Monthly Archives: February 2005

Dillon Rule

Not only does the state not grant localities the right to pursue policies their citizens want in local matters, lawmakers also take away rights localities already have.

Have a problem with a city or county government?

Take it to Richmond if the local government doesn’t rule your way.

The gun lobby, of course.

Sounds of Editorial Silence

From a Detroit Free Press column on the Jeff Gannon flap:

[A] government that is not scrutinized by an energetic and adversarial press is a government that is not accountable for its actions. A government that is allowed to create its own reality is a government that can get away with anything.

So where is our outrage?

Frankly, the only thing more galling than the brazenness with which the White House abrogates the public’s right to know is the sheep-like docility with which we accept it.

When the history of this era is written, people will wonder why we didn’t challenge its excesses, why we didn’t know the things we should have. If you’re still around, remember the uproar you do not hear right this moment and tell them the truth.

Ignorance was easier.

Ban Against Gay Adoption Defeated

By the time Loudoun Republican Del. Dick Black’s bill [Disclosure] got the Senate, it was already not quite eviscerated but toned down. He wanted to ban gays from adopting. The House settled for giving prospective adoptive parents the third degree. “Have you now or ever been a card carrying gay?” Well, actually, the language was concerned with current homosexual activity, whatever that is.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee killed it on a voice vote — a loud one, according to some reports. Only one story said three GOPers voted for it but didn’t identify them, and as a voice vote it wasn’t recorded. I’d venture they included Cuccinelli and Obenshain. Anybody know?

It is incredible the misinformation Dick Black will spread. And the backtracking. After all, his original bill specifically banned homosexuals from adopting.

Black argued that it was not aimed at homosexuals; his only interest was the welfare of the adopted child. Virginia has long recognized the stable benefits of a home with a mother and father, he said.

Homosexuals have a higher history of depression, alcoholism and suicide, he said.

…Black’s chief witness, Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute in Colorado, said research shows that homosexuals, drug users and prostitutes disrupt society and have a much shorter life span.

He lumps gays in with drug users and prostitutes. It’s embarrassing that our state lawmakers will even give this guy a hearing. No, on second thought, giving them enough rope is probably a good idea.

Also testifying for Black’s bill was Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute in Washington.

“Who among us could say that our father could be replaced by a lesbian and this would not have made any difference in our lives?” he asked.

Earth to Knight: The kids being adopted don’t have a father or mother willing to care for them. Is that better for them than gay parents?

Kudos to Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston)

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, pounced.

Are you saying depressed people shouldn’t be allowed to adopt? she asked.

“Yes,” Black responded.

Do you know how many straight people are clinically depressed?

“I would imagine lots,” he responded.

Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, said he has handled thousands of adoption cases as a lawyer and has never seen a child placed with an adult who wasn’t recommended as able to provide a secure, loving environment, regardless of sexual orientation. As a result, he said, the bill wasn’t needed.

The most hostile attacks during an hourlong hearing were levied at Black’s main witness – the author of a highly criticized study that purports to show that gays and lesbians are 34 percent more likely to molest their adopted children than are straight parents.

The author of that study, Paul Cameron, who bills himself as a sociologist, also told the committee that gays and lesbians are more likely to die younger, most around age 50, and that’s not good for any children they adopt.

On questioning, Cameron admitted his life-span analysis was based on reading the obituary pages of the Washington Blade, a gay and lesbian newspaper, and that his molestation statistics had been dismissed by some sociologists as scientifically suspect, based on numerous errors.

He also admitted, under harsh questioning by Howell, that he was kicked out of the American Psychological Association on ethics charges in 1983, and that in 1986 the American Sociological Association passed a resolution denying that Cameron was a sociologist and condemning his “consistent misrepresentation of sociological research.”

Then we have Virginia Cobb perpetuating the myth that all homosexuals are promiscuous.

Victoria Cobb, the executive director of the Family Foundation of Virginia, expressed disappointment with the committee’s vote, saying the state “has a responsibility to ensure that children are adopted in the most stable environments possible, including reviewing the promiscuity of anyone desiring to adopt.”

Black’s language, however, never had anything in it about promiscuity; it asked about sexual preferences.

Kudos to Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) — for his restraint.

“This thing comes awfully close to being pretty bigoted.”

Christopher Newport University political-science professor Quentin Kidd has a perspective on this and other anti-gay legislation. It may sound familiar to regular readers of this blog in two ways. He reflects some of my views as well as those who’ve commented here that liberals also “legislate morals.”

“One of the untold and most profound stories related to the Republican takeover in Virginia has to do with the increased efforts that we’ve been seeing in recent years to increase regulations on people’s personal lives,” Kidd told the [Augusta Free Press]. “It’s not something that you’re hearing a lot about in the press, but it is something that makes liberal Democrats, to borrow from the Republican terminology, look like civil libertarians who never had the first thought about trying to legislate mores at all.”

Kidd said that while the Republican charge against the gay-rights sector “is clearly in line with the interests of the majority of Virginians electorally,” at the same time, “perhaps people need to step back and say, how does it benefit us to try to use the weight of public policy to prevent individuals from being individuals?”

“Progressives, liberals, however you want to say it, try to use government to empower individuals who have been left behind by the system. But government these days does not seem to seek to empower people. It restricts them. People ought to be troubled by that,” Kidd said. “No matter if you hate gays or don’t approve of the gay lifestyle, you have to ask, is it right for government to restrict people from being able to live their lives the way they see fit?”

Prayer in Schools

The constitutional amendment that would allow prayers in schools is in the Senate, where the Courts of Justice Committee is expected to take up the measure Monday. Problem is, prayers are already allowed in schools, even praying out loud, if you don’t disturb others. So what’s the point of this amendment. Only to propagate the notion that this country has become anti-Christian.

Delegate Charles W. Carrico Sr. said the amendment is needed because there is a growing effort to silence Christians.

“I think the American people and the courts have been saying that the wall in the separation of church and state has gone too far, and it’s suppressed — I’d even say oppressed — the Christian faith and silenced it,” he said.

“You shouldn’t have to check your deeply held beliefs at the door of the courthouse, at the door of the Statehouse or at the door of the schoolhouse,” said Delegate Bill Janis, Goochland Republican.

… Another supporter is Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William). “There is now a poisoned environment for religious expression that the founders never, never desired,” said Lingamfelter, who voted for the proposal.

No one is suppressing the Christian faith. There’s not a “poisoned environment.” No one says you can’t pray as long as you don’t do it with tax money, which is what you’re ding if you try to push your faith on other people at schools and during other public meetings. With the minute of silence, we already allow people time to pray in schools. What are we to do, stop lessons when somebody says they want to pray out loud during class?

Can you imagine what Carrico or Janis would say if school allowed fundamentalist Muslims to push their idea of a Holy War in our classrooms?

The main problem with such legislation is that it doesn’t address the question of who is to determine when and what prayer is allowed.

The idea that Christianity is “under attack” serves the right’s purpose of making Christianity the national religion and the basis for our form of government.

The Rev. C. Douglas Smith, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, said the amendment is not a “prayer issue or religious issue,” and said he believes it is unconstitutional. “There is no question in anyone’s mind there are volumes of case law that would render this null and void immediately,” Mr. Smith said. “It puts at risk the constitution’s hundreds of years of history which have sought to protect religious freedoms.”

Debra Gold Linick, assistant director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, opposes the measure because she worries her 6-year-old daughter, Rebecca, will one day have religious views imposed upon her in the classroom.

“We don’t need prayer in schools during instructional time,” Ms. Linick, a Fairfax County resident, said yesterday. “We don’t send our kids to public schools to get a religious education.”

I failed to see how claiming there is call to “silence” Christians is anyway different from the red-baiting days of Joe McCarthy. I soon expect hearings where somebody is going to ask a witness, “Are you a Christian?” with there being only one right answer.

UPDATE: After posting, I found this article addressing the constitutionality of taking school time for prayer, which includes the controversy in Staunton that I neglected to mention. Thanks to Bacon’s Rebellion for the reference.

How Much Would Higher Fines Raise?

A popular bill in the House this year was the one offered by Dels. Dave Albo and Tom Rust, two Republicans from Fairfax. The bill would have increased fines for moving violations, with the funds going toward transportation projects.

Six major newspapers in the state and the Associated Press, whose stories are picked up by smaller papers, yesterday reported on the bill’s demise in the Senate. Let’s look at how they covered the alleged amount the bill would raise.

Hampton Roads Daily Press
The money raised – an estimated $180 million a year – would have been used to help pay for transportation projects across the state.

Associated Press
The committee killed a House measure that would have generated at least $114 million (up to $180 million, supporters said) by levying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fines on drivers who pile up too many traffic citations. (Note, the AP doesn’t even attribute the estimate to anyone but presents it as fact.)

The Roanoke Times
Committee members also rejected a bill that would have imposed stiff, annual fines for serious driving violations – such as $350 for reckless driving and $750 for drunken driving – as well as for repeated speeding violations. Supporters said the bill would have generated between $114 million and $188 million for road construction.

The Washington Post
House Republicans had said the bill on reckless driving would have raised more than $100 million a year by imposing tough fines on what they said were seriously abusive drivers.

Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
The bill was expected to raise anywhere from $114 million to $180 million, money that the House appropriated in its budget to pay for certain transportation initiatives. The loss of that money leaves a hole that House budget negotiators will have to try to fill in talks with the Senate.

Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Senate committee also voted down a separate House bill, by Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, that would generate at least $100 million a year for transportation improvements through tougher traffic fines.

Six stories tell us how much supporters say the new penalties would raise. But only the Virginian-Pilot challenges the assumptions.

Senators were equally critical of the proposed abuser fees. Supporters estimate the measure would generate at least $114 million annually, but government budget analysts have said actual revenues could be less than $25 million per year.

I’ll venture to guess that a lot of people will judge this bill based on what the supporters say it would raise, and even these recent assumptions have come down significantly from earlier estimates which, if memory serves me, were closer to $250 million, again according to supporters of the bill. Shouldn’t the media stop taking the word of proponents of measures when reporting these bills? The same thing happened last year when the press accepted Bush’s estimate of the cost of his Medicare bill: a little over $400 billion. Shortly after the bill passed, we found out he likely knew, as a Social Security actuary did, that it was well over $500 billion. And now we’ve learned that it’s over $700 billion and perhaps $1 trillion.

Kudos to Christina Nuckols of the Pilot. To the rest of them: Do your job.

Who Pays the Bill?

The Washington Post today has a front page story about a poll suggesting people would rather pay tolls than taxes. But to me, that’s a gross generalization. When you go to the specific questions on the survey, you’re able to sort the answers by a number of demographics, but where you live isn’t one of them. And as the article points out, that could make a difference.

Three out of 4 D.C. residents said they favored tolls over taxes, while 61 percent of Marylanders and 53 percent of Virginians shared that view.

The national numbers suggest people prefer tolls over taxes. But that question is too vague to be meaningful. How much in taxes and tolls? On which roads? All the time or just at peak hours?

In fact, Virginia Transportation Commissioner Philip A. Shucet’s comment in the article suggests a public education campaign might alter the answers.

Shucet cautioned drivers to consider a little math before backing tolls in all cases. He said tolls on new highways would be at least $1 in each direction. So even if gas taxes were raised 20 cents a gallon — the amount he said was needed to fund all the state’s transportation needs — a driver who spends $2 a day on tolls would have to use more than 10 gallons of gas a day to save money. That’s a 100-mile commute — in a Hummer.

Of course, money isn’t the only consideration. Reduced stress and travel time are the major objectives. But there’s no guarantee that a roads program, paid for by a 20-cent tax increase or tolls, would reduce either stress or travel time.

Pro-Life Dems?

It’s always puzzled me why the GOP can tolerate and accommodate pro-choice folks in its party but Dems can’t do the same with anti-abortionists. NARAL Pro-Choice America has dropped its opposition to a federal bill requiring anesthesia for fetuses over 20 weeks old, according to the New York Times. A similar bill has passed the Virginia House of Delegates, with support from a few Democrats, and awaits Senate action.

While I support Roe v. Wade, I wish the Dems and pro-choice folks would focus more on measures that obviate abortions and hold Republicans accountable when they are indifferent to such measures, as when they withhold funding (scroll down story) from groups like Planned Parenthood.

UPDATE: The New Republic blog and Washington Monthly’s Political Animal have more on the issue of Dems using contraception as a “wedge” issue. I’ve written before how, at least in Virginia, there’s seems to be a move to restrict contraception, given the bill against Planned Parenthood and the defeat of Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple’s effort to define contraception so it can’t be considered abortion. Focusing on contraception may be a way to flush out and isolate the wing-nuts.

A Modest Medical Proposal

Good story this morning by The Washington Post’s Chris Jenkins on the rising impact of medical care on the state’s budget. Even the fabled fickle Del. Vince Callahan (R-Fairfax) says there’s not much you can do about it.

“If anybody had any good ideas about reducing these increases, I haven’t heard them yet,” Callahan said. “We can save some money around the edges, but the inevitable fact is that [costs] just keep going up.”

Now the anti-taxers are fond of suggesting that costs shouldn’t go up more than the rate of population increase and inflation. But as Jenkins points out, the cost of medical care is predicated by increases in technology, which in turn, have helped people live a lot longer.

But if the anti-taxers want to keep costs down, I’ve got an idea: Let them give us a date when they should die. It should be before they start to require extraordinary facilities to keep them alive, say a hospital bed, or at least any medical device, drug or service discovered after they were born. Then on that date, assuming the gas chamber is free that day, we’ll send them to their final reward. They should be pleased as it minimizes the taxes they’d have to pay.