Random (but not really)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Why I Am DONE with Manchin

For years I have been holding my nose and voting for Joe Manchin.

Never again will I vote for him, because with the chips were down, he lacked the testicular fortitude to do what needed to be done for the country, instead focusing what would get him re-elected.

And now we have a person who completely lacks judicial temperament given a life-time position on the Supreme Court.

Aside from the allegations of sexual assault. Aside from the untruths in his stories. He threw a temper tantrum and whined about a liberal conspiracy attempting to keep him off the court. He behaved as if that seat was his by right. He utterly exposed his partisanship and made it quite clear he is a conservative activist judge.

A judge with whom we will have to live for decades.

The only reason I voted for Manchin–the ONLY reason–was to keep conservative activist judges off the supreme court. To keep them from sending the country back to the dark ages.

His claim he is working for the betterment of West Virginians is complete and utter bullshit. He is instead working to return us to the days of out-of-state ownership of everything of value here. Of being dependent upon our employers for utterly everything.

Anyone remember company scrip? You could only buy things from the company store? You think that isn’t happen to our health care? Remember mine disasters where hundreds of men died? You think that can’t happen anymore? Remember when black lung killed men on a regular basis? You know that’s happening again, right?

This is a Supreme Court that voted that corporations are people. People who place the good of a corporation of the good of citizens don’t give a shit about what happens to us.

And that’s what Manchin has given us.

So the argument that we’re screwed if a Republican gets that seat holds no water anymore. A Democrat HAD that seat, and he failed to stand up for us, instead looking out for his political future.

To hell with that.

I don’t know who is the 3rd party candidate for the Senate, but I will write in “None of the Above” before vote again for Manchin.

Written by Michelle at 7:52 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day

Textile Mills

ChildrenSpinning

girl-working-at-cotton-mill-P

millgirl

Landscape

Factories

child-labor

Fields

child-labor-3

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

Triangle-Fire

triangle3

Chimney Sweeps

childsweep2

Mining

Come all of you good workers,
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how the good old union
Has come in here to dwell.

youngminers

My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son,
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won.

Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker Mine in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, 10 January 1911, from a 1908-1912 series on...

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You’ll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.

child-miners

Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Farmington-Mine-Disaster-smoke

monongah-mine

sago

Upper Big Branch

child labor today 1

child labor today 2

child labor today 3

child-labor_idp_2

child labor today 4

child-labour-pakistan

Child_labour_Nepal

child_labour

Just a reminder what we’re celebrating today.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Holidays,Politics  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Back-to-School, Back-to-Free Lunch

Two news bits, one after the other, struck me the other day. They were the following:

Staff Council to collect back-to-school supplies for children of WVU families

Third Annual Back-to-School Supply Drive sponsored for local families

It’s laudable and awesome that the WV and WVU communities support WV and WVU families in need.

HOWEVER

I find it upsetting that so many local families and WVU EMPLOYEES are unable to afford the basic necessities for their children to get a proper education.

WVU is the state’s flagship university but doesn’t pay some employees enough for them to buy pencils and papers and notebooks for their children for school.

How can anyone read that and not be mortified? How can we live in a day and age where people need go-fund-me pages to pay for medical bills so they don’t go bankrupt?

How can people think that education, health care, and a living wage are privileges and not basic human rights?

How such people can live with themselves–especially people who claim to be Christian–is beyond me.

Written by Michelle at 9:05 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Morgantown,Politics,West Virginia  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

It is not too soon

It is entirely too late

Written by Michelle at 7:31 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Thoughts on Social Responsibility

I’ve been thinking recently about social responsibility and the social contract.

It’s that time of year, so there are lots of people complaining about paying taxes, and bragging about how they manipulate things so they pay a minimum tax bill.

There are also a lot of people who insist on buying only things that are cheap: never pay full price, never buy quality goods.

Why do I think this is an issue? Because that is socially irresponsible and it breaks the social contract.

First, let’s clarify what I’m talking about.

Social contract:
1. the voluntary agreement among individuals by which, according to any of various theories, as of Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau, organized society is brought into being and invested with the right to secure mutual protection and welfare or to regulate the relations among its members.
2. an agreement for mutual benefit between an individual or group and the government or community as a whole.

When we are part of society, we have implicitly agreed to follow certain rules and regulations that allow large groups of people to function without descending into chaos. We don’t steal, we don’t murder, and we treat fairly with each other.

But the social contract is more than that. In a moral and ethical society, it means we care for those who cannot care for themselves. For example, it’s why we have special legal protections for children.

It also means there are some things that are better managed by the government than by individuals and private companies: law enforcement, roads, and public safety come immediately to mind.

Taxes are the way we pay for these societal needs. If you don’t pay taxes, or attempt to shirk this duty, then you are taking advantage of your fellow citizens.

Let me be clear: I don’t mind paying a little extra to make up for the elderly widow who has minimal income. I don’t mind paying a little extra to cover the single parent trying to make ends meet. These are the things we do in a moral society.

What I do mind is people who can pay their way refusing to do so.

When people scheme to get out of paying their way in society, they are refusing to pay for the roads they drive on, the police that protect them, and the schools that educate future generations.

When people who have the ability to do otherwise choose to spend their money on the cheapest things available, they are making things worse for everyone else.

When people who have the ability to do otherwise buy the cheapest items available, it means they are driving down wages for those who make those goods.

They are supporting sweatshops.
They are forcing farmers to hire illegal immigrants.
They are requiring a minimum wage that is not a living wage.
They are forcing those at the bottom to struggle to pay their rent and put food on the table.
They are forcing those at the bottom to live in substandard and even dangerous housing.
They are encouraging a disposable society, where things are used briefly and discarded.

To make things worse, many of the people who purchase goods at prices lower than the cost of US production are the same people who are against providing any benefits whatsoever to the working poor.

They fail to understand the basics of TANSTAAFL.

We can’t have roads without taxes.
We can’t have schools without taxes.
We can’t have clean water without taxes.
We can’t have safe food without taxes.
We can’t have public health without taxes.

When people insist that the cost of goods remain low, the price still must be paid, but it is paid by those who manufacture and harvest and serve.

The mutilations and deaths of those in the meatpacking industries.
The injuries and deaths of farm workers.
The spread of food-borne illnesses.
Child labor.
A culture and conditions where poor working women are at constant risk for rape and sexual assault.

But what really makes me angry is when those who refuse to pay their taxes, and refuse to support businesses that pay a living wage, profess piety and claim the mantle of Christianity to hide their immoral and unethical behaviors.

Here’s the thing: I was forced to take six years of religion classes in school, and have had more than a passing interest in comparative theology as an adult, so I have more than a basic familiarity with the bible and the tenets of Christianity.

The bible speaks of caring for the poor and the sick. Of helping those in need and forgiving your enemies.

Nowhere does it claim that the poor need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Nowhere does it say that caring for your neighbors is the responsibility of someone else.

Nowhere does it say that we should care for only the people like ourselves, and let the rest of the world sort itself out.

In fact, the bible speaks quite clearly on the subject of paying the taxes.

Matthew 22:17-21 (KJV)
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

If you choose to weasel out of the social contract, that’s fine. We have free will and are allowed to make our own decisions. But don’t expect me to respect you.

And don’t claim to be a Christian.

Written by Michelle at 6:44 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Religion & Philosophy  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Greatest Free-Market Success Story in History

The Internet is “the greatest free-market success story in history”
–Ajit Pai

Unless, of course, you live in a rural area or an area suffering from poverty and urban blight.

Consider these numbers for WV, for percent of the population with access to mobile broadband service +25mbps. (Broadband Now)

Jefferson = 95.4%
Hancock = 94.9%
Berkeley = 93.5%
Wyoming = 93.8%
Wood = 90.9%
Kanawha = 90.4%
Monongalia =89.2%

Mon county (where I live) has the flagship state university, WVU, and yet only 89.2% of the county has access to broadband. Two of those in the top three are the easternmost panhandle counties–essentially bedroom counties for the DC area. The third is the northernmost county, which is just west of Pittsburgh.

But still, that’s not too bad, right? What about the rural counties?

Pocahontas = 0%
Calhoun = 0%
Ritchie = 14.0%
Clay – 16.7%
Monroe = 17.9%
Barbour 21.4%

Two counties with zero access to broadband. None. And one of those counties (Pocohontas) is in the Radio Quiet Zone where there is also ZERO cell signal.

And even without the Radio Quiet Zone, there are a LOT of areas in WV without any cell services. (1)

And here are the 2015 poverty rates for those bottom counties.

Pocahontas County = 16.5%
Calhoun County = 17.7%
Ritchie County = 20.7%
Clay County = 28.2%
Monroe County = 16.8%
Barbour County = 21.5%

The only positive here is that those don’t happen to also be the counties with the greatest percent of the population in poverty. (3)

Remember last spring when I was talking about food deserts?

Monroe and Barbour counties are also a food deserts.(4)

Transportation is harder to quantify. For the sake of simplicity (and lack of data) I’m going to look at areas without access to a major divided highway as having transportation issues. A lot of this is subjective unfortunately, since Rt 50 west of I79 is a well-maintained divided highway, but east of I79 it’s almost all single lane with a lot of switchbacks and 7-9% grades.

So what kind of roads do these counties that lack broadband have?

Pocahontas – Route 219
Calhoun – Rt 119/33
Ritchie – Rt 50 west
Clay – I70 across northern corner
Monroe – 219
Barbour – 119/250

You can look these up yourself, but if you’re willing to take my word for it, out of that list only Ritchie county has anything approaching a decent road running through it.

So what is my point in all this?

My point is that A good deal of WV lacks broadband coverage, and there is zero financial incentive for companies to bring it in. And once they come in, they’re going to want ways to boost their revenue, and the only way to do that would be to charge the big sites for premium access.

So no, I think repealing net neutrality is NOT a good idea.

Here is all the above data in a single table, if that makes it easier to parse.

 

  Broadband Poverty Median Unemployment Roads
Pocahontas  0% 16.50% $49,801 3.10% Rt 219
Calhoun  0% 17.70% $45,519 8.80% Rts 119/33
Ritchie  14.00% 20.70% $46,394 5.30% Rt 50 (west ofI79)
Clay  16.70% 28.20% $42,030 5.60% I70 (small corner)
Monroe  17.90% 16.80% $47,975 3.80% Rt 219
Barbour   21.40% 21.50% $46,623 4.60% Rts 119/250

(1) This is one of the reasons we bought a GPS for the car years ago, because google maps doesn’t work if you don’t have cell service. (2)

(2) It’s also why I’m pretty proficient in reading paper maps. Because our GPS hates us and often recommends roads that are not recommended for cars without 4-wheel drive.

(3) The bottom five would be:
Webster County = 26.1%
Gilmer County 27%
Lincoln County 27.3%
Clay County 28.2%
McDowell County 35.5%

(4) I am designating food deserts here as areas where you have to drive 20 or more to purchase food (ie groceries). This doesn’t mean a grocery story necessarily, just a store (like a Quicky Mart, Drug Store, or Dollar Store that also sells food.)

Written by Michelle at 10:35 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Politics  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Why Didn’t They Say Something?

I’ve been going back through Robert B. Parker‘s Spenser series, and as much as I keep coming across things that are utterly ridiculous (he likes to describe outfits in detail. Oi.) I keep coming across bits that relate to current events disconcertingly well.

The last book I finished was Paper Doll, that was published in 1993.

I found the theme of the book and many passages disconcertingly timely.

“Why are you interested in Stratton?”

“Some people working for him tried to chase me off the Olivia Nelson case.”

“Probably fucking her, and afraid it’ll get out.”

“Doesn’t sound like the Olivia Nelson I’ve been sold, but say it was, and he was,” I said. “Is it that big a secret?”

“He’s probably going to be in the presidential primaries,” Cosgrove said. “Remember Gary Hart?”

“Okay,” he said. “Here’s the deal. I was, ah . . .” He looked back at his knuckles. “I was . . .” He grinned at me, still sincere, but now a little roguish too. “I was fucking Olivia Nelson.”

“How nice for her,” I said.

“This is off the record, of course,” Stratton said.

“Of course,” I said.

“I got to know her at a few fund-raisers. Her husband’s one of those Beacon Hill old money liberals, and one thing led to another, and we were in the sack.” Stratton winked at me. “You know how those things go,” he said.

“No,” I said. “How?”

Men never laughed quite that way about anything but women in a sexual context. And it was sycophantic laughter, tinged with gratitude that a man of the Senator’s prominence had shared with them not only a salacious remark but a salacious view of life.

“Old enough to bleed,” the Senator said, “old enough to butcher.”

I really wish I knew how those passages were taken at the time. (I didn’t find the series until later, and breezed through the earlier books.)

I do know, however, that those passages did not surprise me.

Written by Michelle at 9:15 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Politics  

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Time or Money

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about work and time and poverty.

That would be because I’m currently not working. (Short version: last year this time I was physically ill from the way my supervisor bullied me, so I quit, because I didn’t deserve to be treated that way.)

I was terrified by that decision, but almost immediately my health issues ceased, so I realized I’d made the right choice, and tried not to worry about money.

Over the spring and summer I worked for several months through a staffing agency, but instead of taking a permanent position that wouldn’t make me happy in the long run, I decided to go back to job hunting. However, that’s not the point of this.

A couple months into not working I discovered something: Except when we spent money on expensive items I was using for house projects (I re-protected our wood floors and the repaired, re-protected, and recovered the kitchen chairs), our expenses remained below our income.

I tend to be frugal with money, but I was still surprised that we weren’t hemorrhaging money. I mean, we no longer had almost half our previous income, so how we were keeping our heads above water?

After a lot of thought, I realized it came down to multiple things.

1. I’ve spent the last decade paying off debts and building up our savings.

Currently, the only debt we have is our mortgage. All student loans are paid off, the car is paid off, we have no outstanding credit card debt. This means that not only do we have a cushion, but also that the only money that has to go out each month is for the mortgage and utilities and necessities.

2. We have only one car, it is relatively new, and we have done regular maintenance on it.

When we purchased our car we focused on reliability and gas mileage, because I’ve owned unreliable cars before and I hated them. HATED them. This means that we have escaped the unexpected expenses that come with a car that breaks down, as well as the related problem of trying to finagle rides while the car is in the shop and all that time suck. (We get our car maintenance at a place within walking distance of both our house and Michael’s work. The car gets dropped off on his way to work, and picked up on his way home. Basically: no time lost.)

3. We’ve replaced every single appliance in our house since we bought it.

All those unexpected expenses of a broken furnace or washing machine have already happened. It also means that the new appliances are more energy-efficient than the old, so they cost less to run.

4. Because I am not working, I have time to bake and cook; This has decreased our food bill far more than I ever would have expected.

One reason is we no longer have days where we both come home from work and neither of us wants to make dinner. Eating at home is far cheaper than going out to eat, of course, but on top of that, buying ingredients is cheaper than buying prepared items. I’ve also had lots of time to freeze and can fruits and vegetables from the Farmers Market (I did this before, but it did take part or all of a weekend). All of which means that our food bill is much much less than it had been.

It also means that I’ve had time to expand my repertoire in the kitchen, and to get more recipes down pat, so if I don’t want to spend much time cooking, I have multiple recipes that require little time and effort, and come together quickly because I’m familiar with them. All of which means that I’m making a wider variety of dinners, which means I don’t want to go out to eat as much, since I haven’t had the same meals in rotation for a month (or year). Realizing that I can make something more delicious than I’d get at most restaurants is even further encouragement to cook, so it’s a self-rewarding cycle.

All which brings me to my point: Poverty isn’t laziness.

We can get by with less money because I have the time to do things that save money in the long run. If we were making the same amount of money and both of us were working, it would be a struggle to make ends meet, because I would no longer have the time to cook and take care of house maintenance.

But more importantly, we can get by with less money because I’m starting from a far more secure place than most people: We have a reliable car. We have savings. Our monthly bills are low because we have energy efficient appliances, a fuel efficient car, and a cheap mortgage.

Terry Pratchett of course said all this much more elegantly in Men at Arms:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of okay for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. These were the kinds of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years time, when a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

We don’t have to keep repairing our car. We don’t have to keep repairing or replacing broken appliances. We don’t have to spend a lot of money on gas, because we were able to purchase a fuel-efficient car. We don’t have high utility bills, because we were able to purchase energy-efficient appliances.

We don’t have to keep buying new boots.

This is why the myth of the lazy poor outrages me so very much.

I have lived struggling to make ends meet before. Where the car breaking down not only meant a struggle to come up with the money but also time wasted trying to get around without a car. Where I had to work an exhausting job, with a schedule that changed from week to week, where my sleep patterns were constantly interrupted and I rarely get two days off in a row. And heaven forbid I get sick.

Instead, I am in a place where I spent money in the past so I could save money in the future.

Where I have the time to spend less money.

I know precisely how lucky I am to be in the situation I am and it’s not because I’m more moral or smarter or less lazy. It’s because I got lucky.

And for this, I am thankful every single day.

Written by Michelle at 2:23 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Random Notes from All Over  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Patriotism, or the Lack Thereof

This was originally a response to a comment on someone’s FB post, but I decided this is something I feel strongly about, and want to say to more than someone in a comment thread:

I have seen about a zillion people getting upset over athletes protesting by kneeling during the national anthem. Honestly, I think most of it is jumping on the wagon based upon little or no thought.

Here’s what I think about it.

Consider the American flag. There was a huge issue years ago about the constitutionality of burning the flag as a form of protest. Lots of people threw fits about protestors buring flags, wanted them arrested, locked up, they key thrown away, etc.

Here’s the thing. I actually know the guidelines for flying and care of the flag.

  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
  • The flag should … displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

I own a flag, and I fly it on national holidays (sadly, admittedly, I often forget). When not in use that flag is ceremonially folded and stored in a safe place.

The flag and the national anthem are important and should be respected. That means making a protest using the flag or the national anthem should be done only as part of a protest or message about something the protester finds vitally important.

In the 60s and 70s that something was the Vietnam war. Currently that something is the plight of minority communities.

If you believe something strongly enough that you feel the only way to express that deeply held believe is to kneel during the national anthem or burn the flag, then you should do so. It is your right, but also, I believe, your DUTY.

I am far more offended by individuals leaving their flags out 24 x 7 unlit and uncared for because they want to be seen as “patriotic” than by someone burning the flag in political protest.

I cringe at the sight of torn and worn flags flying, because the people who are leaving them there care only about the veneer of patriotism. Literally, they want to be seen flying the flag, but they can’t be bothered to actually care for the item they are flying, or learn how to respectfully treat it.

If you believe that something is so wrong with our country that you need to burn a flag or kneel during the national anthem, then I believe it is your right–nay your moral duty–to do so. If you use the flag and the national anthem to give yourself the veneer of patriotism while acting in an utterly unpatriotic manner, that is, to me, FAR more offensive than taking a principled stand for something important to you.

Things I believe are patriotic:

  • Honoring and caring for our military veterans.
  • Voting in all elections.
  • Being aware of all the sides of political topics and making a reasoned choice based upon your deeply held beliefs rather than what looks good to those around you.

Patriotism is not spouting political rhetoric and pretending to care about an item of cloth or a song. Patriotism is how you act, based upon your fundamental beliefs about our country.

Written by Michelle at 2:51 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day

Textile Mills

ChildrenSpinning

girl-working-at-cotton-mill-P

millgirl

Landscape

Factories

child-labor

Fields

child-labor-3

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

Triangle-Fire

triangle3

Chimney Sweeps

childsweep2

Mining

Come all of you good workers,
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how the good old union
Has come in here to dwell.

youngminers

My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son,
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won.

Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker Mine in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, 10 January 1911, from a 1908-1912 series on...

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You’ll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.

child-miners

Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Farmington-Mine-Disaster-smoke

monongah-mine

sago

Upper Big Branch

child labor today 1

child labor today 2

child labor today 3

child-labor_idp_2

child labor today 4

child-labour-pakistan

Child_labour_Nepal

child_labour

Just a reminder what we’re celebrating today.

Written by Michelle at 8:15 am      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Holidays,Politics  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Why the Consumption Tax Is a Terrible Idea

The governor wants to switch from an income tax to a consumption tax. Since I am pretty sure this is, if not the dumbest thing a WV politician has suggested, it’s certainly close, I decided to take a look at the census data and see what that told me.

A tiny bit of background.

West Virginia is surrounded by five other states: PA, MD, VA, KY, OH. [A]

West Virginia has four Interstates running through it: I64, I68, I77, I79. For towns along those interstates, it should be no more than two hours to a bordering state. [B]

West Virginia has 14 counties that contain major food deserts [C]–cities are were more than 20 miles from “grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.” The entire county of Gilmer is a food desert. Nine (9) of those counties with food deserts are NOT along the state border, and nine (9) of those counties also have a mean yearly income less than $50,000.

WV has seven (7) counties with a mean household income over $60,000. With the exception of Kanawha, all those are border counties, meaning residents can easily drive to another state to make purchases. There are 16 counties with a mean income over $55,000, [D] 12 of those counties are border counties. Of those remaining four, only Nicholas and Taylor counties do not have an Interstate running through them.

There are 18 counties with a population over 30,000. [E] 13 of those counties are border counties. Of the remaining five, only Logan county does not have an Interstate running through it.

With me so far?

When you step back and look at the big picture, you see that the wealthiest and most populated counties tend to be border counties, where people can easily drive to another state to shop.

Of those interior counties, nine (9) have areas that are food deserts, four (4) have unemployment rates over 5.5%, ten (10) of those counties have a mean income of less than $50,000, and eleven counties have populations of less than 20,000 people.

Those who will be contributing most to the taxes to keep the state afloat are predominantly going to be those who can least afford the extra burden, while the wealthy will be able to avoid paying the consumption tax by easily driving over the border to another state. [F]

This idea could only have been come up by someone either profoundly ignorant of the population of the state, or profoundly ignorant of human nature.

Either way, it is the poor who will get screwed.

This is the Excel file I used to collate the data downloaded from the Census bureau and USDA.

[A] OH is somewhat problematic, since there the Ohio river is the border between WV and OH, and thus you can only cross at bridges, which are predominantly in the wealthier counties.

[B] There are other major roads that criss-cross the state, but most are good roads for only a portion. FREX, Most Rt 50 from Clarksburg to Parkersburg is a relatively flat and straight divide four lane divided highway. From Bridgeport East to the border, it’s two lanes, windy, and with several 7-9% grades. So I only counted Interstates with consider ease of access to other states.

[C] Food Deserts: Barbour, Fayette, Gilmer, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Mingo, Monroe, Roane, Upshur, Webster, Wetzel

[D] Income over $55k: Berkeley, Brooke, Cabell, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, Marshall, Monongalia, Nicholas, Ohio, Pleasants, Putnam, Taylor, Wood

[E] Population over 30k: Berkeley, Cabell, Fayette, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mercer, Monongalia, Ohio, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Wayne, Wood

[F] And I do mean driving. Public transportation is abysmal in much of the state, and in rural areas, you are trapped without a car; you cannot get a job, go to the doctor, get groceries, etc.

All data from:
US Census Bureau – WV
USDA – Food Deserts

Written by Michelle at 2:15 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,West Virginia  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Why We Have the EPA: Water

In 1952 and 1969 and at least 11 other times, the Cuyahoga along Cleveland Ohio caught fire. (Ohio History Central) (Washington Post)



Let’s take a look at something that’s a little more personal–the water quality of the Monongahela River, which runs past Morgantown and is the source of my water. The Mon River also has had a long history of pollution, especially from acid mine drainage.

The Monongahela River watershed was considered to be one of the region’s most intensely polluted by acid mine drainage in the United States until about 1970. (USACE)

Look at the change in pollution from 1974 (1) to 2000.

Morgantown

1974

1999-2000

pH

4.8

6.3

Alkalinity

2.5

14.2

Acidity

24.4

12.2

Total iron

4.9

2.7

(WVU Extension Service)

See also: (1964 Department of the Interior Report) (Morgantown Utility Board 2015 CCR)



Access to clean water is not a problem for 3rd world countries, it is a problem in many areas of West Virginia (and elsewhere in Appalachia). (Inside Appalachia)

Clean water is something many take for granted nowadays, but this is something that has come about through regulation and work. It does not come through the actions of private industries who don’t give a shit about those living downstream.

(1) The Clean Water Act was implemented in 1972, so this sampling is from two years after that.

Written by Michelle at 6:28 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Science, Health & Nature  

Friday, March 3, 2017

Why We Have the EPA: Air

In 1952, England had a Great Smog that killed at least 4000 people (History.com) (The Guardian), although the history of killer smog in London dates back to the 1800s. (Guardian)



In 1966, at least 50 people were killed by a smog that covered the city of NY over Thanksgiving weekend. (Business Insider) (US Dept of Health, Education and Welfare Report from 1966)



In 1948, smog killed at least 20 people in Donora PA (a town south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River, north of Morgantown). (History.com) (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) (NPR)



Current smog in the western US comes from uncontrolled emissions from China (Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics), and it’s possible that one third of deaths in China come from smog. (Business Insider)



Why do we need the EPA?

Because industry will not regulate itself. Because without regulation people die.

Written by Michelle at 11:28 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Science, Health & Nature  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Quid Pro Quo: Something Given or Received for Something Else

US Constitution: Article I Section 9

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

 

Nations whose citizens have committed terrorism against the United States in modern times:
Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon

 

Nations targeted by Trump’s ban:
Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya

 

Nations with whom Trump has business interests:

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar

 

And a quick bit of history. Nations whose governments have been toppled / destabilized with US interference / assistance:

Korea (1945), Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Dominican Republic (1961), South Vietnam (1963), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), Afghanistan (1979-1989), Nicaragua (1981-1989), Panama (1989), Haiti (1991), Somalia (1993), Iraq (1994-1996), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Haiti (2004), Somalia (2007), Syria (2005-2015), Lybia (2011)

 

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
– George Santayana

Written by Michelle at 9:33 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Voting My Conscience

There are a lot of posts going around FB about how it is essentially immoral to vote for a third party candidate.

Mind you, most of those articles are directed towards the presidential election, but still the statements are broad and sweeping.

And I do understand these statements, for I’ve given friends a hard time for voting for Ralph Nader over Al Gore, and giving us W (something for which WV continues to suffer, as the recession hit us later and harder than the rest of the country, and never mind the lives lost in Iraq).

And so I understand these statements, for this presidential election is terrifying.

But still, it is their right to vote for whom they please, and to vote their conscience. And at least they’re voting, which is something many many people can’t be bothered to do. Which makes even less sense to me. Because when we vote in November, the presidential ticket is just one of the contests, many of which will have as much if not more influence on our day-to-day lives. (1) (2)

Which brings me the article that started off this rant.

The governor’s race in WV.

Billionaire Gubernatorial Candidate Owes $15 Million in Taxes and Fines

His mining companies owe $15 million in six states, including property and minerals taxes, state coal severance and withholding taxes, and federal income, excise and unemployment taxes, as well as mine safety penalties, according to county, state and federal records.

In the past 16 months, while fines and taxes went unpaid, Justice personally contributed nearly $2.9 million in interest-free loans and in-kind contributions to his gubernatorial campaign, according to state campaign finance reports.

I cannot in good conscience vote for either major party candidate.

I simply cannot. I don’t believe that either candidate truly has the good of West Virginians and the future of our state in mind. Not only do their words show a willful ignorance of what the future is going to hold, their past actions show that they haven’t held the good of the state and it’s people as most important.

Say what you will about the late Senator Byrd, but that man did everything–absolutely everything–to help the state. To make our lives better and give us a future. Not by putting his name on every building in the state, but by recognizing that without things other states take for granted, like roads that are capable of handling commercial truck traffic, we had no future.

We cannot base our future upon non-renewable resources.

We simply cannot.

We have so much to offer here, so much beauty and recreation and and so many marvels–marvels and beauty that will be destroyed if we refuse to acknowledge that our future does not and cannot lie with extractive industries.

A politician that refuses to acknowledge that truth cannot have the good of the state in mind, and cannot care about our future generations and what we are leaving them.

And that is why I won’t be voting for either of the major party candidates for governor. Because I love this state, and it doesn’t seem like the candidates even care.

——

(1) Every time we sit in horrible traffic on the Mileground, we’re sitting there because a decade ago people refused to approve the levy to widen the road. That’s hours and hours of time lost in the intervening years, as the situation got worse, and will be even more difficult and time-consuming and miserable to remedy now.

(2) And then there are the city-wide debates over land use and farming and keeping livestock within city limits. These are issues we are going to deal with the results of going forward for years. Should you have the right to grow your own food? Should you be forced to live next to a chicken coop that is both noisy and poorly cleaned? These decisions will affect our quality of life going forward, and whether you refuse to vote or not, you still have to live with the consequences.

Written by Michelle at 7:01 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,West Virginia  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day

Textile Mills

ChildrenSpinning

girl-working-at-cotton-mill-P

millgirl

Landscape

Factories

child-labor

Fields

child-labor-3

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

Triangle-Fire

triangle3

Chimney Sweeps

childsweep2

Mining

Come all of you good workers,
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how the good old union
Has come in here to dwell.

youngminers

My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son,
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won.

Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker Mine in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, 10 January 1911, from a 1908-1912 series on...

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You’ll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.

child-miners

Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Farmington-Mine-Disaster-smoke

monongah-mine

sago

Upper Big Branch

child labor today 1

child labor today 2

child labor today 3

child-labor_idp_2

child labor today 4

child-labour-pakistan

Child_labour_Nepal

child_labour

Just a reminder what we’re celebrating today.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Holidays,Politics  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On Swimwear and Modesty

I’ve been super confused by the recent news stories about bans in France on a certain kind of swimwear.

France’s highest administrative court is being asked to overturn beach bans imposed by 26 towns on women in full-body swimsuits known as “burkinis”.

Women are being fined for wearing modest swimwear.

Think about that for a few moments.

If you have any passing knowledge of history, you’ll be vaguely aware that less than 100 years ago, women were arrested or fined or removed from the beach for their swimsuits.

Because those suits didn’t cover enough of their skin.

Now we’re being arrested for covering too much of our skin?

Of course not. Not ALL women are being arrested, fined, or shamed for their swimwear!

Here’s a company that seems to be doing a good business selling modest swimwear to WASP women.

HydroChic’s core mission is to provide a stylish line of modest women’s swimsuits that at once combines the desire for chic expression on the beach and the consumer’s wish for modest swimwear coverage.

Here’s an article in the Wall Street Journal on the business of modest swimwear.

For years, Ms. Bolin, who is in her early 50s, searched for adequate bathing suits. Finally, she ventured out to her favorite Texas water park in a HydroChic outfit: Bermuda-length swim shorts and a three-quarter sleeve top.

Ms. Bolin said she still remembers admiring comments from lifeguards who loved her surfer look: “They thought I was the coolest.” She has never looked back

And that’s how it should be–a woman should be allowed to dress in a manner in which she is comfortable.

But yet women in France are being told that their manner of dress is not acceptable. That they don’t know their own minds and therefore cannot possibly have chosen to dress in such a manner, so therefore, they should not be allowed to dress in such a manner.

It’s 2016; how have we not reached the point where women can wear whatever the hell they want without some government stepping in to tell us they know what is best for us? That what we wear affects people OTHER than ourselves therefore we must toe the government line for how we clothe ourselves?

Why are more women around the world not ENRAGED by this?

Of course, some women are unhappy with these laws. Here’s a lovely image from France, of women who are standing up for their rights of their sisters to dress as they please:

_90932427_hi034949178

Note that none of the women are the least bit upset by how the other women around them are dressed. In fact, they seem to be enjoying the company.

Because that’s the point. We should support the rights of others to dress as they please.

Mind you, I don’t particularly want to see half-nekkid people, and the thought of sitting in a chair after someone wearing short-shorts squicks me out a bit but that’s my problem to deal with (which is why all my shorts come down almost to my knees). It doesn’t give me the right to order other people to dress in a manner that makes me happy and comfortable.

To close, here is a picture of my in MY swimsuit (no one mocked me or tried to fine or arrest me for my clothes).

20160612_Jules_Birthday_038

I don’t dress modestly because of some government or religious edict (in fact, I’m close to agnostic). I dress modestly because that is how I am comfortable dressing.

And that is and should remain MY choice and MY decision.

——

For the curious or interested, my top is a rash guard from Coolibar, which makes UPF 50 clothing and swimwear.

This does not mean I won’t mock creepy men who wear speedos and act like god’s gift to women. Because there’s dressing as you like, and then there’s being an asshole. The latter is always deserving of mockery.

Written by Michelle at 8:42 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs,Politics,Religion & Philosophy  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Things that Suck

I work IT.

That means I dress in jeans and a t-shirt (in my case a long sleeve t-shirt, because I have a propensity to touch things that will give me a rash.

I dress for working on computers in rooms that process soil or other messy things.

In fact, here is how I’m dressed today.

20140623_081549

Comfortably.

Why am I sharing this seemingly inconsequential information with you?

Because of something that happened this morning.

As I stepped out of the room where I had been working, I saw two men standing in the hallway. One most likely a few years older than me, and one probably a few years younger.

They both turned towards me when they heard the door close, and then the older of the two went back to studying the bulletin board.

The younger male stared at me.

As I walked towards him, he continued to stare at me, and as I walked past, he actually turned his body so he could continue to stare at me as I went past him and into the stairwell.

The reason I’m sharing this is, you see, this is the kind of shit that happens all the fucking time when you’re female.

Shit like this is why I don’t feel safe walking places alone.

Shit like this is why I carry my keys in my hand, sharp bits pointing out.

Shit like this is why I hate dressing nicely, because then it’s worse.

Shit like this is why I always wear shoes I can run in.

No, it doesn’t “feel good” that someone thought I was attractive enough to stare at.

It feels creepy.

It feels unsafe.

And it feels incredibly unfair.

Written by Michelle at 11:41 am      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs,Politics  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Poverty and Dreams

Yesterday I was struck by a statement in an interview with the first Sri Lankan to go to Julliard. (Yes, the title of the interview is very wrong.)

It is such a clear–and terribly sad–glimpse of what it’s like to grow up in poverty.

I feel like people always tell me that, oh, it must be – you must feel like your dreams have come true because you’re singing, and you have a beautiful family. It’s all true. But the truth is that I didn’t really dream any of this because, for some people, there are certain things that one cannot dream. You can’t afford certain dreams…
…Because you can’t afford that dream because that’s not an option within your grasp.

When you’re poor, you can’t afford to dream.

And that’s what so many ultra conservatives don’t get. Then you are growing up in poverty, your life is not a road-map with unlimited highways and interstates and back-roads and alleys. Your life has one road–perhaps two–open to you. If you can get an education, then perhaps that road you’re on will branch out later in life, but for many, even that education is beyond their grasp.

This basic inequality is why I am politically liberal. Why I want all children to have as many roads open to them as possible, and I realize it is my responsibility to help make it so.

Written by Michelle at 9:50 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Continued Injustuce for Coal Miners

I posted this on Facebook, but I’d really like to address it more thoroughly.

I heard about this initially on the WV Public Radio, which addressed a slightly different issue, “lawyers with the Jackson Kelly law firm submitted only favorable evidence in court.

But this article, on the doctors used most frequently by coal companies to deny claims, is completely heart-breaking.

Johns Hopkins medical unit rarely finds black lung, helping coal industry defeat miners’ claims

The article is long, but well worth reading. However, if you don’t want to read it, take note of this:

“It breaks my heart,” he said. “This man has been victimized twice — once by the conditions that allowed him to get this disease and again by a benefits system that failed him.”

For 40 years, doctors from Johns Hopkins have been reading x-rays of coal miners lungs. And instead of finding evidence of black lung, they note other causes.

Where other doctors saw black lung, Wheeler often saw evidence of another disease, most commonly tuberculosis or histoplasmosis — an illness caused by a fungus in bird and bat droppings. This was particularly true in cases involving the most serious form of the disease. In two-thirds of cases in which other doctors found complicated black lung, Wheeler attributed the masses in miners’ lungs to TB, the fungal infection or a similar disease.

You read that correctly. When looking at films of the lungs of coal miners, this doctor sees a fungal infection caused by bat droppings.

That in and of itself is horrifying, but even worse is this:

(T)issue samples from miners’ lungs have proven Wheeler wrong again and again.

When they do tissue samples (which can be dangerous to the patient, which is why radiology is the preferred method of diagnosis) the cause of the disease is usually determined to be black lung.

But as I said, these biopsies are not the recommend method of diagnosis, so what happens is this:

Sometimes miners had to die to prove they had black lung.

Then the widow or other family members receive death benefits.

Cold comfort for those who watched their loved ones slowly suffocate, and were told despite years in the mines, the cause of the disease wasn’t black lung, and they didn’t deserve support and benefits from the coal companies.

But here’s what royally pissed me off.

This man, sitting in his clean office, miles from the mines, far removed from these men struggling with every breath, believes the incidence and prevalence of black lung should be low, solely because he believes the law put an end to coal dust in mines.

A pair of assumptions shapes Wheeler’s views in ways that some judges and government officials have found troubling.

In reaching his conclusions about the cause of the large masses in Stacy’s lungs, Wheeler drew upon beliefs that pervade his opinions: Improved conditions in mines should make complicated black lung rare; whereas, histoplasmosis is endemic in coal mining areas.

In case after case, Wheeler has said complicated black lung was found primarily in “drillers working unprotected during and prior to World War II.”

This is the part where anyone who grew up in West Virginia is completely incredulous.

A law was put in place to regulate coal dust, ipso facto miners don’t have black lung.

If you think that’s ridiculous, let me tell you, it’s far worse than you think.

You see, coal companies regular falsify the dust readings in their mines.

(C)heating on dust tests is common, and… many miners help operators falsify the tests to protect their jobs.

Two dozen former mine owners or managers acknowledged that they had falsified tests.

Despite laws, hundreds are killed by black lung

[An important aside: “Dust tests tend to be taken more accurately at union mines than at non-union mines.”]

(The Labor Department) received 4,710 faked samples from 847 coal mines across the country, or 40 percent of the mines that the Government is charged with sampling.

U.S. Fines 500 Mine Companies for False Air Tests

Let me sum it up like this: the doctor the coal companies turn to because he provides diagnoses that allow them to deny black-lung claims believes that mines are dust free.

Yet for decades, coal companies have been falsifying the dust test that are supposed to show they are keeping the amount of dust in the air at legal limits.

Right now, I want more than anything else, for this doctor to work at coal mines, breathing the air miners have to breathe. Knowing supervisors are falsifying dust tests, but knowing he can’t say anything about it, or he’ll lose his job. And for him to know he can’t lose his job, because there are no other decent jobs to be had.

Written by Michelle at 7:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,West Virginia  
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