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Archive for February, 2009

PrezCon

Good evening everyone.

Where’s this week’s update you may ask…well, I’m presently taking a bit of vacation time to enjoy the host of board gaming activities at PrezCon in Charlottesville, VA.  I’ll be out of town until Sunday, so I wanted you to know that it is unlikely that I’ll have a chance to update again before that time.

If you get an opportunity, I strongly encourage you to join us.  Perhaps I’ll meet you over a game of 1960 hmm?  I call playing Nixon!

Best wishes.

Joshua

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Well, it is only three and a half months to the next RPV convention.  Excited yet?  You should be.  Although 2008 was my first, I eagerly look forward to the second.  It is a great time to meet fellow delegates, speak with candidates and elected officials, and party like it is 1984…er maybe like it is 1985…1984 is a bit too Orwellian for my tastes.  You should really go to the convention if you get the chance.  As Republicans, we will have the opportunity to select our three candidates for statewide office in November:  Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General.  So let’s have a brief rundown of each office.

Governor

Unless something wacky happens between now and the convention, Attorney General Bob McDonnell will be the Republican nominee for Governor.  Although it would have been interesting to see the campaign between McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Boiling and would give the candidate for governor a bit more campaign experience and even more name recognition, it is likely better for both the chances of the party and the candidates to remain unified.

Lt. Governor

Yes, we do have a nomination fight for Lt. Governor.  Current Lt. Gov. Bolling is looking to return to office by fending off a challenge from Patrick Muldoon.  In some ways, this race reminds me of the Gilmore/Marshall contest as a current (or former) statewide officeholder squares off against someone who bills himself as the more conservative alternative.  Another unusual comparison between the two races is the rematch of campaign staff, Wells vs. Waters.  Matt Wells, who was the political director for the Gilmore campaign, now head the campaign for Bolling, while Steve Waters, campaign manager for Bob Marshall, is presently listed as a Muldoon “spokesperson”.  The first question you might ask is, “Who is Patrick Muldoon?”  It is certainly an important and valid question that requires an answer.  At this point, the Muldoon campaign styles itself as being more anti-Bolling than pro-Muldoon, and although there are a handful of folks who dislike Bolling scattered across the state, I sincerely doubt that such a tactic will produce much success.  Another point to consider is that in the area of fundraising as the Lt. Gov holds a massive lead.  Unless the Muldoon campaign message coalesces quickly to explain why delegates should support Muldoon over Bolling, I predict an easy win for the Bolling camp.

Attorney General

Ah the hot tamale, the one race that everyone is talking about.  A three way contest between John Brownlee, Ken Cuccinelli, and Dave Foster.  I’d had the opportunity to meet and listen to both Brownlee and Cuccinelli so far.  Alas, I missed the chance to visit with Foster when he came to Harrisonburg last week as a result of illness.  I hope that I will get another opportunity prior to voting in the convention.  Therefore, I cannot speak either positively or negatively about Mr. Foster at this time.  Once I gather more information about the candidate, I can form a clearer picture of his electability, principles, and qualifications.  Nevertheless, I must say that I am quite impressed with both Mr. Brownlee and Sen. Cuccinelli.  Both show a strong commitment to conservative values and while Brownlee bring valuable experience as U.S. attorney and ties to the western part of the state, I am constantly impressed by Cuccinelli’s steadfast commitment to standing for his principles, even when that requires him to walk alone.  In the early part of this campaign, Ken Cuccinelli was the clear favorite by leaps and bounds. He has the greatest name recognition and so many of the Marshall supporters’ hold the state senator in similar regard.  Therefore, although the gap has narrowed considerably, if I had to bet, I’d still expect Senator Cuccinelli to emerge the victor.  It will be interesting to see the ways in which the Brownlee and Foster camps via for support and which tactics (if any), prove to be successful at wooing voters.

So the take home message here is this:  Learn more about the candidates (I know that I need to) and then get out there and vote at the convention.  You know how I hate uninformed voters.  Ok, I’ll make it even easier for you.  Here are the links to all of the Republican candidates:

Bob McDonnell for Governor

Bill Bolling for Lt. Governor

Patrick Muldoon for Lt. Governor

John Brownlee for A.G.

Ken Cuccinelli for A.G.

Dave Foster for A.G.

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As two days ago was the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I thought it fitting to write about him.  Now most Republicans I know hold a particular fondness for Lincoln, choosing to hold some sort of dinner in his honor around this time of year.  After all, he was the first Republican candidate elected president.  Don’t some people call the Republican Party the “Party of Lincoln?”  A faithful reader to this blog would guess that my viewpoint would be quite a bit different.  If you were to ask me, “Who were the worst presidents to date, I would answer, “Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Abraham Lincoln.”

Now hold on a minute!  Other than Lyndon Johnson the other three are generally held in a positive light and many Republicans compared George W. Bush to Lincoln.  Why do you dislike him so?  The answer is simple; all four of these presidents massively and unconstitutionally increased the size and scope of the federal government.  In addition, all four used the pretext of the nation at war (or “conflict” in the case of Vietnam) to justify further centralization of power under the executive branch.  But lets focus on the man of the hour, Mr. Lincoln.

I think that there are generally two reasons why people hold Lincoln in high regard: he won a particularly brutal and bloody war and he freed the slaves.   First, and likely most controversial, is the subject of the war.  Now I’ve written quite a bit on the subject already, but let me cover a few points.  Between the time Lincoln was elected and when he took office, the states of the Deep South: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, all withdrew from the United States.  Immediately following secession, South Carolina demanded the surrender and withdrawal of troops from Fort Sumter, the federal fort in Charleston Harbor.  As they no longer considered themselves part of the USA, to have Union troops stationed in South Carolina made about as much sense to the South Carolinians as stationing British troops in Boston Harbor.  President Lincoln, however, disagreed and was unwilling to surrender the fort.   After the fort fell, he requested volunteers from each loyal state to quell the rebellion.  Virginia, who had previously rejected secession, now joined the young Confederacy rather than embrace Lincoln’s order to take up arms against her southern brethren.

Now some people will say that this war was necessary to preserve the Union, and, in a way, they are right.  The war was quite effective at preserving the physical integrity of the nation, but the spirit of the nation has forever been tarnished as a result.   As was the case in the Vietnam conflict, supporters adopted the mentality that “in order to save the village, we had to destroy it” indicating that the only means by which a people could be saved from the scourge of communism was to raise the village and slaughter the inhabitants.  The concepts of limited government, states rights, unalienable liberties, self-determination, and the 10th Amendment, were dealt a critical blow as a result of Lincoln’s actions and successive presidents have continued to disregard and erode these national underpinnings.   Unconstitutionally suspending habeas corpus in Maryland, creating an illegal income tax, waging war against civilians, censoring the press, what’s not to like about Lincoln?

Next, lets move on to point number two:  Lincoln as the great emancipator.  Numerous people view Lincoln as a hero because he supposedly ended slavery, but such a viewpoint is false.  But…but, what about the Emancipation Proclamation, you might say.  Well, what about it?  How many slaves did it free?  Zero.  Huh?  The proclamation freed slaves only in states and territories not presently controlled by the federal government and their armies.  Anywhere that Lincoln had the power to free the slaves (i.e. in Union lands) he did not.

Don’t believe me?  Simply read the document.  The proclamation itself frees “all person held as slaves held within any state” in the following areas: “Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.”  Therefore Lincoln freed slaves only in areas over which he had no power and left enslaved individuals over which he could exercise control.   It was a ploy, pure and simple, to gain points with who those who opposed slavery and really accomplished nothing.   However, retrospectively speaking, politically it was a brilliant move.

As a result, in today’s society, if one embraces the mantle of states’ rights, as the Confederacy did, one could be labeled a racist.  It makes little difference whether in truth one espouses racial prejudices.  After all…the Union fought to end slavery while the Confederacy fought to preserve the institution.  Now one would be naive or downright dishonest, if he or she did not acknowledge that slavery did play a part in the war, but to claim that the war was primarily fought to abolish or promote the “peculiar institution” is also extremely erroneous.   Did not Lincoln say, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.  I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” (First Inaugural Address, 1861)?   And then in 1862 in a letter to Horace Greeley, repeated the claim stating, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”

Still not convinced?  Recently, I discovered a story of particular interest on the subject.  Have you heard of Giuseppe Garibaldi?  Unless you are an Italian, or a student of Italian history, most likely not, and yet if the Civil War was fought (as some claim) primarily to end slavery, his name would have been enshrined in American history alongside Lincoln, Grant and Sherman.

Giuseppe Garibaldi was an accomplished strategist and a key leader for Italian unification.  Apparently, according to an article by Rory Carroll in the British publication, The Guardian (found here), President Lincoln offered him the command of the Union forces during the early part of the war.  “Garibaldi was ready to accept Lincoln’s 1862 offer but on one condition, said Mr. Petacco: that the war’s objective be declared as the abolition of slavery.  But at that stage Lincoln was unwilling to make such a statement lest he worsen an agricultural crisis.”

Sure, there is plenty more available that you can read about our sixteenth president, and the vast majority of Americans will contend that Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents, but many of his supposed heroics are either exaggerated or outright untrue.   I do believe he was a skilled politician, but he seemed to hold little regard for the principles of a limited constitutional government.  He favored high protective tariffs, a federal income tax, a national bank, federal spending on internal improvements, a violation of civil liberties of his political enemies, and curtailing the free press .  Although one would expect such policies from say, a Soviet Premier or a Middle Eastern dictator, I honestly believe that the lasting legacy of Abraham Lincoln has been a steady march to an unrestrained unitary state where both the people, their liberties, and their property, are all subservient and dominated by the government.  Are these American values?

So, if given the chance today, would you vote for such a leader?

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A Poll For You

As my post If At First You Don’t Secede has now become my most visited piece, with a number of readers adding their own thoughts to the subject, I wonder what the vast majority of you think about the topic.  Therefore, through the help of polldaddy.com, I have created my first poll.  Isn’t technology grand?  Although this poll is, of course, not scientific, and the program should block multiple votes by the same person, I do ask you to vote only once.

You’ve read my $.02 on the question, so what are your thoughts about the legality or illegality of secession?  I’ve tried to include a variety of options, but if your answer matches none of my possible choices, send me a comment.  Let the voting begin!

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Political Games

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy both politics and various types of board games.  Games of strategy are best, as they usually require planning, improvisation, and just a small touch of luck.  Now when you couple strategy with politics, assuming the mechanics are well designed, you get a truly enjoyable experience.  Therefore, I wanted to take a break from discussing politics as usual to share with you some of my favorite political board games.  And now a word from our sponsor…just kidding of course…there is no sponsor.  Enough introduction!  On to the games!

Diplomacy by Avalon Hill

Rewrite history!  This is game for you and six competitors who can devote multiple hours to the endeavor.  Each player is randomly assigned one nation in pre-World War I Europe.  The possibilities are France, Great Britain, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia, Italy, or Turkey.  Your goal is to control half of the major cities/territories in Europe (London, Spain, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Warsaw, Belgium, etc).  As there are no dice, the outcome of battles depends on sheer numbers.  Often times to either conquer territory or defend your position; you will require assistance from your neighbors.  Alliances can be made and broken at will.  No agreements are binding.  Best played with good friends, assuming no one takes the game too personally!  Recommended by Henry Kissinger.

Die Macher by Valley Games

In this game, you take the helm of one of the five major political parties in Germany and do your best to win as many seats as possible in the Bundestag (the lower house of the German parliament).  In each round, parties via for seats in four of the German states.  You may change your political positions as needed and no party positions are set in stone.  In order to achieve victory you must balance your resources, constantly update your strategy based upon the plans of the other parties, and form (and avoid) timely coalitions.   Gather some folks who appreciate the differences of European politics or are Germanophiles.

Battlestar Galactica by Fantasy Flight Games
A very new board game.  Each person takes the role of one of the characters from the first season of the current TV show. Then, everyone is given a loyalty card at the beginning of the game to determine your personal goal.   Loyalty cards lead players to help the team or secretly (or not so secretly) sabotage them.  Over a number of turns, players perform actions, which can either aid or hinder the rest.  But beware of your so-called allies.  Until the cylons (the disloyal player(s)) are jailed, he, she, or they can cause massive trouble for the human crew.  Don’t think merely finding the cylons is good enough for victory, for once they are reveled, the battle continues openly until the humans reach their destination or perish.  Designed for 3-6 people, though best with 5.   This is the best co-operative game I have played to date.  Although you don’t need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the game (I’m rather lukewarm to it personally), if you are one, I certainly encourage you to give this game a try.

Imperial by Rio Grande Games
Like Diplomacy, this game too takes place in pre-World War I Europe.  However, in this game, you take the role of an international banker as opposed to the leader of a nation.  You use your influence and wealth to compel nations to attack each other, gain territory, build infrastructure, and tax their citizens, all while making you a tidy profit.  Throughout the game, your control over nations strengthens and weakens as all players invest in the great powers.  France could attack Germany one turn and then withdraw and attack Italy instead, depending on which player pulls her strings.  A fun, but disturbing, look at the power and influence of international financiers.

If I remember any additional games in the next couple of days, I’ll make certain to include them. Yes, I know I’ve left out your favorite game, so add it in the comments section.  So, if you get some free time, I highly recommend visiting your local game or hobby store and trying these games out.

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Good evening/morning everyone.

A little while ago I posted about Senator Obenshain’s bill that would privatize the state’s liquor sales.  Well, yesterday that bill died in committee.  For some of my conservative friends out there (especially the socially conservative ones), I think it is important for you to know more about this effort, especially as it will likely be returning in a future session of the General Assembly.  As most of you don’t live in the 26th Senate District of Virginia, I wanted to share Senator Obenshain’s thoughts on this subject in his own words so here they are, hot and fresh from my inbox.

“This morning, the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services killed my bill calling for the privatization of the Commonwealth’s ABC Stores. This is a setback, of course, but not wholly unexpected. Moreover, I have no intention of letting this issue drop. Instead, this an opportunity – a chance to work with interested parties across the Commonwealth to improve upon this legislation and continue the fight in the 2010 session.

It will not come as a surprise to any of you that government programs tend to be inefficient and often long outlast their reasons for being. Take, for instance, a federal excise tax on long-distance telephone calls, abolished in 2006. Its purpose: to help fund the Spanish-American War. Virginia’s ABC Stores fall into this category as well. They are a holdover from the early days after the end of Prohibition, when John D. Rockefeller successfully campaigned for state control of liquor sales in an attempt to prevent moral decay.

Fast-forward seventy-five years. Control states don’t seem to be in a greater state of decay than their thirty-two non-control counterparts. In fact, the opposite is true, at least when underage drinking, driving under the influence, and alcoholism are your metrics. To many of us, moreover, it is far from clear why government should be in the liquor business, especially with the $115 million in operating and administrative costs incurred in the last fiscal year and the surprisingly low profits achieved in what should be an extremely lucrative business. On gross sales of $641 million, the state netted $103 million in store profits compared to a further $179 million it raised in liquor taxes.

My bill would have required the Commonwealth to divest its distilled spirits stores and to get out of the retail business. Government should focus on core competencies, not make forays into retail. Done correctly, divestiture can increase state revenue and allow Virginians to enjoy the benefits of free enterprise in a sector of the economy that currently languishes under state control. Privatization tends to offer such benefits as greater convenience, better hours, wider selections, lower prices, and the innovation inherent in competition-driven systems.

Divesting Virginia’s ABC Stores isn’t a new idea. It was a recommendation of the Wilder Commission – convened by one Democrat, then-Gov. Mark Warner, and chaired by another, former Gov. Doug Wilder, and several members of the General Assembly, including former Del. Allen Louderback of Luray, have sought to divest these operations in the past. With Virginia’s current budget shortfall – an issue I suspect we will be forced to address again in 2010 – the issue has increased urgency, as the Commonwealth could profit by licensing rights to private establishments. This would also help localities at a time when their resources are stretched thin, as ABC Stores do not pay local taxes, whereas private retailers would be subject to the taxes required of any other business.

Virginia’s ABC Stores do not pay local income or real estate taxes, and although an attempt is made to counteract this shortcoming by making transfers to local government, the current system continues to shortchange our localities at a particularly difficult time. Private operations would, of course, be subject to these taxes.

In other states, privatization has lead to an increase in annualized receipts. The most recent cases of privatization, Iowa and West Virginia, both resulted in increased state revenues, and in the Canadian province of Alberta, the province’s legislative assembly has been forced to lower taxes four times to comply with a revenue-neutral provision in the original privatization legislation. Impressively, the crime rate at liquor stores also dropped 32% in the years following privatization.

The current system is uncompetitive and outmoded. Whereas entrepreneurs set prices and make purchasing decisions based on local factors, the ABC Store model has only a tenuous relationship with the laws of supply and demand. Restaurants, moreover, are forced to purchase all alcohol from state-run wholesale operations, limiting their selection and driving up prices.

The ABC Stores are a relic of a failed experiment, and I say we should pull the plug. Under the proposal I put forward, the ABC Board would have auctioned off “package store licenses,” which would authorize the retail sale of alcoholic beverages. No more than one licensee per 10,000 residents of any city or county would be permitted, and no package store could locate within a one mile radius of any existing licensee, making the first license auctioned off in any locality the most valuable. The purchase price at auction would determine the licensee’s annual fees, and that amount would be adjusted annually for inflation. As now, taxes would be levied on the sale of spirits.

The details, however, are not what matters most at present. In fact, in the next year, I hope to hear from constituents and other interested parties to come up with the best possible way to return Virginia’s distilled spirits stores to the private sector, where they belong.

In pursuing this, I’m not asking the Commonwealth to be a trailblazer. I just want us to join the thirty-two other states that are already enjoying the benefits – to taxpayers and consumers – of private industry. And although we lost a skirmish today, this fight is not over. This proposal is resonating with people across the Commonwealth; Democrats and Republicans alike know that this is not a legitimate role for state government. I look forward to coming back next year with a bill strengthened by input from around my district and around the Commonwealth.


Mark Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

P.S. I’m not giving up, and I hope you won’t, either! Forward this email to your friends, share it on Facebook, and join my Virginians for ABC Store Privatization on Facebook as well!”

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