Sunday, September 29, 2013

The "Black Name" Hustle

(By Khalid Salaam, The Shadow League, 27 June 2013)

Jabari, Shaniqua, Calasia, Rasul, Mustafa, Imani, Tyquan, Tyesha.
David, Sarah, Sean, Michael, Nicole, James, Samantha, Sarah, Alex.

Two sets of names. Two sets of realities. Ask yourself which one you prefer. How you feel about them says everything about who you are and what you are. Names matter, because a name is often the first thing you learn about a new person and it impacts the shape of things to come.  So, if you think that the names mentioned in the first line are, for instance, “made up” names, I won’t argue with you. In fact, I agree. But I need you to agree with me on this statement: The names in the second line are made up, too. Before we go further, you’ll need to reconcile those thoughts, because all names are made up. Including yours.

When Kanye West and Kim Kardashian revealed their new daughter’s name as North, it set into motion the usual backlash against celebrity names: that they are trying to be different for different’s sake and handcuffing their child to a life of ridicule. Maybe they are, but that’s sort of beside the point. People don’t care about that particular child’s life; they are reacting to their conditioning. A conditioning that says there are only a few acceptable names and anything else is uncivilized.

Conveniently enough, it’s NBA Draft season, where over the last couple of weeks the public has learned the bios of potential new players. Where they’re from, their height and weight, and which position they are projected for are amongst the information gathered. However, the first thing we’ll learn is how to pronounce and spell a new group of names.  Some names will be those of players from overseas, but most will be those of American kids. Not only that, it’s likely that these will be names that you’ve never seen before.  They’re unofficially called “black names.”
Sports fans have become very familiar with these names. Around the late ’80s and early ’90s, we started seeing an influx of Maliks and Jamals, and since then, we’ve seen the proliferation of these names burst into the mainstream. On Thursday, UGA’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will continue the tradition. Over the last dozen years, the NBA has welcomed players with distinguished monikers such as Stromile Swift, Keyon Dooling, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tayshaun Prince, Marreese Speights, Markieff Morris and DeAndre Jordan. Each of the names only representing a small fraction of what has become an increasingly popular phenomenon. The sports world, as has often been the case in American diversity inclusion, is ahead of the curve here. (The NFL PA President is named DeMaurice Smith, after all.)

In April’s NFL Draft, we had a treasure chest of names, arguably hitting the zenith of this movement. Making their respective debuts in the fall will be Cordarrelle Patterson, Sharrif Floyd, Kenjon Barner, Shamarko Thomas and the very awesome Barkevious Mingo.  Having one of these unique names isn’t a deterrent in a career of pro sports. Franchises don’t care what your name is; you have value as long as you have the ability to do your job.  For the rest of the world, however, it’s not nearly as simple.   For Americans, the majority of the names we believe are standard and correct are rooted in Northern European and Protestant ancestry. Handles such as Charles, Robert, William, Diana and Ann are revered for their strength and beauty.  There’s a list of roughly 20 names included in this category of reverence. Virtually unchanged for centuries, these names have lived a charmed, bulletproof existence. Toward the end of the 19th Century and well into the beginning of the 20th (roughly defined as the Industrial Revolution), when scores of people from Eastern and Southern Europe came to America, they brought with them their customs and culture. This included, of course, their names.
More “ethnic” and “exotic” than their already established neighbors, they faced various levels of discrimination. Though it wasn’t a legal mandate, the pressure to assimilate was powerful. Not adopting American culture was seen as disrespectful. However, over the decades, their culture (and names especially) became commonplace and gained admission into the mainstream.  For blacks, there wasn’t a need to change family names for societal inclusion. Being “let in” wasn’t an option during those years anyway. The names they held were passed down from previous generations, each one sharpened by the razor edge of forced acceptance.
Both first and last names generally fell in line with the popular names of American society. Desperate for any sort of insertion into the majority, parents weren’t going to joke around with some random name just to be creative. This went on until the latter part of the ’60s and early ’70s, when self-determination became a part of the new normal. In an effort to gain a bit of that shiny new black empowerment being bandied about, parents introduced new names to the lexicon and redefined what it meant to be an American.  These so-called “black names” were and continue to be, to put it lightly, clowned unmercifully.

There is a clip from a Comedy Central show called The Jeselnik Offensive, in which the host introduces a game show called “Black Name Spelling Bee.”   There is another clip by the duo Key and Peele, where they act as college football players with, shall we say, colorful names.  Don’t feel bad if you laughed, because I almost passed out the first time I saw this. But the larger issue is far from funny. Black names, by and large, are identified as markers for those with limited intelligence, suspect morals, criminal activity and impoverished upbringing.  This assessment can rear its ugly head in such arenas as loan applications, school admissions policies and employment opportunities. It’s nothing but a modern form of redlining.
As made famous by the myriad studies done on the topic, hiring managers, for reasons not fully explained, systematically disregard résumés with names they deem as “especially black.”  The hiring managers can usually skate away on their prejudice, with the fault falling on the applicants for having the gall to write such hideous names down on résumés. Their antiquated, stereotypical thoughts are left to shine in the sun, while a qualified applicant is left rejected.  But when the onion is peeled back, you’ll find that it has less to do with the actual name and more to do with who has it. For example, according to the Social Security Agency in 2012, the fastest rising name in the US was, wait for it… Arya. As in, the young heroine from the Game Of Thrones.   Under no circumstances will this name ever be thought of under the same racialized parameters. TV show-derived or not. If anything, it will likely be praised for its individuality.

Remember earlier this year at the Oscar Awards, when the young actress Quvenzhané Wallis was being interviewed by a reporter who, showing a tremendous lack of decorum and professionalism, decided Wallis’ name was too difficult to pronounce and decided that she would call her “Annie.” (Wallis is playing the title character in an upcoming film version of the classic play.) Wallis was not feeling the name switch and instead of grinning and bearing it, responded honestly, explaining that she didn’t want to answer to an arbitrary name just because the reporter was too lazy to do her job.  In the Oscar Nominee Luncheon before the ceremony, she even hipped the press on how to pronounce her name.
Even though a large portion of the public came to her side (the rest went to comment threads and predictably rallied against her name), the larger point was missed.  The argument is not whether or not Wallis, or anyone with a similar name, has a fake, made-up name. The discussion should revolve around the fact that we all, essentially, have fake, made-up names.  Names don’t exist on the periodic table. They don’t exist along with the wind and water as elements that can be processed. They’re not food that grows on trees. Names are just a group of sounds, constructed to assign everyone a particular designation. Names aren’t special on their own. What gives them importance is who assigns them and who receives them. If the person with the name is of high esteem and their opinions are valued, the name is treated as such. And vice versa.

Several years ago, I was talking with a former co-worker about world history. Somehow the name Tyrone came up and with it, all the indulgent stereotypes associated with that name-  sheisty, raggedy, and uncouth. Erykah Badu used that name for a reason. There’s been a Tyrone character in 80 percent of all black sitcoms. It’s “our” name­- except that it isn’t. As I explained to my friend, Tyrone is straight-up Irish.  Want proof of its old popularity? There are eight states with a city named Tyrone still on their registries. It was a popular name in white families for years. For reasons unbeknownst, it fell out of favor and became a black name, assigned to asthma patients, dimly lit project hallways and ex-cons. Other black sounding names include Tanya and Tasha, which are both Russian names, and Reggie and Marcus, which are both Latin in origin.  Here’s a list of Irish names that most people just assume are black: Shayla, Kayla, Brianna, Kiara and Kira. I can go on and on, here, but hopefully, the point is understood. This is where the ignorance lives, in these hidden places where assumptions turn into granite.
When black people attach value to a certain thing, that thing loses its luster. The thinking seems to be anything that Black America deems important ––fried chicken, hip-hop­, etc –– must be bad.  That’s why certain names deemed simply as “black” are actually either Arabic or come from any of the several dozen African countries with large numbers of American immigrants. Names like Hassan, Khadijah and Imani. These names have existed as long, if not longer, than their European contemporaries. But since their popularity in the US lies in Black Americana, we don’t have to care about them.  The name Diamond is considered a black name and the name Rose, a white name. Diamond is a stone; rose is a plant. Neither has religious identification and yet, they have totally different connotations.  Critics advise against naming your kids after alcoholic drinks like Hennessy. And yet, there are thousands of little girls named Brandy.

There has always been a sentiment, mostly in upwardly mobile black communities, that naming children after intimate objects, such as a Mercedes Benz, is a terrible example of hood materialism. Meanwhile, the Oscar Award-winning actress Mercedes Rhuel has likely never had to defend her name.   There was a report engineered by Harvard professor LaTanya Sweeney earlier this year, in which she revealed that so-called black names like LeRoy and Kareem were, when googled, more likely to trigger incarceration ads on a search screen.  Sweeney’s paper found that the prejudice that exists could have catastrophic effects on the overall upward mobility potential of someone who, without those biases, would likely reach many of their goals. 
“names, previously identified by others as being assigned at birth to more black or white babies, are found predictive of race and those assigned primarily to black babies, such as DeShawn, Darnell and Jermaine, generated ads suggestive of an arrest in 81 to 86 percent of name searches on one website and 92 to 95 percent on the other, while those assigned at birth primarily to whites, such as Geoffrey, Jill and Emma, generated more neutral copy.”

 We’ve known that certain names impact hiring potential. The critics decry the difficulty in pronouncing and spelling popular black names, and argue that the difficulty is the reason they are dismissed. Yet, we as a society learned how to spell Gwyneth Paltrow, Miley Cyrus and ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos (not to mention CNN’s George Stroumboulopoulos) . As far as I can tell, none of their names have been mocked. Their names have not stifled their upside one bit.  I’m not naïve. I understand that there are societal agreements that become social constructs. Every culture has them and there are plenty of these constructs that I agree with. Just because I like certain names, and dislike others like Margaret or Fred, doesn’t mean that I or anyone should get to arbitrarily crap on anyone’s name.
I didn’t think President Obama could get over that name hurdle when he first ran for the White House.  There was a great deal of attention paid to his middle name during his first run, and I was surprised that he’s wasn’t disabled because of that. Maybe a stronger ticket than McCain/Palin would have beaten him. Speaking of which, I actually like the names that Sarah Palin chose for her children- Trig, Bristol, Willow and Track  However, they are certainly made-up in the same way that LaMarcus and Shamika are made-up. There’s zero difference. All that post-racism stuff we keep talking about, this is where the proof of it has to manifest. What good is it if people sign petitions and pass laws, if a name like Tyreke can get judged without merit.

As “unique” names flood the mainstream populace, there has been an uptick in the frequency of different names. According to the baby name website, Nameberrysome of the popular mainstream names for 2013 include “Eponine,” “Kirrily,” and “Adelina.”  Exactly.  What will be interesting to see is if these names are shunned. If, via a large scale pushback, these names will be considered unworthy, ignorant and “ghetto.”  If these catch on, and their parents are made into semi-celebrities for being creative, then we’ll know for sure that the double standard is truly vicious.  In a world where US Senator Sherrod Brown is white and former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb is black, open-mindedness is a real asset. Diversity can’t just be a word tossed around in corporate seminars. It has to matter in a tangible way. And that includes people with “Moozlum” names, like you know, the one I have.

Christmas Miscellanea

Ruckus Around The Christmas Tree - As Usual
(By Penne L.  Restad, Washington Post)

     At last, Christmas morning.  May we now declare a truce in the Christmas culture war? All those poor salespeople who struggled to remember whether company policy was to greet shoppers with "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" are free to relax and settle down around their Christmas tree or holiday tree or whatever other seasonal symbol they prefer and celebrate in their own private way.  For celebrating Christmas is something that almost all of us, apparently, do.  A recent poll says 96 percent of Americans observe the holiday in some way or another.  In my house, the children, old enough to have wised up to Santa, waited patiently for us to build a fire and make coffee before they retrieved their old sequined red-felt stockings.  Next came the gifts.  I come from a tradition of morning openers.  Some families insist on Christmas Eve, but that's not our way.  At some point, we'll prepare dinner, but not for a while.  And so it goes, as it has gone in my family -- and in most of America -- for generations.  Christmas has been our nation's most important holiday for well over a hundred years.  But culturally, it's always been more than a religious day, however much the people who have pushed so hard this year to put "Christ back in Christmas" wish it weren't so.  Moreover, just like this year, it has always been fraught with tensions.

     From a rowdy public festival that upset Puritan sensibilities, it gradually came to center on home and family.  But even then it generated complaints.  People worried whether stockings full of toys and treats would spoil their children.  They fretted over finding the appropriate gifts.  And certainly over this: "Christmas has become too commercial." (What I want someone to tell me is: How much is just enough commercial?)  These past few seasons have been different.  Yes, Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year (at least one person is obligated to say this each October).  But as our nation becomes more diverse, we seem to be getting more and more confused about the holiday.  I found this season particularly difficult.  Whenever a salesclerk rang up my purchases and said "Merry Christmas!" I sized her up.  What did she mean by that?  Who told her to say that?  If I don't say "Merry Christmas" back, will she think I'm an atheist?  I became equally suspicious of the salesperson who exclaimed, "Happy Holidays!" Did I have to say the same back to him?  "Happy Holidays" as a greeting had actually served me well for a long time, especially with strangers.  I didn't care if they were observant Christians or Wiccans or Jews or Buddhists.  I just wanted to share a good feeling.  But now there are those who want to establish Christmas firmly as a Christian holiday.  Others protest that this is tyranny.  A vast middling sector feels something like Rudolph caught in the headlights.

     The battle of Season's Greetings got me down.  So much controversy.  Perhaps I am just overly sensitive, maybe a bit crabby.  But it all makes me wonder what next season will bring, and the ones in the years following.  For all of us, this year's Christmas culture war raised key questions about the holiday.  What is Christmas?  Who owns it?  Do we need it?  What will happen to Christmas as we know it?  As someone who has studied the history of the holiday in this country, I know this isn't the first war over Christmas.  Its very origin almost guaranteed controversy.  The Church created Christmas in 4th century Rome to compete with a December Saturnalia that had become increasingly focused on the veneration of Mithras, the sun god.  Faced with what appeared to be the emergence of a competing monotheism, the Christian fathers countered with a Feast of the Nativity to be celebrated, strategically, on Dec. 25, in the very midst of the Roman revels.  That Christmas survived for centuries after was due to the fact that it made ample room for the profane.  The Pilgrims and Puritans who settled New England 13 centuries later attempted to deal with Christmas by banning it.  The Bible, they pointed out, makes no reference to an invented birthday for Jesus, let alone advocates revelry.  When Plymouth Colony's Gov. William Bradford awoke one Christmas day to find that many of the non-Pilgrim colonists were in the streets, rowdily playing ball and generally having a very good time, he was angry, and scolded them for disrupting the settlement.  If you have to keep Christmas, he warned, do it inside and out of our sight.

     But generally, there were few quarrels about keeping Christmas in the colonies.  Beyond New England, most other settlements varied in their tolerance and observance.  Traditional religious and folk customs dictated the Christmases most settlers kept.  America had become host to such a variety of Protestant denominations that their local practices produced not one American interpretation of Christmas, but many.  Pennsylvania's Quakers, for example, had long testified against the keeping of Christmas.  Episcopalians brought fresh greenery into their churches.  Where Germans lived, Belsnickel, a sort of furry, stricter version of Santa Claus, demanded that children properly recite Bible verses.  In the late 1700s, Philip Vickers Fithian, a New Jersey tutor at Nomini Hall in Virginia, experienced the schoolboys' ritual of locking the school master out of the school, a prelude to a holiday of "Balls, the Fox-hunts, the fine entertainments, and the good fellowship." The Christmas sermon, he noted, lasted but 15 minutes.  In the 1820s things began to change.  Rapid growth, a thriving middle class and flourishing commerce heralded the emergence of the nation's market economy and a new, more standardized Christmas.  It took shape in the cities, where residents put a new premium on civility, order and sentiment.  The demands of business compressed the holiday from a season into a single day, and the raucous holiday street antics that had increasingly disrupted property owners ceased.  Respectable citizens moved Christmas into their homes.  They began to decorate Christmas trees, expect a visit from Santa and exchange gifts.  For them, the question was not about religion, but about a well-regulated urban life and a proper place for family within it.

     Moving Christmas off the streets solved some cultural tensions -- only to raise new ones.  These tended to concern the amount of money and work involved in the festival.  Merchants learned to capitalize on the sentiment of the season, and the subsequent intensification of shopping and gift-giving prompted more than one complaint that the holiday had grown wearisome.  "One-half the populace seems possessed of a wild desire to purchase the things the other half has for sale," wrote an editorialist in one late 19th-century newspaper.  But as time passed, the pairing of Christmas and commerce became even more tightly interwoven .  And so it continues to be.  Each year the amount of money spent on the holiday rises -- a new Gallup poll reports that this year the average shopper planned to spend more than $700 on gifts -- something the solvency of countless businesses depends upon.  One might argue that the commercial aspect of Christmas has become the real basis of the culture's December unanimity.  In fact, it is the very promise of a unified culture that has created the latest tensions over December's celebration.  Beginning with the idea that many of us participate in the seasonal buying spree, a vocal argument runs (although it is more unspoken than forthrightly asserted) that we are participating in Christmas as Christians.  Therefore, "Merry Christmas" is the appropriate greeting but this may not be the case.  According to a 2001 study, 77% of Americans identify them-selves as Christian.  While this is a significant majority, it indicates that- if the 96 percent Christmas-observers figure holds true- some 19 percent of us who just opened gifts aren't necessarily Christians.

     As we contemplate the meaning of Christmas this year, should some portion of the society be excluded from participating in our nation's foremost holiday? I hope not.  I think the festival is more expansive and generous than that.  Yes, we all come together in the public marketplace, but privately each of us highlights different aspects of the holiday.  Maybe Christmas means doing something for someone less fortunate, or honoring Jesus's birth, or singing with a community of believers in church, or taking joy in children's delight -- or even savoring a Chinese meal and taking in a movie.  The point is that we all find "merry" in our own particular way.  It is not a matter of a consensus of speech, and certainly not of belief.  No, I see our celebration of Christmas as uniquely American -- it invites free expression.  For Christmas to survive (and I'm sure business will adapt to meet whatever it determines the consumer wants so that it can ensure this), our private Christmases must continue to hold meaning for us.  So, I'm still confused.  The historian in me knows that Christmas is always changing, but I have no idea how we might celebrate the holiday, say, 50 or 100 years from now -- except that it won't be the same.  I just know that last evening, finally, it all quieted down.  I went home, closed the door (gently), and have been enjoying my private Christmas ever since.  I hope that all of you, in your own ways, are too.

Chistmas Carols For The Psychologically Challenged:

1. SCHIZOPHRENIA: Do You Hear What We Hear?

2. AMNESIA:  I Don't Know If I'll Be Home for Christmas.

3. NARCISSIST:   Hark The Herald Angels Sing - All About Me.

4. MANIC:   Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and Fire Hydrants, and....

5. MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER:   We Three Queens Disoriented Are.

6. PARANOID:  - Santa Claus Is Coming To Get Me.

7. BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER:   Thoughts Of Roasting On An Open Fire.

8. FULL PERSONALITY DISORDER:   You Better Watch Out! I'm Gonna Cry; I'm Gonna Pout!  Maybe I'll Tell You Why.

9. OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER:   Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,

10. AGORAPHOBIA:   I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day, But Wouldn't Leave My House.

11. SENILE DEMENTIA:   Walking in a Winter Wonderland:   Miles From My House In My Slippers & Robe.

12. OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANCE DISORDER:   I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - So I Burned Down the House.

13. SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER:   Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, While I Sit Here & Hyperventilate.

14. ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER:   We Wish You .. . . Hey Look!!!  It's Snowing!!!

Prince George’s Considers Copyright Policy That Takes Ownership Of Students’ Work

(By Ovetta Wiggins, Washington Post, 2 February 2013)

A proposal by the Prince George’s County Board of Education to copyright work created by staff and students for school could mean that a picture drawn by a first-grader, a lesson plan developed by a teacher or an app created by a teen would belong to the school system, not the individual.  The measure has some worried that by the system claiming ownership to the work of others, creativity could be stifled and there would be little incentive to come up with innovative ways to educate students. Some have questioned the legality of the proposal as it relates to students.  “There is something inherently wrong with that,” David Cahn, an education activist who regularly attends county school board meetings, said before the board’s vote to consider the policy. “There are better ways to do this than to take away a person’s rights.”

If the policy is approved, the county would become the only jurisdiction in the Washington region where the school board assumes ownership of work done by the school system’s staff and students.  David Rein, a lawyer and adjunct law professor who teaches intellectual property at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, said he had never heard of a local school board enacting a policy allowing it to hold the copyright for a student’s work.  Universities generally have “sharing agreements” for work created by professors and college students, Rein said. Under those agreements, a university, professor and student typically would benefit from a project, he said.  “The way this policy is written, it essentially says if a student writes a paper, goes home and polishes it up and expands it, the school district can knock on the door and say, ‘We want a piece of that,’ ” Rein said. “I can’t imagine that.”
The proposal is part of a broader policy the board is reviewing that would provide guidelines for the “use and creation” of materials developed by employees and students. The boards’s staff recommended the policy largely to address the increased use of technology in the classroom.  Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) said she and Vice Chair Carolyn M. Boston (District 6) attended an Apple presentation and learned how teachers can use apps to create new curricula. The proposal was designed to make it clear who owns teacher-developed curricula created while using apps on iPads that are school property, Jacobs said.

It’s not unusual for a company to hold the rights to an employee’s work, copyright policy experts said. But the Prince George’s policy goes a step further by saying that work created for the school by employees during their own time and using their own materials is the school system’s property.  Kevin Welner, a professor and director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said the proposal appears to be revenue-driven. There is a growing secondary online market for teacher lesson plans, he said.  “I think it’s just the district saying, ‘If there is some brilliant idea that one of our teachers comes up with, we want be in on that. Not only be in on that, but to have it all,’ ” he said.
Welner said teachers have always looked for ways to develop materials to reach their students, but “in the brave new world of software development, there might be more opportunity to be creative in ways that could reach beyond that specific teacher’s classroom.”  Still, Welner said he doesn’t see the policy affecting teacher behavior.  “Within a large district, there might be some who would invest a lot of time into something that might be marketable, but most teachers invest their time in teaching for the immediate need of their students and this wouldn’t change that,” he said. 

But it is the broad sweep of the proposed policy that has raised concerns.  “Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George’s County Public Schools or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee’s or student’s time and with the use of their materials,” the policy reads. “Further, works created during school/work hours, with the use of school system materials, and within the scope of an employee’s position or student’s classroom work assignment(s) are the properties of the Board of Education.”  Questioned about the policy after it was introduced, Jacobs said it was never the board’s “intention to declare ownership” of students’ work.  “Counsel needs to restructure the language,” Jacobs said. “We want the district to get the recognition . . . not take their work.”  Jacobs said last week that it was possible amendments could be made to the policy at the board’s next meeting. The board approved the policy for consideration by a vote of 8 to 1 last month but has removed the item from its agenda Thursday. 
School systems in the Washington region have policies that address the use of copyrighted materials, but none has rules that allow ownership of what a student creates, officials said. Some do address ownership of employees’ work.  The District holds common law copyright, at a minimum, to all relevant intellectual property its city and school employees create, a spokeswoman said.  In Montgomery County, the school system says supplies, equipment or instructional materials that are made by a school employee using “substantial time, facilities or materials” belonging to the system become the property of the public schools. If the activity is performed partially on private time and partially on public time, the school superintendent will approve the arrangement, according to the district’s conflict-of-interest policy.  Peter Jaszi, a law professor with the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic at American University, called the proposal in Prince George’s “sufficiently extreme.”

Jaszi said the policy sends the wrong message to students about respecting copyright. He also questioned whether the policy, as it applies to students, would be legal.  He said there would have to be an agreement between the student and the board to allow the copyright of his or her work. A company or organization cannot impose copyright on “someone by saying it is so,” Jaszi said. “That seems to be the fundamental difficulty with this.”  Cahn said he understands the board’s move regarding an employee’s work, but he called the policy affecting the students “immoral.”  “It’s like they are exploiting the kids,” he said. 
For Adrienne Paul and her sister, Abigail Schiavello, who wrote a 28-page book more than a decade ago in elementary school for a project that landed them a national television interview with Rosie O’Donnell and a $10,000 check from the American Cancer Society, the policy — had it been in effect — would have meant they would not have been able to sell the rights to “Our Mom Has Cancer.”   Dawn Ackerman, their mother, said she would have obtained legal advice if there had been a policy like the one being considered when her daughters wrote their book about her fight against cancer 14 years ago.  “I really would have objected to that,” Ackerman said.  Paul agreed, saying the policy seems to be ill-conceived. It could stifle a child’s creativity and strip students and their families of what is rightfully theirs, she said.  “I think if you paint a picture, publish a book or create an invention as a kid, your family — certainly not the school board — should have the rights to that,” she said.


Friday, September 27, 2013


Oscars Revamp Animation Nomination Process
(By Scott Feinberg , Hollywood Reporter, 27 September 2013)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will soon announce changes to the way it picks its best animated feature and shorts nominees for the Oscars, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The move will make it easier for more of its 6,000 or so members to participate in the decision-making process, and almost certainly lead to a marked increase in the number of people who actually determine the nominees.

Nominees in those categories historically have been chosen by only a relatively small number of Los Angeles-based volunteers. Half have been members of the Short Films and Animated Feature branch and half have been members of one the Academy's other branches, but all have had to be not only unaffiliated with any of the movies in contention, but also available to attend L.A. screenings of the eligible films over several Sundays starting in November. This group is known as the Animated Feature Film Award Screening Committee.
The new rule change will enable Academy members who are based outside of the L.A. area to serve on the Screening Committee, as well, by permitting them to weigh the eligible films by watching them on DVD or Blu-Ray screeners, as opposed to having to attend the official screenings.  This decision is consistent with other recent Academy efforts to find ways to include more members in more voting decisions. For instance, the Academy recently began providing screeners of all of the nominated documentary features, animated shorts, documentary shorts and live-action shorts to all members of the Academy, so that they can easily see and weigh in on the final outcome in those races. And it recently announced plans to send all of the nominated foreign language films to the entire membership, as well.
The entire Short Films and Feature Animation branch -- which is currently composed of roughly 400 members and chaired by Jon Bloom, who also serves as one of its reps on the Board of Governors, along with Disney-Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and Bill Kroyer -- still does not get to determine its corresponding nominees, though, unlike most of the Academy's other branches. This is apparently because some fear that branch members might just vote in blocks on behalf of their respective studios' contender(s) -- as the entire Academy once did when actors, producers, directors, writers, execs and publicity people were under contract to specific studios -- which would give an unfair advantage to studios that are heavily represented (i.e. Disney-Pixar, etc.) over studios that are not (i.e. GKIDS). The Annie Awards are often criticized for this sort of thing.

The Academy was not available for comment.


Why Oscar Snubbed Pixar, 'Tintin,' 'Arthur Christmas' for Best Cartoon
(By Gregg Kilday, Hollywood Reporter, Feb 7, 2012)

When the Academy Award nominations were announced Jan. 24, most of Hollywood was waiting to see which films would emerge as best picture contenders. But within the smaller, intensely competitive animation community, the focus was on its own feature nominees, and in that category the results were shocking.  Sure, both of DreamWorks Animation's 2011 entries, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots, made the cut, as did Gore Verbinski's Rango. But where were Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin and Pixar's Cars 2, not to mention Sony/Aardman Animations' Arthur Christmas or Fox's Rio? Instead, two obscure, foreign-language, hand-drawn animated movies, Chico & Rita and A Cat in Paris, rounded out the list of nominees.

Insiders at the various companies snubbed were stunned, though none wanted to go on record with their displeasure. By way of explanation, one Academy member says of the voters: "They were sending a message. They are against motion capture and kids' movies, and they want to save hand-drawn animation."  Well, yes and no. Many traditional animators are suspicious of motion capture or, as it's also known, performance capture, in which actors' performances are fed into a computer. In 2010, they succeeded in adding a line to the Oscar rule book that says, "Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique." That doesn't rule out mo-cap movies; it just means that they must prove they include frame-by-frame animation as well.  In addition to Tintin, two other motion-capture movies, Happy Feet 2 and Mars Needs Moms, were entered; all three were judged sufficiently animated to proceed. (The only movie that ran afoul of Academy rules was The Smurfs, a live-action/animation hybrid that was found not to contain enough actual animation.)

But the fact that Tintin didn't receive a nom in the animation or visual effects categories and that Andy Serkis wasn't nominated as a supporting actor for his work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes suggest, as Visual Effects Society chair Jeffrey Okun puts it: "The industry is confused. It comes down to, 'What is animation?' That is something everyone has been struggling with."

The Academy's ani noms aren't just about kinds of animation, though. They are made by a committee of slightly fewer than 100 members -- half of them animators from the Academy's short films and feature animation branch and half from throughout the Academy. Each member rates each movie on a scale of six to 10. Says Jon Bloom, chair of the branch's executive committee, "Part of the instructions the committee is given is to consider the entire achievement as a whole, not just its animation." That means story, characters, music and vocal performances all come into play. He says no larger lesson can be drawn from this year's choices beyond the fact that it was a highly competitive year. "My own ballot had many highly rated films, far more than five," he says.

But the final list does appear to favor films with elements that appeal to adults -- such as Antonio Banderas' comic take on a Latin lover in Puss or the Clint Eastwood allusions of Rango. That put Cars 2, which some critics had complained was driven by merchandising, at a disadvantage -- even though it was a pet project of Pixar's John Lasseter, who sits on the Academy's board of governors. So, too, Tintin: The character may be beloved in Europe, but here the movie may have seemed too much of a boys' adventure tale.  Chico & Rita, on the other hand, is a genuinely adult movie -- it even features female nudity -- charting a tempestuous love affair between a Cuban songwriter and a sexy singer, set against a musical backdrop that includes everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Tito Puente. "It's a great, beautiful, adult animated film," says Eric Beckman, who heads the New York-based micro-distributor GKids Films, which will release Chico through its adult Luma Films label. He also is handling A Cat in Paris, which follows a cat burglar across the rooftops of Paris. Of the upset, he says, "In all honesty, I expected we'd get one nomination, but I never thought we'd get two."



•Toy Story 3 -- Disney/Pixar (2011)

•Up -- Disney/Pixar (2010)

•WALL-E -- Disney/Pixar (2009)

•Ratatouille -- Disney/Pixar (2008)

•Happy Feet -- Warners (2007)

•Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit -- DreamWorks/Aardman (2006)

•The Incredibles -- Disney/Pixar (2005)

•Finding Nemo -- Disney/Pixar (2004)

•Spirited Away -- Disney/Studio Ghibli (2003)

•Shrek -- DreamWorks (2002)

RIP, RAY HARRYHAUSEN: The Special-Effects Titan Transformed Fantasy On Film
(By Michael Cavna, WashingtonPost, May 08, 2013)

At just 13, Ray Harryhausen stumbled upon an illusion that changed his life. His parents liked to take him to the picture show — “metropolis,” perhaps, or “The Lost World” — but on this particular day in 1933, he went to see “King Kong.” And there, sitting in the dark, young Raymond Harryhausen saw the light.  “King Kong,” with its beastly brawling, featured the stop-motion mastery of Willis O’Brien. Ray exited the theater “haunted” by the film, he would later say — beguiled by how he had escaped into the surreal from the mundane. He became “a ‘King Kong’ addict.” The boy who made La Brea Tar Pit dioramas in school had just witnessed how one’s sculpted art could gurgle and rattle and slither to life. He would soon learn about stop-motion from a friend’s dad, an employee at RKO, and his garage became his lab, as he played God with his molded model creatures, frame by painstaking frame.

Fast-forward to 1949, and again a stop-motion gorilla fills the silver screen. Again it’s the guiding hand of O’Brien at the animated helm. Only this time, helping to summon most of the magic of motion is Ray Harryhausen. His boyhood addiction has propelled him into the business, to work on “Mighty Joe Young.” He had worked with animation while in the Army. Now, one of the great Hollywood careers is born.  Within several years, Ray Harryhausen would make the first of his several Sinbad adventures, and then came his breakthrough with Warner Bros.’ technically influential “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.” Harryhausen devised camera tricks using rear projection and miniature split-screens and masked-out space, as he mastered how to combine stop-motion and live-action in the same frame. Trick by trick, he became the art form’s greatest magician.
Not long after came his masterpiece, 1963’s “Jason and the Argonauts” — complex, deliberate animation that sometimes yielded only a half-second of footage a day. The live actors tangle convincingly with such creatures as Thalos, the towering bronze statue-defender of Crete, and a sword-wielding army of skeletons. The battle scenes are dynamic, the interaction of flesh and coal-eyed armatures is magnificent, and these scenes will help profoundly influence the next generation of technical wizards.

And here is where the cinematic inheritance has a perfect symmetry. Harryhausen glimpsed his life’s work at age 13. What he, himself, would hand down were stop-motion scenes that had that same enchanting power to inspire young minds.  “I probably wouldn’t be a filmmaker today if it weren’t for him,” Sam Fell, co-director of Laika’s Oscar-nominated stop-motion “ParaNorman,” tells Comic Riffs. “My mum took me as an impressionable 9-year-old to the local cinema to see the Sinbad movies. I was completely enthralled by the exotic locations, the malevolent villains and most of all by the creatures Ray created.  “Those things are still etched in my mind all these years later,” continues Fell, whose credits include “Flushed Away” and “The Tale of Despereaux.”
Aardman Studios’ Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit, “Chicken Run”) has called Harryhausen the grandfather of stop-motion animation. And Steven Spielberg has said that Harryhausen is the father of the business that is filmic science fiction and fantasy and adventure.  “Ray Harryhausen’s impact on an entire generation -- several, actually -- of filmmakers cannot be overstated,” Hal Hickel, animation director at ILM, tells Comic Riffs. “All those animators and visual-effects artists whose lives were changed by their first viewings of ‘Jason and The Argonauts,’ or ‘The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad,’ have gone on to transform the way movies are made. Each of them trying again and again to reproduce the wonder they first felt as a child watching Jason fight those skeletons.”

That skeleton crew of earth-born warriors -- and first experiencing them through a child’s eyes -- has stayed with LucasFilm director/animator Brenda Chapman.  “The film that stands out most in my memory is ‘Jason and the Argonauts,’ “ Chapman, who won an Oscar this year for Pixar’s “Brave,” tells Comic Riffs. “The fighting skeletons in that were absolutely hair-raising to me as a kid! I loved every second they were on screen.”  Through “One Million Years B.C.” and “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” Harryhausen perhaps got to challenge himself most with 1981’s “Clash of the Titans,” as elaborate, ever-kinetic creatures like the serpent-maned Medusa interacted deftly with the live actors.  In 1992, Harryhausen finally was rightly recognized for his genius with an honorary Oscar. 
On Tuesday, Raymond Harryhausen — who was born in Los Angeles in 1920 — died in London, where he had lived since the ‘60s. He was 92.  “We all owe Ray such an enormous debt of gratitude,” Hickel says.  “He changed the movies and he changed me,” Fell says. “What a life!”  “It’s a sad time for the industry -- but Mr. Harryhausen left us a wonderful and inspired legacy,” Chapman says. “He changed how we imagined storytelling on film in bringing these fantastical images to life. He showed us that anything was possible on film.  “I think that Mr. Harryhausen’s spirit will definitely live on through every new innovation in special effects.”  “I’m very happy that so many young fans have told me that my films have changed their lives,” Harryhausen once said, as cited by “That’s a great compliment. It means I did more than just make entertaining films. I actually touched people’s lives — and, I hope, changed them for the better.”  You did, Ray. You did.

Here is Ray, holding the Kong puppet I made as a child. I owe Ray a lifetime of wonder. Thank you sir.…  — hal hickel (@halhickel) May 7, 2013

Anyone in the world of animation, SFX, or fantasy owes everything to Ray Harryhausen. A true legend. RIP Sir. #rayharryhausen  — andrew stanton (@andrewstanton) May 7, 2013

If I believed in God, I'd want him to be like Ray Harryhausen -- nudging us one frame at a time toward the sublime & fantastic.  — Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 7, 2013
RIP Ray Harryhausen. He was a source of inspiration, the master of stop motion, and even a voice actor in Elf. His work still holds up.  — Jon Favreau (@Jon_Favreau) May 7, 2013


Virginia's Governors Race 2013

I am so honestly on the fence about who the vote for this election.  There is the Republican who is so ultra-conservative and intent on imposing his values on people that he borders on fascism and then there is the Democrat who seems to be inept at politics and a failure as a businessman.  So my vote will decide whether I get a governor who forces unsavory ideas down my throat or one who might screw up the state because he doesn't know what he is doing (or who will abdicate responsibility to a more experienced lieutenant while he enjoys the figurehead role of governor.)

Mcauliffe, Cuccinelli Take Their Bitter Battle To The Airwaves
(By Laura Vozzella and Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, 25 September 2013)

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli II brought their bitterly personal battle for governor to a crucial debate in Northern Virginia on Wednesday night, each casting the other as unfit for office, untrustworthy and wrong for the commonwealth.  McAuliffe hammered Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general, on conservative social stances that he contends are too extreme for Virginians. And Cuccinelli said McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who has never held elective office, lacks the gravitas and experience to lead the state.  “There are consequences to this mean-spirit attack on women’s health, on gay Virginians,” McAuliffe said. “If we’re going to build a new economy in Virginia, we’re going to do it by bringing everyone together.”

( Read a transcript of the debate )

Cuccinelli fought back by highlighting two recent business endorsements and the softer side of his record, including working with homeless and mentally ill people, helping to free a wrongly convicted man, and establishing a program to help victims of sexual assaults on college campuses.  “I’m the only candidate in this race with a lifetime of fighting for Virginians,” Cuccinelli said. “I’ve also served in state government for over 10 years. And I know how it works. I’m the only candidate in this race who won’t need on-the-job training.”

The debate came at a pivotal moment in the race for governor, with recent polls showing McAuliffe building a small but solid lead. Yet both candidates carry political baggage that has limited their likability with voters and given each an opening to attack the other.  McAuliffe linked Cuccinelli to the tea party movement that has helped fuel a threat to shut down the federal government, while Cuccinelli cast his opponent as a glib operator who improperly mixes business and politics.  “If Terry becomes governor, we’ll have to change the state’s motto from ‘sic semper tyrannis’ to ‘quid pro quo,’ ” Cuccinelli said.  Earlier, he said: “My opponent has spent a lot of time telling you why you shouldn’t vote for me for governor but not much time telling you why you should vote for him.”

There was no obvious gaffe in the debate, and the sparring ­featured no game-changing ­pronouncements or exchanges. When McAuliffe said he would sign legislation to legalize gay marriage, Cuccinelli corrected him on a point of process: That sort of change would not come by way of a bill but as an amendment to the Virginia Constitution.  Both men ducked questions: McAuliffe on the cost of raising teachers’ salaries, funding pre-kindergarten programs and other priorities on his agenda; Cuccinelli on what tax loopholes he would close to pay for his promised $1.4 billion tax cut. Speaking to reporters afterward, Cuccinelli said it would take him a year to determine what to eliminate.  Cuccinelli also ducked a question about why he accepted $18,000 in gifts from a Richmond area businessman, instead pointing to the fact he met the businessman through Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).

The recent polls highlighted what has become a central theme of the race: Cuccinelli’s record on issues of importance to women. The topic arose during the debate, with McAuliffe casting Cuccinelli as a threat to women, and Cuccinelli on the defensive.  McAuliffe cast himself as a bipartisan businessman who would place the state economy above everything. He emphasized that he would govern as a moderate, repeatedly invoking the word “mainstream” and the fact that some Republicans have crossed party lines to endorse him.  When asked about a Virginia law that prevents many school districts from opening before Labor Day, McAuliffe said he supports it because it helps the tourism industry.  “The tourism business is too important,” he said.  Cuccinelli shot back: “Children outrank tourism.” 

The Republican sought to cast himself as the only experienced leader in the race. His effort to soften his image came just days after two new polls showed that nearly half of all voters view him unfavorably.  Cuccinelli had some of the best lines of the night, which came as a surprise given the former engineer’s generally understated manner and his dour tone in the last debate. “Unlike my opponent, I do my homework,” Cuccinelli said, playing up a narrative that came into focus after McAuliffe bungled an endorsement interview with a business group.

On gun control and the recent Washington Navy Yard shooting, Cuccinelli said the answer was better mental-health care. McAuliffe said he supports universal background checks for gun buyers. On the threat of a government shutdown over whether to defund the Affordable Care Act, Cuccinelli countered that although he wants to defund Obamacare, he also recognizes that both parties must compromise.  “None of us want to see a government shutdown,” Cuccinelli said, declining to say whether he supports efforts by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to delay funding legislation and force a confrontation in Congress. “Since I’m running for governor, this is not the kind of thing you’d see in a Cuccinelli governorship.”  Cuccinelli accused McAuliffe of threatening a budget showdown of his own, based on McAuliffe’s statement at several campaign appearances that he would not sign a budget unless it expanded Medicaid.  “You’ve heard over and over here tonight on how this is his major funding mechanism for doing everything he wants to do,” Cuccinelli said. “This is not an appropriate tactic.”  Then he added: “If you like the way Washington works, you will like Governor McAuliffe.”

Neither candidate took a position on one of the more surprising questions from moderator Chuck Todd, chief White House correspondent for NBC News: Whether the Washington Redskins should change the team’s name because some people find it offensive. In a rare moment of agreement, both men said it was not their place to tell a private enterprise what to call itself.  The candidates opened the forum with endearing biographical details. Cuccinelli recalled a grandfather who worked in a scrap yard and as a “bare-knuckle boxer.” McAuliffe, often derided as a carpetbagger, noted that he and his wife have lived in McLean for two decades and raised five children there.  The debate, sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and NBC4 Washington at the Capital One Conference Center, was a high-stakes appearance for both candidates in a state that has tended to choose middle-of-the-road governors.

The only competitive governor’s race in the country this year, the contest has drawn national attention and millions in out-of-state funding.  McAuliffe leads by 47 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, according to a Washington Post poll released this week, which also put Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis at 10 percent. It was a tighter race, 49 percent to 44 percent, between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli without Sarvis in the mix, the poll found.  Sarvis was not included in the debate but attended to draw attention to his exclusion. He said he hopes to be included in the next debate, at Virginia Tech on Oct. 24.  “It would be much better with me in it,” Sarvis said. “It would be more substantive, less negative. I’d be talking issues.”

Auliffe Avoids Position On EPA Rules, Cuccinelli Dodges On House Spending Vote
(By Ben Pershing and Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, September 20, 2013)

Just before 9 a.m. Friday, the Obama administration issued strict new carbon emissions limits that could have a major impact on Virginia’s coal and electricity industries. Two hours later, the Republican-led House approved a bill that would keep the government running for a few months but withhold funding for the Affordable Care Act, potentially increasing the chances of a federal shutdown Oct. 1.  The back-to-back events put both Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) and businessman Terry McAuliffe (D) on the spot, as the two leading candidates to be Virginia’s next governor each avoided taking clear positions on the actions of their fellow party members.

McAuliffe and Cuccinelli both gave lunchtime speeches at a small-business summit in Fairfax, and Cuccinelli made a point of condemning the EPA’s proposed rules, saying they would effectively prohibit the construction of coal-fired power plants, further devastate the commonwealth’s hard-hit coal fields and boost energy prices for everyone.  “The administration renewed its war on coal today,” Cuccinelli said, adding — as he often does — that “a war on coal is a war on the poor” and that Virginia “needs a governor who’ll fight for those folks” who depend on the coal industry.  McAuliffe’s campaign issued a statement reserving judgment on the new rules.  “Terry agrees with the broad swath of scientists, economists, and military leaders, who view climate change as a looming problem for Virginia,” campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin wrote in an e-mail. “While he agrees that there needs to be some limit on carbon pollution and believes that Virginia can and should lead the way in building new plants that create low-cost, low-carbon energy, he looks forward to further reviewing the President’s proposed rules in detail and studying their impact on Virginia’s economy.”
McAuliffe reiterated those points while speaking to reporters after his speech Friday. He said he would review the new rules “very quickly” but would not specify how long it would be before he would take a firm position on them. McAuliffe also did not give a direct answer when asked whether he believed any more coal-fired power plants should be built in Virginia. (He said during the 2009 Democratic primary that he hoped to never see another coal plant open in Virginia.)  During his speech at the summit, McAuliffe sought to link Cuccinelli to the Republicans on Capitol Hill who believe Congress should not approve another short-term spending bill unless it defunds Obama’s health-care measure.  “I hope when he speaks here today, Mr. Cuccinelli will encourage his tea party allies in Congress to stop using the threat of a federal government shutdown to achieve their ideological goals,” McAuliffe said. “These are my opponent’s top allies and supporters, and he has an obligation to protect Virginia.”

Cuccinelli did not address the issue during his remarks, and he did not speak to reporters after the event because, his campaign said, he was late for a session to prepare for next week’s candidates’ debate.  Asked whether Cuccinelli had a position on linking Affordable Care Act funding to the government spending bill, Cuccinelli spokesman Richard Cullen did not give a direct answer and instead turned his fire on McAuliffe.  “It’s pretty rich that in the same week it was revealed that Terry McAuliffe wants to shut down Virginia’s government, he’s now focused on whether the federal government is going to do the same,” Cullen said, referring to remarks by McAuliffe that he would not sign a budget as governor if it did not include funds for expanding Medicaid. “No one wants to see the federal government shut down, period. Ken Cuccinelli is not running for Congress, he’s running for governor. . . . Ken Cuccinelli would more than welcome a debate with Terry McAuliffe on the issue of Obamacare.”

Cuccinelli gave a similar answer in the past when asked whether he would support a proposed comprehensive immigration bill, noting: “I am running for governor. That’s a state office.”  But he also made a point of taking a clear stance against military intervention in Syria this month, while criticizing McAuliffe for declining to take a position.  “How is that even possible? I’ve yet to meet one person who doesn’t have strong feelings about this issue,” Cuccinelli wrote of Syria on his Facebook page.


Mcauliffe On Defensive As Cuccinelli Gets A Boost
(By Laura Vozzella, Washington Post,  18 September 2013)

Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday that he knew nothing about a failed effort by his supporters to wrest an important business endorsement from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, his Republican rival in the governor’s race.  McAuliffe also dismissed accounts that he had flubbed his interview for that endorsement by touting his ability to schmooze. And he backed off a campaign pledge that Republicans said amounted to a threat to shut down the government over Medicaid.  McAuliffe made those comments on a morning that began with a new Quinnipiac University poll showing the pair in a virtual tie. Talking with reporters after a Richmond forum on the economy and education, McAuliffe was on the defensive on a number of issues even as he projected an air of confidence.  “I’m not paying attention to polls,” he said. “I feel great about where we are.”

Cuccinelli, who also spoke at the forum, relished a seeming change in fortune, beginning with revelations over the weekend that McAuliffe supporters had tried to pressure the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s political arm to reverse its plan to endorse Cuccinelli.  “I think we have a lot of momentum, especially this week after the NVTC endorsement and how the other side handled it,” Cuccinelli said.  The NVTC’s TechPAC voted to endorse Cuccinelli last week but held off announcing that endorsement after McAuliffe allies protested. The Democrat’s camp devoted the weekend to furious but ultimately fruitless arm-twisting. Cuccinelli formally received the nod Monday.
Asked about the behind-the-scenes push to change the endorsement, McAuliffe said he was in the dark. “I don’t know anything about it,” he said, pivoting immediately to another subject.  The endorsement episode seemed especially damaging to McAuliffe because some members of TechPAC board’s said McAuliffe came off as ill-prepared and superficial in his interview with the group. As an Irish Catholic, he’d be good at schmoozing with people to support his agenda over drinks, McAuliffe told the board, two members told The Washington Post.  “These were partisan attacks. I mean, come on,” McAuliffe said when asked about the account. “I think what everybody knows is the amount of time that I have spent traveling to every nook and cranny in Virginia, talking about those issues that matter. I have put out a very substantive policy plan on all different issues. This is what I talk about from morning till night, seven days a week.”

McAuliffe also seemed to back off what had sounded like a solemn vow: not to sign a budget that does not include money to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. GOP leaders have said the campaign promise amounts to a threat to shut down the government given opposition to expanding the health-care program in the Republican-dominated House.  Asked whether he really meant that he would not sign a budget without the expansion, McAuliffe said: “I always say, ‘Please make sure you send a budget that has the Medicaid expansion.’ ” He has left off the “please” in at least three campaign appearances.  When pressed on his previous statements, McAuliffe suggested that he could talk reluctant Republicans into supporting expansion with a series of one-on-one meetings over meals.  “Here’s what we’re gonna do, after I get elected, the day after I get elected, I’m going to spend the ensuing couple months — I’m going to visit every single Republican House of Delegates member, every Republican state senator,” he said. “Breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever it may be. I’m going to visit every single one of them.”
The candidates gave back-to-back addresses at the Virginia Summit on Economic Competitiveness and Higher Education, held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.  In his speech, McAuliffe stressed the need for Virginia to diversify its economy through investments in education, particularly with the state’s defense-heavy economy likely to take a hit from federal budget cuts. He also said that Cuccinelli would make the state seem unwelcoming to scientists and gay university professors because of his conservative stance on gay rights and his “witch hunt” against a University of Virginia climate scientist.  “The commonwealth is a place [where] our professors, our scientists and innovators feel welcome,” McAuliffe said. “We cannot be putting walls up around Virginia. We have to attract the best and brightest.”

Cuccinelli touched on plans to promote school choice and shape energy policy. Happily playing the wonk, he delved into the nitty-gritty on some of those items and directed the audience to look up his detailed policy proposals on his campaign Web site.  “If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try to read them all at once,” he said.  The speeches themselves fed into the narrative that emerged from the TechPAC flap: that McAuliffe is breezy while Cuccinelli grasps the details and gravity of the job. Both candidates had 45 minutes to address the group. Cuccinelli gave a 39- minute address heavy on wonky details. McAuliffe gave his standard 16-minute stump speech.

Our Choice For Governor In 2013: None Of The Above
(By Richmond Times Dispatch editorial board 20 October 20, 2013)
The words that follow should not come as a surprise. During recent months, numerous editorials in The Times-Dispatch have lamented the gubernatorial campaign.  The major-party candidates have earned the citizenry’s derision. The third-party alternative has run a more exemplary race yet does not qualify as a suitable option. We cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate for governor.  This does not gladden us. Circumstance has brought us to this pass. This marks, we believe, the first time in modern Virginia that The Times-Dispatch has not endorsed a gubernatorial nominee.
The displeasure with the gubernatorial contenders does not apply to the rest of the statewide tickets, as the editorials below suggest.  Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli rigged the process for the Republican nomination when his minions changed the system from a primary to a convention, which they considered more likely to produce their desired outcome. The switch mocked Cuccinelli’s advertised fealty to first principles. The expression of raw power would have delighted sachems of Tammany Hall. Virginia does not welcome an in-your-face governor.
McAuliffe received the Democratic nomination by default. His bid for the 2009 nod failed miserably.  A weak bench left him as the only one in 2013’s game. Republican gerrymandering contributed to this. When they redrew electoral maps after the 2010 census, Republicans in the House of Delegates eviscerated the district held by Ward Armstrong, floor leader of the chamber’s Democrats.  If Armstrong had not lost his seat, he would have rated as a formidable candidate for governor. The Times-Dispatch would have endorsed him over Cuccinelli; we would have endorsed Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling over McAuliffe.
McAuliffe’s performance four years ago offered glimpses of his persistent debilities. He lost the nomination in large part because he and fellow challenger Brian Moran spent the campaign spitting on each other.  Creigh Deeds won by staying above the fray. McAuliffe may be a deal-maker, but he is not the conciliator necessary in times as nasty as these.  Libertarian Robert Sarvis has neither embarrassed himself nor insulted the commonwealth. He lacks the experience the job demands, however.  Moreover, while The Times-Dispatch finds considerable merit in the libertarian ethos, the libertarian ideology is a luxury afforded by a political, economic and social climate that, despite the nation’s commitment to liberty, was not created by libertarian doctrine. We fear Sarvis would be in over his head.  Still, a vote for him would not be wasted but would serve notice to Republicans and Democrats that the electorate rejects their surly antics. Citizens whose votes reflect their ideals do not throw away their ballots.
On Sunday, Oct. 13, The Times-Dispatch’s news pages featured a summary of the three gubernatorial candidates’ positions on various issues. Readers learned that the contest cannot be reduced to one of good versus evil or to one of communism versus fascism. Most of our brief relates to political character.  All three support the Second Amendment, although McAuliffe appears more amenable to restrictions on the right to bear arms. As governor, none would attempt to remove guns from the hands of the law-abiding.  On social issues such as abortion and homosexual rights, Cuccinelli not only takes stands we find objectionable but pursues his divisive agenda with a stridency that was unbecoming in an attorney general and would be unbecoming in a governor. We do not support abortion for any reason at any time and have embraced bans on late-term abortions, for instance; we remain troubled by Cuccinelli’s approach to personhood and to regulations on clinics. Questions involving abortion will be resolved not by government policy but by transformation of the human heart.  Cuccinelli’s hostility to marriage equality offends. The rights applying to human beings by definition apply to homosexuals. The concerns relating to Cuccinelli do not relate to McAuliffe and Sarvis.  In any case, the challenges confronting Virginia’s next governor will concern the economy and related matters.
We disagree with Cuccinelli’s opposition to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation package. McAuliffe scores points here. The Democrat stumbles when he proposes major spending hikes, which he claims can be financed by the federal dollars the state would receive by expanding Medicaid. He offers an easy answer to a tough question.  His inclinations do not conform to Virginia’s history of fiscal restraint. Regarding uranium mining, the three wannabes opt to lead from behind.  On energy generally, McAuliffe has spun like a top and now supports items he once opposed, such as the exploration for energy sources off Virginia’s shores. Cuccinelli and Sarvis did not need electoral considerations to persuade them to do the right thing. McAuliffe’s endorsement of the EPA’s new regulations on coal-fired power plants counters sentiment in Virginia’s coalfields, nevertheless.
All the candidates favor top-quality education, imagine that. Their platforms conform to nostrums offered by their respective philosophical inclinations. We see little to repudiate out of hand; little thrills us, either. Education reform is a tough slog and must coincide with a comprehensive assault on poverty and family disintegration.  Experience makes a difference, and Cuccinelli, McAuliffe and Sarvis fall short. Cuccinelli may have performed the legal tasks of his office with professional competence, but his focus raises questions about his gubernatorial ambitions.  As AG, he stressed things he did not have to, and, if he stayed in character, he would do the same as governor.
McAuliffe styles himself a businessman and entrepreneur. He inhabits the crossroads where the public and private sectors intersect and sometimes collide. His experience with GreenTech does not generate confidence. He located the plant in Mississippi, which is not known for its social enlightenment. The company has not lived up to expectations. If it eventually does, no credit will accrue to McAuliffe, for he has, he says, stepped away from it. He is not the reincarnation of Henry Ford.His ignorance of state government is laughable and makes Rick Perry, the notorious governor of Texas, look like a Founding Father.
Sarvis has no experience applicable to the governorship, period. Being a fine fellow is not enough. The encouraging news is that an excellent and loyal state workforce will ensure that Virginia will win high marks for efficiency and management, regardless of the person elected to lead the commonwealth.
And so it has come to this. Voters do not expect perfection in candidates. No one is always right. Hubris claims many at all points along the political spectrum.  In the past, The Times-Dispatch has endorsed candidates with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We find it impossible to endorse any of the 2013 candidates with even minimal zeal.  Elections make voters complicit in the government they receive.  If we would not urge a family member to vote this way or that, then we have no business recommending Cuccinelli, McAuliffe or Sarvis to our readers.  Virginians of a poetical bent understand why Abelard and Heloise retreated to “the deep solitudes and awful cells, where heavn’ly-pensive contemplation dwells.” We have had enough.
The Richmond Times Dispatch’s Non-Endorsement — And What It Means
(By Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, 21 October 2013)
The major-party candidates have earned the citizenry’s derision. The third-party alternative has run a more exemplary race yet does not qualify as a suitable option. We cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate for governor. This does not gladden us. Circumstance has brought us to this pass. This marks, we believe, the first time in modern Virginia that The Times-Dispatch has not endorsed a gubernatorial nominee.
Anytime there’s noteworthy endorsement or, in this case, non-endorsement we like to roll out the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy – our look at which endorsements matter, which don’t and how they all fit together.  On its face, the RTD op-ed is a clear example of a non-endorsement endorsement. (For a full list of every category in the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy, scroll to the bottom of this page.) You could also call this the you-say-it-best-when-you-say-nothing-at-all endorsement because in not endorsing in the race, the RTD is making its views on the contest quite clear.
Here’s why: The Times-Dispatch editorial board is reliably conservative. In 2009, they endorsed then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R). The RTD endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign. The paper endorsed John McCain in the 2008 presidential race. In short, its editorial board reliably backs GOP candidates. Which means its non-endorsement is rightly read as a negative commentary on the candidacy of state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Just in case you missed that memo, the RTD drives the point home with a slashing rhetorical assault on Cuccinelli’s work to change the nomination process from a primary to a convention, which virtually ensured that the most conservative candidate (him) would win the Republican nomination. “The expression of raw power would have delighted sachems of Tammany Hall,” wrote the editorial board. “Virginia does not welcome an in-your-face governor.” (You can bet that last line will wind up in an ad for Democrat Terry McAuliffe sometime very soon.)
In short, Cuccinelli lost by not winning. The seeming neutrality of the RTD’s decision to stay out of the race isn’t neutral at all. It takes an expected validator for Cuccinelli off the table.  Is this make or break for Cuccinelli? Absolutely not. As we have long noted when it comes to endorsements, most don’t matter.  This one may matter more than most, however,  because it plays into the idea — long forwarded by McAuliffe and his allies — that even many loyal Republicans can’t support Cuccinelli.
The Fix Endorsement Hierarchy (ranked in order of influence)
* The Symbolic Endorsement: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush endorsing Mitt Romney for president.
* The National Endorsement: Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty for Romney.
* The In-State Statewide Endorsement: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist throwing his support to Sen. John McCain just before the Sunshine State presidential primary in 2008.
* The Celebrity Endorsement: Chuck Norris for Huckabee in 2008; Oprah for Obama.
* The Newspaper Endorsement: The Washington Post endorsing state Sen. Creigh Deeds in the 2009 Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary. * Out-of-State Statewide Endorsement: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint endorsing former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate primary.
* The What Goes Around Comes Around Endorsement: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsing Rubio.
* The Obligatory Endorsement: George W. Bush endorsing McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.
* The “Me for Me” Endorsement: Former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) endorsing Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D) 2010 Senate campaign.
* The Non-Endorsement Endorsement: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) passing on an endorsement of Sen. David Vitter’s (R) 2010 reelection bid.
* The Backfire Endorsement: Former Vice President Al Gore endorsing former Vermont governor Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential race.
* The Pariah Endorsement: Jailed former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham backing Newt Gingrich.

Greentech Fits Pattern Of Investment That Has Made Big Profits For Mcauliffe
(By Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, Washington Post, 21 September 2013)

The pitches to potential investors in a new electric-car company have been unabashed about its promise: It will enjoy “billions” in government subsidies and tax credits, will rise to a dominant position in the U.S. electric-car industry and, perhaps most critically, has a politically connected founder with the savvy to make it all happen.

That founder, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D), is listed in a recent confidential memorandum to prospective investors as GreenTech Automotive’s “chairman emeritus.” The 70-page document includes photographs and references to McAuliffe’s close ties to former president Bill Clinton. It recounts his political pedigree in detail, from serving as finance director for Jimmy Carter’s 1980 presidential reelection campaign to breaking fundraising records for the Democratic Party and chairing Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
A section dedicated to GreenTech’s public relations efforts cites only one specific initiative: McAuliffe’s past promotion of electric vehicles on “national television news programs.”  Dated March 12, the previously undisclosed prospectus, provided to The Washington Post by the nonprofit watchdog group Cause of Action, notes that McAuliffe is “currently the largest individual shareholder” of GreenTech.  The prospectus, along with other documents reviewed by The Post, shows how GreenTech fits into a pattern of investments in which McAuliffe has used government programs, political connections and access to wealthy investors of both parties in pursuit of big profits for himself. 

That formula has made McAuliffe a millionaire many times over, paving the way for a long list of business ventures, including his law firm, from which he resigned in the 1990s after profiting — along with his partners — from fees paid by domestic and foreign clients seeking results from the federal government.  A review of McAuliffe’s business history shows him often coming out ahead personally, even if some investments fail or become embroiled in controversy.  One high-profile example involved Global Crossing, a telecommunications firm whose demise in the 1990s cost investors billions of dollars. McAuliffe was working as a consultant to Global Crossing founder Gary Winnick, a prolific political donor, and became an investor in the company. McAuliffe sold some of his Global Crossing shares before the stock price plummeted and made an estimated $8 million before the company went sour.
Few of McAuliffe’s investments have been as ambitious as GreenTech, which the Democrat pointed to when he launched his candidacy as evidence of his entrepreneurial skill.  But in April, McAuliffe sought to distance himself from GreenTech. He issued a surprise statement saying that he had resigned as chairman that previous December — an announcement that came amid growing questions about GreenTech’s ambitious promises and its conduct in soliciting investors through a special visa program.  Nevertheless, the company’s confidential March memo implies to investors that he would remain involved. Were McAuliffe to win his race for governor, the memo says, he would “resign all positions with [GreenTech] and appoint a representative to vote his shares.”  McAuliffe’s campaign declined to make him available for an interview. Spokesman Josh Schwerin said in an e-mail that the memo “appears to have been written long after Terry resigned and he never saw or approved of this document. Terry left the company in early December and since then has had no official role and no responsibilities. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply not correct.”

GreenTech, in an e-mailed statement, said that McAuliffe was “no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the company” and that his emeritus title “recognizes his previous contributions to the board’s efforts.” The firm declined to comment on the 70-page “Private Placement Memorandum,”saying that securities counsel advised that it “may not comment directly” on the memo “as these are communications with prospective investors that contain confidential nonpublic information about the company.”  Since the time McAuliffe says he resigned as chairman, GreenTech has become the focus of scrutiny in Washington.  The Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation this year looking in part at the firm’s claims to potential investors interested in using the visa program, known as EB-5. The SEC has subpoenaed documents from GreenTech and a sister company, Gulf Coast Funds Management, which is led by Anthony Rodham, brother of Hillary Clinton. Both firms have said they are cooperating.
It is not known precisely what the SEC is investigating. But agency investigators have examined possible fraud among other participants in the visa program, in which foreign investors pay at least $500,000 to companies to gain access to permanent U.S. residency for themselves and their families.  The program requires that the investments create jobs. But critics say the program is loosely regulated, allowing U.S. companies to profit from foreign payments and fees sometimes with little job creation to show for it. In the meantime, these critics say, investors gain entry to the United States, even if they have little direct involvement in the fate of the companies they have ostensibly invested in.

GreenTech has also become a focal point in an increasingly vitriolic dispute within the Department of Homeland Security, where several career employees have raised concerns about favoritism shown to the firm and about whether there has been sufficient scrutiny of foreign nationals whose investments in GreenTech have entitled them to special immigrant visas.  The courtship of Chinese investors by McAuliffe and his partners has already proved fruitful — dozens of investors have contributed tens of millions of dollars to the effort. The March prospectus says that the company has received about $46 million from EB-5 investors, with a goal of $60 million.  The investments have led to little in the way of making cars. In Tunica County, Miss., where a mostly vacant lot sits where GreenTech plans to build a plant, local officials remain hopeful but a bit nervous.  “At this point, it sounds like they’re selling visas,” said state Rep. Gene Alday (R), whose district includes Tunica County.
Special treatment alleged

In Washington, GreenTech’s aggressive pursuit of the special investor visas has prompted complaints by career immigration service staffers who say top managers have given the firm and other politically connected applicants special treatment.  The complaints about Department of Homeland Security managers, now under investigation by the department’s inspector general, have stalled the nomination of the immigration agency’s top official for the No. 2 post at DHS.  Department officials and GreenTech have denied that the company received any favorable treatment. McAuliffe and his partners have complained of repeated delays by the government in approving visa applications, which they said put the project at risk of losing much-needed capital.  But eight career employees of the division have requested “protected status” as whistleblowers so they can make their “preferential treatment” case to members of Congress. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) have reviewed the employee complaints and say they are concerned.
Many of the whistleblowers cite alleged favors provided to McAuliffe’s company — among others — to support their claim.  “It’s not often that so many whistleblowers come forward on the same subject, with similar concerns,” Grassley said Friday. “It shows that this isn’t just one person who has a gripe with their boss, but rather fundamental concerns by several career civil servants about political favors and national security.”

Some whistleblowers claimed that top managers ignored or waved off warnings that some GreenTech investors from China merited extra scrutiny before being granted immigrant visas.  Whistleblowers who talked with Senate staff in the past two weeks said their concerns about GreenTech visas were heightened late last year when they learned that some company officials had previously been affiliated with a Chinese firm that had been the subject of a classified government inquiry about national security risks. Ties with the previous firm were severed before McAuliffe joined the newly formed company as a co-founder.  A DHS official familiar with the matter rejected the employee claims, saying staff concerns were heeded. Holds were placed on several GreenTech applicants and were removed “only after further checks were made in coordination with other law enforcement agencies,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
Self-described entrepreneur
McAuliffe, 56, has long described himself as an entrepreneur, pegging his start to a driveway-sealing business he launched as a precocious 14-year-old in Syracuse, N.Y.  In the 1980s, McAuliffe was the chairman of a small financial institution, the Federal City Bank of Washington, which made loans to several top Democratic Party leaders. It was cited by regulators in the early 1990s for unsound banking practices and then merged with another bank.  After Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, federal investigators examined a $375,000 fee paid to McAuliffe in case his services were needed to help secure a lease of office space from the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Ultimately, the payment was deemed improper. McAuliffe was not accused of any wrongdoing, but the leasing company — Prudential Insurance — was required to pay a fine.
In the 1990s, McAuliffe launched what might be his most lucrative and substantive business, American Heritage Homes, with Carl H. Lindner Jr., who headed Chiquita Brands International. During this period, the Clinton administration initiated a favorable policy on a complex banana tariff issue, and Lindner, a longtime GOP donor, stepped up his donations to Democrats, staying overnight as Clinton’s guest in the Lincoln Bedroom.  In 1999, the Labor Department reviewed a real estate venture involving McAuliffe that used money from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ pension fund. The department sued the union, saying the deal was a bad investment for its members. Union officials said the deal ultimately provided profits to the labor group. McAuliffe, who had invested only $100, made millions.  McAuliffe has not disclosed his net worth. His campaign referred to the Virginia financial disclosure form that he was required to submit as a candidate, but the form is vague. He lists, for instance, 25 assets worth a minimum of $250,000 each.

Predictions of jobs
McAuliffe joined GreenTech soon after his failed 2009 bid for Virginia governor.  At the start, company documents predicted the firm would have 25,000 employees in the United States capable of producing 1 million electric cars in 2015-17.  In speeches in Virginia and elsewhere, McAuliffe has offered varying predictions of the jobs that would be created by his company. Several times in 2012, he told reporters that 900 U.S. jobs would be created by the year’s end by GreenTech, which is based in McLean. The firm has produced few, if any, cars, and a statement from the company says it employs “more than 80 full time employees.”

The documents obtained by The Post show that GreenTech’s success depends on government help.  A 2009 prospectus said that billions of dollars in subsidies could potentially be granted by Mississippi to support the plant. The current prospectus estimates the combined value of its local and state government aid in Mississippi to be $25 million. So far, the numbers are much smaller. The state lent GreenTech $3 million under the condition that the firm create 350 jobs by December 2014, according to Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Jeff Rent. Tunica County, using a separate $2 million loan from the state, purchased the land where the company has said it will build the factory.  In an e-mailed statement to The Post, the company said that “market and financial conditions and other current events have led GTA to reexamine our original target market and, therefore, our initial projected capacity needs.”
GreenTech’s struggles have become fodder for Republicans and their allies, who have spent months scouring McAuliffe’s business record. Cause of Action, which provided the confidential investor memo to The Post, received more than $900,000 two years ago from the libertarian-leaning Franklin Center, whose Web site has been sued by GreenTech for defamation.  McAuliffe put his bipartisan political muscle on display during a star-studded event at the GreenTech site in Mississippi last year with former governor Haley Barbour and Bill Clinton. The event showcased models of the “MyCar,” the golf-cart-like 40-mph vehicles that would be the signature product of GreenTech.  Barbour, in an interview, said he had no regrets. “We felt that if they invested $60 million of hard cash, we’d be willing to take a couple-million-dollar risk,” he said.

Barbour, a McAuliffe friend who left office in 2012 after two terms, said McAuliffe’s role was not a factor in the state’s decision to provide help. “It doesn’t disqualify you to know the governor, but you’ve still got to meet the same standards” as any firm appealing for state development aid, he said.  The confidential 2013 memo to potential investors explained in some detail how McAuliffe’s run for governor would affect his role in the firm.  “Until the election, Mr. McAuliffe will dedicate his full time to the election campaign but will remain as a shareholder of GTA’s Parent,” it says. “If Mr. McAuliffe becomes Governor of Virginia, federal and state law requires that he resign all positions with GTA and appoint a representative to vote his shares of GTA’s Parent.  “On January 7, 2013, the board of directors of GTA assigned to Mr. McAuliffe as Chairman of the Company the duties and responsibilities appropriate for a Chairman Emeritus during the course of his gubernatorial campaign,” the memo added. Describing that job, it says: “The Chairman Emeritus of the Company will have such duties and responsibilities as designated by the Board of Directors from time to time.”


Ad Targets Cuccinelli Fight With Climate Scientist
(By Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, July 29, 2013)

The newest TV ad in the Virginia governor’s race focuses on Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II’s legal battle with a University of Virginia climate scientist.  Titled “Witch Hunt,” the commercial recalls a two-year effort by Cuccinelli, the GOP nominee for governor and a climate change skeptic, to obtain records from Michael Mann, then a U-Va. researcher.  The campaign of Terry McAuliffe, Cuccinelli’s Democratic rival, released the ad Monday. It declined to say where it will run and for how long.  “It’s been called ‘Cuccinelli’s witch hunt.’ ‘Designed to intimidate and suppress,’ ” a narrator for the 30-second spot says, quoting newspaper editorials from the time. “Ken Cuccinelli used taxpayer funds to investigate a U-Va. professor whose research on climate change Cuccinelli opposed. Cuccinelli, a climate change denier, forced the university to spend over half a million dollars defending itself against its own attorney general. Ken Cuccinelli — he’s focused on his own agenda, not us.”  The ad is part of McAuliffe’s broader strategy to portray himself as a business-oriented moderate and Cuccinelli as someone outside the mainstream on a range of cultural issues. The opening image of the ad shows McAuliffe sitting at table, having a seemingly productive discussion with others gathered there.

In 2010, Cuccinelli issued a civil investigative demand — essentially a subpoena — for grant applications and correspondence exchanged among Mann, research assistants, and scientists around the country. He based that demand on a 2002 state law designed to combat government employees defrauding the public of tax dollars. Cuccinelli said he was trying to investigate if Mann had, while seeking grants to study climate change, had used manipulated data to show that there has been a recent spike rise in the Earth’s temperature.
Skeptics of global warming seized on Mann after references to a statistical “trick” he used in his research came to light in e-mail leaked from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. Mann and others have said that the word was taken out of context. Several inquiries, including one by the National Science Foundation, found no evidence that Mann had falsified or suppressed data.

U-Va. refused to turn over the records, contending that the demand exceeded Cuccinelli’s authority and infringed on the rights of professors to conduct research free from political pressure. Using $570,698 in private funds, the university hired outside counsel and ultimately fought Cuccinelli all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court. In March 2012, the court sided with the university, finding that Cuccinelli lacked authority to demand the records.  “The investigation referenced was never about science itself, but rather whether taxpayer money was used improperly,” said Anna Nix, a spokeswoman for Cuccinelli’s campaign. “What is indisputable is that Terry McAuliffe and Michael Mann joined together to campaign in support of an energy policy that will raise electricity prices for all Virginians and put people in Southwest Virginia out of work.”


Va. Supreme Court: U-Va. Doesn’t Have To Give Cuccinelli Documents
(By Anita Kumar, Washington Post, March 2, 2012)

After two years and more than half a million dollars in legal fees, the Virginia Supreme Court on Friday rejected Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II’s assertion that the state’s flagship university had to turn over documents related to global warming.  The decision was a defeat for Cuccinelli (R), a global-warming skeptic who has garnered national attention for a string of high-profile lawsuits, just as he kicks off his campaign for governor next year.  And it comes months after a federal appeals court tossed out Cuccinelli’s challenge to the new federal health-care law.  The state’s highest court wrote in an opinion that Cuccinelli lacked the authority to subpoena records — including e-mails, drafts and handwritten notes — from the University of Virginia involving well-known climate scientist Michael Mann’s research.

Mann, now a professor at Pennsylvania State University, accused the attorney general of engaging in a two-year “character assassination’’ against him. He just completed a book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” about global-warming skeptics, including Cuccinelli, and what he calls their attacks on scientists.  “It’s a victory for science,’’ Mann said of Friday’s decision. “I hope that this is the end of this long and unfortunate episode so I, and other scientists, can get back to work.”
In 2010, Cuccinelli issued a civil investigative demand — essentially a subpoena — for Mann’s grant applications and correspondence between Mann and research assistants, secretaries and 39 other scientists across the country.  Cuccinelli used a 2002 state law designed to catch government employees defrauding the public of tax dollars to investigate whether Mann, to obtain grants, used manipulated data to show that there has been a rapid, recent rise in the Earth’s temperature.  “From the beginning, we have said that we were simply trying to review documents that are unquestionably state property to determine whether or not fraud had been committed,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.

In an unusual step, U-Va. hired its own attorney and fought back, arguing that the demand exceeded Cuccinelli’s authority under state law and intruded on the rights of professors to pursue academic inquiry free from political pressure. U-Va. spokeswoman Carol Wood said the school spent $570,698 on legal fees — all of which came from private funds.  “This is an important decision that will be welcomed here and in the broader higher education community,” U-Va. President Teresa Sullivan said in a statement. “I am grateful for the ongoing support of our own faculty and the faculty at many institutions around the world.” 
Mann’s work has long been under attack by global-warming skeptics, particularly after references to a statistical “trick” he used in his research surfaced in a series of leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. He and others have said that the e-mail was taken out of context.  Some of his methodology has been criticized by other scientists, but several inquiries, including a high-profile one by the National Science Foundation, concluded that there was no evidence that Mann engaged in efforts to falsify or suppress data.  “For two years, the attorney general has joined a small but vocal minority in a pointless and costly investigation that has done nothing but distract Virginia from the real challenge: mitigating and adapting to climate change,’’ said Michael Halpern, a program manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ scientific integrity program.

A Circuit Court judge initially dismissed the subpoena, ruling that Cuccinelli had failed to provide evidence of wrongdoing by Mann or any other climate scientist.  Cuccinelli then filed a new, more specific demand pertaining to just one $214,700 state grant, but he also appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court ruled that the state anti-fraud act does not authorize the attorney general to issue civil investigative demands against U-Va. or other state agencies because under the act, they are not considered “persons.”  A spokesman for Cuccinelli said he has no recourse for appeal. Both sides said they will ask an Albemarle County Circuit Court judge to dismiss the case.


Cuccinelli Sues Federal Government To Stop Health-Care Reform Law
(By Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post, 24 March 2010)

Not five minutes after President Obama signed health-care legislation into law Tuesday, top staff members for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II made their way out of his office, court papers in hand and TV cameras in pursuit, and headed to Richmond's federal courthouse to sue to stop the measure.  Thirteen other state attorneys general also sought to stop the health-care law Tuesday, jointly suing in Florida. But Cuccinelli (R) went his own way, arguing that a Virginia law enacted this month that prohibits the government from requiring people to buy health insurance creates an "immediate, actual controversy" between state and federal law that gives the state unique standing on which to sue.

The move was classic Cuccinelli -- bold, defiant and in-your-face, an effort to use any means at his disposal to stop what he sees as a federal government gone wild. That approach has transformed him in just a few months from being a fairly obscure state senator into a national conservative folk hero -- a tea partier with conviction and, more importantly, power.  Since vowing last week to sue to stop health-care reform, Cuccinelli has become a fixture on national cable TV news shows. A conservative blog posted a cartoon of his head atop Superman's body, with the caption: "You don't tug on Superman's cape . . . and you don't mess around with Ken." His Facebook page is full of messages of support from across the country, some next to the yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flag, which Cuccinelli has embraced -- one sits next to the Virginia flag in his office.
To his supporters, Cuccinelli is the necessary antidote to Obama, determined to put government back where he thinks it belongs and follow the letter of the law, without regard to political consequences.  "People are tired of the middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy political talk. . . . They want people who will shoot straight and do what they say they will. And that's Ken," said Jamie Radtke, chairman of the Federation of Virginia Tea Party Patriots. "He was a tea party person before there was a tea party," she said.

But as the fervency and number of Cuccinelli's supporters have grown, so has the vigor of his detractors, who are convinced that he is an ideologue using his office to further a political agenda and that he is interested only in representing those who share his views.  "He thinks he's the attorney general for Fox News," said Paul Goldman, a Richmond lawyer and former head of the Virginia Democratic Party. "He wants to be Glenn Beck's favorite attorney general, and he's moving right on up there."  Before filing his lawsuit Tuesday, Cuccinelli had filed briefs to challenge the science of global warming and the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gases. This month, he wrote letters to every public college in Virginia to say that they could not adopt nondiscrimination policies that protect gays without authority from the General Assembly.  About 50 students and alumni associated with campus gay rights groups protested Cuccinelli's appearance Tuesday evening at George Mason University's law school, of which he is an alumnus, holding signs reading "Cuccinelli: Bad for Virginia" and "Virginia Is for All Lovers."
In his suit to stop the health-care law, Cuccinelli says the legislation's requirement that individuals buy health insurance exceeds the federal government's power to regulate interstate commerce under the U.S. Constitution.  The lawsuit filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) and joined by other attorneys general presents a different argument. It says the new law violates the 10th Amendment by forcing states to carry out its provisions while not reimbursing them for the costs.  Legal experts have expressed skepticism about the likelihood of success for either approach but have indicated that there are few direct precedents in either case on which to predict Supreme Court action.

It's not just Cuccinelli's aggressive challenge to the federal government that gratifies many grass-roots activists -- it's his willingness to rock the boat in defense of his agenda.  "This is what we hired him for," said Ron Wilcox, a Fairfax County resident and organizer with the Northern Virginia Tea Party.  During his campaign last year, Cuccinelli met with tea party groups across Virginia. When more than 1,000 rallied in Richmond in January in support of the state's anti-individual mandate bill, Cuccinelli took to the stairs of the historic bell tower in Capitol Square to address the crowd.  "It's time for people like you all to step up and to draw the lines that our Founding Fathers thought they drew very clearly," Cuccinelli told the crowd. "We need to reemphasize that there are sovereigns in America. One of those is the Commonwealth of Virginia."  At the state's Republican convention in May, Cuccinelli promised not to just "go along to get along," which he termed the "toughest test" of conservative principles.  
Cuccinelli's newfound stature in his party could create tension in Richmond, where just a few short weeks ago it was Gov. Robert F. McDonnell who was being held up as the new face of the Republican Party, chosen by national leaders to deliver the response to Obama's State of the Union address.  Although ideologically in line with McDonnell, who was also elected in November and supports Cuccinelli's lawsuit to stop the health-care law, Cuccinelli and his confrontational style could complicate the governor's efforts to rebrand the GOP as inclusive and pragmatic.

Cuccinelli did not alert McDonnell's office before sending his letter on nondiscrimination policies to colleges and universities, leaving officials to learn of it through a media inquiry. Although McDonnell agreed with Cuccinelli's legal reasoning, protests that followed were a distraction while McDonnell was trying to help legislators adopt a budget and conclude the first legislative session of his term.  "This back-of-the-hand, gratuitous, finger-in-your-eye, hand-on-the-chest stuff -- people don't feel good about it," said a senior Republican strategist in Richmond, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid creating a rift in the party. "It's not how you build a broad-based coalition."  
Democrats have sought to feature Cuccinelli in fundraising appeals and make him a favorite of liberal blogs and prime-time coverage on MSNBC.  Audio of Cuccinelli answering questions about how courts could be used to challenge Obama's citizenship quickly made its way around the Internet, along with a video shot during the campaign of Cuccinelli discussing how the government could use Social Security numbers to track people.  Cuccinelli said that he was answering hypothetical questions about Obama's citizenship and that he believes the president was born in the United States.