Wednesday, January 04, 2006
While I was living in Washington DC several years ago I took a long weekend retreat to a spa in West Virginia to relax, read books, and exercise in a beautiful wooded setting - http://www.berkeleysprings.com/ - which is clearly an element of the West Virginia economy not featured in this week's news coverage of the Sago coal mine tragedy. Initial reports of surviving miners were completely wrong as we discovered this morning when it was finally reported that 12 out of the 13 trapped coal miners were found dead.
Of all the media reporting that I surveyed (print and TV) the most intriguing interview I heard was CNN's interview of author Homer Hickam - http://www.homerhickam.com/ - who wrote his autobiographical "Rocket Boys" book based on his life in Coalwood, West Virginia. This book was the foundation of the very excellent film, "October Sky", released in 1999 which focused Mr. Hickam's childhood passion of becoming a rocket scientist versus defaulting to family tradition to become another coal miner. Assuming the film was true to Mr. Hickam's book/life experience the sad reality is that the culture of Coalwood, West Virginia discouraged students like Homer, his classmates, and his teacher from dreaming the impossible, trying new things, and striving to leave the coal mines for other career opportunities. (for more on school choice options please see my friends at -- http://www.heartland.org)
Now I don't want to minimize the tragic loss of life in Sago, West Virginia today and my heartfelt best wishes go to the loved ones of the 12 dead miners but I have to speculate that Coalwood and Sago share some cultural traits. West Virginia needs more entrepreneurs, dreamers, and revolutionaries to -- 1.) market their spa economy/alternatives professions, and 2.) to educate the next generation of "rocket scientists" of all kinds -- to help diversify their economy. Unfortunately it appears very likely that West Virginia voters will be re-electing US Senator Robert Byrd to another 6 year term in 2006. Let me be VERY clear on my beliefs here -- Robert Byrd is part of the problem NOT the solution -- West Virginia should demand new political leadership for their state starting with the retirement of Senator Byrd.
Senator Byrd, who prides himself on being a patriot and penultimate defender of the US Constitution but as you can read for yourself via Wikipedia he never served in World War II even though he apparently was capable of service since he was an active welder at the time and he is no champion of the liberties guaranteed in the US Constitution given his (past) active membership in the Ku Klux Klan (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAbyrd.htm) has served in the US Congress (House and Senate chambers) since January 3, 1953 which was exactly 53 years ago yesterday!!! Please, Senator Byrd, retire already and live off your Social Security benefits -- I will gladly keep working to help keep Social Security solvent for you since I would save tax dollars by getting you out of the the US Congress. It is essential for readers to know that Senator Byrd is one of the biggest spenders in the Congress via his pork barrel legislation designed to transfer both wealth and federal government agency jobs from Washington DC to his poor state (see my friends at http://www.cagw.org for reference).
West Virginia broke away from Virginia to become a separate state in 1863 so today's residents should call on that same revolutionary spirit to separate themselves from mis-guided politicians and cultural barriers to diversification of their economy.
Fire in the hole,