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

Saturday, December 31, 2005

To Err Is Human, To Forgive ...

I suppose, since we forgave Kobie Bryant, Bill Clinton, and OJ Simpson quickly for their sundry transgressions (what's a little rape and murder among friends; they all had it coming), we should probably give this lowlife a second chance too:
Disgraced S. Korean scientist Hwang defends his work: report
MSN News

SEOUL, South Korea -- Disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk insisted he has the technology to produce embryonic stem cells individually tailored to patients even though a panel of his peers said he didn't produce any such cells, a newspaper reported Saturday.

A university panel said Thursday Hwang did not produce any patient-specific stem cells as claimed in a paper published in May in the journal Science, dealing a shattering blow to the already disgraced scientist's reputation as a medical pioneer.

But Hwang stood by his work. (link)
I'm prepared to give him a break but Hwang needs to work on his explanation:
"I definitely have the source technology to produce tailored embryonic stem cells," Hwang was quoted as saying in Beopbo, a South Korean Buddhist newspaper. "I can replicate the process any time."
"I can do it. I have the know-how. I just choose not to at this time."

Hwang. Hwang. Hwang. Come on, man. Come back when you've got a better come-back.

Look Past The Happy Horsepucky

Next time you hear Congressman Boucher or former Governor Mark Warner or newly-elected Governor Tim Kaine or their local cheerleading squad The Roanoke Times editorial staff blather on about how great things are here in Southwest Virginia (remember this laugher?), pause and reflect on what the local citizenry has to say in the matter.

In a revealing news report in The Roanoke Times this morning that focuses on the devastating circumstances that plague the area - and worsen by the day - we learn that the Allegheny Highlands (Alleghany, Bath and Highland counties; the city of Covington and the towns of Clifton Forge and Iron Gate) is in fact struggling for its very survival:

Seeking new heights
Alleghany Highlands hopes to revamp and re-energize to halt its downward slide.
By
JoAnne Poindexter

COVINGTON -- Erika and Shannon Daly see Alleghany County as the New Land. The Dalys moved out of prosperous but crowded Northern Virginia and found an unfinished log cabin on the perfect piece of land.

Instead of seeking the challenge of opening a wilderness, they are coping with the downward slide of a once-established economy.

... The place is an economic and political basket case.

The Dalys arrived at a time when some residents of Alleghany County and Covington are pondering moving because of conditions here. In fact, things got so bad that Virginia's Gov. Mark Warner called on leaders of the Alleghany Highlands' six local governments to work together to draw more industry and commercial business in an effort to enlarge the Alleghany Highlands' tax base and attract residents.

Heeding the governor's advice, governmental leaders adopted the Highlands Regional Enterprise Business Plan on Nov. 19.

Bill Withrow, a certified public accountant in Covington[*], said the county is experiencing a steady decline in population. The U.S. Census Bureau showed a 3.6 percent population decline between 1990 and 2000. That population drop may be one of the reasons the county's unemployment rate is not higher than its November level of 3.9 percent. (link)

On that last point, it should be mentioned that there are two ways to reduce the unemployment rate. One is to increase the number of employed people, the other is to reduce the number of employable people. Drive through downtown Pocahontas - or what used to be downtown - and you'll quickly understand how the unemployment rate in Tazewell County is hovering around 3.8%. What you'll find when you do the research is that, according to the last census, Tazewell County lost 4.6% of its population in the last decade. At the rate Southwest Virginia's population is declining, we'll have 0% unemployment by the turn of the next decade.

And Boucher will take credit for the achievement.

Funny. I can't find mention of Allegheny County's suffering or of Tazewell County's precipitate decline in population on the colorful, deliriously happy, and self-congratulatory website of our Congressman-for-life. Instead we are treated to bullshit like this:
A major focus of Congressman Boucher's economic development agenda is the expansion of the tourism economy of Southwest Virginia. We are lucky to live in one of the most beautiful regions in the country and Rick will continue to work to find ways to attract the traveling public.
The public is traveling all right, Rick. As JoAnne Poindexter illustrates in her Roanoke Times article, they're traveling ... no, they're getting the hell out of Allegheny County rapidly, looking for work. A future. A better way of life.

Friends, this doesn't have to be.

* Lear, a major employer in Covington, officially closed its manufacturing plant there, throwing 220 people out of work, today, (link) creating the disheartening need for more people in Southwest Virginia to become - in the memorable words of Congressman Rick Boucher - "traveling public."

Top 10 Movies of 2005?

I'm not sure what to make of this. Here are the top ten movies of the year as judged by The Washington Post's film critic, Ann Hornaday:

1. Capote

2. The Curse of the Were - Rabbit: Wallace & Gromit

3. The Constant Gardener

4. Syriana

5. Hustle & Flow

6. Grizzly Man

7. Good Night, and Good Luck

8. No Direction Home

9.
Junebug

10. March of the Penguins (link)

What's interesting, I suppose, is that I've heard of only three of these flicks and have seen none of them (I also heard that Syriana sucked). Does this say something about me and my tastes in cinema or a good bit about film critics? You be the judge.

Quote of the Year

This has to be the most revealing exchange of 2005. It explains so much about the decline of the profession of journalism.

CBS "Memogate" producer Mary Mapes: "I'm perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if there's proof I haven't seen."

ABC's Brian Ross: "But isn't it the other way around? Don't you have to prove they're authentic?"

Mapes: "Well, I think that's what critics of the story would say. . . . I think they have not been proved to be false yet."

Ross: "Have they proved to be authentic, though? Isn't that really what journalists do?"

Mapes: "No, I don't think that's the standard."

- Exchange on Good Morning America (link)

It was at a point in time a number of years ago when Sam Donaldson, a former correspondent with ABC News and a darling of the liberal media, in response to a question about the obligations of the press to be accurate, replied that the news industry had no such obligation, that I turned off the network news forever.

Mary Mapes reveals in this exchange that the mindset in the mainstream media hasn't changed.

Get Us Out of Indonesia!

I guess John Murtha, Howard Dean, and the Democratic Party will now demand that we retreat from Indonesia:

Bomb Blast at Indonesian Market Kills at Least 8
By The Associated Press

PALU,
Indonesia (AP) -- A bomb ripped through a crowded meat market Saturday in an Indonesian province that has been plagued by sectarian violence, killing at least eight people and wounding 45, officials said. Many of the victims were believed to be Christians.

The attack occurred in the town of Palu on Sulawesi island as people were preparing for New Year's Eve celebrations, flocking to the morning market that sold and slaughtered pigs, said Brig. Gen. Oegroseno, police chief of Central Sulawesi province.

Police said it was too early to say who was behind the attack, but it followed repeated warnings that members of the al-Qaida-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah were plotting strikes in the world's most populous Muslim nation over the holidays. (
link)
"Retreat! Retreat! "

"What? We have no troops there?"

"Why didn't Bush put troops there? Why didn't Bush put troops there?"

What's Up With The Times?

Think the New York Times might be flailing these days in its attempt to redefine itself? I'm beginning to wonder. Here's front page news this morning:
So, Guy Walks Up to the Bar, and Scalia Says...
By
ADAM LIPTAK

Justice Antonin Scalia's wit is widely admired, and now it has been quantified. He is, a new study concludes, 19 times as funny as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (link)
And this breaking news:
In a Daring Leap, Ringling Loses Its Three Rings
By
GLENN COLLINS

TAMPA, Fla., Dec. 29 - And now, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, step right up and meet the no-ring circus.

For the first time in its history, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will present a new show to its audiences without three rings, or two - or even one. (link)
If you're like me, you find yourself blowing through the Times in a matter of minutes these days and wonder, even with that, why you devoted precious moments to the effort.

Something is going on over there and it is not good.

Experienced Blogger, New Blog

Charlie of SW Virginia Republican fame has created a new weblog and has given it the kind of title I like: The Virginia Partisan (pay him a visit here). Charlie could be counted on to keep us informed on the goings on here in Southwest Virginia . Now we will be treated to Charlie's views on a wide range of conservative subjects - from a partisan's point of view.

I think we will all enjoy his getting back into the fray.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Evil Rising From The Dead

You thought public outrage had killed "The Bridge to Nowhere?" Guess again. Like the thriller, it has risen from its grave. And lives.

From an editorial in The Wall Street Journal:
Half-Baked in Alaska

Arguably one of the most followed spending stories of 2005 was the "Bridge to Nowhere." This planned $223 million span, which bubbled up from the congressional swamps, was made infamous by the fact it would connect the city of Ketchikan to an island with only 50 residents. First it was up, then it was down. Well in Alaska, you can't keep a good bridge down.

Notwithstanding the outrage over federal spending such as this after Hurricane Katrina, Alaska's junta of leading politicians is determined to have their bridges. Earlier this month Governor Murkowski proposed a downpayment of $91 million on the project -- to be built with federal, albeit non-earmarked, dollars of course. Some $94 million was allocated for another bridge to be called Don Young's Way, after the state's only Congressman.

What's especially suspicious here is that Governor Murkowski's wife Nancy and three of her siblings own 33 acres of land on the island that would benefit from the first bridge. A relative of Mr. Young's, meanwhile, owns land that would benefit from the second. [my emphasis] (link requires subscription)
The Journal goes on to suggest that it's the responsibility of Alaska's voters to run this bunch of crooks out of office. I beg to differ. This cries out for immediate action. Every one of these sunsabichas (all Republicans, by the way) should be imprisoned. On their island. No bridge. No paddle.

Don't Bet Money On Them

Most of you don't remember what happened to the tire industry in the USA back in the 70's and 80's. Until that time, Goodyear, Firestone, and BF Goodrich were riding high and had nearly total U.S. market share. Then two forces collided to destroy their dominance - radial tire technology and labor unions.

The Big Three had been proudly offering their old bias-ply tire lines to GM, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors for decades when suddenly there emerged this radically new design - the steel-belted radial. America's tire manufacturers began to experience serious competition from the likes of Michelin and needed to retool their aging American plants and retrain their American workforce. Their heavily unionized (some would say militantly unionized) workforce. Management took its retooling/retraining plans to the various unions, the unions summarily rejected them all, and 32 tire plants closed over the next twenty years, throwing thousands of union men and women out of work. Akron, Ohio has never recovered.

Fastforward to Detroit, 2006. GM, Ford, and Chrysler (which had absorbed American Motors along the way) face daunting competition from foreign automobile manufacturers. Toyota in particular. The Big Three have far too much cost built into the automobiles coming off the assembly line to compete with their foreign rivals head to head or to provide the necessary capital for research and development - the lifeblood needed for sustaining growth and competitiveness.

Management has begun formulating plans that include cutbacks in union bennies. The UAW and other unions will have to decide whether they choose to give up some of that which they'd fairly negotiated in the past or be thrown out of work.

If I were a betting man ...

UAW Dissidents Add to Pressure On Union's Chief
Dealings With Auto Makers Could Damage Gettelfinger; Close Vote Raises Questions

By Jeffrey McCracken, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal

Growing resistance from auto workers is putting pressure on the head of the industry's most powerful union and threatening the tenuous ties he has forged with Detroit's Big Three.

United Auto Workers union President Ron Gettelfinger recently agreed to make concessions on health-care benefits to General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., which have been battered by heavy losses. But union members ratified both deals by
relatively slim margins.


Now, some UAW workers and plant-level union officials are questioning the accuracy and integrity of the vote tally. Two officials said they are considering challenging the results and pushing for a recount. UAW spokesman Paul Krell declined to comment.

The matter, which could come to a head next week as union members return to work from their holiday break, is another sign of the complex challenges facing Mr. Gettelfinger. In finding ways to cut costs -- and try to save jobs -- at GM, Ford and their respective former parts-making units, Delphi Corp and Visteon Corp., he is taking increasing flak from union members who think he has already given away too much. One dissident group has threatened to picket the Detroit auto show on Jan. 8, when the automotive press arrives. (link requires subscription)

Will the UAW rank-and-file come to their senses and choose to save their jobs or will they vote themselves out of existence as did the rubber workers back in the 80's?

For what it's worth, and this may be a harbinger of things to come, those Firestone tires you're riding on were manufactured in a plant now owned by the Japanese ...

When You Let Inmates Run The Asylum

Students at the University of Michigan have successfully forced the administration there to cancel its contracts with Coca Cola. It seems the soft drink manufacturer's labor practices in Colombia (do they even know where it is?) don't measure up to what the students - the experts on such matters - believe to be proper.

Good grief.
U-M suspends Coke contracts
School won't renew with company after students allege human rights, environmental violations.
By Doug Guthrie, The Detroit News


A cold Coke will be harder to find for University of Michigan students when they return to campuses in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn after holiday break.

The university on Jan. 1 will suspend more than a dozen contracts worth about $1.4 million with Coca-Cola Co. in response to student complaints alleging human rights violations and hazardous environmental practices by the soft drink giant in its Colombia and India operations.

The university attempted to investigate the complaints that would conflict with the schools Vendor Code of Conduct — rules for the ethical behavior of contactors enacted by the university in 2004. U-M already confirmed some environmental violations in India, and the school pulled the plug on renewing all contracts when the company said it was unable to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to cooperate in an investigation of circumstances in Colombia. (link)

So what is Coke accused of doing to prompt such action?
Students said Coke overdraws groundwater in India, causing farmers' irrigation sources to go dry; distributes contaminated bottling plant sludge to Indian farmers as fertilizer; and sells products that contain pesticides. In Colombia, the students said the company conspires with paramilitary groups to control and harm union workers.
I don't doubt that a handful of U of M students believe all this. But it's kind of a struggle to take seriously a bunch of teenagers who one minute campaign for social justice in Bombay and the next minute run naked down the streets of Ann Arbor in triumphal procession, celebrating ... well, its hard to say ... tiny breasts and embarrassingly miniscule phalli is the only image that stuck in my mind when I lived nearby and perused the photos each year that were taken of the participants in the Naked Mile. You see these people in the nude lumbering down the street (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt they ain't) and it's hard to ever look at them in a sober manner when they (clothe themselves and ...) profess their undying determination to right wrongs ... in India and Colombia. And it's not just that. These are the same youngsters who - just a few years before - believed passionately in the tooth fairy.

University administrators today are a cowardly lot. Had someone with backbone been in charge, he or she would have (after getting past the uncontrollable outburst of laughter at the imagery conjured) told the young crusaders to get back in class and shut up.

But not today. Not in Academia USA. They ban coke. And join our leaders of tomorrow in their naked romp down the street.

For the love of God.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

'Love, A Few Virginians'

Here's a warm and touching Christmas story from the war front:
Christmas Stockings Cheer Soldiers On The Way To War
By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 26, 2005 – It was 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and it was raining at an air base in Kuwait. The "moon dust" that overlays everything in the country was now a gooey mire that stuck to everything. Contrary to popular belief, it does get cold in the Middle East, and it was wet and cold.

About 60 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division waited in a tent for a flight to Baghdad. They had been there a while, as previously scheduled flights were diverted or cancelled.

They sat or stretched out on aluminum Army cots, and slept or talked or read. Some were seasoned noncommissioned officers who had been with the division in 1991's Gulf War. Others had made the run "from the berm to Baghdad" in 2003.

But many other soldiers were just out of the advanced individual training that followed their basic training. It wasn't so long ago that they believed in Santa Claus themselves, one NCO observed, and now they were spending Christmas Eve getting ready to go to a war zone.

Finally, everyone boarded a bus to drive to the Air Force C-130 Hercules transport that would take us to Baghdad. On the way to the aircraft, the radio crackled, "Merry Christmas, everyone." It had just struck midnight.

As the bus approached the aircraft, the soldiers could see a flash of color on the open ramp. Some of the C-130's crewmembers had Santa hats on and were crouched next to a box. As the soldiers approached the aircraft from the bus, the crew hauled out Christmas stockings and passed them out.

The soldiers, who had been silent, livened up and joked a bit. "I must have been a better boy than I thought," said one soldier as he examined the stocking. "Isn't this so nice?" said a young sergeant as she opened a packet of chocolate chip cookies. "This is a bit of home."

Amid the chocolate and cookies were a couple of nontraditional stocking stuffers: foot powder, wet-naps, waterless soap and the like. Soldiers began trading the goodies back and forth, and laughter -- which had been noticeably absent -- filled the aircraft, at least until the engines started up.

Where did the stockings come from? "Don't know," said the C-130's crew chief. "They showed up at the ramp and people asked us to pass them out."

"Some guy in a sled dropped them off," said another Air Force NCO.

It may well have been Santa, but a short note in each stocking indicated the jolly elf has a branch workshop in the United States. "Happy holidays!" the note read. "Please know that there are so many people back home that appreciate your service to our country and the daily sacrifices you make while being deployed. Love, A Few Virginians."

The small, heartfelt gesture made all the difference for the soldiers. Many of them were spending their first Christmas away from their families and friends - and all of them were on their way to war.

"I wish I knew who to thank for this," said a young private. "We don't know what we're heading into, but we know that people care." (link)
A Christmas gift to our fighting men and women from Virginians who chose to remain anonymous and, therefore, be able to accept no thanks, fame, or fortune for their efforts. The essence of Christ's message at Christmas time.

Compare this wonderful story to my next post ...

Hatred From The 'Religious' Left

A contributor to the Charleston (WV) Gazette, one John Warner, felt compelled this morning (see "Left or right? Doctrine of exclusion does not reflect Christ") to lash out at "the right side of the Christian community" and, in the process, fling the most hate-filled bile I've ever read at those who consider themselves to be "born-again" Christians.

Here's a portion of his rant:
... I consider the growing political power of the right-hand side of the Christian community, the fellows who ask you, “Have you been born again, brother?” and then announce that if so you will surely want to support the war effort our “born-again” Christian president so proudly champions. And you will surely want to help Congress deliver that trillion-dollar gift to the wealthy 1 percent or 2 percent of our affluent society. And you will want to do all you can to destroy Social Security, and to reduce financial aid to our struggling university students, and take away Medicaid support for the poorest of our people. You will naturally want to take pride in the new Medicare law, written entirely for the benefit of drug companies. You will want to support the torture we impose on prisoners of war. And you will want to cheer him on as our president plunges our nation into a debt so deep that we face a “financial
holocaust,” as more than one economist describes our economic fate, borrowing from China to pay our most opulent citizens.

And yet these “born-again” Christians — whose unconscionable political and social “values” reflect nothing of the teachings of Christ and refute the biblical injunction to seek “justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” — will be the first to tell me that the Jewish community to which my daughter has bound herself will be excluded from the Kingdom in the Final Days.

In 1943, a Nazi physician by the name of Josef Mengele was assigned to the death camp at Auschwitz, Poland. His task was to stand at the train station and send the disembarking Jews to the left or to the right. He was nicknamed Todesengel, or Death Angel, by inmates at the camp. I wonder: All of you “born-again” Christians who believe in that shibboleth as the ticket to heaven — will you send my daughter to the left or to the right?
His words speak of born-again Christians being akin to nazi death camp physicians. And the Charleston Gazette provides this mean-spirited man a prominent forum in its paper.

To make matters worse, this small-minded, hate-consumed person is professor emeritus at West Virginia Wesleyan College up in Buchkannon. Knowing nothing about the school but being curious as to how a man the Ku Klux Klan would be proud to take in as one of its own could be a professor there, I felt obliged to learn something more about this institution of higher learning.

The school, as it turns out, has a website (here). When I began to search the site, the first thing I noticed in its mission statement (here) was that WVWC is "closely related to the United Methodist Church." This all then started to become clear. You may recall, it is The United Methodist Church that has driven two and a half million of its members away in the last thirty years, a loss of one quarter of its original membership. (link)

Read the contemptible - and quite honestly - shocking words of professor emeritus John Warner. Does anyone now wonder why?

On The Dangers Of Environmentalism

There is a fascinating article in The Wall Street Journal this morning by Jim Petersen, entitled "Death of a Sawmill," in which he lays out the damage being done to the logging industry - in this case in the Northwest - by environmentalists and their army of lawyers. Here are a few quotes from the piece:
EUREKA, Mont. -- My friend Jim Hurst auctioned his sawmill in August.

Jim's decision to pack it in after 25 years of beating his head on the wall made big news here in northwest Montana but, alas, not a peep from this newspaper or the New York Times.

Jim faced an insurmountable problem: He couldn't buy enough logs to keep his mill running. This despite the fact that 10 times as many trees as Jim's mill needed die annually on the nearby Kootenai National Forest.

They might as well have been standing on the moon, given the senseless environmental litigation that has engulfed the West's federal forests.

The never-reported truth is that the family-owned sawmills that survived the decade-long collapse of the federal timber sale program no longer have much interest in doing business with a government they no longer trust. Most now get their timber from lands they've purchased in recent years, other private lands, tribal forests or state lands. Some even import logs from other countries, including Canada, New Zealand and Chile. (link)
We have only ourselves to blame for allowing the environmentalists to destroy an industry that had become the frontline guardians of our forestlands. It's a crying shame.

Quote of the Day

Fifteen years ago, not long after the release of "Playing God in Yellowstone," his seminal work on environmentalism's philosophical underpinnings, I asked philosopher and environmentalist Alston Chase what he thought about this situation [see "Death of a Sawmill" post above]. I leave you to ponder his answer: "Environmentalism increasingly reflects urban perspectives. As people move to cities, they become infatuated with fantasies about land untouched by humans. This demographic shift is revealed through ongoing debates about endangered species, grazing, water rights, private property, mining and logging. And it is partly a healthy trend. But this urbanization of environmental values also signals the loss of a rural way of life and the disappearance of hands-on experience with nature. So the irony: As popular concern for preservation increases, public understanding about how to achieve it declines."

Jim Petersen, "Death of a Sawmill," The Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2005 (link)

Useful Idiots Indeed

In reading James Taranto's excellent analysis of the state of today's Democratic Party and its destructive positions relating to the war on terror and the party's vehement opposition to it, a thought came to me. Maybe the idiots are actually playing a useful role in our foreign affairs.

In his "Best of the Web Today" piece in The Wall Street Journal yesterday (link here to receive free email subscription), Taranto lays out marvelously well the problem the Dems have created for themselves:

"Some centrist Democrats say attacks by their party leaders on the Bush administration's eavesdropping on suspected terrorist conversations will further weaken the party's credibility on national security," reports Donald Lambro of the Washington Times ...

It's worth pondering just what it is that the Democrats are arguing here. They claim not that President Bush isn't doing enough to keep America safe from terrorism, but that he's doing too much. The implication is that the threat of terrorism within America is not all that serious and never was -- that 9/11, horrific though it was, was a one-off.

... it strikes us that the Democrats' current approach to terrorism is a dangerously complacent one. The 9/11 attacks plainly were not a one-off; even before Sept. 11, 2001, the World Trade Center had been hit in 1993, and Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called blind sheik, had gone to prison in a plot to blow up New York City bridges and tunnels.
Having read that, I began to wonder if the Democrats aren't in fact performing for the USA a valuable service.

As we all know, bin Ladin, Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi are itching to bring the war back to the streets and high-rises of New York City (I wanted to use the words "dying to" but it seems only their followers are "dying to" kill Americans). We also know that all these badasses pay close attention to what's said about them in our too-sympathetic press. What they've been hearing and reading in recent weeks is a cacophony of fear and alarm emanating from a clearly terrorized Democratic Party leadership; a group that is sending a clear and unmistakeable message to those who are plotting to kill us all. That message is:

President Bush is a madman and will stop at nothing to destroy you. He will trample our sacred Constitution. He will invalidate the Bill of Rights in his relentless effort to root out Islamists who plot to commit terrorist acts within our borders. He will imprison without justification and without due process anyone who seems suspicious of being a terrorist. He is willing to kill every human being currently residing in the USA - and will ask God to sort us out - just so that no 9/11's ever happen again on his watch.

Shoot, I'm scared of ol' George just writing that.

To say nothing of Mr. Bush's no-longer-secret plan to set up torture centers around the planet!

It's telling that we haven't had a major terrorist attack within our borders since September, 2001. The Democratic Party, in its relentless effort to demonize President Bush, has frightened the bejeebers out of the Islamist terrorists.

Keep up the good work, fellas. You have become useful - and indispensable - idiots indeed.

On Drinking Habits

Alton Foley reveals his penchant - or I should say his former penchant in the days when he actually had a life (see this post to read about his grueling work schedule) - for drinking to excess "down at the bar" when he was traveling and staying in hotel rooms around the country long ago.

Interestingly enough, I can remember only once, in all the evenings I found myself consuming great quantities of adult beverages, and the number of occasions would run into the hundreds, that I went to a bar by myself. I was (bored) in a hotel in Detroit and decided to walk across the parking lot to a tavern I had frequented in years prior with the intention of sipping some suds and then going back to the room and going to bed. As it turned out, I ran into a good friend and stayed and drank for hours - closing the place as I recall.

With possibly that one exception, I never went drinking alone. I was the classic social drinker. I would always meet some friends at the bar or take some friends to the bar or entertain some clients at the bar but never went alone. I could down voluminous quantities of alcohol in succeeding nights in a row and then go for weeks without touching a drop. It was admittedly a strange lifestyle.

And I wasn't an alcoholic. I drank because I enjoyed it and I quit because I quit enjoying it. I drifted away from all that for a number of reasons - none of which had to do with health or psyche. I mostly just lost connection with those bums with whom I partied a lot. And Paula would tell you I grew up - finally.

I now consume maybe 2% of the alcohol I once did, and most of that comprises wine. The bourbon business, as you probably know, has been in sharp decline in the last decade. "Experts" attribute that decline to a shift in drinking patterns to beer and lighter fare. I know the truth. Except for the occasional trip down memory lane, I gave up the stuff. For better or worse. And Kentucky has suffered ever since.

Anyway, all this makes for some interesting reminisences - for me if not for you all.

*** By the way, I as a responsible adult with a readership that may include young impressionable teenagers, wish to make clear the fact that I oppose the consumption of alcohol in any form - especially by young impressionable teenagers - and renounce my wicked past. My mother occasionally reads this weblog.

A Look Into The Future

And to think - these guys are doing this without a government plan or guidance from the political class:
Chip Industry Sets a Plan for Life After Silicon
By
JOHN MARKOFF, The New York Times

Nanotechnology is officially on the road map.

A handful of futuristic chip-making technologies at the atomic scale have been added to an industry planning effort that charts the future of the semiconductor manufacturing industry every two years.

The transition to a post-silicon era is forecast in a report called the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, to be issued Saturday. The report, which is produced cooperatively by semiconductor industry associations from Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States, is used by the semiconductor industry as a planning tool to determine how best to spend research and development money for new technology.

The shift away from conventional silicon transistors has become an important part of the industry's thinking, though the use of nanotechnology is not expected to replace current chip-making processes for another decade. (link)

This is amazing stuff.

To the people of Southwest Virginia I say this: Don't expect government programs to solve the problems that plague this area. If I may be allowed to butcher a famous quote from a Kevin Kostner movie: "If you create conditions such that great minds and investment dollars can achieve maximum profit potential and return on investment, and maintain market dominance for the forseeable future and beyond, they will come." The "they" being employers. Jobs. A future.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Governor Warner Would Never Allow This

What are those tourists from up north going to say when they hear about this:
Appalachian Town Looks to Flatten Mountain
By Roger Alford, Associated Press Writer

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The towering mountains that frame this Appalachian town have been a hindrance to growth, forcing homes and businesses to crowd together side by side on precious little flat land.

That could change under a plan by Pikeville leaders who recruited a coal company to flatten two mountaintops to make room for the town of about 6,300 to expand.

Ordinarily, coal companies are required under federal law to restore mountains to the original contour, said Tom FitzGerald, head of Kentucky Resources Council. But an exception in the law allows mining companies to leave the land flat when that better serves post-mining purposes. (link)
Well, good for them. If, in removing one of the 850,000 mountains around here, the citizens of Pikeville rearrange the landscape to make room for growth and earn a few bucks off the natural resources that are in abundance around them, more power to the people there.

What is going to happen, though, when word spreads to Southwest Virginia and all those planners who have invested their reputations in hiking trails, bike paths, and such silly notions, are told that people around here can actually make money the old-fashioned way. They can mine for it.

This could be a transformative event. We'll be keeping an eye on this story.

Alton Foley To The Rescue ... I Think

Alton, over at ImNotEmeril, has provided me with more information than I could ever have asked for with regard to laws relating to liquor purchases around this country (see it here). The info - as bizarre as a lot of it was - was actually quite informative.

But I had no idea it was so difficult to buy liquor in so many states around the USA. I'm also wondering now how Alton knows so much about the subject ...

Anyway, I guess I was spoiled when I lived in Michigan. There was a "party store" - that's what package liquor stores are all called there - on every street corner, all run by and owned by Pakistanis, and you could - without difficulty - buy all the rum you wanted without having to jump through hoops. It was very convenient. And the ready access to booze didn't seem to increase the rate of crime or delinquency there, as best I could tell.

But then I was often drunk and incapable of discerning reality from fantasy or remembering most anything that went on around me, so I may not be a good judge.

I blame the Pakistanis, by the way. It think it might have been a Muslim plot to end America as we know it, one liquored-up fool at a time.

Thanks, Alton, for filling in the blanks - so to speak.

More On Intelligent Design

Here's an interesting perspective on the theory of Intelligent Design from Granville Sewell, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas El Paso and visiting professor at Texas A&M University, who's article appears in this morning's American Spectator. Included is this:
Evolution's Thermodynamic Failure
By Granville Sewell

Science has been so successful in explaining natural phenomena that the modern scientist is convinced that it can explain everything. Anything that doesn't fit into this materialistic model is simply ignored. When he discovers that all of the basic constants of physics, such as the speed of light, the charge and mass of the electron, Planck's constant, etc., had to have almost exactly the values that they do have in order for any conceivable form of life to survive in our universe, he proposes the "anthropic principle" and says that there must be many other universes with the same laws, but random values for the basic constants, and one was bound to get the values right. When you ask him how a mechanical process such as natural selection could cause human consciousness to arise out of inanimate matter, he says, "human consciousness -- what's that?" And he talks about human evolution as if he were an outside observer, and never seems to wonder how he got inside one of the animals he is studying. And when you ask how the four fundamental forces of Nature could rearrange the basic particles of Nature into libraries full of encyclopedias, science texts and novels, and computers, connected to laser printers, CRTs and keyboards and the Internet, he says, well, order can increase in an open system. (link)
Read the whole thing. Fascinating stuff.

The Most Significant Moment In U.S. History

I sometimes enjoy thinking about things like this: What was the most momentous occurrence in my lifetime? Some would think of tsunamis, others the victory over Saddam Hussein. The assassination of John Kennedy, perhaps. Maybe the Beatles breaking up.

I'd have to answer - with some reservation - that it was the evening the Berlin Wall was torn down by deliriously happy - and free - German citizens. I sat in front of the television watching in awe and knew that it was a moment in history that was ringing the death knell of communism. What an evening it was.

That, to me, is the most outstanding moment in my lifetime. That said, what is the greatest moment in American history? When I received my copy of Smithsonian magazine the other day, and read "My Whole Soul is In It," I was reminded of this:
As his army faltered and his cabinet bickered, Abraham Lincoln determined that "we must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued." In 1862, he finally got his chance. (link*)
We could each have a different opinion on the matter but, to my thinking, the monumental changes that came about as a result of Lincoln's order that all slaves then living in rebellious regions of the country would be free as of January 1 of the following year - some three and a half million people - was the most momentous act in American history.

Think about it. Think about the hope this proclamation brought to those millions of slaves who were to be set free, and the hope that it gave to the millions who were not covered by the proclamation but knew freedom was soon to be theirs as well.

Also, think about how bold Lincoln's decision to issue the proclamation - especially considering when he issued it - really was. Half the country - the south - was already in mortal rebellion (and don't let revisionists fool you; the war was fought because of the slavery issue, not over states rights). And even in the north, a sizeable percentage of the white population was opposed to such a drastic act and would rather their government appease the south - and bring an end to the terrible civil war that was claiming so many thousands of lives (yes, most Democrats were openly opposed to that war too. They opposed freeing the slaves then, they oppose freeing Iraqis today - seems to be a pattern ...)

Abraham Lincoln turned down the advice of many of his supporters - and all his political advisors - and did what he felt was the right thing to do. He knew - more than anyone else alive in 1862 - what that act meant to the future of our nation:
"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth." (link)

My choice for "The Greatest Moment In American History."
The Emancipation Proclamation
January 1, 1863

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free ...

... by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons. (link)
* Only a portion of Doris Kearns Goodwin's article appears on line. If you want to read her work in its entirety, you'll have to come over and borrow my copy.

Getting Desperate In Detroit

Headline in the Detroit News:
Astrologer predicting higher car sales in '06 (link)
Ignore the industry analysts. And Standard & Poors. And the balance sheets. An astrologer says GM and Ford are going to do better next year. So go out and buy that stock ...

On Monday Night Football

ABC has lost the contract to televise Monday night NFL football games to ESPN (I know, it isn't exactly breaking news but this reminded me of the fact). Tears are being shed around the world because of it.

But I have to ask a question: Is there anyone out there - on the east coast - who is over the age of 21 - who is gainfully employed (on first shift) - who doesn't have a meth problem - who isn't some kind of devil worshipper who enjoys staying up at night and howling at the moon - who can actually sit through a Monday night game without falling asleep? The game is - for reasons known only to ABC TV programming gurus - always scheduled to start at about that point in time when many of us are going to bed.

I know the reason given is that the network wanted to capture as much of the west coast audience as possible. And I'm sure the Los Angeles Rams fans and the LA Raiders fans are appreciative, but what about the rest of us?

ESPN would do well to revisit this topic. A 6 o'clock (EST) start time would do us all a great service. Not that my team is worth staying up for ...

Addendum 12/29/05: Enough with the emails already. I know there is no Los Angeles Rams or LA Raiders. It was not an error. It was my point. Los Angeles cannot support a professional football team and yet the NFL feels compelled to cater to their viewing desires and to shortchange ours here in the real world.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

You Guys Aren't Making It Easy

One of a handful of charitable organizations to which Paula and I regularly donate cash is the American Red Cross. I'm beginning to wonder why:
Fraud Alleged at Red Cross Call Centers
Contract Workers in Calif. Stole From Katrina Aid Program, Indictments Say
By Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post Staff Writer

Nearly 50 people have been indicted in connection with a scheme that bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Red Cross program to put cash into the hands of Hurricane Katrina victims, according to federal authorities.

Seventeen of the accused worked at the Red Cross claim center in Bakersfield, Calif., which handled calls from storm victims across the country and authorized cash payments to them. The others were the workers' relatives and friends, prosecutors said last week. (
link)
Ugh.

I Have a Better Idea

My daughter brought to my attention a while back the fact that there is - or was - a huge number of registered sex offenders living in Bland County, Virginia. Now before you all start the jokes about us hilljacks marrying our sisters, you should know the rest of the story. Those animals all - okay, mostly - live over in the Bland Correctional Center - our local prison. The "residents" are required to show their official address as being where they currently reside - and that would be in their 6 by 8 cell out Route 42.

The New York Times touches on the subject this morning and wants that to change. They want the prison to be moved to heavily populated Northern Virginia and for us to be allowed to live without the fear of having perverts wandering our back roads. Well, no. Actually the Times simply wants prison inmates to be counted differently come census time. Sigh.
Phantom Voters, Thanks to the Census

... a glitch in the census that inflates the populations of some state legislative districts - thus exaggerating their voting power - has led to a ... problem. It involves counting prison inmates in the district where they are confined rather than where they actually live. The Census Bureau could fix this problem in a heartbeat, so it needs to get a move on.

The culprit is a provision in the census that counts prison inmates as "residents" of the institutions where they are held, often for relatively short periods of time. Denied the right to vote in all but 2 of the 50 states, the inmates are nonetheless treated as voters when the State Legislatures draw up legislative districts.

The bureau should get to work immediately on procedures that would allow it to count inmates where they actually live - and get those procedures locked in place by the 2010 census. (link)

I have a couple of alternative suggestions. How about we take the inmates out back and shoot the bastards? Or, if you find that violates some innocuous clause of the Constitution (after all, "cruel and unusual" are relative terms; Pol Pot quickly made cruel usual), maybe we could ship our criminals back to the suburbs of DC where they all came from in the first place.

A few thoughts to start your day ...

The Unintended Consequences of Taxation

For those of you who still think we can tax our way into prosperity (ahem, Roanoke Times editorial staff), the New York Times has an illuminating story this morning regarding the fires you ignite in your attempts to put out fires:

High Tax on Food in Tennessee Sends Shoppers to Other States
By The Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Dec. 26 (AP) - When Julie Abel goes grocery shopping each week, she drives more than 25 miles to Georgia to avoid paying the nation's highest average tax on food: 8.4 percent in Tennessee.

A recent report ... shows Tennessee leads the nation with the highest average sales tax on food, 8.4 percent, and a 9.4 percent sales tax. (link)

I read a similar story a few months ago about folks over in West Virginia driving to Virginia and Kentucky to avoid exorbitant gasoline taxes in their home state. And don't get me started on the high cost of liquor in the state-controlled booze-and-beer stores here in the Old Dominion.*

There is a lesson to be learned here. People - and businesses - will travel to those areas where the costs of living - and the cost of doing business - are lower. For Julie Abel, the need to save money when she's shopping for food prompts her to drive out of state. For our area furniture plants, it means shipping jobs to China.

Of course, not everyone learns this lesson readily:
Some say a state income tax may help ease the burden of the tax on food, which accounted for $443.1 million, or 4.6 percent of all state taxes collected by the state, in the 2005 fiscal year.
Rather than ease the tax burden, shift to a different tax. Brilliant.

* Someone needs to fill me in on the bizarre state liquor store system (ABC) here in Virginia. It's as if I fell asleep and woke up to find the Soviets had finally invaded and took over the local packaged hootch business.

Monday, December 26, 2005

On Intelligent Design

There is no subject about which I can write and get more hatemail than that of Intelligent Design. My most recent weblog entry on the theory that life is too complex to be accidental - that it might very well have been "designed" (read it here) - ended with a quote from Euripides:
Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.
Well, in the last few days, I've been called everything but foolish. Stupid, yes. Ignorant. Simpleminded. Even neanderthal (Get it? Evolution ... neanderthal?). The people who wrote telling me I didn't know what I was talking about failed to understand my point completely, which was: I don't know what we're talking about - and neither do you. My position has been - and will continue to be - that proponents of I.D. look at the theory of evolution and at the complex world around us and come to the conclusion that the theory is seriously flawed.

To lend some support to the notion (and that's all it is as far as I'm concerned; I.D. is not science), I ask you to read "Banned in biology" by Tom Bethell, writing in The Washington Times this morning, a portion of which reads:
Perhaps the most important reason [why design-based theories have gained so much traction in recent years] has been overlooked. The rise of computer science and information technology has caused many intelligent people not just to think about issues of design and the difficulties involved.

Software designers understand how precisely such information must be specified. There is no room for error. Yet each cell of the body contains a DNA chain of 3 billion nucleotides, encoded in such a way it specifies construction of all the proteins.

No one knows the source of this code or how it arose. It cannot have been by accident, but accident is the only method available to the evolutionists, who believe as a matter of dogma that early life arose from the random collision of atoms and molecules and nothing else. (
link)

Dogma being the key word. The people who believe in evolution come across as the worst kind of fundamentalist. They will accept no lesser form of human being (that would be me) questioning the foundations of their universe (Galileo could relate). For anyone to seek answers to questions that the theory of evolution either doesn't address (the origins of life) or fails to explain (whence the dinosaurs? Whereunto the dinosaurs?), that person invites unmitigated wrath.

And then there's the arrogance. An email buddy once castigated my having the audacity to question his dogma and asked, "If a higher being designed us, why would he/she/it have created us with a completely useless appendix?" Or something to that effect. My reply to him was, "Just because we haven't determined its usefulness yet, doesn't mean it has no use. We just haven't figured it out yet, perhaps." He had been taught that the appendix was a useless body part, therefore it was so. I say it may very well be so, until someone comes along and proves that it is not so.

Anyway, a convenient method of emailing me has been set up over on the left of my weblog for those of you who intend to unleash your wrath after having read my evolution blasphemy. As a helpful hint, though, if you intend to write me and let me know - again - that I don't know what I'm talking about, that's the very point I'm trying to make. I - we - don't have the answers to life's most perplexing questions. You have your theory. I question its validity.

Kyoto Sham

It turns out I wasn't the only person who considered the Kyoto Protocol on global warming to be a complete farce. Of the 150 nations that signed the pie-in-the-sky greenhouse gas emmissions-control treaty, nearly all of them consider it to be frivolous and unworkable as well.
Ditch Kyoto
By Michael Fumento, The New York Post


Do you think manmade global warming threatens the planet? Or it's little more than an environmentalist sham?

Either way it's time to realize the celebrated Kyoto Protocol -- long touted by the greens as essential to preventing ecological disaster -- isn't just dying, it's decomposing.

Of the original 15 European Union ratifiers of Kyoto, at best four are on course to meet the treaty's target of an 8 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2008-2012 from the 1990 base-year level.

"The truth is, no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem," British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted in September.

But this becomes less disappointing once you learn Kyoto's dirty little secret. Even supporters concede that if all countries complied the warming prevented by 2100 would be at most 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, except that 0.2 degrees is unmeasurable. Certainly it won't save a single polar bear. (link)
Confused? Shocked? Bewildered? Taken aback? Let me explain. This is a fad. Those who fear man-made global warming also feared acid rain. And denuding the rainforests. And ozone holes. Alar. Butter.

As with all the "crises" that developed after some expert (in the case of apples poisoning our children, it was Meryl Streep) came to us in a panic and told us that the world - in no uncertain terms - was about to end (and it hasn't, as of 5:05 this morning), all these fads come and go.

Look. Global warming will give way to global cooling. As a few brave climatologists have been trying to tell us, the earth's surface temperatures cycle through periods of heating and cooling - and probably have since the beginning of time.

Anyway, Kyoto is dead. Now it's on to another frightening end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it apocalypse. The latest - and my favorite - has to do with Big Mac-induced fat kids. This'll be fun to watch.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

From Big Walker Mountain To You

From the warmth and comfort of our home here on Big Walker Mountain, Paula and I would like to wish all of you a very merry Christmas.

Yes, Virginia ...

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
Editorial, New York Sun, 1897.


We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor---

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Why Not Just End It All?

I just finished reading the most depressing Christmas message ever written. Someone (Gail Collins?) on The New York Times editorial staff needs to decide why he or she is on this earth. After providing us a list of "feelings" we should all be experiencing this day, the editorial, entitled "December 25," finishes with this:
It's easy enough to be cynical about the things we would like to feel here at the dark end of the year, to dismiss them out of hand as if they were only the battery-powered, sugar-coated, marzipan dreams of a child's holiday. Life is too tough, too embattled for such sentimentality. That is Scrooge's point exactly: no use pretending the world isn't exactly the way it is. One of the reasons we love to hear the story of an old crank like Scrooge is that he seems to embody this cracked old world, made whole in one night by regret and repentance.

One night will not do it, nor will one day. Peace does not simply appear in the sky overhead or lie embodied one morning in a manger. We come into this season knowing how we want it to make us feel, and we are usually disappointed because humans never cease to be human. But we are right to remember how we would like to feel. We are right to long for peace and good will. (link)
The groundless thoughts of a lost soul. On Christmas Day. How utterly pathetic.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Wilderness v. Jobs

Governor Mark Warner has decided, since Southwest Virginia is slowly being depopulated anyway, to speed up the process. Logging, one of the few remaining viable industries in the area, is about to find itself completely shut out of the Jefferson National Forest and is to be deprived of the millions of harvestable trees therein.

From the Associated Press:

Warner seeks U.S. protection of wilderness areas in Virginia
By Sue Lindsey, Associated Press Writer

December 22, 2005 Roanoke, Va. -- Gov. Mark R. Warner on Thursday petitioned federal officials to protect more than 380,000 acres of mountain wilderness in Virginia's national forests from development.

Warner asked Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to issue rules restricting road construction and commercial activity in the wild areas of the George Washington and Jefferson national forests.

The petition asked Johanns to restore in Virginia a 2001 regulation that prohibited development of wilderness areas nationwide except to protect public health and safety.

Warner's petition, the first filed in the nation, was lauded by the Southern Environmental Law Center and The Wilderness Society. (link)

Of course it was. Neither the Southern Environmental Law Center nor The Wilderness Society are headquartered in Southwest Virginia. They could give a damn what happens to the local citizenry. The SELC has its offices in Charlottesville, a pristine wilderness if there ever was one, and The Wilderness Society has its headquarters in that sublime forestland otherwise known as downtown Washington DC. I guess if I were staring at asphalt for as far as the eye can see, I'd demand that others preserve some trees for me to occasionally view too. Both groups are hellbent on preserving our trees and rocks down here for those twice-a-year excursions they make to our neighborhood to buy our pots, listen to us strum our banjos, smoke their dope, and pretend they are one with nature. Oh, and they ask that we change the linens and scrub the toiletbowl for when they camp out at the Hampton Inn over in Fort Chiswell.

It would do us all well to remember who these people are and who's side they're on.

The Roanoke Times, in an editorial this morning, picks up on the "Warner is going to make Southwest Virginia an uninhabitable wasteland" news (where does he live again?) and has this:

Gov. Mark Warner's praiseworthy petition this week asking the federal government to protect 380,000 acres of mountain wilderness areas in Virginia was the first from the states seeking to restrict construction of roads and other commercial activity in national forests.

With more than 90,000 signatures from Virginians supporting such wilderness protection, Warner pointed out in his petition how crucial such pristine areas are in supporting wildlife habitat, purifying water sources* and enhancing tourism [my emphasis] (
link)
So there are 90,000 residents from the DC suburbs who demand that Southwest Virginia revert (more rapidly) to its stone age origins. Swell. Personally I think our next governor should petition the federal government to have Northern Virginia declared a wilderness area and to demand that it be turned into one big unemployment line.

Look. I don't take the Roanoke Times editorial staff seriously but a governor who's worming his way into a coveted meeting with Michael Moore some day is dangerous.

And Warner's proposal is destructive.

I know Governor Warner and the boulder aficionados rejoice at the thought that the logging industry would be destroyed but, with the exception of the burgeoning hiking trail construction industry (along with the pathetic ceramic pot crafting business that we are all expected to participate in), we have little else.

Rather than close off the national forests to development completely, I'd rather we opened them up to logging - and mining - interests and put some of the poor people around here to work. I'd also ask that government that professes to have our best interests at heart to fascilitate their growth and vitality. That's what governments once were expected to do.

Either that or come down here and direct traffic as the hundreds and hundreds of poverty-stricken families descend on the Bland Ministry Center to receive their handouts of food and clothing and Christmas gifts for their destitute children.

I can't, however, guarantee that you'll enjoy the view.

* For details on that "purifying water sources" crap, see this Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy study on the "purified water" flowing down Callahan Creek, a source of drinking water that is unfit for human consumption.

Quote Of The Day

Rise and Shine, Campers

"The U.S. Congress on Thursday agreed to extend until February 3 key provisions of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act to allow more time for lawmakers to consider civil liberties protections," Reuters reports from Washington.

And if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on Feb. 2, we'll have six more weeks without a terrorist attack.

James Taranto, "Best of the Web Today," December 23, 2005

Susette Kelo On Eminent Domain

The city of New London, Connecticut has been given the green light by the Supreme Court of the United States to seize the private property of Susette Kelo and to hand it over to a private company to develop. Susette is the now-famous Kelo in the now infamous Kelo v. City of New London.

Many Americans - including me - consider this decision to be the most egregious assault on our freedoms in our lifetime. The government seizing property from one private entity and handing it over to another private entity (the receiving party will always have more wealth; the reason Kelo's land is being seized is because a development company can always provide more tax revenue) assaults the foundations of our Republic.

Susette Kelo puts it best in this interview with a reporter for the Wall Street Journal:
In Kelo, the Supremes interpreted the "takings" clause of the U.S. Constitution to say that local governments have more or less unlimited authority to take private property. For Ms. Kelo, that means that the state-financed New London Development Corp. may seize the house where she's lived for eight years, tear it down, and put up a private development that would include more expensive condominiums and townhouses that would return higher property-tax revenues for the city.

"For public use--for a bridge or a road or a school or a hospital -- that's bad enough," says Ms. Kelo over tea at the kitchen table of her little house at 8 East Street in the Fort Trumbull section of the city. "But you add insult to injury if somebody else can live here. That's exactly what they plan on doing here. Making it so somebody else can live here." But "I live on East Street. I live on East Street. Why can't I live here?" (
link requires subscription)

The woman is pleading with us not to let our government take the only property she has. Susette Kelo is powerless now - as are we - to stop the local authorities from throwing her out on the street. She lost the last chance she had to keep her home when the Supreme Court sided with the developer in her case.

This is absolutely wrong.