Twenty Years Ago Today …

It was a Friday night in Alexandria.  September 30, 1994.  Bill Clinton was President and Heath Shuler was a rookie quarterback for the Redskins.  I had just graduated from UVA Law, taken the Bar Exam and started a new job.

Life as a single guy was awesome.

I was hanging out with my buddies at our row house on King Street watching television.  My club had a rugby match the next day in Philadelphia, and I was just killing time.  It was a perfect fall night.

For no particular reason, we left the house at 9 pm to have a drink at “GW’s,” a country and western bar on the next block.  I ordered a Budweiser, leaned against the bar and studied the array of belt buckles, hats and boots that filled up the dance floor.

A few minutes later, I saw a beautiful girl across the room … and my life was never the same!  Thank you, Sharon Kim Petersen, for being THAT GIRL.

Which just proves — you can never spend enough time in bars.

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Old Gray Runs to Glory, 36-7

It was a bright bright sunshiny day at Gravely Point this afternoon.

The Northern Virginia RFC “Old Gray” stepped onto the pitch against Baltimore RFC in an “over35″ match with cool heads but passion in their hearts.

The Greatest Generation got off to a fast start, as all-star flankers Brandon Bruckner and Jason Figley dominated the loose play, scooping up loose balls and breaking down ball carriers.  And, there he was, a young Figley galloping to glory — young Robby Figley (age 17) — who utilized the little known “father-son” exception to Old Boy age limits and dashed off with the first try.

From there, the Old Gray took it up a notch, breaking through the Baltimore line behind the strong running of Tim Hardmon, Dave Welch and Casey Craig to score an additional two tries.  And it was 19-0 at halftime.

In the second half, Baltimore busted through the Old Gray pack to dot a try.  From there, the Old Gray defense pulled together behind the welcome addition of Simon Gillett at hooker and a veteran pack with “Half-Pint” Ernest Cardwell and “the Phantom.”  Half-back and endurance athlete extraordinaire Dave Lett provided perfect ball to the backs, with wily fly-half Chap Petersen directing the attack.

A goal-line stand in the second half, with Lett in the middle of the fracas, led a to sudden break-out by “Billy from Philly” Eckhart and the Old Gray shifted into fast-break mode for a counter-attack score that put the game out of reach.

The final minutes saw Old Gray put forward two more tries, with young Figley providing the finishing touches on the last score before “the Barefoot Ref” finally called full time.   The final tally stood 36-7 for the boys in gray.

Afterwards, the two sides shook hands, took the obligatory post-match photo, and drank the obligatory post-match beer.  Wives, children and probation officers looked on with approval as the lads walked off the pitch, covered in glory.

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Jim Webb Steps Up

This week, Jim Webb gave an address to the National Press Club which commented on America’s position both domestically and internationally.  It was a speech that was  comprehensive and original in scope.

Webb continues to be a lonely voice talking about the most critical issue in our nation today — the increasing economic gap between the “haves” and “have nots.”

The globalization of our economy, as well as a tax system that discriminates against earned income, has remade America into a society where capital yields are historically strong  while working families scramble to maintain their parents’ standard of living.  Today’s CEO makes exponentially more than his counterpart a generation ago.  Meanwhile, real wages have been stagnant for decades.

This gap is most alarming when you examine the prospects of a child growing up in poverty.  Regardless of Federal programs, there is little to sustain a child’s success if he grows up in a household with no assets and no track record of achievement.  Quite simply, there’s no path to economic stability.

(As Webb accurately noted, this lack of opportunity is not automatically linked to race. In fact, the poorest county in American — rural Clay County, Kentucky — is 98% white).

Meanwhile, the U.S. has no articulated foreign policy, other than lurching from crisis to crisis.  Unlike the “Cold War,” where America formed a united front with the NATO countries against the threat of Soviet Communism, there are few, if any, modern-day alliances that have shared values or sacrifices. That’s not a criticism of anyone (either Bush or Obama). It’s just a statement of fact.

Webb’s speech is not for everyone.  It eschews the usual left vs. right clichés that make modern politics so stale and underwhelming.  (“Koch brothers!”  “Extremism!”)  Instead, it actually treats the listeners like intelligent adults.

As a decorated Marine officer and former Secretary of the Navy, Webb is a one-man antidote to the current crowd on Capitol Hill which invests tremendous energy in superficial cultural wars (which usually last about 24 hours) – and very little into addressing the problems of real Americans.

Having said all that, it’s hard to see Jim Webb as a Presidential candidate.  Leaving aside the political obstacles, such as the formidable Hillary machine, there is the simple fact that Jim himself is not really a politician — nor does he play one on TV.  As he once said, “my motto is ‘born fighting,’ not ‘born fundraising.’”

The “anti-politician” angle can work at times but you do, at some point, have to meet the people you want to represent.  You also have to raise money.  There is not much hope for the reclusive intellectual.  You may not have to like politics — but you have to like people.

If Jim Webb did run for President, our nation would be the better for it — whether he wins or loses. Simply the fact that he speaks honestly about real issues and is not boxed in by “political correctness” makes him a better candidate and better leader than pretty much anybody in politics today (and that includes both parties).

Besides, isn’t it time our nation had a major Presidential candidate with a union card, two tattoos and three Purple Hearts?

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Privacy Caucus Meets Today

The Ben Franklin Privacy Caucus is meeting today in House Room 3 in Richmond.  Chairman Rich Anderson (R-Prince William) is leading the discussion.  I’m reduced to live blogging the meeting, as I have business up in Fairfax today.

The issue that formed our Caucus was the “License Plate Readers,” which compelled the filing of SB 671 which sought to restrict the LPR’s in randomly collecting data, without a warrant or pending investigation.  That legislation was supported by both the ACLU and the Tea Party Patriots — the lion and the lamb!

Halfway through the process, it was apparent that we needed more information on all the issues.  We also needed to expand our scope to take on “Snowden” issues like the unwarranted collection of Internet data and cell phone usage.

Since that time, I’ve had a lot of input from local police agencies, including the Fairfax City Police, which use the data to help solve crimes.  (As an initial matter, LPR’s can match license plates with stolen vehicles).  We’re hearing from these folks today ….

(Update at 2:50 pm)

Excellent point by Claire Gastanaga of the ACLU, who just articulated the difference between collecting “real time” data from LPR’s, e.g. for matching a stolen car or missing warrant, and keeping that data for an undetermined future purpose. Former is OK.  Latter is problematic.

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Doing the Richmond Shuffle

It was a long day at the State Capitol yesterday.  The Senate did pass a revised State Budget (due to weakened revenue projections) and also elected a new round of judges, including Grace Carroll who will take the Circuit Court bench in Fairfax.  That’s an excellent choice.

Nothing happened with Medicaid, just as we all predicted.

The Senate Republicans also announced new committee assignments.  It was a mixed bag for me.  I’ve again lost my seat on the Courts of Justice committee.  (I had been the only member of that committee who practiced law in northern Virginia.  Currently, there are zero NoVA lawyers represented).  I also lost my seat on the Privileges and Elections Committee, which I had served on since 2007.

I picked up new assignments for Education/Health and Social Services, so that’s a switch.  I had not asked for these committees, but I’m ready to do my best.

When you’re in the minority, you have no control over these things.

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