Today our hearts are in Blacksburg

From: Gene Nichol

To the College Community:

Today our hearts are in Blacksburg, and broken. The massive and senseless violence suffered by our friends and colleagues at Virginia Tech is beyond our comprehension, and theirs. I know that many of you, like me, have folks for whom you care deeply who have been touched, or worse, by this tragedy. President Steger and several of his colleagues were, in fact, headed to campus today. Their grief must be past bearing.

Many of you have called for the College community to gather tonight to express our deepest condolences for, and solidarity with, the Virginia Tech family, and one another. I hope then that you will join us in the Wren Courtyard at 8 p.m. No long speeches. Just a bridge from heart to heart.

Gene Nichol
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Published in: on April 16, 2007 at 4:27 pm Comments Off on Today our hearts are in Blacksburg

MADD about Immigration?

Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera got into a shouting match on television last week. It was very loud, and quite heated.

“This is the courtroom scene from ‘A Few Good Men’ after a case of Red Bull with the volume knob cranked to 11,” said Matthew Felling, an analyst with the Center for Media and Public Affairs. “Add to that the surreality of Geraldo being the voice of reason, and it’s the oddest video you’ll watch a dozen times.”

The issue they were debating was whether or not the immigration status of a drunk driver should have come into play following an accident he caused that killed two teenage girls. The accident happened about 50 miles away from William & Mary, in Virginia Beach, VA.

Rivera emphasized that this is a tragic drunk driving story and has nothing to do with immigration. Bill O’Reilly used it as an opportunity to call Rivera an anarchist who wants “open borders”, as well as calling for the head of police and the mayor of Virginia Beach to be fired.

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Published in: on April 9, 2007 at 12:00 am Comments Off on MADD about Immigration?

Illegal Immigration

Local leaders of Chesterfield County asked the school board to investigate the legal status of children they suspected of being illegal immigrants. The school leaders denied the request, leaving local leaders a little annoyed, but as determined as ever to fight illegal immigration.

Leaders of the movement against illegal immigration frame the issue as an economic and legal one. For example in the Richmond Times-Dispatch article, Kelly Miller, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisor said “I feel we have a duty to the citizens of Chesterfield County to try to find out what these people are costing us and find out how we can deal with this in a lawful fashion”, while earlier noting that “if there are kids in the county schools here illegally from Richmond or Petersburg and we find out about those kids, they can be removed from our schools. But if they happen to be in this country illegally, we can’t do a thing.”

And while I certainly agree with the leaders of the movement against illegal immigration that there is an economic and legal dimension to the issue, I am not convinced economic and legal issues are the heart of the larger issue that they make it out to be. Without getting into the argument about exactly how much illegal immigrants contribute economically and cost economically, in which there is both sides offer conflicting data, I don’t buy the economic argument because those against immigration who base their arguments on the high costs often cite example of illegal immigrants using public goods.

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Published in: on March 5, 2007 at 10:43 pm Comments (1)

What’s the Frequency?

Virginians living near Quantico are having their buttons pushed by their military neighbors— their garage door buttons.

The frequency used by many civilian remote controlled devices, including garage doors, is in the range of about 138 to 450 megahertz. In fact, the majority of garage doors operate right around 387 MHz. The government has reserved these frequencies since the 1930’s specifically for emergencies that require military communications and now they’re taking them back without warning.

After September 11, 2001, emergency personnel decided to improve communication infrastructure amongst military and local officials. They have reclaimed many of the higher-end frequencies in that spectrum that consumers had been using. When you purchase most remote-control devices that use this signal, there is typically a disclaimer somewhere that indicates that it could be inoperable if the military exercises that right. This came as a big surprise to many consumers who don’t read the small print. It’s small print for a reason, right?

Some neighbors of Quantico Marine base are asking for compensation from their military neighbors for rendering their wireless entries useless. Fat chance says Lt. Brian P. Donnelly; (more…)

Published in: on February 26, 2007 at 6:45 pm Comments (4)

Honestly, We Don’t Care About Your Credit

It’s been difficult to write this quick blog post about payday loans in Virginia. Every time I perform a simple web search, I’m bombarded with hundreds of links offering me quick, free, money. They “don’t care about my credit.” Luckily, I do.

On Friday, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a series of reforms targeting payday lenders. It’s now been passed by both the Virginia House and Senate, and it’s up to Gov. Kaine to stamp his approval. However, there’s a large contingency of advocates who don’t think that the reforms go far enough to protect consumers. They would like to see Gov. Kaine do more to make sure the compounding interest doesn’t send more Virginians into a never-ending abyss of debt.

According to a panel at UVA’s law school in November of last year:

“The payday loan industry in Virginia has grown from a $165 million business in 2002 to more than $1 billion worth of transactions in 2005.”

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Published in: on February 19, 2007 at 10:30 pm Comments Off on Honestly, We Don’t Care About Your Credit

Uncivil Unions: Unequal Protection

by Anon

In this article, James Antle argues that the seemingly anomalous results of interstate custody battles over children of civil unions is due to the creation of an institution to parallel marriage, but which does not take child rearing as its central purpose. In the case he discusses (Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins) a lesbian couple entered a civil union in Vermont, had a child by artificial insemination, and then split up. The biological mother now lives in Vermont Virginia  with the child and the non-biological mother lives in Virginia Vermont with the child, and has gained custody largely due to Virginia’s rejection of any legal validity to the status of civil unions. (Edited 2/14. Thanks for the comment, Mr. Antle)

First of all, Antle’s article presupposes that civil unions are somehow less concerned with child rearing than heterosexual marriages:

“a new definition of marriage that does not consider childrearing very important is especially likely to subordinate children’s interests to adult desires. When a woman with a troubled family history enters into a relationship with another woman and conceives a child with a stranger’s sperm, potential difficulties are easy to foresee. Yet an increasing number of states want to rewrite the basic assumptions of the family to accommodate such arrangements.”

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Published in: on February 13, 2007 at 12:49 am Comments (4)

VA: Eminent Domain

There is a recent story out of two state senators facing an ethics panel regarding conflict of interest charges involving eminent domain legislation. Interestingly, both men work for the law firm of Kaufman & Canoles, in Norfolk, and one actually resides here in Williamsburg. The two men are accused of representing clients who would profit by having the Senators use their General Assembly positions to kill eminent domain legislation.

Aside from just the basic issues of potential impropriety, apparently one of the men posted on his webpage, “we have the ability to make things happen.” The law firm often represents condemnors who would use eminent domain to take property from private citizens and business owners. The complaint states that the senators have used their position to thwart attempts to bring about meaningful eminent domain reform, particularly after the Kelo v. New London decision.

This is yet another example of the ugly truth of politics, and an excellent test case for why ethics rules must be tightened, punishments made more severe, and corruption no longer tolerated. (more…)

Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 6:21 pm Comments Off on VA: Eminent Domain

Green Belts Are Fashionable

This article from a Lansing, Michigan newspaper caught my attention a few weeks ago–I received it from Google’s neat alert service–and I wanted to post it for any who are interested in green land use and smart growth.

What struck me the most was how a group of grassroots conservationists decided to put their money where their collective mouth is to buy a swath of land on the outskirts of their city with the hope that other groups would follow suit and help create a commonly owned green belt. Although the article presents a number of perspectives that say such an initiative probably won’t work unless local governments meet them halfway, it sounds like some local governments are doing just that–not just in Michigan, but in Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee, and other states.

For local enthusiasts, apparently Virginia Beach has a green belt-like Urban Growth Barrier, and, although not a green belt–which aren’t really mixed use, but rather act as a buffer between urban and rural areas with strictly regulated building codes in place to prevent sprawl— Virginia has jumped on board the smart growth bandwagon in other ways, particularly with the intriguing Haymount project, a new community being developed based on New Urbanism principles of sustainable development and mixed use.

The intersection and commingling of grassroots action and progressive, top-down policy initiatives by local government, such as what’s happening in Michigan, presents more than a few intriguing possibilities for any community of like-minded folks. With this sort of cooperation, a variety of separate interests are met–the commercial developer’s, the conservationist’s, and more. It’s great to see government working hand in hand with the people, as that’s what it’s really all about, this thing called democracy. (more…)

Published in: on February 7, 2007 at 11:16 am Comments (1)

Tuition for Illegal Immigrants?

The Virginia House of Delegates will soon be considering a number of bills dealing with illegal immigration here in VA. Unfortunately, these bills seem to reflect more and more the sharp, anti-illegal immigrant trend that, while useful for venting anger and frustration at the situation, does little to address the true problem.

First, the two proposals are pretty much contradictory. One makes it a misdemeanor to be in Virginia illegally, while the second allows state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws. Honestly, it is already illegal to be in America illegally, so the misdemeanor law is nothing more than a fancy waste of time at the taxpayers’ expense. The enforcement law will do nothing more than add additional burdens to the state justice system, creating more bureaucratic red tape while achieving little in terms of benefits, since the federal government should still be involved in any enforcement or deportation proceedings.No Child Left Illegal (CC Attribution 2.0)

Another proposal will deny in-state tuition to illegal immigrants and prohibit them from enrolling in a state university or college. Now, I can see, on the surface, why this might seem like a good idea. After all, the conservative logic would be that each dollar spent for an illegal immigrant student is a dollar not spent for a citizen; each spot in school given to an illegal immigrant is denied to a citizen. This logic works until you realize that this policy will do nothing to deter illegal immigration, rather, it will deter illegal immigrants from educating themselves to their maximum ability. The result: we have the same number of illegal immigrants, but now we’ve made it much more likely for them to enter into a cycle of poverty, increasing the risks of criminal activity or social welfare expenditures.

Additionally, since President Bush’s stance on this issue is more towards an amnesty position (granting citizenship to long-term illegal immigrants), and since the Democrats are likely more in favor of Bush’s stance rather than the hardcore conservative’s “throw them all out” position, one can’t help but perceive the potential problem that will result. If Bush’s stance becomes law, Virginia will then find itself with a large population of now legal immigrants, many of whom lack in education and high level skills training because of this policy. The state stands to lose more money correcting this problem then they ever would if they provided tuition and enrollment in the first place.

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Published in: on February 5, 2007 at 5:46 pm Comments (5)