June 18, 2011

Weekend Auk poem

A caution to everybody

Consider the auk;
Becoming extinct because he forgot how to fly, and could only walk.
Consider man, who may well become extinct
Because he forgot how to walk and learned how to fly before he thinked.--Ogden Nash

June 17, 2011

Jack tales

I was at a meeting yesterday with a couple of friends and cronies whereat we cooked up various schemes to raise hell and entertain ourselves this summer. Since it was a typical West Virginia meeting, we digressed widely and shot that which is euphemistically called the bull. Digressions are often the most enjoyable and productive parts of a meeting in my experience.

In one such, I learned that the spouse of a friend was a storyteller who liked to tell Jack tales. Jack has showed up here before, but for newcomers, he is the subject of a cycle of stories that probably originated in the British Isles and were brought to the Appalachian mountains by settlers, where they are part of an oral tradition.

Most people are familiar with Jack and the Beanstalk, which is an English version. In the mountain variety, the stories morphed over time to express what I think is the best in Appalachian culture. I have spent a good many years running around the state telling about Jack. The stories enthralled me from the time I first learned about them and I've seen them work their magic on even the most jaded listeners.

I've made it a point to tell my grandkid the Jack tales I know and read him the ones I've forgotten. I think this is important not just because they are entertaining but because they teach you how you ought to act and live.

If you ever get a chance to hear one, try it. They're meant to be heard. Or you can get by with reading Richard Chase's classic collection The Jack Tales.

WHAT HE SAID. Here's Robert Reich on the right's war on workers.

KEEP IN MIND. A brain implant shows promise of improving memories for people with dementia or other brain injuries.

ANIMAL AWARENESS discussed here.


June 16, 2011

Crying wolf and falling skies

The Gentle Reader may have noticed that virtually every reform that improved conditions for low income and working people was vigorously opposed by conservative and business interests. These groups typically try to scare the public by predicting apocalyptic consequences for any piece of legislation they don't like.

A new website, the Cry Wolf Project, is a good resource for challenging and exposing this kind of rhetoric. I especially recommend the searchable quote bank section, which gives example after example of hysterical hyperbole going back to the 1800s.

A lot of the old crud sounds pretty familiar today.

FULL. I'm not always Thomas Friedman's biggest fan, but I think he may be right here.

ROCK ON. Here's more about WV Senator Jay Rockefeller's defense of Medicaid.

LIVING LONGER. OR NOT. Here's an interesting county by county look at life expectancy in the US. I noticed that women in southern WV are actually experiencing a decline, as a study of early deaths published in 2008 by West Virginians for Affordable Health Care noted.

THIS IS KOCHED UP. The Koch brothers funded, among many other vile things, a study of which states are the most free. Apparently those that are on the blue side of the political spectrum are totalitarian gulags.



June 15, 2011

Rand-om thoughts

In traditional Okinawan karate, a training tool used to develop striking force or atemi is the makiwara, which is basically a board buried in the ground and used as a striking post. For generations, karate trainees have stood before the makiwara practicing punches and other techniques in order to toughen the striking surfaces and develop focus.

Its usage is not as common as it once was. Nowadays, people are more likely to use a heavy bag, which is both similar and different.

El Cabrero must admit to having a personal makiwara, metaphorically speaking, in the ideology of Ayn Rand, which has pretty much become the ideology of the Tea Party and radical right wingers these days. I love whacking away at it whenever the occasion arises, which is fairly often these days.

It looks like I'm not the only one. This item from Alternet starts out like this:

Some say that maybe it is a bad idea to base a political party's ideology on a belief that altruism, democracy and Christianity are "evil." Others say that maybe it is a bad idea to base a country's policies on fictional novels rather than science and history. Still others say is it a bad idea for national leaders to think of most of the public as "parasites" while saying people with tons of cash are "producers" who should govern. I am talking about the Republican Party's embrace of Ayn Rand and her cruel philosophy.

There's lots more. Click here and whack away.

LET THEM EAT...WHAT? House Republicans are planning to cut nutrition and food safety programs.

DEFENDING MEDICAID. Rockefeller does it right.


June 14, 2011

To strip or not to strip

One of the bombs dropped on miners by planes friendly to coal operators at the Battle of Blair Mountain. Fortunately, this one didn't go off. Image by way of wikipedia.

If you've been following events in West Virginia lately, you will be aware that environmentalists protesting mountaintop removal mining recently retraced the historic 1921 miner's march to Blair Mountain, which was the largest workers' insurrection in American history (so far, he added wistfully).

Labor groups for the most part didn't take part in this march but plan activities of their own to preserve this historic site.

I've made several trips to Blair myself, mostly before the surrounding area was heavily stripped. I was particularly fond of an old abandoned fire tower up on top. It was rickety and scary as hell to climb, which didn't deter me from going up several times. What can I say? Us hillbillies like to climb things.

It reminded me of the mountain the devil was said to have taken Jesus to during his temptation.

The tower is, alas, long gone. It's unclear how long the mountain will remain, although an article in the Wall Street Journal reported that

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. of Abingdon, Va., said it doesn't intend to conduct mountain-top removal in the historic battleground area, but acquired one active operation outside the 1,600-acre boundary when it bought Massey Energy.

"We agree that Blair Mountain is an area of historical significance, and an appropriate commemoration of the 1921 events ought to be considered," said Alpha spokesman Ted Pile. But, he added, a commemoration shouldn't "abrogate the legal rights of the many property owners and leaseholders in the area."

I'm not sure how to interpret that. I like the first part of the statement, although it might have been undone by the latter part.

Once again, let me remind the Gentle Reader that the best place to keep up on all things coal is Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward's Coal Tattoo blog.

THE LATEST BAD IDEA. An unbalanced Balanced Budget Amendment under consideration in the US House would push through deeper cuts than even the Ryan plan.

YOU ALREADY KNEW THIS. Aside from a weak job market, wages are pretty stagnant too.

CREATING JOBS. A new study suggests that workforce training is more effective than cutting business taxes.



June 13, 2011

How's the weather?

I've been writing and linking things about climate change and extreme weather off and of for years now, but this weather-related news item really weirded me out.

HEALTH CARE. Here are yet more reasons to oppose privatizing Medicare.

A BETTER ALTERNATIVE. Here's another item on the People's Budget, a better alternative to the slash and burn approach.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE. Deficit mania in DC is crowding out concern for the unemployed.