I’m Not Dead, I’m in Southwest Virginia

I’ve been off the grid this week on our annual family vacation to Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia.

It’s been an action-packed week with fishing, hiking and a 20-mile bike jaunt down “the Virginia Creeper Trail” from  the top of White Top Mountain into the sun washed oasis of Damascus.  Simply my favorite place in the Commonwealth.

I ran up Molly’s Knob this morning, which is the highest point in the Park.  To the summit and back in 50:02.  That’s ninety seconds slower than last year.  The slow degradation of the human body continues.

Will be back this weekend — to celebrate my 18th wedding anniversary (or, alternatively, watch UVA vs. UCLA in college football).

Mercifully free from the updates on the McDonnell corruption trial …

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Strange Doings in Austin (Prosecutors Gone Wild!)

As the Bob McDonnell trial reaches its shambolic denouement, it’s interesting to note a newly hatched parallel proceeding in Austin, Texas, where current Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has been indicted by a Travis County jury for “abuse of office.”

In an earlier life, I spent a fair amount of time in Texas.  If Fairfax County is a small state, then Texas is basically a medium-sized country.  It has regions which are very different culturally and politically — and Austin (Travis County) is the most different of all.  It’s as if someone took Arlington County, Virginia, and air-dropped it into Southside.

Which brings us to Governor Perry …

He’s been in the Governor’s office for fourteen years.  Before that, he was Lt. Governor to Bush.  He’s actually been around so long that he was originally a Democrat (and state chairman of Al Gore’s Presidential campaign in 1988).  Until now, he’s been called a lot of names, but never “corrupt.”

Which takes us to the recent indictment.  The facts appear to be undisputed:  the legislature passed a $7.5 million appropriation for an  ethics commission (sounds familiar).  The head of that commission, the Travis County District Attorney no less, was arrested after a drunk driving stop and subsequent confrontation with police.  The Governor said he would veto the appropriation unless she stepped down as the head of the commission.  She refused.  He vetoed the appropriation.

There is no evidence that Perry had any financial stake in the veto or that he acted from any motive other than he thought she was a bad choice — or the public money was not well spent if she remained as head of the office.

And we’re supposed to consider this a felony?

This is a joke.  A Governor is a public official.  The right to veto legislation, especially for the spending of public funds, is an inherent part of the office.  That veto power is absolute, as long as the Governor does not act from a corrupt motive.  If the legislature disagrees with the veto, it has a constitutional ability to override.  Otherwise, it stays.

To assume that the prosecuting attorney acted from a partisan, if not personal, motive in bringing the indictment is merely to note the obvious.  It’s not an especially original political strategy. (I’ve written previously about Democratic officeholders in the Deep South who were pursued by Republican prosecutors for legal violations that were marginal or even fabricated).

But I doubt that the Perry prosecution is going to do any favors for Democratic candidates in Texas, by making a conservative hero of a Governor who should be fading out of the spotlight.  Nobody likes a bully or the wasting of judicial resources on a case that clearly is about political, not criminal, choices.

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Sharon Bulova Calls Me Out!

It’s not every day that the Chairman of the Fairfax County Board publicly challenges me.  But I gladly accepted today.

This afternoon, before several dozen witnesses, Chairman Bulova challenged me to participate in the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” which has gone viral across the USA.

(Is it the millenial version of “Hands Across America?”  Discuss.)

I showed up at high noon (or 5 pm to be precise) at the Coyote Grill in Fairfax City, clad only in flip-flops, swim trunks and my “Madison Warhawks Cross Country” tee shirt.

Here is the actual dousing.

Chairman Bulova tagged me along with Congressman Gerry Connolly and her son, Delegate David Bulova.  Only I was dumb enough to actually show up.  We were joined there by Mayor Scott Silverthorne and our friends Jo Ormesher and Beverly Meyers (who actually run the City behind the scenes).  You can see me holding Beverly’s hands as the ice water comes down.  Man, it was cold!

I’ve nominated Scott Surovell, Lauri DiRocco and Ilryong Moon to take the challenge in the next 24 hours and pay it forward.

Of course the Ice Bucket is a mere frolic.  The purpose is to raise the money for ALS (and I gladly made a donation).  You can do that at www.alsa.org


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Leesburg 20K is uphill both ways

This morning I ran the annual 20k race in Leesburg, which starts from the downtown Market Square and then heads out the W&OD Trail towards Purcellville, through miles of rolling countryside.

The race stepped off at 7:30 am which meant things were somewhat cool.  The first few miles were a near constant incline and I was pretty gassed at Mile 4, even though I was barely holding a “9 minute mile” pace.  I was too distracted and tired to notice the bucolic scenery south of the trail (they call it the “race with the cows”).

Around Mile 5.5, we finally got to the crest of a long climb and then ran down through the woods towards the turnaround.  This was basically the only mile of the race where I actually felt strong.

Coming back, I wish I could say that I made up lost ground.  It was supposedly  downhill and in the shade after Mile 8.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get that peaceful easy feeling — instead, I got passed by a lot of younger people over the last couple miles.  I also had to take a couple walk breaks around Mile 11, when the August sun really started beating down on the open portions of the trail.  (Thanks to the high school volunteers who kept us hydrated at the water stations).

Coming back into the Town, I passed Mile 12 and suddenly realized that the end was closer than I expected (a 20K is approx 12.4 miles).  I charged off the trail and managed a pseudo-closing sprint.  Crossing the finish line in downtown Leesburg, I promptly doused myself with water — more on that later.  My finish time was 1:54:34, which is roughly a two hour half-marathon pace.

That’s about six minutes slower than I last ran in 2010, but I had fewer children and fewer worries.  So basically I’ll call it a wash.

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Ending the Military Influence in Local Policing

Occasionally in this business (politics) there’s a moment when the usual voices of Left and Right actually arrive at the same point and form a voice of blissful convergence.

I saw that happen a few weeks ago when Delegate Rich Anderson (R-Woodbridge) and myself joined the ACLU and Sorenson Institute in Alexandria for a discussion which focused (small picture) on “license plate readers,” and (big picture) on the need to limit the use of technology in law enforcement, where it is indiscriminately collecting information.

The latest Left-Right convergence is beginning to take shape.  Specifically, it focuses on the collection of high-powered military technology by local police and Sheriffs.  At its most absurd, we’re talking about the proliferation of squad-sized armored personnel carriers in rural counties.  At a more granular level, it involves Kevlar vests and 7.62 mm rifles being distributed to ordinary police.

As Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) pointed out, there is a disconnect here.  These military items were manufactured to wage war on a hostile army or population.  There is no war going on in the USA.  There is no reason to point these weapons at a U.S. population, especially a peaceful gathering.

The whole purpose of local policing is to build trust in a local community, so that residents can have faith in making reports to officers and counting on them to keep the peace.  Showing up to a domestic disturbance with an AR-15 is not helping the situation.

Back in February 2012, I made a similar protest when there were sharpshooters on the roof of the Governor’s mansion as it was surrounded by peaceful protesters against the “ultrasound” bill.  I thought that was absurd and overkill.  It’s just as absurd to face a protest march in Ferguson, Missouri, with similar hardware.

Now I realize that some of these items are DOD surplus which have been “given” to local police.  Other items were specifically earmarked under the U.S. Patriot Act (which continues to be a legislative disaster that needs to be terminated).  Either way, they’re not necessary — and they give the exact wrong impression to civilians.

I say all this with 100% confidence in the professionalism and restraint of the Fairfax County and Fairfax City Police Departments, with which I’m pretty familiar.  You won’t see an armored car rolling down our Main Street anytime soon.

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