Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rice chooses bad analogies to support Spanish "Anthem"

On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she saw nothing wrong with a spanish-language version of the national anthem. An article in Pakistan's Daily Times has her explanation:

“From my point of view, people expressing themselves as wanting to be Americans is a good thing,” she said in an interview on CBS television’s “Face the Nation” programme. “I’ve heard the national anthem done in rap versions, country versions, classical versions. The individualisation of the American national anthem is quite underway,” she said. AFP

Now, I happen to disagree with her acceptance of the various musical renditions of our national anthem. But even if they were acceptable, there is still one notable difference between these and the spanish Anthem --

They are all in ENGLISH, with the original words. The spanish ANTHEM is in spanish, and has a much different meaning. The spanish anthem is no star-spangled banner, it is an affront to what we as Americans hold dear, and those singing it should be rightly laughed off the stage where they perform.

Spanish Anthem's planned re-work is even worse

I missed this, from Thursday's Washington Post:

A remix to be released in June will contain several lines in English that condemn U.S. immigration laws. Among them: "These kids have no parents, cause all of these mean laws ... let's not start a war with all these hard workers, they can't help where they were born."

These kids have no parents? What laws are keeping them from having no parents?

Our lax immigration enforcement encourages fathers to leave their families and come to america to try to earn more money for his family back home. If anything, tough enforcement will make these fathers go back to be with their families, giving the children their "parents" back.

Nobody wants to start a war. We simply want to make sure people follow the law, and go through the proper procedures to enter our country.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Another translation of the spanish-language Anthem

I found this translation floating around on the web:

Jose can you see, by the dawns's early light,
It is time to hang out, at the seven-eleven,
When the Gringos drive by, to their truck take your flight,
To your low-paying, menial job you'll be driven.

Though some people may glare,
You have nothing to fear,
To stay is your right,
Congress says "please stay here",

Jose will that Mexican Banner soon wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

"Our Anthem" -- Not the Star Spangled Banner

I've seen a translation of the so-called spanish-language version of our national anthem. And it bears little resemblance to the real Star Spangled Banner.

All the pro-illegal-immigrant crowd has done is taken the music to our anthem, and written thier own version of what they think America means.

Which is what they want to do to our country -- turn it into what THEY think America should be.

This was probably one of the worst political moves they could possibly make. And if they understood America, and had learned of our culture and values, they NEVER would have made this mistake.

Here are the words to the spanish-language song "Our Anthem", translated back to english (I didn't do the translation, I found this on the web):

"Our Anthem" (Translated from Spanish)
Verse 1
Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail as night falls?
Its stars and stripes floated yesterday
In the fierce combat, the sign of victory
The flame of battle, in step with liberty.
Throughout the night it was said, "It is being defended."

Oh, say! Does it still show its beautiful stars
Over the land of the free, the sacred flag?

Verse 2
Its stars and stripes, liberty, we are the same.
We're brothers, it's our anthem.
In the fierce combat, the sign of victory,
The flame of battle, in step with liberty.
Throughout the night it was said, "It is being defended."

"Oh, say! Does it still show its beautiful stars?
Over the land of the free, the sacred flag?"

That is NOT our National Anthem. Where are the brave?

The National Anthem:

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'T is the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I happen to like the 4th verse the best.

If one blogs on the internet, and no one reads...

does it make a difference?

I don't know, but I've added a counter so I can see how many (or how few) people are visiting my site.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Rush Limbaugh -- Not Guilty

That's the truth. In what is certainly an odd plea agreement, Rush Limbaugh filed a "Not Guilty" plea to one count of "Doctor Shopping" in his case involving his addiction to prescription drugs. According to MSNBC, in a somewhat mistitled article Limbaugh surrenders on drug charge:

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Rush Limbaugh and prosecutors in the long-running painkiller fraud case against him have reached a deal calling for the only charge against the conservative commentator to be dropped if he continues treatment, his attorney said Friday.

Limbaugh was booked on a single charge that was filed Friday, said Teri Barbera, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Jail. He left about an hour later, after Limbaugh was photographed and fingerprinted and he posted $3,000 bail, Barbera said.

The radio giant’s agreement to enter a diversionary program ends a three-year state investigation that began after Limbaugh publicly acknowledged being addicted to pain medication and entered a rehabilitation program.

The charge of "doctor shopping" is not technically a "drug charge", although the normal reason for doctor shopping is to obtain prescriptions for re-sale or abuse. Also, he did not agree to "enter" a program, he agreed to remain in the program he is already in.

But it isn't until later in the article that they reveal what is probably the most important point. Normally, in a plea agreement, the accused pleads guilty to some charge, which the agreement allows to be dropped at a later time.

In fact, this wasn't a "plea agreement" at all, because there was no guilty plea entered:

Limbaugh pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of fraud to conceal information to obtain prescriptions. Though he steadfastly denies doctor shopping, the charge will be dismissed in 18 months if Limbaugh complies with court guidelines, his lawyer Roy Black said.

“Mr. Limbaugh and I have maintained from the start that there was no doctor shopping, and we continue to hold this position,” Black said in an e-mailed statement.

Limbaugh spokesman Tony Knight said the commentator signed the agreement Thursday, and that it called for him to enter the not guilty plea. “It’s not in the system moving toward trial. It was all a formality. It’s a concluded deal,” Knight said.

Note the devious use of the word "though" in the first paragraph -- usually it signifies a contradictory clause, but in this case it simply separates to independent items. First, Limbaugh pleads not guilty, and Second, the charges will be dropped.

However, there is an interesting kicker in this deal -- Rush agreed to pay the costs of the investigation for the prosecution. Of course, for Rush, $30,000 is nothing -- it would have cost a lot more to keep his attorney on retainer for a trial. But it will open him to charges of buying justice -- how many of us could afford to pay that much to get charges dropped?

On the other hand, prosecuters rarely go after first-time offenders who are addicted to pain pills as a result of treatment, especially when they have voluntarily entered rehabilitation.

So Rush can tell his fans he's "not guilty" -- clearly he is, as that is what he plead, and no court case is pending. And those who hate Rush can say he paid a fine (the $30,000 is not listed as a fine), and therefore "admitted guilt".

My guess is, if the prosecuter really thought he could make a case, he would have pursued it. And if Rush was absolutely certain of being found innocent, he probably would have fought it just to be able to say he was FOUND not guilty.

On the other hand, Rush probably would lose a mint having to show up in court to fight the charges, so this is probably what victory actually looks like -- meaning this is probably a BETTER outcome for Rush than even going to trial and being found innocent.

After all, a trial itself bears a stigma of guilt, even if a jury rules otherwise.

What Liberals Really Think

They say that Art imitates life. Television, on the other hand, imitates what it's creators THINK is real life.

If so, one has to wonder about the liberals who are behind ABC's struggling show "Commander In Chief", which airs I think on Thursday nights now. This is the show that some speculated was the left's attempt to "soften up" the nation for the idea that a woman could be President.

On last night's show, they wanted to deal with crime. So, being liberals, they chose what they believed would be the most obvious crime-ridden county -- one with a large number of minorities, Prince George's County.

To further offend those who liberals profess to be their base, they have the President show up at a local restaurant, where they serve Chitterlings and Pork Chops.

Local politicians are outraged, as reported on ABC 7 tonight.

Update: Among other things the residents are upset about:
  • President saying "To Greet some people, and try the chops"
  • A resident who shouts that they need "Mo' better cops"
  • Scenes of near-rioting.

Apparently that is what liberals think happens all the time in minority neighborhoods.

Get Your Own Anthem

and leave ours alone.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hispanic Boycott "Downgraded" (some fear backlash)

When hundreds of thousands of supporters of amnesty for illegal immigrants took to the streets a few weeks ago, it was seen as a blow to those who wanted to deport the illegal workers and seal the border.

Even Senators like John McCain encouraged the protesters, asking them to keep it up to put pressure on the Senate to pass an amnesty bill.

But since that time, the political landscape has shifted. For example, Democrat leaders are calling for strong border enforcement (even though they filibustered it in the Senate), and polls show that americans are tired of the problem and want their legislators to protect the borders first.

IN the face of this new opposition, many organizations who were supportive of the various protests are now balking at support for the May 1st "boycott" of work.

According to the Potomac News:

WASHINGTON - An economic boycott by Hispanic businesses and employees on May 1 has been downgraded to a "partial strike," promoters said at a Wednesday press conference.

A disagreement among the immigrant rights leadership has lead to a reduction in the scope of "a day without immigrants," a general strike designed to demonstrate the economic contribution of Hispanic immigrants.

I'll admit a certain fascination with the idea of a day without immigrants -- I think a lot of people would be shocked to find out what jobs are taken by both illegal and legal immigrants.

However, I don't think that shock would be good for those pushing illegal immigrants. Most people who support amnesty do so because they simply don't have any idea of the scope of the problem or how many immigrants are around.

By labelling this a "partial strike", the organizers hope to avoid the embarrassment that might have come if the strike wasn't even noticed, or if it led to real problems or even violence.

But this is a defeat for groups that hoped they were building momentum for the eventual citizenship of millions of invaders who want to take over our country.

Too Many Supervisors Spoil the Meeting?

(Now I'm drugged up on Vicodin -- so I can't feel a thing, let's see how I can write):

Board of Supervisors Meetings are public. If you want to see them debate, you can show up at the meeting, and watch. This is a good part of our form of government, and it means that any deal-making is done where we all can see it.

The law says that if 3 or more supervisors are at a meeting, that meeting is a public meeting and must be advertised. This law enforces that common-sense notion of open government.

However, two separate newspaper articles in the past week have raised the specter of applying this law to meetings where supervisors are merely attendees, or invitees. The Washington Post was first, in an article County to Publicize Groups' Meetings, April 20, 2006:

Prince William County will now publicize all meetings held by civic associations and other groups and attended by three or more county supervisors who could address pending votes of the Board of County Supervisors in those forums.

County Attorney Ross G. Horton clarified the need to publicize such meetings at the supervisors' meeting Tuesday.

The clarification was spurred by recent meetings of the Prince William County Republican Committee and the Nokesville Civic Association, where more than two supervisors were in attendance. The potential developments of a quarry in Nokesville and a planned community of 6,800 houses and two town centers, dubbed Brentswood, were discussed. The board is scheduled to vote on Brentswood on May 16, and the quarry will be on the agenda in June.

The Potomac news had a little more detail in their article Supervisors in a quandary, which details exactly what happened at the Nokesville meeting:

Four Prince William County supervisors recently wound up at a civic asssociation meeting during which discussion turned to a development that will come before the board in May.
The recent meeting of the Nokesville Civic Association drew Connaughton, and Supervisors Wally Covington, R-Brentsville, John T. Stirrup, R-Gainesville, Corey A. Stewart, R-Occoquan.

Covington and Connaughton were invited to speak. They were already there when Stirrup and Stewart showed up, Connaughton said.

When the discussion turned to the 6,800-home Brentswood development, a matter that will come before the board on May 16, Connaughton and Covington left the meeting.

The idea that you have to publicly advertise a republican committee meeting if the republican supervisors will attend may seem strange, but those meetings are already publicly advertised and generally open to the public -- probably because of this law.

And if the county wants to be overly cautious by advertising every meeting that the supervisors plan to attend, I think that is fine to. But what worries me is that supervisors may use this as an excuse to limit dialog.

For example, Sean and Wally both speak well of the Brentswood plan, while John and Corey both seem to oppose the rezoning. If by inviting Sean and Wally, a civics organization intended to prevent the other supervisors from appearing so only one side of the issue was discussed, that would be a bad thing. I'm not saying that's what happened -- in fact, if anything John and Corey were the only ones left to give their views -- which also was I think a BAD thing for the organization.

There is also the question of how much of a burden it is to advertise. Hilda Barg in the Washington Post article seemed to think groups should foot the bill for advertising if they want supervisors to show up, while Jenkins questioned whether Supervisors should show up at all:

If there is enough time, the county can include such meetings in public notices advertised in newspapers. Supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge) questioned whether the county should pay for advertising the meetings of private groups.
Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) said that supervisors have to be careful about speaking in front of groups about their positions on pending votes. "It's a very dangerous action," he said.

Comments can affect pending land sales and open the county up to lawsuits. "The lawyers are very smart out there, and they pick up on that," Jenkins said.

Corey Stewart doesn't want to limit supervisors talking to constituents::

Stewart said he would never support limiting supervisors' right to make their position known. "Don't anybody actually go out there and advocate something. We might get sued," he said sarcastically.

We had two supervisors (Wally and John) present views on the Brentswood project at the monthly Republican meeting, and Stewart was also in attendance -- other supervisors could also have been expected to attend. The meeting was publicly advertised at the McCoart building.

I wouldn't want anything to restrict the ability of groups to get supervisors to come speak at events. If that means having the supervisors take the responsibility for public notifications, then we should do that -- even if it is for private groups we wouldn't normally support.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blogging Lite

I've been under the weather, so to speak, the last few days, with some painful muscle problems involving my leg, which make it hard sometimes to concentrate or to sit for more than a few minutes at a time (some at the PWC meeting may have noticed I stood for the entire meeting).

Anyway, I had to focus on writing my weekly column, so I've been using my few free minutes here and there to comment on other blogs rather than writing my own material.

I'm under a doctor's care, so to speak, and hopefully will be recovering. No sympathy is necessary -- I've been developing this problem for over a month and could have taken care of it sooner, and I doubt I'd have a problem if I just got my weight down to a normal number.

High Oil Prices Will Drive Our Energy Independence

Or, so says "Critically Thinking", my Wednesday Potomac News column. I've put the full text online at my column website. It starts:

Our government sees a problem, and is ready to attack it. I am speaking of the horrors of three-dollar gasoline. What once looked like only a momentary blip in the storm-ravaged summer of 2005 now seems to be back with a vengeance, with no relief in sight.

Through what was likely an unintended editing error, the last paragraph was dropped from the column. My last paragraph, as intended:

Three-dollar gasoline won’t make us stop using oil. But it’s high enough to make us think about it. For years OPEC has kept prices low enough to deter competition. Now they have lost their ability to manipulate the market, and that may be just what we needed to break our dependence on unstable and unfriendly countries. High gas prices hurt now, but may open the door to a better future.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

PWC Meeting - Come Early, Get Stickers?

James Young says the PWCRC is meeting Monday night at 7:30pm.

What he didn't mention is that if you come early, you may have your old stickers removed, and get new stickers for our current races -- Allen, Wolf, and Davis stickers should be available if all goes as planned.

I don't know if I should be announcing this, but since I've been asked to be there early to help with the stickers, I figure it's OK to mention. If it doesn't work out, at least we tried.

I have already removed all my stickers. I did keep my Bush sticker for a while, simply because it still made sense to support him during the last year. I remove loser stickers immediately, there's nothing as sad as seeing a car with a pathetic Kerry/Edwards sticker all faded and cracked.

A trick I use is to attach my stickers to the flat refrigerator magnets everybody mails to you these days (usually about 4-5 are enough, and you can trim them). Then you can slap that stickers on your car and remove them, and put them on the sides and front and all over the car.

I used to have a big sticker I would stick to whatever side of my car was facing the exit to any store I was frequenting, kind of like a moving billboard.

I still had the American flag from my Jeff Frederick bumper sticker until last week, when my bumper was removed from the car (I was rear-ended and the car was just repaired).

Anybody have any good bumper sticker stories?

More evil from the Party of Compassion

When you claim your opponents to be ruthless, evil, heartless people, sometimes people wonder if you are just projecting.

With the democrats, we don't really have to wonder. While they cry tears over standard campaign tactics like quoting your opponent saying stupid things, publishing their voting records, or noting that their policies will help those who seek to do us harm, they regularly resort to physical intimidation, foul language, violence, and juvenile behavior when it suits their purpose.

In the latest example of love and compassion shown by the party of personal destruction, writer, guest commentator, and fellow blogger Michelle Malkin has been forced to move:

After UC-Santa Cruz-Inspired Threats, Malkins Pack Up

Days after receiving threatening emails and finding personal information plastered across the Internet by campus thugs, FOX News Channel contributor Michelle Malkin and her family are moving, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
In a story published Saturday, Malkin told Sentinel reporter Roger Sideman, "I am now forced to remove one of my children from school and move my family."
Mentioned in the piece, but not properly emphasized, is that SAW intended for public disclosure of their personal information, while Malkin gave no such authorization. After the anti-US military activists saw their numbers widely distributed, they attempted to withdraw them.
For Malkin, her family now bears the brunt of what notoriously- selfish UCSC activists didn't consider (because that would require caring about others): SAW disclosed details that put her children in danger.

Worse, sites like DailyKos, which are frequented and supported by the likes of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, published this information and have supported its release, and many verbal dehumanizing assaults on Michelle and her husband.

So now she has to uproot her family and move, simply because she copied and published a PRESS RELEASE the students had published on their own web site.

Kopko's Op-Ed about the Budget Crisis

I didn't see anybody else post this, so I thought I would -- it's Tom Kopko's editorial about the budget mess:

Update: James Young notes that this may not have been published yet. I misread the e-mail which I thought said it was published last Thursday, but instead was submitted for last thursday.

Pending clarification, I've pulled the info.


The Washington Post Sunday had an article about how well Kaine's first 100 days went, and they had the audacity to say that he was trying to KEEP HIS PROMISE by pushing the tax increase through. Politicians can get away with lying if the 4th estate, entrusted with the truth, refuses to wield it because of partisan considerations. We need to keep the pressure on the legislature, because otherwise we may end up with another unnecessary tax increase, and another double-digit increase in spending.

Was CIA Detention Center Story a Sting Operation?

That's what Captain Ed asks over at CaptainsQuarters:

Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse wonders if the story on CIA detention centers might not have been a sting operation to unmask leakers at Langley. The possibility comes up because on the same day that the CIA terminated Mary McCarthy for her communications to the press, the New York Times reports that European investigators cannot find any evidence that the detention centers ever existed:

Read more over at his site. At the time of the first press reports, the Bush administration strongly denied the existance of these detention centers, and now investigators have found no evidence of them. They seem as missing as the WMD. But unlike the WMD story which led to calls for resignations, Dana Priest received a Pulitzer for his reporting on what may have been a fiction circulated in the CIA solely for the purpose of finding leakers like McCarthy.

The sad thing is, if this was a sting, it was a bad one, because the information damaged our national credibility with key allies.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Teacher's Union Assault for Kaine's Budget

The Virginia Eduation Association is pulling out all the stops to try to force through Kaine's/Chichester's huge tax increase.

From their e-mail:

Dear Cyber-lobbyist:

Thanks to you the pressure is building on the House. We are closer to seeing a budget passed that provides needed funding for our schools, protects the general fund and fixes transportation.

What are some things you can do to help? It is really as easy as one-two-three.

1. The CTB will hold three statewide public hearings on the draft six-year program at the locations below. Please attend the hearing that is closest to you. You don’t need to speak, just look for the person handing out the stickers that say, “I’ll pay more to get there faster,” and slap one on. The hearing schedule is as follows:

  • Williamsburg, Tuesday, April 25, 6:30 p.m. James City County Administrative Building 101 C Mounts Bay Road Building C
  • Chantilly, Wednesday, May 3, 6:30 p.m. VDOT Northern Va. District Office 14685 Avion Parkway
  • Salem, Tuesday, May 9, 6:30 p.m. VDOT Salem District Auditorium 731 Harrison Ave. Salem, VA

2. Check out and pass around the most enlightened editorial in today’s Staunton New-Leader:

3. Check out This site features an article “Turfgrass and Budgets” by none other than your chief lobbyist. Read that one and pass it on if you think it worthy.

In the meantime, watch how hard Speaker Howell is working to prevent a vote on the Senate Budget or any transportation plan in the House. Could it be that he does not have the votes? Let’em vote on the bill, Bill!

Of course, the house speaker is simply refusing to violate Virginia's constitution by voting for a budget that uses tax revenue that is not already in place.

The real question is, if the Senate and Kaine are so certain that the people will support thier plan, why won't they pass the budget without it, and bring it up in a special session?

The answer is clear -- Kaine thinks that without the threat to shut down Virginia, he can't get support for his bill.

I'd love to go to the meeting with a sticker "You'll pay more, and get nowhere fast".

Friday, April 21, 2006

Democrat CIA employee fired for leaking classified information.

NBC and other news outlets have reported that CIA employee Mary O'Neil McCarthy has been fired from the CIA after admitting she was the source of the leaked information about secret prisons in Europe. The leak did serious damage to our relationship with several European allies.

Mary was at one time a Special Assistant to President Clinton, as noted in this story from USIS in 1998:

National Security Advisor Samuel R. Berger announced June 16 the appointment of Mary O'Neil McCarthy as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs.

Ironic that the man guilty of stealing classified documents by hiding them in his clothes appointed the woman guilty of leaking classified information to the press.

From the NBC News story:

In a rare occurrence, the CIA fired an officer who acknowledged giving classified information to a reporter, NBC News learned Friday.
The leak pertained to stories on the CIA’s rumored secret prisons in Eastern Europe, sources told NBC. The information was allegedly provided to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote about CIA prisons in November and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for her reporting.

Sources said the CIA believes McCarthy had more than a dozen unauthorized contacts with Priest. Information about subjects other than the prisons may have been leaked as well.

Unlike the Valerie Plame "leak", this was a serious breach of security with national implications -- and yet the media and the democrats said not a single word about "finding the leaker", nor are there congratulatory stories in the press about plugging this "leak", as was the case when Libby was indicted.

Democrat Rep. Mollohan steps down from Ethics Chair

As I first reported in the post Culture Of Corruption could haunt Democrats, Representative Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the ranking member of the ethics committee, was under investigation for ethical lapses, and the democrats were digging in their heels against calls by Republicans for him to step aside from his ethics post while the investigation continued.

Well, the democrats have finally realised that having your "paragon" of virtue under an ethical cloud was bad for your trumped-up culture of corruption charges.

According to Roll Call, they have reconsidered, and Mollohan will step down pending the outcome of the investigation:

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), under fire from Republicans and watchdog groups over his personal financial dealings, will step aside, at least temporarily, as ranking member of the House ethics committee, according to Democratic insiders.

When a democrat charged that Tom DeLay was a "rich white boy", I did some checking and found that he had very little money, according to his financial disclosures. If he was "corrupt", he had done a terrible job of it.

But checking Mollohan's disclosures, he went from being in debt to being worth millions of dollars in a few short years. That doesn't prove he is corrupt, but the money trail leads to people who have benefited from legislation he has passed.

Just last night Alan was on TV claiming he was innocent and insisting he wouldn't step down.

Of course, this will be used as another ploy by hte democrats to hold up the ethics committee. The democrats have shut down the only committee that can investigate ethics complaints in the house since last year -- the same time they launched their "culture of corruption" political campaign.

They clearly know that impartial investigations would show first that there is no culture of corruption, and second that what ethical lapses DO exist are bi-partisan in nature.

But by blocking the committee, the democrats (with the media's help) can make baseless claims about widespread corruption, without having to worry about any real investigations proving them liars.

America Faces Critical Shortage of Engineers

There was an amazing editorial in the Wall Street Journal on April 19, 2006 from the head of Lockheed Martin, Robert J. Stevens. Unfortunately, you have to pay for the Wall Street Journal so I can't provide a useful link.

In this editorial, titled Social Engineering - Commentary, Mr. Stevens draws attention to the stagnation of engineering majors in this country, while other countries like China are greatly increasing their graduation rates in high-tech fields:

Americans are focused on China's rise and the implications for U.S. preeminence -- especially in technology. The revving of China's science and engineering engine is too loud to ignore: 50% of its undergraduates receive degrees in natural science or engineering, compared to 15% in the U.S. Between 1999 and 2003, China doubled production of engineering grads; U.S. numbers are stagnant. Meanwhile, China's global high-tech exports approached $220 billion in 2005 -- more than 100 times 1989 levels.

Bob notes that the U.S. technology workforce is aging, and our schools aren't producing enough talent to replace those retiring and grow the supply of workers to meet new needs. He gives some interesting statistics for his company:

For Lockheed Martin, where almost half of our 135,000 employees are scientists and engineers, questions of technological competitiveness go to the heart of our ability to innovate and thrive. Given the security constraints surrounding our work, outsourcing and offshoring aren't feasible options for companies in our sector. For the aerospace and defense industry, the front lines of the brainpower battle aren't in China, they're here at home.

One in every three of Lockheed's employees is over 50. To sustain our talent base, we're hiring 14,000 people a year. In two years, we're going to need 29,000 new hires; in three years, 44,000. If this trend continues, over the next decade we will need 142,000. We're not alone; industry-wide, some 19% of employees are eligible for retirement. Yet Department of Education data suggests U.S. colleges and universities are only producing about 62,000 engineering BAs a year -- fewer than the visual and performing arts graduates -- and that figure hasn't grown in a decade.

In other words, one company, Lockheed Martin, is looking to hire almost 22% of the supply of new graduates. I would have guessed the fear would have been that 1/3 of the workforce was going to be drawing retirement in the next 15 years, but that problem apparently pales next to the difficulty in finding enough skilled laborers who meet the security needs of a defense contractor.

Mr. Stevens warns that if we don't solve the problem of job training for our technology sector, it will hurt every aspect of our country and way of life:

The looming tech talent shortfall will have an impact far beyond any single firm or sector. Science and engineering aren't just crucial for national security; they're critical for economic growth. High-tech industries drive development, boosting productivity and generating good jobs. If the U.S. intends to remain the world's technological leader, we have to act today, inspiring more young people to thrive in advanced-tech careers. It's achievable, as long as government, the private sector, schools and communities work together.

He has his solutions. First off, one I disagree with:

The classroom is the place to begin. A major study ranked us 24 out of 29 countries in terms of 15-year-olds' ability to apply math skills. The Bush administration's pledge to improve math and science education, including 70,000 newly trained high-school teachers, is encouraging. But in order to attract the best teachers, we should pay them what they're worth. Between 1993-94 and 2003-04, 15 states saw declines in teacher salaries when adjusted for inflation.

I don't believe our problem with math skills is a lack of teachers capable of imparting the knowledge. In fact, given technological advances, we should be looking a new way of educating, where a few teachers of proven ability to connect and explain the material are piped into schools throughout the land in short lectures, with local teachers who we would pay less but hire more of, would be available for small-group counselling and work-group leadership. We will never find one million "best" teachers -- we shouldn't try. I note that we often use volunteers to work with students, and those volunteers, largely untrained, seem to do a better job than the trained teachers, because the important thing is the interaction and directly applied lessons, rather than the skill of the teacher.

In any case, with the existing NEA and local unions, increasing pay won't replace a SINGLE teacher -- the unions SAY they need better pay to attract qualified teachers, but they don't ever suggest the existing teachers are unqualified and should be fired when we increase the pay. Instead, the increased pay is to go to existing teachers. Are they suggesting the teachers simply aren't doing a good job because they are holding out for higher pay? I don't think so.

Bob Stevens has other ideas that work well and should be expanded:

Industry also has an important role to play. At Lockheed Martin, we fund and participate in programs like Mathcounts, Space Day and National Engineers Week, when our employees go into classrooms and community centers with hands-on activities to kindle an interest in engineering. Our goal is to mentor kids, helping them see beyond the stereotype of the nerd in the lab and start thinking of math and science as compelling, rewarding, even fun.
There are other avenues worthy of exploration: visa extensions for international students who earn advanced math and science degrees from U.S. institutions and want to work here; or student loan forgiveness for math and science graduates who commit to work in national security fields. But just as important as revitalizing policy is reshaping attitudes.

One statistic he provided surprised me, as he said it would:

Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that more S&P 500 CEOs got degrees in engineering than any other field.

As a person with 25 years of experience in the technology field, I was surprised to find so few engineers were graduated each year. I would have thought it was much higher-- I thought I remembered over 1000 from my Virginia Tech graduating class back in 1981.

If we can't graduate our own hi-tech workforce, we will need to increasingly rely on foreign-worker visa programs to fill the gap, if we want to keep the companies within our own borders.

That means getting control of our borders, stopping illegal immigration, so we can put some sanity into the process of picking who should work here, and who shouldn't. Democrats and a few republicans argue we need lettuce-pickers, but it looks like we need some good Java programmers as well.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kaine's Vetoes all survive.

The AP reports that All seven of Kaine's vetoes of legislation passed this year were upheld by the legislature, apparently protected by democrats who previously voted for many of the measures but now acted with the new partisanship championed by the Governor who pledged to work across party lines and even delivered a State of the Union Response extolling the "bipartisan" nature of Virginia's politics:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The Republican-controlled General Assembly failed Wednesday to override any of Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's seven vetoes, including a bill that would allow motorists to carry firearms in glove compartments.
"Seven-for-seven on vetoes is something I feel good about," Kaine told reporters. "People hung together very well on those. ...It was a good, productive day."

By "people", it appears he means "fellow democrats":

In the House, the closest legislators came to overriding a Kaine veto was Del. Clifford L. "Clay" Athey's concealed-weapons exemption for motorists. The veto was sustained on a 61-36 vote, largely on party lines and five shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override it.

No mention in this article of what happened to the bill to have DMV voter forms ask if the applicant is a citizen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's the Upshoot on the Buckshot?

The NRA sent an urgent action alert warning of impending disaster in the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. According to the mailing, as provided by James Young, the Board yesterday was to vote to ban Buckshot:

Virginia Prince William County of Board of Supervisors is meeting at 2:45 p.m. today to consider banning the use of buckshot, commonly used in hunting

BUT, on the same day an article in the Potomac News said the vote was to open public hearings to allow slugs (the small metal kind, not people waiting for rides) in hunting:

The supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to authorize public hearings to consider whether to allow the use of rifled slugs for hunting.

Well, it turns out the NRA knew a lot more about what was going on than the Potomac News, which reports on Wednesday Buckshot, rifled slugs debated (a misleading title, as you will see):

The decision on whether to outlaw buckshot in favor of rifled slugs for hunting generated a lot of discussion among the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday.
[wait, I thought it was just a vote on whether to hold hearings to add slugs to the list?]
The board voted to pass the ordinance after Barg asked Horton to add provisions to exclude home and livestock protection.

Stirrup and Corey A. Stewart, R-Occoquan, opposed the ordinance.

A staff report showed that the notice of the change must get to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries by registered mail before May 1 to be in effect for the 2006 hunting season.

So they did, in fact, have a real vote, and they did, in fact, ban buckshot in favor of slugs.

I could have missed it, but I don't remember reading of anybody in Prince William County being injured by errant buckshot in the last five years. Although I'm happy any time the board meets and does something OTHER than raise my taxes.

On the merits though, I think you should be able to use either type of round. We should have learned our lesson when the board realised (apparently) that they had banned the wrong thing earlier. What I mean is that this board's vote was a statement that at some previous time a previous board, obviously meddling in things the knew nothing about, banned SLUGS, when they should have banned Buckshot.

My point being that when Government micromanages, they often get it wrong, and when the "fix it" they never learn the lesson that they shouldn't be passing so many detailed directives to begin with, because they usually don't know what they are doing.

But worse, both articles were written by the same reporter, and yet the Wednesday article makes no mention of the completely incorrect Tuesday report. It's as if it never happened. To tell your readers that the BOCS is deciding whether to have public hearings to add slugs to the list of approved rounds, when in fact they were deciding to ban buckshot, was a disservice to the people who pay for the paper, and I think an acknowledgement of the error was in order.

Jack Bauer named as new Press Secretary.

Courtesy of Blogs4Bauer, the news that Scott McClellan has been replaced by Jack Bauer.

Top 10 changes Bauer will make:

Top 10 Changes Jack Bauer Would Bring to the White House Press Corps
10. Positive stories about Bush increase 145% in his first hour alone.
9. Five moles weeded out of press corps by Bauer.
8. Ask a stupid question; get hooked up to the sensory deprivation device.
7. Podium replaced with bullet-proof barrier with gun ports.
6. All press conferences last an hour, with all tough questions coming at 45 minutes past the hour.
5. By the end of a press conference, a minimum of 34 people would have been killed.
4. "No comment" replaced by "We don't have time for that question".
3. Gary Bauer mistakenly showed up to a press conference, once.
2. All comments will be yelled.
1. Blogs4Bauer starts to live-blogs press conferences

Howard Dean's Child Molester is a Democrat.

I'm reading Commonwealth Conservative, as I do every night, and Chad's got one of his 1-liner posts Howard Dean: the best thing that ever happened to the GOP.

It references an Instapundit reference to opinionjournal, regarding this exchange with Salon's Walter Shapiro:

Shapiro: Governor, from where you sit, is the fact that there will be two caucuses between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary a done deal, or is this still open for negotiation, as to whether there will be caucuses and/or whether New Hampshire will have its traditional unmolested Iowa/New Hampshire role in American history?

Dean: We don't molest anybody. We leave that to the deputy press secretary of the Homeland Security agency.

Anyway, the interesting thing is that OpinionJournal references this blog, which tells us that the molester in question was actually a career civil service employee, and a Democrat to boot. So I guess Howard was wrong, they DO molest people:

Brian Doyle is a career civil servant - NOT a political appointee. Government workers aren't "vetted." Doyle, as a DHS employee probably has a secret or top secret government clearance, but in DC that's hardly a unique commodity. Unless there is some prior history of pedophilia or sex crimes, the background searches and investigation wouldn't have alerted anyone to the possibility that he might get into the kind of trouble he's in now. The kind of hindsight analysis suggesting that the White House should have been "vetting" the civil service employees of their agencies, is laughable considering that the Clinton administration who dogged for years over the FBI files scandal (Filegate). It's also probably illegal...

So what do we know about is Brian Doyle? He's a former long-time Time magazine Washington bureau employee, a civil servant, and a registered Democrat. ***
The image above is a Wizbang created, graphical representation of actual public record voter registration data obtained (in person) this morning. You can see the raw image here, and it's all (somewhat) easily verifiable

I agree with Chad's assessment -- any time Dean speaks, it helps republicans.

UPDATE: Dean is the gift that keeps on giving. In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Dean is quoted as saying: "The religious community has to decide whether they want to be tax exempt or involved in politics."

Ignoring the constant use of black churches by the left, this can only be a not-so-veiled attack on christians who think they should have a voice in the direction our government takes our country.

McClellan and Rove Announcements

First, the news. Scott McClellan has resigned as White House Press Secretary, and I for one am grateful. It was hard to watch him the last two years after the fine performance of Ari Fleischer. Plus, you don't want your press secretary to be the story, as Scott too often was.

Also, Carl Rove is giving up his Deputy policy advisor position, to focus on his tasks on the political side. I didn't think making him a policy advisor was ever a good idea -- I like to see the political side kept seperate, and while I think Rove could be a good policy person, I don't think he's done a good job on that front.

So I'm happy enough with these announcements that I'm willing to give you a glimpse into what the events as reported by the European site ITV, errors and all.

So I bring you, from ITV, "Bush rocked by resignations":

White House press secretary Scott McClellan and senior advisor Karl Rove have announced their resignation from the Bush administration.

Oops. Well, one out of two isn't bad -- as I said Rove isn't resigning, he's just going back to politics for the 2006 election. And the headline is probably wrong, rumor is that Bush forced McClellan to resign (in any case Scott's going back to help his mother run as in independent for Texas Governor).

"I don't know whether or not the press corps realises it, but his is a challenging assignment dealing with you all on a regular basis. And I thought he handled his assignment with class and integrity," Mr Bush said.

To contrast, here's a report from Marketwatch, White House aide Rove to give up policy role: reports

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Top White House adviser Karl Rove will be giving up his policymaking role to focus on political strategy ahead of this fall's mid-term elections, news reports said Wednesday. The move comes as President Bush's new chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, moves to shake up the White House staff. In a widely expected move, White House press secretary Scott McClellan announced his resignation Wednesday morning. Bush on Tuesday announced that he would nominate U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman to replace Bolten as head the White House's Office of Management and Budget

Hard to see how a "widely expected move" would have "rocked" the administration. But that's the entertainment value of the web.

Virginia Number One in Tech Job Creation!

According to the AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association), Virginia Leads the Nation in Tech Job Creation.

This isn't much of a surprise -- a lot of high-tech jobs are tied to Homeland Security, and our proximity to Washington DC makes us a prime choice. Of course, companies have a choice between Virginia and Maryland, and they seem to like us better, even with the transportation problems.

From the press release:

Virginia Poised to Surpass Colorado for First Place by Concentration of Tech Workers
Virginia's high-tech industry employment grew by 9,100 net jobs, to 253,300 in 2004, the most current state data available. A significant part of this job growth occurred in Virginia’s largest technology sector, computer systems design and related services, which gained 6,600 jobs between 2003 and 2004. Virginia ranked 2nd by computer systems design and related services employment nationwide.

Virginia ranked second in the country in terms of high-tech concentration of jobs with 88.6 of every 1,000 private sector employees working in the tech industry, only slightly behind Colorado at 88.7."

The high-tech industry is booming in Virginia,” said Gregory Poersch, Executive Director of the AeA Potomac Council. "Tech jobs, wages, and exports are all on the rise. Venture capital investments jumped by 38 percent in 2005. If these trends continue, next year Virginia will become the state with the highest concentration of tech workers in the nation."

Virginia’s rapid tech job growth is positive for the state’s economy, as tech industry jobs in Virginia pay nearly twice as much as the average private sector wage.

Of course, the number of jobs involved is a very small percentage of the total employment of Virginia.

Save The Date - Manassas Railway Festival

June 3rd, 2006.

After a 1-year Hiatus, the 12th Manassas Heritage Railway Festival is back on the calendar (3rd down). It's a day of fun for the entire family, centered around the universal attraction to trains.

My family will have a booth at this year's event, displaying a model railroad built entirely of Lego Bricks. The official Washington Metropolitan Area Lego Users Group - Lego Train Club group will have a much larger Lego layout. (Yes, there really is a WamaLUG organization, and a WamaLTC group -- in fact, adult lego fans are a vibrant part of the Lego community).

There will also be many other Railroad groups displaying layouts of various shapes and sizes, from Garden-size outdoor railroads to tiny z-gauge lines.

The show is about trains, but a political candidate could interact with an entirely different group of voters at an event like this.

The show was cancelled last year because the previous two years it rained out, costing thousands of dollars.

A small show was held in its place over at the Manassas Boys and Girls club (a great place to go, btw).

Information should appear on the Manassas City web site. I'm expecting there will be cut-rate train trips on VRE, there have been in the past. And of course there is plenty of food, and people selling train-related items.

UPDATE: From the Manassas City Web Site:

12th Manassas Heritage Railway Festival
June 3, 2006
Historic Old Town Manassas
10:00 am until 5:00 pm
FREE to the public

The Manassas Heritage Railway Festival is a celebration of the rich railway history that Manassas has to offer. Manassas Junction was the site of both the 1st and 2nd Battles of Manassas during the Civil War and of the nation’s first military railroad.

Festival activities include the following:
· VRE Excursion Rides
· Model Rail Displays
· Train Memorabilia
· Antique Toy Train Display
· Civil War Re-enactors
· Budweiser, Draft Team Horses
· Telegraphy & Signal Flag Demonstrations
· Animal Nursery
· Dairy Demonstrations
· Victorian Street
· Manassas Community Culture Area
· Children’s Rides
· Kids Kaboose, Peek-A-Boo-Choo-Choo
· Live Music, Food, and Railroad Entertainment

FREE to the public. Train Rides $5, advanced tickets available on Monday May 1, 2006 at the Train Depot in Manassas, 703-361-6599.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Critically Thinking Alert

Wednesday will bring a new Critically Thinking column on the Potomac News opinion page (and quite possibly the Manassas Journal Messenger page). The submitted title is "Jobs Americans Won't Do?".

One-Sentence Summary: Americans will do any job provided they are paid appropriately.

Discussion over at Critically Thinking. (I've never gotten anybody to actually discuss there, as I've never told the readers that I have the site. Maybe next week).

Blog Introspection 4 -- Like Final Destination, but nobody Dies

I'm thinking of changing the name to TwoConservatives-1. Or maybe advertising for a new "conservative two".

Apparently some opportunities sound much more inviting before they are taken, and are merely drudgeries in the execution.

I'm still holding out for good things from my counterpart -- but time is running short.

Why do Dems protect illegal voting?

I wanted to write about the democrats in Indiana fighting a law which requires voters to present picture id when voting, to prevent voter fraud. But I found a story much closer to home, from the Potomac News: "Kaine alters Lingamfelter bill".

Virginia's Voter Registration doesn't ask if you are a citizen. Del. Albo passed a bill which requires the State Board to delete non-citizens, but they have no way to know who is a citizen or not. Lingamfelter proposed what seemed to be a very innocuous law which simply added a question about citizenship to the forms used at the DMV to register voters. That's it "Are you a citizen".

The idea is that people won't lie on an official form -- not much of a deterrent, but at least a step. Certainly it's nothing anybody could object to, right?

Wrong. It seems democrats need all the votes they can get, and they count on illegal voters. So Governor Kaine amended Scott's bill to remove all references to the DMV.

In a cultural climate where the topic of immigration is at the forefront of heated debates, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine eliminated the crux of a bill that could deter non-citizens from registering to vote.

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles patrons can indicate if they would like to register to vote on driver's license, driver's permit and identification card applications.

HB170 would have for the first time required the DMV to include in these applications a question regarding citizenship status.

Kaine amended the bill, deleting all references to the DMV.

According to the PNews, the resulting bill is a "mirror" of the Albo bill. Kaine's excuse, provided by his spokesperson, was "We're not sure that DMV should become an immigration office without further discussion, further reflection".

Forget for the moment that the bill did nothing of the sort -- it merely added a question to a list of questions on forms that the DMV simply sends on to the appropriate agency. What further discussion, further reflection is needed when we are talking about NON-CITIZENS voting in our elections?

As the article states:

Clay Landa, a policy analyst with the State Board of Elections, said the agency has no way to verify who is legally registered to vote because the registration process does not request proof of citizenship.

And, there is no official tally of unlawfully registered voters.

"We have no way of knowing," Landa said. "There is no indication that it isn't a problem, and there is no indication that it is a problem."

Pardon me, but if there is no way to ensure that people are registered legally, there most definitely is a BIG problem.

Lingamfelter hopes to resolve this peacefully. Having worked to ensure that all agencies involved approved of his plan, he now is hoping to convince Kaine to rescind his amendment:

In a letter dated April 13, Lingamfelter asked the Democratic governor to recede his amendment of the voting bill.

"I took great pains to ensure that both the DMV and the SBOE were in agreement with this bill," Lingamfelter wrote.

"Additionally, I coordinated with both the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, and the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that this bill did not violate any law. Both assured me it was legal and appropriate for the DMV to ask the citizenship question."

Lingamfelter said he wrote Kaine because "I think that in the process of looking at the bill he has come to a conclusion that is incorrect. What I'm trying to do is work with him in a bipartisan fashion."

Lingamfelter's bill passed unanimously in the house, and 25-14 in the Senate, so it seems he should have enough votes to override the changes. But he shouldn't have to.

I don't believe for a minute that Kaine took this step because of concern over DMV's involvement in the process, which would be nil. Kaine eviscerated this bill because democrats want to encourage voting by non-citizens.

Throughout the country, democrats have learned the value of collecting additional votes from the ranks of those who are not legally entitled to vote. Whether fighting removal of felons from the voting roles, or picture id's to ensure ballot integrity, or simply asking prospective voters if they are in fact citizens, the Democrat party stands opposed to protecting the valuable voting franchise.

Update: My internet connection crashed when I first posted this -- I recovered half of it and posted, but have since gone through and tweaked it a little.

Judge orders school to let Wheelchair athlete race with others

The Washington Post reports that Tatyana McFadden, a Paralympic-caliber Wheelchair track-and-field competitor, has won a suit to require her High School to allow her to run races with the other runners at the school track meets.

According to the article:

Tatyana McFadden, 16, a sophomore at Atholton High School in Columbia, will be allowed on the track at the same time as the other competitors but will be scored separately under a preliminary injunction granted yesterday in Baltimore by U.S. District Court Judge Andre M. Davis.

She is already a member of the track team, and runs in races, but only with other wheelchair athletes (and since there are no other wheelchair athletes, she runs by herself).


She and her mother argued that the distinction prevented her from participating fully in team life.

The judge made his ruling based NOT on the Americans with Disabilities act, but rather a much older law:

McFadden's lawsuit was based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which the judge cited in his ruling.

He found the school system in violation of the act, which prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from programs and activities that get federal funding.

In the end, a single wheelchair on the track probably won't be a big deal, but it opens a pandora's box -- and her lawyer thinks this is just the tip of the iceberg:

Her attorney, Lauren Young of the Maryland Disability Law Center, said she believes the ruling will pave the way for other disabled athletes.

"We're thrilled. We hope that other kids with disabilities see they have access to full participation in athletic programs in schools."

My problem is the definition of "disability" as it applies to athletes. I have short legs, and couldn't possibly keep up with long-legged runners even if I was in shape. Others may be able to walk, but may have "problems" with their legs that make it impossible for them to run fast enough to be on the track team. Could I and others join the track team and race in wheelchairs?

The school was worried about people getting hurt running into the wheelchair, and that may or may not be a problem. I don't understand what was so important about being on the track at the same time -- probably because I never made a team in school, because of my "disability" -- the disability to compete with my better-bodied peers.

Casey Martin was a golfer who had Klippel-Trenaunay-Webber Syndrome, which slowly took away the use of his legs. He sued to be allowed to use a golf cart, and won. He was able to argue that walking was not an integral part of the game of golf.

Now we are going to the road where using your legs may not be considered integral to the act of running.

My problem is that atheletics are, in essence, a competition to judge how "well-bodied" you are. At what point does the inability to use your legs to their fullest become a "disability" that then allows you to run in a wheelchair?

We had the ADA so that people who could do jobs, who could shop, who could perform all the normal functions of life, were being denied the right to do so simply because of physical barriers that could be corrected. But a physical competition should be about being physically able, and just like a less-mentally-abled person is unlikely to win a chess competition, a less-physically-abled person may have to accept that they can't run around a race track.

Blaming Rising Material Costs to hide Incompetence?

Monday's Potomac News has a dire report about rising costs for road construction.

There were several aspects of this story that simply did not make sense. But first, here are the actual numbers from the story detailing the increased costs:

Between February 2005 and February 2006, cement, which is the main ingredient in concrete, shot up by 14.2 percent, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, a Washington-based industry group.

Steel prices are also up 3.9 percent, the group said.

In the last year, there was a 16 percent increase in contract prices for asphalt, and the cost of sand, gravel and crushed stone used in pavement rose by 8 percent, said VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris.

Diesel fuel prices increased by 34 percent, according to the spokeswoman.

OK. 3.9% is hardly more than inflation (The PWC board is using a higher number to justify their 5.7% tax increase). The other numbers are considerably above inflation, and you'd expect that paving a road might cost 10% more now (the cost of asphalt being a major, but not the majority, of the total costs).

But the fuel prices are a large increase, and could drive costs up by another 10-20%, I suppose.

But even if the entire cost of construction was the purchase of fuel, the cost increase would be 34%.

So, explain this:

Sharp increases in raw material prices are expected to cost the Virginia Department of Transportation an additional $180 million this year for road and maintenance projects, and will double the price tag of one local bridge renovation.
In Prince William County, expensive construction materials will double the cost of the Va. 28 bridge project over Broad Run.

Construction of the overpass is slated for the summer, and will cost about $11 million, Morris said.

I don't see how an increase of 100% in the cost of a bridge could possible be blamed primarily, much less entirely, on the inflation of raw material prices, all of which are under 34%. It seems clear that the primary cause of this increase is something else, but what? Did someone made a major mistake in estimating the job? Are we being ripped off by unscrupulous contractors? We don't know, because the PNews simply chalks the cost increase up to "sharp increases in raw material prices".

The rest of the story is a series of contradictions. My favorite:

VDOT representatives said the agency will use cheaper raw materials for maintenance and construction projects, but will not resort to using less durable supplies.

"We are not using inferior pavement," Morris said. "It's sort of like using oak instead of mahogany, you still are going to have a good quality project."

If I read this right, VDOT has a choice of two materials, which are equally durable, and they have been using the MORE EXPENSIVE of the two, because it LOOKS BETTER?

How many of us want to have our taxes raised another billion so that we can build our roads out of more expensive materials? Not me -- I don't care much what the road looks like so long as it's not filled with holes, and not blocked by stopped cars.

Last week a report suggested that VDOT WAS using inferior-quality materials that would wear out quicker. This story seems to refute that, but I don't know what to believe now. Given that there is a huge cost in labor, and in lost time and traffic backups, when fixing a road, it hardly seems wise to use material with a shorter life span -- that's just asking for big problems down the road.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Was Saddam recruiting pilots for 9/11 attacks?

That's the question explored by Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters in the thread The Timing Of The Iraqi Air Force Memo.

Having used his own money to pay two independent translators to triple-check the translation performed by a contributer to Free Republic, Ed now explores what that document means.

The document details a program to recruit Iraqi Air Force pilots for terror attacks against the United States in March of 2001 (dates in day/month/year format):

The top secret letter 2205 of the Military Branch of Al Qadisya on 4/3/2001 announced by the top secret letter 246 from the Command of the military sector of Zi Kar on 8/3/2001 announced to us by the top secret letter 154 from the Command of Ali Military Division on 10/3/2001 we ask to provide that Division with the names of those who desire to volunteer for Suicide Mission to liberate Palestine and to strike American Interests and according what is shown below to please review and inform us.

Please read his commentary. The summary:

However, this recruitment memo offers another tantalizing possibility. The one 9/11 pilot who had not traveled outside the US the previous January was Hani Hanjour, who had just begun his flight training, which reportedly had not gone well. (See pages 226-227 of the 9/11 Commission report.) Hanjour had been assigned the most difficult of the 9/11 targets -- the Pentagon. That flight required taking the plane over the Beltway and into an incredibly low but stable approach to maximize the damage done to the building. This took more skill than merely flying a plane into the Twin Towers, and the late start on training could not have helped in Hanjour's preparations. Unlike Atta and Shehhi, the report never mentions Hanjour getting any training in a large-craft simulator.

The trip to Germany in January by the other pilots may have been an attempt to gather better-trained pilots for the attack -- and remember that the original plan was to have two waves of attacks, at least according to KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed], the second of which got cancelled due to increased security after 9/11. The late start for Hanjour would have endangered their mission. We know that the Iraqis started recruiting from their Air Force, and that those pilots had nothing to fly at the time. The trip to Prague may have been to find out if the Iraqis had anyone who could assist Hanjour in the difficult task ahead of him, or to plan the second wave of attacks using skilled pilots rather than the amateurs from the Hamburg cell.

If Saddam was involved in discussions about pilots to carry out a 9/11-type attack, it would cast a whole new light on the need to remove him.

But this story has not been examined by any major news organizations. Having firmly planted the idea that Bush lied or was completely wrong about the reasons for war, and having convinced most of America that Saddam was no threat, and therefore there was no reason to sacrifice lives or money in Iraq, the media seems to have little motivation to prove themselves wrong once again.

Meanwhile Bush seems to have little interest, for an obvious reason -- we already made the decision, and went to war, and we now have to deal with the aftermath. Bush isn't one to go over the past which cannot be changed, even to defend himself or his administration.

That is a mistake. I hope Josh Bolton can convince Bush to spend some time and energy translating these documents and putting the truth out to rebuild support for the hard work in Iraq.

But there ARE some good left-wing blogs, right?

I've often argued that it's hard to discuss things with a liberal, because they don't understand facts or logic, and believe that a good string of explitives is a winning argument.

This is of course a bit of an exageration, but one has only to look at a few posts on the biggest of the left-wing blogs (like DailyKos or DemocraticUnderground) to see that the conversation, if you can call it that, rarely rises above the level of "he's a ".

Well, it seems that the Washington Post has noticed the same thing. The article "The Left, Online and Outraged", Saturday, April 15, by David Finkel, describes a day in the life of a "typical" left-wing blogger, and includes quotes from many left-leaning sites.

The blogger has arisen, and is trying to decide what to write about:

Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating, self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?

From Eschaton, we have this:

"I just want to see these [expletive] swinging from their heels in the public square," reads a recent comment from someone named Dave in a discussion about the Bush administration on a Web site called Eschaton.

DailyKos has gone so far as to turn off the google caching for their site, as well as other "history" collectors. This allows the owner to censor outrageous posts, not only from his guests, but from himself. For example, when the 4 contractors were beaten, killed, and hung in Fallujah, his first comments were that they deserved it. But since even the rabid elected democrats would have trouble with such statements, that comment was summarily deleted -- so when Reid appears at DailyKos, it doesn't look like he's supporting people even crazier than himself.

You can't really read these sites without a hearty stomach for crude, offensive language. In the post article, we find the following references:

"Laura Bush Talks; No One Gives a [expletive],"
"It was rather though[t]less of me to compare the most asinine, brutal, criminal, disgusting, enraging, felonious, gross, horrendous, incompetent, jaundiced, kleptocratic, lazy, malicious, nefarious, objectional, psychopathic, quarrelsome, repulsive, sanctimonious, treasonous, unfit, vindictive, wasteful, xenophobic, yahooish, zealotic piece of [expletive] inhabiting the White House and the planet to persons suffering with a neurobiological disorder."
Go [expletive] Yourself, Mrs. Cheney"
"Bush Must Be HIV Positive By Now (you can't [expletive] 500 million people and not get infected)."
"MAKE SOME [expletive] NOISE ABOUT DARFUR and you WILL be heard, and it WILL be addressed."
"George W. Bush is the anti-Midas. Everything he touches turns to [expletive]."
"I. Despise. These. [Expletive]!"
"I also wrote to my [expletive] congressman to get off his [expletive] [expletive] and do the right [expletive] thing."

Note that two of these comments were directed at the WIVES of the President and Vice President.

But maybe these are just fringe elements, and the mainstream democrats don't respond to this type of cheap dialog? Well, the Post continues about the main character in our drama, who decides to write a post about Darfur called "Wake the F*** Up":

She clicks the mouse, and "WAKE THE [expletive] UP" instantly appears on My Left Wing, where, at the moment, 57 people are signed on.

A few seconds later, to increase its chances for impact, she sends "WAKE THE [expletive] UP" to Daily Kos, where the number of viewers per hour is about 30,000.

Thirty-eight seconds later, she gets her first response.

"I'M AWAKE!!!!!!" it says

"I'm going to be proud of this," O'Connor says, as the responses keep building. Ten now. Twenty-five.
Nearing 50 now
Past 60 responses now,
Now, as the responses near 100, O'Connor has a cigarette.

Now, as they head toward 200,
"You know what?" O'Connor says. "I did a good thing today." And for a moment, anyway, she isn't angry at all.

If you try to get an account on DemocratUnderground, you may have trouble. If you make it on, and try to have an actual conversation about an issue, you will most likely be summarily dismissed. They don't much like people actually thinking over there.

Meanwhile, DailyKos is the biggest web site on the internet. As the Post says:

To what, effect, though? Do the hundreds of thousands of daily visitors to Daily Kos, who sign their comments with phrases such as "Anger is energy," accomplish anything other than talking among themselves? The founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, may have a wide enough reputation at this point to consult regularly with Democrats on Capitol Hill, but what about the heart and soul of Daily Kos, the other visitors, whose presence extends no further than what they read and write on the site?

It is hard to imagine this collection of what appear to be hate-filled illiterates is able to persuade the average person of anything, given that they present no facts, assert no arguments, apply no logic. When your entire communicative ability consists of being able to string 3 explitives together in a single sentence, one can only hope that the common folk are wise enough to turn away.

The Post article presents the entire discussion matter-of-factly, as if being angry and hate-filled and writing meaningless diatribes is simply an ordinary occurance. And maybe it is on left-wing sites, although I know of many small sites which are decidedly liberal but actually speak to issues (that they remain small simply proves the essense of this Post article -- screed sells).

Some on the left like to argue a symetry between these major sites and conservative sites such as But as a member and frequent poster to that site, I can tell you that FR has a very high level of content and political discourse, with only the occasional "starred-out" explitive. FR is in fact exactly what the internet COULD provide -- a site where people who have differing views on events can discuss, argue, and debate their opinions in a rational, logical way.

Update: Captain Ed (Captain's Quarters) has a take on this article in his post "The Fever Swamps, Exposed". Check it out.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Did Saddam actually HAVE WMD?

If there's one thing that seems "universally" accepted, it's that we were wrong about Saddam having WMD. While some accuse Bush of knowing this and lying about it, even those who trust Bush believe that the intelligence was simply wrong.

But could the truth be that we are wrong now? Could the intelligence have been correct? Could we simply not be able to find the WMD?

That may be the shocking revelation of the next few months, as thousands of boxes of records from Saddam's regime are translated, mostly by free-lance bloggers on their own time and dime. For some unfathomable reason (well not so unfathomable -- the records are about the past, and Bush has a remarkable laser focus on the future, even when the past could exonerate him) -- the administration did not see fit to translate these documents. Instead, they have simply released them to the public in the original language, leaving it to Arab-speaking literates to sift through the hundreds of thousands of pages.

So far, only a tiny fraction has been translated. But already there is solid evidence that Saddam was trying to hide something as late as 2002. (Note: there is also direct evidence that Saddam was trying to supply Iraqi air force personnel to Al Qaeda for attacks on America -- which would put to rest the "Saddam had nothing to do with Al Qaeda" as well as the "Saddam was no threat" lies told by those who would rather depose Bush than protect our country from the real enemy).

I hope to chronicle these findings over the next few weeks, as I sift through them. Here is an example from a 2002 document that details the destruction of WMD records just prior to the return of the weapons inspectors (from document CMPC-2003-002284):

Translation of Page 3
In the Name of God the Merciful The Compassionate
Subject: Destruction
On Friday that coincides on 23/8/2002 were destroyed the primary archives for the Atomic Energy Commission according to the instructions issued regarding this and it was destroyed (burned) in the outside warehouses and it was carried on Compact Discs and the destruction operation was achieved by the presence of:
1. Mr. Director of Energy Security- Mr. Saher Nassif Jasem
2. The Representative of the National Monitoring Department; General Kamal Abed Mohamad
3. Mr. The Director of the Disarmament Section- Mr. Maatook Abed Al Satar
4. Mr. Director of Monitoring Section in the Organization- Mr. Hani Hassan Ahmad
And according to this the document was signed (Remark: The remaining of the documents that are related to the purchasing of the Nuclear Program and that is 22 steel boxes will be received from the Monitoring Department to be dealt with)Signatures…
Mr. Hani Hassan Ahmad, General Kamal Abed Mohamad, Mr. Maatook Abed Al Satar; Mr. Saher Nassif Jasem
23/8/2002 23/8/2002.
End of Translation of Page 3

The next page tells how other documents were hidden:

Translation of page 4
Subject: Receiving documents
The documents preserved by the National Monitoring Department were accounted for and received by Mr. Ayad Kihtan Talab, the representative of The Military Industrial Security Agency and its details are shown in the attached tables and its numbers (12) are twelve pages and in (9) nine cardboard boxes
The Representative of the National Monitoring Department.. Signature… General Kamal Abed Mohamad 17/6/2002
The Representative of the Intelligence Apparatus.. Signature… Hamood Awde Salem 17/6/2002
The Representative of the Industrial Military Security.. Signature.. Ayad Kihtan Talab 17/6/2002.
End of translation of page 4

On the following pages we find reference to chemical equipment:

Beginning of partial translation of Page 6
Box number 4 (Chemical-K)
1. Document folder of the Air Force Equipment in the Glorified Qadisya Saddam, correspondences regarding the Chemical Equipments (all assembled in a Red folder mark on it Very Important)
16. File regarding the examination of the Special Equipment
End of partial translation of page 6 and 7.

And what is "Special equipment"? Well, in other records translated for the trial of Saddam, we find that the chemical weapons used to gas the Kurds were referred to as "Special Equipment".

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I'm down in Williamsburg. I'm on a computer in the lobby of my hotel. I try to look at my blog.

It's blocked by the anti-porn filter.

Strange. Very Strange.

At least TooConservative is still available. Apparently, my site is considered to have considerably more adult content than Vincent's.

The nice lady at the counter has offered to allow me to plug my laptop into their network, maybe I'll try that tomorrow night. Next time I'll have to bring my own wireless router.....

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I'm bored, so I'm going to follow Chad Dotson in following Ken’s lead with what he calls the “Venerable Book Meme.” Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 161.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

OK, I grabbed one book for the CC comments, then I grabbed the next book:

"It came to be called the 'neck verse'."

No way anybody's going to figure out that one.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A conversation about Brentswood.

In my previous post, I outlined the controversy surrounding the Brentswood Community project, and expressed my opinion on the subject.

As I mentioned, there are a group of committed republicans in the community who from time to time have conversations via e-mail on subjects of importance to the community. I learn a great deal from these discussions, and thought I'd try an experiment where I share the contents of those discussions with the blogger community.

I asked the participants for permission to place their words in this blog, and I present below the discussion from those who assented.

The discussion was started by an e-mail referencing the vote in the PWC convention for a resolution opposing the development, which included a link to a Sunday Washington Post article Millions for Roads Aside, Planners Oppose I-66 Project, by Nikita Stewart.

The basis for the discussion was this response by John Schneider:

Sent: Monday, April 03, 2006 8:25 AM
Subject: RE: Planners Oppose Brentswood Project

Thanks for the article. This is really important.

1. Developers promise the moon and deliver three quarters of a mud hole. They leave their rickety LLCs holding the bag near the end of any development, and their main corporations move on to the profitable side of other things. There isn't much in Brentswood that says that the road improvements would be completed BEFORE the development started.

2. Developers are usually pretty shortsightedly greedy when it comes to the market. They purchase (an issue with that, too) land and start grinding the wheels... It is a long term thing, and when the building economy booms, like it has since 2002, they go to town. Unfortunately they usually miss the downturn and their plans and studies are based on overly optimistic assumptions.

The market is flattening out very rapidly, and I see that it will start south very shortly. We have an abundant number of existing single family and town homes for sale and they are not moving. The developers are running sales incentives right and left. The inescapable conclusion is that they are building too much for the available cash to purchase. Interest rates are up nearly 2 points from where they were during the boom times.

Brentswood would add to the downward pressure. Actually it might accelerate the spiral. For many of the same reasons, this county went through a serious market contraction between 1994 and 1998. Inventories went through the roof and prices fell drastically. Developers went belly up, and left folks holding lots of bags, as sales died, contracts expired and banks closed on houses because the developers were in receivership. Interest rates are key, here and the Federal Reserve doesn't seem to be slowing its steady increases.

3. Everyone talks about roads... the roads are getting built. Too slowly and haphazardly for sure, but hey are getting built. No one says a thing about schools, though. Brentsville District High is projected to have 1400 students next year from what I hear, that is capacity for that plant. Battlefield is pretty much full, and too large to begin with. It is starting to show the negative social pathologies of a school that has too large a student population and it is only two years old. We don't just need elementary schools. We are going to need more high schools... Brentsville needs a new school building and facilities (face it guys it is screamingly old.) but at the danger of converting it from a high quality AA school to a moshpit AAA school.

We really don't need anymore retail space. There are empty store fronts from failed businesses all around here.

What we need is a development pause. We need to concentrate on getting the roads finished, and the schools built to handle the existing population. Some of our subdivisions are now larger than small cities, and maybe some smarter political re-alignments and consolidations are necessary, but what is not necessary is a glut of high density housing, retail storefronts, doctors offices and professional buildings masquerading as "industrial business".

Turn Brenstwood into a park... some nice green buffer between Bristow Run and Gainesville. Linton Hall road is threatening to look like Old Bridge Road, and so is 28 south of the airport. Let us not repeat the mistakes that were made in Woodbridge and continue to make... when we moved there in 1988 Westridge was the last development on Davis Ford - except for the Oaks back in the woods..

Orderly development is good. Insane expansion will lead us to be what most of us moved "out here" to escape. High density, crowded, expensive, congested near-urban Fairfax.

Responses will be listed in comments below.

Opposition to Brentswood Development

At the April 1st Prince William Republican Convention, one resolution called on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to reject the "Brentswood Community" project. The resolution passed easily.

A Washington Post article the next day, Millions for Roads Aside, Planners Oppose I-66 Project, by Nikita Stewart, details the reason for opposition to the project:

The project by Brookfield Homes would create five times the maximum number of houses intended for the area under the county's Comprehensive Plan -- the master plan that guides Prince William's zoning decisions on housing, schools, stores and office space, according to a staff report on the proposal.
Supervisor John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville) questioned whether Brookfield Homes would be able to move any faster than VDOT or would follow through on its promises.
According to the staff report, the Federal Highway Administration would not be likely to approve the entrance to I-66 proposed by Brookfield Homes because it would be too close to another Gainesville interchange. The staff report said traffic analyses performed by Brookfield Homes are unreliable
The company [Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade and Douglas Inc. of Herndon] concluded that the county has an adequate supply of housing planned for 30 to 55 years and that Brookfield Homes would add too many houses, according to the staff report.
The consultant also found that Brookfield Homes wants to build 875,000 square feet of retail but that residents would need only 175,000 square feet to be served well. Also, the county's economic development plan calls for the addition of more high-tech office space and Brookfield Homes is not offering enough, according to the consultant.
The staff report, however, says that the 6,800 houses "could be easily sold" but questioned their overall impact on the county.
"Is this the right time to bring on a project of this magnitude with the gridlock in this area?" Stirrup asked.

The number one proponent of at least further study is Supervisor Wally Convington, who represents the Brentsville district where the project is located. Again from the article:

"The only reason we're looking at this proposal now is that it offered the transportation improvements," said Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville). "The argument is, 'Do you put your trust in VDOT?' "

It appears from the article that Covington may not trust VDOT or the county staff on this issue. He questions whether the staff report is reliable and wonders why a study was ordered without board approval. He thinks they were overreliant on the comprehensive plan, and is skeptical of the relationship between the staff and Parsons, asking "Did they manipulate the study?"

I can't speak to why Covington questions the staff work. But while I voted against the resolution at the PWC convention, having looked into the matter further I believe this development should be rejected, at least in its present form.

In fact, there appears to be a groundswell of oppposition. According to an April 4 article 6,800 homes 'next door?' by Tara Slate Donaldson, the more people learn about this project, the more they object. The biggest problem is that many supporters believe the developer offered to pay for road improvements, when in fact the developer is merely lending the money in hopes of getting paid back later:

In exchange for approval, Brookfield would provide massive proffers, including more than $100 million in transportation improvements.

It was these concessions that have had the community seriously considering whether Brentswood may be a good deal for the county. Brookfield's big selling point -- that the company will pay for the reconstruction of the Gainesville interchange and widening of part of I-66 -- has been a special point of interest.
That's where Brookfield comes in. The company has agreed to essentially reconstruct the interchange itself, a proposal that has drawn a great deal of interest from the community
But on Thursday night, residents were not happy to hear that Brookfield wouldn't be paying for the entire reconstruction project, as many had previously believed.

As that piece of information sank in, much of the audience began laughing."So they're not paying for it," called out several members of the audience. "The majority of that project is being paid by VDOT," Utz responded. "By the taxpayers!" another man yelled. "Yes," said Utz. From that point on, the audience, which had previously seemed somewhat curious about the plans, became openly hostile toward the idea.

I was part of an e-mail exchange regarding the proposal, which I will repeat with permission of the participants in the succeeding thread.