January 09, 2014

Interesting developments

West Virginia's legislature is officially in session now and several interesting bills are in play, including some I've worked with allies to advance. I was pleased to see that the leadership of the House of Delegates is supporting an increase in the state minimum wage, a move that the state Chamber of Commerce doesn't seem to oppose.The House majority also came out in support of creating a Future Fund or permanent mineral trust fund, something that Senate President Jeff Kessler has long supported.

All that's encouraging, but it will take a lot of work to make either really happen. And those are just the things we know about. In addition to all that, as a certain former Defense Department head once said, there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

Should be interesting. Not necessarily fun or good, but interesting.

January 06, 2014

Two from the road

It's been a long afternoon/evening driving through bitter cold so this will be short. I'm pleased to say that my car didn't try to kill me this time. I did manage to find two items worth a look.

FIRST, HOW BOUT THAT FRANCIS? According to this article, he's popular on both sides of the aisle (although I kind of wonder about one of them). At the very least, he is bringing certain topics to public attention. In a good way.

SECOND, WE'RE NOT THAT POLARIZED ABOUT EVERYTHING.  As E.J. Dionne argues here, most Americans agree on basic economic justice issues.


January 05, 2014

Stephen King land

El Cabrero has been a terribly irregular blogger lately, but at least I have a story about why. It goes something like this...

Once upon a time last Thursday, I went on a work trip to a certain northern WV town that's about four hours away on a good day. And this wasn't a good day.  Then, it was like the books of a certain author on which I have been binging lately seemed to come alive.

First, let me say that in general I'm a literary snob. If you don't believe it, search the archives of this blog. You'll find ancient Greeks, Chinese philosophers, Shakespeare, Melville, Dante, Homer, Emerson, Thoreau, etc.

But sometimes you gotta eat some popcorn, right? My popcorn stash consists of listening to an unabridged Stephen King book. I can go for years without indulging but his books always seem to eventually wind up on the menu. I've done three in the last month or so.

Now you know, all kinds of weird stuff happens in Stephen King books. Vampires, plagues, a cell phone pulse that wipes out civilization, haunted places, etc. Oh yeah, and evil cars.

It so happened on that on what turned out to be a road trip from hell, my car went Stephen King when I was driving back through darkness, ice, snow, high winds and freezing temperature.

The car, whose make will remain nameless except to say it starts with the third letter of the alphabet and ends with the twentieth, would randomly flash a "reduced engine power" message and stop going without warning. Oh and the lights would go out too. The only thing to do was restart the engine and hope it wouldn't do it again, which of course it did.

 Some places where it performed this endearing trick were busy two lane dark roads with no shoulder and with traffic right behind me. Others were interstates where getting to the side was a feat and getting back on the road on the ices was iffy as well. In general, it did this when there was no place to safely get off the road and seek shelter from the storm.

For the record, I'm no stranger to car trouble. But this was the first and only time (so far) when I felt like my car was consciously trying to kill me or someone else.

In a word, I got stranded. Miraculously, the car didn't succeed in causing a major accident, although it didn't seem to be for lack of trying. I eventually made it home in a rental but have to go back and retrieve said vehicle soon.

I just hope it has outgrown its homicidal phase.

IS INEQUALITY ON THE AGENDA? Maybe. Too bad this didn't happen a long time ago.

SPEAKING OF WHICH,  here's a look at the real redistribution of wealth (sneak preview: it's direction is upward).

A BETTER IDEA. The state of WV has been flirting lately with private prisons. Here's a better alternative.