September 12, 2009

To Autumn

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain'd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

'The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.

'The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.'
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load. -- William Blake


September 11, 2009

Wonk holiday

Random animal picture.

In case you missed it, yesterday was a major policy wonk holiday. It was "Poverty Day," a movable feast during which the Census Bureau release a report on incomes, health insurance coverage and--you guessed it--poverty.

If you didn't observe it, you have El Cabrero's permission to take today off.

As one might expect during a major recession, the news wasn't good--and this was just 2008. Next year's report will show the effects of the recession at its presumed height and will be much worse.

Here's an overview of the report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. One key point for the current health care reform debate is that private health coverage declined as more people lost work-based insurance.

West Virginia saw a 6.7 percent increase in the number of uninsured residents, according to West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. Those without care jumped from 254,000 to 271,000, an increase of 17,000.

Here's a good overall interpretation by CBPP's Robert Greenstein. Here's his conclusion:

Moreover, the expected increases in 2009 in poverty and in the number and percentage of uninsured people would be substantially greater if not for the economic recovery law that the Administration and Congress enacted earlier this year. Just seven provisions of that law — including tax credits for working families, expansions of unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance, and one-time payments to senior citizens, veterans, and people with disabilities — will prevent an estimated 6.2 million Americans, including 2.4 million children, from falling into poverty, according to an analysis the Center issued yesterday.[1] Moreover, these figures understate the poverty-preventing effects of the recovery act because they do not capture other provisions of the law, such as increases in housing, child care services, or the law’s effects on preserving or creating jobs. In addition, the law’s increases in medical assistance are preventing hundreds of thousands more from becoming uninsured.

Finally, today’s disquieting health insurance figures underscore the need for comprehensive health care reform. The decline in job-based health coverage is leaving millions of Americans uninsured or underinsured. As noted above, the new Census data show that last year’s economic decline did not fuel an even greater drop in overall insurance coverage only because of the expansion in coverage by public insurance programs.

Health reform bills that Congress is considering would help to address this problem by covering tens of millions of Americans who lack insurance. They would strengthen employer coverage and Medicaid, offer new health insurance choices for Americans, and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage or charging exorbitant amounts to people with medical conditions. The bills also seek to slow the growth of health care costs, which is essential to expanding coverage and sustaining progress in reducing the ranks of the uninsured over the long run.

EIGHT YEARS AGO today the US and the world received a shock that's still being felt.

EAT IT. The grassroots food revolution is still going strong. In this item, author Michael Pollan credits Wendell Berry for helping to start it.


September 10, 2009

Two silly ideas

Earlier this week, I overheard WV Public Radio coverage of the With-Friends-of-America-Like-These-Who-Needs-Enemies event in Logan County and was struck (among other things) by these remarks of Don Blankenship:

“As someone who has overseen the mining of more coal than anyone else in central Appalachia, I know the safety and health of my coal miners is my number one job," he said.

"I don’t need Washington politicians to tell me that, and neither do you," he said.

"But I also know that Washington and state politicians have no idea how to improve miner safety. The very idea that they care more about coal miner safety than we do is as silly as global warming."

I think he might have been technically correct. It seems to me that both ideas share the same degree of silliness, which is to say none at all.

And as for the devotion to coal mine health and safety, here's a look at the report on the Aracoma mine fire prepared by Gov. Manchin's investigative team. The fire, in which two miners died, also resulted in the heaviest MSHA penalties in the agency's history.

HEALTH CARE RESTART? A CNN poll found a boost in support for health care reform among those who watched President Obama's speech last night.

STIMULUS. According to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus, is working:

Although meant chiefly to help the broad economy, the stimulus plan Congress enacted earlier this year (the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act of 2009, or ARRA) had the important secondary effect of significantly ameliorating the recession’s impact on poverty.

This analysis, which comes one day before the Census Bureau will release updated poverty figures (for 2008), examines seven of the recovery act’s provisions — two improvements in unemployment insurance, three tax credits for working families, an increase in food stamps, and a one-time payment for retirees, veterans, and people with disabilities — and finds that they alone are preventing more than 6 million Americans from falling below the poverty line and are reducing the severity of poverty for 33 million more. Those 6 million people include more than 2 million children and over 500,000 seniors....

POVERTY SPURT. The WV Center on Budget and Policy is expecting a spike in recession-induced poverty, which means among other things that we need to take full advantage of all the opportunities available through the stimulus.



September 09, 2009

How to spot a commie kindergartener

El Cabrero is on high alert. I have a grandson who started kindergarten in a public school this year. This means there is a fair degree of possibility that he could have been exposed, however briefly, to President Obama's speech to American schoolchildren and as a result may well be a hardened and disciplined professional communist revolutionary.

Perhaps you too have a loved one who may have been indoctrinated in Bolshevism as well. Here are some telltale signs and tests you may administer:

*First, listen for any new and unusual phrases, such as "means of production," "expropriation of the expropriators," "surplus value," and/or "exploitation of the proletariat."

*Second, check for Marx, Engels or Lenin action figures. If you don't recognize them, suspect anything with a beard.

*Third, check reading material for comic book editions of things like State and Revolution, What is to be Done?, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, and Critique of the Gotha Program.

*Fourth, look for new and unusual behavior, such as attempting to sell subversive newspapers at factory gates.

*Fifth, try the Internationale test. Walk up to the child in question and sing the following words: "Arise, you prisoners of starvation." If the child responds by belting out "Arise, you wretched of the earth," we can reasonably suspect indoctrination.

If the worst has happened, all hope is not lost. There is a fair to middling chance that the child may split from or expelled from the Party over doctrinal and sectarian disputes. With any luck, he or she may even in time become a neo-con.

DON'T CLICK HERE or you might become a commie too.

PUBLIC OPTION. Here's Paul Krugman on why it matters for health care reform. And here's something on how the prospects for reform look at the moment.

MONEY ON THE TABLE. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $5 billion in emergency funds for states to help needy families, but so far few have taken advantage of it.



September 08, 2009

Labor daze

United Mine Workers president Cecil Roberts speaks at the union labor day celebration in Racine, WV.

Labor Day in southern West Virginia traditionally means the United Mine Workers District 17 celebration in Racine in Boone County, which has traditionally drawn hundreds of workers, family and community members and any number of current or aspiring politicians.

This year's event had some competition, as anyone paying attention to what's going on in this state knows. Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who has probably done more than anyone else in this state to damage the labor movement--and the UMWA in particular--spent God knows how much money on a "Friends of America" concert/propaganda event that featured Ted Nugent, Hank Williams Jr. and Fox "News" celebrity Sean Hannity.

The bushes were beaten to draw thousands of people to attend this free event on an old strip mine site in Holden in Logan County.

The aim of the event was to oppose any kind of proposed actions aimed at addressing climate change, which after all couldn't possibly be true because that might inconvenience the coal industry. Also targeted were any measures that might regulate or tax the industry. All things progressive came under attack as well.

Nugent is reported to have once invited President Obama to "suck on my machine gun."


By the way, the WV Chamber of Commerce, International Coal Group, the WV Coal Association and other such groups also co-sponsored the event. The extent to which Nugent speaks for them is unclear.

The irony of union busters pretending to protect American workers would make a cat laugh. On the other hand, Blankenship has suffered some setbacks lately in his attempts to influence state elections and court decisions so this may be the latest strategy. Here's hoping this one works as well as the last few.

Anyway, I attended the UMWA event as usual. Even without the bells and whistles, it was a good crowd. I had to walk about half a mile to get there. It was also nice to see that a large number of state elected officials, including Gov. Manchin, Congressman Nick Rahall, Treasurer John Perdue, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, House Speaker Rick Thompson and many delegates and senators not only attended but stayed all day.

UMWA president Cecil Roberts have his usual barn burning speech. My favorite part was when he said he received a call earlier in the week from Gov. Manchin asking if he was going to the Blankenship event. When Roberts said no, Manchin said that in that case he didn't have a ride and wouldn't be able to go either.

I don't know if that conversation really happened, but I'd like to think it did.

WHACKADOODLES. In keeping with last week's series on political paranoia, here are some of the odder conspiracy theories involving the president.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, here's the text of Obama's communist discourse for America's school children. I just scanned it and I'm already indoctrinated. The workers really do have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win! Arrgghh!!!!

PETS OR MEAT? Here's an unsavory look at the origins of dog domestication.

SPEAKING OF FOOD (SORT OF), a new study suggests it's not just what you eat that matters when you eat it.