Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Farewell, Google Plus. You Deserved Better


It took a serious security bug to do it, but seven years after its launch, Google is shutting down Google+, its social network.

A software glitch caused Google to expose the personal-profile data of hundreds of thousands of Google+ users. Even worse, the company chose to not go public with the information after the bug was fixed in March 2018.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Republican Boasts Obfuscate Jobs Picture


For all the Republican back-slapping in Charleston about how much they've done for the state since assuming the majority, the jobs forecast for West Virginia is still somewhat unsettled. According to a 24/7 Wall Street study, the state ranks 47th in the nation in overall business climate.

Looking at figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state's labor force participation rate remains the lowest in the country at just over 53 percent. Since the late 1970s, as far back as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data goes, the state’s rate has remained below 58 percent.

West Virginia has to grapple with a higher-than-average elderly population, a high percentage of people on work disability, and poor overall health among the population (Smoking and obesity are both rampant).

Dependence on coal as an employer is still a probable exercise in futility long-term. Even with Trump administration initiatives to boost domestic coal production, West Virginia had a 2017 net gain of less than 1,500 jobs in the coal industry.  For all the conservative cheering about the end of the war on coal supposedly waged by the Obama administration, the market for coal will continue to erode.

The outlook is not all gloom and doom.  Projected increases in natural gas demand and regional downstream processing facilities should contribute to employment growth. Manufacturing in the state is poised for a boom, with new facilities opening and existing plants expanding their operations.

It's probably too early to tout a Renaissance in West Virginia manufacturing, but to read of this upswing is encouraging. These jobs -- and jobs in technology -- are the ones that pay workers well and offer benefits... positions that West Virginians can build their futures on.

One problem with this hoped-for spike in manufacturing is that by and large, West Virginia's long-struggling coalfield counties in the north and south are left out, since most of this growth is taking place in the panhandles and central part of the state.

Congressional Republicans and the Justice Administration might be blowing their own horns prematurely. There has certainly been some good economic news here and there, but much still remains to be done.

The coalfield counties in particular deserve more love from Charleston. These counties suffer from lack of economic diversification because coal has traditionally been the primary employer. These areas sorely need assistance in transitioning away from a coal-based economic model.

Good economic news from the panhandles and central area of the state is indeed reason for celebration -- but until all of West Virginia can enjoy growth and prosperity, the celebration should be muted.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

CNHI: Adios To A Lousy Newspaper Company


When newspaper chain Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI) recently announced it was up for sale, either as a whole or in pieces, there was probably a collective exhale of relief in newsrooms that currently field 140 newspapers across 22 states.

Long seen as one of the bottom feeders in the industry, CNHI has a reputation for operating its publications as cheaply as possible. Non-sales employees have endured quarterly unpaid week-long furloughs for nearly ten years. Raises are nonexistent. The company invests little in software, computer systems or equipment. Many of its buildings are dilapidated. Staff levels are at best barely adequate.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Exodus From West Virginia Must Stop


West Virginia is losing residents at an alarming rate. According to a Pew study, the state's population shrank by over 18,000 people between 2007 and 2017. This is such a sharp decline that some utilities are raising their rates, claiming their operating costs must be recouped from far fewer people.

The state has become a mecca for tourists. They come to ride or walk the Hatfield-McCoy trail system, or to enjoy the many natural wonders to be found in abundance. They come to hunt, fish, boat or ski.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Intelligent Design Is Not Serious Science


Among scientists, Darwin's theory of evolution is still the accepted story of how living things came to be, but proponents of a theory known as “intelligent design” claim they can stump Darwin: Life, they say, is simply too complicated to have arrived by chance.

Intelligent design seems to have popped up out of nowhere, but it’s actually an old concept. The idea that an organism's complexity is evidence for the existence of a cosmic designer was advanced long before Charles Darwin was born. Its best-known exponent was English theologian William Paley, creator of the famous watchmaker analogy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Why I Hate Working On Computers


By my own rough estimate, 95 percent of personal computers are repaired not by a shop, but by The Techie Friend. The Techie Friend usually isn't someone with formal training in computer systems per se, but they've been around computers for a long time and know how to do more than just turn one on and launch a program.

Chances are The Techie Friend also knows how to use Google for more than researching funny cat videos -- the computer problem they're addressing is likely a common one, with solutions posted to social media or support websites or discussion forums.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

West Virginia Residents Brace For Higher Utility Rates


Appalachian Power, which serves nearly half a million customers in West Virginia, is asking for a whopping eleven percent rate increase. Roughly half of the requested hike “is due to a significant decline in the amount of electricity used by customers,” the company said.

West Virginia American Water Company, the largest water company in the state, has asked for a staggering 24 percent rate increase. According to a news release, the company said the increase request is due to infrastructure improvements. The company also cites a decline in the amount of water customers use.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Rise of Natural Gas Mirrors Rise of Big Coal


For nearly two centuries West Virginians watched as coal mining operations greedily chewed up millions of tons of earth to extract the rich black stuff. They saw the coal shipped out of state to feed America's industrial revolution. They watched the profits leave to fatten up far-away corporate bank accounts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Does The Local Paper Harbor a Troll?


It's taken me a few years, but I think I have finally figured out why the Bluefield Daily Telegraph's resident Tuesday opinion "writer" Smokey Shott continues to misrepresent, stretch the truth, repeat discredited stories, and lie shamelessly on occasion.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Republicans Not Behind West Virginia's Progress


A fawning editorial in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph credited the Republican majority in Charleston with the state's recent economic growth. This is a laughable assumption. Why? Because this growth is primarily because of rising global prices for metallurgical coal and natural gas -- two commodities we have in abundance -- due to increased demand overseas.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Delinquent Loans and Misplaced Priorities

door knock image

As soon as I reached the location of my current assignment, I became both angry and sad. A battered child's bike lay in the dirty scrap of a front yard. A few toys were also scattered about, mixed with empty pop bottles and other bits of trash.

The subject property was a rusty, battered old singlewide mobile home. Instead of curtains the windows were covered with blankets. The metal had been patched here and there with plywood. A tarpaulin covered part of the roof. The home sat in a rundown park filled with other mobile homes in similar condition. The reason for my visit was in plain view: a new crew cab pickup that probably cost upwards of $50,000.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Trump Budget In One Word: Cruel


A cursory examination of the Trump administration's proposed 2019 budget simply bears out what most Americans have already learned -- this administration absolutely hates science, the poor, the elderly, and the sick. There is no other coherent explanation for the cruelty it contains.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Local Paper Blindly Supports Tax Bill


The local paper isn't exactly known for high quality standards when it comes to in-house editorials. However, their recent editorial touting the Republican tax plan shows an amazing lack of actual research into the subject, and appears to have been written on someone's coffee break.

Taking a jab at Democrats for failing to support the bill is apparently much easier than actually spending some time investigating what they wrote about.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Trump's Bogus Brand Of Loyalty


For a man who reportedly demands unfettered loyalty from associates and underlings, Donald Trump does nothing to inspire such loyalty. Indeed, his words and actions in public and private life portray a man who believes loyalty is something to be exacted instead of earned honestly.