Sunday, August 31, 2008

An Active Weekend

I spent a few hours yesterday canvassing East Leesburg along with a number of other volunteers on behalf of the Obama and Combined Campaigns. The local Obama team has started coordinating their canvass efforts with the Warner/Feder campaign in the interest of sharing information, minimizing overlap, and encouraging cooperation and collaboration among the people who agree that after the last eight years, America needs something different from its leadership. It is efforts like these that build a foundation of progressive people in Loudoun that will serve us well in the debates to come.

This morning, I took advantage of the end of the month (and thus, FEC reporting period) to give a few dollars to the Feder and Obama campaigns. Judy went on air for the first time last week, and the Obama campaign is doing the right things with its money by expanding the field and hiring staff in corners of America not thought to be good turf for the Democrats.

We face many challenges in America, and in Loudoun, and part of meeting them is making sure we have elected leaders who have the judgment to make the correct call in difficult situations. That's why we all need to join together, and take our country back on November 4th.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hope Versus Revenge

The Presidential tickets this year represent a remarkable contrast between the future and the past, hope and revenge. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are fighters for the American People, focused on where America should be going and how America should be engaging the world and our civil society. John McCain and Sarah Palin are out of touch insiders posing as outsiders with a tendency towards anger and vindictiveness. These are not the qualities America needs in its Presidential leadership.

John McCain has a tendency to throw temper tantrums and call people he works and lives with bad names.
John McCain's temper is well documented. He's called opponents and colleagues "shitheads," "assholes" and in at least one case "a fucking jerk."
...
The man who was known as "McNasty" in high school has erupted in foul-languaged tirades at political foes and congressional colleagues more-or-less throughout his career, and his quickness to anger has been an issue on the presidential campaign trail as evidence of his fury has surfaced.

As Schecter notes, McCain's rage is not limited to the political spectrum, and even his family cannot be spared the brute force of his anger.

Schecter, who also blogs at The Agonist, said in an interview the anecdote is "an early example of his uncontrollable temper." In the book he outlines several other examples of McCain losing his cool and raises the question of how that would affect a McCain presidency. - The Raw Story
Meanwhile Gov. Palin is more direct. She just uses the power of her office to get revenge after ugly divorces.
Sarah Palin, the Republican governor of Alaska who has been rumored to be on the “short list” of vice presidential candidates for Sen. John McCain has a bit of a scandal in her neck of the woods. On Wednesday, Palin admitted that staff members directly under her made at least 24 calls to Department of Public Safety officials in order to pressure them to fire Palin’s ex-brother in law. In the recorded phone calls Frank Bailey, the boards and comissions director, can be heard complaining “[W]hy is this guy still representing the department?”. The recorded conversation only recently surfaced, prompting others to wonder if there was a concerted cover-up led by Gov. Palin to hide the embarrasing incident. - Newstin.com
McCain and Palin illuminate and reinforce each other's worst tendencies. Both react with anger and vindictiveness when people cross them. Both owe their positions to corrupt political machines, although they themselves have convinced many that they are untainted by them. And in all these ways, both represent four more years - four more potentially worse years, given these traits - of the Republican governance that gave us Katrina, the Justice Department hiring scandal, and Scooter Libby.

McCain-Palin will mean more vengeance and vindictiveness out of the White House, it will mean driving America deeper into the ditch, and blaming the dirt for being stuck.

Contrast that with the inspiration and hope offered by Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden. The Democratic Ticket is not afraid of a fight, and will stand up for America in all ways - the actions and speeches of this campaign have confirmed that, not to mention their decisions while in office. But more than that, the Democratic Ticket sees America as fundamentally united, needing to work together to solve our complex problems, to raise up our best values and secure the future for generations to come. The Democratic ticket is not out for revenge, and has never used power for self-aggrandizement or payback. The Democratic ticket holds out hope for a better America, for all us.

In 2008, the election comes down to hope versus revenge, and in that choice, I choose hope every time.

[update] Here's and interview with Sarah Palin. "I look forward to any investigation." Today's Republican Party, the best of them look forward to being investigated.



And she doesn't know what the VP does!

[update 2] And there's now a Facebook group: Sarah Palin Is NOT Hillary Clinton. Awesome.

Watching the Speech in Leesburg

Last night, I watch Sen. Obama's acceptance speech with six or seven other people at Vicki's house in Leesburg. First, many thanks and compliments must go out to Vicki and her husband Ron (of the government history trivia challenge) for a wonderful gathering, tasty food, and great company. At the gathering were a number of local Obama supporters, some of whom have been out of political activism for quite a while, but were reengaged by the Senator's campaign. Two of the people attending were local Republicans with open minds, which was nice to see.

We watched, we ate, we enjoyed wine. We discussed the history of the country in light of Obama's candidacy, touching upon previous vice-presidential choices, the March On Washington and listening to the speakers before Sen. Obama in the background. When Sen. Durbin took the stage, the room got quiet, and I watched all my neighbors sit and watch with rapt attention as our nominee was announced.

During Sen. Obama's speech, many heads nodded and comments were made about how this or that was a good point, or a good perspective. The speech was very well received as the room applauded at its conclusion. After the speech, we were able to explain some of the volunteer opportunities available, and mention to the attendees that a President Obama will need people in Congress like Judy Feder to help him achieve our goals.

I, personally, will go into tomorrow's canvass of my Precinct inspired and energized. The speech was a call to action and a reminder of the cynicism and failures we fight against in this election. I am glad Barack Obama is our nominee, and the time has come to bring change to America, together.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Still Waiting For Wolf

On July 23rd, I sent a fax to Congressman Wolf, asking him where he stands on withdrawing from Iraq. I am one of the Congressman's constituents, I vote, and I am concerned about this critical issue before our nation.

Over a month after sending him a written request for his opinion, he has not responded. To the best of my knowledge, none of the hundreds of constituents who faxed Frank Wolf have received an answer. The man who claims the Iraq Study Group as a success in his career is startlingly silent on the issue of Iraq today.

Frank Wolf is mailing it in, and dodging the important questions of this election. We have been waiting for a long time for action from Frank Wolf on the issues that matter. And a month after asking a simple question, in writing, we're still waiting.

On November 4th, we'll be done waiting. We'll elect Judy Feder to Congress.

Obama Nominated by Acclamation

For a procedure junkie like me, the nomination of Obama by acclamation was exciting and too fun for words.



My personal favorite bit: Who the hell gets recorded as the second for the motion?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kos on Houses

I have to repost this snippet of Kos.
  • The crowd also liked the pin I was wearing. Printed up on Monday by Netroots Nation's Nolan Treadway (with help from others?) it says: "Ask me how many houses I own". (Christy took a picture of it.)

  • So someone then asked me how many houses I owned. I think I calculated it at three percent of a house. The bank owns the other 97 percent.
- DailyKos
My wife and I own 18% of a house, the bank owns the other 82%. How about you?

Here's another note for the news media and others who pose as "regular folks." If your largest single monthly expense is not your residence's mortgage or rent, you're not like us.

An Interlude: "Troops"

Your Wednesday afternoon funny. You gotta love the Cops parody based on Tatooine.



"Now if you move again I'm, ah, gonna shoot ya."

On Loudoun ARMs

Redfin has an excellent post up today about the real estate market in Loudoun and 3/1 ARMs. Here's a taste:
I wrote a few months ago that 2004 is the magic number for Loudoun. If you bought during or before 2004 and you need to sell your house now, you should still be able to walk away with a profit. Those of you (and by that, I also mean me) who bought in 2005 or later might want to sit tight for another year or so.

But for some homeowners, waiting another year could be problematic. Why? Because so many buyers in 2005 and beyond bought their homes at the peak of the market using a 3/1 ARM, and their mortgage clocks are running out. And even though mortgage rates are still very low, they are high enough now that those buyers might not be able to afford the reset mortgage payments. - Redfin
My family also has an ARM, thought not a 3/1, and we bought in 2006, so we've got a little bit of flexibility in our schedule. The article is thoughtful and well worth the read for many of Loudoun's residents who got into the real estate market in the past few years.

Frank Wolf Mails It In

A short while ago, Congressman Frank Wolf sent a mailing to his constituents. Billed as constituent information so he could make use of the free postal services afforded to Congresspeople, in reality it is a thinly disguised campaign mailing designed to make the voters of the 10th District think Frank Wolf is doing something about their issues, without actually having our Congressman do anything about our issues.

Congressman Wolf has sponsored 14 Bills in the 110th Congress. That's about one bill every six weeks. But wait! Of those 14 bills, 13 of them are from 2007. Looking back on Frank Wolf's 28 years in Congress, his track record is even more interesting.
Frank Wolf has sponsored 105 bills since Jan 5, 1993, of which 70 haven't made it out of committee and 17 were successfully enacted. Wolf has co-sponsored 2345 bills during the same time period. - GovTrack.us
The Republicans held the majority in Congress between January 1995 and January 2007. In spite of being a senior member (elected in 1982) of the majority for most of the period tracked by GovTrack, our Congressman was only able to get 17 of his bills passed in fifteen years. In the 110th Congress, only two of his bills were passed, a bill calling for the government to develop a strategy to help Chad (and not Chad, the AOL employee who lost his job on Frank Wolf's watch, Chad the African nation), and a bill expressing condolences on the death of his Congressional colleague Jo Ann Davis.

I don't know about you, but if I only produced approximately one success a year in my job, I'd be fired.

Returning to the mail received recently from our Congressman, it is worthwhile to examine Frank Wolf's constituent mailing on Energy, for example, in comparison with Frank Wolf's actual actions in Congress. To cast an informed vote on November 4th, it is helpful to determine whether our Congressman has actually done something on the issues he claims to care about, versus where the Congressman simply claims action without proof. Let's take Frank Wolf's stated positions on Energy from the mailing one by one.
  • Invest in Alternative Renewable Energy - The Congressman lists this as his top priority in the mailing. And yet, a review of his 110th Congress bills, the Congress in which this emerged as a critical issue, shows that Frank Wolf sponsored no bill to invest in alternative renewable energy. He has cosponsored some of the Republican bills, but demonstrated no individual, independent leadership on this issue.

  • Eliminate Barriers to Exploration - In the 110th Congress, Frank Wolf sponsored no bill to eliminate barriers to exploration. He has "voted for" such things, but demonstrated no individual, independent leadership.

  • Build New Refineries and Expand Old Ones - In the 110th Congress, Frank Wolf sponsored no bill to eliminate barriers to build new refineries and expand old ones. He has "voted for" such things, but demonstrated no individual, independent leadership.

  • Protect Consumers - In the 110th Congress, Frank Wolf sponsored no bill to protect consumers. This issue is not even on the front page of his website.

  • Encourage Conservation - In the 110th Congress, Frank Wolf sponsored no bill to encorage conservation. He "voted for" higher CAFE standards, and "drives a hybrid," but has taken no leadership role in Congress on legislation encouraging conservation.

  • Increase Mass Transit & Telework Options - Frank Wolf claims to have "taken the lead" on rail to Dulles. However, it is unclear how someone who was taken by surprise that the Dulles Rail funding was at risk in the first place can be said to lead on the issue. Furthermore, he has sponsored no legislation on rail or mass transit in the 110th Congress.
Frank Wolf's "actions" on the issues he, himself, claims are critical are little more than parroting of talking points and "me too" co-sponsorship of other Republican's bills.

After 28 years in Congress, Frank Wolf is without an original idea on the issues that Frank Wolf himself understands to be critical in this election. He is simply mailing it in, tagging along with other Republican bills and paying lip service in mailings to his constituents.



Alternative energy, mass transit, consumer protection and energy conservation have been critical issues in Virginia's 10th District for decades. For 28 years, Frank Wolf has served in Congress. For twelve of those years, Frank Wolf was a senior member of the Republican Majority and for five years he was chair of the Transportation Committee. And yet, in that critical period where Frank Wolf should have gotten something done on these critical issues, he did nothing. It is only now, when being challenged, that he stirs from his usual torpor to merely co-sponsor his colleagues bills and parrot talking points.

After 28 years, we need a Congressperson who will lead on the important issues facing our district, rather than following the failed and tired policy prescriptions of the Bush Administration and obstructionist Republicans in Congress. We need someone willing and able to take action on critical problems, rather than merely mailing in sympathy.

After 28 years, Virginia's 10th District needs Judy Feder.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Is Like Us?

I am listening to MSNBC's coverage of the convention at work. During a story on the "celebrities at the convention" the anchorwoman made a comment about whether delegates would ever be having dinner during the convention with "working people, like us."

Here's a quick note for people on TV: If you're on TV regularly, you're not like us.

I understand that many TV faces do not get paid a lot, that they work long hours, that it is a hard job. But the fact is that you are on TV. You have a platform and reach hundreds of thousands of people a minute on a bad day. I write a blog, and on a good day I might reach a hundred, or a hundred and fifty people during the whole day.

Setting aside for a moment whether being an elite is a bad thing, which is the implied critique of the anchorwoman's comment, it is simply untrue that (a) there is an "us" to be like and (b) people who are on TV are like that mythical "us."

More facts, less narrative, please.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Week Away

I will be away from my computer(s) for the next week, returning on Monday the 25th. Please indulge my return to Awayness.

Family and friends call.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's Being Built In Leesburg

If you are wondering what is under construction around town, the Town has a very good website for keeping residents up to date on development and construction. At the site you can see maps and photos of things being built.

For example, The Village At Leesburg is where the Wegmans will be.
Village at Leesburg – 500,000 sq ft mixed-use Town Center with ground-floor retail, upper-floor office, structured parking and 335 apartments. Two parking decks are currently under construction. - Commercial Construction Projects in Leesburg

It is really great to see our local governments taking the initiative to make more and more information online for the public. Transparent government and widely distributed information about what is going on is the best way to keep the community engaged and involved in civic affairs.

Vote For Leesburg's Flag!

The Town of Leesburg is having a competition to select a Town Flag to be flown over Town Hall. You can vote on which design is your favorite.


The Town of Leesburg is sponsoring a competition to design an official Town flag. The goal is to produce a flag that captures the essence of the Town’s rich history. The winning design will be unveiled at the official ceremony marking the Town of Leesburg’s 250th Anniversary on September 14, 2008. - The Town of Leesburg
So go vote!

Lovettsville Power Line

If you live in or around Lovettsville, you might want to go to tonight's open house to get some information on a power line coming to your area.
Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power are proposing to build the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), which would include a 765 kV transmission line from near Charleston, West Virginia, to near Martinsburg, West Virginia, and a twin-circuit 500 kV transmission line from near Martinsburg to an area southeast of Frederick, Maryland.

The utilities will hold an Open House on Thursday, August 14, 2008, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Lovettsville Elementary School, 49 S. Loudoun Street in Lovettsville, to provide the public with additional information on the project and the opportunity to provide feedback. Potential line routes, which would include northern Loudoun, will be identified at the meeting. - Loudoun.gov
It's funny how power companies think Loudoun needs a high-power line running both along the WO&D and another one through northern Loudoun.

These power lines will bring power from the midwest and south to the power-hungry northeast. And in principle, that's fine. The northeast needs power, the south and midwest have power. However, Loudoun needs power too, and before lines to help other areas are run through our area, I think improvements should be made to keep the lights on here first.

Another consideration is that the power these lines would carry is generated by some of the most dirty power plants in America. In effect, the northeast would be exporting their pollution to the south and midwest by buying dirty power generated there, instead of generating it locally. Here in Virginia, for example, Dominion Power owns and operates no fewer than three of the plants that expel the most sulfur-dioxide in the nation.

The issue of power lines in Loudoun is not all NIMBYism. The question of whether we, as a community want to abet the growth of pollution to our south and west is a valid one. Valid too is the question about our own needs when the power goes out in the middle of hot August days. Our community would do well to get answers to these questions as part of our beautiful Blue Ridge front is considered for clearing and high-tension wires.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Interlude: Words From The Pope

As a catholic, I have an soft spot for the papacy, even if the people in and around the church's hierarchy often drive me crazy. I have to remind myself that people are fallible, but it doesn't make the institution a failure. (Of course, the same rule applies to our government.)

The current pope has been an object of misunderstanding and division for many, but in his life he has written some gems of wisdom that allow the light I see in my church to shine through the fog of corruption and arrogance.

I would share this one:
In this context, I recall that Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote a specific treatise on the means of overcoming sadness. It is typical of his realism that he, too, names bathing, sleeping, playing, as suitable means to this end. Even more emphatically, however, he adds that the company of friends, which disperse the loneliness that is the foundation of our unhappiness, should be included among the means of dispelling sadness: free time should be above all a time to be with other people. - Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, 1980
This commentary puts a grin on my face as I count the days until my family and I head to the beach for a week with some of our closest friends, taking a break from our quotidian concerns.

"Bathing, sleeping, playing...The company of friends." Sounds perfect to me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Napping and Driving

The tragedy on the Bay Bridge earlier this week brings the important issue of tired driving into local conversation.
One of the drivers involved in the accident where a tractor trailer plunged into Chesapeake Bay says she fell asleep at the wheel.

Candy Baldwin, 19, of Millington, Md., tells The Washington Post she didn't realize she had been in an accident until she regained consciousness in her 1997 Camero after the the accident.

She says she was exhausted after her mother's wedding in Baltimore the night before. - WTOPnews.com
We all drive tired. It is something we shouldn't do, but we do anyhow. There are thousands of people who would never think to drive after having a drink or two, but driving five or six hours after working all day, no problem! Just last week, I drove back to Virginia from meetings in New York, and didn't get into my own bed until midnight. During the last couple hours of the drive, there is no question that I was driving tired.

However, I received some advice about driving tired when I was younger, and it has served me well during my hundreds of roadtrips up and down the east coast over the past fifteen years: Take Short Naps.

If you have to drive a long distance, and you are tired, pull over and take a ten or fifteen minute nap for ever 45-60 minutes you're driving. It is simply remarkable what pulling over and closing your eyes for fifteen minutes can do to revive your concentration and focus for another hour. Yes, you get home a little bit later, but you get home. Driving back from New York on Monday, I pulled over and napped in order to avoid losing concentration and focus on the road, and it worked. Closing my eyes for fifteen minutes was enough to get me home safely, and without making myself a hazard to other people on the road.

This is not to say you should drive tired. The best possible advice would be not to drive at all when you are tired, to get a hotel or stay the extra day. But the reality is that most of us are not going to do that. Most of us would prefer to "just get there" and be done with it. It's the American way. If we're going to drive anyway, we must do all we can to drive safely, even if that means getting in 30 or 45 minutes later, because the important thing is getting there safely, without endangering yourself, or other people on the road.

McCain Does Wikipedia

Apparently, Sen McCain does understand the Internet. He's cribbing notes on the Georgia crisis from Wikipedia!
A Wikipedia editor emailed Political Wire to point out some similarities between Sen. John McCain's speech today on the crisis in Georgia and the Wikipedia article on the country Georgia. Given the closeness of the words and sentence structure, most would consider parts of McCain's speech to be derived directly from Wikipedia.
...
It should be noted that Wikipedia material can be freely used but always requires attribution under its terms of use. Whether a presidential candidate should base policy speeches on material from Wikipedia is another question entirely. - CQ Politics
John McCain has been serving on the Foreign Affairs committee in the Senate for years, and yet his staff has to turn to Wikipedia to write a speech about Georgia for him. Is that a sign of "experience" and being "ready to lead?" Or is it a sign of winging it and last-minute cramming? Personally, I feel that our President and his staff should put a bit more time and effort into learning about international conflicts than the average college student, but that's just me.

Jonathan Singer over at MyDD gets the last word.
But taking a step back, it's always interesting to think about these stories from the perspective of the shoe being on the other foot -- what would the reaction have been had this story come out in relation to the other candidate. In this case, what would have happened had Barack Obama, not John McCain, been caught cheating on the 3 AM test by appropriating from Wikipedia? Heck, what would have happened if a college student, or even a sixth grader, had been exposed for such actions? - MyDD

Cheney's Forgery

As a friend said: "Why is this not bigger news?"
A forged letter linking Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was ordered on White House stationery and probably came from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, according to a new transcript of a conversation with the Central Intelligence Agency's former Deputy Chief of Clandestine Operations Robert Richer. - The Raw Story
That's a very good question. Why isn't it bigger news?

Perhaps because everyone knows the letter was a forgery. Perhaps because we're not surprised that Vice President Cheney thought it wiser to forge a non-existent link between Iraq and 9/11 than to come clean to the American people.



Perhaps because we're all just marking time until this Administration comes to an end.

Perhaps. But it should still be bigger news, even in the midst of the Olympics.

Private Preferences and Public Services

All too often in debates over taxes, one side breaks out this tired canard.
LoudounPatriot, please put your money where your mouth is, and give generously to the voluntary tax fund this year. Some of us are tired of seeing our taxes go higher and higher.

This also goes for the 13 of you who voted that we need new schools immediately - I look forward to seeing the thousands of dollars you donate to the voluntary tax fund this year. Anything less would be hypocritical. - Hoqenishy (comment on LoudounExtra)
The argument that people who believe we need more services should carry all the costs of new services is both tired and false. It is the reason there is no answer on roads funding, and it is the reason that Loudoun's schools are overcrowded. The idea that the cost of general public services (public!) should be borne only by a subset of the population is both regressive and divisive. It is regressive, because it is those least able to pay who are most in need of the kinds of services we rely on from government. It is divisive because allowing people to opt-in or opt-out of paying for public services leads to a deep separation in society between those who have, and those who have not. The division in America between haves and have-nots is already as great as it has been since 1929. We would do well to not exacerbate that trend.

Why don't people who are unwilling to pay taxes decline public services? If the argument is that people who actually understand we need to raise revenue to pay for public services should pay for those services, it follows that if you don't believe in paying for public services, you shouldn't use any public services.

If you don't like taxes, stay off our roads. If you don't like taxes, drive yourself to the hospital. If you don't like taxes, refrain from calling the police when you get into an accident. As a matter of fact, if you don't like taxes, stop using our money, and do everything by barter. After all, our taxes pay to keep the currency stable.

Of course, that argument is ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as its inverse, quoted above.

Having good schools is good for our entire community, it attracts businesses and higher income residents, which helps keep our tax rate moderate. Having a well connected and maintained road system is good for our entire community, it helps preserve our quality of life and home values. Providing quality and efficient services for our neighbors who need help shows that the community cares, and helps engender respect for that community, mitigating the crime rate, and reducing demands for emergency services.

As Thomas Frank said on the Colbert Report, "Government ain't a business, it's an expression of the public will." As such, we, the public, have the responsibility, and the priviledge of paying for it.

Sheriff's Office Opens Traffic Website

Following on the launch of a website to track crime reports in Loudoun, the Sheriff's office is launching a traffic website.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the County’s Department of Information Technology have developed a website to aid residents with their daily commutes.

The website, www.loudoun.gov/traffic, lists traffic incidents worked by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the Middleburg Police Department and the Purcellville Police Department. Commuters can use the site to check their route to and from work to determine if there are any traffic-related issues. “Due to the high volume of traffic on our roadways, something as simple as a stalled vehicle on the shoulder of the road can cause major delays,” said Loudoun Sheriff Steve Simpson. “The website won’t help alleviate traffic, but it will give Loudoun commuters timely accident information and roadway conditions to assist them with their travel plans,” he added.

The listed incidents include major accidents, road closures, property damage accidents, minor accidents, hit and run accidents, traffic signal malfunctions, roadway obstructions and disabled vehicles. - Loudoun County Sheriff's Office
The site is pretty spartan, but considering it is designed to be able to be read from a mobile device if people choose, that's not a bad thing. It is great to see the Sheriff's office taking the initiative to make more information available to the public, quickly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Healthcare Gaps in Loudoun

While reading an article in Leesburg Today, I was startled to be informed of a huge gap in healthcare in Loudoun. There are no doctors accepting new Medicaid or Medicare patients in our community.
During its 15 months of existence, Kenyon said the center [The Loudoun Community Health Center at INOVA Loudoun Hospital] has served 2,300 patients. Fifty percent are Hispanic and 30 percent involve baby care, making the community health clinic the only place in the county that can serve low-income children.

With no doctors in the community accepting new Medicare or Medicaid patients, "We're the only ones," Stavish said, noting that the center gets a lot of referrals from doctors--so much so the center has a waiting list of between six and eight weeks. The free clinic also sends its more complicated cases to the center, Kenyon said. - Leesburg Today
There is a 6 - 8 week waiting list for doctor's visits for a patient population that may only have Medicare or Medicaid, here in one of the richest communities in Virginia. Not only do we want to ignore our homeless population problem, not only do we not want to address the lack of affordable housing, but we have only a single overbooked option for our most at-risk community's medical needs?

I know it is nice to think that we don't have people who need help in Loudoun. Many would like to think that we're all wealthy, sober and self-sufficient. But it is myths like that which lead to endemic problems and emerging crises. The lack of affordable housing adds traffic to our roads and overcrowding in our communities. The lack of low-income services contributes to community degradation and blight. And a lack of low-income healthcare options, exemplified by no doctors willing to take on new medicare or medicaid patients, will only increase the burden on our emergency rooms and emergency services, a cost which will eventually come out of the pockets of the taxpayers.

Loudoun has to deal with the needs of its unseen, unacknowledged lower-income residents, because they, too, are our neighbors. They too, have a right to a quality and safe life for their families. They too, are a measure of the strength and health of our community. We must not become a community of rich enclaves, building walls to keep out the riff raff, and considering laws which benefit the majority beneath us. We must retain our sense of unity, our feelings of community, our commitment, to each other. It is only together that we will rise to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It is only together we will overcome them.

Transportation, Traffic and Joe May

Leesburg Today has a good article about the state of affairs here in Virginia when it comes to traffic and transportation after the failure of the Assembly's special session to get anything done on these critical issues. Essentially, there's no state money for roads coming, funding for Rail to Reston is at risk, and more often than not, localities are being forced to pick up projects that have been otherwise abandoned to the politics of Richmond.
Some problems, Koelemay said, are more imminent. The Transportation Trust Fund, which was established in 1986 to fund capital improvements to highways, ports, airports and public transportation, is "likely to run out of money by the end of this year."

"That means projects might have to be delayed further because we don't have the federal money in our pocket," he said. - Leesburg Today
What Koelemay is referring to is the terms of funding for transportation from the Federal government Congressional highway appropriations are contingent on states themselves coming up with realistic and predictable sources for funding in addition to Federal money. Without a reliable transportation funding source at the state level, the Federal Government will not allocate money to Virginia. This is a real, imminent and critical problem that needs to be dealt with, now.

But don't tell that to the man who is in charge of the Transportation Committee in the House of Delegates, our own Joe May.
Del. Joe May (R-33), who is chairman of the House of Delegates Transportation Committee, told the chamber Virginia would do better, but that it might take some time.

"One of the things I like best about serving in Virginia is we never rush into things," May said. "But one of the things I like least about Virginia is we never rush into things."

May said he and the General Assembly were aware of the major transportation problem in Virginia, but "it didn't happen just last week or last year."

One of the biggest issues facing the General Assembly is how to address the specific problems of Northern Virginia, which May called the "economic engine" of the state.

"We need money raised in Northern Virginia to be spent in Northern Virginia," he said. "It is becoming rapidly apparent that we're at the point where if we don't address transportation in Northern Virginia it will start to affect the rest of Virginia."

May said the biggest progress made by the General Assembly during its special session on transportation in July was that four years ago no one could agree there was a problem with transportation.

"This July, everyone agreed we needed to help Northern Virginia, we needed to help Hampton Roads and we needed to address the statewide maintenance issue," he said. - Leesburg Today
First, a few clarifications for Del. May. It wasn't in July that "everyone agreed we needed to help." It was actually in April of 2007, when the Assembly passed a comprehensive transportation plan that included the NVTA and abuser fees. It was an ugly beast of a solution, but the fact that it passed indicated agreement in the Assembly that something needed to be done. The fact that nothing got done in the 2008 special session that followed the NVTA's rejection by the Virginia Supreme Court is actually an indicator that there is no longer agreement that something needs to be done.

Where was Del. May when the agreement that existed in 2007 fell apart by 2008?

Furthermore, Del. May complains about the pace of solutions development, even though he is responsible for developing the solutions. Del. May is Chair of the House of Delegates Transportation committee! It is his responsibility to come up with a solution. The Governor and Senate were in general agreement as to how to fix Virginia's transportation funding crisis during the special session. It was Del. May's own House of Delegates which stymied any solution. As the leader of that body's Transportation Committee, the failure of the House to enact a solution which would pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor must be laid at his feet. After all, Joe May is quick to take credit when there is a success, so must he take responsibility for such failures.

The blithe abdication of responsibility by Joe May may have dire long-term consequences. His lack of leadership in the special session puts not only Federal money for roads at risk, but also the Dulles Rail project, which is also contingent on state funding to match federal dollars. By his inaction on the critical question of transportation funding, Del. May has shifted a state responsibility onto localities who will build the roads that the state neglected to fund, because they must.

When Loudoun looks for who is to blame for higher local taxes to fund absolutely critical road improvements, it need look no farther than Loudoun's own Delegate Joe May. He had the power, position and authority to do something, and instead he chose to do nothing, and issue platitudes.
"One of the things I like best about serving in Virginia is we never rush into things," May said. "But one of the things I like least about Virginia is we never rush into things."
Del. May is clearly in no rush to help out his constituents, sitting in traffic in Loudoun County. Thanks Joe.

Restoring Voting Rights, Revisited

One of the important challenges America will face under the next Administration is reintegration of hundreds of thousands of felons into society. In the 1990s, various "tough on crime" initiatives increased the length and extent of prison sentences, and America's prison population exploded. To his credit, Sen. Webb has been one of the only leaders asking important questions about America's incarceration rate and its consequences.
In the name of “getting tough on crime,” there are now 2.1 million Americans in federal, state, and local prisons and jails -- more people than the populations of New Mexico, West Virginia, or several other states. Compared to our democratic, advanced market economy counterparts, the United States has more people in prison by several orders of magnitude.

All tolled, more than 7 million Americans are under some form of correction supervision, including probation and parole.

America’s incarceration rate raises several serious questions. These include: the correlation between mass imprisonment and crime rates, the impact of incarceration on minority communities and women, the economic costs of the prison system, criminal justice policy, and transitioning ex-offenders back into their communities and into productive employment. Equally important, the prison system today calls into question the effects on our society more broadly. - Sen. Jim Webb
It is a remarkably difficult challenge for ex-offenders to reintegrate themselves into American society. Partially this is because of choices they themselves have made, but we must not discount the nature of their world and the enormous barriers to successful rehabilitation they face from forces not of their choosing.
Last year, 32,585 prisoners were released on state parole in Texas, and many of them returned to neighborhoods where they live among thousands of other parolees and probationers.

Sunnyside is one of 10 neighborhoods in Houston that together accounted for 15 percent of the city’s population, yet received half of the 6,283 prisoners released in Houston in 2005, according to the Justice Mapping Center, a criminal justice research group.
...
Neighborhoods like Sunnyside can be found in virtually every big city in the nation. Even as violent crime statistics trend downward, incarceration rates throughout the country remain at a historic high of 750 per 100,000 residents. Each year about 650,000 prisoners are released on parole, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. - The New York Times
A responsible society will help make sure returning parolees have fewer reasons to reoffend when they come home. Virginia, and Loudoun have taken a few small steps towards such efforts, but more will, no doubt, be needed across the country to ensure an integration of parolees into communities around the country.

A critical element of reintegration is a sense of commitment to our civil society. and an important piece of that is the right to vote. Virginia has some of the most restrictive offender enfranchisement laws in the nation. Under existing law in Virginia, all felons are permanently disenfranchised, and may have their right to vote restored only by the Governor. An effort was made this past session of the Assembly to redress this injustice, but the bill was tabled until 2009 by the Privileges and Elections Committee of the Senate.

This is a difficult issue, politically, given the "tough on crime" attitude that all politicians seem to need to hold in order to retain their seats.
Generally, though restoring voting rights has hit resistance from all directions. Not wanting to appear soft on crime, Democratic and Republican leaders have not aggressively pursued the issue. In Florida, black state legislators led the fight for a decade before populist Republican Gov. Charlie Crist pushed through the change shortly after being elected in 2006. The legislation permits many nonviolent felons to vote as long as they have no charges pending, have paid restitution and have completed probation. - The Washington Post
The story quoted above is about new initiatives springing up from the grassroots to register ex-offenders and get them engaged in the political process. Being able to vote can help them feel they have something to say when it comes to their community, that they have a role to play in rebuilding it.

The remarkable thing about the story in Sunday's Washington Post cited here is that it was a popular Republican governor, Charlie Crist of Florida, who helped midwife the successful ex-convict voting rights reform in Florida. If this had been championed by a Democratic elected official, there is not doubt that person would have been lambasted for coddling criminals.

The right to vote is the fundamental unit of Democracy. We should be extremely reticent to restrict it in any way, as doing so delegitimizes our system for parts of our population, and can lead to apathy and civic breakdown. Enfranchising those who have paid their debts to society is a civil right we should all support, and fight for.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Congressional Drug Testing

One of the great themes of this election year is reconciling the life and benefits that members of Congress have with the life and benefits their constituents do not have. This is the essence of the campaign to give Americans the same health benefits that members of Congress have.

This idea can, and probably should, apply to other areas of public policy as well. For example, a group of high school students have started a petition to level the playing field, as it were, by asking Congress to comply with the same drug testing rules it seeks to impose on others. What a fantastic idea. If members of Congress are keen to impose drug testing on people and professions, they should be willing to step up to the urinal cake themselves.
Have you ever noticed how the very politicians so eager to impose drug testing on others seem awfully reluctant to test themselves? Well, as students and athletes, it seems pretty ironic to us. After all, who is a greater role model? A college athlete or U. S. Senator? Who has more influence? A second string tackle or a U.S. Representative?

Unfortunately, the irony seems lost on Congress. So, we decided to create the Coalition for a Drug Free Congress to give people a chance to tell their elected representatives – if you really think drug testing is so important, why not start with yourselves?

That's why, before the election in November, we're asking members of Congress and Congressional candidates to pledge that they will support the creation of an independent, random, unannounced drug and sobriety testing program for members of Congress and their staff before imposing testing on any other group of Americans. Read the Pledge Now. - Coalition for a Drug Free Congress
It seems like a reasonable request to me.

One of the great things about election season is that it presents an opportunity to secure support from candidates for important reforms that might not otherwise get a hearing during non-election times. This is true, for example, of Net Neutrality, where a recent campaign by influential bloggers has secured the support of every major Democratic Senate challenger for an open and free Internet. This is why we can and should push hard for pledges on health care as good as that which Congress has. This is why efforts like the drug testing plege have weight in the summer of 2008.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to OpenLeft.)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Map McCain's Oil Money

There's a nifty little tool over at Oil Change USA. It graphically maps John McCain's oil industry contributions to his campaign.



You can click through to find out the details of the millions of dollars he's received from the oil industry since he switched his position on drilling. Senator John McCain, selling his policy positions to the highest bidder. How mavericky.

Friday, August 8, 2008

An Interlude: Red Sox Win

A classic from a few years ago. Your Friday night funny.

Veterans For Obama

A powerful message from a veteran, and neighbor right here in Leesburg.
"I am writing to ask you to join me in helping Barack Obama become the next President of the United States.

As some of you may know I am a Vietnam Vet and served 20 years in the Army as an Officer. I also served for 15 years as a Department of the Army Civilian and was working in the Pentagon (room 1E677) on 9/11. I know that as I was evacuating the Pentagon none of the military officers I was with said "Sadaam or Iraq” did this. I also know that the terrorists who attacked the Pentagon, the Twin Towers in New York and crashed in PA on 9/11 did not come from Iraq.

That is one reason why I support Senator Barack Obama. He realized that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11 and voted against going into Iraq. This was later confirmed by a government panel of inquiry. He has also stated that he would put the focus of the War on Terror where it belongs. For example he would act on "actionable intelligence" to hit the terrorists operating anywhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan (a position that the Republicans lampooned but actually followed later).

His call for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq is similar to what the head of that sovereign country would like to see happen. Senator Obama has plans to fully fund veterans medical care, reduce the backlog at the VA and make sure that our active duty troops are sufficiently rested and re-trained if necessary before redeploying them. The following web-site gives more information about what Senator Obama plans to do to help veterans.

http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/vetshome

If you are interested in joining in an effort to help Senator Obama change the way we do business in the Pentagon and in our entire federal government please contact me by email."

Anthony V. Fasolo
LTC, USA (ret)
Loudoun County Vets for Obama
AnthonyFasolo [at] msn.com
Sen. Obama knows the importance of the service our military provide to the country, and will honor that service with support and recognition as our president. And our military support Sen. Obama right back, as can be shown by simply looking at political giving this season.
That Obama attracts support from some in the military is evident in dollars and cents: Among people who have donated at least $200 to a presidential campaign this election cycle, Obama has collected more than $327,000 from those identifying themselves as military personnel, while McCain has collected $224,000, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by The Associated Press. - The Huffington Post
If you are interested in helping Veterans for Obama here in Loudoun, please contact Mr. Fasolo today.

Police Shooting Dogs

What is with the police shooting people's dogs? You may recall the incident in Leesburg which led to the shooting of a dog last year.
A Leesburg Police Officer investigating a report of multiple dogs running at large and scaring school children at a bus stop in the 100 block of Mayfair Drive N.E. shot and killed one of the dogs after three dogs ran up on him in a threatening manner. The incident started at approximately 7:56 AM when a complaint was received about 3 large aggressive dogs that were loose in the front yard of a residence on Mayfair Drive charging at children while they were walking to a bus stop. While investigating the incident the officer was approached by the three dogs who charged the officer in a threatening manner. The officer fearing for his personal safety as well as the safety of others in the area fired his issued duty weapon one time striking the dog in the upper neck/back area. A second dog was grazed in the leg by the same bullet that struck and passed through the first dog. The injured dog ran off behind a house after being struck and shortly thereafter was found deceased. Loudoun County Animal Control Officers responded to the scene to assist in the recovery of the animals. The second dog that was grazed on the leg was transported for treatment of a non life-threatening injury. - The Town of Leesburg
As a dog owner, I see this as a tragedy, because proper training and management of the dogs in question would have saved this dog's life. The owners of the dogs were completely negligent and it led to a tragedy. At the same time, it is equally possible that a small amount of training of the police in basic dog handling would have led to the detention of the dogs, and not their death and injury. The owners in question would still have faced penalties, but the dog might have lived.

Other police departments have had worse incidents with dogs. Witness the fate of the dogs owned by the Mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland.
Calvo insisted the couple's two black Labradors were gentle creatures and said police apparently killed them "for sport," gunning down one of them as it was running away.

"Our dogs were our children," said the 37-year-old Calvo. "They were the reason we bought this house because it had a big yard for them to run in."

The mayor, who was changing his clothes when police burst in, also complained that he was handcuffed in his boxer shorts for about two hours along with his mother-in-law, and said the officers didn't believe him when he told them he was the mayor. No charges were brought against Calvo or his wife, who came home in the middle of the raid.

Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin High said Wednesday that Calvo and his family were "most likely ... innocent victims," but he would not rule out their involvement, and he defended the way the raid was conducted. He and other officials did not apologize for killing the dogs, saying the officers felt threatened. - The AP
And the kicker of the story in Maryland is that the police did not even have the proper warrant for what they were doing. If the dogs were barking at them, they were in the right to be doing so, because the cops weren't allowed to do what they eventually did in busting down the Mayor's door! And this isn't the first incidence of Maryland police arbitrarily killing people's dogs during home visits.

Digby has been following this issue for some time, and we will close the anecdotes with one from Hullabaloo.
Her husband says, "I got a dog in the car. I don't want him to jump out."

The tape then shows the Smoaks' medium-size brown dog romping on the shoulder of the Interstate, its tail wagging. As the family yells, the dog, named Patton, first heads away from the road, then quickly circles back toward the family.

An officer in a blue uniform aims his shotgun at the dog and fires at its head, killing it immediately.

For several moments, all that is audible are shrieks as the family reacts to the shooting. James Smoak even stands up, but officers pull him back down. - Hullabaloo
Just because you suspect someone does not mean you get to kill their pets. These police would not think of slashing the suspects' tires because the car might be dangerous to the police, later. These police take care with suspects' property in that way, but suspects' pets? Animals who know love, feel pain, and provide comfort and solace? Those are killed.

Our police deserve support and respect, and in order to sustain support and respect, our police should be trained to deal with people's dogs with as much care as they deal with people's property. Yes, it may be a little bit more difficult, and require a little bit more judgment and care, but the payoff in community support and goodwill is worthwhile.

[Update] The Washington Post has a story on the front page of the Metro section today on the Berwyn Heights mess. The FBI is investigating the police department.
"We have witnessed a frightening law enforcement culture in which the law is disregarded, the rights of innocent occupants are ignored and the rights of innocent animals mean nothing," Calvo said, surrounded by county elected leaders and friends on the front lawn of his house. "A shadow was cast over our good names. We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us." - The Washington Post
The story is well worth reading. It turns out there may be a pattern of pet abuse in the department. This just shows that better training would likely be very worthwhile.

Party ID and Polls

While obsession with polling and the horserace in August doesn't actually have anything to do with who will actually be elected President in November, it is valuable to understand how polling is done in order to assess the many poll controversies that come up online.

The biggest current debate is over something called "partisan weighting" and a new columnist over at Pollster.com, Kristin Soltis, does a really great job of explaining the differences of opinion over this critical factor in polling results.
Truth be told, the decision to use weights for party ID has everything to do with whether or not a pollster views party ID as a "response" or a "demographic", and when it is a fairly stable characteristic of the electorate, I feel comfortable placing it on the spectrum closer to "demographic". It's not perfect, to be sure, but I'd rather compare surveys month to month and observe movement by comparing apples to apples.

However, whether or not weighting is used, the partisan makeup of a poll must factor into the understanding of whether the poll is presenting a realistic piece of information. I certainly don't believe all polls must weight for party ID in order to be useful. But regardless of whether the party ID is organic or weighted, it should still look reasonable. - Kristin Soltis
Go. Read.

An Interlude: Sensation

Sometimes, you just gotta love science.
No-nose Bicycle Saddles Improve Penile Sensation And Erectile Function In Bicycling Police Officers

An innovative study examined, for the first time, if noseless bicycle saddles would be an effective intervention for alleviating deleterious health effects, erectile dysfunction and groin numbness, caused by bicycling on the traditional saddle with a protruding nose extension. - ScienceDaily
I find it remarkable that it took decades to get someone to think to answer this question. Are we really that prudish as a culture?

Then again, we're also busybodies. Or our media are.
Only 1% of the articles examined gave a definition of the "persistent vegetative state," an essential concept to understand the issues at stake. The persistent vegetative state is an established neurological condition characterized by severe lesions to the cerebral cortex, which eliminate higher functions: inability to communicate, absence of memory, absence of pain, etc.

However, the brain stem responsible for vital functions is not damaged, which accounts for the patients' reflexes and their ability to breathe and swallow independently. Despite the fact that Terri Schiavo's medical condition did not allow any reasonable hope of recovery, a fifth of all articles (21%) contained statements according to which her condition would improve. "Our observations show that the press capitalized on the controversy to a large extent, and selling copies mattered more than delivering scientific information. Media coverage sustained myths and false hopes," explains Éric Racine. - ScienceDaily
Media coverage sustained myths and false hopes. Sounds like the coverage of the Presidential race this year, doesn't it?

Frank Wolf's Rail Presumption

Amid all the blather a few weeks ago about candidates being presumutuous, the 10th District's Dulles Rail project faced a new hurdle as a lawsuit launched against it proceeded. The lawsuit hinges on whether it is legal to transfer management of public assets to private entities in order to get something else done.
The suit, filed in January 2007 by users of the Dulles Toll Road, seek to reverse the state’s hand-off of the highway — and its revenue — to pay for the Metro extension’s initial 11.6-mile phase. It says the Kaine administration needed legislative approval to give the toll road to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is managing the rail project.

If successful, the suit would prove a major snag for the project managers by scuttling a large part of the funding for the $2.6 billion track, which would run from Falls Church to Reston. - The Washington Examiner
It seems that the MWAA may run afoul of the same unconstitutional taxation issue that sunk the NVTA. The reason that this is important is that the Federal rail money which was approved with so much ballyhoo is contingent upon Virginia and other localities making up their side of the funding. And transferring the Toll Road to the MWAA is the Virginia plan for doing so. That is why the MWAA lawsuit is critical. If the MWAA is unable to take over the Toll Road, Virginia cannot fund its part of Dulles Rail, and the conditional approval to proceed achieved in April could be withdrawn.

But don't tell that to the people in charge of the program. To them, it's full speed ahead even if they do hit an iceberg.
What happens if the authority loses the suit?

"It does not kill this project," says Authority President Jim Bennett. "All of the parties are committed moving this project forward."

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., says if the lawsuit fails, final approval for federal funds could come in February and a groundbreaking in March.

The first phase would be finished by 2013. - WTOP.com
It seems our congressman is resting the future of the most important transportation project in the history of his district on a hope that this lawsuit fails. Frank Wolf is presuming that all will be well. This is in spite of the fact that some of the very same opinions were expressed right up until the very moment the NVTA was overturned.

Can we trust Frank Wolf's presumption? We couldn't when Dulles Rail hit the rocks before, as the FTA's original denial came as a complete surprise to him. We couldn't trust Frank Wolf to help the thousands of 10th district families who saw their homes foreclosed upon. We couldn't trust his much-vaunted "study group" to actually solve any of the problems we face in resolving the Iraq crisis. He won't even respond to his constituents to explain his position on Iraq! And we cannot trust Frank Wolf's presumption now on Dulles Rail. Ensuring the success of this project, if the success of this project is what we want, will require a strong advocate for the 10th District's concerns. It will require Judy Feder's election on November 4th.

Frank Wolf is marking time after 27 years in Congress, hoping that leaders in Richmond or the FTA will solve his districts' problems while he takes credit. Well, I say we give credit where credit is due, to the people of the 10th District who have been solving our own problems while Frank Wolf shows up for photo ops. It's time to put Judy Feder, one of those problem-solving people in Congress.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to Loudoun County Traffic.)

[update] And now word comes that Judy has been endorsed by Emily's list, go Judy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Abstinence-only Fails

Yet more evidence that abstinence-only education does not work.
Abstinence can mean different things to adolescents than to adults. That's one reason why abstinence-only programs do not have strong effects in preventing teenage sexual activity, according to new University of Washington research.
...
Currently there is no federal funding for any comprehensive sex-education program in the country, but funding for abstinence-only programs has mushroomed, increasing from $9 million in1997 to $176 million in 2007.

In the paper, however, the researchers conclude that "our findings raise serious concerns about the abstinence-only approach as a risk-reduction method for adolescent sexual behavior."

Masters added: "The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate among developing nations, and rates of sexually transmitted diseases in this country are high. The risks are real, and if people want to keep teens safe from the negative outcomes of sex, abstinence-only programs are not the way to go. More comprehensive programs that include abstinence as one choice are much more likely to have the outcomes we want – that teenagers eventually will be in a positive and fulfilling sexual relationship." - ScienceDaily
In essence, we need to come to terms with the fact that our kids consider sex an option. We may not like that fact, but it is reality, and we need to deal with reality. Abstinence-only education attempts to make having sex not an option, to remove it from the discussion, but all that does is lead to lying and ignorance.

An unwillingness to deal with the world as it is leads to bad outcomes for all of us. This is why policies must be grounded in facts and evidence. Abstinence-only education has failed, it is time to deal with that reality and implement comprehensive sex education.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An Interlude: The Republican Pill

A firestorm has descended upon me at work, so please forgive the minor awayness.

In the meantime, enjoy some Wednesday afternoon funny.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Monday, August 4, 2008

View Crime In Loudoun

The Sheriff's Office has launched a new tool for Loudoun's residents. On Loudoun.gov you can now click through to see crime reports for your neighborhood, displayed on a map. The site is called Crimereports.com and it provides an interactive map of police incidents in our area.

Loudoun Crime Reports


I clicked through to check it out, as there were some car break-ins in my neighborhood last week, but did not see anything reported on the map! Of course, it occurred to me that this site is for the Loudoun Sheriff's office, and it was the Leesburg police who responded to last week's incidents in my neighborhood.

It is always important to read the fine print.
There were deputies in my neighborhood last night and there is nothing listed on the website. Why is that?

Crimes are published on the site around 1:00 o'clock every morning. Cases not cleared prior to this time will not be displayed on the site until the following update. Only "Part 1 Crimes" (Homicide, Robbery, Theft, etc.) are displayed as a default. To see other crimes, such as property crimes (destruction of property, vandalism); click on "Crime Types" on the main page and select "Show All." Some event types are withheld in order to protect the victim(s) involved. Such event types include, rape, sexual assault, crimes against children, juvenile related crimes, domestic violence and calls that are medical in nature. - Loudoun.gov
The site is a great tool for us here in Loudoun, as we will be able to evaluate ourselves how well the Sheriff's office is doing their job, and help map areas that may need more or better police services as we enter new budget cycles. Bravo to the Sheriff's office for this excellent step towards further transparency in government services.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Injustice, Immigration and A Broken System

We well remember the story of the young boy scout who was nearly deported, though his mother was here legally and his siblings were U.S. citizens. This weekend, the New York Times reveals a much graver injustice: the deportation of the sick and injured in the name of medical cost control. The intersection of our broken health insurance system and our broken immigration policies is a realm of horrors and family tragedy.
Mr. Jiménez’s benchmark case exposes a little-known but apparently widespread practice. Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.
...
Hospital administrators view these cases as costly, burdensome patient transfers that force them to shoulder responsibility for the dysfunctional immigration and health-care systems. In many cases, they say, the only alternative to repatriations is keeping patients indefinitely in acute-care hospitals.

“What that does for us, it puts a strain on our system, where we’re unable to provide adequate care for our own citizens,” said Alan B. Kelly, vice president of Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona. “A full bed is a full bed. - The New York Times
There will be anti-migrant voices who say "good, send them home." And there is a bizzare logic in such thinking. If these folks are not U.S. citizens, why should U.S. hospitals have to care for them? Of course, such narrow-minded, nativist thinking discounts the universal American value of justice. In the same way that separating a young teenager from his family for the sake of bureaucratic consistency is unjust, separating the sick and injured from theirs is a travesty of justice.
One Tucson hospital even tried to fly an American citizen, a sick baby whose parents were illegal immigrants, to Mexico last year; the police, summoned by a lawyer to the airport, blocked the flight. “It was horrendous,” the mother said.
...
In a case this spring that outraged Phoenix’s Hispanic community, St. Joseph’s planned to send a comatose, uninsured legal immigrant back to Honduras, until community leaders got lawyers involved. While they were negotiating with the hospital, the patient, Sonia del Cid Iscoa, 34, who has been in the United States for half her life and has seven American-born children, came out of her coma. She is now back in her Phoenix home. - The New York Times
You read that first anecdote correctly. A hospital tried to send an American citizen to Mexico. In the second case, the woman in question was a legal resident, with seven citizens as children. This is not deporting migrants without correct documentation, it is dumping legal residents when the cost/benefit of having them in America dos not pay off. And with such admissions, the underlying reason for many of these deportations rears its ugly head: fear of the other, the different. Send the brown people back, even if they are American citizens, if they're not paying off any more.

And the sad truth is deportation is often tantamount to a death sentence for many of these patients.
“I can think of three different scenarios that would have led to a fatal outcome if they had moved her,” John M. Curtin, her lawyer, said. “The good outcome today is due to the treatment that the hospital provided — reluctantly, and, sadly enough, only in response to legal and public pressure.” - The New York Times
Is it fair to send catastrophically ill patients abroad to health care systems even less able to care for them than ours? Absolutely not. Is it fair to require hospitals to carry the burden of care for these uninsured patients so that the rest of society can forget they exist and ignore the problem? No. Is it fair that millions of people in America have no recourse to our laws or our services when faced with extreme difficulties? Absolutely not.

This nexus of legal and medical neglect for people who are striving as hard as our forebearers did to make a better life for their children is the very definition of injustice.

And in America, we must be better than that.

An Interlude: 6 Degrees

Some of you may remember that old website "sixdegrees" or perhaps are part of "the experiment" on Facebook. As a person who went to UVA in the mid-90s, I rememer the Kevin Bacon generator which was hosted on a UVA student's website, an homage to the "Kevin Bacon Game."

Well, statistical studies have shown that the game is based on truth.
With records of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people from around the world, researchers have concluded that any two people on average are distanced by just 6.6 degrees of separation, meaning that they could be linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances. - The Washington Post
Pretty cool.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

An Interlude: One Year

I nearly missed this.

Today is my one-year anniversary of blogging. Or, perhaps more accurately, today is the first birthday of Leesburg Tomorrow.

So where have we come in a year? Here are some statistics.

So far, Leesburg Tomorrow has had over 24,000 visits and over 14,600 visitors from 93 different countries. These folks have been reading 773 posts so far (well, 774 with this one!).

In the meantime, Democrats have won a majority on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors (including the inspiration for this blog, our very own Kelly Burk), played an important role in two nominating primaries and are crossing the county today, turning out Democrats and Democratic allies in preparation for November.

I have to say that I am a little surprised that this blog has kept going for a year (and at a rate of about 2 posts/day, at that), though I really shouldn't be. Writing a Democratic blog for Loudoun is both fun and worthwhile. There are always things to write about, and always important stories to be told (or decisions to be analyzed!).

Most importantly, the folks who follow, comment and email me make this blog all the more fun. It is because of you that Leesburg Tomorrow will continue to be a progressive voice for Loudoun, and this corner of Virginia in general.

Health Savings Accounts Don't Work

Just a quick post to link to MyDD: Health Savings Accounts Are A Scam.
If we get sick and see the doctor often, we have to pay those huge costs often; that means we have to save a lot of money in that health savings account. For those on fixed incomes, or even those just barely scraping by (and that's a lot of us in today's economic climate), putting away even $4,000 in a health savings account is out of the question. Health savings accounts don't work for the same reason tax credits don't work: Those who don't have a lot of cash to save are forced to put away money they don't have a bit at a time to pay for their care. With tax credits, they get repaid at the end of the year. With health savings accounts, they don't pay taxes on that money. But either way, they need to save over the course of a year to get that payoff. For a lot of folks, this just isn't a realistic option - there's simply nothing to spare. - MyDD
I strongly recommend reading the whole post, as HSAs will be raised as the "Republican Alternative" in the Congressional debates to come in 2009. It will be important for progressives to know and understand just what a handout to the rich and windfall to the insurance companies HSAs are.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Judy Feder's Promotion

After months of energy and effort, Judy Feder has made the DCCC's "Red to Blue" program.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced today the next round of candidates who earned a spot in the DCCC's highly competitive Red to Blue program. These six candidates qualified for the fourth round of the Red to Blue program by surpassing demanding fundraising goals and skillfully demonstrating to voters that they stand for change and will represent new priorities when elected to Congress.

"The candidates for change being named to the DCCC Red to Blue program are running solid campaigns and are committed to making things easier for middle class families in their districts," said Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "With less than 100 days to make their case for change to voters in their districts, the Red to Blue program will give these candidates the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive in November."

Chairman Van Hollen joined Red to Blue co-chairs Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Artur Davis (D-AL), and Bruce Braley (D-IA) to announce six candidates who qualified for the Red to Blue program:

(LA-07) Don Cravins
(NV-02) Jill Derby
(OH-02) Vic Wulsin
(PA-03) Kathy Dahlkemper
(VA-05) Tom Perriello
(VA-10) Judy Feder

Reflecting Democrats' expanding playing field this cycle, there are now 44 candidates on the Red to Blue program. The Red to Blue program highlights top Democratic campaigns across the country and offers them financial, communications, and strategic support. The program will introduce Democratic supporters to new, competitive candidates in order to help expand the fundraising base for these campaigns. A complete list of Red to Blue candidates is available on the DCCC website at: www.dccc.org/page/content/redtoblue/.

Red to Blue was a proven success in the 2006 cycle. In 2006, the Red to Blue program raised nearly $22.6 million for 56 campaigns with an average of $404,000 per campaign. Red to Blue was also responsible for solidifying the structure of dozens of campaigns and making a real difference for Democrats across America. - The DCCC
This means the our district will be getting support and attention in the fight for a more progressive Congress in November.

What's great is that she's joined by Tom Periello in VA-05, demonstrating the Party's commitment to turning Virginia's Congressional delegation majority-Democrat in January 2009.

Judy has been a tireless campaigner for true health care reform, bringing our troops home, and helping out people who are being crushed by economic crises from foreclosure to job loss. Electing Judy to Congress is the kind of change America, and Virginia, wants and needs. And with our help, and help like the Red to Blue program, it is the change we will get come November.

Mara Liasson and Polls

I had to grind my teeth a little this morning when driving into work. On NPR's Morning Edition, Mara Liasson said that Barack Obama did not get a bump from his international trip and was not taking off in the polling like he should. She sites the RCP rolling average of polls as evidence for her assertion.

Those who actually pay attention to the details know that this is false.

First, the RCP rolling polling average is significantly influenced by the outlier poll released earlier this week by USA Today showing McCain actually ahead of Obama, using a bizzaro-likely-voter model to achieve those results. Other rolling polling average models do not bear this out:


(Pollster.com rolling average composite.)


Second, the emergence of a poll showing McCain ahead is to be expected, in terms of simple statistics. Chris Bowers explains.
Outliers are an inevitable aspect of polling. One in twenty polls will be off by more than the margin of error, which in the case of most national polls is plus or minus three or four points for each person in the poll. That is, one in twenty polls will be off by at least seven points, and one in forty polls will favor McCain by at least seven points. Given that McCain had led in two of the last eighty polls according to Pollster.com, there is nothing surprising in the least about these results. An outlier in favor of McCain once every forty polls is an inevitable side effect of the most heavily polled election of all time. It would actually have been more surprising if there were no outliers in favor of McCain, ever. - OpenLeft
Regardless, however, of the fact that 1) the RCP rolling average (which still shows a 2.9% Obama lead!) is being influenced by an outlier poll and 2) that outlier poll was to be expected by the mathematical laws of statistics, Ms. Liasson chose to use her widely followed national platform on Morning Edition to further a narrative that is not borne out by the facts.

Like I said, sometimes I have to grind my teeth.

And then go work even harder.