June 20, 2017: Fly the flag for West Virginia Statehood, and remembering Muhammad Ali

June 20, 2017

Homemade West Virginia Statehood U.S. flag with 35 stars. Image from RareFlags.com

Homemade West Virginia Statehood U.S. flag with 35 stars. Image from RareFlags.com

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia joined the fractured union as the 35th state.

Yes, that was during the Civil War.  Yes, West Virginia had been the northwestern counties of Virginia.  No, I’m not sure of the history of how Congress decided Virginia had consented to be divided.

In any case, per the guidelines in the U.S. Flag Code, West Virginians should fly the U.S. flag today in honor of their statehood, 154 years ago.  West Virginia no doubt has lots of celebrations, reenactments, and general festive events planned.

West Virginia's State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011

West Virginia’s State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011 — built in 1931. From O Palsson’s Flickr collection: “As I was traveling through Charleston, the capital of West Virgina, during blue hour (my favorite time of day) a couple of days after Thanksgiving, I happened upon this beautiful sight of the State Capitol Building reflected in the Kanawha River flowing by in total stillness, so I just had to stop and capture the scene. I didn’t have a tripod handy, so this is not a long-exposure nightshot, just a regular hand-held shot accomplished by bumping up the ISO as much as I dared to get correct exposure at acceptable shutter speed (ended up being 1/40 sec) and doing my best to keep the camera steady.”

Sunday I had a visit with a fellow who was born in western Virginia, went to school at Virginia Tech, and knew the New River geography (which was how we got into the conversation). He said the New River emptied into a river whose name he could never pronounce. Took a few minutes to realize he meant the Kanawha River, shown in the photo above. Pronouncing the river, and the county correctly is an interesting exercise. We once thought about living along the Kanawha, and I appreciated the frustration of our Virginia friend.

It’s usually pronounced in two syllables, ka-NAH; when locals have more time for a slower-paced conversation, it may become ka-NAH-uh — but they’ll look at you funny if they hear a “w” in your pronunciation. (Your mileage may vary; tell about it in comments.)

Kathryn and I have a few fond memories of Charleston on the banks of the Kanawha River.  Then-West Virginia Attorney General Charlie Brown was one of the few with enough wisdom to offer me a job, when I graduated from the National Law Center at George Washington University as an older student.  Brown promised to clean up West Virginia politics, and he had a lively, very young crew of attorneys fighting coal companies, oil companies, loggers, shady real estate people, and corrupt city, county and state officials.  One fellow in the office complained that he’d “had to argue eight cases” at the State Supreme Court that year, in his first year out of law school.

But the corrupt officials knew what they were doing.  Brown could only offer $25,000 a year, and in Charleston it was unlikely we’d be able to find any work for Kathryn.  Tough to attract crime fighters at less-than crime-fighting rates. It would have been a more than 75% cut in income.  We made a trip there to mull it over, baby on the way (pre-digital photographs buried in the archives).  Brown got a special dispensation to offer me $5,000 more.

Great tour of the Capitol, great interviews with the office lawyers.  Kathryn and I sat for a long while in the deserted West Virginia Supreme Court (sort of tucked into an attic of the Capitol) discussing how in the world we could afford to move the Charleston and take on the work.  We drove around the city, looking at houses for sale and rent; we gazed at the Kanawha River and discussed the future for the city.

We went to dinner in a tiny restaurant touted as Charleston’s finest, which was a long way from good eateries in D.C.  We discussed with our host the cultural pickings in Charleston.  We could give up the symphony but get back to fishing and practice fly fishing . . .

A few tables over, the maitre ‘d brought in a few extra chairs, and then seated Muhammad Ali and his party.  Our waiter asked that we not make a scene.

I don’t remember for what charitable purpose Ali was in Charleston, but the event was over and his hosts took him out to the good restaurant in Charleston, too.

Ali was a slower, sedate and gentle version of the fiery fighter he’d been.  Parkinson’s disease already had him in its grip.  His voice, soft as it could be at times, was still strong enough to carry across a table.  There was a young boy with the group, under five years old.  Ali had lost steps, but not spirit.  He produced a couple of balls from a pocket and proceeded to dazzle the kid with sleight-of-hand magic tricks.  He picked one of the balls from behind the kid’s ear, and the kid giggled wonderfully.  Balls appeared here, disappeared there — I remember thinking how much easier those tricks could be with hands that big; but Ali also had difficulty dealing with a knife and fork.  Working magic tricks pulled years away from Ali, and he seemed much younger, much more deft than he really was.  The little boy laughed and giggled through the meal.  It was a happy affair.

Our dinners finished about the same time.  As we got up, Ali looked over at us and said, “You wonder why I spend so much time with children?  They are the future.”

I turned down the offer from West Virginia.  A job I’d hoped for at American Airlines fell through, but a position opened up at the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) at Bill Bennett’s Department of Education.  A year or so later I saw small item in the Washington Post that Charlie Brown had been indicted on some charge.  Coal companies still have a lot of clout in West Virginia.

This is an anniversary day for Ali, too:  June 20, 1967, Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston, Texas, of evading the draft.  That conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fly those flags in West Virginia.

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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Flying the flag for West Virginia Statehood, and remembering Muhammad Ali

June 20, 2016

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia joined the fractured union as the 35th state.

Yes, that was during the Civil War.  Yes, West Virginia had been the northwestern counties of Virginia.  No, I’m not sure of the history of how Congress decided Virginia had consented to be divided.

In any case, per the guidelines in the U.S. Flag Code, West Virginians should fly the U.S. flag today in honor of their statehood, 153 years ago.  West Virginia no doubt has lots of celebrations, reenactments, and general festive events planned.

West Virginia's State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011

West Virginia’s State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011 — built in 1931. From O Palsson’s Flickr collection: “As I was traveling through Charleston, the capital of West Virgina, during blue hour (my favorite time of day) a couple of days after Thanksgiving, I happened upon this beautiful sight of the State Capitol Building reflected in the Kanawha River flowing by in total stillness, so I just had to stop and capture the scene. I didn’t have a tripod handy, so this is not a long-exposure nightshot, just a regular hand-held shot accomplished by bumping up the ISO as much as I dared to get correct exposure at acceptable shutter speed (ended up being 1/40 sec) and doing my best to keep the camera steady.”

Kathryn and I have a few fond memories of Charleston.  Then-West Virginia Attorney General Charlie Brown was one of the few with enough wisdom to offer me a job, when I graduated from the National Law Center at George Washington University as an older student.  Brown promised to clean up West Virginia politics, and he had a lively, very young crew of attorneys fighting coal companies, oil companies, loggers, shady real estate people, and corrupt city, county and state officials.  One fellow in the office complained that he’d “had to argue eight cases” at the State Supreme Court that year, in his first year out of law school.

But the corrupt officials knew what they were doing.  Brown could only offer $25,000 a year, and in Charleston it was unlikely we’d be able to find any work for Kathryn.  Tough to attract crime fighters at less-than crime-fighting rates. It would have been a more than 75% cut in income.  We made a trip there to mull it over, baby on the way (pre-digital photographs buried in the archives).  Brown got a special dispensation to offer me $5,000 more.

Great tour of the Capitol, great interviews with the office lawyers.  Kathryn and I sat for a long while in the deserted West Virginia Supreme Court (sort of tucked into an attic of the Capitol) discussing how in the world we could afford to move the Charleston and take on the work.  We drove around the city, looking at houses for sale and rent; we gazed at the Kanawha River and discussed the future for the city.

We went to dinner in a tiny restaurant touted as Charleston’s finest, which was a long way from good eateries in D.C.  We discussed with our host the cultural pickings in Charleston.  We could give up the symphony but get back to fishing and practice fly fishing . . .

A few tables over, the maitre ‘d brought in a few extra chairs, and then seated Muhammad Ali and his party.  Our waiter asked that we not make a scene.

I don’t remember for what charitable purpose Ali was in Charleston, but the event was over and his hosts took him out to the good restaurant in Charleston, too.

Ali was a slower, sedate and gentle version of the fiery fighter he’d been.  Parkinson’s disease already had him in its grip.  His voice, soft as it could be at times, was still strong enough to carry across a table.  There was a young boy with the group, under five years old.  Ali had lost steps, but not spirit.  He produced a couple of balls from a pocket and proceeded to dazzle the kid with sleight-of-hand magic tricks.  He picked one of the balls from behind the kid’s ear, and the kid giggled wonderfully.  Balls appeared here, disappeared there — I remember thinking how much easier those tricks could be with hands that big; but Ali also had difficulty dealing with a knife and fork.  Working magic tricks pulled years away from Ali, and he seemed much younger, much more deft than he really was.  The little boy laughed and giggled through the meal.  It was a happy affair.

Our dinners finished about the same time.  As we got up, Ali looked over at us and said, “You wonder why I spend so much time with children?  They are the future.”

I turned down the offer from West Virginia.  A job I’d hoped for at American Airlines fell through, but a position opened up at the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) at Bill Bennett’s Department of Education.  A year or so later I saw small item in the Washington Post that Charlie Brown had been indicted on some charge.  Coal companies still have a lot of clout in West Virginia.

This is an anniversary day for Ali, too:  June 20, 1967, Muhammed Ali was convicted in Houston, Texas, of evading the draft.  That conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fly those flags in West Virginia.

More:

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Would we let terrorists poison our water, if they promised jobs?

February 4, 2014

Great, potent question.

What do you think?

And, where did that photo come from?

Protester in West Virginia:  "Would we let terrorists poison our water supply, if they said it created jobs?"  Photographer unidentified; so is protester.

Protester in West Virginia: “Would we let terrorists poison our water supply, if they said it created jobs?” Photographer unidentified; so is protester.

Keep your eye on West Virginia.

Here’s why:  Do you know what factories may lie upstream from your drinking water, and do you know how they are regulated?  Is the regulation done well?

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How’s that “defund the EPA” working for you now? West Virginia edition

January 10, 2014

Rite-Aid store in Charleston, West Virginia, out of bottled drinking water.

Rite-Aid store in Charleston, West Virginia, out of bottled drinking water. Eyewitness report and photo via Twitter

West Virginia’s water woes might look like a political campaign ad from God to some people.

If you’re watching closely, you may already understand some of the morals of this story.

Last night West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared an emergency in six counties, telling about 300,000 people to avoid touching their tapwater — no drinking, mixing infant formula, cooking, or bathing; flushing toilets was okay.  NBC reported:

A chemical spill into a West Virginia river has led to a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shut down bars and restaurants and led to a run on bottled water in some stores as people looked to stock up.

The federal government joined West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in declaring a disaster as the West Virginia National Guard arranged to dispense bottled drinking water to emergency services agencies in the counties hit by the chemical spill into the Elk River.

Federal authorities are also opening an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the leak and what triggered it, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Friday.

The advisory was expanded at night to nine counties and includes West Virginia American Water customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties.

Several thousand gallons of an industrial chemical had leaked out, into a tributary to the Kanawha River above Charleston, upstream from the city’s culinary water intake.  While the company responsible for the leak, Freedom Industries, assured the governor and other authorities that the spill is not threat to human health, officials took the more cautious path.

This case illustrates troubles we have with food and water supplies, protecting public health, and the rapid proliferation and spread of modern technology and chemical innovation.

  • Why did the company say the spill is no threat?  No research has pinned any particular health effect to the chemical involved. But you, you sneaky, suspicious person, you want to know just what chemical is involved, don’t you?
  • What’s the chemical involved? 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM) spilled out of a tank into the Elk River, which flows into the Kanawha River, from which Charleston gets its water.  Charleston, West Virginia’s capital, is also the state’s largest city.  You’re still suspicious?
  • What are the health effects of the stuff? Now you ask questions for which there are not great answers.  The chemical, with the methylcyclohexane linked to an alcohol molecule, is new enough, and rare enough in industry, that there are not a lot of studies on what it does.  It’s known to irritate skin and mucous membranes; breathing a lot of it can cause pneumonia.  Only rats have been exposed to the stuff enough to know what it does, and only a few rats for only short periods of time and not massive doses. In other words, we don’t know the health effects.
  • What’s the stuff used for? Freedom Industries uses it to wash coal.  Heck, I didn’t even know coal was washed other than a water spray to hold down dust in crushing, loading and unloading the stuff.  [if you missed the link in this post, let call your attention again to the story at WOWK-TV, which is quite thorough in discussing MCHM and its effects.  WOWK-TV is more thorough than the federal regulating agencies.]
  • But wait! If there are no known health effects, why the caution? It’s not that the stuff has been tested and found safe to humans.  MCHM simply hasn’t been tested to see what the health effects are.  The toxic profile for the compound at CDC’s ATDSR does not exist.  NIOSH doesn’t have much  more information on it. The most thorough analysis of what it might do is populated by small studies, or none at all.
  • What do you mean the stuff hasn’t been tested!!!???? Welcome to to Grover Norquist’s “smaller government,” to John Boehner’s and Mitch McConnell’s “reduced regulation,” to Rick Perry’s “states’ rights” world.  Way back in 1962 Rachel Carson warned about the proliferation of newly-devised chemicals being loosed into the environment, when we really had no historical knowledge of what the stuff would do to humans who ran into it, nor to other life forms, nor even inanimate things like rocks, wood and metal.  A decade later, the founders of the Environmental Protection Agency entertained the idea that a federal agency would be responsible for assuring that chemical substances would be tested for safety, both old substances and new.  For a couple of decades Congress supported that mission, until it became clear that there are simply too many new compounds and too great a backlog to test all, thoroughly.That world of making chemists and big companies responsible for their chemical children began to crumble in the Reagan administration, and is mostly abandoned now.  Chemical juveniles may run as delinquent as they would, with EPA and all other agencies essentially powerless to do anything — unless and until tragedy.  Even where EPA, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and all branches and twigs of the Department of Homeland Security, designate something as hazardous and deserving of care in handling, a state like Texas will ignore the rules on a substance until an accident blows half of West, Texas, to Hell, Michigan, with loss of life and enormous property destruction.  Afterward, victims get left bereft of aid to rebuild, and wondering who they might look to, to look out for them, to prevent such a horrible occurrence in the future.

So it goes, the nation blundering along from one tragedy, until the next.

Through most of American history, great tragedies produced great reforms.  No longer.  The Great Red State of West Virginia is dependent on federal largesse to get water to drink, at enormous expense and waste of time, talent and money.  Meanwhile, West Virginia’s Members of Congress conspire in Washington, D.C., to strip federal agencies from any power to even worry about what may be poisoning West Virginians.

Gov. Tomblin’s speedy action may seem out of place, not because there is great danger, but because he’s acting to protect public health without a mass of dead bodies in view to justify his actions.  We don’t see that much anymore (Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott didn’t cancel appointments to get to West, Texas to even offer sympathy, but instead scheduled weekend jaunts after it was clear the fire was out and there was no danger.  The good people of West did not greet them with a hail of rotten tomatoes, but thanked them for their concern.  Americans are nothing if not polite.)

I was struck with the news last night because I could find no report of just what was the chemical that leaked into the rivers.  This morning we finally learned it was MCHM.  In the depths of some of those stories, we also learn that the leak may have been going on for some time.  Though thousands of gallons of the stuff are missing, the concentrations in the river suggest not much is leaking now . . . the rest leaked earlier, and is already water under the bridge south of Charleston.

What do you think state and federal authorities should do in this case?  What do you think will actually happen?

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Update January 12, 2014:  JRehling got it right:


Why are flags flying in West Virginia today? Statehood

June 20, 2013

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia joined the fractured union as the 35th state.

Yes, that was during the Civil War.  Yes, West Virginia had been the northwestern counties of Virginia.  No, I’m not sure of the history of how Congress decided Virginia had consented to be divided.

In any case, per the guidelines in the U.S. Flag Code, West Virginians should fly the U.S. flag today in honor of their statehood, 150 years ago.  Lots of celebrations, reenactments, and general festive events are planned in West Virginia this weekend.

West Virginia's State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011

West Virginia’s State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011 — built in 1931. From O Palsson’s Flickr collection: “As I was traveling through Charleston, the capital of West Virgina, during blue hour (my favorite time of day) a couple of days after Thanksgiving, I happened upon this beautiful sight of the State Capitol Building reflected in the Kanawha River flowing by in total stillness, so I just had to stop and capture the scene. I didn’t have a tripod handy, so this is not a long-exposure nightshot, just a regular hand-held shot accomplished by bumping up the ISO as much as I dared to get correct exposure at acceptable shutter speed (ended up being 1/40 sec) and doing my best to keep the camera steady.”

Kathryn and I have a few fond memories of Charleston.  Then-West Virginia Attorney General Charlie Brown was one of the few with enough wisdom to offer me a job, when I graduated from the National Law Center at George Washington University as an older student.  Brown promised to clean up West Virginia politics, and he had a lively, very young crew of attorneys fighting coal companies, oil companies, loggers, shady real estate people, and corrupt city, county and state officials.  One fellow in the office complained that he’d “had to argue eight cases” at the State Supreme Court that year, in his first year out of law school.

But the corrupt officials knew what they were doing.  Brown could only offer $25,000 a year, and in Charleston it was unlikely we’d be able to find any work for Kathryn.  Tough to attract crime fighters at less-than crime-fighting rates. It would have been a more than 75% cut in income.  We made a trip there to mull it over, baby on the way (pre-digital photographs buried here in the archives).  Brown got a special dispensation to offer $5,000 more.

Great tour of the Capitol, great interviews with the office lawyers.  Kathryn and I sat for a long while in the deserted West Virginia Supreme Court (sort of tucked into an attic of the Capitol) discussing how in the world we could afford to move the Charleston and take on the work.  We drove around the city, looking at houses for sale and rent; we gazed at the Kanawha River and discussed the future for the city.

We went to dinner in a tiny restaurant touted as Charleston’s finest, which was a long way from good eateries in D.C.  We discussed with our host the cultural pickings in Charleston.  We could give up the symphony but get back to fishing and practice fly fishing . . .

A few tables over, the maitre ‘d brought in a few extra chairs, and then seated Muhammed Ali and his party.  Our waiter asked that we not make a scene.

I don’t remember for what charitable purpose Ali was in Charleston, but the event was over and his hosts took him out to the good restaurant in Charleston, too.

Ali was a slower, sedate and gentle version of the fiery fighter he’d been.  Parkinson’s disease already had him in its grip.  His voice, soft as it could be at times, was still strong enough to carry across a table.  There was a young boy with the group, under five years old.  Ali had lost steps, but not spirit.  He produced a couple of balls from a pocket and proceeded to dazzle the kid with sleight-of-hand magic tricks.  He picked one of the balls from behind the kid’s ear, and the kid giggled wonderfully.  Balls appeared here, disappeared there — I remember thinking how much easier those tricks could be with hands that big; but Ali also had difficulty dealing with a knife and fork.  Working magic tricks pulled years away from Ali, and he seemed much younger, much more deft than he really was.  The little boy laughed and giggled through the meal.  It was a happy affair.

Our dinners finished about the same time.  As we got up, Ali looked over at us and said, “You wonder why I spend so much time with children?  They are the future.”

I turned down the offer from West Virginia.  A job I’d hoped for at American Airlines fell through, but a position opened up at the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) at Bill Bennett’s Department of Education.  A year or so later I saw small item in the Washington Post that Charlie Brown had been indicted on some charge.  Coal companies still have a lot of clout in West Virginia.

This is an anniversary day for Ali, too:  June 20, 1967, Muhammed Ali was convicted in Houston, Texas, of evading the draft.  That conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fly those flags in West Virginia.

More:

U.S. and West Virginia flags flying together.  Photo by Stephen-KarenConn

U.S. and West Virginia flags flying together. Photo by Stephen-KarenConn


Can Texas split itself into five states? Is West Virginia legal?

September 15, 2008

Elektratig has found a legal scholar with a wild bent who has penned a couple of scholarly articles designed to give heart to conspiracy nuts, anarchists and radical libertarians.

One article [by Michael Stokes Paulsen], “Let’s Mess With Texas,” actually was published in the Texas Law Review in 2004, arguing the case that the odd treaty negotiations/statehood legislation that led to Texas becoming part of the U.S. in 1845 included a clause that would allow Texas to split itself into as many as five states.  The authors speculate as to chaos this would cause in U.S. politics.  The article is available in a free download from SSRN.

The other, “Is West Virginia Unconstitutional” was published in the California Law Review. It offers a good history of the creation of West Virginia from the northwestern territory of Virginia in 1863, when the pro-Union counties of the northwest part of the state declared a government in exile and consented to the Union’s partition of Virginia.

Both stories pose interesting questions for government classes, U.S. history classes (especially with regard to the Civil War), and possibly for Texas history classes, though the discussions may not seem germane to the 7th grade minds it would need to entertain.

Both articles breezily discuss history in a wry, humorous way.  A lot more history for high school students should be written this way.

I can’t find it at the moment, but it seems to me that most authorities determined Texas’s right to self-partition expired when the state tried to secede in 1861, and, in any case, did not survive the readmission process subsequent to the end of the war and reconstruction. Although Texas U.S. Rep. John Nance Garner (future vice president under FDR) threatened to exercise the clause in 1930 to fight a tariff he didn’t like, it’s unlikely Texans would consent to lose their bragging rights to being bigger than anybody else in the Lower 48.  The issue is generally considered dead to Texans, if not in law.

Plus, there isn’t enough hair in the Lone Star State for four more Rick Perrys.

If you think history can’t be fun, you haven’t read this stuff.  Go check it out.

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