May 23, 2013

I had to ask

Today I attended a rally for union coal miners and retirees in danger of losing promised benefits from Patriot Coal. I'm proud that the American Friends Service Committee was one of many groups that signed on in support of those in danger of losing health benefits due to a corporate bankruptcy from a company that was set up to fail.

It so happened that I saw some old friends from my first big fight, the Pittston Coal strike. It turns out that one of the best union hell raisers I've ever known is now a preacher. For some reason this strikes me as a little weird, but it probably shouldn't. One former UMWA official told me a long time ago "Half our members are preachers."

 When I caught up with him he was busy preparing a sermon.

"What's it about?" I asked.

"Love," he said.

"For it or against it?" I responded.

"For it," he replied.

Just checking. You can't be too sure these days.


POLITICAL? Meanwhile, former Massey CEO Don Blankenship claims that if he goes to jail for his role in the deaths of 29 miners at Upper Big Branch, it will be "political." I would have used a different word. Like maybe overdue.

TOLKIEN GEEKS, this link is just for you.


May 22, 2013

A sampler

Here are a few items that caught my eye today...

A PLACE AT THE TABLE. Lately I've blogged several times about WV's new law that aims to ensure nutritious meals to all state schoolchildren. Here's the website about a new film on food insecurity that helped nudge the state legislature along. The movie should be widely available soon and is being shown in some theaters. It's by some of the same folks who made Food Inc., which is really worth seeing if you haven't yet.

ALL IN A CHART. Here's a look at what's messed up about our tax system.



May 21, 2013

The Dude really does abide

El Cabrero is a big fan of Jeff Bridges, and especially of that masterpiece of cinematography The Big Lebowski. That's a film that I feel like I've lived, not just watched--especially on those days when the world micturates on my rug, metaphorically speaking. It tied the whole room together...

I didn't realize until recently that Bridges was a major anti-hunger activist. Here are a couple of great quotes from his foreword to A Place at the Table, the companion book to a film of the same name. Here goes:

Charity is an important provider of emergency assistance, but it is not a way to feed a nation. We don't protect our national security through charity, and we shouldn't protect our families that way either.
What could be more important for our nation than finding a solution to this important problem with such an impact on our future? If another country was doing this to our children, we'd be a war...
West Virginia is trying to get a handle on the entwined problems of hunger, food insecurity, poor nutrition and obesity. Its legislature recently passed the Feed to Achieve Act, which aims at nudging counties, schools, nonprofits and individuals to ensure that all school children in the state receive at least two nutritious meals per day and engage in physical activity. It also encourages creative solutions to these problems beyond the school day and the school year. It's going to take work, but I hope we can move beyond charity towards justice.

After all, the Dude has spoken.

May 20, 2013

Taking on the "cult of money"

It's a little early in the game, but so far Francis I is shaping up to be my kind of pope, with his denunciations of unbridled capitalism and his concern for the poor. You can find some good NPR coverage of his priorities  here and here.

(As a friend of mine who is a member of a religious order pointed out, and I paraphrase, that Paul Ryan must be having a cow.)

By chance, I spent part of Monday at a conference on poverty sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. I am not a member of that church but I have the deepest respect for Catholic teachings on social and economic justice. It's not something that somebody made up yesterday. Or 500 years ago. And it's not negotiable.

It's not just or even primarily about charity or acts of compassion, although the diocese is the second largest provider of aid in the state (only the state Department of Health and Human Resources does more). It's also about justice and the demand for laws and policies that promote the common good.

One of the speakers today was Rev. Larry Snyder, head of Catholic Charities USA, who spoke of a better metaphor than the one we usually use regarding services and programs for low income people. The usual image is of a safety net. But if you think about it, nets have holes and things slip through. Fr. Snyder argued that we really need is not a net but a trampoline that helps people bounce back higher.

Works for me.

May 19, 2013

The ultimate refutation

This weekend I was part of a spirited email exchange between some friends about whether and how to respond to poor-bashing by a right wing think tank. After a while, it occurred to me that the ultimate refutation had already been made, one to which no reply is possible. To see it, click here and hit play.

GETTING SOMETHING RIGHT. Here's an op-ed by yours truly on early childhood education, an area in which WV is making some progress.


ONE LINERS to respond to climate change denial here. If these don't work, click on the first link again.