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

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Time Names 'Person' Of The Year

Am I dreaming? Time, the magazine that some webloggers (who will remain anonymous) have described as being a mouthpiece for the liberal wing of the Democratic party, has named George W Bush Person of the Year.

Time Declares President Bush 'Person of the Year'

By Nicole Maestri (link)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Bush's bold, uncompromising leadership and his clear-cut election victory made him Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 2004, its managing editor said on Sunday.

Time chose Bush "for sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style and for persuading a majority of voters this time around that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years," Jim Kelly wrote in the magazine.

The drugs must have kicked in. "Bold, uncompromising leadership?" Time magazine? Have you ever had that feeling like the time/space continuum has been disrupted? I know. Another poor play on words.

The Salvation Army Will Succeed

In spite of the best efforts of the scrooges at Target Stores, the Salvation Army should have a decent fund drive this Christmas season. I continue to seek out the bell ringers whenever I'm out shopping (including yesterday in front of Old Navy and over at Wal-Mart). I always donate to their wonderfully worthy cause, this year more than ever - because Target decided to ban the bell ringers from in front of their stores. Too grimy, I'd guess. Lower class unwashed proletariat. My daughter called the other day to tell me the reaction she got from one of the volunteers when she dropped a five dollar bill into the bucket. She now donates fives whereas, in the past, it was always ones. And she does it for the same reason I do; to make up the deficit created by caring-deficient wealthy Target executives.

Apparently others celebrate Christmas the way it was intended as well.

Salvation Army Courts Gold Coin Donors

By JAN DENNIS Associated Press Writer (link)

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) -- Salvation Army officials don't know who has been dropping gold coins into their holiday kettles over the past 20 years, but they hope the mysterious donations continue.

More than 300 gold coins have been collected since the early 1980s, with an average value of about $200 each, said Cliff Marshall, spokesman for the charity in Chicago,
where the tradition began.

Chicago bell-ringers have brought in 10 gold coins so far this year. They aren't the only ones.

In Kirksville, Mo., someone donated a gold coin that was minted 20 years before the Civil War, worth nearly $1,000. A $400 South African Krugerrand was dropped in a kettle in Bloomington, Ill., meaning 12 extra families will get a complete Christmas dinner.

But officials still don't know where the coins come from.

The mysterious tradition began in 1982, when someone slipped a gold coin into a kettle in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake. The donations have occurred there ever since and have spread across Illinois and about a dozen other states.

The phantom donors almost always conceal the coins, usually folding dollar bills around them. They range from small gold pieces worth about $15 to Krugerrands that can fetch $600 from collectors.

We will never know who these donors are but I'll bet they are having a very Merry Christmas.

Democrats Demand Answers. I have Two.

The Democrats in Congress are upset that unarmored humvees are not armored. They demand to know why.

Dems Demand Answers on Lack of Iraq Armor

By MAURA KELLY LANNAN Associated Press Writer (link)

CHICAGO (AP) -- The incoming deputy leader of Senate Democrats demanded answers Saturday from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as to why U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan lack protective equipment for themselves and their vehicles.

I have two answers.
  1. Humvees are used simply as a means of transportation. If they were armored, they'd be called tanks. Tanks are very expensive. If you want soldiers to ride around in tanks, you'd better provide a whole lot more funding for the military.
  2. You and your kind have slashed spending on the military over the last ten years. You dreamt up something called "the peace dividend" instead.

If you want to fix this "problem," resign. You're the problem.

This Is Not Funny

This had to hurt. Or not.

Paraplegic Sues Chrysler Over Heated Seat

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) -- A paraplegic man who suffered burns when the heated seat of his SUV malfunctioned is suing Daimler Chrysler Corp. for $14.1 million.

Matt Beller, of Klamath Falls, who filed the suit this week in U.S. District Court in Eugene, said he was in his 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee when the temperature of the driver's seat climbed to more than 150 degrees last Feb. 20.

Beller says he has no feeling below his chest because of military injuries and said he did not know he had been burned until the next day.

He underwent skin graft surgery and had to lie on his stomach for three months, he said. (link)

I'm inclined to be careful about criticizing this guy but I have to ask the question: If he has no feeling below the chest, what are the long-term effects of this accident? He can't feel pain below the waist. In my estimation, Chrysler, if the facts as reported prove to be true, should pay the man's medical bills. But if he couldn't feel any pain at the time the car seat was at 150 degrees, how can he claim damages for pain and/or suffering?

One of life's burning questions. I know. I know. That was really bad. I'll burn in hell for it. Ouch.

Social Security Realities

The more I read about the developing problem with Social Security funding, the more I realize the president is heading down the wrong path. As the Washington Post puts it this morning:
How, exactly, would [President Bush's proposed] private accounts "solve" the Social Security funding problem? Mr. Bush doesn't say, and for good reason: In and of themselves, they don't -- and indeed, they could actually make matters worse.

There is some debate as to whether his proposals would make the system worse. But there is no getting around this. There are only three ways to fix Social Security. And none of them you're going to like.
  1. Raise the retirement age
  2. Cut benefits
  3. Raise taxes

It's time to decide.

James Skikwati Gets It Right

You've probably never heard the name James Skikwati before. If you don't follow Kenyan economics, you may be unfamiliar with his work there. But he knows you. And there is much about you he doesn't like. More particularly, it is the environmentalist tendencies of the western world generally with which he has a problem. And for good reason. He sees the debate over land use as one between those who would plant trees against those who would plant corn.
African economist James Skikwati in Kenya put the case against affluent Western environmental extremists very plainly: "Wealthy countries want the Earth to be green, the underdeveloped want the Earth fed.... What gives the developed nations the right to make choices for the poor?"

A hydroelectric dam in Uganda would bring electricity to millions of Africans, but it would annoy the delicate sensibilities of Berkeley environmentalists who like waterfalls. (
I have gained the same perspective here in Appalachia. When I first moved here several years ago, I was enamored of the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially the one that towers above my home, Big Walker Mountain. The view from my front windows is breathtaking. For as far as the eye can see, the landscape opens to rolling valley pastures and, way off in the distance, another mountain ridge, Brushy Mountain. In the valley below my house is the small village of Bland. An artist would pay good money to set up his easel on my front deck and attempt to capture the pastoral charm that he would see below; pastureland, hillocks, cedar thickets, Little Walker Creek meandering its way toward the village.

It's not until you start interacting with the people down below that you begin to have a different understanding. A darker reality. The people around here don't give a damn about charm. They are more interested in food. Clothing. A job. A car that starts. A school for the kids. A clinic. In too many cases, subsistence.

There is an understanding amongst the folks in the area too that is not often discussed but is well understood. They know there are people who live in luxury in far away places - Richmond, DC, New York, Berkeley, who feel the need to preserve our way of life here in the mountains, regardless what we choose to say about it. If it were up to them, this entire area would be one big uninhabited park. Trees. Bushes. Deer. Perhaps a few cemeteries; we'd have to ask.

My eyes roll these days when I hear someone, usually a politician, who comes down here to promote the latest fad idea relating to lifting the area out of poverty. It always has to do with tourism. To them, it is the best of both worlds. The environmentalists can visit and marvel at our rocks and a few people here can make a buck off of it. That is, in their eyes, harmony.

But you can't eat harmony. I often refer to the food giveaway program that routinely takes place down in Bland. People come from miles around to collect free sweet potatoes, packaged cheese, and other staples for the dinner table. The recipients of the charity seem appreciative; the scene is pathetic. Funny thing is, I've never seen an environmentalist there thanking the people of southwest Virginia for keeping the area charming. They're probably all in Aspen about now, marvelling at the large-breasted women in Gortex form-fitted ski suits. Environmentally friendly, I have no doubt. How much is a lift ticket going for these days over at Steamboat?

James Skikwati - in far off Kenya - understands what we have come to understand here in Bland. There are millions of people in the western world who profess a concern for our forestlands and streams, our mountains and our wildlife. But have no interest in whether human beings around here thrive; whether our children - and grandchildren - have enough nutritious food to eat or decent medical care. And we know we'd best not get in their way. One brings up the subject of strip mining, as an example, at one's own risk, even though it would bring substantial income to thousands of area citizens. We don't want to rearrange those rocks.

So we know where we stand. We can cower in fear of these people. Or we can do what we do best. Take care of our own.

George Will Gets It Wrong

Newspaper columnists lead a very precarious existence. They, like the author of this weblog, have to come across like they are experts on all subjects. Most of the time, if proper research is done, they can pull it off. Sometimes they fail. And when they fail, they lose stature.

Thus is the case with George Will, a columnist - one of my favorites - for the Washington Post. When I saw the title of his article in the paper this morning, "A Dem Who Can Win," my first thought was, well, this could be interesting.

And then I began to read his praises for our governor, Mark Warner.

I will agree with most of what Will has to say. Warner is a generally popular Democrat in a heavily conservative state. Will rightly recognizes that the governor gained popularity, and the election, by espousing various conservative themes, as he puts it in a "campaign that sponsored a stock car and stressed gun rights." He also hints at a less strident attitude toward the most orthodox of liberal causes, that being abortion.

Where Will goes wrong, I think, is in addressing the governor's massive tax increase. He says we longed for it because we want better schools.
Warner has driven through a sizable tax increase, but could do so only because he had the support of Republican leaders of the Legislature, who were responding to broad public anxiety about education.
I followed Mark Warner's (and the Washington Post's) discussions regarding the need to raise taxes. Discounting the completely separate instances where he actually addressed the subject of education - all politicians have to babble about wanting better schools - Warner discussed the urgent need for more revenue only in relationship to one issue: the budget. Spending was out of control and we needed to rein in outlays. Oops. Scratch that last sentence. The state of Virginia is still spending money like drunken sailors, regarless of what Warner says to the contrary. In fact, the argument was: Government initiatives were such that a tax increase was necessary to pay for them.

So we saw our taxes raised. Now we see the governor high-fiving the legislators who voted for his tax hike, crediting them for having created a budget surplus. If I were him, I'd be downplaying the fact that a few short months ago, Warner was shedding tears over the fact that there just wasn't enough revenue to pay for all the mandates that the legislature had established in the past, but now he and the legislature were feverishly planning new line items on which to spend all that new cash.

I know George Will was attempting to make the point that the Democrats can win an election if they will just find some candidate who better represents the interests of the people. As far as I'm concerned, a politician who comes before the people and pleads poverty only to turn around a few monthd later and brag about affluence is not someone we should ever trust again.

I commend old George for trying, but he needs to keep looking for that ideal candidate.