Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Muh Brutha's famous y'all!

This comic was posted Monday on Delegating Denver #54 of #56: West Virginia. See my brother, Noah, in the upper left. ;P


WV Blue: The Tax Man

Repost: from West Virginia Blue by spruceshoe

Here's a tasty little chart from the Tax Policy Center posted as a "Web Extra" on WSAZ's site tonight.

According to The Tax Policy Center, here's how the average taxes would change in 2009 based on the two candidates' tax proposals.
    Average Income Over $2.9 million: McCain's Plan -$269,364 ; Obama's Plan +$701,885

    Average Income $603,000 and up: McCain's Plan -$45,361 ; Obama's Plan +$115,974

    Average Income $227,000-$603,000: McCain's Plan -$7,871 ; Obama's Plan +$12

    Average Income $161,000-$227,000: McCain's Plan -$4,380 ; Obama's Plan -$2,789

    Average Income $112,000-$161,000: McCain's Plan -$2,614 ; Obama's Plan -$2,204

    Average Income $66,000-$112,000: McCain's Plan -$1,009 ; Obama's Plan -$1,290

    Average Income $38,000-$66,000: McCain's Plan -$319 ; Obama's Plan -$1,042

    Average Income $19,000-$38,000: McCain's Plan -$113 ; Obama's Plan -$892

    Average Income Under $19,000: McCain's Plan -$19 ; Obama's Plan -$567

Here's what strikes me. The median household income in 2004 in West Virginia was $33,993.

Under John McCain's plan, that family gets two tanks of gas in a late-model sedan at today's gas prices.

Under Barack Obama's plan that same family would receive enough to pay for 17 tanks.

I wonder, is that  benefit only psychological to West Virginians?

If Vic Sprouse is able to bilk enough second-tier Republican candidates through November and avoid paying anymore child support, he'll make a chunk. Let's say for fun he makes $250,000. That seems to be a magic number in tax talk today.

Barack Obama wins, Vic pays Uncle Sam $12 more.

John McCain wins, Little Vikkey can fill up his SUV (twice the gas tank size of a sedan for argument's sake) 453 times.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Maps of War: Imperial History of the Middle East

I saw this linked to via Gawker this morning. Pretty interesting little map. Good use of Flash.

Maps of War: Imperial History of the Middle East

Who has controlled the Middle East over the course of history? Pretty much everyone. Egyptians, Turks, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Europeans...the list goes on. Who will control the Middle East today? That is a much bigger question.

Friday, July 25, 2008

People of the world - look at Berlin!


Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father - my grandfather - was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.

That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.

Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.

On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.

This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.

The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.

And that's when the airlift began - when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.

The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.

But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city's mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. "There is only one possibility," he said. "For us to stand together united until this battle is won...The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty...People of the world, look at Berlin!"

People of the world - look at Berlin!

Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.

Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.

People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.

Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall - a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope - walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.

The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.

In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.

In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth - that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.

Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more - not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.

The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations - and all nations - must summon that spirit anew.

This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.

This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century - in this city of all cities - we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.

This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.

This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.

This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations - including my own - will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.

And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust - not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.

Now the world will watch and remember what we do here - what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?

Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people - everywhere - became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation - our generation - must make our mark on the world.

People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.

Al Jazeera English - Inside USA: Healthcare in Appalachia

WV Public Radio's Newsroom Blog had a link to this this morning. It is a 15 minute segment on healthcare in Appalachia. It's a very well researched piece.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Movie Clip: Network - Jensen/Beale Boardroom Scene

I watched this movie last night and this scene was such a surprise. Ned Beatty is incredible here.

This movie is best seen as a collection of really interesting singular performances. Faye Dunaway is incredible.

The married guy cheating on his wife subplot is completely extraneous and unnecessary, IMHO, though I guess Lumet was trying to illustrate the generation gap between the "TV Generation" (Dunaway) and the Olds (the news director).

I'm glad I finally caught this flick, though. It's really good.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Rural Blog: Berea College, where students pay no tuition but work, is an example in debate over endowments

I heard about Berea College when I was looking at schools as a senior in high school, but I was convinced that it was probably not good enough since it was free. I was so ignorant. Looking back I really really wish I had considered it more seriously. I enjoyed my time at WVU, but I wouldn't be way over my head in student loan debt if I had gone there. Of course I wouldn't have met Steve or have my beautiful daughters if I had gone it is ultimately for the best. I just think WV shoudl take a page from Berea and adopt the tuition for work model they have. This article cites some pretty interesting information.

<cite>The Rural Blog: Berea College, where students pay no tuition but work, is an example in debate over endowments</cite>:
Berea College, at the edge of the hilly Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky, says it offers 'the best education money can't buy' because it charges no tuition and accepts only students from low-income households. 'Actually, what buys that education is Berea's $1.1 billion endowment, which puts the college among the nation's wealthiest,' writes Tamar Lewin of The New York Times. 'But unlike most well-endowed colleges, Berea has no football team, coed dorms, hot tubs or climbing walls. Instead, it has a no-frills budget, with food from the college farm, handmade furniture from the college crafts workshops, and 10-hour-a-week campus jobs for every student.' (Encarta map)

Lewin and the Times offer her story as a contribution to "the growing debate over whether the wealthiest universities are doing enough for the public good to warrant their tax exemption, or simply hoarding money to serve an elite few. As many elite universities scramble to recruit more low-income students, Berea’s no-tuition model has attracted increasing attention." Congress may require large college endowments to spend at least 5 percent of their assets each year, as foundations must.

Berea President Larry Shinn opposes the idea "but wants colleges pushed to do more for needy students," Lewin reports, quoting him: “You see some of these selective liberal arts colleges building new physical-education facilities with these huge sheets of glass and these coffee-and- juice bars, and charging students $40,000 a year, and you have to ask, does this contribute to the public good, or is it just a way for the college to keep up with the Joneses? We are a tax-exempt institution, so I think the public has a right to demand that our educational mission be at the heart of all of our expenditures.”

Our favorite parts of the story are those about Berea: "This year, the college accepted only 22 percent of its applicants. Among those accepted, 85 percent attended Berea, a yield higher than Harvard’s. Berea can be a haven for the lower-income students at high schools where expensive clothes and fancy homes demarcate the social territory," Lewin writes. "With its hilly campus, Georgian president’s mansion and old brick buildings, Berea looks much like any elite New England college. But its operating budget is less than half that of Amherst [College], which has a $1.7 billion endowment and about 100 more students. Faculty pay is much lower, and the student-faculty ratio higher. With no rich parents and no legacy admission slots, fund-raising is far more difficult at Berea."

I just really like the concept of tuition for work. It makes a lot of sense. It keeps students out of debt, teaches skills and builds resumes. At the end you have a degree too. Cool. Anyone out there been there? Is it a good school?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Barack Obama Tiger Beat Cover Clinches Slumber Party Vote | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Ok, so this is an old Onion post, but I thought it was funny. Gawker had an amusing post today on how TO make fun of Obama with a list of do's and don'ts. Hopefully the the armchair comedians at the New Yorker read that one in their morning feed read and took notes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blog High Ed » ‘Meet a Blogger’: Mark Greenfield

<cite>Blog High Ed » Blog Archive » ‘Meet a Blogger’: Mark Greenfield</cite>: "

'Meet a Blogger': Mark GreenfieldJump to Comments3rd installment of the 'Meet a Blogger' series from We caught up with Mark Greenfield from University at Buffalo for a quick chat about the relevancy of higher education websites, and how to prepare for the future.

Mark blogs at You can hear Mark speak at eduWeb next week. He is presenting a 3 hour workshop titled 'Join the Conversation', and is also the opening keynote speaker for the conference.


Mark will also be the keynote at the 2008 West Virginia Higher Education Technology Conference Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Morgantown, WV. I recommended bringing him in as a keynote and I'm really looking forward to hearing what he has to say. This 3 minute interview is a good example of how well he knows the field and how he's on top of communication trends in higher education.

Climate Progress: Bush BLM: We don’t need no stinkin’ solar on federal lands

From: Climate Progress » Blog Archive » "Bush BLM: We don’t need no stinkin’ solar on federal lands "
In a parting shot at the competition for its fossil fuels supporters, the uber-lame (duck) Bush administration 'has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.'

* Drilling for oil and gas, even in pristine areas — hey, we're former oil company executives.
* Leveling mountains in beautiful West Virginia — we're all for it.
* Toxic metals from mining — bring 'em on!
* Logging old-growth forests — what so you think forests are for?

But solar power on publicly owned desert land? We need to study that for two years. Wouldn't want to risk a rush to clean energy. As Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, this is 'the wrong signal to send to solar power developers, and to Nevadans and Westerners who need and want clean, affordable sun-powered electricity soon.'The only upside of this lame last-minute attack on renewables is that it can be overturned on January 21.

The Extreme (plug in) Hybrid — no breakthrough needed!

Nice little clip. This seems to me to be the most practical next move int he auto industry.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Arthurdale New Deal Festival

If you are in the area, come by the New Deal Festival here in Arthurdale, WV on Sat. July 12, 2008.

Here is the schedule:


Breakfast will be served from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Center Hall, no admission fee required.

4th Annual Beth Bonner Memorial 5K Run and 2-mile walk registration will be from 8 to 8:45 a.m. at the Center Hall. Race begins at 9 a.m. Course runs flat on the community roads of historic Arthurdale. Start of 2007 race photo courtesy of Ella Belling.

Festival Gates Open at 11 a.m.
$5 General Admission - Children 12 and under FREE. FREE PARKING!

Enjoy exhibits in the New Deal Homestead Museum, see artisan demonstrations, shop at the local artisan craft market and the Arthurdale Heritage Craft Shop, enjoy local musicians, visit with Eleanor Roosevelt, and much more!

Lunch: Barbeque chicken dinners served beginning at noon.

Haywagon rides begin at 1:00 p.m.

Shuttle Bus
A shuttle bus will be available to transport persons to and from the different New Deal Festival locations such as the Center Hall, the Inn, and the School.

Visit with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as portrayed by living history actor Patty Cooper. Mrs. Roosevelt will address the festival crowd at 1:30 p.m. “Mrs. Roosevelt” is shown here handing out an Eleanor’s Choice Award for Best Antique Car at the 2007 New Deal Festival.

Registration for the annual festival antique car and tractor show will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Awards will be presented at 5 p.m. Antique cars in front of E-15 Homestead photo courtesy of Ella Belling.


  • 11:00 a.m. Old-Time Sing - NEW EVENT
    Enjoy an old-time community sing courtsey of the Gospel Bluebirds and the Crossroad Quartet at the Arthurdale Presbyterian Church. Sing will end at 1:00 p.m.
  • 12:00 p.m. Pitzers Three
    Keith and Joan Pitzer embody the experience of Appalachian life in contemporary surroundings. Keith and Joan have performed together and in a variety of group formations for over thirty years. Recently they have enjoyed performing as a trio with their son, Jake, on mandolin, who is also featured on their new CD, Gathering Stones.
  • 2:00 p.m. The Riggins Brothers
    The Riggins Brothers grew up in the unincorporated town of Howesville, West Virginia. Music has always been a tradition in the Riggins family and over the years Paul and Bobby have performed all around the Tri-State area. They have opened for John Anderson and Louise Mandrell and have performed a number of concerts & dances.
  • 4:00 p.m. Hickory Wind
    Sam Morgan, Mark Walbridge, and Bob Shank formed Hickory Wind in Morgantown in the 1970s and have performed with many of their heroes including Earl Scruggs, John Hartford & John Prine, Jackson Brown, Steely Dan, the Chieftains, Judy Collins, and Bonny Raitt. Although Hickory Wind left the road behind many years ago, three of the founding members have kept in touch, playing together when possible, and have decided to do a few select performances during 2008.

Kids of all ages can participate! Registration begins at 12:00 p.m. Pulls begin at 1:00 p.m. $1 registration fee. The first 50 registered will receive a commemorative badge. Ribbons given to top three winners in each weight category: 0-45lbs, 46-55lbs, 56-65lbs, 66-75lbs, 76-100lbs, 101-125lbs, 126-150lbs, tough man, and ladies class.

See local hand-crafted quilts on display at the Arthurdale Inn. This is a non-judged event. Entries need to be taken to the Inn between 1:00 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 11. Due to space limitations, return this quilt registration form early. You can have more than one entry but complete a different registration for each one. Quilts of the 1930s, quilts made from feed sacks, and quilts made by original Arthurdale Homesteaders are welcomed. Building use courtesy of Hospice Care Corporation.

See local artisans demonstrate their skills, including members of the Appalachian Blacksmith Association demonstrating in the Arthurdale Forge. If interested in selling your handmade goods at the New Deal Festival, please complete a Craft Market registration and mail to AH as soon as possible.

Festival ends at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday

Thursday, July 10, 2008

eShop for Wordpress

I am just SO happy at the moment.  I have been looking for a simple plugin for Wordpress that will let me set up Darlene's Things Gone By antique site in a way that regular posts will be shopping cart items.  I wanted to find this for a few reasons:
  1. I needed to make sure that whatever we use it be easy.  If I am annoyed by extra steps she would be too.  I didn't want anything that would require she have a separate section, application or database for her items. 
  2. Wordpress by default puts posts in categories - not pages.  Posts are put into the rss feed and can be subscribed to - so customers will know right away when something new is posted.
  3. I really like how offers it's One Day One Deal item as a blog post.  They write about the item in an extended - often silly - sales pitch.  They also allow users to comment.  This aspect is appealing becasue it builds a community of interested users and gives people another reason to come visit - even if they don't buy anything.  I felt we could do something like that for Darlene's site. 
When I first started looking around, I only found people gushing about how great WP-ecommerce is - and it is, but not for this site.  Not if I want to tie the discussion in with the sales.

Then I found YAK - which seemed promising, but I couldn't get it to work. 

Enter eShop - this plugin does exactly what I want it to except that it is configured for Pages not Posts.  I was devestated until I visited the plugin's website forum and saw that someone else had posted asking why only Pages.  In that discussion, another user posted a tweak that would allow posts to be used.  I copied the code, plugged it in and viola!  It works!

I'll post a link to the new site when we are ready for a soft launch.  I am really excited about this because I've been working on Darlene's site for over 10 years now and it'll be a lot of fun to see if this new format works well.  I think it'll be great.

Coal is Not the Future of West Virginia

Jeff Biggers blogs on the Huffington Post today with some tidbits about the grassroots effort to end mountaintop removal by investing in renewable energy. West Virginia is always portrayed as a state where we are all 100% behind coal and it is our lifeblood, our future. Well, folks, it is NOT our future, it is our obituary. The coal industry does not want West Virginia to prosper - it never has. The coal industry wants West Virginians to mindlessly accept what they do and cater to their whims lest they leave and take our jobs with them. It's a pathetic, abusive relationship in which they constantly have the upper hand. They have the luxury of time, money, and mobility. They've deftly played West Virginians against environmental groups and unions in the name of jobs. But we DON'T have to take it. We CAN have it both ways. It is our state after all. Biggers' post points to an effort doing just that and of which we West Virginians should take note and support.
If Senator Barack Obama ever needs a living symbol of change we can believe in, and a hopeful way to transcend the dirty politics of our failed energy policies, he should go and see the future of renewable energy in the Coal River Valley in West Virginia. Yes, renewable energy in Appalachia. Something historic is taking place in West Virginia this summer. Faced with an impending proposal to stripmine over 6,600 acres -- nearly 10 square miles -- in the Coal River Valley, including one of the last great mountains in that range, an extraordinary movement of local residents and coal mining families have come up with a counter proposal for an even more effective wind farm.
Update: Please visit the Coal River Wind Project online for more info.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

West Virginia Should Pay Off Student Loans for Grads

This post began as a comment to a post on Create West Virginia.  it got to be so involved I decided to repost it here.

I have been saying for the past 8 years that West Virginia has GOT to give a reason, a fiscal one, to graduates AND those who have long graduated but have yet to pay off their loans to stay.

Student loans are a necessary evil, but to graduate with the equivalent of a 30 year mortgage over your head before you even have your first job is a crushing, inescapable debt burden. The conundrum I personally have is that with my state employee salary I cannot afford to pay off these loans. Housing, car, childcare, food, other bills all take precedence. If I went out of state for a job, I might be able to get one that pays enough, but then we'd not be near our aging parents, brothers, sisters, friends, etc. Worst of all we'd be just another family that has had to move away from the place we love just because of money.

I think this is an untapped resource that would be a huge boost to the economy. For every dollar they put in to pay off a graduate's debt that graduate will spend a dollar HERE in West Virginia. That graduate will stay here at least as long as it takes to pay off his/her loans (and even if you only pay off 1-2,000 a year for them, that is a long time). That student will be able to better afford starting a family. Their children will attend our schools. They'll pay taxes here, buy goods here, and improve the quality to our workforce.

I actually wrote the Underwood, Wise, and Manchin administrations, the Charleston Gazette, our Congressmen and the ARC about this. Sens. Byrd and Rockefeller at least responded. To Jay's credit, he supported some changes in the college loan laws that might make it possible for public servants to have loans forgiven after 10 years (if they are in repayment) - but I haven't seen anything about this becoming officially an option.

I know small government folks will complain that such a program is a waste or that we shouldn't be forgiving loans for people that knew they were loans etc. I categorically reject those arguments for two reasons:

1) We have a fundamental need to educate our populace. We cannot reserve higher education and training for the wealthy (which is what you need to be to afford to go to school without assistance) if we want to maintain a middle class society. Education is key to upward mobility and essential for a living wage. If we truly value an educated workforce, we have got to provide ways to pay for that education and ways to escape the debts accrued to obtain that education.

2) Graduates who take out loans to pay for school did so because there is no other choice. I had jobs all through school, but I only earned enough to live on, not nearly enough to pay for tuition, fees, and books. My parents did not have the resources to pay for my education.

A decision made to take out a loan to pay for college is not truly a "decision." It is often the only option and thus condemning 18-22 year-olds to a lifetime of debt.

I'd also like to point out that Americorps is a fantastic program, BUT it is completely useless to anyone who has a family to support or a full time job in a career they have already begun. Often these positions only pay minimum wage, are only good for a year and only offer a few thousand dollars against your loans. That hardly makes a dent in the $50K I owe, not to mention the $80k my husband owes.

Here is one last option, since this comment has gone into overtime: Why can't I repay my loans through volunteer work? I work full time and have 2 kids to support, but I'd gladly make time to volunteer if I could work off the loan. As it is I spend my free time working a second job AND any freelance work I can get.

If anyone is looking for someone to tell them what needs to go into such a program, contact me.  I'll be happy to lay it all out. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2008