May 03, 2013

A really big deal

El Cabrero has been in a purple agony of waiting for the last few weeks. It had to do with when and whether  WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin would announce his decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Or not.

That step, if taken, would be the biggest advance for social justice that I've ever seen in this state. It would raise the eligibility level from around 35 percent of the federal poverty level to 138 percent. It would save lives, create jobs, and eliminate a lot of unnecessary misery.

Tomblin delayed his decision until he and his administration studied the results of an actuarial study about the likely results. Meanwhile, people who care about working families in this state have done everything they could to encourage a positive response and provide political cover.

By Tuesday afternoon, I heard unofficial rumors that a decision would be announce the following day--and that it was the right decision. By Tuesday night, it was official. On Wednesday, the expansion was officially announced at St. Francis Hospital in Charleston where over 100 people gathered for the occasion. Among the speakers was of course the governor but also Senator Jay Rockefeller, who fought hard to pass and improve the Affordable Care Act at the federal level.

It was a great day and a great step forward and will mean health coverage for lots of working West Virginians. Estimates range from 90,000+ to over 150,000 people. The number I've seen the most is 120,000. These are the people who serve our food, wait on us in stores, take care of our children and elderly and do all the low paid grunt work that keeps the world on the rails.

Thanks and congratulations to Governor Tomblin for taking this step!

Meanwhile, I keep thinking that something strange is happening in my beloved state. In the last few months, West Virginia has taken several steps in a positive direction. In addition to expanding health care, it made huge advances in universal early childhood education, which could help with all kinds of problems. It also passed an innovative law aimed at improving child nutrition and took some common sense steps towards reforming an overcrowded prison system while also restoring funding for child care for working families and for programs aimed at preventing family violence.

If this is a dream, don't wake me up.

May 01, 2013

Pure zombie awesomeness

As the Goat Rope staff scanned the headlines this morning looking for raw blogging material, we were delighted to find this story in the Charleston Daily Mail about a forthcoming zombie apocalypse training in Boone County WV.

Here's the opening:

A slew of slack-shouldered, lumbering zombies will infest an area high school on Saturday.
As part of the Boone County Health Department's zombie apocalypse training, Scott High School will welcome hundreds dressed in zombie garb to test the county's emergency preparedness planning.

Apparently, all health departments have to do some kind of emergency prep training. The zombie thing is a way of jazzing it up. And getting more people involved.

The article quotes Linda Holstein from the health department as saying that when they do normal drills, only 20 or so people show up. She's hoping the zombie drill will involve more than 100.

There will even be prizes for the best zombie in several divisions, including male and female winners for best zombie walk, best groan, and best overall.

It all started when the Centers for Disease Control launched a tongue in cheek zombie prep plan two years ago to engage more people in gearing up for emergencies. It worked.

According to Ali Khan, with the US Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack."

The only thing I'd worry about, this being heavily armed West Virginia and all, is the need to inform the public that they are not allowed to shoot, machete, or otherwise compromise or puncture the physical integrity of the skulls of the people dressed as zombies.

SOME THINGS HAVEN'T CHANGED...including the fuzzy ideas many Americans have about the Affordable Care Act.

CHILDHOOD ADVERSITY has long aftereffects.

COLLEGE CLASSES. I'll bet you didn't have too many like these. (One is about a you-know-what kind of apocalypse).


April 30, 2013

Wishing for the end of a bad idea...

...the bad idea in question being the embrace of austerity as an economic cure-all. I'm a day or two behind, but Nobel economics laureate and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman lays things out nicely in his latest op-ed. Here's the punch line:

...the drive for austerity has lost its intellectual fig leaf, and stands exposed as the expression of prejudice, opportunism and class interest it always was. And maybe, just maybe, that sudden exposure will give us a chance to start doing something about the depression we’re in.

RANDOM BUT GOOD. Here are some rambling thoughts by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano on books, life, and such. My favorite line is this one:

If nature were a bank, they would have already rescued it.

SPEAKING OF NATURE, some animals have its oppositite, i.e. culture.


April 29, 2013

A growing movement

It's really not all bad news these days. One encouraging trend is the growth of the local food movement, which can be a way to rethink our relationship to the basics and to revitalize our communities. An AFSC program run by my co-worker in Logan WV gets young people involved in a community garden. The kids are even becoming junior master gardeners.

Two recent items in the Charleston newspapers provide some other examples. The Daily Mail recently reported about the Growing Jobs Project of KISRA (Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action), which teaches former prisoners gardening skills while also providing fresh and healthy produce for the community.

In an article from today's Gazette, there's a story about an ordnance moving to Charleston city council which would encourage urban farming. Among the features of the ordnance are provisions allowing city residents to own up to to six laying hens as well as backyard beehives. It also encourages community gardens.

It didn't, alas, make any provision for goats.

THE RACIAL WEALTH GAP just keeps getting bigger.

LOCKING THE BARN AFTER....retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor now seems to think the Supreme Court's decision to take up the Bush v. Gore case may not have been the best idea to roll down the pike. As the Spousal Unit likes to say in such cases, what was her first clue?