Monday, June 23, 2008

Thanks for nothing, General Assembly

The rift between Northern Virginia and the rest of the Commonwealth is nothing new. The rural parts of the state live decidedly different lives than us in suburbia. Out there, life is quiet and uncomplicated; here, I hear a car or truck buzz by every few seconds at 11:42 p.m.

As the above story notes, geopolitical factions (in a micro sense) exist in our state government. Today, our legislature was supposed to hold a special session to figure out just how to fund our overwhelmed transportation system.

But does anyone really expect anything to be accomplished?

Gov. Tim Kaine (D) has one plan, which includes the raising of some existing taxes - notably, our sales tax and various vehicle-related fees. Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) wants to raise taxes on gas. Republicans in the House of Delegates, a group largely comprised of those outside of Northern Virginia, are adamant about not approving any state-wide tax hikes.

Kaine's is the better of the two plans, though it would be interesting to hear Saslaw's defense of his plan in the fall come election time. With gas whizzing past $4 a gallon, it's not hard to envision Saslaw needing to polish up the resume. Kaine's plan is better, though still unadviseable in such a poor economy. Why not wait a few months to see if the economy improves and the populace can better withstand a tax increase? It's not like the roads will get any worse in a few months; they can't get any worse than they already are.

An important side note: One factoid in this Fox 5 story (click the first video) mentions that though we pay 40 percent of the taxes in the state, we would only receive 14 percent in return. Meanwhile, in a Lynchburg News & Advance editorial, the paper wonders: "Del. David Albo [R-Fairfax, my addition], a top member of the tax-hating wing of the House GOP, has a simple plan to solve his region’s problems: Simply change the funding formula and send state money to the transportation districts based on population. Want to venture a guess how the rural Lynchburg District would fare under that plan?" I suppose that the fine people of Lynchburg have a greater right to my tax dollars than Interstate 95, which I drive daily.

Not that any of that matters. The House Republicans, meanwhile, continue to show their nonchalance at the challenges we face every day. Ostensibly, their job is to govern the Commonwealth for the benefit of all; but here we are, hoping desperately they'll throw us a crumb while they stand back and laud their principles. The time has long passed for grandstanding, gentlemen.

I suppose cutting spending in other areas wouldn't be an option. Surely our friends in the legislature don't employ too much pork-barrel spending, do they? Our attorney general wants an audit to make sure the Department of Transportation uses its money efficiently; such an audit would surely cost the Commonwealth in financial and human resources that we don't really have.

Virginia's General Assembly got us into this mess. It's their job to dig us out. But that won't happen, not as long as William Howell and his cohorts are allowed to punt the issue for the umpteenth time. It won't happen as long as Kaine, Saslaw and the Democrats can't come up with any sort of alternative that, even if only temporarily, can stop the bleeding.

It's all about principles, even as we suffer through another day of clogged roads and no hope. Another day of being held hostage by our supposed leaders, many of whom derive a fair portion of their paychecks from our region's taxes. Yet they are unaccountable to us, and unwilling or unable to recognize that their misguided indecision has tangible effects.

The great unwashed pay the price for their principled stands. Compromise is unbecoming.

How I dearly wish I could vote against the lot of them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Something to dull the mind

Monday was not a happy day for those of us in the industry we're in. The news, literally and figuratively, gets worse and worse.

It's heartbreaking for those who walked out of the office on Monday for the last time, the winners of a lottery that makes us all poorer.

But we trudge on as best we can, hoping that we'll have a job tomorrow and the next day and the next day... but always wondering when our number will be up.

In order to kill the pain and forget about our life for a moment, I offer this. My screensaver at work offers a choice of 73 photos for passersby the take a look at. Here's each of the 73 as a way to catch a glimpse into someone's life:

1. An overhead shot (from several thousand feet) of Washington National Airport (DCA)
2. A long exposure of a DCA takeoff at night, red lights lifting off from runway 31
3. In-flight photo on short final into Philadelphia (PHL), showing the Philadelphia sports complex
4. An interior photo of a silhouetted passenger inside the terminal at DCA
5. Long final into the fog at San Francisco (SFO)
6. A worker carts a load of bags at Portland (PDX)
7. The tail of a Qantas 767 with a 747 takeoff in the background
8. Wine being poured out of a holding tank
9. Unidentified 747 on short final into London Heathrow (LHR)
10. Virgin Atlantic 747 takeoff at LHR
11. Header attempt in front of net at a UEFA game; keeper punches out
12. Bob Barker in front of the venerable Plinko board
13. A Champions Tour golfer putting at Sunriver, with Mt. Bachelor in the background
14. Overhead shot of the terminals at Newark Liberty (EWR)
15. Lineup of long-haul planes at Tokyo Haneda (RJTT)
16. Man lighting up a cigar
17. High shot from behind home plate at PNC Park, with downtown Pittsburgh in the background
18. Employees share a hug as they board Delta's new 777
19. Northwest 747 as seen from inside the terminal at Detroit (DTW)
20. Branded Northwest winglet, as seen in flight
21. Man holding two beers on a bartop
22. Asante Samuel's introductory press conference with Eagles coach Andy Reid and owner Jeff Lurie
23. Rows of wine grapes in Oregon
24. United 747 just after liftoff at SFO
25. Plate of Buffalo wings, celery and beer in the background
26. A winemaker walks through her vineyard in France
27. Cork and cap from French wines
28. GTA4 screenshot: Niko firing from behind a bullet-riddled car
29. Billboards advertising GTA4 release
30. GTA4 screenshot: Niko with an RPG
31. GTA4 screenshot: Niko looks over his shoulder
32. Unidentified customer plunks down money for a copy of GTA4
33. Emergency landing on I-81 in southwest Virginia, near sign that reads: "Va. Highlands Airport, next exit"
34. Empty I-95 in central Philadelphia with center city in the background
35. Giant doors leading to the Guinness factory
36. Balloonist cruises past Mt. Bachelor
37. A Mariners player works on his bunting during spring training
38. Monaco F1 race: Ferrari driver maneuvers through a chicane
39. Monaco coastline with street course in view
40. Monaco near start/finish line
41. Va. Tech coach Frank Beamer speaks to a few reporters at Richmond International Raceway
42. Green flag at Auto Club Speedway as drivers speed past
43. Daytona 500 racing on the backstretch, near an Airtran MD80
44. Daytona's massive grandstand as night falls
45. Sprint Cup haulers parade down The Strip in Las Vegas, near a billboard for Lance Burton
46. Barack Obama campaigns in central Oregon
47. Man dressed up as a pint of Guinness; the costume was later stolen
48. Vijay Singh gazes out to sea at Pebble Beach
49. Running back tries to break away from defenders at Oregon spring practice
50. Kayaker prepares to enter the Deschutes River
51. Golfer tees off at the par-3 seventh at Pebble Beach
52. Surfer on the waves near Pebble
53. Pelicans crowd the top of a waterfall fountain in Portland
54. Philadelphia's famous Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill River
55. Ryan Howard homers off a hapless Pirates pitcher during spring training
56. Golfer walks toward the island green (par-3 17th) at TPC Sawgrass
57. Flyers players celebrate a goal against Ottawa
58. South Park's four main characters around a campfire
59. Singapore Airlines' new A380 lands
60. Kegs of beer on a truck at Euro 2008
61. Korean DMZ with border markers in view
62. Vineyard in Spain with mountains in the background
63. Idaho thaws with melting snow in the low ground with snow-capped mountains in the background
64. Stealth fighters fly overhead in a group of three
65. A Starbucks store in Seattle
66. Construction site with downtown Reno in the background
67. Portland's Rose Garden
68. The storefront for Powell's Books in downtown Portland
69. A ferry crosses the water in front of the Space Needle in Seattle
70. Traffic stopped at a checkpoint on the Venezuela-Columbia border
71. American vineyards
72. Air circulator in vineyard
73. A snowplow works in futility at a messy Logan International (BOS) in Boston

So there you have it. A little glimpse at the images that put my mind at ease... Lord knows we need plenty of that these days.