Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ken Cuccinelli Thinks Things Through

Understanding the Law of Unintended Consequences

There has been quite a bit of blog debate on the “Triggerman Rule” changes that passed the Virginia State Senate. Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37), a Republican candidate for Attorney General, was the lone Republican to vote against these revisions.

Now I was not particularly emotional about this issue, and I really wasn’t going to comment. However, after reading what was being said both for and against Ken Cuccinelli, I felt I had to say something. Yes, I am a supporter of Ken Cuccinelli in the Attorney General race, but I plan to support whoever is the Republican nominee

The best synopsis I have seen comes from the I’m Surrounded by Idiots blog. Ken’s own words speak for themselves:

So you have the information yourself, I have always been a supporter of Virginia’s death penalty law. In the Senate, I have consistently fought against Democrats’ efforts to impose a death penalty moratorium - and I have opposed efforts to allow endless appeals in death penalty cases.

As a State Senator, I have voted to extend the death penalty to people who murder trial witnesses, judges and law enforcement officers. And as your Attorney General, I am committed to upholding the death penalty verdicts of our juries and will work to defend and strengthen our capital punishment law from intrusions and attempts by the left to derail it.

I also have supported and will continue to support the death penalty under the current exceptions to the “triggerman rule” for (1) terrorism (including the beltway sniper case), (2) murder for hire, and (3) criminal enterprises/gangs. However, there have been legislative attempts to completely eliminate the triggerman rule, which I believe would be too broad an expansion. That’s the only expansion of the death penalty that I have ever opposed, while supporting other expansions and always defending our current death penalty statute.
Senator Cuccinelli has been a great supporter of law enforcement and does believe in the use of capital punishment when it is appropriate. However, Ken is also analytical enough to understand when changes in the law can go too far or can be abused. This is not a “liberal” or “conservative” thing, but you can call it “classically liberal” in this case. Ken understands the “Law of Unintended Consequences,” in which the results obtained to not comport well with the intent(s) of the legislation. He also understands how laws have been abused in other countries, and, most importantly, how citizens do have to be protected from potentially unaccountable government.

Doesn’t everyone remember the disastrous abuser fee legislation of 2007? We all quickly saw how unpopular the fines were and how these fees were a poor way to fund road construction. Now, nobody’s perfect, but at least Ken understands from recent law-making experience how the Law of Unintended Consequences can also backfire.

The Republican candidates have enough legitimate issues to discuss, and should be sharing with the voters their vision of how they would be the best Attorney General. This Triggerman Rule issue is one on which thoughtful people can disagree and present legitimate arguments, but, as my friend Chris at Mason Conservative has pointed out, is unproductive as one on which to smear opponents.

FULL DISCLOSURE STATEMENT: I wrote this post without any prompting by the Cuccinelli campaign.

Thanks for Nothing, Timmy!

Chomping at the Bit to Delay Drilling

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on February 19, 2009 asking him to delay the sale of oil and gas exploration lease rights. Kaine’s reasoning was that he wanted the delays to be in keeping with Secretary Salazar’s 180-day extension of the comment period on the proposed development of oil and gas resources on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. The sales were scheduled to take place in 2011. Governor Kaine also wants to avoid “singling out a particular state for a lease sale.”

Now wait – aren’t we facing a budget deficit in Virginia? Wouldn’t development of oil and gas result in more high-paying jobs and an expanded tax base? Does anyone really think that these “green jobs” could really be an effective substitute for energy development? I am not saying that all green jobs (even the government-funded ones) are worthless, but they can’t be to the exclusion of private sector energy development.

The American Petroleum Institute had some interesting things to say on February 25. They noted that this is part of “a pattern” of delay, especially after the Secretary extended the comment period on other oil and gas leasing proposals. Note this interesting passage from API President Jack Girard:

Americans support expanded development of our domestic resources. Even as oil and gasoline prices have plummeted in recent months, 61 percent say they want to see development of our resources in off-limits federal waters. A full 70 percent of Virginians in a July poll supported increased offshore development. It is time to start listening to the wisdom of the American people and stop putting off until tomorrow what we should be doing today.

Now that Tim Kaine is Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he works for people who are much more important than mere constituents. He has probably learned all kinds of interesting technological things from his Hollywood donor base, like how you don’t need all that drilling when you can just get energy from the plug!

So what kind of car does Timmy drive?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

School Daze

Lack of Feedback

Let’s take a break from politics for a second.

Has this happened to any of you? My older son is in second grade, and generally enjoys school and likes the teacher. However, when we see the report cards, we do not know on what these grades are based because the teacher does not hand back tests or in-class assignments. As we have found out, all the other parents are complaining about the same thing and have not gotten any response from the teacher. This has been going on since September, so by my calculations, the teacher must have several hundred, if not a thousand, pieces of paper she has not returned.

My wife met with the teacher recently to discuss our son’s progress. Per our (advance) request, the teacher did hand back all the tests and promised to do a better job in returning assignments. She blamed her poor responsiveness on the disproportionate time she had to devote to a particularly unruly child who had been in the class (and has since left the school). However, over the past three weeks, she has backslid. I note that another second grade teacher also has not handed back tests to her students.

My wife has talked with other parents, and they want to send a letter to the principal. We found out via the grapevine that this teacher did not hand back tests in previous years, either. The teacher is a nice, pleasant, devoted teacher otherwise. The problem is, that without the immediate feedback we get from graded tests and other assignments, we do not know if our son needs immediate attention with his school work or behavior.

Have any of you been in this situation? What would you do?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Guess Who Else Doesn’t Pay Taxes

No Wonder These Clowns Like Obama

Hat tip: Powerline

I always thought that the term “Eurocrat” referred to a bureaucrat in the European Union. Apparently, it is now the answer to the question, “What do you get when you cross a European with a Democrat?”

According to The Telegraph, EU Parliamentarians can earn millions in profits and have been remiss in paying their taxes. EXCERPT:

Mr. [Matthew] Elliott [Chief Executive of Taxpayers Alliance] said each MEP could save more than £1 million from their expenses and pension benefits over a five-year term at the European Parliament.

Over five years, each MEP can claim this includes a subsistence allowance of 117,000 Euros, staff allowance of 489,840 Euros, office expenses of 243,120 Euros, travel expenses of 60,000 Euros and an accrued pension of £350,000.

This does not include the MEP salary of £63,291, which is set to increase to £73,584 after the European Parliament elections in June 2009.

There was also widespread failure to comply with tax, company and social security laws. Nearly 80 per cent of transactions that should have been subject to VAT displayed no evidence of either VAT payment or exemption.

In his report, Mr. [Robert] Galvin [EU internal audit official] found that overpayments of parliamentary allowances were common.

Now remember, “It couldn’t happen here!”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Economics Professor Explains the "Stimulus"

A friend sent me this:

Shortly after class, an economics student approaches his economics professor and says, "I don't understand this stimulus bill. Can you explain it to me?"

The professor replied, "I don't have any time to explain it at my office, but if you come over to my house on Saturday and help me with my weekend project, I'll be glad to explain it to you."

The student agreed and, at the agreed-upon time, the student showed up at the professorʼs house.The professor stated that the weekend project involved his backyard pool. They both went out back to the pool, and the professor handed the student a bucket.

Demonstrating with his own bucket, the professor said, "First, go over to the deep end, and fill your bucket with as much water as you can." The student did as he was instructed. The professor then continued,"Follow me over to the shallow end, and then dump all the water from your bucket into it."

The student was naturally confused,but did as he was told. The professor then explained they were going to do this many more times, and began walking back to the deep end of the pool.

The confused student asked, "Excuse me, but why are we doing this?" The professor matter-of-factly stated that he was trying to make the shallow end much deeper. The student didn't think the economics professor was serious, but figured that he would find out the real story soon enough. However, after the 6th trip between the shallow end and the deep end, the student began to become worried that his economics professor had gone mad.

The student finally replied, "All we're doing is wasting valuable time and effort on unproductive pursuits. Even worse, when this process is all over, everything will be at the same level it was before, so all you'll really have accomplished is the destruction of what could have been truly productive action!"

The professor put down his bucket and replied with a smile, "Congratulations! You now understand the stimulus bill."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wow, Some “Moderate” He Turned Out To Be!

Radical Yes, Moderate No

Do you all remember the 2008 U.S. Senate campaign in Virginia? OK, would you rather not remember? Do you all remember how Mark Warner characterized himself as the “radical moderate?” Let’s recall how the Washington Post said that Mark Warner would “carry on John Warner's legacy of nonpartisan pragmatism.” EXCERPT:
Voters also must choose a candidate who can grasp the nuances of erratic financial markets and who will bring a deft touch to the difficult decisions that will determine the country's fiscal future. By these criteria -- and many others -- the choice between two ex-governors is clear. One candidate, Democrat Mark R. Warner (no relation to John), is a successful entrepreneur who rescued Virginia from insolvency by streamlining government while modestly raising taxes -- and still left office with an approval rating above 70 percent. The other, Republican James S. Gilmore III., is an unapologetic, not very thoughtful partisan whose reckless tax cuts nearly drove Virginia to financial ruin. We endorse Mr. Warner without reservations.

Of course, the Post was lying about Gilmore driving Virginia to financial ruin. What is so interesting, though, is the Post’s praise for Warner’s “deft touch.” Wow, did the Post notice the “stimulus bill” that was just signed by President Obama? I think that spending over a trillion dollars (including interest), most of it on pork, is anything but a deft touch! Even better from the Post endorsement:
His success was based in part on his business-like reform of state government, especially the transportation department, and in part on his willingness to listen to all players, from either party and every region of the state.

Okaaaay! So how does increasing the government’s interference in health care markets and forcing expensive unionization of Federal spending comport with “business-like” reform? Given the massive skepticism of this spending bill (with most people saying that it will either hurt the economy or do no good), how was Warner listening to all players?

Clearly, we have quick proof that Mark Warner is just another spendthrift leftist who would say anything to get elected. He may be riding high now, but we all remember that Chuck Robb did so also. Maybe Warner (along with Jim Webb) will learn the same lesson.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thursday, February 05, 2009

What Does “Shovel Ready” Mean?

Digging for the Truth

Popular Mechanics has an interesting article concerning the meaning of “shovel ready,” and how little economic “stimulus” these projects really provide. EXCERPT:

So what exactly is a shovel-ready project? As the Washington Post recently pointed out, the term “shovel-ready” may have been introduced in the 1990s by New York-based electric utility Niagara-Mohawk Power, which later became National Grid (it is the current owner of the URL There are no specific parameters or requirements that define shovel readiness. But according to civil engineers, the idea behind this new buzzword could help scuttle the stimulus bill’s highly publicized, though secondary, goal of infrastructure reform. At issue is that 90-day restriction stipulated by Congress, an even narrower window than the bill’s original 180-day limit. “They’re well intentioned, and they know their infrastructure sucks, so they’re trying to do immediate reactive management to what is a very deep, endemic problem,” says Robert Bea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “If you want to patch some potholes in the road, this is a good program. But if you’re hoping for anything long-term with this approach, throw away all hope. It can’t happen.”
I am not saying that more ambitious road and bridge projects (maintenance or construction) are unworthy. However, these projects take a lot of time in terms of manpower, material acquisition, project management, etc. Regulatory hurdles also exist to make even the most successful road or bridge project happen. (Witness how long it’s taken to get the Wilson Bridge Project or the Intercounty Connector started.) I’ve actually taken some courses in project management, and believe me, implementing PM concepts is very difficult in the private sector. In the government, success varies widely, but it is quite haphazard.

Even the most “shovel ready” projects could still face opposition. I’ve actually seen environmentalist complaints concerning the smallest paving projects, with claims that runoff from tar and asphalt harms streams.

Of course, most of the “stimulus" has nothing to do with immediate projects that can be accomplished quickly or create a lot of jobs. It’s all about repaying rent-seeking constituencies that support the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

One Percent, and 650 Parts Per Million

Looking Ahead in Fairfax

Despite my best efforts, the citizens of Fairfax did not take my advice but instead elected Sharon Bulova to be the Chairman (Chairwoman?) of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Her margin of victory over Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity was about 1,200 votes out of about 103,000 cast, with a 50.0% to 48.8% percentage margin. I am proud to say that in my precinct, anyway, Mr. Herrity got about 60% of the vote.

So congratulations to Mrs. Bulova on her victory. However, Fairfax County is still faced with the legendary $650 million budget shortfall. Given that Fairfax County has about one million people, this means that the shortfall will cost $650 for every man, woman, and child in the county. For a family of four, that’s $2,600. Are we going to face this kind of average property tax hike? For us, that represents an increase of more than 50% over what we are paying now.

Clearly, the county needs to set its priorities straight and cut spending. I can’t imagine that all the money being spent is absolutely necessary, or that we will experience a deteriorated quality of life by finding greater efficiencies in county government. I hope Mrs. Bulova listens to the large percentage of constituents who are tired of the tax burden that has increased so rapidly in recent years. If she tries to pull a “Connolly and double our taxes again, she may find that she will be on the losing side of a lot more than 1,200 votes.

Biden Criticizes Pelosi’s Remarks

Resents Encroachment on Territory

Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. today issued a strongly-worded criticism of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). After Pelosi said, "’Every month that we do not have an economic recovery package, 500 million Americans lose their jobs,’" Biden said, “I was so furious my hair plugs were popping out.

“For the Speaker to make the kinds of statements that I would make violates the balance of power the Obama Administration is sharing with Capitol Hill,” said Biden. “I should be the one providing this kind of economic analysis, not Nancy Pelosi.

“G-d love ya, Nancy, but maybe you need to go down to a 7-11 and get a donut from an Indian guy. You’ll feel better, and paying the sales tax alone will make you more patriotic than Tom Daschle.”

The Speaker’s office did not respond to the Vice President. However, an anonymous source said that “doing this J-O-B is a four-letter word that Joe Biden really does not want to do. There’s just no way he could be bright and clean and articulate the way the President is. That’s for storybooks!”

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sharon Pelosi Bulova

“Shut Up and Pay”

Many of my conservative blog associates have done an outstanding job highlighting why Fairfax County needs to elect Pat Herrity (R) over Sharon Bulova (D) in tomorrow’s special election. Kudos go especially to Bwana, who has written a fantastic series of posts on the topic. (I’m sorry if I left anyone out here.)

The arguments from the left are especially ridiculous. They think that the doubling of taxes was necessary to keep up the standard of life we enjoy in Fairfax County? Ridiculous! In fact, I remember how Chris Braunlich, during the 2007 School Board campaign, pointed to a deterioration in minority student achievement in Fairfax DESPITE all the additional money. Let’s face it, the problem is not a lack of money in this case. At the present rate of increase, my property taxes will exceed my mortgage in not too many years.

They say that Pat Herrity doesn’t have enough experience? Excuse me, somehow work in the private sector doesn’t count? Even more ironic, the ones who deride Pat’s experience are the same people who voted for Barack Obama over John McCain! I guess that experience doesn’t matter. Frankly, Pat Herrity has done more work in a year on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors that Barack Obama ever did in four years in the U.S. Senate!

The main fear that the leftists have is that Pat Herrity will follow through on making the budget transparent. The spending machine will be subject to some adult supervision for a change. Voters will find out just what kind of gold-plated purchases the Connolly-Bulova machine has been making under the assumption that taxes can be raised limitlessly. We will find out who all the left wing special interests are! Don’t they sound like Nancy Pelosi?

Isn’t it amazing how the left doesn’t like to be questioned when it comes to all this spending? What happened to the concept of questioning authority? No, it has evolved into “shut up and pay.” Why are we not surprised?

Vote for Pat Herrity on February 3, 2009!