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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Our State Senator Proposes Regressive Tax

Phil Puckett. Always looking out for the little guy.

If that little guy is living in breathtakingly affluent Arlington County, driving a BMW M6, and wants the state to provide him with a quicker way to get to his six-figure job over in D.C.

As for the little guy in Norton - and Abingdon - and Independence - and Bluefield - who's going to have to pay for the man's transportation wants, well, suck it up, bubba, and quit buying all those fruits and vegetables over at the Wal-Mart.

The affluent beckon. And, as always, Senator Phil Puckett is there to carry their water:

Long road lies ahead to replace driver fees
By Michael Sluss, The Roanoke Times

Richmond -- Virginia lawmakers in both parties appear ready to scrap the state's controversial "abusive driver" fees. But they are far from agreeing on how, or whether, the state should replace revenue the fees were supposed to generate.

Lawmakers in both parties have filed bills to abolish the fees, but only a few have proposed new ways to generate maintenance dollars. Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell County, is sponsoring a bill (Senate Bill 411) to increase the state gasoline tax from 17.5 cents per gallon to 20 cents. Even a one-cent increase would produce about $50 million annually, said Puckett, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee. (link)

The gas tax. The most onerous of them all because of the harsh impact it has on the poorest among us.

But no matter. Folks up in northern Virginia want their new roads and bridges.

So you folks in Swords Creek are just going to have to sell your car and walk to Richlands.

Oh, one other thing. A minor matter. Puckett thinks you're stupid:
"The reason behind this is that the gas tax has nothing to do with what you pay at the pump," said Puckett, arguing that prices differ little in border states with higher gas taxes than Virginia's.
Next time you're standing there watching the digital meter on that gas pump race ever upward, look over at that little sticker on the machine that says: 45.9¢ of the price you're paying per gallon is fuel taxes.


Then give Mr. Puckett a call and advise him that we ain't as stupid as he thinks we are.

He can be reached at (804) 698-7538. Assuming he doesn't have his head buried up Tim Kaine's ass when you call.

One Republican With Cojones

While every other politician in the commonwealth runs for cover, and tries his best to make people forget that he voted for those driver fees that have become so notorious, one Republican stands up and says: "Wait a minute. Habitually - and glaringly - hazardous drivers SHOULD be fined for their actions."

Outside the arena chock full of whimpering wienies, David Albo looks in and decides he'll have no part of it. The stuff leaders are made of:
Albo defends driver fees
By Seth McLaughlin, The Washington Times

Richmond — Delegate David B. Albo is standing his ground in support of the "abusive driver" fees that the state started imposing against Virginia drivers in the summer, despite pressure from fellow lawmakers and Virginia residents to scrap the law.

"No one is telling the whole story," Mr. Albo, Fairfax County Republican, who led the efforts to draft the fees, said yesterday.

Mr. Albo said news coverage over the past weekend focused on a Newport News man who was mistakenly fined $1,050 for how he rode his 18-speed Huffy bicycle, not on a "girl who gets totally blasted and kills a lady coming home from choir practice."

The fees, which range from $750 to $3,000 and are imposed on felony- and misdemeanor-driving offenses, were part of the multibillion-dollar transportation deal that the Republican-controlled Assembly and Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, approved last year. They were supposed to raise $65 million a year for highway maintenance and were billed as a way to improve public safety. (link)
A (rare, it seems) man of conviction. And fortitude. Who steers a course into the gale-force winds. I think I like this guy.

Lies, Damn Lies, & The New York Times

Much has been made throughout the blogosphere about that New York Times article ("Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles") that came out on Sunday depicting American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as being out-of-control murderers (in so many words).

An excerpt:

Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife.” Pierre, S.D.: “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress.” Colorado Springs: “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.”

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
Hmm. A red flag immediately goes up. 121 veterans "committed a killing in this country." Committed a killing? A dubious phrase indeed. And, no doubt, intentionally used.

But beyond that, what does that number really mean? Are veterans wandering the streets of America killing with impunity in numbers this nation has never seen before?

Not really. In fact, not hardly.

A pro-America group, Move America Forward, took that number, did a statistical comparison to the population of the USA in its entirety, and found it (and the article as a whole) to be grotesquely overblown.

From an email sent by the group:

New York Times ‘Killer Vet’ Story Exposed as Erroneous by Pro-Troop Group

Sacramento- Move America Forward
the nation’s largest grassroots pro-troop organization, today announced that after vetting the numbers cited by The New York Times in their Sunday, January 13, 2008 story, “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles,” it became clear that the Times had engaged in demonstrably erroneous and false reporting.

It took seven New York Times researchers to find 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in the United States, or were charged with one, upon returning home to this country.

The Times made the false conclusion that: “Taken together, they paint the patchwork of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.”

The Times documentation of 121 potential killings out of more than 1.5 million veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), divided by 6 years of conflict results in a murder rate of just 1.34 incidents per 100,000 veterans per year.

That murder rate is far lower than the murder rate for the general population, demonstrating that the experiences of military service – including having served in Iraq and Afghanistan – actually made it less likely for returning veterans to commit murder once they returned home, than the general population.

Given a census-estimated population of the United States of 300,000,000 persons in this country as of October 2006, and FBI-compiled statistics of 17,399 homicide offenders for 2006, the murder rate of the general population was 5.80 offenders per 100,000 on average – and a rate of approximately 7.67 per 100,000 for men.

Since all but one of the veterans cited by the Times who committed a killing in the U.S. was male, the comparable rate is approximately 7.67 incidents of murder per 100,000 people among the general male population, compared to just 1.34 incidents per 100,000 returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (of both genders).

“It’s obvious that the New York Times has an agenda of undermining the missions of our troops in the War on Terror, so much so that they are willing to resort to demonstrably false statistics to support their anti-troop bias,” said Melanie Morgan, Chairman of Move America Forward.

“The slander of our troops and veterans by the New York Times is unfortunately all too familiar. We heard this kind of nonsense about our returning veterans from Vietnam. It’s the same insult, different war.

“Perhaps the shameful staff of The New York Times has run out of war-time secrets to publish for America’s enemies to read, because now they’ve resorted to an all-out smear campaign of America’s finest men and women, who have served this country bravely and with distinction,” Morgan said.

In place of hard data to support their premise, The New York Times was instead forced to devote almost the entire portion of 6,321 word hit-piece to anecdotes of wrongdoing by individual veterans.

The New York Times even went so far as to trace back the phenomenon of murderous veterans to Greek mythology to back up their assertions of their report.

“The real mythology is the reporting by The New York Times,” Move America Forward’s Melanie Morgan concluded. (emphasis in the original)

Slanderous. Lies, damn lies, and The New York Times

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Ralph Peters has done a similar analysis.

2nd Amendment Responsibilities

An article appearing on the Cato Institute's website entitled "In Liberty's Two Arms," by David Kopel, provides an interesting perspective on the 2nd Amendment. He cites a pair of concepts put forth by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (of all people) in a book entitled Active Liberty, that ...
... "through its philosophical discussions of the meaning of liberty, does show a way to reconcile the subordinate clause of the Second Amendment (the importance of the militia to a free state) and the main clause (gun ownership as an individual right). And this reconciliation of the two clauses strongly suggests that the D.C. gun bans are

"Active liberty, by itself, provides democracy, but it does nothing to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Thus, Enlightenment philosophers articulated a principle of negative liberty: That a person has certain rights that even a majority cannot infringe."

The negative liberty aspect is in the Second Amendment's main clause: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The clause derives from a long line of human rights philosophy about the right of individuals to defend themselves and their families. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his model constitution for Virginia: "No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms in his own lands or tenements."

In forbidding the possession or use of any functional firearm in the home, the D.C. law violates the Second Amendment's main clause. Lawfully registered rifles and shotguns must be kept disassembled or locked up. There is no exception for self-defense.

The introductory clause of the Second Amendment ("A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state") comes not from the tradition of negative liberty, but from classical and Renaissance principles of republicanism, an active liberty tradition.

The active liberty clause is concerned with preserving citizens' ability to contribute to the defense of their communities.
Fascinating stuff. The 2nd Amendment, in its entirety, is reconcilable. Thanks, David.

She Should Gracefully Bow Out

I have to tell you, if Hillary Clinton is going to set race relations back 30 years, perhaps it would be best if she just went away. The rest of us are trying mightily to get beyond the idiocy, and the battle lines being drawn are not helping. At all.

In the news:
Clinton booed at MLK rally in New York
By Kenneth P. Vogel, The Politico

New York, N.Y. — Dogged by continuing racial tensions around her presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton drew a smattering of boos on Monday when she spoke at a religiously tinged Martin Luther King Jr. rally put together by a union organizing predominantly black security workers. The catcalls came when Clinton was introduced and her speech drew only tepid applause ...

The New York senator called on the roughly 2,500, mostly black attendees “to fulfill [King’s] unfinished dream and to live the legacy that we have inherited.” Some of her biggest applause came when she cited her rival for the Democratic nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who had his share of supporters at the event. (link)
It's only going to get worse.

A Republican The New York Times Could Love

Hugh Hewitt yesterday listed the many reasons that a John McCain presidency would be bad for conservatives and, thus, bad for the USA. I'm not sure what I could add to this eye-popping indictment:

John McCain

● voted against the Bush tax cuts, one of only two Republican senators to do so;

● twice authored the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill with its Z Visas and path to citizenship;

● has done nothing to accelerate the construction of the border fence

● stands behind McCain-Feingold even after the Supreme Court has struck down portions of it as unconstitutional;

● defends the Gang of 14 even though a long line of vacancies on the courts of appeal existed at the end of 1006 (and has only gotten longer in 2007);

● worked with Lindsey Graham to destroy the GOP's agenda in September of 2006 by grandstanding over the interrogation and treatment of terrorists bill;

● opposed drilling in ANWR;--opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, twice;--advocates a massive energy tax;

● performed poorly in three straight debates, displaying his off-putting temper on Saturday night last, and then wandering through the Sunday and Thursday debates, often losing the thread of his response and failing to answer the question, raising issues of his energy and age;

● has earned the enmity of grassroots conservative leaders across the country.

I suppose I could add to this list McCain's past calls for a ban of "cheap" handguns, a (silly) requirement that all guns come with trigger locks, and the closing of that non-existent gun show loophole.

But beyond that, I think Hugh has done enough damage.

Any conservative who reads the above and is still considering voting for John McCain isn't a conservative at all.

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More detail on McCain and amnesty provided here.