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

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

In A Pig's Eye

Don't even talk to me about a transportation funding crisis. Not when I read outrageous news items like this:
Study: Metro tunnel through Tysons would be costly
By the Associated Press


March 9, 2007 McLean, Va. -- A tunnel for Metrorail's planned extension through Tysons Corner would take about three years longer to build than an elevated track and cost at least $160 million more, a study commissioned by state officials found.

Building a 3.4-mile tunnel also could doom the state's chances for $900 million in federal financing, the study said. (link)
$160 million over and above the required expenditure. For a tunnel. So Tysons residents don't have to look at a train go nearby.

And we debate a funding crisis.

A Glimpse Into Their Methodology

How do "experts" in Southwest Virginia quantify the relative (or, preferably, the absolute) value of tourism expenditures? That's an ongoing - and maddening - question. Are we truly getting any bang for our buck?

It's an important question too, since the federal government, the state, and myriad local authorities have devoted millions upon millions of tax dollars to attracting those elusive "tourists."

Well, this narrative, provided in the Galax Gazette, gives us a glimpse into the calculation - or at least a portion of the calculation - that goes into measuring the worth of the tourism industry:
Carroll toasts tourism spending in county
By Christopher Brooke, Galax Gazette Staff Reporter

Hillsville - Revenue increases from travel-related taxes in Carroll County are something to celebrate ...

Donnie Turner, director of the tourism department, showed up - like many other county officials - to talk about accomplishments during the past year, goals for the next and expected budget needs.

Turner said during his 40-minute talk that sizeable increases in lodging in Carroll were matched by impressive rises in related taxes.

He noted that the Exit 14 area off of Interstate 77 raised $272,068 in lodging taxes in 2006 - up from $164,578 collected in 2005. (link)
Got that?

Everyone staying at the Super 8 or the Knight's Inn at exit 14 off of I-77 in Galax is considered a tourist. A tourist. Every one.

With that kind of flawed methodology, I'm delivering tourism dollars to Wheeling, West Virginia as I write this. Meals. Hotel. Fuel. I'm a by-God treasure trove of tourism expenditures. Only thing is, I'm here strictly on business. Here this evening and gone in the morning.

How can my brief stay here be construed as a tourism visit?

And how many of the people who stay at the Super 8 in Galax tonight are passing through to destinations well beyond the local area? Most to be sure. All?

Those aren't tourists. They're travelers. A big, big difference.

So Donnie Turner claims to have brought in a quarter of a million tourism dollars, at the exit 14 motels alone, justifying, presumably, an array of expenditures on hiking paths and riding trails and museums and cultural centers and on and on. Attractions that, on any given day, collect dust.

We need a much more viable reporting than this, fellas. And less creative accounting.

More Mexican Wisdom

I'm beginning to have a great deal of admiration for the business acumen of certain Mexican movers and shakers. I mentioned President Felipe Calderone's statement this morning in which he essentially posited that only Mexican economic growth can solve the illegal immigration problem. Interesting.

Now there's this:

Mexican Billionaire Mocks Gates, Buffett
By Mark Stevenson, Breitbart.com


Mexico City - The world's third-richest man, Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim, poked gentle fun at the philanthropy of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and said businessmen can do more good by building solid companies than by "going around like Santa Claus" donating money.

Slim is gaining rapidly on the two heavyweights with a fortune that grew by $19 billion last year - the largest wealth gain in the past decade tracked by Forbes.

"Our concept is more to accomplish and solve things, rather than giving; that is, not going around like Santa Claus," said Slim, as he cracked jokes, smoked a cigar and outlined business plans at a rare news conferences. "Poverty isn't solved with donations." (link)
Poverty isn't solved with donations. How true. Poverty, as I've said many times, is solved with employers.

Now if Mr. Slim would just create conditions in his native Mexico that will bring about a plethora of new employers, we all will prosper.

Warner Continues To Slide Left

I've run out of fingers and thumbs.

I was trying to keep track of the many reasons I now oppose Senator John Warner's reelection. I've completely lost track.

But I know I can now add this to that lengthy and ever-growing list:
Warner hits Pace on gay remarks
Posted on the Chicago Tribune's The Swamp by Jill Zuckman


The ranking Republican of the Senate Armed Services Committee sharply rebuked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Tuesday, taking issue with General Peter Pace’s view that homosexual acts are immoral.

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a former Secretary of the Navy, said, “I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman’s view that homosexuality is immoral. In keeping with my longstanding respect for the Armed Services committee hearing process, I will decline to comment on the current policy until after such hearings are held.”

... Warner’s comments suggest that he may be willing to revisit U.S. military policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,’’ which was crafted under President Clinton and backed by Pace. A spokesman said Warner has not discussed his view of the policy in past years. (link)
Peachy.

Warner's left-leanings have now descended to the point where, like the Clintons before him, he views the United States military not as a fighting force assembled to protect the citizenry, but as a social experiment to be manipulated in order to achieve some warped sort of contrived closed-societal utopia.

The man must be stopped, before he does this country great harm.

I Was Wrong

It looks like Christian Trejbal's exposé ... er, "illustration" is a big deal after all. A really, really big deal.

Roanoke.com drops list of gun owners
A list of concealed-carry permit holders was part of a newspaper editorial
column.
Laurence Hammack, The Roanoke Times


One day after igniting a firestorm of criticism, The Roanoke Times decided Monday to remove from its Web site a list of Virginians licensed to carry concealed weapons.

The list, published as part of an opinion column about open records that ran Sunday in the newspaper's New River Valley Current section, was taken down Monday afternoon out of concern that it might include names that should not have been made public, president and publisher Debbie Meade said.

Although she had received no official word from Virginia State Police, which provided the data at the paper's request, Meade said she was concerned enough about complaints from readers to act out of an abundance of caution. (link)


Oops.

It appears the Times editorial staff is gaining quite a reputation for itself. This embarrassing incident, coupled with the national on-air spanking administered by FoxNews personality Bill O'Reilly of Times editorial page editor, Dan Radmacher back in December, has produced ... well, a lot of backpedaling and, I'll bet, more than a few recriminations.

I feel so bad for them too. They're nice guys and are undeserving of such wrath ...

The Last Word On Chichester

It probably speaks volumes that all the left-wing bloggers in Virginia are this morning lamenting the retirement of state Senator John Chichester, a Republican. And that all the conservative bloggers in the commonwealth are jubilant.

This might best explain the bizarre twist:
GOP 'tax increaser' plans to retire
By Seth McLaughlin, The Washington Times


Virginia state Sen. John H. Chichester, the longtime Republican lawmaker who often broke from his party's conservative anti-tax platform and sided with Democrats to push for tax increases, said yesterday that he will not seek re-election after logging 29 years in the General Assembly.

Considered a centrist by some and "a serial tax increaser" by others, Mr. Chichester's retirement prompted somber remarks from some Democrats and excitement from some Republicans. (link)
If ever there was an epitaph perfectly writ ...

Down Memory Lane

This headline in today's New York Times brought back a memory:

Tell me if you can guess what famous American (hint: He's also a Virginian) who today professes his undying support for our troops, wrote the following:
The volunteer army is an unmitigated disaster ...

Because there is no draft, volunteer army soldiers are wheedled and cajoled by recruiters. This sort of seduction, which has become necessary in the face of recruiting shortfalls that have increased every year, creates an attitude in both the enlistee and the military itself which is destructive to discipline and the traditional notions of service ...

It is fundamentally wrong - and cowardly - in a democratic society to claim ... The result of such logic is today's volunteer Army, a collection of men and women who have been economically conscripted to do society's dirty work, as surely as if there were the most inequitable draft imaginable.

Our greatest need is ... to make our military once again a fighting force rather than a social lab, and to stop being afraid to ask the men of Harvard to stand alongside the men of Harlem, same uniform, same obligations, same country. (source: The Atlantic, April 1980, Vol. 245, No. 4, pp. 34-44)
Who is this now-famous now-revered now-expert on the military?

Who is this person who was then demanding that we reinstate the draft, and yet today professes his undying support for the troops, the same American fighting force that he here called "an unmitigated disaster" and "economic conscripts?"

None other than our own Senator James Webb.

Out Of The Mouths of Babes

This Mexican makes more sense than do 2/3rds of our elected politicians in Washington:
Mexico warns jobs key to halting illegals
By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times


Guatemala City -- As President Bush prepares to meet today with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Mr. Calderon and his government are increasingly making it clear the solution to the U.S. illegal immigration problem lies in Mexico.

"I will say this very clearly -- comprehensive immigration reform in the United States starts in Mexico," Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's new ambassador to the U.S., said in an interview last week in Washington previewing this week's meeting.

"Unless Mexico is able to generate the type of economic growth, job creation, well-paid job creation, we will still have a difficult time ... (link)
Saying it is one thing, of course. But fixing Mexico's woeful "top down" system of economic governance is a whole different animal.

Still, Calderon has the right idea. Now, if he can just affect change ...

Eagles Gather

This coming Saturday there is to be A Gathering of Eagles.

There is also, at the same time and the same place, at The Wall, to be another gathering. One that will include Jane Fonda.

Thomas P. Evans intends to be there.
Not many Vietnam veterans were around for that march on the Pentagon 40 years ago. We were in a different world, a world few anti-war protesters could even imagine. Maybe because we missed all that four decades ago, we want to be there this time.

It won't feel right to us Vietnam vets to face protesters with our backs to the Vietnam Wall. Many of us will be glancing over our shoulders at the names on the Wall every once in a while. And some of us will shed a few tears when we do.
God bless him. We wish him and his comrades well.

'Nothing Good Shall Ever Be Written About Iraq'

There must be a directive. An internal memo. A company policy that had to be signed in the human resources manager's presence before leaving on assignment:
For the duration of my appointment to Baghdad, I shall avoid writing anything positive about developments there. I shall write only negative stories about American soldiers and their interactions with Iraqis. I shall adhere to the company's code and reveal only the dark, seemy side of America's presence there and shall avoid any mention of positive growth and stabilization. I understand the fact that, if I violate this policy, I am subject to immediate dismissal.

Signed: _________________
How else to explain the New York Times printing stories like this, day after blessed day:
For U.S. Troops at War, Liquor Is Spur to Crime
By Paul von Zielbauer, The New York Times


In May 2004, Specialist Justin J. Lillis got drunk on what he called “hajji juice,” a clear Iraqi moonshine smuggled onto an Army base in Balad, Iraq, by civilian contractors, and began taking potshots with his M-16 service rifle.

“He shot up some contractor’s rental car,” said Phil Cave, a lawyer for Specialist Lillis, 24. “He hopped in a Humvee, drove around and shot up some more things. He shot into a housing area” and at soldiers guarding the base entrance.

Six months later, at an Army base near Baghdad, after a night of drinking an illegal stash of whiskey and gin, Specialist ... (link)
Another day, another Abu Ghraib story. The 600th. It never ends. They know no shame.

Darn

Looks like we won't have this flake to kick around after all:
Senator From Nebraska Says No to Presidential Bid, for Now
By Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times


Washington, March 12 — Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said Monday that he would not enter the 2008 presidential race — for the time being, at least — so he could concentrate on domestic and global concerns, particularly helping secure an end to the Iraq war.

“America is facing its most divisive and difficult issue since Vietnam — the war in Iraq, an issue that I have been deeply involved in,” said Mr. Hagel, a critic of the war. “I want to keep my focus on helping find a responsible way out of this [... blah blah blah] (link)
Here's my thought: In the state of Virginia we find ourselves in the glorious position of having witnessed in recent days announcements from two of the most reviled nemeses in the Republican Party, John Chichester and Russell Potts, that they are retiring. (I still pinch myself ...)

So we get the two of them in a room with Hagel, explain to him the realities as they exist today, and convince the renegade to do likewise.

Call me a dreamer ...

It Spreads

It's like a computer virus:


See it live on Oprah. 3pm eastern. 4pm on the coast. To be replayed in the evening over and over and over and ...

Contemplation Is a Good Thing

Some will see this as worrisome:
G.O.P. Voters Voice Anxieties on Party’s Fate
By Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee, The New York Times


After years of political dominance, Republican voters now view their party as divided and say they are not satisfied with the choice of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

In a survey that brought to life the party’s anxieties about keeping the White House, Republicans said they were concerned that their party had drifted from the principles of Ronald Reagan, its most popular figure of the past 50 years.

Forty percent of Republicans said they expected Democrats to take control of the White House next year ... (link)
This is actually a positive, healthy occurrence.

Unlike years past, when Republicans coalesced - quickly and early on - around a candidate who was "electable," call it the Bob Dole Syndrome, party members are now holding back. Evaluating. Listening. Letting the process play out. Watching the other side do its thing.

This may prove to be bad for John McCain (the Syndrome was to take hold and elevate him to the throne - quickly and early on ...) but it is an encouraging development for the party. And perhaps it gives lesser-knowns like Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback a chance to be heard, rather than be trampled by the onrushing McCain herd.

Things are looking up. Hold your heads up for it.

A Bold U.N. Action

The United Nations has assessed blame for the genocide that is ongoing in Darfur:


The venerable body then moved on to budget matters ...

'It Can't Be Done Here'

As we watch our manufacturing base crumble here in Southwest Virginia (see stories relating to several more closings and downsizings cited here just last week), and a defeatist attitude settles in, one that reads something like this: We have to turn to the tourism industry and to low-wage no-benefit call center jobs (Congressman Boucher considers them to be part of the technology sector - whatever) because we cannot compete with even lower-wage China, a curious thing is occurring. The Chinese - of all people - know how well we can compete.

In a front page story in the New York Times this morning comes this news:

The Classic British Sports Car From China
By Craig Smith, The New York Times

Longbridge, England — MG, the legendary British brand that expired after a lengthy illness, will be revived this month as a Chinese sports car when the Nanjing Automobile Corporation begins to produce convertible sports cars under that name in China.

The rebirth of MG is the latest and most splashy example of how China’s growing economic might is reaching carefully into foreign markets, buying up troubled companies with established brands and using them to build bridgeheads for some of the hundreds of billions of dollars that the country has to invest overseas. (
link)


Buried deep within the article comes this eye-opener (pay attention all you defeatists here in the Southwest Virginia!):

On March 27, the 60th anniversary of Nanjing Auto, the Nanjing plant will start producing two MG models: the MG7, a five-seat, four-door sedan, and the MGTF, a two-seat, two-door convertible sports car. It hopes to eventually export the MG7 to Europe.

Negotiations are under way to produce a hardtop version of the MGTF roadster through a joint venture in Oklahoma, and Mr. Wang said he hoped Americans would be able to purchase an MG in the near future, depending on the company’s ability to meet federal regulations.
Oklahoma. The Chinese. Because Americans would be are able to purchase an MG. The marketplace is here.


Just as the marketplace is here for our fine furniture and our textiles and our coal.

So. To those of you who have abandoned hope that the manufacturing sector here in the area is doomed, the Chinese have a message: You don't want to get it done? Fine. We'll do it for you.

And you call yourselves Americans.

A forewarning: If the Chinese take over the world, it is because YOU let them.