- Bloomberg: Koch Brothers Flout Law With Secret Iran Sales
The Koch Brothers have secretly, criminally sold millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran, an enemy of the United States with whom it is unquestionably illegal to do business. This is no aberration for these bastards—they're out for a buck, and they don't care how they get it.
- Commonwealth Data Point: Expenditures by Agency
Wondering what the state spends its money on? Here's the state's checkbook, by agency, so read to your heart's content. A warning: good luck with the weird menu system. Somebody apparently thought that rather than menu items, it would be fun to just give people a single letter to try to decipher. O? F? S? P? I don't get it.
- MSNBC: Bachmann condemns Arab Spring, blames it on Obama
If stupid were bricks, she'd have a lot of bricks.
- Lynchburg Police: A Look at Citizen’s Arrest in Virginia
Like most states, Virginia has a concept of "citizen's arrest." But you'd best know what you're doing if you're going to try it. The crime has to be a felony and you have to have actually observed the criminal commit the crime. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for a kidnapping charge—even if the person is guilty.
- Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
In 1904, Andrew Carnagie established the Hero Fund, which would reward any civilian who voluntarily risks his lives while attempting to save the life of another. In the 107 years since, they have given out 9,000 medals and $32M in grants, 20% posthumously. These are the stories behind some of their winners, but brief information on all of the winners is available on their site.
- NPR: The Unthinkable
Franklin Pierce was the only president ever elected and subsequently denied his party's renomination. Arthur, Johnson, Fillmore, and Tyler also lost their party's nomination, but all of them ascended to the presidency from the vice presidency after the death of the president.
- Gratiot County Herald Letters To The Editor
Ithaca, Michigan school superintendent Nathan Bootz wrote an open letter to the governor to ask that his school system be converted to a prison, noting that Michigan spends $30,000–$40,000/year on each prisoner, but only $7,000/year on each student.
- WVEC: Taxpayers foot the bill when the governor flies on state aircraft
I don't think it's inherently bad that Bob McDonnell is using state aircraft more than prior governors, but using a state plane to fly his family to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival to have his daughter crowned as queen? Less good. More problematic is the governor's office's response to WVEC's FOIA request, trying to figure out how to avoid responding, and offering conceptual excuses—it's a long drive from Virginia Beach to Cumberland Gap, it's a money saver—for which there's no real-world scenarios that support those claims.
- New York Times: Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts
Violent crime is at at forty-year low. Combine this with the recent news that divorce is at a thirty-year low, and you can see how the pervasive claims of alarmists are just foolishness. Those who would have you believe that our country is more dangerous and marriages more disposable than ever are either ignorant or trying to sell you something.
Woot! It's not just open government—it's open government about open government. Virginia needs one of these.
- Virginian Pilot: Va. House members back redistricting plan
The state's House of Representatives delegation have agreed on a redistricting plan that would protect all incumbents. Let's all pause and put on our best surprised faces. Griffith's district grows to take some of Goodlatte's, absorbing Martinsville from Hurt's district. Rigell's district grows to take some of Wittman's, while Wittman's district expands up towards D.C. Connolly gets Reston and Herdon, losing conservative parts of Prince William for more liberal parts of the county. Everybody wins. Except voters.
- Tumblr: Virginia Coalition for Open Government
If you're not already following VCOG on Twitter or the VCOG blog, you might follow it on its new Tumblog. I'd be surprised if there is a more open, active state-level open government organization group in the nation. (Disclaimer: I'm on the board, though I've had nothing to do with any of this outreach.)
- Washington Post: Hampton Roads lawyer David McCormick to seek 2012 GOP Senate nomination
Some random guy is running for the Republican nomination for Webb's seat. In his announcement, he compared himself to George Washington.
- New York Times: The Threatening Scent of Fertile Women
Men in stable, long-term relationships rank women as less attractive when they're ovulating than when they're not. It's part of "relationship maintenance," a defensive mechanism to prevent themselves (ourselves) from straying.
- PolitiFact Virginia: Gov. Bob McDonnell says Virginia road bids are the lowest in a generation
They're not. In fact, they cost twice as much as they did a generation ago, meaning that McDonnell's claim is the opposite of the truth.
- Richmond Times-Dispatch: Senate panel refuses to hear illegal immigration bills
I'm just making a note of this for future reference: Del. Lingamfelter says that when a subcommittee recommends killing a bill, and the committee subsequently strikes that bill from the docket, then they are "hiding, shirking their duty, when they should actually vote on the bills." So noted, Delegate.
This is a very clever simulation of what it's like to be a member of the working poor. It's worth spending at least a few minutes with this. It's like "Jones in the Fast Lane," that great old Sierra game, only you have no realistic chance of improving your lot in life.
- The Oregonian: Rep. David Wu’s staff confronted him over concerns about his mental health
This is the story how Congressman David Wu (D-OR) lost his mind. Shortly before last November's election, his entire campaign staff quit, convinced that he was mentally ill. He was reelected anyway. It's pretty clear that his staff was right. Now Portlanders are represented by this guy.
- DFW NBC: Armed Agent Slips Past DFW Body Scanner
An undercover TSA agent was able to get through a full-body scanner with a handgun not once, not twice, but as many times as she wanted.
Yesterday’s drive was very nice. The weather was perfect, the views were just great, the towns were interesting, and the food was good. The best part was that it was all so close by. The entire trip was just 150 miles, and though we were visiting places wholly unfamiliar, we were never far from areas that we knew well. I enjoyed stumbling across the Shenandoah River State Park, one of the newer additions to the Virginia park system. Using a dozen photos taken at an overlook in the park I stitched together this panorama of a bend in the Shenandoah River that, like all panoramas, is best viewed large:
(After I finish the Commonwealth Quest, I think my next project will be to visit every Virginia state park.) If you’re looking for a greasy spoon in Front Royal, I recommend the Knotty Pine—I don’t think there was a single item on the menu that cost more than $7. And if you’re looking for a town to visit in this stretch of the valley, I’ve got to recommend Luray. It’s got a great downtown, with lots of restaurants and shops, and a friendly visitors center, and oodles of area activities. I think a three-day weekend in Luray is our future. And if you’re looking for a place to open a small business, and location doesn’t matter, the town of Shenandoah has some nice empty storefronts, and I bet you could rent one for a song.
Anyhow, good trip. In this economy, and with these gas prices, I recommend the area for a day trip or a long weekend.
Here’s today’s drive, already in progress:
It doesn’t actually contribute to the Commonwealth Quest, since I’ve already visited all of the counties and cities on the route, but I’ll be visiting a bunch of towns I’ve never been to: Aylor, Banco, Criglersville, Syria, Etlan, Peola Mills, Hawlin, Sperryville, Smedley, Washington, Rose Hill, Flint Hill, Wakefield (not that Wakefield), Huntley, Chester Gap, Riverside, Kings Eddy, Limeton, Bentonville, Overall, Compton, Rileyville, Vaughn, Big Spring, Springfield, Luray (shout-out to Skyline), Hamburg, Salem (not that Salem), Battle Creek, Newport, Grove Hill, Shenandoah, Verbena, and Jollett. I’ve walked the whole of this part of this state, and driven 81 and 29 many times, but it’s these areas east of 81, west of 29, and on either side of the Shenandoah National Park that I’m just not familiar with, but I’m looking forward to visiting today.