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Opinion

Tom McLaughlin

Clear cut

With all the trimming, hemming and hawing that occurs in politics, it’s rare to experience a moment when clarity prevails and the depravity of segments of our so-called leadership is laid bare for all to see. Such a moment arrived late last week in Richmond when the House of Delegates — defying reason, compassion and plain good sense — rejected $125 million in federal stimulus funds to expand unemployment benefits in Virginia. The House vote, cast mostly along party lines, would have been deplorable even in the best of times. But with a terrible economy putting jobs at risk across the Commonwealth, the delegates’ action is nothing short of astounding. Let them eat cake indeed.

Member of the gang

A sage person once observed that the less said the better, but this is advice that I’ve never really been able to take to heart and I don’t blame Ted Bennett for struggling with the concept, either. Bennett stunned the political cognescenti (well, some anyway) by announcing Sunday that he was dropping out of the race for House of Delegates. After saying he would run to succeed the outgoing Clarke Hogan, Bennett took about three weeks before deciding that life in retirement wasn’t so bad, and besides, he didn’t have as much time for politics as he previously thought.

Bad company

Somehow I get the feeling that the 2009 elections won’t be as fun as a barrel of monkeys. In the governor’s race on the Democratic side there’s a decent chance the party nominee will be Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and a notable Friend of Bill and Hillary. Nothing against the Clintons, but the last thing Virginia needs is for a big-money, Wall Street-lovin’ Democrat to take over the state party and call the shots in Richmond. Ugh. On the Republican side you’ve got the presumptive nominee, former Attorney General Robert McDonnell, who is slick, smart and smooth but also holds extreme views on social and economic issues that to my mind make him a poor choice for our next governor. My hope is that one of the other Democratic candidates in the gubernatorial race — State Senator Creigh Deeds, my first pick, or former Delegate Brian Moran, also a perfectly acceptable choice — will emerge as the Democratic nominee in the June 9 primary. But about that we shall simply have to see.

Limits of science

The uranium mining subcommittee of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission is moving forward with a study of the health, environmental and economic impacts of uranium mining in Pittsylvania County. No surprise there. The subcommittee this week issued a draft report that lists the topics of study for a scientific commission, just the sort of bureaucratic action you’d expect in what promises to be a long, arcane, occasionally tendentious thrill ride to Armageddon.

Mixed message

Two weeks ago I wrote a lengthy front-page article on the dual enrollment program at Halifax County High School that I hope fairly laid out its pros and cons. So, folks with limited patience might ask: What’s the bottom line? The answer is, alas, complicated. Some people will tell you that college-level classes at HCHS are all sizzle and not much steak, and others testify to the benefits that kids and families have reaped from dual enrollment—usually measured in dollars-and-cents savings on future higher ed costs, the result of students racking up community college credits while still in high school. Everyone’s experience is different. No one has a monopoly on the truth, and seemingly everyone has an anecdote to share. What I ended up with was a mixed picture on the college-level academic program at Halifax County High School — in marked contrast, it should be noted, to the official line that dual enrollment at HCHS is proof of Halifax County’s commitment to providing a world-class education for our kids.

Into the sunset

In just about all of life’s pursuits you’ll find solid, hardworking, competent people who keep their heads down, theirs lips zipped and their eyes on the ball. They usually do a great job of tending to business — theirs, and sometimes even yours. Then there are folks who go the other way: people who can’t leave well enough alone, who go out of their way to act in gratuitous fashion, who won’t shoot straight because that’s hard to do so while talking out of both sides of the mouth.

Thoughtful

Thought of the day #1: If someone around here really wanted to stimulate the economy, they’d have built a new unemployment office by now.

The dim reaper

What a prize for a press corps we have in this country. I was pecking away at the keyboard last Friday afternoon when my brother called and told me about this Santelli guy going off on CNBC. Come to find out later that correspondent Rick Santelli's rant against the Obama Administration's mortgage relief plan was an instant media sensation, drawing only slightly less page views on the Internet than the Bible has received throughout recorded history. Jeremiah had nothing on this Santelli guy. Reap the whirlwind and all that booyah!

Stepping up

We’ll see what the Board of Supervisors decides to do with the new bids for the county’s abandoned school properties, but I sure was glad to see Jack Dunavant step up this week with a $100,000 offer for C.H. Friend.

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