Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Kicking the Downtrodden: A Priority for West Virginia?

In the 1870s, the nation was slammed by one of those periodic depressions that punctuate our economic history. Although largely forgotten today, it was known as the Long Depression for its lingering effects. It lasted for 65 consecutive months — longer than the 43-month Great Depression of the 1930s.

Around 18,000 businesses failed between 1873 and 1875. Unemployment rose above 8 percent. Millions of Americans were jobless, hungry and homeless. In those days, there was no such thing as unemployment insurance, food assistance programs like SNAP or supports for the elderly like Social Security.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Trump Parade More Entertaining Than Macy's

Generally, Macy’s Parade is the talk of the town in New York City over Thanksgiving, with their massive inflated cartoon characters and beautiful floats. This year saw Miss Piggy even rescuing nonagenarian crooner Tony Bennett, who nearly fell off his float.

But another parade has been going on in New York City this year at Trump Tower, where those who would like consideration for a cabinet position in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration have entered, one at a time, for several weeks now.

Obamacare Repeal Would Hurt West Virginia

The Republican majority in Congress and the Trump Administration are both itching to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). maybe as soon as January 2017.

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect and many things need to be improved, but to repeal without a replacement will be a catastrophe. It will hurt just about everybody – people, health care providers and the insurers.

Pollution's Best Friend to Head EPA

Scott Pruitt arrives at Trump Tower on Dec. 7, 2016

Incoming President Donald Trump has chosen some pretty abominable appointees: racist Jeff Sessions as attorney general, racist Stephen Bannon as White House strategist, loose cannon Mike Flynn as security chief, public school opponent Betsy DeVos as education secretary, Affordable Care Act enemy Tom Price as secretary of health and human services.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Save The Green Bank Observatory

The mighty Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County symbolizes the best of West Virginia.

Radio astronomers from around the world search the universe through its giant dishes, working both on-site and from faraway locations. Brilliant students of the National Youth Science Camp get summer training there. Thousands of visitors and schoolchildren tour it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Local Paper Pimps Nonexistent War on Coal

In a recent editorial, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph complained (for probably the 40th time) about the “war on coal” being waged by President Barack Obama’s EPA.

Ramaco Development apparently didn’t get the memo that Dictator Obama doesn’t permit coal mining in the state of West Virginia. They are foolishly opening two new mines in the area, in blissful ignorance of his evil scheme to shut down the coal industry (but oddly enough, only in the Mountain State).

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Lonely, Needless Death in the Dark

photo: entrance to the keystone no. 1 mine
Clay Epperly will never leave the Keystone No. 1 mine.
Mines are dangerous places. Anyone who's lived in mining country knows that - the occasional headline about an accident, injury or death hundreds of feet below ground is distressing but unsurprising news.

Unfortunately, sometimes these news stories don't even concern an actual miner. They're written about regular people who willingly choose to enter mines long shut down and abandoned.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bluefield KMart Was Doomed Years Ago

When word came in early May 2016 that our local KMart in Bluefield, WV would be closing in late August, you could practically hear a collective community sigh of relief.

People talked of the store as if it were a friend or family member that had been going through a long, inevitably fatal illness:

“Well, bless its heart, it had been suffering a long time. We’re so sad to hear of this, but at least the poor thing is out of its misery now.”

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Freedom of Speech Has Limits

West Virginia has once again found itself the recipient of negative press - and can thank one of its own politicians for the embarrassment.

Among his peers in Charleston, House of Delegates member Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) is known as a notorious hothead. He’s looked upon with such disdain that even members of his own party can’t stand him.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

BLM Boogeyman Comes, Goes, Leaves Bluefield Intact

The Blackout The Field march of July 15 in Bluefield has come and gone. Our fair city is still standing, despite alarmed cries from some of the citizenry.

When word began to spread through town of a planned protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the rumor mill kicked into high gear. Via social media and old-fashioned over-the-fence gossip, scary stories ignited like a wildfire:

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Remembering TV's First Superman, George Reeves

For many people my age or a bit older, George Reeves was our introduction to Superman on the screen. Reeves was an established journeyman actor with starring roles in various low budget films and a few supporting roles in major productions such as Gone With The Wind and From Here to Eternity. 

When casting began for The Adventures of Superman television show in 1951, Reeves was offered the title role because of his rugged good looks and muscular build. He was also known for a retentive memory that allowed him to memorize scripts easily amid rushed film production schedules typical of the "B" movies he made his living in.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Floods Highlight Budget Problems to Come

In retrospect, it's a good thing West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin didn't acquiesce to Republican requests to raid the state's rainy day fund. Conservative lawmakers had wanted to dip into the fund (to the tune of nearly $200 million) in order to balance the state budget.

The rainy day fund is there for disasters such as the recent punishing floods that have devastated much of our state, not to bail out conservative lawmakers who were unable to even come up with a budget plan without first wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars in a special legislative session that should never have been necessary.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Increase in Military Budget Unneeded

A recent column in our local paper decried cuts in military spending. However, once you take away the fact the author is a right wingnut who's been moaning about Obama since his first day in office, there's really not much of substance there.

The fact is our military, while great at protecting us from harm, is lousy at managing money. They're awash in cash. As of 2013, the base defense budget had soared from $287 billion to $530 billion since 2001 - not even accounting for the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

WV Republicans Dumbfounded by Budget Woes

When it comes to West Virginia Republicans' budget woes, the occupants of the Charleston Conservative Clown Car seem to be dumbfounded by the state's financial crisis.

They’re like bumbling surgeons with dull scalpels. Rather than work together with their Democrat colleagues and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, they apparently want to hack away willy-nilly, damaging healthy tissue instead of zeroing in on the dead stuff.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

WV Taxes Aren't Keeping Business Away

The Tax Foundation, a conservative organization, testified last year to West Virginia’s Select Joint Committee on Tax Reform that getting rid of the business personal property tax would attract business to the state. The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy says otherwise.

State and local taxes make up only 3.2 percent of the cost of doing business in the state, says the Center. Companies rank other costs much higher when deciding whether to open for business in West Virginia: utilities, transportation occupancy, and labor.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

"Paid Their Debt" Means Just That

The legality of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's decision to restore some rights to convicted felons en masse remains to be decided.

It is amusing, however, to hear and read the outcry from conservatives in the political area and the news publishing business.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Gov. Tomblin Treated Unfairly

It's rather shameful that many of our state's political and business leaders (the majority of them Republicans, naturally) crucify Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for supposedly turning his backs on West Virginia's working people.

Tomblin knows the state can no longer depend on a mono-economy, and that those who promise another coal comeback is just around the corner are misguided or just plain lying.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

As Coal Declined, Execs Gorged Themselves

In a state where virtually everyone, including the majority of the media, blames Barack Obama for the decline of the coal industry, it's sometimes hard to glean fact from fiction.

Fortunately, it's not an impossible task to discover the dirty truth about the machinations of big coal over the past several years. The sordid little secret the coal barons don't want you to know about is this: they did more to damage themselves than anyone else.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

WV Governor Gives Legislators an Excuse

Considering how much grief the legislative leadership has given him this session, it was awfully generous of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to give the Legislature an out on the budget bill debacle last week by releasing new revenue estimates that show the 2016-17 budget is even farther in the red than was projected in January.

That allowed legislators to throw up their hands and feign surprise that the state’s budget woes are so bad, and agree to have Tomblin call them back into special session later this spring to deal with the matter.