Monday, December 17, 2012

After a Decade of Hardship, State Spending Still Up

As Virginians ponder the amendments to Virginia’s two-year budget proposed this morning by Governor Bob McDonnell, it is worth remembering the extent to which state government spending has increased over the past 10 years despite three years of hardship occasioned by the 2008 recession.

Over the last decade, Virginia’s operating budget increased by $15.4 billion (62%) — a 35% increase in general funds and an 86% increase in non-general funds. When controlling for growth in population and inflation, total budget growth was 18% over the ten-year period.

So says “The Review of State Spending: 2012 Update” released November by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). After adjustments, General Fund spending actually declined 1% over the decade but non-general fund spending more than made up the difference.

Nine of 196 programs — including health care, education and transportation — accounted for 78% of the total budget growth over the 10-year period. Interesting… health care, education and transportation are three of the most dysfunctional sectors of Virginia’s (and the United States’) economy. All three sectors are exempt from market discipline, and all three are resistant to  fundamental re-thinking or reform. While tinkering on the margins, Virginia’s political establishment continues to pump more money into these broken institutions.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

ALMS: Rebellion Confirms Single P1 Entry For 2013

As first revealed in a exclusive last month, Rebellion Racing made its plans official Wednesday to enter the American Le Mans Series, committing to a single full-season entry for its Lola B12/60 Toyota.

The Anglo-Swiss squad, which took overall honors in October's Petit Le Mans, will additionally field a second P1 class contender in the 2013 season-opening Twelve Hours of Sebring, with driver lineups for both cars yet to be confirmed.

A parallel program in the FIA World Endurance Championship, where Rebellion won this year's Endurance Trophy for Private LMP1 teams, is also being evaluated, which could see the team's other two Lola-Toyotas put into action in the global sports car championship.

"We want to build upon those results in 2013 and aim to add to our tally of overall race wins," said team manager Bart Hayden. "The visibility generated by overall wins is more in line with what our partners require and desire.

"The WEC is a World Championship and we would like to find a way to continue racing there too. Over the coming weeks, we will be striving to put together a program to complement our presence in the ALMS.

"We are a team that has grown up with the Le Mans spirit since our involvement in the GT class in the early 2000’s and we want to continue racing in championships that mix the very best professional prototype and GT teams. I will be particularly pleased if we can succeed in finding a way to run cars in both the ALMS and the FIA WEC in 2013.”

On the driver front, has learned that 2012 European Le Mans Series champion Mathias Beche has already signed with the team, with the remainder of the lineup set to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

The official confirmation of Rebellion's presence in the premier prototype ranks of the ALMS will see no fewer than three full-season entries in 2013, joining at least one Dyson Racing Lola B12/60 and reigning champions Muscle Milk Pickett Racing with its soon-to-be-upgraded HPD ARX-03c.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

White Ribbon Day: A white ribbon rebellion

BENDIGO men are saying no to violence against women.

About 30 men stood on the steps of The Capital theatre yesterday morning, united in their stance against violence as part of Bendigo’s White Ribbon campaign.

The Bendigo Business Council hosted a White Ribbon breakfast yesterday and a free community event will be held in Hargreaves Mall tomorrow from noon.

Bendigo Police Inspector Mark Edwards spoke at the White Ribbon breakfast yesterday and said violence against 

women took up a lot of police time.

“Crime is broken into two categories,” he said. 

“We have crime against property and crime against a person. If you look at crime against person, which is stuff like assaults, robberies and all that sort of stuff, 80 per cent of that category is assaults.

“Of that 80 per cent, a third of it is family violence.”  Inspector Edwards said police had done a lot of work on repeat victims and offenders.

“We try to link our victims into the right services, try to give them the courage and the opportunity to make that break, and get out of the cycle that they’re stuck in...So we’ll do things like, rather than wait for a call-out to these addresses, we’ll go to these addresses to check up.

“We’ll just drop in to see how things are going and try to get a feel for the place.” 

Family violence adviser Sergeant Margaret Singe described the response to yesterday’s breakfast as “fantastic”.

“Particularly because probably 50 per cent of the participants were men,” she said. “And White Ribbon is all about men leading the charge. 

“The breakfast was really the starting point in our White Ribbon activities. 

“On Friday we’ve got the community lunch, which goes from noon until 2pm in the mall. And the yarn bombers have been down and decorated our area for us. They’ve got white all around the area.”

Sergeant Singe has her fingers crossed that as many people as possible will support the event.

“It’s free but there will be a cost for the barbecue lunch,” she said.

“We’ll also have some entertainment – performers who’ve both written songs specifically for Friday about White Ribbon.”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Councillors urged to join rebellion against Pickles

Labour councillors up and down the country were called on to co-ordinate for a dramatic fightback against government-imposed cuts to local budgets today. 

Grassroots Labour Representation Committee (LRC) activists have vowed to bring together party-run councils to declare war against both Tory minister Eric Pickles and cuts hawks within Labour itself at their annual conference on Saturday.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Mr Pickles is presiding over massive cuts to council budgets, which the LRC warn disproportionately hit the working class and Labour councils that represent them.

A minority of Labour councillors who have refused to support cutbacks were praised, including Lambeth's Kingsley Abrams who was suspended in June for voting to oppose cuts to jobs and services.

LRC activists warned against a right-wing mentality within Labour that is helping to push through government-imposed cuts without a fight.

And they stressed that one or two councils refusing to make cuts will not be enough to defeat the government's ideologically-driven agenda, stating that there should be "no local cuts in the name of the Labour Party."

Hull Labour councillor Gary Wareing said: "We have been trying hard to develop a strategy to fight cuts imposed on the council by this Con-Dem government.

"We need an alternative. We need to bring together a coalition of councillors and local community groups to say that what the Tories are doing is not what we want in Hull."

Labour MP John McDonnell said a date for the meeting of Labour councillors and councils will be made as soon as possible.

It comes after three council leaders wrote to Mr Pickles on Friday demanding that he come clean over what their budgets will look like for 2013/14, not due to be revealed until December.

The leaders of Labour-run Southampton, Green controlled Brighton and Hove and Liberal Democrat Portsmouth demanded to be told now so they can budget properly.

It will not be the first time Labour councillors have stood up to Tory-imposed central government cuts.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Clay Cross dispute in 1972, when 11 Labour councillors stood up to Ted Heath's Housing Finance Act by refusing to implement increased council housing rents.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A tale of resistance & rewards

Three years after the British took over Kodagu, a rebellion against the rulers erupted in the region. Among the rebels was Guddemane Appayya. C P Belliappa charts the chronology of events immediately after the rebellion was quelled.
In 1837, three years after the British take-over of Kodagu, a rebellion erupted against the colonisers. This uprising is popularly known as ‘Amara Sulya da Katakai’. The primary reason for this revolt by some of the peasants in Sulya was their objection to the British collecting land tax in currency instead of in kind as was the practice during the reign of the rajas. There was also a rather mysterious individual named Kalyanaswamy who proclaimed himself a descendant of the Haleri rajas and claimed the throne of Kodagu.

The rebellious peasants rallied round him. Guddemane Appayya took command of the rebels. The entire uprising was not well organised and there was a great deal of confusion. However, it soon spread to Puttur and then right up to Mangalore, where some of the establishments of the East India Company were ransacked. Emboldened by their success, the rebels made a bid to attack Madikeri, the capital of Kodagu.

Three years of British administration had brought peace and stability in Kodagu and a majority of the people did not want this disturbed. Compared to the misrule of Chikka Veerarajendra, the administration was streamlined and there was equitable law. People-friendly policies were implemented in various fields. The alarmed British enlisted the support of Kodavas to quell the rebellion. The two dewans, Apparanda Bopanna and Chepudira Ponnappa, mustered the Kodavas, and within days the insurgency was put down. The British did not want any repetition of such revolts against their rule. Harsh punishments were meted out to those who took part in the rebellion. Amongst those executed were Kalyanaswamy and Guddemane Appayya.

After this operation was completed, a large amount of booty was collected from the rebels. The British offered the spoils of war to the Kodavas for having helped them. To the surprise of the British, Kodavas rejected sharing the war booty.

Awards for quelling rebellion

At the time, Colonel Mark Cubbon who was posted in Bangalore was also the Commissioner of Kodagu and Captain Le Hardy was the superintendent. It was Colonel Mark Cubbon who recommended to the then governor-general Lord Auckland that the gallant Kodavas should be suitably recognised for their distinguished service in quelling the rebellion. On Mark Cubbon’s recommendation, the following awards were presented: gold medals with gold chains worth Rs 400 to the two dewans, 12 gold medals with chains worth Rs 200 to subedhars and principal chiefs, 20 gold medals without chains for parpatigars and others of equal rank, 10 gold medals worth Rs 50 for peasants who supported the British, 200 silver medals worth Rs 10 for lower ranks and peasants.

Several bronze and copper medals were presented to the foot-soldiers. All these medals were two inches in diameter. They were cast in the same moulding with a Kodava warrior on the obverse and a trophy of Kodava arms on the reverse. Weights of the gold medals were adjusted by varying the thickness.

In addition, there were grants of land, Pegu ponies, fowling pieces (guns), shawls, clothes, turbans, etc.

But there was a 70-year-old subedhar named Monnaiah (spelt Moonien by the British) who rejected all that the British offered. He was crestfallen, because during the operation, he had lost his prized sword which was a gift from Dodda Veerarajendra. He wanted nothing other than replacement of the sword!

Mark Cubbon immediately acted on this request and had an exact replica made and presented to the subedhar. I wonder if this sword exists somewhere in one of the Kodava homes. Likewise, none of the gold and silver medallions are with any of the Kodava families.

However, I have one of the bronze medals, which was very kindly gifted to me by A Franklin, an avid art collector in Bangalore.

Franklin is also the proud owner of the autographed Bible that Queen Victoria presented to her god daughter Princess Victoria Gowramma of Coorg in 1852.

History has nevertheless come full circle. Recently an imposing statue of Guddemane Appayya on horse-back has been installed at the entrance to Madikeri town. He is recognised as one of the earliest freedom fighters.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Most Dysfunctional Board in the Country?

Talk about a crazy situation… After months of delay, the Washington, D.C., City Council is scheduled October 2 to approve amendments to a bi-state compact with Virginia that would expand the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), giving the Old Dominion greater representation. The amendments were based upon legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Obama at the behest of Rep. Frank Wolf, Va-10.

Assuming the council acts as expected, it still will be behind the curve. Frustrated by “appalling decisions” made by the MWAA board, Wolf has submitted a new bill that would shrink the board and give Virginia representatives an outright majority. The board, which worked actively to block implementation of the previous changes is “dysfunctional,” he says.

The current board lacks transparency and accountability, said Wolf in an August  press release, pointing to a series of “appalling” decisions over the past two years, including a $200,000 confidential settlement with an unsuccessful candidate to run the authority and sweetheart deals for former board members and board staff. He also cited lavish travel by board members.

“MWAA used to have a well-functioning and highly successful board,” Wolf said. “Now it has just dissolved into bitter acrimony. Board members are subpoenaing each other. It is internecine warfare. This cannot stand. It is time to give Virginia control.”

Last week the MWAA board did adopt a new travel policy and hiring policies, as the new chairman, Michael A. Curto, sought to re-establish credibility with the authority’s stakeholders.
After the MWAA board’s session last week, Curto stated:
As I started my tenure as chairman, I laid out three priorities for the organization: increased cooperation with our partners, especially the Commonwealth of Virginia, greater transparency for management and board operations, and the timely and cost-effective completion of the rail project. While it is true that the Authority has made its share of mistakes, and there are a number of issues that have yet to be adequately addressed, I think our harshest critics would also acknowledge that we have made significant progress on those key objectives.
President and CEO Jack Potter reported last week that the Authority was closing out all “sole source” professional services contracts that had been exempted from competitive bidding. In effect, that meant firing former director Mame Reiley, whom he had hired under a multi-year contract for a $180,000-a-year job. Her contract still called for a one-year severance.

The new travel policy would preclude any more junkets, such as one in which then-board member Dennis Martire, a a senior executive with the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) charged MWAA for a nine-day trip to Europe with his girlfriend on the pretext of attending a 36-hour  conference on by the Airports Council International.

At least two other former board members – and a former staff member of the board – have been beneficiaries of sweetheart deals, Wolf said, citing exposes by the Washington Examiner. Last year the board awarded a $100,000 contract to a law firm where a board member’s wife works.

In other questionable activities, the board paid $200,000 to an individual who was “all but promised” – but never offered – the CEO position. The deal was struck to avoid a potential lawsuit.

One issue yet to hit the media involves the confiscation of a board member’s papers left at his seat after a recent meeting, Wolf said. The Congressman stated in the press release that “it was his understanding that” a board member left the July session for a lunch meeting, fully intending to return. The board meeting adjourned, however, before he came back and board staff collected his things. “Instead of just putting the documents in an envelope, the staff read through them and then passed them onto the board secretary, who, I understand, also went through them,” Wolf said. “Believing the documents could be pertinent to litigation involving MWAA, the board secretary turned them over to the authority’s general counsel. This incident has led to series of subpoenas being issued to several board members and others, including me and my chief of staff.”

Another incident revolves around the attempted removal of a Virginia board member — Martire, the labor executive — for cause by Governor McDonnell, Wolf said. The board member has challenged his removal in court and MWAA is paying his legal fees.

“I suspect MWAA will have to start paying the legal fees of other board members who have now been subpoenaed in the case,” Wolf said. “Knowing how fast legal fees can accumulate, I am deeply troubled by these latest turn of events, especially considering taxpayers are footing the bill.”
The problems do not end here, Wolf said.
The terms of all three of the federal appointments have expired and finding replacements continues to drag on and on. The District left an appointee on the board for nearly two years after his term has expired, despite being under house arrest in the Ivory Coast and attending only one meeting between 2009 and 2011. It was going to be that member’s proxy vote to hire the unsuccessful CEO candidate who received a $200,000 settlement. Board members also used to meet with the former chairman the night before meetings to plot strategy for the next day’s meetings, Wolf said.
“All this points to a board that is totally dysfunctional, fiscally irresponsible and tone deaf,” Wolf said.
MWAA’s actions last week come too little and too late for Wolf. “The Congressman’s new bill will “give Virginia complete control” over the MWAA board, Daniel Scandling, Wolf’s chief of staff, told me.

Scandling acknowledged the political difficulties in persuading Maryland and Washington to agree to an arrangement that would further diminish their power on the board, but he noted that the bill enjoyed bipartisan support among Virginia’s congressional delegation and has been backed by leading business lobbies in Northern Virginia. “Never say never.”

McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell did not respond to two phone calls and an email from Bacon’s Rebellion to address the Washington City Council’s action, or lack of it, on the bi-state compact. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Scottish independence: Labour dismisses rebellion

LABOUR chiefs say a rebellion among its grassroots members in favour of independence lacks “any real support” within party ranks.

A website has been launched called Labour for Independence, which is urging Scottish party leader Johann Lamont to allow members a vote on the constitutional question, with a view to shifting the party’s stance in favour of leaving the UK in the 2014 referendum.

Senior Labour figures say the website, launched by party member Allan Grogan, has attracted plentiful backing from SNP supporters. But the party
insists that members are free to bring policy suggestions before Labour conference.

A posting by Mr Grogan on the website states: “I’m pleased that we have given the pro-indy Labour voters a home to voice their opinions. 

“In the last month, we have gained 24,000 Facebook viewers, created our own website, which after one week has more than 2,000 hits.”

He also urges pro-independence Labour supports to turn out at a major rally planned for 22 September.
“We need to show the Labour Party, the rest of the political parties and the media watching, that there is a genuine demand from Labour voters for independence,” he adds.

“In the coming months, we will look to appeal to Ms Lamont and the heads of the Scottish Labour Party for a membership vote on Labour’s stance.” 

Nationalists were quick to seize on the move, with Christine McKelvie, who chairs Holyrood’s external relations committee, urging the party
hierarchy to listen to its grassroots. membership.

“People of all parties and none are warming to the idea of an independent Scotland,” Ms McKelvie said.
“It is only fair and democratic that grassroots Labour members should be given the opportunity to discuss the merits of voting Yes to an independent Scotland in 2014.

“Johann Lamont and the Labour Party in Scotland leadership’s sponsored silence on Trident, abandonment of free higher education and anti-­independence pact with Tories is leaving them looking very lost indeed. It is little wonder the people of Scotland are looking elsewhere for politicians to
reflect their views and values.”
Former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling is the man leading Better Together, the official campaign for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom. Ms
Lamont joined Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Liberal Democrat chief Willie Rennie at the official launch earlier this year.

Labour North East MSP Richard Baker, who is a member on the Better Together board, yesterday played down the pro-independence move within the party.

“Labour members have the right to bring policy suggestions to conference where they can be debated,” he said. “However, as we are focused on social justice in the widest sense, we believe that we all achieve more together than apart. 

“I also note that the website has lots of support from SNP backers, but lacks any real support from within our own ranks. Scottish Labour will fight to keep Britain together, because we believe that we are stronger together.” 

A recent opinion poll on behalf of think-tank Reform Scotland, which is behind the devo-plus campaign, found that almost three-quarters of Labour voters wanted unionists to campaign for more powers for the Scottish Parliament during the referendum campaign.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mississippi Tea Party Chairman Calls For Open Rebellion Against Federal Government After Obamacare Ruling

Of all the right-wing meltdowns following yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, this statement put out by the chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party may take the cake:
When a gang of criminals subvert legitimate government offices and seize all power to themselves without the real consent of the governed their every act and edict is of itself illegal and is outside the bounds of the Rule of Law. In such cases submission is treason. Treason against the Constitution and the valid legitimate government of the nation to which we have pledged our allegiance for years. To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion.
May all of us fall on our faces before the Heavenly Judge, repent of our sins, and humbly cry out to Him for mercy on our country. And, may godly courageous leaders rise up in His wisdom and power to lead us in displacing the criminal invaders from their seats and restore our constitutional republic.
Despite Nicholson’s repeated charge that the Obama administration is guilty of high crimes, the only treason in play here is the suggestion of an open revolt against the federal government. Nicholson’s hardly the first Tea Partier to demand that people rise up in opposition to President Obama, in fact he’s not even the first to do so this week.

Matthew Davis, an attorney and former Michigan Republican Party spokesman, wrote yesterday that citizens might be justified taking up armed rebellion. In an email moments after the ruling with the subject line “Is Armed Rebellion Now Justified?” Davis wrote “There are times government has to do things to get what it wants and holds a gun to your head. I’m saying at some point, we have to ask the question when do we turn that gun around and say no and resist.”

While few comments go as far as either Nicholson or Davis’, Slate compiled several other funny and over-the-top reactions from prominent conservatives, like Sarah Palin who thanked God for firing up “the troops,” or’s Ben Shapiro, who tweeted that the decision “is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration.” 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

U.S. Supporting Rwanda As It Destabilizes the Congo

Jacques Bahati, a policy analyst at the Africa Faith; Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy; Maurice Carney, executive director of Friends of the Congo

Washington, D.C. - infoZine - BBC is reporting "The UN says it has evidence that a rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being fueled by recruits and support from neighboring Rwanda." Human Rights Watch reports that "Rwandan army officials have provided weapons, ammunition, and an estimated 200 to 300 recruits to support Ntaganda’s mutiny in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo." A leading Congolese newspaper, Le Potentiel notes "The mutiny underway in the eastern DRC receives support in manpower and logistics from Rwanda, in the face of astonishing passivity from the international community (U.S., Britain, EU, etc.)."

Jacques Bahati ( ) , a policy analyst at the Africa Faith and Justice Network says “DRC has been the playground of Rwanda since 1996 and this will never change if serious reforms are not made. On a long list of problems needing urgent solutions, DRC must address corruption in its leadership, army reform and make a priority the grievances of all warring parties.” link   

Emira Woods ( ) , co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, said today: "Rwanda's role in destabilizing the Congo has contributed to the millions who have perished as result of the conflict since 1996 and the 100,000 displaced persons since March of this year. It is time that the United States, which provides significant funding to the Rwandan government, uses its leverage to hold Rwanda accountable for its destructive actions in the Congo." link

Maurice Carney ( ) , executive director of Friends of the Congo, said today: “The Rwandan government has acted as a major destabilizing force in the east of the Congo since 1996. However, as a staunch ally of the United States and the United Kingdom, the Rwandan government has benefited tremendously from the diplomatic cover and protection that accompanies its relationship with such powerful nations."