Articles from May 2009



Live hate-blogging of the Republican Party of Virginia convention starting at 10:00 am.

Why should you follow my live-blogging instead of those other guys out there? Because I’m the only one that’s going to be live hate-blogging!

John Brownlee claims he wants to “reduc[e] drug dependency”, but why did he oppose the building of a drug treatment clinic in Roanoke County?

I should preface this post with this statement: If someone is selling (distributing) illegal narcotics, I think they should be locked up in prison for an appropriate amount of time. If someone is arrested for using or possessing illegal drugs, I also believe that they should be locked up unless they have a genuine desire to get clean. To stop using drugs cold turkey is almost never effective and can result in serious medical problems from withdraws. I also believe a distinction should made between someone that becomes addicted to a drug that they were legally and properly using (e.g., OxyContin) and then have to seek illegal means to satisfy their addiction, versus a drug that they decided to start using because it looked ‘fun’. The best way to treat certain drugs problems is by using methadone (which is used to treat opiate addiction, including addictions to OxyContin), like it or not. It’s not a perfect solution since the patients then needs methadone in their system to function, but it’s better than having someone addicted to an drug that they’re acquiring through illegal means.

Back in 2003, the Life Center of Galax proposed building a methadone drug treatment clinic in Roanoke County. They already ran two similar facilities, one located in Galax and the other in Tazewell County. According to the Life Center, approximately 75 people were commuting to Galax every day from the Roanoke area for treatment, resulting in a commute of over 90 miles and one and a half hours. Predictably, the various fearmongers and moral panickers in the area raised hell and objected to the facility being located in their neighborhood.

While the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Zoning Appeals consider the appropriateness of the facility, John Brownlee entered the fray and spoke before the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors stating there was “anecdotal evidence” that the drug treatment facility could result in an increase in crime.[1] Someone should tell Mr. Brownlee that “anecdotal evidence” isn’t evidence. This guy was a prosecutor at the time, right?

When confronted by a reporter from The Roanoke Times who had statistics that showed there had been no increase in crime as result of the Life Center’s facilities in Galax and Tazewell County, this is what Brownlee is reported to have said:

But after his presentation to the board, Brownlee acknowledged that in Galax and Tazewell County – where the Life Center of Galax operates the only two methadone clinics in Southwest Virginia – police say they have not encountered problems with drug dealing around the clinics.

The one case of suspected drug dealing turned out to be unfounded, Life Center officials have said, and Galax Police Chief Rick Clark has confirmed that the clinic is not a problem for law enforcement.

It may be that police and clinic officials have worked effectively in Galax to prevent possible problems, Brownlee said. But, he said, his intent Tuesday was to warn Roanoke County officials about what could happen here.[1]

So, instead of Brownlee basing his statements on real evidence including statements from the police chief of Galax, not “anecdotal evidence” as he did, Brownlee decided to play into the fearmongering and moral panicking of some of the residents and officals of Roanoke County.

But this story gets even weirder: The Life Center eventually dropped their plans for building the clinic in Roanoke County due to oppression from the community and elected officials. By 2004, however, another company developed plans for building a methadone drug treatment clinic in the city of Roanoke. Again, there was the same fearmongering and moral panicking by citizens and elected officials.

While this plan went ahead, Brownlee was mum until then-City Councilman and now-Vice Mayor Sherman Lea brought up the fact that Brownlee’s opposition to methadone clinics seemed to be selective since he hadn’t come before the Roanoke City Council to express his concerns to the proposed clinic in the city. Here’s how The Roanoke Times reported the exchange between Lea and Brownlee:[2]

Brownlee said he would be glad to give the same assessment regarding the proposed city clinic, “but nobody in the city has raised the issue with me.”

[…]

When told of Brownlee’s remarks, Lea didn’t dispute that no one in the city has contacted the U.S. attorney. But Lea said Brownlee, in his public position, should have realized the need to speak out on Roanoke’s situation the same way he did in the county.

Lea said he will write Brownlee a letter this week inviting him to speak at the council meeting Nov. 15.[2]

However, Brownlee did not speak at the November 15 meeting of the Roanoke City Council. Why? According to now-Vice Mayor Lea, Brownlee could not speak because he could not secure the permission of the United States Attorney General. Seriously, he claimed that the United States Attorney General had to approve his comments.[3] Does anyone else really believe that the U.S. Attorney General personally approves each and every public appearance by all 93 United States Attorney? Yeah, me neither.

Regardless, the facility in the city of Roanoke and opened in 2005. According to a follow-up story by The Roanoke Times in 2009 dealing with the clinic that was successfully built in the city of Roanoke, they reported that 1,000 people had been treated at that facility since it opened in January 2005. In 2008, there had been only 14 police calls to the facility, “mostly for minor reasons such as a false burglar alarm or reports of suspicious activity that didn’t turn out to be serious.” In 2007, there were 34 police calls, “most of which involved the trigger-happy burglar alarm.” For comparison, according to a police spokeswoman, a nearby business had 42 calls for police services in 2008. One neighbor made the following comment: “I don’t even know that place is up there.” And according to the same story, property values for the 16 homes on the street had all gone up.[4]

Now, on John Brownlee’s campaign website he claims that he “reduc[e] drug dependency” but doesn’t actually say how he plans on accomplishing that.[5]

John Brownlee also brags on no less than three pages of his website how he managed to secure $634 million from Purdue Pharma, the maker of the painkiller OxyContin, for violating consumer protection laws in their marketing of the drug.[6][7][8] So, apparently Brownlee believes that the government should be able to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from a drug company, but he also apparently believes that people that have become addicted to their drug — which Brownlee describes as “highly addictive and dangerous”[7][8] — shouldn’t have a place to go to receive treatment for their addiction. Again, these are people that were legally prescribed a drug which they became addicted to due to no fault of their own.

These stories are a perfect example of the problems with John Brownlee. For one, whenever he makes a decision or statement he goes off half-cocked: Whether it’s statements regarding the criminal impact that a drug treatment clinic will have; how his position on abortion is more conservative than Ken Cuccinelli’s — it isn’t; and Ken Cuccinelli’s military service in the Marine Corps.

Second, he also seems to have trouble with the truth. He claims that he’ll be “glad” to speak to the Roanoke City Council about their proposed clinic, but then claims that the United States Attorney General won’t let him speak. Yeah, right. You could also throw in some things from the the previous paragraph. He’s either makes comments and decision while being completely ignorant of the subject or he’s just lying.

Third, he’s a political animal. Even the folks at The Roanoke Times noticed this way back in October of 2003, opining that everything that Brownlee does seems to be motivated by politics.[9]

Do you really want someone like that as your Attorney General? Do you even want him as the Republican nominee for Attorney General?

  1. Laurence Hammack. “U.S. ATTORNEY WARNS OF DRUG DEALERS AT CLINIC; BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TOOK NO ACTION ON THE PROPOSED CLINIC.” The Roanoke Times. 15 Oct 2003: LexisNexis. [] []
  2. Todd Jackson. “BROWNLEE SLIGHTED CITY, LEA CONTENDS.” The Roanoke Times. 2 Nov 2004: LexisNexis. [] []
  3. Sherman Lea. “Re: Question on John Brownlee and methadone clinic in the city of Roanoke.” E-mail to the author. 8 Mar 2009. []
  4. Laurence Hammack. “Methadone clinic fails to trigger any disasters: Despite earlier fears, the clinic has brought neither increased crime nor depressed property values.” The Roanoke Times. 25 Jan 2009: LexisNexis. []
  5. “Fighting Drug Dealers and Reducing Drug Dependency.” John Brownlee for Attorney General. John Brownlee for Attorney General. 29 May 2009 <http://www.johnbrownlee2009.com/issues-drugs.htm>. []
  6. “Consumer Protection and Corporate Governance.” John Brownlee for Attorney General. John Brownlee for Attorney General. 9 Mar 2009 <http://www.johnbrownlee2009.com/issues-consumer.htm>. []
  7. “Former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee Announces Campaign for Attorney General.” John Brownlee for Attorney General. John Brownlee for Attorney General. 9 Mar 2009 <http://www.johnbrownlee2009.com/nr-052008.htm>. [] []
  8. “Meet John Brownlee.” John Brownlee for Attorney General. John Brownlee for Attorney General. 9 Mar 2009 <http://www.johnbrownlee2009.com/aboutJohn.htm>. [] []
  9. “ROANOKE’S POLITICAL U.S. ATTORNEY”. The Roanoke Times. 16 Oct 2003: LexisNexis. []

Two city of Richmond police officers injured at shooting range in Caroline County.

Richmond Times Dispatch:

Two Richmond police officers were injured by shrapnel during target practice at the department’s firing range today in Caroline County, but neither injury was believed to be life-threatening, authorities said.

Police early this afternoon confirmed that the incident had occurred, but officials said they were still gathering information and had no other immediate details.

The Richmond Police Department maintains two shooting ranges: an indoor facility at its police academy and an outdoor range in Caroline.

Stupid question: Where exactly is their shooting range in Caroline County located? I’m going to guest Fort A.P. Hill.

Memorial Day Honored in Caroline County: Video

The video isn’t great, you can hear cars in the background and someone that was beside me talking, and the camera gets a little jerky because I was trying to record with one hand while simultaneously setting a tripod.

I was a little late getting to the event and I had to find a spot where the camera could actually pick up the voice of the speakers over the cars passing by so the first part starts in the middle of one guy’s speech. He started his speech by talking about how Memorial Day was created to pay respects to those that died in service of this country and how it has gradually become nothing more than a third-day weekend and the unofficial beginning of summer to many people. Part of the problem according to him is that the federal government changed the holiday from being on May 30 every year to being the last Monday in May so it would be a three-day weekend. Anyway, Part 1:

Part 2:

Mark Warner certainly isn’t the brightest (in re online medical records).

From Virginia Lawyers Weekly:

A hacker’s theft of millions of Virginia’s most sensitive prescription drug records isn’t slowing Sen. Mark Warner’s push for electronic medical records.

The former governor convened a conference in Richmond last week about the medical and cost-saving benefits of digitizing hundreds of millions of patient records nationally.

“We’ve been talking about this subject, policymakers have, for decades: how can we make sure that we can bring the power of information technology to our health care system,” Warner told reporters at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Warner, who made a fortune as an early investor in cell phones and information technology, was among the earliest apostles of e-medical records. The federal economic stimulus package that Warner supported provides nearly $20 billion to begin the process of digitizing medical records and sharing them over secure networks.

Here’s the money quote at the bottom of the story (read the whole thing still):

VITA [Virginia Information Technologies Agency] was Warner’s idea for consolidating the state’s disparate and far-flung computer networks and technology procurement systems under one agency. It went online during his term as governor from 2002 to 2006.

“You’re never going to have an infallible system. But … you’ve got to make sure that you learn if there are breaches like this and improve and protect the system,” he said.

Does anyone else feel so safe in the knowledge that the government (or even a business) is going to be responsible for retaining your complete medical record?

The story portrays Mark Warner has being so tech savvy but he shows by his own comments he doesn’t know jack about computer security. And notice that he mentions that you improve security on the system only after the data has been compromised.

And given how a bureaucracy responds to computer security problems, I feel even more secure: Consider how the Oklahoma Department of Corrections implemented their state-wide sex offender registry. They set up the system and how it communicated with the database in such a way that it was possible to change a few words in the URL of the web page and viola, you have the social security number of every person listed on the registry (The Register (UK), Daily WTF).

And when the author of the article at the Daily WTF alerted the Oklahoma DOC to the problem they responded by changing the SELECT term from “social_security_number” to “Social_Security_Number”. Just change the URL to the capitalized term and viola, the information was still available to anyone. The problem was only fixed when the author revealed to the Oklahoma DOC that not only was information available about people that were on the sex-offender registry, but information regarding DOC employees, including medical information, was also available.

The author also theorize that given the way the system was set-up, he could have added records to the tables, enabling him to add people as DOC employees or as sex-offenders.

If that’s the way the government is going to handle my medical records, no thanks.

And, of course, it isn’t just the government that has failed to address security concerns. According to the The Register, a prescription processing firm, Express Scripts, offered a $1,000,000 bounty for the return of personal information, including prescription information in some cases, that a group managed to download.

This also goes back to the nature of computer security. It’s a reactive process. Security flaws and exploits are not fixed until there’s a problem that has been documented. Hell, just look at every security vulnerability in any Microsoft product.

And normal citizens don’t give a damn about their security in most cases, and where do those people work? Some are bound to work in sensitive places. You still have people that either don’t bother with wireless network security on their routers, or if the do, they’re still using WEP which the FBI demonstrated could be cracked in three minutes back in 2005. And even the more secure WPA has been demonstrated to have security vulnerabilities.

And by no means am I saying that paper records in a doctor’s office are secure. But at least then it has to be an employee or a burglar that compromises the information. And it wouldn’t affect millions and millions of people if it does happen. It also would take a lot more time and effort to copy and distribute paper medical records than it would take for electric files. Even if you find the people that compromise an electronic medical record, that information could have been forwarded to a million people already.

And then you have situations where neither the government nor business disclose the fact that their information has been compromised. Was it Bank of America that failed to tell their customers that their personal information had been breached until six months after the incident occurred? And look at how the state of Virginia has been mum about what exactly was compromised with the hacking of their prescription drug database.

All around, this is a Charlie-Foxtrot waiting to happen.

Memorial Day Honored in Caroline County: Pictures

Memorial Day Honored in Caroline County.

I have some pictures and video from the memorial day celebration at the Caroline County Circuit Court from earlier today that I will be posting today or tomorrow as time permits.

99th House of Delegates Mass Meeting: Terry Beatley, Catherine Crabill: tomato, tah-mah-toh?

For those that are unaware of Terry Beatley is, she’s the woman that managed to get a special grand jury convened in an attempt to indict a movie rental business in Lancaster County for creating a ‘public nuisance’ because they were renting pornographic movies. They managed to get an indictment against the business, but I can’t find out online what ended up happening with the case. Regardless, I’m sure the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Lancaster County enjoyed having his time wasted when he’s busy deciding whether he has the time to prosecute robbers, burglars, etc. You know, real criminals; not a case that arises from someone wanting the criminal justice system to dictate the business practices of a company.

She’s also the woman that sent letters to The Free Lance–Star et al. last year complaining about Albert Pollard’s “anti-family voting record”. Yeah, Pollard’s “anti-family” when he’s married with three kids versus his opponent at the time who’s a divorce attorney. Perhaps someone should tell Republicans in the 99th district that it isn’t politically wise to attack someone that routinely wins the district handily (consider the percentage of votes he has gotten: 53.0% [1999], 62.0% [2001], 65.1% [2003], 61.5% [2005], 57.2% [2008]) and is a personally likable guy as “anti-family”. But that’s a topic for a whole other post.

Anyway, to the point of this post: After being introduced by Representative Rob Wittman (R-1st), Terry Beatley gave at least a five minute speech on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. For those unfamiliar with the convention, it details various rights and protections that should be afforded to children by the signatories. The convention was signed by President Clinton back in 1995 but the Senate has so far failed to ratify the convention. The United States has, however, ratified two optional protocols of the convention, one prohibiting the use of child soldiers, and the other prohibiting child slavery, prostitution, and pornography and certain types of child labor.

I will say upfront that I’m not a fan of this convention based on my reading of it. For one, it provides that “[n]either capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age” (Article 37(a)), which means if this convention was ratified by the Senate, Lee Boyd Malvo would be eligible for release from prison (he’s currently doing life without the possibility of parole). (Capital punishment for offenses committed when someone was a juvenile was determined to be “cruel and unusual punishment” by the Supreme Court of the United States in Roper v. Simmons, so that’s not a possibility anymore anyway.)

But there’s a distinction from concerns such as those and what Terry Beatley had to say: For one, she said that the convention prohibits corporal punishment of children. If she had bother reading the bloody thing, she would see that nowhere in the convention is corporal punishment even mentioned. In fact, while 198 nations have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are only 24 nations that actually prohibit corporal punishment. Doesn’t seem to be much correlation between ratifying the convention and prohibiting the practice of corporal punishment now does it?

Just like Catherine Crabill, who thinks that there “there is an agenda that is in our Public Law to surrender our country to the United Nations”, Terry Beatley thinks the United Nations is going to take your children from you.

Hopefully there aren’t as many nuts at the Republican Party of Virginia convention (that I will be live hate-blogging) as there were at the 99th Mass Meeting.

Bravo, Caroline County School Board: Do you bother running criminal records checks on your prospective employees?

The Free Lance–Star:

After Ben Boyd was hired as Caroline High School’s football coach May 11, Cavaliers Athletic Director Dan Dickey said a 10-person search committee had thoroughly vetted his past.

However, three members of the committee said in recent interviews with The Free Lance-Star that they weren’t aware of Boyd’s 1991 guilty plea to federal misdemeanor charges of misbranding and illegally dispensing anabolic steroids when they recommended him for the position.

And School Board members Wendell Sims and Fred Peatross said they had no knowledge of Boyd’s past when they gave the final approval of his hiring.

[…]

“I feel real bad I let this guy slip through,” search committee member Tom Ball said. “I should’ve known. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way.”

Caroline Superintendent Gregory Killough worked in Franklin County with Boyd as recently as 2005 but said he discovered the coach’s past convictions only after Boyd was recommended by the committee.

99th House of Delegates Mass Meeting: Video: The votes come in and the district becomes a statewide, if not national, embarrassment.


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