homeless people, immigrants and other residents who might have trouble obtaining a state identification card.

But Oakland's ID card will double as an ATM debit card (emphasis added), the first of its kind in the country. The ATM debit card can be used to buy groceries or goods and services wherever ATM cards are welcome, allowing people without bank accounts to avoid high check-cashing fees or walking around with large amounts of cash.

Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente has been trying to get an ID card system for Oakland residents since the state rejected efforts to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants in 2004.

The City Council voted in June 2009 to issue municipal identification cards and issued a request for proposals. On Nov. 9, the council voted to accept the bid of SF Mexico Services LLC to administer the program and issue the ID/debit cards at no cost to the city.

"I think we have a responsibility to provide local access and represent everyone," said De La Fuente, who along with Mayor-elect Jean Quan co-authored the ordinance last year. "We have to provide some way for people to identify themselves so that people don't get arrested. "... We have to move forward with the card and not delay further."

So far, the cities of San Francisco, New Haven, Conn., Trenton, N.J., and Washington, D.C., have municipal identification cards. None have a full ATM/debit feature, although Washington's card can be loaded with value to use on the Metro system, and New Haven's card can be loaded with up to $300 value that can be used at participating merchants and at parking meters.

City Clerk LaTonda Simmons said the group that studied the ID card issue and helped craft the request for proposals will meet again early next month to finalize the contract details and develop a timeline for implementation.

The company predicts it will issue about 30,000 cards a year, processed through five intake centers set up around the city, said Elias Enciso, director of business development for SF Mexico. The company will set up the infrastructure with community-based organizations to accept and process applications and issue the cards, as well as establish the banking relationship to support the cards. He said the program could be up and running within three months once there is a signed contract.

A group headed by Wilson Riles advocated for a local currency feature for Oakland's program. It is not included, but the feature could be added to the card at a later date if the city wants it, Enciso said.

The company already offers debit cards and it won the contract to issue ATM debit cards to youth working for the Los Angeles summer jobs program. This is its first ID card contract.

The cards can be replenished with cash or checks or even set up to receive direct deposits from the cardholder's job.

There is a setup fee: $15 for adults or $10 for seniors and youth, plus an extra $6.95 to add the debit card feature; a $2.95 reload fee for non-direct deposits; and a 99-cent monthly maintenance fee. Even so, the amounts are minuscule compared to hefty fees charged by check cashing stores. And cardholders can avoid ATM transaction fees by using the cash-back feature when shopping at grocery stores or other merchants.

SF Mexico will cover operational costs through the sale of the cards and the user fees will help sustain the growth of the company. But the firm isn't in it for the money, Enciso said.

"We are a social enterprise company, meaning that our main priority is to maximize social good to the community," Enciso said. "One of our principles is that businesses can provide financial services to underserved communities without price gouging."

Card holders are issued an account number and password, which they can use to obtain balance and transaction information via a toll-free phone number or online. They can view all their transactions, similar to a bank statement, for no charge.

To obtain a city ID card, applicants must provide one picture identification such as a driver's license, passport, green card or consular card. Applicants who don't have a driver's license need two pieces of identification such as a foreign driver's license, a Social Security card, a U.S. or foreign birth certificate, a military identification card or school identification.

Minors don't need photo ID, but they must have some sort of documentation either from a school or shelter.

Applicants must also prove residency by providing recent utility bills, tax bills, pay stub, jury summons or tax refund statement, among other items.

The municipal identification cards will supply the same type of information contained on a driver's license or state identification card, including name, address, date of birth, height, weight, eye and hair color and photograph. The card must be accepted as a valid form of identification at all city departments, including the police department.

Miguel Robles, founder of the Latino American Alliance for Immigration Rights, was behind the push to get San Francisco to launch a municipal ID card program in response to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in 2007.

Several people caught in the raids were deported because they had no state-issued identification, Robles said.

The cards offer some measure of security in that San Francisco police accept the cards as proof of residency and the cardholders are more comfortable reporting crimes, Robles said. Cardholders also get all the benefits of other San Francisco residents, such as free resident days at the San Francisco Zoo and coverage under the city's health care program.

"You can get one if you are here illegally, if you are a resident of the city and are paying taxes and living here and spending money here," Robles said, describing the San Francisco program. "I'm very excited to have the program now in Oakland, too."

Enciso agreed that the cards give residents a sense of security they would not otherwise have.

"It's in the absolute best interest of all Oakland residents, regardless of immigration status, that everyone has identification," Enciso said. "It increases safety. What we saw in New Haven is that reporting of crimes went up 22 percent, primarily because people had a form of ID."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Federal Pay Freeze, In Context

Philip Klein from American Spectator Blog provided the following analysis on the federal employee pay freeze announced on Monday morning:

Earlier this morning, I noted that President Obama's proposal to freeze the pay of federal employees (excluding the military) for two years wouldn't have much impact on the debt. Now we have more specifics. In his press conference, Obama claimed that the move would save the government $28 billion over five years. Taking that number at face value, that would represent a sixth-tenths of one percent reduction in the projected $4.52 trillion deficit over that same period (2011 through 2015). It would be the equivalent of a person who expects to rack up $10,000 of of credit card debt over the next five years touting the fact that he's found a way to reduce his expenses by $60 over that time period. In football terms, it would be like a kickoff return that gains about a half of a yard.

To demonstrate this visually, I put together a pie chart.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Grateful Nation

Courtesy of Newt and Callista Gingrich on Human

The very first “thanksgiving” was celebrated in 1619, one year before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth by another group of English settlers. The event was held on the banks of the James River at what is now Berkeley Plantation, the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison, signer of the Declaration of Independence and father of the ninth President of the United States, William Henry.

Most Americans, however, remember that the Thanksgiving Day tradition was modeled after the 1621 event in Plymouth, Massachusetts where fifty Pilgrims and ninety Wampanoag Indians feasted for three days. The Pilgrims were indeed thankful for friendship and a bountiful harvest. In the previous year, half of the Pilgrims had starved to death. A Patuxet Indian named Squanto came to their rescue helping them to survive in the New World.

Throughout our history, Americans were called hundreds of times by their leaders to days of fasting and prayer and subsequent days of thanksgiving often by local officials and governors.

The first Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued by the Governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts on June 20, 1676. The council wanted to offer thanks for a series of victories in the ongoing “War with the Heathen Natives” setting apart the 29th of June as a “day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favor.”

But it was President George Washington at the request of the Congress, who on October 3, 1789 issued the first national thanksgiving day proclamation from New York City. Setting aside November 26, the proclamation stated that "our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience."

Washington issued his second thanksgiving day proclamation in 1795. Presidents Adams, Jefferson and Madison all issued proclamation calling for a day of Thanksgiving.

But few Americans gathering this week with family and friends for the feast know about the woman most credited with making Thanksgiving Day a national holiday.

Born Sarah J. Buell on October 24, 1788, in Newport, New Hampshire, it was Sarah Josepha Hale’s persistent petitions that brought about the holiday. She sent hundreds of letters to politicians including five presidents imploring them to institute a national day of thanksgiving.

Buell became one of the most influential women in the United States as the editor of the most widely circulated women’s magazine called Godey’s Lady’s Book. She also penned “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” the most-well-known poem in American history.

But it was not until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln received her letter in the midst of the Civil War that the New England tradition would become a national one. “If every state would join in Thanksgiving,” she wrote, “Would it not be a renewed pledge of love and loyalty to the Constitution?” Lincoln agreed.

He set apart the last Thursday of November as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” He called upon Americans “that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Lincoln would issue three more thanksgiving proclamations from the White House. Subsequent presidents issued similar proclamations but the states chose different days for the thanksgiving observance. It was not until 1934 that Franklin Delano Rooseveltsaid that to “set aside in the autumn of each year a day on which to give thanks to Almighty God for the blessings of life is a wise and reverent custom, long cherished by our people.” In 1941, the Congress made the Third Thursday of November an official national holiday.

Again and again even in our darkest days, our leaders have called upon us to give thanks to our Creator for our many blessings. This year was a difficult year for so many Americans who are out of work or have suffered economic hardship. Nevertheless, we are a nation that has always persevered through hardship and we will again. Because even when challenged we have always been a grateful nation. So with gratitude, it is fitting that we should reflect upon what is good and what God has given us. It is in that spirit that Callista and I along with our entire team wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

USPS to Unveil New Reagan Centennial Stamp on December 13

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation announced yesterday that on Monday, December 13, the U.S. Postal Service will unveil the new Ronald Reagan centennial postage stamp.  The event will take place at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Ca.  Here is the info.:

On Monday, December 13, 2010, the United States Postal Service is honoring President Ronald Reagan with a Centennial Postage Stamp. At this event, the artwork for the stamp will be unveiled. James C. Miller, III, a member of the USPS Board of Governors, will speak at this event on behalf of the Postal Service. As the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Governor Miller was a member of the President’s cabinet and a member of the National Security Council from 1985-1988. Before that he served as Chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission from 1981-1985.

The National Anthem for this program will be performed by Ms. Jordan Pruitt, a member of the Ronald Reagan Centennial National Youth Committee. Jordan Pruitt, 19, released her debut album in 2006, entitled “No Ordinary Girl.” She has been on tour with the Cheetah Girls, Vanessa Hudgens, “High School Musical: The Concert,” the Jonas Brothers and many others.

This is the third Ronald Reagan stamp. The first was issued by the Postal Service following the President’s death and was a 37 cent stamp. Following a rate increase, the Postal Service re-issued the stamp with a 39 cent denomination.

This event is free to attend, however reservations are required, click here to make reservations. For any questions, please call 805-522-2977.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dayton Basketball Ranked No. 1 In Latest RPI (Not a Misprint!)

I know it means absolutely nothing in terms of true national ranking (especially on November 21), but following Saturday night's huge 16-point-deficit OT road victory for the Dayton Flyers at Ole' Miss, the team finds itself atop the nation's men's college basketball RPI rankings.  By January, they'll be sure to settle back in the 25-40 range, but it sure is nice to see at No. 1 ranking at any time of the year.  Go Flyers!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NY Bishop Dolan Named President of U.S. Bishops

Great news coming out of this week's fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) with the upset election of N.Y. Archbishop Timothy Dolan as President of the USCCB.  Bishop Dolan is a staunch Conservative who is not afraid to tackle the tough issues facing the Church and society at large.

Here's a new interview with Bishop Dolan on his new appointment conducted by Tim Drake at the National Catholic Register:

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was elected the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Tuesday, Nov. 16. The election of Archbishop Dolan broke from precedent that held that the vice president of the bishops’ conference, in this case Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, would succeed the outgoing president, in this case Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, in a vote that would be more of a formality. Archbishop Dolan addressed questions from the media gathered there shortly after his election.

What would be your chief priorities as president of the conference, in the Church and society?

Candidly, I haven’t had time to think about it. Frankly, I was surprised by the election of the bishops. I have immense regard for my predecessor, Cardinal Francis George.

I think what I can safely say is that probably my major priority would be to continue, with all the vigor that I can muster, what’s already been put in place. It’s not like — thanks be to God — we’re in crisis. Things are going well.

Can you address health-care and the possible funding of abortion in the health-care reform bill?

I am highly appreciative of the summary that Cardinal Francis George gave yesterday, which was downright eloquent. I admired the way he handled it.

The bishops of the U.S. are in somewhat of a delicate position in that we have been promoting comprehensive health care, but it wasn’t comprehensive, in that a precious part of those deserving care — those being unborn babies — weren’t receiving it. The bishops were cogent in expressing that.

Cardinal George was so articulate — as was Pope John Paul II — in telling us that although we’re political in the best sense of the word, we’re not partisan. The bishops of the U.S. are not partisan; we are pastors and teachers.

Did you speak with Bishop Kicanas after the election?

I did. I thanked him for his service and told him I held him in high regard.

He told me, “I’m with you all the way.” My one regret is that I’ll have to give up leadership of Catholic Relief Services.

Can you comment on the unprecedented nature of your election, and if there was any outside pressure on the bishops for whom to elect?

Bishop John Carberry was vice president and not elected president. This seems to be somewhat of a surprise.

When I received a letter that my brother bishops had nominated me, I was surprised. I don’t know how to interpret it. It was hardly a landslide election. I can remember three years ago, when Bishop Kicanas beat me for the vice president slot by one vote.

I take it that the bishops don’t like the idea of anyone being a shoo-in.

You presume that we’re sitting around thinking about these things. Most bishops are laudably absorbed in the activities of their own dioceses. When they get here, they take the election seriously.

As to an outside campaign, that wouldn’t be anything new. There’s always been some controversy surrounding the elections. I’ve felt the heel of blog attacks. The bishops bristle if they feel there’s any undue pressure from the outside.

You might interpret this as the bishops are tired of short and skinny presidents.

Robert George has said that it’s a signal from the bishops that they wanted a strong and assertive moral witness, more than they were looking for the dialogue and mediation coming out of the [late Chicago Cardinal Joseph] Bernardin approach.

Robby George is one of my heroes. I don’t know. When you speak about the leadership of bishops, you speak about style.

Bishop Kicanas would be as committed to the ideals of our Catholic faith as I would be. George is bringing up that there is a difference in style.

When I came to New York, I was interpreted quite the opposite — as a congenial and conciliatory kind of guy. You can’t win. I mean it when I say that we don’t sit around thinking about it.

Maybe what George was getting at is that there are many issues that Catholic social teaching can be a witness on. Is this about which issues you’re going to press on? Are the bishops signaling an interest in issues of life, abortion and marriage?

We bishops would bristle at the characterization that there are some bishops who tend to be more pro-life and family issues while others tend to the social-justice issues.

I don’t think that characterization would apply to Bishop Kicanas and myself. I once invited him to speak to one of our town meetings. He addressed pro-life, education, and marriage and family. I don’t find that kind of caricaturing to be accurate.

Are there other bishops who you view as a role model?

Bishop Edwin O’Hara, who I wrote my dissertation on. He was an immensely effective bishop. I’m wearing the pectoral cross of Cardinal John O’Connor. He has been a hero of mine, and my appreciation of him has only grown. He had a pastoral heart and sidewalk savviness, but was as cogent and compelling in preaching faith and morals as anyone.

Register senior writer Tim Drake filed this report from Baltimore

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Veterans Day 2010!

Back by popular demand from last year's post...

Marine Corps Birthday Celebrates 235 years of "The Few, The Proud"

"The Few, the Proud": So says the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps, and so it is. The Marines are the smallest branch of the U.S. armed forces, but their reputation outmatches their size. Today, the marines celebrate their 235th anniversary, born before the country was in 1775.

"The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!" Eleanor Roosevelt once said.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bush's "Decision Points" Hits the Streets

Former President George W. Bush released his new book titled "Decision Points" today.  The book recounts the critical decisions of his presidency and personal life.

Decision Points is the extraordinary memoir of America’s 43rd president. Shattering the conventions of political autobiography, President Bush offers a strikingly candid journey through the defining decisions of his life.

In gripping, never-before-heard detail, President Bush brings readers inside the Texas Governor’s Mansion on the night of the hotly contested 2000 election; aboard Air Force One on 9/11, in the hours after America’s most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; at the head of the table in the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq; and behind the Oval Office desk for his historic and controversial decisions on the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan, Iran, and other issues that have shaped the first decade of the 21st century.

President Bush writes honestly and directly about his flaws and mistakes, as well as his accomplishments reforming education, treating HIV/AIDS in Africa, and safeguarding the country amid chilling warnings of additional terrorist attacks. He also offers intimate new details on his decision to quit drinking, discovery of faith, and relationship with his family.

A groundbreaking new brand of memoir, Decision Points will captivate supporters, surprise critics, and change perspectives on one of the most consequential eras in American history – and the man at the center of events.

Although I did not agree with everything Bush did (skyrocketing budgets, nominating Miers to S.C., and endorsing Spector over Toomey in 2004 Pa. Senate primary, etc.), I have great respect and admiration for the man himself.  He kept our country safe during a very dangerous time and I felt like we were led by a man with determination and resolve.  He has shown nothing but class since leaving office in January 2009 by staying out of politics and not taking shots at President Obama.  Wish I could say the same for former Presidents Carter and Clinton.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Keith Olbermann Suspended from MSNBC

Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely without pay from MSNBC for making donations to three Democrats in violation of NBC's ethics policy.

"I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night," Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC, said in a statement. "Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."

Olbermann, who does not hide his liberal views, has acknowledged donations of $2,400 each to Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords during this election cycle.

NBC's ethics policy generally bars political activity, including contributions, without the approval of the president of NBC News, Steve Capus, according to a 2007 story on

"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest," it says. "Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee."

In a statement released before the suspension as announced, Olbermann said: "I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns, nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level."

The candidates Olbermann donated to had mixed results. Conway lost his race to Tea Party-backed Republican Rand Paul, but both Grijalva and Giffords lead in tight races that CBS News has not yet projected. All three appeared on Olbermann's show, and Grijalva has appeared multiple times.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pence Leaves House Leadership Post; Sets Sights on Higher Office

RC Blog's favorite member of Congress, Mike Pence, resigned from his leadership role in the House of Representatives yesterday.  We are ready to start the "Pence in 2012" chant!!  Here's the article from the Indianapolis Star:

After helping Republicans take the House, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence plans to step down as the head of the House GOP conference, presumably to prepare for potential presidential or gubernatorial bid in 2012.

"Now that we have restored a Republican majority to the House of Representatives and I have fulfilled my commitment to the Republican Conference, my family and I have begun to look to the future," Pence said in a statement to colleagues this morning.

"As we consider new opportunities to serve Indiana and our nation in the years ahead, I have come to realize that it may not be possible to complete an entire term as conference chairman. As such, I think it would be more appropriate for me to step aside now, especially since there are other talented men and women in our Conference who could do the job just as well or better."

The Columbus Republican declined to say what his plans are, but he has been talked about as a potential presidential and gubernatorial candidate.

Pence was the top choice in a presidential straw poll of conservatives attending the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in September.

Gov. Mitch Daniels, who cannot seek re-election in 2012, has also left open the possibility of running for president.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Yesterday Was All About...

This video produced by The Heritage Foundation sums up why Americans yesterday stood up and cast their votes to remove those looking to destroy America as she was designed to be...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scott Walker - Wisconsin's Next Governor!

Fox News has just announced that it projects Scott Walker as the winner in the Wisconsin governor's race.  He's up by nearly 20 points.  RC Blog is a proud supporter for Walker and wish him the best as he moves on to Madison!  Scott's a future national star!!

Goodbye Blanche!

Arkansas gets rid of Blanche Lincoln in the Senate where she was a critical vote in the passage of ObamaCare.  Congrats to John Boozman for defeating her!

Rubio Rolls!

Looks like Marco Rubio will smoke Charlie Crist for the Florida Senate seat.

Keith Fimian with a decent lead (2,200 votes) over Gerry Connolly in the Virginia 11th House District race.

Interesting exit poll statistic -- women were +13 for Obama in 2008; today, there is no gender gap between R's and D's.

Early Results In Senate Races...

Rand Paul (KY) - Winner!
Dan Coats (IN) - Winner!

Rain Is Good News for Republicans

My wife finally has to admit I was right. She thought I was stereotyping Dems as lazy when I would pray for rain on Election Day each year as a way to keep the Libs at home and away from the ballot box. Now I have the proof (thanks to!  I can't help it if they're lazy....

You Didn't Vote? Don't Blame it on the Weather
by Tim Ballisty, Editorial Meteorologist

Does weather affect voter turnout?

When election day rolls around in November, that question seemingly always enters the political discussion.

Pundits spout out their beliefs - "Democrats are loving the rain in Dixie!" or "Republicans are happy to see that there's snow in the forecast for New England!"

But again, does weather truly act as a barrier between the voter and the voting booth?

In 2007, researchers actually got down to business and sought out an answer to this very question.

The study was written by political scientists Brad T. Gomez of the University of Georgia, Thomas G. Hansford of the University of California, Merced, and George A. Krause of the University of Pittsburgh.

The researchers analyzed the affects of precipitation and temperature on voter turnout in more than 3,000 U.S. counties for 14 U.S. presidential elections from 1948 - 2000, which they say is the most comprehensive test of the weather-turnout thesis ever done.

The evidence they uncovered does indeed support the claim; rain and/or snow significantly decreases the level of voter turnout within a county.

Not only does weather affect turnout but it provides a noticeable bump for Republicans. The study found that foul weather conditions are positively related to Republican Party vote share in presidential elections.

Let's dig into some of the numbers and find out how much rain and/or snow can add some intrigue into the voting returns.

Each one inch increase in rain above its Election Day average for a typical county yields a gain of 2.5% of Republican vote share.

Every one inch increase in rain above its Election Day average yields a decline in voter turnout by just slightly 1%.

Each one inch of snowfall above its Election Day average results in a gain of 0.60% in the Republican vote share.

Each one inch of snowfall above its Election Day average reduces voter turnout by nearly 0.5%.

Final RC Blog Predictions for Election Day 2010

House +56, Senate +8, Governors +7

Heritage Releases "Solutions for America"

Compiled by a team of Heritage experts, Solutions for America identifies the nature and scope of our most pressing problems in 23 discrete policy areas, and recommends 128 specific policy prescriptions for Congress to consider. Some of the recommendations are groundbreaking. Others are familiar. Some are being debated right now. All have one thing in common: They would return power to the people. And, collectively, they will transform America, setting her back on the track to prosperity and greatness.

Perilous times necessitate bold action. America is at a tipping point. To continue on the current path of ever-expanding central government will plunge us into a statist abyss of lost liberties, vanishing opportunity and dying prospects of a better tomorrow. But our nation can just as well correct course, as she has so often in the past.

Americans by the millions have begun the process, rallying around the vision of the Founders. The policies articulated in Solutions for America are calculated to make that vision a reality, to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish anew.

To download a copy of Solutions for America, click here.

RC Blog Upset Special of the Day...

RC Blog predicts that senior House incumbent Jim Oberstar (D-MN) will lose to Republican challenger Chris Cravaack in the Minnesota 8th District House race.  Cravaack has run an excellent campaign and Oberstar has been showing his age (76) as of late.  Cravaack seems to be the right person at the right place at the right time to unseat Oberstar.  This would be a major leadership blow the Dems...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gallup: Republicans Appear Poised to Win Big on Tuesday

The final USA Today/Gallup measure of Americans' voting intentions for Congress shows Republicans continuing to hold a substantial lead over Democrats among likely voters, a lead large enough to suggest that regardless of turnout, the Republicans will win more than the 40 seats needed to give them the majority in the U.S. House.

The results are from Gallup's Oct. 28-31 survey of 1,539 likely voters. It finds 52% to 55% of likely voters preferring the Republican candidate and 40% to 42% for the Democratic candidate on the national generic ballot -- depending on turnout assumptions. Gallup's analysis of several indicators of voter turnout from the weekend poll suggests turnout will be slightly higher than in recent years, at 45%. This would give the Republicans a 55% to 40% lead on the generic ballot, with 5% undecided.

Click here for all the polling details.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sen. Burris Misnames Sen. Feingold as "Ralph Feinberg"

This was my favorite political story of the week from, in a crazy, busy week leading up to Election Day on Tuesday:

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) misidentified the name of one of his Senate colleagues with whom Burris has been working for the better part of 22 months.

Burris misnamed Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), according to a report in the Chicago Tribune, calling the senator from his neighboring state "Ralph Feinberg" instead.

"We've had a great relationship," Burris told the Tribune, in a profile piece detailing Burris's closing days in office.

The Illnois Democrat was appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who had allegedly sought money or favors in exchange for the appointment. The winner of the general election between Rep. Mark Kirk (R) and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in Illinois will take Burris's seat shortly after Nov. 2.

Burris said he had no regrets about the controversial circumstances under which he was named senator.

"Not a question, not a question about it," Burris said when asked if he had any doubts. "The right thing to do was get representation for the people of Illinois. He had the authority. He was the governor. And that was it."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rove in WSJ: Signs of the Democratic Apocalypse

From this morning's Wall St. Journal:

Signs of the Democratic Apocalypse
By Karl Rove

Next Tuesday Democrats will receive a crushing rebuke. More to the point, voters will be delivering a verdict on the first two years of the Obama administration.

Midterm elections are almost always unpleasant experiences for the White House, especially when the economy is weak. But key races that should have been safe for the party in power demonstrate the extent to which President Obama and his policies have nationalized the election.

In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a huge war chest in a state Mr. Obama won in 2008 by 12 points. Mr. Reid trails Sharron Angle by four points in the latest Rasmussen poll.

In West Virginia, Joe Manchin, a popular Democratic governor, is running for the Senate, yet he lags behind John Raese by two points in the Oct. 23 Fox News Poll, largely because of Mr. Obama's 30% approval rating in the state. Mr. Manchin is running away from the president, telling Fox News that Mr. Obama is "dead wrong on cap and trade," and that he would not have supported ObamaCare had he known everything that was in the bill.

Or take the Illinois Senate seat held by Mr. Obama before he was elected president. It should be safely Democratic. Instead, Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has led Illinois Treasurer and Obama basketball buddy Alexi Giannoulias in eight of the 10 polls taken this month. It will be a terrible embarrassment if the president's former Senate seat flips.

Elsewhere, some powerful Senate Democrats were either forced out by popular Republican challengers (North Dakota and Indiana) or they trail badly because their races became nationalized over the Obama agenda (Arkansas, Missouri and Wisconsin).

One of the more interesting Senate races is in Ohio, where Rob Portman, a former trade negotiator and budget director for George W. Bush, leads Democratic Lt. Governor Lee Fisher by an average of 19 points in a state Mr. Obama carried by four points.

Ohio is no longer friendly Obama territory. An August survey by Public Policy Polling reported that Ohioans would prefer George W. Bush in the White House today rather than Mr. Obama by 50% to 42%. Mr. Portman campaigns relentlessly on jobs, presenting a principled, optimistic case that conservative policies mean economic growth. It's a winning strategy.

Then there are senior House Democrats who normally don't draw more than token opposition. This year, some are terminal and others in jeopardy.

Nine-term Congressman Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota) and 13-termer Paul Kanjorski (Pennsylvania) will both go down. Three House committee chairmen—John Spratt (South Carolina), Ike Skelton (Missouri) and Jim Oberstar (Minnesota)—are trying to hold off late-charging challengers. Even the dean of the House, Michigan's 27-term Congressman John Dingell, is having to fend off a spirited challenge by cardiologist Rob Steele.

Then there's House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, squaring off against Republican Sean Bielat, a Marine and businessman, in Massachusetts. In 2008, Mr. Obama carried his district by 29 points, but Mr. Frank is now stuck at 46% support in a recent poll commissioned by the Boston Globe. Anything less than 50% is a dangerous place for an entrenched incumbent. Mr. Bielat has campaigned so effectively he's forced the acerbic, high-strung Mr. Frank to confess he'd been wrong to oppose reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the years before their spectacular collapse.

While Mr. Frank and several other senior Democrats may hang on, the fact that they even face tough races shows how much trouble the Democrats are in.

Adding to Democratic problems, the record GOP turnout in this year's primaries points to higher turnout next week. Four years ago, 82 million people voted in the midterms. This year I estimate 89 million to 91 million Americans may cast a ballot, based on voting-eligible population statistics calculated by George Mason University's Michael McDonald. Could there be a late surge in Democratic enthusiasm? The latest Pew poll, from Oct. 21, reports that 64% of Republicans say they have given a lot of thought to the election, while only 49% of Democrats have. This intensity edge is staggering, larger even than the GOP's 12-point lead in 1994.

In recent days, Mr. Obama screamed defiantly to Democratic rallies that Republicans have to "sit in the back," and he told a Latino radio audience that it's time to "punish our enemies and . . . reward our friends." That may be the president's idea of how to appeal to Americans' better instincts. Next Tuesday night we'll see how badly wrong he is.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Virginian-Pilot: Meet Ken Cuccinelli - Virginia's Rising Star of the Right

Nice piece on Va. AG Ken Cuccinelli in Sunday's Virginian-Pilot newspaper out of Hampton Roads...

By Julian Walker
The Virginian-Pilot
October 24, 2010

Conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore was delivering a luncheon address to a group of like-minded New Jersey voters in August when something unexpected happened.  Moore asked audience members to name their preferred presidential candidate in 2012. Several offered Ken Cuccinelli's name.

"I was surprised, not because I don't think a lot of Ken," he said. "I was surprised people knew Ken."

The fact that Garden State voters know Cuccinelli well enough to mention him in presidential speculation illustrates the rapid ascent of Virginia's hard-charging attorney general.

In less than a decade, he's gone from an insurgent Republican candidate for state Senate to winning statewide office in a landslide.

And in a bit of fortuitous timing, Cuccinelli, 42, now finds his limited-government, anti-tax message resonating with swaths of an electorate anxious about the fate of the nation and their own livelihoods amid an unstable economy.

It helps that his rhetoric manifests itself in activism - he's sued to challenge the federal health care overhaul and to investigate a climate-change scientist, and he's issued legal opinions targeting immigration, abortion and gay rights.

He promised during last year's campaign to "fight with Washington," and he's delivering. To Hampton Roads Tea Party founder Karen Miner Hurd, Cuccinelli is refreshing precisely because he isn't a typical politician and his brand of no-nonsense pragmatism doesn't neatly "fit into the paradigm of conservatives."

Hurd first met Cuccinelli at a political event when he was running for attorney general and was impressed by his "genuine" demeanor and his fondness for the tea party movement.

Apparently, the feeling is mutual.

Cuccinelli was the darling of the recent statewide tea party convention, drawing a sustained standing ovation.

It's that likability, coupled with his policy ideas, that makes opponents on the left so leery of Cuccinelli.

Although foes have derisively questioned Cuccinelli's sanity, dubbing him "Kookinelli," Democratic blogger Vivian Paige is convinced that dismissing him is folly.

"The man is smart, no doubt about it," she said, praising his razor-sharp recall of a meeting between the two, and his disarming public comportment.

"That's what makes him so dangerous," Paige added. "People think he's crazy, but he's not."

A New Jersey native raised Roman Catholic, Cuccinelli has called Northern Virginia home since he was a child.

He still lives there with his wife, Teiro, and seven children. After the 2009 election, the family moved from Fairfax County to Prince William County rather than Richmond, where his job is based, so their eldest daughter wouldn't have to leave her Catholic school. His younger children are home-schooled.

An engineering graduate and lawyer specializing in business and intellectual property, he launched his political career in Fairfax in 2002 with a state Senate primary challenge against Mike Thompson.

His conservative principles helped sway former state Del. Dick Black to support him.

"He seemed to be a person whose life was in order," Black said, recalling one of his first meetings with Cuccinelli. Black added that he also was moved by Cuccinelli's "very strong" moral and ethical values, including his opposition to abortion and to a tax referendum on the ballot at the time.

With the aid of Black's political operation and others in the pro-life, pro-gun, home school movement, Cuccinelli won.

Coalition-building has long been a Cuccinelli strength, according to his former legislative aide, Eve Marie Barner Gleason, because he will "never overlook a voting bloc."

An example of that came last year when Cuccinelli attended a forum hosted by the NAACP in Richmond and spoke to an audience not filled with GOP sympathizers. He won points with the crowd when the moderator told them he was the first candidate to accept an invitation to the forum, an event his Democratic opponent didn't attend.

"What Ken has always done that's been very effective in all his races is, when he can't put together 50 percent of the vote for him, he's very good about putting together a coalition of 50 percent against his opponents," observed blogger Ben Tribbett, a frequent critic of Cuccinelli.

That strategy has kept him in office and helped him survive a tight 2007 re-election campaign for state Senate that he won by about 100 votes. And it's what has his supporters believing Cuccinelli is destined for higher office.

"Ken Cuccinelli... is on the front lines, and people know if this guy is in the White House, he'd be undoing the Obama agenda so fast, people's head would spin," gushed Rick Shaftan, a political consultant who has worked on past Cuccinelli races.

A conundrum with Cuccinelli is how to evaluate a man who seems so comfortable bucking the establishment. Is he pursuing his culture war clashes out of principle or in quest of personal gain? And what effect is he having on Virginia?

At a minimum, he brings increased attention to the state, though opinions differ on whether it's positive.

Though a spokesman, Cuccinelli declined to be interviewed, but he did respond to e-mailed questions.

He noted that he'd been upfront with voters about his intention to oppose certain federal initiatives such as health care.

"Unfortunately," he wrote, "we have a federal government that is giving us more opportunities than I would appreciate having."

His response to questions about his actions has been consistent: He cites a duty "to defend the law and the U.S. and Virginia constitutions."

That philosophy is never more evident than when he discusses the health care lawsuit.

It is "the most important thing I will do as attorney general," he said, characterizing it as a fight for personal liberty against an overreaching government trying to force people to buy health insurance.

That case has helped endear Cuccinelli to people attracted to the tea party message of scaling back government.

In him they see a champion unafraid to articulate their views from a bully pulpit and rail against a Democratic president and Congress they believe have spent recklessly on bailouts and stimulus packages without fixing the economy.

Less charmed is Steve Shannon, the attorney and former state delegate Cuccinelli trounced in last year's election. He views Cuccinelli as a calculating politician who invokes the law to obscure his unorthodox views.

As proof, he points to Cuccinelli's decision not to support a lawsuit brought by the father of a Marine killed in Iraq against an anti-gay pastor who organizes pickets of military funerals.

Shannon argues that the attorney general was backing up a "raging homophobe," not protecting free-speech rights as he claimed, and points to Cuccinelli's statement last year that homosexual acts are "intrinsically wrong."

Staying out of the lawsuit placed Cuccinelli in the minority among state attorneys general - 48 others backed it. (The other who didn't support the suit was Maine Democrat Janet Mills.) And it drew outrage from some conservatives who wanted Cuccinelli to defend fallen military members.

Through a spokesman, Cuccinelli called the protests "absolutely vile and despicable." But he said Virginia already has a law that balances free speech rights while stopping the disruption of funerals.

That's vintage Cuccinelli. He holds firm to his belief in a strict reading of the law - in that case, the First Amendment - regardless of scorn or dissent.

Another issue that's drawn strong reaction is a fraud investigation targeting the research of a climate change scientist formerly at the University of Virginia.

Though Cuccinelli, who is a skeptic on global warming, may have enhanced his stature with conservatives in the process, one critic worries his actions could hurt the state.

Going after the university for research records hurts Virginia's ability to recruit great scientists, said Terry McAuliffe, a onetime and perhaps future Democratic candidate for governor.

"People in the scientific community are aware of what's going on here," he added. "You just don't go out and sue scientists.... That doesn't do anything to create jobs."

Cuccinelli rejects the "maverick" label, but it's clear his agenda isn't always in lockstep with Gov. Bob McDonnell or the governor's heir apparent, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, both fellow Republicans.

That was evident weeks after taking office, when Cuccinelli gave legal advice to colleges and universities that they lack the authority to include sexual orientation in non-discrimination policies.

Cuccinelli defends that guidance as a reminder to those schools "that their powers are limited" by the state constitution and code and "no matter how well-intentioned their efforts, they may not exceed those limits."

His position didn't differ dramatically from McDonnell's stance on the issue when he was Virginia's attorney general. But the controversy over Cuccinelli's advice mushroomed enough that the governor produced an executive directive - an edict lacking the force of law - protecting sexual orientation, to quell the controversy.

There, too, lies some of Cuccinelli's appeal: Through a combination of circumstance and choice, he has emerged as a formidable outsider, even among Republicans, in a moment of anti-establishment fervor.

McDonnell, for his part, says the two work together well and Cuccinelli's office provides good legal service to the state.

As far as the cases Cuccinelli has taken on, McDonnell said, "He's got now a Congress and an administration that has clearly governed to the left of center, and has passed new laws and enacted new policies that many of us here in Virginia have great concerns about whether they're, one, good policies, and number two, whether they are proper for the federal government to be involved in. I didn't really have that as much when I was attorney general with a Republican administration.... I think he's just doing his job to represent the interests of the state."

Already there are hints Cuccinelli has set his sights on an office beyond the one he occupies.

He publicly maintains his plan is to seek re-election in 2013, but he hasn't ruled out running for another post. There is a governor's race that same year, and U.S. Senate races loom for Democrats Jim Webb in 2012 and Mark Warner in 2014.

Political tongues wagged when Cuccinelli agreed to stump for a GOP candidate in Iowa - home to the first nominating contest in presidential election cycles.

And his use of the health care lawsuit in a fundraising appeal to supporters, as well as the recent announcement that he's assembled a network of campaign volunteers across the state, only fueled the speculation.

He is a tireless campaigner who puts in face time at GOP events, and communicates with the faithful through dispatches of his long-running Cuccinelli Compass, an e-mail newsletter he pens personally, sometimes in the wee hours.

"I'm a target, so I've got to act like one," Cuccinelli told The Washington Post. "Which just means work hard. Don't wait for the election."

"He's going places. He's either going to be president or on the Supreme Court in 10 years. One or the other," predicted Shaftan, the political consultant. "I think the left is very afraid of him, as they should be."

Julian Walker, (804) 697-1564, is an independent site and is not affiliated with any official web sites, associations, or organizations associated with President Reagan. Any views expressed or content included on this site do not necessarily reflect the views, positions, or opinions of any of the organizations or individuals named, linked, or advertised.

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