March 02, 2012

Travel gods

I have always felt an affinity for Odysseus. Not that I sacked Troy or blinded a cyclops or anything that dramatic. It's just that

1. much of my life involves the use of cunning (or at least attempts thereof);

2. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get home; and

3. he and I both seem to have offended the travel gods at some point in the past. In his case, it was Poseidon. I'm not sure which Olympian has jusrisdiction over air travel.

Today, I'm hoping to make it home through what promises to be stormy skies. I hope it won't take me 10 years like it did him.

AN INTERESTING QUESTION was raised by Ken Ward at Coal Tattoo today. My guess is the answer would be no.

GOOD HEALTH ADVICE: keep moving.



March 01, 2012

A little good news

El Cabrero has been a neglectful blogger these last few days but I have a bit of an excuse. I'm on a trip to Atlanta and the aged laptop I brought along seems to have forgotten that it can access wireless internet.

Still, I'd like to celebrate some good news. It looks not only like Century Aluminum in Ravenswood WV will open, but that the company has also reached an agreement with union retirees to restore health benefits.

Full disclosure: back in 1992, I had a great time supporting union workers and their families in an historic struggle that began when Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation locked out union employees. The struggle lasted close to two years and the workers finally won. It's good to see that they may well win again.

February 28, 2012

Short rations

For several months, I've been working with friends on a report about prison overcrowding in WV. Among the groups involved were the WV Center on Budget and Policy, the Partnership of African American Churches, and the American Friends Service Committee. We released it last week. Here's the report and here's some media coverage.

MINE SAFETY. Here's Ken Ward on WV's new mine safety legislation which is currently working its way through the statehouse. Methinks he's a bit underwhelmed. As a person of very low expectations, I have a little more positive take on it.


POLITICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE. What does reality  have to do with it, anyway?


February 27, 2012

Back on track?

Yesterday, Feb. 26, marked the 40th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster, when a coal waste dam owned by Pittston Coal broke collapsed, killing 125 people, wiping out several communities and leaving thousands homeless.

In other coal news, it looks like the mine safety bill under consideration in the WV legislature may be back on track despite efforts by coal industry lobbyists. You can find two different takes on it at the Gazette website. Statehouse columnist Phil Kabler sees it as a sign of the weakening power of the coal lobby as other major power players emerge:

How times have changed: After being moved to the inactive House calendar last week over objections from coal industry lobbyists, Gov.Earl Ray Tomblin's coal safety legislation (HB4351) is back on the active calendar and will be on amendment stage on the House floor this morning, after all sides worked out an agreement Friday.
Actually, not so much a compromise as the Tomblin administration and House leadership, under Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, drawing a line in the sand telling the industry no further concessions would be granted.
It wasn't too long ago that the process was the other way around. However, with competition from gambling interests, big Pharma and, increasingly, the gas/petrochemical industry, coal is not the predominant lobbying force at the Legislature anymore.
Meanwhile, Ken Ward at Coal Tattoo questions whether the legislation does all it could to protect miners.

I have mixed feelings. Far be it from me to question Ward's analysis of its weaknesses. But I am glad that mine safety is on the agenda at all and that  the original bill as proposed by the governor was improved by pressure from the House. And I think it is a significant victory that everyone didn't just, pardon the expression, cave in to the coal industry as has all too frequently happened in the past.

It's still not a done deal until it passes the full House and completes the process on the Senate side, so there is plenty of room for more surprises.