Forum result for this voter: I’m backing Barbara Comstock for Congress in the 10th District

Comstock Logo 1

I was able to attend the most recent candidate forum in eastern Loudoun this past Wednesday so I could see and hear for myself the 6 candidates for Representative of the Virginia 10th Congressional District. The candidates are Steve Hollingshead, Howie Lind, Barbara Comstock, Mark Savitt, Rob Wasinger, and Bob Marshall. (That’s the order of seating at the forum and, I’m told, the order of their filing to run for the office, in case you’re interested.) When I go to events like this, there’s more to it than listening to the candidates talk about their positions. It’s a matter of listening to that, yes, because it’s important, but it’s how they say it and how they dedicate their precious speaking time to the tasks at hand. Getting that complete sense is very instructive.

When I walked into the auditorium, I really only knew much about 3 of the 6 candidates. Barbara Comstock is my Delegate to the General Assembly in Virginia. I’ve watched her votes during her term and I’ve listened to her speak so I’m pretty familiar with her. Bob Marshall is also a Delegate in the General Assembly and his tenacity and willingness to get into a political fistfight where warranted makes it easy to know where he’s coming from. While I don’t know his record as well as Mrs. Comstock’s, I am pretty familiar with his stance on matters. Finally, Howie Lind was the former chairman of the 10th Congressional District Committee. I’ve been on his mailing list for, literally, years so I’ve gotten to read his positions on a wide variety of matters.

The other 3 were names I barely recognized so I was there to get a first impression of them.

Mr. Hollingshead’s position that Washington is broken, that they spend too much, and that they exceed their authority on all manner of things is something I can agree with wholeheartedly. He says he can fix it. Or, rather, he got around to saying it after spending the opening remarks time he had pretty much accusing Barbara Comstock of abuse of power and of being a GOP-establishment puppet. His immediate launch into a negative, mudslinging harangue was instantly off-putting and he continued to toss little barbs into his commentary. I understand that when you’re miles behind in a race and hope is dwindling that you’ll sometimes attempt to score some digs in an effort to shore up some support but the decision has consequences. One of those is to be written off by people like me.

Mr. Savitt’s approach of being concerned with job creation, energy development, and reigning in the federal government to operate within its Constitutionally-specified authority is one that resonates with conservatives like me. He rose to the bait of Mr. Hollingshead’s attempt to belittle his profession, however, and sent him down a negative path as well. I found myself liking Mr. Savitt, and I certainly like his positions. But he comes across as inexperienced in running a campaign or running for office. And, in truth, he is inexperienced – this is his 1st attempt, if I’m reading right. Perhaps he would benefit from running for a local office first and then attempting to step up to the federal campaign. In his delivery and in his focus, I just don’t see someone that can win in the general election.

As for Mr. Wasinger… I have never – not a single time in my life – sat out an election. Given the appalling display Mr. Wasinger made during that forum, I would give serious consideration to not casting a vote in that race come November if he were the nominee. Mr. Wasinger used his opening remarks to quite literally accuse Mrs. Comstock of exploiting hurricane Katrina survivors and taking kickbacks to steer cushy government contracts to her supporters. I’ll be writing about this bit of garbage in another post, but suffice it to say that his delivery, his outright hostility toward a fellow Republican, and the hackneyed, devoid-of-details slurry of campaign tripe coming out of his mouth makes supporting him completely impossible for anyone serious about winning this seat in November.

Mrs. Comstock knows that the policies of this Administration are disastrous and she opposes them. She knows that Obamacare needs to be repealed and is committed to working toward that end. She knows that taxes are too high, that spending is too high. She knows that in terms of our economy and our foreign policy that energy development is a vastly underutilized weapon in our arsenal. It would strengthen our position in the world if we’re not as reliant on energy sources abroad. It offers us the chance to extend that strength to our allies, keeping them from being forced to make deals with nations that don’t share our values. And, to multiply those effects, it would provide the boost to our economy to finally bring a recovery back to America and improve the life situations of all Americans. She gets it – unlike our current delegation over in the Senate – and she would work hard to get the federal government out of Virginia’s way in developing our natural resources.

Mr. Marshall impressed me at the forum and improved his position in my personal leaderboard. Mr. Lind’s positions have always been compatible with mine and I can see supporting either of them, easily, should they secure the nomination. But positions alone are not sufficient to win. You also need a proven track record in the electorate in question. While Mr. Marshall’s record on that score is impressive, when you weigh in all of the factors – positions, experience, electoral rapport – Mrs. Comstock is simply the best candidate in the running. That’s why I’m supporting her for Congress and that’s why I think you should, too.

More to come. Stay tuned.

Snow days for the new millenium: Cyber-days?

teleworking

I’ve certainly got a different perspective on snow days than I had in my youth. What was a rare, greatly appreciated treat, allowing a late wake-up, play in the snow, and just generally relaxing times has turned into something less enjoyed.  Plans for an adult’s day get spontaneously adjusted, kids need to be looked after or provided for, and the havoc it plays with their lesson plan and test schedule only gets worse with each such occurrence.  For me and a growing number of people, however, it’s starting to be less of an impact to the adult work schedule. Telework has changed the effects of snowstorms in our lives.

Not every job lends itself to telework. But for those that do, a computer in the house and a broadband connection means that parents can go on working whether they are at the office or not. The systems that permit telework are my industry and with very few exceptions, I can do my work from anywhere. As I was working from home one of the many snow days this winter, I paused from my design work and glanced up to see my daughter poking away at her iPad. I wondered why she couldn’t use the same tech to attend class, given that so much of it is lecture. Turns out, others have already started to address this.

Catholic schools in Arkansas have been using a pilot program that, if endorsed by its accrediting body, will dramatically change the way inclement weather days are handled in the future.

“Cyber days” combine online educational tools with teacher planning and creativity to help students make the most of days where inclement weather forces cancellation of the regular school day.

In short, pretty much the same kind of approach that I use to do my work from home would apply to the students. They could establish a VPN connection to the school’s infrastructure and do assignments, exercises, even take certain quizzes and tests online. With the right kind of gear even homework could be “turned in.” I’m not saying it wouldn’t present challenged, but it’s most certainly in the realm of technical possibility, even feasibility. As a professional in this field, I’d love to start a conversation about this kind of thing.

“Oh Crap!” App–basic rights protection or drunk-driving enabler?

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A new app available for Android and iPhone smart phones is getting a bit of a rise out of Iowa’s law enforcement. The “Oh Crap!” app is designed to give advice and provide tools to drivers being pulled over by the police.

There’s a new smartphone app for drivers having an ‘oh crap!’ moment behind the wheel. The ‘Oh Crap’ app is designed to help drivers being pulled over for suspected drunk driving.

It was put together by lawyers in Iowa as a way to educate the public of their rights if they are pulled over. It also helps to document the stop for lawyer’s use later.

“We want to educate citizens on what their legal rights are and are not in the state of Iowa and eventually everywhere else. But we also want to serve as a tool to allow people to document their invocation of their rights and their use of legal protections that exist,” said Bob Rehkemper, an attorney and co-creator of the app. 

The app gives tips to drivers being pulled over like: “shut up” and “be polite.” There’s a feature to calculate your blood alcohol content and a button that contacts an on-call lawyer. Plus, there is a whole section on basic legal rights when being pulled over.

I don’t have this app and I have no intention of getting it. However, I do recognize 2 things about it. First, from what I’m reading, the app is providing some good advice to people in their dealings with law enforcement, particularly that bit about being polite. One of the tools it provides is a 15-minute audio recording feature that gets activated at a push of one of the app buttons. According to the app web site, the recording goes for 15 minutes and then stops to upload the audio file to the service’s servers. That file can then be accessed later by either the person who made the recording or by their lawyer, once they grant the access. Once the recording is halted and uploads, the file is now available even if an… overzealous… officer decides to confiscate the phone or intimidate the person into erasing files stored on it. As a techie, I approve of that. Getting a recording or an image off of the recording device and onto safe storage somewhere protects more than it threatens, in my opinion.

The second thing I see is that the purpose and capability of the app is already being distorted by opponents. Again from the story:

Iowa law enforcement is aware of the app and one State Patrol officer is not a fan.

“To give people tips to not be pulled over for drunk driving, we don’t like to hear that. Because if someone is drunk driving we want them off the roadway before we lose an innocent life,” said Sgt. Scott Bright.

The worry is it could make roads less safe for drivers. “People start looking at this app and possibly think if I’m behind the wheel I can just follow some of these steps and maybe I can get away with it. They’re going to take their own risk into their hands,” Bright said.

There is absolutely nothing this app can do to assist someone in “not being pulled over.” The projected blood-alcohol tool can be a guidance to someone about whether they should even get behind the wheel or, proactively used, to know when to say when. The advice offered is a matter of knowing their rights, specifically what the police are legally authorized to command them to do and what they are legal authorized to ask and expect an answer. You’ll note that none of that stops a police officer from pulling them over.

I suspect that what’s really bothering the police in this case is the same thing that bothers them when they encounter someone exercising their right to bear arms who is also equipped with an audio recording device. They don’t like being monitored. So sorry, but… too bad. Dash cams and audio recordings are standard equipment for police these days and to suggest that the public doesn’t have every bit as much reason to make recordings of the interaction with police officers just kind of smacks of elitist leanings. I think this app could be very helpful and, in fact, could be extended to a more generalized app with advice on other matters. To make a module for the app that dealt with firearms law, as I referred to above, or laws on taking pictures or recordings of public events, for example, would be welcomed by those citizens involved in those areas. Perhaps the makers of the app could look into expanding their customer base down the road.

Can a government agency decline to accept legal tender?

Interesting question: can a government agency refuse to accept legal US currency for the payment of a citizen’s fee? A PA township thinks so:

Officials in Millcreek Township, along with its water and sewer authorities, have adopted a policy limiting how much change they’ll accept from residents paying sewer bills and other fees.

David Sterrett, executive director of the authorities, tells the Erie Times-News that officials came up with the policy after a woman showed up last month with a shoebox full of nickels, dimes and quarters to pay a $200 sewer bill.

Sterrett says it took four employees an hour to count, sort and put the money into paper sleeves.

The new policy limits residents to using $10 in unrolled coins or $20 in rolled coins when paying bills.

While I get the point about it taking “X” number of employees hours to count the funds, the question stands. If the currency is legal tender, how can a government agency refuse to take it? And if they refuse to take the coins, requiring the citizen to go have a transaction with a bank (a private institution) will the agency not penalize the citizen should that transaction take long enough to push them past some due date?

DC Dem Primary – Muriel wins; Gray’s out

Washington, DC held its Democratic primary on Tuesday and current mayor Vincent Gray’s ethics scandal finally torpedoed him. Muriel won the primary by 12 percentage points, an absolutely crushing margin. Quoting Muriel:

“The residents of the nation’s capital have always elected a Democratic mayor, a Democratic president, and in big numbers, and we’re going to do it again in November,” she said to supporters gathered at a charter school in southeast Washington.

Yeah, they have. And look what it’s gotten them. One corrupt administration after another, one bunch of cronies lining their own pockets at the expense of the residents of DC after yet another. Hey, DC – open your eyes. They’re using you, they’re taking you for granted and what do you have to show for it? High crime, restricted liberties, poor schools, bad infrastructure. Perhaps you should take a moment and do what people like Muriel and her Party bosses are completely convinced you won’t do: give some real consideration to alternatives.

Either way… good luck.

Maryland flushes $125M, says their Obamacare site is a failure

So, finally, it’s come down to it. After 4 years of development and $125 million spent, the State of Maryland is admitting that their Obamacare website is an utter failure and needs to just be thrown away.

With just days to go before open enrollment ends on March 31, Maryland officials are reportedly planning to abandon its glitch-ridden ObamaCare website…

Allow me to remind everyone that right up until today – 3 days after they made the announcement – the governor and lieutenant governor are still touting this colossal waste as an achievement. I will also point out that there are far more examples of States that have stood up their own exchanges and have seen them, er, “underperform” than have seen them succeed. The underlying law is bad enough but the sheer incompetence being displayed would be unbelievable did we not have so many examples.
Maryland is now going to have to pay millions more to the contractor that stood up Connecticut’s exchange to have them replicate that system for Maryland’s use. One wonders what Maryland could have spent ttheir funds on, instead. Teachers, perhaps? Police?
This is what Virginia’s governor Terry McAuliffe is holding our budget hostage for, by the way. He is insisting that we Virginians also sign up for this expense, and that we commit to the expansion of our amedicaid system, already an obligation threatening our long-term fiscal stability. We can see, at close range, the results of that choice. We don’t need to repeat the error.

Some real common sense regulations: La. bans using welfare benefits for lingerie

Welfare benefits have long been debated. In spite of political spin to the contrary, it’s not been a matter of whether they should exist at all, but rather for what purposes they should be allowed to apply and to whom. Even fiscal conservatives like myself understand that there are genuinely needy folks out there who really, honestly, are in a situation where they need help. And like most of my fellow fiscal hawks, I have no issue whatsoever with the decision we’ve collectively made to gather together and offer that assistance.

There are, however, a legion of examples of misuse of those benefits and we’ve all heard them. People who are asking for taxpayer assistance because they cannot pay for the basics of living – food, shelter, and necessary clothing – should not be using the money they’re given to buy items and services that are either luxuries or not required necessities of life. Opinions may vary but I definitely put cigarettes and alcohol in the category of things taxpayers should not be paying for. When we say food, we mean the sustenance required to not be malnourished, which means buying eggs and milk, not caviar. When we say shelter we mean rent or a mortgage on a place of primary residence, not a vacation home. When we say clothing, we mean that clothing required to protect oneself from the elements, to stay warm, and be minimally presentable so as to be able to go about life and, hopefully, improve one’s work station in life. The end goal, remember, is to actually get off of welfare, not make a living at it.

The latest, and most sensational, example came last week when a woman in Louisiana noticed a lingerie shop near her office that had a sign up in the window advising customers that they accepted welfare benefits cards for purchases at their store. The news coverage (see the link for the whole story) makes note of something rather critical: the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card in question is a federal program, not a state one. While I have a feeling the Louisiana officials quoted in the story made a point of saying that out of defensiveness, I do concede that the state can’t do anything about that. I also concede that the retailer at the lingerie shop also did nothing illegal, here. However, I am glad to also note that the incident prompted Louisiana officials to take a strong look at their own programs and tighten up their regulations.

Louisiana welfare recipients will be prohibited from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under new limits enacted by state social services officials.

DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier said the agency decided to ban the use of electronic benefit cards, which work as debit cards, at stores that don’t sell items that are considered basic needs for families.

“This rule will not affect families who currently use the program as intended, which is to provide food, shelter and clothing for families,” Sonnier said in a statement.

Now this is common sense regulation. Under no circumstances are things like tattoos, manicures, jewelry or lingerie necessities of living and people who are asking for assistance in paying for their basic needs don’t need to be spending money – particularly taxpayer funds – on items that fall into those categories. Ethically, they shouldn’t be spending any of their own money on them, either. If they can afford to have those things then they can afford to be paying for their own basic needs. I am all for assisting our fellow citizens who find themselves in need, for whatever reason. But that responsibility is a two-way street and those receiving that assistance should be making sure not to abuse the spirit of charity that ultimately drives such programs.