Thursday, July 28, 2011

Better Late than Never: National Ice Cream Month 2011

Ice Cream of the Month Club - The Gift that Keeps on Giving! - FREE SHIPPING with every orderWhile many of us are still in the midst of one of the most persistently hot months in living memory, it may be appropriate, before it gets too late, to remember that July is National Ice Cream Month.

See?  Just thinking about the cold creaminess sliding over your tongue and down your throat makes the heat seem less like Hades and more like heaven.

The first National Ice Cream Month was declared by President Ronald Reagan, pursuant to a congressional resolution, in 1984.  In a proclamation dated July 9, 1984, Reagan said:

Ice cream is a nutritious and wholesome food, enjoyed by over ninety percent of the people of the United States.  It enjoys a reputation as the perfect dessert and snack food.  Over eight hundred and eighty-seven million gallons of ice cream were consumed in the United States in 1983.

The ice cream industry generates approximately $3.5 billion in annual sales and provides jobs for thousands of citizens.  Indeed, nearly ten percent of all the milk produced by United States dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream, thereby contributing substantially to the economic well-being of the Nation's dairy industry.
Those numbers have changed somewhat in the ensuing quarter-century.  According to the International Dairy Foods Association,
The U.S. ice cream industry generates more than $21 billion in annual sales and provides jobs for thousands of citizens. About 9% of all the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream, contributing significantly to the economic well-being of the nation's dairy industry.
(Someone else will have to do the math for me to figure out whether the growth of the ice cream industry has kept pace with inflation, surpassed it, or underperformed.)

Over the years, Members of Congress have paid tribute to ice cream, either during National Ice Cream Month itself or in the preceding month of June, which has been designated National Dairy Month since the 1930s (either 1937 or 1939, depending on the source).

One of the best tributes came from then-Senator Alfonse D'Amato on June 17, 1993, found on page S7531 of the Congressional Record for that date (due to the eccentricities of the thomas.loc.gov database, this link may or may not work).  D'Amato's remarks are worth reading in full:
Power, Pasta, and Politics: The World According to Senator Al D'AmatoMr. President, I rise today to extol the virtues of ice cream, scrumptious concoction which has found its way into the hearts of fans across the globe. From Jamaican rum raisin to Chinese green tea to Georgia peach; from Hawaiian coffee to New York super fudge chunk, there is an ice cream flavor to please every palate, tempt every taste bud, and sooth every stomach.

To celebrate this unique eating experience, next month, July, is National Ice Cream Month, dedicate to American's love of ice cream. As an appropriate reflection of this national devotion, the United States leads the world in per capita production of ice cream and related products.

In 1992, American workers produced a record 1.49 billion gallons of these frozen desserts, which comes out to over 23 quarts per person. Being an enthusiastic ice cream loving State, New York's contribution to this number was a whopping 65 million gallons.

The enjoyment of ice cream spreads to all nations, ages, genders, and even crosses political party lines. As it has been said many times, to be happy, you must take the time out to enjoy the small things in life. This afternoon to celebrate the 11th annual Capitol Hill ice cream party, I would like to introduce a bipartisan personal stimulus package--eat more ice cream.
While never rising to mark National Ice Cream Month itself, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold at least twice gave nearly identical floor speeches commemorating National Dairy Month, in which he mentioned ice cream prominently.  (A third Feinfold tribute, dated June 24, 2004, is entirely different.)

On June 4, 1998, Feingold said (page S5657 of the Congressional Record) in part:
Other Wisconsin dairy firsts include: the development of Colby cheese in 1874, the creation of brick cheese in 1875, the first dairy school in America- established in 1891 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the first statewide dairy show in the U.S. in 1928, and the creation of the world-record holding 40,060 pound, Grade-A Cheddar cheese in 1988. And Wisconsin also can claim one of the best-tasting inventions in the history of dairy industry: the creation of the first ice cream sundae in 1881.
On June 9, 1999, Feingold also said (page S6811 of the Congressional Record) in part:
Other Wisconsin dairy firsts include: the development of Colby cheese in 1874, the creation of brick cheese in 1875, the first dairy school in America--established in 1891 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the first statewide dairy show in the U.S. in 1928, and the creation of the world-record holding 40,060 pound, Grade-A Cheddar cheese in 1988. And Wisconsin also can claim one of the best-tasting inventions in the history of dairy industry: the creation of the first ice cream sundae in 1881.
As it happens, Hilde Lee, who writes about food history and traditions in a weekly column in the Charlottesville Daily Progress, told the story of the invention of the ice cream sundae in the Wisconsin chapter of her 1992 book, Taste of the States: A Food History of America:
All About Food: Its History and TraditionsThe ice cream sundae originated in Ed Berners' ice cream parlor in Two Rivers in 1881.  It seems that one summer evening one of Berners' customers, George Hallauer, dropped in and ordered a dish of ice cream.  Hallauer saw a bottle of chocolate syrup, which Berners used to make sodas.  "Why don't you put some of the chocolate on the ice cream?" Hallauer asked.  Berners complained it would ruin the flavor of his ice cream, but Hallauer insisted he wanted to try it anyway.

Chocolate-topped ice cream became the rage of the town, and Berners began experimenting with other flavors and with toppings of nuts or a generous dish of apple cider.

The name sundae, however, was born in the neighboring town of Manitowoc.  George Giffy, also the owner of an ice cream parlor, served the embellished ice cream dishes only on Sundays.  One weekday, a little girl ordered a dish of ice cream "with stuff on it."  When told that he only served it on Sundays, the child said, "This must be Sunday, for it's the kind of ice cream I want."  Giffy gave it to her, and from then on the dish was called Sunday.  How the spelling evolved into sundae is not known.
Not every member of Congress has been so kind in regard to National Ice Cream Month.  Back in 1992, former Colorado Congressman Joel Hefley complained about commemorative days, weeks, and months as a waste of the taxpayers' money and of legislators' time.  He said in a one-minute speech on the floor of the House on August 12 of that year (page H8027 of the Congressional Record):
Mr. Speaker, in the last few years, Congress has picked up a lot of nasty little habits that cost taxpayers big bucks.

To pad their legislative accomplishments, some Members of Congress have taken to introducing one commemorative bill after another in hopes of stroking every special interest group that knocks on their door. In fact, 30 percent of all public laws are commemoratives. That is why we now have a `National Tap Dance Day,' a `National Ice Cream Month ,' an `Elvis Presley Day,' a `Karate Kids Just Say No to Drugs Month' and a `National Quilting Day.'

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Elvis Presley or people who enjoy quilting, and I think it is great that we have positive role models against drugs. I also love to indulge my taste buds with ice cream from time to time, but to get these bills passed, we spend close to $350,000 a year to do it.

There are two bills working their way through Congress that would create a commission to advise the President on proposals for national commemorative events. It would cost half as much and accomplish the same thing. Plus, it would give Congress more time to deal with the more difficult and important issues of the day.

Commemoratives get my vote for `Porker of the Week' award.
The fact that Hefley was correct should not deter us, however, from celebrating National Ice Cream Month privately.

For example, The Jewish Daily Forward has marked this month this year by running a series of articles about ice cream, accompanied by recipes for delicious (and, presumably, kosher) ice cream dishes.

Introducing the "Frozen Friday" series, Dan Friedman lets his imagination run wild in an article called "Religion, Politics, and Ice Cream, Oh My!":
People are fascinated with the idea of the afterlife and whether Jews believe in Heaven and Hell. Now, I’m no professional theologian, but I think that if I died and was greeted by a smiling minyan of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Mr. Häagen and Mrs. Dasz, Joseph Edy and Moshe-Lev Dreyer, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins, Sharon Breyer and Malky “Dairy” Queen bearing free samples that, for me, would be heaven.
The series also includes a reminiscence of Naomi Zeveloff about her distant relatives who were the founders of Häagen-Dazs. It turns out to be a typically touching story of immigrant success, by-the-bootstraps-style.
Reuben and Rose were distantly related Polish Jews who moved to Brooklyn and married in 1936. Though the Häagen-Dazs web site would have you believe that it was Reuben’s advanced palate that foretold the couple’s success, the truth is that Reuben got into the ice cream business because it was a lucrative way to start out in America. When Reuben first hitched his horse to a wagon and began hawking his mother’s ice cream to restaurants in the Bronx, he joined a small group of Jewish ice cream vendors who roamed the city, cooling summer fevers with an icy treat.

Reuben sold the family’s ice cream for three decades before forging his own path. While most ice cream manufacturers cut costs by concocting a sweet, milky mixture that could barely pass for ice cream, Reuben created a fatty, dense ice cream in three flavors — chocolate, vanilla, and coffee — and marketed it to the city’s upscale restaurants. Rose came up with a vaguely Scandinavian name. Häagen-Dazs has no meaning; in fact, the umlat above the first ‘a’ and the combined ‘zs’ are unheard of in Scandinavian languages. Nonetheless, the couple slapped a map of Scandinavia on the lid of the ice cream containers and New Yorkers got a taste of the “European” delicacy.

“By word of mouth,” it became popular, “people tasted it and it was really good,” said Harriet Leitz, Reuben’s first cousin. “When you compared the ice cream, one was like garbage and the other was like cream.”

.... From the beginning, Häagen-Dazs prided itself on its simple recipe of fresh cream, milk, and eggs.

In 1983, Reuben and Rose sold the company to Pillsbury, which was bought out by General Mills in 2001. (Dreyer’s, a subsidiary of Nestle, now makes the ice cream in the U.S. and Canada.) The couple made a fortune, and spent much of it supporting Israel through right-wing causes, funding organizations devoted to bringing Jews from Europe and Asia to settle the West Bank. Rose in particular became a fixture in Zionist circles, sitting on the board of the Zionist Organizations of America.
Somehow Naomi Sugar's article about ice cream sodas works in a mention of the cocktail that originated in Washington, D.C., and which was recently celebrated in a legislative commemorative resolution from the District of Columbia City Council:
Legend has it that Colonel Joe Rickey invented the lime rickey in the 1880s after a bar tender at Shoomaker’s in Washington DC added a lime to the Colonel’s morning drink. A decade later it became a sensation when mixed with gin. To honor the raspberry lime rickey, a summer staple, bartenders in Washington, DC have declared July as National Rickey Month. So, I suppose it’s apropos that I’ve made a raspberry lime rickey ice cream soda for national ice cream month and national rickey month!
(For those who are interested, Garrett Peck has a more detailed history of the rickey in his recent book, Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't.)

Finally, Rivka Friedman offers a recipe for cinnamon swirl ice cream as the end of her quest for a "Jewish" ice cream flavor:
Is there such a thing? I thought about milk and honey ice cream (too cliched); date and pomegranate ice cream (more Israeli than Jewish); even ricotta-brown sugar ice cream, supposedly inspired by kugel (such a stretch!). The ideas, they didn’t come so quickly. I was stuck. But it’s National Ice Cream Month and I had committed to being part JCarrot’s Frozen Fridays. So there was no way out: I’d be figuring out a Jewish ice cream flavor, yes I would.
Although it is "National" Ice Cream Month, it should be noted that love for ice cream is an international phenomenon, as a story filed by United Press International on July 28 makes clear.

It seems that classes in making ice-cream desserts offered at the headquarters of Carpagiani, a Bologna-based manufacturer of ice-cream-making equipment, attracted some 12,000 students in the past year.

Kaori Ito (does that sound like an Italian name to you?), the director of the school, told Sky News (as reported by UPI) that "the people who come here are people who want a career change. The average age is 35-40. They are ready to drop what they're doing and open a new chapter in their lives."

The report was distributed by UPI under its "Odd News" category. Is it really so odd, though, that people would flock to learn about ice cream?
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Updates from Examiner.com

Yesterday in this space I noted a number of articles I have written on Examiner.com based on interviews I have conducted with candidates for the U.S. Senate from Virginia, including former governors Tim Kaine and George Allen, who were guests at the Crozet Independence Day celebrations in western Albemarle County during the Fourth of July weekend.

In the past few months, I have had the opportunity to interview a wide range of policy makers, political analysts, and policy experts on various topics.  The interviews were published on Examiner.com under the umbrella of the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner.

Reaching back to February -- I know, I've been remiss -- I had several interviews at CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference:
Webb withdrawal irrelevant to Virginia GOP Senate race, says Morton Blackwell
Gary Johnson wins RLC straw poll, places third in CPAC poll
LNC executive director Wes Benedict takes Libertarian message to CPAC

GOProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia talks about CPAC and gay conservatives
Is Barack Obama the best recruiter for College Republicans?
Historian Paul Kengor on Ronald Reagan and the collapse of the USSR - Part I

Historian Paul Kengor on Ronald Reagan and the collapse of the USSR - Part II
Author Paul Kengor talks about Communist manipulation of liberals, progressives
That same weekend I attended the Republican Liberty Caucus national convention in Arlington and was able to nab a couple of interviews:
RLC member Dan Halloran promotes government transparency on NYC Council
Law professor Randy Barnett reveals the origins of the ‘Repeal Amendment’
In March, I attended a couple of events at the Virginia Festival of the Book. At one of them, I talked to the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, former Iowa Republican Congressman Jim Leach, and the president of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Robert Vaughan.
Va. Foundation for Humanities increases private funding, helps mark Civil War
NEH chairman Jim Leach talks about ‘civility’ in Charlottesville
April 15 was a significant day. It marked the day that the long-awaited movie version of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged was released and it also was an opportunity for local Libertarians and Tea Party members to vent some steam.
Charlottesville-area Libertarians use 2011 Tax Day to argue against taxes
'Atlas Shrugged' movie: Audience reactions mixed, box office returns respectable
Charlottesville radio host Rob Schilling says Tea Party is 'just a beginning'
City Council candidate Bob Fenwick challenges ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘trickery’
Charlottesville radio host Joe Thomas assesses two years of the Tea Party
I have also been able to interview people about transportation issues, arts education, criminal justice, journalism, gay marriage, alcohol Prohibition, and libertarian activism.
Former U.S. Transportation Sec’y Mary Peters: ‘not not convinced’ on high-speed rail
Higher gas prices won’t change American car culture, says transportation expert

Kennedy Center chief Michael Kaiser touts economic benefits of arts education
Nigel Ashford to address liberty in today's world at University of Virginia

Sorensen Institute chief Bob Gibson assesses the state of news media in Virginia
Attorneys Ted Olson, David Boies discuss Proposition 8 and gay marriage at Cato
Historian Garrett Peck looks back on ‘Prohibition in Washington, D.C.’ – Part I
Historian Garrett Peck looks back on ‘Prohibition in Washington, D.C.’ – Part II
Reason editors discuss criminal justice system: ‘America’s national disgrace’

S4L president Alexander McCobin recruits ‘community organizers for liberty’
I have quite a few interviews still "in the can," waiting to be transcribed, and I'll be posting links to them here in the future.

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Gary Johnson's Pursuit of Scrappiness

Gary Johnson at Monticello
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has established himself as the Republican presidential candidate who won't play by the rules.

He did this by refusing to sign the so-called "Family Leader" pledge foisted on GOP candidates in Iowa by Bob Vander Plaats, who seems to fancy himself as the Wayne B. Wheeler of the early 21st century.

In a statement released by his campaign on July 9, Johnson called the pledge "offensive and unRepublican," saying that its rhetoric "gives Republicans a bad name."
“Government should not be involved in the bedrooms of consenting adults. I have always been a strong advocate of liberty and freedom from unnecessary government intervention into our lives. The freedoms that our forefathers fought for in this country are sacred and must be preserved. The Republican Party cannot be sidetracked into discussing these morally judgmental issues — such a discussion is simply wrongheaded. We need to maintain our position as the party of efficient government management and the watchdogs of the “public’s pocket book”.

“This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue’.
Jennifer Jacobs, who covers politics for the Des Moines Register, summed up Johnson's statement like this:
Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson thinks the pledge that an Iowa Christian conservative group is circulating is offensive because it condemn gays, single parents, divorcees, Muslims, women who choose to have abortions “and everyone else who doesn’t fit in a Norman Rockwell painting.”
Johnson's feisty stance against intolerance within the Republican Party and conservative movement is getting kudos across the Internet.

E.D. Kain reposted Johnson's statement on the web site called "The League of Ordinary Gentlemen," prefaced with this comment:
Just another reason to support Gary Johnson in 2012
Writing on the widely-read blog Towleroad, Andrew Belonsky noted:
It's an absolutely unnecessary and offensive covenant, yet at least two GOP presidential hopefuls, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, have already signed onto the vow, which also claims black children were better off in 1860, slave days, and that homosexuality is a choice.

But Gary Johnson, a libertarian Republican candidate, refuses to follow suit, and yesterday described the document as "offensive to the principles of liberty and freedom on which this country was founded."
Johnson's statement was also reported by Elyse Siegel on The Huffington Post, by Michael Krebs on Digital Journal, by Eric W. Dolan at The Raw Story, and by Robin Marty on RH Reality Check. She adds:
The Family Leader, who is positioning themselves as the gatekeeper to the Iowa evangelical right, has already pulled back on their language that they say could have been "misconstrued" to imply African Americans were better off under slavery. They have said nothing about the covert "quiverful" code language embedded in their pledge.
Stephen Haynes, at a blog called "Truth and Justice for All," says self-effacingly:
As comprehensive and adequate as may have been my own denunciation of the FAMiLY Leader’s “Vow” yesterday, more important is that one Republican Presidential hopeful actually said it better.... Good stuff!
Radley Balko asks at The Agitator:
Think any other GOP candidate will have the guts to do this?
Boy Box Rebellion also republished excerpts of Governor Johnson's statement, as did Pak Starz, Bruce Majors, and the NH Insider.

Stephen H. Miller notes on the Culture Watch page of the Independent Gay Forum:
Former 2-term New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Gary Johnson says that the Christian right’s anti-gay “family leader pledge,” which other GOP White House contenders are jumping to sign, “gives Republicans a bad name.” Too bad the media refuses to take Johnson’s presidential bid seriously (unlike, say, Herman Cain, with no government experience), but he doesn’t fit into their political narrative.
Ian Awesome, who blogs at OneAngryQueer, says that Governor Johnson
is one guy that I might want to hang out with! He's the first (and I wonder if any more will join him) GOP candidate to speak out against against this piece of hate speech titled "The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family."
John Cole titles his post on Governor Johnson (on Balloon Juice) "Good for Gary Johnson," while Fred's Humboldt Blog's headline is the encouraging, "GO Gary Johnson." Another widely-read blogger, Joe.My.God., simply calls it "Quote of the Day - Gary Johnson." (For what it's worth, the headline Fox News commentator Alan Colmes uses is the wordy "Gary Johnson Would Take The Republican Party To A Much Healthier Place.")

Kyle Luebke writes about Governor Johnson's statement at An Enduring Vision:
Good for him!! I have always said that the only way that the Republicans will be able to win in the next election is to focus exclusively on economic and fiscal issues, rather than the divisive social issues that rile its base. As Johnson aptly point out, independent voters overwhelmingly reject the radical positions of the social conservative element of the Republican party. Sadly, Gary Johnson's words will most likely fall on deaf ears, for instead of opening itself and becoming an inclusive "big tent" party, it is running in the opposite direction to pander to its radical base.

Rule #1 of American politics - appease your base while at the same time attract independents. Without independents, a presidential candidate will NEVER be able to win an election.
Timothy Kincaid's analysis at Box Turtle Bulletin begins:
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has a bit of an unusual position in the candidacy for Republican presidential nominee. Although as a two term governor he is probably the most qualified candidate, he is not as well known as some of his more colorful opponents.
Kincaid then adds:
... it is of immense value to have Gov. Johnson respond to the blatantly and unapologetically homophobic “marriage pledge” proposed by anti-gay activist group Family Leader.
And he concludes:
I’m impressed. This goes far beyond “i don’t sign pledges” or even “this might be offensive to some”. He even uses the b-word.
Several web sites and blogs mention that Johnson's campaign, on the heels of his outspoken criticism of the social conservatives' totalitarian temptation, also released a low-key video entitled "Gary Johnson 2012: 'Tolerance is American'."

The one-minute video can be seen here:
Under the video on YouTube, one finds this text in the info-box:
https://donate.garyjohnson2012.com It's not American to give rights to one group, but not to another. It's not American to stir up irrational fears about other Americans' religious beliefs. It's not American to discriminate against others for the way they were born. It's not American to use the federal government to override the decisions of the states. Tolerance is American. Gary Johnson 2012.
Read aloud against the musical backdrop of "America the Beautiful," those are stirring and, sadly, controversial words.

Gary Johnson has come out swinging against the intolerant within his own party, recognizing that American voters as a whole are far more accepting of their neighbors' differences than some prominent GOP activists and officeholders are. He acknowledges in voters what Reason editors Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie describe in their just-published book, The Declaration of Independents:
There's also a growing recognition that disagreements about lifestyle, drug use, the role of religion, and more are better hashed out in the marketplace of ideas rather than through the passage of contentious laws. Those pushing for smaller government are not some sort of reactionary John Birch Society recoiling from a world that might pollute our precious bodily fluids. By all indicators, Americans are more comfortable with ethnic, social, gender, cultural, and religious differences than ever before [pp. 32-32].
Everyone agrees that, given the received wisdom that voters in key Republican primary states (with the exception of New Hampshire, some say) are in the thrall of social and religious conservatives, for Gary Johnson not just to refuse to sign the Family Leader pledge but to condemn it is a gutsy move. He risks alienating a core constituency, the pundits say.

But isn't that what true leadership is all about?
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interviews with U.S. Senate Candidates

George Allen and Tim Kaine in Crozet on July 2
Almost a year remains before Virginia Republican voters will choose their U.S. Senate candidate in a statewide primary.  (Traditionally, Virginia has primary elections on the second Tuesday in June.  This year, because of post-census redistricting, primary elections for state and local offices will be on August 23.)  Former Governor and Senator George F. Allen is widely seen as the favorite to win the GOP nomination, although he has several rivals who are contesting the 2012 primary.

It is fairly certain that former Governor Tim Kaine will be the Democratic nominee, although there remains a possibility that Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA3) will enter the race.  Scott had previously said that he would reveal his intentions by July 1, but on that day, he said he was delaying his decision about whether to run.

Since April, I have had several opportunities to interview the various candidates for the U.S. Senate from Virginia.  They are seeking the seat being vacated by Senator Jim Webb (D), who chose to retire after one term.

Among the Republicans, I have not yet been able to interview Northern Virginia businessman Tim Donner or Bishop E. W. Jackson.  At least one of those lacunae will be filled soon, however, because I am scheduled to meet with Mr. Donner in Charlottesville on July 19, and I may also have an opportunity to talk to him in Richmond this coming week.

Last weekend in Crozet, I was able to talk to both former Senator George Allen and former Governor Tim Kaine.  The two rivals were there to march in the annual Independence Day parade sponsored by the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department.  In Allen's case, he didn't so much march in the parade as ride in it -- he was on horseback throughout the route.

In remarks to the crowd at Claudius Crozet Park -- which, I might note, is a private park, not a government-owned park, something I find admirable -- both candidates acknowledged that they are "competitors and friends."  It was clear from their interaction that Allen and Kaine genuinely like each other, even if they disagree on policy issues and are likely to be engaged in a mudslinging, highly-competitive Senate race next year, one that is widely acknowledged by political analysts to be the most closely-contested campaign in the country and consequently one of the most expensive, too.

Before speaking, Allen and Kaine led the revelers in patriotic songs.  (Kaine's voice, especially, is clearly heard over the PA system in the video below.)  They sang one verse each of "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)," "America the Beautiful," and "The Star Spangled Banner."  The songs are introduced by WCHV radio host Joe Thomas, who acted as emcee.
In a flurry of restraint atypical of political candidates, Allen and Kaine -- introduced alphabetically -- limited their remarks to about two minutes each, focusing on the values celebrated by Americans during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. (Video follows.)
I spoke to Kaine just before the program began. We chatted briefly about our shared admiration of composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim. (Both of us were in the audience about two years ago in Richmond, when Sondheim was interviewed by former New York Times drama critic Frank Rich.) Then I asked him about some policy issues, posing the question I try to ask every candidate: How will you earn the votes of libertarian voters? His response, like all of these interviews, was first published on Examiner.com.

From "Tim Kaine argues for balancing individual liberties, communal responsibilities":
Asked how he would appeal to libertarian-minded voters in the coming election campaign, Kaine said that he would talk about his record.

“I am very much a supporter of individual liberties,” he explained, adding that “yet we’re in this mixture, where we have individual liberties -- and that’s the great thing about our country -- but we also have communal responsibilities. Just trying to find that right balance is important.”

Kaine noted that “we do pretty well on that in Virginia. My basic campaign message is, ‘America has challenges, Virginia has answers,’ so I’ll be talking about the way we do it here in Virginia.”
For his part, George Allen had answered my libertarian voters question at Shad Planking in April (see below), so I asked him a different set of questions in Crozet.

From "In Crozet for Independence Day weekend, George Allen warns of ‘perpetual debt'":
Replying to a question from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the pending debt-ceiling vote in Congress, Allen offered his assessment of the situation.

“What I’ve been advocating for many years,” he said, is “that is there needs to be a balanced budget requirement in the federal Constitution, [the] same as we have here in Virginia. I think the President should have line-item veto authority and there should be taxpayer protection.”

A balanced budget amendment “narrowly failed back in the 1990s by one vote,” he explained.

“Can you think of how much better our country could be if that had passed back then?” he asked.

“If I were in the U.S. Senate, I’d be advocating for spending cuts, for curtailing the amount of spending, and putting in real reforms to have ironclad reductions in reforming the way that Washington does business,” Allen said.
My other interviews with Senate candidates took place at the 63rd annual Shad Planking in Wakefield, long seen as the start of the political season in Virginia. In Wakefield, I was able to interview Republican candidates David McCormick, Jamie Radtke, and George Allen, as well as potential Democratic Senate candidate Bobby Scott and current U.S. Senator Mark Warner.

From "Virginia GOP Senate candidate David McCormick touts his business experience":
Asked how he would appeal to libertarian voters, McCormick replied in general terms.

“I’m a very good case for a libertarian or an independent or a conservative,” he said. “They’ll salute the fact that for 29 years I’ve worked with [the] middle class and working class of America. I have such strong independent roots, even though I’m a strong Republican, very conservative on fiscal policy.”

He pointed out that he has “every policy, every solution on my web site” and suggested that “libertarians would love and support my candidacy.”
First-time candidate Jamie Radtke developed a statewide reputation as a leader of the Virginia Tea Party movement. She also answered my question about libertarian voters.

From "Va. Senate candidate Jamie Radtke hopes her message resonates with libertarians":
“Our message is right in line with the libertarian vote,” Radtke said, especially “as far as the spending and the debt and getting the fiscal house in order. The PATRIOT Act is another one that really irritates the libertarian people. Infringing on civil rights is an issue with me, as well. All those things are important.”

She said that when talking about the budget, “you’ve got to look at entitlements” and, from a libertarian point of view, entitlements “should be consumer-driven. People should have skin in the game.”

Things like that, Radtke explained, “resonate with people in the Libertarian Party.”

Even defense spending should be on the table, she said.

“The priority, the absolute priority, 100 percent should be our military and our veterans,” she said, “but the size of the Defense budget is so astronomical that even the Department of Defense is talking about places where there can be savings” without adversely impacting current troops or veterans.

“All of those things,” she concluded, “are things that we have in common” with libertarian voters.
Allen also answered the same question.

From "At his 17th Shad Planking, George Allen lays claim to a ‘libertarian streak’":
Asked how he plans to earn the votes of libertarian-minded Virginians as he seeks the GOP Senate nomination, Allen called himself a “commonsense, Jeffersonian conservative” with “a good libertarian streak in me.”

“I trust free people and free enterprise,” Allen said, “and so long as someone’s not harming someone else, leave them free.”

He added: “I don’t like limits and restrictions. That’s borne out by my views on requiring a balanced budget in the Constitution” and a line-item veto to restrain the federal government.

“I like lower taxes,” Allen said, noting he has “always been one for lower taxes on business owners and individuals and families.”
While his colleague Jim Webb was not present, Virginia's junior senator, Mark Warner, was at Shad Planking this year. Warner talked about the budget and answered my question about libertarian voters.

From "At Shad Planking, Virginia Senator Mark Warner says ‘budget situation is dire’":
Warner also addressed a political question: How can Democratic candidates earn the votes of libertarian-minded voters?

“That’s a challenge,” he conceded, though “it depends on, in a certain way, how ‘libertarian’?”

That is, he continued, “if you believe that there is no role for government in virtually anything, it may be a struggle.”

Warner noted, however, “on the other hand, I think Democrats generally believe on social issues there should be less government involvement. Oftentimes Republicans believe in more government involvement on the social issues and less on the government side. I think there is a balance there.”

Pausing briefly, Warner then suggested an approach that voters could take in choosing which candidates to support.

“I actually think,” he said, “whether a libertarian or anyone else, my advice to people is try to find candidates who can (1) actually read a balance sheet and (2) who are rational.”
Finally, Congressman Bobby Scott -- still a potential (and undeclared) candidate for the Democratic Party's U.S. Senate nomination -- answered a few questions.

From "Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott weighs in on budget’s ‘tough choices’":
Democratic candidates can attract the votes of libertarian-minded voters, Scott said, “if we stand up for the principles that we usually stand up for, that is, investments in our future, education, scientific research, making sure young people can go to college, mak[ing] sure the elderly are cared for [and that] children get off on the right track so that they have opportunities.”

Scott pointed out that not only was the federal budget balanced during the Clinton administration, but the country was on track to pay off the national debt, a situation that has changed severely in the past decade.

“So what do we need to be doing to attract votes?” he asked.

Democrats must “do what we traditionally did,” Scott answered. “We’re fiscally responsible, we want to invest in education and the future of America, and, hopefully, people will respond to that message.”
As a point of information, excerpts of my interview with Senator Jim Webb at Piedmont Virginia Community College earlier this year can be seen at "Jim Webb Visits PVCC" on this blog.

UPDATE, July 20:  I conducted an interview with GOP candidate Tim Donner in Richmond on July 12.  This resulted in two articles for Examiner.com:  "Virginia GOP Senate candidate Tim Donner claims ‘deep’ libertarian roots," published on July 18, and "Va. GOP Senate candidate Tim Donner discusses the debt ceiling and tax reform," published on July 20.

In the first, Donner said that he had a long libertarian pedigree:
“My libertarian roots go pretty deep,” Donner said, “back to when my father was heavily involved in the founding of National Review magazine.”

Joseph Donner, he explained, was “a good friend of William F. Buckley and I grew up around William F. Buckley and his family. Buckley often called himself a libertarian, even though he’s known more as a conservative.” (The title of one of Buckley’s books is Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist.)

“As the years go by,” Donner continued, “I’ve become more and more libertarian.”
In the second article, Donner discussed some policy issues, including the impending debt-ceiling vote in Congress (with a Damoclean deadline of August 2) and a comparison of the flat tax and the Fair Tax:
Donner also weighed the pros and cons of two popular proposals for federal tax reform, the Flat Tax (the centerpiece of Steve Forbes’ 1996 presidential campaign) and the Fair Tax (popularized by radio talk-show host Neal Boortz).

“The pros of a Flat Tax,” he explained, “are that it will simplify an overly complex tax system. It will broaden the tax base because more people will pay income tax. More people will therefore have ‘skin in the game,’ so to speak.”

These new taxpayers, he said, will “have a stake in the system and therefore be more interested and involved in what their government is doing -- and more informed and educated citizens is always a good thing.”
I expect to have more opportunities over the next year or so as these candidates hit the campaign trail and make public appearances as they hustle for votes and money.


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Friday, July 01, 2011

'Beaded Curtain'

The other night, during his Tweets and emails segment, TV's Craig Ferguson naughtily coined a phrase:  "beaded curtain."

Well, he didn't coin it per se; the two-word term has been around for a long, long time.  What he did was add an air of mystery to it, making it a sexually suggestive phrase.

Shortly after the show signed off for the night, I signed on to Urban Dictionary to submit a new definition:

A vaguely sexual allusion intended to distract and confuse network television censors. Originally used by CBS late-night host Craig Ferguson on June 29, 2011, in response to a question posed by a viewer via email.

Geoff Peterson: "I enjoy a good beaded curtain now and again."
Craig Ferguson: "Go ahead, censors, look it up. We'll wait."
To my surprise and disappointment, Urban Dictionary rejected my submission.

I think that web site will come to regret this decision. "Beaded curtain" in this sense is going to begin to take root. The Robot Skeleton Army (the Craig Ferguson fan club, so to speak) has already taken up the cause of adding "beaded curtain" to the national lexicon:
Is Beaded Curtain a Thing?

If it wasn’t, it is now. Craig and Geoff’s conversation about beaded curtains got the RSA’s @doxieone1 inspired to come up with a fun poster.
Here's a link to that poster, which shows Geoff Peterson behind a beaded curtain.

I predict you'll be hearing the phrase "beaded curtain" before too long, and you'll titter when you hear it. (And maybe titter about it on Twitter soon afterward.)
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