Thursday, February 22, 2007

Imagine There's no America

No, it's not a John Lennon Utopean fantasy, but more of a nightmare for those who like to attack our country as the source of all that is wrong in the world.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

County Budget Recommendations not encouraging

That was what I thought my column for February 8th would be titled. However, not only was the column publication postponed for over a week, but when it finally was published in a rare Sunday appearance, it was titled "A county adjusts after the gravy train stops running". So let me apologize for my use of the trite phrase "gravy train" in my column which led to this headline.

That said, my article, which notes that most of the cuts recommended aren't really cuts, and that we have to do better if we really want to control the soaring costs of local government:

A county adjusts after the gravy train stops running
Potomac News
Sunday, February 18, 2007

The last five years have been an easy ride for the Prince William County government. With housing prices skyrocketing, revenue from the real estate tax shot through the roof. Supervisors were able to take credit for reducing the tax rate while homeowners' taxes increased by almost twice the rate of inflation.

With almost no new development left unapproved, thousands of new taxpayers moved into new, expensive homes in the county, providing a growing source of new revenue. And with an increase in proffers extracted from developers to secure zoning changes, county coffers were flush with new cash. About the only money decisions to be made were where to give away the "surplus money" at the end of each year.

But whenever a supervisor suggested preparing a budget that showed some fiscal restraint, the board would have none of it. Rather than having the county staff prioritize spending, the budget misers were told to develop their own budgets indicating "what they would cut" -- a difficult task for a part-time supervisor with limited staff and no support from county departments loathe to help cut their own budgets.

But a new day is here, as one of those cost-conscious supervisors now chairs the board, giving him much more control over the workings of government. So it was with high hopes that budget-mindful constituents waited to see what savings would come from a new budget process which asked the county staff to consider controlling expenses.

Of course, this job was made difficult because, at the same time, the gravy train has come to an end. There will be no expanding revenue from proffers -- the board froze new zoning consideration, and with the housing market slowdown fewer residences are being built and sold. Also, home prices are retreating, not growing, so in absolute dollars the per-house tax burden is dropping.

To their credit, the board requested a budget that held the line on the tax rate. This means that the county has to find $22 million or so in cuts for next year. But first, it must deal with an $18 million shortfall this year, of which $9 million must come from the county government (the rest of the shortfall affects the public school budget).

Given the lack of focus on cost containment the past few years, saving $9 million out of a budget of over $450 million shouldn't be hard, especially since last year's budget had $51 million more in spending than the previous year. The staff report to the supervisors detailing how the shortfall would be covered was delivered this Tuesday. But the proposed "cuts" are disappointing, and do not bode well for the new budget to be presented in March.

The staff was expected to present $19 million in "budget savings." Only a small portion represents real cuts in the cost of government. Most are budget gimmicks. For example, the "cuts" include $6.3 million in what they call "one-time expenditure savings. To illustrate, if you decided not to go out to eat this week, it would be a "one-time expenditure savings."

But the county isn't skipping dinner. Instead, it is, as detailed in the Potomac News, "foregoing equipment purchases and other 'one-time expenditures' such as renovations and emergency communications improvements." The equipment will be purchased eventually, and the renovations and improvements will need to be made, so it's really just pushing expenses into the next year. Since each year has its own set of "one-time expenses," the county will have to catch up eventually.

It's not all bad. They propose to "save $1.9 million by leaving 67 vacant positions unfilled." One hopes the vacant positions are for unnecessary jobs. If not, it would make sense to transfer people from less-useful jobs to the vacant jobs, but I doubt the county will consider that so long as the positions exist. The board will have to vote to actually eliminate the vacant positions if we want long-term savings.

So it's a start, but a minor one. For next year's budget, we need some real cuts, not just one-time savings and accounting gimmicks. We have a real chance to get the county's fiscal house in order. Let's not squander the opportunity.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Democrats Iraq Vote gets Results

On Friday, the House Democrats (all but 2) along with 17 republicans "sent a message". On Saturday, even though the cloture vote failed in the Senate, Harry Reid declared victory as a majority voted again to "send a message".

Just hours later, we got the first signs that the message had been received. From Fox News, Car Bomb Rips Through Baghdad:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Militants struck back Sunday in their first major blow against a U.S.-led security clampdown in Baghdad with car bombs that killed at least 63 people, left scores injured and sent a bloody calling card to officials boasting that extremist factions were on the run.

Up until the Senate vote and the Reid/Pelosi statements of defeatism, the surge seemed to be having the desired effect:

Just a few hours before the blasts, Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar led reporters on a tour of the neighborhood near the marketplace and promised to "chase the terrorists out of Baghdad." On Saturday, the Iraqi spokesman for the plan, Brig. Gen. Qassim Moussawi, said violence had plummeted 80 percent in the capital.

In my opinion, it was this success that had the Democrats scared out of their wits. When you stake your election on losing a war, and then somehow you find you are winning, it's got to scare the bejeebers out of you. They had to act -- thus Pelosi's reneging on a promise to allow Republicans to offer their own proposal in the House, and Reid coming back so soon after giving up on his plan to offer the house bill.

Having denounced the deployment of reinforcements to help our troops in Iraq, so soon after many of them had said we didn't have enough troops, the Democrats had backed themselves into a corner. While the war was going badly, their complaints could be sold as "helping the troops".

But with the glimmer of hope that the President's new policy, based on recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, might actually work, the Democrat's strategy to cement their majority and take back the White House was in jeopardy.

Their only hope -- pass a resolution that would embolden our enemy to renew their attacks in the face of the new opposition powered by the surge, giving the terrorists the hope that, if they can only keep up the pressure for a few more months, if they can just kill a few more American soldiers, and a lot more Iraqi Citizens, the Democrats will have enough popular opinion behind them to pull the plug and abandon Iraq to those who would destroy our way of life.

So they did their best, and now the Enemies of Freedom are repaying the Democrat favor the only way they know how -- by killing innocent people.

Democrats. They may hate the terrorists, but they love their mission. And they may love our troops, but they hate THEIR mission. And just as someone once said they had to burn the village to save it, the Democrat message seems to be that you might have to get a few more troops killed to save them.

I wish I could hope that Tom Davis and John Warner would wake up and realise what they are a part of now, but I hold no hope for them.Tom's speech on the non-binding resolution showed a keen understanding of the base political motives for the resolution, and his base political reason for voting for it. And John Warner demonstrated why there should be a mandatory retirement age for Congress.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dems: Not supporting the mission.

The Democrats have gotten really good at saying "We support the troops, but not the mission".

They hate the troop's mission so much, Murtha wants to undermine their training so they can't complete their mission. In Iraq, not completing your mission means getting blown up by an IED or ambushed on a convoy or hit with an RPG or mortar.

I'm sure though the Democrats will vote full funding for the funerals, after all, they support the troops even though they want to undermine their mission.

So while they support our troops but will sabatoge their mission, they don't support the terrorists, but they do support THEIR mission.

The New Warning Symbols.

The old nuclear warning symbol (which resembled a flattened propeller, or the adjustable air vent on a Webber grill) did not really convey the message of danger that is needed to keep people out of nuclear waste sites.

So a new symbol has been developed. Here is the suggested new symbol:

This has possibilities. Here's another warning symbol that might be useful, although some work must be done to denote that it's limited to only a small portion of the population:

John Murtha, "Supporting the Troops"

From the Washington Times, the Democrat who Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held worthy of majority whip, and who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense:

Mr. Murtha, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, explained that by placing conditions on $93.4 billion in new combat funds, he would make be able to effectively stop the troops in their tracks. "They won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work. There's no question in my mind," Mr. Murtha said.

What term do we use for someone who seeks to stop our troops in their tracks, ensuring they can't do their work?

I believe that is what we call "the enemy".

What do we call an American who seeks to undermine an authorized, legal operation of our troops, to prevent them from continuing, to deny them trainging, to take their equipment so our country fails in it's mission?

I believe the term for that is "traitor".

It is unfortunate that my own Congressman, Tom Davis, voted WITH this man on the non-binding resolution undermining our troops, emboldening our enemies, and most certainly putting lives at risk. I announce my opposition to Congressman Tom Davis in the 2008 election. If I must, I will resign my position on the Prince William County republican committee -- but first I will provide support and money to the best candidate who challenges this sellout in the 2008 primary.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Political dirty tricks against Faisal Gill?

The 51st district delegate seat is being contested this year, and the Republicans have two good candidates, Faisal Gill and Julie Lucas. This entry will unfortunately not discuss the merits of these two candidates. Both are fine people, and I am not endorsing either candidate here. I don't live in the district so I won't vote for either of them.

A concerted effort has been underfoot by two bloggers, Greg over at BVBL, and Jonathan over at GoodbyeJim, to undermine the campaign of Faisal Gill through less than honorable means.

For example, this post by Greg "No, Faisal Gill is not an Iraqi" essentially attacks Gill for being a Pakistani, by showing pictures of people in Pakistan doing bad things.

Greg/BVBL is being sued for six figures by Steve Chapman, and Faisal Gill's law firm is representing Steve in that lawsuit. Greg says this has no bearing on his attacks, although he also admits that much of the dirt he is now shoveling he dug up researching the law firm in response to the lawsuit.

It is possible that Greg's efforts to bury Faisal under a cloud of mud encouraged Julie Lucas to run for this office. Greg never said he was contacting Julie to ask her to run, but claimed a week before she announced that "Gill will be opposed in his quest", and later that he knew she was running. Julie registered to run on the last day of registration, and it is believed she decided at the last minute. Only Julie knows whether her decision to run was influenced by the mudslinging against Faisal by Greg and Jonathan -- but in any case, her reasons for running are not an issue for her campaign, and not the topic of this post.

UPDATE: Commenter Riley says Lucas was always going to run, but was just waiting till after the special election for Mike May.

Jonathan and Greg are adamant that Gill be stopped. Greg has gone so far as to edit Gill's Wikipedia entry, and to invite others who share his opinion of Gill to contribute to the cause. Greg has also done good effort to stop the trashing of Delegate Bob Marshall's Wikipedia entry, so he's no stranger to how political tricksters can use Wiki to undercut a candidate.

The attacks on Gill regularly reference Abdul al-Amoudi, a person guilty of crimes related to terror organizations, who was once the head of the organization “American Muslim Council” . They also prominently discuss Sami al-Arian, another notorious figure.

Greg attacked Gill for comments by anonymous commenters. In "Antisemites for Faisal Gill", (the title is itself a baseless attack), Greg says "About the absolute dumbest move Faisal Gill could make would be to have his supporters start trying to defend him with jewbaiting, racist comments like this", thus blaming Gill for anonymous posters to Greg's web site.

So one has to wonder when, two weeks after Lucas enters the race, a new blog pops up (http: //, I refuse to provide a direct link) (start date Monday, February 12), purporting to be run by a "Pakistani" in Prince William. The web site has pictures of, surprise, al-Amoudi and al-Arian, calling them "political prisoners". It has only a few posts, mostly anti-Jewish or pro-Muslim. Oh, and one post expressing support for a "fellow Pakistani", Faisal Gill.

The site is so heavy-handed that even Greg called the site "A Disturbing Distraction", although he suggested the guy is real, calling him "a rather disturbing Faisal Gill supporter".

I suppose that is remotely possible. But everything about the site screams "political hit job", and reminds me of the Jeff Dion web site "DevelopersForMikeMay", set up to attack his opponent in his failed bid for supervisor. The site seems written by someone who has read Greg's posts and the comments, who lifted the concepts to make a caricature of a "Gill supporter" spewing anti-Jewish, pro-terror comments.

There's this hint as to the nature of the person behind the site: The site's link to Gill's web site is wrong. Gill's web site is simply "". Julie's is "". And the bad link? "". Note it is named like Lucas's site, not Gill's site. Quite a mistake for a person who supposedly supports Gill, to have a link that doesn't reach Gill's site but is formed the same way as his opponent's web site.

It seems someone interested in destroying Gill has latched onto the attacks made by Greg and John and have taken them one giant step further.

Now, Greg's attacks are misguided and wrong-headed, but I don't believe motivated by the kind of hatred seen in this new web site.

I am certain that neither Faisal Gill, or Julie Lucas, have anything to do with this site. But it sure seems the web site is NOT what it claims to be -- the question is whether the person who started it is a Lucas supporter, or just a Gill hater.

I'll mirror what Greg said -- Lucas cannot be smeared with the existence of this site. A candidate cannot be held responsible for what crazed supporters (or crazed opponents of opponents) do on their behalf.

The person who is using this web site to smear Gill by association should be exposed. Although he/she is really just taking what Greg and Jonathan are doing (smear-by-association) to a much meaner, evil level.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

To Many, winning is no option.

My column from February 1, 2007, finally posted to the Potomac News web site. Interestingly, the Washington Post has an opinion this Sunday that claims the war is unwinnable, titled "Victory is not an option".

My column, To many, winning is no option, takes Senator Webb to task for his response to the President's State of the Union address, and argues that we have lost focus on what should be our shared goal of victory in the war:

To many, winning is no option
Potomac News
Thursday, February 1, 2007

Last month I wrote about the Iraq Study Group report, saying they asked the wrong question. At the time I assumed every American wanted to win the war in Iraq, and therefore the question was not "how do we conclude the war," but rather "how do we win it?"

Our new senator, James Webb, gave the Democrats' response to the president's State of the Union address last week. In his speech, he again said the goal was removing our troops, suggesting paradoxically "not a precipitous withdrawal" but "a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq."

To support his contention, he cited President Dwight Eisenhower, who said of the Korean War, "When comes the end?" Webb noted that "as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end."

Webb is a well-educated man, and no neophyte regarding military history. But the Korean War is a great example of the wrong-headedness of pursuit of "conclusion" rather than "victory." The war was "ended" over 50 years ago, but U.S. troops are still in South Korea. North Korea is one of the greatest threats to our country and the world, and a constant source of trouble. Even Vietnam is less of a problem today than Korea.

Given the success of South Korea, one can imagine how much better it would be for the North Korean people, and the world, had we achieved victory rather than "conclusion." Of course, unlike Iraq, the Korean War was truly a civil war, and the result was probably the best we could do. But Korea is not the model we should desire for Iraq.

More revealing was the result of a poll taken after the president presented his new plan for Iraq. Fox News asked, "Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to succeed?" Not "do you think it will succeed?" or "do you think there is a better plan?" but simply "do you hope we win?" I expected a vast majority of Americans would say yes -- because nobody wants us to lose.

I was very wrong. Only 51 percent of Democrats wanted victory in Iraq. A shocking 34 percent affirmatively called for defeat, while another 15 percent weren't sure if American victory was something they supported. My premise that all Americans think victory is preferable to defeat is wrong. Half the now-majority party not only expects us to fail, but they want us to fail.

So when the Democrats reject America's new Iraq plan, remember their opinion is clouded by their desire for America to lose. Their actions are guided by their hope that Bush's plan fails.

Winning clearly isn't a concern for Sen. Hillary Clinton. At a recent town hall meeting, she said the goal was to "bring the Iraq war to the right end." Or more accurately, to force President Bush to clean it up before she takes office: "I think it's the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it … we should expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office."
Still, I am not ready to concede defeat at the hands of the Democrats. Our country has a window of opportunity to win the war before the Democrats turn enough people against winning that it's politically safe for them to act.

In the past two months, the president replaced Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the commander of the Iraq forces. He proposed a dramatic shift in tactics, based on the recommendation of his new defense secretary and his new general. The Senate confirmed both -- General Petraeus by unanimous vote. But the Democrats are trying to pass a "non-binding" resolution denying the new general the tools he said he needed to win when they confirmed him.

Both General Petraeus and Secretary Gates made it clear the resolution will embolden our enemies. They obviously thought that would matter to the new majority. But the Fox poll, and their own words, suggest that far from being concerned, such an outcome is acceptable -- anything to increase the pressure to withdraw the troops. Winning isn't an option for the Democrats -- some don't even see it as desirable.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Senator Warner, Lying with the Democrats.

Our senior senator, John Warner, is feverishly working on a resolution to join the democrats in undermining our troops. To justify his actions, he recounted a story of his time as Navy Secretary:

"I regret that I was not more outspoken" during the Vietnam War, the former Navy secretary said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office. "The Army generals would come in, 'Just send in another five or ten thousand.' You know, month after month. Another ten or fifteen thousand. They thought they could win it. We kept surging in those years. It didn't work."

Is that a lesson for what's going on in Iraq?

"Well, you don't forget something like that," he answers. There is a long pause, he closes his eyes and his voice gets softer. "No. You don't forget those things."

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, I guess. But what of those who make up history? Seems John Warner has something in common with John Kerry, who famously remembered "Christmas in Cambodia", and Nixon ordering him into that country -- it was "seared in his memory". Except he wasn't IN Cambodia that Chrsitmas, and Nixon wasn't president.

Well, Bill Kristol nails the Kerry-esque John Warner in a piece in the Weekly Standard, titles "A terrible Ignonimity":

In fact, John Warner was Richard Nixon's undersecretary of the Navy from 1969 to 1972, then Navy secretary until 1974. No admiral (or Army general) showed up in either his undersecretarial or secretarial office in those years to urge more troops for Vietnam--because we were then drawing down as part of Vietnamization. So Warner would seem to be making up these conversations with foolishly optimistic Army generals--unless they visited him before 1969 in his office at the law firm of Hogan and Hartson, where he was ensconced during the period of the Vietnam buildup.

Apparently, not only don't you forget stuff like that, you even remember it when IT DIDN'T HAPPEN!!!!

I had hoped that Warner could talk some sense in to Jim Webb, but it appears there's no sense in the old man anymore. When you start remembering conversations that never happened, it's time to think about that long walk into the sunset.