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Both Parties Embarrass Virginia April 7, 2010

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Overview:  In the last few days both the Democratic Party of Virginia and Virginia’s GOP have embarrassed the Commonwealth.  It seems that no level of unemployment, financial crisis or transportation chaos can stop our state-wide political class from saying and doing stupid things.  Virginia deserves better than we are getting from both parties.

Democratic Stupid Pet Tricks:  People within Virginia’s Democratic Party have begun to harass AG Ken Cuccinelli over his schedule and petty cash accounts in an effort to derail Mr. Cuccinelli’s efforts to sue the federal government over provisions in the recently – enacted health care bill.  So far, the Sherlock Holmes wannabes from the left have uncovered the smoking gun of a $350 fee to file the lawsuit.  Beyond that, Cuccinelli isn’t talking.  The matter is well detailed here.

Walkin’ the Walk:  Ken Cuccinelli is doing exactly what he said he’d do during the campaign – challenging what many people perceive as federal government over-reach.  His lawsuits against the federal government should surprise nobody and represent what the people of Virginia wanted when we elected him Attorney General last November.  In fact, I’d guess that a poll of Virginians would find a substantial majority in favor of AG Cuccinelli’s suit against the federal government over health care.  Mr. Cuccinelli also joins 12 other state attorneys general in filing suits against this legislation.  He is hardly alone.

Scroogin’ Little Timmy: The Democrats’ attempts to annoy Ken Cuccinelli into submission on the health care suit will fail.  However, the unbridled gall of the people harassing Mr. Cuccinelli will live on in my mind.  The whole episode harkens back to then-Governor Tim Kaine’s decision to moonlight while in office.  In the middle of an economic and budget crisis Tim Kaine decided to get a jump-start on his new position as the head of the national Democratic Party.  He went AWOL from Virginia flying from place to place hob knobbing with his new friends in the Obama Administration.  Republicans demanded his travel schedule and were rebuffed.  At least they were after then-Governor Kaine for doing something other than his job.

The Republicans Fumble in Sympathy: One can only imagine that sweet and sour soup is a favorite dish of the Republican Party of Virginia.  However, the Republican dish would be better named smart and dumb rather than sweet and sour.  First, we had AG Cuccinelli sending an unsolicited letter to the state’s colleges and universities incorrectly informing them that they lacked the legal authority to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Dumb.  This was followed by a lawsuit against the health care bill claiming a breach of state’s rights.  Smart.  Gov. McDonnell closed a $4B budget deficit without raising taxes.  Smart.  Now he has reinstituted the dormant policy of declaring April Confederate History Month in Virginia.  Dumb.  A good summary of the understandable frustrations caused by McDonnell’s decision can be found here.  He didn’t even have the minimal class or sense of history to mention the abomination of slavery in his press release on the matter.

Fighting Virginia’s Version of Joseph Goebbels: I am old enough to remember being taught about the “War Between the States” and, occasionally, about “The War of Northern Aggression” in Virginia public schools.  The basic thesis was that the Civil War was primarily a battle of state’s rights with slavery as a relatively minor issue.  This mindless propoganda went on to maintain that the Civil War was really more of a second war of independence.  Fortunately for my understanding, times changed and more honest Virginia educators began to show me the fallacy of the “state’s rights” propoganda.  The US Civil War was primarily fought to perpetuate the institution of slavery in the United States.  Period.  It was an immoral and catastrophically stupid war.  I had almost come to believe that modern-day Virginia finally understood this historical reality.  That belief has been substantially eroded by Gov. McDonnell’s ill-considered and historically illiterate proclamation.

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Stolen Without A Gun March 24, 2010

Posted by grovetonsvirginia in Uncategorized.
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Overview: A recent article in the Virginian-Pilot illustrates how the game is really played in the General Assembly.  It seems that a bill to tax online hotel booking companies (SB452) had been sailing through the General Assembly for months until it was noticed by that industry’s lobbyists.  Then, quicker than you can say “special interest”, the bill was dead.  You can read the article here.

Thinking it through: Mary Margaret Whipple has some straight-forward logic.  A person who walks into a hotel and books it for $50 has to pay a tax on $50. If the tax is 5%, the total paid is $52.50.  $50.00 for the hotel and $2.50 for the state.  An online hotel booking site buys the room for $30.00 then sells it to an online shopper for $40.00.  The tax is still 5%.  How much does the government get from this transaction.  Most would guess 5% of $40 = $2.00.  Most would be wrong.  The state gets 5% of $30 = $1.50.  Why?  Because the online booking company says they sold the room at their cost ($30) and then added a processing fee ($10) which is not subject to the tax.

How much does all this financial breakage come to a year?  $33M in Virginia.  A fair chunk of change.

At least Jessie James used a gun: This bill had been under review for so long that one politician quipped that “crickets were still chirping” when it was sent over.  Yet it was killed almost overnight.  What caused the untimely death of Mary Margaret Whipple’s handiwork?  The dark spectre of lobbyists.  Those soulless zombies who lurk in every capital city walking the halls of power and the bars of influence looking for votes.  Unlike real zombies who eat brains these creatures of horror would have an allergic reaction if they came anywhere near a brain.  Which makes the friendly confines of the Virginia General Assembly home sweet home for these lobbyists.

Once again our legislators have sold out their constituents.  Once again the voter – taxpayers of Virginia are the losers.

You can tell the players without a program: How did this happen?  Did the full General Assembly stand up and be counted on this matter?  Oh, spare me.  Of course not.  Spines are the only things in shorter supply than brains in Richmond.  The bill was hastily killed in committee.  However, you can tell the players without a program in the General Assembly.  The vote in the Finance Committee was 13 – 9 in favor of the special interests.  Predictably, the vote was almost perfectly along party lines.  13 of the 13 politicians voting with the lobbyists were Republicans.  8 of 9 voting with the people of Virginia were Democrats.  Only R.L. Ware (R – Powhatan) had the courage to do the right thing.

Heroes – Ware, R.L. (R – Powhatan), Johnson (D – Abingdon), Watts (D – Annandale), Lewis (D – Accomac), Armstrong (D-Martinsville), Pollard (D – Lively), Englin (D – Alexandria), Abbott (D – Newport News), Keam (D – Vienna)

Zeroes – Purkey (R – Virginia Beach), Orrock (R – Thornburg), Byron (R – Lynchburg), Cole (R – Fredricksburg)*, Hugo (R – Centreville), Cline (R – Amherst), Gear (R- Hampton), Marshall, R.G. (R – Manassas), Lohr (R – Harrisonburg), Peace (R – Mechanicsville), Greason (R – Potomac Falls), Anderson (R – Woodbridge)*, Garrett (R – Lynchburg)

* – the three politicians indicated by an asterisk have embarrassed the people of Virginia multiple times during the 2010 General Assembly session and are candidates for worst GA member of the year.

HB53: The Devil Made Me Do It! March 23, 2010

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Overview: The General Assembly 2010 legislative session has ended.  Our state delegates and Senators have gone back to their homes.  Very little was accomplished.  Worse yet, this session demonstrated some of the worst habits of the part-time General Assembly.  Four bills which came up during the 2010 session illustrate the sad state of affairs in the General Assembly.  This article is about one of those four bill – HB53 – Human tracking devices; unlawful use thereof by insurer or employer.

Redi-Mix Geniuses: Virginia’s General Assembly is composed of 140 part-time legislators.  The General Assembly meets in Richmond for 61 days and then calls it a year (barring any special sessions called by the governor).  During that brief period the General Assembly manages a $35B per year budget, debates social legislation, tries to pass the enabling legislation needed to micro-manage Virginia’s localities under Dillon’s Rule and generally has a high old-time hob knobbing and cavorting down in River City.  It’s very debatable whether the 140 smartest men and women in the United States could accomplish in 61 days what the GA needs to accomplish.  It’s not debateable at all that the 140 men and women who are, in actuality, our legislators cannot effectively accomplish their mission within the current structure.  A deadly combination of hubris, partisan politics, foolishness and a lack of adequate preparation killed any chance for an effective 2010 legislative session.  HB53 is an example of foolishness.

The four headless horsemen of the political apocalypse.  Terrifying apparitions come in many forms.  From brain – eating zombies to Madonna without makeup, Hollywood has found a way to frighten us right down to the core.  Yet Hollywood presents imaginary ghouls.  Richmond creates real ones.  Four bills from the 2010 session reveal the deep rot in the General Assembly.  From bizarre religious innuendo to institutionalized bigotry these bills exemplify what’s wrong in Virginia’s governance process.  This is the story of one of these bills.

You want to put that where?    HB53: Human tracking devices; unlawful use thereof by insurer or employer.  The basic concept of this bill was to prevent employers from forcing employees to implant microchips called Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) chips in their bodies.  RFID chips come in several forms but they are all meant to reflect pre-programmed information to an RFID antenna when the chip is close to the antenna.  A common use for RFID is to automatically pay tolls on toll roads.  The chip is in a plastic case you normally affix to your windshield.  When you car gets to an automated tool booth the booth reads the reflected serial number from the chip in you car, looks up you account in a database, makes sure you have money in the account and deducts the toll from your account.  It all happens in the wink of an eye and you are on your way without waiting for a toll taker or coin slot to take your money. 

RFID chips are sometimes implanted into animals in order to identify lost and stray beasties.  These same chips could be implanted into humans in order to store medical information which could be retrieved by emergency personnel if someone were unconscious or, perhaps, had just had too much Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to make any sense.  There has been some serious talk about implanting the chips in Alzheimer’s patients in case they get lost.

Can we call this bill HB666?  HB53 might make some limited sense to a conspiracy theorist who believes that unscrupulous employers would make their employees implant microchips.  Nobody seems quite sure why an employer would do this and nobody can name an employer who has mandated the implantation of RFID chips but (I guess) you can never be too careful.  Unfortunately, the story does not stop here.  The conspiracy theory behind this bill went well beyond employers.  The Delegate who submitted this bill is Del. Mark Cole (R – Fauquier).  He explained why Virginia needs this legislation in an interview with the Washington Post – “My understanding — I’m not a theologian — but there’s a prophecy in the Bible that says you’ll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times,” Cole said, “Some people think these computer chips might be that mark.”. Uh, oh, spaghetti-O!

Transportation can wait.  The General Assembly had a packed 61 day agenda.  A new governor, an attorney general who wants his 15 minutes of fame, a broken budget, high unemployment, a transportation crisis.  What get the GA’s attention?  A bill to prvent employers from branding employees with marks of the devil masquerading as microchips.  And you wonder why I want Dillon’s Rule dilluted so Virginia’s localities can make more of their own decisions.  Jeesh….

“If you don’t tie our hands ….” March 18, 2010

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Overview: Rep. Tom Perriello (D – VA) made some very interesting statements in a videotaped talk on March 16, 2010.  While the totality of his talk is beyond the video clip I found on YouTube, the segment which is filmed is very telling.  Rep. Perriello talks about Social Security and Congress “raiding the cookie jar”.  Then, in a stunner, the Democratic Congressman says, “If you don’t tie our hands we will keep stealing.”.  There is no doubt he is talking about Congress and there is no doubt he is serious.  There may be some doubt as to whether he knows he was being filmed.

A video is worth a million words.

Paging Mr. Mecaca, Mr. Mecaca please.  One has to wonder about Rep. Periello.  He is a newly elected member of the US House of Representatives from Ivy, Virginia (just outside Charlottesville).  In the 2008 election he beat Virgil Goode in a huge upset.  Rep Perriello is a usually reliable liberal with the glaring exception of abortion.  Rep. Perriello is a strong right to life advocate.  In his first legislative session Rep. Perriello voted for “cap and trade”, for the “stimulus bill” and for “health care reform”.  Now, he’s caught on tape saying that the only way the people can stop Congress from stealing is to tie their hands.  Precious.

One harkens back to former Governor Allen on the campaign trail in southern Virginia.  A young man from his rival’s campaign was filming Sen. Allen.  First, he talked about how happy he was to be in “the real Virginia”.  This seemed odd since Sen. Allen lives in Mt Vernon, Virginia in Fairfax County despite a district which runs almost to Charlottesville.  Then, Sen. Allen stared into the camera, told the crowd that he knew the young man was working for Jim Webb’s campaign and proceeded to call the young man Mecaca (Spanish for monkey).  The young man, unlike George Allen, was a native-born Virginian.  Georgie Porgie Puddin’ and Pie would go on to lose the election by the narrowest of margins.  Apparently, calling a young man of south Asian heritage a monkey didn’t sit well with some Virginians.  Now, Rep. Perriello caps his big government voting spree by telling people that the only way to keep Congress from stealing is to tie their hands.  As John McLaughlin says at the end of his well-known show, “Bye, Bye”.

Time to cry on Ophra?  George Allen tried to cover his blunder by first claiming that he didn’t know what “mecaca” meant.  Then, he claimed it wasn’t an insult.  Then, he told a long story about how he had recently learned that his mother was Jewish.  I am not making this up.  More recently, Bob Marshall popped off about how abortions of first pregnancies lead to birth defects in later pregnancies.  He then went on to say that the birth defects were revenge from God against the mother for aborting the first pregnancy.  Honestly, I am not making this up either.  He first apologized and then recanted his apology.  He claimed he was misunderstood and that science vindicated his theory about abortions and birth defects.  Now comes Perriello.  What will he do?  Get invited to the Oprah Show and cry his eyes out for saying mean things about Congress?  Claim it never happened?  Argue over what “stealing” really means.  Stay tuned…

QF: Virginia and CO2 March 17, 2010

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Overview: This blog posting is a Quick Fact (QF) entry.  It provides a basic fact or two without much opinion or commentary.  In this case, Virginia has a mixed electrical generation profile which produces electricity with fewer pounds of CO2 / KwH than the national average.  However, Virginians consume more electricity per capita than the national average.  In combination, these two factors conspire to have Virginians creating more CO2 per capita from electrical generation than the national average.  You might have thought this would have kept down the snow this winter.

Power to the people.  All states generate electricity with different mixes of input fuel.  A particular state’s mix is based on history, location, political atmosphere and other factors.  Virginia’s major input fuels are coal (45%), nuclear (35%), gas (10%), oil (5%), other (5%).  Each input fuel generates an average number of pounds of CO2 per kWh.  The weighted average for Virginia is 1.196 lbs of CO2 / kWh.  The national average is 1.329 lbs of CO2 / kWh.

Energy gluttons.  States have populations with different per capita energy use profiles.  Factors such as weather, economic activity and affluence all impact the number of kWh used per year in the state.  Virginians, on average, consume 14,390 kWh per person per year.  The national average is 12,347 kWh per person per year.

The Gassy Dominion:

Virginia: 1.196 lbs of CO2 / kWh * 14,390 kWh / person / year = 17,210.44 pounds of CO2 per person per year.

National average: 1.329 ibs of CO2 / kWh * 12,347 kWh / person / year = 16,409.16 pounds of CO2 per person per year.

All I need is the air that I breathe.  An average person generates 2.3 lbs of CO2 per day by breathing.  That’s 839.5 pound per year.  The average Virginian generates 20.5 times as much CO2 through his or her consumption of electricity than they do by breathing.

2005 – a very good year.  2005 is also the most recent year for which I could find data on this topic.  Therefore, all figures and related calculations are based on 2005 data.

Political Sunset in Rural VA March 16, 2010

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Overview – An interesting article in yesterday’s Washington Post by Frederick Kunckle relates the recently completed Virginia Assembly 2010 session to the future of the Commonwealth.  Kunckle quotes Northern Virginia politicians who feel that the 2010 census and related redistricting will tip the balance of power in Virginia from rural areas to urban, suburban and ex-urban areas.  By this logic, Northern Virginia and Tidewater stand to gain power while rural Virginia stands to lose power.  Some see the 2010 session as the end of an era where rural interests ruled the state.  David H. Brink went so far as to say, “…kind of the last gasp of the Virginia of the 20th century.”.

You can read the article here.

Follow the Money – The most contentious aspect of the 2010 legislative session for Northern Virginia lawmakers may have been former Gov. Tim Kaine’s proposal to freeze the Local Composite Index (LCI) for one year.  The LCI is labyrinthine set of formulae which determine which localities get what portion of the tax money dedicated for K-12 education.  In all years (including 2010) the formulae result in localities in Northern Virginia contributing far more in taxes for education that NoVa gets back from the state to fund its own educational needs.  This year, the balance tilted slight back toward NoVa.  While NoVa would still pay far more than it receives, the lower property values in NoVa would make that gap smaller than it was last year.  Deciding not to honor the decades-old formulae former Gov. Kaine froze the LCI formula at last year’s levels.  This would have required as large a subsidy from NoVa to elsewhere as was the case last year.  Northern Virginia’s state politicians appealed to newly elected Gov. McDonnell to unfreeze the formulae.  Some even threatened to block passage of the over budget if Kaine’s freeze were not thawed by McDonnell.  McDonnell caved.  Sort of.  He actually raised funding for education beyond the LCI formulae.  He gave NoVa the money owed it from the LCI calculation and then took money from elsewhere in the budget and ensured that no locality would get less money than last year.  In rural-centric Virginia only urban and suburban localities can get less money from the LCI formulae.  When rural localities lose money under the formulae it is found elsewhere in the budget.  I expect that to be one of the changes which census-fueled redistricting will occasion.

Heightened Tensions – The gulf between rural and urban / suburban Virginia goes well beyond LCI funding.  It affects other budgetary areas like transportation.  If the expected demographic change takes place based on the 2010 census expect to see the gas tax go up to fund transportation.  If McDonnell makes good on his campaign promise to veto that bill he will lose urban / suburban Virginia for the Republicans for decades to come, especially in vote heavy NoVa.  Gun control will be back in the limelight.  Look for a repeal of this session’s “guns in bars” legislation.  Anti-discrimination protections will be formally extended to state employees for “sexual orientation”.  Perhaps many other changes will be catalyzed by the redistricting that may come from the 2010 census.

Groveton’s Grip – The 2010 census will dramatically change the political landscape in Virginia.  However, partisan redistricting will be used to try to keep GA seats in Republican hands.  The Republicans, even from urban and suburban areas, will pledge allegiance to their rural masters and prevent some of the possible changes I have described.  Beyond that, the true rot of the General Assembly will become visible.  Rules will be broken and dirty tricks unveiled as the rural core of Virginia’s Republican Party vainly tries to steer the Commonwealth on its long-standing conservative course.  Expect to see a lot of bills die in committee.  These efforts will all ultimately fail.  However, I think the Old Dominion will be quite a few years into the new decade before it becomes the New Dominion envisioned by some NoVa legislators.

Barack Hussein Hoover March 16, 2010

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Overview: President Obama’s anti-recession policies are usually considered a page from the FDR playbook.  In many ways they are.  What I find interesting is that FDR’s anti-depression policies (aka The New Deal) were themselves a replay of Herbert Hoover’s initial approach.  By the transitive property of politics, if Roosevelt = (early) Hoover and Obama = Roosevelt, then Obama = (early) Hoover.

Talking in Silence.  Silent Cal that is.  Calvin Coolidge was the predecessor to Herbert Hoover who was the predecessor to Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Understanding the Great Depression requires (at least) an understanding of Calvin Coolidge.  President Coolidge was a hard man to summarize.  Born on the fourth of July, raised on a farm, educated at Amherst, a Republican governor of Massachusetts, a politician who so disliked talking he was nicknamed Silent Cal.  Coolidge was an unheralded member of the Harding Administration who became president when Warren Harding suddenly died in 1923.  Coolidge ran for president in 1924 and won.  He declined to run again in 1928 saying that 10 years as president (part of Harding’s term and two of his own) was too much.  Coolidge was the proponent of small government who inspired Ronald Reagan.    He held the federal budget flat, lowered taxes and presided over one of the greatest periods of prosperity in American history (The Roaring 20s).  With the economy booming and the federal budget flat Coolidge reduced the deficit by 25% even with his tax cuts.  He was the wellspring of the trickle down river.  By 1927 only the wealthiest 2% of Americans paid any income tax.  Silent Cal disdained regulation and appointed bureaucrats who shared his view.  Only one man in his cabinet was a real proponent of government activism – his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover.

Dam that Hoover.  Herbert Hoover’s inauguration occurred at perhaps the worst time that a president was ever sworn in.  He took the oath of office on March 4, 1929.  The stock market crashed seven and one half months later, on Oct. 24, 1929.  Hoover never saw it coming.  In his inaugural address Hoover said, ” Given the chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, we shall soon with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation.”.  Not quite.

Historical witch hunt – History is clear on what happened next.  Republican loser Hoover did nothing and the Great Depression deepened until Democratic miracle worker Franklin D. Roosevelt saved the day with the New Deal.  At least, that’s what the history texts outside of Texas say.  Remember, it’s hard to deify Roosevelt unless your demonize Hoover.  But what really happened?  What did Hoover really do?

Spend, spend, spend (with deficits, deficits, deficits) – For the federal fiscal year July 1929 – June 1930 tax receipts were $4.1B, outlays were $3.3B, the surplus was +$.7B or +0.8% of GDP.  Two years later from July 1931 – June 1932 tax receipts were $1.9B, outlays were $4.7B, the deficit was -$2.7B or -4.0% of GDP.  Two years after that, from July 1933 – June 1934 tax receipts were $3.0 B, outlays were $6.5B, the deficit was -$3.6B  or -5.9% of GDP.

Tax, tax, tax – The federal income tax schedule (married filing jointly) in 1931 started with the lowest rate of 1.5% for people making between $0 – $4,000.  The highest rate was 25% for people making over $100,000.  In 1932, the lowest rate was 4% for people making between $0 – $4,000 and 63% for people making over $1,000,000.  A person making $100,000 in 1931 was in the 25% marginal rate.  In 1932 the same person was in the 56% marginal rate.  Obama is a piker compared to Hoover.

Odds and ends – Hoover made business commit to keeping wages high.  If you were lucky enough to keep your job your real wages went up at 3% per year compounded from 1929 to 1933.  Part of this was the committment by business not to lower wages, part was a deflation that made everything cheaper.  Smoot-Hawley was enacted during the Hoover Administration.  Designed to keep agricultural jobs afloat the Smoot-Hawley Act set big tariffs on imports.  Of course, other nations retaliated with tariffs of their own.  Since American farmers were net exporters they were also net losers in the trade war.  Finally, in a scene reminiscent of Prince William County today, Hoover started deportations.  In 1929 279,678 people immigrated into the US while 69,203 left.  Four years later the numbers had reversed.  35,576 entered the US, 103,295 departed.

Channeling Obama – In his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in 1932 Hoover said, “We might have done nothing.  That would have been utter ruin.  Instead, we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic.  We put it into action.”.

Gerald L. Baliles March 13, 2010

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Overview: As we sit today remembering the recent legacy of Tim Kaine and contemplating the future legacy of Bob McDonnell many of us get despondent.  Why are all Virginia governors so partisan?  Why are they rabid right or loony left?  It was not that long ago that Virginia was none of these things.  Gerald L. Baliles exemplified the effective, middle-of-the road governor Virginia needs again.  A Democratic Party man, he could work with  a Republican President.  A progressive, he was focused on economic development.  He was the transportation governor back when that meant actually addressing transportation problems.  He was the education governor who made Virginia education the best in the south.  He was a man who actually did in office what he promised on the campaign trail.  He is Jerry Baliles.

Remembering Baliles: For those who may not have lived in Virginia during the Baliles Administration (or, for those who may have forgotten):

Baliles was a great governor.

Economic Development: “Baliles served as the 65th Governor of Virginia from 1986 to 1990, and ushered in a period of economic development for Virginia.”.

Transportation:   “Improving Virginia’s transportation infrastructure and increasing its revenues was one of his signature accomplishments. Recognized by colleagues for his emphasis on strategic planning and preparation, Baliles was known as Virginia’s “transportation governor” because of the premium he placed on improving transportation in the state. In 1986, Baliles guided a $422 million-a-year revenue package through a special session of the General Assembly to improve Virginia’s transportation system, and observers still credit him with the foresight of that effort. Another key priority was ensuring the state’s ability to participate and compete in world markets, and during his administration Virginia’s international trade grew substantially.”.

Wealth Creation:    “During Baliles’ administration, the state boasted the highest per-capita income in the South, and the ninth highest in the nation. He appointed the first woman, Elizabeth B. Lacy, to the Virginia Supreme Court, expanded the state prison system, and sought to strengthen the state’s environmental protections, including cleaning the Chesapeake Bay. In 2004 he served as chair of a blue-ribbon panel to raise money for the Bay cleanup, and in 2005 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation named him conservationist of the year.”

What the heck … I’ll end up quoting the whole article … just read it…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_L._Baliles

When is the Sabbath? March 13, 2010

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Overview:  I gave up beer for Lent. Well, that’s not quite true.  I wanted to give up beer but decided that just switching to martinis was a shallow sacrifice.  Therefore, I went with all alcohol.  Having made such a rash promise I realized that I had to answer some questions.  How long is Lent?  What constitutes a Lenten sacrifice?  What day is the Sabbath?  When does the Sabbath begin and end?  What possible loopholes might accompany a Lenten sacrifice?

How long is Lent?  Lent is the period representing the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert.  Something like the Middle Eastern equivalent of an Australian “walkabout” I guess.  During those 40 days Jesus encountered the Devil and drove him off by quoting scriptures at him.  So, Lent is 40 days – right?  No, it’s actually longer.  More on that later in the post.

 What constitutes a Lenten sacrifice?  Many observant Christians sacrifice a vice during Lent.  The sacrifice is meant to show a renewed reverence in the run up to Easter.  There are no rules for what can be sacrificed.  It’s between you and God.  However, it is generally accepted that you have to sacrifice something you like in order for the sacrifice to count.  Sacrificing the study of Aramaic only counts if you both study Aramaic and like it – an unusual combination.  I have sacrificed beer which I felt compelled to expand to all booze.

What day is the Sabbath?  This one is not as easy as it sounds.  Or, maybe it is.  The Sabbath is clearly defined in the Bible as basically being Saturday (or, the 7th Day).  Whoa!?!  Most Christians don’t go to church on Saturday, they go to church on Sunday.  What gives?  Well, first of all, some Christians (notably 7th Day Adventists and 7th Day Baptists) do attend services on Saturday.  However, most consider Sunday the Sabbath and attend services on Sunday.  Essentially, the ancient Catholic church simply decided that Sunday would be a better Sabbath than Saturday.  Thus, the so-called 8th Day became the common Sabbath in Christianity.  Some say this was intentional since Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday (Easter Sunday – the end of Lent, to be precise).  However, I suspect either a clerical error or a conflict with some Roman commercial tradition like market day being Saturday.  Much like the tradition of Jesus being born on Dec. 25 (almost certainly not true), many Christian traditions are linked to pre-Christian customs and celebrations.  Either way, my Sabbath is Sunday.

When does the Sabbath begin and end?  Most people think that a day starts at 12:01 and ends at midnight.  Most people didn’t write the Bible.  The Bible is pretty clear – a day starts at sundown and goes until the next sundown.  Therefore, my Sabbath of Sunday actually starts at sundown on Saturday and continues until sundown on Sunday.  Presumably, this is why attending Catholic Mass on Saturday evening is an acceptable way of holding the Sabbath holy.

 What possible loopholes might accompany a Lenten sacrifice?  One big one.  Jesus walked in the desert for 40 days.  Yet, Lent is longer.  Why?  Because Lent doesn’t count Sabbaths in the 40 day total.  That’s right – Sabbaths aren’t part of Lent.  They are feast days which are excluded from the observance of Lent including … you got it … Lenten sacrifices.  So, Lenten sacrifices are suspended for the feast day, or Sabbath, during Lent.  The feast day (aka the Sabbath) starts at sundown Saturday and continues until sundown Sunday.  Right now it’s 6:06 on Saturday night and definitely getting dark.  All of which leads me to my last question in this sequence – Will the Pabst be cold before it’s really dark?  I must go find out.

Happy Sabbath.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning March 13, 2010

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Overview: After a long absence from blogging on Groveton’s Virginia, I am back.  The blog has a new look and I have a new attitude.  Gone is the ominous black background.  Also gone is some of the more biting rhetoric.  I will keep up the fight with regard to politics, politicians and the Commonwealth.  However, I will “tone down” some of the commentary.

The snow has melted: After a long, cold winter the snow has finally melted.  Daffodils are blooming and the Bartlett Pears and world-famous cherry blossoms will be right around the corner.  I have decided that the thaw in weather ought to be matched by a thaw in my attitude.  The recent health care debate has been shocking for its lack of civility.  I am personally embarrassed to be represented by the current Congress.  They should be ashamed of themselves.

Blogger, Heal Thyself: As I have contemplated the lack of civility in modern political discourse I’ve had to consider my own commentary.  I believe I have some valid points but I have joined the throes of angry commentators using angry language.  As of today I start on a program of self-reform.  Plenty of hard-core opinion, less hard-nosed rhetoric.

Banned list: I am banning myself from using some of my favorite terminology.  No longer will I refer to the political and social elite in Virginia as the “Descendants of Pocahontas”.  I will not call our General Assembly “The Clown Show in Richmond”.  I will no longer refer to Tim Kaine as “The Worst Governor in Virginia History”.  You get the point.