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Thursday, June 15, 2006

We Need To Do Something

I'm still trying to deal with the fact that, in the recent Senate primary, the winner, Jim Webb, received one vote in Bland County's 0101 precinct. ONE. Statewide he did just a bit better, but still capturing votes from less than 2% of Virginia's eligible voters.

The Roanoke Times, in an editorial this morning, has a problem with this as well:

Virginia elections need a face-lift

Only fundamental structural change will increase voter interest and participation.

Roanoke taxpayers spent about $36,000 on Tuesday's election, nearly $20 for each of the 1,914 votes cast. It is easy to blame poor turnout on voter apathy, but the problem runs more deeply to a system that no longer works for the modern electorate.

Primary elections in Virginia historically draw few voters, and with only a Democratic primary on Tuesday's ballot, low turnout surprised no one. Only about 3.5 percent of registered Roanoke voters showed up. The statewide rate was about the same.

If Virginia wants an engaged electorate, it must encourage participation. Representative government relies on people exercising their civic judgment, not minority participation that leaves political control in the hands of a dedicated, often partisan, few. (

The Times goes on to recommend a number of fixes, most of which I agree with, one that would create a problem far worse than exists now ("Adopt no-reason-needed absentee voting or universal vote by mail").

But something surely needs to be done.

The Democratic nominee for the United States Senate received ONE vote in a voting precinct in the commonwealth of Virginia in 2006.

An Outrageous Verdict

If there was ever a more glaring example for our having need of a professional jury system, I don't know what it is:
Lawn mower company liable in boy's death
Some jury members said the $2 million verdict was a message to the mower manufacturer.
By Mike Allen, The Roanoke Times

When Ron and Kristie Simmons came out of the Roanoke City Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, a group of five women were waiting to embrace them and shake their hands.

The women, who wiped tears from their eyes, were all members of a jury that had just awarded $2 million to the Botetourt County couple in the death of their son.

The jury wanted to send a message with that verdict to the makers of the lawn mower that killed 4-year-old Justin Simmons in 2004.

"We're just hoping that we make a difference," said juror Theresa Reed. "We just want the industry to see that there's a problem that needs to be fixed." (

The "problem?" First and foremost, the operator of an MTD riding lawn mower ran over and killed a 4-year old child.

But the real problem is that we allow morons to sit in judgement of morons.

As MTD's attorney put it:
After the trial, Fitzpatrick called the verdict "nonsense."

The jury held MTD at fault for not designing a mower that automatically stops its blades whenever it rolls backward. No such mower exists or has ever been tested, he said. "No one has even suggested that as a standard."

The next jury in the next case will cite the manufacturer for not designing a mower that is idiot-proof. Maybe that jury will be on to something.

Webb Campaign A Non-Starter?

Here's an interesting analysis of the Senate campaign and the candidate:
Spinning Webb
By Holman Jenkins, The American Spectator

Daily Kos to Instapundit, political junkies who glance at the Virginia Senate election reflect Chuck Schumer's talking points: that Jim Webb is George Allen's worst nightmare. Except for some assorted Virginia pundits, like Larry Sabato, those who have seen the campaign up close know better. Jim Webb's strengths are all on paper, and absent from the campaign trail.

A Webb victory looked like a no-brainer to those who follow politics through their computers. But Virginia voters told a different story as they went to the polls Tuesday. A paltry 3 percent of Virginia Democrats
turned out for the primary, with only 53 percent opting for Webb. Hardly an upsurge. What is worse is that 35 percent of Webb's votes came from the Democratic strongholds of Arlington and Fairfax Counties, rather than the blue collar, rural areas to which Democrats hope he will appeal. That Virginians could not get excited about either candidate, much less the more "electable" Jim Webb, spells trouble for his campaign against Allen.

Webb's real problem isn't the Jim Webb of the past, but the Jim Webb of today. He is a poor campaigner atop a poor campaign ... (
In my estimation, the Jim Webb campaign can be likened to that of John Edwards. As the latter's run for the presidency progressed in 2004, with much fanfare, it became painfully obvious to the voters that there was no there there. He was an empty suit. But at least a personable, good looking - if dull - empty suit.

With Webb, there seems to be no real attraction - except to those who hunger for a viable candidate - no matter his flaws, no matter his political positions. All the left-wing bloggers in Virginia are now extolling the virtues of a conservative, a recent convert from the Republican party, a member of Ronald Reagan's cabinet, a man who heartily endorsed George Allen , now his opponent - in the last race.

The voters, the real voters, not the fanatical 1% who bothered to show up and vote for him on Tuesday, will be wanting to know more about the man and where he's going to take the commonwealth. They are not interested in his electability or what bloggers have to say. They'll be looking at him.

They may be sorely disappointed.

Demise Of a Once-Proud Church?

The Presbyterian Church (USA), like a number of other liberal denominations, is seeing a precipitate decline in membership. Jim Roberts, a church member, writing in the Wall Street Journal, tells us why:
Turn Left at the Presbyterian Church
By Jim Roberts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A growing number of Presbyterians are engaged in a battle for the future of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Over the past two years, this denomination -- my denomination -- has taken a turn toward radicalism that threatens to tarnish a once-proud institution. At issue is the Presbyterian Church's decision in 2004 "to initiate a process of phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel." The fallout was immediate, painful and damaging.

Not only are a handful of church leaders taking positions that are highly unpopular in the pews, they are doing so with heavy-handed, top-down measures, actions that run contrary to long-honored traditions. Not surprisingly, the church is experiencing problems with declining membership and dwindling financial support -- due in large part to widespread frustration over the direction the leadership has taken. Instead of developing policies to unite us, the leadership is sowing seeds for further defections by large numbers.

How did the church fall so far so fast? In June 2004, with scant attention and without fair debate, the leadership foisted a divestment resolution on an unsuspecting church.

The church also funds fiercely pro-Palestinian committees, sends representatives to Palestinian advocacy conferences, and has written obsequious congratulatory letters to the terrorist leaders of Hamas on their recent election victory.

Presbyterian delegates also take leadership roles in organizations that blame the U.S. and capitalism in general for most of the world's catastrophes. The 2004 manifesto of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, for instance, went on about America's "imperialism," "domination" and "massive threats to life." And the Presbyterian Church's 2004 Stony Point Declaration was a similar self-parody, noting that "our nation . . . pursues global empire, backed by unprecedented military supremacy. Its un-qualified commitment to economic growth through a global, capitalist economic system has not served God's purposes of justice, peace, community and the integrity of creation, but has enriched the corporate ruling class . . . [creating] monstrous inequality and massive suffering." (link)

Thinking an anti-American political stance is going to fill the pews with Americans on Sunday is both idiotic and destructive.

How did the membership let it get to this point?