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Virginia’s STEM Academies

Helping America Stay competitive in a Global Economy

In 1956 America was in uproar.  The Soviet Union, showing off its scientific and technical prowess, had just launched Sputnik and every 90 minutes this basketball sized satellite crossed over the United States.  It was frightening, and the American people asked why we weren’t in space, and why weren’t we moving forward at least as fast in science and technology as our Cold War competitors the Russians.  The answer, after a little soul searching, was that we weren’t training and graduating enough scientists, engineers and mathematicians.  The Soviet Union was and we weren’t.  It was that simple.  The Congress, with a speed that’s hard to imagine today, responded a few months later with the National Defense Education Act.  Its soul purpose was to improve the teaching of engineering and mathematics at all levels – from elementary schools to the nation’s best universities.  It was one of the most far sighted pieces of legislation in our nation’s history.  But, alas that was 55 years ago.  And today, in what has

Read more: Virginia’s STEM Academies

The revival of American manufacturing

The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data on every aspect of our nation’s economy. This includes calculating the GDP, the unemployment rate, as well as tracking how many people work in the various sectors of the economy.  Sadly, one of the most depressing statistics the Bureau monitors, at least until recently, has been the number of Americans employed in manufacturing.  For the past fifteen years, without let up, without regard for the state of the economy, and seemingly unstoppable, this figure has steadily fallen.  However, this decline is part of a larger overall downward trend.  In 1960, 42% of our nation’s work force was employed in manufacturing.  Today, only 11% are employed in actually “making things.”

 This is no surprise to most Americans and it’s hardly news to those of us in the Northern Neck.  Major

Read more: The revival of American manufacturing

The GOP ballot qualification controversy

Four years ago the 2008 Republican and Democratic primaries in Virginia were hotly contested races and for the first time in years Virginia was an important player in selecting the party nominees. 

The liveliest contest was for the Democrats.  Barack Obama’s decisive win over Hillary Clinton, with almost a million Democrats casting their ballots, took President Obama one step closer to the nomination. 

However, their names weren’t the only ones on the Democratic Primary ballot.  John Edwards and Howard Dean were there too.  
At the same time, John McCain, already enjoying the status of being dubbed the presumed nominee, was still facing

Read more: The GOP ballot qualification controversy

The Epic Political Battle of 2012

While Virginia politics is rarely dull, and has its share of hard fought campaigns, the number of titanic battles is relatively few.  The last election for governor was a blowout for the Republicans.  Not much of a fight at all.  While the two prior gubernatorial contests, while competitive, landed easily in the laps of the Democrats.  Some may argue that 2006, when George Allen lost to Jim Webb was one of those mighty struggles.  But it wasn’t.  Allen lost, but it wasn’t a battle between political giants.  Now, retiring Senator Webb was an outsider to Virginia politics and wasn’t initially given much of a chance to win.  However, Allen’s seemingly endless missteps, combined with a general anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war sentiment, made it a surprise victory for the Democrats.

 Truly great political contests, where the opponents are evenly matched, where big names and big reputations are on the line, and where the two opponents, hold more or less an equal strength, are surprisingly few.  Ollie North’s battle against Senator and former Governor Chuck Robb comes close.  But, in many respects that was more political theater than it was a battle between powerful opponents.  George Allen’s victory over Chuck Robb in 2000 was pretty

Read more: The Epic Political Battle of 2012

This is the Year that was

David Frost, the famous English commentator and newsman used to host a show in Britain, back in the 1960’s, called “This is the week that was.”  It was popular, and with Frost’s urbane delivery, and insightful wit, it had a large following.  Frost, alas, never did that well on American television, but with apologies to this now retired newsman, I would like to offer a slightly modified version of his program, and call this column, “the year that was.”

2011 didn’t begin well, and it wasn’t an easy year, but the good news, is that’s

Read more: This is the Year that was

Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and Zu-Zus Petals

I remember the first year it aired.  

At the time, I didn’t know it was the show’s premiere, or that would start a Holiday tradition.  I just knew that I wanted to see it and my parents, who were going out that particular Saturday just before Christmas in 1964, gave strict orders to my babysitter that I be allowed to watch.  

It was the NBC version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” which premiered on the General Electric “Fantasy Hour.”  The show was the familiar story about a reindeer whose nose was so bright that it could serve as a headlight for Santa’s sleigh.  This story, by the way, was originally written back in 1939 as a Christmas promotion for Montgomery Ward.  But that didn’t matter, it was about Rudolph, and the story was

Read more: Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and Zu-Zus Petals

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