Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

The Panhandle Grassroots for Democracy is working to improve our corner of eastern West Virginia, our state and our nation.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

New site

Please visit us at West Virginia Blue. It's a group blog for Democrats in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. Join today. It's free and it's for freedom.


Monday, October 02, 2006

WV Kossacks

Visit us at West Virginia Kossacks for new blog posts about West Virginia and the nation.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On bearing witness

George W. Bush at a press conference Aug. 8, 2006:

"You know, nobody likes to see innocent people die. Nobody wants to turn on their TV on a daily basis and see havoc wrought by terrorists."

Barbara Bush on "Good Morning America" March 18, 2003:

"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

It has been said that George W. Bush takes after his mother. I am not a psychologist and I won't pretend to understand this strange lack of empathy that they share for others.

But read President Bush's quote again: "You know, nobody likes to see innocent people die. Nobody wants to turn on their TV on a daily basis and see havoc wrought by terrorists."

What he does not say is "Nobody wants innocent people to die."

He does not say it because the loss of innocent life apparently is not  important to him. What is important is that nobody sees it.

This is more than just semantics. Tens of thousands of Iraqis who never had anything to do with the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, Saddam Hussein, terrorism, crime of any sort, have died in Bush's illegal, unjust and unnecessary war.

It is the loss of innocent lives that is appalling. Americans should see the results of this tragedy. Then perhaps people would be less eager for war, less eager to seek military action against Iran. If people saw the results of war on their televisions -- not the far off drifting smoke from distant explosions, but the horrific results -- perhaps people would support diplomacy and negotiation at every opportunity and war would be seen only as a failure of effort and not a cause to support.

Despite the war not being seen in all its graphic horror, Americans have turned against the war. Of course President Bush (nor his mother) does not want us to see the casualties. Because if we did, we'd see how much of their blood covers George W. Bush's hands. And the stain of innocent blood can never be washed clean.

To his crimes, we should all bear witness.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sen. Unger gets things done for the Panhandle

From a West Virginia DOT press release:

Charleston, WV~~~~The Division of Motor Vehicles Charles Town regional office located at 8157 Charles Town Road in Kearneysville, will be "Open for Business" on Thursday, August 17. This full-service DMV facility will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

With the support of Governor Joe Manchin and Senator John Unger II, Chair of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, DMV received funding for the facility from the legislature.

According to Senator John Unger II, who was instrumental in getting the office open, "The eastern panhandle is the fastest growing region in the state, and this office will help the local economy and meet the needs of our citizens." "Working together we will continue to build a better and brighter tomorrow for every West Virginian."

Gov. Manchin holds open forum

From an email:

A Vision Shared - Building a Better Future for West Virginia

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
6:30pm - 8:30pm
James Rumsey Technical Institute, Route 9 just east of Hedgesville High School

The primary goal of this Town Hall Meeting is to collect citizen input on improving the economy of West Virginia. Everyone present will have the opportunity to provide suggestions with respect to economic development topics (e.g., education, health care, tax reform, infrastructure).

A Vision Shared has four key focus areas:
1. Intellectual Infrastructure - Improving higher education, public education and worker training to create a workforce that allows West Virginia to compete in a global economy.
2. New Economy - Putting in place processes to diversify the economy and increase individual wealth.
3. Results-based Government - Encouraging state government to adopt policies that make West Virginia a better place to live and work and attract new investment to the state.
4. Building Bridges and Empowering Citizens - Increasing collaboration between private and public sectors throughout the state to gain maximum benefit of resources, knowledge and influence.

This Town Hall Meeting will give everyone the opportunity to talk, listen, and be a part of the dialogue. Please think about these issues and be prepared to present your ideas. Note cards will be available for participants to write down comments and questions if you prefer to not speak in front of a crowd.

The Governor and A Vision Shared want to collect as many ideas and solutions that are on your mind. This is your opportunity to let yourself be heard!

Black history celebrated; Klan shows up

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is best known for the raid by abolistionist John Brown on the federal armory.

But Harpers Ferry also played a prominent role in African American history outside of the Civil War.

Storer College was set up to educate the recently freed slaves after the Civil War. And 100 years ago this month, the Niagara Movement held its meeting there, an event commerated with events this weekend at by Harpers Ferry.

Here's information about the [history ]:

At the dawn of the twentieth century, the outlook for full civil rights for African Americans was at a precarious crossroads. Failed Reconstruction, the Supreme Court's separate but equal doctrine (Plessy v. Ferguson), coupled with Booker T. Washington's accommodationist policies threatened to compromise any hope for full and equal rights under the law.

Harvard educated William Edward Burghardt Du Bois committed himself to a bolder course, moving well beyond the calculated appeal for limited civil rights. He acted in 1905 by drafting a "Call" to a few select people. The Call had two purposes; "organized determination and aggressive action on the part of men who believed in Negro freedom and growth," and opposition to "present methods of strangling honest criticism."

Du Bois gathered a group of men representing every region of the country except the West. They hoped to meet in Buffalo, New York. When refused accommodation, the members migrated across the border to Canada. Twenty-nine men met at the Erie Beach Hotel in Ontario. The Niagarites adopted a constitution and by-laws, established committees, and wrote the "Declaration of Principles" outlining the future for African Americans. After three days, they returned across the border with a renewed sense of resolve in the struggle for freedom and equality.

Thirteen months later, from August 15-19, 1906, the Niagara Movement held its first public meeting in the United States on the campus of Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Harpers Ferry was symbolic for a number of reasons. First and foremost was the connection to John Brown. It was at Harpers Ferry in 1859 that Brown's raid against slavery struck a blow for freedom. Many felt it was John Brown who fired the first shot of the Civil War. By the latter part of the nineteenth century, John Brown's Fort had become a shrine and a symbol of freedom to African Americans, Union soldiers, and the nation's Abolitionists.

Harpers Ferry was also the home of Storer College. Freewill Baptists opened Storer in 1867 as a mission school to educate former slaves. For twenty-five years Storer was the only school in West Virginia that offered African Americans an education beyond the primary level.

Here's the main story on this weekend's events from our local newspaper, The Martinsburg Journal:

HARPERS FERRY -- Picking up a colored ink marker, the 5-year-old girl from Philadelphia, Pa., wanted to make a statement rather than simply write a word.

But she needed a little help.

She turned to her mother.

"I think you should love each other," Ebony Jade asked her mother to help her write on the small, smooth wooden block. A block which would be glued on to The Freedom House located at the J.R. Clifford Youth Discovery Tent.

Here's a sidebar on one of the panels:

HARPERS FERRY -- The Rev. Walter Fauntroy steadily fanned Juanita Abernathy as she spoke of little-known efforts by women that pre-dated the well-known history of the civil rights movement.

Abernathy said the scene during a panel discussion that was part of the Niagara Movement Centennial Commemoration in Harpers Ferry Saturday played out differently than it would have in the heyday of the civil rights movement.

Back then, black men spoke out for freedom, and the women served up the refreshments, Abernathy said.

The audience twittered with surprise when Abernathy told them local black women were negotiating with bus drivers well before Rosa Park's defiance sparked the Montgomery bus boycott.

She continued later, "We opened doors, and we marched 381 days. There were women who had been pressing for civil rights before Martin Luther King came along. That was a time when a meeting started and the women were told to get the cookies or pour the coffee. It was a man's world."

Turning to more modern day concerns, Abernathy blasted religious leaders for leading voters astray during the last national election to the applause of the audience gathered on the campus of Storer College.

And here's a story on who else showed up:

HARPERS FERRY -- The audience barely missed a beat when about 20 members of the Ku Klux Klan showed up at the beginning of a Niagara Movement Centennial Commemoration event in Harpers Ferry Saturday afternoon.

Children, who were among the nearly 2,000 people of various races waiting to hear a panel discussion on racial issues, gawked in confusion. Most apparently knew little about the group.

"Could they bomb us here, mama," asked one boy.

"Yes," was the answer, and the boy looked mystified.

The adults, who remembered when the KKK wore white robes and hoods and terrorized blacks and others, seemed to stiffen as the black-clad group took their seats to the rear of the tent. Klan members were wearing an alternate uniform Saturday, consisting primarily of black clothing and Nazi regalia.

Another boy sized up the black jeans, T-shirts and red emblems the men, women and teenagers wore.

"Aw, we could take them, couldn't we," he said.

The crowd laughed and turned their attention to the stage as six black barrier breakers shared stories of overcoming racism and offered words of advice.


Panelists included the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the first District of Columbia delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives; Monte Irvin, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame who was among the earliest black players in Major League Baseball; Eddie Henderson, the first black to compete in the National Figure Skating Championships; Cheryl White, the first black female professional jockey and Joseph Wilder, a musician who helped to integrate Broadway.

The KKK members left the panel discussion after Juanita Abernathy, widow of civil rights leader the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, spoke to the audience about the importance of education and responsible voting.

Their exit, under escort by several federal police officers as was their entrance, went unnoticed by most of the audience.

In all seriousness, the 20 probably represented their entire numbers. And my guess is nearly all of them came from Maryland, where they occasionally hold marches and cross burnings in Washington and Frederick counties.

The Rev. Otis James, who I've met and walked with during an MLK Jr. Day event, summed it up well:

"This is America, and this is an open event for this town, this state and the nation at large," said the Rev. Otis C. James of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Charles Town following the panel discussion." They have a right to come here as long as they are peaceful and non-destructive. I hope -- I pray -- that they leave having learned something from this discussion."

But truthfully," he added. "I don't think they learned anything from what took place today, or enlarged their insight on humanity."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Support Mike

There's many reasons why.

You can support Democratic candidate Mike Callaghan. He will be holding a community discussion in Berkeley County at 3:30 pm Tuesday at his headquarters at 123 South Queen St., Martinsburg.  Unlike Capito, who closed off events to the public following criticism of her support of President Bush's privatization of Social Security, Callaghan wants to hear what people think about the war, Medicaid, education, policing. A rally will follow at the headquarters at 5:15 p.m.

Visit Mike's web site for more information or to contribute to his campaign.

Other diaries on the race:

The most important Lamont-Lieberman diary you'll read tonight

My kind of candidate

21 candidates tied to Abramoff

WV-02 Followup to the Bush fundraiser that cost taxpayers

The Bush affair

Capito and the Have Mores

Protest of Bush's fund raiser for Capito

Top 10 list of bad Shelley More Capito votes

There are so many bad votes by Republican Rubber Stamp Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, the largest recipient of crooked Tom Delay's lobbyist money, that I'm surprised the West Virginia Democratic Party were able to narrow the list down to her 10 worst.

They're listed on the jump along with a way to replace her in Congress with a great candidate who'll work for the people of the United States instead of being a Rubber Stamp for George W. Bush.

1. Voted against a motion to the FY 2007 Department of Defense Authorization bill that would have ended the Military Families Tax (HR 5122, Vote #144, 5/11/06).

When she says she supports the troops, she doesn't mean it.

2. Voted for George W. Bush’s first tax cut measure that amounted to a $958 billion tax cut that gave the majority of the benefits to the wealthiest Americans--- 44.3% going to the wealthiest 1% (HR 3, Vote #45, 3/8/01.

She looks out for her fat cat friends in the corporate interests. I guess that's why Don Blankenship, who would mine his own mother's grave if money were to be made off it, is supporting her and why she supported an administration that fought cut mine safety inspections up to the Sago mine collapsed.

3. Voted for budget bill that would permanently eliminates the Estate Tax set to expire in 2010 which is estimated to cost nearly $1 trillion in revenue between 2012 and 2021--- a tax that effect only the most wealthy Americans and exempts 99% of estates (HR 8, Vote 102, 4/12/05).

Imagine the tax cut that the middle class and poor folk could have received if this tax had not been eliminated. She's willing to let the federal tax burden be carried by everyone else so the rich can get richer and the rest of us get poorer

4. Voted for a budget conference report that cut veterans health care by $13.5 billion over 5 years (HCR 95, Vote #149, 4/28/05)

Despicable. Just plain despicable. At a time when she can support the most corrupt administration which shells out billions to Dick Cheney's former company Halliburton -- much of which isn't properly accounted for -- she cuts funding to help those injured and maimed in war.

5. Voted for a budget resolution that proposed cuts of $92 billion from Medicaid, $14 billion in veterans’ programs, $2 billion in student loans, $6 billion in child nutrition programs and $7 billion in assistance to farmers over the next decade in order to help fund tax cuts favoring the wealthy (HCR 95, Vote #82, 3/21/03)

These are programs that are used by ordinary West Virginians. To me it shows Shelley Moore Capito does not like ordinary folk. I guess only rich folk get support from her.

6. Voted against a measure to require company executives to personally certify the accuracy of corporate financial statements and would have enabled the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to punish executives for falsifying their statements (HR 3763, Vote # 108, 4/24/02)

After Enron, WorldCom and other corporate scandals, this should have been an easy decision for her. Once again, the corrupt are supported by Shelley Moore Capito. When they contribute to her campaign, she's got to give them what they want in the corrupt Republican controlled Congress.

7. Voted against amendments in a budget bill to increase funding for state and local law enforcement and community policing and to restore $286 million to cuts made to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants which are a primary source for law enforcement to combat the production of methamphetamines (HR 2862, Vote ## 244 and 245, 6/14/05)

Of course Republicans are cutting law enforcement funds. They don't care about catching crooks. AFter all, they're busy stealing America blind.

8. Voted against a proposal to make it illegal during an energy emergency to sell crude oil, gasoline and petroleum at unconscionable levels (HR3402, Vote 500, 7/28/05)

She's got to support price gouging when she's in Tom Delay's pocket.

9. Voted to delay implementation of a new rule to reduce the allowable levels of arsenic in drinking water (from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion) (HR 2620, Vote # 288, 7/27/01

This is just plain sad for America. I'm not sure how she sleeps at night.

10. Voted against a motion that would allow the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for seniors and would ease requirements for importation pf lower priced drugs from Canada and instead voted for the Republican Medicare prescription drug bill that gives billions of dollars in subsidies to the health care industry, increases premiums and deductibles to seniors and produces a gap in coverage (HR 1, Vote ## 668 and 6691/21/03. 1/22/03)
Corporate payback for contributions.

So what can you do to oust someone from Congress?

Democratic candidate Mike Callaghan will be holding a community discussion in Berkeley County at 3:30 pm Tuesday at his headquarters at 123 South Queen St., Martinsburg. Unlike Capito, who closed off events to the public following criticism of her support of President Bush's privatization of Social Security, Callaghan wants to hear what people think about the war, Medicaid, education, policing. A rally will follow at the headquarters at 5:15 p.m.

Visit Mike's web site for more information or to contribute to his campaign.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The most important Lamont-Lieberman post you'll read tonight

Here in wild and wonderful Connecticut, I am eager to see Ned Lamont defeat a Bush-loving, rubber stamping Joe Lieberman.

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Ned, as you may know, was a federal prosecutor for nine years and West Virginia Connecticut Department of the Environmental Protection Secretary. He's taken on the corporate millionaires eager to exploit West Virginia's Connecticut's workers and resources. The same coal mine operator that would "mine his mother's grave if there was money to be made" is pumping in tons of resources to defeat Connecticut's Democratic nominee, Ned Lamont.

You can check out Ned's positions on the issues.

You can ignore what Lieberman is doing in Connecticut or you can help Ned so we can take back Congress in 2006 because every race counts.

Don't trust me? Here's what other people say about Ned:

Justin Williams, Buckhannon - "I like Mike Ned because he is very genuine and he connects well with people. Mike Ned should be elected because he works very hard for the people and he can help get this country on the right track."

Joyce Creel, Cottageville - "I like Mike Ned because he is inline with labor issues and he believes in the issues that affect working families. His positions on healthcare and education are what we need for this state. We need a change, and Mike is a great leader to help get us that change."

Jane Yearout, Martinsburg (and one of my canvassing partners) - "I like Mike Ned because he listens, he's smart, and most of all, he puts his fellow West Virginians Nutmeggers first."

Robin Truax, 2005-2006 Berkeley County Teacher of the Year, Martinsburg - "I like Mike Ned because he believes in the strength of the child/teacher relationship. He recognizes that No Child Left Behind was a failed policy, and will work to enact legislation that will actually help our schools. Better pay to keep the quality teachers here in our state is an important issue, and I know Mike Ned will work to make that happen."

Eloise Jack, South Charleston - "I like Mike Ned because he will defend our Constitutional rights. At the same time, he will not tolerate the corruption going on in Washington among the leadership. He will defend our national security without compromising our personal freedoms."

Patrick Bartram, Disabled Veteran, Charleston - "I like Mike Ned because he wants to actually do something about the war. It's time to quit making more disabled veterans."

Rhonda Golden, Martinsburg - "As a Republican, I like Mike because of his integrity and approachability. Mike is fair and his genuine concern lies with the people of West Virginia. He is a strong believer in national security, and I think his belief that every man, woman, and child should access to quality and affordable healthcare is important to the future of our state."

Mike Bright, Sheriff & Vietnam Veteran, Ripley - "I like Mike Ned because he is an outstanding person with integrity beyond reproach. I've known Mike Ned since he was in the U.S. Attorneys Office, and have been in court and trials with him. He is the most capable and intelligent attorney I've ever worked with, and I've worked with a lot of them. He will do an excellent job as our Congressman."

So won't you join me and my fellow Nutmeggers in supporting Ned Lamont for Congress in 2006? We need your help to win this race.

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Callaghan supports veterans

Republican Shelley Moore Capito, the largest recipient of campaign contributions from the crooked Tom Delay, reminds me of those people who put a "Support the troops" magnet on the back of her car and promptly forgets them. From Democratic candidate Mike Callaghan:

Released with the statement is a fact sheet on votes Callaghan’s incumbent opponent, Shelley Moore Capito, has made regarding veterans’ spending. "I want to help veterans hold the Bush administration and Shelley Moore Capito accountable for their cuts to veterans’ programs in the last six years," Callaghan said.

"The Bush administration and Shelley Moore Capito are trying to pull wool over the eyes of veterans by misrepresenting their voting record on veterans’ spending," Callaghan said. "My opponent has voted several times to decrease spending on programs for our soldiers, including recently blocking an amendment that would have provided $735 million that would have prevented an increase in veterans’ health care fees. That hurts veterans in our own communities. That is not fair to them."

Callaghan has met with veterans all over the state, discussing issues important to them. These discussions have focused on issues such as veterans’ health care and benefits, employment and proper care after returning from duty, and creating a plan for a resolution to the War in Iraq.

"Shelley Moore Capito is a rubber stamp for President Bush and his failed agenda. She voted to cut veterans’ benefits to give tax breaks to the wealthy. There is something seriously wrong with that." Callaghan continued, "When I am elected to Congress, I will work to get veterans what they deserve."

Help Mike Callaghan win so we can really have someone who supports the troops.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ed Wiley

Reprinted with kind permisson of faithfull.

(Cross-posted at the Appalachian Voices blog)
Deep in the hollows of WV, something miraculous is happening...

If we fail as parents, we have failed as Americans - Bo Webb

Grandfather Ed Wiley is no traditional environmentalist,
child rights advocate, or political activist. His history and his heritage
run deep into the coal encrusted veins of the Appalachian Mountains.

Ed Wiley has never fought sludge impoundments. He has built them.

He has never boycotted coal. He has extracted it.

He worked in processing plants just like the one less than a football field
from Marsh Fork Elementary School, in Sundial, WV - full of enormous
clanging machinery, explosive gases, and chemically treated coal dust.

He helped build the 2.8 billion gallon
sludge impoundment directly above Marsh Fork Elementary School where his
11-year old granddaughter goes to school and is poisoned everyday by those
same chemicals.

Now this man is spending his retirement walking 455 miles over 40 days and
nights in the heat of summer!


Ed attributes his "wake-up" to his 11-year-old granddaughter Kayla, who
attends Marsh Fork Elementary. After having to pick up the perfectly healthy
and enthused child from school three days in a row, color-drained from her
skin, Ed asked Kayla (who he affectionately calls "Possum") what was going

He puts it as follows.

Kayla had tears running down her face. She said "Gramps,
these coal mines are making us kids sick.

The day this child had tears in her eyes, that's when I woke up.

-Ed Wiley

WELCOME TO MARSH FORK ELEMENTARY (small building with lawn, lower left.) If
that man-made dam broke (and its had NUMEROUS violations) those children
would have 17 seconds to live.

Behind the dam there is 2.8 billion gallons of toxic sludge.
Behind that theres a 1849 acre Mountaintop Removal site that's growing in
size and waste output.

These children deserve a new, safe, local place to learn!


The runoff from the site flows into the sludge dam. The Mine Safety and
Health Administration has cited the dam repeatedly for violations in its
construction and maintenance. In 2000, a sludge dam in Kentucky, operated
by the same company
, released over 300 million gallons of sludge in what
the EPA called the worst environmental disaster in the Southeast. The spill
was nearly 30 times the volume of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill.

These children deserve a new, safe, local place to learn!

There is a coal
silo less than 300 feet from Marsh Fork Elementary School. The silo houses
tons and tons of toxic chemically treated coal dust. Ever heard of black
lung disease? Well, nowadays you don't have to go into the coal mines to
breathe coal dust and get black lung disease. You just have to go to class.

A survey was performed on 60 households with kids at the school.

Of those 60 households...

-88% had children who were commonly ill

Of those houses with a commonly ill child

-91% had kids with regular respiratory problems

According to Ed Wiley, "15-20 kids leave each day" because they are sick
from the coal dust they are inhaling.

These children deserve a new, safe, local place to learn!

For over TWO YEARS the children of this community have been insulted,
ignored, and brushed aside by big coal interests and the government of West

Now, Grandfather Ed Wiley is taking a radical step. He is taking the voice
of the people of the West Virginia Coal Fields straight on out of the
hollow, straight on out of the county, on passed the West Virginia border,
and all the way to Washington, DC!

The conventional wisdom in WV is that people CAN'T make a difference...and
thats where we come in.

Ed needs your support!

Today, he passed 100 miles. There is no doubt that the man is in fit
enough physical shape to finish the walk well ahead of his exhausted teenage
support team. SCREW CHUCK NORRIS! Here's a real American hero.

The trip has been an amazing success,
Pennies of Promise has a
short video of Ed talking about the trip as well as video of Day 2.

So, how did it get to be this way? So that grandfathers were walking 100s of
miles to raise awareness because the state was ignoring the fact that coal
poisoning their kids and grandkids?

I think of the modern American fixation on oil as a similar situation.
Democratic Senators Byrd and Rockerfeller of West Virginia are good on
almost everything, but remain deep in the pockets of the coal companies.
Local and state officials are the same way. Coal Company "X" can pour
millions and millions of dollars into a race for school board if they have

West Virginia, because of its geographic makeup (mountains and "hollows") is
also very difficult to organize. Some of the most amazing labor battles in
American history - such as The Battle of Blair Mountain - took place in the coal fields of Southern
West Virginia. The Battle of Blair Mountain remains the largest post civil
war battle in American history. Needless to say, the unionizing miners lost
at Blair Mountain to a federal militia, and the only bombs America has ever
dropped on its own soil out of airplanes.

Over 200 years of company towns, violence, union-busting, and exploitation
by the coal companies, the people of West Virginia expect nothing else but
the shit end of the stick time and time again. And that's what they get!
51-54% of America's electric energy comes from coal, and yet the coalfield
counties are some of the poorest counties in the United States of America.

Ed worked on these sites. He has cleaned up spills. He has pumped sludge
around the impoundment to relieve pressure on the violation stricken dam.
And now...he has to spend his retirement WALKING ACROSS AMERICA SO THAT
HUMILIATED if he had to do something like that!!!

And yet - heres Ed, carrying an 8x4 ft flag and standind out like a flower
in a desert...

"If we do not stand up and take part of whats happening in our
Appalachian mountains we all are going to suffer from this." - Ed

Support Ed and Pennies of
, and join Appalachian Voices in following his footsteps
on this journey. Its for the children.

'Democrat of the Universe'

From an email:

"Democrat of the Universe" - that's the title awarded to Mr. Earl Barney earlier this year at a party for him in Berkeley Springs [W.Va.]. After all, he'd been a Democrat all of his 88 years. He served on the Democratic Executive Committee for many years, and he was a wealth of knowledge about the history of Democrats in Berkeley County. He had a great laugh, and was a terrific storyteller about the way things used to be. Mr. Barney grew up on the road I live on now, when there were only three houses and lots of orchards on what was then a little dirt, country road. He worked hard all his life, in the orchards, as a bus driver, a school custodian, and a few other professions as well. He was always very active with local organizations, and loved the yearly Barney reunions.

Mr. Barney and his wife Lyndell were married for 69 years. Recovering from a stroke, Lyndell has resided in a nursing home in Berkeley Springs for the past couple of months. They were very dedicated to each other, and Mr. Barney visited with her every day. He told me how it had been his job to take care of Lyndell, but she was being taken care of by the nursing home now, and he thought she was getting along pretty well. They will be together in spirit now, and I'm sure he'll be watching over her forever.

Mr. Barney passed away peacefully in his sleep Saturday night.


It's not going to be easy to say goodbye to a man who could make a better Democrat out of anyone. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him. In his words, "Everyone should get out and vote - and vote Democrat!"

My kind of candidate

The other day I received a message from Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito saying she should be re-elected since she's an "independent voice" in Congress.

The thing is, she can't run from her record of being a Rubber Stamp Republican. She's not just one of the largest recipients of the corrupt Tom Delay's campaign contributions, she was at the very top of the list. And now she has President Bush fundraising for her.

How independent from Bush's failures do you think she can be when he's campaigning for her?

She's been nothing but a Rubber Stamp Republican who has provided no oversight of the run-amuk corruption and incompetence of the Republican leadership and this administration. She's earned an F when it comes to protecting the middle class. Indeed, she's benefited by it, receiving campaign contribution after campaign contribution from Delay and from corporations eager to profit off the Iraq War at the expense of our soldiers and eager to see the elimination of worker safety regulations and inspections. From the invasion of Iraq to lack of oversight of federal mining inspections before the Sago Mine Disaster, she's been with the administration in lock-step all the way.

From the Charleston Gazette:

President George W. Bush spent a few hours in Charleston Wednesday afternoon, raising money for a political ally at a private fundraiser and getting jeered by opponents of the war in Iraq.

Air Force One touched down at Yeager Airport at 4 p.m. Bush and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., got off the plane and were first greeted by Gen. Allen Tackett, head of the state's National Guard.

Republican officials said about 275 people attended the fundraiser, which raised an estimated $500,000 for Capito. Many paid the maximum of $2,100 per person. She is seeking a fourth two-year term in a race against Democrat Mike Callaghan.


Callaghan, Capito's opponent, said Bush's visit shows Capito's vulnerability this November and her solidarity with the Bush administration's failed policies. He held his own fundraiser Wednesday evening, asking $21 per person for dinner, or 1 percent of the maximum allowable donation.

"The Callaghan campaign is about changing the direction of this country, which includes pushing the administration to find a way to end the war in Iraq, pushing the administration into providing health care for every man, woman and child, and pushing the administration into making prescription medication affordable to our seniors," he said.

If we really want an independent voice who'll fight for the working people of West Virginia and not just for the wealthy people outside of the state, we need Mike Callaghan in Congress.

I've met Mike Callaghan twice at local events. He's the real deal who'll be able to talk to regular West Virginians. He grew up fishing in the stream in his front yard and hunting for deer in the woods behind the back yard. Religion is important to the people of West Virginia. Callaghan is a long-time member of the same church as Capito and even was her son's mentor at the church.

He was chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party -- which still has Democratic control with the Governor, the majority in the Statehouse, and nearly every statewide office in the state.

So what are his positions?


Mike Callaghan is tough on criminals and strong on ethics.  As a former federal prosecutor, Mike Callaghan will fight to end the culture of corruption in Washington, and he will put our hard-working families ahead of big money, big business and big influence. The days of Enron rip-offs, no-bid contracts and lobbying scandals will be over when Mike Callaghan is in Congress.  He will not hesitate to use his power as a Congressman to call for accountability from those who violate the law and trust of our country, especially those who are elected to serve the people.  He will not be led astray by lies from Republican leaders, and he will demand justice for the American people just as he did as a prosecutor.

Ethics. Now there's an idea. What won't Shelley Moore Capito (more Corrupto, I say) sell out when it comes to protecting our soldiers, our workers and our country? Look for yourself here.

War in Iraq

Mike Callaghan will defend our country in its fight against terrorism.  Mike will never take a back seat to the Republicans in defending this country.  He will demand swift action and hold our leaders accountable.

Mike believes we need to work towards a quick resolution in Iraq that includes a detailed withdrawl plan.  We pray for and honor our men and women who have admirably served our country.  Our top priority should be creating and executing a solid plan of action to bring families home.  The best way to ensure an end to this war is to elect Democrats to Congress.

The highlighted portion is key to me and has swung me from lukewarm to strong support.

When I met Mike Callaghan the first time early in his campaign, I asked straight out his position on Murtha's plan of pulling out of Iraq. He was not strong as a supporter of withdrawal as I was. If I recall, he was not ready to commit to the plan then. And that was what I wanted. But Callaghan reached out to those of us supporting his anti-war primary opponent here in the Eastern Panhandle immediately after he won the nomination. He listened to them (I was unable to attend that meeting, but I heard good feedback from those who had). Callaghan is not somebody who waited for the party leadership to tell him how to stand on an issue. He listened to the people. He learned and studied.

He's a judicious man and that came across in my meetings with him. And I confess, I personally wanted more of a firebrand. But I recognized that what I personally want and what is best for my Congressional District and for winning that seat in Congress and maybe even in healing the deeply partisan divisions in the country are not always the same thing. I want an attack dog, but deep inside I know a judicious man is needed more than that.

Don't get me wrong. I've got the sense he can be as dogged in his pursuit of what is right as much as an other federal prosecutor we admire. And if the Democrats win a majority and hold long overdue oversight hearing and investigations, a former federal prosecutor who went after coal mine owners with hearts of coal would be extremely useful as a representative.

National Security

Mike Callaghan is strong on national security and will never take a back seat to Republicans when it comes to defending this country.

Mike opposes the Bush/Capito unlimited spying and wiretapping program. Protecting our country and protecting the rights of our citizens are both cornerstones to our democracy. Mike believes that not even the President is above the law and he will hold everyone who violates our rule of law accountable.

Mike grew up in a small West Virginia town where it was safe at home, safe at work and safe in his community. He understands these are the values important to West Virginians. He will work tirelessly to make every American safe at home, work and in their community.

That's what I'm talking about. He knows the value of law and the important of protecting liberty and he knows people want to be safe. And he recognizes those things are not incompatible with each other.

You can read more about his positions here.

This seat is highly winnable. Capito is a candidate who should be ousted for her overly close ties to Delay and Bush.

Even if she wasn't one of the worst in the House of Representatives (and she is) at representing regular folk, Callaghan would still be deserving of our strong support because of his intelligence, background and positions. He's not just an anti-Capito choice.

His positions are good positions and just the type of person needed to make the United States government of the people, by the people and for the people.

If you think Mike Callaghan is worthy of support like I do, you can contribute to his campaign here.

On the importance of hope

Long ago, a veteran police sergeant and I went to the firing range alone to go shooting.

He was the firing range instructor for his department and he gave me the same lesson he gave the new officers.

So I shot with my right hand for a while and then he told me to shoot with my left. I asked him why it was important to shoot with my off hand. And he said sometimes you're not in a position to fire from around a corner without exposing yourself more unless you're shooting with your left, but more importantly if you're ever shot and can't fire with your right to learn to fire with your left. It was important to not quit fighting just because you're wounded. And I asked 'Why?' again, which I do when I don't know the answer. He said when people are wounded, if they think they're going to die, they are more likely to die. But if they stay in the fight for survival, they're more likely to survive.

Which leads me to Billmon.

Here's what he wrote, possibly partly in response to something I wrote here but more of it was directed in unacknowledged response to Steve Gilliard.

Gilliard can always speak for himself. So I'll address this in regards to Billmon's despair. (And if you think Billmon is writing from irony or out of sarcasm and not from some dark place your knowledge of human nature is as poor as your reading comprehension.)

My view is this:

But here is where you and I differ. I still have hope. I have hope that people are wakening up to the desperateness of the situation and they're going to get to work digging our way out. We're going to push the Republicans who led us into the disaster out of the way first and we're going to push out the Democrats who enabled them, beginning with the worst of the lot Sen. Joe Lieberman. But we're not going to stop there. We're going to go through the whole bad lot of them here and across the globe.

His response:

I had hopes once that the Democratic Party could be reformed, that progressives could burrow back in or build their own parallel organizations (like or even Left Blogistan) and eventually gain control of the party and its agenda -- much as the conservatives took over the GOP in the 1980s and '90s.

But I think we've run out of time. Events -- from 9/11 on -- have moved too fast and pushed us too far towards the clash of civilizations that most sane people dread but the neocons desperately want.

I know time is short. With each heart breaking death, it is short.

Regarding Billmon, it's like all he can see is the cliff we're heading over and has tunnel vision regarding it. And it's a bad cliff. Don't get me wrong.

They're certainly free to follow their party over the cliff (we're all going over it anyway) but I'd at least prefer to do it with my eyes open.

Look, I am often as unhappy with the Democratic leadership as anyone else. But I also recognize that under the Republican-controlled Congress, there is often little that can be done to have a sensible debate about the Iraq war. We all saw how they twisted Rep. John Murtha's bill and put forward their own that was completely unreasonable.

Yet few Democrats, West Virginia's own Rep. Nick Rahall being one of the few exceptions, took the position I would have wanted. Here is Rahall's statement:

Instead of this balanced approach, the House passed a one-sided resolution citing Israel's right to defend itself - just as my resolution did - but also blamed the pro-American, pro-democratic government of Lebanon for not ridding itself of the extremist gang Hezbollah.  I voted against this one-sided approach, not against Israel.

I do not think we need to enter this fray militarily but we can play a role diplomatically with an even hand.  Last week I urged the President to call Israel's Prime Minister to ask for a cease fire, a cooling off period.  I echoed the call President Ronald Reagan made to Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1982, when President Reagan said "enough is enough" and encouraged a cease fire between Israel and the P.L.O.

It is easy to suggest that Lebanon should manage its borders and maintain its own security and rid itself of Hezbollah as the House resolution stated.  If Lebanon got the billions in foreign aid from the Congress that Israel receives each year, the task would be much easier.  The facts speak otherwise.  The young Lebanese government striving to reflect democratic ideals frankly does not have the ability to rid itself of foreign entanglements.  In fact, Israel itself militarily occupied Lebanon for almost two decades and was not able to stamp out insurgents striking at Israel.   This is an issue for the world community.   The United States should defend Israel, and at the same time defend democratic governments in the region.  This goal is the best way for us to secure Israel's future.

Christ's Sermon on the Mount included the charge, "blessed are the peacemakers." People can disagree, but I can not recall from the pages of history any people who have annihilated an enemy for all time.  The United States since becoming a world power has generally played this key role. The President's couch potato diplomacy will probably end soon, but in my mind it can not end soon enough.  The problems the Middle East faces can not be solved by military means.  History has proven this.  We should call for an end to all military actions on all sides, and work for a peaceful solution.  This is Israel's most promising future.

That is a view I wish more Democrats and Republicans in Congress had taken. That is the view I wish President Bush held.

I cannot control what they do any more can I control what Hezbollah does or Israel does.

What I can do is to work to change the party mostly likely to align with my views. And that is the Democratic Party.

You make progress forward one step at a time. We win an election and gain a majority or closer to a majority in Congress, we make progress. We get a Democratic majority, we begin putting up primary opponents to beat the Democrats who aligned with the Republicans against peace and against humanity and the environment.

That is how we change the government for the better. Unless you want an armed revolution and that is not a view I currently support.

Even if time is limited, we should keep moving forward. We cannot know what the future is certain to bring.

In the scenario Billmon paints, his domino theory of nations falling to the Shi'as with Iran's government gaining control of Iraq and then Syria, he ignored the fact that while Syria might sponsor Hezbollah, the leaders of Syria are highly effective -- brutally so -- at clamping down on those attempting to bring theocracy to their secular dictatorship. So the picture he painted of Iran's military spreading into Iraq to keep the "peace" there then into Syria right next to Israel's border is not a foregone conclusion.

Worst yet, Billmon's position in the piece I criticized takes the view that nothing matters anyway so why bother. That is not a position I'm willing to ever accept.

Perhaps he's right that there isn't time. Perhaps he isn't. But I'd rather try to make the change happen than to say it doesn't matter as he did.

But there is cause for hope, slight though it might be.

If we quit, our chance of making the world a better place is gone, possibly forever. If we keep fighting we survive.

I'll leave off with one more anecdote. My best friend, a police lieutenant, once answered a call to break up a bar room fight and ended up having the five people fighting unite to turn on him. He was one of only a handful of officers working the entire county that night and backup was 30 minutes away. Ask anyone who has ever been in a real brawl how long it takes for someone not a trained professional boxer to run out of steam and begin sucking wind even when you're fighting just one opponent.

But he held on and kept fighting and when he finally heard the sirens coming far off in the distance he got a second wind. By the time backup arrived, he had the five brawlers in custody.

He won because he didn't quit.

Sometimes you just got to keep struggling even when the odds are overwhelming. We don't have a choice if we want to survive.

An open letter to Billmon

Dear Billmon,

I hope you don't mind me contacting you in this way, but I suspect many people feel the same way you feel.
You've been on fire lately with your analysis of the Middle East fighting and political situation. I do not think any of the big name columnists at any of the major newspapers has been as accurate at describing the overall current events or predicting what will happen in the immediate near future.

For quite some time, you've been one of my favorite writers. I have a near obsession with Arthur Conan Doyle, would have donated an organ to keep Patrick O'Brian alive and writing, and wish Richard Laymon had not died so young. So when I say you're one of my favorite writers, I want you to know the company I place you in.

And so it isn't some thing I say lightly when I say I think you're wrong. You wrote:

So here's my confession: At this point I really don't give a flying fuck whether the Democrats take the House or the Senate back. No, wait, that's not true. The truth is I hope they don't. It wouldn't save us from what's coming down the road, in the Middle East and elsewhere. It wouldn't force President Psychopath to change course or seek therapy. But it would make sure that the "left" (ha ha ha) gets more than its fair share of blame for the approaching debacle.

That may well be the natural role of the Democratic Party in our one-and-a-half party system, but I don't want any part of it any more. Which means that when I say it's a bad sign (consensus opinion always being wrong) that Charlie Cook now thinks the Republicans are likely to lose their House and/or Senate majorities in November, I just mean that it's a bad sign for the Democratic Party and its professional hangers on.

For the rest of us, and for whatever is left of this country's soul, it doesn't really matter. We've already lost.

Believe me, I understand why you'd think that. Even if the Democrats win the House and Senate, we're not at a point where we can see light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel has collapsed. There is no light to be seen. The Republicans wrecklessly smashed through the supports and too many Democrats stood by or even abetted them.

I know about darkness. I've lived in it. The world is very dark. I understand your despair.

But here is where you and I differ. I still have hope. I have hope that people are wakening up to the desperateness of the situation and they're going to get to work digging our way out. We're going to push the Republicans who led us into the disaster out of the way first and we're going to push out the Democrats who enabled them, beginning with the worst of the lot Sen. Joe Lieberman. But we're not going to stop there. We're going to go through the whole bad lot of them here and across the globe. And when I say we, I don't mean the bloggers. We don't have that power despite the foolish claims of the pundits. It's the ordinary people who are going to do it. The bloggers are just ordinary people with cyber megaphones. But it's the people who are going to get us out of this mess. Not any pretend leaders.

I don't know as much about the current events in the Middle East or in Washington, D.C. as you do. But I do know about ordinary, plain folks. I hear their anger at the way the world is and their desire to work to make it better from the people sitting next to me at Sunday school and from the passenger seat of the junk-hauling dump truck.

We're going through a tough time around the globe, those of us who just want to work and raise our families in peace and quiet and who just want to love our neighbors and make enough money to take care of ourselves and a little extra to help those not so fortunate. The planet is going through hell. But you don't make steel without putting the raw metal into the fires of the forge.

As Americans, we can look back at our history where the cause of progress must have seemed hopeless and lost. Valley Forge. Bull Run. Labor relations.  Segregation. Vietnam.

It is heart breaking that we continue to go through wars in the Middle East and have to fight to protect the rights of ordinary Americans here.

But peace and social justice are worth the struggle. I don't believe the cause is lost. The odds are overwhelming certainly. They were overwhelming against us when Thomas Paine and Gen. George Washington fought for independence against the greatest military force on the planet and the were overwhelmingly against us when Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. faced racial segregationists backed by the full force of law enforcement and defeated them with the force of their courage and love.

They did the impossible. And that makes them mighty. And their blood flows through our veins. The odds always seem overwhelming. But no cause is lost -- unless we decide it is and surrender. That it doesn't really matter. And from what I've read of your work over the years, I know you believe it does matter. That you'll be one working for peace and justice until you draw your last breath. With people like you fighting for the country's soul, it is only a matter of time until we win.