Friday, February 29, 2008

Colgan's response to criticism fails

I feel somewhat bad chastising our Senator Chuck Colgan, right after he stood up for one of his principles and voted with the Republicans to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

But he has been rightly criticized for breaking two of his campaign promises, and his effort to "explain" his vote neither acknowledges his perfidy, or explains his actions.

Last year Colgan wrote a guest column for the Potomac News making the case for a gas tax. I, believing him to be honorable if misguided, actually wrote a column of my own where I agreed with him on the point. Which made me look like a fool when, just before his election, in a tight race, he denied ever supporting a gas tax increase and promised he would not increase gas taxes.

But when the gas tax came up in the Senate, he enthusiastically supported it. As he tries to describe his actions in today's letter, "Colgan responds to letter writer" (I've re-arranged his letter:

The writer claimed I voted recently for an increase in the gasoline tax.
The bill which I voted for would increase the gas tax one cent per gallon this year and each year for a total of five cents per gallon after five years.

In other words, the letter writer was correct. And what excuse does Colgan give?:

Since I voted for a bill which was going to reduce revenues by $65 million I thought it proper to try to replace that revenue with the slight increase in gasoline tax which will, in part, be paid by out-of-state drivers

In other words, he claims that the situation had somehow changed, that because he was not getting rid of the abusive driver fees, he HAD to vote for a gas tax.

But here's the problem with that explanation: Colgan was promising to get rid of the abusive driver fees in his campaign, at the same time he was promising NOT to support a gas tax. He KNEW we were going to lose the "$65 million", when he promised not to support a gas tax.

Oh, and that $65 million is a chimera as well -- the actual money raised was more in the order of a couple of million dollars, rather than the 65 million they had THOUGHT would be raised.

And we should not forget that originally, the abusive driver fees would have applied to out-of-state drivers. Colgan voted AGAINST that. But when Governor Kaine amended the fees to exempt out-of-state drivers, Colgan voted FOR the amended proposal.

Having acknowledged that the letter writer told the truth, Colgan still attacks the writer:

He failed to say that I also was one of seven co-sponsors of legislation, which abolished the hated abusive driver’s fines which were levied against drivers who violated certain traffic laws. Not only did that bill pass but it also contained provisions to reimburse those who paid these fines after July 1, 2007.

But a true accusation of the violation of one's promises does not obligate an accounting of other more honorable actions. That Colgan kept his easy promise to vote with EVERY other senator to right the wrong he committed last year by voting for the abusive driver fees does not excuse his violation of a promise not to raise the gasoline tax, a promise that now clearly seems to have been made with full knowledge that it was only to win an election.

Because unless Colgan is NOW lying about his "need" to raise the gasoline tax, he must have equally known of this need last October when he promised to end the abusive driver fees, AND still promised not to support a gasoline tax increase.

All that is left is for Colgan to try to explain what OTHER taxes he was intending to raise last October in order to replace the $65 million he KNEW he was going to vote to rescind. Because surely he must have known, since he promised not to raise the gas tax, that there would be some other tax that must be raised to, as he said, replace those tax dollars.

BTW, in this same letter Colgan equally fails to defend breaking his promise regarding illegal immigrants:

The writer claimed I voted for legislation which would allow illegal aliens to attend our colleges and universities and pay in-state tuition.

This is partly true.

Once again, the letter writer told the truth. But Colgan believes that the "conditions" of the legislation somehow excuses his betrayal of his constituents:

However, what his letter didn’t state are the conditions under which the so-called illegal student would be permitted to enroll.

The conditions are: If the student has been a resident of the United States for at least three years, if the student graduated from a Virginia high school, if at least one parent has filed a tax return during that past three years and if the student has initiated the process of becoming a citizen; it is better that he or she be educated. I voted for a similar bill during Governor Mark Warner’s term.

We KNEW he voted for this during Warner's term. In fact, that was the reason his opponent in the election was saying Colgan should be sent home -- because he supported in-state tuition for illegals. His opponent cited the bill in question, and said that Colgan would support it again.

Colgan, in response, said his opponent was lying and that he would not support in-state tuition for illegals. And now that he has gone back on his word, he admits that his opponent was absolutely right, and that his words of last October were hollow promises meant only to win him a few ill-gotten votes and possible an undeserved re-election.

Shame on Colgan for treating his constituents so foully.

Bob Marshall Defeats NVTA!!!

When Bob Marshall sued the state over the unconstitutionality of the NVTA taxing authority, a lot of people ridiculed him. Well, it appears he has the last laugh.

From the Potomac News, "Court Rules Unconstitutional northern Va. taxing authority":

A regional authority created by the General Assembly to levy taxes for northern Virginia transportation projects is unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

In a unanimous opinion, the court said legislators improperly delegated taxing powers to the unelected members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The ruling invalidates about $300 million in bonds financed by the taxes.

Justice Bernard S. Goodwyn wrote that “the General Assembly has failed to adhere to the mandates of accountability and transparency that the Constitution requires when the General Assembly exercises the legislative taxing authority permitted by the Constitution.”

Unanimous. The State Constitution requires that taxes be raised by elected officials. Instead, the NVTA was populated with people who were not elected to their positions, and have no accountability. Worse, many of the members were not elected to ANY body.

In fact, in a slap to Prince William County, Governor Kaine appointed to one of the slots Sharon Pandak, who has been soundly rejected TWICE to represent the people of our county.

So for now, we are protected from about three hundred million dollars in unconstitutional tax increases. Of course, that's $300 million worth of roads we won't get -- oh wait, that's right, a majority of the tax money was NOT going to build roads anyway.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Stupid Potomac News

As you may know, I write for the Potomac News. You may also know that they so far have not given me permission to post my own articles to my own web site, instead insisting that I link to their web site.

So of course, they just moved everything to "insidenova". And of course, that means every link I've ever used is now broken.

Since they haven't had a good search for my older columns for a while, that means there's some columns I'll never be able to link to again (I of course have all of them in word documents on my computer).

Of course, they probable only moved one or two things over, so the links are gone, until they figure out what they've done.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My thoughts about Last november

I've been putting off writing about last November's elections. Frankly, my opinion isn't all that important, or necessarily informed. And I didn't see the point of making any broad statements so soon after the election where they might be seen as self-serving.

Remember that I'm not a political consultant. I don't really know how elections are won or lost, and while I have suggestions for candidates, I don't know if these would be winning suggestions, or losing ones.

Number one: My opinion now is that candidates can't ignore blog attacks. I used to think they could, that the blogs were just noise read by people who already made up their minds. But now I see that ordinary folks use the web "just to get info", and if the only information out their is a string of negative information, it will have an impact.

I don't think candidates should go after their accusers, or even directly address posts and comments. What I think they should do is to provide their own regular columns in which they would address the accusations indirectly. These columns could be posted on their web site, or could be e-mailed to bloggers who could post them. Get some bloggers on your side, and let them do the work of interpreting your statements relative to the attacks. Volume is great, but it has to start with authoritative information.

For example, in the Gill race, I could post as many articles as I wanted about MY opinion justifying his law firm's work representing people in deportation hearings. But without the candidate making the argument, nobody knows if my opinion matches the facts -- it was just speculation.

And no newspaper was going to pick up MY thoughts. If the reporter read statements from the campaign, that would be news. This used to be bad -- it would get a story that was previously in the blogs out into the real world. So I wouldn't use this to tackle clearly scurrilous and false stories, but for real questions, even if they are based on false premises, the good of having the truth published outweighs the focus on the false stuff. And it gives bloggers real facts to post.

Number two: Regarding Gill. I don't think the "terrorist" charges are what did him in. I don't think the accusations of "representation of illegal immigrants" did him in either, although frankly I think that was a more serious problem for him and did cost him votes. And I realise that without those two issues, this third one wouldn't by itself had made the difference in this close race.

But I think his real problem was having powerful blogger personally opposed to him in the county. Because Greg was against him, it gave voice to every negative piece of information, it gave the opposition a large platform from which to operate, and it gave a lot of people cover for attacks. Further, it showed the democrats that there was significant resistance within the Republican party for a nominee, which may have made it easier to urge Nichols to enter the race.

Gill would be a great delegate. He is a bright man with good conservative ideas, he can express himself well, he is a powerful debater, he is personable, and except for the relationship with Muslim organizations (which I think are explainable but will always be there to be twisted into something else), his family history and his own biography are excellent.

But in my own uninformed opinion, because of the reality of the local Republican opposition driven in large measure by personal conflicts both with Gill and with certain members of the republican leadership, I fear that Gill would have a hard time winning an election here in Prince William while his critics are still here. He'd have a great chance if he moved somewhere else and established a new connection.

In a perfect world, the animosity could be overcome by hard work and civility, but this isn't a perfect world, and people have said so many things that I don't see them being able to overcome it, if for no reason other than the natural inclination to save face. Those who spent months insisting that Gill had a plan to steal the convention with the help of Kopko couldn't turn around and say Gill wasn't involved. Those who ridiculed Gill as a strategy to defend a lawsuit would have a hard time pushing him as the competent, intelligent, and able legislator he would be.

There of course is a certain narrow segment of our party (and the democrat party too) who can't get over the "devout muslim" aspect of the Gill candidacy. Without other negatives, that can be overcome -- EVERY candidate loses a percentage of his base for one reason or another. But having had e-mail exchanges arguing this point, it is clear that a few very motivated people DO think it would be wrong to put a "muslim" in a position of power.

I heard the same from one or two people about Mitt Romney and his "Mormonism". As I said, this crosses party lines, but is something we have to be aware of. It's no help just yelling "bigot" when you confront this -- the arguments made are often "valid" things to discuss, and they should be discussed without the personal animosity. But it's hard -- I've been called a jihadist simply for supporting Gill, which makes it hard to actually discuss the real implications of a person's faith as it impacts legislative tasks.

Number three: Again, I am not a professional, or particularly well-informed. But I agree with Ben Tribbet, who said at the Thursday committee of 100 forum that he doesn't think Faisal's loss is what caused Jay O'Brien to lose. In my opinion, the abuser fees are what did him in. Those fees were a big mistake both policy-wise and politically for a Republican, and hurt many of our candidates.

Would a stronger showing by a local republican have helped Jay? Probably. But Corey Stewart was on the ballot in those precincts, and he did pretty well. It's not like Republicans didn't show up, and while they may have voted for Nichols in a some cases instead of Gill, if they also chose to vote against O'Brien it wasn't because Jay supported Gill (after all Corey did as well). I haven't done the analysis that Ben does, so this is just my gut feeling.

I don't post this to step on any toes. It's just my observations. If Gill does decide to run again, I hope I am wrong about my opinion, because as I said he'd be a good delegate. If someone things O'Brien did lose because of Gill, maybe they are more informed than I am -- I just don't see it.

And for those who actually believed what they were saying about Gill, that's sad in my view. But I'm through arguing about it.

(ED NOTE: I was just going through my old posts, and found that this was never posted, so I did it)

Virginia's HPV Vaccine Mandate

I've written two opinion columns regarding Virginia's school-attendance mandate for the HPV vaccination, where I've argued that because HPV is not transmitted by normal school activity, parents shouldn't be required to vaccinate their children in order to attend school. Required vaccinations should be limited to diseases where, if the parent sent their child to school with the disease, it would put others at risk.

A lot of people dismiss the point by changing the subject, suggesting that us "Christians" just want to force our morality on others. So I found the latest newsletter from the Family Research Counsel especially interesting, as well as informative.

Our House of delegates wisely voted to delay the HPV vaccine requirement (although I think they should repeal the law entirely, and instead simply provide educational materials about the vaccine and let parents decide with their doctors what they should do). The Senate however rejected the delay.

There are questions about the HPV vaccine safety. Probably no more than any vaccine, but realise that if you are at essentially ZERO risk for the infection, and there is a 0.01% risk of a serious side effect, you needlessly harm one child out of 10,000 by mandating the vaccine for everybody.

My personal opinion, which NOBODY should accept (as I said, see your doctor), is that if your child is going to be sexually active, they should get the vaccine, otherwise they should wait a year or two to see first whether the anecdotes about serious and fatal side-effects pan out, and second to see how the second vaccine coming out shortly does in that regard -- it may be a safer vaccine.

Here is the article from the Family Research Counsel, Virginia takes cheap shot at vaccine concerns (2nd article down at link):

Despite new fears over the safety of the HPV vaccine, a Virginia senate committee voted 10-5 yesterday to kill a bill that would have postponed the state's vaccination mandate. The vote came just hours after Arizona news agencies broke the story that the HPV vaccine Gardasil may be linked to the paralysis of a 12-year-old girl. [ED link: Mom Says HPV Vaccine Caused Paralysis in 12-year-old Girl]

Virginia now has the dubious distinction of being the only state in America to require sixth-grade girls to be immunized against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). Sixteen other states backed away from mandating after a grassroots outcry from concerned parents whose role in the process was to be short-circuited.

The legislation from Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (R) simply asked the state to delay its mandate until researchers are able to collect data on the drug's long-term effects. Unfortunately, Virginia has stubbornly chosen to put corporate profit ahead of women's health and parental authority. FRC, which welcomed the development of the vaccine but opposes school mandates, has released a pamphlet by Moira Gaul, MPH, called, "Gardasil: What Every Parent Should Know About the HPV Vaccine." Visit our web site to pick up your copy!

Here is a link to a statement they made a couple of years ago about the vaccine, including their support for the vaccine itself:

After extensive study of the vaccine and discussion with medical experts, we concluded that the public health benefits of developing and distributing such a vaccine far outweighed any potential, hypothetical concerns about its impact on sexual behavior. Therefore, we announced in October of 2005 that we would enthusiastically support the development of the vaccine and federal approval of its use, including its addition to the list of vaccines recommended to physicians and of those made available to lower-income families through the Vaccines for Children program. Virtually all pro-family public policy organizations have announced similar support for the vaccine itself.

The only public policy measure which we would oppose in promoting the vaccine is an effort to make it mandatory for school attendance. Our reason for that is that it would infringe upon parental rights to decide their own children's medical care, without sufficient public health justification (because HPV is not transmitted through casual contact). To repeat, our opposition to mandatory vaccination is rooted in a concern about parents' rights, not about sexual behavior.

They have some other material about HPV posted on their web site, here are some links. Don't use this as your sole source of information. I didn't know they had this information before I wrote my columns, I wish I had:

Don't mandate HPV vaccine -- trust parents
Family Research Counsil Statement Regarding HPV Vaccines

Friday, February 22, 2008

Committee Of 100 Blog Panel

I've finally arrived home from the Prince William Committee of 100 panel on blogging, ethics, and the 1st amendment. I had a wonderful time except for the dread fear I always go through when having to do a public speaking event. (which I rarely if ever do, because I'm not big on dread fear).

There wasn't as much disagreement on the panel as you may have expected. I wasn't that surprised. I did think the discussion was interesting.

I prepared too much, part of that fear thing. If I ever have to do something like this again, I'll be "better" prepared.

The entire thing will be on the web somewhere in video form. I may not link to it -- I don't think I'll enjoy seeing myself, as I'm certain I'll hate what I say and how I look. And I can only hope and pray that I didn't do anything embarrassing.

I may post some of my prepared comments later in a different thread, or maybe not. I'm working on some theories of how we can "take back" the web as a force for good, but I'm not sure that's possible, or whether my ideas would actually work. Maybe we can discuss it together.

I finally met Jonathan Marks, who for the record I still dispise as an internet persona. :)

But as is true for nearly every person I meet, I had no trouble carrying on a civil and actually interesting conversation in person -- we spoke for over 20 minutes. This reminds me that I've meant to put down my thoughts about the last election, and I'll probably do that in the next few days now that I had a chance to articulate them.

I sat at a table with Earnie Porta, Mayor of the Town of Occaquan. I truly enjoyed speaking with him, and with the others at my table who while not as public a figure as Earnie were equally engaging.

I'll probably wait to post anything particularly substantive, and instead read what others might be posting. There were many bloggers at the event.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Blogging, Ethics, and the First Amendment

I'm one of four speakers on a panel at the Committee of 100 tomorrow night. We are talking about Blogging, Ethics, and the First Amendment.

Ben Tribbet is also on the panel, as are two lawyers.

Having not done any serious public speaking in the last 8 years, it should be interesting. I used to have a pretty good command of words, but as I've gotten older I find the words don't quite pop into my head so quickly.

It should be entertaining, as well as informative.

Given Ben's blog ranking, and mine, it appears together we represent the average blog :-)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Doesn't anybody fact-check Obama's claims?

Apparently not, from what I just heard.

Let's just do a single "fact". How much do CEOs make? Well first, this web site claims the average CEO makes 15 million in total compensation a year. The entire group of CEOs at the fortune 500 companies made about 5 billion, which is about 10 million a year average.

The top 3 CEOs, and their compensation, are given in this table:

$230 Million: Terry S Semel Yahoo
$156 Million: Barry Diller IAC/InterActiveCorp
$124 Million: William W McGuire UnitedHealth Group
$92 Million: Howard Solomon Forest Labs

OK, with that in mind, let's look at THIS statement from Obama's speech:

“When we have CEOs making more in 10 minutes than most people make in a year”
(I wrote that down as he said it, don't have a transcript yet).

OK, lets take Terry. $230 million a year. There are 525,600 minutes in a year. So in 10 minutes, Terry makes $4370.

How many people do you know who make 4370 dollars in a year? Is that what the average person makes?

Maybe Obama meant 10 minutes of a working day. And maybe he believes a CEO works an 8-hour day, and a 5-day week. There are 125,142 working minutes in such a year. So in 10 of THOSE minutes, Terry makes $18,370. That's less than the poverty level.

So we can see that even the highest compensated CEO in the country doesn't make in 10 minutes what the average american makes in a year.

To contrast, John Edwards gave about an hour speech at U.C. Davis, and was paid $55,000 -- which is about $10,000 for 10 minutes.

Or maybe this is a better contrast. Obama has tha backing of Oprah Winfrey, and has had her with him on stage, getting her endorsement and by inference endorsing her. And what does SHE make? Well, according to Forbes, in 2005, she made $225 million dollars. That's a mere 5 million less than the top-paid CEO in 2007.

So, is Oprah one of those people that Obama thinks should have her salary cut? Did he mention it to her when she was on stage with him?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Legal Statement of User Comment Policy

The term "commenter" refers to people who leave comments on this blog through the comment capability.

The term owner refers to the people who operate this blog, and have administrative authority.

Comments made by commenters on this blog are the opinions of the user, not the owner(s) of this blog.

By posting comments to this blog, the commenters grant an unlimited use license to the owner(s) of this blog.

This unlimited use means that the owner(s) have no responsibility to allow deletions of comments, or to delete comments even upon request by the commenters.

This unlimited use also means that the owner(s) can delete or edit the comments as they deem necessary, without prior permission of the commenters and without notification to the commenters.

This statement is made for legal purposes only, and is not intended to reflect a change in how this blog will be maintained in the future.

The comments for this entry will be open, so I can have a discussion of this statement, which is driven by some disturbing information I have read regarding the legal status of comments made to blogs.

Reference: 12 important U.S. Laws every blogger needs to know.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Obama Waffling on Campaign Finance Promise?

Last November, when Obama was trying to burnish his credentials as a new kind of politician, (and when he looked like a long-shot for the nomination), he promised to adhere to the federal campaign finance limits by taking public funding for the general election, so long as his republican opponent would do the same.

In a response to a questionare from the Midwest Democracy Institute, Obama repeated a pledge his campaign first made in March of 2007, at which time McCain pledged as well, to use public financing for the general election. I found the text of the questionare at the Democratic Underground web site:

On November 27, 2007, the Midwest Democracy Network, an alliance of 20 civic and public interest groups based in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, released the results of a questionnaire that they sent to all of the presidential candidates.The following question was on the questionnaire: If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in presidential public financing system?

You answered this question as follows:

OBAMA: Yes. I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.

It is clear that Obama made a pledge, a promise, to use public funding if the republican agreed. McCain of course has agreed. But now, there are some indications that the Obama campaign no longer intends to keep their promise. But worse, they are now lying about what Obama said previously.

From the Washington Post, "Mr. Obama's Waffle":

Speaking to the Associated Press, Mr. Obama's spokesman, Bill Burton, downgraded the Obama plan to "something that we pursued with the FEC and it was an option that we wanted on the table and is on the table." Asked about the campaign's earlier position, Mr. Burton said, "No, there is no pledge."

Obama specifically used the word "pledge" in November, but now his spokesman says there is no pledge.

Obama should either be a man and directly state that he was withdrawing his pledge (since he has so much money now). It is clear that his previous pledge was based not on principle, but on the fact that he didn't think he could raise money. Now that he can raise millions, he wants out -- but instead of admitting the truth, he sent his campaign spokesperson out to lie about what he said before.

If on the other hand Burton is wrong, Obama needs to fire him to prove that Obama is still committed to the public financing plan that McCain has requested of him, and that Obama has promised to follow.

More on the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

A commenter asked how I determined that the Commonwealth Institute was a front group for organizations which support illegal immigration.

Rather than respond in a comment, I thought I'd put the information here in a new post, since the thrust of my previous post was to debunk the study, not discuss the organization.

First, according to the article, the Commonwealth Institute's purpose is "to counter some anti-illegal immigrant sentiment in the legislature." The article also says:

"Some of the strongest voices against immigration in Virginia have characterized undocumented immigrants as takers, as people who do not contribute to our state and to our community. This research clearly demonstrates that they are wrong,'' said Michael Cassidy, executive director of the organization.

Note the use of the terms "immigration" rather than "illegal immigration", and later "undocumented immigrants" rather than "illegal immigrants" or more accurately "illegal aliens". These are the phrases used by pro-illegal groups.

If you go to the Commonwealth Institute web site, and look at the bottom of the main page, you will see that the copyright for the page is "Virginia Interfaith Center". Further, the Institute's spokesperson Michael Cassidy is a lobbyist for the Interfaith Center., which VPAP says deals with "Fiscal Policies with a focus on how they affect low-income Virginians."

Next, we go to the Virginia Interfaith Center web site's partners page. We find the following groups:

Interfaith Worker Justice, which provides this statement on immigration, which includes:

Legalize the status of immigrant workers and their families, especially those who come to
the U.S. fleeing oppression and destitution.

Create a clear and easy path for immigrants, including “guest workers,” to legalize their
status, and to make this policy as broad and far-reaching as possible with the least amount of
restrictions, thus helping newcomers exercise their labor rights without fear of job termination
or deportation.

Create a climate in which families with a mix of citizens, legal residents, and undocumented
immigrants would gain protection, so that they would no longer fear forced separation or
relocation because a family member is detained or deported.

Virginia Alliance For Worker Justice, which highlights this article decrying Prince William's arrest of illegal immigrant day laborers.

The Virginia Organizing Project, which published the article "Hurting immigrants won't fix the immigration problem", which says in part:

Virginia also benefits from the hard labor of a huge workforce of both documented and undocumented immigrants working for low pay.
This past spring, millions of our immigrant brothers, sisters, co-workers, friends and neighbors took to the streets and marched for justice. At issue was a piece of federal legislation that would have turned millions of hardworking immigrants into felons. Their protest message was simple: ‘We are not criminals. We are here to work and support our families.’
This session, the Virginia Justice Center will be working with VOP and our other community partners to ensure that the General Assembly recognizes the contributions of Virginia’s immigrants. Immigrant-bashing to score political points will not go unchallenged. The Virginia Justice Center asks you to be ready to oppose anti-immigrant proposals like these that will probably come up this year:
  • Bills that would stop local governments from using local funding to offer services to many immigrant residents of their communities;
  • Bills that would prevent many of Virginia’s immigrant children from going on to college either through bans on college admission or access to in-state tuition;
  • Bills that would undermine community policing efforts and increase racial profiling by calling for local and state police to try to enforce immigration law, instead of leaving immigration enforcement to trained federal agents; and,
  • Bills that would mean more frustrated people at DMV desperately searching for the right combination of documents and lead to even more unlicensed drivers on Virginia’s roads.

They are also associated with SALT (Social Action Linking Together), which published their 2008 agenda containing this:

Perhaps immigration is the most disappointing issue faced by NETWORK in 2007. At the beginning of 2007 the popular wisdom was that we would get the McCain/Kennedy bill from 2006 through the Senate and then have rough sledding in the House. We did not adequately factor in the reluctance of Senators to vote for that bill when they knew that the House would not make it more restrictive. As a consequence, despite two valiant attempts to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, nothing was accomplished. All sides are now reverting to piecemeal attempts to move the issue forward. NETWORK continues to make comprehensive immigration reform a key issue, especially in the 2008 election.

I think this sufficiently demonstrates that the organizations teamed up with Virginia Interfaith Center and the "Institute" are pro-illegal-immigrant, or as they say "undocumented immigrants".

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fake "study" says Illegals pay taxes

The Potomac News published an article today covering a "study" performed by a pro-illegal front group titled "Report: Illegal Immigrants Contribute". The report was written by "The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis".

This group shares an address and phone number with the Virginia Interfaith Center and Public Policy, a group with decidedly pro-illegal leanings.

The article states:

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis estimates that illegal immigrants contribute between $379 million and $453 million a year in income, sales, property and other taxes.

But the article then notes that you can't actually do this:

The study recognizes there is no way to calculate exactly how much illegal immigrants pay in taxes.

So instead, they just guess:

It uses figures from a 2005 Pew Hispanic Center study that estimates there are 250,000 to 300,000 illegal immigrants in Virginia. The center estimates that Virginia's at least 109,000 undocumented households earns an average of $27,400 annually, resulting in at about $3 billion in income.

"Like all other workers in our state, they spend that money,'' Cassidy said. "And like most low-wage workers, they spend almost all of that money.''

Cassidy said the study accounted for about $4,000 each year that would be sent back to the immigrant's home country and not put back into the economy.

The study estimated that about half of the illegal immigrant workers paid income taxes, meaning they and their employers also contributed to Social Security and Medicare, benefits they are ineligible to receive.

This is not a “study”. They took an estimate of how many illegals were in the state. They took a guess as to how much money each one would earn. They then guessed how much of that money they would spend, guessed how many people lived in a home, and guessed what their income tax rate would be.

They added up all the numbers, and said “that’s how much tax they pay”.

But the sales tax for food is 1.5%, and many illegals mostly by food. If they buy stuff over the internet, they might not collect sales tax, but instead have to pay “use tax”, but the illegals wouldn’t be filing their ‘use tax’ forms.

They live multiple people to a home, which means the per-person property taxes are low.

They have to pay gas tax, except a lot of them drive bicycles and even mopeds that they modify to go faster than the 35-mph legal limit (there’s a bill about that in the Virginia legislature now). So often they aren’t buying much gasoline.

They pay payroll tax, but only if they are being paid “legally”, which many of them aren’t. Day laborers are often contracted as independent agents, and expected to do their own payroll and income taxes.

This of course all casts into doubt their numbers. Then you have to do a “relative” cost analysis.

If the illegals all disappeared, SOME jobs would go with them, since some of this work is to support the illegal immigrant community. But most of the jobs would still remain, and would be filled by legal workers. Not only would they pay those same taxes, they might be paid MORE money for the jobs because of less competition, so they’d pay MORE in taxes. And they would be less likely to skip out on taxes.

In the end, I imagine the tax collected would INCREASE if the illegals were gone. The economy might shrink some, because there would be fewer people.

Then you have to look at the cost side of the ledger. How much does it cost to have all these poor illegals?

Well, we already know that adding a typical poor family to a state COSTS the state money. That’s for legals or illegals. That’s why counties try to encourage upscale home building, and discourage condos and rental units. A rich person and a poor person use the same roads, but the rich person adds a lot more to the economy for that road use, for example.

And these illegals are mostly poor people. They don’t contribute enough to pay for the COMMON services, but as poor people they also use ADDITIONAL services — free medical care, social service programs, food stamps, etc. Some are hard for the illegals to get, others very easy to come by.

The numbers people throw around here for school are mostly low. The AVERAGE cost for a student is between 10-14 thousand dollars. But the average well-educated white student from a middle class family costs very little to educate, maybe 6-7 thousand dollars. The reason the average is so high is bacause of the mandated special education needs of other students.

Like illegals, who need special english programs, and head start, and remedial training, and tutors, and extra counselors, and spanish-speaking administrators. Also school lunches, school breakfasts.

So my guess is each illegal student is going to be ABOVE the 10-14 thousand dollar cost.

Since my total virginia tax bill doesn’t seem to quite cover the stated cost of educating my two children, it is clear that the taxes collected won’t come NEAR to paying for a poor illegal with 5 children, one of whom has children of her own (yep, 12-year-olds are having children at my son’s middle school).

Aid to families with dependent children. Medicare payments. Child tax credits, refundable. Child day care tax credits.

The cost of a poor segment of society is enormous. Encouraging millions more to be that poor segment is absurd.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama votes to punish companies that help fight terror

In our fight against terrorism, one key component is our ability to determine what the terrorists are planning, before they can carry out their plans. 9/11 was in part a failure of intelligence, our inability to effectively put together information, to intercept the communications, to dig through seized computer assets.

We learned a lot in the wake of 9/11. We had multiple hearings on various aspects of that attack and our failures, including the famed 9/11 report. In response, we passed bills which improved our ability to catch the terrorists not in the act, but before the act.

In some cases, our executive branch requested the services of American telecommunications companies in protecting our country and it's people from terrorist attacks. These patriotic companies joined in the fight against terror. Whether you agree or disagree with the administration actions (I agree with them), it is clear the companies were doing their part in good faith to protect the citizens of this country.

But rather than praise these companies for looking out for American interests, some want to punish those companies. So the new anti-terror bill included protection for this companies. A broad bipartisan majority agreed to this protection. But Obama voted to punish these American companies. From the Wall Street Journal, "Obama's Wiretap Votes":

Now and then sanity prevails, even in Washington. So it did yesterday as the Senate passed a warrantless wiretap bill for overseas terrorists while killing most of the Lilliputian attempts to tie down our war fighters.

"We lost every single battle we had on this bill," conceded Chris Dodd, which ought to tell the Connecticut Senator something about the logic of what he was proposing. His own amendment -- to deny immunity from lawsuits to telecom companies that cooperated with the government after 9/11 -- didn't even get a third of the Senate. It lost 67-31, though notably among the 31 was possible Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. (Hillary Clinton was absent, while John McCain voted in favor.)

The WSJ rightly criticizes Obama for this vote, and asks what this tells us of his naivete when it comes to protecting our country from the very real terror threat:

It says something about his national security world view, or his callowness, that Mr. Obama would vote to punish private companies that even the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee said had "acted in good faith." Had Senator Obama prevailed, a President Obama might well have been told "no way" when he asked private Americans to help his Administration fight terrorists. Mr. Obama also voted against the overall bill, putting him in territory.

It is clear that a large number of Democrats don't mind attacking American companies who are doing their best to help protect America. Those Democrats will be happy to vote for someone like Obama who will vote to make those companies pay for their service with lawsuits.

But I hope the large portion of the American electorate who care about this country and about protection from a terror attack will not support a Presidential candidate who does not share their views. I was hoping they would make up a majority of the Democratic voters, but it appears now that Obama is, inconceivably, being considered the party's choice for President. It may be too late for me to help get a more sane candidate from the Democratic party.

Obama says Yes to post-birth abortion.

Do abortion rights extend to babies who are already born alive? According to Presidential Candidate Barack Obama (D), they should.

Read more at "Obama says Yes to post-birth Abortion".

Barack would allow the deaths of the innocent in these "comfort rooms". He talks of the audacity of hope, but apparently that is nothing compared to the audacity of a man who would talk about hope but be so beholden to his pro-abortion views that he extends them to post-born babies.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Roger Clemens

Ever since allegations surfaced that Clemens used human growth hormone, Roger has been on an escalating campaign denying the charges. At each step, detractors suggested he had to go further.

This past week he went about as far as he could go, supposedly testifying under oath that he did not use any performance-enhancing chemicals. This testimony was to congressional investigators, which is another story in itself.

Now the trainer who alleged that he injected Clemens has turned over what he claims is physical evidence of the crime:

NEW YORK — Brian McNamee has given federal investigators bloody gauze pads, syringes and vials he said he used to inject Roger Clemens with steroids and human-growth hormone in 2000 and 2001, a lawyer familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer, hopes that DNA and chemical tests on the materials will support his contention that he injected Clemens with those drugs and prove that Clemens lied in a sworn deposition to congressional investigators Tuesday, the lawyer said.

This has been a fascinating story to me. I like trying to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth, by simply applying logic. It doesn't always work, because people are not logical.

In this case, maybe because I like Clemens, I feel the evidence at this point logically points in his favor. Up until his testimony, all his denials cost him nothing but his own reputation for truthfulness, which was hardly much of a risk compared to the hit from being called a cheater.

But lying under oath could land him in prison, something his actions could not. You wouldn't expect a smart man with legal representation to risk that if they knew the story was true.

Then the physical evidence was presented, and for some it was treated as important as the Blue Dress.

But I don't see it that way, and in fact the presentation of the "evidence" I think makes the allegataions a bit less believable.

Some argue that it seems strange the guy saved the evidence. But I am guessing the gauze will have Clemen's blood on it, for the simple truth that if it doesn't, the guy will be easily found to be a liar, and whatever deal he was getting will evaporate.

Likewise, I expect the drugs will be there, for the same reason. Although I do understand that people like this don't work on logic, and will in fact make denials that are trivially disproven, I never can bring myself to believe that before it is proven.

But it would be easy enough to mix the Clemen's material from normal injections, with drugs from others. So if the evidence shows what is alleged, it doesn't prove anything. And a smart man would know that -- so why keep it for so long, when it doesn't in fact help prove his case?

If he was keeping it for blackmail, he blew that by talking. If he was keeping it to protect himself, it doesn't do that either.

And remember the phone call? The one Clemens used to try to get the trainer to admit his deception? The trainer claims he was still friends with Clemens. If so, why not mention the evidence then, and say "Look, Roger, I have the syringe with your blood on it, so you better fess up."

It would have kept Roger from attacking him -- which is why he now says he kept it.

Instead, he held this "evidence" AFTER Roger turned on him, until Clemens took a step that put him in real jeopardy.

I'm guessing there is a great book deal for the man who gets Clemens thrown in jail. But not for the man who is found to have falsely accused a well-respected pitcher.

As to what the truth is, I still hold out the possibility that the trainer shot up Clemens without his knowledge. If so, I the evidence he kept doesn't prove anything, but Roger insists he didn't get drugs -- which is another reason I tend to believe him, because it would be a lot easier for him to argue the guy just did it without Roger knowing about it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

2nd annual Blogger COnference

This was my first conference. I've noted that while I have many interests, I'm rarely dedicated to them, so I tend to be an outsider everywhere.

I feel that way about blogging as well, like I'm not really part of the "gang", that I'm a "hobbyist" in the midst of serious folks.

Despite that, I very much enjoyed the day at the 2nd annual Virginia Blogger's conference sponsored by Lt. Governor Bill Bolling. I got to meet a lot of people in person that I had previously only known through the internet -- and none of them were dissappointing.

I don't remember everybody's name anymore -- it was easier when people were wearing name tags. I think I've got a couple names saved off, but most have fallen out of my (very) short-term memory. I'm good with faces though.

I had my daughter with me, and we had a good time hanging out together and watching the wheels of politics turn slowly and mostly uselessly. We got to see the senate vote to repeal the abuser fees, at least twice because they had to vote a couple of times to catch all the stragglers.

Vivian Page, who also attended, blogged the event in real-time, and others have blogged a little about it. One woman whose name I can't remember does a pictoral blog that I think she called "conservative tivo" but I haven't found it. If I did, I'm betting there's lots of good pictures there of the event.

I like to look for things that aren't on the radar of most people, often things interest me that are ancillary to the real world. One for me was a vote on a bill to allow Virginia ABC stores to sell a magazine about wine. Ken Cuccinelli opposed this bill on the solid grounds that Virginia has no business selling magazines when there are magazine stores perfectly capable of doing so.

Someone, maybe Ken, made the more cogent point that we have little business selling wine in ABC stores, and maybe we have no real business running stores to sell liquor at all. It certainly seems that there are plenty of businesses out there that are perfectly capable of selling booze, and magazines, and whatever else it is that virginian's need. I'd hate to see Virginia getting into the chocolate-selling business.

Of course, most people didn't see the problem with state-run stores competing against private business that has to pay taxes and make a profit, I think 9 people voted for Ken's position. But at least there is somebody making the argument.

We had a session with four interesting guests, including Jackson Miller, Delegate 50th district. He's a local guy, not mine, but I've heard him speak before at our committee meetings, and he's always a straight shooter and an well-received speaker. Vivian gave him a hard time, not sure if it was serious or not, about a comment he made about bloggers and basements. I expressed mock shock that Vivian did not blog from her basement, and noted that at least he didn't mention pajamas.

He also talked about Brian Kirwin being a peeping tom. IT was just an example, but Brian didn't seem to surprised at the reference. :-) Seriously, it's a bill Miller is pushing to allow police to detain misdemeanor offenders if they feel it is necessary. He relayed it as part of an interesting story about how the VCDL was attacking him in conjunction with the ACLU over the bill, noting that politics can make strange bedfellows.

I also tracked down Jeff Frederick at the end of a house hearing, and said hi. I'm not in his district either, but I've spoken with him many times and find him to be both accessable, straight-forward, and a fine person. He's also hard-working and is right on most of the issues that matter to me.

Later I got to sit down with one of the Virginia Federalist bloggers (I remember his real name but not his blogger name), and the aforementioned picture-blogger woman. I truly enjoyed our conversation, and will assert that if blogging consisted of nothing more than a continual written conversation about issues like we barely scratched during that conversation, we could change the world for the better. It is what I always wanted from blogging, a chance to flesh out ideas and debate serious issues to find common ground and solutions.

It is sad that most of blogging instead is quick gotcha comments and mindless shilling for political parties and candidates, much of which seems to scream "don't take me seriously".

Ben Tribbet was also there. He received some praise for his analysis work, along with some ribbing for his other blogging activities. Ben and I are going to be on a panel about blogging for the Prince William Committee of 100 this month, and we spoke extremely briefly about that.

Mostly though my daughter and I just hung out, enjoyed the architecture and statues and the walk around the area. Even the part where we walked the wrong way around the lt. governor's office building and ended up just feet from the door, but one floor too high and one fence to large to scale.

I might have a picture of that somewhere -- I took some pictures, but haven't unloaded them yet.

The culmination of the evening was dinner on Bolling's tab. My daughter and I sat directly across from the Lt. Governor and his charming wife, Jean Ann. Mrs. Bolling and I discussed her sons, and theme parks (as readers know, I am somewhat of a theme park fanatic).

Bill Bolling was a very gracious host. He was coming off a rather severe cold or flu (Randy Marcus had to skip the event having been infected with whatever it was), but still attended to all our events.

When we first arrived, we all were sent to Bolling's conference room. The table had a few chairs, most taken when my daughter and I arrived. But the chair at the end was free. I knew that would be the Governor's chair, but being what I am, I sat down there anyway. It was very comfortable. After noting to my daughter that I would shortly be asked to move, a somewhat contrite Jeremy (Randy's replacement) mentioned that I was in the governor's chair, at which point I noted the appropriate biblical reference and moved another chair to the table.

However, I was mildly amused when I was told that I was the first person they could ever remember who had sat in that seat. I found that amazing, because it just seemed the natural thing to do for me, and I'm not really that much of a maverick. Anyway, you know what they say -- there's no such thing as bad publicity. And it was a very nice chair.

Well, that's about it for me for now. I might post pictures later.