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Some good economic news, but it’s still a jobless recovery

Governor Bob McDonnell’s office hasn’t been able to offer much good news when it comes to the state budget or the economy.  However, that may be changing.
 Of course, the Governor’s office is being cautious and isn’t saying much.   
But as we wind down the fiscal year, which in the Commonwealth ends the last day of June, it looks like the state, in 2010, might actually have a surplus.  Yes, you read that right, a surplus. And while we don’t know for sure just yet, the signs are promising. The state, to make ends meet, needs to collect $1.37 billion in June. That’s a lot of money, but last year, during the height of the recession, we managed $1.5 billion, and so a lot of the fiscal types in Richmond see a surplus as a distinct possibility.

Read more: Some good economic news, but it’s still a jobless recovery

Don’t marginalize the Tea Party movement

 I’ve been guilty of this myself, but it’s become commonplace among political commentators to dismiss the Tea Party Movement as just a collection of far right fringe activists.  “Wing nuts” as one of my Democratic friends called them. Some have been labeled racist, reactionary, and depending on whom you talk to, dangerous.  None of which seems remotely fair. I am not a tea partier myself.  Not even close.  And no one who reads my column would think that. But I do think the Tea Partiers are getting a bad rap.  And while it pains me to quote a term Sarah Palin pioneered, it’s coming primarily from “the mainstream media.”  OK, yes, the Fox Network likes them, big surprise there, but for the most part, the other major media outlets make no effort to understand them.  What’s more, they go out of their way to paint them in the worst light possible. It also misses the point, that like it or not, they are becoming a powerful force in American politics. They can’t be marginalized and they can’t be ignored.
One of the first questions many people ask about the tea party movement is “are they a political party, or a movement?”  The answer to that one seems to be the latter. They are, as they like to say, a grassroots movement and a lot of what defines the tea party movement isn’t so much organization as it is ideology. Ironically, borrowing a page from the Obama campaign, they do a lot of their communicating and organizing over the Internet. Notices about meetings, town halls, GOP caucuses, rallies, and meet ups come through an ever growing e-mail list.

Read more: Don’t marginalize the Tea Party movement

The Gulf spill: Katrina in slow motion

 The media, and now the public, have gotten comfortable with the inevitable comparison between Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill disaster that is still going full bore in the Gulf. Both events are disasters. One, natural, and one manmade, but just like Katrina, the Gulf Spill has raised questions about the ability of the Federal Government to deal with a large scale crisis. It’s not clear that the Gulf Oil Spill is President Obama’s Katrina, but some in the administration, and many among the President’s supporters, are worried that it might be.

Read more: The Gulf spill: Katrina in slow motion

The day the weatherman got it right ...

For most of us, the weather forecast, while of interest and certainly important if you’re deciding whether or not to get the car washed or take the kids to the beach, is rarely a life or death matter.  It’s the weather.  As Mark Twain said, “everyone talks about it, but no one can do anything about it.”    But, that’s not always the case. There are times, when the weather, and the weatherman’s forecast, can be far more important.  
Sixty six years ago, during the first week of June 1944, those familiar with life along the English Channel, while taking note of the bad weather and poor seas, probably didn’t consider it all that out of the ordinary. However, while the weather might not have been of that much interest to the casual observer, it was, to the planners of the still top secret invasion of France, an all consuming matter.  The decision, after two years of planning and preparation to give the order to “go” was in the hands of General Dwight Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, and everything, depended on the weather.

Read more: The day the weatherman got it right ...

Republican primary: Wittman versus Crabill

Election night 2009, for many, was a foregone conclusion.  There was little doubt that there was a Republican sweep in the works.  And that’s exactly what happened.  But that didn’t mean the evening didn’t have some surprises.  One of the most startling results was right here in the 99th district.  I figured that Al Pollard, a delegate I hold in high esteem, was on his way, if not to a landslide, at least to a decisive win.  
But that’s not what happened.  His opponent, who I dismissed as something of a fringe candidate, someone all but abandoned by her party, almost beat Pollard.  For several hours during the evening, it even looked like she might win.  Pollard, fortunately, remains in the House of Delegates, but Catherine Crabill, thanks to her strong showing in 2009, is now a force to be reckoned with and she can’t be so easily dismissed.

Read more: Republican primary: Wittman versus Crabill

Is America’s manned space program at an end?

It’s history now — a majority of the American population was born after the space program began, but I have fond memories of sitting in the Belvedere Elementary School cafeteria and watching the launch of the first Gemini spacecraft. This was the program that followed the Mercury launches, and was the proving ground for the first walk in space, docking two spacecraft in earth orbit, and tests to see just how long we could keep a crew in orbit.
I remember sitting in rapt attention as the countdown reached its final 10 seconds. My normally fidgety classmates were still. Even at age 8, we knew what was going on. It wasn’t science fiction, it was the real thing and America was leading the way.
Gemini was followed by Apollo and the magnificent leap that would take us to the moon. In just a dozen years we had gone from barely being able to launch a satellite into orbit to landing a human being on the moon. Since then the space program has carried on. There have been no more moon visits, Apollo was cancelled in 1972, but Americans have stayed in space. The shuttle program, now almost three decades old, has kept us there, and has done a lot more than most people realize. It has placed satellites in orbit, provided the means for building the space station, and most recently, a shuttle crew carried out a miraculous mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble telescope. The experiments and tests done aboard the shuttle are too numerous to name and the lessons learned in the shuttle program have been immense. And most of all, it has maintained an American dominance in space that has lasted almost 50 years.

Read more: Is America’s manned space program at an end?

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