Thursday, September 19, 2013

Team Mingo Once Again In the News

No need to write a long drawn out story or commentary on this.  Kate White of the Charleston Gazette tells the story admirably.

Read it and ponder the question why.  Why do some constituencies continually return not just corruption, but incompetent and malevolent corruption?  They don't get financial benefits.  They don't get superior services.  They certainly don't get good government or qualified law enforcement.  At least the "boss" style mayors like Richard Daley in Chicago could deliver some kind of success.

Mingo County gets to live with the mortification that one of its elected officials will be sentenced for extorting probably less than $100 worth of tire discounts from a local business.

It is a train wreck.  Even worse than the ill fated "City of Jefferson" in Kanawha County that was governed for the strip clubs, by the strip clubs, and of the strip clubs.  Whether or not you approve of strip clubs, few would argue that they are good administrators of government.

Mingo County is populated by good people who work hard, who have faith in God, and want better for themselves and their children.  They've certainly had more than their share of problems.  While they do deserve better, reality starkly says (to paraphrase Stephen King) that what you vote for is what you own and what you own always comes home to you.

The bottom row on the slate features names under investigation, under arrest, or assassinated.

This Week In Things That Dare Not Speak Their Names

It is probably beyond reasonable expectation to think that educated people in the 21st Century are even dimly aware of the culture they supposedly inherit.

But they should not wantonly toss around allusions when they have no concept of the origin.

Two examples in the last several days have popped up where the unknown origin of an allusion has rendered a main topic either confusing or silly.

Both refer to the a 19th century poetic line about "the love that dare not speak its name."

First example comes from the New York Times, bearing the title "The Fear That Dare Not Speak Its Name."  The author, Lisa Schwarzbaum, starts by describing a Woody Allen product about a woman who went from being married and rich to becoming single and so destitute that she ends up on the streets.

The author discusses how it left her fearful of the same fate and with affected smartness exclaims "There but for the grace of a Chanel jacket go I."

She goes on to hazily describe feminism, marrying men, wanting to be independent yet taken care of.  Typical New York Times pseudo social commentary.

Second example comes by way of the Daily Caller.  The writer of the story is not the culprit here.  She describes the talk of a Cold War policy maker who argues for resurrecting the old doctrine of "containment" against Iran.

He calls containment the "strategy that dare not speak its name."

And now why these allusions are so bizarre.

In the 1890s, Britain's most talked about trial was the libel suit of Oscar Wilde against the Marquess of Queensberry.  Wilde had apparently grown smitten with a younger fellow poet, Lord Alfred Douglas.  Wilde and Douglas excited gossip as they became friends, traveled together, and seemed pretty much inseparable.  Lost letters from Wilde to Douglas fell into the hands of a blackmailer.

Rumors around the pair also reached Douglas' father, the aforementioned Marquess of Queensberry, better known for formulating rules of amateur boxing.

The libel suit against Queensberry broke down so completely that evidence given to prove his innocence also seemed to damn Wilde as a violator of the "gross indecency" statute that outlawed homosexuality.  During one of Wilde's criminal trials, the prosecutor quoted from a poem by Lord Douglas.

Tell me why, sad and sighing, thou dost rove 
These pleasent realms? I pray thee speak me sooth 
What is thy name?' He said, 'My name is Love.' 
Then straight the first did turn himself to me 
And cried, 'He lieth, for his name is Shame, 
But I am Love, and I was wont to be 
Alone in this fair garden, till he came 
Unasked by night; I am true Love, I fill 
The hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame.' 
Then sighing, said the other, 'Have thy will, 
I am the love that dare not speak its name.' 
The prosecutor seized upon the last line, asking Wilde to explain it.  Despite his classically referenced answer, ever since the trial, the phrase has been used to refer to homosexual relations.

So therein lies the reason why the first example is so off base and the second is downright bizarre.  Making allusions to well stated quotations from the past can liven up prose or speech.  But those who use them without understanding their origin risk looking silly.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

McKinley Explains Disconnect Between Rural and Urban Solutions

In a town hall meeting in Wiley Ford, Mineral County recently, Representative David McKinley (R) (WV-1) talked about a conversation that he had with an urban congressman.

McKinley talked with the congressman about the difference between urban and rural areas, bringing up countryside institutions such as volunteer fire departments.

His congressional conversational partner reacted with surprise.  People will risk their lives fighting fires for free?

One could see how this could save Detroit, for instance.  Cut costs by bringing some country common sense to struggling big cities. People will volunteer to fight fires because they care about their communities.  With more engagement comes more pride.

It also shows that cities could learn some ideas from long established rural practices.

In his first year of office, President George W. Bush worked to try and build volunteer efforts in the inner cities based on supporting the efforts of churches.  It may be time to try and put those kinds of ideas to work again.

(This is a corrected version of earlier blog that made mistaken attributions to Congressman McKinley.  Apologies!)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

National Democrats Convince Cannon Fodder Candidate

By all accounts, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant will enter the US Senate race to take on presumed Republican nominee Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito.

On the surface, it looks like an appropriate move for a popular young statewide officeholder with definite ambitions to rise higher.  She has a strong background as an elected secretary of state with experience as a Charleston television news figure.  Even in a loss, Tennant can use the campaign to reintroduce herself to voters across the state in preparation for a run at the Governor's Mansion.

It is this ambition most threatened by her Senate run. A deeper look shows how dicey this campaign could be for Tennant.

Images like this one have already reappeared.  Standing in front of a sparse crowd of Obama supporters will not win Tennant any support in a state whose Democrats preferred a prisoner in 2012.  Obama has only lost popularity since then.  She struggles to argue that coal jobs have slightly ticked up, but cannot defend the power plant closings that are coming.  Or the dramatic rise in health insurance costs from Obamacare.

In a race for governor in 2016, Obama matters less.  Tennant will have difficulty shaking the perception that she will be anything but a water carrier for the presidency and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Senator Joe Manchin learned that even piecemeal support for Obama policies can take a drastic toll on polling numbers.

Capito's fundraising prowess, formidable campaign team, and popularity have vanquished all comers since 2000.   Few major donors outside of the Democratic Party will seek to invest in a race that has little chance of success.

Tennant's run only makes sense in the national Democratic big picture.  A viable candidate forces the Republican Party to spend resources and raise money in a race that they should ultimately win.  Those resources will not go to tighter races with less chance of success.

She will also have to tie herself even more securely to the highly unpopular national Democratic Party agenda.  A gubernatorial race allows her to stand aloof as Earl Ray Tomblin did.  Tennant cannot erase images from a Senate run that will place her even more strongly into the camp of individuals heartily disliked across West Virginia.  She also cannot haul out the well worn liberal "War on Women" card against a respected, accomplished, and popular female candidate like Capito.

This serves the purposes of the West Virginia Republican Party nicely because it will weaken an individual who was expected to make a strong run  for governor in 2016.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Maryland's Mini Secession Movement: Freedom, Dollars, and Common Sense

Across the country, secession movements have served as the face of frustration for rural residents.  States dominated by urban and suburban elites continue to rile countryside conservatives.  In an increasing number of states, counties have considered secession as the answer.

Active movements have sprouted in Northern California, Colorado, Michigan, and now Maryland.

According to Fox News, many of the complaints are the same.  Residents chafe under onerous restrictions on land that hurt farmers.  They also oppose gun control laws backed by suburbanites.

Some Marylanders already made the decision to secede as individuals.  Most prominently, former Maryland state senator and Republican Party chair Alex Mooney crossed the Potomac from Frederick County to Charles Town, West Virginia.  His run for Congress puts a face on the long trend of Maryland counties losing opportunities to competition south of the Potomac.

A study of West Virginia and bordering Maryland counties using numbers from the US Census Bureau's County Business Patterns data shows Mountain State counties faring better even with poorer infrastructure.

For example, Maryland's Allegany County, centered around Cumberland, had 1,847 private sector business establishments employing 25,136 in 2000.  By 2011, 1,647 employed 24,485.  Neighboring Mineral County saw some jumps.  In 2000, 480 establishments employed exactly 5,000 workers.  Eleven years later, the number of businesses dropped to 452, but the number of workers shot up to 6,445.

The numbers from Mineral County are still stagnant in many ways.  That area however, unlike Allegany, does not benefit from an interstate or any other four lane highway bisecting it.

Differences also emerge between Washington County, Maryland (surrounding Hagerstown), and Berkeley County, West Virginia.  Between 2000 and 2011, Washington County lost almost 3,000 workers while Berkeley added over a thousand.  Between 1990 and 2010, Washington County's population increased by around 25 percent while Berkeley's shot up by a little over 40 percent.

Washington County should benefit from the intersection of Interstates 70 and 81, two of the most traveled in the Eastern United States.  While Berkeley County has an excellent transportation infrastructure as well as Interstate 81, it is more beneficial to local travel.

Speculation that Marylanders may be seeking better opportunities and a way of life across the border would be tough to prove without further study.  The Mercatus Center's Freedom In the Fifty States Study shows little difference between West Virginia's overall rank of 44 and Maryland's of 42.  The study applauds West Virginia's ranking of ninth on personal freedoms, while Maryland hovers near the bottom among the least free societies in the United States.

Individuals abandoning their native states in search of better economic and social opportunities has helped to define the history of the nation.  But the 21st century wrinkle of seeking out areas friendlier to beliefs about government and freedom are playing out in interesting and unpredictable ways.

At any rate the Potomac Valley counties of West Virginia, despite handicaps from inferior infrastructure and  a system unfriendly to business, outperform their Maryland counterparts.

Less freedom, fewer opportunities.  No wonder western Marylanders have given up on Annapolis.  Time for those in Charleston to wake up and take advantage.