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

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 (
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.

It's A Matter Of Perspective

As I expected, I received a few emails from Virginians who didn't appreciate my scolding of state Senator Phil Puckett (D-Tazewell) for his having voted for a tax increase that, if it becomes law, will go toward solving the transportation problems in Northern Virginia but will hasten the economic devastation here in Southwest Virginia. (Read it here)

One email buddy chastised me for trying to tear asunder the blanket of unity in the commonwealth; that what's good for Northern Virginia is good for Southwest Virginia ultimately; we're all in this together, etc.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I had what I consider a revealing conversation last week when I was up in Clarke County on business. Clarke is situated between Winchester and Washington DC and, from all appearances, is becoming one big bedroom community as workers in DC commute to pastoral Clarke to escape the big city and its issues - roads and highways being only one of them. There are (breathtaking) half-million to two million dollar homes going up everywhere along Route 7 east and west of Berryville and it looks like the county is prospering beyond anyone's expectations.

The individual I was talking to revealed the fact that county leaders there are trying to stem the tide of prosperity. Businesses are trying to flock to the area because of all the upscale consumers moving in and county supervisors are working mightily to prevent them from doing so. They are trying to stop the growth.

What is the greatest concern of these new Clarke Countians? (besides growth; once there, they instinctively want to prevent anyone else from moving there) They want their highways fixed so that they can get into DC more quickly.

Phil Puckett is there to accommodate them and their needs.

Except for the editorial page of the Roanoke Times, where in Southwest Virginia are we discouraging growth? We're not even in a position to talk about growth. In most areas I travel, we are working vigorously to stop the decline - in population, in economic vitality, in job opportunities, in infrastructure.

If one accepts the fact that all those businesses that have closed their doors in recent years here in Southwest Virginia did so because the cost of doing business became too much of a burden, then any increase in that cost has to add to the burden - and accelerate the decline.

Phil Puckett's tax increase on fuel raises that cost.

So. While Clarke Countians will benefit from Phil Puckett's tax, Tazewell Countians and Wise Countians and Russell Countians and Buchanan Countians and Dickenson Countians and Pulaski Countians and Smyth Countians (!) will suffer. More than they are suffering today.

You folks up north want unity? Talk to your elected officials. Tell them we are united in our desire for tax relief. That we are united in our need to get Southwest Virginia its employers back. To keep the few that have stuck it out.

Understand this: We here in Southwest Virginia are united. We want your growth.

When that happens, I'll be there to join hands, pop the cork, and sing kumbaya. Until then I'll continue asking who it is that elected Phil Puckett to the Senate. Clarke County?

Don't Knock It Til You've Tried It

When I was still in college, Paula and I were on a very tight budget, as you might expect. When it came to meals, we more often than not ate fine delectable dinners that were prepared right from the can. When it came to meat, we always went with hamburger. For that we visited this quaint little butcher shop down the street from our apartment that sold us "hamburger" three pounds for a dollar. Try to find a deal like that on ground beef in this day and age.

Well, it was actually a great deal even back then. Funny thing was, when we went to cook the "hamburger," it turned this odd reddish, purplish color. We have always suspected that it wasn't beef at all but was something that had wandered too close to the butcher shop and became beef when it was ground up.

But it tasted good. And it was cheap. So we were fine with it. We just asked no questions. My suspicion, though, has always been along these lines:
Activists protest legalization of dog meat

UPI-Animal rights activists are challenging a law that would legalize the consumption of dog meat among indigenous people in the northern Philippines.

A 10-member provincial board last November approved a resolution exempting the indigenous people of the Cordillera Mountains from national laws prohibiting the sale and consumption of dog meat.

The resolution allows "the butchering of animals, dogs included, as part of their rituals and practices," and states that commercialization is inevitable to protect this
right. (
For the record, I do not endorse the slaughter and consumption of dogs. Cats, on the other hand ...

NY Times Is Right

Memo to Bill Gates: Do you want the United States government to do for Internet Explorer what it was able to accomplish with Hurricane Katrina relief? Monkey with the free flow of information on the web and that's exactly what the politicians are going to do.

From the New York Times:
Tollbooths on the Internet Highway *

When you use the Internet today, your browser glides from one Web site to another, accessing all destinations with equal ease. That could change dramatically, however, if Internet service providers are allowed to tilt the playing field, giving preference to sites that pay them extra and penalizing those that don't.

The Senate held hearings last week on "network neutrality," the principle that I.S.P.'s — the businesses like Verizon or Roadrunner that deliver the Internet to your computer — should not be able to stack the deck in this way. If the Internet is to remain free, and freely evolving, it is important that neutrality legislation be passed.

In its current form, Internet service operates in the same nondiscriminatory way as phone service. When someone calls your home, the telephone company puts through the call without regard to who is calling. In the same way, Internet service providers let Web sites operated by eBay, CNN or any other company send information to you on an equal footing. But perhaps not for long. It has occurred to the service providers that the Web sites their users visit could be a rich new revenue source. Why not charge eBay a fee for using the Internet connection to conduct its commerce, or ask Google to pay when customers download a video? A Verizon Communications executive recently sent a scare through cyberspace when he said at a telecommunications conference, as The Washington Post reported, that Google "is enjoying a free lunch" that ought to
be going to providers like Verizon.

The solution, as far as the I.S.P.'s are concerned, could be what some critics are calling "access tiering," different levels of access for different sites, based on ability and willingness to pay. Giants like Walmart.com could get very fast connections, while little-guy sites might have to settle for the information superhighway equivalent of a one-lane, pothole-strewn road. Since many companies that own I.S.P.'s, like Time Warner, are also in the business of selling online content, they could give themselves an unfair advantage over their competition. (link)
If you want the government to ruin a good thing, continue down this path. In five years, we won't recognize this wonderful innovation called the world wide web.

* There is no connection between the title - tollbooths? - and the editorial itself.

Now There's a Swell Idea

While Hillary Clinton continues to campaign for a healthcare delivery system modeled after that set up by the Canadians, the Canadians have started to move away from it:
Ruling Has Canada Planting Seeds of Private Health Care

TORONTO, Feb. 19 — The cracks are still small in Canada's vaunted public health insurance system, but several of its largest provinces are beginning to open the way for private health care eventually to take root around the country.

Last week Quebec proposed to lift a ban on private health insurance for several elective surgical procedures, and announced that it would pay for such surgeries at private clinics when waiting times at public facilities were unreasonable.

Alberta's premier, Ralph Klein, recently expressed a similar goal, and his government is promising legislation to permit doctors to work simultaneously in private and public institutions and allow the building of private hospitals. (link)

The Canadian people were convinced long ago by their political leadership that, when it came to healthcare, they could have it all. In fact, they have less and less as time goes by.

Let this be a lesson to those of you who (listen to people like Hillary and ...) think the government here in the USA can mandate cheap drugs and inexpensive doctor/hospital visits. As the Canadians found out - the hard way - you will end up with long lines and a woefully inadequate system.