Saturday, June 30, 2012

Songs/videos of the week

This first song is perhaps the most openly misogynist song I've ever heard, yet it's so brazen I actually like it. And the video, though the motif has been done before, is a lot of fun. This is Fiction Plane, the band formed by Sting's oldest son, who, oddly enough, plays the bass and sings in a trio. Hmmm.  The song is "It's a Lie."

The guilty pleasure? I'm not even going to tell you what it is. You have to click to find out. If you want answers, you can comment or message me on Facebook and I'll defend myself.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't like Obama, W.Va.? It's OK, you're just racist

Wow, there's a punch in the mouth right out of the gate. How ya like me now, West Virginia?
Not a lot? Well, my apologies.
But I've come to some conclusions over the past five years of working in the Mountain State.
And, no, not every West Virginian is a racist who bases their decisions on racism.
However, there are a list of things to consider, here.
1. 40 percent of Democratic voters voted for a convicted felon incarcerated in Texas instead of President Barack Obama in the May primary. Yeah, that made the national news. Didn't make the state look too good.
2. Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who made his fortune off of his mother's racing greyhound breeding business (classy), said he will not attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
3. U.S. Rep Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have made similar declarations. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is the only federal Democrat from the Mountain State not to have made such a pledge.
4. West Virginians continue to rage against the Health Care Act, despite the fact that tens of thousands of West Virginians don't have health care, and the state is crippled by indigent patients who go to an emergency room instead of a family doctor when they have a cold, because the hospital can't turn them away.
5. Mining. Coal mining is employing less workers than ever, is providing less power to our nation than ever, miners are dying in horrible disasters, companies ignore safety regulations and prefer just to blow up a mountain and then "surface mine" it, rather than pay miners to go into it. Somehow, this is Obama's fault.
6. The racist comments I have to pull off of my employer's website forums every day pretty much speak for themselves.
7. Let's not forget the 2008 Democratic primary, which also garnered national media attention, after several voters gave interviews saying they didn't like Obama because he was a Muslim, and they didn't like that his middle name is "Hussein." One of those is a fact, another isn't. Neither should have played a role in an informed voter's decision.
8. The frequent argument that Obama did not kill Osama bin Laden, Navy Seals did. (This in not just from W.Va., but more on this later.)
9. The birther issue? Still alive and well here.
10. 20 percent of eligible West Virginia voters polled in May admitted that race was a factor in their decision not to support Obama. That's one in five. And those are just the people who are admitting it.
Now, I know a lot of West Virginians who are pleasant, rational people. And I'm not saying that you have to vote Democrat to be pleasant and rational. I know several Republicans, independents and libertarians in West Virginia who I think are intelligent, shrewd voters. I respect their decisions and opinions. I, myself, have voted Republican when I thought it was the best choice. Turns out I was wrong, but still.
I'm just saying West Virginia, as a whole, has not made a good showing of itself publicly lately.
Look, I live in Kentucky, and we have the same image problems. In our state 40 percent of voters chose "no preference" over Obama.
But in West Virginia it's a different vibe. It's never good when both candidates for governor, including the aforementioned Earl Ray and his Republican challenger, aren't attacking each other, but are instead talking about how they will fight the Obama administration. Hmmm, governor in a poor state that ranks near dead last in everything (again, Kentuckian here, I understand) and they're going to try and defy the highest office in the U.S. tooth and nail? Sounds like a recovery plan to me.
Now, West Virginia, like Kentucky in days past (I think all of our federal office holders are Republicans now), likes to elect Democrats but expects them to behave in discord with their party.
They are Democrats in name only.
The first few items on my list, mainly the skipping of the convention (which is a flat out disgrace) and the whole coal issue, are intertwined.
Obama is viewed as anti-coal by the voters of West Virginia. It's not that he's environmentally friendly, wants to find new ways of producing energy that would also create jobs, and make coal cleaner for the environment and safer for workers. No, he is a "Marxist commie" (I've actually seen that phrase used frequently) who wants to stamp out freedom with his EPA stormtroopers to establish federal power and control.
As coal has been declining for years, this argument makes little sense, and frequently falls back on "He took our jerbs" after peeling the first line of defense away. Break that next one down and the voters just plain hate Obama. They won't tell you why. But I think those exit poll interviews gave a pretty clear picture.
Other facade arguments include the deficit (which no one cared about until now), and the aforementioned Health Care Act, which, as stated, would actually HELP thousands of West Virginians.
A local news station recently interviewed a health care worker and a woman who was getting a free screening about the health care issue.
The worker said she hopes it is upheld because she sees and treats so many people that don't have insurance and access to regular health care.
The woman, who was receiving a free screening, mind you, said she wants to see it struck down. When asked why, she didn't give a very clear answer, but finally mumbled "people don't understand it and they need time to understand it."
Well, the health care crisis is happening sort of nowish.
Anyway, the people in office know that their constituents flat out hate the president. And I don't mean they disagree on a few things. They HATE him. So, the politicians have to make a show of defying the president, which comes at the cost of losing the respect of their party bretheren, and, well, the president. So, in the end, nothing gets accomplished that helps the state, other than these people getting re-elected.
When Republican John Raese lost his Senate bid to Joe Manchin, he didn't say "We will get this Senate seat back." No, the guy who compared having to put no-smoking signs in one of his businesses to Jews having to wear yellow stars during the Holocaust said "We will get Obama."
What does that even mean?
As far as some other things on the list, if any other president was on watch and was the Commander in Chief when the world's number one terror threat was eliminated, they would be lauded as a hero. And, even if they didn't literally pull the trigger, you know they would be including that as part of their resume for re-election. So why is it a problem when Obama does it? I think I know.
I know Obama has had his policy ups and downs, like many other presidents, but you'd think he'd get some slack for being in charge when bin Laden was killed.
The birther thing? Well, I was born in Hawaii and it's never been a problem. You all know the actual details of the the argument and I won't even get into it as it doesn't bear repeating.
Let's face it, if Mitt Romney were running against a typical WASP, everyone in a red state would be trying to come to terms with the fact that Romney's a Mormon. In fact, it is a problem with the GOP voter base. Should it be? Again, no. But this is how a large majority of the voting public thinks, and you know it. You can say "I don't think that way" and, likely, it's true. But look at the aggregate voting population, and the picture is clear.
Romney only trumps Obama to uninformed voters because he is white.
Obama knows West Virginia hates him. That is why he rarely, if ever, campaigns in the Mountain State.
And, in the end, the state's few electoral votes will likely mean little in the grand scheme of things.
Haters can say he's trying to take their guns (which he's not), their jobs (which he's not) and make them have health insurance (God forbid).
However, when you're in that booth, and nobody but Fox News is spying on you, you know why you fill out which ballot, in your heart of hearts. Whatever decision you make, I urge you to deny hate as a motivation.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The H is O ...

There's a big heatwave coming for most of the eastern U.S., so I thought it would be fun to break out this oldie about the dog days of summer. An aside, the percentage marks you see ran as bullet points in the actual news publication.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Songs/Videos of the week

The first is my favorite music video of all time. And no, it doesn't come from Rush or the Police or the Cure. It's three lads from Oxford who have an amazing catalog of songs and equally clever videos. I present Supergrass, with "Late in the Day."

This week's guilty pleasure is one of those songs that I can remember playing on top 40 radio while I was at the pool with friends in those vague, hazy 1980s summers. This songs hook just crawled under my skin and has stayed there. Now, I had a pretty good mullet back in the day, but I've got nothing on this Aussie frontman. It is Icehouse. It is "Electric Blue."

Friday, June 22, 2012

A throwback, but worth the time

This is a column I wrote in my waning days with The Independent, about Bitch McConnell. (Excuse me, I have a cold.) I don't often write about politics, but McConnell's arrogance, which persists to this day, made me very angry.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Songs/videos of the week

First up, we have "Not a Job" from the Manchester outfit Elbow. The video component is basically photos of them on tour. It says "with lyrics" but they're not there. So I'll give you one of my favorites from the song "Words to make her stay, you said 'Leave me and the plants die,' a panicked smile across your face." I find in the most dire situations I make a joke instead of saying what I need to say, and it all goes to hell, so that's why I like that particular line. 

Ah, now the guilty pleasure, "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung. I'm not a fan of their other hit. I just love those chorused-out, clean 80s guitar sounds, along with the strings and horns and all of that. I even like the video. And, if it's been bugging you for ages, the line toward the end is "and in her eyes two sapphires blue. And you need her and she needs you." The phrasing comes off as gibberish.  Enjoy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Live by the snake, die by the snake

Mark Randall "Mack" Wolford, of southern West Virginia, died at age 44 in late May.
Cause of death? Snake bite.
Was he hiking the Appalachian Trail? Working in high weeds? Visiting a reptile house at a negligent zoo?
He was at church. Leading services, I should add.
Wolford was a snake handler. According to an Associated Press interview, they prefer to be called "serpent handlers," but, as the fictional Dr. Julius Hibbert once said "And hillbillies prefer 'sons of the soil,' but it ain't going to happen."
Snake handling, while banned in most states, is still legal in West Virginia. Even if it weren't, it wouldn't stop someone like Wolford.
After all, his father was a snake-handling preacher. And, wait for it, he died of a snake bite at age 39 in 1983.
So where does all of this come from?
Well, like many beliefs that are held firmly in what many of us would consider the most "normal" of churches, temples, mosques and so on, it comes from a single passage in the book of Mark. (16:17-18 if you're following along).
The passage varies depending on what version of the Bible you're reading, but this is what it says:
"In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
Notice it says if you "drink" anything deadly, it won't harm you. It doesn't say anything about the snake biting you. All it says is "they will take up serpents."
Now, here's the part where I explain that I am no Biblical scholar. Like a lot of people, I go to church, try to get something out of it, control my rage triggers (those being attacks on the media and preachers saying that the United States was founded on Christian principals while leaving out the rather startling details that state otherwise) and try to live a life where I don't steal walkers from old ladies in the middle of the street.
We can all be selective about what we follow in the Bible and what we disregard. Again, I am no expert. I'm just glad my eyes didn't fix on "they shall take up serpents" and have some sort of epiphany that sent me off to PetSmart.
For me, unless there's a passage in the Bible (and there could be) that said "And the Lord did say unto them, you shall juggle snakes or I will smite thee on June 15, 2012" I'm not picking up a snake. Not even a tiny one.
I should point out that, even though snake handling is legal in West Virginia, it is fairly rare. That's according to the Associated Press, so, like the Bible, view it how you view it.
But, at least from my own experience, that statement seems to be true. I've been to a lot of different churches, and no one has ever said to me "Here's your bulletin, and would you prefer rattlesnake or copperhead?"
You can find snake handlers, but you have to look. They don't generally find you, unless you're coming to after one hell of a bender that landed you in a place you never intended to visit.
Having said all of that, I do have some respect for this Wolford guy. Mainly because, even though I, and probably a good portion of the U.S. consider what he practiced to be crazy, he didn't shy away from it.
Many who engage in this practice are suspicious of outsiders and shut themselves away from the rest of the world.
Not Wolford. He had no problem with reporters or photographers and took some on snake hunts, according to the AP.
A friend of Wolford's, who happens to be a professor at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, said Wolford was "trying to revitalize a strong tradition that doesn't make a distinction between beliefs and practices."
That's where I have to disagree. When you're inviting actual physical harm to yourself or others in the name of any religion, bad things usually happen.
Leaps of faith are spiritual risks, not jumping off a building.
The professor went on to say that snake handlers aren't under the illusion that they won't be bitten, and said that they would say the point is "no one gets out of this alive," and "It's not a question of how you live; it's a question of how you die."
Well, there's a refreshing and uplifting take on things.
People who knew Wolford said this is the way he would have wanted to go.
If that was true for him, that's great. It's not true for me.