November 08, 2013


Here's an interesting post from the Washington Posts's Wonkblog about why Central Appalachia's coal industry is declining. The conventional "wisdom" offered by the ruling class of El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia is that all problems of the industry are caused by a black guy with an African name, but this article points out other factors, including competition from gas and cheap Western coal.

To be fair, some of the proposed new regulations on energy will impact mining, and with it tax revenues and jobs. But the biggest factor by far is the market, which the same ruling class tends to worship as a god when it's convenient to do so.

It's not going to be pretty here. I do wish the federal government would step up with plans and programs to assist mining regions hard hit by these changes.

AUSTERITY BLUES. Here's Krugman on our failure to address long term unemployment.

IT'S NOT ALL BAD. Here's just one of many examples of how West Virginians are trying to promote health and wellness. For more on that, click here.


November 07, 2013

Happy 100, Albert

Today is the 100th birthday of one of my intellectual heroes, Albert Camus. Born in Algeria, he became a major force in the French literary and intellectual scene and won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957. Camus called them like he saw them, infuriating the left and right in the process.

I was unaware of his birthday until I saw the NPR story linked above. By coincidence, I happen to be re-reading his novel The Plague for the umpteenth time. That novel played a huge part in my political formation. This saying by Tarrou, a central character, sums up my worldview pretty well:

"All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences. That may sound simple to the point of childishness; I can't judge if it's simple, but I know it's true."

SPEAKING OF WHICH, the plague of mean-spiritedness is alive and well. Here's a look at the cuts in food stamps.

NON-VIOLENCE BY THE NUMBERS. It holds up pretty well.


November 06, 2013

Another civilized state?

One result of yesterday's election is that 400,000 low income residents of Virginia may become eligible for health coverage. The race was a close one between a strong supporter of Medicaid expansion and an ardent foe of anything associated with the Affordable Care Act. It's still a long way from happening there but the odds have definitely improved. I hope Virginia joins the civilized states.

Meanwhile, over 61,000 West Virginians have signed up for Medicaid since Oct. 1, which effectually reduced the number of the state's uninsured by 1/4 in a little over a month.

WHAT DID THEY EXPECT? State tax revenues are dropping and higher education is just one victim. Quite a few people are calling for raising revenue. Let the record show that these wounds are self inflicted. WV slashed corporate taxes a few years back and eliminated the regressive food tax without thinking about other sources of revenue.

TWO TO PONDER. Here are a couple interesting items from Alternet. The first tries to plumb the thinking of the Ayn Rand-type one percenters and the second ponders whether the ruling class needs anybody else these days.



November 05, 2013

No ordinary mind

This morning I had a conversation with the Spousal Unit as we took the canines on their morning constitutional. She related that she found the flying monkeys on the original Wizard of Oz movie to be frightening even when she was older--until she had a critical insight.

That insight was that the wingspan of said monkeys was actually way too small to support their body weight in flight. Apparently that broke the spell. But then she recalled that once you accept the premise of flying monkeys, it's kind of small potatoes to quibble about specifics.

Now that was a train of thought and a half.

I GUESS WE CAN TALK ABOUT this fossilized giant platypus tomorrow.

November 04, 2013

Who'd a thunk it?

I must admit to being a bit surprised that a bill ending workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation passed the US Senate 61-30. Not sure how it will go in the Reptile Room  US House of Representatives though. WV's junior senator Joe Manchin had one of his good days.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN on poverty.



November 03, 2013

A little justice

Last week, I blogged about recent reports by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity about how prominent law firms, universities and hospitals were devoted to cheating coal miners out of deserved black lung benefits.

I was delighted to learn that Johns Hopkins suspended a black lung program  that thrived by depriving Appalachian coal miners of benefits who were dying from that disease.

Some of the miners denied benefits were proven to have the disease when they were autopsied.

Whatever happened to Hippocrates idea of doing no harm?

Yanking the program was a welcome step, but it's just a tiny bit of what deserves to happen.