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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Environmentalists Might Pave Our Road To Prosperity

I live in Appalachia. Where poverty has been a problem since the first settlers came here and tried to scratch out a living by raising crops on the sides of mountains and to burrow into them to retrieve and sell coal, lead, salt, iron and a few other minerals. And try as they might, politicians like Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy weren't able to affect any real change in the plight of a woefully large segment of the population of this area. The "Great Society" seems to have been one hell of a party that we somehow weren't invited to attend.

Well, what politicians couldn't do, the environmentalists just might. They might drive industry away from the more developed, more heavily populated cities of the north and, if we create conditions making it favorable for them to do so, into this part of the country. It begins with the madness that surrounds carbon dioxide emissions and the Kyoto Protocols.
As President Bush shuns mandatory caps on emissions, like those in the Kyoto agreement, states on the East and West Coasts and some conglomerates are taking their cues from Europe, the leader in the fight against global warming.

U.S. businesses were among the leading early opponents of the Kyoto protocol, and Bush cited the economic impact of the agreement as a major reason for pulling out.

California plans to cut emissions from new cars and trucks by 30 percent by 2016. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the law's strongest backers.

Such measures could be echoed in New England if California's legislation survives a lawsuit by leading automakers. They could also inspire the Europeans.

"When designing our energy policy, Germany will always look to California because it's the best example," said Barbel Hohn, environment minister in Germany's largest state of North Rhine-Westphalia. (link)

I am a big supporter of Governor Schwarzenegger's effort to make the cost of doing business in California so prohibitive that companies find it much more inviting to set up shop here. I will be rooting for the governors of New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and all of those in New England to do the same.

Drive them out, fellas. I want them to relocate to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia!

You and I know we have certain obstacles to overcome to pull this off. One being that we still have far too many Democrats, with environmentalists in their hip pockets, calling the shots around here. But that is changing. And we can count on getting bad press up in New York because of all the pollution and environmental carnage that they will claim we are going to create.

Well, it's time we sent a message back to them. When we no longer have thousands of people without indoor plumbing and no longer have inadequate jobs and inferior schools, when we no longer see our best and brightest high school graduates leaving for the north in search of a future, when we no longer have to wait for the mines to open back up, and the mills to come alive, and the furniture factories to reopen, to find our citizens gathering in a parking lot to pick up donated sweet potatoes and cheese provided to them by the government, and be forced to listen to another politician tell us how swell it is going to be when we get the tourists to come down here and look at our interesting rock formations, then we can get worked up over global warming, greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide emissions, acid rain, and all the other hocum pokum these people dream up.

But we are not there. We don't have that luxury.

So I'm inviting all the world's corporations to come down here to Southwest Virginia and give this area some consideration when you begin reviewing your costs of doing business. I, and a lot of folks around here like me, are prepared to fight for your ability to thrive. All we will expect, in return, is the same consideration.

The Experts Get It Wrong

According to the "experts," the reason a much greater percentage of the developed world's population uses wireless communication than we do here in the USA is because we don't have the network coverage they do in - say - Europe.

An estimated 57 percent of the U.S. population chats on wireless phones - not much greater than the percentage of wireless phone users in much poorer Jamaica, where 54 percent of the people have mobile phones, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

By comparison, in Hong Kong there are 105.75 mobile subscribers for every 100 inhabitants. In Taiwan, there are 110. (link)

Why? The reasons range from credit checks to network quality to coverage areas.
Wireless networks elsewhere are simply better than those in the United States, said Albert Lin, an analyst at American Technology Research.

"For a long time, the U.S. had way too many networks being supported by not enough investment," he said. "The quality of U.S. networks is only now coming close to the quality you would see in major European and Asian markets."

One reason American consumers are miffed is what Forrester Research analyst Lisa Pierce calls "big holes in rural coverage." In the Tampa, Fla. area where she lives, her wireless calls start breaking up one mile south of her home. Her husband uses a different carrier; his calls break up one mile north.

Another reason for lower cell phone use in the United States is how service is sold. The largest carriers sell phones by subscription, requiring a credit check and a commitment of at least one year.

Notice the typical elitist attitude toward this issue? We take a different approach to our methods of communicating than do the Europeans; we therefore must be doing something wrong.

Although all the facts cited above may be true, they aren't the biggest reason more people use landlines here than they do there.

The biggest reason? We have a relatively inexpensive - and much more reliable - landline network here in this country. In Europe, where they'd have to carve into old stone walls to run phone lines into homes, run lines through narrow, ancient village streets, and where the use of traditional phone technology has always been extremely expensive, wireless service was a God-send. Here, it is a powerful convenience, but is not life and death. It is still cheaper to pick up the wireline on the desk and to make a local call than it is to use a cellphone.

You learned about this phenomenon in Business 101 class. Economics play a major role in our decision-making. Would you own an electric (or hybrid) automobile today if you could purchase one for $9,999? Most people would honestly answer with a yes. Many would have at least one because the cost of gasoline is getting to where it has an impact on the decisions we make as to where we will vacation. Electricity is virtually free.

So why haven't we all run out and gotten one of those cute little Toyota Prius's yet? Because they're not $9,999. They're $59,999 with manufacturer's rebate. When the price comes down to a reasonable level - it is called economies of scale - more and more people will buy them.

It is the same way with cellular purchases. Most of us have a cell phone. Paula and I each have one. We use them when it is cost-effective - on weekends when we get unlimited "free" airtime, and for long distance calls because it is cheaper to make a long distance cellular call on average than one through the traditional phone company. And we use them when we are out and about. But we still use the landline for all local calls, if we have one nearby, because it is far less expensive. It only makes good sense.

So. Don't listen to these self-appointed experts. Europeans use wireless proportionally more than do Americans because it makes good economic sense to do so. We use our good old landlines for the same reason. End of discussion.

Christmas Wisdom From Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a Jew. He is also one of my favorite columnists. What sets him apart from most others? He brings wisdom to the articles he writes. And it is wisdom - as much as knowledge - that I look for each day. I learn from him and, in turn, attempt to pass it on to my grandchildren - and to all of you as well.

With regard to the whole "separation of church and state" and "Christmas celebrations in public schools" issues, I've always been perplexed by the reasoning of non-believers that goes something like this: If you celebrate Christianity in our public schools, you might offend non-Christians. The courts - our courts - support the non-believers. Christianity is, for all intents and purposes, banned from our schools. Christians are offended by that. Well, that's too bad.

The argument of the atheists collapses, it seems to me, if it rests on the demand that a person not be offended. Someone - on one side or the other - is going to be offended. But better to offend the ninety percent of America than the ten percent. Ah, the age of enlightenment.

Well, here is the wisdom that Charles Krauthammer brings to the discussion:

Some Americans get angry at parents who want to ban carols because they tremble that their kids might feel "different" and "uncomfortable" should they, God forbid, hear Christian music sung at their school. I feel pity. What kind of fragile religious identity have they bequeathed their children that it should be threatened by exposure to carols?

I'm struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas creche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public. They are enlarged by it.

It is the more deracinated members of religious minorities, brought up largely ignorant of their own traditions, whose religious identity is so tenuous that they feel the need to be constantly on guard against displays of other religions -- and who think the solution to their predicament is to prevent the other guy from displaying his religion, rather than learning a bit about their own. (link)

He mentions Michael Newdow, the pathetic plaintiff who successfully managed to convince the loons of the federal Court of Appeals, Ninth District to ban the pledge of allegiance because it contains the words, "under God." In listening to him, I'm struck by how muddled his thinking is. His belief system is so defensive, I envision him huddling in a corner of his darkened bedroom at night in fear of ... God.

We will eventually work our way, as a society, through this twisted period in our history where we accept the offending of our majority because we don't wish to offend a minority. In the meantime, celebrate Christmas as God intended.
More than two centuries later, it is time that members of religious (and anti-religious) minorities, as full citizens of this miraculous republic, transcend something too: petty defensiveness.

Merry Christmas. To all.
And to you, Mr. Krauthammer.

How Did It Come To This?

There are many reasons why I rarely watch network television anymore. The most prevalent is that it is one big bore. But the disdain that I see on those few occasions when I watch the Today show on NBC or some sitcom in the evening that is shown toward middle America and, more specifically toward the nuclear family, is another reason. I can live with the fact that rich Hollywood types think we are a bunch of boobs.

I will not accept this.
Network television's depictions of religion are "overwhelmingly" negative, despite 90 percent of the American public professing a belief in God, according to a study released yesterday by the Parents Television Council.

NBC leads the pack as the most anti-religious network, followed in order by Fox, the WB, ABC, UPN and CBS, says the study of 2,385 hours of prime-time programming during a 12-month period beginning September 2003. Only the Pax network had no negative depictions. Cable shows were not included in the study. (link)
What is the mindset that drives this way of thinking? What demographic do these network producers hope to sway by attacking our most fundamental of institutions? The only answer I can come up with is: themselves.

But more and more Americans are finding this assault on us offensive. Here are some examples of what passes for humor on NBC, CBS, Fox, and ABC these days:
... a Dec. 17 episode of Fox's "That '70s Show" that referred to a couple having sex next to a manger scene; an Aug. 5 episode of NBC's "Last Comic Standing" that referred to Catholicism as a religion that awards a "get-out-of-hell-free card" to anyone but pedophile priests; and a dialogue in a Feb. 10 episode of NBC's "Will and Grace" in which sidekick Karen tells lead character Grace, "Let's go buy that historic church and turn it into a gay bar."
And how do the networks respond when confronted with studies that show how biased they are toward religion? Babble about freedom of speech and "diversity."

NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust said the network could not comment on the study because it had not seen it, but she said, "We reject its conclusion."

"Our programming reflects the diversity of our audience, which averages more than 10 million viewers per night," she said. "It is never our intention to appear - nor do we accept the notion that we are - 'anti-religious.' "

Well, Allison, you don't have to accept it. Just as I rarely accept your programming into my home any longer. You and I seem to be at an impasse here. Who loses?

A Debate Worth Having

There are subjects about which I can honestly claim I haven't formed an opinion. One of them has to do with the national ID card issue. It would seem we are headed toward a point in time when we will all be carrying a standardized form of picture identification. Advocates claim that it will help law enforcement track down illegal immigrants and will help prevent terrorists from infiltrating our security barriers and wreaking havoc.

Opponents, however, are concerned that a national ID card will surrender privacy rights to the government. And when they voice that concern, my ears perk up.
Organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the American Conservative Union to the Gun Owners of America oppose the measure, saying it would give too much power to federal bureaucrats to decide who could get a valid license.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has concerns about where this could all lead. "History shows governments inevitably use such power in harmful ways," Paul said. "It is just a matter of time until those who refuse to carry the new licenses will be denied the ability to drive or board an airplane." (link)
But the realistic side of me says, wait a minute. We all find ourselves showing ID routinely now in order to get past airport screeners or to vote. What difference would it make if it were a national ID card as opposed to a driver's license? Both are government issued forms of identification.

I need to know more ...

I Guess We'd All Better Go See This Movie

Looking for a good movie to go see this winter? It would appear Martin Scorcese's "The Aviator" is the must-see movie of the year, based on this review in the New York Sun by John DeVore. He has high praise in particular for Scorcese:

Let's get this out of the way: Martin Scorsese deserves an Oscar - and not one of those Lifetime Achievement ones, when Hollywood sheepishly thanks a giant of cinema retroactively, embarrassed that they had neither the imagination nor the courage celebrate them in their prime.

And so, members of the Academy please give Martin Scorsese the best director award this year for "The Aviator", a powerfully entertaining film that everything a Hollywood movie should be.

Mr. Scorsese is the last filmmaker of his generation to makes movies, rather than hollow spectacles (a la Spielberg), cynical marketing vehicles (a la Lucas), or withered homages to their former glories (Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Altman). Mr. Scorsese plants one foot in his past, but the past he yearns for is not his career's bygone days but his youth, when he absorbed the best of Hollywood's Golden era.

Let's get this out of the way: Martin Scorsese deserves an Oscar - and not one of those Lifetime Achievement ones, when Hollywood sheepishly thanks a giant of cinema retroactively, embarrassed that they had neither the imagination nor the courage celebrate them in their prime.

And so, members of the Academy please give Martin Scorsese the best director award this year for "The Aviator", a powerfully entertaining film that everything a Hollywood movie should be.

Mr. Scorsese is the last filmmaker of his generation to makes movies, rather than hollow spectacles (a la Spielberg), cynical marketing vehicles (a la Lucas), or withered homages to their former glories (Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Altman). Mr. Scorsese plants one foot in his past, but the past he yearns for is not his career's bygone days but his youth, when he absorbed the best of Hollywood's Golden era.

"The Aviator" is a success on every level. You can sit back and absorb this tale of struggle and victory, thrill to the excellent computer-generated flight sequences, or applaud the final triumphs of Hughes's life. You can also appreciate the film's statements on American capitalism, that much-maligned, breathlessly praised system that at its best allows innovative, risk-taking individuals to soar and at its worst chews them up and spits them out.

So give Mr. Scorsese the Oscar for two reasons. First, because he deserves it for his body of work. Second, because as he approaches his twilight years, he still can make a movie bursting with life, caught with the same restless cinematic eye that made him famous and some new tricks to boot. He can still coax an actor into inhabiting a character, and can still tickle our lazy frontal lobes while kicking us in the gut.

Wow. I'm going to get out of my jammies and head over to the theater right now...

I'm Confused ... Again

I read the news some mornings and get so confused. "Experts" told me after the recent election that it was the "moral values" issue that got President Bush reelected. If that's true, how do they explain this?
A whopping 68 percent of Republican voters want to see [former New York City Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani run for the White House in 2008, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll ... (link)
Rudy Giuliani is extremely liberal on moral issues. He supports gay marriage. He is in favor of abortions no matter the trimester or whether the child is "partially born" when killed. He thought our supplying drug addicts with clean needles was a good idea. He is to the left of Hillary Clinton on these issues. But no matter. Republicans always flock to the guy they think "can win." Regardless of his/her political beliefs.

Can we go back and discuss that whole thing about compassionate conservatism again?