novatownhall blog

Where you are held accountable for your convictions and record

As I noted yesterday… there have been some pretty significant developments in the 2009 GOP horserace. Some McDonnell activists have posted here disputing that the VA Supreme Court rejection of a major element in the 2007 Transportation bill (unelected regional taxing authorities) is a blow to McDonnell’s standing. First, let me be clear. I have no dog in this fight as of yet but am really starting to tune in and basically using this blog to think out loud and evaluate the choice we conservatives face (and frankly we have two solid options—but at the end of the day we need to pull the lever for someone). That said, it’s a bit disingenuous for AG-backers to try to dismiss the issue by stating that both the LG and AG were for the flawed transportation package and thus were both wrong, etc. There is a huge difference in the two (particularly when it comes to the now recognized unconstitutional element of the plan). The AG, along with Congressman Davis, were pushing extremely hard for a compromise transportation package (and rightfully taking credit for doing so). McDonnell was publicly and unequivocally assuring uneasy legislators that the unconstitutional regional taxing authorities were constitutional. Case in point, see this July 12, 2007, article in the Examiner, which said:

Virginia’s attorney general reiterated his views Wednesday that legislation allowing Northern Virginia to raise much-needed revenue to relieve the region’s ghastly traffic problems is constitutional…

…“Virginia’s constitution does not spell out what the General Assembly can do,” Robert McDonnell said after addressing the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce in Herndon. In some limited cases it restricts the General Assembly’s legislative powers, but this is not one of those cases. Courts have upheld similar special tax districts. This is a little different, but we think it is similar enough.”

Meanwhile, Bolling was clearly not a fan of the package and not on board with the regional taxing authorities. See this New Dominion article, which quotes the LG saying:

“This wasn’t the way I would have done – it wasn’t the way I think it should have been done. In a perfect world, if I were in charge, and everybody did everything my way, that’s not the way we would have done it. But the reality is, given the current political dynamics in Richmond, that plan or something like it was about the only thing that you could build sufficient consensus around to get a bill passed”…

…“I can certainly understand if folks look at this bill and say, That’s not the way I think it should have been done. I can certainly understand that – that’s my feeling about it entirely,”

So, we clearly had the AG not only supporting the bill but also assuring folks regarding the constitutionality of certain elements, while the LG openly disagreed with the approach. That’s a world of difference that McDonnell’s team was more than willing to point out when the bill was popular. Thus, my change of tune comment following the AG’s statement clearly distancing himself from his own handiwork.

Making matters worse for team McDonnell, not only was the AG wrong about the constitutionality of the transportation package, but Bolling has been proven right regarding the high-profile constitutional issue he’s delved into as of late—his ruling on the shifting of lottery fund dollars within the Senate budget with only a slim majority vote rather than the required 4/5 vote. These developments paint a clear contrast of constitutional judgment that can only bolster Bolling’s chances heading into 2009.

The past few days have been pretty big for conservatives (or anyone for that matter) up here in Northern Virginia!  Friday’s Virginia Supreme Court ruling overturning the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads tax increases in HB 3202 was simply phenomenal.  Many of us thought the unelected taxing authorities inserted into the transportation bill debacle last session was unconstitutional on its face.  Our great Senator (and hopefully our next Attorney General!) Ken Cuccienlli and Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling were on the forefront of warning of this outcome and fighting against it. 

Personally, besides generally opposing giving unelected bodies the authority to levy an amalgamation of taxes and fees, I am extremely happy that the massively increased grantors tax was (at least temporarily) eliminated.   My family has seriously been considering selling our home to get more space and the elimination of the grantors tax increase will save us over $2,000.  Given the weak housing market, saving $2,000 will certainly help our cause.  I never thought I’d see a specific court decision potentially save us some serious cash!

That said, as we all continue to look towards 2009, I was very interested to see Attorney General Bob McDonnell’s comments on the court’s decision.  As we all know, last year he was a big proponent of these plans, and in fact wanted to take great credit for their passage, but now he says he was only defending them because it was his obligation to do so.

Now the AG says “We intervened in this case as is our obligation to defend challenges to the constitutionality of legislation passed by the General Assembly. The Virginia Supreme Court has spoken, we respect their decision, and we will advise our clients appropriately based on today’s ruling.”

I was disappointed to see McDonnell distancing himself from HB 3202 after trumpeting his involvement last year.   If you are going to accept the good from a legislative action, you need to take the bad as well.  I doubt he can realistically expect anyone who has been paying attention these past few years to not notice the sudden change of tune regarding the package for which he allegedly (at least according to some) served as the architect.

Regardless, we couldn’t be happier with the court’s decision.  Virginians remain free from taxation by unelected and unaccountable authorities—despite the best efforts of some folks down in Richmond.

This seems like one of those wild card happenstances that can totally screw up what everyone in the U.S. might have thought would be happening in the current political contest here – giving meaning to the notion that a lot can happen between now and November:

South America was on the brink of war yesterday as Venezuela and Ecuador amassed troops on the Colombian border in response to the killing of a Marxist rebel leader.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to join the rebels in a war to overthrow hard-line Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a key ally of the United States, deploying tanks, fighter jets and thousands of troops along the Colombian border.

A key question here is whether Hugo Chavez is willing to take the leap – the military leap – of faith as it were. He’s not had to do a lot of that type of thing. He’s had more of the luxury of taking pot shots from the peanut gallery at countries actually involved in conflicts. Wonder if he knows what he is getting into.

Well, the Washington Post has outdone itself for stupidity today. In not one, but two op-ed pieces, stupid women have penned stupid articles about how stupid women are. As the husband of a highly intelligent wife and the parent of three highly intelligent daughters, I was, frankly, disgusted.

The first article, by Charlotte Allen, starts off griping about women “swooning” at Obama rallies. Never mind that, to get such a front-row position, one must stand in line for hours. Never mind that the Secret Service often forbids bringing liquids. So people faint. What a surprise.

She follows up this nonsense with this beauty:

Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true. Women really are worse drivers than men, for example. A study published in 1998 by the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health revealed that women clocked 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven, in contrast to men’s 5.1, even though men drive about 74 percent more miles a year than women.

So men have 74% more practice driving. How surprising that one gets better from practice.

She concludes with this gem:

So I don’t understand why more women don’t relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home…. Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts’ content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we are . . . kind of dim.

I think I’m gonna be sick. Is this what I should teach my girls, “Well, girls are kind of dim, so just be a good little housewife”?

But wait, there’s more. In a companion article, Linda Hirshman laments

Black voters of all socioeconomic classes are voting for the black candidate. Men are voting for the male candidate regardless of race or class. But even though this is also a year with the first major female presidential candidate, women are split every way they can be. They’re the only voting bloc not voting their bloc.

[The] women’s vote has fragmented. The only conclusion: American women still aren’t strategic enough to form a meaningful political movement directed at taking power. Will they ever be?

So she’s complaining that women vote policies, not genitals. What shall we do if Obama wins the nomination, have him and McCain “whip it out” onstage, so Hirshman can vote for the bigger candidate?

Young Minds


An article appeared in a local newspaper that deserves perview.

It seems that we need to find “other” ways to reach our youth in order to educate them.  It isn’t bad enough that the county school budget becomes more bloated every year.  Now they intend another program to promote a “sub-culture”.  This belongs in Humanities class-not English.  I can only wonder about the next “experiment”!

The article is on rap/hip-hop used for poetry.

Jacob already noted this, and of course it’s the big story of the day in the conservative blogosphere: But for the record, I’ll miss William F. Buckley and I am grateful for all he did for me.

As a college kid in the early 1980s, still trying to figure out what I thought, I religiously read The Nation, The New Republic and National Review, basically unconsciously covering all parts of the political spectrum (New Republic was a middle of the road publication back then). If there was a “truth,” it definitely seemed like it would inhere somewhere within this troika of magazines.

By 1986, National Review had become my philosophical home, in large part because of Bill Buckley’s commentary. At age 25, I became a “conservative” for life. My first vote for a Republican was for George H.W. Bush in 1988. (Then, my first vote against a Republican was for Ross Perot in 1992, but that’s a story for another day).

Apart from his fantastically helpful idiosyncrasy of including in every op-ed column a single word I would need to look up in the dictionary (a mantle since picked up by R. Emmett Tyrrell), and the fact he was right about so many issues back when “conservatism” was by no means assured a place at the table of policy respectability (the Reagan Era was not judged a success until long after the Reagan presidency was over), Bill Buckley’s work ethic was the stuff of legends. He wrote extensive commentary in the magazine on a weekly basis, maintained a nationally syndicated 2-3 times a week column, did the weekly Firing Line television show for a decade or three, and of course wrote all the books and ancillary essays.

He penned op-ed pieces in the limousine on the way to the airport, for crying out loud. It took me an entire weekend to write a 5-page, double-spaced paper at the time.

While trying to overcome laziness and my own wide-ranging stupidity, having WFB as an example of what a human can do was immensely valuable. I never met the guy, but throughout my 20s he was one of my few mentors, at a time I needed all the help I could get.

I didn’t go to Yale. I wasn’t rich. My forebearers – back to the beginning of time, as far as I could tell – were blue collar. I started a family during college and consequently we were not well off. But I never got a whiff from all of WFB’s writings that he was in any way intrinsically different from me. I eventually learned that he was wealthy, but in the miles of column-inches I never read anything that set him apart.

And what a legacy he left! I have a ton of his essays and my stock of NR magazines, but there are gems like the Firing Line interviews with Malcolm Muggeridge discussing Catholicism and other topics – such important cultural artifacts.

The specifics of WFB’s contributions in the ideological arena are not within my range of expertise to discuss, simply because the content was, in essence, the content of the conservative revolution which took place in America from the 1980s on. There are much better informed people out there who can limn out the details of what Bill said and when, and what followed.

(And be sure to dig into the writings over at NRO, where the folks who know are spelling it out.)

But here is one I can do.

Many years ago, I think back in the early 1990s, Bill wrote a column reporting on his and his wife’s struggles to quit smoking. The gist was they both had decided to quit smoking cigarettes, and after some time in the project they – two life-long smokers – were at each others’ throats. They sat down to discuss it, and recognized they could not both go through the ordeal and live in the same house with each other. The physical and mental stress of overcoming the addiction was too much – you could not have two baskets of crazed atoms in close proximity at one time.

So they had to decide – either we both keep smoking or only one of us can quit, if we want to stay together. Bill quit, and Pat resumed smoking and became the stabilizing force while he overcame the addiction to nicotine.

This story had an impression on me, both because I have my own addictive tendencies and because self-sacrifice seems to be such an essential part of life particularly manifested in our most immediate relationships. The decision Bill and Pat Buckley made was one I had never even thought about, but after I read his column I never forgot it. Throw aside all the levels of analysis that could be brought to bear on the question: It’s a pretty stark expression of life – human life, relationship reality – is it not? It makes you think, What would I do? What decision would I and my spouse make to preserve the relationship if it came down to that.

Pat Buckley died in April, 2007. Honestly, back when I read about the poignant story above, I assumed Pat had consigned herself to a much earlier demise to preserve the relationship. But they were only off by ten months. I hate it that Bill Buckley died; I hate it that Pat Buckley died. But I am glad they got almost the full time together. I think God looked kindly on their difficult decision.

Sad story linked at MonkeyWatch, although the ridiculous aspect is also hard to ignore. It’s surprising you don’t hear about more cases like this from eating contests.

This is why, while drinking contests may not be safer per se, they do provide a better likelihood of dying in your sleep. Which is nice.