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

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

You'll Get No Argument From Me

Count me among the "sizeable majority" on this one:

Nearly Three-Fourths of Motorists Agree on Need for Improvements
By NRVToday

Have we finally reached a tipping point where a sizeable majority of the public believe increased funding for transportation is needed? According to a new AAA survey released today, over 70 percent of the public agree that more money is needed to maintain and improve our transportation system because we are not keeping pace with demands on the system. (

What's confusing about this is that I don't know of anyone who is arguing that VDOT has at its disposal the necessary funds to make the improvements to our highway system that are required to alleviate the growing number of problems the citizens of Virginia are experiencing.

What many of us are suggesting, though, is that the state is currently awash in cash and simply needs to redistribute its burgeoning surplus (an estimated $1.6 billion) so that transportation needs are met, rather than resort to the default method of government problem-solving - raising taxes.

The government has the money. It just needs to spend it wisely.

Can You Quantify That?

I have made disparaging remarks in the past about the Return To Roots campaign that Governor Kaine, Senator Puckett, and assorted other local officials dreamt up that is intended to lure young people who left Southwest Virginia in recent years in an attempt to find work back to the area to take advantage of job opportunities that may exist in Lebanon and other area communities.

In surfing local papers this evening, I came upon the following:

Campaign taking root in Virginia
By Charles Owens, Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Tazewell, Va. — A campaign aimed at luring 15,000 alumni back home to Southwest Virginia is slowly beginning to take root.

From Charlotte, N.C., to Cincinnati, Ohio, success stories are already being told of former alumni who are returning home to Southwest Virginia as part of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s “Return to Roots” campaign. The effort to lure highly skilled alumni back is deemed vital to such projects as the proposed 680-acre Bluestone Business and Technology Center in Bluefield, Va., as well as current employers such as CGI-AMS and Northrop Grumman in Lebanon. The two Russell County-based companies alone are expected to create more than 700 highly-skilled technology jobs for Southwest Virginia. (link)

Well. "Beginning to take root." "Success stories are being told." Perhaps the program is indeed working.


So I perused the article for corroborating data.

And found none.

Anecdotal evidence?


Why all the excitement then?

It appears there have been hits on the website:
Blevins said the campaign has already identified alumni living in Cincinnati, Northern Virginia, Atlanta, Ga., and the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area.

“Those are the areas where a lot of our folks have migrated to over the years,” Blevins said. “But we have received hits on our websites from as far away as Arizona.”
In other words, in truth, the effort has resulted in zilch.

This, like the tourism juggernaut, is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Government and political cheerleaders duping gullible reporters for local newspapers into writing puff pieces about wondrous achievements gained, with absolutely no substance to back up the hype.

If the reporter was given this information: "success stories are already being told of former alumni who are returning home to Southwest Virginia," the question should have been asked: Can you quantify that?

Instead we get happy talk.

We deserve better. We deserve answers to such questions. We, after all, have paid dearly for them.

There Is a Simple Explanation

The Richmond Times-Dispatch takes the Bush administration to task for abusing the meaning of a word. I'll argue just the opposite. Here's their editorial:

Greenhouse Activism
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The other day the Bush administration appeared before the Supreme Court to argue that the plain language of the Clean Air Act does not require what it clearly seems to: regulation by the EPA of "any air pollutant" (including, therefore, carbon dioxide) emitted by new motor vehicles that "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare," with welfare being defined to include "climate" and "weather."

... the president who calls Antonin Scalia his ideal for a Supreme Court justice -- "for the strength of his mind, the consistency of his convictions, and the judicial philosophy he defends" -- is embracing a legal theory that appears to hold:

(1) Words mean whatever we want them to mean;

(2) The original intent of the legislation's authors does not matter; and

(3) Activist jurists should reinterpret statutes to conform to political expediency.

Good grief. (link)
Might there be a different point of view?

A definition:

Noun: pollutant pu'lootunt
1. Waste matter that contaminates the water or air or soil

Carbon dioxide is not by any stretch of the imagination waste matter.

Words do in fact have meaning.

Good grief.

Quote Of The Day

From Shanna Flowers, "Webb may want to work on his timing," The Roanoke Times, December 5, 2006 on James Webb's uncouth behavior at the White House:

Anyone who followed the campaign knows that Webb's son is a Marine serving in Iraq.

To me, Bush's comment seemed a natural icebreaker.

But Webb politicized the moment. He replied to Bush that he wanted to bring the troops home.

Save it for the Senate floor, newbie.

I brought up the senator-elect's surly behavior with a new buddy, a staunch Democrat, over lunch the other day.

She went off -- on Bush.

He shouldn't have asked Webb about his son, my acquaintance harumphed, and so on and so on.

Hold up.

No disrespect to Webb's son, but wasn't Webb the one traipsing across the state during the campaign wearing the boy's combat boots in a war protest of sorts?

I'm not knocking Webb for avoiding the backslapping, glad-handing and picture-taking with the president earlier in the evening.

But because Webb showed up and because Bush sought Webb out for chit-chat, what was wrong with being civil? (link)

It's no more complicated than that. But asking for civility? James Webb? That's not the guy you people elected. You wanted just the churl you got. So live with him ... every day ... for the next six years.

Just What We Need. Another Park.

What is the biggest problem facing the city of Roanoke? It's not what you might think. Despite the fact that economic prospects for the city are rated by the Milken Institute to be only slightly better than those of Gary, IN for God's sake, the real problem is ... there aren't enough parks. And Roanoke City Council is hell-bent on bankrupting the city to correct that:
Roanoke gets a $53.6 million price check for potential riverside park.
The concept for the park near the Roanoke River could cost as much as a high school renovation.
By Todd Jackson, The Roanoke Times

An updated concept for a multiuse park off Reserve Avenue could cost as much as $53.6 million, the Roanoke City Council learned Monday.

Council members, who gave the park concept rave reviews at a meeting last month, remained excited about what can be done on the strategic piece of property bounded by the Roanoke River and opened up by the recent demolition of Victory Stadium.

The total is nearly identical to the $54 million construction cost of the new Patrick Henry High School. (link)
"Council members remained excited."

How many jobs could one buy for $53.6 million? In the end it doesn't matter. We're going to have another park to add to all the other parks in Gary Wannabe and here in what was once called Southwest Virginia but is rapidly becoming one big park.

For the love of God.

O The Joy

I'm actually kind of excited about this news:
'I'm Going To Go For This'
By Ian Bishop and Maggie Haberman, The New York Post

December 5, 2006 -- Washington - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday answered the question on everyone's mind - telling one New York lawmaker flat out: "I'm really going to go for this."

Clinton dropped the much-anticipated presidential bombshell during a blitz of phone calls to home-state lawmakers, as well as a top moneyman, Attorney General-elect Andrew Cuomo, and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

"She said to me, 'I'm really going to go for this. I'm going to make this effort,' " the New York lawmaker told The Post. (link)
You might wonder why I would be excited about Hillary making a run for the presidency. It has to do with this feeling of exhilaration that came over me when I stepped into the voting booth many years ago to vote aginst the Clintons the first time around. It was a feeling of joy that I only experience when ... well, we won't go there.

But I'm looking forward - with eager anticipation - to having the opportunity to vote against these snakes one last time. And if that race-baiting Sharpton can be her running mate, well, the pleasure will be beyond description.

Don't you Democrats let me down now.

And The Experts Ain't Alone

There are more than a few Americans who have been asking the question the "experts" are starting to ask:
Destination Is the Space Station, but Many Experts Ask What For
By John Schwartz, The New York Times

Once again, the shuttle Discovery is about to blast into space. And once again, it will dock with the International Space Station, and astronauts will continue the process of building the half-completed orbiting laboratory in a mission full of daunting challenges.

But the majesty of the first nighttime liftoff in more than four years, now scheduled for Thursday just before 9:36 p.m. Eastern time, will not dispel a question that has long been the subject of sharp debate among experts: What is the space station for? (link)
A great question. Which leads to another question a few of us non-experts are asking: If cash-strapped NASA spends ten times the amount on manned space flights as it does on unmanned missions, why are we even screwing around with this publicity-motivated program? (I'll let the experts phrase it such that it makes for a more collegial Congressional hearing).

Kill it. Kill it now. Before the people who run NASA go stark raving mad.

On DC & 'Taxation Without Representation'

Let me go on record as opposing this political solution to a real problem:
Utah, Using Olive Branch, Tries to Add Seat in House
By Kirk Johnson, The New York Times

Salt Lake City, Dec. 4 — The State of Utah and the District of Columbia are perhaps the oddest imaginable political allies in a nation of polarized partisan loyalties, alike in few things other than bankable predictability: Washington Democratic, Utah Republican.

But they share outrage that each does not have more influence in Congress, and Utah took a big step toward a marriage of convenience Monday when legislators here approved a plan that would give the state a fourth Congressional seat before the next census and Washington its first voting representation ever.

The plan for the District and Utah, a state denied a fourth seat after the 2000 census because the government did not count thousands of residents who were away serving as missionaries for the Mormon Church, faces big hurdles.

Still, the gulf of political difference between the two is the very glue that offers both of them some hope Congress will give its required approval: one of the newly created seats would almost certainly be Democratic, the other Republican, with no net change in the balance of power. (link)
Setting the politics of the issue aside (is that even possible?), the citizens of DC deserve to have their apportioned share of elected representatives in Congress. Utah should have nothing to do with it, regardless how many new loony Democrats we allow to wander the halls of the Magic Kingdom, or how faulty the last census was.

I've said before, the District of Columbia should be rolled into the state of Maryland (which darn-near surrounds it) and the population there should be factored in next time House seats are meted out.

Republicans will never go for it. But it's the right thing to do. As for Utah, maybe the Mormons there could work a tradeoff for this.

The Democrats Take Over

Despite the lofty rhetoric coming from all the Democrats during the recent run-up to the election about changing the course of the country and putting us on a new path, slogans that amounted to nothing more than fetid pablum, they in fact have gone back to what they did when they and Bill Clinton ran things - nibbling at the edges.

Yesterday I touched on the fact that one of the three most important items on the Democratic legislative agenda, the minimum wage, affects an underwhelming 0.39% of America's workforce (that's not a typo; that's 1/3rd of one percent), 87% of whom are part-timers.

The only people who will, in fact, benefit from raising the minimum wage, for all intents and purposes, will be Democratic politicians.

Today we get a glimpse of another earth-shaking move on their part. And it ain't fixing Social Security. Or Medicare. Medicaid. The national debt. Or the war on terror.
With the Democratic Congress, Groups Gear Up for Fight Over Paid Sick Days
By Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times

With the Democratic Congress expected to move quickly to raise the minimum wage, many Democrats, women’s organizations and liberal groups are gearing up for a fight on another workplace issue: paid sick days.

Supporters point to studies showing that nearly half of American workers do not receive paid sick days. But many Republicans and businesses complain that such legislation would impose another mandate on companies, driving up their costs. (link)
I could suggest to the deep-thinkers who are wanting the government to mandate that business owners cough up the money - at the point of a gun - for paid sick days for their employees, that some of those employers will be less able to do so because they'll also be paying more because of the hike in the minimum wage, but nuts-and-bolts arguments are lost on these people.

The Democrats are here to make the private sector workplace a more enjoyable experience - like working for the government. At least until there is no more workplace.

Then they'll blame the downturn in the economy on George Bush. That's how they operate.

And so you don't forget: You wanted 'em. You got 'em.

Wash Your Hands!

I told the story several months ago about walking into a McDonald's restaurant near Charlotte one night and being handed a coke cup (it's one of those you-fill-your-own-cup deals) by the greasy, unkempt, pimple-faced kid behind the counter, his hand grasping the cup by the rim - with four of his fingers inside the cup. He looked puzzled when I wouldn't touch the thing.

That kid, and every other kid in America who works fast food needs to read this article:

E. Coli Sickens 39 in New Jersey and New York
By Robert D. McFadden, The New York Times

At least 39 people in central New Jersey and on Long Island were infected, two of them critically, with E. coli bacteria in an outbreak of food poisoning last month that has been traced to the Taco Bell restaurant chain, health officials in New York and New Jersey said yesterday.

It was the nation’s most serious outbreak of E. coli toxins since mid-September, when the same strain of the bacteria, linked to packages of contaminated spinach grown in California, killed three people and infected more than 200 in 26 states.

Taco Bell, which serves burritos, quesadillas and other Mexican specialties in 5,800 outlets in the United States and generated sales of $6.2 billion last year, voluntarily closed one outlet in South Plainfield, N.J., where 20 customers and 2 workers became infected, and eight other restaurants on Long Island, in what it called a temporary precaution to sanitize and restock outlets where E. coli had been traced. (link)

You want to be unhygienic? Fine by me. But stay out of my world. Starting with my coke cup.

Break Out The Champagne

I hold to the position that the vast majority of Americans have moved beyond the issue of race long ago. Except for the Klan and Al Sharpton, the country is light years from where we were during the days of the civil rights struggle.

There are a few holdouts though. Like the federal courts. But that may be about to change:
Court Reviews Race as Factor in School Plans
By Linda Greenhouse, The New York Times

Washington, Dec. 4 — By the time the Supreme Court finished hearing arguments on Monday on the student-assignment plans that two urban school systems use to maintain racial integration, the only question was how far the court would go in ruling such plans unconstitutional.

There seemed little prospect that either the Louisville, Ky., or Seattle plans would survive the hostile scrutiny of the court’s new majority. In each system, students are offered a choice of schools but can be denied admission based on their race if enrolling at a particular school would upset the racial balance. (link)
Why this is a problem to be solved by the court system and not by the legislature is a story we'll save for another day. But if the Supreme Court ends this thirty year old travesty, it will be thirty years too late. But end it they must.

We're even making progress at the New York Times. Yesterday the editorial page there referred to the Seattle and Louisville systems of forced integration as being "completely voluntary." Today the Times is more ingenuous, saying students affected by the plans are "offered a choice of schools but can be denied admission based on their race." Which means it's voluntary until it isn't.

So hail the Supreme Court for what it's about to do. It's high time we got beyond this stain on American history.