Friday, December 31, 2010

"Gasland" at the library

Just a reminder for those of you preparing your calendars for the new year: on Monday, January 17th, at 6 pm, Hampshire County Independent Network will sponsor a viewing of the powerful and controversial documentary, "Gasland," at the public library, 153 West Main Street in Romney WV. Afterwards, there will be a question and answer session about natural gas drilling with Brent Walls, Upper Potomac Manager for the Potomac Riverkeeper organization.

For more information, contact us at, or

Happy new year to all. May the coming year bring the world closer to peace and justice than it appears to be heading.

--Michael Hasty

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The poorhouse

An extensive article about the history and politics of Social Security:

--Submitted by Pat Henson

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

War propaganda

In a recent column, Glenn Greenwald noted that, when you listen to their arguments, you can't hear any difference between establishment "journalists" and the government officials they are supposed to be monitoring in their role as public watchdogs. Corporate journalists are essentially government stenographers--especially when it comes to matters of foreign policy and military affairs.

Two recent programs, available to watch through the magic of internet video, document the degree to which American media act as the psychological operations arm of the military industrial complex.

The first is an episode of Al Jazeera's "Empire" program, "Hollywood and the War Machine." The program shows the symbiotic relationship between the film industry and the Pentagon, and features an extended conversation with former war correspondent Chris Hedges (arrested two weeks ago at the White House, with veterans protesting America's current wars), and dissident filmmakers Michael Moore and Oliver Stone.

The other is a documentary by the courageous Australian journalist, John Pilger, called "The War You Don't See." It lays out the intellectual origins of the propaganda system necessary to maintain the national security state, and how that system operates today to keep the citizenry confused, misinformed and apathetic.

--Michael Hasty

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Financial justice

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven't. The exorbitantly paid continue to thrive during this economic crisis, even as the rest of us have continued to fall behind. How have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion's share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in our safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk?

It can be demonstrated convincingly and historically that the usual suspects---foreign trade, financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, or increased education at the top---are largely innocent as causative factors.

We should indict what most Americans consider an unlikely suspect---American politics. Runaway inequality and our current economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich, and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. This avaricious economy is primarily a result of avaricious politics.

Trace back to the late 1970s, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. A major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got underway (S&L scandals), taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. This transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. The epic battles waged during President Obama's first two years (the next two will be worse) reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: avaricious politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us. A political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich.

Example: During the past two years 32% of our fellow citizens have been unemployed at some time, while big percentages have also suffered pay cuts or painful reductions in hours. Four and a half million of today's unemployed have now been without work for a year or more, amounting to a lost decade for the vast majority of Americans who've seen middle class jobs offshored, wages fall, family incomes sink, pensions looted, college education priced out of reach, and homes illegitimately foreclosed. Corporate chieftains consider low wages, long periods of joblessness, declining homeownership, and other elements of economic insecurity to be "the new norm". Whether people are young, mid-career, or retired, there's a growing sense across America that a middle class future (the glue that holds our nation together) will no longer be available to them, their children, or grandkids.

What the comfortable class (corporate, media, professional, and political) still doesn't grasp is that this festering insecurity is fast metamorphosing from anxiety to anger, creating a politics of anti-ism that goes far beyond the tiny percentage of people hoodwinked into the Tea Party.

Yet, some of the richest, most pampered people on this planet---people who literally wallow in luxury every day, with never a concern about losing a job, a home, health care, or getting their kids into college---these people are wallowing in self pity. They are Wall Street hedge fund operators—which essentially means they are high-flying financial flimflammers. What has stoked them into an elitist fury is an Obama proposal to close off a tax loophole that has let them pay only 15% in taxes, rather than the 35% rate that us commoners pay. These guys’ billion-dollar paychecks have been classified not as salaries but as 'capital gains'---like you earn when you sell your house---and that's what Obama says is absurd. Are we going to see Glenn Beck host a weeping telethon for a "Save the Billionaires' Tax Loophole?"

Another example: Wally, CEO of Walmart (low-wage behemoth), gets $19 million a year. Wally's workers average about $9.50 an hour. Comparatively, Wally makes $9,500 an hour. Wally pockets as much in two hours as his workers make in a whole year.

And I don't understand how so many corporations (Exxon, Halliburton, etc.) don't pay any income tax on their billions in profit, or on their offshore accounts. And how come there isn't a 1% tax on every Wall Street stock transaction (call it a privilege tax) committed to our general fund that would levy $5 trillion per year? We could quickly pay off China and the rest of our national debt, offer college to anyone wanting to attend for free, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, subsidize green energy production, put photovoltaic roof blankets on every building—think of the employment! We'd be importing labor from around the world instead of seeing it go elsewhere. (Annual Wall Street transaction value, $500 trillion X 1%=$5 trillion.)

One more thing, and then I'm done. Those who think we don't notice America's growing income disparities, should take a peek at a recent opinion survey run by the rightwing, corporate-funded Peter Peterson Foundation. This outfit intended to show that the public backs the teabag agenda of slashing government spending, including balancing the federal budget by putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. B-u-u-u-t, hold on there: the survey of thousands of Americans went badly wrong for the Peterson dialogues.

Far from wanting to gut Social Security payments, 85% of our people favored extending the program, by making the rich pay into the fund at the rate the rest of us do. Six out of ten of the folks in the foundation's 'America Speaks' survey want a new, higher tax bracket to make millionaires pay their fair share of providing for the "common good.”

You can see a good analysis of the survey at the Center for Economic Policy and Research at

--Bill Arnold

Monday, December 27, 2010

The gas under our feet

Natural gas is an intricate part of West Virginia's history. Native Americans were aware of "burning springs," a phenomenon where natural gas vents through springs bubbling out of the earth, easily set ablaze.

Natural gas and oil were unwanted byproducts of the salt industry in West Virginia during the early 1800's. Salt drillers often drilled into shallow pockets of gas and oil. The oil was diverted into the Kanawha River, which became known as "The Old Greasy" by boatmen. When gas first became a valuable commodity the salt drillers' equipment was used to drill for gas and oil. The first pipelines were made of wood. In 1889 iron pipes were used for the first time in well bores to keep them from caving in while drilling into softer rock and sand. This allowed a well to be drilled deeper, thus becoming more productive and profitable.

From 1906 to 1917 West Virginia was the number one producer of gas in the United States. Hampshire County lagged behind the rest of West Virginia in gas development. Around 1950 the first gas well was drilled in Hampshire County. Over the next couple of decades or so, there were forty-four permits issued to companies to drill in Hampshire County. The rush to drill in the 50's and 60's brought in an array of companies, some established in the industry, others wildcatters looking to make it. All the wells in the county are statutory deep wells, over 6,000 feet deep. These wells were soon played out.

At the same time Washington Gas Light, a major supplier of gas to the Washington/Baltimore metropolitan area bought acreage in Brandywine, Maryland, with plans to establish an underground storage facility for their natural gas. This project was soon abandoned due to the uproar over safety issues and falling property values in this suburban area.

In 1963 Washington Gas Light created a new subsidiary, Hampshire Gas, and bought up control of the natural gas fields in Hampshire County, along the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. This valuable asset has become a subterranean storage facility for Washington Gas Light. The gas stored in these old played out wells is piped in from the Gulf States and the Southwest. The total capacity of the storage facility in Hampshire County is 13.63 billion cubic feet. All but 2% of this stored gas is used out of state.

If we look to our southern neighbor, Hardy County, we find that Columbia Gas and Transmission, Inc., a subsidiary of NiSource, Inc., owns and operates a storage field there that has the capacity to store 29.60 billion cubic feet of gas. Columbia Gas and Transmission, Inc., operates the only existing pipelines in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. This pipeline runs from just south of Levels and through the center of Hampshire County into Hardy County, accommodating the storage fields in both counties.

NiSource, Inc., a Fortune 500 company, has plans to construct pipeline loops in West Virginia and Northeastern Virginia. They were instrumental in expanding the storage facilities in Hardy County, including building a new compressor station and pipeline capacity. They are not only involved in natural gas storage, transmission, and distribution, but generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity.

As we follow the pipeline that snakes through Hampshire and Hardy Counties into Virginia, we discover that adjacent to it in Warren and Buckingham Counties, Virginia, are two gas fired electric power plants under construction, with more planned in the near future.

In 2008 Carrizo, LLC sought and acquired four permits to drill for gas in the Marcellus shale in Hampshire and Hardy Counties. They successfully struck gas. Now, if we connect the dots, or in this case, the gas wells, they are all in close proximity to the existing storage fields, pipeline, and other infrastructure needed to produce, store, and distribute natural gas to areas that are desperate for cheap gas and electricity.

This industry operates in secrecy to protect its self-interests. We can only surmise what the future holds.

--Jim Dodgins

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

And have a joyful weekend.

Hampshire Independent will return next week.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Have you said goodbye to America yet?

The White House is preparing an Executive Order on indefinite detention that will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials.

The draft order, a version of which was first considered nearly 18 months ago, is expected to be signed by President Obama early in the New Year. The order allows for the possibility that detainees from countries like Yemen might be released if circumstances there change.

But the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.

Continue reading at:

--Submitted by Pat Henson

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Groups move to intervene in PA pipeline project

WASHINGTON - December 21 - Pennsylvania groups are seeking to intervene in a proceeding before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has been asked to expedite approval of a proposed pipeline that would cut through portions of northeastern Pennsylvania. The groups are calling on federal regulators to thoroughly review the cumulative environmental impacts of the project before any decision is made.

The 39-mile pipeline, known as the MARC I Hub Line Project, would be built and operated by the Central New York Oil and Gas Company. It would run through Bradford, Sullivan, and Lycoming Counties in Pennsylvania, crossing pristine drinking water sources and fishing streams in the Endless Mountains, disturbing some 610 acres and leaving 238 acres permanently altered.

The groups argue that the project would spur gas drilling in a previously undeveloped portion of the state, bringing with it threats to public health and the environment that have yet to be thoroughly analyzed.

The pipeline proposal comes as other parts of the state struggle with an explosive rate of gas drilling and an outbreak of industrial accidents and pollution related to rushed and irresponsible development. Unlike New York, Pennsylvania has allowed shale gas development and infrastructure construction to proceed without any comprehensive environmental analysis.

The non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings on behalf of Sierra Club, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, and the Lycoming County-based Coalition for Responsible Growth and Resource Conservation.

The following is a statement from Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg:

"Pennsylvania rushed into developing the Marcellus Shale with no comprehensive review of the potential effects on public health or the environment. The State was unprepared for the drinking water contamination, air pollution, and dangerous accidents that came with the frantic pace of drilling. It's time to stop scrambling to respond to crises and instead to prevent them in the first place. That's exactly what we're asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to do, and why we're asking it to give impacted communities a seat at the table as it reviews the project. This proposed pipeline is just one of many inter-related gas development and infrastructure projects that industry wants to build in sensitive watersheds and forest ecosystems throughout the Marcellus region. Before federal regulators jump to approve this project, the law requires that they examine it in its larger context."

--Submitted by Nancy Pfaff

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


The magic spell of the Tea Party was so inducing. Under that spell, half of women voters favored the party that advocates abortion abolition, voted for the party that advocates the position that "big gummint", with all that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is "bad" socialism, whereas big business is "good" for its trickle-down effect. Under the spell, the sick and disabled, who cannot afford adequate healthcare, thought that with Obama's health plan, conditions will get worse and they'd die at the hospital door. Under the spell, they supported a party that resists attempts to have an egalitarian ("liberal," as an adjective, means generous, ample, abundance-sharing, not literal or strict, tolerant, broadminded, or favoring reform or progress) society, and favors instead abolishment of inheritance and capital gains taxes.

Let's see if that spell can recreate all those lost Bushy jobs and secure our border with Mexico, get our economy going and do it in two years before the next election. Can they spellbindingly accomplish the promised lies embedded in campaign speeches? What do you think?

The answer may indicate whether we're having a national nervous breakdown. How many of our basic American values are left in the majority of Americans? We've lost our identity and soul. We and much of the world are wondering what this country really stands for anymore.

What kind of country do we want? Are we happy being a corporate/militarist culture? What are the basic things we want for every American?

If we don't have the kind of country we want, then we have the type of country we deserve--which is getting embarassing, as we watch lobbyist pimps manipulate their whores in Congress.

--Bill Arnold

WV AFL-CIO prez disses Manchin

Statement by: West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue Regarding Sen. Joe Manchin's Absence during Critical Votes

"Great Senators make difficult decisions and they display courage and leadership in the face of adversity. The late Robert C. Byrd personified these qualities. Unfortunately Senator Joe Manchin isn't demonstrating characteristics of a great Senator during his first month in office. Avoiding key votes on the DREAM Immigration Act and the repeal of the military "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, issues central not only to the citizens of West Virginia, but to our nation, isn't just a bad political maneuver, it is ineffective representation and leadership.

Senator Joe Manchin took an oath to be a voice for the great state of West Virginia in the U.S. Senate. It's a job that encompasses voting on important issues, not avoiding work on the days tough issues are decided. Experience is gained not by sidestepping responsibilities but by commitment, steadfast study and, yes at times, personal sacrifice. It is hoped Senator Manchin will soon begin to display the political integrity and courage West Virginians expect in their Senators and take a page from the late great Senator Robert C. Byrd who never lacked for courage or leadership on the U.S. Senate floor."

--Submitted by Windy Cutler

One nation, under surveillance

The latest installment of the Washington Post series, "Top Secret America"--a declassified look at the infrastructure of America's police state--gives an account of how "homeland security" is being administered at the local level. I encourage you to think about how much money the government's total information awareness program is costing the taxpayers, as you read along. You can get to the article via this link, a breakdown of West Virginia's role in the surveillance network:

--Michael Hasty

Monday, December 20, 2010

Marcellus: the good, the bad and the ugly


Natural gas can help us loosen the grip of foreign oil, eliminating the need to prop up and create oppressive governments throughout the world. It can be the transition fuel to help us bridge the gap between more polluting fossil fuels and renewable energy; i.e., wind, solar, geothermal. Natural gas generates only half the greenhouse gases emitted by coal and one-third of what is produced by oil. Natural gas also emits less nitrogen oxide, fewer particulates, and virtually none of the sulfur dioxide or mercury emitted by coal.

Marcellus shale gas can supply all of the United States with its natural gas needs for over twenty years. The exploitation of marcellus shale gas is creating new jobs (an estimated 23,000 in West Virginia alone next year). It offers new opportunities in manufacturing throughout the rust belt. It is funneling money into rural areas, creating offshoot businesses. It is reinvigorating existing businesses: restaurants, motels, mom and pop stores. It can help jumpstart the economy and offer hope to millions. King Coal is slowly being replaced by natural gas as the leader in producing electricity (more on gas powered electricity plants in the next article) and lastly, it will expand the tax base, putting more money in the state and local coffers.


According to the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization ( most surface owners don’t own the minerals under their land, including natural gas, and have little recourse when companies exploiting Marcellus gas move in to extract the natural gas trapped under their land. Their excavations can leave huge industrial footprints on once pristine land. Existing laws do little or nothing to protect the surface owners’ rights. Existing laws were enacted to accommodate big business. We can see the repercussions of lax laws and the lack of enforcement of existing regulations in the coal industry. The laws on the books pertaining to coal give King Coal protection from Mega Gas that the average West Virginian could only hope for. These laws have also allowed King Coal to turn mountains into plateaus with little repercussions for the environmental damage literally heaped on the countryside. Of course, we can't see this onslaught from our homes here in Hampshire County, so it's not in the forefront of our minds. But this could all change with Marcellus gas.

It's imperative that land owners check their deeds to determine if mineral rights conveyed with land transfers. If they did, the owners have more protection under existing laws. Do not sign any lease without lawyering up. The lease offered by a gas company highly favors the gas company, and offers little to no protection to the environment or the owner’s health. With the help of an experienced lawyer any lease offered can be modified to accommodate the owner. Once a lease is signed, the owner of the mineral rights is legally bound to it, absent any fraud on the gas company’s part. Before any work starts, the owner should have his well water tested so the drilling company can be held liable for any contamination to the drinking water.


With a lack of regulations, great powers are imbued in the natural gas industry. Through influence peddling by lobbyists they invest great sums of money in Washington and Charleston. We are left with a steep hill to climb seeking protection for ourselves and the environment. On December 15, 2010 the State Joint Interim Judiciary Subcommittee was scheduled to meet and vote on a bill that would help tighten regulations involving the gas and coal industry. Not perfect, but a start. This bill would have gone to the full legislature in January for consideration, but not enough Senators showed up to create a quorum. Sen. Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson) threatened to send the Sergeant-at-Arms after Senators with handcuffs if more senators didn’t soon show up. The lax attitudes displayed in Charleston toward legislation that could offer some reasonable constraints on an industry that now has little and limited regulation are just downright ugly.

The witch’s brew that is injected into gas wells during the hydraulic fracking process ( ) consists of up to 560 chemicals, some known carcinogens. From 30% to 60% of the toxic mix that is injected into wells returns to the surface, including heavy metals, radioactive materials, and briny water with a very high salt content. This is all stored in containment ponds. Some of these ponds are not required to have plastic liners – one of those backroom deals made with the gas industry by our Legislators in Charleston. These ponds have been known to leak or overflow in heavy rains, endangering our rivers, streams, and aquifers. Two to three million gallons of water are used in the hydrafracking process. That leaves a highly toxic slurry to be disposed of. When not done properly, it creates a monumental environmental problem that may be irreversible.

The Marcellus gas wells in Hampshire County were hydrafracked this summer. These two wells are vertical wells, which require less water than horizontal wells. Hampshire county and most of West Virginia suffered a severe drought this past summer. Where did the water come from, one of our already overstressed rivers or streams? An option would have been to wait until our waterways recovered. New regulations should require the gas industry to disclose where they acquire water for fracking and have restrictions during times of drought or low water situations. This all should be done through the issuing of permits. Also, the disposal of all fracking fluids should be very tightly regulated. The potential to contaminate ground water is high if well casings are not properly sealed in concrete to protect our aquifers. In some cases the pipe itself has had poorly welded seams (imported from China), causing leaks in gas wells in Pennsylvania.

The stress on our infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, is a major concern. The West Virginia Department of Highways is pursuing legislation that would require gas companies to post bonds of $5,000 to $10,000 per mile on roads utilized by the gas industry to defray the cost of repairs. There is also concern about congestion on narrow rural roads; the constant drone of compressor stations 24/7; air pollution created at or near drilling sites; erosion of access roads, drilling pads, and pipeline excavation areas adding silt and possibly toxins into our rivers and streams. This industry operates in secrecy in its effort to maintain a competitive edge over other companies. This is evident in a statement by Stacy Brodak of Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, "We continue to formulate our development plans for all acreage throughout West Virginia, but generally do not comment publicly regarding our leasing efforts."

It is paramount that the gas industry be regulated and monitored, then be held accountable for any and all damages. We, as citizens of Hampshire County and West Virginia, have a responsibility to be part of the oversight. If we notice anything at a well site that looks environmentally harmful, it probably is. Observe, document, and report to the appropriate agencies whether it's the EPA or a guardian organization like Riverkeepers.

This is not a Liberal "tree hugger" issue. None of us can or wants to live in a toxic environment. Natural gas exploitation is only good if it is done right. And that’s why we all have the responsibility to be vigilant and not trust, but confirm, that the gas industry is acting in good faith and responsibility.

Next: The Gas Under Our Feet

--Jim Dodgins

Future's watery frackup

Josh Fox's DVD "Gasland" will save our American water, air, and soil from being ruthlessly abused by corporate greed, even here in Hampshire County. It is incredibly inspiring and heart-wrenching. What it portrays is even worse than mountaintop removal.

In 2009, filmaker Josh Fox learned his home in upstate New York in the Delaware River Basin sat atop of the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation containing natural gas that stretches across New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. He was offered $100,000 to lease his land for a new method of drilling developed by Halliburton, and soon discovered this was only a part of a 34-state drilling campaign, the largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history.

"Gasland" documents (I've watched it) Josh's cross-country odyssey to find out if the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing---or fracking---is actually safe. It gets more devastating every time I watch corporate greed destroy innocent community and family lives. Traveling across 24 states to interview affected families, EPA whistleblowers, congressmen and scientists in vast drilling areas, Josh learns of things gone horribly wrong, from illness to hair loss (even among livestock) to flammable spigot water and creekside flamings. His inquiries lead him ever deeper into a web of secrets, executive lying, conspiracy and contamination---a web that potentially stretches to threaten the New York city watershed.

This past week New York's governor signed a moratorium on fracking in New York state until next July. A few weeks ago the City Council of Pittsburg said no more fracking within city limits.

Do we want our County Commisioners to allow fracking here?

--Bill Arnold

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fracking reality

Last week, a group of us from Hampshire County Independent Network—Jim Dodgins, Windy Cutler, and myself—joined Brent Walls, the Upper Potomac Manager for the Potomac Riverkeepers, in a tour of a natural gas well where the process of hydraulic fracture, or “fracking,” had been used.

The well was not in operation, but had the capacity to be linked to a network of wells in this region. There is a pipeline nearby.

The well sat on about a two-acre flat round space, covered with gravel and carved out of a ridge, near the top. Brent told us that fracking operations usually take more space. But the trees had been cut to the top of the ridge, so there was capacity to expand. Brent also pointed out the fine sand that had been used in the fracking process, in a small circle a dozen paces from the wellhead.

Just below the well you could see the outlines of about a quarter-acre pond that had been covered up. We wondered if the liner that held the toxic mix of chemicals and water used in the fracking process had been buried with the pond.

There are many questions that surround the fracking process, the subject of at least two draft laws that will be considered in the upcoming regular session of the West Virginia legislature, beginning next month. It is our responsibility as citizens to learn what we can about this process, which is just beginning to boom in this Marcellus shale region, and which has the potential to cause such catastrophic damage to our drinking water, without which life as we know it ceases to exist—the reason New York state just declared a 6-month moratorium on the fracking process, while their legislature investigates it further.

To help with local education on this issue, HCIN will sponsor a viewing of the documentary film, “Gasland,” at the Hampshire County public library in Romney, Monday evening, January 17th at 6 pm. Brent Walls will be there to answer any questions you may have afterwards. I hope you can join us.

Update: Here's a link to a Google map, helpfully sent by Brent, showing the location of the library:,-78.757537&spn=0.001122,0.002393&z=19


Thanks for your comments, Donnyl. Send us an email if you’d like to get plugged into local activities.

--Michael Hasty

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Naming the bridge

What’s this? A new name for our bridge? By a unanimous vote of a self-appointed committee arrogating naming rights to itself?

So they had a contest no less. Was this contest open to the public, or just to the committee? I never heard of it, yet this contest has supposedly been going on for seven months. The last I had heard, when the matter was raised a couple of months ago, the Hampshire County Commission had passed a resolution requesting that the name of the bridge remain the same, the South Branch River Bridge. End of story. Period. Or so we thought. Who is on this committee? How many people? Any of you?

Now I understand this will be presented as a bill to the legislature, which they will make into law. Law, mind you. So the legislature has the final right to tell us, the people, what our bridge should be named. How did the bridge get its original name?

I can’t wait to see the letters to the editor on this one.

Please tell me, how did I miss all of this?

Sign me, perplexed and indignant.

--Windy Cutler

Marcellus: Pain in the Gas

Are we on the fast track to Titusville, Pennsylvania, circa 1860 and the beginning of the unfettered oil boom, or will the heat generated by Marcellus shale create enough light to bring Hampshire Countians out of the dark to pull together?

The U.S. Department of Energy predicts there will be over 20,000 Marcellus gas wells in West Virginia by 2020. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated there are over 150,000 oil and gas wells now in West Virginia. Texas is the only state with more. West Virginia’s pipeline system totals more miles than all of West Virginia’s roads. The potential for irreversible environmental damage is huge. James Martin at the West Virginia Office of Oil and Gas said the 18 inspectors at his agency do not regulate drilling; they only do site management (i.e., silt runoff) and make sure drilling sites are properly graded. The West Virginia Environmental Protection Agency only has 12 inspectors. That’s a total of 30 inspectors to monitor 150,000 wells and thousands of miles of pipeline. That’s an environmental disaster in progress.

With the potential of 20,000 more wells on the horizon and the infrastructure to transport billions more cubic feet of natural gas, we must educate ourselves and the public, become proactive, and demand that the politicians have the environment’s best interest at heart. This includes local politicians and the local media (which has a controversy phobia). The gas industry will try to beat the clock out on regulations. They only see Hampshire County as a way to expand their profit margins. They don't live here. This shouldn't be about left, right, or center – it should be about the center of the universe: our home, Hampshire County.

Next time: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly about Marcellus.

--Jim Dodgins

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


In his classic travelogue of America in the early 1800s, “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Toqueville also took note of some of the anti-democratic tendencies he found in the American character. One of those less attractive characteristics was the encouragement of citizens to conform to popular opinion. De Toqueville noted the irony that a society of “rugged individualism” was populated by conformists.

You only have to spend a little time at any local convenience store here in West Virginia to see the truth of what de Toqueville was talking about. The remarkable uniformity of dress—feed caps, jeans and sneakers—is testament to both the human urge to conform (more pronounced in some cultures, like ours, than others) and to the level of corporate control of mass consumer culture.

But where conformity is more strictly enforced is in prevailing community opinion—which, in a rural, religious area like this one, is conservative. There is a wider variety of opinion in the local print media, but if you’re driving around in the hills, any kind of talk radio (unless you’re on a ridge and can get the DC stations) is either conservative loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, or Christian fundamentalist preachers—ideologues who will reinforce local opinion and buttress local prejudices. Local opinion (and culture) is also reinforced by the practice of open public prayer that often precedes civic meetings.

Given the irregularity of local radio reception and scarcity of programming, I sometimes find myself listening to AM talk radio. I just happened to be in the truck yesterday when Rush Limbaugh was lying—his usual fare—about Senator Bernie Sanders’ 8-hour speech on Saturday, against the Obama/GOP compromise giving tax breaks to billionaires. Limbaugh—who will get a 7-figure annual bonus from the deal, so he’s very happy about it—said that Sanders was lying when he said the richest one percent of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. But then Limbaugh did a bait and switch on wealth and income numbers, and in the process, hid the truth.

The truth is, in 2009, the richest one percent of Americans owned 37.1 percent of the national wealth. The richest five percent owned 65 percent—which means that Sanders was being conservative in his figures, because the richest one percent actually own more than the bottom 95 percent. And Limbaugh, as usual, is the one who’s lying. But he’s paid well to do that. Nobody knows better than el Rushbo that he’s just another corporate whore shilling for what he accurately terms “state-controlled media,” in rare moments of honesty.

Limbaugh’s cheerleading for the tax deal seems to be paying off, because even though a majority of Americans opposes giving tax breaks to the rich, a new Pew poll shows 60 percent support for the deal—probably a combination of anti-tax conservatives, and people who are resigned to the fact that they won’t get their tax cut unless the rich get their slice, too, because that’s just the way the world works.

So once again, America—resigned, its innocence long lost—conforms its expectations to injustice.

As long as our national political life is centered around media that reinforce conformity with falsehoods, that will continue to be the case.

--Michael Hasty

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Local power

One of the many steps that will have to be taken to wean civilization off of fossil fuels is to generate power at the local level.

Over a decade ago, in my column in the Hampshire Review, I suggested that Hampshire County start generating its own power by using cattle and other waste in a biogas digester, an antique technology that can greatly benefit us today--by using waste that is otherwise polluting our watershed, and thereby taking methane that would dissipate into the atmosphere and aggravate global climate change, and instead use it for local power generation.

So you can imagine my satisfaction to see the New York Times article, "Using Waste, Swedish City Cuts Its Fossil Fuel Use." It's about the city of Kristanstad, which has, in just a decade, cut its fossil fuel use in half and reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by a quarter, by using a biogas digester. The manager of the project extols the local supply of biomass as "much more secure than Middle East oil," and noted that "it has created jobs in the energy sector."

What the article has to say about the use of this technology in the US shows that, given its societal benefits, it has tremendous capacity for growth here.

"In the United States, biogas systems are rare. There are now 151 biomass digesters in the country, most of them small and using only manure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The E.P.A. estimated that installing such plants would be feasible at about 8,000 farms.

So far in the United States, such projects have been limited by high initial costs, scant government financing and the lack of a business model. There is no supply network for moving manure to a centralized plant and no outlet to sell the biogas generated.

Still, a number of states and companies are considering new investment. "

Given the amount of biofuel our agriculture industry generates in Hampshire County, and the uncertainty in global energy markets, it seems both wasteful and foolish not to consider this technology in our local energy future.

--Michael Hasty

Fracking forum

For those of you who are preparing your 2011 calendars, mark January 17th as the evening when the Hampshire County Independent Network will sponsor a showing of the controversial documentary, "Gasland," at the Hampshire County public library in Romney, at 6 pm. The film, which chronicles the experiences of people whose lives have been affected by the process of hydrofracking (which uses a pressurized mix of toxic chemicals and water to extract natural gas from underground), will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Brent Walls, who manages the Upper Potomac region for the Potomac Riverkeeper organization.

Potomac Riverkeeper is a member of the national Waterkeeper Alliance, which has recently become interested in the process of hydraulic fracture, for the possible dangers it presents to underground water. A group of us from HCIN met with Brent last week, and I'll report more from our meeting later in the week.

Meanwhile, for more information, you can check out the group's website at, or contact Brent:

--Michael Hasty

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mr. Sanders goes to Washington

The only true socialist in the US Congress, and a genuine progressive hero, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, started speaking against the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and for the majority of Americans who oppose them, at 10:24 yesterday morning, and didn't finish his speech on the Senate floor until 7 last night. He has inspired at least eight Senate Democrats to join the unanimous House Democratic caucus in opposing the Obama-GOP plan. Obama may have triangulated too far.


Looks like there may be a milquetoast, face-saving agreement coming out of the climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, which had been veering toward descent into chaos. The UK Independent has a look at the stakes involved:


The UK Guardian reports that there are indications that the US is preparing espionage charges against another hero of democracy, Julian Assange of Wikileaks. Are they trying to do an end run around the extradition to Sweden, and send him straight to Gitmo?

--Michael Hasty

Friday, December 10, 2010

The new silent majority

There is an important article at the progressive Campaign for America's Future website, written by Richard Eskow and titled, "The New Silent Majority." Here's an excerpt:

"Only 4% of people polled by CBS News after November's election thought that Congress should focus on deficits, and only 2% thought Washington should make taxes its highest priority. Yet those two topics have dominated the debate ever since, all but crowding out the concerns of the majority. Politicians and the media obsessed over them and ignored the topic that 56% of the public considered its highest priority: jobs and the economy.

We've only heard serious talk about "job creation" in the last 24 hours -- and that's in the context of a tax deal! Before yesterday, any attempt to bring up the public's top priority was dismissed by Washington insiders as the irrelevant chatter of marginal extremists. "Stimulus" was a dirty word, not to be spoken in polite company. Now it's on everybody's lips - conveniently enough, just as it could be applied to extending tax cuts for the wealthy. That part of yesterday's deal was opposed by 64% of the American public.

Is it any surprise that over 70% of those polled by CBS were either "dissatisfied" or "angry" with the way Washington works? Neither Obama's base nor his fellow Democrats had a seat at the table when this deal was cut, and that's become a major news story. But seven out of ten voters weren't represented at that table, either. In the long run, that 's a much bigger story.

...When asked how we should cut the deficit, the public would rather raise taxes on the wealthy than cut Social Security - by more than two to one. That includes 71% of independents, 77% of Republicans--and 76% of Tea Party supporters. That's the populist face of the New Silent Majority."

The article also has some interesting things to say about Obama's sport of "hippie punching."


Hampshire Review columnist Bob Flanagan has joined the chorus of those calling for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's assassination--adding further confirmation that nobody really believes any longer that this is a nation of laws, and not of men. RIP, America.

--Michael Hasty

Thursday, December 9, 2010

We, the terrorized

The Hampshire County sheriff's office has fingered the culprit in the anonymous bomb threats that closed down Hampshire High several times last week: a 14 year-old girl.

The front page of the Hampshire Review has a huge headline, several different articles, and two pictures of students being taught the rudiments of totalitarianism as they walk through metal detectors, and get personal scans. One story even had anonymous students cheerily suggesting even more intrusive ways their behavior can be monitored by the state. Good little totalitarians, the article implicitly suggests.

What kind of society is so easily terrorized by a 14 year-old girl?

--Michael Hasty

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Seeing the light

One of the most eloquent progressive voices in recent years has been that of William Rivers Pitt, who has until recently been a strong Obama supporter, but whose bitter disappointment has opened his eyes to the reality of the present American political system:

"The pervasive corruption caused by the damfool idea that "Money = Speech," validated by Supreme Court decisions like Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, and the larger caustic concept that corporations are people - with the same rights and privileges of people - created a scenario where everyone involved in national power politics is bought, and so nobody is guilty. They have to be, if they want to get anywhere...but once they get somewhere, they're already gone. The so-called "liberal" Democratic Party has been as much at that filthy trough as any of the worst Republicans who could be named. The difference is only a matter of inches; they are all bought and paid for to one degree or another, and that unavoidable fact defines our current political reality as solidly as slavery defined the American political realm 150 years ago...except this time, we are the slaves - white, black, brown, men, women, gay, straight...everyone who lacks a seven-figure bankroll - all of us wreathed in chains we cannot see, even as those chains restrain us fully and rob us of our freedom completely."

--Michael Hasty

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Draft proposal

Okay, so the plan is to keep the millionaires and billionaires from paying their patriotic fairly-taxed share, for the privilege of milking the trough at our public expense. I can see going along with that--if the millionaires and billionaires purposely allow their children, of both genders, up to the age of 30, to be drafted for frontline combat duty, to prove to the rest of us that they really do appreciate the decades we've permitted our children to be cannon-slaughter for their economic benefit.

How soon would that end the economic, military and political human slaughter?

These arrogant elites want to shrink our (or more accurately, their) government, and cut taxes, while the rest of us want to maintain the government services important to our lives. We deplore the budget cuts that have so far reduced our children's education, our water, sewer, renewable energy production and transmission, transportation infrastructure, our natural environment, and our public safety.

Fearmongers who scream about wasteful bureaucracy and totalitarian rule actually give rise to what really threatens our liberty: uncontrolled corporate greed. This "great recession" demonstrates how unsupervised banks devour the very market system that produces our wealth, when our government's ability to regulate such excesses is bound by usurious anti-government bias.

There are many honest cooperative practices (ask Elizabeth Warren) that can be utilized to willfully correct our anomalies. We are not collectively adhering to those possibilities because fearmongers in mainstream media keep throwing purposefully confusing roadblocks in our faces.

These foxy-oriented GOP fearmongers can't realistically understand that virginity--sexual, poltical, economic or historical--results from a lack of opportunity.

We must ask even when they don't tell.

--Bill Arnold

Porno-scanner health risks

Some prominent scientists are suggesting that the focused radiation of the TSA airport porno-scanners could lead to breast cancer and sperm mutation:


The investigative website Pro Publica has a new article on an upcoming federal hearing on problems with gas drilling that go beyond fracking:

--Michael Hasty

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cultural anomalies

To stem the descent of our culture into savage social and economic injustice, we'll need to cease and desist from fueling ignorance and demagoguery and ask ourselves, "Is the march of injustice unstoppable, inevitable"? Reactionary elements have unjustifiably assumed control of our media and are unlikely to relinquish it, ever, unless forced to.

The reality is that history-making nonviolent resistence is not usually taken as an act of moral display. It does not typically begin by putting flowers in gun barrels and it does not end when protesters disperse at local stoplights. It involves the use of a panoply of forceful sanctions---strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, disrupting the functions of disservicing goverenments, and other forms of non-cooperation, in accordance with a strategy for undermining an oppressor's pillars of servitude.

It is not about making a point; it's about taking power.

--Bill Arnold

Indispensable reading

Another important analyst of America's "Deep State"--the interface between government and the underworld--is Alfred McCoy, distinguished historian and author of "The Politics of Heroin." He coordinated a group of 140 historians to draw some conclusions about the present status of the United States as the world's "indispensable nation."

They concluded that America is an empire in rapid decline, and McCoy lays out four possible scenarios for how that decline will play out over the coming decades, in his article at Tomdispatch:

My only quibble with the piece is that they posit a functioning New World Order as a future event. Here's how McCoy describes a possible future in one scenario:

"In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of national empires at all. While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban and rural wastelands."

I would suggest that that's a pretty apt description of today's world, regulated by the World Trade Organization. But it may be just a matter of degrees of difference between us; a project of that magnitude, even ten years in the distance, would already be well underway.

--Michael Hasty

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Totalitarianism marches on

The big news in Hampshire County this week was the bomb scare at Hampshire High, another example of the general policy of state over-reaction that the Age of Terror has boxed us into. A note with a bomb threat was found Tuesday, and word was quickly out via student social media, so the panic was on. In the spirit of the current totalitarian ethic, where every student is treated as a potential criminal, the school was shut down early on Tuesday and Wednesday and evacuated while bomb-sniffing dogs scoured the place. In other words, we’ve reached a state where, if someone wants to avoid taking a test or get out of school early, they just have to leave an anonymous note in the bathroom.

The terrorists have won.

This incident provides further confirmation that the consolidation of schools into mass education centers over the last half-century has been a mistake. It’s unthinkable that something like this would happen in a one-room schoolhouse. The “economy of scale” that was used to justify the destruction of neighborhood schools has proven to have hidden financial and social costs that exceed the value of school consolidation. I look forward to the day when communities begin discussing this quandary in earnest.


The hunt for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and the attempt to keep people from actually viewing the revealing cables, continues. I found the Wikileaks IP address at Democratic Underground a few days ago, and as of this morning, you could still view the diplomatic cables, as well as the war memos:

We got another confirmation that the government is monitoring Facebook today, via Huffington Post, where an article said that grad students at Columbia and Georgetown universities have been warned not to even mention Wikileaks on their Facebook accounts, if they are hoping for future employment with the US State Department. But at a time of near-universal condemnation of Wikileaks from both politicians and media, it’s good to see that there are a few voices of courage on both the mainstream left (the Charleston Gazette) and right (National Journal, in an op-ed by former Bush speechwriter Matthew Dowd) defending Assange. He may turn out to be the Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers (and who worries about Assange’s safety) of this era.


Speaking of the Gazette, there’s a fiery op-ed this morning from regular contributor Eva Knapp on how the robber barons have again taken over America.

To complete the picture, and in spite of the convoluted rhetoric used to explain their vote, both nominally Democratic West Virginia senators voted with the Republicans yesterday (in separate votes) to make sure that the wealthiest one percent of Americans get to keep their tax cuts from Bush. But the whole process is nothing but a puppet show to maintain the illusion that there are still two distinct parties in the American government.

Those tax cuts originally passed the Senate in 2001 via the “reconciliation” process—which only requires a simple majority. But the middle class tax cuts failed to pass the senate yesterday with 53 votes, because the Democrats are insisting reconciliation can’t be used, and they need 60 votes. How is it that reconciliation could be used in 2001, but can’t today for the exact same tax cuts?

And for that matter, how long will Americans put up with their ruling class’s puppet government?

--Michael Hasty

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Veterans to protest war in DC

On Thursday, December 16, 2010, Veterans for Peace and others will stage the largest veteran-led civil resistance to U.S. wars in recent history. After a rally at Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, many will engage in nonviolent civil resistance at the White House. See Stop These Wars for more information.

During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King called our government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” This was true then—and even more so today. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind on, killing children every day, in our name, with our tax dollars. How long are we going to let this go on?

We believe that the power of courageous, committed people is greater than that of corporate warmongers. But we will only see our power when we use it collectively, when we stand together. United for Peace and Justice urges everyone who can to go to DC on the 16th to support the action.

For those who can’t go to DC, we call on UFPJ member groups to organize local solidarity demonstrations at noon at the Federal Building in your city. Appropriate slogans would be “Mr: Obama: End These Wars!”, “Stop the Afghanistan War”, “Not Another Day, Not Another Dollar, Not Another Life”, “Jobs Not War”, and “Bring the Troops and War Dollars Home”.

Register your action so others can find you and so that we can show the national scope of the response.

UFPJ will produce a flyer for the local demonstrations which can be locally customized and we will send that out in the next few days. Questions? Email for information.

--Submitted by Windy Cutler

Friday, December 3, 2010

Graf speaks out

Virginia Lynch Graf, the unsuccessful Democratic challenger to our Congressional representative, Shelly Moore Capito, has an op-ed in today's Charleston Gazette that seems to be a refinement of the letter she sent around to supporters soon after the election. Here's how it opens:

"Voters of West Virginia's Second Congressional District rewarded Rep. Shelley Moore Capito with two more years in office. As her opponent, I wonder why.

Was it her continual votes for war funding? It's now over $3 trillion. Perhaps that makes West Virginians feel secure. Was it her ties to special interests to perpetuate her campaigns? I guess that takes the burden off of ordinary contributors to elect a Congress member. Could it be the fact that corporations get tax breaks, loopholes and other financial incentives from her votes that enable them to trickle their wealth down to the rest of us? Maybe it's the fact that she opposes unions and stimulus money to keep Americans working. After all, if we got rid of unions, we could return to unbridled labor laws, which would make all those lazy people work longer and harder for their salaries.

And we all know stimulus money was bad, so Ms. Capito opposed it. Clearly, she knew better than most economists who encourage an even bigger stimulus to avoid another Great Depression. Ms. Capito knew wasteful spending when she saw it: A tax break for the middle class and small business owners and funding to keep policeman, firemen and teachers at their jobs was just too expensive. Nonetheless, she did get her picture taken each time stimulus money was awarded."

What makes the op-ed timely is Capito's vote yesterday against tax cuts for the middle class. Like the rest of the GOP, she wants to make sure that her party's chief constituency--the "haves and have-mores," as George W. Bush once described them--get theirs, regardless of how few jobs those tax cuts have actually created since they were enacted (their excuse for supporting them) and the deficit be damned.

The Republican commenters accuse Graf of sour grapes, but I think her analysis of why she wasn't supported is just as realistic and accurate as her assessment of Capito's record.


Progressive blog Firedoglake has a good synopsis of the case that Nigeria has in its reportedly pending indictment against Dick Cheney, and why it looks like the Obama administration is trying to arrange for Nigeria to drop the case--as the Wikileaks cables show it did in Spain, to get that government to drop torture cases against a half-dozen Bush administration officials. Change you can believe in. Really.


Finally, one of the most important writers on the subject of America's Deep State, former Canadian diplomat Peter Dale Scott, gave a speech to the prestigious Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last month, outlining why the Continuity of Government (COG) executive order issued by Bush after the 9/11 attacks, and still in effect today, seems to have replaced the US constitutional order. Here's his conclusion:

"With a few notable exceptions, there has thus far been scant interest in the media and the public in the extraordinary facts that Cheney and Rumsfeld were able to

1) help plan successfully for constitutional modifications, when not in government [Ed. note: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld developed the COG plans when they worked together in the Ford and Reagan administrations, and continued this work as corporate CEOs during the Clinton administration], and

2) implement these same changes themselves when back in power.The first of these facts gives us a glimpse of an on-going power realm independent of the publicly acknowledged state. In the words of James Mann, “Cheney and Rumsfeld were, in a sense, a part of the permanent, though hidden, national security apparatus of the United States, inhabitants of a world in which Presidents come and go, but America always keeps on fighting.” A CNN Special Assignment assessment of the COG planners was even more dramatic: “In the United States of America there is a hidden government about which you know nothing.”

What is the first step out of this current state of affairs, in which the constitution appears to have been superseded by a higher, if less legitimate authority? I submit that it is to get Congress to do what the law requires, and determine whether our present proclamation of emergency “shall be terminated” (50 U.S.C. 1622, 2002).

As part of this procedure, Congress should find whether secret COG powers, never submitted to Congress or seen by it, are among “the powers and authorities” which Bush in 2007 included in his prolongation of the 2001 emergency and which are maintained today under Obama.

This is not a technical or procedural detail. It is a test of whether the United States is presently governed by its laws and constitution, or whether, as has been alleged, the laws and constitution have now in places been superseded by COG.

Congress should go further to look into the activities of Cheney’s ninety days of COG shadow government in 2001, and their relationship to the genesis of the Patriot Act, the ten-year program for detention camps, and the permanent militarization of US domestic law enforcement."

--Michael Hasty

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Enemies of the state

Anyone who was wondering exactly how efficiently the Empire--of which the US is merely the enforcement arm--can dispose of a genuine threat to its control of information, need only observe the ongoing case of that international "terrorist"--as he's been described in US media--Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.

Very likely the target of a US "swallow" (as the old Soviet KGB's sexual operatives were known), Assange now finds himself an internationally hunted man, with governments the world over (including Australia, where he has citizenship, and Sweden, where he has to this day never been questioned by the police concerning the rape allegation against him) seeking for crimes in their statute books with which to charge him. We've also been treated to a revealing look at what a Pentagon "shock and awe" cyberattack looks like. Very impressive. Global fascism in action.

The revolution will not be webcast.


Of all the horrors to emerge from the Nazi concentration camps, one that strikes a particularly resonant chord in the human psyche is the experimentation on fellow humans.

Truthout has an exclusive article today on the use of an anti-malaria drug at the Guantanamo prison camp as a form of "pharmacological waterboarding."

--Michael Hasty

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NY fracking moratorium

The New York Times Green blog reported yesterday that the NY House of Delegates has passed a moratorium on natural gas drilling using the process of hydraulic fracture, or "fracking."

The bill has already passed the state senate, so it will just need the governor's signature for the moratorium to go into effect. As you would expect, industry is lobbying hard against the law. But the vote was a convincing 93-43, so you know there's a lot of popular sentiment behind it.

The reason these laws are so popular is that people are skeptical that industry will police itself, given recent history, and the survival instinct kicks in when there is a hint of threat of poisoning our water--which is what the industry can't guarantee won't happen, because they don't really know what subterranean passages may open up with the pressure of the fracking process. Over 70 percent of the carcinogenic-tainted water they use in the process is left under the ground.

This is an issue that requires our close attention here in West Virginia, where our legislature will be considering its own fracking laws in the next regular session, and here in Hampshire County, where, as Jim Dodgins reported yesterday, we already have Marcellus shale wells.

Here's a good website to take a look at the issue:


On the issue of human rights in America, which has also been a topic discussed in this blog of late, the US was the recent subject of its first-ever formal evaluation by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which issued its report last month. In her article at Online Journal, Mary Shaw, the former Philadelphia-area coordinator for Amnesty International, gives a good synopsis of the report's recommendations on how America can improve its human rights profile.

--Michael Hasty

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Marcellus shale

The voters have spoken and they demanded a national relapse. With the impending stampede of Republicans into the circus that is our Congress, will their “Hell No!” hubris further force the hapless hoards into hopelessness?

It’s na├»ve to believe a pro-business, anti-regulatory Congress will have any compunction to slow down the juggernaut that is Marcellus shale exploitation. The question then, is, will West Virginia cave in to Megagas? If history is any indicator, we will once again travel down the low road, overshadowed by outside entities who own over 85% of West Virginia’s natural resources. While urban America suffers from gas pains and clamors for cheap gas, rural America suffers from anemic wages and poverty, and clamors for more and better jobs. With farm earnings depressed, gas lease signing bonuses and royalties are manna from heaven.

Will the glitter of gold blind the masses, leaving us all living in a gilded cage? Will the malodorous and toxic “King Coal” be forced to abdicate the throne to Megagas? In what is our corruptocracy, money talks and good intentions walk, leaving the voice of money to resonate throughout the halls of Congress. The elephants in the room can no longer be ignored as they dance to the sounds of sordid money, filling their coffers in preparation for 2012. Cha ching, Cha ching, Cha ching!

By the way, I can see a Marcellus gas well from my house.

--Jim Dodgins

Capito thanks jobless

What a wonderful Thanksgiving blessing, to learn that Rep Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV2) is going to have a monthly corner on the website for Hampshire Review, in which she will be “sharing…how what is going on in Washington affects West Virginia.” Her first posting to “The Capito Corner” was to wish us all a safe, warm, and happy Thanksgiving, enjoining us to give thanks for our blessings, for our ability to pursue our dreams and to work toward a better life. Reading between the lines, we can be sure that she means to include in these best wishes those 800,000 persons who will lose their unemployment benefits at midnight tomorrow night, Tuesday Nov 30, because of her vote against extending unemployment benefits. And we can be sure her Christmas blessings will go out to those 2 million who will be cut off at the end of December.

What do you suppose are the chances that the opposition could get a “corner” in which to respond to her corner, with their version of how West Virginia is affected by what is going on in Washington?

--Windy Cutler

WV "most socialist" state

By the standard that the CNBC Stock Market News blog uses to measure "socialism"--that is, the proportion of annual government spending to the state's gross domestic product--West Virginia easily ranks as the "most socialist" state in the Union. I'm sure this comes as a shock to the Blue Dog servants of coal who inhabit the legislature. But congratulations anyway to all my fellow leftist hillbillies.

--Michael Hasty

Monday, November 29, 2010

All governments lie

The contents of the US State Department diplomatic cables released yesterday by Wikileaks offer a convincing reminder of the dictum of the late iconoclast and journalist, I.F. Stone, that "all governments lie." Especially imperial governments.

I was particularly interested by the numerous requests for American "diplomats" to supply DNA and other biometric and electronic data that would assist intelligence agencies in monitoring the behavior and actions of the various ambassadors and other officials targetted by their snooping. It gives you some idea of the totality of information awareness these intelligence agencies are doubtless exercising domestically as well.

Here's a link to the Wikileaks home page, which doesn't seem to include the diplomatic cables yet, but which you can find at the New York Times, the UK Guardian, al-Jazeera and Der Spiegel, who all have stories on the document dump.

--Michael Hasty

Sunday, November 28, 2010

American fascism, revisited

There are likely some readers of this blog who might think my description of America as "totalitarian" is a touch overwrought. But that description--including the "F" word--is even starting to find its way into mainstream (albeit liberal) media. Here's the conclusion of an op-ed about the US Supreme Court's Citizens United decision (which allowed corporate money in this year's elections), by WVU Tech professor John David, in this morning's Charleston Gazette, titled, "How do you take over a republic?":

"What we have here is a plan to institute fascism. Fascism, according to Webster, is 'a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of the opposition, the retention of private ownership under centralized government control, belligerent nationalism and racism, and glorification of war.' Over 60 years ago, many West Virginians paid the ultimate price in a war against Hitler's and Mussolini's fascism.

In fact, with the existence of the 527 Political Action groups and the recent Supreme Court decision, we could be creating in this country an elite group, elected by nobody, that can and will do what it wants while giving lip-service to the democratic process.

As former Louisiana Governor Huey Long noted, 'what people of this country must never forget is that when fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in an American flag.' "

For a thorough analysis of the infrastructure of American fascism, here's a website done by a friend of mine:

--Michael Hasty

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Good little totalitarians

One of the saddest aspects of living in a totalitarian society like the 21st century United States of America is watching the totalitarian ethic creep down through the population, to the local level.

No doubt there are those who would blanch at the description of “the world’s greatest democracy” as a “totalitarian” state. So let me be clear about why I think that characterization is appropriate.

In America today, we have a government that claims the right to: conduct warrantless surveillance on every email and phone call a citizen makes, and has the technology to do so; set up police checkpoints at will, where citizens are required to produce identification or be arrested; treat every citizen, no matter how innocent, as a potential criminal suspect; require a urinalysis as a condition of employment or education; subject innocent travelers to virtual nude photo-scanning and/or genital fondling by government agents; hold suspects, including American citizens, in indefinite detention, without trial, and subject those suspects to various forms of what would be considered, in a less Orwellian environment, as torture; assassinate American citizens without due process; and hold no official accountable for any crimes committed in the course of this ongoing betrayal of American ideals of liberty.

Adding to this portrait of 21st century American totalitarianism is the greatest disparity between rich and poor in this nation’s history, where the richest 5 percent of citizens own twice as much wealth as the other 95 percent combined; a seamless convergence of the agendas of private corporations and the state (the very definition of “fascism”); and a cooperative relationship between government and mainstream media that ensures that truly dissenting opinions are rarely given a chance to enter the public dialogue, and media is effectively censored.

(For a more nuanced picture of the exact nature of American totalitarianism, I recommend the book by Sheldon Wolin, emeritus professor of political science at Princeton University, titled, “Democracy Incorporated.”)

America started on the path to totalitarianism long before September 11th, 2001. The police state tactics that have become the hallmark of the “war on terror” were first pioneered in earlier campaigns of fear, the anticommunist crusades of the Cold War (which spawned the FBI’s COINTELPRO program of spying on American dissidents) and especially the “war on drugs,” which laid the foundation for the wholesale desecration of the 4th Amendment to the Bill of Rights (which is supposed to protect us from “unreasonable searches”) that has become standard government policy today.

There is, in fact, a direct connection between the outrages committed against the American traveling public this Thanksgiving weekend—and their sheepish acquiescence to these outrages—and the vote of the Hampshire County WV Board of Education last week to institute a new drug testing program for students.

The statements from the school board, and the fact that in three hearings on the proposed policy, the board didn’t receive a single comment from the community, provides a measure of just how successful the program of brainwashing the American public to accept the loss of liberties required by the national security state has been. In a time of limited school budgets, the president of the school board is reported lamenting the fact that there is still enough constitutional protection for student rights that the board cannot require all of the students under their care to pee into a cup for government inspection.

If anyone in the future is curious about how the modern world’s first experiment in popular government became a police state, they only have to look at the public schools.

We are training our children to be good little totalitarians.

--Michael Hasty

Friday, November 26, 2010

A reason to be thankful

An old friend of mine sent me a Thanksgiving greeting, in the form of an excerpt from a speech by Jim Douglas, who spent his life in the religious wing of the peace movement, and whose book, “JFK and the Unspeakable, “ presents a comprehensive view of the evidence that Kennedy was murdered by elements of the US government. The assassination was the coup d’etat that Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address three years earlier. Ike had an unmistakably worried look on his face as he described the threat to democracy from “the military industrial complex.”

On November 22nd, 1963, the US national security state effectively replaced our traditional democratic republic. The half century since has been a continual process of acclimating the public to their new circumstances. You only have to imagine George Washington standing silently in line to have his privates fondled by a government agent to realize how far from the Tree of Liberty we have fallen.

At any rate, I’m sure Mr. Douglas won’t mind us sharing his spiritually informed perspective on why this truth should not be unspeakable. He also gives us a reason to be thankful for the important influence that Jack Kennedy did in fact bequeath us:

“At a certain point in his presidency, John Kennedy turned a corner and didn’t look back. I believe that decisive turn toward his final purpose in life, resulting in his death, happened in the darkness of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although Kennedy was already in conflict with his national security managers, the missile crisis was the breaking point. At that most critical moment for us all, he turned from any remaining control his security managers had over him toward a deeper ethic, a deeper vision in which the fate of the earth became his priority. Without losing sight of our own best hopes in this country, he began to home in, with his new partner, Nikita Khrushchev, on the hope of peace for everyone on this earth – Russians, Americans, Cubans, Vietnamese, Indonesians, everyone – no exceptions. He made that commitment to life at the cost of his own.

What a transforming story that is.

And what a propaganda campaign has been waged to keep us Americans from understanding that story, from telling it, and from re-telling it to our children and grandchildren.

Because that’s a story whose telling can transform a nation. But when a nation is under the continuing domination of an idol, namely war, it is a story that will be covered up. When the story can liberate us from our idolatry of war, then the worshippers of the idol are going to do everything they can to keep the story from being told. From the standpoint of a belief that war is the ultimate power, that’s too dangerous a story. It’s a subversive story. It shows a different kind of security than always being ready to go to war. It’s unbelievable – or we’re supposed to think it is -- that a president was murdered by our own government agencies because he was seeking a more stable peace than relying on nuclear weapons. It’s unspeakable. For the sake of a nation that must always be preparing for war, that story must not be told. If it were, we might learn that peace is possible without making war. We might even learn there is a force more powerful than war. How unthinkable! But how necessary if life on earth is to continue.

That is why it is so hopeful for us to confront the unspeakable and to tell the transforming story of a man of courage, President John F. Kennedy. It is a story ultimately not of death but of life – all our lives. In the end, it is not so much a story of one man as it is a story of peacemaking when the chips are down. That story is our story, a story of hope.

I believe it is a providential fact that the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination always falls around Thanksgiving, and periodically on that very day. This year the anniversary of his death, two days from now, will begin Thanksgiving week.

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year, with autumn leaves falling to create new life. Creation is alive, as the season turns. The earth is alive. It is not a radioactive wasteland. We can give special thanks for that. The fact that we are still living – that the human family is still alive with a fighting chance for survival, and for much more than that – is reason for gratitude to a peacemaking president, and to the unlikely alliance he forged with his enemy. So let us give thanks this Thanksgiving for John F. Kennedy, and for his partner in peacemaking, Nikita Khrushchev.”

Speech delivered to the Coalition on Political Assassinations in Dallas, November 20, 2009.

--Michael Hasty

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Technology addiction

There was an article posted yesterday at Information Clearinghouse by a West Virginia writer, Charles Sullivan, who lays out a good case for being ambivalent about the effects of electronic technology on how we organize, both socially and politically. Here's an excerpt:

"The pervasive addiction to complex technology has led to the evolution of a passive consumer culture that is incapable of acting in its own self-interest. It has rewired the human brain and significantly reduced attention spans. As a result, skills such as reading and writing are diminishing. Intricate social interaction is on the wane. People are becoming increasingly withdrawn and isolated from their neighbors and from their communities. They are alienated from nature. People inhabit virtual worlds because they no longer possess the psychological capacity, spiritual fortitude, and social skills required to live authentically in the actual world.

We Americans are being entertained to death. Having lost our visceral connection to nature, we can no longer differentiate between the real and the artificial. We think that we can believe whatever we want, regardless of the facts, and that ignorance will somehow protect us from the consequences of false consciousness. We ignore the exponential effect of witlessness at our own peril.

Behaving as if the laws of physics do not apply to the actual world does not bode well for our long term survival. We choose to live with our heads up our asses rejecting reality because it is too complex for us to comprehend. Being informed makes us too uncomfortable. Knowledge and understanding are too burdensome. Possessing them would require us to live better and simpler lives, and that requires too much effort. We do not crave a life of meaning and purpose but a life of ease stretched out on the sofa drinking beer, eating cheese and watching TV. "

Like most of you, I'll be stretched out on the sofa tomorrow, but still craving a life of meaning and purpose. Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you travelers enjoy your pat-downs. Baaa.

--Michael Hasty

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Acts of rebellion

One of the most prophetic voices in alternative media--and I mean "prophetic" in the Old Testament sense of someone who gets to the heart of the truth--is that of Chris Hedges, who was a war correspondent for the New York Times for many years, and also has a master's degree in religious studies. The reason he now writes for alternative media is that he no longer fits into the mainstream media paradigm, which is based in falsehood.

Whenever I'm suffering from a particularly bad case of Cassandra complex (see, it's comforting to read Hedges, and know I'm not alone in my thoughts.

However, I don't agree with the basic premise of his latest essay at Truthout, "Power and the Tiny Acts of Rebellion." He thinks the level of corporate control of the American government is so complete that all avenues of change in the system have been closed, and all that is left to us is resistance, doing what we can to clog the system's works, until it collapses of its own dead weight. I think there are still avenues open. But it's going to require some political jiu-jitsu to find our way through them.

Aside from his loss of hope, though, I agree with Hedges' analysis of the truly dire political situation we are in, with which he opens his essay:

"There is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring our democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country and feeds us the banal and the absurd. Universities prostitute themselves for corporate dollars. Labor unions are marginal and ineffectual forces. The economy is in the hands of corporate swindlers and speculators. And the public, enchanted by electronic hallucinations, remains passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage."

It's time to get creative.

--Michael Hasty

Monday, November 22, 2010

Democratic Christmas caroling

To all Hampshire County Democrats, friends, and families:

Please mark the date:

On Monday, December 13, which would be our regular meeting night, Hampshire County Democrats will be singing carols at the Hampshire Center on Sunrise Drive at 6:30, accompanied by Mike Hasty. Following that, we will meet for dinner at the new Table 41, on Main Street in Romney, next to the old Court House. Details on menu and cost are forthcoming. Also, we will be taking a collection for the Warm the Children program. For further info call please call Dorothy at 304-496-7168, or Windy at 304-492-5185.

--Windy Cutler

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Community radio

This is a letter from the Free Press Action Fund, a nonpartisan organization working on media reform, urging people to contact our senators about a bill to get more voices into the public dialogue, via community radio. The letter also asks people to spread the word about this campaign via social media, and to check out their allies in media decentralization, the Prometheus Radio Project,

In these times of extreme partisanship, there’s at least one thing Congress can agree on: We need more local voices on the public airwaves.

A bill that could create thousands of local radio stations has united political foes like Barack Obama, John McCain, Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders. But despite this bipartisan support, the Local Community Radio Act has been stopped in its tracks by a secret hold in the Senate.
And now time is running out, which is why we urgently need your help to get the Senate to pass this important bill.

Call Sens. Rockefeller and Manchin now and urge them to ensure Congress passes the Local Community Radio Act — before the clock runs out on the 111th Congress.

Imagine what we could do with all of the local radio stations this bill would help create:
-Communities could air shows about the issues that matter to them, instead of being subjected to channel after channel of shock jocks and predetermined playlists.
-Local music could replace the endless cycle of corporate record labels pushing the same songs day after day.
-We could flip the dial to finally hear our own neighbors talking to each other about the things that affect our lives.

This is what local radio could sound like, but only if this bill passes. Otherwise, radio will be exactly the same — bland, monotonous and disconnected from our communities.
Congress needs to know that we want better radio in our communities. Please call Sens. Rockefeller and Manchin immediately and tell them to vote for local radio before the clock runs out on this Congress.

--Submitted by Windy Cutler

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A biblical solution to the deficit

People are always talking about how they’d like this to be a Christian nation, but the way the early Christians lived was more communist than capitalist. That’s the way it’s described in the Acts of the Apostles, with all the Christians pooling their belongings, to make sure everyone was taken care of. Karl Marx got “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need,” practically verbatim from the third chapter of Acts.

Christianity in its purest form is a radical idea, born as an antidote to empire, and practically impossible to practice in a competitive economic system like 21st century hypercapitalism. It is built on the ideas of social justice preached by the ancient Hebrew prophets. It’s built on the idea of a community taking care of each other. Humans are meant to live in small groups, not in masses. It is only by empowering communities that America will be able to return to democratic self-governance—as opposed to our present rule by transnational corporations.

If we were serious about being a “Christian nation,” we could find a simple solution to our deficit “problem” (which is really only a problem for the global elite, who are just trying to figure out how to squeeze more blood from the American middle class turnip) by turning to the book of Leviticus, wherein God says in chapter 25, “The land shall not be sold forever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.”

Since the land shouldn’t be sold forever, I recommend we adopt the solution described in Leviticus, and declare a jubilee year. In Leviticus, you’re supposed to have a jubilee year every fifty years: “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”

The solution to our deficit problem is to declare global bankruptcy, and start over. The only people truly inconvenienced would be the high rollers in the investor class, who have been piling up mountains of wealth built on everyone else’s debt. But then they can just work for a living, like the rest of us. And we can all continue our lives living on God's earth, not the banksters'.

Let’s have a global jubilee. It’s the Christian thing to do.

--Michael Hasty

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some of the people, all of the time

Real national defense spending should be in the USA, rebuilding everything that's falling apart and creating real jobs here--not in China.

A nation that "wastes" more money year after year on military junk (that even the military doesn't want) than it spends on social needs, is a nation that will destroy itself.

There is enough solar power potential in Nevada to provide power for the entire United States--jobs, jobs, jobs. All the other renewably produced electricity, we could sell, to balance our budget and evaporate our national debt.

So simple you'd think even a fool would know it.

--Bill Arnold

9/11 insider trading

The intelligently leftist Foreign Policy Journal ( posted an article yesterday by Kevin Ryan, an engineer whose work in investigating the events of September 11th began when he was fired by Underwriters Laboratories, for revealing that their own physical tests disproved the conclusions of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—that the fires in the World Trade Center were hot enough to weaken the steel to the point where the buildings would collapse. That’s why NIST had to rely on computer models to rationalize the official story.

Since he was fired for whistleblowing, Ryan has applied his scientific logic to other aspects of 9/11. The FPJ article lays out the evidence for the multiple connections among those who seemed to profit from the 9/11 attacks, with both the Bush and bin Laden families—whose own connections go back to Bush Junior’s first company, Harken Energy, and Bush Senior’s even earlier dealings in the oil industry.

Poppy was meeting with the bin Ladens (he’s described them as “lovely people”) on the morning of September 11th, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC, with other investors in the Carlyle Group—one of the beneficiaries (not directly, of course) of the 9/11 insider trading. The lengths to which corporate media has gone to ignore these connections—the nexus of the intelligence community and the finance, defense and energy industries—is a measure of just how totalitarian a propaganda system we live under, with our “free press.”

Ryan documents how the FBI never really investigated the highly respectable suspects in that insider trading. As the 9/11 Commission explained it, there was no conceivable connection between any of the investors and al Qaeda (we’ll just ignore the CIA, thank you), and therefore no reason to suspect anyone of anything.

But Ryan shows just how close those connections actually are.

The evidence that the public has been deceived about 9/11 continues to pile up. It will be a rude awakening—if they ever wake up.

--Michael Hasty

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another fracking law

There's a post from environmental reporter Ken Ward in the Sustained Outrage blog at the Charleston Gazette this morning, mostly consisting of an Associated Press report on yet another law being drafted to regulate gas drilling in the Marcellus shale, this time by a subcommittee in the WV House of Delegates.

Predictably enough, the industry is howling about the fees being proposed for well drilling, which are significantly higher than the $600 "shallow well" fee they have been paying. As usual, industry concern is for that eternal victim, "small business." The victory that environmentalists won in the last legislative session, that prevented gas wells from being considered "shallow wells" for purposes of regulation, is paying off for the public now.

But once again, the legislature will be the target of tremendous pressure from industry as this bill moves through the process. The public must be vigilant, if we want to preserve our water from the prospect of catastrophic blunder by an under-regulated industry blinded by the potential for profit in the new "gold rush" of the Marcellus shale.

Here's the Gazette link:

--Michael Hasty

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

West Virginia Blue

One of the websites I check regularly is a loyal Democratic progressive state blog called West Virginia Blue ( Obviously, being a Mountain Party member, I don’t agree with them 100 percent, but they’re usually right on the issues.

They’ve got some interesting illustrations at the top of their page today concerning global warming and the greenhouse effect, as well as a blurb about the “2009 State of the Climate Report” from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which says, “The scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.”

Of the ten indicators that NOAA uses to measure climate, from atmospheric temperatures to shrinking polar ice, all ten point to not only a changing climate, but an entirely different set of climatic conditions—a new climate norm, consistently warmer, with more extreme weather events. The prospect of the anti-science crowd moving into the House of Representatives in January fills me with a kind of bemused horror. There are none so blind.

WV Blue also has some interesting comments about our new acting governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, who also remains, due to a constitutional fluke, the president of the WV Senate, and who in that position was the single person most responsible for the fact that we never got to vote in a referendum on changing the Hampshire County government. So perhaps I’m biased in my opinion that, since he gives every indication that he has no intention of supporting a special gubernatorial election in the next two years, the honorable course would be for him to resign his Senate seat. But honor is what I least expect from any politician in these corrupt times, especially from longtime loyal servants of the coal industry. And an enemy of popular sovereignty, to boot.

--Michael Hasty