Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is the writing on the wall for the Lucas Appeal?

There hasn't been much written lately about the Lucas appeal of the 51st district convention, still being adjudicated by the 51st district committee.

But there are some ominous signs that some people are done sitting on the fence waiting, and are moving on -- something I strongly urge Julie Lucas to do as well, for herself if not for the party.

Congressman Tom Davis has now endorsed Faisal Gill for Delegate. As his chosen representative is the head of the 11th district committee which will next hear this appeal, this is not a good sign for those chances. I don't imagine Davis would endorse a candidate if he expected his committee to overturn that candidate's nomination, and I don't expect Becky Stoeckel will be as willing to step out on the ledge for her endorsed candidate Julie Lucas now that her boss has accepted the decision of the delegates of the 51st convention.

I could be wrong, and the Davis endorsement could mean nothing. But Davis is a major figure in Virginia politics, so I expect his endorsement to be a bellweather.

The problem with hate -- how do you control it?

Lowell over at Raising Kaine, in a post called Kos Cracks Down, sings the praise of Markos from DailyKos for chiding his troops about their hate-speech toward other democrats:
Good for Markos of Daily Kos for writing this:
There has lately been an alarming rise in diaries and comments that seek to impugn (without evidence) the motives of those they disagree with on various issues.

Yes, there's the impeachment stuff, but this nasty rhetoric is also rampant in the primary war diaries.

This points to a serious breakdown not just on civility, but in the ability of people to properly debate various issues. As such, it presents a serious threat to the integrity of this site.
I hope that Kos doesn't have to follow up on his warning. At its best, Daily Kos has a great deal to offer. At its worst, I've seen it taken over by - as Markos describes them - people who are "just as 'out there' as the 'black helicopter' crowd." I've also seen "ridiculous conspiracy theor[ies]" (as Markos says) and general idiocy, like people claiming sunspots cause global warming.
The problem with hate speech is, how do you actually control it? How do you know when to stop hating, or who it is you are supposed to hate? How do you know when you are supposed to switch back to being civil?

The problem with unfounded hysterical accusations are, if there's no basis in facts to begin with, how do you know who it is you are supposed to hurl them at, where to draw the line when making up charges, and what bizarre conspiracy theories are "too out there" compared to all the others that are acceptable?

Kos gives a hint of what "black helicopter" theory WAS too far out there. Remembering that the DailyKos site has a good number of people who believe our government caused or allowed 9/11 to happen, Kos's example instead is this:
Update: And no, Bush won't cancel the next round of elections to remain in power. That's about the most ridiculous conspiracy theory I've seen in a long time. Some people on our side can be just as "out there" as the "black helicopter" crowd.
Actually, as conspiracies go, is that one so far out there? After all, Giuliani tried to add a few months to HIS term after 9/11. Certainly the "government blew up the levies in New Orleans", and the "Bush went to war to drive up oil costs so his buddies would make money" are more rediculous. But as I said, once you've decided that truth isn't important, just that you make people believe what you are saying, how do you decide that one tall tale is more or less "ridiculous" than another?

Lowell is happy to throw mud at his political enemies, as during the last election when he repeated without evidence a bizarre story about some guy hitting on Allen's ex-wife on an airplane. But he seems terribly upset when some of his own side attack democrats using the same illogic he uses to attack republicans.

He congratulates Markos for "cracking down" on those who attack the wrong people, when in fact Markos is just a hypocrite. If he really cared about civility, he'd chastise ALL the attackers, not just those attacking their own political party.

Lowell ends with:
Then there are the people who bash various Democratic Presidential candidates as if THEY were the enemy, not the torture-crazy, Constitution-shredding, "double Gitmo," global-warming-denying Republicans. For all those reasons, I've pretty much avoided Daily Kos since the Webb-Allen election. It's just no fun right now.
As I said, once you've abandoned the foundations of rationality, it is very hard to control the irrational results. So Cindy Sheehan, encouraged by elected Democratic leaders when she was making baseless attacks about Bush and the administration, now express outrage when Cindy turns her brand of "speaking truth to power" against their own party. So Lowell is upset that some of his party have grown tired of attacking the "torture-crazy" republicans and are attacking democrats who won't act and vote based on the absurd view of the world they have been selling as an alternative to reality.

Sorry, Lowell, I'm not buying, nor am I sympathizing. You encourage illogical extremism, it's going to come back and bite you.

Oh, and the Sunspots causing Global Warming? It's not the sunspots, it's just the Sun:

Global warming has finally been explained: the Earth is getting hotter because the Sun is burning more brightly than at any time during the past 1,000 years, according to new research.

A study by Swiss and German scientists suggests that increasing radiation from the sun is responsible for recent global climate changes.

Dr Sami Solanki, the director of the renowned Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, who led the research, said: "The Sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures.

Of course, this isn't crazy republicans, or even DailyKos kooks -- just a normal news story about normal reputable scientists, who want to explain how come Mars is experiencing "global warming" when the evil republicans haven't even landed on it yet.

At least not that we know of -- I suppose someone at DailyKos has a theory that republicans have already taken over Mars, probably a contract awarded to Halliburton. It's probably Cheney's "undisclosed location". :-)

I've Been Tagged

In a civil society, sometimes one must bow to convention, or even to the unconventional and bizarre notions of community.

Such as being "tagged", an internet phenomenon in which one is asked to list 8 things that are either facts or habits. Then, having suffered yourself, you are supposed to inflict 8 other bloggers with the same task, I presume 8 that have not been tagged, although I imagine before too long finding those 8 untagged bloggers will be a monumental task.

If you think this is an idle concern, consider that a search for the phrase "I've been tagged" on Google returns 88 MILLION results. While they are not all for the game, a surprisingly large number ARE.

This is not the only "I've been tagged" around. Others have different rules, for example this one answered by BlogWorks asks a series of "4 things" questions. And here's one with five things that otherwise is like the eight things.

Most people are good-natured about it, but don't seem particularly thrilled to be tagged. Here's one guy though who actually tagged himself, it seems because he felt left out.

I was tagged by both Flora McDonald AND James Young, whose tag post Since You Asked includes this interesting revelation:

5. I was chosen as the speaker at my high school graduation ... by a committee
that included a lefty English teacher who threw me off of the forensics team for
an incredibly stupid reason.

Without hearing the story, is it wrong for me to say that I'm not surprised James would get himself thrown off a forensics team?

8 things.
  1. My Senior year of High School, I had a free period so I joined a friend on the debate team, whose topic that year was "How can the Criminal Justice System of the United States best be improved". My partner and I ended up taking 2nd place, and when the 1st-place team declined, we were invited to Chicago for the National debate competition. But I hate to travel, so I dropped out, and my friend got to go in my place.

  2. I majored in Electrical Engineering at Virginia Tech. I graduated 1st in my class, although a grading snafu caused a vice dean thought I had slipped to 2nd place -- and he actually ANNOUNCED that at my graduation, suggesting I had slacked off. I imagine not too many people get dissed by a dean at their own graduation.

  3. I've really never known anybody famous. There may have been famous people around me, I simply never interacted with people of importance -- I hung out with the less ambitious, or at least less successful, crowd. Ham Radio club, Chess Club, Debate Team, morning announcements -- let's face it, those aren't the accomplishments you expect to find on the resume of the rich and famous.

  4. In 4th grade I was sent back to kindergarten for a day. In 5th grade I was sent back to 4th grade for a week. In 8th grade I may have failed a quarter of english, I can't remember. I took advanced classes and got B's. While most college-bound kids were taking AP courses, I spent 3 years in electronics shop class, learning how to fix TV sets.

  5. I didn't date until college, and married the first girl I seriously dated. I knew my wife in high school, but she was a jock, and I was a nerd, so we didn't really interact. Her sister asked me to watch out for her when she came to college, and I guess I took that responsibility seriously. I knew right away we'd get married, but it was almost 5 years before we did.

  6. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a baseball player. I wanted to be a bike racer. I wanted to be a singer and songwriter. I wanted to be a comedian, a poet, and a writer. Engineer? not really. Programmer? never. Oh well.

  7. I own not one, but TWO hybrid electric Prius cars. Why? Because they exist, and they are good for the environment, and I see no point in making any greater impact to our planet than I have to. I was a Boy Scout, and try to live by the creed of leaving whereever I am better than I found it. Not that I succeed, but I try.

  8. I don't really have a favorite anything. On any particular day, something my be my favorite color, or movie, or book, but it's really just now how my mind works. I like lots of different things.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Where did the Washington Post get their numbers?

In the article about Greg Letiecq, the Washington Post made this claim:

Letiecq's site tallies about 47,000 distinct page views a day and counts 5,000 unique visitors,

I don't really care how many people read Greg's stuff -- I know he gets LOTS of readers with his brand of hysterical gossip and false claims of nefarious conduct of people who have earned his disfavor.

But I happened to stumble across the sitemeter for BVBL, and here is what it said:

Visits: Total: 149442, Average Per Day 1063, This Week 7444
Page Views, Total 375308, Average Per Day 2929, This Week 20,506

Now, these are great numbers. I average 100 visitors and 100 page views a day.

But this was a week when Greg notes he has had a great surge in activity at his blog. So why does Greg's own site meter say he has 2929 page views a day, and 1000 visitors, but the Post says 47,000 page views and 5000 visitors. I mean, those numbers are hugely different.

Anybody have any idea where the Post got the numbers? I poked around on some standard blog tracking sites, but couldn't find anything like the numbers the Post had. Do you think they researched it on their own, or did they jsut take the numbers from Greg?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Solving the problem of Blogger's undue influence on politicians

An under-discussed part of the WP article Muscling a Web Site Into a Social Movement was it's reference to local politicians being influenced by Greg. First, excerpts from the article:

In the past 18 months, Letiecq has leveraged his blog to help elect allies, kill off opponents' campaigns and shape local public policy. Peers call his site the most influential local blog in Virginia.
Tribbett said this locally oriented approach represents "the future of blogging." Because local officials lack an outlet for their views, Tribbett explained, they are intimidated by a blogger with a large and loyal following able to flood their offices with calls or "put boots on the ground."

"It's amusing to see local officials pushed around by a blogger," Tribbett said.

I'll make this short and sweet. To those who worry that a blogger like Greg could use false, misleading posts and hyped rhetoric to cow politicians into doing what he wants, there is a simple solution.

Elect politicians who aren't intimidated by the likes of Greg. If Greg can't police his own blog for facts and civility, we can punish elected officials who give him too much access and credibility. I've long chided local politicians for associating too closely with Greg's site. I read it and comment there (or I used to), but I'm not a public official. I even helped Greg with information from time to time.

My point is that the answer wouldn't be to shut Greg down, or censor him, or block his access to stuff. Even trash blogs play a role, by bringing to the front idle gossip so we can discuss it's merits for example.

But we can admonish politicians who support Greg's brand of political discourse.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Who is conflating illegal immigration with "hispanics"?

First, I see Tom at CitizenTom has a post about the WP story, WaPost meets BVBL. Excerpt:
My own feeling about the Post and BVBL are a bit more straight forward. Both are effective, but both are also much too agenda driven. When the truth runs counter to their agenda, I do not feel I can count on either to provide me something that approaches the truth. So I do not bother to read either the Post or BVBL any more than I find necessary.
Tom echoes a common theme at least among conservatives about the WaPost's own honesty. I remember having a bumper sticker with the words "I don't believe the Post", from almost before there was an internet, so I understand the sentiment.

But, and I can't believe I'm doing this, I have to defend the Post here. Yes, they slant stories, they put their own spin and opinion in the middle of the facts, and they leave out facts not helpful to their causes. And yes, they make real mistakes in fact as well.

But mostly their errors in fact ARE mistakes, not deliberate. A newspaper only exists so long as it maintains it's social contract with the readers, to provide them with information they can use and not look stupid. While the WaPost leaves a lot to be desired on that regard, they generally get facts right, and if they don't, they generally will correct them and take steps to prevent the same mistakes from happening again.

Greg is nowhere NEAR as accurate or concerned with the truth as the Washington Post is. I'd put him more on par with the National Enquirer, except they might be more truthful. Greg is often nothing more than an unsubtantiated gossip rag. His parroting of the rape story, his use of the title "The Terrorist and the Homosexual" (without quotes suggesting someone else said it), his recklessly false statements TWICE about the RPV plan, both used for blatantly unfair attacks on Tom Kopko, are all symptomatic of a person who expects his readers to do their own fact checking.

Fortunately, his readers aren't interested in facts, just power, influence, and validation. Greg gives that to them, or at least the illusion of that, so they are happy.

Tom references Hooda Thunk's post on the article titled "Local Blogger Gets Press at theWashPo". The author in part bemoans the WaPo conflating the illegal immigrant issue with the issue of hispanics moving into the community:
Third, and most importantly, I don't agree with or approve of the Post's attempts to conflate the issues people have with illegal immigrants with a general unease about the large influx of Hispanic residents who have moved to the region in the past decade -- I've said repeatedly and so have most of the rest of the conservative blogosphere that I don't have any issue at all with legal immigrants. I have a problem with illegals - Hispanic or otherwise - who reside here.
I left a comment at his site about his post. But my answer was a brief version of my prior post "Proving my point about the "illegal crackdown". A few further comments here:

Thos who are upset about conflating the fight against illegal immigration with a backlash against hispanics, you should heed the comments in Greg's blog. There you will find some of Greg's supporters who come right out and admit they don't care if the hispanics are legal or not, they just don't like them.

Or look at Greg's comments about Salsa Music, played by his supposedly illegal neighbors, but which could easily be played loudly by ANY hispanic household.

But his comment about the ESL program is even worse. Sure, illegals mostly don't speak english. But many legal immigrants don't speak english, and children of legal immigrants go to school. Some of them are actually BORN here and are citizens, and school is their first real confrontation of the english language. In other words, while ESL serves illegals, it also serves a population of legal immigrant children AND citizen children.

Legal immigrants and citizens could look at what Greg said, and see a man who wants to deny their children the ability to learn the language of our country, because he's concerned they won't spend enough on his own child.

I'm pretty sure that's not what Greg was thinking when he made his statement to the Post, but that's what he said, from the WP article: "He worries about crime, he said, and about his daughters, Lillian, 5, and Marian, 2, and whether public school resources are being diverted to English as a Second Language programs."

When we make the issue "Salsa music", or "multiple families living in a house", or "kids playing in the street at all hours", or "they don't speak english", we are straying off the issue of "illegal immigration" into a cultural battle with a growing hispanic population.

And there are many dangers in that approach, not the least of which is this: The legal hispanic community, seeing that much of the focus of the "anti-illegal-immigrant" crowd is actually about things they all do, may decide that kicking out all the illegals will simply reduce their population so much that the anti-illegal crowd will then be able to fix all these "problems" with the hispanic culture. You certainly won't get them to support your efforts to curb illegal immigration if you use attacks on hispanic culture to justify it.

The sad thing is, there's no need to do that anyway. We oppose illegal immigrants because they are illegal, they are breaking the law, living under the radar, and are a security risk and a threat to themselves and others.

It has nothing to do with them speaking spanish, or playing salsa music.

UPDATE: James had a valid criticism of my use of the word "lie" regarding Greg's incorrect reading of the RPV plan. Greg simply didn't care enough to read the RPV plan before commenting. My indignation wasn't so much for Greg's sloppy work reporting what the RPV plan said, but rather that he used the false claims to attack Tom Kopko. So it was wrong to say he "lied", but he did employ a reckless disregard for the truth in his attempts to smear his political opponents.

I will note that this exchange with James is a good illustration of the difference between "National Enquirer-type blogs like Greg's, and blogs which seek to report the truth. Commenters over at BVBL would be shocked to see James correcting my statement, or to see a blogger accept the correction -- at BVBL, it's normal to accuse people of things they didn't do.

Proving my point about the "illegal crackdown"

This past week I wrote an article about the anti-illegal-immigrant bill (crackdown on illegals won't "fix" our county). In it I argued that some proponents held unrealistic expectations that their problems would be solved, when in fact their problems weren't with "illegals", but with the burgeoning hispanic community.

In the Washington Post article "Muscling a Web Site into a Social Movement", we see a perfect example from the head honcho himself:
From there, he points to his neighbor's house, emanating loud salsa music, where he believes two "illegal aliens" are living. He doesn't have proof of this, of course, but pronounces his assumption as fact anyway.

Letiecq then points to a house two doors down, saying three families are living there with "six to eight" kids.
Does Greg think that only illegal immigrants like Salsa music? Does he think only illegal hispanic families live together, or that only multi-family households could have "six to eight kids"?

In fact, this comment would be seen by many members of the Hispanic community NOT as an attack on illegals, but on their way of life. Coupled with Greg's comments last week about this not being "the American dream" he bought into, it's easy to see why the WP article suggests there might be more to Greg's anti-illegal movement than simply wanting our laws to be enforced.

Anyway, this is not about the WP article, but rather a thread on BVBL that also proves my point about the illegal immigrant discussion. See, BVBL quoted a brief excerpt from my article in the thread "The Chicken Man", calling it "one for posterity". Citing my comment that throwing out the illegals wouldn't "solve the chicken problem, the parking problem, or the overcrowding problem", Greg says:
I wonder if anyone else out there really believes that by reducing the number of illegal aliens, we won’t have less overcrowding, fewer parking problems, or fewer people who decide that it’s a good idea to unlawfully keep livestock in residential areas. Is there some sort of derangement syndrome associated with this sort of thinking, or is it just the product of someone’s imagination that has not yet been informed by actually talking to the residents who deal with these issues?
The ‘chicken man’ is born, I would think.
I imagine Greg was hoping his commenters would take shots at me, in a forum where I would not see them or be able to respond (because Greg blocks his site). I could note that Greg misrepresented my statement, as "reducing" a problem is not the same as solving it. Or his sad misuse of metaphors. Or I could note Greg doesn't answer my points (not surprising, as they are right), and instead hopes that pointing his finger and laughing loudly will pass for a rational response.

But nothing I could say would be as funny as what happened in the comments. See, 53 people responded, and not ONE of them mentioned me or the column. There were a funny comment about "undocumented" chickens:
Chickens are a Federal issue, and until the USDA steps up and does its job, States and Localities can only have a limited impact. PETA is planning on filing a law suit, as this law targets chickens. Don’t give me that business about “free-range” and “non-free-range”. “Chicken” means the same thing as “Chicken”. Also, I prefer to call them “undocumented poultry”.
And a refressing one about a way to actually solve the problem of illegals:
Cut the benefits. Don’t give them foodstamps, free medical, free education, WIC, welfare, loans, subsidized housing, etc. ... Once we do this…the illegal immigrants will no longer have a “gravy train” to operate from which enables them to continue their chain migration activities.
But many of the comments weren't about chickens, or attacking me for being "deranged" or "imagining things". Instead, they are about -- the problem of Hispanics in our community.

In other words, the comments prove the premise of the article, which is that a lot of people following Greg and his organization are actually more concerned about Hispanics of all kinds than simply enforcing our immigration laws. Here are a smattering of quotes from the remaining comments:
"My neighbors are ALL hispanic and many of them are illegal or supporters of illegals in some fashion. ... People do heavy mechanical work on their cars out in the parking lot while playing their loud mexican music, ... kids all run wild in the street ...."

"The park is lost already because 90% of the people here are either legal hispanics or illegal hispanics, neither of which will support any crack down on this situation.... Since all of them love to live like this and don’t want to have the rules enforced, therefor there is no enforcement. This just mirrors what is going on all over this town. I like to refer to it as forced cultural conversion."

"I just want out of here ASAP and want to return to living in the USA. This is not how I imagined my American dream…"

"The foreclosures are increasing day by day. The house Greg posted Che Guavara poster, has been sold on the courthouse steps!! They began vacating last night. "

"Have you seen chickens in the Park? These “dirty birds” must go along with their owners/trainers.."

"There are now reports of houses taking out their front lawns and growing corn fields in their front yards to help feed the chickens and the illegals."

"Riley, Not O’Reilly, Why would they want to reduce global warming there not that smart!" [ed: I always love attacks on intelligence containing spelling errors]

"Corn is being grown in a front yard on Lomond Dr., just past Fairmont heading towards the city. Actually, this house is just a couple of doors down from the house on corner of Fairmont and Lomond, that was busted for prostitution a couple of years ago." [ed: note how the commenter ties this household to prostitution by "proximity"]

"Look at 10131 Lomond Drive. Do you see the trash cans behind the little “blind” they built in the front yard? That’s because the back yard is a parking lot full of cars. So, they don’t have room to put their trash cans in the back."

"It may be a good time to stand up a “Welcome to Manassas Park” website with pictures of all these eyesores. Standing on public property taking pictures of inanimate objects is not in violation of any laws I know. It might even shame homeowners associations and city fathers into action if you got lucky."

“Why don’t they just rename it Mexico Park.”
In some cases the commenters imply that the people are illegal, but gave no evidence, and every one of these examples would apply equally to illegals OR legals.

When an Hispanic person reads the President of the Help Save Manassas organization attacking neighbors for playing "Salsa Music", they don't think "illegal immigrant", they think "racist".

Which was my point -- if you don't intend to be racist, if you really want to halt ILLEGAL immigration because it is illegal, and not just because you don't like people speaking Spanish, you need to watch what you say, and try to stick to the issue of "illegal", not the issue of the culture.

It was nice for Greg to provide such a good example proving what I was saying, even if he meant it for evil, it still worked out for good.

Think the Bruce Lee people will be back?

While i'm waiting to write up the "interesting" Washington Post article about Greg, I'm wondering....

Now that Greg's blog has national attention, and not in a good light, will the Bruce Lee people be back to ask Greg to stop using the name?

Remember that a while back, the lawyers of those who own the Bruce Lee name contacted Greg telling him to stop using the name. His response (I'm sure it's still written on his web site, for those Greg allows to read it) was to mock them by changing the name to a phonetic copy. Oh, and to remove Bruce Lee's picture.

Meanwhile, if you search google for "Black Velvet Bruce Lee", Greg's site comes up number one. Which essentially means it's still his name. Probably the Bruce Lee people didn't care, it's just some local blogger.

But now Greg is embarrasing them on a national level, associating the name of Bruce Lee with views I'm sure don't help the franchise. And they probably think it odd that an anti-illegal-immigrant partisan blog with commenters who regularly attack anybody not "american" is named after a U.S. citizen born to a foreign father and raised in another country.

BTW, did you know that Bruce Lee's name was also "Li Yuen Kam"? Makes the "Li-Lee" change rather meaningless.

One danger of becoming a "celebrity" is that you put yourself in the crosshairs when you put yourself in the spotlight. There are things a blogger can get away with in anonymity that a public figure will be crucified for. One has to wonder if Greg is about to experience that, or if he will be spared. I hope if there IS a lesson taught, it isn't an expensive one.

Note: It could well be that the simple change of a letter was sufficient to protect Greg, or more likely that the Bruce Lee people really don't feel like bothering. If they did, it could be expensive even if Greg would prevail -- and I'd hate to imagine spending big bucks defending the use of a name that I didn't even come up with, but rather stole from another blogger after he ran into hiding to avoid having to pay up for libel.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A living wage, or just welfare by another name?

I don't usually read Raising Kaine, but something popped up about the living wage resolution in Fairfax and it raised my curiosity.

After all, the new Federal Minimum Wage just kicked in, which was supposed to fix the under-payment problem. And we know most Democrats don't care about what poor people get paid, after all most of them supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, which would have pushed a lot more people down to the minimum wage floor.

So what exactly is a "living wage?":
A widely respected study by Wider Opportunities for Women leads us to estimate that level in Fairfax County of 2007 at $15.29 per hour ? about $32,000 per year for a full-time employee.
Anyway, the entire time I'm reading the post, I'm thinking "Who is it exactly that gets paid less than $15 an hour working for the Fairfax County Government. It could be the cleaning crew, although they are probably contractors, and as the post said:
While the Board, on advice of counsel, doubts its legal authority to ask its contractors to pay a living wage, no one disputes the county's authority to require that its own employees be paid a living wage.
But one thing was sure, I'm thinking -- if someone is working for minimum wage for the government, it's because their task is simple enough to pull in a large supply of willing workers.

But when I get to the end of the article, the poster lists those she expects to benefit from the new "living wage":
There is something not healthy about a place whose firefighters, police officers, teachers, and nurses cannot afford to live in the community they serve.
Police Officers? Teachers? They get paid less than $15 an hour in Fairfax? I had to do some research. And simply put, these employees wll NOT benefit from the living wage. In fact, they might lose out because the government will spend twice as much for the guy that collects the used paper for recycling.

Even the DAY CARE workers get paid more than the living wage, as a STARTING salary. Nurses? A high-school-graduate health care AIDE starts at $14.97 an hour. The part-time lady who helps kids find books and the bathroom at the library? $17.19 an hour. OK, the part-time school crossing guard starts at $12, but can work up to $20 an hour. Even the 911 dispatcher gets paid more than this "living wage"

Here's a list of jobs in the government, and their starting salaries (compare to $32,000). Many only require a High School diploma (But you CANNOT be a smoker!!):
  1. Day Care Center Teacher - $32,636
  2. Clinic Room Aide (High School Graduate)- $14.97 to $19.96/hour
  3. Public Health Nurse II (1 yr exp) - $47,217 to $62,955 (plus $2000 signing bonus)
  4. Children's Services Assistant - $17.19 to $22.92/hour
  5. Police Officer I - $45,740 to $52,952
  6. 911 Dispatcher (High School Graduate) - $34,495 to $41,929
  7. FireFighter / EMT (High School Graduate) - $47,472 to $54,953
Check out all the Fairfax County job openings at this site. If you look hard, you might find a job that actually pays less than the "living wage". But they won't be firefighters, teachers, police officers, or nurses.

BTW, it is absolutely true that it would be difficult to live in Fairfax on the actual salaries these people make. Fairfax costs way too much. People shouldn't live in Fairfax, OR work their. Move out where you can LIVE on your WAGE, rather than where they have to implement a welfare wage so you can afford the too-high expenses.

But the living wage won't make a difference for those listed. So why list them? Because taxpayers LIKE police officers and firefighters, and deceiving the taxpayers into thinking the living wage helps them will gain support. You aren't likely to get a lot of support for the living wage when you find out it only helps high school dropouts whose job it is to put the library books back on the shelf when the kids leave them on the tables.

Instead, the taxpayers would be thinking "That's a great job for some high school kids who want to make a few bucks an hour after school.". If they aren't properly thinking "How about we just make the kids put their books BACK THEMSELVES when they are done?"

Deported Illegals are NOT barred from return

Another post at GBK claims that illegals who are deported are not allowed to return:
If you question whether what Gill proposes is amnesty, consider this. Normally a person who commits a crime in the US and is deported cannot return. That includes those who overstay their visas and commit other immigration crimes. That is because in America there is no amnesty for crimes. Illegal immigration is a crime.
We'll get to what Gill ACTUALLY proposed shortly. But in fact, U.S. law has a wide range of application to the question of whether a person who has been deported for being here illegally can request legal status at a later time. For some deportations, immediate application is allowed. For others, there are 3-year and 10-year waiting periods, after which the deported illegal can apply for legal entry.

There ARE cases that call for permanent exclusion, but they are not the majority.

Here is the official government form used to request entry into the United States after you have been deported. I think that should settle any question the reader may have about whether there is a legal way to do so. The form even gives conditions under which you don't even have to file this application before you apply for legal status:

Section I: Persons Permitted to Reapply for Admission Without Filing This Application

  1. Persons who were excluded from admission and removed or deported more than one year ago.
  2. Persons who voluntarily departed from the United States without expense to the United States Government and without an order of removal or deportation having been entered.
  3. Persons who have been outside the United States for five successive years following their last removal or deportation

As you can see, for people who left voluntarily without going through formal deportation, they can legally apply immediately for re-entry, without even filling out a request for re-entry.

In addition, the post mis-states what Gill has proposed:

Yet Gill in the 7/19/07 Potomac News proposed that the US forgive illegal aliens their past crimes and allow them to immigrate to the US again.

That is called amnesty. Gill proposes that the illegal aliens prior crime be forgiven and that the illegal alien be given a chance to immigrate a second time.
What Gill SAID was quite different: "I absolutely believe this helps the illegal immigrants," Gill said. "They'll go away and come back how everybody else is supposed to do - legally."

First, Gill was discussing illegals who leave voluntarily, without deportation proceedings. Second, he wasn't proposing a change to the law regarding re-entry, just stating what current law allows. Third, he believes this helps illegals because it encourages them to do what is right, and for those who qualify will put them in the country legally, rather than being illegal.

The post questions whether Gill's proposal will do any good:
Gill claims that the problem can be solved if the current misdemeanor Virginia statute banning the hiring of illegal aliens becomes a felony. Gill should explain why if the law is not enforced now it will be enforced once hiring illegals becomes a felony.
First, enforcement of our laws is prioritized to those for more serious offenses. A felony by definition will be investigated and treated more seriously than a misdemeanor. Further, the act of making this a felony will demonstrate the legislature's commitment to having these laws enforced, and make that enforcement more worthwhile by providing real punishment for the crimes.

But more importantly, the existing laws ARE enforced, just in a spotty manner. The problem is the penalties are so small that employers feel the risk is worth the reward. By increasing penalties, you change that equation, and many more employers will decide the punishment is severe enough that it's not worth the risk, even if that risk is low.

Having a felony conviction on your record is a much more serious thing than a misdemeanor.

Mistatement of immigration law.

A post over at GBK says:

Current immigration laws prevent most former illegal immigrants from reentering the US.
That is wrong. The first time someone is caught and deported, they are not barred from applying for legal status. They are identified, and if they are caught AGAIN they may well be barred from re-entry. Sometimes exclusion periods apply, there are 3 and 10-year exclusions. Committing crimes while here can get you barred.

Since "amnesty" is defined as allowing someone to violate the law without punishment, it is hardly "amnesty" to apply the law as written, as the post suggests:

Amnesty is when you forgive someone their crimes. Illegal immigration is a crime. If illegals are allowed back into the USA legally then those illegals have received amnesty.
Further, the poster missed a critical part of Gill's reasonable statement, repeated here:

"They'll go away and come back how everybody else is supposed to do - legally."

Note the highlighted portion. Gill is not talking about illegals who are CAUGHT and deported, he is talking about illegals who leave on their own. For those, there is no record of their entry. So while they did commit a crime, there is no legal punishment for those who are not caught and convicted.

The post also misrepresents the Senate immigration bill to try to make his point:

Actually, that is what the Bush-Kennedy-McCain ill-fated amnesty bill would have required--that the illegals leave the USA and return legally.
You would think that intelligent voters would see that going away and coming back legally was precisely what the failed Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration plan proposed. It was called amnesty.
Actually, intelligent, informed voters know better. The "touch-back" provisions of the bill were a sham, since they only required the head of household to go, were only to fill out paperwork, NOT to wait for legal approval, and only applied if the illegal wanted permanent status. The Senate bill gave immediate legal status to all illegals, allowing them to stay IN the country, without leaving or waiting their turn.

Serious discussion of immigration policy is going to require us to speak the truth and not mis-use it for baseless personal attacks. The real question the poster should be answering is, if he doesn't think encouraging illegals to leave and apply legally to enter, how DOES he plan to get rid of 20 million illegals in the country already?

Paul Nichols, Gill's opponent, also took the opportunity of the press release to attack his opponent rather than seriously discuss the issue. He says the current law is working, and that we don't need stricter laws, but 20 million illegals says he's wrong. We ARE catching and prosecuting employers who hire illegals, but that has NOT deterred others from continuing the practice. The costs of discovery are too low, and the rewards to high, to be a deterrent.

Meanwhile, as Fred Thompson and many others have noted, including strong advocates for border security and opponents of amnesty, we really CAN'T round up and deport 12-20 million people. Usually the next line is "but we won't have to", precisely because they support actions which will prevent illegals from getting in, AND encourage those here to leave.

If the poster doesn't support encouraging illegals to leave on their own, how DOES he suggest we convince them to go back home? A common sense approach is to provide some carrot and stick approach. The Senate bill went way too far, suggesting the only way to get illegals to report their presence was to give them permission to stay indefinitely. But given the state of things in their own countries, fines and even imprisonment threats (the stick) aren't enough to convince most of these people to leave.

But if we undercut their source of money, and leave the door open for them to come back if they simply get in the back of the line, wait in their own country, and come back legally, we could well convince most of the illegals to take that deal. And since the anti-illegal crowd says they aren't against legal immigration, just against people here without permission, everybody should be happy.

BTW, my opinion is part of immigration reform should change the law so that being caught ONE time will remove you from consideration for re-entry, after a 6-month grace period. That's another of MY incentives for currently illegal people to leave. But that still wouldn't preclude those who left LATER from coming back, so long as we didn't have to waste OUR time and effort catching them and deporting them.

As I said, it would be great if the poster would participate in a serious discussion of the issues of illegal immigration. There are a lot of good ideas, and some bad ones, but the discussion is so politicized that it's hard to even TALK about alternative proposals, because as soon as you do either one side says you are for amnesty, or the other side says you are racist.

Or the partisan hacks simply twist whatever is said into an attack on a candidate.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Paul Nichols: hard on marriage, soft on illegal employers?

Divorce lawyer Paul Nichols, candidate for 51st district delegate, doesn't approach the termination of the relationship between illegal immigrants and those who illegally employ them with the same gusto I assume he exhibits in his successful law practice.

See the details at Fans of Faisal, in the thread "Gill says punish illegal employers, Nichols out of mainstream".

In the Potomac News article about this issue, Nichols is quoted based on a phone interview. Lowlights:
Business owners and senior managers should face felony charges if they hire undocumented workers, said a Republican candidate for the 51st House of Delegates seat that includes Occoquan, Lake Ridge and parts of Woodbridge.
His opponent, Democrat Paul Nichols, said Gill's idea to increase the penalty for hiring an illegal immigrant was "out of left field."

"To put it on the level of stabbing someone, it sounds interesting, but it's out of mainstream," Nichols said.

"It's already a misdemeanor charge," said Nichols, 54, who was reached by telephone for comment. "Why do we need to do a sound bite and make it sound like it's so important when we already have something on the books that can make someone go to jail for up to a year?"

"Our jails would be full of small contractors … if someone started enforcing this," Nichols said.

Nichols said upping the charge wouldn't help.

"The system is broken," he said. "Talking about felonies isn't going to fix it."
Talking won't fix it, but ENACTING a law making it a felony will greatly discourage the hiring of illegals. The system is broken because we aren't enforcing the law, and because the penalties for breaking the law are so low employers simply aren't worried about being caught OR having to pay.

Crackdown on Illegals won't "fix" our County

My column for this week, "Crackdown on Illegals is no fix", deals with what I see as a disconnect between the serious and legitimate need for localities to take action to make our county less inviting to people here illegally, and the rhetoric of some of the proponents of the new rules, suggesting that if we just got rid of the illegals, everything would be perfect.

In fact, most of what annoys these people predates the influx of illegals, and while a burgeoning illegal population exacerbates many of the problems, the problems are not peculiar to illegals, and will continue even if we manage to rid ourselves of the entire population of illegal immigrants.

Some may think I'm saying these problems shouldn't be addressed -- but that wasn't my point. It's hard to say everything you want to say in 750 words, and it's especially hard with a topic as complex as our society and multiculturalism/diversity.

In fact, most of the problems I cite in my article ARE problems we need to solve. Severe overcrowding of houses, large numbers of cars, especially parked in yards, even the proliferation of street vendors who don't seem to meet health guidelines -- these are all problems that require solutions.

The reason I made an issue of this is that, because the focus of the discussion of "illegals" has centered around these and other issues (like the "chickens"), a number of legal residents in our county have rightly felt attacked. If you are a citizen who just happens to NOT speak english, and you listen to speaker after speaker say that you shouldn't be allowed to stay in our country if you don't speak english, you ARE going to feel like the object of scorn and ridicule, even though the speakers really DO intend to talk ONLY about illegals.

I'm sure some of the anti-illegal crowd will see my column as "soft" on illegals, or claim it is calling them racist, or bigoted. But my column simply points out facts. I can't help how those facts apply to what people think. I do think there is a undercurrent of "monoculturalism" in some of the discussions. I don't really fault that -- we all tend to feel more comfortable with people who are like us.

In my column, I included quotes from several people, but I didn't identify any of the people. My point was the issue, not the personalities -- I hope we can keep that in mind as we discuss things.

OK, that's a lot of pre-amble to lead up to my column. I start by voicing my approval of the recently passed PWC resolution:

I'm glad our local government is taking the fight against illegal immigration seriously. We need to end the lawbreaking. People here illegally are responsible for flouting our laws. Negative consequences are a reasonable response to illegal acts.

After some comments about how I still hope we eventually get back to reforming our entire immigration system, I get back to the point of the article, which is that removing illegals won't solve the problems people cite in supporting the crackdown:

However, removing every illegal alien would not fix many of the problems cited by proponents of the crackdown. Their words evoke justifiable fear in the Hispanic community, because the complaints are not about "acts of illegal immigrants," but often about cultural differences which are not unique to the illegal population.

I used the street vendor issue as an example of this problem. Many of these vendors are legal immigrants, and some are residents. That doesn't mean Manassas can't regulate them, or even outlaw them if there is a valid health or safety reason to do so. But when the vendors are cited as a problem with "illegals", all the legal street vendors get the idea that "illegal" is simply a code word for "hispanic". I'm not saying it is, just that it can be perceived that way.

I also note the many complaints about the use of spanish, and overcrowded houses:

Likewise many letters attack the Hispanic community, probably without intending to. Consider: "I'm tired of pressing '1' for English," "my new neighbors are three families cramped in one home," or "If you want to be an American citizen say it in ENGLISH." None of those statements applies solely to illegal residents.

People are upset about too many cars parked in the street or in yards or too many people living in a house.

I had to remove a lot of stuff in this section, where I wanted to say that these are valid complaints, that people have a right to discuss these issues, and to ask for consideration of laws addressing these issues. There's nothing racist about being upset about not being able to find a parking space within a block of your house.

I had been especially amused about the "chicken" article in the Washington Post. A month ago I was walking around my neighborhood looking for "unusual" floral arrangements. At one house there chickens in the back yard. And it wasn't an immigrant household. I don't think our HOA forbids this, and I hadn't thought PWC had a law on the subject, but maybe they do. In any case, when the Post discussed it, I remembered this family, and thought immediately that this isn't just an immigrant issue, much less an ILLEGAL immigrant issue:

An article in Washington Post raised the problem of pet chickens in our county. Noting the chickens, illegal construction, overcrowding, parking and other issues, the Post says our Board "unanimously approved an anti-illegal immigrant resolution, saying that it will diminish those behaviors by driving out the group." But they note many of the chickens "are brought to Prince William by homesick legal residents." The chickens are a problem we need to deal with, but throwing out the illegals won't fix the chicken problem or the parking problem or the overcrowding problem.

One of the things said about this rule that disturbed me was the talk about Prince William not being "like it used to be". But I spent a good number of words on this, because i wanted to be clear that I AGREE that our region has changed, and I'm not all that happy with the changes either. I just don't think we can lay all the blame on Illegals, and I'm certain that getting rid of them won't take us back to those "good old days":

The organization Help Save Manassas issued a statement about the new law. It says in part that illegal "border crashers" are causing "the very destruction of our American culture. Prince William County is not the place it used to be, and as a result many of our productive citizens are leaving." The AP quotes the President of HSM saying "When we moved to this area, it was just a regular American community," but now "It doesn't resemble the American dream that I bought or that I wanted to raise my children in."

I moved here in 1981 and lived in Westgate Apartments. Manassas has undergone a tremendous transformation since that time. There's a large Hispanic population, as well as communities of other cultures and nationalities. And I fear for the unity of our community if we become divided by language. But this isn't solely, or primarily, an illegal immigrant issue, and "solving" illegal immigration won't magically return us to the "American Dream" some pine for.

I had to remove a reference here to the Tower of Babel. For those unfamiliar with the bible story, God decides to divide the people's of the earth, so he gave them different languages. The point is that language is barrier that is virtually impossible to overcome. If you can't speak the same language, you can't communicate, you can't work out your differences, or establish areas of commonality. If you are in an accident, and the other person doesn't speak your language, you have trouble exchanging information. If your server doesn't speak your language, it's hard to order your food.

I think it is critical that we strongly encourage the use of English. I haven't worked out the details of how to make that happen, and I don't want to attack people who don't speak English. That's a work in progress.

I wrap up with a call to both sides to rachet down the divisive rhetoric, and try to at least understand how what they say is being interpreted:

When Hispanics say "Families are really afraid. They're not even reporting crimes to the police anymore," we may think that fear is unfounded, but that doesn't make the fear any less real. When the Police Chief says the new resolution makes it harder to get cooperation, we should solve that problem, rather than call for his resignation as the president of HSM has done.

Yes, that was a swipe at the discussion over at BVBL attacking the police chief. I may some day join those who think he is being to recalcitrant. But for now I think he's making some valid points.

Meanwhile, the legal immigrant communities should look past the rhetoric and acknowledge the problems associated with illegal immigration. Rather than bemoan the difficulties to their communities of rules targeting illegal aliens, they should help clarify the rules to address the problem.

Those in the immigrant community have made the job of those of us in the "middle" on this issue much harder, by making wild accusations and often defending even illegal behavior. Their reaction is used by the other side to justify THEIR harsh rhetoric. And it's so much easier to throw out slogans and make harsh attacks than it is to try to find common ground and complex solutions.

Instead, battle lines are being drawn, with many on both sides fighting for causes which have little to do with illegal immigration. A prolonged fight will be a further blow to our already fractured community. We can, and must, do better.

Not my best column, but I hope it gets people talking. I don't care if people disagree with me about this, so long as I get them thinking a little bit about what they are saying, and maybe get a few to realise that their "opponents" aren't crazy, and have valid points, at least about how they percieve the attacks.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Increased Penalties for hiring illegals one of several important steps

Today's Potomac News has an article citing a press conference held by Faisal Gill yesterday highlighting his proposal to raise the penalties for hiring illegal immigrants (51st District candidate Gill pushes for tougher immigration laws). (I use the print edition headline, the online title is stupid).

All serious discussion of the illegal immigrant issue needs to include steps to reduce the demand for illegal immigrant labor. Potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson has made this idea a cornerstone of his discussion of the illegal immigration issue, noting that if people can't get jobs, we won't need to deport them, they'll leave because there will be no point in staying.

Tom over at Citizen Tom has a post about this, titled Gill proposes serious immigration reform, citing both the newspaper article and an e-mail Gill sent out to supporters with greater detail.

This is not a comprehensive immigration bill, and that's a good thing in my mind. We need to take a lot of small steps -- comprehensive has become synonymous with amnesty and with politicians playing games with the issue to sell themselves to various special interest groups.

There are a few things that have widespread support right now. One is punishing those who hire illegal immigrants, as Gill's proposal does. Two is securing the border to control the flow of people into our country -- that has widespread support, there's already a law on the books, and it's both an illegal immigrant control measure, AND a homeland security issue.

Three also has wide support: checking the legal status of criminals. Prince William has taken steps to do that and more, and many other jurisdictions are following. We may not be able to round up and deport 12-20 million illegals, but if we've already "rounded them up" into our jails, the hard part's done, and we should finish the job and deport them.

Once we have made serious strides in these areas, we can come back to the bigger picture. Polls show that Americans are conflicted on the issue. Ask the questions the right way, and a large majority want to go easy on illegals already living and working in our country. But point out they are here illegally, and a majority wants to punish them.

A lot of that is because people don't trust our government to really enforce the laws -- after all, we aren't really doing it now. Some is because in the abstract, we are a law-abiding people, but when it comes down to dealing with real individuals, we have a compassionate streak that is a positive defining characteristic that makes America great.

I support a proposal similar to Senator James Webb, to provide a legal way for some currently illegal immigrants to remain in the country while going to the back of the line for consideration of legal status. This is not a popular position in the conservative community, but that's OK -- I've got time to sell the merits as we wait for government to implement the three items above that have broad support.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

just for the fun of it.

While GBK rarely concerns facts or reason, I have to admit a certain odd fascination with the type of propaganda used, and how seemingly useful but unrelated information is presented as if it refutes some other statements of known fact.

In the latest, GBK takes some interest in my post from yesterday correcting a commenter over at BVBL (something I'd much rather do in the privacy of the comments section, if BVBL wasn't so scared of having people comment on his site).

In his post, GBK says:

I understand that by speaking the truth about terrorism and overvotes we are ruining a child's hero-worship, but Gill's more naive supporters have to grow up someday.

I suppose I am now a "Gill supporter", as he is the official nominee of the Republican party for the 51st district, and will be a fine addition to the republican delegation in Richmond. I've never been one for hero-worship though.

The most exciting match I ever saw was Hulk Hogan (in the yellow tights and boots, above) vs. Randy "Macho Man" Savage for the hand of Ms. Elizabeth. Some claim that rassling is fake, just as some claim that the overvote-ridden HOD-51 tally was fake.

I'm not surprised that GBK is a person who would pay good money to watch professional wrestling, but even the staunchest Lucas supporter would have trouble comparing a staged match with a lawful, duly called and executed election. I don't think GBK has much love for republicans in general, or our conventions in particular.

It is never too late to reprove Faisal Gill's childish enablers yet again. Perhaps the most voluble in support of Faisal "Terror Lobbyist #1" Gill is the blogger Charles of Two Conservatives. Some have alleged that Charles has a major man-crush on Faisal, but I don't really know. Charles does have children, after all. Charles says:

The AMC was not involved in terrorism or in support of terrorism,

But Customs agent Brett Gentrup stated in his 9/30/03 affidavit for continued detention of Abdurahman Alamoudi (which was granted) that:
31. Although Alamoudi is not named on the corporate records for AMC beyond 2000, I have probable cause, beyond what is set forth on the “Guest CV,” to believe that Alamoudi remained in a leadership capacity with AMC...

Even if true, and it was simply the statement of one person, not subject to challenge, it does not refute my statement of fact that AMC was not involved in terrorism. Alamoudi did not use ties to AMC to support or perform terrorism.

Charles continues:

and was not so involved at the time of Gill's work as a political consultant for the organization.

In 2001 Gill was the chief lobbyist for the convicted and imprisoned Alamoudi's now-defunct American Muslim Council. Gill's title was "Director, Governmental Affairs."

GBK keeps saying Gill was the "chief lobbyist" for the AMC, but the AMC had lobbyists directly in their employ, while Gill was a political consultant hired through a consulting firm to provide liason services to our government. SO he wasn't the chief, and was hardly a lobbyist in the strict sense of that word. Even the title GBK states belies the notion of being the chief of anything.
(Still Quoting Me!!!!)

Faisal won the convention.

Gill won HOD-51 legitimately just like Hulk Hogan {deleted GBK's fascinating trip down memory lane}

Those who claim that pro rassling was fixed and that Hogan was not the legitimate winner are like cynics who object to counting votes in HOD-51 precincts where there are more votes than voters. I understand that by speaking the truth about overvotes we are ruining a child's hero-worship, but Gill's more naive supporters have to grow up someday.

Which is the crux of the matter. These "cynics" object to counting legitimate votes because the process cannot account for several votes which may have been cast in the wrong precinct. Gill did win the election, and no amount of posturing otherwise will change that simple fact. Under any reasonable evaluation Gill obtained more votes than Lucas. Only by throwing out a large number of known legitimate votes can Lucas be said to have prevailed.

In Florida in 2000, Gore's team at one point realised that to win, they had to throw out votes of Bush in addition to manufacturing more of their own votes. So they tried to have large numbers of military ballots discarded for trivial, technical, and even wholly manufactured reasons of "illegitimacy", none of which actually cast doubt that the votes were from valid voters, but some of which were of the same technical nature as the complaints about a voter putting a ballot in the wrong precinct.

Fortunately, a good though liberal Jewish man named Joe Leiberman would have none of it, and managed to get the Gore team to back off the disenfranchisement of hundreds if not thousands of our fine men and women in uniform simply because of some minor discrepancies.

One can hope that the Lucas camp will understand the parallels, and realise that a "victory" eeked out by discarding the known valid votes of over a hundred delegates, voters from the district who showed up and sat through hours of the convention to vote, would be a Pyrrhic one at best.

Meanwhile, I don't mind people talking about overvotes, but they were far too few to effect the outcome of the election, and according to Robert's Rules should be ignored in that case -- and if that were NOT the case, Robert's Rules requires a ruling of the convention that the overvotes effected the outcome (no such ruling was made or called for, nor was any appeal made to request such a ruling). And if such a ruling HAD been made, Roberts Rules would require a re-vote, not a disenfranchisement of the voters.

In fact, there was a rule in place at the convention for a re-vote which could happen under certain circumstances -- so there was a ready remedy if the Lucas camp really believed that the overvotes in the precincts by themselves would make a difference. They chose not to request a re-vote, and only appealed the results after the convention was ended and a re-vote was impossible, in the hope they might get entire precincts disenfranchised in order to take what they couldn't win by vote.

Monday, July 16, 2007

BVBL Poster Terribly Confused on Many issues

In a recent thread on BVBL attacking Police Chief Deane, the poster John Light, ever vigilant in his one-track obsession with overturning the 51st district convention, posted a comment so wonderfully festooned with errors that I couldn't resist it's malodorous splendor:

Well said, Greg, just like there should be the non-support ALL Republicans should openly give for Faisal Gill. When former head of the KKK David Duke won the Republican nomination to run for Governor of Louisiana a few years back, Republicans nationwide openly spoke out against him and many elected Republican officials nationwide supported his Democratic oponent, and rightfully so.

Louisiana doesn't have primaries, or more exactly, they have an open primary. David Duke did not win the "republican nomination". He put his party as "Republican", but the Republican party never accepted him, even beforet the open primary. In an open primary, anybody can run for the election, and claim any political party, there is no ability for a party to reject a nominee.

In the race for Governor, Duke, who had previously run for office as a Democrat before winning a house seat as a Republican, came in 2nd in the open primary, knocking out the incumbent republican in the process. He barely got more votes in the runoff, thus sticking Loiusiana with a crook for a Governor.

The difference between David Duke and Faisil Gill is, where David Duke wanted blacks and Jews to be hung from the highest tree, Faisal Gill is “proud of his service” (his words) to the American Muslim Council, whose objective is that ALL non-Muslim Americans DIE.

The American Muslim Council does not have as it's objective the death of all non-Muslim Americans. The AMC was not involved in terrorism or in support of terrorism, and was not so involved at the time of Gill's work as a political consultant for the organization. The head of the FBI spoke to the AMC in 2002, after Gill's involvement, and praised the organization.

We are now well into a month since the convention and still no ruling from Kopko. I support you for these blogs on the illegals, but they have since taken over BVBL when maybe they should be at “Help Save Manassas”.

I suspect Greg wants to keep the more zenophobic comments OFF the HSM web site, and on his own site where he can control who reads and posts. It would be bad for Greg and for HSM if the national media were to pick up that the group had members proposing an armed march through the streets where illegals are suspected of living. Better to keep the "inside discussion" over in a somewhat out-of-the-way place.

While it’s true this IS your website, Greg, and you have done nothing short of a miracle with your in depth reporting and investigations in local matters, let’s stick with the mission statement of “Black Velvet Bruce Li provides you with local political coverage for Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park. Our goal is to give voters the information they need in order to make informed decisions about how they might vote.” (

JL seems to think that commenters are part of some "Our" the manages BVBL, and that BVBL needs his commenters to tell him what to do, which in this case is to stop discussing a very important national matter which is also the hottest local problem we have, so we could instead waste our time re-discussing a stale story about trying to throw out valid votes so JL's good friend could be handed a nomination to an election she'd never win under those circumstances.

I may take a pledge to support all Republican candidates, but if I lived in the 51st, I would say that I DO support the winner of that convention and that winner is Julie Lucas.

Faisal won the convention. He had more delegates, he had more delegates show up, he had more delegate votes, and his delegates voted in precincts giving him more weighted votes. The convention ruled him the winner, and no objection or appeal was made to that ruling at the convention.

It is only since the convention that an argument has been made to throw out legitimate delegate votes in order to overturn the results of the election. That argument is based on a fallacious reading of Robert's Rules, mis-applied to precincts, and is a technical argument which is meant to change the outcome of the convention, but would not change who the "winner" was, any more than the NCAA deciding to require Oklahoma to forfeit games played makes their opponents "Winners".

Like Chief Dean, Faisil is a liability to the Republican Party. When The Citadel went co-ed, unlike some, I did not roll over and say, “Ok, now that they are here, I fully support them being there.” No, because then everything I had said prior to their being admitted would be worth nothing.

First, I have no idea why Chief Deane is a "liability to the Republican Party". The Police Chief is not an elected position, precisely because we don't want to mix law enforcement and politics, something people calling for Deane's resignation aught to think about more clearly.

Second, I'd be curious what exactly it is JL actually DID to keep the Citadel from going co-ed, as it appears it happened whether he "supported" it or not. Nor am I certain why an argument ending with a stated refusal to support the fact that the Citidel is Co-ed, or to support the women who were now legally there, should be seen as a desirable one.

Would JL be protesting those women who are attending the Citidel now? Or refusing to acknowledge them as graduates? Refusal to accept reality is not generally a good thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What part of "Illegal" don't you understand?

Flip side to my previous post. There are times when I join the shout of the anti-illegal-immigrant crowd "What part of ILLEGAL don't you understand"? After all, the crux of the argument against ILLEGAL immigration is that we are talking about people who have broken the law by coming into the country without permission.

When I hear Ted Kennedy waxing philosophic about how our nation was built by immigrants, and how we have to have compassion and concern and care, I wonder how long a person would last if they broke into the Kennedy Compound in Kennebunkport and set up a tent on the lawn. Think Ted would offer to feed them dinners, and provide an out-house for them? No way, he'd have them hauled off to jail as trespassers.

Still, there are laws, and there are laws. And so I was wondering, how many people this past week were on the highway with me, listening to shows on talk radio, and shouting "what part of illegal don't you understand!!!" -- while driving 80 mph?

I don't think illegally entering the country is as minor an offense as speeding. But I think it is useful to understand that at least SOME of the people who support amnesty of some sort DO understand "illegal", they simply are viewing the particular law being broken as somewhat LESS IMPORTANT a law than say, the laws against stealing or committing acts of violence.

I'm not saying they are right, I'm just saying that they deserve to be debated, not ridiculed. When a "law" has gone virtually unenforced for decades, it's not hard to understand why people wouldn't take that law seriously. If the government doesn't respect the law, the people won't either.

Who Owns the American Dream?

Everybody's talking about the PWC BOCS vote about illegal immigrants. From Citizen Tom's post on the subject, I picked up the Fox News AP story about it.

I'm torn on this subject. I support the Board's action, I oppose people entering the country illegally, and want most of those who have done so to leave the country and use legal methods if they want to come back.

But I see a lot of dangerous thinking in the mix when we discuss the issue. For example, there's this quote from the local leader of the "Help Save Manassas" group:

"When we moved to this area, it was just a regular American community," said Greg Letiecq, the leader of the group Help Save Manassas, which has lobbied strongly in support of the measure. "Six years later it's transformed into something different. It doesn't resemble the American dream that I bought or that I wanted to raise my children in."

Now, it is clear that there are illegal immigrants in Manassas. But what is also clear is that there are a lot of legal immigrants, and even legal citizens, in Manassas that are, shall we say, of other ethnicities than the likes of myself and Greg. There's a large Hispanic community here now, that was just a small population when I first moved here in 1981. But they aren't all illegals -- and I bet the majority aren't illegal.

In fact, I'd bet that if you removed every illegal from Manassas and Prince William tomorrow, Westgate and Georgetown South and other places would STILL be largely Hispanic. They'd still have people, legally here, who want to sell ice cream out of push-carts. They'd still be speaking Spanish amongst themselves, playing soccer on every field they could find, they'd still have their specialty food stores and places where they could congregate (the stereotypes here are for emphasis and to make a point, not to sell the stereotype as real or indicative of a problem).

There are people who complain about new development taking away their "scenic views". You know the people who buy house on a quarter-acre lot abutting a large, undeveloped section of woodland, and then get all upset when the owner sells it to someone who builds OTHER houses on quarter-acre lots abutting the NEXT undeveloped woodlands?

What I tell them is -- if you want a scenic view in your back yard, BUY the land around your back yard. And then hope the government doesn't decide to take it from you.

Well, Greg obviously couldn't BUY all of Manassas to make sure it remained the "American dream" for his family. I'm not really sure what you CAN do if that's what you want. People have long tried to keep their neighborhoods the way they remember them. A few will complain when the "wrong types" of people move in. Yet somehow in the past we've mostly survived, and adapted, and it turned out our commonalities outweighed our differences.

But I fear that won't be the case this time, because of the barrier of language and culture, as well as a new, disturbing focus on "diversity". I've heard some in the Latino community proudly proclaim that the idea of the "melting pot" is dead, that the goal was no longer to assimilate, but to embrace cultural differences, and in fact say proudly that they could love America but ALSO love their "home country".

I've read reports that say it's ALWAYS been like this, that every wave of immigration has raised the same angst, the same issues, and yet after a few decades everybody was assimilated whether they were expecting to do so or not. But I haven't lived through that process enough times to feel like I believe it.

Still, I wonder exactly what "American dream" we are all supposed to be pining for, and how, or if, ridding ourselves of illegals is really going to get back that "dream" we "bought" for our families.

Meanwhile, I hope that the legal Hispanic population doesn't take comments like this the wrong way. Because most of us really don't have an issue with legal residents regardless of their ethnic, religious, or cultural backgrounds. And I'm betting that most of these fine people, residents and citizens, were ALSO trying to buy a piece of the "American Dream" -- and are wondering why some people's version of that dream seem to exclude them.

Summer Days

Last year at this time I was beginning rehabilition from some unknown back problem which atrophied the muscles in my leg.

A year later, I haven't lost another pound, I've mostly stopped my exercises, and certainly am likely to end up injured again if I don't straighten up and fly right.

But it's summer, and I've got lots to do. I will work out, I will try to control my eating, but I'm also going to be doing a LOT of theme parking with the kids, and I still have a job to do.

So if nothing gets posted here for a few days, I'm not in the hospital, I'm just too busy. If I actually DO end up in the hospital, this will be the FIRST place I'll be.

Tomorrow Night I hope to be in Falls Church for the NVTA hearing. I've got a 3-minute speech I want to give, in between dropping my daughter off for volleyball camp and picking her back up.

Friday, it's off to Goshen to vist my son at Scout Camp -- it's his first year, and I think it will be fun to show up and film something he's doing. Not looking forward to sleeping in a tent, but you have to take the good with the bad.

My car broke down last week going to KingsFest, but some really nice people got me towed, and got me a rental, and we made it to our concert, and my car got fixed, and I'm back on the road. Problem with a hybrid -- if anything breaks, it's probably not moving. This time it was the "inverter", a kind of really important part -- but it just as well could have been a corroded connection to a computer, pretty much any little electronic thing can leave you stranded in a modern car, and the hybrids are particularly dependent on at least a couple of computers.

I was hoping to write a post about the experience, maybe this weekend I'll get a chance. BTW, have I said I hate traffic? Last Friday before the car broke on 95 we had spend over an hour and a half getting most of the way to Fredericksburg, which should have been a 45-minute drive.

Saturday it took me another 2 hours to get BACK to Fredericksburg to pick up the car. Two days in a row, same immovable traffic nightmare on 95. BOTH directions -- I kept thinking about the movie "Existenz" (not spelled right, but it wasn't spelled right either), about people travelling by swapping brain patterns. I was thinking it was too bad that everybody down south wanted to come north, while everbody north wanted to go south.

Forget hybrid cars, I want my rocket car. Or a personal transporter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Senate Ethics?

The Senate is scheduled to take up ethic reform again after the break (that's if they aren't too busy finding new ways to look like they are trying to end the Iraq War).

They have passed a bill, but have not been able to get agreement on a conference committee. The problem? Senator DeMint (R-S.C.). Ethics Reform means different things in the House and Senate, and each side has put things in their version of the bill that apply only to their own body. Seems simple enough, and there's no reason why the House would mess with the Senate rules, or vice versa.

Except that if one body has a strong ethics measure that the other doesn't want to adopt, that other body might not want to look bad, so they might try to change the rules for the other body in committee.

Senator DeMint is worried that the House conferencees have been instructed to remove some strong Senate rules which would make the House rules look bad (from the Politico):

DeMint backs one of the key reforms the Democrats have promised -- a requirement that members disclose which earmarks they seek and certify that they have no financial interest linked to them.

In fact, he backs it so strongly that he is insisting that the House have no opportunity to alter it in conference, a demand the Democratic leadership calls a smokescreen for an attempt to derail the entire ethics reform project.

Why would this demand be seen as a smokescreen? If the House isn't intending to alter the Senate rule, what would be the problem with such a rule? It seems that DeMint was right, and that the Democrats intend to water down the rules in conference. Then they'll plead that they tried.

DeMint says he supports the lobbying reform provisions in the package. But he isn’t likely to budge until he gets a promise from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the new Senate rules on earmarks won’t be watered down or deleted from the final bill.

The earmark provision is a change in Senate rules, which DeMint argues shouldn’t be part of any conference committee with the House.

“The House has no reason to tinker with Senate rules,” said Wesley Denton, DeMint's spokesman. “The only reason to want to put them in conference is because they intend to change them.”

Meanwhile, there's other "issues":

Behind the scenes, it’s clear many senators are unhappy with a separate proposed requirement that lobbyists disclose how much money they bundle in campaign donations for incumbents and candidates.

Some lobbyists privately warn that they may limit their fundraising roles under such scrutiny.

Given the Abramoff scandal, publicly opposing those new bundling rules could prompt a costly political backlash for any senator.

Of course, the whole point of the ethics reforms was to open up the process so we'd all see what was happening, precisely because some people would straighten up under scrutiny.

So if the light of day is too uncomfortable, that's a good thing.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Corrections to Comments at BVBL

Since I can't comment at BVBL, I'll correct a couple of factual errors here.

A real problem with the internet is how many people post without knowing what they are talking about. However, the danger of that is minimized by having open comments so the people who know the facts can correct the misstatements.

BVBL apparently wants to allow errors to go uncorrected, by blocking the comments of people who have shown the ability to correct his errors and the errors of his commenters.

Worse, I'd rather NOT promote the correction of errors to an actual POST, where the world sees them. It would be much less damaging to those in error to be corrected within their own circle. So commenters who don't like being "shown up" in posts that go to aggregators might ask BVBL to stop blocking comments so they can be corrected more privately.

With that said, here are two factual errors in comments to BVBL's thread on Michelle McQuigg's e-mail, which I commented on in the post McQuigg adds details about 51st convention. The first commenter, Johnathan Mark, said in response to a comment by I think Lyle:

LYLE: "Each delegate at the convention had a credential with name, and precinct. To get a ballot, the delegate had to present his/her credential and a picture ID.”

JM: A number of people, including Republitarian, went home early without voting because of delays in voting. There is nothing in the above system which would have stopped someone who left early from giving his or her ballot to a credentialed friend.

As Lyle noted, in order to get a ballot, you had to present both your credential AND a picture ID. Even if someone LEFT a picture ID with someone else, that someone else couldn't get away with USING it.

As to "giving the ballot" to a credentialed friend, we've already explained several times that the ballots were handed out AT THE BALLOT BOX, in the line. You couldn't get a ballot ahead of time, you had to wait in the voting line, and be at the front, and ready to cast your ballot. At that point, even if you were in a hurry you might as well just fill out your ballot and drop it in the box. I think JM thought you might get your ballot in the morning, but that was not the case.

I hope that clears up any possible thought people had that ballots could be handed to other people to vote. Each ballot was handed out at the front of the line, to credentialed delegates with PICTURE ID. Each ballot had the name of the precinct, and was numbered. No invalid numbers or duplicate numbers were found, and no ballot was found in the wrong precinct. So in those precincts that were overvoted, those ballots were handed to credentialed delegates with valid PICTURE ID, handed to them by volunteers of the Lucas campaign (and the Gill campaign), who had to check off the credential name tag (which had the precinct name on it).

Next was the "republitarian" himself (or as he now is called, the cheap imitation Republitarian, who said:

Bottom line is that numerous vehicles parked outside the convention were from North Carolina, Maryland and had Gill stickers. Another pattern was the cars with VA tags had a dealership labels from the Herndon area. I live in PWC and buy my car from a local dealership so I bring it for service close to home.

One wonders how this delegate had the time to wander around looking for the dealership labels on cars in the parking lot, when they said they had to leave early. But that's not the error, although all the delegates were verified as living on the 51st district.

Many of us local Republican’s commented that we had never seen these folks at a Republican event, at the local grocery store, with their children at school, on the bus stop or anywhere in our neighborhoods.

Oddly, I guess "these folks" (delegates) were probably saying the same thing about these "local Republicans".

I suspect they were either Democrats, have multiple addresses they use for this purpose and or to confuse Immigration Naturalization and or FBI of their whereabouts, and their main place of residence is outside of Prince William.

I guess Democrats don't go to school, ride a bus, or live in neighborhoods? As to the rest, accusing people of criminal activity with no evidence is bad form.

How do we know if they are citizen’s of the United States of America? Where these Delegates really qualified to vote? Gimme a break!

Yes, they were qualified. A committee of six dedicated people, including two chairs picked by the campaigns, and two representatives of each campaign, slaved for tens of hours over every delegate form. The Lucas team was meticulous in trying to throw out Gill delegates. Their names, addresses, citizenship, and voter registrations were all checked. Every one was found to live in the district and be qualified to vote. of the 500+ Gill delegates, all but 17 had PROOF of voter registration IN THE DISTRICT. The 17 were looked at much more closely, had all filed for registration BEFORE May 21, and had to prove that they lived in the district.

Further, Assuming this "republitarian" was actually at the convention, they voted to ACCEPT all the delegates. Because the vote to accept the credential committee list was UNANIMOUS. So Republitarian is one of those we can blame for whoever was allowed to vote.

Then there was an anonymous poster who asked:

I want to see the delegate lists. I want to verify the names. Where do we get the list?
Is it with McQuigg?

Call Julie Lucas. Her campaign has all that information. No delegate challenge was presented in the appeal. There are occasional snide comments about that process, but nobody challenged any delegates at the convention (the vote to accept the credentials committee report was unanimous).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Weekly GoodByeKen Corrections Page

I appreciate all the interest GoodByeKen has taken in my blogs lately. But it does mean I have to read what is written there to correct the errors.

First up is this post from GBK: Anarchy in the PWCRC during HOD-51 Voting:

Faisal Gill supporter Charles confirms that no record was kept of who cast ballots. No list of delegates by precincts was available at the ballot boxes. Delegate badges were not collected, encouraging people who enjoyed voting once to go for the gusto and do it again.

The delegate badges were marked by members of BOTH campaigns at the time they were given ballots. Nobody could "vote again" unless members of BOTH campaigns decided to hand out a ballot to a person whose badge was already marked.

remember that HOD-51 voting was weighted according to precinct. The fewer the number of people who voted in each precinct, the more each vote counted. Thus a vote that was cast in the wrong precinct would have skewed the results by changing the mathematical weight attached to that vote.

GBK correctly recognizes the importance of "weighted voting" but misses the irony in his histrionics. In fact, as I noted in THIS POST, Lake Ridge was not only "overvoted", it also was over-voted, meaning a lot more people showed up to vote than votes assigned. In fact, a vote in Lake Ridge was only worth 0.53 votes -- the 2nd-lowest counting vote in the convention. If you wanted to move people around, moving them to Lake Ridge was about the worst thing you could do. BTW, the worst precinct, Bethel (.41) was also won easily by Gill (and only had 4 undervotes). In contrast, each vote in Occaquan was worth 1.17 votes.

Many people left the convention early without voting, because of interminable delays. Perhaps some of those who left early gave their ballot or their badge to someone else, to vote in their place. Did badges have photos on them? I doubt it.

A total of 38 out of 634 left early, about 6%, hardly "many". But you couldn't give your badge to someone else, because the volunteers were checking ID at the table before they gave you your ballot, and ballots were not handed out ahead of time.

Roberts Rules of Order, Newly Revised (10th ed.), page 402, lines 26-34, states that in such cases the vote tallies for those precincts should be thrown out:

if one or more ballots are identifiable as cast by persons not entitled to vote, and it can be established that there are not other such ballots, these ballots are excluded in determining the number of votes case for purpose of computing the majority. If there is evidence that any unidentifiable ballots were cast by persons not entitled to vote, and if there is any possibility that such ballots might affect the result, the entire ballot vote is null and void and a new ballot vote must be taken.

Faisal's employee and PWCRC chair Tom Kopko has refused to nullify the ballots in the two overvoted HOD-51 precincts. If he did, Faisal Gill would lose and Julie Lucas would win.

Reading is our friend. It doesn't say the "precinct", it says the entire balloat, that's ALL the precincts. And it doesn't say they are "thrown out", it says "null and void and a NEW BALLOT VOTE MUST BE TAKEN".

The convention decided NOT to take another vote, but rather decided, as Robert's Rules allows, that the overvote error would not affect the result. That was their perogative, although the Luca campaign could have appealed that decision to the chair. But they didn't.

Now it is too late to use the Robert's remedy, as there is no way that a new "ballot vote" can be taken. That's why you appeal AT the convention, when there is still a way to handle the problem.

Robert's rules does NOT support selectively removing ballots from a race -- it clearly states that if the error is deemed to affect the result, the remedy is a NEW ballot, not eliminating the ballots you think might be a problem.

OK, that's all I have time for tonight.