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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Tale Of Two Cities

The Blacksburg-Christiansburg Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was ranked 79th among all smaller cities across the country by the Milken Institute in 2005. That ain't bad. In fact, that's darn good. Even more striking is the fact that it ranked number one in terms of its high tech industry presence - 2003 to 2004 - in all the USA. (source)

That, friends, is spectacular.

But, if that's so, how do we reconcile the data (number 1!) with this news?
Downtown Blacksburg vacancy rate called 'shocking'
A consultant team said the leasable-space vacancy rate is three times that of a healthy downtown.
By Tonia Moxley, The Roanoke Times

The vacancy rate for commercial buildings in downtown Blacksburg is shocking, or so two consultants told the town council Tuesday night.

Keith Covington of Third Coast design studio and Philip Walker of The Walker Collaborative -- both based in Nashville, Tenn. -- were hired to conduct a study of downtown Blacksburg zoning and development issues. They found a 17 percent vacancy rate in leasable commercial space in the town's core. Walker told the council that 5 percent is normal in a healthy downtown. (link)
Interestingly, the first recommendation this consulting team made to turn things around for the downtown area is for the Blacksburg town council to provide tax breaks as an incentive to drive economic growth. Where have you heard that before?

Back to the point, how can Blacksburg have a "shocking" vacancy rate and yet the Blacksburg-Christiansburg MSA be number one in the country (in terms of smaller cities) when it comes to high tech industry? Believe me, it isn't downtown Christiansburg that's shouldering the weight here.

Anyone familiar with the area knows the answer. There are two towns in the town of Blacksburg. There's Blacksburg, and then there's the megalopolis of Virginia Tech and its accompanying business offshoots and ancillary endeavors.

In fact, this kind of result seems to be a trend across the commonwealth. Harrisonburg (James Madison University) is ranked 14th overall and 2nd in terms of high tech industry. Charlottesville (University of Virginia), ranked 41st overall, is ranked 5th in high tech industry.

So what does all this mean?

It means, first of all, that prosperity can be a fickle, mysterious creature. But secondly, it also means that the folks in Martinsville who have been campaigning for years to have a four-year state-supported college - hopefully with emphasis on high tech - located there, may be smarter than we thought.

So Woe be unto Blacksburg. All hail Blacksburg. Makes your head hurt, doesn't it?

Next Time You Hear Them Plead Poverty

The governor is on a mission to buy, using your money of course, useless woodland and do nothing with it. The same governor who tells us there is a funding crisis in state government.

The very revealing story:

Kaine stands by land preservation
The governor said he believes the government can protect large parcels of land by buying them.
By Ray Reed, The Roanoke Times

Lexington -- Gov. Tim Kaine said Tuesday he isn't backing off his goal of seeing 400,000 acres of Virginia protected from development during his tenure, despite a $13 million cut the General Assembly made in his land-conservation budget.

"Swift action is needed" to preserve more land, Kaine said, while ...

Although state legislators talked about cutting all of the $20 million Kaine proposed for land conservation in his budget draft, they finally appropriated $6.6 million from the state's general fund through July 2008.

Included was $500,000 annually for two years to the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and $950,000 the first year for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. (link)
It is said by some, including our mixed-up governor, that our roads and bridges are in deplorable condition and we have a problem of crisis proportions on our hands.

A crisis of such magnitude that he plans on spending tax revenue that he claims he doesn't have on 400,000 acres of worthless land.

And he demands a tax increase.

When pigs fly, pal.

Leave It To Governor Tentative

A telling quote from our governor, a man who has already gained a reputation for preferring to lurk in the shadows and not involve himself in the down-and-dirty struggle over transportation funding here in the commonwealth. With regard to amendments that Tim Kaine will surely make to the funding compromise that was placed before him by the Virginia legislature:

"Some of them are so critical that if there aren't amendments, there's the
certain possibility of a veto after they leave."

A "certain possibility." A definite maybe. A resounding whimper.

Bold leadership there.

Tut Tut

You thought they were satisfied with banning your right to smoke in the back of the restaurant (and in the privacy of your own car). But you thought wrong.

You now find yourself reading each day about the Al Gores of the world who want to restrict your way of life so as to reduce carbon emissions and save the planet (while they continue to maintain and enjoy their fantastic, profligate - and wasteful - lifestyles.)

But they'll not stop there. They are feeling good about themselves. And they enjoy the favorable press. They are on a roll.

And we're the ones who are going to be rolled:

Prince Charles Says Ban McDonald's Food

London (AP) -- Prince Charles suggested Tuesday on a visit to the United Arab Emirates that banning McDonald's fast food was crucial for improving people's diets, a British news agency reported.

Charles made the comments while visiting the Imperial College London Diabetes Center in Abu Dhabi for the launch of a public health campaign, The Press Association reported.

"Have you got anywhere with McDonald's? Have you tried getting it banned? That's the key," Charles was quoted as asking one of the center's nutritionists. (link)

One might wonder, of course, why Prince Charles, a fair-haired friend of the environment (and now of proper nutrition), felt the need to burn thousands of pounds of fossil fuels just to tour a clinic in far-away Abu Dhabi. And it wouldn't be considered rude to ask the heir to the British throne how much food and drink he consumes in a day's time, and whether or not it is more nutritious, in the end, than a Big Mac.

And we might even ask him what business it is of his what we choose to eat.

But this is another example of who these people are. They (Al Gore, Prince Charles, the entire Democratic Party here in the USA) see us as little people who need looking after. So they've taken it upon themselves to ban guns and cigarette smoke, and soon our SUV's and Quarter Pounders. It's for our own good. And shut up.

As for them? Well, that's another thing all together. They allow themselves the luxury of consuming the planet's limited resources in breathtaking proportions, and that of polluting the atmosphere with their wide-ranging travels (where is Al Gore off to next in his private Gulf Stream V to speak on the subject of conservation?) because they feel obligated to provide us - the great unwashed - proper instruction on how we are to live our lives (was that Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow telling us we need to conserve by purchasing energy saving lightbulbs? And which country were they vacationing in when they made this pronouncement?).

I heard the other day that Al Gore has been nominated for a Nobel. And that he has a good shot at being president in 2008. It's my understanding also that Charles will some day be king of the British empire. Paltrow and Diaz? St. Moritz beckons, where energy saving lightbulbs are not to be found, I'll bet, but the wine is great.

And the Democrats? Well, the legislation is stacking up. So much to do. So many restrictions to pass. So many lifestyle changes to affect.

May God have mercy on us.

It Was Always About Unionization

After the terrorists struck on 9/11, the really smart people in Washington who run things, and who provide for our well-being ..., responded by firing all the baggage screeners at America's many airports, by bringing about the Transportation Security Administration, and by creating forty thousand new federal jobs - the TSA baggage screeners. We were all, instantaneously, safer.

I slept better at night. Didn't you?

There were those of us at the time who scratched our heads in bemusement, but recognized that this brazen ploy had nothing to do with national security. It simply gave those in Congress who are beholden to the unions the opportunity to throw them a bone. And they used the threat of terrorism, shamefully, as their straw man.

The Democrats denied it of course. But America saw through the ruse and knocked them down. TSA was created but the screeners were never allowed to organize (in any meaningful way).

Well, the Democrats are in charge again. And the unionization effort has begun anew (without the denials this time):

Call to Expand Union Rights Could Derail Antiterror Bill
By Eric Lipton, The New York Times

Washington, Feb. 27 — Democrats in Congress are pushing to extend union protection to 43,000 federal airport security workers, reviving a debate that stalled the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and could now derail broad antiterrorism legislation.

The proposal has provoked opposition from Senate Republicans and the Bush administration. It is the latest in a series of labor-related fights in Washington as Democrats try to use their new majority to push long-delayed proposals that benefit rank-and-file workers, like increasing the minimum wage.

White House officials made clear on Tuesday that President Bush was prepared to veto a bill that enacted recommendations of the Sept. 11 Commission if the provision granting Transportation Security Administration workers collective bargaining rights was not removed. (link)

There was no reason in 2002 to fire 40,000 employees at our airports and to give employment - and federal pay and benefits - to 40,000 replacements, except to expand the union's (currently very limited) control of the American workplace. What they haven't been able to do in the private sector, they certainly have done exceedingly well with in government.

So we've returned to the same debate. The Democrats still want anti-terrorism legislation to include a provision to allow for union organization. Anti-terrorism legislation.

President Bush should put his veto pen to this measure the moment it hits his desk.

It Means No Such Thing

One fanatical Islamist with a backpack full of explosives does not a military invasion make. Yet the New York Times sees impending catastrophe in the fact that a Muslim terrorist - one - was able to blow himself up in front of a U.S. military facility:

Afghan Bombing Sends a Danger Signal to U.S.
By David E. Sanger, The New York Times

Washington, Feb. 27 — The audacity of a suicide-bomb attack on Tuesday at the gates of the main American base in Afghanistan during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney underscores why President Bush sent him there — a deepening American concern that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are resurgent.

American officials insisted that the importance of the attack, by a single suicide bomber who blew himself up a mile away from where the vice president was staying, was primarily symbolic. It was more successful at grabbing headlines and filling television screens with a scene of carnage than at getting anywhere near Mr. Cheney.

But the strike nonetheless demonstrated that Al Qaeda and the Taliban appear stronger and more emboldened in the region than at any time since the American invasion of the country five years ago, and since the Bush administration claimed to have decimated much of their middle management. And it fed directly into the debate over who is to blame. (link) [my emphasis]
The bombing demonstrates no such thing. If anything, it and the reaction to it by the Times, highlights the fact that you sure as hell don't ever want to be caught in a foxhole with those cowards.

In a sane world, we might blame the bomber. Perhaps even Al Qaeda. There was a day not long ago that we would even have taken a good hard look at Islam. But today isn't that day. Not by a long shot.

Today our first inclination is to blame Bush.

The 'Hate America' Crowd Gets It Wrong Again

The Chinese stock market took a big hit on Tuesday, losing some 9% of its value - in one day. Most analysts pegged the drop to the volatile nature of that market, what with hundreds of billions of dollars having been poured into it in recent years, and to the fragile nature of China's economy.

U.S. markets responded yesterday by dropping a ton as well (Alan Greenspan's comment from his retirement wheelchair about the possibility of a recession later this year fueled the fire), with the New York Stock Exchange shedding over 400 points.

That being understood, here's today's news in the New York Times:

Asian Markets Fall Again on Worries About U.S. Economy
By Keith Bradsher, The New York Times

Hong Kong, Feb. 28 — Stock markets fell sharply across most of Asia on Wednesday morning.

But most of the worries were not about China, which started a global sell-off on Tuesday, but about the strength of the American economy and the continued willingness of international investors to keep buying shares far from home. (link)

This reads as if it was written before the news broke. Here's the next sentence:

After tumbling almost 9 percent on Tuesday, the Shanghai market bounced back by about 4 percent by early Wednesday afternoon.
So after taking a plunge on Tuesday, the Chinese market actually recovered somewhat on Wednesday. Why didn't today's headline therefore read like this?

Shanghai Exchange Rebounds

It's true that other Asian markets followed the lead of the U.S. and China and experienced similar declines yesterday. But in a global economy, that was to be expected.

But it must be noted that the market upheavel started in Shanghai, not on the NYSE.

The New York Times, hoping to stick a knife in George Bush's robust economy, saw this as an opportunity to do just that. Thus the "most of the worries were not about China ... but about the strength of the American economy."

So typical.