October 10, 2014

Who knew? Three thoughts on WV and marriage equality

1. Let yesterday's WV marriage equality reversal be a lesson to everyone, including me, that things that are impossible are impossible until they aren't. It's another reminder that we live in an open universe where all kinds of wild and unexpected stuff that we didn't see coming can and will happen.

2. Deja vu. Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with a friend about WV Governor Tomblin's statement on the issue, which I thought was short, to the point, and hit just the right notes. We both agreed that it reminded us of a statement of another WV governor, one of our heroes, at a similar moment, i.e. when the US Supreme court ruled on school desegregation in the 1954.

While many southern politicians used the decision as an opportunity to demonstrate their bigotry, Gov. William C. Marland basically said that we would comply with the law of the land. At a press conference that included the state superintendent of schools and representatives of WV's African American community, he pledged that the state would do "whatever is right and proper under the Supreme Court's decree," adding that "I rather think the people of West Virginia will accept the decision and carry on the best they can."

(Marland, by the way, had some reversals in his time. He tried to get the coal industry to...horrors!...pay its fair share in severance taxes and was hounded for it. After his controversial term and struggles with alcoholism, he was discovered to be working as a taxi driver in Chicago. His fortunes later improved, although he died prematurely of cancer in 1965.)

3. It's only fair to recognize another state leader, WV Senate President Jeff Kessler, who for years has been a true leader in advocating for equality and an end to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Kessler issued this statement yesterday.

October 09, 2014

Wasn't expecting this

This has been an interesting news day. WV's right wing attorney general announced that he would not try to defend the state's ban on same sex marriages. It looks like marriage equality is coming to the Mountain State.

I also appreciate Gov. Tomblin's statement on these developments:

“As the attorney general stated today, recent rulings by several federal courts, combined with the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this issue, make it clear that laws banning same-sex marriage have been declared unconstitutional. I do not plan to take any actions that would seek to overturn the courts’ decisions. West Virginia will uphold the law according to these rulings, and I have directed state agencies to take appropriate action to make that possible.

Our state is known for its kindness and hospitality to residents and visitors alike. I encourage all West Virginians—regardless of their personal beliefs—to uphold our statewide tradition of treating one another with dignity and respect.”


October 08, 2014

Good question

This Slate article asks a good question, to wit, why is West Virginia locking up so many juveniles?
The good news is that that is likely to change in the next year or so. Gov. Tomblin has appointed a task force to look at the problem that includes legislators, experts, community leaders and others to look at the system and recommend changes. They have also brought in folks from the Pew Charitable Trusts to help in the process. But it will take plenty of pushing by ordinary folks to make sure some real changes come out of it.

DO YOU EVER TALK TO YOURSELF? Apparently, how you do it matters.

GOT ART? Cave painting and other forms of art may be lots older than previously believed.


October 07, 2014

The line cuts through the heart

I've read a lot over the years about the atrocities committed in Stalinist Russia, but I'm only just now getting around to reading (really listening to an unabridged recording of) Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago.

This morning, while walking the dogs in the rain, I came across this nugget that says a lot about human nature:
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good t flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn't change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.

Socrates taught us: "Know thyself."

Confronted by the pit into which we are about to toss those who have done us harm, we halt, striken dumb; it is after all only because of the way things worked out that they were the executioners and we weren't.

From good to evil is one quaver, says the proverb.
And correspondingly, from evil to good.

October 06, 2014

Coal and the market

If you are anywhere near West Virginia, you have heard a lot about the so-called "war on coal." According to this narrative, all the ills the industry and its workers are experiencing can be laid at the feet of the Obama administration and the EPA. I have often argued here and elsewhere that plenty of other factors are at stake, most of which have to do with market conditions. Here's a look at some of those.

THE HONORED DEAD. Here's a shoutout by yours truly to one of my favorite writers, Albert Camus.

GOOD PIGS GONE BAD. Feral pigs like beer too. Some like it a bit too much.