August 19, 2011

Looking for love in the coalfields

In one of my favorite books, to wit The Prince, Machiavelli ponders such questions as whether it is better for a ruler to be feared or loved. If memory serves, he came down on the side of fear.

The coal industry is pretty good at using fear to protect its interests, but it seems to want to be loved as well. Here's an interesting look at how the industry is reacting to a recent poll that suggested broad opposition to mountaintop removal mining from Ken Ward's uber-blog Coal Tattoo.

Meanwhile, Goat Rope officially extends wishes for a good weekend to one and all.

August 18, 2011

A little rare unity

"How good and how pleasant it is when the brethren dwell together in unity" reads the opening line of Psalm 133. There's not a whole lot of unity these days in the US, especially when it comes to the nation's economic and political mess.

Still, every once in a while, groups from different sides of the political divide can come together around some ideas for dealing with current problems. One such idea has been mentioned here before as recently as this week, to wit work sharing, also known as job sharing.

As NPR puts it in a piece about this area of agreement, this policy, now a major part of the safety net in Germany and several other places, including some states,

allows companies to reduce worker hours in lieu of layoffs. The workers could then receive unemployment insurance for the hours they are no longer working.

Say a company, instead of laying off workers, reduced overall worker hours by 25 percent. Under the so-called job-sharing program, the workers would be eligible for one day a week of unemployment benefits.

There's more on the idea here.

It's not silver bullet for a country a long way away from the right track. But it could be a step in the right direction.

August 17, 2011

The word of the day is...

...austerity. You hear calls for it all the time from the crew that runs Congress these days. Apparently, these folks are unaware that things are already pretty austere for the nearly 25 million Americans who are un- or under-employed or the nearly 50 million without health insurance.

If these people have their way, things will get even more austere for the millions of seniors who depend on Medicare and Social Security and the tens of millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid for everything from pre-natal to nursing home care.

AUSTERITY is bad medicine at a time when the world economy is sliding towards a double dip recess.

SPEAKING OF AUSTERITY, you won't find a whole lot of it amongst the very wealthy.

STILL SPEAKING OF AUSTERITY, conservative ideologues seem to want to destroy the economy in order to save it.


August 16, 2011

What he said, revisited

Hats off to billionaire investor Warren Buffett for his recent op-ed in the New York Times titled "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich." Here's a sample:

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

And here's the conclusion:

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Does that make him a socialist?

MIRACLES, MATTER AND MORE. Here is the latest version of the Rev. Jim Lewis' Notes from Under the Fig Tree.

WORK SHARING makes sense as an alternative to mass unemployment.

MOTHER NATURE has her moments when it comes to engineering.


August 15, 2011

Faded glory

One sure sign of the waning of summer is the waning of the romantic ardor, not to mention feather supply, of Woodstock, our male peacock. In a week or so, he's gone from this...

To this. Sic transit gloria mundi.

There seems to be a lot of that (the whole faded glory thing) going round these days.

AUSTERITY is over-rated in times like these.

CORPORATE PERSONHOOD CAN BE FUN. Here's an amusing take on the whole corporations are people thing.

SOMETHING ELSE FOR WEST VIRGINIA'S RULING CLASS TO DENY. To wit, the whole Greenland ice melting thing.

MIXED REACTIONS. Ken Ward's Coal Tattoo blog does a great job of weighing responses to CNN's recent feature on mountaintop removal mining.


August 14, 2011

Saving the republic, one hot dog at a time

Since the rich are unwilling to do their part to save American democracy, the labor movement does its part.

At about 10 locations around the state of West Virginia, the state AFLCIO and allies, including West Virginians United for Social and Economic Justice and the American Friends Service Committee, celebrated the 76th birthday of Social Security by hosting a tongue in cheek "Help the Really Rich Hot Dog Sale."

Larry Matheney, secretary treasurer of the WV AFLCIO, makes his pitch to help the really rich.

Hot dogs were on sale at 1935 prices of $.05. The labor federation sent a letter to House Speaker (and faithful servant of the really rich) John Boehner that read:

In support of your effort to continue millionaires’ and corporations’ outrageous tax cuts at the expense of destroying our nation’s social safety net programs (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) we are advising you of the West Virginia AFL-CIO plan to reduce the debt of our nation while protecting the rich and tax dodging corporations.

On the weekend of August 14, 2011 we will be having hot dog sales promoted by our Central Labor Councils, located in thirteen cities in West Virginia, in celebration of the 76th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act by President Roosevelt. We will be selling our hot dogs at the 1935 price of 5¢ with all proceeds being donated to the United States government. We hope you’ll recognize our effort to reduce our nation’s debt, could help you build a stronger case to continue protecting the rich and tax dodging corporations from paying their fair share of taxes.

The West Virginia AFL-CIO will present a check to the Bureau of the Public Debt, (200 Third Street, Parkersburg W.V.), on August 25th at 1:00 p.m. and request your presence as we award the proceeds resulting from our, “Help the Really Rich Hot Dog Sale”.

The serious point behind all this is the absurdity of proposing cuts to vital programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security while undoing Bush era tax cuts for the extremely wealthy are off the table.

The next act in this tragicomedy will happen on August 25th, when proceeds from the hot dog sales will be presented to the Bureau of the Public Debt in Parkersburg.

If you think all this is silly, you're right. The only thing sillier is a Congress that thinks preserving tax cuts for the rich is more important than promoting the common good.