Blacknell.net

Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: December 2006 (Page 2 of 4)

Virginia Outdoors Plan: Public Comments Due Friday

The public comment period for the Virginia Outdoors Plan (VOP) closes this Friday, December 15th. The VOP is

“the state’s official document regarding land conservation, outdoor recreation and open space planning. It helps all levels of government and the private sector meet needs pertaining to those issues. The plan provides guidance for the protection of lands through actions of the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), and the plan is required in order for Virginia to take part in the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program.”

I encourage anyone who uses Virginia’s parks to take a few minutes to let the VA Department of Conservation and Recreation know what you think should be priorities in your area. Read the section for the area that you use (look toward the end of the linked page for a Table of Contents), and then send an email addressed to vop@dcr.virginia.gov. Include an simple explanation of where you’re from, what you use the parks for, and what you’d like to see them make a priority. At the end of the email make sure you include your name and address.

The Northern Virginia section of the plan is here (PDF). My own comments will expand on those proposed by the Mid-atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE – an active and effective mountain biking advocacy org). If you’re interested in those MTB-related suggestions for NoVA, see here. (MORE represents interests throughout the region, so let them know if you need help putting together comments related to MTB’ing in your area).

Just when you think they can’t sink any lower . . .

I’m not sure why this surprises me, but the Washington Post Op-Ed page just said, essentially, “Hey, Pinochet murdered thousands, but he left behind a really great economy! So Jeane Kirkpatrick was right – we SHOULD support murderous dictators, so long at they’re rightwing!”

Party Discipline

As one who doesn’t shy away from calling a liar a liar, the GOP has managed to keep me busy in the past few years. Among the many reasons for drawing a bead on their deceit was the fact that, as the party in power, they set the tone and the agenda. In light of such influence, the public should make a special point of holding them to high standards in their conduct. (What with the press giving up on that role, and all . . .)

Well, the Democrats are ascendant now, and it’s time for us (the public in general, but especially active Democrats such as myself) to take a clear stand with them, too. Now, I draw no equivalence between the parties – no party (including the Republican Party that used to exist) can even begin to compare with the craven lying, deliberate indifference, and active maliciousness of the modern GOP. But things haven’t always been that way – they should stand as a lesson in what happens when accountability disappears.

What brought this to mind, today, were a couple of recent events involving a Democrat and clear dishonesty. The first is the revelation that Rahm Emanuel did, in fact, know of the Mark Foley IMs in late 2005. Despite this, he lied – on national television – about that fact. Glen Greenwald details it out here (do read it – he also imagines the technical defense that Rahm might offer, and points out that the Democratic staffers that did see the IMs at the time took action), but that’s the quick summary of it. And that pisses me off to no end. Democrats don’t need to lie (or scare, or steal) to win elections. Yet there he was, dissembling on tape. Yes, it’s insignificant when compared with the Republican lies that we’ve endured over the years, but that’s not the standard we should be using. We’re Democrats, and we’re better than that. Emanuel did a good job as head of the DCCC, but if this is how he thinks he can conduct himself, he has no business there. He keeps doing it, and I can guarantee that you’ll see a lot of us working to push him out the door.

The second event was Rep. William Jefferson’s winning reelection. This is, at once, both a harder and easier issue. It’s easier in that all signs point to him being indicted and eventually sent to jail on federal charges of bribery and wire fraud, at a minimum. He’s already been stripped of his seat on the Ways & Means Committee (a good call by Nancy Pelosi). You may (and should) be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but I don’t need a full trial to tell me that this is someone I think has no business being an elected Democrat. The harder part of this? Well, it seems the voters of his district strongly disagree (to the tune of a 61-39 win, in fact). So, what can be done about this? On one hand, I’d like House Democrats to shun him, neither seeking nor accepting his support on bills. On the other, that seems enormously unfair to the people of his district. So it strikes me that very little can be done, beyond waiting for the wheels of justice to grind him out of office.

I’m sure that these will not be the only ethics issues facing Democrats in the coming Congress. I hope that we will put as much effort into holding them accountable as we did the Republicans. If we do, we won’t only get a better Democratic party, but a better country.

Another monster escapes into death.

He should have died in prison.

Update: A better account of him, here. Domestic coup of an elected leader, murder, torture, and even a car bomb in Washington, DC.

Weekend Reading: SSDD, Originalism, South Africa & Apartheid

Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes was the best Pelosi could do for the House Intelligence Committee? When I heard that he was a frequent traveling companion of soon-to-be-former Rep. Crazy Curt Weldon (R-PA), I was a little worried, but decided to try and give him the benefit of the doubt. But this?

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball. That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Houston, we have a problem. Let’s get this man a tutor, asap.

(Via TPM Muckracker)

~

At Lawyers, Guns & Money, Scott Lemieux distills the argument against originalism (raised in the context of the desegregation cases heard earlier this week at the Supreme Court):

[I]f all originalism means is that principles must be applied at a high level of abstraction, I’m not sure why we can ignore 19th century conceptions of education and distinctions between social and civil rights, but we have to remain bound to 19th century conceptions of “commerce.” To the extent that originalism has any content at all, the choice is between Brown and originalism; myself, I’m going with the former. But once you’ve reduced originalism to these kinds of broad abstraction, there’s simply no good reason to treat racial classifications used to ossify apartheid and racial classifications used to dismantle segregation as being equivalent.

~

Catch this article before it disappears behind the pay-wall. It’s ostensibly about South Africa’s literary scene, but it’s more a quick (but well done) tour through the issues facing South Africa:

Since the end of apartheid, Mda’s old comrades have become the country’s political and business elite. “People I was in the struggle with are billionaires,” Mda said. “But I’ve chosen to be a writer and be poor.” In his novels and other writings, Mda has been outspoken in his criticism of the new ruling class and what he calls “the cronyism networks” that have led to the enrichment of a select black minority, leaving the majority in poverty.

[ . . . ]

Like many South Africans, Mda says he wishes there were a stronger opposition to keep the African National Congress accountable. “The A.N.C. is winning on the economy,” he maintained, “but losing on security and AIDS.” Yet the opposition parties — white nationalists, religious parties — offer no viable alternative. “They’d take that country down the drain,” he insisted. “It would be like Zimbabwe.”

It’s a fascinating country that the rest of the world should be paying close attention to. (Which reminds me that I ought to clean up and post my write up of my own trip there, soon.)

~

M.J. Rosenberg touches on an issue that I’ve done a lot of talking, but very little writing, about – Jimmy Carter’s use the the word “apartheid” in the title of his latest book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. As Rosenberg points out:

Carter does not say that Israel is an apartheid state. He says explicitly that it is not and that, when he uses the term apartheid, he is not referring to Israel. “I am,” he says, “referring to Palestine and not to Israel….Arabs living in Israel are citizens of Israel and have full citizenship, voting, and legal rights, and so forth. “

The American media, for the most part, has savaged him over it:

Martin Peretz and Alan Dershowitz both say that Carter specifically calls Israel an “apartheid state,” which Carter does not do. Alan Dershowitz says Carter is “simply wrong.” In Israel, Dershowitz says, “majority rules; it is a vibrant secular democracy, which just recognized gay marriages performed abroad. Arabs serve in the Knesset, on the Supreme Court and get to vote for their representatives, many of whom strongly oppose Israeli policies.”

All that is absolutely correct. And Carter agrees with every word. His argument is that Arabs in the West Bank do not have those rights. That isn’t so much an argument as a fact. West Bank Palestinians are not citizens of any country and do not have the rights of citizenship anywhere.

It is nigh impossible to find a fair and intelligent discussion of most any Israel-Palestine issue in mainstream American media. Earlier this week, Terry Gross spend a significant part, if not the majority, of her time hammering Jimmy Carter over the use of the word apartheid in the title – all at the expense of talking about one of the root issues behind one of the most important conflicts in the world. Gross’ approach, as with Peretz and Dershowitz, is part of what Rosenberg calls:

a disturbing trend in the pro-Israel community in which the usual suspects — Peretz, Dershowitz, and a host of Likud camp followers — react to any and all criticism of Israeli policies by assaulting the critics, demanding that they either shut up or be prohibited from speaking at a particular venue. This has to stop.

I’m not so sure that I agree that it’s a “trend” so much as a well-established tradition. But Rosenberg is right – it has to stop. For better or worse, the US has enormous influence over the resolution (or non-resolution) of the conflict. Unless we can have an honest and open conversation about it, very little good can come from exercise of that influence.

Arlington Sun Gazette: Profile in Ignorance

Once again, I open up the Arlington Sun Gazette – only to regret it moments later. The Sun Gazette is a local paper, mailed free of charge to households across Arlington. And while the easy line is that it is worth exactly what I paid for it, I am wondering if it has come time to start charging them for the privilege of sending it to me. Almost every time I read the editorials, I am brought to wonder – what in the hell did Arlington ever do to deserve this tripe? The latest, regarding the recently passed Marshall-Newman Amendment (prohibiting the benefits of marriage as against all unmarried couples):

For one thing, we wouldn’t expect the Virginia Supreme Court to do anything but uphold the constitutional amendment. And, by challenging it, gay-rights activists would come off looking as poor losers. They also would do exactly what proponents of this amendment predicted: Turn to the courts when public opinion has swung the other way.

Our rather sensible suggestion: Forget about the amendment, and either wait for public opinion to shift (it will), or, if that’s too much of a long-term commitment to handle, move someplace else.

That’s right. Ignorant bigotry has just been enshrined in the state constitution, but hey, if you want to actually do something about it, you’re just a sore loser. Suck it up or move.

What sort of troglodyte is in charge of this page? Does American Community Newspapers, owner of the Sun Gazette, confiscate the moral compasses of its editorial writers on their first day of work? And what in the world makes them think that this editorial voice is of any interest to Arlington – which, by their own reporting, was surpassed only by Charlottesville in voting against that abomination of an amendment? To have read their editorial page over the past year was a journey through the looking glass, replete with red is blue and up is down editorials. The Sun Gazette editorial page, at times, is not only out of step with Arlington, but reality.

To be fair, the failures of the Sun Gazette are generally limited to the editorial and Political Notes page – it appears to do a decent job of covering the usual community paper beats – school activities, local sports, and zoning disputes. See that, Sun Gazette? Deceny and fairness – something your editorial page has been lacking for years. Arlington deserves better.

Earthlink Email

Well, this would explain a lot:

Since June, he was told, Earthlink’s mail system has been so overloaded that some users have been missing up to 90 percent of their incoming e-mail. It isn’t bounced back to senders; it just disappears. And Earthlink hasn’t mentioned the problem to these affected customers unless they complain. The two groups affected are those who get their mail with an Earthlink-hosted domain and those with aliased e-mail addresses like my friend’s Blackberry.

I recently, after 12 years with them, decided to cancel my DSL service with Earthlink (a combination of increasingly poor service and FIOS being available in my area). I’d planned to keep an email only account so I didn’t have to set up a massive rerouting of everything. Glad I saw this. And it certain does explain my frustrations with some of my email. As Cringley (author of the linked piece) points out – what kind of business is run like this?

Were they thinking these thousands of affected customers simply wouldn’t notice? And what about those customers whose livelihood depends on e-mail communication? There are both ethical and business questions here and Earthlink doesn’t look good on either scale. Fortunately the company says it is installing new software and hopes to have the problem resolved before the end of the year. Lucky us.

Lucky them. I’ll be out of that boat in short order.

Censored NYT Series on Pearl Harbor Rebuilding

The New York Times publishes a six-part series on the rebuilding of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor – 64 years after it was written:

In 1942, Robert Trumbull, The Times’s correspondent at Pearl Harbor, detailed the salvage effort that rebuilt the Pacific Fleet after the Japanese attack. These articles did not run because of wartime censorship, and are available to the public for the first time.

Great reading.

Mary’s Baby

I was all prepared to go for the snark, and then Rawstory reminds me that Mary Cheney and her partner, Heather Poe, live in Virginia. It’s not so funny then, especially for the future child:

Virginia had already set up new Jim Crow laws targeting gays two years ago. Those laws may vitiate any legal agreement between the two, period, about anything. The law ensures that Mary’s partner has no legal rights whatsoever in their child, or in what happens to Mary (or vice versa), such as if one partner has to go the hospital, the other can’t visit. The law may even nullify any wills that Mary and Heather write regarding each other, and it may make it impossible for gay people to go to court to resolve any difference about anything – the courts can’t recognize gay unions, so they can’t make any decisions that would imply recognition (custody, hospital visitation, wills, etc.) It’s beyond ironic that Virginia’s new law, one of the most hateful, bigoted laws on the books, is now targeting the vice president’s own daughter and soon-to-be new grandchild.

I won’t be surprised if they find a nice house in Maryland, sometime soon.

Democrats Hate Families, Obviously.

Oh, this is rich. Recall that, under the Republicans, Congress had a three day workweek. Under Democrats, they’ll be working for *five whole days* a week. What does this mean?:

“Keeping us up here eats away at families,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. “Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families — that’s what this says.”

Oh, Jack. That’s just precious.

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