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

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Giving Up On Southwest Virginia

I had noted a few weeks ago (here and here) that a conference ("Creating a New Economy in Southwest Virginia") was underway in Abingdon at which 400 attendees learned that tourism is the path to our future success. I was - shall we say - skeptical.

But if this story in The Southwest Times is accurate, I - we - should be outraged and ashamed. It's rather hard to follow because of certain "cutting edge" vernacular that's difficult to comprehend, like "localized economy" and "place-based economy," but here is the nut of it:
Town considers place-driven economy
By Jack Martin, Staff Report

PULASKI — Development of a localized economy was the theme of Wednesday's meeting of the Pulaski Economic Development Board.

Using gleanings from the recent "Creating a New Economy in Southwest Virginia" conference in Abingdon as a springboard, the board discussed home-grown ways of buffing up the town's economic physique.

Board member Jennifer White, who attended the meeting, introduced the concept of a place-based economy as a key to economic revitalization. White quoted Becky Anderson, founder of Handmade in America, Inc., a speaker the meeting, "We are rushing into a period in which any product or service that is not place-dependent, in other words, that can be produced or provided anywhere, will be provided everywhere."

White went on to explain that products or services that are not dependent upon providing experiences unique to a locality or region are prey for outsourcing.

According to White, technology such as broadband and its associated infrastructure are not enough for a community to be successful in today's economy. She emphasized the need for communities to draw upon their own uniqueness to develop and sustain economic growth and stability.

A primary strategy for development of a place-based economy, White said, was the recognition of local artisans and the marketing of their products.
Local artisans and the marketing of their products ...

If I'm understanding the message from this conference correctly, it can be summarized this way:

We here in Southwest Virginia cannot compete for the global marketplace. We need no longer try. For that reason, we must pattern our economy after that of the Navajo out in the Sonora Desert. We all need to learn to weave baskets and sit by the side of the road in native costume (Confederate homespun?) and hope that a tourist drives by and hands us a couple of bucks for our work. We'll charge another dollar for a photo. And if we can all learn to sing and play the banjo, well, all the better.

That, you see, is our destiny. So sayeth our best and brightest.

Why don't we hang a sign over every high school and community college entrance in Wise and Bristol and Salem and Floyd and Clintwood and Bluefield and Galax:

That, to be sure, is the message. Along with this one aimed at our young men and women:
To think, 400 people attended this conference - the headline speaker at which was Governor Kaine - and came away with such a hopeless plan. If these are our civic leaders, we do in fact have reason to feel our future is bleak.

For shame.

Viva Cuba Libre!

Liberation is soon to come to the oppressed people of Cuba:
US gears up for post-Castro era in Cuba
By Sue Pleming, Reuters

The United States should act fast to boost a transitional government in Cuba when President Fidel Castro's rule ends and get advisors on the ground within weeks, a U.S. government report recommends.

The report, which was ordered by President George W. Bush and is due to be released next week, also recommends a new U.S. "democracy fund" for communist-run Cuba worth $80 million over two years to boost opposition to Castro.

In addition, the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, suggested yearly funding for Cuban democracy programs of $20 million until Castro's "dictatorship ceases." (
Cuba was once the most developed and prosperous country in Central America. Today, after 27 years of socialism, it is by all standards a hellhole. The people - at least those who haven't fled the island - have suffered grievously.

The Cuban people can take heart. Help is on the way and will be arriving as soon as Castro leaves the hell of his own creation and embarks upon a longlasting journey into that of another.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

We've all read the stories about farm subsidies. And we've all (except for a relative handful of mega-farmers) complained that they should be eliminated from the federal budget. But there's outrageous and there's beyond outrageous:
Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don't Farm
By Dan Morgan, Gilbert M. Gaul and Sarah Cohen, Washington Post Staff Writers

EL CAMPO, Tex. -- Even though Donald R. Matthews put his sprawling new residence in the heart of rice country, he is no farmer. He is a 67-year-old asphalt contractor who wanted to build a dream house for his wife of 40 years.

Yet under a federal agriculture program approved by Congress, his 18-acre suburban lot receives about $1,300 in annual "direct payments," because years ago the land was used to grow rice.

Matthews is not alone. Nationwide, the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all, according to an analysis of government records by The Washington Post.

Most of the money goes to real farmers who grow crops on their land, but they are under no obligation to grow the crop being subsidized. They can switch to a different crop or raise cattle or even grow a stand of timber -- and still get the government payments. The cash comes with so few restrictions that subdivision developers who buy farmland advertise that homeowners can collect farm subsidies on their new back yards. [my emphasis] (
This is scandalous. And it will continue. And worsen.

Remember this next time some politician - or some newspaper editorialist - tries to tell you the government is starved for funds.