Surrounded By Sprawl

There aren’t many working family farms left in Prince William County, and the Virginia Department of Transportation once tried to seize Cedars Farm to build a commuter parking lot. That idea failed in 2015, so I had the opportunity to capture this photo for an Airscape Photography client.

I did the work as a retirement gift for someone at the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District. Her husband’s parents bought the 125-acre farm in 1936. See more views of the property here.


How Air Force One Got Its Name

Columbine II takes off from Marana, Ariz., in March. (Photo: Ramon Purcell)

Columbine II takes off from Marana, Ariz., in March. (Photo: Ramon Purcell)

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

Piecing together history can be as difficult as solving a complex jigsaw puzzle, and sometimes you never can fill all the slots. So it is with determining the exact role the FAA played in naming the president’s airplane — but the agency definitely was part of the discussion back in 1954.

The origin of the call sign Air Force One became newsworthy this past March when a restored Lockheed Constellation took flight for the first time in more than a decade. The aircraft’s given name is Columbine II, but it was also the first presidential aircraft to be called Air Force One. Now the plane’s new owner, Karl Stoltzfus of Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Va., wants everyone to know the true story behind the name, not the myths floating around the Internet.

“I’m not interested in a ‘better’ story,” said Stoltzfus, who has contacted presidential and Air Force historians and the former personal secretary of Air Force One pilot William Draper. “I’m interested in accurate history.”

A crowd greets Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, as they exit Columbine II. (Photo: First Air Force One/Facebook)

A crowd greets Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, as they exit Columbine II. (Photo: First Air Force One/Facebook)

The history of Columbine II began at a Lockheed factory in Burbank, Calif., in 1948. It left the plant with the tail number 48–610, a designation that would become important six years later. Lockheed Air Service used the plane for shuttle flights between New York and Iceland for a few months in 1949, but it was converted from military transport to a VIP aircraft in 1950.

This particular Constellation served the U.S. Air Force secretary until Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president in November 1952. The plane’s first mission for the president-elect fulfilled his campaign promise to personally visit Korea in an effort to end the Korean War. Weeks later the plane officially became Eisenhower’s aircraft, and he named it Columbine II after the flower of wife Mamie Eisenhower’s adopted home state, Colorado.

The transfer of the plane to presidential service set the stage for a momentous air traffic control encounter involving Columbine II and a commercial flight with a similar call sign. But nailing down the details of that incident is a herculean research task.

“There are about six different urban legends out there on the Internet,” said Air Force historian Robert Spiers, who started the legwork in 2007 after numerous queries about how Air Force One got its name. Some stories, like the fanciful tale of a mid-air collision that damaged the undercarriage of Columbine II with Eisenhower on board, are far-fetched.

“If that had actually happened,” Spiers said, “it would have been all over the media.”


A School Official Who Homeschools?

Originally published at PJ Media
By K. Daniel Glover

Bonnie Henthorn and her husband spent their formative years in Tyler County public schools. Between them, their two children spent at least 15 years in that school system. The family has paid taxes that support the schools for decades.

bonnie_henthorn_twitterWith deep roots and a historical perspective like that, Henthorn is an ideal choice for president of the Tyler County school board, a role she has filled since 2014. But none of that matters now because in January she committed the unpardonable sin of public education: She started homeschooling.

Henthorn announced the family decision at the Jan. 4 school board meeting, citing two reasons that had nothing to do with Tyler County schools. “One is that I want them to have a more Christian-based education,” she said. “… Number two is I no longer feel that the state leadership has the best interest of the students at heart.”

That very personal decision, designed to benefit Henthorn’s sophomore son and seventh-grade daughter, quickly became the topic of a very hostile public debate.

At the meeting, board member Linda Hoover peppered Henthorn with questions. She implied that Henthorn couldn’t lead an education system if her children weren’t part of it and that pulling them from it is “a slap in the teachers’ faces.” Another board member, Jimmy Wyatt, called it a “questionable decision” that might show a lack of faith in the county school system.

The outrage escalated over the next few weeks. A Tyler County native created a Facebook group and a petition demanding Henthorn’s resignation. The Charleston Gazette-Mail published an editorial decrying the “sad mess” in Tyler County and calling Henthorn “unsuited for public school leadership.”

At the next school board meeting, the union that represents Tyler County teachers expressed its lack of confidence in Henthorn. Even State Board of Education president Michael Green, whom Henthorn specifically mentioned when criticizing state leadership, felt compelled to issue a statement.

Read the rest of the article at PJ Media.

The Illegal Immigrant Among Us

By K. Daniel Glover

Three years ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of hosting a young Guatemalan man in our Virginia home for a few weeks. Andres came to the United States on a work visa for a job in Texas, but when he arrived, his sponsoring employer told Andres he had no work available.

The employer then told Andres he could use the short-term visa to work anywhere in the country. He chose Northern Virginia, in part because of the job market and in part because mutual friends introduced Andres to our family — including the three children we adopted from Guatemala.

We loved having Andres in our home. The children adored him and even took an interest in learning their native tongue, an idea they had resisted for years when Mom and Dad suggested it. We took Andres to the White House, treated him to exotic meals (by Guatemalan standards) and spoiled him as best we could while he struggled to make sense of his immigration status.

But after a trip to the Guatemalan embassy, we became concerned that Andres had no right to be in America. We paid an immigration lawyer who confirmed that suspicion.

Andres’ would-be employer had lied. His visa gave him the right to work only in Texas, only for that employer and only for a few months. He was an illegal immigrant — and living in our home. Worse, he was in a city on the prowl for illegal immigrants, with our house located just blocks from the “Liberty Wall of Truth.”

The lawyer advised Andres to stay in our home until he could take the earliest flight to Guatemala. We bought his airline ticket and sent him home to the needy family he had come to America to support.

I thought of Andres last week as I read and watched the confession of “undocumented immigrant” Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-winning journalist who lied for more than a decade so he could stay in America and rise to glory in a profession that prides itself on truth-telling.

The Taxman Cometh, Again And Again

Originally published by American Issues Project
By K. Daniel Glover

If you heard it once during the 2008 presidential campaign, you heard it a thousand times: Barack Obama will not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year.

Obama made the pledge most emphatically in New Hampshire, where people live free and die knowing they paid low taxes. “I can make a firm pledge,” he said last September. “Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”

A majority of voters either believed that pledge or didn’t care that Obama was inviting them to read his lips because they sent him to the White House and gave liberals control of Congress to boot. Now the taxman is in town, and he will be knocking on taxpayers’ doors again and again.

He has already staked his first claim. Congress passed and Obama signed into law a bill that increased tobacco taxes to help fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The new rates, including some increases of more than 2,000 percent, took effect April 1. Cigarette smokers now pay $1.01 per pack in federal taxes, up from 39 cents. Smokers who prefer small cigars pay the same $1.01 rate, but they previously paid a mere 4 cents. Roll-your-own-tobacco fans have to pull $23.68 out of their wallets for each pound instead of $1.10.

The law, endorsed by Obama just days after his inauguration, reminded the country that while liberals love to talk about taxing the rich, they are just as eager to tax the poor.


Fiscal Leaders Don’t Fire Inspectors General

Originally published by American Issues Project
By K. Daniel Glover

Two months ago, while celebrating his first 100 days in the White House, President Obama portrayed himself as a fiscal leader when he urged his Cabinet to cut $100 million from their budgets. “We have an obligation to make sure that this government is as efficient as possible, and that every taxpayer dollar that is spent is being spent wisely,” Obama said.

The rhetoric was an empty gesture even then, but this month, Obama confirmed just how little he cares about making the federal government budget-conscious and efficient. He fired an inspector general for doing exactly what Obama says he wants.

The White House dismissed Gerald Walpin, the IG who oversees the AmeriCorps community service program, after he exposed the misappropriation of funds from the program by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The situation was bad enough that Walpin tried to stop Johnson from getting any more money.

A president committed to efficient government should have seen that as a good thing, especially in light of the fact that Obama, a former community organizer, wants to boost the budget for community service by 29 percent in fiscal 2010. Even Vice President Joe Biden has acknowledged that the more money the government spends, the more likely waste will occur.

But Johnson is one of Obama’s political allies. Instead of giving Walpin a pat on the back, Obama pushed him out the door — and worse, his administration smeared Walpin’s good name.


The Era Of Gizmo Government

Originally published by American Issues Project
By K. Daniel Glover

When I served as the managing editor of National Journal’s Technology Daily, I spotted an apparent trend in federal spending — more money going toward tech-related pork projects.

A time-intensive search of keywords in several editions of the annual “Pig Book” produced by Citizens Against Government Waste confirmed my suspicions. There were only a handful of tech-related earmarks in the mid-1990s, but the numbers started climbing in fiscal 1999 and soared in subsequent years.

That initial investigative research ultimately led to a series of stories in 2004 about Congress’ newfound obsession with tech pork — everything from “business incubators” and data-sharing systems to technologies for law enforcement and schools. Oh, and don’t forget the $16,000 that Uncle Sam spent for interactive displays at the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by an entity now partially owned by the taxpayers, General Motors.

Five years later, lawmakers haven’t whetted their appetite for tech-related pork. The proof is in the 76-page list of proposed earmarks for fiscal 2010 recently released by the House Appropriations Committee (hat tip to The Club For Growth).

The list is chock-full of tech goodies for major metropolitan areas and small villages alike, as well as for large universities and small colleges.


Stop Pushing The Tax Button

Originally published by American Issues Project
By K. Daniel Glover

Back in 2005, Staples scored a marketing coup with a humorous series of “easy button” television commercials that advertised the chain as the simplest way to restock office supplies. Unfortunately, government officials have applied that “easy” concept to their budget planning.

Every time they face a shortfall, they hit the tax button — or convince clueless voters to hit it for them. Politicians deem every government program as being vital (to their re-election) and become a unified, bipartisan “party of no” when anyone suggests that they act like normal people and cut their budgets rather than tax more so they can spend more.

When economic times are good, the tax-and-spenders say it’s the best time to raise taxes because voters can afford it. When times are bad, like now, they say they have to raise taxes because revenues are declining as property values tank, people lose jobs and consumers spend less.

Here’s just a sampling of states that are rushing to push the tax button this year:

  • Illinois legislators may try to sugarcoat a 50 percent jump in the state income tax with ethics reforms spurred by the removal of Gov. Rod Blagojevich earlier this year. Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget also calls for a $1-a-pack hike in the cigarette tax and huge spikes in the fees to register and drive vehicles.
  • A two-thirds majority of the Nevada Legislature, the same margin required to override an expected veto by Gov. Jim Gibbons, cleared a $781 billion tax hike that will cover sales, payroll, vehicle- and business-license taxes.
  • Massachusetts is on the verge of raising its sales tax by 1.25 percent to generate more than $600 million in revenue. The state plans to spend the money on “vital” services like regional tourist councils, housing and mortgage subsidies, and summer jobs for at-risk youth.
  • And Oregon lawmakers drafted a tax plan designed to raise $277 million on the backs of corporations in the state to partially address an $800 million budget shortfall. The lawmakers also hope to boost the gas tax by 6 cents and take a bigger cut of some people’s incomes.


No Net Tax Gains … Or No Net Taxes

Originally published by American Issues Project
By K. Daniel Glover

Politicians and bureaucrats love taxes. If you build it, they will tax it. They’ll do the same if you buy it, sell it, drive it, eat it, drink it or smoke it. The National Tax Foundation captured the governmental tax spirit perfectly last week in a spoof video called the “Nanny Tax Rap.”

The government’s penchant for taxing anything and everything explains why hundreds of thousands of Americans rallied at “tea parties” on Tax Day last month to protest taxes and spending. It also explains the opposition to new taxes on Internet sales.

But fans of free markets and tax reform shouldn’t impulsively dismiss the Internet tax movement. Instead, they should consider embracing it as an opportunity to deter money-grubbing state and local officials from raiding the wallets of their constituents every time they get in a tight spot.

Back in 1989, the first Bush administration imposed a no-net-loss policy for wetlands. In 21st-century America, it’s time for a no-net-gains policy for taxes, and the latest push to start taxing Internet sales provides a big opening to pursue that goal.


The Power Of Porkbusters

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds found a reason to boast in the State of the Union address that President Bush gave last night, and with good reason:

Okay, I have to gloat just a bit: Bush led off with earmarks. His actions aren’t as bold as I’d like, but still — back in 2005 when PorkBusters started, nobody in Washington cared and members of Congress were bragging about pork. Now the State of the Union leads of with an attack on earmarks, to thundering applause. Yeah, a lot of it’s a sham. But hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, and this kind of hypocrisy indicates that the anti-earmark momentum is growing.

I’ve been tracking the power of the blog here at Beltway Blogroll since June 2005, and as my days at National Journal come to a close this week, I can say unequivocally that Porkbusters is the most successful demonstration I have seen of that influence. It is also the one with the greatest staying power.

It’s true that pork is still a problem and will remain one as long as Americans choose to elect panderers rather than statesmen. As I noted in November 2005, it’s next to impossible to catch the greased pig in Congress.

But you simply can’t deny that pork is a prominent policy issue now because of Porkbusters. Until bloggers across the political spectrum started ranting about pork after Hurricane Katrina, nobody outside of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, television broadcaster John Stossel and groups like Citizens Against Government Waste seemed to care — and all of their outrage went unheard by Washington’s powerbrokers.

Now the president is tackling the issue in the State of the Union. That is blog power, my friends.