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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

We Demand Funding For Mass Transit

I made mention the other day, in a piece denouncing the fact that poor people in economically depressed Southwest Virginia are forced to pay for Metro, the publically funded commuter system up in fabulously wealthy Northern Virginia, that the only mass transit system in all of Southwest Virginia involves U-Haul rentals to take displaced workers north to find a new job.

The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that not only are thousands of people calling on U-Haul to help them escape to more opportune environs - like Northern Virginia - they have to pay dearly for it.

Since more and more area residents will be taking advantage of the system as time goes by, and since the state is in the business of promoting mass transit to alleviate traffic congestion (the plan is working marvelously in Smyth County, by the way - ain't no traffic congestion there anymore), I call on Senator Phil Puckett to introduce legislation that will provide funding for Southwest Virginia's mass transit system. We want our U-Haul rentals subsidized.

There was something else that prompted my idea. I read this in the Wall Street Journal:
Meathead Economics

It takes hard work to drive anyone away from California's sunshine and scenic vistas, but politicians in Sacramento have been up to the task.

The latest Census Bureau data indicate that, in 2005, 239,416 more native-born Americans left the state than moved in. California is also on pace to lose domestic population (not counting immigrants) this year. The outmigration is such that the cost to rent a U-Haul trailer to move from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho, is $2,090 -- or some eight times more than the cost of moving in the opposite direction.

What's gone wrong? A big part of the story is a tax and regulatory culture that treats the most productive businesses and workers as if they were ATM machines. The cost to businesses of complying with California's rules, regulations and paperwork is more than twice as high as in other Western states.

But the worst growth killer may well be California's tax system. The business tax rate of 8.8% is the highest in the West, and its steeply "progressive" personal income tax has an effective top marginal rate of 10.3%, or second highest in the nation. (
link requires subscription)
Sound familiar? High taxes are driving away employers.

But to keep to the point, our mass transit system here in Southwest Virginia deserves the same level of funding as does that of the well-to-do taxpayers up north.

Let's start the chant:

No U-Haul, no peace!
No U-Haul, no peace!
No U-Haul, ...

The System Is Broken

There are those in this country (including the Roanoke Times editorial page) who argue that a requirement that voters identify themselves with a valid picture ID when they show up at the polls is somehow racist and discriminatory, harkening back to the days of the infamous poll tax that was used to keep poor black folks from voting.

The real problem is with the alternative. Take Michigan for example:
Feds demand Mich. voter roll cleanup
Secretary of State Land is criticized for having more people registered than are eligible to vote.
Lisa M. Collins, The Detroit News


The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed Monday it is monitoring Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land's office after determining that Michigan has more people registered to vote statewide than people of voting age. (link)
Michigan has more people registered to vote statewide than people of voting age. That certainly gives me confidence in the system. You?

In the 2000 presidential election, the Democrats were apoplectic over what they perceived to be rampant voter fraud in Florida. In 2004, they went nuts over perceived voting irregularities in Ohio. You'd think the Democrats would be the first to demand accountability and a fraud-proof system - starting with a requirement that people who show up to vote be able to prove they are who they say they are. Instead they argue in favor of just the opposite.

Now they have to explain Michigan.

What a mess.

Morons

Do you suppose the editors of the New York Times sometimes sit and giggle uncontrollably when they insert crap like this in the paper? I get the distinct feeling that someone there has a howling sense of humor.
Americans Are Cautiously Open to Gas Tax Rise, Poll Shows
By Louis Uchitelle and Megan Thee


Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to a higher federal gasoline tax, but a significant number would go along with an increase if it reduced global warming or made the United States less dependent on foreign oil, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. (link)
Americans would be willing to pay 2 cents a gallon to save the planet. I'm shocked.

My guess is, if the genius who devised this poll asked the same people if they would be willing to pay a few bucks more in gas tax if it cured cancer, they'd reply in the affirmative as well. Or if it got rid of herpes. Or ended poverty. Or brought the dead back to life. Or made Michael Moore go away forever.

And I wouldn't be surprised if some politician - Hillary! - tried to use the threat of global warming as an excuse for raising taxes. They've used about every other scare tactic (come on over to Virginia where our highways are crumbling, commuters in the DC area are dying from the long traffic backups, where the state treasury is depleted of funds, and where we have a crisis on a scale that Moses would run in fear from).

Would you be willing to pay 2 cents to save the planet from certain destruction? Good grief.

Don't Trust The Global Warming Fanatics

Michael Fumento thrashes the global warming crowd - again. This time in this morning's New York Post:
WHEN 'SCIENCE' PLAYS POLITICS

Last September, after Hurricane Katrina, activists in lab coats saw a grand opportunity to tie the exceptionally violent hurricane season to global warming. A study in Science declared, "A large increase was seen in the number and proportion of hurricanes reaching categories 4 and 5."

But the researchers simply cut off their data at 1970, though public statistics go back to 1850. Using the full data set would have reversed the conclusion. Why did the editors and peer-reviewers at both JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association] and Science not insist on use of the full data set? Because slicing off inconvenient data is a time-honored tool of advocacy science.

Editors can even ignore papers in their own publication if it serves their purpose. A report in a recent (Feb. 17) issue of Science uses a computer model to show that glaciers along the coast of Greenland are rapidly melting and leading to rapid sea level rise; the study (naturally) blames global warming. Yet, just three months earlier, Science published a study based on actual data that showed increasing snowfall in Greenland was leading to greater ice accumulations than previously measured, slowing Greenland's contribution to sea-level rise.

When there's a political cause, such oversights come easy. (link)

So what is to be made of all this global warming talk? We'll never know. The "scientists" we've relied on for the research and analysis have proven themselves to be more untrustworthy than the politicians with whom they conspire.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Is Racism A Thing Of The Past?

Just when I begin to think we here in America are getting beyond the silly fixation we seem to have on skin tone and the implications that derive from it (we call it racism), the entire country erupts in anger and lashes out with venom at a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates because the company's leadership is trying to do a deal with the U.S. government to take over the administration of a handful of our port facilities. Oh, and because the leadership is Arab (of a sort of olive oil skin tone), politicians - Democrats and Republicans alike, racists all - are enraged.

Sigh.

But just when demoralization starts to set in and I begin to accept the fact that we will never be able to get beyond discussions of race, I read this in Collegiate Times, the Virginia Tech student nespaper:
Recent college applicants decline to give race
David Grant, News Editor, Sarah Larkins, News Assistant


Trend towards more "other" respondents happening across nation

A fifth of the largest application class in Tech history of almost 19,000 applicants listed its race as “other.”

This “other” grouping consists mostly of those who would typically fall under the “White” category as well as mixed-race students with Caucasian parentage, according to two Tech administrators and a study published by the Irvine Foundation, a California-based non-profit that focuses on education issues for low-income citizens. (link)

The article provides "expert" opinions as to the reason for this trend, all of which are valid. To me, though, the trend indicates a reflection of the ethnic makeup of America, which is rapidly becoming homogenized (we once called it inbreeding) as white folks marry black folks and latinos marry Native Americans, etc.

Also, there are people - and you can now include me in this category - who consider it none of the government's business (or Virginia Tech's either) how one's family tree is configured.

So include me in the "other" racial category henceforth. I encourage everyone to do the same. We are going to end this lunacy once and for all.

Across The Great Divide

The Roanoke Times, in an editorial yesterday, goes to great lengths to try to define for us just how much poverty there is in the USA. Being an avid student of statistics, I read the column with rapt attention.

For those of you, though, who don't wish to submerse yourselves in the numbers, let me summarize the data for you. There are a whole lot of people in this country living in poverty. On this we can agree.

But then the Times offers up its tired and failed 1960's solution to the poverty problem - in the form of a slap at the Bush administration:
Whatever the appropriate assumptions, the nation is headed in the wrong direction after years of helping its neediest citizens.
The implication is that we're somehow doing less to help the needy. When did we stop? Is there anyone reading this that actually thinks funding for Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security or the myriad worker training programs has actually gone down? Ever? The notion is so preposterous that I'll not even waste my time pulling up all the government outlay statistics from past years. If the Times can disprove the following, let them provide the data:
State and federal spending toward "the safety net" has increased every year since 1969 (the beginning of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" spending binge) and continues to climb into 2006. Four trillion dollars and counting.
But there's a bigger issue - one that puts the Times editorial staff and me on opposite sides of the great divide. Reliance on the "safety net" to improve the lot of the poor will only make their situation worse.

Pay close attention: In order to provide funds for that net, a sum that now runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars each year nationwide, taxes must be levied. The folks at the Times will have you believe that there isn't enough being done to "tax the rich" but the truth is, there aren't enough rich people in this country to come close to paying for the immense "safety net."

So the government goes after the business sector. Off the top of my head, America's companies - large and small - can expect to pay ...
... federal corporate income taxes, an income tax on corporate profits, inventory taxes (!), accounts receivable taxes, building permit taxes, capital gains taxes, CDL license taxes, state income taxes, federal unemployment taxes (FUTA), food license taxes, fuel permit taxes, gasoline taxes (42 cents per gallon - today, Tim), taxes on interest earned, and then there are the many local taxes ...
My guess is a good tax accountant can grow that list to mammouth proportions. I invite the input.

The point is this: We don't need a safety net (except for the elderly and the infirm) if everyone is gainfully employed. Far too many people here in Southwest Virginia are not employed because too many of those companies that had been operating here have ceased operations because the cost of doing business became too great.

In order to fund "the safety net," we raise taxes and fees to a point where companies fail. Or move their operations to India. Those workers who lose their jobs fall into the safety net, requiring more funds. And higher taxes. The heavier tax burden on the remaining businesses results in more failures. More laid off workers go into the safety net ... and on and on.

I read not long ago that 25% of Tazewell County residents are now on some sort of government relief. They've become woven into the fabric of the safety net. Though Tazewell can boast that it has an excellent benefit delivery system, what it doesn't have is economic growth. The county is now slowly depopulating and the poverty rate there is 50% higher than the rest of the state.

Tazewell County, Virginia has a wondrous safety net. It needs employers. Throw more money at the former, expect fewer of the latter. And watch Tazewell County die.

Shouldn't They Be Called The Helsinki Wings?

I should have been paying closer attention to the Olympics. This probably makes sense:

Swedes Wing It
Lidstrom's goal decisive; 4 other Hockeytown heroes factor in victory
John Niyo, The Detroit News


TORINO, Italy -- Welcome home, boys.

There won't be any need for dark glasses and fake moustaches when Nicklas Lidstrom and his fellow countrymen on the Red Wings' roster head to Sweden this summer. Not like four years ago, when the Olympic hockey team lost a stunner to Belarus in a quarterfinal and the next day the national newspaper ran a front-page headline that read: "They Shamed Their Country."

No, this time they've got a passport that's as good as gold.

Sweden erased its recent history of failures on the international stage by outlasting archrival Finland for a hard-fought 3-2 victory Sunday in the men's gold-medal game at the Palasport Olimpico.

Each of the five Wings on the Swedish roster played a key role in the victory ... (link)

Half the Swedish Olympic team lives in the USA and plays for the Detroit Red Wings. At what point does the Swedish Olympic hockey team become the U.S. Olympic hockey team?

I'm so confused.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don Knotts Dead at 81


I'll bet there's a college course being taught somewhere that focuses exclusively on The Andy Griffith Show. It was a phenomenon. It is the only television sitcom that, after watching every episode numerous times, I can still find entertaining. And if there was some kind of magic at work to make the show the wonder that it was, like
Chad, I know Barney Fife was its catalyst.

Ol' Barn', aka Don Knotts, died yesterday at the age of 81.

He will forever be remembered as that bumbling small town deputy sheriff who was longing for excitement and found adventure - and sometimes the most complex conspiracies - every day he was on duty.

Don Knotts as Barney Fife was - is - a treasure and the news that he has passed away brings a sense of sadness.

Let Them Pay Their Own Way

The median household income in Fairfax County in 1999 was $81,050. In Dickenson County it was $23,431. (link) And the people of Dickenson are paying for the people of Fairfax to get to work each morning.

God knows the government employees who live in Fairfax and who commute to Washington DC each day can afford to pay to get themselves there. Instead, we here in Southwest Virginia, where tax rates are now at such a level that area businesses are shutting down in droves because they cannot compete with low-tax countries like Singapore or low-tax states like Florida, help subsidize the rich folks' ride to work by funding the mass transit system there known as Metro.*

We here in Southwest Virginia are slowly coming to grips with the notion that what is needed to fix Northern Virginia - more tax revenue - will, if allowed to pass, have an adverse effect on Southwest Virginia - a decline in our already devastated economy. More taxes here translate into fewer employers and no career opportunities.

It seems a clear solution to this dilemma would be for those northern counties - if they need money for transportation improvements that will benefit only their citizens - to acquire tax revenue locally. The Virginia Senate proposed just that and a House committee turned it down. (Read about it here)

Now this is going to sound vindictive. But it is the northern counties of Virginia that overwhelmingly voted for our new governor who, as soon as he came into office, proposed the largest tax increase in the history of the commonwealth. The people of Fairfax and Arlington and Alexandria and Woodbridge and Prince William knew exactly what they were doing when they voted for the Democrat. Tim Kaine is only doing what Democrats always do. The people up north, in voting for the scoundrel, obviously were accepting of a greater tax burden. Fine for them.

But we don't need more of a burden here. We need more employers. And the way to attract employers is to enhance the potential for them to grow the bottom line by relocating to low-tax Southwest Virginia.

I watched the remake of "Bad News Bears" last night on DVD. In one scene, Coach Buttermaker pulls a small, frail player aside as the little fella is going up to bat and the coach tells him to lean into the pitch in order to have the ball hit him, so that he could get on base. "Take one for the team," he said to his player. The player did. And I felt his pain. The second time he came up to bat, though, he was again told to sacrifice himself, but this time the player said to himself, "that's enough of that" and instead swung for the fences. I cheered for him.

We in Southwest Virginia have been team players long enough. We've been told over and over again to "take one for the team." The people here have been battered beyond their endurance. We've leaned into more than our share of pitches in order to benefit the folks up north. We're not doing it any more.

As for the rest of you, get beaned again if you so choose. As for us, we're now inclined to take the bat, beat the coach, and ask for new leadership and a different strategy; one that benefits the entire team.

* The mass transit system in Southwest Virginia involves U-Haul rentals to take displaced workers north.

To Accentuate The Point

Another Southwest Virginia company announces layoffs:
Declining demand for gas- guzzlers costs jobs
Joe Geraghty, Bristol Herald Courier

LEBANON - The auto industry's declining fortunes have cost the region another 100 jobs.


Lear Corp. has laid off more than 100 employees at its factory here, spokeswoman Andrea Puchalsky said. The cuts were a direct result of the closure of a General Motors plant in Oklahoma, that assembled GMC Envoys and Jimmy sport utility vehicles, she said. (link)
Lear had previously announced that it was laying off all its employees in Covington over in hard-hit Allegheny County and was closing the plant there permanently.

These are excellent-paying jobs that we cannot afford to lose. And most of them will never return.

Radford Makes The News

I found out yesterday that Radford University has a student-published magazine. It's called "Whim." (link) It has made international news in recent days (read it here) because it employs a cartoonist who does a strip called "Christ on Campus." (See an example here). Christian Keesee, the cartoonist, is getting his 15 minutes of fame because of the Mohammed-with-bomb-on-head Danish cartoons story that has brought about outrage in the Muslim world and has resulted in the deaths of at least 100 people.

I thought, when I went to his on-line cartoons, that this Keesee character was one of those hateful left-wing types who, in an effort to keep up with the Muslims (and to get his picture in a real publication), was depicting Christ with an AK-47 in hand mowing down Iraqi children and the like.

But I was surprised to find that his cartoons did not disparage Christianity or ridicule Jesus himself (as Manhattan "artists" are wont to do). Instead, and this is an important distinction, Keesee depicts Christ, often crudely and amateurishly, as looking in on today's world and wondering where it all went wrong.

Christian Keesee will, I'm guessing, want to hide under a rock for the next couple of weeks. But at least he won't have to worry about some fundamentalist preacher declaring a fatwah and calling for his death. There won't be rioting in the streets or the slaughter of innocent civilians. No burning of flags.

There will be denunciations and endless interviews and analyses on cable TV news shows. And then he'll fade into obscurity.

As he and his cartoon should.

Quote Of The Day

For several decades in America, the aim of much of the jurisprudential thought about the First Amendment's free speech provision has been to justify contracting its protections. Freedom of speech is increasingly "balanced" against "competing values." As a result, it is whittled down, often by seemingly innocuous increments, to a minor constitutional afterthought.

American legislators, using the criminal law for moral exhibitionism, enact "hate crime" laws. Hate crimes are, in effect, thought crimes. Hate crime laws mandate enhanced punishments for crimes committed as a result of, or at least when accompanied by, particular states of mind of which the government particularly disapproves. Governments that feel free to stigmatize, indeed criminalize, certain political thoughts and attitudes will move on to regulating what expresses such thoughts and attitudes — speech.

On campuses, speech codes have abridged the right of free expression in order to protect the right — for such it has become — of certain preferred groups to not be offended. The NCAA is truncating the right of some colleges and universities to express their identity using mascots deemed "insensitive" to the feelings of this or that grievance group. Campaign-finance laws ration the amount and control the timing and content of political speech. The right to free political speech is now "balanced" against society's interest in leveling the political playing field, or elevating the tone of civic discourse, or enabling politicians to spend less time soliciting contributions, or allowing candidates to control the content of their campaigns, or dispelling the "appearance" of corruption, etc.

To protect the fragile flower of womanhood, a judge has ruled that use of gender-based terms such as "foreman" or "draftsman" could create a "hostile environment" and hence constitute sexual harassment. To improve all of us, people with various agendas are itching to get government to regulate speech of this or that sort.

George Will, "Mere 'Moral Pork Barrel'," The New York Post, February 26, 2006

Episcopal Bishop Attacks Episcopal Bishop

The charge of "Intolerance" is such a dangerous weapon to draw.

Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane disagrees (in a letter to the Washington Post) with what he perceives to be the intolerance of one Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, primate of the Church of Nigeria, with regard to homosexuality in general, and with the deeply held beliefs of many in the Episcopal congregation specifically who are of like mind.

If he'd left it at that, theirs could best be described as a policy dispute. But Bishop Chane doesn't stop there. He - intolerantly - attacks the Christian right and finds a conspiracy in the making a la Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing" sort:
Were Archbishop Akinola a solitary figure and Nigeria an isolated church, his support for institutionalized bigotry would be significant only within his own country. But the archbishop is perhaps the most powerful member of a global alliance of conservative bishops and theologians, generously supported by foundations and individual donors in the United States, who seek to dominate the Anglican Communion and expel those who oppose them, particularly the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Failing that, the archbishop and his allies have talked of forming their own purified communion -- possibly with Archbishop Akinola at its head.

Because the conflict over homosexuality is not unique to Anglicanism, civil libertarians in this country, and other people as well, should also be aware of the archbishop and his movement. Gifts from such wealthy donors as Howard Ahmanson Jr. and the Bradley, Coors and Scaife families, or their foundations, allow the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy to sponsor so-called "renewal" movements that fight the inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches and in the United Church of Christ. Should the institute succeed in "renewing" these churches, what we see in Nigeria today may well be on the agenda of the Christian right tomorrow. (link)
Interestingly, the church denominations that the bishop cites - Episcopal, United Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Evangelical Lutheran - as being under assault are also those that are in most precipitate decline in terms of membership - the result no doubt of that right-wing conspiracy and not of the fact that all of them have become "tolerant" to the point that they are unrecognizeable as Christian churches. They now stand for nothing other than "tolerance" of their own narrow beliefs and are nothing more than havens for long-haired 60's all-you-need-is-love types .

The Episcopal Church's ordination of an openly gay bishop has brought about an irreparable split in its congregation and such venom as that expressed by Bishop Chane will only accelerate the departure of more conservative parishioners and make the situation worse. He would do well to focus on saving what's left of his church and stop ranting about what Jerry Falwell and the Christian right are doing.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Where's The G String?

What's up with the Olympics this year? I've seen more clothing on exotic dancers (not in person of course, only ... uh ... on cable). I can only surmise that some shrewd coach has figured that if this babe can keep the judge's eyes off her skating, she'll get bigger scores. Or something ...

Photo courtesy of the Washington Post

They Make My Head Hurt

Just a day after championing the rights of the individual in a Roanoke Times editorial decrying the attempt on the part of the Virginia House of Delegates to force pediatricians to not talk to clients about gun control (an editorial stance with which I agreed), the same editorial staff today denounces the House of Delegates for ... championing the rights of the individual:
A sensible ban up in smoke

A House of Delegates subcommittee Thursday snuffed out a smoking ban passed by the Senate, marking the triumph of a self-destructive minority over public health.

Opponents of a smoking ban in most public indoor areas cited rights of smokers and business owners.

But smokers' rights end at the lungs of nonsmokers. As Sen. Brandon Bell, sponsor of the measure, said, "The bottom line is that we're not talking about a smoker's right to smoke indoors. We're talking about my right not to breathe in 4,000 chemicals and 60 known carcinogens that are associated with secondhand smoke."

Non-smoking customers have a right to breathe safe air. So do non-smoking employees. Business owners don't have the right to subject them to unsafe conditions, and employees shouldn't have to choose whether they want to earn a living or breathe fresh air. (link)
When it comes to pornography on television, liberals would be the first to tell you, "You don't have to watch. Turn the channel." But when it comes to a restaurant - make that every restaurant on the planet - they demand that you follow their dictates, whether you like it or not, even if they never set foot in your place of business; even if every patron and employee smokes; even if a sign was prominently displayed at the entrance to the business establishment that reads, "WARNING. YOU ARE APPROACHING AN UNSAFE ENVIRONMENT. ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK"; even if a signed waiver was required of every employee and customer entering into that unsafe environment that acknowledged the fact that he or she is of sound mind and had the legal capacity to understand the issues at hand and the actions he or she was about to undertake.

No. There'll be no freedom of choice when it comes to restaurants and smoking. No reasonableness. No "changing of the channel" or going to the smoke-free restaurant next door.

So much for championing the rights of the individual. It lasted a whole day.

These people make my head hurt.

Motel 6 Will Take Them

The United Methodist Church, one of the most liberal in America, has decided not to meet in Richmond in 2012. You're not going to believe the reason:
Braves strike out in Richmond
By Michael Hunsberger, The Washington Times


The United Methodist Church has rejected Richmond for its 2012 international conference because the city's minor league baseball team is named the Braves.


"Many Native Americans, if you ask them what they think about team mascots, will tell you that they find [them] to be demeaning," said Stephen Drachler, a spokesman for the United Methodist Church. (link)
It is not known if Drachler has ever spoken to a real brave ... er, Native American, or even been near one. It appears that some of them don't give a hoot:
Apparently, nobody asked Virginia's Monacan Nation, located near Lynchburg about 130 miles west of Richmond.

Kenneth Branham, Monacan chief, yesterday said, "The mascot thing has been blown out of proportion."
To completely muddle the issue, it turns out the Braves' mascot is actually ... a duck:
"... a big, happy, yellow one named "Diamond Duck," Braves spokesman John Emmett said.
We await word from the United Methodist Church on where the leadership stands on ... ducks. (And God for that matter, but I digress)

So, it turns out the gurus (I'm reluctant to call them ministers any more) that run the United Methodist Church have no clue what they are talking about. But then, the fact that their member churches have mostly empty pews each Sunday will attest to that fact.

Rumor has it, based on a rapidly declining membership, that the United Methodist Church is considering Ernie's Motel in Axehead, Maine for its "international conference." The seven rooms there will work out just fine.

Ancient History

99.9% of America has no idea how significant this occasion was at the time:
Fifty years ago today, the Soviet Union's new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, delivered a speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party that shook the entire communist world to its roots — and laid the groundwork for the eventual collapse of the Evil Empire.

In his so-called "secret speech" — word of it only leaked out slowly — Khrushchev did the unthinkable: He publicly denounced the late dictator Josef Stalin not only for "grave perversions of party principles" but for committing monstrous crimes against the entire Soviet people. (link)
I have a copy of that speech. It shook the world - even though the world didn't know about it at the time it was delivered. In my estimation, it was the most significant speech rendered in the 20th century.

So long ago. So momentous. So forgotten.

I Thought McCain Fixed This

There were those of us who scoffed at John McCain's goofy notion a few years ago that he could get the money out of politics. We didn't scoff for long though. He and Senator Russ Feingold got together and launched (successfully as it turned out) the most egregious assault on the First Amendment in my lifetime in a misguided and shameful effort to ... get the money out of politics. Our scoffing quickly turned to anger.

You may have heard of McCain-Feingold. It's a law that now prevents certain forms of political speech at election time (!) and took the money out of politics.

Well, as it turns out, half of that is true:
I.R.S. Finds Sharp Increase in Illegal Political Activity
By
STEPHANIE STROM, The New York Times

The I.R.S. said yesterday that it saw a sharp increase in prohibited political activity by charities and churches in the last election cycle, a trend that it aims to reverse as the country heads into the midterm elections.

The infractions included distributing materials that encouraged people to vote for particular candidates and giving cash to campaigns. (link)
How awful. Better get McCain after them.

He'll get the money out of politics ... or have every one of these sunsabitchas imprisoned in the attempt.

Why Can't They Major In Basketball?

I've been wondering in recent years why athletes can't go to college and major in ... athletics. The subject came to mind again this morning when I read this headline in the New York Times:
Schools Where the Only Real Test Is Basketball (link)
It's a story about prep schools that structure their curricula for their most promising athletes around basketball - and nothing else.

That's extreme. But is it so wrong for, say, Virginia Tech to build a course of "studies" around athletics? If you're going to respond by telling me that an athletics degree does nothing to prepare a person for the outside world, check out the resume of one Professor Angela Davis, whose career is outlined in detail in today's Roanoke Times (and thank you for the accuracy). It reads in part:
She is now a tenured professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California Santa Cruz.
History of consciousness. Not just a course, mind you. A whole freeking department.

So what will a degree in "history of consciousness" get you in later life? Besides a meaningless but lucrative job at the U.N. for a handful of you, it may get you noticed when you stand in the employment line at McDonald's. Next to most of the athletes that find themselves there now.

There's no mention in the article about whether Professor Davis' "conscience" is affected by such matters. She has a pretty good (six figure) gig taking money from the (rich, guilt-consumed, white) parents of susceptible young people who don't know any better, and from making speeches to enthralled groups that have no interest in the fact that a degree in the horseshit this woman teaches brings graduates all of a discount on a diet coke at their eventual place of employment.

Masters Degree in Power Forward. Advanced degree in the history of consciousness. Not a spit's worth of difference when you come down to it.

Wal-Mart 26 Million, Target 0

For those of you who have been wondering if I've caved to the pressure, the answer is no. My boycott of Target continues. Until the retail giant allows the Salvation Army bell-ringers to seek donations for the poor in front of their stores at Christmastime, I'll continue to do my part to drive them out of business.

It is hard to assess the effectiveness of my efforts but the numbers are coming in relating to the other retailer that does still think of those less fortunate at the one time of year when we should all be more charitable. More giving. Wal-Mart, by allowing the bell-ringers to set their buckets in front of its stores, helped raise a whole pile of cash for the needy:
Wal-Mart Customers Contributed More Than $26 Million for The Salvation Army's 2005 Red Kettle Campaign

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Feb. 21 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- As a result of an enhanced partnership between Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and The Salvation Army, the nation's largest retailer today announced it raised more than $26 million for The Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign through in-store donations. Additionally, more than $17,000 was raised through online donations. The funds collected through the generous contributions of associates and customers represent a more than $9 million growth from 2004 and account for nearly 25% of the $107 million raised on behalf of The Salvation Army during the 2005 holiday season. (link)
I don't know if that $9 million increase (a healthy portion of which came from yours truly) made up for the loss the Salvation Army incurred when Target Stores banned their bell-ringers two seasons ago, but it had to be welcome news.

I encourage everyone to run over to Wal-Mart today and show your appreciation. From the latest demographic data, you'll all probably be there anyway.

And if you could pick me up some white socks, I'd be indebted.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Rest Of The Story

I know the reporters at Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech's student newspaper, are still in apprentice mode. So they shouldn't be judged too harshly when one of them files a report that misses half the story. And I understand that it is Black History Month so we are supposed to be deferential (I just finished watching a news segment on a local Greensboro TV channel about a 74-year old black school bus driver ...?)

Fine.

But I think the Times could have been more accurate in its description of one of Tech's recent guest speakers. Professor Angela Davis was on campus to talk about Martin Luther King and to trash George Bush. Here's how her biography is presented by the reporter:
Activist Davis speaks about Black History Month
Saira Haider, News Assistant


Professor, social activist and third-party vice-presidential nominee Angela Davis ... (link)
By God, a true American hero. Well, not exactly. Angela is actually an avowed marxist and the "third-party" she represented in both the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections was the Communist Party USA.

A minor point not worth mentioning, I suppose.

The fact that she was on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted List" in the 1970's after it was discovered that a firearm she owned had been used to murder a California judge and three other innocent people and the fact that she had fled didn't seem to rise to the level of biographical information either. (link)

No. We get "professor, social activist and third-party vice-presidential nominee ..." like she is someone for whom we should offer respect, even admiration.

Angela Davis deserves our contempt and the denunciations she's been receiving for the last thirty years. And the editor at Collegiate Times needs to give its novice reporter a tutorial in Reporting 101.

Expose Them!

The Roanoke Times in an editorial this morning sheds light on a misguided attempt by the House of Delegates to silence pediatricians (!):

Don't gag doctors about gun safety
Virginia House bill prevents pediatricians from talking to parents about kids and firearms.
The Roanoke Times

Doctors should make a deal with the General Assembly: Physicians won't attempt to legislate if legislators quit trying to practice medicine.

A bill that would gag pediatricians who discuss gun safety with the parents of their patients passed the Virginia House of Delegates last week, and is under consideration in the Senate. (link)

I'll not touch on the silly notion that gun safety somehow has anything to do with practicing medicine.

Instead I'd like to agree with the Times and condemn the attempt on the part of the delegates - no matter how well-intentioned - to keep gun ban politics out of a routine doctor visit.

Having said that, I'd also call upon the Roanoke Times to routinely publish the names of the beanbrains who are "practicing medicine" by scaring - unnecessarily - the beejeebers out of their patients. With all the communicable diseases and drug issues out there, only a moron - and an incompetent - would feel the need to lecture people on gun accidents - a statistically rare occurrence - of all things.

Expose these "doctors" before they harm someone!

Deja Vu

Didn't we have to endure this bit of hucksterism once before?

Kaine ready to call 'extended session'
By Seth McLaughlin and Christina Bellantoni, The Washington Times

RICHMOND -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said yesterday that he is prepared to call a special session if lawmakers can't agree on how to pay for improving the state's transportation system.

"If we don't get a deal that addresses transportation in a comprehensive way then we'll have an extended session or a special session," Mr. Kaine told The Washington Times yesterday. (link)

It is completely up to a handful of Republicans in the senate as to whether or not Tim Kaine gets his transportation plan and his massive tax increase.

Let's hope they come to their senses - soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Back To The Future

The first rule in my world is: Strive to improve your performance each and every day or some teenager is going to come along, show you how it's done, and take your place.

And, as I've often said, just when you think you have it all figured out, when you're confident that you're at the top of your game, when you are dead-certain that you're the master of your universe, that you have all the answers, somebody comes along and changes all the questions.

With that in mind, and out of this relentless pursuit of self-preservation, I've gone back to school. At least for two days (today and tomorrow) I'm in learning mode. You'll find me in Greensboro, North Carolina.

So much to learn and there's so little time. And so many teenagers ...

Expected But Still Not Welcome

Adam over at Smyth County Conservative links to an article in his local paper that brings us news that isn't really news at all. When it comes to housing starts, a reliable measure of economic vitality, the county is stuck in neutral.

Smyth County, and Marion and Chilhowie in particular, have been devastated by plant closings and massive layoffs in recent years and the fact that there is a glut of available housing in the area - due to a declining population (a 1.4% decline in the last 4 years) as people head north to find work - was predictable.

Tragic but predictable.

Christopher Hitchens Has My Back

I came to the defense yesterday of a Jew-hater by the name of David Irving. An Austrian court had sentenced him to three years in prison because he believed the Holocaust to have never occurred and wrote a book on the subject. He was imprisoned because of his beliefs.

Today, Christopher Hitchens writes on the same subject in The Wall Street Journal (it would seem we can expect his imprisonment any day now too):
An Indivisible Right
By Christopher Hitchens


It is best not to mince words. The imprisonment of David Irving by the Austrian authorities is a disgrace. It is a state punishment for a crime -- that of expression and argument and publication -- that is not a legal offense in Mr. Irving's country of birth and that could not be an offense under the U.S. Constitution. It is to be hoped, by all those who value the right to dissent, that his appeal against both sentence and conviction will be successful.

... it is somehow unfortunate that a small European country with a very bad record from the Nazi period should be jailing an eccentric Englishman at the precise moment when a small European country with a much better record is the object of an orchestrated campaign of lies, blackmail and violence. Those who jump for joy when the embassies of European democracies are immolated in the capital cities of squalid dictatorships have decided to announce their own game of moral equivalence. What of your precious free speech, they say, when the Holocaust is immune from criticism on your own soil? Austrian bureaucracy ... could almost have set out to try and prove the Islamist demagogues' "point." (link)
Disgraceful. The entire western world should be ashamed.

Why Do We Need Republicans?

How embarrassing. We here in Virginia knew that we had a huge problem with the state Republican Party having gone to the dark side; that it had become far too liberal. Especially when it came to the our elected representatives occupying space in the state senate.

Now the world knows it as well. From The Wall Street Journal:
How to Turn a Red State Blue

If you think Republicans on Capitol Hill have troubles, take a look at Virginia, where GOP lawmakers are busy writing an instruction manual on how to become a minority party.

Republicans in that ostensibly "red" Southern state got their clocks cleaned in November's elections after they refused to take a coherent stand on taxes, and Democrat Tim Kaine squeezed to their right on pocketbook issues. As GOP state senator Ken Cuccinelli explained, "We ran on a message of almost being for tax cuts, almost for smaller government, almost for protecting Second Amendment rights, and almost being pro-life. As a result, the voters almost came out and voted for us."

And they apparently have learned nothing from that rout. When the legislature reconvened last month, the first proposal from the majority Republicans in the state senate was to endorse a $1 billion tax hike for roads and transit projects -- the second huge tax increase in two years. The GOP plan would increase auto fees, the gas and diesel tax, and even taxes on batteries and tires. This is the same party that last won the governorship under Jim Gilmore in 1997 promising to abolish the very car taxes they now want to increase.

Last week the senators floated another tax plan that is so bizarre and complicated it has made them a laughing stock. This scheme would raise the gas tax by 5%, but the sponsors insist that "no one would have to pay the tax if they didn't want to," because motorists could get a rebate at the end of the year if they keep shoeboxes full of tiny scraps of service station receipts. This would add immeasurably to the joys of April 15. (link)
And then there is the shame with which we have to live:
These tax-hike proposals keep coming despite a state revenue office report that Virginia now has a $2 billion biennial budget surplus. As a high-tech state, Virginia has been a huge beneficiary of the expansion spurred by the Bush investment tax cuts. But the entrenched senate Republicans -- many of whom have been fixtures in the capital of Richmond for decades -- want to spend the tax windfall and then some.

Only 18 months ago this same senate gang rammed through a $1.5 billion sales tax increase, even after 55% of the voters had defeated the same tax scheme when it was a ballot initiative a year before. The original senate Republican tax plan was so supersized that even then-Democratic Governor Mark Warner, who openly promoted higher taxes only after he'd won election in 2001, denounced the GOP plan as too heavy a burden. In short, this is a state GOP suffering from a severe identity crisis.
This wantonness will continue and our taxes will continue to skyrocket if we don't call a halt to the profligacy now. Turn the bums out now. Here and now.

The People Will Not Be Denied

Whether you're pro-abortion or pro-life, one fundamental aspect of this our democratic republic is that we decide under what laws we will live. Not seven old men on the Supreme Court.

I think it has been understood by most everyone that in 1973 the court made a grievous error in mandating that we allow the slaughter of little children in abortion clinics (use your own euphemism, if it makes you feel better); that somehow the abortionists were protected by the Constitution. The slaughter, they said, was a matter of privacy. They didn't say where the children fit into that concept.

I think it has been understood by most everyone too that Roe v. Wade as the law of the land cannot stand. At some point, five principled members of that same Supreme Court are going to turn to the American people and say, "We stepped in and did your work for you. That was not our place. We are turning the policy-making back over to you."

Until the day comes that the Supreme Court removes itself from the democratic process, it will continue to be bombarded by citizens - through their legislatures - with demands that they be allowed to govern themselves. Another example:
S.D. Abortion Bill Takes Aim at 'Roe'
Senate Ban Does Not Except Rape, Incest
By
Evelyn Nieves, Washington Post Staff Writer

South Dakota lawmakers yesterday approved the nation's most far-reaching ban on abortion, setting the stage for new legal challenges that its supporters say they hope lead to an overturning of Roe v. Wade .


The measure, which passed the state Senate 23 to 12, makes it a felony for doctors to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman. The proposal still must be signed by Gov. Mike Rounds (R), who opposes abortion.

The bill was designed to challenge the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe , which in 1973 recognized a right of women to terminate pregnancies. Its sponsors want to force a reexamination of the ruling by the court, which now includes two justices appointed by President Bush.(link)
The people of South Dakota are banging on the door once again, demanding that the Supreme Court listen to them. They will continue to do so until the court recognizes the fact that it has usurped the law-making role of our duly elected state and federal legislatures.

You don't like it? Vote. You have as much say in this as anyone else. That is the magic of our system.

Lesser Courts Are Coming Around

Here's an example of that which can be accomplished if the people push the judiciary hard enough. From The Wall Street Journal:
The Anti-Kelo Case

On a list of states with the worst property-rights protections, Oregon has long held a top position. So hearty congratulations to that state's landowners, who this week won a long struggle for more control over their acreage, and in the process may become a model for land-use reform across the country.

Their victory came in a unanimous Oregon Supreme Court decision upholding a 2004 ballot measure designed to curb "regulatory takings." Oregon lawmakers have spent 30 years perfecting the art of imposing their environmental agenda by restricting how landowners can use or develop their own property, whether it be building a new house or cutting down trees.

Oregon's ballot measure, which passed with a mere 61% of the vote, required authorities to either compensate landowners for any reduction in the value of their property, or exempt them from the regulations. This was the second time voters had passed the measure, the first version having been tossed out on a technicality by the state's notoriously liberal Supreme Court. (link)

The court blocked the will of the people once. The people came back and pounded on the door again, saying "We make the law, not you!" The court relented.

It shouldn't be necessary for the people to have to go through this. But too many judges have decided that they are legislators too. So the people respond.

More power to them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Glimmer of Hope

Steve over at SW Virginia Law Blog brings attention to an article in the Christian Science Monitor that highlights the growth of tech jobs in Lebanon, Virginia (here). Even though a few small businesses relocating to Russell County cannot be considered unparalleled prosperity, this still must be viewed as a positive development. I've been watching this news for some time to see if we should expect more opportunities arising out of this. Let's hope.

On The Hardship That Is Dickenson County

Kilo and I have been sifting through census and demographic data lately trying to determine just how bad economic conditions are in Dickenson County, Virginia. Bad is a fair description. Very bad is even closer.

Someone who can give us a first-hand account - because he lives there - is Brian Patton. He has joined in and is of the opinion that it is high time for a change in local leadership:
Kilo and Jerry are both right about one thing, though, we have to start doing more in Dickenson County or face the inevitable consequences facing the county.

The good news is that I think folks here in the county are starting to realize something has to change and I would bet they will effect that change by electing a new
Board of Supervisors the first chance they get. (link)
What caught my attention, when reading his reaction to our exchange, was a response from a contributor to the comments section of Brian's weblog (apologies to Brian for brazenly lifting this from his wonderfully entertaining weblog and to "Southwest Virginia" for my requoting him or her here):
I (and my entire family since the Revolution) live in Dickenson County. Now I technically reside in Richmond, but I still “go home” when I travel to Southwest VA. I and a lot of people from the area don’t count in the college graduate and income stats for the county because we have left the area in search of jobs that pay more than minimum wage. If I could send my taxes to there instead of Richmond I would. I know that isn’t something easily measured but I want to point out that the so called “brain drain” contributes to the low depressing stats for our county.
That's really what all the statistical analysis of employment data and unemployment figures comes down to. The answer is not in the percentage of people who are working in the county but in the number of people who haven't packed their bags yet and moved out (more on that here). Dickenson County - and much of Southwest Virginia - are rapidly being abandoned by our best and brightest because they cannot find a future here. Of all the counties that make up the region, the exodus may be most prevalent in Dickenson, where there are lamentably few career opportunities.

Brian's right. It is past time for a change. He wants to start at the county level. I can't argue with that. But I see a more sweeping need for change. All the bums that have been on our payroll and who have done nothing to stem the tide of economic collapse in Southwest Virginia need to resign in disgrace. All of them.

Which Is Worse?

Remember how much trouble we were in for (not) flushing a Koran down the toilet at Gitmo? I wonder if there will be as much outrage over this:
Blast Destroys Dome of Sacred Shiite Shrine in Iraq
By
EDWARD WONG, The New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 22 - Insurgents dressed as police commandos detonated powerful explosives on Wednesday morning inside one of Shiite Islam’s most sacred shrines, destroying most of the building, located in the volatile town of Samarra, and prompting thousands of Shiites to flood into streets across the country in protest.

The golden-domed shrine housed the tombs of two revered leaders of Shiite Islam and symbolized the place where the Imam Mahdi, a mythical, messianic figure, disappeared from this earth. Believers in the imam say he will return when the apocalypse is near, to cleanse the world of its evils. (link)
My guess is the Muslim world will be just fine with this. No toilet. No USA to put in it.

That's All You Have To Say?

I've ridiculed the author(s) of the "Briefly put..." editorial segment of the Roanoke Times so often, I'm tiring of it. But when I read the first three sentences in today's paper, I thought the piece would be worthwhile - if only because I had touched on the same subject yesterday. Stupid me. Here is how it starts:

Briefly put...
The Roanoke Times


On vacation in western Kansas in late December, Chesterfield County Administrator Lane B. Ramsey received word that Board of Supervisors Chairman Edwin B. Barber had been arrested and charged with two sex crimes against a minor.

Hundreds of miles from the nearest airport, Ramsey dispatched a charter jet from Chesterfield County Airport to pick him up the morning of Dec. 30 in Scott City, Kan., and return to deal with the crisis. The ticket: more than $18,000 for the 6½-hour round trip. (link)
What words come to mind when you read that? Shocking? Arrogance? Indifference? Profligacy? Extravagance? Thievery? Termination?

Here's the punchline:

And people wonder why budget projections are so unreliable.
Budget projections.

What words come to mind now?

Termination? Termination? Termination? Termination? Termination?

My God, I Agree With The Times!

I must have gone to sleep last night and slipped into a parallel universe. I agree with an editorial in today's Roanoke Times. Somebody wake me from this nightmare:
House leadership throws a tantrum

Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates need some straight talk about their unconscionable threat to reject Gov. Tim Kaine's nominee for secretary of the commonwealth.

Republicans don't like Daniel LeBlanc, former president of the Virginia AFL-CIO, because he's too liberal and pro-union for their taste.

... here's the unvarnished message that the House leadership needs to hear: Kaine won the election, and with it the right to appoint competent people to advise him. LeBlanc is competent and widely respected. The only reasons for Republicans to oppose him are ideological and partisan.

That's a dangerous and irresponsible path for so-called leaders of the General Assembly to head down -- especially as they consider the potential for future, self-defeating mischief arising from such a misguided precedent. (link)
I agree fully. The Republicans in the state legislature don't want to start doing what the Democrats in Congress (and the Roanoke Times for that matter) have elevated to an artform - opposing (Republican Presidential) nominees. The people of Virginia have spoken. If we must have a Secretary of the Commonwealth (could we talk about that?), Kaine should have his man. No matter how poor a choice that man is.

On Football And Its Fans

Don't blame me. I'm just the conduit:.

1) What does the average Alabama player get on his SATs?
... Drool.
(2) What do you get when you put 32 Arkansas cheerleaders in one room?
... A full set of teeth.
(3) How do you get a South Carolina cheerleader into your dorm room?
... Grease her hips and push.
(4) How do you get a Georgia graduate off your porch?
... Pay him for the pizza.
(5) How do you know if a Mississippi State football player has a girlfriend?
... There is tobacco spit on both sides of his pickup
(6) How is the Kentucky football team like a possum?
... They both play dead at home and get killed on the road.
(7) What are the longest three years of an Auburn football player's life?
... His freshman year.
(8) How many Florida freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?
... Trick question! That's actually a sophomore course.
(9) Where was O. J. headed in that white Bronco?
... Baton Rouge. He knew that the cops would never look for a Heisman Trophy winner at LSU.
And finally:

(10) Why did Tennessee choose orange as their team color?
...You can wear it to the game on Saturday, hunting on Sunday, and picking up trash along Interstate 40 the rest of the week!
Go Hokies.

Wolf Blitzer Should Be Next

Why can't we get this kind of excitement out of our local television stations?

City police escort news anchor McGee from TV studio
TV newsman expects to be on air tonight
By Dave Gustafson, Charleston (WV) Gazette staff writer and by Jennifer Ginsberg, staff writer


WB television news anchor Tom McGee was escorted from the WHCP-TV studio in Charleston on Tuesday afternoon by police, but he said he expects to be back on the air tonight.

Station manager Chuck Jones called Metro 911 at 4:05 p.m. and asked for help escorting McGee from the building, according to a 911 recording released late Tuesday.

Jones told a dispatcher that an employee “got up in my face earlier” and “asked me to step outside with him.” He later identified the employee as McGee. (link)
McGee probably decided that he wasn't going to do the "Dick Cheney is destroying America hunting story" for the 71st time. But I'm only guessing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'm In Big Trouble

When I wrote the following yesterday, I was trying to be funny:
"For the record, I do not endorse the slaughter and consumption of dogs. Cats, on the other hand ..."
I received an email this morning from Paula. She seems to be put out with me for suggesting that I might ever kill her cats and eat them. She advised that she will be doing a daily headcount (a two hour process - don't ask) and if any turn up missing, I'm in big trouble.

Note to Paula: I love you. You know that. And I would never eat your cats. As for laboratory experiments, on the other hand ...

Just kidding. Just kidding.

That Was Close

Southwest Virginia has arguably only one identifiable tourist attraction. No, our rocks and bushes don't count. It's the Barter Theater in Abingdon. For a moment, when I read the following, I thought we had lost it as well:
Barter officials forced to make scenery change after fire damages storage building
Samantha Seiber, Bristol Herald Courier

Paint cans and work tables were among the few things recognizable Monday after a weekend fire gutted the Barter Theatre’s scene shop.

While no one was hurt, the State Theatre of Virginia lost a lot of hard work. The 11,500-square-foot steel and cinderblock scene shop has a staff of about eight people who build sets for the theater’s productions.

A rag used for cleaning equipment, still hot from use, apparently sparked the fire, authorities said. (link)
This could have been very bad. Will you all be more careful down there?!

Tax Dollars At Work

There is no connection between the state of Virginia - through its duly elected governor - whining about the world coming to an end if taxes aren't raised again and this story about a county administrator not giving a second thought to blowing $18,000 of taxpayer money to fly from Kansas back to his hometown:
Local official paid $18,000 for flight
He chartered a jet to rush back to the county after supervisor arrested
By Julian Walker, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer


Chesterfield County Administrator Lane B. Ramsey last night acknowledged spending about $18,000 in county funds to charter a jet to fetch him from the Midwest and fly back to the county upon learning of the arrest of a county supervisor.

Ramsey said he was on vacation on Dec. 29, driving through Scott City in western Kansas, when around 11 p.m. he learned from Chesterfield police that Midlothian Supervisor Edward B. Barber had been arrested and charged with two sex crimes against a minor.

After speaking with county officials, including Supervisors Renny B. Humphrey and R.M. "Dickie" King Jr., Ramsey said he determined that he needed to return to the county without delay because of the nature of the crisis. (link)

Ramsey needed to blow $18,000 in taxpayer money to do what when he got back? Hold a press conference? Pick up on the gossip? This couldn't wait four hours as he drove to Denver and caught a commercial flight?

There is, in fact, a connection between this glaring example of wanton disregard for the people who pay the paycheck and the transportation "crisis" that consumes our state legislators. In both cases, the government officials making the decisions have no understanding where the money they spend comes from. Personal savings. College education funds. Retirement funds. Food allowances. Money set aside for clothing. Businesses trying to keep their workers employed.

They just see the need and write a check. The taxpayer is nothing more than an afterthought.

The Thought Police

Can a person be imprisoned for holding forth with unpopular ideas - outside the looney Middle East?

It appears so:

Austria Imposes 3-Year Sentence on Notorious Holocaust Denier
By The Associated Press

VIENNA, Feb. 20 (AP) — The British historian David Irving on Monday pleaded guilty to denying the Holocaust and was sentenced to three years in prison. He conceded that he was wrong when he said there were no Nazi gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp.

Mr. Irving, 67, has been in custody since Nov. 11, when he was arrested in the southern province of Styria on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis' annihilation of six million Jews. He has contended that most of those who died at camps like Auschwitz were not executed, but instead succumbed to diseases like typhus.

He was denied bail by a Vienna court, which said there was a risk he would flee the country. He was convicted under a 1992 law, which applies to "whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media."

Mr. Irving's trial came during a period of intense debate in Europe over freedom of expression, after European newspapers printed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that set off deadly protests worldwide. [my emphasis] (link)

Irving's opinion that the Holocaust never happened was preposterous on its face and was met with (near) worldwide derision and condemnation. That sufficed. And it was proper. However, imprisoning him for his thoughts puts the Austrians in the same league with the Taliban.

Let's now see if all those pundits who condemn the Muslim rioters for their zealotry will also denounce the Austrian court for having imprisoned a man for expressing his beliefs.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Can This Be True?

Kilo provides a link to a letter to the editor of the Bristol Herald Courier regarding Dickenson County employment statistics. If they're anywhere close to accurate, they are shocking. I'll be looking into them when I get the chance.

Update 02/20/06, 8:16pm: It appears the numbers referenced above are not close to reality, at least at first glance. Here's the latest employment data for Dickenson as of December, 2005:

Monthly (December) Not Seasonally Adjusted Labor Force, Employment and Unemployment data in Dickenson County for 2005

Civilian Labor Force - 5599
Employment - 5325
Unemployment - 274
Unemployment Rate (%) - 4.9

Source: LAUS Unit and Bureau of Labor Statistics (
link)
And then there are the census numbers:
Decennial Census Annual Population Data in Dickenson County for 2000

Population - 16395
Source: US Census Bureau (link)
The census bureau is projecting a sharp decline in population by 2010:
State Demographer Projections Population Data in Dickenson County for 2010

Population - 15,500
Source: State Data Center (link)
Though these numbers are not as bad as those cited in the letter to the Bristol paper, they are still depressing and indicate that Dickenson County is on a glidepath to being Virginia's first ghost county.