Monday, February 28, 2011

Federal Budget: Go After The Tax Expenditures

While Tea Partiers in Congress are having a field day attacking the budget and hoping to ax $$ for various social programs, Democrats are standing around in their usual helpless manner, whining about the cuts but not doing much of anything.

What about going after tax expenditures? In the past decade, Congress, led by Republicans, has enacted hundreds of billions of dollars in special interest tax breaks, better labeled as tax expenditures. Most of these tax breaks are distortions of the "free market" principles the GOP loves to espouse--they elevate one group over another for tax purposes.

We suggest that Democrats draw up a list of tax expenditures to repeal, focusing on those that most narrowly favor Republican interest groups. Dems can then hold a series of high profile votes on repealing these tax expenditures, highlighting the budget deficit reductions that would occur without them.

Lyon Park To County: Your Fire Trucks Are Too Fat

Here's a curious story. Arlington County told residents of a block of Edgewood St. in Lyon Park that they were going to restrict parking to one side of the street because with cars parked on both sides the street is too narrow for safe passage of fire trucks.

The Lyon Park Civic Association has objected. Ok, we were kind of sympathetic to the residents of this little block of Edgewood.

But then Lyon Park sent a letter to the County Board suggesting that the real problem is that Arlington's fire trucks are too wide. Hence, the County should get thinner fire trucks and leave the residents of Edgewood alone.

Talk about losing your audience! Hey, maybe the folks on Edgewood St. (in Lyon Park--we live on a nice wide stretch of Edgewood in Lyon Village) should get smaller cars.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Neglecting Short Children

This from today's Washington Post:

Physical Activity Bill Goes To Governor
The Virginia General Assemby is sending Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R)
a bill requiring tall children in public elementary and middle schools
to participate in at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week to
fight obesity.
Two comments: what about those short children, and what about a bill requiring newspapers to proof read their copy?
We'll have more on this misguided bill later this week.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Dead Or Alive--DOA!

If you're a Tom Clancy fan but haven't yet read his latest novel, "Dead of Alive," let us save you the trouble.

We've read most of Clancy's work over the years, and enjoyed many of his books. We wonder, however, whether major authors sometimes get to the point where they refuse to let their publishers properly edit their work. Or whether in today's publishing world editors have just become irrelevant, or too expensive to bother with.

Whatever the case may be, this is a book that could've used some major editing. The fundamental story is entertaining enough: a private clandestine intelligence agency set up by former uber-President Jack Ryan is tracking a thinly veiled Osama Bin Laden character ("the Emir") as he embarks on a set of interrelated terror attacks. When the book sticks to this storyline, it's reasonably fun.

The problem is that Clancy can't resist inserting pretty much every character he's ever created from any of his books into the story, often in some far-off tangent, side-story or backstory. There is a LOT of this in the book, and it really bogs it down.

When we started reading, the opening and the first chapter were vintage Clancy, sucking you in and getting you ready for a fast-paced thriller. Then the pace slows to a crawl as Clancy gets into all the irrelevant material. This goes on for page after page after page for pretty much the entire first half of the book. When you're in the middle of a book on Kindle and you find yourself opting to play solitaire instead of reading, you know there's a problem.

There's also an entire side-story of the former President Ryan gearing up to run again--the country having fallen into the hands of a spineless liberal President--that goes nowhere (or maybe to the next book?). Readers of Clancy books always have to put up with his right-wing leanings, and we could stomach that again here but for the seemingly endless pages of boring and confusing irrelevancies.

Clancy doesn't need to bring along all the baggage of his old books, and a good editor would tell him not to. Unfortunately, the answer to the title's question--dead or alive?--is dead on arrival. Take a pass on this clunker.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Arlington "Wins" On HOT Lanes

Arlington appears to have "won" it's battle against HOT lanes on I-395, at least for now--see here and here.

The only question, is at what cost from spiteful legislators and bureaucrats in Richmond? Instead of gloating, County officials might want to offer a few olive branches.