There's a certain irony in the General Assembly entertaining proposals to crack down on "payday" lending -- the usurious financial practice that preys on the poor by suckering them into debt. Payday establishments have to entice customers to walk through the doors voluntarily (at least the first time). The legislature can raise taxes -- and does -- secure in the knowledge that citizens must pay whether they want to or not. Like payday lending, the Lottery wouldn't make any money if it didn't exploit people's hopes -- and their innumeracy."The Payday Racket," January 13, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Iraq plan concerns J. WarnerSuch eminent statesmanship. Shouldn't we what?
By Peter Hardin, Richmond Times-Dispatch Washington Correspondent
Washington -- Sen. John W. Warner, who helped lead Congress to support in 2002 the use of military force against Saddam Hussein, voiced skepticism yesterday about President Bush's planned troop buildup.
"Shouldn't we walk a few steps along this line and then see how quickly -- hopefully -- the Iraqis begin to take up their responsibilities?" asked Warner, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. (link)
I guess the guy deserves some small credit. He at least knows which way the wind blows.
"... overrated ... underperforming ... race ... gender."
White House rips Boxer over Rice
By Charles Hurt, The Washington Times
The White House and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday accused Democrats of suggesting that the secretary's childlessness, race and sex are to blame for mistakes in Iraq.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said Sen. Barbara Boxer's comments that Miss Rice won't "pay the price" for her decisions in the Iraq war because she is unmarried and without children was a "great leap backward for feminism."
"I don't know if she was intentionally that tacky, but I do think it's outrageous," he told Fox News.
But Mrs. Boxer and Democrats are making no apologies.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii called Miss Rice "the most overrated, underperforming individual in executive authority that I have ever seen."
"She constantly gets a pass," he told the Honolulu Star Bulletin this week, days before the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day. "Who knows if the whole question of race and gender come into it, but ... I can't account for it, except to say she isn't up to the mark." (link)
And the left had a problem with Virgil Goode for criticizing some whacked-out Farrkhan supporter.
They're all a disgrace.
Preparing for the party fight
By Jerry Fuhrman
It's high noon in the OK Corral. The Clanton gang looks warily upon its foe. The desperados array themselves tactically opposite Wyatt Earp and his deputies. All have loaded their weapons and are preparing for the epic gunfight. The outcome of this battle, very much in doubt, will determine who controls Tombstone.
To better understand the epic duel, think of the commonwealth of Virginia as Tombstone, the state legislature as the OK Corral, and the Clanton gang as the Democrats. Now think of the Republicans opposite them -- Wyatt Earp and his deputies -- being hog-tied, muzzled, bleeding profusely from previous encounters, with broken legs and arms, nearly blinded, and with delirium and fever having set in. And they're low on ammunition. Oh, and half the Earp posse has gone over to the Clanton side.
Welcome to the Big Transportation Funding Debate -- 2007.
The nature of this larger-than-life face-off probably began when former Gov. Mark Warner succeeded in pulling a handful of spineless Republicans over to his side to end the education funding debate in 2004, an act of cowardice on their part that resulted in a massive tax increase being foisted upon the people of Virginia and levels of improvement in our education system being ... well, they really didn't change at all. But that's for another day.
Then came Republican Jerry Kilgore's trouncing in the governor's race last year. An avowed conservative, Kilgore's message, convoluted though it became, by all accounts never resonated with the people of Northern Virginia (though he remained wildly popular in all other regions of the state) and he was defeated handily by a temporarily conservative foe who took away Kilgore's thunder by vowing to not raise taxes under any circumstances.
Which brings us to Gov. Tim Kaine's tax increase proposal of 2006. Though smarting from Kilgore's loss and the betrayal of formerly stalwart Republicans in the previous tax hike wars, party loyalists, led by Roanoke's Morgan Griffith and his band of courageous House delegates, did what was seemingly impossible: They stopped a powerful and influential bloc, referred to famously as the "axis of taxes," comprised of senators of both parties, Democrat House members, the mainstream press, public school and university administrators, and every other group in the state with a hand in your pocket, in their tracks. Because of their valiant efforts, the people of Virginia were spared another massive tax increase in 2006 that would have followed close on Warner's massive tax increase of 2004.
Then came Sen. George Allen's shocking loss last month, followed by recriminations within the party and the obligatory soul searching:
"We've lost touch with the people of Northern Virginia." "We haven't taken into account the rapidly changing demographics in Northern Virginia." "We need to understand that 60 percent of the population growth in the commonwealth, much of it 'ethnic,' is in Northern Virginia." "Traditional family values are unimportant in Northern Virginia; education, transportation, and 'smart growth' are the important issues in Northern Virginia."
Northern Virginia, where Republicans and Democrats, male and female alike, old and young, white and black (and ethnic) unite in a grand desire to raise everyone's taxes beyond their means to resolve problems that citizens in the remainder of the state would give their eyeteeth to have, all relating to explosive growth and eye-popping economic prosperity.
You can see it coming. Republicans suddenly feel like they're on the ropes and there's only one way to get right with the people. Listen to Rep. Tom Davis's (R-Northern Va.) assessment to The Washington Post after the election:
"This is a challenge to our leaders in our legislature to find some common ground. The voters look at our legislature today and see the fighting between the different factions and say: 'Are we capable of governing?' That's going to be our challenge in 2007."
Translation: You knuckle-draggers in the party need to compromise or we're doomed.
So Morgan Griffith and his cohorts, Reagan conservatives in that fine tradition, the only elected officials remaining in office in the state of Virginia who remember the ones what brung 'em, are soon to begin assembling in the OK Corral for the fight of their lives. For the fight of our lives.
Bruised, battered, bloody, bandaged -- but not bowed -- they face a formidable foe.
Wonderful painting. Great story.
Blacksburg artist captures King's emotion in acrylic
Virginia Tech is using a portrait by Matheus de Oliveira for its MLK Celebration Week.
By Lindsay Key, The Roanoke Times
Blacksburg -- The portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. displayed in conjunction with Virginia Tech's MLK Celebration Week events shows the social activist during a quiet moment, with his chin resting upon thoughtfully clasped hands.
Virginia Tech employees planning last year's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration ran across de Oliveira's portrait of King when it hung in his mother's hair salon in downtown Blacksburg.
"I went to see the portrait and made the decision that this is what we were looking for," Ray Plaza said in an e-mail. "I shared with the group and all agreed that this would work well."
He said staff sat down with de Oliveira and worked out a $500 contract in which the artist's rights were protected, while the university also obtained the right to use the image for annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations. (link)
Click on image to enlarge.
Image courtesy of Virginia Tech.
Commerce Park sets up virtual buildingTo think, if planners had created this virtual building long ago instead of the empty complex that cost better than a million dollars to develop, local citizens would only be out 30,000 smackers.
The empty industrial park* hopes a virtual building will lure a real-world tenant.
By Angela Manese-Lee, The Roanoke Times
On screen, a large, boxy metal building is fronted by 20,000 square feet of office space and looks out on a parking lot dotted with cars and small, decorative trees.
In reality, the building doesn't exist and the land it would sit on is graded yet empty.
But members of the New River Valley Commerce Park Participation Committee hope reality will soon mimic virtual representation at the more than 900-acre Commerce Park near Dublin.
In November 2005, the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance announced plans to develop ... (link)
And if local governments had returned that million to its rightful owners, investments might have been made and jobs created. Prosperity might have flowed.
Instead, we're down to building virtual buildings for virtual businesses that will pay virtual wages to virtual employees to feed their very real families who can now be found in Omaha, having packed up and moved long ago in order to escape this virtual reality we call Southwest Virginia.
For the love of God.
* This is one of the achievements (having helped build "industrial parks" in various places around the district), believe it or not, that Congressman Boucher bragged about in his recent reelection campaign.
Well, actually I watched it on television. He was across the parking lot inside the stadium somewhere.
Still, we almost rubbed elbows. And there was a car in the lot that might have been his ...
I mentioned earlier in the week that I'd been quoted in the L.A. Times (in a column dealing with John McCain). Now an even more prestigious publication has linked to the weblog - WorldNetDaily ( a post dealing with Nancy Pelosi's hypocrisy).
What? Bill O'Reilly's on the phone?