Saturday, December 03, 2005

Rome Continues To Burn ...

As reported here and over at ImNotEmiril two weeks ago, The Roanoke Times announces the closing of the Webb Furniture plant in Galax effective January 13.
Galax suffers effects of shrinking industry
The growing number of furniture imports from China continues to drain jobs from Galax.

By Angela Manese-Lee, The Roanoke Times

GALAX -- When Junior Frazier started in the rough mill at Webb Furniture Enterprises 33 years ago, furniture-making jobs were so plentiful they were considered a fallback occupation.

But no longer.

On Jan. 13, Frazier and 308 other Webb Furniture workers will lose their jobs, and the 80-year-old manufacturing company will stop producing bedroom furniture.

The Galax-based Webb Furniture is the latest in a series of domestic furniture manufacturers that have been forced to shutter plants.

"Fifteen years ago, 2 percent of [wood] furniture sold in the U.S. was imported. Today it's 88 percent," said Webb Furniture President Lee Houston, citing sales of imported wood furniture and a study by furniture industry analyst Ferris, Baker Watts. (link)

This doesn't have to be ...

... Call It An Inferno

Another manufacturing plant - this time in Roanoke - is laying off workers because ... well, we all know why:
Roanoke box plant to lay off 27 people
SmurfitStone Container officials said the plant has been hurt by the trend of moving production overseas.

By Duncan Adams, The Roanoke Times

When manufacturers move production overseas, the ripple effects hit their domestic suppliers, too -- including a North American company that built many of the cardboard boxes they once used for shipping.

Employees of the Smurfit-Stone Container plant in Roanoke learned Wednesday that about 27 of 107 hourly workers will lose their jobs in coming months because of a national business strategy designed to help the struggling corporation cut costs. (link)
And we concentrate our efforts on bikepaths ...

NRCC To Learn How To Grovel

A sure sign that New River Community College over in Dublin is coming of age is the decision made by school administrators to develop some innocuous - and completely insincere - statement relating to the college's commitment to diversity:
Student wages effort to change NRCC policy
By Kevin Miller, New River Current

A New River Community College student who claims he was repeatedly harassed in class because of his sexual orientation is pressuring administrators to update the school's anti-discrimination policies.

Allen Shepherd, an openly gay, part-time student, is also working to establish NRCC's first organization for gay and lesbian students to help improve the climate for homosexuals on campus.

College officials said this week that they are working on a draft statement intended to "reaffirm" the college's commitment to diversity. (link)

Let me lend a hand.

Virginia Tech came up with the perfect "diversity pledge" a while back. It contained all the requisite prohibitions on "all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including those based on age, color, disability, gender [My guess is they mean sex, unless they are prohibiting discrimination based on grammar], national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status." And the gay students there bought it!

NRCC would do well to simply plagiarize the Virginia Tech statement and be done with it. The school's burgeoning homosexual community can then quit whining about being called names and pay attention to their studies.

What To Make Of This?

I've wondered in recent years where Virginia's lone remaining ku klux klansman disappeared to (Senator Robert Byrd doesn't count; he's from the temporarily seceded counties to the west). As it turns out, the old coot's still alive and living in Pulaski:
Klan sign turns up in Pulaski parade
By Donna Alvis-Banks, Tim Thornton and Paul Dellinger, The Roanoke Times

PULASKI -- Pulaski residents wondered Friday who drove an old green Ford Bronco sporting Ku Klux Klan signs in Pulaski's annual town Christmas parade.

The vehicle driving amid the church groups and fire trucks Thursday night had KKK and Confederate flag bumper stickers, a speaker on top blaring loud "Dixie"-style music, various flags and a hand-lettered door sign wishing people a merry Christmas from the Klan. (link)
Hmm. Was Congressman Boucher behind this? Sounds like one of his tourism gimmicks to me.

Will I have To Pay Extra?

Apparently when I fly to New England next week, I'm going to get a body massage from the TSA personnel at the airport:
Air Travelers In for Changes Over Holidays
TSA to Launch New Measures At Busy Time
By Sara Kehaulani Goo, Washington Post Staff Writer

Air travelers planning to take off for the holiday season will face a string of new security procedures and find that old rules no longer apply.

Even travelers who do not set off walk-through metal detectors will occasionally be pulled aside for pat-downs as part of changes that go into effect Dec. 22. A new procedure calls for screeners to routinely touch passengers in the mid-thigh area and arms -- not just their torsos. Security officers, newly trained in "behavior recognition" screening, will scan the crowds for travelers who appear to be nervous and will pull them aside for extra scrutiny. (
I've gotten to where I enjoy the patdowns, and now mid-thigh touches! One normally has to pay dearly for that kind of thing (not to mention the fact that it is illegal in 48 states).

This is exciting. I intend to "appear to be nervous" when I'm waiting in line next week. This is giving new meaning to the slogan, "Fly the friendly skies."

An Innovation

This is kinda cool. I am a modest shareholder in Janus Capital Group and have been asked to vote my shares for a slate of directors. Nothing unusual there. But I can do it online now. That is different. There has been a secured website set up that allows for ease of participation. So I'll be participating.

Innovation. I love it.

The Rest Of The Story

The New York Times sticks to the template today that "the paper of record" created when it comes to FEMA's ineptitude in trying to help the people of New Orleans recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina:
Wearying Wait for Federal Aid in New Orleans
By Adam Nossiter

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 2 - They are the faces and voices of a city's desperation. Stepping wearily up to a Federal Emergency Management Agency help center here, all have a similar story of ruin in the past, anxiety over the future and frustration in the present, suffered differently each time.

Young, middle-aged and old, these citizens of New Orleans, wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and now urgently seeking government assistance, spoke Friday of sleeping in a truck and on a floor, living out of a car and waiting for the help that never seems to come. Trickling into the crowded center in the Uptown neighborhood here - hoping for a trailer, a loan, cash, anything - they were grimly resigned to waiting, and waiting some more. (
No need to read the article. It drones on with anecdotes about people waiting for someone to come along and do for them what other people in hurricane ravaged Mississippi and Florida seem to be able to do for themselves.

Interestingly, what I didn't read in the New York Times article was this - also appearing in today's headlines:
FEMA pulls out of New Orleans' lower ninth ward
Agency calls for troops, reporting threats of violence
By Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency pulled all its workers out of New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward Friday after threats of violence and requested National Guard troops and additional police support, a FEMA spokeswoman said. (
If you only read the New York Times, you're thinking about now, "Since George W Bush has taken over, the United States government has gone to hell in a handbasket."

If you read more responsible publications, you get the real story.


Yes, But ...

I read the following good news about the economy in The New York Times and asked myself, "How far into the story will the author go before telling us that, yes, the economy is booming but there are major problems looming ..." Let's look:
Jobs Surged Last Month in Rebound From Storm
By Louis Uchitelle

The nation's employers added 215,000 jobs last month, the government reported yesterday, as the economy rebounded from the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina.

The strong November number, the biggest monthly increase since July, suggested that employers are scrambling for workers in response to a strongly growing economy. But on the fourth anniversary of the recovery from the 2001 recession, job growth is still below the levels achieved in previous recoveries, and the unemployment rate has been stuck at 5 percent nearly every month since June [my emphasis]. (link)

Three sentences. I'm surprised Louis took so long to (feebly attempt to) trash President Bush's economic numbers. He had to have been gnashing his teeth.

So predictable.

An Explanation

In response to my plea for clarification regarding a president's prerogative in declaring a suspension of our Constitutionally protected right against illegal imprisonment, I received this from our most knowledgeable local legal scholar:
Chief Justice Taney (among others) said that Lincoln had no such power. Taney was the circuit justice in the case of Ex Parte Merryman, the case of a fellow who was arrested in Taney's native Maryland. Taney wrote in his opinion that Lincoln had no power and that Merryman should be released, but I don't know whether that sprung Mr. M. or not. The Merryman case is the exception to the rule - historically, what usually seems to happen is that the courts affirmed government power, at least until after the war. Taney, depending who you talk to, was rooting for the other side in the Civil War, and he was most famous for antagonizing the nation by means of his opinion in the Dred Scott case.

In the Hamdi case, the Supreme Court in 2004 acknowledged the rule that only Congress can suspend the writ of habeas corpus. In his dissent, Justice Scalia explained:

"Our Federal Constitution contains a provision explicitly permitting suspension, but limiting the situations in which it may be invoked: 'The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.' Art. I, §9, cl. 2. Although this provision does not state that suspension must be effected by, or authorized by, a legislative act, it has been so understood, consistent with English practice and the Clause's placement in Article I. See Ex parte Bollman, 4 Cranch 75, 101 (1807); Ex parte Merryman, 17 F. Cas. 144, 151–152 (CD Md. 1861) (Taney, C. J., rejecting Lincoln's unauthorized suspension); 3 Story §1336, at 208–209."

The Court in Hamdi concluded not only that an act of Congress was required, but also that Congress had so acted, to allow the continued detention of Mr. Hamdi.

During the Civil War, after complaints about his own lack of authority, Lincoln asked Congress to act, which of course they did, spurred on by War Fever, passing laws that limited access to the regular courts and establishing military tribunals, and eventually cases under the new laws went up to the Supreme Court, some getting there long after the war was over.

In one such case, Ex Parte Milligan, Justice Davis wrote: "During the late wicked Rebellion, the temper of the times did not allow that calmness in deliberation and discussion so necessary to a correct conclusion of a purely judicial question. Then, considerations of safety were mingled with the exercise of power; and feelings and interests prevailed which are happily terminated. Now that the public safety is assured, this question, as well as all others, can be discussed and decided without passion or the admixture of any element not required to form a legal judgment. We approach the investigation of this case, fully sensible of the magnitude of the inquiry and the necessity of full and cautious deliberation."
There you have it. Abraham Lincoln sought action from Congress in order to legitimize his suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. An issue in 1862. Still being fought out in 2005.

Thanks, Steve.