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

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How To Become A Media Hero

What does it take for a Republican to get favorable press?

Speak Democrat:
Iraq war called 'greatest . . . blunder' for U.S.
Ex-GOP congressman fears that the U.S. may return to isolationism
By Peter Bacque, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

America's involvement in Iraq has become "the greatest foreign-policy blunder in our history," former Iowa Rep. Jim Leach said yesterday.

The United States needs to focus on diplomacy, not force, to resolve the crisis in the Middle East, Leach told the World Affairs Council of Greater Richmond.

Leach, a Republican, voted against authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

After 30 years in Congress, he was defeated in last year's elections. (link)
Key word being defeated.

When was the last time the mainstream media turned to a Republican has-been for counseling? Especially one who had been ignominiously bounced from office by his constituents. I'll venture to guess that it occurred the last time one spoke out against George W, Bush or the war.

In the case of the ex-congressman, Jim Leach has always played the role of useful media stooge, even now in forced retirement.

Such an humiliation.

Who To Believe

This sounds encouraging:
Southwest Virginia says it's time to come home
The region has a new problem: There are more skilled jobs than workers to fill them.
Paul Dellinger, The Roanoke Times

"For the first time in my history, we've got more skilled jobs than we can fill," said Ed Whitmore, Smyth County administrator and a longtime player in the region's economic development.

"We've been screaming for high-tech jobs out here for years. Now we've got them. We feel like the dog who's caught the car," he said.

The region had about 1,700 job vacancies last year, including some 700 information technology jobs, based on figures from the Virginia Department of Business Assistance. (link)
This is not encouraging:
Layoffs bump up jobless rate
Dan Kegley, Staff, Smyth County News

Layoffs in Smyth County’s home construction material manufacturing sector in November are blamed for the highest unemployment rate recorded since January 2005.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission’s statistics for November 2006, the most recent figures available, Smyth’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent. At the start of 2005, the county posted a rate of 5.3 percent.

Visador Holding Corporation, TRW Automotive, and Royal Mouldings furloughed workers in November. (link)
It is, of course, quite possible that both of these stories are accurate. Job openings are going unfilled in Scott County and jobs are being lost in Smyth County. And there are skilled positions and then there are skilled positions.

Still, it all seems a bit incongruous.

Now We're Buying Mountains?

To prove that Congressman Rick Boucher (D-Washington DC) doesn't have the loose-screw market cornered, Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) has proposed a budget amendment in the state legislature that calls for our purchasing a mountain. Or part thereof. For a hiking trail.

Just in time too. We were getting embarrassingly short on trails and at risk of running out.

From "SW Va lawmakers propose drivers license number alternatives," Bristol Herald-Courier:
Southwest Virginia lawmakers are proposing legislation ranging from the purchase of Brumley Mountain in Washington County to ...

Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, submitted a budget amendment that would provide $3.2 million to establish a new state forest and a 20-mile hiking trail on Brumley Mountain in Washington County.

“By investing a small amount of state dollars into preserving Brumley Mountain, we will be able to prime the economic engine of Southwest Virginia,” Kilgore said in a written statement. “Having another protected forest where families can go hiking and hunting will attract new visitors to our region who will book hotel rooms, patronize our small businesses and eat at our restaurants.”

Kilgore said the state purchase of Brumley Mountain would give Washington County 25 percent of receipts from any timber sales. (link)
Jesus. And this guy is a Republican.

Terry: Those "small amounts" of dollars aren't "state" dollars. They were, at one time, Webb Furniture dollars. And Celanese Acetate dollars. And Dana Corporation dollars. And dollars belonging to the tens of thousands of Southwest Virginia residents who have been forced to pack their bags and move north looking for work.

Perhaps, if you hadn't confiscated those dollars in order to buy a freaking mountain, they'd all still be here. Ever think of that?

And as for your silly notion that "[h]aving another protected forest where families can go hiking and hunting will attract new visitors to our region," if that were the case, we'd be rivaling Dollywood about now, what with the 416 trails that have been carved out of our forests in recent years.

In fact, we'd find ourselves having to take names and put them on a waiting list of all those tourists who want to partake of our protected forests, if the creation of trails brought any kind of prosperity.

In fact, we can at present readily obtain a list of the names of our tourists. We have that few.

In fact, if a legitimate study were ever conducted, we'd find that we have more trails than we have tourists.

What say we just skip the "priming of the economic engine of Southwest Virginia," with the purchase of another trail - this time with mountain attached - and just buy us some tourists?

For ... the ... love ... of ... God.

Break Out The Bubbly

The following column appeared in the Roanoke Times on Thursday, December 4, 2006

Silver lining in high fuel prices?
By Jerry Fuhrman

I have a theory. Call it the Fuhrman Theory of Southwest Virginia Macroeconomics. Or simply call it crazy.

It's been in development for years and came to me once again after reading two different news articles in The Roanoke Times in recent days -- "U.S. retail gas prices continue to creep upward," (Dec. 5) and "Furniture makers protest rate plan," (Dec. 7). Both articles involve the rising cost of our two most precious necessities -- fuel and electricity -- a circumstance that will undoubtedly be having a disagreeable impact on area consumers and business owners. Disagreeable, that is, unless one looks to the future and sees something of a silver lining.

Let's talk about foreign competition. One of my earliest recollections as it relates to jobs being shipped overseas has to do with baseball gloves. There was a day when Spalding, Wilson and Rawlings ruled the industry -- no Nike, no Mizuno, no Nokona -- with those three U.S. manufacturers producing 100 percent of their mitts here in the United States.

But in the mid- to late-'70s a change started taking place. American companies began seeking deals with plants in Japan and later Korea to provide ball glove inventory for the American masses. Great deals. Such great deals that factories here began to cut back on production and eventually began to close.

What was difficult for me to understand at the time was that the raw materials -- the hides that were used to build the ball gloves -- continued to come from this country, from American beef cattle. Huge stocks of untanned leather would be gathered up at slaughterhouses in Omaha, bundled, put on trains heading to the nearest port, loaded on ships bound for Osaka and trucked over to the baseball glove plants, where our kiddies' ball gloves were made. The finished products would then be shipped back here for sale.

It cost less to ship raw materials halfway around the world and have low-wage, no-benefit employees work them into finished goods that were shipped (halfway around that same world) back here than it did to have those same commodities manufactured here. And the exodus of American jobs began.

The predominant factor in the decision-making over the last few decades has been the price of labor. Villagers in the jungles of Indonesia work cheap and don't demand dental and optical benefits. Far down the list of production costs are -- were -- transportation and utilities.

That's changing. Rapidly.

With the price of oil climbing once again, the cost of transporting raw materials is rocketing skyward, as is the cost of manufacturing itself (due to rising heating, cooling, lighting, energy bills). Thus both are becoming key factors with which to reckon.

It is soon going to be an expensive proposition to ship timber that was cut from the forests of Tazewell County to China where that Wal-Mart bookcase is made and then to ship the finished product back to Tazewell County for sale.

Looking back, it's easily understood why America's leading furniture manufacturers had processing and finishing plants in Southwest Virginia. This is where the raw materials are, and where the productive, skilled workforce is.

Perhaps, just perhaps, until that (inevitable) time when another cheap fuel -- and with it, cheap electricity -- comes along, our furniture companies will see expansion opportunities and prosperity once again.

Gasoline and energy prices are going up. So break out the bubbly.

There is, of course, a downside to all this. Besides the increase in prices consumers will pay, the vast majority of the exports that depart the state of Virginia this year for foreign lands were finished goods. So rising transportation costs and more expensive electricity will be bringing about considerable upheaval on the export side of the equation.

Still, looking to Southwest Virginia, where we are graced with a perpetual abundance of raw materials, that dark cloud that has been hovering over our heads these many years might just have a silver lining once again.

A Force To Be Reckoned With

Conservative Americans, having suffered grievous losses in the November elections, have decided that the "moderates" who have made a complete shambles of a once-great political party are going to have to go. Starting with this guy:
Choice of Martinez sparks GOP rebellion
By Ralph Z. Hallow, The Washington Times

Rebellion is brewing among conservatives on the Republican National Committee over President's Bush's attempt to "impose" Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida as "general chairman" of the party, who favors "amnesty" for illegal aliens. (link)
It's time our "compassionate conservative" president learns who it is that runs the party - real conservatives.

Though it will come a few months too late for many good Republican ex-elected officials ...

Do As We Say, Not ...

The folks at the New York Times cut down a whole forest of potential fossil fuels so that they could make the case in this morning's paper for ... fossil fuel conservation:

Energy Time

Al Hubbard, the economic adviser who’s coordinating the administration’s energy strategy, recently promised that President Bush would produce “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence.”

... we must hope that Mr. Bush is serious this time, because we simply cannot continue to hold our national security and the health of the planet hostage to our appetite for fossil fuels. (link)

... they wrote, as they consumed, with insatiable appetite, vast stretches of the planet's potential fossil fuel resources.

Nope. No hypocrisy here.

Could? Could Not.

Just days after it was announced that stem cells could be retrieved from the amniotic fluid of pregnant women, making it unnecessary to harvest and perform experiments on human embryos for research purposes, the new (Democratic) governor of New York has announced that he's going to spend the taxpayers' money on embryonic stem cell research anyway:

Spitzer Wants New York to Enter Stem Cell Race
By Nicholas Confessore, The New York Times

Albany, Jan. 12 — Five years ago, the Bush administration decided to severely limit federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, a move that set off vigorous competition among the states to provide support for a research field that many scientists say could bring about major medical advances.

Now, state lawmakers are preparing to move forward on what would be the most ambitious government-financed stem cell project on the East Coast.

In his first address to the Legislature, Gov. Eliot Spitzer called this month for passage of a $2 billion 10-year bond initiative for research and development, at least half of which would be set aside to pay for stem cell research. (link)

I don't have a dog in this hunt so it doesn't bother me if the people of New York want their hard-earned income wasted on such nonsense.

But a point that needs to be made over and over again - until thickheaded people around the country grasp the concept - embryonic stem cell research is going nowhere.

A few questions we all need to be asking: When told that embryonic stem cell research "could bring about major medical advances," when? What does "could" mean? Isn't it just as valid to say that it "could not?" How much of our money are you politicians going to spend on "could?" At what point are you going to admit your mistake and move on?

Viva Cuba Libre!

He should have received the same fate as Saddam Hussein experienced - for having committed the same unconscionable crimes against humanity. But we'll take this as a victory just the same:
Castro Impaired by 3 Surgeries, Paper Reports
By Marc Lacey, The New York Times

Mexico City, Jan. 15 — Fidel Castro has had a series of surgeries in recent months to repair pouches that formed in his large intestine and later the onset of a serious infection in his stomach lining, a Spanish newspaper reported Monday.

The Spanish newspaper said in a report posted on its Web site on Monday that Mr. Castro, who has not been seen in public since July 26, had suffered from diverticulitis, a serious ailment caused when the bulges that sometimes form in the colon of older people become infected. (link)
Castro will die soon - though not soon enough - and we can get on with making Cuba our 51st state.

It's time to celebrate.