Friday, January 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

Men will define themselves by the choices they dare to make and cannot, as men, avoid making; for man forever creates and recreates his own universe and the rules and frames of reference and systems by which he must judge himself—but not other men; for he has finally learned that to kill other men for not worshiping his gods is to compel them to kill him for not worshiping their gods.

John P. Marshall
The Teacher and His Philosophy

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Blogroll Updated

I have updated my blogroll to reflect several blogs that have become daily reads. I am still messing with the format here, since the big changes I made over the holidays. After I had made those changes, my blog feed wasn't showing up on Waldo's Virginia Political Blogroll, so I contacted him. I thank him again here for his help and his wonderful contributions to the Virginia Blogosphere.

I added six blogs. I deleted the listing for Norm's OMT (RIP).

If you don't see your blog here, then leave a message or send me an email, and I may add you.

I guess other than these houskeeping chores, I am still basking in the glow of the speech by the junior Senator from Virginia last night in response to the SOTU speech.

Congratulations Senator Webb, we always knew you would be good at this. And keep up the good work.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bush Bores; Webb Scores

I am not surprised that the President's speech tonight was boring. I mean, how many times can we listen to him pay lip service to issues without calling into question his sincerity? He has talked about energy policy and alternative energy in almost every SOTU speech he has given. So far, that has translated into little or nothing done about this important issue. Are we supposed to believe him when he says tonight that he will do something to encourage development of alternative energy sources?

The same situation with the Iraq war. He has made excuse after excuse, promising things he couldn't deliver, and on and on. Meanwhile, our citizens, who volunteered to secure our country and defend it have been killed and maimed in the battlesfields of Iraq instead. Think of the lives changed because of this war. Husbands, brothers, sisters, Moms, Dads, will NEVER BE COMING BACK due to the incompetence of the President and his hangers-on.

Jim Webb's response stole the night. His was a reasoned, well thought-out presentation of the steps that will be taken to correct some of the problems this administration have saddled us with. He was at ease, confident and assured that he could talk to all of us and get across, by using examples of historical figures, the problems and their solutions.

My favorite line from Sen. Webb? When he ended his speech by saying, "These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way."

Gee, I love that kinda talk.

Below is the Senator's speech as it was released to the media.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Democratic Response of Senator Jim Webb
To the President's State of the Union Address

Good evening.

I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown - an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy - how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy - how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy - that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues - those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death - we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us - sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable - and predicted - disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Recipe For Disaster

(This is the first in a series of articles about the Cumberland County Schools)

You might think that a school system would be aware of safety procedures. In this case, you would be wrong. Either that, or the Cumberland County Public Schools just doesn't give a damn.

When the schools started using the Luther P Jackson school site for a middle school at the beginning of the year, the transportation of students to and from that site became necessary. I drive by that area almost every day, going to the Post Office or somewhere else. Last October, when I saw someone standing out in the middle of a busy highway with her hand up, I was both mad and disbelieving. I have done work in the road before as a land surveyor, and I always kept protective gear close and wore a vest and a hardhat. I have seen many instances where the driver of a car will claim that they did not see anything even when someone was there with a brightly colored vest.

I went to the School Board Office. I talked with Jim Thornton, Superintendent of Schools, about what I had seen. This was not the first time Mr. Thornton had talked. We have had a storied relationship almost from the moment I moved to this area 5 years ago. That, however, is another story for another day.

Mr. Thornton assured me that the problem would be taken care of. He agreed that an accident would be a disaster and he wanted to avoid that. We exchanged pleasantries, talked about the elections, and I was on my way.

You can imagine my amazement then, when last Monday, I was driving by at that time of day and I saw the same thing again. Tuesday I made it a point to be there. This time, the person had all black clothing on, black gloves, and a black stocking cap on. I took a few pictures with my phone and came home.

Well, I like pictures, and I like my cell phone, but the two really don't mix. The quality of the pictures wasn't that great, and I wanted to be able to show that I wasn't making this up. This week, I had my camera in the car from a meeting the night before. I went over to the school area and waited. The same thing happened again, and I took many pictures of it.

Here's what I saw that day this week:

Mr. Thornton, do you owe an apology to me and the parents of students on those buses? I think you already know what my answer is. Fix this now, or put up with complaints in the real world about your inability to get this done. This is not rocket science, Mr. Thornton.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Waldo Loves Open Government

Waldo Jaquith, perennial blogger and all around codeslinger, has introduced today his latest project, Richmond Sunlight. The website is a one-stop shop for information on the legislative process and the players (Delegates/Senators) in that process.

What Waldo has given us is a gift, for all of us to use and understand and comment further on the goings-on in the General Assembly. To celebrate the finish of his project, Waldo has given away the website to The Virginia Interfaith Center, a non-partisan organization run by Rev. Doug Smith. The Reverand Smith is a former classmate of Waldo's at the Sorensen Institute at UVA.

According to Waldo, the two of them will have a news conference where the two will shake hands on this deal.

I just want to thank Waldo publically for his hard work on this project. I got a chance to play with the site during beta testing, and it is a comprehensive, fully complete tool to answer questions about the Legislature and it's members.

Thanks again, Waldo.