November 21, 2013

Here's a shock

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship doesn't exactly take a lot of responsibility for the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 West Virginia coal miners in 2010. Maybe he'll get some help in that department one of these days.

MINORITY HEALTH. The Affordable Care Act will have a big impact increasing coverage in WV's African American and Hispanic communities.

FOUNDING FATHERS AND MOTHERS. Here's some interesting DNA research about the earliest Americans.

NOTE: El Cabrero is rotating off the line for a few days. Blog posts may be erratic. Happy Thanksgiving!


November 19, 2013

What was done and what was said

Today marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg address, a tiny speech that has become so much a part of the American historical canon that a popular book about it dubs it "the Gettysburg gospel." There are several extant versions of the speech with varying claims of authenticity. It seems that no reporter that day managed to capture the speech verbatim.

Here are several versions all in one place.

A lot of the things many of us "know" about the speech probably aren't true, as the above cited author Gabor Boritt demonstrates in his book.

One thing I thought I knew about the speech was that a windbag gave a two hour overblown oration which has long been forgotten and which contrasted poorly with Lincoln's few but eloquent words. Actually, the other Gettysburg address, by orator and former politician Edward Everett was actually pretty good, as you can see for yourself here.

Long speeches were the rage then and most audiences would have been as disappointed by a short keynote then as they would be of a short concert performance by a headline band today. (Draw your own conclusions about what this says or doesn't say about the modern American attention span.)

In one respect, Lincoln's speech was totally wrong, i.e. when he said that "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here..." For the present, at least, it seems unlikely that either the words or the deeds associated with that historic battle are in any danger of being forgotten.

November 18, 2013

One liner of the day

Whenever I hear politicians talk about the need to make tough choices, what I hear is this: "It's time to really stick it to poor people." Which come to think of it isn't a tough choice at all but rather a cowardly one. Paul Krugman struck at that theme today in his op-ed about the need for demand-side economics. Here's his version:

"Economics is supposed to be about making hard choices (at other people's expense, naturally)."
SAD NEWS. Here's an op-ed by a friend of mine on sad days for public libraries.

KINDER, GENTLER? On the bright side, E.J. Dionne argues that Americans seem to be getting less punitive, partially because of dropping crime rates.

HEALTH CARE. Here's a reminder of why we needed reform to start with.

MORE FUN AND GAMES with West Virginia's drug lobbyist in chief attorney general here.


November 17, 2013

Plague days

I've been re-reading Albert Camus' novel The Plague for the umpteenth time, about an outbreak of the pestilence in the Algerian town of Oran in the 1940s. I think Camus saw it as a metaphor for the grip of fascism on Europe.

At times, I  feel like I've lived through wave after wave of outbreaks of the plague, not, thank God, in the form of 20th century fascism but of a mean-spirited, all-American robber baron mentality of bloodless greed, often backed up by bigotry, fanaticism and xenophobia.

The first wave hit with the Reagan ascendancy in the 1980s, followed by the Gingrich "revolution" in 1994, the era Bush II, and lately the Tea Party. it's hard for me to tell most days whether to count that as separate waves of plague or one long outbreak the wanes and waxes.

I think that's also why the image of zombies shows up so much in this blog, as the dead (or in this case ideas that should have long been dead) come back to devour the living. In the image of Camus' novel, the dead rats keep appearing in intervals, signifying another outbreak.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, here's American food policy on plague.

AND HERE'S ANOTHER CRITIQUE of the ideology of the plague.