Friday, April 28, 2006

The Final Thoughts Of A Dying Man

If you are a regular reader of this page you know of my connection with coal mining.

If not, look back at the archives and learn.

I grieved along with others during the time of the Sago mine disaster, maybe more so because I had actually spent time inside that particular mine.

One Wise Girl has a post up at Kilo Sparks It up about a letter that has recently been released by Randall McCloy, the sole survivor of that incident. Go here and read it, it's worth the effort.

Monday, April 24, 2006

My Thoughts On Unions

I just read this post by Kilo about his recent conversation with his Ironworker uncle.

(Total disclosure, I was once a Teamster driver. I drove an eighteen wheeler for Blue Ridge Transfer, based in Roanoke, VA, delivering new furniture mostly to the western Pennsylvania area. Yes, Red Queen, I've been there...GRIN. I was once locked up over night in Ford City.)

Like Kilo I too have a "unionized" uncle. Dan is the husband of my Dad's sister, and I love him dearly. But he is truly a "union man". He was a Teamster's local 22 officer for years, and is committed to the union philosophy.

I can happily report that Local 22 has no scandals in it's past like those related by Kilo in his post. But scandals like those are only the most visible features of the union philosophy that I disagree with.

Any union, whether it be my old brotherhood the Teamsters, or my Grandfather's UMWA, or your local teacher's union, the VEA, is based on a single flawed premise. All unions are based on the concept that all workers are equal. Anyone who has spent a day on the factory floor, or a night in a mine, or a few miles on the road in a Freightliner knows that just ain't true. Even Dan, my beloved uncle, if he were to be honest about it would tell you that, given a choice, he would rather go down the road with Gary Martin than Roger Potter, two drivers I had the privilege to work with at that time. Yet in the eyes of the union they were equal. Horse hockey!

Virginia Blog Carnival Is Up At Norm's

I missed contributing this week, but Norm received quite a few very good submissions for this week's Carnival. Go here (you may have to scroll down) and check it out, you'll be glad you did.

Virginia Landmark Contest XIV

Last week Tom Kilfoyle from...(gee, I don't know where he's from, he aswered via e-mail)... answered correctly that the Landmark was Lee's Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University.

This week's location is not a traveling circus, nor is it an old fashioned tent meeting revival. It's not in NOVA, it's not in Southside, it's not on the Eastern Shore. Where is it and, more importanly, what is it?

One hint, and one only. The answer can be found via a link somewhere on this page.

Monday, April 17, 2006

VBC Is On Now At Virginia Virtucon

Go there now, and check it out. And say Hi to Norm when you get there!

A Short Economics Lesson From A Non-Economist

In a previous post I pointed to a comprehensive article by Lacey Putney regarding the current budget stalemate. I mentioned that it was the current topic of choice among those Virginians who tend to follow politics closely.

My observation has been that those persons appear to be vastly outnumbered by Virginians who have chosen an entirely different topic (though much closer related than they realize) as the conversation starter of choice.

Gas prices are quite high now and, as Summer approaches, are certain to go higher. I can't get through a day without listening to several people complain about the "ridiculous" profits made by the "Oil Company". I understand their frustration. Really, I do. I buy gasoline too. I drive 36 miles to work (and back, of course) each day. I too have read about Exxon/Mobil's multi-billion dollar profits of late.

But what most do not understand is that Exxon/Mobil (and Valero, and Shell, and Texaco, etc.) are HUGE corporations. Along with HUGE comes MASSIVE amounts of retail sales. One cannot look only at the dollar profit line without looking at the entire balance sheet. Anyone with a modicum of business acumen will tell you that any corporation that can manage 7% net profit has done extremely well for the year in question. That means that for every dollar Mega-Oil Corp, INC. takes into it's numerous cash registers, it can put 7 cents into the pile that it calls profit at the end of the year.

Granted, a 7% return on investment is considerably better than you will be offered down at the local BB&T on your CD. But that CD is guaranteed to pay at it's advertised rate. Mega-Oil Corp has no such guarantee that it's investment will return even the more common average of 3.5% net profit on retail sales.

Now I come to the point at which I hinted earlier, the relationship between these profits and the current budget debate. Listen closely, you are not likely to hear this elsewhere.

During the campaign Tim Kaine took every opportunity to decry the "obscene" profits made by the aforementioned evil oil companies. Even going so far as to suggest that they freeze prices. (Apparently Timmy! is a disciple of Jimmy!).

You can spend a few minutes with Google and find that most Evil Oil Companies annual reports list a category for "Marketing, Distribution, and Profit". You will also find that these categories in all cases range from 9 to 11%. Now, obviously, this number is not the actual profit earned by the company in question. It also includes all advertising costs, as well as trucking, pipeline costs, tank farm costs, and warehousing.

If we assume that advertising, distribution, and warehousing together comprise a little less than half of this number we come to a number approaching that magical 7% profit that is considered to be outstanding by the green eyshade set. But let's get more realistic and assume that this category is actually fairly evenly divided. That puts us more in line with the much more typical 3 to 5% net profit for retail businesses.

I now return your attention to those (especially Timmy!) who decry the "obscene profits" being made by our mythical Mega-Oil Corp. What Timmy! didn't tell you, and probably won't, is that the Commonwealth of Virginia is currently earning that magical 7% or better on every gallon of gasoline that Mega-Oil sells. And every gallon that Exxon/Mobil sells. And every gallon that Valero sells. And every gallon that Shell sells. And every gallon that Citgo sells. You get the picture. Candidate Timmy! calls it "obscene profits" when Mega-Oil works for and earns 3 to 5% on the sale of a gallon of gasoline, but does not tell you that Virginia "earns" almost twice as much from the same sale. Now, you tell me who recieves the "obscene" profit.


Virginia Landmark Contest XIII

My recent hard drive problem did not leave me completely without photos of Virginia Landmarks, but my choices have been reduced considerably. This photo is not by me, and I'm sorry I do not know who to credit it to. That said, let's get on to the photo.

You know the drill. Tell us where the Landmark is located and identify the building. Any historical data (in the case of actual historical Landmarks) you wish to add is always appreciated.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Lacey Putney On Budget Stalemate

The current topic of conversation among the political class in Virginia is the ongoing budget stalemate between the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate/Gov. Kaine coalition. In a very good commentary Saturday in the Roanoke Times Del. Lacey Putney, an Independent from Bedford, outlines the major differences in the two plans. He concludes with this little known (at least to the Roanoke Times Editorial board it must be little known) fact;
It is a violation of the Constitution of Virginia to use a budget bill for the purpose of increasing taxes. In 2004, Gov. Warner's attempt to increase taxes through the budget was soundly rejected for this very reason.

Unlike the way they do business in Washington, we do not use a budget bill for the purpose of raising taxes. Gov. Kaine knows this, and every member of the House and Senate knows this -- or should know it.

I'll address that tax increase and how it figures into the current topic of conversation among the non-political class in a post later.

Happy Easter

Hoping this day finds you all well...

If not, remember the words of Isaiah;
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and by His stripes we are healed.
And this thought from me;
There is no such thing as darkness. Darkness cannot be created, neither in the physical world nor in the spiritual. Darkness is simply the absence of light.

Submissions Requested

I recently lost scores of photographs from around Virginia. (See post below.) I would appreciate any Virginia Landmark photos any of you may be able to provide. Photographer will be properly credited (and linked, if you wish). Any contributions may be e-mailed to me using the e-mail link on the left. Oh, and high resolution photos would be appreciated.

Blue Ridge Car Show

Each year about this time the Patrick County Ruritan Club plays host to one of the finest custom and antique car shows in SWVA. It's an event I have seldom missed in years past. Saturday morning I wandered over to the Patrick County High School parking lot to check out this years version. I wasn't able to stay for the whole day, but the few early bird entrants I did check out promised a very good show this year.

Of course there were early Mustangs...

And early Chevys such as this '61 Impala bubble top with a 409 V8...

But the star of the show, at least by late morning when I had to leave, was this stunning vehicle...

Built in 1929, it's hard to believe in less than 25 years it had evolved into this Raymond Loewy design which New York's Museum of Modern Art called "a work of art"...

Yes, I'm being purposely evasive, in order to give you a chance to name the Marque that produced such beautiful automobiles during the second quarter of the 20th century. (For comparison purposes the pink Ford sitting alongside is one year newer than the '54 Commander, which was by then a year old design.) Sadly, Studebaker died a slow painful death in the mid to late Sixties.

Break's Over, Back In The Pool!

Thursday evening, April 6, Collinsville VA experienced a short but powerful electrical storm.

During this storm my surge supressor failed to supress surges. I lost my cable modem and my PC failed to reboot.

Thanks to my Seagate external hard drive, and fairly regular backups, I was able to restore my PC to somthing approaching it's previous state. I did lose quite a bit of data, including the complete loss of a program I had been working on for a couple of months....Que Sera Sera. (Did I really just quote an old Doris Day song? Arrrgh...)

Yesterday I finally found a cable modem in stock at the Martinsville Wal-Mart. My new Motorola Surfboard is my ticket back into the blog ranks.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Virginia Landmark Contest XII

Handpainted signs and advertising on the exposed sides of public buildings have largely become a thing of the past. However there is one building (at least) in Virginia that boasts some impressive examples of the almost lost "signpainter's art". Where is it and what does it commemorate?

Busy Week... Again

I know, you've become accustomed to the fairly frequent busy week from me with few posts. I have also recently begun a limited social life which cuts into the odd weekday evening post, not to mention my dear old Dad's impending marriage. Added to this is a much anticipated renewal of contact with my beloved daughter and grandson (and yes, Todd, you too).

I have decided to take a cue from Conaway and focus on one (or at most two) in depth posts per week. As I was discussing with Kilo some days ago I am working on just such an essay. Look for it within the next couple of days.

I intend to continue with such frivolities as the Landmark Contest (look for this week's belated version above) and an occasional short hit highlighting Virginia Blogger posts I particularly enjoy.