Sunday, October 31, 2010

Big government

In today's print and on network news, we've read and heard unappreciative bellyaching from Tea Partiers and Republicans, as well as other rightfully concerned citizens, about "big government" taking over "this'n that". Very soon my daughter will graduate Shepherd University, thanks to the Promise Scholarship, via "big government". Thank you, West Virginia.

Library research and googling allowed me to rediscover some of what "this'n that" was, only 100 years ago.

In 1910 our nation was relatively prosperous. No national debt, big middle class, and moms stayed home to raise the kids. Back then (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention), for every 1,000 live births, 6-9 mothers died, and 100 infants died before age one. From 1915-1997 infant mortality dropped to 7.2 per 100,000 live births, and from 1900-1997 the maternal mortality rate declined almost 99% to 7.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. Reducing these morbid mortalities, by infrastructurally improving environments and living conditions (e.g. sewage removal, safe drinking water, various urban and rural civic projects, etc.), as well as by subsidizing (with taxes) pediatric and obstetric knowledge and practices, were gifts to society thankfully made by our "big government". Wall Street wouldn't've done it.

America has historically gotten good deals from big government. Many of us would not likely be here at all without the infrastructural effects of big government. Our grandparents and parents might have died at childbirth, or as infants themselves. Or, if our ancestors had made it past that first hard year, they probably would not have lived very long. The average life expectancy 100 years ago was about 50. Today it's close to 80.

Big government's civic duties continue to serve us. Women didn't have the vote 100 years ago, and office and professional work for the majority of women was impossible or extremely rare. Now, more than half of all medical students in this country are women.

And here's where it comes home to roost: females now play basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, and track in high school and college, thanks to big government's "Title IX" mandating equal funding for boys' and girls' sports in 1972. Before that a few girls could be cheerleaders, but that was about all. Pre-1972 graduates, remember that?

Parents, the next time you hear someone smashing “big government” at a basketball, volleyball, softball, track, soccer event or anywhere, watching your daughter, grand-daughter, niece, or neighbor girl rack up points, remember that if it weren't for big government, the girls would be dancing around in their short little skirts cheering the boys on, their talents being unfairly wasted. They've proven they're capable of so much more, thanks to big government. How cool is that?

--Bill Arnold

Friday, October 29, 2010


Just as a reminder of how even a conservative local government can support progressive principles when they hold those principles in common with progressives--and to get it into our electronic archive--I thought I'd reproduce the resolution drafted by HCIN, and unanimously adopted in 2005 by the Hampshire County Commission, expressing their concern about the USA Patriot Act. - MH

Resolution of the Hampshire County Commission
Regarding Civil Liberty and the USA PATRIOT Act

WHEREAS Hampshire County, West Virginia, is proud of its long and distinguished tradition of protecting the civil rights and liberties of its residents;

WHEREAS the preservation of civil rights and liberties is essential to the well-being of a democratic society;

WHEREAS federal, state and local governments should protect the public from terrorist attacks such as those that occurred on September 11, 2001, but should do so in a rational and deliberative fashion to ensure that any new security measure enhances public safety without impairing constitutional rights or infringing on civil liberties;

WHEREAS government security measures that undermine fundamental rights do damage to the American institutions and values that the residents of Hampshire County hold dear;

WHEREAS the potential for excessive restriction of civil liberties by the United States government gives reason for a renewed reflection upon the founding principles of the United States of America and the State of West Virginia;

WHEREAS the Constitution of the State of West Virginia, Article I, Section 3, asserts:
“The provisions of the Constitution of the United States, and of this State, are operative alike in a period of war as in time of peace, and any departure therefrom, or violation thereof, under plea of necessity, or any other plea, is subversive of good government, and tends to anarchy and despotism”;

WHEREAS on April 9, 2005, the West Virginia State Senate passed SR 46, co-sponsored by Senator Clark Barnes, urging the United States Congress to review provisions in the federal PATRIOT Act;

WHEREAS the Hampshire County Commission believes that the prevention of future terrorist attacks is a critical national priority, but it is also important to preserve the fundamental civil liberties and personal freedoms which were enshrined in the Bill of Rights over 200 years ago;

WHEREAS many other communities throughout the country have enacted resolutions reaffirming support for civil rights and civil liberties in the face of government policies that threaten these values, and demanding accountability from law enforcement agencies regarding their use of these new powers;

THEREFORE be it resolved that the Hampshire County Commission:

AFFIRMS its strong support for fundamental constitutional rights and its opposition to federal measures that infringe on civil liberties.

DIRECTS the Hampshire County Sheriff to report to the Hampshire County Commission any request by federal authorities that, if granted, would cause agencies of Hampshire County to exercise powers or cooperate in the exercise of powers in apparent violation of any county ordinance or the laws or Constitution of this State or the United States;

DIRECTS public libraries within Hampshire County to post in a prominent place within the library a notice to library users as follows: “WARNING: Under Section 215 of the federal USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), records of the books and other materials you borrow from this library may be obtained by federal agents. That federal law prohibits librarians from informing you if records about you have been obtained by federal agents. Questions about this policy should be directed to: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20530 ”;

DIRECTS the Clerk of the Hampshire County Commission to transmit a copy of this resolution to Senators Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, and Representatives Shelley Moore Capito, Nick Rahall and Alan Mollahan, accompanied by a letter urging them to:
-- oppose federal legislation to the extent that it infringes on civil rights and liberties;
-- support Congressional efforts to assess the impacts of the PATRIOT Act;
-- monitor federal anti-terrorism tactics and work to repeal provisions of the USA PATRIOT ACT and other laws and regulations that deprive citizens of liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights;
-- ensure that provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act "sunset" in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vote for knowledge

The librarians are all keeping their fingers crossed, but I don’t want to believe that the people of Hampshire County will vote against knowledge, and for ignorance, in next week’s library levy.

After all, there is a tradition of respect for knowledge in this county that goes back to the early 19th century, when the Romney Literary Society was formed. In many respects, Romney is centered around a learning institution, the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, and that creates a local atmosphere that recognizes the importance of learning and knowledge. And the fact that West Virginia’s oldest newspaper, the Hampshire Review, is still vibrant and publishing in Romney, is a testament to the importance of reading in Hampshire County’s local culture.

That’s why so many of my conservative friends, who are by nature traditionalists, are supporting the library levy. This is an issue that crosses partisan lines. For thinking people on both the left and right, knowledge, and the spread of knowledge, are important.

Of course, this is not a universal opinion—which is why the librarians are worried. The levy needs 60 percent of the vote to pass, and some people, perhaps justifiably tired of paying for “government,” have lost their sense of any notion of the “common good”—another overlooked great American tradition—or are merely ignorant of all the good that the library does, and how central the library is in the life of this community.

Let me be clear: by “ignorant,” I don’t mean stupid. I mean the literal meaning of the term, from the Greek language: “without knowledge.” (The Greek word for “knowledge” is “gnosis.”) Some very smart people can be extremely ignorant, if they don’t even look at the information necessary to inform their voting decisions. Someone who doesn’t use the library hasn’t seen, as I have, the mothers lined up with their pre-school kids at the checkout desk, with a pile of childrens’ books that they may not be able to afford to buy themselves, but giving those kids a parental head start on their reading education. Or they haven’t seen students whose rural isolation or economic circumstances may not provide them high-speed internet, but whose needs keep just about every library computer terminal filled almost every time I go in there.

This is the future of America we’re talking about here. There is no democracy without an informed citizenry. And if those kids need that library—and in this economic environment, can there even be a fraction of doubt that they do?—then by God, it is our responsibility as citizens to make sure that the library stays open.

Vote for the library levy on Tuesday. Vote for knowledge, and against ignorance.

- Michael Hasty

A tea party history

You can also read this piece at Windy Cutler's new blog:

Has the avowedly grassroots group calling themselves The Teaparty allowed themselves to be duped, to be co-opted, by corporate interests using them for their own purposes? How is that the teapartiers seem to be supporting stances that would be antithetical to their own perceived best interests, that is, presumably the interests of the common people of the United States?

How is it that they have been persuaded that government, not the corporations, is the problem? Please remember that the real Boston Tea Party was not about taxes, per se, not against government, per se, but against corporations, in the form of the East India Tea Company which had persuaded Parliament to repeal taxes on tea exported to the colonies by themselves, but not on tea imported by small business entrepreneurs operating their own tea shops and whom they wanted deemed smugglers and pirates. Of course this gave East India the advantage in the market and put the small shop owners out of business. Hence, the dumping of East India’s tea in the harbor.

How is it that teapartiers are persuaded to show up at rallies with hate-filled signs spewing all manner of vitriol, all in the name of free speech? How is it that they are persuaded that the way to show true patriotism is to storm townhall meetings and shout down the speakers and even other attendees who want to speak up? So much for free speech for “the others.” And who persuaded them that the reason the Founding Fathers passed the second amendment was to encourage people to show up at public rallies, even with the president attending, with pistols strapped to their thighs and Uzis flung over their shoulders?

By the way, Ochlocracy is government by the masses; mob rule. That is in my dictionary.
A suitable and succinct poster for a tea party rally would read: Guns for Everyone/Abortions for No one/Closets for Gays/Deportations for Immigrants.

How can the teaparty really think that we should extend tax cuts for the rich and cut funding for infrastructure and institutions that serve the common good. Think about it: we have been redistributing wealth, created by the working class, to the rich for decades, but it would be evil to redistribute that wealth back down to the people who generated it in the first place.

That would be “social justice” at its most evil.

-Windy Cutler

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Candidate letter

The Progressive Democrats of West Virginia sent out this letter from Virginia Lynch Graf, the Democratic candidate for our congressional seat.

After reading a writer's comments about voting Republican for national offices because Democrats will spend money for (I guess the term lazypeople is implied,) I wanted to comment on spending.

Ms. Capito is spending our hard earned tax money at an excessive rate.

Look at her record. She has consistently funded wars in Iraq andAfghanistan. Who benefits from the exorbitant money that accompanies thewar effort in those countries? Corrupt governments! Mercenaries! Haliburton!

But our soldiers; not so much so! This year alone the budget for defense will be 59%.

I, Virginia Lynch Graf, stand for a reduction from 59% to 40%. We will still spend more than any country in the world for defense. That will befunded to the tune of $159 billion this year alone.

Ms. Capito consistently supports tax breaks, tax loopholes, and financial incentives to those who ship jobs abroad. The return of the 3% tax ratefor the 2% of the wealthiest Americans (in place during Bill Clinton's prosperous economy,) would glean another $36 billion in savings.

Virginia Lynch Graf thinks we need to overhaul the tax system and make the system fair.

Ms. Capito voted against West Virginians when she voted no to women seeking equal pay for equal work. She voted against offering lower rates for Pell grants to help kids afford college. She voted no to an economic stimulus to keep teachers, support school staff, firemen, road construction, at their jobs, but posed for a picture each time money was granted.

I agree with most economists who state that the stimulus kept the economyfrom going over the brink. Remember the Great Depression occurred because of big banks out of control, (Ms. Capito favors no oversight of banks and big investments) and because of advice to President Hoover to cut spending and balance the budget. She voted for insurance profits and against West Virginians when she voted against healthcare insurance reform. In the process of looking for reductions in cost, she offered no solutions. Now, when she sees some things are helpful, and it's election time, she likes some of the helpful issues. (AMA and realtors claim that many house foreclosures are related to the unrealistic costs of insured healthcare.)

I believe it is time to cut business loose from insurance responsibility for workers. I believe we could create a single payer system which cuts administrative costs dramatically, and insurance premiums could again become affordable.

I could go on.... Vote as you will, but you aren't going to convince me that our representative spends our tax money responsibly. She spends our money for the rich. She totes the party line. She caters to those who pay for her continual campaigns. It's the middle class who are getting the squeeze from her financial habits.

Please get out and vote for Virginia Lynch Graf, Democratic Candidate for US House of Representatives. Early voting Oct. 13 -30 Saturdays, Oct. 23 and 30. Nov. 2 is the final day to vote.

-Virginia Lynch Graf


A slightly different version of this article appeared recently in the letters column in the Hampshire Review. So far, I haven't seen any responses. Too bad, because this is a subject that needs some local discussion. -MH

In case you aren't aware, the incidence of earthquakes in Marcellus Shale areas of West Virginia, not seismically known for earthquakes, has surprisingly increased recently, counter to our regular geologic timeframe. Since early April, more than eight earthquakes have been recorded in Braxton County, with two more in nearby Lewis and Upshur counties. Those seismic events ranged in magnitude from 2.2 to 3.4, not strong enough to cause significant structural damage, but powerful enough to rattle shelves and awaken sleepers.

Ronald Martini, Marshall geology professor, addressed the topic of unusual local earthquakes when he said, "It is quite possible that these earthquakes result from fluid injection. Drilling in the MarcellusShale for natural gas in northern West Virginia has involved hydrofracking of horizontal natural gas wells” [with unknown millions of gallons of unknown toxic fluids under immense pressure per square inch] “essentially lubricating the frictional resistance to movement along the fault zone, allowing the fault to slip more readily.”
Current natural gas production techniques endanger our pristine waters by shaking up the topography, even of our neighbors without their permission. The infrastructure of the natural gas drilling process will eventually jeopardize the sanctity of everybody's inalienable right to clean water.
Inasmuch as the above is evidentiary, safe and clean drinking water is a human right and a primary component in our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Water cannot morally be a commodity for exhorbitant profit. The cost of treated tap water in WV averages a penny a gallon. An equivalent amount of bottled water averages $4.00 a gallon. The Wall Street Journal said 47.8% of the most common type of bottled water sold by retailers comes from city tap water. Feel ripped off?
Fracking our topography should be freaking us out. Bottled water prices can only escalate. Municipal water systems will have to raise their prices, too. Eventually, our kids will need to confront their catastrophic choice of sacrifices: water or carbon-based fuels. Many postulations currently exist about what global human life will be like without sufficient water or carbon-based fuel.
Consciously permitting "waterquakes" to destroy our elixir of life only certifies our sometimes blinding human stupidity.

-Bill Arnold

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Greetings, and welcome to the Hampshire County Independent Network blog.

This blog was created initially to advertise an event HCIN sponsored at the Hampshire County public library in March 2008, a presentation, by members of the group DC911 Truth, of the evidence for the controlled demolition of the World Trade Center. We created the blog at DC911 Truth’s suggestion, so we could have an “Internet presence.” Otherwise, we haven’t felt the need to use this blog in the intervening years, because we’re a local group who actually talk to each other, and sometimes email. So the blog hasn’t been necessary for group communication. We’ve also been relatively inactive as a network, and haven’t sponsored any official events since the 9/11 truth presentation.

Most of our political activity, as individuals, has been channeled into electoral or national politics in the last couple of years. But I think we all agree that the payoff for these activities has been mixed, at best. So we are again collectively searching for the best way to express a progressive opinion in the less than progressive political environment here in Hampshire County, West Virginia, which so often seems dominated by the willful ignorance of the Tea Party mentality.

Another point of agreement among the organizers of HCIN is that a big part of the problem of one-sided political bias, locally, is the local newspaper, the Hampshire Review. Now no one is more aware than myself that this may sound like the sour grapes of a former Review columnist. But for seven years, from 1996-2003, I had an insider view of the decision-making process at the Review, and watched the Review opinion page move from Establishment liberals like Steve Ailes and Ken Hechler, who were regular weekly columnists in 1994, to today’s center-right yahoos, who more closely reflect the actual views of Charlie and Sallie See, the Review’s publisher and editor (as well as—it must be admitted—the views of the majority of the local population, transplant and native alike). Charlie has frankly admitted to me his agreement that the press is only truly free for those who own one.

Until recent years, there was the opportunity to engage in a political dialogue in the Review’s letters to the editor column, where a two-letter per month policy allowed for a back-and-forth between opposing viewpoints. These dialogues frequently generated a lot of public interest, and since progressive views are more solidly based in science, logic and fact than conservative views, which generally rely on tradition and so-called “common sense” for their authority, you could sometimes discern a distinctively progressive adaptation in what remained a conservative local consciousness. For example, in an exchange after the 2004 elections, when a letter from a triumphant Republican expressed some anti-gay sentiments, I answered by documenting how the Nazis were also anti-homosexual, and Hitler’s base constituency was rural conservatives. I don’t recall seeing very many, if any, anti-gay letters since then.

But the dialogue in the letters column also sometimes created controversy, which is counter to the Sees’ editorial policy, which can be boiled down to a Babbit-like (if you recall Sinclair Lewis’ novel of that name, about a small town bigshot) local boosterism. Bless their hearts, Charlie and Sallie always want to make the county look good, and in fact do a lot of good for the county. But when they reduced their letters policy to one a month, it muzzled the local political dialogue, which then created a disadvantage for progressive opinion here, because progressivism thrives best when it is honed in rational debate. It even costs money now to write an endorsement letter for a candidate in the Review.

So to fill the political vacuum left by the fact that there is no longer any local progressive voice appearing in the regular columns of the Hampshire Review, nor a real opportunity for useful political dialogue, the principal HCIN organizers—Bill Arnold, Windy Cutler, and myself, Michael Hasty—will start publishing our opinions here at the Hampshire Independent. I guess our model is the alternative newspapers of our youth. We’ll see how things develop, but you are welcome to participate yourself, either by offering comments on a particular post (which I’ll probably leave relatively unmonitored, since I don’t want to spend all day in front of a computer; if things get too weird, I might make some rules, like no anonymity) or by sending me your own submissions on local or national topics for publication as a post. If you’ve got news, with on-the-record witnesses or documents, I’ll post that, too. Send your submissions to

It can be honestly said that every generation lives in a unique political moment. But ours—and by “ours,” I mean us boomers and the two adult generations after us—is unprecedented. No generation of humans before us has ever faced the uniquely perfect storm of a collapsing global environment—already in the process of a sixth major extinction, and undergoing climate change already surpassing predictions of its intensity; the disappearance of the very foundation of the global economy, oil, as global oil production has already passed its peak—a phenomenon discussed in Pentagon war games and corporate think tanks, but mostly absent from public discussion; and the slow crumbling of the first truly global empire, as Americans are turned into neofeudal serfs in a system political scientist Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” A uniquely American form of totalitarianism, overseen by the most far-reaching surveillance state any tyrant ever dreamed of, a velvet glove whose steel hand remains, even at this moment of imperial overreach, the most powerful military force in human history. A “corporate-managed democracy” now inhabits the otherwise empty corpse of the American republic that Benjamin Franklin warned us we may lose.

In the face of all that, what can we do but join together locally, talk to each other, and find out what kind of community we really are?

If this blog can help that process, and bring more people into the process, and give us a place to try to follow the light of reason through the darkness of the ignorance and confusion that so often surrounds us, and if we can add an effective progressive voice, absent not only in the Hampshire Review but also in national corporate media, to the local political dialogue, then we can take some satisfaction that the Hampshire County Independent Network is being true to its goals.

We welcome your participation.

- Michael Hasty