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

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oh For a Million Wal-Marts

I was mildly amused yesterday when I read this account in the Roanoke Times about a dispute that's developing in Christiansburg over a revitalization proposal to build town homes in the "historic district" there and, in the process, force the demolition of an abandoned, ramshackle building in its midst. One of many abandoned, ramshackle buildings in the general area, I might add.

It seems there are folks there who want to "preserve" something called the Cambria district for what could be a "quaint commercial area" and, it must then follow, preserve the crumbling building that goes along with it.

I say: More power to 'em.

In the sane world however, opportunities abound. Let's go to By-God West Virginia:

One town's loss another's gain
By Jen Haberkorn, The Washington Times

Fayetteville, W.Va. — Mayor James Akers was watching his town "die."

The coal industry's demise had bruised Fayetteville, a town of 2,655 in the mountains of southern West Virginia. Tourists going to the picturesque New River Gorge helped a bit during the summer, but there was nothing to keep them around. There wasn't much else to pump money and life into the town.

That changed in 2006, when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Lowe's Cos. Inc. came to town. The combination became a shopping destination, right off U.S. Route 19, pulling in sales-tax revenue and filling the town's restaurants and shops.

The town's budget nearly quadrupled from $700,000 to $2.7 million since fiscal 2005, Mr. Akers said. He attributes a large part of that increase to the presence of the two big-box stores. (link)
$2.7 million would go a long way in the many towns and villages in this area. It might even be used to tear down eyesores in blighted "historic" districts.

Or not.

The bottom line: Folks in Fayetteville prosper while those in Christiansburg fight over a crumbling structure.

Wal-Mart has a slogan, by the way, that seems apropos:

"Save money, live better."

Works for me.

- - -

* A special note to investors and soon-to-be retirees: Lots on and near Summersville Lake, just north of Fayetteville, are going fast. And not all are yet at premium prices. Bargains are still to be had, if you search them out.

Seems a lot of people with disposable income - including retirees - are attracted to the area's bustling economy and growth opportunities.

The Problem With Earmarks

First, a few definitions:

Verb: vet (vetted, vetting) vet
1. Examine carefully

Adjective: no-bid now bid
1. A sole source contract awarded by a government after soliciting and negotiating with only one firm; a process often fraught with suspicion that the company used illegal or immoral means to exclude competitors

- - -

In today's news, a mountain of unvetted no-bid deals with educational institutions foisted upon the American taxpayer by potentially crooked politicians in Washington:

Study Finds Record Education Earmarks
By Alan Finder, The New York Times

Congress set aside a record $2.3 billion in pet projects for colleges and universities last year for research on subjects like berries and reducing odors from swine and poultry, according to an analysis by The Chronicle of Higher Education to be published on Monday.

Despite recent calls in Congress for a moratorium on the home state projects, known as earmarks, the sum was $300 million more than the last time The Chronicle conducted its survey, in 2003, when the total was $2.01 billion. When the publication first analyzed earmarks in 1990, legislators set aside $270 million for colleges and universities.

Congress approved 2,306 earmarks last year for higher education, compared with 223 in 1990, The Chronicle said.

While such pork-barrel projects range far beyond academia, they are particularly controversial in higher education because they bypass the normal route for financing peer-reviewed scientific research. Typically, research proposals submitted to government entities like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are selected after intensive reviews by scientific panels and are based on broad national priorities.

Critics say that universities, by lobbying home-state legislators, can get more money with less scrutiny. (link)
To bring this despicable practice home, I've listed below the earmarks submitted by Congressman Rick Boucher, Democrat of Abingdon (along with, in some cases, co-sponsors), as reported by The Chronicle Of Higher Education:

Were UVa, Virginia Tech, and Radford wise choices for the various reseach projects to be conducted? Could the projects have been assigned to other institutions better capable of performing the research? Did anyone execute a cost/benefit analysis? Is the research even necessary? How important is a study of the damage and economic consequences of a dam overflow in light of the fact that the USA is on the verge of economic meltdown? How much of this is simply government waste? What did Boucher get in return?

If the Bush Defense Department let an unvetted, no-bid $3,200,000 contract to Halliburton for a study to be conducted on head, neck, and chest injuries in military personnel (see Virginia Tech award above), would Congressman Boucher and his pals - Democrat and Republican alike - be raising hell? Without doubt.

Here though these guys collude with one another - and with the institutions rewarded with your munificence - without any oversight whatsoever. Without any expectation of meaningful results.

It's wrong. It's shameful. It must stop. Now.

Click on chart to enlarge.

Say It Ain't So!

Hypocrisy revealed:
Sen. Barack Obama, whose campaign has sharply criticized the role of outside political groups in the presidential race, has benefited more than any other candidate from millions of dollars in independent political expenditures, records show.

The increasing support for Mr. Obama has given him a boost from the same sort of political activity his campaign has railed against, especially when millions of dollars in union and other special-interest money backed his opponents.
"Obama favorite of outside groups," The Washington Times, March 24, 2008

Reality Bites

I don't think this is what the world's do-gooders had in mind:

Biofuels force world to ration food aid

Scientists can turn sugar beets into fuel for your automobile. Cool!

Of course, millions of Africans will starve when production gets in full swing ...

Schools Failing?

No. They're just not yet achieving threshold performance.

OK. All's better:

Seeking a kinder word for failure
By Tracy Jan, The Boston Globe

To soothe the bruised egos of educators and children in lackluster schools, Massachusetts officials are now pushing for kinder, gentler euphemisms for failure.

Instead of calling these schools "underperforming," the Board of Education is considering labeling them as "Commonwealth priority," to avoid poisoning teacher and student morale.

The board has spent parts of more than three meetings in recent months debating the linguistic merits and tone set by the terms ... (link)
My favorite quote is from an education bureaucrat who expresses concern for those most affected by the state's failure to provide a decent learning environment for its students:

"For our teachers, it's a blow," said Wilfredo Laboy, Lawrence superintendent. "It demoralizes staff completely."

Yeah, we can't have teachers' feelings hurt.

As for the children? Nothing changes.

For the love of God.

Hat tip to Radley Balko, Reason magazine

Scum Of The Earth

They have the right to protest ...

They have the right to protest ...

They have ...

Good thing for them they live in America. Anywhere else, they'd be taken out back and shot:
Protesters arrested during Easter services at Holy Name's auditorium
By Stacy St. Clair and Erika Slife, Chicago Tribune

Six people were arrested at Holy Name parish's auditorium Sunday after disrupting an Easter mass to protest the Iraq war.The group—whose female and male members identified themselves as Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War—stood up at the beginning of Cardinal Francis George's homily and shouted their opposition to the conflict, which marked its fifth anniversary last week. As security guards and ushers tried to remove them from the service, the demonstrators squirted fake blood on themselves and parishioners dressed in their Easter finery. (link)
These assholes want the war to end.
So they disrupt an Easter service.
So 1960's. So pointless.

I wonder if they appreciate this great nation that allows for them to protest freely. I wonder ...