Taking a moment during lunch to check in over at Too Conservative I saw that the lead post was regarding the VA Supreme Court ruling that the NVTA is unconstitutional. Poster Loudoun Insider didn’t have details and was on his way out when he heard, so I went and checked over at WTOP News and there it was:
A ruling by Virginia’s Supreme Court will have a direct effect on your wallet and your commute.
The state’s highest court ruled that the regional authority created by the General Assembly to levy taxes for Northern Virginia transportation projects is unconstitutional.
In a unanimous opinion, the court said legislators improperly delegated taxing powers to the unelected members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
The decision affects seven regional taxes and fees that residents started paying Jan. 1. Those taxes and fees include new taxes on home sales, car rentals and repairs and hotel-room stays, as well as $10 safety-inspection fee and a $10 regional vehicle-registration fee.&nbsp;
This is pretty serious for the folks who thought this was a good idea. There has already been about $300 million in bonds offered that were to be financed by these taxes.
At issue was the fact that the NVTA would be comprised of unelected members and yet they would have the power to levy taxes. This was the issue many Virginians had with the whole idea and the constitutionality of it was challenged by people like Delegate Bob Marshall. The Court agreed – unanimously, I might add – overturning the decision of a lower court in Arlington County.
Democrat Jim Moran is pretty ticked off, from the sound of it. If the quotes in the story are accurate, Congressman Moran needs a refresher course on our system of government. Note his comments:
Moran calls the decision “inexcusable” on the part of the court.
“Under the separation of powers, the legislative branch makes the law, and the judiciary decides whether the executive branch is acting consistent with that law. The judiciary doesn’t make its own law. Once the legislature acts — that is the law — and there was no question when they acted if this was truly constitutional. The Attorney General had reviewed it and recognized it as consistent with the constitution.”
Moran’s an idiot if this is honestly his understanding of it. He talks as if the legislature snaps its fingers and everyone else just has to start tap-dancing. Did he miss the notion that the Governor – the head of the executive branch – has to actually sign a law passed by the legislature? So, it’s not a matter of “[o]nce the legislature acts — that is the law” to begin with. As for there being no question that it was constitutional, may I ask who made that determination? The Attorney General is not the final arbiter of whether something is constitutional. The Supreme Court is and they followed the process by which that determination is made. Moran’s just throwing a congressional temper-tantrum that a group of people vetted and approved to carry out the task of saying whether something is constitutional all came to the conclusion that this piece of legislation was not, and he doesn’t like that. Well, tough noogies, Mr. Congressman. Our system of government says you don’t get to make that call. This legislation was an attempt to end run the constitutional process and it got caught trying. The General Assembly now needs to go back and pass a law that passes constitutional muster or they need to propose a change to the constitution to permit the NVTA to be the way they envisioned.
This doesn’t fix the funding issue but we can’t just fall into doing whatever the quickest fix for the problem is. It’s got to be legal and, here in Virginia, this approach doesn’t qualify.
Via Hot Air, it would appear that the only suspension of disbelief Americans have needed lately is that of thinking Democrats have any real clue as to what’s going on.
Virtual Fence has such “technology problems” that further development will be delayed up to 3 years. Updated
Wow. This is gonna hurt. Well, it’s gonna hurt someone’s career, anyway.
May I recommend we get back to building the real fence while my fellow wire-heads work out the issues?
Update: I’m getting some messages from folks with more access to the real skinny than I that people working with the project are absolutely, vehemently denying that the story is anywhere near correct. As they say, stay tuned.
Update 2: OK, as promised, I’ve got more information. First things first, I’ll direct you to this press release over at the DHS site. The release was posted on the 26th – 2 days ago – in response to a Wall Street Journal article from the 23rd wherein the claim was made that DHS wouldn’t replicate the project elsewhere on the border. DHS points out that Project 28 was a proof of concept and an intended building block. Read the release and you’ll get the details. Oh, and one of the more damning statements from the news story was the notion that the US was handing Boeing another contract to improve this project even before it was accepted. That contract was to develop new software intended for future deployments, not for any work on the existing project’s goals.
A 2:00pm rebroadcast of comments by Greg Giddens (Director of SBI – Secure Border Initiative) at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference going on in DC this week on Federal News Radio show that DHS strongly objected to the story’s characterization of events. Giddens clearly thinks the story was completely wrong – exactly opposite of the true state of things. I can’t find a transcript yet but I’ll keep looking and link to it when available.
So, whom to believe? Media vs. DHS… Time to be patient, I suppose.
Someone sent this one to me. Seems strangely accurate.
At the tail end of last week I got the weekly crop of local newspapers and something in one of them caught my attention. It was a full-page ad sponsored by Inova Loudoun Hospital that purported to do a side-by-side comparison of HCA’s proposed Broadlands hospital project and Loudoun County’s Health Plan – which just so happens to include a location for a southern Loudoun hospital precisely where Inova’s proposed new hospital would be built.
A coincidence, I’m sure. But that’s a topic for a later conversation.
The ad (you can see a scanned-in copy in PDF format here – warning: it’s a big file so give it time) goes into some editorial detail into how Loudoun’s Health Care Facilities Policies were developed and specifically mentions Inova’s efforts in bringing quality healthcare facilities to all of Loudoun’s citizens. Admirable. The accompanying map shows a geographically dispersed set of facilities with the current Lansdowne and Leesburg facilities as well as the one in the southeastern corner of Loudoun that’s being proposed. The other side of the ad shows the HCA Broadlands approach, complete with a map showing the proposed location and it’s relationship to existing facilities. The text of that side of the ad basically attacks the entire idea of putting a hospital in Broadlands. What struck me almost immediately were the nearly frantic claims being made that even considering HCA’s plans were putting the entire healthcare system in Loudoun in jeopardy and the clear attempt to paint the entire project as some kind of evil corporate plot to… well, I guess to provide us hospital care.
Before I began to do the research into the only argument of merit – that Loudoun’s population didn’t support having that hospital there – I was struck by some of the obvious manipulations going on. Have a look at those 2 maps closely. What the map of Loudoun’s facilities plan is clearly showing is a plan to distribute the facilities geographically. That’s all well and good – if your population is evenly distributed geographically. The critical issue about the population isn’t a matter of how many people there are – which is important, don’t get me wrong – it’s a matter of where those people are. In other words, it’s a matter of the population density and how many people are clustered around specific points in the county. The map of Loudoun’s facilities plan doesn’t take into account the locations of highest density. It merely spaces the facilities out around the county. That’s not useful in a real-world sense.
Now have a look at the other map, the one that shows the proposed location of HCA’s hospital. It’s so subtle, I’m betting you don’t even notice it. The center of the star showing the HCA location is actually to the north side of where Route 267 (the Greenway) runs. That’s not where the HCA location is. It’s to the south side. The impression given by moving that star just a hair to the north and east is that it’s closer to the Lansdowne facility than an actual siting on the map would convey. Ah, but that’s not all. Note the location of the Lansdowne “H” on the map on the left side, the one showing Loudoun’s facility plan. Take special note of the distance that icon sits from the Route 15 loop around Leesburg. Now compare the same distance in the map on the
left right. It’s shorter. You can see that when the map was drawn, the icon was “pegged” to the word “Leesburg” above it. Compare the positioning of the word “Leesburg” and you can see easily that it’s been shifted leftward. The Lansdowne icon in the HCA map has been moved slightly to the west – closer to Leesburg. Combined with the slight move north and east of the star representing the HCA location you’ve closed the distance between those 2 indicators on the map, yielding a much stronger impression that the 2 sites are nearly on top of each other. Was this intentional? I have no idea but I do know that I can’t think of a good reason to move that icon. The two maps are supposed to be identical with regard to Loudoun’s borders, roads, and the location of Inova at Lansdowne. Presuming that the person preparing that graphic didn’t start from scratch when they made the maps, you’d think they wouldn’t move stuff that didn’t need to be. I make graphics similar to this all the time in preparing the documentation I do for customer projects and I know I make use of as much of previous documents as possible and I work very hard to make comparitive diagrams match as much as can be done. Is this evidence of manipulation? Again, I don’t know.
Getting to the text, the claim is made that the HCA site is in a “residential neighborhood within 5 miles of the existing hospital.” Well, I don’t want to quibble on the distance but my quick Google map check shows it to be right at 5 miles. Using the term “about 5 miles from the existing hospital” would have been far more accurate and less prone to leave a mistaken impression in the mind of the reader. Assuming that’s what you want, of course. I should like to reitterate that the argument that the 2 facilities are too close to each other based upon a mileage measurement missed the point. Out-of-state members of my family are always complaining that when they ask how far I live from some point out here, I always reply in terms of minutes. I answer them that it’s a question of how long it takes to get somewhere that’s important, not how many miles go under my tires. I can be 10 miles from something out here and have it take an hour to arrive. I can be 25 miles from other stuff that I can get to in 30 minutes. Where a hospital is concerned, I care about how long it takes me to get there, not that it’s 12 miles from me. Mere physical distance should not be the deciding factor in whether it’s too close. It should be population density and transit ability that decide.
As far as being in a “residential neighborhood” I would point out that many, many hospitals are “in” residential neighborhoods. Besides, if you look at my original post on this matter and follow the location link I provided, you can see that the site is bound on 2 sides by highways, not residences, and on the 3rd side abuts to the LCPS administration building. All of the residences are across Broadlands Blvd, a 4-lane, divided parkway. This is hardly nestled in between private residences as the text implies.
Then there’s the claim that putting this hospital in Broadlands will “force the closure of planned and existing healthcare facilities in Leesburg, Lovettsville, Purcellville, and Middleburg.” That’s gotta be the biggest whopper of the bunch. Putting said hospital in Broadlands will kill off all of those things but putting it down where Inova wants to build theirs won’t? Preposterous. If the population density in Middleburg or Purcellville can support a medical facility then one will be built, period. If it doesn’t, then it won’t. I contend that those places most certainly can support medical facilities of an appropriate size and the population growth that is coming – at one speed or another – will increase that support level as time goes on. Ashburn can support additional facilities right now, today. To suggest that we not build in their community today when the need is clearly there so we can maybe build one in an outlying community years from now when their population supports it makes no sense whatsoever. Same with the claim that a hospital on Route 50 would no longer be possible. Sure it will – if the population density reaches the level to support it. Are they really suggesting that if the Dulles South area reached the same density as Sterling/Countryside that you couldn’t support building a hospital there? Nonsense. Although, given the current board and the activities of the various no-growth folks in Loudoun it’s going to take longer to get there than it would have otherwise.
I started to search for population density figures in the area and do all manner of other research when it hit me: this ad isn’t targeted at the government. This is a matter that’s in litigation, not a resolution to be passed by the General Assembly. Who, exactly, is Inova talking to when they say, “It’s time to tell HCA that enough is enough.”
The only possibly effective target to that ad is the judge in the case. Any why would they be taking an ad out to do that? Because, quite simply, they know the likelihood of HCA prevailing in the case is higher than not. Why is it higher and why does Inova clearly believe that? Because HCA’s case must have merit. My perception is that Inova knows that, too.
We have a neighboring county whose healthcare facilities are a mix of Inova and HCA. They are located similar distances from each other. And they’re working just fine. Inova doesn’t like sharing the customer base, I get that. That’s not a compelling reason to side against HCA and allow Loudoun to go another 5 years without the available hospital facilities our population obviously supports. I hope HCA prevails and can get started building that hospital quickly.
Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded.
No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.
A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C — a value large enough to wipe out nearly all the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year’s time. For all four sources, it’s the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.
Well, now, that’s not how the script is supposed to be going, is it? In spite of evidence recently released that the sun is entering a lower-energy state, the continued drumbeat of global warming just kept on pounding out the message that things are getting hotter, hotter, hotter. Even when faced with the anecdotal evidence referenced in the above link, global warming proponents kept with their message. (Frankly, that’s one of the things about their message that I find indefensible. It doesn’t seem to matter what the weather’s doing – hot, cold, blizzard, searing drought – it’s always evidence of global warming.)
The 4 sources that are showing this temperature drop are the same sources cited by those global warming folks. Now that they are showing precisely the opposite, I wonder how fast they’ll be dismissed as “anomalies.” For the record, cold has managed to kill more people and cause more civilization-wide problems than heat ever has. Let’s hope whatever’s causing the cool-down doesn’t go too far.
Update: By the way, I do know that the records being cited in the link above are talking about a pretty narrow range – 1 year – and that drawing a trending conclusion from that is pretty dicey. This post was intended to sound more tongue-in-cheek than it does. It’s not that I don’t have a problem with the man-made global-warming crowd’s positions – I do – it’s just that a precipitous temperature drop over the course of 1 month, while interesting, is hardly conclusive. In re-reading this post after I published it, I pretty clearly missed making that point. So, here you go.
Berkeley city officials pass a resolution calling the US Marines “uninvited and unwelcome intruders,” liberals get out there protesting straight-laced, uptight conservative values at the drop of a hat, and yet a woman who posted a picture of herself posing in underwear that I’m sure was no worse than the bikinis on the beaches these days manages to get fired in a liberal northwestern bastion. Well, she was in Oregon at any rate which is usually a liberal place. Interesting that local government officials from Berkeley to Toledo can bust the chops of the US Marines and be lauded by their populace but let a woman express her sexual freedom on her own website and watch the axes come out.
A few days ago I blogged on the matter of the cyclical LCPS census survey and, specifically, the questions they were asking. A follow-up is called for given some commentary on the blog and a response I received from the LCPS.
First things first, you should know that I did, in fact, respond to the survey in its entirety. It’s a matter of law: I’m required to do so and there’s no facility granted to simply not give answers to the questions. (At least not on-line, the method I used because it’s fast for me, fast for them, and doesn’t cost either of us postage.) I am most certainly not advocating that anyone disregard the survey or withhold answers. I found the scope of the questions annoying, not protest-worthy.
Second, a comment was raised that the readers didn’t have access to the entire set of questions. That’s true and I didn’t provide an image of the actual mailing nor did I transcribe the questions. I’m not doing so, either, but I can paraphrase the questions pretty well, largely because there wasn’t many of them. The survey asked for:
- What type of dwelling your house was. (Single-family, townhouse, etc.)
- How many bedrooms it has.
- How long you’ve lived there.
- Whether you have a computer at home the student can use.
- Whether you have internet access at home.
- Primary language spoken in the home.
That’s it for the questions. Now, if you have kids under 20 years old living at home who aren’t enrolled or attending an LCPS school, you’re supposed to list them on the back of the survey (or the last page of the on-line version). They want the kid’s 1st name, age, and what other kind of school they’re attending. That’s it for the survey, lock, stock & barrel.
The issues I had, to recap, were with the question regarding the inside structure of my house, the presence or absence of a computer, and whether I had internet access. As a brief aside I also have a problem with the notion that young adults aged 18 and 19 should be considered for inclusion in this survey. They’re my child at 18 or 19 – at 68 or 69, for that matter – but they and their plans for education are no concern of the LCPS at that stage. Part of my neck-hair bristling about this is the creeping attitude these days that people considered legally responsible to vote and fight wars are somehow to be included in the same group as 1st-graders.
The response from the LCPS was cordial and thoughtful. I won’t reproduce the whole e-mail but they did address the larger concerns. When the BoS is considering a zoning request, they ask LCPS for input on how a given development will affect student enrollment. They have estimates already for how many students will likely come out of a house that’s got such-and-such number of bedrooms but they are constantly refining the model for those estimates. That’s where the 1st two questions come in. They are asking for this data to provide better estimates in the future. That’s an objective I can get behind and I consider it to be a valid reason for asking the question.
The computer questions are asked because LCPS wants to know if their teachers can reasonably expect students to be able to access various on-line resources should they be assigned to do so. Hey, I’m an IT professional. I’d love it if they were to make more use of those resources. But while the questions appear to be well-based, I have to ask: what do they intend to do with the answer? The likelihood that every student attending LCPS schools both have a computer and internet access has got to be pretty close to zero. If 29 students in a class have both and 1 has neither, can the teacher reasonably assign tasks that require those resources? Maybe they can if we rely on our public libraries to provide them to those students who don’t, maybe not. That’s a decision that needs to be discussed, of course. Still, my question about the matter doesn’t render the reason given for the LCPS asking about the computers as a moot point. All things considered, I think I’m pretty neutral about it.
The amount of digital ink used to explain why these questions are being asked was pretty small and they have the perfect opportunity to use it on the LCPS web site. Perhaps the best thing to do is fully explain the purposes behind the questions up front rather than focus on the fact that Virginia law allows LCPS to ask them. After the explanation, I feel more of a part of what LCPS is trying to do rather than someone presented with a task to do because the law says I have to.
Just a thought.
Well, it’ll seem like the world’s ending to some of us, anyway. Starbucks is going to close its doors on all 7100 stores nationwide today for a 3-hour employee re-training session. For those 3 hours the baristas are going to share info on firing up the perfect (and heavily modified) cup of joe. The closure will take place at 5:30 local time so if you’ve got that monkey on your back as bad as some of my co-workers do, better get in there before rush hour tonight.
I wonder if the commute home will have even more cranky people involved? Hmmmm.
All good things must come to an end, so the saying goes. As an amateur genealogist, I’m well familiar with the concept as regards people’s lives and it’s axiomatic that such things are true about the events within people’s lives. So it goes for this section of the blogosphere. Ed Morrissey of Captain’s Quarters – currently – has changed jobs again. This time he’s leaving the political director’s seat at BlogTalkRadio and taking a spot with Michelle Malkin at Hot Air. That’s the good news. The bad is that he’ll be blogging at Hot Air and not at Captain’s Quarters.
CQ has been on my blogroll since just about day 1 for me and it has remained one of the blogs I’ve checked with multiple times, daily, for these past several years. Ed’s writing style, his thoughtful analysis, sense of fair play, and obvious wit has made his prose some of the best-liked in the ‘sphere. Easily in the same class as Michelle Malkin, the Power Line boys, and Glenn Reynolds, Ed’s diverse interests combined with some singular focus makes his place a must-stop in the daily rounds.
I’ll miss CQ.
He says he intends to keep on keeping on over at Hot Air and invites we regular readers to read on and keep him honest. Worry not, Ed. We will. In the meantime, set your bookmarks and blogrolls up to keep up with Ed by going over to Hot Air.