Monthly Archives: June 2011

75 Years of 40 Hour Weeks

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the Public Contracts Act of 1936. In the history of America, this is a major event, and one that even today, remains an anathema to conservatives nationwide. That is because the Public Contracts Act of 1936 established the 40-hour work-week in the United States, set minimum ages for workers and even took on a minimum wage.

The Roosevelt-Perkins remedial initiative resulted in the Public Contracts Act of 1936 (Walsh-Healey). The act required most government contractors to adopt an 8-hour day and a 40-hour week, to employ only those over 16 years of age if they were boys or 18 years of age if they were girls, and to pay a “prevailing minimum wage” to be determined by the Secretary of Labor. – U.S. Department of Labor

The Public Contracts act remains the law of the land today.

The significance of June 30th’s bill was the use of the Federal Government’s purchasing power to establish labor standards. It wasn’t about imposing rules on the market by fiat, but rather by using the government’s own purchasing decisions and criteria to lead the market by example. We may recognize this approach in a thousand small things (and big things) done by governments nationwide, today, but it was the Public Contracts Act that began this work as a matter of law.

Today is a keynote anniversary in the history of American progress, and worth noting in some small way.

What the heck does he do all day, anyway?

Leesburg Today, Loudoun Times Mirror and Loudoun Insider are reporting that the Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office is losing Jim Fisher, resident of Fauquier – who is being appointed the the Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney, just in time for the election this fall.

Apparently this has the prosecutor’s office in a tizzy, since Fisher is the lead prosecutor on the the Bennett case. You will probably recall that they are the couple who were brutally attacked while out for a morning walk in Lansdowne. There are two codefendants, Jaime Ayala and Darwin Bowman, and a third named person, Anthony Roberts, who has yet to be charged (and what will happen with that now, I wonder?), and has been the lead on the most publicized cases in the county for the past several years.

Unconfirmed is the rumor that Fisher is not just the lead prosecutor, but the hand on the tiller of day-to-day operations of the office.

So, if he doesn’t run the office and he doesn’t try cases, what DOES Plowman do all day?

This coming November, let’s hire a REAL prosecutor. Vote Jennifer Wexton for Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Utah’s Abandoned History, A Cautionary Tale

An interesting diary up on DailyKos observes the successful campaign of developers in Utah to eliminate the state’s archeologists and anthropologists so no one would notice when Utah’s heritage and history gets bulldozed.

Rood, along with state archaeologist Kevin Jones and physical anthropologist Derinna Kopp, who also lost their jobs Tuesday, stepped into the view of Gov. Gary Herbert, lawmakers and the Utah Transit Authority in recent years when they raised concerns about a proposed commuter rail station planned in Draper. UTA proposed the train stop and mixed-use development on the footprint of an ancient American Indian village, the earliest known location of corn farming in the Great Basin. – DailyKos

Imagine if someone wanted to bulldoze the oldest known site of tobacco farming in Virginia, and you get the level of significance involved in this story. The entire diary is worth reading for the whole tale of government-official interventions, vulgar namecalling, and abandoned skeletons. I’m not kidding, abandoned human skeletons.

Thankfully, I believe that most developers here in Virginia and Loudoun are a bit more respectful of our archeological history. Indeed, many recent developments have specifically included proffers for preservation of local history, though the actual carry-through on those promises has been hit or miss. That being said, Utah’s experience, in which a developer actually wrote the bill eliminating the positions responsible for conserving Utah’s physical history, can and should serve as a cautionary tale reminding us that we must remain vigilant in the protection of our history.

Scott York is Right at Home

It’s a trending observation among Loudoun’s political establishment: Scott York has shifted way back to the right this year. He’s endorsed paleo-conservative clan scion Dick Black, developer-darling Ken Reid, and virulent homophobe Eugene Delgaudio with a now-famous hug. At Leesburg Patch, Jim Barnes distills York’s history and contrasts it with the campaign he’s running today.

This year, York surprised many observers by announcing his decision to run for the chairmanship as a Republican, which means that he will first have to defeat conservative Steve Stockman at the Republican convention to receive the party’s nomination. Another surprise came when York and Delgaudio expressed support for one another and literally embraced one another. Strange bedfellows, indeed!

York has now publicly endorsed Dick Black for the Virginia State Senate. When serving in the House of Delegates, Black was regarded as one of the most conservative members of the General Assembly, known mostly for his crusades and political stunts in opposition to abortion, gay rights, and “pornography” in the libraries.

York also recently secured the endorsement of Black’s son-in-law, Mick Staton, who served on the Board from 2004-2007, and who was a member of the coalition that stripped York of some of his powers. – Jim Barnes

It’s telling that Mr. York sought the endorsement of Mick Staton. Mr. Staton is a man who helped disempower the Board Chair to the point where Mr. York had to seek recourse from the General Assembly in Richmond to restore his authority. It is also telling that Mr. York has spent the past four years endorsing and working with our great Democratic leaders, like Kelly Burk and Mark Herring, only to abandon his principles and friendship in order to secure his right to the Chairmanship nomination from the Loudoun Republicans.

Mr. Barnes is right to speculate, “But I also can’t help but wonder if his endorsements of Delgaudio, Black and others will be hard to digest for independents and Democrats who have supported York in the past, but who may find Democrat Tom Bellanca to be the more appealing candidate in the general election this fall.” Tom Bellanca is a knowledgeable, passionate businessman from the Dulles area, and a long-time member of Loudoun’s community. His quiet, consensus-building leadership is the antidote for the severe, and attention-grabbing shift of Scott York. Or rather, an appropriate answer to Mr. York’s return to his roots on the far right of Loudoun’s political spectrum.

Of Power Towers and Trees

Two of Loudoun’s more loquacious activists and commentators have entered into a bit of a debate at Leesburg Today. Leesburg’s own Ann Robinson wrote a thoughtful letter about power lines, trees, development and piorities, framed in the context of a long drive she recently took.

Looking out my balcony windows this morning, I see a steely high voltage tower where just over a year ago, huge evergreens graced the view, shielding my community from both noise and pollution. The air is dirtier, the atmosphere filled with the sight and sound of nonstop traffic, with the very ugly reality of high tension wires cutting a scar across the town. Was this degradation absolutely necessary to bring electric power to those who need it? No. The wires could have been run underground-but someone convinced the powers that be that the cost would be too high.

Too high for whom? I would have paid more for electricity in order to maintain the pollution shield of large old-growth trees. Their contribution to the health and well-being of my family and me is immeasurable. Who knows how our lives are now shortened by the combination of dirty air, tension and high voltage electrical wires constantly overhead. Surely, if we the consumers could have paid a little more and the electric company’s investors accepted a little less in ROI, then we could have saved our quality of life. – Ann Robinson

I, for one, happen to agree with Ann on this one, and have been a proponent of full undergrounding of major power lines for a few years now. Ann’s letter illustrates the unrecouped cost of decisions to act, or not act, made by our elected leaders years ago. Dominion earns billions in profit, even while sometimes failing to do their essential job. I think we can and should insist that companies like Dominion repay us, the public, for the unfunded costs to our land and community that they impose as part of their business. It doesn’t matter whether those costs are lost old-growth trees, or more traffic, or the need for more schools. If your business decisions directly incur a cost on the public, you should be responsible for offsetting that cost in some manner. We should get our fair share, and you should pay your fair share. That is my choice, and my priority.
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Why I like Ayn Rand

“The abortion industry claims that abortions do not cause psychological harm to either women or men.”

Chuck Colson

Colson was describing the horrible fifth month botched abortion of Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler’s girlfriend.  I’m not sure Tyler would appreciate being portrayed as a victim of the “abortion industry”.  Real people make these difficult decisions, and it’s best to allow them to do so without the “help” of a nanny-state.  It’s also best that they make informed decisions and that they understand the consequences.  This is where family, friends, spouses, significant others, counselors and doctors can provide vital information if their liberty to do so is not abridged.

Thinking about how deeply personal these choices are, it’s hard to imagine that the decision making process is controlled by an “industry” and that women don’t “own” their own bodies.  If women don’t own their own bodies, what do they own?

“If you have an IRA or a 401K, chances are, you own an energy company”

Television commercial sponsored by

Energy tomorrow explains that energy is integral to our lives and our economy.  This advocacy arm of the American Petroleum Institute admits that there is an energy industry, but they claim that the industry is owned by all of us.  Isn’t that what socialism is, public ownership of the means of production?

I wonder what Ayn Rand would think if she saw women being degraded as passive victims of an “industry” while energy production/consumption is portrayed as the publicly owned consequence of progress and human nature.  I think she’d look at our transportation system – the mixing bowl and other “natural features” of that public ownership – and ask how a modern-day American politburo decided to build these monstrosities.  She’d visit repeated copies of new subdivisions of three story townhouses and vinyl sided colonials, from New York to Los Angeles and notice that they all look the same.

She’d shake her head and ask where Howard Roark is today and how “capitalism” produced the same outcome that she attributed to socialism in her writings.  She’d have words for the propaganda mills at the API and Colson Center and their “second hander” stranglehold over individual liberty and innovation.  She’d wonder why her world has turned into its opposite.

Dave Butler Stands Alone

The Loudoun Times-Mirror carries the story of Jim Magner’s withdrawl from the race for the Democratic nomination in DEL-10.

“First, the creation of this new district offers a real opportunity for the democratic party to make a difference both in Richmond and here in Loudoun County, and I feel that a protracted primary fight would only hinder the party’s chances for realizing that potential in the general election,” he said in a statement.

In addition, Magner, an attorney with Washington, D.C.-based Leiser, Leiser & Hennessy, said a recent victory in Loudoun County Circuit Court has caused a drastic increase in the demands on his law practice and has “left me unable to dedicate the time needed to effectively manage may campaign.”

Magner’s client, Daniel Campos of Sterling, was recently awarded $282,000 in compensatory damages in a case against retail giant Wal-Mart. Campos was allegedly accosted and accused of shoplifting by Wal-Mart security guards.

In his statement, Magner said he is pledging his support for fellow Democrat Butler.

PhotobucketFirst, thank you to Mr. Magner for his efforts to defend the rights of our neighbors, like Mr. Campos, in court. Our community benefits greatly from his service as a defender of those rights in cases like the one cited above. And thanks also for pledging support for Councilman Butler, a man positioned to make a real difference in Richmond.

Dave Butler held a series of kickoff events for his Delegate campaign this past weekend. He traveled from Leesburg to Winchester, the length of the 10th District, making the case for his candidacy. He talked about his family, and his experience as a businessman and father in Loudoun county. He talked about his service on the Town Council, and his experience bridging divides to find answers to difficult questions of public concern. And Dave talked about what was missing. He talked about how our area does not get its fair share from Richmond, and how we can, and should, have a Delegate who will fight for us, and our jobs.

In that, he stands alone as a candidate for the 10th District. While others vying for the seat talk about blame and platitudinous issues that Delegates do not deal with, Dave Butler shares his experience with us and focuses on what can be done, now, to address the needs of the 10th District. We will do well to elect him to the General Assembly on November 8th.

Originalism is a Logical Fallacy

I’ve always been fundamentally uncomfortable with the theory of original intent. Ever since learning about Constitutional interpretation from Professor Abraham at UVA, the idea that our Constitution should be interpreted as the people who wrote its constituent parts would have intended just did not sit right with me. And it wasn’t just because different authors had different intents in ratifying the exact same language at the time of passage. Last night, I realized why Originalism bugged me.

At its most basic, the theory of original intent for Constitutional interpretation is nothing more than an argument from authority, one of the most simple and fundamental logical fallacies. Indeed, it is a prime example of the special case of the argument from authority: the argument from antiquity.

As such, interpreting the Constitution based on original intent is building a house on a foundation of sand. All the reasoning on top of the interpretation may be consistent, and closely argued (and most of our Justices are excellent at constructing such reasoned arguments), but if the interpretation stands solely on the assertion that “the original authors meant this,” then it is assuming that the wisdom of the original authors is greater, and of more authority, than the wisdom of people today.

And if that were true, if the wisdom of the old were always better than the wisdom of the new, then it would be impossible to justify any changes to the Constitution, whatsoever! The mere fact that we have Amended the Constitution, and made our nation a “more perfect union” as a result, time and time again (27 times at last count), provides strong evidence that the wisdom of those earlier authors was insufficient, and required revisions based on new knowledge and understanding.

I’m not a lawyer, but the Constitution does not belong to lawyers and judges. It belongs to all of us. What it is, and what it means, is the property of every American, not just those with special knowledge and training. I believe, and believe strongly, that a correct interpretation of the Constitution is based not solely on what the authors intended, but also on where America stands today, and where we are in the arc of history towards justice.

But that’s just my opinion. I don’t claim to be an authority.