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Monday, June 27, 2011

Memo To Aspiring Reporter

Sometimes background information is called for.  And, space permitting, it's always a good thing.

Otherwise, your readers are left wondering: What's the story behind the story?

A mystery begins in the Wytheville Enterprise:


What Civil War graves? one might ask.

One isn't told.

This is as close as we get to an explanation:

"Last month, a team of students and two professors from Radford University traveled to Wytheville to scientifically test an area of the cemetery that, according to local history buffs, may have unidentified Civil War soldiers buried in unmarked graves."

The rest of the article goes into the search for remains.

Remains of unidentified soldiers buried in unidentified graves in an unidentified circumstance that got them there in the first place.

For that necessary background information one must turn to this weblog.  And to Colonel F.E. Franklin, USA, July 23, 1863:
On the l8th our column arrived in the neighborhood of Wytheville. Colonel Toland immediately sent two companies to the railroad, ten miles west of the town, to destroy the track and wires. It was then his intention to divide the balance of his force one part for the bridge, the other for Wytheville but for the want of a guide he could not do that. He therefore marched his whole remaining force on Wytheville. But the town was occupied by about five hundred troops concealed in the houses, besides two pieces of artillery. The contest of the most obstinate hand to hand fighting lasted about one and a half hours. We, however, carried the town by storm and with a perfect rush. As the soldiers, citizens, and even the women fired from their houses, both public and private, we burned the town to ashes. We had three commissioned officers killed and four wounded, fourteen men killed, twenty six wounded, and thirty eight missing and prisoners.

By the time the action was over and I had rallied my men the enemy had received seven hundred reinforcements in our front and three hundred cavalry in our rear, besides which there were a regiment of infantry and a battery of artillery at the Long Bridge. We therefore concluded it would be madness to attempt anything more except the destruction of a large culvert east of the town, which we effected. The loss of the enemy in killed was estimated at seventy five, the number of wounded unknown. We took eighty six prisoners. (source)
As was often the case in after-battle reports, the numbers of engaged, wounded, and killed in action are wildly exaggerated.

It is said that of the Union soldiers killed and left behind when Toland's raiding party retreated (leaving him behind as well - he was killed early on) Protestants were separated from Catholics (how those who did the burying knew can only be surmised; captured Union soldier info maybe?) and only the Protestant Yankees (seven in number?) were buried in St. John's Cemetery. Exact location unknown.

There you have the rest of the story.

Two Killed

Gun blamed.

Question asked (Roanoke Times, June 26, 2011, "Are firearms treasured more than people?"):
Sixty million Americans own a combined total of about 200 million firearms.* These firearms are so greatly treasured -- more so it seems than the people killed with them.

... Have you ever wondered if one of those 200 million firearms could be used to kill or wound you or someone close to you? Do we care enough to even wonder?
I'll care enough to wonder for only a moment.  And then I'll put the question back in the trash can, where it belongs.

If there are 200 million guns in circulation today (*), and one of them was used in a senseless crime, the odds that I - or someone close to me - will be murdered by a deranged gunman are so infinitesimal  that I'll not worry about it at all.

1 in 200,000,000.

Anyone who does feel the need to "wonder" should take a pill.

* By best estimates, 200 million is a wild exaggeration.  But the number makes for good ... wonderment.

Evidence That Politicians Aren't Normal

This from "Blue Ridge Caucus" will surely make you want to scratch your head:
A short synopsis: The Democrats who drew the state Senate redistricting plan targeted Smith for elimination, putting him in the same district with state Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg. They also set out to do some political mischief to state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, moving most of his district elsewhere and instead leaving him in a strangely-shaped district that stretches from Franklin County to Wythe County.

Then things happened.

Stanley moved into ANOTHER district, to challenge state Sen. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Henry County, something the Democrats likely didn’t foresee. And Smith moved into Stanley’s district, or what was technically his district now — that Franklin County-to-Wythe County creation.

Smith pointed out that a lot of the constituents he’s had are already there, plus he’s got some family ties to Wythe County.

And so there he sits, high atop Bent Mountain — without a Democrat in sight.

Instead of being eliminated, he’s unopposed! [link]
Is all this, in the end, worth it?

Must be ...

This Is No Way To Lead a Country

Mocking the president seems to be going mainstream:
In preparing his February budget, Obama totally ignored the recommendations of his own fiscal commission headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Others noticed: The Senate rejected the initial budget by a vote of 97-0.

Then, speaking in April at George Washington University, Obama said he was presenting a new budget with $4 trillion in long-term spending cuts. But there were no specifics.

Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf was asked last week if the CBO had prepared estimates of this budget. "We don't estimate speeches."
Michael Barone, "Like Chauncey Gardiner, Obama is profoundly aloof," Washington Examiner, June 25, 2011

Politico Gets It Right

I was wary when I approached this Politico article about the Republican messiah - Jon Huntsman.  This is Politico, after all.  But, as it turns out, it's spot on, as far as I'm concerned.  But you be the judge:
The problem with Jon Huntsman Hype
By Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei

From afar, it’s easy to get swept up by the hype: Jon Huntsman is accomplished, handsome, smart, and his civility message has appeal beyond the meat-eaters who dominate this early phase of the Republican presidential campaign.

This is the reason his small base, largely in the media ... have been unabashed in their Huntsman swooning. We have our share of swooners here at POLITICO, too.

But there is a problem ...

There’s a reason he barely has a pulse in the polls. He speaks so softly that even his aides sometimes have trouble hearing him at events. He is making civility a cornerstone of his campaign, at a time when Republican voters are ravenous for red-meat conservative policies, and an epochal showdown with Obama.

The GOP base, sensing weakness in Obama, wants a brawler, the sort of Republican who prospered in dozens of races in the 2010 mid-terms.

For all his obvious gifts, and his potential appeal as a general election candidate, it seems to us Huntsman has two even more obvious problems. He’s got the wrong issues for a Republican nominating contest. And he’s got the wrong persona, especially for this angry moment in GOP politics. [link]
I like the note made about the fact that Huntsman's support at this point in the campaign comes largely from his base in the media.  Which is pretty much a fact.

It's just as true that he's (a) wrong on the issues that we care most about, and (b) wrong for pushing issues that we don't care about ("civility" is a media issue and is always aimed solely at conservatives, and we're tired of it). 

So these two get it right.  Wonder of wonders.