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

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dawn Breaks Over Southwest Virginia

Pay attention, all you employers out there. You're about to learn something important that will affect your livelihood - meaning your bottom line - going forward. You can learn from it, and seize upon it, or you can do what others have done and pack it in and move offshore. And miss the most exciting opportunity you'll be afforded in your lifetime.

The next few months are critical.

Here's the deal:

The hardest hitting and most insightful columnist the Roanoke Times ever had wrote the following on December 4, 2006:

Silver lining in high fuel prices?
By Jerry Fuhrman

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. (read the entire column here)

Uh, that bubbly thing only applies if you didn't already close your doors and move your business to Honduras.

As the wise columnist foresaw back in 2006, the global manufactory is now going through profound - and accelerating - upheavel. For our good.

OIl Shocker..Stung by Soaring Transport Costs, Factories Bring Jobs Home Again
By Timothy Aeppel, writing in the Wall Street Journal

The rising cost of shipping everything from industrial-pump parts to lawn-mower batteries to living-room sofas is forcing some manufacturers to bring production back to North America and freeze plans to send even more work overseas.

"My cost of getting a shipping container here from China just keeps going up -- and I don't see any end in sight," says Claude Hayes, president of the retail heating division at DESA LLC. He says that cost has jumped about 15%, to about $5,300, since January and is set to increase again next month to $5,600.

"In a world of triple-digit oil prices, distance costs money," [Jeff Rubin, chief economist at CIBC World Markets] said.

Edward Monser, [Emerson Electronics'] chief operating officer, says logistics costs, which include all the expenses associated with moving goods, became a worry about a year ago.

Last month, a pump manufacturer, which had moved more than $1 million worth of metal-casting work from Bremen [Indiana] to China two years ago, called "to reactivate everything [in Bremen]

Last fall, Crown Battery Manufacturing Co. decided to close a plant it bought in Reynosa, Mexico, and move the jobs to its Ohio home base ..." (link requires paid subscrition)

To put it in terms everyone can understand, Tazewell Furniture will reach a tipping point soon at which it will find itself incurring more expense in procuring raw materials from Southwest Virginia (or the Philippines, or ...), ship the timber to China, where fine furniture is made, and then ship the finished goods to Southwest Virginia for retail sale, than if it were to simply manufacture the furniture in ... say ... Pulaski, Virginia.

We may very well be reaching that tipping point.

Break out the bubbly indeed. Before you break out those FOR SALE OR LEASE signs to be sure.

Coal Sequestration Is Dead

But nobody has told our illustrious congressman. Would someone wake Boucher up and break the news?
Boucher Proposes Fee To Pay For Carbon Capture Research
By Debra McCown, Reporter, Bristol Herald Courier

U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher introduced federal legislation on Thursday that would add a fee for coal-fired utility customers to pay for research on carbon capture and storage technology.

The technology would enable coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions by capturing carbon dioxide released by the plants and storing it underground.

“This is an investment in the long-term ability of individuals to be able to ... [blah blah blah] (link)
If only the dude would spend less time on his hiking trails and more time reading the latest news regarding "capture and storage":
Mounting Costs Slow the Push for Clean Coal
By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times

Washington — For years, scientists have had a straightforward idea for taming global warming. They want to take the carbon dioxide that spews from coal-burning power plants and pump it back into the ground.

President Bush is for it, and indeed has spent years talking up the virtues of “clean coal.” All three candidates to succeed him favor the approach. So do many other members of Congress. Coal companies are for it. Many environmentalists favor it. Utility executives are practically begging for the technology.

But it has become clear in recent months that the nation’s effort to develop the technique is lagging badly. (link)
"Lagging badly." That's what's called a euphemism. In fact it was stillborn. Dead. Never going anywhere. As I told you it was months ago. But Boucher is still looking for a heartbeat lo these months later.

Sigh ...

Webb Is Just Another 2-Bit Politician

That farm bill that has been criticized by everyone in America because of its waste and graft? (everyone that is except - notably - Washington types and those receiving the manna from heaven). Senator James Webb says he "reluctantly" voted for it because crumbs were thrown to the poor. Whether he was having Vietnam flashbacks when he made the ludicrous statement isn't known.

His preposterous explanation:
Webb says farm bill will help food banks
By Tyler Whitley, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said in Richmond yesterday that his vote for the recently passed farm bill was a tough vote, but the good in the bill outweighed the bad.

Touring the Central Virginia Foodbank, Virginia's junior senator said the bill includes $500 million in added spending on [blah blah blah]. (link)
"Yeah, I did vote for the bill that surrendered the West Coast to the Chinese but they offered America's poor a free pair of sneakers in return."

Some things you don't compromise on, Mr. Born Fighting. There was a time when you understood that concept. Now you just go along to get along. Be embarrassed, man.

Why We Support the Red Cross

They do the Lord's work:

Red Cross facility in Richmond sends aid to Iowa, Indiana

You guys rock.

Tim Kaine's Propaganda Machine ...

... shifts into high gear. The Richmond Times-Dispatch provides the tool:

Virginia lacks the funds to start new highway projects

Don't bother reading the piece. It offers not a word on the fact that revenues have doubled over the last ten years, making adequate funds available. It only sheds crocodile tears over the fact that the state "lacks the funds" to build roads (and improve K-12, and provide health care coverage to the poor, and keep our parks and forests maintained, and polish the higher education jewel, and mental health, and police protection, and ...)

Spare me.

Where Has This Headline Been?

People have been complaining about skyrocketing food and gas prices for months. That's why it's curious that we only read this in June?

Fuel Costs Pushed Up Inflation In May

And April ...

And March ...

And February ...

Global Warming?

The Chinese are laughing all the way on its journey toward global conquest:

China Increases Lead as Biggest Carbon Dioxide Emitter

Meanwhile, we ban incandescent lightbulbs ...

I Think This Guy Could Grow On Me

At least until tomorrow when John McCain starts talking about immigration or global warming again and sends me into apoplectic seizures.

But for today ...

McCain attacks Guantánamo ruling
By Andrew Ward and Demetri Sevastopulo, Finanacial Times

John McCain on Friday described the decision by the Supreme Court to allow Guantánamo Bay prisoners to challenge their detention in US courts as “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country”.

The Republican presidential candidate said he agreed with the four dissenting justices on the nine-member court that foreign fighters held at the detention camp were not entitled to the rights of US citizens. (link)
Might be some fire in that belly after all. If only he could keep it up ...

- - -

McCain's strong words dovetail nicely with yesterday's Wall Street Journal editorial on the subject. Never in my short life have I seen a major (and highly respected) newspaper accuse a Supreme Court Justice of lying. But there it was (in "President Kennedy"):

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy isn't known for his judicial modesty. But for sheer willfulness, yesterday's 5-4 majority opinion in Boumediene v. Bush may earn him a historic place among the likes of Harry Blackmun. In a stroke, he and four other unelected Justices have declared their war-making supremacy over both Congress and the White House.

To reach yesterday's decision, Justice Kennedy also had to dissemble about Justice Robert Jackson's famous 1950 decision in Johnson v. Eisentrager. In that case, German nationals had been tried and convicted by military commissions for providing aid to the Japanese after Germany's surrender in World War II. Justice Jackson ruled that non-Americans held in a prison in the American occupation zone in Germany did not warrant habeas corpus. But rather than overrule Eisentrager, Mr. Kennedy misinterprets it to pretend that it was based on mere "procedural" concerns. This is plainly dishonest. (my emphasis)

- - -

Peter Wehner:

"And so it has come to this: The United States Supreme Court now routinely invents constitutional rights to support whatever social, political, and legal goals it deems desirable. It is so much easier to legislate from the bench than it is through the branches of government that were created by our Founders to do just that.

But if one is going to invent Constitutional rights out of thin air, it’s worth asking: What moral universe do Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Stephens, and Souter inhabit when they are willing to manufacture constitutional rights for unlawful enemy combatants who want to slit the throats and watch innocent Americans bleed and die while at the same time uphold manufactured constitutional rights that allow people to abort innocent unborn children?"

Who's Side To Be On?

The Saudis (who we hate) are willing to do for us that which Congress and both Presidential candidates (who we ... love) won't:
Plan Would Lift Saudi Oil Output to Highest Ever
By Jad Mouawad, The New York Times

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is planning to increase its output next month by about a half-million barrels a day, according to analysts and oil traders who have been briefed by Saudi officials.

The increase could bring Saudi output to a production level of 10 million barrels a day, which, if sustained, would be the kingdom’s highest ever. The move was seen as a sign that the Saudis are becoming increasingly nervous about both the political and economic effect of high oil prices. In recent weeks, soaring fuel costs have incited demonstrations and protests from Italy to Indonesia. (link)
The Saudis step up and increase production. The Chinese are drilling off the Florida coast. We can't get past the polar bears. I sometimes think we don't deserve the nation our forefathers built and handed us.

Weather Channel Founder Goes After Al Gore

And he is boiling mad. John Coleman warns the world:

The future of our civilization lies in the balance.

So few of us, so many of them.

Lock and load.

Tim Russert Is Dead

I'll not feign tears or wax philosophic about the passing of NBC News personality Tim Russert. I hadn't watched his show(s) in years and didn't follow his work closely. He was, after all, part of the mainstream press.

Others however are struggling with his sudden death. My sympathies go out to them.