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

Friday, March 31, 2006

An American Hero ... and Her Fallen Hero Son

I may just post an American Hero story every day. There are so many of them and yet so few - for some reason - make the nightly news.

Here's a wonderful story about a devoted mother whose son was killed in action in Iraq. She honors his memory in a special way, and asks that the USA honor him and his fallen comrades as well:
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (March 2, 2006) -- Karla Comfort received a lot of looks and even some salutes from people when she drove from Benton, Ark., to Camp Pendleton, Calif., in her newly-painted, custom Hummer H3 March 2. The vehicle is adorned with the likeness of her son, 20-year-old Lance Cpl. John M. Holmason, and nine other Marines with F Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division who where all killed by the same improvised explosive device blast in Fallujah, Iraq, in December.

For Comfort, having the vehicle air brushed with the image of the 10 Marines was a way to pay homage to her hero and his fellow comrades who fell on Iraq’s urban battlefield.

“I wanted to let people know (Marines) are doing their jobs honorably, and some of them die,” said the 39-year-old from Portland, Ore. “I don’t want people to forget the sacrifices that my son and the other Marines made.” (
link)
Read the whole story. And check out the beautiful tribute.


The More Things Change, The More ...

Kilo brings us a funny story about the AFL-CIO crossing a picket line. (here)

As a former probationary pipefitters apprentice and faux member of Plumbers and Steamfitters local 157 (I got a 3-month job digging ditches one summer on an oil pipeline project in my undergraduate years through the local trade union but was never issued a union card ...somehow), I feel I have earned the right to comment:

The story is a reflection of the elitism that I remember existed long ago. Some things never change.

I'm Getting Really Confused

A handful of tottering old people on the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided that, after the state constitution meant one thing for over 200 years, it really meant something else - all along. Homosexuals suddenly had a right to marry each other. The intent of the esteemed jurists was to make the citizenry "inclusive" - whether the citizenry wanted to be or not.

Well, not all that inclusive as it so happens. The state constitution's meaning has changed again.

It now turns out that the commonwealth of Massachusetts will only be inclusive if the gay people who seek protection under this new reading of the constitution are citizens of the state. Visitors, foreigners, and passers-through are still considered degenerates apparently.

At least for today.

The latest from la la land:

Non-state gays cannot 'marry'
By Cheryl Wetzstein, The Washington Times

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court yesterday upheld a 1913 state law that blocks out-of-state homosexual couples from legally "marrying" there.

"[T]he laws of this Commonwealth have not endowed nonresidents with an unfettered right to marry," Justice Francis X. Spina wrote for the 6-1 majority. (
link)
Only resident homosexuals are protected by the constitution.

Only in Massachusetts...

Oh What a Feeling ...

All you folks out there who travel a lot and spend your lives in hotels can relate to this. The rest of you will have to use your imagination.

You know how, when you check into a room, the hotel often provides you with all those little one ounce bottles of shampoo and conditioner and mouthwash and lotion and the like? (I'll not get into the ones that give you ear plugs, body spray, and a blindfold; what goes on in those rooms? I'm expecting handcuffs to be included soon).

Anyway, do you have as much trouble as I do reading the labeling on those little tiny bottles? In Microsoft Word terms, the font size is less than 1. It's about 0.3.

So I'm in the shower yesterday morning trying to squeeze the shampoo out of the tiny bottle - not having much luck - but, after a herculean effort, finally succeeding. I then proceeded to smear the goo in my hair and realized this glob of stuff was not shampoo.

After trying to wash the hand lotion from my eyes, I squinted at the bottle and, after trying to focus for what seemed like forever, realized that I had mistaken a bottle of the aforementioned for shampoo - because no human being alive today could read the microscopic print on that tiny bottle without a magnifying glass - an item I don't routinely carry with me in my travels but may have to in the future if my favorite hotel doesn't stop shrinking the lettering on the shampoo bottle (and hand lotion bottle).

Is there such a thing as shower rage?

The worse part of this story is that I carry my own brand of shampoo with me. I just like the free stuff. Lesson learned.

To make a long story short, I went through the entire day feeling like Cameran Diaz' character in "There's Something About Mary." If you catch my drift.

What a day.

Downtime

Sorry I'm late getting here. Had to do a computer overhaul that's taken me hours.

Ugh.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

All Life On Earth Will End

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?

Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.

Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.

Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...

Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria. *

Why do I resurrect these memorable lines from a classic movie? Because they reflect the mass hysteria that I'm witnessing these days with regard to the House Republicans refusing to raise taxes again because the state of Virginia is currently awash in a cash surplus - of Biblical proportions.

Check out this Roanoke Times editorial if you think I'm exaggerating:

Games of chicken rarely end well
House Republican leaders race toward a transportation catastrophe to prove their ideological rigor.


Like characters in a '50s bad-teen movie, Virginia lawmakers this week hopped in their cars, hit the gas and started racing toward the cliff's edge. Their budget impasse has become a game of chicken with a July 1 deadline.

Sen. John Warner and U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, both Republicans, warned that Virginia would lose millions of dollars in federal transportation assistance if state lawmakers did not put up matching funds.

Business leaders warned that companies would not choose the Old Dominion if transportation remains a chronic problem.

Only legislators with political courage and a spirit of compromise can prevent Virginia from splattering on the rocks. (link)
The ship of state is splattering on the rocks.

For the love of God.

So what prompts this dire warning of impending doom?
House Republicans want to pay for transportation using one-time revenue and dollars raided from education and other programs.
The heartless bastards. Don't they understand that their idea of using the exploding budget surplus to pay for extending those HOV lanes up in the DC suburbs will destroy every living organism on this planet? Don't they understand what unspeakable evil they have brought upon us?

Ahem.

Let's get real for just a moment. Is there a soul alive (who isn't confined to a cubicle in the bowels of the Roanoke Times) who believes that we'll not be spending gobs of money on our roads in the future? And that the burgeoning state treasury can't accommodate any and all transportation needs - if our legislators will quit spending money like drunken sailors on leave in Manila?

Does anyone buy this silliness?

What has gotten into these people? Have they been drinking the water out of Callahan Creek?

My guess is no. There is only one possible explanation for their irrational behavior:

Dr. Peter Venkman: Ray has gone bye-bye, Egon... what've you got left?

Dr. Egon Spengler: Sorry, Venkman, I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

* From the movie, "Ghost Busters"

Paula, Now You Understand

I'm occasionally accused of not listening when ... someone ... gives me my daily instructions. And it frustrates the beejeebers out of her ... er them.

Well, there's an explanation:

When men and women speak, the human brain processes the sounds of those voices differently, Britain's Mirror and Agence France Presse report of a new study from the U.K.'s University of Sheffield. While most of us actually hear female voices more clearly, men's brains hear women's voices first as music. But it's not music. It's someone giving them a honey-do list. So the brain goes into overdrive trying to analyze what is being said.

Bottom line: Men have to work harder deciphering what women are saying because they use the auditory part of the brain that processes music, not human voices. Men's brains are not designed to listen to women's voices. (link)

See, honey? I'm working harder to grasp your every command. A professor says so.

Truly Miraculous

The latest news on Randal McCloy can only be described as astounding:

Sago survivor recalls 'fragments' from ordeal
By The Associated Press


MORGANTOWN — Randal McCloy Jr.’s memories of the 41 hours he lay trapped inside the Sago Mine are “not really much,” just fragmented images he’d mainly rather forget.

And when he thinks of the 12 friends and co-workers who slowly succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning after the Jan. 2 explosion, he pictures them elsewhere.

“I try to leave out all the gory details and stuff like that because I don’t like to look at them in that light and that way,” he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I just like to picture them saved and in heaven, stuff like that."

Doctors say McCloy, 26, of Simpson, was perhaps minutes from death when he was pulled from the coal mine Jan. 4 with kidney, lung, liver and heart damage. He was in a coma for weeks, suffering from severe brain injuries.

But today, after just three months of intensive rehabilitation and medical care, he is expected to return home. (link)

Read the whole thing. A full recovery may very well be in store. By the grace of God.

On The Road

I come to you from College Park, Maryland this morning. I'm on the University of Maryland campus. A more beautiful conglomeration of buildings you'll never see - except perhaps at UVA - or Washington & Lee - or Emory & Henry. But with those possible exceptions, UM is a fine looking facility - in a lousy urban setting.

Another Story You Won't See On NBC News.

If you enjoyed yesterday's story in the Wall Street Journal about American heroism in Iraq, you'll like this one as well.

Americans warriors answering the call.

You can check out the story's authenticity here.

The U.N. Demands ...

The United Nations issued a demand that Iran desist in its efforts to destroy the planet. Again.

Security Council Pressures Tehran
Iran Is Urged to Halt Uranium Enrichment
By Colum Lynch, Washington Post Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- The Security Council called on Iran Wednesday to suspend its uranium enrichment program within 30 days ...

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a nonbinding statement ... (
link)
A nonbinding statement. That'll scare 'em.

The world is doomed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ever Get This Feeling?

Whenever I read crap like the following, I feel like I'm sitting in the "Voters" section of the political outhouse:
Boucher: Selling national forest land would damage local economy
By Charles Owens, Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLAND, Va. — A proposal by the Bush administration to sell about 5,700 acres of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Southwest Virginia would hurt local tourism and economic development efforts, U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., warned Monday.

“At a time when tourism is so important to us, the last thing we should be doing is selling national forest land,” Boucher said.

Boucher said many residents in Bland and Wythe counties are beginning to speak out in opposition to the president’s plan.

“I have recently held town meetings in both Bland and Wythe where people have attended and expressed strong opposition to selling national forest land,” Boucher said. “ The residents are aware and very much opposed.” (link)
I feel soiled.

First, to my knowledge nobody here in Bland County is disturbed by the sale of a few acres of the government's (our) forest land, regardless what Boucher says he's hearing. After all, 70% of Bland County is national forest. We'll survive. And much of what isn't national forest is abandoned business property that we all wish someone would buy. And develop.

Secondly, he hasn't been talking to Bland County Administrator Jonathan Sweet, who said when he learned of the sale:
"It's not necessarily a negative thing," he stated Tuesday morning. "It could add more land to our tax base. The more it adds the better." (link)
So. Who do you believe? A foreigner who (semiannually) visits the area and expects his favorite rocks and bushes to remain undisturbed - in perpetuity - and who is beholden to powerful environmental lobbying groups up in DC, and is oblivious to the economic crisis in his district, or a local man who has the best interests of his constituents at heart?

Having been dumped on too many times by Rick Boucher, I'll choose the latter.

Somebody bring me a shovel.

A Hero's Story

A story - one of many - of heroism in the Iraq War:

Common Name, Uncommon Valor The story of Paul Smith, the Iraq War's only Medal of Honor recipient so far.
By Ralph Kinney Bennett, The Wall Street Journal

Since his days growing up in Tampa, Fla., the lanky kid with the slightly mischievous smile had wanted to be a soldier. By this bright morning, April 4, 2003, Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith had more than fulfilled his dream. He had served 15 of his 33 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours of duty in harm's way--in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia
and Kosovo.


Now all his training, all his experience, all the instincts that had made him a model soldier, were about to be put to the test. With 16 men from his First Platoon, B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, Sgt. Smith was under attack by about 100 troops of the Iraqi Republican Guard. "We're in a world of hurt," he muttered.

That "world" was a dusty, triangular walled compound about half the size of a football field, near the Saddam Hussein International Airport, 11 miles from Baghdad. Sgt. Smith's engineers, or "sappers," had broken through the 10-foot-high concrete-block southern wall with a military bulldozer and begun turning the compound into a temporary "pen" for Iraqi prisoners as U.S. forces pressed their attack on the airport.

While they were working, guards posted at a small aluminum gate in the north corner of the triangle had spotted the large Iraqi force approaching the compound from the north and west. Sgt. Smith had just run up to join the guards when all hell broke loose. They came under furious fire from machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. (link requires subscription)
I'm not allowed to reproduce the article in its entirety so you need to key up wsj.com and get a 6-month subscription and read it.

Your heart will swell with pride and your eyes will well up with tears when you read about how Sgt. Paul Ray Smith's last moments on this earth were devoted to protecting the men in his charge, completing his mission, and - in the process - making a grateful America proud.

Update 8:15am - It has been brought to my attention that you can link to the story - for free - here.
Thanks, D.

There's Democracy and Then There's The Mob

I'm not all that sure what category this goes in, but it sure isn't democracy in action:

FRENCH CUFFED
By John Leicester, AP


March 29, 2006 -- PARIS - More than 1 million people poured into the streets across France and strikers disrupted air, rail and bus travel yesterday - even shutting down the Eiffel Tower - in the largest nationwide protest over a youth labor law.

Scattered violence erupted in Paris, and riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse several thousand youths who pelted them with stones and bottles after an otherwise peaceful march. More than 240 people were arrested.

Unions and the leftist opposition joined the students for the one-day strike, increasing the pressure on Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to withdraw the measure, which makes it easier to fire young workers.

Although Villepin held firm, cracks opened in his conservative government. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, in a clear break with Villepin, suggested suspending the law to allow for negotiations. [my emphasis] (link)

Negotiating with the mob. The political system in France hasn't changed in 200 years.

Next!

White House spokesman Scott McClellan should take the hint:
Top Aide Leaves White House Job; Budget Chief In
By David E. Sanger, The New York Times


WASHINGTON, March 28 — President Bush replaced his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., with another longtime loyalist on Tuesday, a step unlikely to satisfy calls within his own party for fresh thinking to address the administration's troubles. (link)
Leaving aside the reporter's wish that the administration has "troubles," and not having any understanding of the behind-the-scenes contribution that Card brought to the White House, President Bush's press spokesman, who has always been a close confidant of Andy Card, and who has always come across as a poor communicator, will be next to go.

And life goes on.

I Hope You Switched To Short-term CD's

Paula and I moved into short-term CD's a long while ago as we anticipated this being a trend:
Fed Panel Raises Rate to 4.75%
By Eduardo Porter, The New York Times


WASHINGTON, March 28 — At Ben S. Bernanke's first meeting as head of the Federal Reserve's policy-making committee, the watchword was no surprises.

As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee raised the benchmark federal funds rate on Tuesday by a quarter of a percentage point, to 4.75 percent, and suggested that at least one more increase was in the cards. It was the 15th such increase in consecutive meetings of the committee. (link)
I expect this isn't the last upward bump we'll see in the funds rate. I'll get back with you in the Fall.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

If The Irish Can Do It ...

Our elected leaders here in Southwest Virginia could take a lesson from the Irish when it comes to the creation of economic prosperity. Ralph R. Reiland, in Rioting for Ineptitude for The American Spectator, actually directs his remarks to similarly over-taxed and over-regulated France, but the analogy holds for this forlorn region as well:
Pursuing an Irish form of Reaganomics, Ireland deregulated the economy, flashed a green light to entrepreneurship, and cut the corporate tax rate from 16 percent to 12.5 percent, well under the European Union's average of 30 percent. The result was a markedly pro-business environment that generated a flood of investment, a jump in job creation, an expansion of incomes, and, overall, an economy that nearly doubled its size in the past decade.

"Ireland's success should be attributed to an increasing reliance on free markets," explains Benjamin Powell, a social policy analyst at the Mercatus Center in Arlington, Virginia. "Over the past 10 years, Ireland has catapulted from Europe's economic backwater to the forefront of European economies."
I think I see the makings for a Southwest Virginia Free Enterprise Zone. Slash corporate and personal income tax rates. Reduce the bureaucratic red tape. Ease up on the myriad environmental restrictions that stifle growth. And watch the area prosper like it never has before.

Or follow Tim Kaine (and the French) and continually raise taxes - and see the area slide further into economic ruin.
In a milieu that's doing its best to strangle the private sector with red tape, confiscatory taxation, and litigation, it's not surprising that the French economy operates with 23 percent of its labor force working for the government ...

What appears to be insufficiently taught in French universities is the historical fact that no nation has ever regulated, litigated, or taxed itself into prosperity. [my emphasis]
That having been said, the Democratic governor of the commonwealth of Virginia is about to raise our taxes again.

Guys like him will never learn.

Unfortunately, we here in Southwest Virginia are learning the lesson the hard way.

The French Would Be Proud

Montgomery County, taking its cue from the French (see above), is raising its already exorbitant property tax rate:

Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Announce [sic] Tax Hike
By David Grimes, NRV Today


In a marathon session, which didn't end until midnight last night (Monday), the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors voted to advertise the proposed real estate tax rate at 74 cents per $100, three cents higher than what was originally
proposed.


Facing a proposed operating budget of about $133.2 million, the BOS on a 4-3 vote, opted to set the rate seven cents higher than originally sought.

... each additional one cent on the tax rate will bring in about $479,000 of new revenue for the county. (link)
Couple the increased real estate tax rate with skyrocketing property value assessments and you have the makings of a monumental problem for those citizens - particularly the elderly who are "asset rich but cash poor" - who are unable to pay. The increased tax rate will also push those corporations that had been trying to decide between Blacksburg and Dublin, Ireland as to where they will relocate their facilities and invest their billions into an easy decision.

Oh well. This will at least allow for construction on all those hiking trails and bike paths up in Montgomery County to be completed.

Senator Warner Must Be French Too

John Warner proves again and again and again why he has outlived his usefulness. Our illustrious (former) Republican senator came out foursquare in favor of Governor Kaine's massive tax increase yesterday.

The not-at-all-unexpected news:
Virginia Could Lose Its Federal Road Funds
By Michael D. Shear and Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post Staff Writers


RICHMOND, March 27 -- Sen. John W. Warner warned Monday that Virginia will lose federal money if the state fails to reach a budget deal that increases funding for road and transit projects.


Warner, the state's senior Republican senator, praised Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for proposing a $1 billion tax increase and challenged members of his party in the legislature to reach a compromise that allows Virginia to receive the maximum amount in federal matching funds. (link)
In response to Warner's threat that Virginia will lose federal funds if the House Republicans don't cave in to his and the Democrats' demands for tax increases, I offer this: Horseshit.

As for his call for another Republican surrender to the threats and dire warnings from the Democrats - and Senator Chichester - when are we going to say to them enough is enough?

They pulled this stunt when Mark Warner declared an education emergency in 2004 and got the House Republicans to agree to a massive tax increase. Now we have a transportation emergency that requires another massive tax increase. When we elect our next (Democratic) governor, we'll be told there is a Medicaid emergency. Or an environmental emergency. Or another education emergency.

If our brave house Republicans don't put a stop to this madness, we'll soon have an emergency-of-the-month for God's sake.

Enough is enough.

A Sign of Our Times

From "Best of the Web Today":

A small Easter display was removed from the City Hall lobby on Wednesday out of concern that it would offend non-Christians," the Associated Press reports from St. Paul, Minn.:
The display--a cloth Easter bunny, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words "Happy Easter"--was put up by a City Council secretary. They were not purchased with city money.

Tyrone Terrill, the city's human rights director, asked that the decorations be removed.
Well, this certainly makes sense. After all, everyone knows the Easter Bunny is a Christian symbol, which has no place in the public square in St. Paul, a city named after--uh, we've forgotten. Does anyone know where St. Paul got its name?

Ah, the irony. These people deserve the scorn they ask to have heaped upon them.

On The Illegal Immigration Mess

I think today's Roanoke Times editorial entitled "Get past the politics of immigration reform" has it about right if we're ever going to straighten out the mess created by past and present political leaders in Washington not having secured our southern border with Mexico - over the last thirty years.

Except for a clumsy swipe at Senator Bill Frist and a puzzling charge that the North American Free Trade Agreement is in part to blame for illegal immigration ("... because it created an economic imbalance that encourages people to sneak north." Obviously the author is too young to have had the opportunity to visit Juarez and see a far-worse imbalance before NAFTA was enacted), the reasoning is sound:
Tighter border security should be part of comprehensive reform, but it is not the entire solution.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., crafted a bill worthy of bipartisan support. They would let current illegal immigrants earn citizenship through hard work and would ensure that construction, agriculture and other businesses have a pool of workers from which to draw. (link)
There will be a lot of political bluster coming from both sides as this legislation works its way through Congress. And my guess is the Roanoke Times will still take a few more political swipes at Republicans despite the lofty title of this editorial.

But the illegal immigration problem must be solved. Yesterday.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why Rick Boucher Should Be Very Afraid

Not Larry Sabato has some startling statistics (here) and (here) about the growth of the Republican Party in Southwest Virginia. Along with the stats comes this spot-on analysis:
The further out from Roanoke and Virginia Tech you get, the less competitive Democrats are looking in the future.
It has always struck me as out-of-place if not out-of-touch that, while the majority of citizens here in the area focus on declining job and career opportunities and widespread economic desolation, the editorialists at the Roanoke Times and the learned beings on the Virginia Tech campus seem more interested in protecting forests and growing the government and ... George Bush.

The Democratic Party has ruled Southwest Virginia since the beginning of time. And the results of the party's efforts are to be seen everywhere. The landscape is littered with abandoned factories, large swaths of the population subsist in substandard living conditions, and every economic indicator is pointing toward even harder times ahead. We have endured a plethora of broken promises and failed revitalization schemes from our politicians. The people of Southwest Virginia are looking at those leaders who brought us to this point and are saying to them, "Enough is enough."

We must look to a new set of leaders who have Southwest Virginia's interests at heart (hear those footsteps behind you, Senator Puckett?) and who come to the electorate with new ideas; workable plans that will make for a better future for our children and grandchildren.

This Seems So Obvious ...

Where in the Constitution can one find protections for foreign terrorists? I keep reading through it but I've not found the passage yet. And based on comments from Justice Antonin Scalia, I won't be finding one:

No Legal Rights for Enemy Combatants, Scalia Says
'War Is War,' Justice Tells Audience
Associated Press

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly told an overseas audience this month that the Constitution does not protect foreigners held at the U.S. military prison at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


"War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them [sic] a jury trial in your civil courts," Newsweek quoted Scalia as saying. "Give me a break."(link)

Give me a break indeed.

Funding = Education?

I've never understood how a group of students can sit in classes day after day for eight years and - in the end - not be able to read. Or do basic math. And yet it's happening. Worse yet, taxpayers are paying dearly for this non-education. Here's the latest discouraging news out of Washington DC:

D.C.'s Distinction: $16,344 Per Student, But Only 12% Read Proficiently
Human Events

The District of Columbia spends far more money per student in its public elementary and secondary schools each year than the tuition costs at many private elementary schools, or even college-preparatory secondary schools. Yet, District 8th-graders ranked dead last in 2005 in national reading and math tests.

D.C.'s public elementary and secondary schools spent a total of $16,334 per student in the 2002-2003 school year, according to a Department of Education study. That compares to the $10,520 tuition at St. John's College High School, a District Catholic school that sends almost all its graduates to four-year colleges.

Last year, however, only 12% of 8th-graders in the District's public schools scored at grade-level proficiency or better in reading in the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress tests that were administered in the District and all 50 states. Only 7% of the District's public-school 8th-graders scored grade-level proficiency or better in math. (link)

And the problem is not localized to DC:

Not one U.S. state can boast that a majority of the 8th-graders in its public schools last year had achieved grade-level proficiency or better in either reading or math.
Not one.

This is why I came to the conclusion a few years ago that all schools should be privately run. Close the public schools. They have failed us and our children utterly and disgracefully.

My Hair Hurts

The cover story in Time magazine this week:
Be worried, be very worried
The climate is crashing, and global warming is to blame


No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth.

Never mind what you've heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us. (link)
Then I read this headline in the Palm Beach Post:
Record low temperatures at PBIA
By Jennifer Sorentrue, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday morning's low of 47 degrees at Palm Beach International Airport, recorded at 6:36 a.m., was the coolest on record, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.


Sunday morning's temperature was about 16 degrees cooler than normal for this time of year, forecasters said. (link)
There will be global warming adherents out there who will say, "You can't take an isolated incident or two and draw any definitive conclusions from them." No? Read the hysteria-mongering in the Time article.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Modern-day Warrior


If I were to be asked why I never served in the military, I would have two legitimate answers. First, I received a college scholarship out of high school and never gave the military a second thought. Whether that was right or wrong is up to you.

Secondly, and honestly, I look at photos like this from the war front and realize that I would have - in all likelihood - lowered the fighting effectiveness of our modern-day army. These guys and gals are warriors in every sense of the word.

I couldn't be more proud of each and every one of them - if only because I know they are performing heroic deeds the likes of which no fighting force in the history of mankind has ever accomplished.

They are truly America's finest.

Where Are Kaine's Handlers?

If there is one city in the state of Virginia that has been more devastated by plant closings and layoffs than Danville, I don't know where it is. While the state basks in unprecedented economic prosperity and full employment, unemployment in Danville runs in the double-digits and the population count is plummeting, as more and more people pack their bags and head north looking for work.

And Governor Kaine is coming to Danville to talk about raising taxes:

Kaine to address transportation issues in Danville
By Mac Mclean, Register & Bee staff writer

DANVILLE, Va. - Gov. Timothy M. Kaine plans to bring his state transportation proposal directly to the residents of Danville and Pittsylvania County during a Monday-night meeting at the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research.


“This issue has been talked about, studied and debated from every direction with no serious action since 1987,” Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall said Friday.

“Virginians get it and they understand,” Hall said, adding that the governor, along with many others, feels transportation is the biggest issue still before the General Assembly this year. (link)
I wonder what planet Kevin Hall is from. While he is certainly right that the transportation issue is still the biggest (make that the only...) issue still before the General Assembly, it's hardly uppermost in the thoughts of the people of Danville. They want to talk about layoffs. And foreign competition. About where the next paycheck is going to be coming from. About the existing economic crisis. They want their political and business and civic leaders to get together and create conditions such that employers quit laying off workers. They want area businesses to thrive and to get back in hiring mode. They want Danville to prosper once again.

They want a future.

They sure as hell don't want to hear the governor talk about increasing the tax burden.

Even Democrats in Danville aren't talking about transportation issues.

So, if I may be so bold as to speak for a growing number of displaced Southside (and Southwest) residents: Take your roadshow back up north where it'll sell, Governor Kaine. HOV lanes on I-95 in Prince William County are an issue - up in fabulously prosperous Prince William County.

Down this way, where we have a completely different set of problems, where plant closings and layoffs are by far our number-one concern, where the opportunities for our children to succeed are bleak, we know that your transportation plan that includes an array of tax increases will result only in more plant closings. And more hardship.

So sell it somewhere else. We've got our own set of problems to deal with.

What? We're Not Good Enough For You?

I'm sure you remember Governor Kaine's visit last week to Galax to provide the citizenry there a "ray of hope," after it was announced that another round of layoffs are coming. I wrote at the time that Kaine's idea of hope - a few welfare checks - would mean a whole lot more if they accompanied a few job opportunities.

Well, it turns out the opportunities were indeed there - and Governor Kaine awarded them to folks in Illinois.

Illinois.

From PotomacNews.com:
Kaine's machine pressures McQuigg
By Kafia Hosh


The calls began flooding Del[egate] Michele B. McQuigg's office Wednesday morning, one by one clogging her voicemail system.

Sometimes her legislative aides answered and listened to the simple messages that stated, "I'm calling to urge you to support Gov. Kaine's transportation proposals," McQuigg said.

"It's different voices," said the Republican, who represents Lake Ridge, Occoquan and parts of Woodbridge. "It sounds like there's a group of people in the background. It's hard to understand sometimes."

The mysterious numbers popping up on the delegate's caller I.D. had an 815 area code from Illinois.

Kaine's political action committee, Moving Virginia Forward, is financing the media blitz to exert public pressure on members of the Republican-lead House in supporting his road program for the state.

The campaign involves phone calls to the general public with a recorded message from the governor.

Kaine's political action committee, Moving Virginia Forward, is financing the media blitz to exert public pressure on members of the Republican-lead House in supporting his road program for the state.

The PAC's call center is based in Illinois ... (link)

How disgraceful is this? If there is one "ray of hope" for the economy here in Southwest Virginia, it is in our burgeoning call center sector. We have more than our share of call centers and lots of trained callers.

And we have 841 workers in Galax who have lost or are about to lose their jobs.

Could the good governor at least advise these folks (who are soon going to be packing their bags and moving out) where his call center is located in Illinois so that they can apply?

Hattip to Riley, Not O'Reilly & to Tugboat Phil

This Will Be Kinda Hard To Fix

Leftists in this country have called for the complete destruction of our way of life because, in our efforts to make this world a better place, we are - at the same time - heating up the planet. Call it Global Warming.

Well, a professor postulates that the warming of the Earth is actually due to a more intense sun:
Warming To a Bright Idea
Reuters


March 26, 2006 -- The sun is getting brighter, increasing the pace of climate change and undermining claims that man alone is to blame, scientists have found.

"The enhanced warming we have seen since the 1990s . . . could well be due to this increased intensity of sunlight compounding the effect of greenhouse gases," said professor Martin Wild. (link)
I'm no expert but ... if it was going to be difficult to reverse the gains we've made here on planet Earth and to go back to living in the Stone Age, it is surely going to be tough to change the way the sun conducts itself.

But maybe those leftists can get a law passed ...

On That Global Warming Thing

Can someone get our global warming back?

It's 26° right now and we've gotten more snow here on Big Walker Mountain in March than we did in December or January.

I'm tired of it. I want Spring.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

'Ah, The World of illusion ...'

"No matter how many coats of lipstick you put on a pig, it's still a pig." *

The Roanoke Times this morning makes a feeble effort (in an editorial entitled, "Virginia Is Not Awash In Cash") to lather some more lipstick on that hog-of-a-budget-surplus and to explain away the fact that the state of Virginia is awash in cash:

Let's put to rest the most tired refrain in the Virginia budget impasse: "Legislators shouldn't even think about raising taxes when the commonwealth has a billion-dollar surplus."

Surplus or no, the commonwealth is not awash in cash.
Well. The numbers we're watching grow exponentially are all wrong. The learned economists at the Roanoke Times say so. That surplus - now up to $1.4 billion and growing - isn't really cash that the state has not been able to spend; it's ... well ... it just isn't. It's actually cash that is needed for expenditures ... someday.

Reminds me of Pharoah's oft-spoken incongruous decrees in the movie, "The Ten Commandments":

"So it shall be written, so it shall be done."

Or the frenetic commands of The Great and Powerful OZ in "The Wizard of Oz":

“Don't look behind the green curtain! Ignore the man behind the green curtain!”
Here's the irreality a la Roanoke Times:

Surplus or no, the commonwealth is not awash in cash. Needs continue to outstrip resources in many areas -- not just the transportation shortfall that gets the most ink.
"Needs continue to outstrip resources." Yeah. Right. For the folks at the Times, I offer up two definitions I learned in Econ 101":

Surplus: A sum of cash (resources) a state government has remaining after all obligations (needs) are met.

Awash: When that surplus exceeds $1.4 billion.

To the genius who thought he could make it seem to be something other than what it obviously is - nice try.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone," it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."**
* Author Unknown
** Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass."

It Must Be Race Season

So I'm driving north out of Knoxville on I-81 toward Bristol yesterday when I began noticing RV's and trucks pulling campers all having signs plastered on them and slogans painted on their windows. It took me a few minutes to understand what #4 Forever and #8 Rules! meant. Then it came to me: NASCAR season has begun and there must be a race scheduled this weekend in Bristol.

Tens of thousands of wild and crazy - did I mention drunken? - race fans are descending on tiny little Bristol to wreak their havoc, cheer on their favorite driver, stock up on pennants and beer mugs - and make the close-in property owners who turn their pastures and fields into parking lots and campsites rich.

Works for me.

I just have one question. I don't follow the sport much anymore. What does #24 Sucks! mean?

GOP Fights Back

While Governor Kaine drops by Southwest Virginia long enough to feel our pain - and then to call for massive tax increases to worsen it, and Senator Phil Puckett (D-Tazewell), a local politician who should decide who he's in Richmond to represent, tries to frighten his constituents with dire warnings about road projects in Southwest coming to a grinding halt (“I think the governor was pretty direct and forthright about road projects. He did talk about the Coalfields Expressway, and he certainly reiterated his support for it. Sadly, it’s hard to build any highways if you don’t have money.”), and with those mindless radio ads and annoying taped phone calls, the full-court press is underway. Governor Kaine intends to be on the cover of the New York Times magazine come hell or high water.

But the House Republicans are not cooperating this time 'round:
Kaine ads, 'robo calls' draw ire of GOP
By Seth McLaughlin, The Washington Times


RICHMOND -- House Speaker William J. Howell called yesterday for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, to stop radio ads and automated telephone calls that blame House Republicans for the state budget deadlock and fail to mention his plan for a "$1 billion tax increase."

"The governor of Virginia has a responsibility to the citizens of the Commonwealth to tell it straight," Mr. Howell said. (link)
I certainly wouldn't count on that ever happening (Kaine is the sleazy politician, after all, who - a few short months ago - said he would not raise taxes). But Speaker Howell is absolutely right.

The French Are Idiots

I think we should plow France under and grow another crop of inhabitants. Those there today have gone stark raving mad:
Chirac gives use of English tongue lashing
By Leigh Thomas, Agence France-Presse


BRUSSELS -- French President Jacques Chirac yesterday defended his eyebrow-raising exit from an EU summit session, accusing the French head of Europe's employer union of insulting French pride by daring to speak in English.

An ardent defender of the French tongue, Mr. Chirac said he was stunned to hear English on the lips of the Frenchman in a speech at the two-day European summit.

"I was deeply shocked that a Frenchman would speak at the council table in English," he told journalists, explaining for the first time his abrupt walkout when the summit opened on Thursday. (link)
Wait until this moron finds out the rest of the planet is starting to communicate in English as well. He'll really be upset.

Jeeesh.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Where Are Your Priorities?

Tazewell County, Virginia is depopulating. The people there are leaving by the thousands in a time when the state of Virginia is witnessing unparalleled growth and prosperity.

The commonwealth's data center estimates that Tazewell's depopulation trend, if all factors remain as they are today, will continue for at least the next twenty years.

The average weekly wage in Tazewell County in 2005 was $523. (link) That's 40% lower than the rest of Virginia.

The median household income there was $27,304 when the last census was taken. The state average was $46,677.

The median value of an owner-occupied housing unit in Tazewell was 50% lower than the state median. (link)

15.3% of the people live below the poverty line.

22% of the people are on Medicaid. (link)

Richlands, population 4200 (+ or -), is located in the heart of Tazewell County.

The median household income there ($23,712) is even lower than is that of the county.

So how does the local press react to this dismal set of circumstances?

The Richlands News-Press is concerned about the state maintaining its tax revenue surplus.

I could not believe my eyes when I read this:
EDITORIAL: Budget deadlock like baby-dangling
Richland [sic] News Press
Tuesday, March 21, 2006


A good number of Americans are familiar with Michael Jackson’s attempt at showing his love for his children by dangling his infant son over a balcony a year or two ago.

And with last week’s ending of the regular General Assembly session without a budget, it feels like Virginians are getting another good dangling themselves by a certain segment of the House of Delegates.

... it’s amazing and pretty galling that Speaker of the House William Howell and much of that chamber’s Republican wing are crowing about close combat with Senate Republicans and how they are showing fiscal discipline and responsiveness to the people by throwing away a $1.4 billion surplus into a one-time hole of transportation spending.

No real plan for sustaining those surpluses.

No admission that programmed spending increases from prior years still have to be funded out of that surplus.

No coherent plan for sustaining those surpluses or preparing for another fiscal ‘rainy day.’ (link)
How detached. How completely devoid of understanding. How arrogant.

Families that have called Tazewell home for generations have in recent years been forced to pack their worldly belongings on trucks, leaving loved ones behind, and have moved north looking for jobs to replace those lost when the mining industry in the area crumbled.

Experts predict that this exodus will continue for decades.

And the Richlands News-Press is fretting over the state government's ability to maintain a surplus. Over its plan to sequester piles of money for its rainy day fund.

Are you people nuts?

Do you have any understanding as to where that surplus - a horde of cash that our politicians have taken in but simply cannot spend fast enough - comes from?

It comes in part from the few remaining taxpayers in Tazewell County.

It comes in greater part from those employers in Richlands who are struggling mightily to not follow all the others in the area who have moved jobs overseas or who've shut down the line and simply closed their doors - forever.

Make an argument for the government to do more for the (rapidly aging) population of Raven and Bluefield and Pocahontas (!), but don't argue that the government needs to take more income from area residents so that it can sit on it.

Better yet - make an argument for full employment in the area. For growing the population. For expanding the number of employers. For economic prosperity.

Or else go back to doing what you do best. And let Tazewell County die in peace.

More Layoffs In Southside

The town of Brookneal got the unwelcome news that Dan River is laying off 110 employees:

More layoffs at Dan River
By Gerald Witt, Register & Bee staff writer

DANVILLE, Va. - More layoffs were announced Wednesday at Dan River Inc. as the textile manufacturer eliminated 110 jobs at its Brookneal, Va., sewing and finishing plant.

In the latest round of cutbacks, about 100 hourly and 12 salaried employees at the Brookneal [sic] were personally notified on Wednesday that their last working day would be Friday. Severance packages will be offered through the company based on pay scale and career length at Dan River. State and federal aid will be distributed through the Virginia Employment Commission ...(
link)

Every one of these 112 Virginians who now find themselves out of work and without paychecks had to withdraw money from their personal "rainy day funds" in order to pay into the government's ...

And the governor and newspaper editorialists around the state demand more.

For the love of God.

We Demand So Little From Our Politicians

Galax, Virginia is reeling from several massive layoffs this year. And there is no end in sight to the economic slide.

The governor motored into town - briefly - and set up the means by which area residents who now find themselves out of work, out of a paycheck, and in need of moving north to find employment could have a few dollars on hand to rent a U-Haul.

Wonderful.

So how does the local press respond? In the case of the Galax Gazette, with a juicy kiss on Governor Kaine's backside:

A ray of hope shines

It's hard to imagine this community in May, with 841 fewer jobs than on Jan. 1.


Unless we get some jobs, the city will shrink. People will move, and those that are left will need fewer services, costing even more jobs.Unless we want to become a bedroom and retirement community, we need to take action.

The state has come through for us, announcing last Thursday the creation of an Economic Crisis Strike Force. Gov. Tim Kaine will sign it into existence Tuesday in Galax.

The strike force will provide concentrated assistance to the community and laid-off workers, as it did in places like Martinsville and South Boston. Now it's up to us to take advantage of this opportunity and figure out how to get back to work. (link)

The editorialist is probably right that the people of Galax are on their own when it comes to solving their problems. The governor is preoccupied with transportation needs up in bustling Fairfax County and hasn't time for the 841 Southwest Virginians - and their children - who are about to make the migration.

Truth be told, those 841 voters will probably be registered in Pennsylvania by next election day. So what difference do they make - really?

As for the Gazette's "let's roll up our sleeves and git 'er done" editorial, I was touched. Actually, no, that's not true. I touched myself to see if I was dreaming. The economy in Galax is in free-fall, you meet with the governor who offers up a few welfare checks but no plan for fixing your problems, and you thank him for having brought to town "a ray of hope"?.

And that "The state has come through for us." Is that all you expect from your elected representatives? Welfare checks?

Any more of that kind of help from the state and you can turn Galax' lights off. And join the migration north.

I see no "ray of hope," lady. I see only smoke being blown where the sun never shines.

Area Blogger Makes The Bigtime

Brian Patton, he of the delightfully named weblog BRIANPATTON.ORG, has a fawning write-up and an attaboy in the latest Coalfield Progress:

Clintwood attorney breaks news of congressman's engagement
By TERESA MULLINS, Staff Writer


Though he doesn't have a background in journalism, Clintwood attorney Brian Patton was a news breaker last week.

And by getting the scoop, the vice-chairman of the Dickenson County Democratic Committee has also found himself making headlines.

The news is that Rep. Rick Boucher is getting married. And Patton was the first to break the story, posting on his blog the first photo of the ninth district congressman and his fiancee Amy Hauslohner. (link)

Read the whole thing. Brian is now a local celebrity. I want an autograph.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

NY Times Caught Again

This weblog, with an operating budget almost equalling the value of that cup of coffee you have in your hand, has not (yet) been caught even once this week in gross errors leading to the owner's unending embarrassment.

Which puts me two up on the lavishly funded - and arguably less prestigious - New York Times:
Another Bad Slip for 'NY Times': Katrina Victim Unmasked
By Editor & Publisher Staff

For the second time in less than a week, The New York Times today admitted to a serious error in a story. On Saturday it said it had misidentified a man featured in the iconic "hooded inmate" photograph from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Today it discloses that a woman it profiled on March 8 is not, in fact, a victim of Hurricane Katrina--and was arrested for fraud and grand larceny yesterday.


As it did in the Abu Ghraib mistake, the Times ran an editors' note on page 2 of its front section, along with a lengthy news article (this time on the front page of Section B). Again mirroring the Abu Ghraib episode, the newspaper revealed a surprising and inexplicable lapse in fact-checking on the part of a reporter and/or editor. (link)

I guess what we all need to become accustomed to is the fact that the Times staff's intent is more important than are the facts. It's clear that George W. Bush's destruction supercedes the maintenance of journalistic standards.

U.N. Adopts Murtha War Strategy

When rioting erupted in Ivory Coast in January, United Nations "peacekeepers" adopted the war strategy that Democratic Congressman John Murtha recommends the U.S. military embrace in Iraq. The U.N. forces fled the fighting and departed for safer environs.

Well, the rioting has subsided. And the United Nations warriors are returning to their bases:
UN troops return to west Ivory Coast after riots
By Loucoumane Coulibaly

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers have started returning to the west of war-divided Ivory Coast after abandoning their bases during anti-U.N. riots in January, the mission's military spokesman said on Thursday.

Several hundred blue helmets fled four bases during the riots across the government-controlled south, after shooting dead five youths who broke into their base in the town of Guiglo and tried to steal weapons. (link)
I'm sure the U.N./Murtha strategy - staging military units where no harm will come to them - provides a high level of confidence among the people of Ivory Coast. As it will if adopted in Baghdad when our generals try to convince a nervous Iraqi populace that the United States Army - fleeing to far-away Kuwait - will be there should they be called upon.

Unbelievable.

The Twisted Religious Left

Those three hostages (two Canadians and one Brit) who were being held for the last few months by Islamist terrorists in Baghdad have been freed by British and American forces. Read about the dramatic rescue here.

And here is the thanks their rescuers get from the organization that sent the three into harm's way:
"We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

“Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families.

These idiots have only enough "love" for the Iraqi terrorists (who brutally executed their other hostage, American Tom Fox), it appears. They still harbor nothing but hatred toward the rescuers - and for the civilized world generally.

How despicable. How utterly depraved.

Aging Hippies To Perform At Virginia Tech

Want a blast from the past? For those of you who are old enough to remember (I'm sure you're not all dead yet) the heightened awareness days made legendary in the songs of such immortals as Joan Baez and Pete Seeger and wish to reminisce about what might have been, a couple of "musicians and social activists" are coming to Virginia Tech on the 28th to show the aging faculty there how to properly install their Depends. As for the rest of us, it should be a sight to behold:

Social activists to speak at Virginia Tech March 28
Jean Elliott, Virginia Tech News

Blacksburg, Va., March 20, 2006 -- Internationally known musicians and social activists, Guy and Candie Carawan, will perform “We Shall Overcome: The Sound of Social Activism” on March 28, 7 p.m., in the Chemistry/Physics building, Room 130, on the Virginia Tech campus.

This presentation is sponsored by Virginia Tech’s Residential Leadership Community, the Humanities Program, and the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. It is free and open to the public.

Guy and Candie Carawan have worked at the Highlander Center in Tennessee for more than 40 years ... (link)

All you old people out there who (in your more lucid moments) still consider yourselves to be activists fighting for political, social, and cultural revolution and who still want us out of Vietnam need to wheel yourselves onto campus to check out this alive-and-until-further-notice-kickin' entertainment.

When News Isn't ...

Headline in the Danville Register & Bee:
Fugitive for a year stays on the run (link)
Tomorrow's headline:
Sun expected to rise this morning.

Boucher Needs To Worry No Longer

Headline in today's Bristol Herald-Courier:
Pope Won't Run For Congressional Seat (link)
I hope the Pope reconsiders. This could have been a great opportunity for the GOP to capture the Catholic vote.

NY Times Protects Hillary's Backside

The New York Times has a piece this morning that attempts to find problems with the resume of one of Hillary Clinton's potential opponents in her upcoming senate race:
Questions Arise About Résumé of Challenger to Clinton
By Raymond Hernandez


When Kathleen Troia McFarland stepped forward as a Republican challenger to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, she was a relatively obscure figure with two intriguing claims to fame: She had worked on President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" speech and had been the highest-ranking woman at the Reagan Pentagon.

But interviews with former Reagan administration officials and a review of documents show her claims were not entirely accurate. (link)
The intention here is so transparent it's hardly worth mentioning. But I will anyway.

Did the Times have one of its reporters write a story in 2000 that made mention of the fact that Hillary's resume consisted entirely of the following?
  • President Clinton's wife
  • Non-practicing attorney

No. The New York Times propelled the reputation of Hillary Clinton, a person with no experience - no resume - for the job, into the stratosphere.

So. It's plain to see what's going on here. It's shameful when the bias that permeates the editorial page of the Times creeps into its "news" pages.