This time around, I want to discuss consumer rights vs. the rights of those who seek profit without limits, healthy competition or public scrutiny, and why the rights of profiteers always seem to dominate.

For example, there’s this story, in which our old friends at Dominion Power continue to promote their plan to string a high-voltage power line over a historic section of the James River.

Truthfully, I don’t think I’m as concerned with the aesthetics of Dominion’s proposal as those who so passionately oppose it. What I am opposed to is Dominion’s ongoing attempts to force a project on the people who do oppose it through extortion, intimidation and coercion.

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This week, I want to take a break from poking the bear and point out some good things going on around the region. As always, I hope they represent a trend, and I want to encourage the kind of progress these positive actions represent. 

A ray of sunshine? Let’s hope so

I want to start this week in Portsmouth, but for a more positive reason than usual. I’ve spent a lot of time picking on Portsmouth, and frankly it’s been justified. The litany of problems that city faces–when combined with the incredibly poor leadership displayed by it’s elected representatives–have combined to leave Portsmouth in a particularly bad lurch.

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I come to praise maglev - not the other thing

(This essay originally ran in AltDaily)

As government operatives, media types and ideologues continue to machinate over whether and how to extend light rail to Virginia Beach, I feel compelled to stand up and speak out in defense of emerging technology.
ODU maglevA proposal has been made by American Maglev Technologies (AMT) - the same company behind ODU's maglev experiment several years ago - to build a maglev train line as the proposed light rail system in Virginia Beach, at no cost to taxpayers.

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I hadn’t intended to write two back-to-back columns about infrastructure, but a confluence of events dictates otherwise.

The first of these is the recent passing of Louis Guy, a man I can easily describe as an “engineer’s engineer.” Louis was immensely respected in our region, not only for his engineering prowess, but for his love of local history and his passion for our region.

About three years ago, Louis had to drop something off at my home for a website I was working on. Over beverages, he listened while I pitched the idea I’ll describe in a minute. When I was done, he expressed genuine enthusiasm for it, which coming from a professional of his stature was huge to me.

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Regarding all those political ads… Lies and damned lies.

(Note: This essay originally ran in AltDaily)

OK. So perhaps saying that all political ads in this election cycle are lies is a bit of a generalization. I’ve even seen a couple I thought were pretty good. But I also strongly believe that the amount of deception and obfuscation that’s being employed in modern political advertising is so pervasive that the majority of what you read, see and hear is too far from the factual to be considered anything resembling the truth.

If you take a default position that they’re lies and someone objective will have to determine otherwise, more often than not, you’ll be right - depending on where you personally draw the line.

Political pros will say that a lie of omission or a lie of deception isn’t “technically” a lie, and that this distinction somehow makes their content accurate enough. But ask yourself this: Has any political ad you’ve seen anytime recently made you feel smarter or more enlightened? What exactly did you learn? Did you believe what you were told? Do you assume those that come from the side you support are truthful, but not those from the other side?

We already know they disrespect each other by the tone of the venal personal attacks that have become so commonplace. But when the campaigns or candidates lie, it indicates that they don’t respect us, either.

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