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

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Preachin' To The Choir

Noun: forum (forums, fora) forum
1. A public meeting or assembly for open discussion
2. A public facility to meet for open discussion

Any bets on whether there will be opposing views expressed at this forum?

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to speak at Dean's Forum
Angela Willett, Collegiate Times Staff Writer

On Feb. 26, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will be the keynote speaker at the environmental Deans’ Forum at Virginia Tech.

The Deans’ Forum on the environment is the second forum in a planned series of at least four. The forum will serve several purposes in regards to communication, research and environmental awareness. Primarily, it allows the deans of each college to come together and collaborate on a project that everyone can relate to.

In addition, the forum is being used as a tool to implement part of Virginia Tech’s strategic plan to become a leading institute in research, discovery and innovation regarding environmental issues. (link)

Pardon me for saying this but it doesn't sound like a "forum" at all. Sounds more like a good old-fashioned down-home Southern Baptist Holy Ghost revival, without the Divine guidance, but probably with a whole lotta shoutin', denunciatin', hymnal singin', and speakin' in tongues. And with all participants coming away feeling cleansed of your sins.

Should be a hoot.

When Lives Are Entrusted To Your Care

I've never been remotely close to experiencing something like the following but I have been responsible for the safety and well-being of many employees over the years, some of whom operated in relatively dangerous environments, a number of which, truth be known, ended up with (mostly minor) injuries and hospital visits.*

That having been said, this is unacceptable:
Firefighters Suspended in Trainee Death
Associated Press

Baltimore (AP) -- Two Baltimore fire officials have been suspended without pay after the death of a trainee who collapsed during a live-fire exercise at a building that was set ablaze.

Division Chief of Training Kenneth Hyde and Lead Firefighter Instructor Lt. Joseph Crest were suspended Tuesday, the fire department said in a statement. An investigation showed fire safety procedures were not followed, authorities said.

Racheal Wilson, 29, collapsed during an exercise Friday and died at a hospital. Two other firefighters were injured when they went to Wilson's aid.

Wilson, one of 24 recruits participating in the exercise, was on the third floor with two other trainees responsible for punching holes to ventilate the building. A fire had been set on the second floor.

The cause of Wilson's death has not been determined. (link)
A tragic mishap that may have been preventable. So sad.

* The worst injury I can recall ever having occurred on my watch, besides one individual who was using a cutting torch but wasn't wearing his face shield and got a sliver of metal imbedded in an eyeball, was the guy who accidentally plunged a knife into his wrist and sliced tendons, leaders, and an artery. He was rushed to the hospital and had to undergo emergency surgery to stem the bleeding and repair the artery. That idiot was me.

General Fund Inviolable

Included in yesterday's news regarding the Virginia Senate Finance Committee's decision to raise taxes even higher than the House of Delegates had decided to, in order to meet transportation funding obligations, is the news that the committee chairman, like so many misguided individuals in the commonwealth, considers the state's general fund to be, somehow, off limits when it comes to expenditures on this our state's most vital responsibility. It is to be reserved for "core needs and services." Hello?

First the headlines:

Speaker Irked by Vote on Roads
Senate Committee Provokes Warning
By Michael D. Shear and Amy Gardner, Washington Post Staff Writers

Richmond, Feb. 13 -- Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) threatened Tuesday to withdraw a multibillion-dollar compromise transportation plan and "go home" after a Senate panel added tax and fee increases to the measure.

"If this bill comes over to the House, we may just reject it and go home," Howell told reporters immediately after the action by the Senate Finance Committee. "I have a very fragile coalition in the House caucus that took a lot of cajoling to get them this far." (link)
Another stalemate would actually, about now, be the best outcome the people of Virginia could hope for. But beyond that, what irks me is this bizarre notion that the state's general fund is somehow sacrosanct:

Sen. John H. Chichester (R-Northumberland), the Finance Committee chairman, said the use of general fund money for transportation would rob the state's "core" services. And he said the legislature would inevitably take that money back for other programs if the state's economy turns sour.

"I have always said we should reserve the general fund for our core responsibilities," Chichester said. "I am more wedded to that conviction than ever before."

"... if the state's economy turns sour." Unlike the citizenry, which budgets based on day-to-day economic realities, Chichester - along with a host of like-minded statists - thinks state coffers should be shielded from the vagaries of recession. The same recession, should it occur, that will make it tougher for the people to meet their burgeoning obligation to shield the state coffers from the vagaries ...

Speaker Howell makes the point:
"We believe you can find $250 million in the general fund," Griffith said. "The alternative" -- imposing the $150 registration fee -- "raids the general fund of every family in Virginia."
Look, this is a zero-sum (non)game for us. You raise our taxes, we reduce spending or saving somewhere else - like our grandchildren's college education fund. We have no outside budget mechanism. Except for the lottery.

And, bewilderingly, the general fund is awash in a massive cash surplus at the same time that Northern Virginia politicians clamor for funding to fix the roads. At the same time that Southwest Virginia and Southside Virginia are reeling from serious economic downturns. Another tax increase would certainly pile onto the existing problems here. Yet Chichester wants to raise taxes anyway so as to protect his surplus from some future statewide unpleasantness.

For the love of God.

A Good Man Enters The Race

Mitt Romney made it official yesterday:
Claiming Outsider Status, Romney Says He’ll Seek White House
By Adam Nagourney, The New York Times

Dearborn, Mich., Feb. 13 — Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, came to a state where he has not lived for 41 years to declare his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, becoming the latest presidential candidate to position himself as an outsider running against Washington.

“We are weary of the bickering and bombast; we’re fatigued by the posturing and self-promotion,” Mr. Romney said, standing at the Henry Ford Museum here. “For even as America faces a new generation of challenges, the halls of government are ... (link)
Probably a longshot for the nomination under the best of circumstances, Romney didn't embolden his image with conservatives when, last spring, he rolled out a monstrous - and seriously flawed - "universal" health care program for his home state of Massachusetts.

But he is, of late anyway, a strong social conservative. And he's strong on defense and on winning the war on terror (a rarity among politicians these days). Most importantly, he has a marvelous strength of character, which puts him head and shoulders above his likely general election rivals, Bill Clinton & wife.

So Mitt Romney is welcomed into the fray. The Republican primary will be better for it.

'We Choose To Lose'

The Democrats have begun making good on their pre-election promise. They are joining sides with al Qaeda in the latter's relentless push to destroy America:
House Begins Full Debate on the Iraq War
By Jeff Zeleny and Michael Luo, The New York Times

Washington, Feb. 13 — The House opened a full-throated debate on Tuesday over the Iraq war as lawmakers began considering a resolution to denounce President Bush’s plan to add troops. Democratic leaders said the debate was the first step in using Congressional authority to intervene in the conflict.

“There is no end in sight,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “The American people have ... (link)
Like she has a clue.

Meanwhile, Pelosi's party draws itself ever closer to an alliance-in-spirit with America's once-hated foe, and that foe knows it. From ABC's Brian Ross:
Al Qaeda has sent a message to leaders of the Democratic party that credit for the defeat of congressional Republicans belongs to the terrorists.

Zawahri calls on the Democrats to negotiate with him and Osama bin Laden, not others in the Islamic world who Zawahri says cannot help.

"And if you don't refrain from the foolish American policy of backing Israel, occupying the lands of Islam and stealing the treasures of the Muslims ... (link)
Expect Murtha to be in Afghanistan soon groveling at Osama's feet, begging for forgiveness.

It has come to this.

'Tonight We Bring You A Story On Nappin...zzzzz'

Did you know that Katie Couric anchors the CBS Evening News? I didn't either. Maybe this is why:

Still in Third Place, but Working Hard to Move Up
By Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times

Diane Sawyer, a host of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” looked an awful lot like a globe-trotting, war-seasoned evening news anchor as she donned a head scarf to confront the president of Iran on Monday’s evening news.

On the “CBS Evening News” that same night, Katie Couric seemed to be reliving her heyday at NBC’s “Today” with a feature on the health benefits of napping. “The old saying ‘You snooze, you lose’ has it all wrong,” Ms. Couric said.

Ms. Couric, whose move to CBS last September to become the first solo female anchor of a network evening news program was hailed as a milestone, has yet to jolt CBS out of third place. But she is trying: she recently introduced a segment, “The American Spirit,” in which she spiritedly interviews inspiring Americans all over the country, hoping to enliven the newscast with some of her trademark early-morning pep and pizazz — the “Today”-ification of the “CBS Evening News.” (link)

Amid all the goosh about Katie's trademark pizazz and the babble about what she wears, and about the groundbreaking story on napping, there is a brief mention in the article of that which the evening news was originally meant to address - NEWS. The reporter is kind in saying there's very little of it.

But then the Perky Katie Couric wasn't brought in to do news. She was brought in to deliver the dog and pony show. Which she does. Well.

Of course, Katie finds herself in third place, still, in the network news ratings, a small market share of an ever-declining market. And she's being beaten handily each day by Rush Limbaugh in total viewership, with Rush confined to 19th century technology - the radio.

Interestingly, Rush does news. And analysis. Three hours a day. Maybe CBS could learn something from him.

Either that or it can continue its nap ... stories.