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

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Asking The Tough Questions

Norm wonders how it is, if we are in the throes of the worst transportation crisis civilization has ever endured, that our Department of Transportation has so much money to waste on silly projects like bike paths and museums:

Last year, they awarded nearly $22 million to a variety of things, from bike paths to transportation museums to a replica of a slave ship, to the protection of "viewsheds" (with interpretive areas). All fell within the program's guidelines, which:

fosters more choices for travel by providing funding for sidewalks, bike lanes, and the conversion of abandoned railroad corridors into trails. Communities may also use the program to revitalize local and regional economies by restoring eligible historic buildings, renovating streetscapes, or providing transportation museums and visitor centers. Many communities also use the program to acquire, restore and preserve scenic or historic sites.
Very nice. So once again, we have what some consider a transportation crisis on our hands. Some in the state are doing everything they can to raise taxes so more roads can be built. And what are the feds proposing to do?

Protect viewsheds. (link)
And Tim Kaine says we need $108 billion in tax increases for DOT.

The world's gone stark raving mad.

Basking In Our Global Warming

Baby, it's warm outside ...

January Was America's Warmest on Record
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON - January was a fair-weather friend. Recording the warmest January on record allowed Americans to save on their heating.

The country's average temperature for the month was 39.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 8.5 degrees above average for January, the National Climatic Data Center said Tuesday. The old record for January warmth was 37.3 degrees set in 1953. (link)
Oddly, while we are experiencing record warmth, Europe has been going through a dreadful cold spell:
Records fall as cold grips Europe

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Vienna's subway tracks cracked, German authorities shut a key canal to ships after it iced up and a zoo moved its penguins indoors Tuesday as a deadly deep freeze tightened its arctic grip on much of Europe.

The killer cold wave, which has been blamed for more than 50 deaths in Russia, claimed at least 13 lives over the past five days in the former Soviet republic of Moldova, where authorities said another 30 people -- many of them homeless -- were hospitalized with hypothermia. (link)
Rumor has it the Europeans would like for us to share some of our global warming with them. Had they been a little kinder to our president in recent years, we might be more amenable to the notion. As it is though, I think it's fair to say that few Americans are interested in sharing. It's not nice, you see, to offend us Yanks.

Would someone pass the suntan lotion?

My Heroes

The House of Delegates (or a committee therein, at least) decided yesterday that Virginia is not in crisis after all and will not require a tax increase this year, despite all the whining and gnashing of teeth on the part of Tim Kaine, the Democratic Party, and the Roanoke Times:
GOP blocks Kaine's tax rise
By Christina Bellantoni, The Washington Times

RICHMOND -- House Republicans yesterday rejected a tax increase proposed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, setting the stage for a financial standoff by gutting the Democrat's plan to ease traffic congestion.

The House Finance Committee voted 14-8 along party lines to kill Mr. Kaine's bills, which would have raised the sales tax on purchasing a car and increased the levy on car insurance. (link)
The governor, in response, seems to have misread the committee's actions:
"All we're hearing from the House leadership is 'no,' and that's not a solution," said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Mr. Kaine.
That wasn't a "no," Kevin. That was a HELL NO.

No Need To Wait Any Longer

I wrote on Sunday that the editorial staff at the Roanoke Times deserved high praise for attempting to keep the members of Congress honest and for shining light on potential campaign donation improprieties. In an editorial that morning, they had criticized the new House Majority Leader, John Boehner, for having taken contributions from those rotten bastards in the tobacco lobby! Their outrage was duly expressed:
Money and influence are the lubricants that make things happen in today's Congress, and Boehner has his hands on both spigots. (link)
I gave credit where it was due:
Keepin' 'em honest, as only a hard-hitting newspaper editorialist can. Exposing potential improprieties where they may exist. How praiseworthy.
But I then asked you to withhold final judgement until we see whether the folks at the Times are truly sincere about stamping out the appearance of corruption wherever it raises its ugly head, or the folks there are just Democratic Party weasels feigning indignation and trying to tar Republicans - again.

The test of the Times editorialists' veracity had to do with their response to this story:
$18,000 vacation puts Kaine atop gift recipients list
By Bob Lewis, Associated Press

RICHMOND -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, accepted an $18,000 Caribbean vacation last year, putting him atop the list of Virginia elected officials who in 2005 accepted nearly $315,000 in gifts, trips, concert tickets and other gratuities from corporations, interest groups and wealthy persons.

The newly elected governor's winter getaway on Mustique -- a private island playground for rock stars and royalty -- was paid for by Albemarle County investor James B. Murray Jr. (link)
So how did the Times respond to this blatant display of indecorum? In today's paper they ... go after John Boehner again. Seeing is believing:
So much for reform
The Roanoke Times

John Boehner had no sooner replaced former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay than he cast serious doubt about his commitment to become the ethics "reformer" dedicated to draining the congressional swamp. (
The rest of the editorial can be summed up thusly:
Blah Blah Blah
So much for veracity.

My praise is herewith recalled.

Islam On Parade

Well, let's see what mayhem "the cartoon" has brought about today:
Muslim Protests Against Cartoons Spread

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Feb. 6 — Muslim anger over Danish cartoons that satirized the Prophet Muhammad continued to swell across the Middle East and elsewhere in the world on Monday, turning violent in Afghanistan, where at least five protesters died and more than a dozen police officers and protesters were wounded. (link)
Muhammad. Mohammed. Since printing a cartoon of the prophet However-You-Spell-It results in the deaths of dozens of Muslims, I began to wonder if mispelling his name was somehow blasphemous as well.

But then I remembered:

It doesn't matter. They don't teach spelling in the Muslim world. They only teach hate.

Even The Times Gets It Right

The New York Times has - finally - decided to come out on the side of reason in the "Kill The Cartoonist" conflict that rages around the world:
Those Danish Cartoons

Cartoons making fun of the Prophet Muhammad that were published in a Danish newspaper last September are suddenly one of the hottest issues in international politics. Muslims in Europe and across the Middle East have been holding protests with growing levels of violence and now loss of life.

The easy points to make about the continuing crisis are that (a) people are bound to be offended if their religion is publicly mocked, and (b) the proper response is not to go on a rampage and burn down buildings. If Muslim organizations want to stage peaceful marches or organize boycotts of Danish goods, they're certainly within their rights. (link)
There is a third point to be made: One shouldn't mock another's religion in the first place. But two out of three ain't bad.