Sunday, January 28, 2007

It's hard to take the protests seriously.....

I remember when anti-war protests were full of anti-war protesters. I'm not saying they weren't crazy, but they were focused.

Nowadays, you can't hold a good anti-war protest without every tom, dick, and jane showing up with their own agendas.

When your speakers are on stage surrounded by signs like this, you should lose some credibility.

No, this is not photoshopped. Yes, it says "9-11 was an inside job". Well, actually, it says "9-II" was an inside job. Apparently the nutjob store was all out of the number "1", or else they had a sale on the letter "I" - buy 2, get 2 free.

Sing along with me:
"All we are saying.... is Give terrorists our country."

Washington Post: Using Middle Names is "Juvenile", "Contemptable"

During the last election, I argued that the Webb campaign's (and his supporters) use of George Allen's middle name was childish and immature. Now, the Washington Post has found this so important they dedicated their Sunday Editorial to make this same point.

Of course, they aren't talking about the Webb/Allen race. During the months of "Felix", the Washington Post did not say ONE WORD about the practice. Instead, they bring it up now, in their editorial Sticks, Stones, and Mr. Obama:

IT'S BECOME a fad among some conservatives to refer to the junior senator from Illinois by his full name: Barack Hussein Obama. This would be merely juvenile if it weren't so contemptible. Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers, on "Hardball," was one of the early adopters of this sleazy tactic. "Count me down as somebody who underestimates Barack Hussein Obama," he said.

So what prompts their sudden concern? Well, some republicans have taken to using Barack Obama's full name (not like Senator Ted Kennedy, who called him Osama Obama). The idea is to remind voters that his middle name is "Hussein". This is of course childish -- Barack didn't choose his middle name, so the middle name doesn't inform us about his philosophy or opinions.

I haven't looked at any of the left-wing blogs like NLS or Raising Kaine to see if they have shared this "outrage" -- I wouldn't be surprised, because, like the Washington Post, liberals have little problems with being hypocrits (I would note that it is only slightly less hypocritical for republicans who complained about "Felix" to use "Hussein" -- I say less because if you argue something is wrong, but your opponent does it anyway, doing it back to them could be considered "fair" in that you are merely repaying them evil for evil. Whereas using a technique to your own advantage, only to complain about it when your opponent does it back, is truly hypocritical.

So, any of your left-wingers who were so proud of yourselves for knowing how to say Allen's middle name want to attack the Washington Post for calling your tactic "juvenile", "contemptable", and "sleazy"? Anybody expect the Post to go back and denounce Webb's campaign for the same tactic?

I didn't think so.

Gas tax-the lesser of many evils (but still evil)

This is how many a good conservative gets run out of town on a rail. See, we stand for limited government, and low taxation. We look at a Virginia state budget which has increased by double digits year after year, we see billions spent for non-government purposes, and we know that there is plenty of money collected to fund our transportation needs, if it wasn't all being spent on pet projects and vote-buying schemes.

But taxes WILL be raised for transportation. And if all we can say is "no new taxes", when there WILL be new taxes, we have no voice in which taxes are raised. And while raising taxes at all would be wrong, there are some taxes which are much more harmful than others.

So when Senator Colgan published a survey, and gave HIS arguments for a gax tax, I had to agree with him on one point -- if you WERE going to raise a tax dedicated to transportation, the gas tax is the one.

And if the only problem is our surplus is in the wrong bucket, lets raise transportation taxes AND CUT THE SALES TAX. It was the sales tax increase that was unnecessary -- since it was passed, almost 100% of the extra tax has been surplus, the remainder also being surplus but being pushed into new spending that wasn't previously "needed".

Anyway, this is the title of my Potomac News column for January 25 -- "Gas tax-the lesser of many evils":

Gas tax-the lesser of many evils
Potomac News
Thursday, January 25, 2007

For several years now (ever since then-Gov. Mark Warner passed the largest tax increase in history), Virginia has experienced record tax surpluses. And yet almost nothing has been done to address what every official in Virginia knows is one of our biggest issues, transportation. Instead, we were told that none of the overflowing coffers of the "general fund" could be used to fix the roads.

Fortunately, Gov. Tim Kaine has finally come clean on that issue, proposing $500 million from the general fund for transportation. Unfortunately, that is not enough to cover the backlog of existing projects, much less make progress in alleviating the chronic traffic woes of Northern Virginia.

Some argue the general fund should only be used for core services. But transportation is surely a core service of state government. The entire state benefits from having a reliable transportation infrastructure. We all depend on roads for the food we eat, the goods we buy, for access to services. Traffic nightmares discourage business investment, and business drives our economy, provides jobs, and makes our state a growing, vibrant place to live.

We don't need new taxes. However, it's clear the legislature won't change the budget structure, now or in the foreseeable future. And since existing transportation taxes won't fund the improvements that are necessary and overdue, the question is what taxes we are going to raise to meet that funding.

So, let's raise transportation taxes, and CUT the sales tax back to pre-2004 levels, or cut the income tax. This solves several problems. It removes the temptation to spend the surplus. It provides the "steady revenue stream" transportation needs. It lessens the impact of fluctuations in the "unreliable" general tax revenue, by lowering the amount of money expected from revenue streams that may dry up in lean years. It balances new transportation taxes with cuts in other taxes. And it keeps transportation spending out of the general fund.

But what taxes should we raise? The proposal to increase the business property tax rate is a horrible idea that should be rejected. It's easy to tax business, because they are a smaller voting block, and don't write many angry letters to the editor.

Besides, any county would die to get a new business built on vacant property, because the tax revenue far exceeds the costs in roads and other county services. Plus, a local business employs people, who then don't need to commute to other counties clogging up the roads.

Raising property taxes on business discourages investment, drives up costs (which are passed to customers), and makes Virginia businesses less competitive against business from other surrounding states. A business doesn't make money based on the value of the real estate it occupies, but on the goods and services it provides to the community. Property taxes aren't based on the ability of an owner to pay, and a higher property tax on business will make things worse, not better.

There are also proposals to increase the sales tax on cars, and increase driver and vehicle license fees. But as State Sen. Charles Colgan noted in a recent opinion column, none of those taxes collect money from people from other states who use our roads. Other than converting to toll roads, the best way to get money from people using the roads is to increase the gasoline tax. Coupled with a decrease in the state income tax or sales tax, we could collect more money without increasing the tax burden on the average citizen.

The new tax revenue should be distributed based on transportation use. This could be determined by periodic surveys of total people-miles traveled, counting both driving miles and miles by public transportation. Transportation money should be sent to where people are being transported.

I'm not happy about increasing taxes. We had more than enough money the last few years, and much of it was squandered rather than used to address our real needs. Kaine's promised "transportation lock box" is nowhere to be found. There is little hope that the sales tax increase will be repealed. But if a tax increase is inevitable, a gas tax increase is the least bad way to do it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Webb's misleading SOTU address

When James Webb committed a freudian slip, saying that the majority of the nation no longer supports the war (rather than his prepared text that they did not support the way the war was being fought), I gave him a pass.

But when he said that a majority of the military opposed the war, I wondered where he got his information. His exact statement was:

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military.

Well it turns out that this statement was deliberately misleading, applied as it was to Webb's opposition to Bush's new plan to send additional reinforcements to Iraq.

Here is the survey that Webb was citing, I'll quote the relevant potion:

For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president’s handling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war, ac cording to the 2006 Military Times Poll.

But it turns out that this poll was done just after Rumsfeld was fired, but before Gates took over, and before Bush started discussing the troop reinforcement plan. And in fact, the survey shows that, far from opposing Bush's new plan, the troops were ASKING for it:

Almost half of those responding think we need more troops in Iraq than we have there now. A surprising 13 percent said we should have no troops there.

So a lot of those who oppose the way Bush is fighting the war were complaining that they needed MORE troops, which is Bush's new plan. Meanwhile, only 13% support Webb's plan, which is to pull out all the troops.

It didn't take Webb long to settle in as a Senate Democrat.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What does it say on Jeff Dion's Cub Scout Leader Form?

Having written this post, I am disturbed by it. Jeff Dion is running for a public office, and as such he opens himself up to public scrutiny. And clearly truthfulness is a valid issue, and respect for rules is a valid issue. Respect for the rules of the Boy Scouts, if you want to be associated with them, is a valid issue.

Now, Jeff doesn't list being a cubmaster on his web site. Of course, he also says nothing about being gay, or living with a male partner. Here's what he does list:

Jeff was active in his church and in Boy Scouts. He developed a love and respect for the outdoors and eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
Jeff currently lives in Lake Ridge with his two children, , where Jeff volunteers for the PTA.

Jeff currently serves as the President of the Antietam Woods Condo Association and is a volunteer for ACTS (Action in the Community Through Service). Jeff and his family attend St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Woodbridge.

His site refers you to his resume, which has this type of information:

Antietam Woods Condo. Assn., 2003-present
Vice President, 2003-2006
President, 2006-present

President, Amberleigh Homeowners Assn.,1995- 2000

PTA Volunteer, Antietam Elementary School
Chairman, Muffins with Mom, 2006

ACTS Volunteer

It seems Jeff purposely left out his involvement as a cubmaster. He obviously thought being in couting was a positive, as he listed his own involvement, and played on his highly coveted eagle award. And he obviously didn't mind listing even MINOR public service, like being the volnteer chair of the "muffins with mom".

Being a cubmaster is a big deal, and any politician would prominently display that, unless they didn't want it to be an issue.

Well, it seems clear why he doesn't want it to be an issue -- because most certainly if people put two and two together, he'll be booted from the position by the boy scouts. Jeff goes out of his way to NOT tell us about being Cubmaster, to NOT mention his sexuality, and to NOT mention his partner even while prominently mentioning living with his children. Imagine a heterosexual who mentioned his children while leaving out a woman he lived with for 4 years.

But that's the problem. What right do I have to violate Jeff's obvious desire to keep his association with the cub scouts a secret? Frankly, I almost deleted this post. If I actually get traction on this, (and I certainly will if I write about it in my column, but probably not from this post) he'll likely lose his position. His children will be negatively impacted, if they aren't already from the publicity he's trying to avoid on his sexuality.

But I'm a former scout, and currently involved in scouting myself as my son is moving through the ranks. I have an obligation to the organization, an obligation shared by Jeff Dion, although we apparently have different views on what that obligation entails.

Yet this is why I don't like politics. In the abstract, why would anyone offer themselves for public service if they have to endure digging into their background. However, it's not like Jeff has hidden his sexuality, he seems to be playing on it but only in the background, while "hiding" it in plain site from the population as a whole, with the help of the media. But he does seems to be trying to NOT draw attention to some aspects of his life.

So I want this to be clear: While I am personally opposed to homosexuality, and feel nobody should live a homosexual lifestyle, I do not think that being a homosexual is a disqualifying characteristic for a public servant, and if they want to keep their sexuality truly private that is their decision, not mine. My opposition to Jeff is not based on his homosexuality, but on his politics. And this post is not about Jeff being a homosexual -- it is about Jeff seeming to violate the rules of the BSA while serving as a leader.

OK, on to my post.

James Young posted Saturday (To Whom else is Jeff Dion Lying) that Jeff Dion was a Cub Scout pack leader. Greg L. confirmed this (Jeff Dion: Your Gay Scoutmaster) -- at least so far as to find the pack's web site listing Jeff Dion's e-mail address as the contact for the cub leader. A further check at that site clearly indicates Jeff Dion is the Cubmaster, listed as such on Committee Members page.

TO be the leader of a cub pack, you must fill out an official form, which among other things requires pledges to follow the BSA bylaws. A copy of the form can be found here -- "Be a Scouting Volunteer":

Only persons willing to subscribe to the Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of leadership.

But there is nothing explicit in the bylaws or the religious principles to reject homosexuals. The bylaws do give the organization the right to define their own leadership qualifications.

The document most often cited prohibiting gay leaders is a 1978 internal memo A copy can be found on an anti-BSA-exclusion web site. The operative part of that memo is:

Q: May an individual who openly declares himself to be a homosexual be a registered unit member?

A: No. As the Boy Scouts of America is a private membership organization, participation in the program is a privilege, not a right. We do not feel that membership of such individuals is in the best interest of scouting.

This policy has never been revoked, has been affirmed several times, and has been the center of several recent lawsuits, all of which were found in favor of the BSA restriction on avowed homosexuals in both leadership and membership.

Now, can a local organization allow a gay leader in opposition to the national committee? No. According to a resolution passed in 2002 (relevant parts):

7. WHEREAS the national officers further agree that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the traditional values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and that an avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the values of the Oath and Law; and

8. WHEREAS, the national officers reaffirm that, as a national organization whose very reason for existence is to instill and reinforce values in youth, the BSA's values cannot be subject to local option choices, but must be the same in every unit; and

9. WHEREAS, the Boy Scouts of America respects the right of persons and individuals to hold values and standards different than the Boy Scouts of America, the national officers also agree that the Boy Scouts of America is entitled to expect that persons and organizations with different values and standards will nevertheless respect those of the Boy Scouts of America;

10. THEREFORE, the national officers recommend the National Executive Board affirm that the Boy Scouts of America shall continue to follow its traditional values and standards of leadership.

It is clear that the Boy Scouts of America expect all packs to conform to the rules, and all leaders to agree to and abide by the prohibition on homosexuals.

Now, Is there anything on the application that commits an applicant to following the rules of the BSA (which include the prohibition on homosexual leaders), as opposed to simply agreeing to the bylaws?

Yes, it is spelled out at the point of the applicant's signature:

b. In signing this application, I have read the attached information and apply for registration with the Boy Scouts of America. I agree to comply with the Charter and Bylaws, and the Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America and the local council. I affirm that the information I have given on this form is true and correct. I will follow the Youth Protection guidelines.

Could Jeff Dion be unfamiliar with the rules and regulations of the Boy Scouts as regards openly homosexual leadership? It is highly unlikely.

If Jeff was familiar with the rules and knowingly violates them, that would be a valid issue for a campaign for public office. BTW, the same would be true if Jeff Dion was an atheist (another rule of the BSA), NOTE he is NOT, and I'm not suggesting he is, just saying that this isn't about him being homosexual, it's about him signing a form saying he would comply with the rules and regulations of the BSA, which clearly prohibit him from being a cubmaster.

Now, I happen to think the prohibition of gays is not as fundamental to scouting as the prohibition of atheists and agnostics. But it is a rule nonetheless, and a rule that has been found constitutional. Scouting teaches, among other things, the respect for rules -- and in this case there seems to be a lack of respect for the organization's rules.

There's another section which would have put Jeff in a difficult position. After a specific set of questions about former charges of child abuse, etc., there is this general question:

e. Other than the above, is there any fact or circumstance involving you or your background that would call into question your being entrusted with the supervision, guidance, and care of young people? (If yes, explain below.)

Now, I'm certain a gay person would insist they are not a danger to children. But that's not the question. It asks if anything "would call into question". Well, the official BSA position is that being openly homosexual makes you unsuitable to be a leader. Knowing that, a homosexual application, being truthful, would have to answer "yes" and explain his sexual orientation, to give the BSA the opportunity to decide if his homosexuality did, in fact, call into question his fitness for leadership.

So it would be interesting to find out if Jeff Dion did, in fact, disclose his homosexuality when applying to be the leader of a scout troop -- assuming that he actually applied, and is formally the scout leader, which I suppose we can't be sure of although you can't really be a cub master without going through the checks.

I believe homosexuals have every right to voice their opposition to the Boy Scout prohibition on gays. They can use the court of public opinion to try to change the rules. They can make sure people sponsoring the scouts, or looking to join, understand the rules.

What they should NOT do is make a mockery of the scout rules by violating them. As a candidate for public office, the violation of the rules of an organization he has sworn an oath to uphold is a legitimate public concern.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dr. King's Dream is Dead

The Dream is Dead. OK, that was MY title. the actual headline is "Dr. King's dream impossible with specialty awards". Seriously, the point wasn't that specialty awards were the problem, they were the SYMPTOM of the problem, which is that, 40 years later, most people don't WANT to be judged on the content of their character, and are much happier being judged by the color of their skin.

Critically Thinking
By Charles Reichley
January 18, 2007

The Dream is dead

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

That is one line from one of the most well-known speeches of modern times, delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Much has changed since he spoke these words. Some say we’ve come a long way, others that there is still a long way to go, to realize King’s dream.

But whatever progress has been made, the dream of a colorblind society is dead. And I see little evidence that those who honor King’s memory, and long for his vision to be reality, are anything but pleased.

How else can you explain the existence of Black Entertainment Television, the “Black Music Awards”, or the Miss Black America pageant? Or how, when republicans wanted to counter the image of George Allen as a racist, they cited the opinion of a “major black newspaper”?

It’s not just blacks. Hispanics, Asians, women – name a distinguishable group, and you will find organizations, awards, scholarships, and other evidence that, far from being ignored as insignificant, our differences are seen as a, if not the, defining characteristic of our lives. Distinctions which were once considered superficial, that one day would be rightly purged from our conscious and unconscious thought, have instead become an indelible part of our identity.

Now, I have no desire to have my whiteness be honored, nor do I feel put out because others have their own special awards and I don’t. But King was right to imagine a day when skin pigmentation was an afterthought, when we would treat all people based on characteristics that matter.

Instead, we have come to embrace that which makes us different, and to dwell on physical characteristics that distinguish us. This focus divides us, segregates us, and plants in our minds the expectation that what a person is should be determined by race, color, and gender. As the web site for the Miss Black America pageant states: “all humans are a total of their experiences, and being Black is the most profound experience a Black human being encounters in America.”

I’m not going to dispute that claim – as a white person, I cannot speak to what it is to be black. But it is certainly the polar opposite of King’s dream for a colorblind society. I can never be black. If being black is deemed important to understanding a problem, my input will be dismissed out-of-hand. If race is a critical factor, we must by definition exclude people based on race. If a white person “can’t understand”, a wedge is driven between us that cannot be overcome.

In fact, we cannot come together as a nation so long as we divide the nation by race, color, or creed. I think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that beyond the injustices perpetrated upon blacks by whites throughout our history, division based on characteristics over which we have no control will tear our country apart.

King’s dream is a hard dream, maybe an impossible dream. Humans will segregate, if not by color, then by sex, or size, or weight, or some other characteristic. We will look for people “like us”, and then find people “not like us” that we can look down upon. Rich/poor, attractive/homely, educated/ignorant, thin/fat, tall/short, you name it; we’ve found ways to label it, organize by it, and to use it to our advantage.

Still, it is a dream worth striving for, but that we seem to have abandoned. Instead of looking for what would unite us, we have abandoned ourselves to the exaltation of what divides us. I guess it makes us more comfortable – if we must be judged by what we cannot change, we cannot feel rejected if we are not accepted for what we are.

Some would say that, as a white person, I have no place talking about this subject. That is my point – my participation in the conversation is judged not by the content of my character, but by the color of my skin.

Faisal Gill Campaign Event Postponed -- Wants to focus on Mike May's Race

Faisal Gill, a candidate for the 51st district delegate seat currently held by Michelle McQuigg, had a campaign announcement event scheduled for this Saturday, which included Lt. Governor Bill Bolling.

However, there were requests that he postpone his event because some of his supporters also wanted to work the Occoquan supervisor special election beat this Saturday.

Faisal contacted his supporters, and was able to postpone his event to a future date. I can't say right now what that date is.

I'm sure this will be a dissappointment to the 2 people who were going to show up to protest his candidacy.

UPDATE: Faisal has confirmed : "It is being postponed so that we can all go work for Mike may on Saturday."

Senator Webb's first truly dissappointing vote.

There were a couple of votes so far where Webb actually voted correctly against his fellow democrats, and for Virginia. The best example was voting against Harry Reid to keep him from blocking a common-sense addition to the ethics reform bill.

But on that same bill today, James Webb voted against bloggers and free speech, siding with all but 7 democrats against a vote stripping an odious rule requiring anybody who pays money to try to get people to call their representatives to file paperwork and track expenditures.

Most other democrat from conservative states voted with the the republicans. Baucus, Bayh, Conrad, Dorgan, Landrieu, Ben Nelson, and Salazar all voted with for free speech. It would be fascinating to hear Webb explain why he felt a blogger who received money from an advocacy ad who also supported the same cause should have to be regulated by the government.

But frankly, it would be fun to hear Webb explain anything he's done so far. Maybe Tuesday.

The senate also rejected a provision to set up an independent office for ethics. I hate independent committees. If we can't trust a representative to do the right thing, we should throw them out of office, not pass off their jobs to some unelected board.

Story is here, but doesn't include the votes on the amendment -- you need to go to for that information.

Update: Commenter notes links are our friends.

The vote on the Leiberman amendment to establish independent ethics office (#30) can be found HERE.

The vote on the Bennett amendment removing the grassroots reporting provisions (#20) can be found HERE.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Little bit of this, A little bit of that.

My Potomac News column from last thursday. The title (which was truncated in the online version) is taken from the song "Anatevka" from "The Fiddler on the Roof". It refers in this case to a column that covers a lot of ground.

I tried to be a little humorous as I touched briefly on a half-dozen stories from the past month, including Virgil, Ellison, dead birds, a horrid stench in New Jersey, Pelosi's first 100 hours, and a Toys R Us new baby promotion. This clears the way for my first serious column of the new year to be published tomorrow, about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A bit of this, a bit of that

Potomac News
Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's a new year, and there are new things to talk about. But sometimes you have to "clear your desk," so to speak, before you can get to work on the new stuff.

There's been a lot of interesting stories the past month. First, there were some major snowstorms out west. The storms shut down air travel several times over the holidays. Meanwhile, in our area people were out this weekend lounging by local pools in their swimsuits. I love winter, but given the choice between being buried under five feet of snow or playing a round of golf in January, I have to vote for global warming. Especially if it means I might have beachfront property before the end of the century.

On Monday, a horrible stench engulfed much of New York City, and parts of New Jersey. Nobody knows where it came from, or how they could tell the difference. Fears of terrorism were dispelled by Mayor Bloomberg, and things have now "settled" back to normal. I'll say this -- if we are going to have a terrorist attack, I think this is the kind of attack I'd vote for, so long as I wasn't lounging around the pool in my bathing suit at the time.

Also on Monday, a number of city birds fell dead across a 10-block section of Austin, Texas. There was speculation of a connection between the bird deaths and the New York smell-a-thon, but that has been dismissed, although no cause has been determined. Then on Tuesday a large number of birds fell dead in Australia. This sounds suspiciously like the plot to one of my favorite science fiction movies, "The Core," but I've been told there is no indication of a collapse of the earth's magnetic field.

Snowstorms, heat waves, bird deaths, strange smells -- in the spirit of the new political alignment in Washington, let me be the first to say, it's Nancy Pelosi's fault. OK, I got that out of my system.

Speaking of Pelosi, I believe we are in hour 130 of the first 100 hours. The Democrats' plan to work 5 days a week already suffered a blow when they cancelled Monday so the Ohio and Florida delegations could attend a rather anti-climactic "college football championship" game. Just so long as it was for something really important, I guess. Frankly, I like it when Congress works LESS, not more, because it means they aren't causing so much damage.

Toys "R" Us had a great idea. They offered a $25,000 scholarship to the first child born in 2007. You had to register in advance. Never mind the problems with providing financial incentives for people to rush the delivery of their babies. There were three births at about the same time, and the couple chosen as the winner turned out to be in the country illegally from China. The contest rules said legal residents only, so Toys "R" Us took back the prize and gave it to the 2nd-place couple, but after cries of discrimination they awarded scholarships to all three babies.

This was very unfair. There were probably a lot of illegal immigrants who followed the rules and didn't apply to the contest, who also had babies at the stroke of midnight on New Years. Because they were rule-abiding illegals, they did not get a chance to win a prize like the illegal couple who didn't follow the rules. This country is in trouble if we reward illegal immigrants who break the rules over illegal immigrants who follow the rules.

Speaking of immigration, Virginia congressman Virgil Goode got in trouble for anti-Muslim comments. He actually had a good point about not granting citizenship to people who want to kill us. But it was lost in the argument over a Muslim using a Koran during a fake re-enactment of his swearing-in ceremony (the official version uses no books, just a member's own oath to uphold the Constitution). I firmly believe in freedom of religion, and think a person should be allowed to pretend to swear oaths during staged photo-ops using any book they want.

There. Clean desk, ready and waiting.

Catching Up

This time of year is always hectic, not the least because of having to take down the christmas lights. I've gotten about 28,000 of them down, if not put away. Before I pack them up, I still have to check every string for burned-out lights, replacing any that aren't working.

I also have to fold up the the deer (which are nestled warmly in my garage while my car sits out in what has suddenly decided to be winter). I've got the artifical trees boxed up, and all the lights off everything but the house (which traditionally is the first to get decorated, and the last to be undecorated.

All my blogging time has been consumed by making comments at other sites, mostly in defence of Faisal Gill against what I believe are unfair rehashings of allegations that have been dismissed as groundless in their content and implications. I don't think the naysayers are going to cause any real harm -- in fact, I imagine when all is said and done Faisal will have the backing of most of the important people in the party, and little opposition related to the hysterical anti-muslim-association attacks by some.

I can only hope that the democrats would be stupid enough to dredge this up in the general election, as the Muslim community was reliably Democrat in the past election.

The rest of my time has been consumed by our new toy. Yes, I managed to get hold of one of those insidious Nintendo Wii machines, and I didn't even have to drink myself to death to do so.

I had a plan to pick one up after Christmas -- which involved taking a few minutes every morning to stop by Target on my way to work. Target opens at 8am, and unloads their trucks at 4am, so it seemed if I was there at 8 I'd be certain to get a Wii when the shipment came, since nobody KNEW what day it would be and nobody seemed to be taking the same approach.

Well, after 10 days of this, it dawned on me that this plan would only work if Target ever GOT a shipment. That same day, a friend of mine gave me a call at about 11am, telling me (while driving in his car to the store) that Toys R Us had 7 Wiis left in a shipment.

It took me about 10 minutes to drive to the store. I ran in and said "Nintendo Wii"? and a nice man said "I just bought the last one". But he was just kidding, and since I'm not James Webb I laughed with him. It turned out there were three left at that time, so I was able to walk out with a Wii of my own.

I'll say it's everything they said it was. I've been very sore the past few days. I did relent and it's sitting on my big-screen TV, but I'm very nervous. We haven't played any games except the one that came with the console, but the sports stuff IS a lot of fun, especially I think the bowling, which is much like real bowling in that you play one at a time, people cheer, and you can drop the ball behind you if you aren't careful.

I've fallen in love with a song from a singer I had not heard of before, but who has been around for a while -- Michelle Tumes. The song is "Domine". You can hear the entire song at her myspace account HERE.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

FOX Network goes out of its way to offend viewers.

I don't generally act on American Family Association "Action Alerts", and often I don't even read them. I do support their core goals, but I'm not as focused on general issues of "offensiveness" as they are, since I'd rather simply turn off the TV than fight it.

But as they noted in their last newsletter, there are times when the broadcast networks seem to go out of their way to offend people, just for the fun of it. As they explain it:

It used to be that you could sit down and watch an evening football game with your children without fear of them being exposed to inappropriate material. Sadly, that's no longer the case as was proven Saturday night during the Fox broadcast of the NFL playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles.

During a cutaway shot to the stadium spectators, the camera focused directly on a woman wearing a t-shirt clearly inscribed with the words "F--k Da Eagles" (without the dashes). The shot stayed focused on the woman and her shirt for several seconds. There can be no doubt that this was an intentional airing of patently offensive language on the public airwaves, as the person wearing the profane t-shirt was culled by Fox Network's broadcast crew from more than 70,000 spectators in the stadium. The camera operator selected that particular woman and the director and/or producers of the event made an affirmative and conscious decision to air the shot from that particular camera, forcing the f-word into millions of homes. Furthermore, the v-chip would not and could not have protected children and families from the type of content evidenced here.

The last reference is to the "v-chip", technology built into every modern TV to allow you to block offensive content. It does so using ratings sent out with the broadcasts, based on settings determined by the owner of the television -- an excellent example of government enabling individual responsibility with a minimum of interference.

But the technology only works if the broadcast is correctly rated. And the rating on a football game is not suitable for deliberate display of patently offensive language, such as that displayed on the t-shirt.

Note that this is not an inadvertent display such as you might expect from the coverage of a live event. It wasn't a football player making an offensive gesture at the spur of the moment, or a streaker running across the field of play -- this was a cut-away shot of the crowd, a shot that was certainly chosen ahead of time by the camera operator who focused on the female, and then fed into the broadcast by the choice of the director of the broadcast. There is no doubt they chose this precisely because of the looks of the female, and the message on her t-shirt.

I'm not writing to the FCC to complain about this. But I can understand why people WOULD write about this -- it's a slap in the face to those of us who DO exercise our personal responsibility, and expect the networks to at least pretend to take their ratings and their responsibilities seriously.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Did Keith Ellison Desecrate the Koran?

Here are some excerpts from the U.S. Army's official regulations about handling a Koran:

4. Handling.

a. Clean gloves will be put on in full view of the detainees prior to handling.

b. Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in manner signaling respect and reverence. Care should be used so that the right hand is the primary one used to manipulate any part of the Koran due to the cultural association with the left hand. Handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art.

c. Ensure that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet areas.

Muslims consider their left hand "unclean" -- they use it to wipe themselves, and not much else. For example, from Yahoo Answers:

Why do muslim place their marriage ring on their right hand?

In the distant past, some cultures such as those of the Muslims used the left hand to perform certain "unclean" tasks (i.e. cleaning one's bottom after defecation). Therefore, to put a ring symbolizing the union between man and woman on the left hand would not be appropriate. This practice may no longer apply to Muslims born and/or raised in Western society, but by and large, the left hand is still considered "the unclean hand" in most predominantly Muslim countries.

In fact, a Muslim swearing on the Koran will not "raise his right hand", but rather will place the right hand on the Koran, while not raising any hand. Here is an example of a Palistinian man taking an oath on the Koran:

So, no left hand on the book, use gloves when touching the book.

But at Ellison's fake, photo-op make-believe swearing-in ceremony, both these rules were violated, as seen in this picture:

The woman is holding the Koran with bare hands, including her unclean left hand. And Ellison has his unclean left hand on the book. Earlier (not pictured), Nancy Pelosi also touched the book with her uncovered left hand.

One can only hope that the aide holding the Koran is not menstruating:

Requirements of ritual purity may seem to restrict a woman's access to religious life, but are viewed as concessions. During menstruation or postpartum bleeding, she may not pray the ritual salah or touch the Koran and she does not have to fast; nor does she need to fast while pregnant or nursing.

One can only hope the extremists don't get a copy of this picture, who knows what kind of rioting might ensue from these obvious and flagrant desecrations of the holy book.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Crescent States of America?

Spotted at a Muslim-run Auto Repair shop in New Hampshire, a sign of what Virgil Goode was talking about...

Courtesy of JihadWatch.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Jeff Dion Endorses Mike May (his opponent) for Supervisor

I was surprised to find that Jeff Dion is running a developer advocacy group. I was even more surprised to find that Jeff's group is endorsing his opponent, Mike May, for Supervisor.

Especially given that Mike May is hardly a friend to developers, while Jeff Dion has no official acts which show he isn't the developer's best friend.

Anyway, here it is, straight from Jeff's own web site:

Developers for Mike May???
December 16th, 2006

There’s a rumor flying around that Mike May has already received the endorsement of an influential group.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

And who is that group? From the link, it's "Developers for Mike May":

The Developers for Mike May website is coming soon. Please check back. Paid for and Authorized by Dion for Supervisor.

So Jeff Dion has set up an organization, Developers for Mike May, and Jeff says his group endorses Mike May for Supervisor.

When a candidate endorses his opponent, you should listen to him. Even if his reasons are ignorant.

Was the Aggregator a Trojan Horse? And was Virgil Goode Right?

In the comments over at Shaun Kenney's blog, I made a reference to the "Trojan Horse" in regards to the Virginia Blog Aggregator. Waldo took offense to the reference, noting that it implied a prior intent which was not in evidence.

You can go read the exchange in Commonwealth Conservative: Can we disagree without being disagreeable? But in my last response, I said some stuff I wanted to bring back to my own blog in the hopes I can get better coverage for my friends on the right who are so bent on defending Waldo that they seem to miss the big picture.

To be complete, I'll start with Waldo's response to my comment:

I'm just saying it was inconsistant with your previously stated principles.

Much as Alex's behavior was inconsistent with the accepted principles of Virginia political bloggers, at least as I understood them. Everybody has a line at which they consider something offensive. That's mine, and that's where I stop subsidizing Alex's expression. Anybody running such a service will encounter such a line at some point, and it's at that point where they have to consider which principle is more important.

My point was that your aggregator in the end was not a gift, but a trojan horse, and those who thought differently have nobody to blame but themselves.

That's hardly fair. "A trojan horse" implies a planned attack, an intend to deceive. I did nothing of the sort. One could just as easily argue that Alex's blog was a trojan horse: a site that pretended to be about reasoned and humorous discourse, but turned out to be designed to shock and offend anybody of reasonable morals. That's probably not true, either, but the logic is the same.

Here is my response, edited to make it better:

The "trojan horse" analogy is not "fair", it is an opinion that has no firm foundation in known facts.

However, it is a rational opinion, and one that I can at least back up in an ex-post-facto manner by looking at the current situation, as I have described before.

Waldo is certainly a smart person, and a strong partisan for his political philosophy. Is it impossible that he could have started the aggregator NOT simply to be nice to all of us, but instead as part of a plan to build up a following and then control the flow of information?

Waldo would no doubt disagree, and those who know him well will say it is inconsistant with who he is (but the actions he took also seem out of character).

On the other hand, we have observed actions. There was the original aggregator which had everybody on it, and an owner who wouldn't delete patently offensive images used by the left to attack those on the right. And now that same aggregator (at the same URL) is named Waldo's aggregator, with a smaller number of blogs. with several conservative blogs missing, it seems for what they have been saying.

In other words, the observed facts fit with my conjecture, and in fact if Waldo DID mean to do so this is precisely where we would be today.

Waldo could have proven this WASN'T a plan by NOT taking actions contrary to his previous statement of principles. Or he could have taken the time to clearly explain on the aggregator that he intended to boot bloggers who offended him. Or he could have deleted the offending post and then put a new list of rules on the blog. Or he could have explained why this one truthful, non-photoshopped picture was more offensive than all the previous pictures that attacked conservatives and that people complained about.

I've always felt that an aggregator controlled by the left was a bad idea for those on the right, because we can't control our own message if our opposition controls the media in which our message will be transmitted, and is willing and able to censor it at will.

Waldo said: "and that's where I stop subsidizing Alex's expression. Anybody running such a service will encounter such a line at some point,"

That is a clear statement of the reality of the "Virginia Blog Aggregator", in spite of the allusion of being a content-neutral retransmission of all comers. It was Waldo's blog -- he ran it, he paid for it, he had the power and control, and his application of that power was to block a blog from the right for the manner in which that blog chose to communicate a political message.

Waldo in fact has reinforced GGD's point. GGD simply retransmited a PUBLIC PICTURE showing what our enemies, muslims from the middle east, are willing and desirous to do to every American who does not convert to their religion.

Waldo found that so offensive he took the radical step of removing his blog from an aggregator that up to that time had never had ANY censorship, in opposition to his previously stated principles of the aggregator.

THAT is the power of our enemy, to make us give up our own freedoms and rights because we can't handle the offensiveness of their acts.

I bet Virgil Goode did not shrink back from that image -- as a public figure, I bet he suffered himself to watch the entire video, so he could truly understand the nature of our enemy in a way that those of us too chicken to do so will be able to (remember, i'm in that group).

Virgil is right. He says he wants to stop letting people BORN in the middle east, raised in the culture, trained in the madrassas, and adherents of the brand of that religion that gave us people willing to behead our fellow americans simply because we don't worship their god. He reaches that decision based on things like the picture Waldo couldn't bear to look at, that caused Waldo to take the action that led to this entire event.

GGD, whatever else he is or did, simply took a picture and used it to defend Virgil Goode's position that we should rethink our middle east immigration policy. He's a blogger who wanted to make his point in the strongest way possible. He CERTAINLY did not do so in order to offend Waldo. He certainly didn't even THINK about the aggregator when he made his post.

Waldo is the one who took offense to GGD, and he's the one who attacked GGD, not the other way around. Waldo could have responded in a rational adult fashion, and chose instead to respond in a different manner -- which was his right. But it WAS an act against GGD, while GGD's initial act was NOT an attack on Waldo.

Waldo was the first to attack, which again is why I don't understand why so many have taken Waldo as the aggrieved party. My goal is to convince people otherwise.

I'm not even on the list

Last week I generously offered that Waldo could remove me from his list of blogs if he was worried something I might post would offend him.

Turns out I'm not even ON his list. I thought I was, at one time I had seen my posts come through the Aggregator, but when I looked today I see I'm not on the list of blogs there.

I did say some bad things about the aggregator about 6 months ago, and maybe that's what did it, or maybe I was actually on and Waldo DID read my comment in the middle of the hundreds of other comments and decided to take me up on my offer...

Although if he did, I'd love to see him point to something I wrote on my blog that would make him nervous about my blog offending anybody. I'm a pretty non-offensive person.

Anyway, I just wanted people on both sides of the issue to know that I didn't force Waldo to take my name off, nor did I beg him to leave my name on, and my blog NOT being on his site should not be taken as an endorsement of one side or another in the stupid debate over some stupid internet blogging thing.

One thing's for certain -- I've seen more pictures of Waldo in the past week then in my lifetime, and one was certainly enough.