Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One of the Best Days of the Year!

Cold (again!), cloudy, gets dark early--so what's so great about today? With yesterday's winter solstice, today is the first time in six months that we're adding a little daylight! It's a start; Spring is on its way!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time To Enforce Arlington's New Snow Removal Ordinance?

After the serial blizzards of last winter, Arlington finally adopted a snow removal ordinance that requires businesses and homeowners to clear the walks abutting their property within 24 hours of a storm.

It seems that many Arlingtonians need a reminder of this requirement. Hey folks, just because it's "only an inch" of snow doesn't mean you can ignore it. Walking around Lyon Village and Clarendon today, we saw quite a few very icy sidewalks that had never been cleared (although we saw mostly clear sidewalks--thanks to the majority who did their duty).

The photo here is of our neighbor's sidewalk at the corner of Edgewood and Franklin streets. Our neighbor caddy-corner from them did no better (no surprise--neither cleared their walks last winter).

Business owners should remember to clear ALL the walks around their property, not just that in front of their entrance. We noticed that the back of the Comcast property on Franklin was quite icy today, and some other Clarendon businesses ignored some of their side and back walks as well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hooray for Repeal of DADT

Finally, the U.S. Congress has done the right thing and will allow gays to serve openly in the military. It's sad that it took this long, but it's another sign of progress, ever so slowly. We're happy that both Virginia senators voted for the repeal--they did the right thing, and it will help them, not hurt them, politically in the Commonwealth (they aren't going to get the right wing homo-phobe vote anyway, and shouldn't want to).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Should Government Be Subsidizing TV and Radio Media?

In Virginia, Governor McDonnell is proposing deep cuts in state support for public broadcasting, and we can expect similar efforts from new members of Congress at the federal level.

Some of our friends on the left will be disappointed at this, but we tend to agree with the governor on this one.

When television first came along, the idea of promoting public broadcasting was a good one. In many markets there were just three or four commercial broadcast stations, and only three national networks. Public television carried programming--largely educational and cultural--that would never see the light of day in the limited broadcast environment that existed at the time.

That has all changed, of course. Today, we have hundreds of television stations on cable and satellite. Some are built on the traditional commercial television models, others (such as HBO) on a subscription model. These stations cater to many specialty audiences.

Of course, public television (and radio) have many fine offerings. The question, however, is why can't those fine offerings simply compete in the regular television market. It's hard to imagine that one of Ken Burns' fine documentaries wouldn't find an audience on, say, Bravo or A&E.

As it is, public television and radio these days operate on a quasi-subcription model--but instead of subscribing, they have interminable telethon like fundraising campaigns that, frankly, are worse than commercials.

Most of the programming on public television and radio could easily survive in a commercial or subscription environment, and that which couldn't--well, maybe it shouldn't be on at all. In fact, freed of the strictures of public funding, the programming on "public" television and radio might get even better.

There may be an exception where public funding is justified--some of the state programming on public television is for educational programs used in schools. But the funding for that could easily be moved into the Education budget to avoid any public confusion on its purpose.

We don't see a strong continuing rationale for using taxpayer dollars to subsidize "public" television and radio. Most of that programming appeals to a very narrow audience, not the public in general. And while our lefty friends generally enjoy public television and radio, we can see why more conservative taxpayers would not. If NPR were to suddenly adopt a Fox-like slant, you'd see the end to Democratic support for such subsidies.

We need to make some hard decisions about what government should and should not be doing. This is a fairly easy one.

[Now, having said that, Governor McDonnell ought to take a hard look at some of the programs he likes that subsidize the business community. These are often disguised as "jobs" programs, but they almost always benefit a narrow segment of the private sector.]

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are Tea Partiers Libertarians?

Generalizing anything about Tea Partiers can be difficult, but the same can be said about Democrats and Republicans.

Today, we ask the question, are Tea Partiers libertarians?

The answer: not really. Let's start with gay rights. Tea Partiers are more likely than Republicans in general to oppose gay rights. You certainly don't see any of them leading the charge (or even following) on repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

In fact, the Tea Partiers appear to be descended from the same people who opposed extension of civil rights to blacks; who opposed women's suffrage and later opposed the women's rights movement. Sarah Palin seems oblivious to the fact that she'd be nowhere if it weren't for the women who fought for equality for women in the political and economic spheres.

Some of the tea partiers also seem to question the First Amendment's anti-establishment clause for religion, arguing that the founders only intended to prohibit a national establishment of religion, but not state establishments of such. This is a popular line of argument from Utah's new senator, who comes from a state that would love to impose Mormonism on all its citizens (and ultimately, all of us).

Indeed, when it comes to religion, Tea Partiers seem to become much more of government activists. There seems little doubt that if they COULD, the WOULD impose a whole raft of right wing Christian moral strictures on the rest of us--their Taliban. They're certainly not shy about asking that public schools teach things the way they see it.

They do like to rant and rave about government regulation of businesses. God forbid that a gun dealer should have to adhere to some rationale standard of care in selling a dangerous product to the public. Or that an industry that pollutes the environment should have to include in the costs of its product the price of cleaning up.

The fact is that many industries in the U.S. have learned to welcome regulation (to a reasonable point) because it protects them from fly-by-night operators charging low prices for inferior products. You think GM has it bad now--suppose any Indian or Chinese auto manufacturer could bring some $2000 piece of crap dangerous as hell car into the U.S. market? Where would GM be then? The point is, many businesses benefit from a well-regulated market, and they have plenty of lobbyists and lawyers poring over every new regulation to make sure their voices are heard.

Would you really want to live somewhere with no zoning laws? And have someone open up a hog farm in your neighborhood, or put an auto repair shop next to your house without a question being asked?

Tea Partiers, then, are not true libertarians.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The "Tax Deal"--Vintage Congress

If you thought the mid-term elections with all their colorful Tea Party candidates were going to change the way things are done here in the Nation's Capital, think again.

The "tax deal" brokered by Pres. Obama and the Republicans in Congress is vintage pork politics. After all that talk about the deficit and getting real about bringing the budget under control, we got a "deal" that INCREASES the tax breaks for everyone, including hyper-millionaires, and that EXTENDS unemployment benefits for people who haven't managed to "find" a job for two years.

Result: bigger deficit. Screw the American people. But everyone in Congress gave out a holiday goodie to their constituency. Unfortunately, that's the way our system works.

In our next post, we'll discuss why those new Tea Party congresspeople won't be any different. [Hint: they're not for less government, or less spending--they just want the government to tell you and I how to live our lives, and to give tax breaks to their cronies, the classic Republican way of spending.]

We're Back!

Just a note to say that after an unplanned break due to various causes, the Curmudgeon is back, ready to make some Curmudgeonly posts on those issues near and dear to our hearts!