It’s Not Like Those Are Real Jobs, Right?

Dick Black tweeted what he apparently thinks are the comparative resumé items of note for himself and Dr. Jill McCabe, his challenger. Because someone who still had an ounce of sense in them deleted that tweet shortly after, here it is for you:


McCabe’s list is actually somewhat longer than what Black admits to. She’s been part-owner of a small business, a department head at a large business, and, well, done some other stuff. No reason to get into it, as the tweet above really makes its own point, and it’s not about anyone’s resumé.

I do think a couple of the entries on Black’s side are kind of funny: Herpetologist? No, that’s not a person who specializes in sexually transmitted diseases: it’s a person who studies snakes. I’ve been following Col. Black’s career for a number of years, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that one mentioned. Frankly, snakes aren’t something I think a career politician ought to bring up, but maybe I’m overly sensitive.

A couple more that caught my eye were these: “Juris Doctor” and “Career Prosecutor.” Both of those are oblique ways of avoiding having to use the word “lawyer.” See, a “juris” doctor is a holder of a law degree (that’s as opposed to a real doctor, who holds a medical degree, like Dr. Jill McCabe). Republicans, many of whom are lawyers, tend to think the world has too many lawyers in it, so, obviously, attorney Dick Black wants to avoid using that word. But, it’s important to the point (he thinks) he is making to have his list be as long as possible. So there it is, really, twice, just in stealth mode.

Someone pulled the tweet already, but the attentive Huffington Post caught it and wrote about it today.

(Herpetologist? Seriously?)

Charlie King’s Senior Staff Quits

Ashburn Rising reports that Charlie King’s campaign manager, Tom Julia, has quit the campaign. Amazingly, they also quote him as saying he is not endorsing any candidate for chair. Perhaps because it is the right thing for an officer of a party to do when he can’t endorse his own nominees, Julia has also resigned from the RPV.

The Loudoun Times-Mirror confirms the departure and resignation, adding also that senior campaign staffer Chad Campbell has also quit King’s campaign. They report that Republican David O’Connell will serve in place of both Julia and Campbell.

It’s true that campaign staff come and go, but local races don’t have much “staff,” with the manager often being the only paid worker on a campaign. To lose his manager this close to election day is not a good thing for King.


Who Tries This?

Yet again, someone has tried to board a plane with a loaded pistol in their carry-on bag. According the WaPo, TSA finds one this way about once each month at National Airport alone.

A lot of people talk about “responsible gun owners.” That’s a concept I like, but we need to get a little more specific about what it means. I’m pretty sure all rational people agree that there are some folks who should not have guns. I’ll push that concept one bit further and say most rational people agree that there are some people who should not be allowed to have guns. Those three extra words make a big difference, to some folks, because they naturally suggest that someone, somewhere, will have the authority to decide who will, and who will not, be allowed to have a gun. Right now, we seem to operate on the assumption that, until proven otherwise, everyone is fit to have a gun. Alas, one of the ways we learn who is not fit to have a gun is that the person in question kills one or more people by shooting them for no good reason. That person is typically no longer allowed to own a gun. This seems bass-ackwards, to me.

Opponents tend to extrapolate from any gun control proposal whatsoever all the way to the doomsday scenario: that those in favor of gun control will never stop until no one can have a gun, ever again. So, they reason, all efforts at gun control must be opposed, as all efforts at gun control are really just another step towards universal confiscation.

Now, I have direct personal knowledge of the fact that not everyone who proposes more gun control secretly seeks universal confiscation. That’s because I am one such proponent. I have two guns and I don’t want to give them up. But, when I read that, once very single month at one airport alone, so-called “responsible” gun owners are so careless that they actually try (let’s hope it’s through mere negligence) to get a loaded pistol onto a plane, I cannot help but wonder if, by that act alone, they have demonstrated they are not fit to have a gun. That they should not have a gun. That they should not be allowed to have a gun.

A well-trained, well-regulated sector of citizens who choose to carry guns might actually make the world a slightly safer place. I rather like the idea that anyone who wants to be ready to defend themself, their family, their friends and neighbors, and maybe even just the rest of us out on the wild and dangerous streets of America, might be able to use a pistol in order to do so. But only if they’re fit to have one. Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect that there would be far fewer than one pistol found heading onto a plane every month if all gun owners had to take substantive training, pass reasonable tests, and demonstrate their proficiency periodically. Such a set of requirements need not (nor would they necessarily be proposed to) lead to universal confiscation. Quite the opposite. I believe it would give all Americans who are worried that people carrying pistols might be more dangerous to society than if they all just left them at home, a reason to calm down. Every gun you saw, and every gun carried on the street, would either be in the hands of a person with established qualifications and actual knowledge of how to use it safely, or in the hands of a crook. Yes, making guns illegal doesn’t seem to stop crooks from having them. But the mere legal ownership of a gun doesn’t make the person who owns it, nor those of us who travel the same streets (or airports) as that person any safer.

Responsible gun owners (they exist; I like to think I am one) get proper training. I did. I took a class, passed a test, and I go to a shooting range periodically to make sure I haven’t forgotten so much that I’m more dangerous than useful. I know quite a few shooters who do as much or more. I respect them. They are fit to have their guns, at least most of them. So what would be so bad if that much instruction and demonstration of competency were simply required? Wouldn’t a responsible gun owner do that much anyway? Wouldn’t the only burden felt be felt by irresponsible gun owners? Do we mind if irresponsible gun owners find reasonable training and competency requirements burdensome?

Yes, if one thinks that any gun regulation is just another step in the direction of universal confiscation, this idea would be as intolerable as confiscation itself, and, thus, yet another non-starter (if one thinks that way). But, what if it’s not? What if honest people really meant it when they said, “We’d be happy to let anyone have a gun, and carry it wherever a gun can safely go, provided they meet the same training and competency requirements that typical responsible gun owners already voluntarily impose upon themselves.” Take it as given, for the sake of answering, that those honest people don’t want to confiscate all guns. What would be wrong with that?

Until we have some kind of competency requirement before a person can have a gun, we’re just going to keep finding out who’s not competent after they do something stupid. Like try to take it on a plane, or kill someone for no good reason. Because, at the rate we’re finding those incompetent people, I’m increasingly unable to feel that just owning a gun makes a person a responsible gun owner.

Life Expectancy

On average, we are all living longer. As has been the case for a long time, women live longer than men. Most of us know that. Some of us know that there is also a gap in life expectancy by race. White people live longer than black people do. Gender dominates, though, as black women live longer than white men. But, as a species, we are all living longer than we used to, with black lives gaining a bit faster (but still strikingly shorter) than white lives. Here’s the data from the CDC:


Note that women outlive men, regardless of race, although white women live longer than black women. Here’s the breakdown as of 2013:

White Female 81.4
Black Female 78.4
White Male 76.7
Black Male 72.3

Elsewhere, of course, the data is mangled:

[S]ocial security is [not] a good deal for black men, who live on average to be 67, just when they can draw social security at the full rate. In effect, since white women live on average to age 82, one can argue that social security is an income transfer from black men to white women.

As you can see, the life expectancy at birth for black men hasn’t been as low as 67 for over 15 years. At 72.3, it’s still remarkably below that of white men, at 76.7, a fact which deserves substantial consideration. But the statement above isn’t just wrong, it’s a lie: their data for white women is current (not the 80 it would have been in the last year it was 67 for black men), meaning they are deliberately comparing out-of-date information with up-to-date information. (Note also that the silly “income transfer” argument would apply as well to men transferring to women.)

Then again, one might expect this kind of mismatch when even a simple metaphor eludes a person:

…when I bring this point up to black men, you should see the light go off in their heads.

The light goes “off?” Something tells me those men are brighter than he thinks.

Pink Floyd Got It Right

China proposes, according to CNN, to land a probe on the “‘dark side'” of the moon. Yes, if you think I nested the quotation marks there, you’re right. No less than three times in their story do CNN refer to some part of the moon with those two words, always in quotation marks. That might be fine, if anyone were being quoted. But no source is given for that phrase, and no explanation of what it means is really offered either. From the text, one can infer that what the Chinese are planning to do is land a probe on the far side of the moon, the “back” half that we can’t see from Earth (actually, owing to the inclination of the moon’s orbit, and the fact that it sort of rocks this way and that, we can see rather more than half of it from Earth, but you get what I mean, I’m sure).

Astronomers have long found this enduring misnomer to be painful, as it ought easily to be the case that everyone can see (literally see) that the side facing the Earth changes from being wholly illuminated, to partially illuminated, to unilluminated (well, except for the faint glow of reflected Earthlight, which is pretty cool, when you look at it), back to partially illuminated, and repeat. What this means is that, in a way, there is a dark side to the moon, but it’s not the side that faces away from the Earth: it’s the side that faces away from the Sun. While the moon keeps one face towards Earth all the time, it shows its entire globe to the Sun, once every complete lunar orbit (it really takes a little longer than that, because the Earth-moon system also orbits the Sun, which I can make plain on the back of a paper napkin at the bar in Clyde’s, but not on this blog). This means that while, yes, there is a dark side to the moon, that side is constantly changing. Which is not true of the far side, which is the side the Chinese plan to explore.

No, that wasn’t important, but it irks astronomers and I once wanted to be an astronomer, so, on their behalf, I have groused about it here.

(Of course, there is still another view on this, starting at 1:35, here.)

Ramadan Finds the Time to Campaign

for someone else!

Earlier this year, Del. David Ramadan announced that he would not run again for his seat in the General Assembly. Back then, his reasons were the burden to his business and the time it would take to run a campaign. From The Washington Post:

Ramadan, who represents parts of Loudoun and Prince William counties, cited his upcoming election fight and suffering business interests as reasons for his departure.

Meyer Asks BOS Not To Appoint Him

As we said earlier today, our sources indicate that the BOS is not planning to appoint anyone currently running for office to replace departed supervisor Shawn Williams. Republican candidate Ron Meyer, in what we think is probably a scripted move, has issued a press release, saying he would rather not be considered for such appointment. It’s a deft move, since appointing him while he is a candidate would look like (and be) political opportunism on his part and that of the remaining eight board members (consisting of seven Republicans, zero Democrats, no Independents, and Scott York). Instead, by saving them from that problem, Meyer is also making himself appear noble, as though he were humbly declining to accept a crown that was his for the taking. Ah, theater, thy name is politics.

Somewhat fumbling his otherwise impressive throw, Meyer’s statement also says he hopes whomever the board appoints will work with him on his dead-on-arrival plan to “realign” Shellhorn Road. That’s a bad move because we expect the board’s appointee will do just that, which has every likelihood of revealing how unworkable his plan is, when it collides with reality. If that happens before election day, Meyer is sunk. If his appointee can make it look feasible for two months, however, and enough voters are fooled, it may see Meyer win the election, only to be made to look the fool himself for a full four years, as he is forced to admit it couldn’t be done.

Statement from Shawn Williams

Former Broad Run supervisor Shawn Williams posted this statement to his Facebook page today:

Yesterday I resigned my position as the Broad Run District representative on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. I want to apologize to my family, colleagues, neighbors, friends and constituents for this disappointment. My understanding is that a succession plan is currently being worked out that will ensure the Broad Run District has good representation on the Board of Supervisors.

On Saturday night after a long neighborhood party I confronted my good friend and neighbor after he gave me what I know was intended as friendly advice. I want to specifically apologize to him and his family for my actions. This poor decision highlights a personal shortcoming that can no longer be denied or compartmentalized. It has become painfully clear I need help with my alcohol abuse and I am getting professional help. Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.

Thank You … Shawn

The comments have been, as of this writing, unanimously supportive. Unlike a lot of elected officials whose private problems come into public view, Shawn isn’t denying that his exist, nor that he needs to confront and defeat them. Being a supervisor is a lot more work than I suspect most people know. It’s only fair and reasonable that he should devote his energy to coping with his personal life, and let the rest of the board worry about the county at this time. It’s also very uplifting to see so many people, of so varied a range of political persuasions, showing our neighbor some compassion. Some will say he should have resigned sooner, but his board service seems never to have suffered from the issues he’s dealing with at home. I really don’t think anyone can say he failed as a public servant, so any such sniping says a lot more about the sniper than it does about the target.

Wild speculation is everywhere as to who, if anyone, the remaining board members will appoint to replace him. We have some solid info on that, but will keep it to ourselves, other than to say it will not be anyone currently running for office.

Shawn Willliams2012

SCC Rules in Favor of S/C/C/ Greenway

Two years ago, Del. David Ramadan compelled the State Corporation Commission to “investigate” tolls on the Greenway. The nature of the investigation is kind of hard to discern, but it appears to have been authorized under Code §56-542(D). That’s the section that authorizes the SCC to set tolls in the first place. The first part of the section authorizes the SCC to set a schedule of tolls that is

…reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained, not likely to materially discourage use of the roadway and provide the operator no more than a reasonable rate of return as determined by the Commission.

Okay, so SCC sets the rates according to the above criteria. Now the second part of that same section authorizes SCC to investigate and to order the substitution of a new schedule of tolls that is

… reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained and which will not materially discourage use of the roadway by the public and which will provide the operator no more than a reasonable return as determined by the Commission.

No, that’s not the same section. That’s two different parts of the same paragraph. The first requires the SCC to set tolls by three criteria. After investigation, however, the SCC is allowed to change tolls so that they match the same three criteria. And, golly(!), after investigating the tolls they set already by those criteria, SCC has found that those tolls do, in fact, meet those criteria (and so they stay exactly the same as they are now).

This was the obvious and inevitable conclusion of any such “investigation” from the start. This whole thing (two years of it!) has been a complete waste of time and money. Del. Ramadan (like candidate Meyer) has gone out of his way to irritate the Greenway’s operators, when he should have been passing legislation to help them institute distance-based billing. Now, as he completes his last term in office, Ramadan leaves a final example of waste and political theater, at taxpayer expense (and lost opportunity, at his constituents’ expense).

I’ll say again that he made a memorable speech when he announced his departure from the house. It is sad, then, in more than one way, that this failure is his closing moment as a legislator.


Herring Runs Again for AG (not for Gov).


In something of a surprise announcement, Attorney General Mark Herring said today he will not run for governor in 2017. Instead, he will run for re-election to his current post.

Mark’s been a breath, no, a tank-full, of fresh air after the ideologically obsessed abuser of office ahead of him, Ken Cuccinelli. Instead of threatening the health of women, depriving Virginians of equality, and misusing his office to persecute scholars he doesn’t agree with, Mark has taken the Commonwealth back in the direction of liberty for all, and common sense use of the power of his office. His work in favor of equality had fearful members of a fading class and generation calling for his impeachment. Mark has been able to ignore those calls, on the simple, valid logic that his oath to uphold the United States constitution overrides his oath to uphold the state’s constitution, when the two come into conflict. He stood by that oath, and Virginia is a better, more loving state today than it was before, as a result. One shudders in imagining what our legacy as a state would be if Cuccinelli, or another like him, had been in Mark’s place at that time.

Mark Herring will be a great governor of Virginia, as will Ralph Northam. If allowing him to serve another four years as a great Attorney General is what we have to do in the meantime, it will all be worth the wait.

Ron Meyer, Socialist?

Republican candidate for Broad Run supervisor, Ron Meyer, has a plan to confiscate private business, condemn private property, and raise your taxes, all in the name of free stuff for everyone from the government. You see, he thinks the solution to the Greenway being overpriced is to build more roads (who knew transportation problems could be solved with roads, eh?). Specifically, he says he wants to connect Shellhorn Road (which ends at Loudoun County Parkway) to Sterling Blvd (which ends at Pacific Blvd).

Well, there are few problems with that. One is the piece of private property informally known in Loudoun county as the “Antigone” parcel (after Chris Antigone, one of the partners that owns it). You can’t get from the east end of Shellhorn to the west end of Sterling without going through the middle of the Antigone parcel:


That alone means Meyer’s idea is pure science fiction, but there are still more problems with his plan. After Meyer has convinced four other supervisors to condemn Chris Antigone’s land, he still has to cope with the industrial commercial operations that are immediately west of Pacific, and still east of Antigone. Meyer must think these businesses can be bulldozed out of the way of his magic road:

Now, Meyer never says a word in the Leesburg Today interview about how he’s going to pay for the road, the condemnations he’ll need for the right of way, or the cost of relocating all those existing uses. And that’s before one considers that his road would have to cross Broad Run, not just dry, flat land. We’re talking many millions of dollars here, but ignore that for now. Meyer says the benefits would be so many that, perhaps, he thinks cost is a trivial issue.

The benefits? First, according to Leesburg Today, he says, “his goal is to take enough commuters off the toll road to force Greenway owner and operator Toll Road Investors Partnership II to come to the negotiating table and either sell the road or institute graduated tolls.” Sell the road? To whom? Loudoun County? For how much? And, if we bought it, how does Meyer know we could operate it for less than TRIP II does? And, whether he buys it or forces TRIP II to move to graduated tolls, what’s the gain? That we all start using the Greenway again? Does that justify a massively expensive project we’d end up not using, while condemning huge amounts of private property and disrupting numerous businesses?

Never. Going. To happen.

I know Chris Antigone. He’s a decent guy, but he wants that parcel used for a convention center. It’s a brilliant idea that, if done with some cooperation from MWAA, might even allow visitors to land at Dulles International, walk onto the Metro, go one stop, and walk off into the lobby of their hotel. I haven’t spoken to him about it, but I doubt he’ll give up that dream in exchange for a freeway down the middle of his land. (Not to mention what a lost opportunity for prosperity that would be to Loudoun county.)

All of this just can’t be the thinking of a Republican. So what is Ron Meyer’s real political persuasion? The article offers a powerful clue, when it reports the other great benefit Meyer says this will include:

Meyer proposes extending Shellhorn Road to connect to Sterling Boulevard and create one path all the way to Rt. 28. That would almost parallel the Greenway and, he said, ‘give commuters a local, free alternative’ to the toll road.

Aha! The truth seeps out! Ron Meyer is a Socialist. He is everything Ayn Rand’s great champion of prosperity, John Galt, knew was wrong with trying to make a profit by passing a law. He wants to give you a better world for free. Who is the only party to suffer here? Meyer tells us:

‘This road—along with current projects widening Route 28 and finishing Gloucester Parkway—will take thousands of cars off the Greenway and heavily cut into their profits, Meyer said in a prepared statement.

Of course! Evil corporations must be made to pay for all the free stuff The People have the right to expect for nothing. Who cares if the board of supervisors bankrupts one of the biggest taxpayers in the county?

As absurd and unbelievable as all this is, it apparently actually is Ron Meyer’s platform. His enormous road signs all say, “Build Greenway Alternatives.” (They do not say, “Raise Taxes / Condemn Land / Kill Businesses,” but maybe that’s on the back).

Now, mixed into all this nonsense actually is a small piece of the real solution to the Greenway tolls: distance-based pricing. But nothing Ron Meyer or the Loudoun board of supervisors can do will bring that about. I know. We tried. The toll structure on the Greenway is regulated by the State Corporation Commission, which, in turn, is under the jurisdiction of the state legislature. While David Ramadan was doing all he could to ruin the state’s relationship with the Greenway’s operators, what he should have been doing was passing legislation to extend a low-interest loan to the Greenway to cover the cost of adding toll machines and new software to implement distance-based pricing. Increased use by short-haul users would allow them to pay off the loan and, assuming the use continued after that, TRIP II would actually start making a bit more money (or, just maybe, the SCC would hold off the next toll increase for a few years). That’s a public/private partnership that could work, requires no new construction, no condemnation, and helps a local business continue to operate and provide a service.

Only a Socialist could possibly find anything wrong with that.