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

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

On The Golden Globe Awards

For an excellent critique of the Golden Globe awards, from a red state perspective, you need to read Cinnamon Stillwell's "Hollywood's Propaganda Binge" over at The American Thinker. The opening paragraph:
The Golden Globe Awards, Hollywood’s latest orgy of self-congratulation, demonstrated how utterly out of touch with mainstream America Hollywood has become. Far from the days when Hollywood celebrated traditional values, moral fiber and American heroes, modern films celebrate deviancy, moral relativism, and America’s enemies. This year’s nominees and winners for the Golden Globes were a case in point.

It only gets better. Enjoy.

Randal McCloy Update

Here's the latest on Randal McCloy, the West Virginia miner who is fighting for his life:
Sago Mine survivor awakening from coma
Doctors say McCloy is opening his eyes, making 'purposeful movements'

MORGANTOWN, West Va. - Sago Mine survivor Randal McCloy Jr. is breathing on his own and appears to be coming out of his coma, more than two weeks after a mine explosion that led to the deaths of 12 other miners, doctors said Wednesday.

“With great hope we announce that Randy McCloy is awakening from his coma,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, a neurosurgeon at West Virginia University’s Ruby Memorial Hospital. “We consider him, probably best described, in a light coma.”

He said McCloy moves his arms and legs, he opens his eyes when doctors call his name and the family believes “he has some level of connectivity with them.” (link)
It is too early for doctors to speculate as to whether Randal will fully recover but each day brings hopeful news.

So Much For Saving The Planet

The Europeans (and their bosom buddies America's Democrats) chastise President Bush to no end for his having rejected Al Gore's one and only legacy - the Kyoto Protocol. Many of us have said, as we listened to all these politicians bloviate about the climatic woe and resulting planetary devastation that Bush is bringing down on Mother Earth singlehandedly, that these people have no more intention of saving the environment than do our Hollywood elite. The latter are just more entertaining to watch.

The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial this morning, provides us with a good dose of reality as the statistics start pouring in with regard to Europe's compliance with the treaty that all the countries that make up the E.U. signed with great ostentation and bluster. Nearly all are failing. Miserably.

Surprise. Surprise.

Green America

The Kyoto environmental protocol committed signatory nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By this standard, Kyoto-loving Europeans are failing. And the U.S. of George Bush, who was heckled globally when he withdrew Bill Clinton's approval of the accord in 2001? Well, it's doing surprisingly well.

Let's go to the latest numbers from the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. Most European countries have seen an increase in greenhouse gas emissions since signing onto Kyoto with great fanfare in 1997. As the table nearby shows, 13 out of the 15 original signatories from the EU are on track to miss their 2010 treaty targets -- by as much as 33 percentage points, in the case of Spain. (link requires subscription)

Here's my favorite line - as only the Wall Street Journal editorialists can deliver it:

Alas, no one is talking about reducing the amount of hot air produced by politicians. At the U.N.'s environmental summit in Montreal last year, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas of Greece spoke grandly of Europe's continuing leadership in the reduction of greenhouse gases. Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada, another Kyoto diehard, chimed in that America lacked a "global conscience." For the record, Greece and Canada saw emissions rise 23% and 24%, respectively, since 1990, far above the U.S. rate.

The self-righteous nonsense that passes for debate at U.N. gabfests isn't news. But it is newsworthy Kyoto's arbitrary targets were mainly cant. Unhampered by Kyoto targets, America's economy is more nimble and can adapt to regulatory demands.

We always knew that Kyoto was bad for the economy. It now turns out that it's bad for the environment as well.

Kyoto is harmful to the environment. Who would have predicted it?

Click on image to enlarge.
Graph courtesy of The Wall Street Journal and the European Environment Agency.

On All The Call Center Hoopla

You'll never read in this weblog any disparagement of employers who are bringing jobs to Southside and Southwest Virginia. At this point in time, with thousands of manufacturing jobs having left the area, never to return, we'll take whatever we can get.

But I read an article in Business Week magazine the other day that reminded me of something Mark Warner said in his farewell State of the Commonwealth (and hello New Hampshire primary) speech last week. In it he had high praise for himself for having accomplished this:
In Southside and Southwest Virginia, we've worked to create or retain more than 32,000 jobs. Even in Danville -- where the sale of the Dan River textile mill has been in the news -- we were able to announce yesterday that TelVista would expand, creating 250 new jobs. (link)

I resisted the urge to make a snide comment like "Gosh, where are we going to find enough workers to handle those 32,000 new jobs?" when I noticed the tricky little word, "retain." Warner "retained" the Wal-Mart in Pounding Mill and the Citgo station in Bland I guess is what he's bragging about.


Congressman Rick Boucher is renowned for being able to beat a path to the newsroom (and you don't want to be in his path) whenever he has a jobs announcement to make as well. The latest:
Company to open $1M customer call center
By Kathy Still, Bristol Herald Courier

Duffield – An Ohio-based company is opening a $1 million customer call center here this fall that will eventually employ 200.

Call Evolution Co. will immediately hire 75 for the center at the Duffield Industrial Park’s Pioneer Center. Over the next 30 months, a total of 200 employees will be hired, according to local officials.

Last month, Results Network opened a similar call center in Lee County. The center now has 35 employees with plans for a total of 250 jobs. (link)
Warner's announcement regarding TelVista and Boucher's news release regarding Call Evolution have one thing in common. Both companies are in the call center business.

Boucher in particular has been adept at luring companies with call centers to the area (politics and the potential for him to regain his chairmanship of the House subcommittee that oversees such concerns has a good bit to do with it), including EchoStar in Christiansburg and AT&T Wireless over in Lebanon. When he and Warner boast of the creation of thousands of jobs in the area, they are for the most part talking about call center jobs.

The fact that most of these jobs are part-time and pay only $8.00 to $9.00 per hour (the disappearing manufacturing jobs were paying twice that) is not the point I want to make, although it is worth keeping in mind when politicians blather on about how great conditions are here in Southwest Virginia or especially over in Southside.

The Business Week article reminds us that just as quickly as the manufacturing jobs are disappearing around here, the call center jobs will as well. But not because of competitive pressures from India (see Travelocity Closing Clintwood Call Center), although that's a huge issue as well. Advancements in technology will be bringing about the end of the traditional call center as we know it:

Call Centers In The Rec Room

"Homeshoring" takes off as moms and others provide an alternative to offshoring

More and more, companies are moving customer service jobs out of high-overhead call centers and into what is possibly the lowest-overhead place in the U.S.: workers' homes. The savings are about more than just real estate, toilet paper, and coffee supplies. JetBlue Airways (JBLU ) is perhaps the most famous practitioner; all of its 1,400 reservation agents work from home. But they are employees. Most of the new homeshoring jobs are independent contractor positions offered by outsourcing companies. The agents are on the hook for their own health care, computer equipment, training -- even background checks.

Outsourced homeshoring jobs grew 20% last year, to 112,000 jobs, estimates tech-market researcher IDC, and will hit 330,000 by 2010. "Offshoring's underestimated sibling, homeshoring, is about to hit a growth spurt," says IDC analyst Stephen Loynd. Office Depot (ODP ), McKesson (MCK ), and J. Crew all use home agents. Homeshoring is less likely to risk the accent fatigue, cultural disconnection, and customer rage that offshoring can inspire. That's not to mention the mounting security fears (once your private data -- credit-card and Social Security numbers, medical and brokerage records -- go overseas, they're beyond the reach of U.S. law). (link may require subscription)

So. Are we appreciative of the call center jobs that Rick Boucher has brought to Southwest Virginia? You bet.

But let this be a word of warning. When we let our elected officials tout their successes in bringing this type of employment to the area, we are letting them off the hook. These jobs are here temporarily. They're soon going to either relocate to Bangalore or they're going to pop up in someone's bedroom in Parsippany. And our economic slide into ruin will accelerate.

Congressman Boucher and Governor Kaine need to be thinking in different terms and start creating conditions such that existing employers here can compete in the global marketplace and, in doing so, maintain good-paying existing jobs. They need to reduce and eliminate the myriad taxes that are foisted on our corporations and lessen all the burdensome and costly state and federal regulations that prevent our manufacturers from competing head-to-head with those working out of Singapore.

The costs of doing business must be drastically reduced. Both men have the power to affect positive change. It's time they earned their keep.

Transportation Problem Solved

A. Barton Hinkle, writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, has found the necessary funds to repair all the roads in all of Virginia - without Tim Kaine jacking up our already burdensome taxes:
Road Worriers: Virginia Wastes Road Money on Too Many Frivolous Things
A. Barton Hinkle, Times-Dispatch Columnist
Jan 17, 2006

Virginia's political leaders contend almost to a man that the state faces a transportation funding crisis. Not so. There is a great deal of money for transportation. It is just being spent on the wrong things.

Things such as -- oh, horseback-riding trails. The federal transportation bill Congress passed last year contained $600,000 earmarked for the High Knob Horse Trails and "assorted facilities" -- in the Jefferson National Forest.

Money also is being spent on things such as the Virginia Creeper Trail -- a scenic biking and hiking trail near the North Carolina border that received $80,000 from the feds. And things such as the Fries Train Station, which received an $800,000 earmark to turn it into a visitors' center.

Another $800,000 went to a visitors center and trail network in Bland, and another $1.2 million was earmarked for the Rocky Knob Heritage Center. More than $2.5 million was appropriated for an intepretive center for the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Corridor. Another $400,000 was set aside for the construction of rec trails and the preservation of a water mill, for use as a visitors' center, not far from Abingdon.

On and on the earmarks go, seven pages of them, just for Virginia. (link)
So. It turns out the state is awash in money for road repair. We've just been electing people who don't know how to spend it properly.

We don't have a road problem. We have a Congressman problem.

Hat tip to Tugboat Phil.