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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The New Weblog Design

I got bored last night here in my hotel room (since I swore off drinking great quantities of bourbon whiskey ... at one sitting, and having promised Paula that I would no longer chase after women with tight skirts and loose morals) and so I ...

Well, you can see for yourself.

Your COMMENTS (ahem, all you bloggers who have criticized me for not allowing them) are welcome.

* Problems with any part of it not loading properly would be particularly appreciated.

Staying The Course

The following article originally appeared in the Roanoke Times on October 12, 2006
The soft bigotry of can't-do
By Jerry Fuhrman

When it comes to discussing long-term economic prospects for Southwest Virginia, a perplexing sort of defeatism reigns. A pervasive and frustrating can't-do attitude. What President Bush has called the soft bigotry of low expectations.

It manifests itself in gatherings of area business and political leaders, most recently in the "Creating A New Economy in Southwest Virginia" conference in Abingdon this past June attended by Gov. Tim Kaine and Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon. At such gatherings, it is accepted as fact that the direction in which our corner of the state is headed takes us away from that which has worked best over the years and toward a kind of competition-proof "asset-based" economy centered around basket weaving and banjo plucking.

It can be seen in the recently inaugurated "Return To Roots" campaign introduced with great fanfare by Kaine and state Sen. Phil Puckett, the thrust of which is to implore, with the creation of an Internet Web site, the estimated 15,000 high school and college graduates who have migrated from the area in recent years to return here where "job opportunities are exploding."
Those new jobs, except at one government-created data storage center over in Lebanon, mostly involve inbound and outbound telephone call centers. The fact that our elected officials consider it necessary to beg native Virginians to come home says a good bit about the likelihood of their success and about the attractiveness of those "exploding" job opportunities.

In fact, it is manufacturing that has been the lifeblood of this region for many decades. And it is this segment of the economy that gets short shrift in discussions about our future.

We hear it all the time. Manufacturing is on the decline. Has been for years. It's a disparity in wages. We can't compete with the Chinese. It is more cost-effective to cut down a tree in Wise County, put it on a boat headed for Shanghai, where it is made into cheap furniture and returned to Wise County and sold at the local Wal-Mart in Big Stone Gap, than it is to manufacture the cheap furniture in Wise County in the first place. We've heard it; we all know it to be true.

This is why we resort to talking about our future as being in asset-based basket weaving and banjo picking. Because we can't compete with the Chinese.

Well, you might find this interesting. The Chinese government, in partnership with a company called Nanjing Automotive, has announced its intention to build a new automobile manufacturing plant (in which it intends to revive the legendary MG brand) ... in Oklahoma. That's Oklahoma, USA. Low-wage China.

Why? Because the market is here; the highly motivated, productive labor pool is here; the raw materials are here in abundance, and because officials in Oklahoma haven't adopted the idea that manufacturing is dead in the United States of America.

So we are witness to this spectacle: While we accept plant closing after plant closing here in Southwest Virginia as being, somehow, God's plan, and seek, in response, a workforce made up of pickers, pluckers and pottery producers, the manufacturing sector prospers in other areas of the country.

Has the U.S. experienced devastating industry job losses in recent years? Without doubt. But if one looks at durable goods, Southwest Virginia's greatest strength, employment in America's factories is at an all-time high.

Is our workforce, in terms of productivity and output, still the envy of the world? You bet. Does manufacturing still provide 12 percent of our Gross Domestic Product? Fully. Can American manufacturers compete with the Koreans and the Chinese? If they're smart, efficient and unencumbered by burdensome government taxation and regulations.

So what it comes down to is this: We here in Southwest Virginia can compete with anyone in today's global arena. If we choose to. Unfortunately, we have leaders who choose not to. Perhaps it is time for the citizens of Southwest Virginia to choose for them.

And There Will Be People Who Believe It

This is absolute nonsense:

Global warming already killing some species, causing adaptations in others, new analysis says
By Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer

Washington (AP) -- Animal and plant species have begun dying off or changing sooner than predicted because of global warming, a review of hundreds of research studies contends.These fast-moving adaptations come as a surprise even to biologists and ecologists because they are occurring so rapidly.

At least 70 species of frogs, mostly mountain-dwellers that had nowhere to go to escape the creeping heat, have gone extinct because of climate change, the analysis says. It also reports that between 100 and 200 other cold-dependent animal species, such as penguins and polar bears are in deep trouble. (link)
The terms used - "creeping heat" and "deep trouble" - give an indication as to how scientific the research that went into this political rant was.

Global temperatures have risen 1 degree celsius. ONE.

Idiots With Keyboards

Do the adults at the Charleston (WV) Gazette ever read what their children write?
Big Oil
Facing Democratic ire

DURING the years while Republicans controlled all branches of the federal government, major oil corporations were free to jack American gasoline prices into the stratosphere and ... (link)

As a suggestion, the leadership - and readership - of the Gazette (assuming there is such) might turn to other rags for actual news:
Retail Sales Strong as Gas Prices Fall
Washington Post

Truck sales pick up as gas prices fall
The Boston Globe

Will Gas Prices Fall Any Lower?
ABC News

Gas prices drop 15 cents in 2 weeks: survey

Gas Prices Fall to New Low for 2006
The Associated Press

Maybe the news doesn't make its way over to Charleston all that quickly.

Bart Hinkle Has My Back

I made mention yesterday of Senator-elect James Webb's "underdeveloped" position on class inequities here in the USA, and of his belief that "the rich aren't paying their fair share." I gently corrected a few of the errors in his foundational premises and suggested that he not be taken off his leash quite yet.

Bart Hinkle, one of my favorite columnists in all the land, has similar thoughts:
Class Warfare: Jim Webb's Populism Merely Skims the Economic Surface
A. Barton Hinkle, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

Virginia's Senator-elect, Jim Webb, recently has climbed to the rooftops to trumpet his populist creed. ... lamented "the most important unfortunately the least debated -- issue in politics today": America's "steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century."

... he might want to familiarize himself with Alan Reynolds' Income and Wealth. Reynolds notes that the top quintile of American households predominantly has two income-earners per household. The bottom quintile of households has fewer than one earner per household: 56 percent of those at the bottom of the income distribution pyramid don't hold any job at all. And among those who do work, fully 84 percent work only part-time. The reason? Many in the bottom quintile of income are students, who are busy getting educated so they can earn more in the future, or retirees who are living on Social Security and other pensions. People who don't work much tend not to earn much. How, precisely, is that unfair? (link)
Those of you who got caught up in catch-phrases and cutesy slogans during the recent election campaign need not read the whole thing. But for those of you wanting a better understanding of the fella you just elected, and of the issue he holds most dear, you would do well to read Hinkle's fabulous article in its entirety.

Economics, like war strategy, is not to be left to amateurs.

Political Gibberish

When this guy gets his confused thoughts together, wake me up:
Obama Urges Gradual Withdrawal From Iraq
By Deanna Bellandi, The Associated Press

Chicago -- Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, who is contemplating a run for the presidency, on Monday called for a "gradual and substantial" reduction of U.S. forces from Iraq that would begin in four to six months.

Speaking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Obama envisioned a flexible timetable for withdrawal linked to conditions on the ground in Iraq and based on the advice of U.S. commanders. (link)
Obama, now the military strategist, has concluded that the generals in charge of the war are wrong and that we should begin withdrawing troops from Iraq in the next several months and that we should base that withdrawal on the advice of those generals ... who advise that we do not begin withdrawing in the next several months.

He has a bright future in the Democratic Party.

No Other Solution

When I read a few weeks ago about the guilty verdict in this case, I wondered what kind of punishment would be appropriate, considering the circumstances:

Elderly Driver Who Killed 10 Is Sentenced to Probation
By Cindy Chang, The New York Times

Los Angeles, Nov. 20 — An aged man who killed 10 people when his car plowed into a crowded farmers’ market was sentenced Monday to five years’ probation by a judge who cited the defendant’s failing health in not imposing a prison sentence.

The driver, George R. Weller, now 89, deserves to be behind bars both for the magnitude of what occurred and for his lack of public remorse since, said the judge, Michael M. Johnson of Los Angeles County Superior Court. But imprisoning Mr. Weller, who is bedridden and under 24-hour nursing care, “wouldn’t do anybody any good” and would burden taxpayers with the cost of his medical care, the judge said.

As at most of his trial, the defendant was not in court Monday, because he has a heart ailment and other medical problems. He was convicted last month of 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and could have been sentenced to up to 18 years in prison. (link)

What's the proper sentence for an 89-year old murderer? There isn't one ...