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

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Such a Scandal


It is with a great deal of amusement that I've been watching TV network news readers and breathless politicians in the halls of Congress today expressing their outrage over
USA Today's startling revelation that the federal National Security Agency has acquired the phone records of millions of Americans with the intention of analyzing them for possible links to foreign terrorists.

I've also been reading the usual cries of "Bush lied!" and "Dictator!" all over the blogosphere. As to exactly how George W lied, they're not quite sure yet. Some have determined that the Bush administration has been "eavesdropping" or "monitoring" the phone calls of millions of Americans and that our President is being evasive about it.


Not quite.

When I looked at the headline in USA Today this morning on my way out of the hotel, my immediate reaction was, "This isn't news." And I kept walking. Didn't even wet my pants.

Well, folks, it is news. Old news from February:

AT&T Accused of Eavesdropping, Calling Record Sales
By Martin H. Bosworth, ConsumerAffairs.Com

When telecommunications giant SBC bought AT&T and adopted the famous brand name as its own, it also inherited a lot of baggage, including an apparent inability to protect the privacy of its customers' records.

The company is facing a lawsuit for its part in allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct surveillance on its customers, via granting the NSA access to their vast databases of customer records and information. [my emphasis] (
link)
That's the extent of the scandal, by the way. The NSA has acquired phone records from AT&T, Bell South, and Verizon. No eavesdropping. No call monitoring. No invasion of homes in the dead of night (as only Democratic administrations can do it - see photo above).

The NSA is combing through phone bills. The horror. Why, it's worse than 9/11.

Or so it now seems ...

I Take Back Everything I Said

Have I mentioned how much I respect the Roanoke Times editorial staff? Sure I've called the staffmembers a bunch of freaking morons - on frequent occasions - but I never meant it in a bad or disparaging way. Not really.

It's amazing how a few words of glowing praise will sometimes alter my opinion like that. I guess I'm easy.

After reading the snippy line in the Times-Dispatch to which Will Vehrs referred yesterday - "Quips that offended the region were as clever as typical jests in the blogosphere i.e., not very ... (link)," I was reminded how these guys in the lofty position of staffmember view themselves - and of how they are viewed by the world - Elitist.

But that was then. Today I have only good things to say about ... well, only about Dan Radmacher of the Roanoke Times actually. He had an interesting (and non-snippy) piece in the paper yesterday (link) about blogs and how he finds them - particularly those with a point of view with which he disagrees - entertaining and informative.

Dan gives favorable mention to Jim Bacon of Bacon's Rebellion and then he has this:
Another favorite -- this one probably falls into the love-to-hate category is "From On High" (blogfromonhigh.blogspot.com), a blog by Jerry Fuhrman out in Bland County. I think the love-to-hate thing is mutual, judging by the joy he takes in eviscerating our editorials. Sometimes he has a point. Sometimes he misses the point. I rarely agree with him, but I enjoy his perspective, his general thoughtfulness and the sharp edge he brings to his commentary.
I'm not sure I like the "love-to-hate" line. After all, my motto is Love Everyone - even those flaming liberals who are afflicted with an inability to reason and the annoying habit of being wrong on all issues (I'm trying to get that motto worked down to fewer words like "Love the stupid"). I consider myself more of a hate-to-hate kinda guy. Call me Rodney King.

Anyway, while I'm basking in the glow of fame and soon-to-be-fortune, let me say something about Radmacher.

There are two people on the editorial staff at the Times who can write. Only two. The others belong in second year English Comp class - or the McDonald's receiving line handing out Happy Meals to the kiddies. One is Tommy Denton - the leader in the Den of Iniquity. I rarely agree with anything the man has to say, but he is one of the most gifted writers in the Old Media today. If you're interested, read "Confusing Raw Power With Wisdom." If you pay no attention to the bone-headed conclusions he draws, and concentrate only on his writing, you'll agree that he's a gifted professional.

The other skilled professional is Dan Radmacher. Dan is right about the fact that he and I don't agree on the issues that are important in the USA today - the war in particular. The issues swirling around the environment. He believes humans are causing global warming. But his editorials are always well-written. Despite his irritating use of questionable sources, he backs his arguments up with facts - and lots of them. I'll bet he would be a top-notch debater. His columns are always top notch. And they have been since he wrote for the Charleston Gazette (his articles on the coal industry were fabulous) years ago.

I'll have to invite Dan down to the local Chug-and-Puke (that would be a local Roanoke Chug-and-Puke; the closest we have in Bland is the Citgo station that sells beer out of the cooler) and debate the most pressing issues of the day over some of America's finest Bud. I think it would be a hoot.

Anyway, the kind words are appreciated. Especially since they came from a man destined to rise to the pinnacle of success in the mainstream press.

Assuming, of course, the mainstream press doesn't implode before he gets there ...

The Axe Falls

I knew this was Will Vehrs' Achilles Heel:
State suspends blogging worker
By Tyler Whitley, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

State personnel policy allows "incidental and occasional" personal use of the state's Internet system, but prohibits frequent use.

Will Vehrs, an employee of the Department of Business Assistance, was suspended for 10 days, effective yesterday, after posting a blog that appeared to insult the economically depressed Martinsville-Henry County area. (
link)
We can argue that Will has his right to free speech. We can try to convince the good people of Martinsville that Will was trying to be funny when he wrote his (witty) jokes. We can demand that Delegate Ward Armstrong resign in disgrace for his disparaging and sexist remarks that overshadow anything Will said or wrote about Martinsville.

But we can't argue that one should be allowed to violate a state personnel policy if one is an employee of the state.

It's sad in a way that (I'll bet) Will is one of thousands of state employees that violate(d) this particular policy every single day but ... enough is enough.

I have an idea. How about we move the upcoming Blog Summit to Will Vehrs' bedroom and take up a collection ...

Just kidding. Just kidding.

It's Not Rocket Science, Fellas

The Russians, according to Vladimir Putin, have forgotten what goes where and why:
Putin Urges Plan to Reverse Slide in the Birth Rate
By C.J. Chivers, The New York Times


MOSCOW, May 10 — President Vladimir V. Putin directed Parliament on Wednesday to adopt a 10-year program to stop the sharp decline in Russia's population, principally by offering financial incentives and subsidies to encourage women to have children. (
link)
Now I know Russian women are world-renowned for being clock-stopping ugly but the government has to pay the men to have sex with them?

Can you imagine a government official waving a ten-dollar bill at a bunch of drunken men at the sports bar in Brooklyn and demanding that they have random sex with every woman in sight?

I'd say the Cold War is certainly over. They lost.

I Thought We Had a Budget Crisis

You begin to realize that all the talk about dire budgetary consequences here in the commonwealth was smoke and mirrors when you read things like this:
Kaine pushes access to preschool
Private child-care providers would get public funds in plan to assist all 4-year-olds
By Lindsay Kastner, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer


Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said yesterday his plan to provide all 4-year-olds with access to preschool would funnel public dollars to private child-care providers as well as to public programs. (
link)
So are we broke or aren't we?

These guys make my head hurt.

But This Can't Be

We all know the climate only began to change when George W Bush de-signed Crazy Al's Kyoto Protocol. That being the case, what's up with this?
Climate Is Cited as Key to Extinctions
By Guy Gugliotta, Washington Post Staff Writer


New evidence from Canada and Alaska suggests that climate change, rather than human hunting, may have played the key role in a great die-off of mammoths, horses and other large North American mammals that began more than 10,000 years ago. (
link)
Am I to understand there have been climate changes in the past? I'm not sure I'm prepared emotionally to deal with this.

A Day Late And Too Many Lives Cut Short

Good news. They have decided to investigate the possible harmful effects of the abortion pill - after a number of women have been killed by it:
Scientists Will Gather to Discuss Safety of Abortion Pill
By Gardiner Harris, The New York Times


Worried about a bacterial infection that led to the deaths of at least five women who took the abortion pill RU-486, scientists from the nation's leading public health agencies will gather in Atlanta today for the first meeting in 10 years on the drug's safety.

Scientists from the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health will consider whether the means of administering abortion drugs make pregnant women more susceptible to the bacterium Clostridium sordellii. (link)
The lesson to be learned here: It is permissible for up to four women to be killed while in the process of aborting their babies. But if five women die, we convene a panel discussion.

For the love of God.

No Kidding

More breaking news:
Many medical suits lack merit
The Associated Press


About 40 percent of the medical malpractice cases filed in the United States are groundless, according to a Harvard analysis ... (
link)
Shocking. Shocking.

Quote Of The Day

Family Feud

Five Palestinian Arab children were shot and wounded yesterday, leading to world-wide condemnation of Israel, reports the--oh wait, there was no world-wide condemnation of Israel. That's because, as the Associated Press reports from Gaza:

Renewed clashes Tuesday between Hamas and Fatah militants wounded nine Palestinians, including five children, raising fears that Palestinian territories could erupt in a much wider conflagration.
The Arab kids were shot by other Arabs, so there was no cause for world-wide condemnation.

James Taranto, "Best of the Web Today," May 10, 2006 (link)