22 November 2006

The Return of Voodoo Economics

A rash of headlines from today's papers makes me think it is time to bring back the National Debt Clock. If we do it, though, can we please place duplicates on the lawn at the White House and the front steps of the Capitol?

George W. Bush considers plans to hand Asian free trade nations the keys to the U.S. treasury in exchange for forgiving his narrow-minded focus on oil, thus letting us rack up even more debt with them. (NY Times)

The lame-duck Republicans have a snit over budget cuts when they are asked to control their spending, and decide to leave the entire mess to the new Democratic Congress, thereby tying up the Dem agenda for 2007 while they reinstitute the pay-as-you-go policies that worked so well at reducing national debt until dismantled in 2002. (Seattle Times/AP & The Hill)

The unemployment rolls expanded by another 12,000 jobless this last week before Thanksgiving. (Richmond Times-Dispatch/AP)

21 November 2006

Can She Get the Daily Double?

From Wonkette's Yeas and Nays: "Education Sec. Margaret Spellings was on 'Celebrity' Jeopardy, set to air today. It will settle definitively and objectively whether she’s purposefully mendacious or just dumb."

I tried to find a way to say it better, but failed. Air time: NBC-29 @ 7:30 pm. This may be the one night to tune into a game show. Bring popcorn.

Livid with VSL

I hope that the Daily Progress article entitled "Law may cost city $1.2 million" has not escaped anyone's attention today. One alternatively appropriate title could be: State flushes local revenues down toilet.

Are there a few other local citizens are as outraged as I am over the Virginia State Legislature's predilection for using the localities as whipping boys? According to the report,
Charlottesville could see a $1.2 million drop in communications tax revenues beginning Jan. 1 when a new state law takes effect.

Instead of Charlottesville collecting the taxes from landline telephone and cable television service providers at a 10 percent rate, the state will collect the taxes at a new 5 percent rate and remit the proceeds to the city. That means a savings for local landline and cable customers.

I've lost count of the number of unfunded mandates the State government has passed down to the localities. Too often, Council has had to explain from the dais how we (the local gov't and the property taxes that prop it up) are responsible for picking up the tab on everything from social services to educational testing to public works repairs to transportation improvements because the State has cut its funding for this or that program and refuses to raise taxes in order to pay for its necessities. Now those narcisstic, impotent wannabe brokers in Richmond are messing with our ability to get the money to do so. I am livid.

The situation is untenable. If certain lobbies or interests don't like the way in which we try to close the gap between what we have been ordered to handle and what we can raise the money to pay for, they merely have to go to Richmond and scream "Dillon Rule!!" until our chain gets yanked by greasy, pig-eyed politicians who are more concerned about who is screwing whom than who they themselves are screwing over. There is a sick, S&M quality to our state versus local dynamic which needs to end.

20 November 2006

Cville Budget 2008 Begins

A recent discussion on City infrastructure in the Cville News blog led to a mini discussion on the City budget.

For all of you who want to voice your opinions and concerns on capital improvements, I recommend you go to tonight's City Council meeting, 7 pm, Council Chambers in City Hall. The first report on tonight's agenda is the 2008 FY Budget Guidelines. Get into the process on the ground floor to effect the changes you want to see.

17 November 2006

UN Climate Change Talks in Nairobi

From The UN Climate Change Conference:
Kenya hosted the second meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 2), in conjunction with the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 12), in Nairobi from 6 to 17 November 2006.

The conference also included, from 6 to 14 November, the twenty-fifth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 25), the twenty-fifth session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 25), and the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG 2) including an in-session workshop.

Kyoto Protocol enthusiasts can get the best of the blogging from the Nairobi talks at Calvin Jones's Climate Change Action

Hoyer -- The Sensible Choice

Democrats Pick Hoyer Over Murtha for House Majority Leader (Washington Post)

I don't know why Nancy Pelosi thought that she had enough pull in the modern climate to install Murtha to begin with. The Democrats won their majority because several key races featured conservative/moderate Democratic candidates, not because the public has recently decided, in some political American Idol vote, that Pelosi's agenda is The Bomb.

The most telling paragraph from this article is:
Pelosi's aggressive, last-minute campaign for Murtha in the face of overwhelming support for Hoyer left many Democrats worried that she has become too reliant on a tight inner circle, too reluctant to listen to the broader Democratic caucus and mistakenly convinced that she can dictate the direction the caucus must take.

I applaud the House's choice of Hoyer; he has the authority and presence of mind to counterbalance the fears of some moderates and recent Dem-returnees brought on by overblown liberal rhetoric. We got in because the majority of Americans thought/wished/hoped that we could bring common sense back to Washington. Having a Democratic insiders' clique controlling Congress would not be a valid way to prove that our party is more mature or better able to meet the needs of the country than the insider's clique which still controls the Executive Branch.

16 November 2006

Debunking a Myth

Another NY Times:
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 15 — Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday put the blame for global warming on “a frightening lack of leadership,” saying the poorest people in the world, who do not even create much pollution, bear the brunt of rising temperatures.

“The impact of climate change will fall disproportionately on the world’s poorest countries, many of them here in Africa,” Mr. Annan said in a speech to a major climate conference here. “Poor people already live on the front lines of pollution, disaster and the degradation of resources and land.

“For them,” the United Nations leader said, “adaptation is a matter of sheer survival.”

Story continues here....

Annan clearly hasn't bothered to talk with fellow laureate Wangari Maathai on this subject. The noted ecologist and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize is on record--in a critically acclaimed film, no less--stating that often it is the very poor, especially in third-world nations, who have the worst ecological practices, because they are too willing to strip off and sell or trade their natural resources without the tools, knowledge, or technology to replace them.

Perhaps it's just the difference of 3 years (Annan won the NPP in 2001). Or perhaps it's just the difference between Ghana and Kenya. Or perhaps -- just perhaps -- Maathai is correct. How many times in world and even US history have we seen it happen where those who control an area's natural resources end up controlling the power and the wealth as well? Isn't that what our Civil War was about?

DNA Test Yields Clues to Rt-Wing Extremists...

From the NY Times:
New DNA Test Is Yielding Clues to Obsolete Fundie Thinkers Neanderthals

If we give them enough time with this double-helix thing, maybe they can figure out what causes regressive, species-destructive behaviors in our race too.

Seriously, though, it's an interesting article and I am always amazed at how much information scientists in this field can extrapolate from so little material.

15 November 2006

Wake-Up on Sunday

WNRN's Rick Moore will be featuring two local watershed activists -- Pat Calvert from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Chris French from Rivanna Conservation Society -- on his Sunday Morning Wake-Up Call.

Topic: The Chesapeake Bay clean-up and how our region is effected.

Station: 91.9 in Charlottesville (88.1 Staunton; 89.9 Lynchburh/Amherst/Sweetbriar)

13 November 2006

Seasonal Taster's Choice

'Tis the season for Pumpkin brews!! I know most of you are familiar with Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale, available at grocers nearly everywhere now, but if you are looking for something a little different to curb your cucurbita cravings, here are some other brews you should explore:

Stone Cat Pumpkin Porter, spicy, hoppy, and dark with hints of butternut with that pumpkin.

Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, from the makers of the incomparable Midas Touch Golden Elixir, a brown ale with a touch of brown sugar and malty pumpkin.

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, their Old Brown Dog Ale provides the base with added pumpkin and other gourds as well as pie spicing.

09 November 2006


Of the Nations in the Top 10 Highest Standard of Living, 6 are in Northern Europe:

1. Norway
2. Sweden
4. Belgium
7. Iceland
8. Netherlands
10. Finland

It's interesting to note that these 6 countries are also listed in the Top 10 Nations with the least percentage of population living in poverty. The United States, while listed in the former, is not listed in the latter.

Looks like I know where I'm emigrating to, if and when I need to emigrate.

Allen Concedes

Congress is officially bluer than a clear sky on a summer day. Catch the video at the Washington Post's home page.

[PS: Has anyone else noticed that our little Senate race rated a mention on the front page of The Times, Le Monde, and the Int'l Herald Trib? Not bad. Guess that makes us international celebrities now.]

Cville's Future: A Long-Term Investment

One of the issues that has been brought up frequently in the past year is how to grow our economical base here in Cville. It's an issue tied in to the growth of Albemarle County and resultant sprawl, and anyone who has sat in on a Board of Supervisors session or gone to an Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population meeting--or even read the local papers more than once a week--is aware of how anti-growth our area is becoming.

It's not all growth that most Cvillians object to. In particular, it is the wasteful retail sprawl growth that rips up our beautiful rural character while providing very little for our long-term economy that is most offensive to us. To address that, both the Albemarle BoS and the Charlottesville City Council have had an informal, ongoing dialogue with the public and with the organizations that matter (e.g., Chamber of Commerce, Planning Commissions, Darden, etc.) about what kinds of development and business we should be trying to attract. Often, casually (in public at least), biotechnology and other, similarly high-end industry has been suggested.

Buried beneath the election & Rumsfeld snapshots in yesterday's Daily Progress is a great article on just that kind of industry, and the investment/commitment level attracting it would require. According to interviewee Steven Burke,
Smart places and smart policy leaders will work to apply the technology appropriately to their dominant natural or economic resources, and not just work to gain another drug company. The technology has application to far more than human health. The engine, then, will be sector and regionally driven. For that reason, the North Carolina Biotech-nology Center has established five regional offices across the state of North Carolina, to both target and capture specific areas of application.

It's time for a clear assessment of our potential economic strengths as a region, beyond that of Colonial Tourist Mecca, and I am very much looking forward to that discussion.

08 November 2006

Pombo Flushed

From The New Republic's article, "A roundup of House races that defied the odds.":
Biggest Rematch K.O.: Jerry McNerney defeats Richard Pombo in California's 11th.

This cycle saw many, many rematches between candidates who faced each other in 2004, and, for the most part, those who lost in 2004 lost again this year. Republican Max Burns in Georgia's 12th district looks like he will fail to retake the seat he yielded to Democratic Representative John Barrow two years ago; Pennsylvania's Jim Gerlach is fending off a strong challenge by Lois Murphy, the Democrat he barely defeated in 2004 (though the final decision is still pending). In this strangely-shaped San Joaquin Valley-Bay Area district in California, McNerney, a wind engineer who's never held public office, was a write-in candidate in 2004, and arch-conservative local boy Pombo crushed him by more than 20 points. This year, however, McNerney overtook Pombo 53-47.

Ok, fellow tree-huggers, I promised champagne for this one. I'll let you know when we break out the bubbly (and other forms of fermented fruit).

Gin Rummy

The Dems call gin, and Rummy's out!

From CNN:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush announced Wednesday that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down from his post.

"The timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon," Bush said in a White House statement Wednesday afternoon.


"I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made" in Iraq, Bush said.


As a footnote to last night, I'd like to articulate my thoughts on how articulation effects public election.

IMO, Al Weed was, by far, the most articulate candidate in the state of Virginia, but I've been naysayed by many people (and not just at yesterday's polls), who thought that either Goode or Oddo were more articulate. So, for an exercise in semantics, I thought I'd analyze their stylistic differences under this one word's usage.

First, we need an agreed-upon definition -- we'll use Merriam-Webster's:
Function: adjective
1a: divided into syllables or words meaningfully arranged : INTELLIGIBLE
b: able to speak
c: expressing oneself readily, clearly, or effectively (an articulate teacher); also: expressed in this manner (an articulate argument)
2a: consisting of segments united by joints : JOINTED (articulate animals)
b: distinctly marked off

Function: verb
1a: to give clear and effective utterance to : put into words (articulate one's grievances)
b: to utter distinctly (articulating each note in the musical phrase)
c: to give definition to (as a shape or object) (shades of gray were chosen to articulate different spaces -- Carol Vogel)
d: to give shape or expression to (as a theme or concept) (a drama that uses eerie props to articulate a sense of foreboding)
2a: to unite by or as if by means of a joint : JOINT
b: to form or fit into a systematic whole (articulating a program for all school grades)

Weed: IMO, he was the most articulate orator because he was the best of the 3 candidates at fitting his various platform planks into a systematic whole (verb, def. 2b) and therein communicating to the voter a strong sense of his overriding policy and ethics.

Goode: Others have said Goode was the most articulate orator because he gave the strongest expression of his individual points (adjective, def. 1c): E.g., Immigration = hates; Gays = hates; Earmarks = likes.

Oddo: Surprisingly (to me), a couple of people have even remarked that Oddo was, ITO, the most articulate of the 3 candidates, because his speeches were concise, stayed on message, and were united in theme (poss. adjective, def. 1a or verb, def. 1a/2a).

I guess articulation depends on how much the individual expects from a candidates' communication skills. Fortunately, votes themselves are more black and white.


As I'm sure everyone knows by now, Virginia passed the marriage amendment. Want the news on it, you can find stories in the Times Dispatch, Washington Times (yes, occasionally I check the Times--it reminds me why I became a progressive activist), The Pilot Online, and just about every other paper in our regional virginity, oops, I mean, vacinity.

I work in a law firm and see a lot of civil litigation come through, much of which will be effected by the "unintended" consequences of this amendment. Every time I find an example from which I can extrapolate a logical extension of how the new law will effect practice, I will post it here. As an exercise in and demonstration of what is now at stake due to our state's folly.

Here's Example #1:

The elderly widow who made a contractual arrangement with her nephew who lived nearby that he could work the family farm and receive ownership of it once she passed, in exchange for taking care of her in her home in her final years. He did and the agreement was obliquely referenced in the will, though the specifics were not written into the testamentary document. She had 2 children, neither of whom lived anywhere near her, who inherited the remainder of her estate. They contested the agreement, on the basis that the homestead was the bulk of her estate and surely she didn't mean to leave them so little. They wanted to sell the farm and split the profits. Under this amendment, they would conceivably win.

07 November 2006

Election Insanity

I voted. First thing this morning. Webb, Weed, no, yes, yes, in that order. The rest of this day -- at least, up until I can sit down with a beer and the election results -- is going to be insane.

Is anyone else having a tension meltdown?

06 November 2006

Marriage Amendment on Council Agenda

Tonight's Charlottesville City Council agenda includes a resolution to oppose the Marshall-Newman amendment.

Are we the coolest city on the East Coast or what? Not only will this be a great municipal demonstration of what "Virginia values" really are (pro-independence and pro-tolerance, contrary to the Allen & Goode ads), it will give this topic a much-needed awareness boost in the news tonight and tomorrow as we head to the polls.

I encourage all citizens to get down to City Hall tonight at 7 pm and weigh in on it.

02 November 2006

Punching the One-Way Ticket

Another little-seen article, this time from the Daily Progress:
Businesses and insurance companies are starting to eye the potential savings of outsourcing health care from the world's richest country to the developing world.
. . . .
With an estimated 45 million uninsured Americans, some 500,000 trekked overseas last year for medical treatment, according to the National Coalition on Health Care. Asian hospitals in Thailand, India and Singapore have long been swarmed by medical tourists looking for tummy tucks and face lifts, but many glitzy, marble-floored facilities are now gaining reputations for big-ticket procedures including heart surgery, knee and back operations.

More article at Businesses May Move Health Care Overseas

Are there any other Boston Legal fans out here who recognize this plot? Oh, that's right. It's for real. So, raise your hand if you want to be packed off to the Pakistani border for your open heart surgery. If you do, you might want to rethink buying the round-trip ticket.

Aqua morte

We interrupt Mid-Term Madness for a little-seen Washington Post article:
A perennial and pernicious Russian problem -- death by vodka -- has taken on alarming dimensions in recent weeks as dozens of people have died and thousands more have been hospitalized after drinking bootleg liquor laced with brake fluid, lighter fuel, disinfectants and other poisonous agents.

Tainted Vodka Kills Dozens as Russians Turn to Bootleg Liquor

It seems that ours is not the only nation returning to Depression-Era tactics.