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Right-to-Work Withstands Legal Challenge

The Free Press WV

Last week I wrote about the ongoing legal battle over West Virginia’s right-to-work law. The headline was, “Right-to-work arguments in WV go on… and on.”

I was wrong… because that was before the state Supreme Court issued its decision overturning the lower court’s preliminary injunction preventing the right-to-work law from taking effect.

The majority opinion by Justice Menis Ketchum and the concurrence by Chief Justice Allen Loughry left no avenue for a possible appeal and no room to suggest they might be convinced that the right-to-work law is unconstitutional.

First, Ketchum established this is a legislative matter not a judicial one. “Whether a law is fair or unfair is not a question for the judicial branch of government,” he wrote.  But then he went on to make clear his belief about the union argument.

“Twenty-seven other states have adopted right-to-work laws similar to West Virginia’s, and the unions have not shown a single one that has been struck down by an appellate court,” Ketchum wrote.

Chief Justice Loughry was even more direct.  “In absence of any legal authority supporting its constitutional challenge and in the face of United States Supreme Court holdings undermining their (the unions’) position, the respondents’ (the unions’) action fails on all fronts.”

Justice Robin Davis dissented and will issue a separate opinion and Justice Margaret Workman concurs in part and dissents in part and also reserves the right to issue her opinion.  However, the lean of the majority of the court—Loughry, Ketchum and Beth Walker—is clear.

The case is now remanded back to Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey for a final hearing.  It would be wise for her to heed the not-so-subtle criticism from the court.

Justice Ketchum wrote in a footnote, “Because of the far-reaching effect of Senate Bill 1 (the right-to-work bill) and its potentially substantial impact upon the public interests, in the future, we encourage the circuit court to act with greater celerity in bringing this case to a resolution.”

Chief Justice Loughry was again a little more direct. He called Judge Bailey’s issuance of the injunction “inexplicable” and added, “I further encourage the circuit court to assiduously avoid further delay and grant this matter its foremost attention.”

The unions may continue their legal challenge, and Judge Bailey may even make an ill-advised ruling contrary to the strong message from the high court, but from a legal perspective this issue is settled.  Right-to-work opponents should put their efforts into changing the make-up of the Legislature or the Supreme Court if they hope to prevail on this issue.

International News

The Free Press WV

►  Trump’s talks of UN ‘potential’ at luncheon

The Latest on Donald Trump at the United Nations (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

Donald Trump is hailing the “unlimited potential” of the United Nations at a luncheon.

Trump says at the Tuesday gathering hosted by the U.N. secretary general that he has been a critic, but has “also been someone that said the United Nations has tremendous potential.”

Trump is sitting at the head table with leaders from Lithuania, Turkey, Guinea, Liberia, Jordan, South Korea, Ecuador, Switzerland and Japan.

Trump, who gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, toasted to the “great, great potential of the United Nations.”

Trump frequently belittled the U.N. as a candidate. And some aides within his White House believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes on the sovereignty of individual countries.


11:35 a.m.

Israel’s prime minister is praising Donald Trump’s address to the U.N. that condemned Iran.

Benjamin Netanyahu said, “In over 30 years in my experience with the U.N., I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech.” He said Trump “spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity.”

Trump said in his speech that Iran’s main export is violence. He accused Iran of supporting terrorists and threatening Israel. He criticized the 2015 nuclear deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Israel and Iran are bitter enemies. Israel views Iran as an existential threat because of calls by Iranian leaders for the destruction of the Jewish state along with Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs.


11 a.m.

Donald Trump has concluded his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, a speech of more than 40 minutes marked by tough talk for North Korea and Iran.

The president referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “rocket man.” And he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States is forced to defend itself or allies against the North’s aggression.

Trump also said the Iranian government is an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence.

Trump said the world can’t allow the “murderous regime” to continue its destabilizing activities. And he knocked the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, saying world leaders “cannot abide” by the agreement if it “provides cover” for Iran to build its nuclear program.


10:56 a.m.

Donald Trump says the socialist government in Venezuela has brought a once-thriving nation to the “brink of collapse.”

Trump accused its President Nicolas Maduro (nee-koh-LAHS’ mah-DOO’-roh) of stealing power from elected representatives to preserve his “disastrous rule.”

He said: “The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing.” He called that situation “completely unacceptable.”

Trump said his administration has imposed tough sanctions on the government and vowed further action.

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump also took aim at the “corruption and destabilizing regime” in Cuba.

He said his administration won’t lift U.S. sanctions on the communist government until it makes fundamental reforms.


10:54 a.m.

Iranian state TV broadcast Donald Trump’s first speech at the U.N. General Assembly live with a Persian translation voice-over.

During Tuesday’s speech, Trump called Iran an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence.

He accused Iran of supporting terrorists and threatening Israel. He also criticized a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that capped Tehran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Iranian TV has broadcast the speeches of previous U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama.


10:53 a.m.

Donald Trump says in a major speech before the United Nations General Assembly that he believes that trade must be fair and must be reciprocal.

Trump has long argued that free trade deals have damaged the U.S. economy and hurt U.S. workers.

He says the country’s middle class, which was once the bedrock of American prosperity, was forgotten and left behind. But he says that, under his presidency, “they are forgotten no more.”

Trump also says he will continue to purse cooperation with other nations, but says his ultimate responsibility rests in taking care of his citizens.


10:50 a.m.

Donald Trump says the United States will have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. is forced to defend itself or its allies against the North’s aggression.

In his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, Trump says the North Korean government is a “depraved regime.”

Trump is calling on other nations to work together to isolate North Korea until its ceases what he says is its hostile behavior.

But if forced to defend itself or its allies against North Korea’s continued threats, Trump says “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”


10:45 a.m.

Donald Trump says “it is a massive source of embarrassment for the United Nations” that some countries with human rights violations sit on the international body’s human rights panel.

Trump made the remark in his debut address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, part of a broader call for the UN to make reforms.

He said, “It is a massive source of embarrassment for the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.” The panel’s 47 members include, for example, China and Saudi Arabia.

The council’s web page says the UN General Assembly “takes into account the candidate states’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.”


10:44 a.m.

Donald Trump is calling Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government a “criminal regime.”

Trump is making his debut speech to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday.

The president says “no society can be safe if banned chemical weapons are allowed to spread.” He is calling for a peaceful solution that honors the will of the Syrian people.

In April, Trump ordered the firing of dozens of Tomahawk missiles at an air base in central Syria, marking the first time the U.S. has directly struck Assad’s forces during the country’s six-year civil war.


10:43 a.m.

Donald Trump is criticizing “uncontrolled migration” as “deeply unfair” to both sending and receiving countries.

Trump says at the United Nations General Assembly that countries that send migrants are less likely to implement reforms.

For receiving countries, the president says the costs are overwhelmingly borne by “low-income citizens” whose concerns are often neglected by the government and the media.

Trump is pointing to the work that the United States has done to address famine and AIDS relief.


10:41 a.m.

Donald Trump says “strong sovereign nations” are necessary for diverse countries to “work side by side.”

Trump is making his debut address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday.

Trump says America does not expect different countries to share the same traditions or government systems. But he says countries must respect their people and the “rights of every other sovereign nation.”

Trump frequently belittled the U.N. as a candidate and some within his White House believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes on the sovereignty of individual countries.


10:30 a.m.

Donald Trump says at the United Nations that the Iranian government is an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence.

Trump is telling world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly that the world cannot allow the “murderous regime” to continue its destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles.

The president is questioning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He says world leaders “cannot abide” by the agreement if it “provides cover” for Iran to eventually build its nuclear program.

The administration last week extended sanctions relief to Iran, avoiding imminent action that could implode the landmark agreement.


10:29 a.m.

Donald Trump is talking tough on terror as he delivers his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump tells world leaders in a major speech that “it is time to expose and hold responsible” nations that provide funding and safe harbor to terror groups.

He says all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and “the Islamic extremist that inspires them.”

He says: “We will stop radical Islamic terrorism, because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation and, indeed, to tear up the entire world.”


10:28 a.m.

Donald Trump says the United States seeks harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife on the world stage.

Trump says: “The United States will forever be a great friend to the world.” But he’s warning that his country must not be taken advantage of.

He’s also touting the benefits of his “principled realism” philosophy and says actions must be guided by outcomes and not ideology.

Trump is addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time as president.


10:27 a.m.

Donald Trump says the world must reject threats to sovereignty. And he is lumping in Ukraine as an example, in a rarely implied criticism of Russia.

Russia in 2014 annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region. It also has backed separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Trump also cites the South China Sea as a threat to sovereignty.

There, China has aggressively asserted control over disputed waters and islands.


10:26 a.m.

Donald Trump says “strong sovereign nations” are necessary for diverse countries to “work side by side.”

Trump is making his debut address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday.

Trump says America does not expect different countries to share the same traditions or government systems. But he says countries must respect their people and the “rights of every other sovereign nation.”

Trump frequently belittled the U.N. during the election, and some aides within his White House believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes on the sovereignty of individual countries.


10:25 a.m.

Donald Trump is telling the United Nations General Assembly that he will “always put America first” and the U.S. can no longer be taken advantage of in its dealings around the globe.

Trump says he will “defend America’s interests above all else.” He says the U.S. will “forever be a great friend to the world,” including its allies, but the U.S. can no longer be taken advantage of and get nothing in return.

The president was making his first address to the U.N. General Assembly and giving world leaders his view of the “America first” mantra that he used as a candidate in the 2016 election.


10:15 a.m.

Donald Trump is opening his maiden address in front of the United Nationals General Assembly by praising his accomplishments in office so far.

He’s also sending thanks to the leaders of countries that have offered assistance to the U.S. as it recovers from a pair of damaging hurricanes.

Trump is praising the American people as “strong and resilient” and says the U.S. has done “very well” since his election.

He’s pointing to the stock market and the employment rate and says the U.S. military will soon be the strongest it has ever been.


3:40 a.m.

Elected on the slogan “America First,” Donald Trump is making his debut address to the U.N. General Assembly.

He’s expected to argue Tuesday that nations should act in their own self-interest, yet rally together when faced with a common threat such as North Korea. He plans to address other crisis points, too, such as Iran’s nuclear agenda, the instability in Venezuela and the fight against terrorism in Syria and elsewhere.

Trump frequently belittled the U.N. as a candidate and his White House has been infused with forces that believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes the sovereignty of nations.

But Trump is expected to argue that U.N. member states should unite to face global dangers.

►  U.S., allies won’t rebuild Syria without political process

The Islamic State is rapidly losing control of territory in Syria, but donor countries will not reconstruct the war’s damage until a “credible” political process emerges from negotiations, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

David Satterfield, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for Near East affairs, told reporters that was the consensus of diplomats from 17 countries and organizations from Europe and the Middle East who met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss Syria on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Satterfield said the war against the militants in Syria and Iraq is progressing faster than anticipated.

“The defeat of ISIS is underway,“ he said, using another acronymn for the Islamic State.

“We are all committed to humanitarian aid,“ he added. “And that will continue to flow, of course. But the reconstruction of Syria depends very much on that credible political process.“

Their biggest lever, Satterfield said, is that without a political process, “you’re not going to get the kind of investment by the international community that’s really necessary for the reconstruction of Syria.“

The coalition that met in New York does not include Russia, which has troops in the country and backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Earlier Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said Syrian and Russian forces had crossed the Euphrates River near the Islamic State stronghold of Deir el-Zour and forced out militants. It said the troops were heading eastward and “broadening the seized foothold.“

Their advance could threaten a confrontation with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, whose fighters have waged a separate offensive against the Islamic State. Two days earlier, the SDF said Russian airstrikes hit its fighters, which Russia denied.

Satterfield noted the United States and Russia have lines of communications known as “deconfliction,“ trying to avoid face-offs.

“We’re engaged in working with Russia, deconfliction with Russia, as we each move on defeating ISIS,“ he said. “It’s not a rivalry. It’s not a contest.“

►  Pentagon chief says he was asked about reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis acknowledged Monday that his South Korean counterpart defense minister inquired recently about reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

Mattis, speaking to a gathering of reporters at the Pentagon, confirmed that he and Defense Minister Song Young-moo discussed the weapons during an August 30 visit in Washington. The Pentagon chief did not say whether he’d support such an idea, however. Song has advocated for the move, calling it an “alternative worth a full review.“

Asked about the exchange, Mattis said “we discussed the option,“ but he declined to elaborate.

“We have open dialogue with our allies on any issue they want to bring up,“ Mattis said.

The United States maintained nuclear weapons in South Korea during much of the Cold War, but President George H.W. Bush ordered their removal after the Soviet Union’s fall in 1991. At the time, Bush saw it as a way of bolstering demands that North Korea not pursue its own nuclear weapons.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said several times that he is against having nuclear weapons returned but he faces opposition on that point from many conservative leaders in his country. Tactical nuclear weapons, sometimes called nonstrategic nukes, are designed to strike military targets like bunkers and tunnels, but are still considered immensely powerful in their own right and a potential gateway to larger nuclear attacks.

Some senior U.S. military officials, such as Air Force General Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have advocated generally for more “small-yield” nuclear weapons, arguing that the United States need to have the ability to respond to an attack using a smaller nuclear bomb with something of a similar size.

But Air Force General John Hyten, who oversees U.S. nuclear weapons as the chief of U.S. Strategic Command, took exception Thursday to even calling smaller nuclear weapons tactical. Speaking with reporters at his headquarters in Nebraska, he called the phrase a misnomer and “actually a very dangerous term” because there are significant consequences to using nuclear weapons in any format.

“To call it a tactical weapon brings into the possibility that there could be a nuclear weapon employed on a battlefield for a tactical effect,“ Hyten said. “It’s a not a tactical effect, and if somebody employs what is a nonstrategic or tactical nuclear weapon, the United States will respond strategically, not tactically, because they have now crossed a line, a line that has not been crossed since 1945.“

Mattis said last week that he would not discuss whether he is looking at reintroducing nuclear weapons in South Korea.

“It’s simply a longstanding policy so the enemy . . . our adversaries never know where they’re at,“ he said. “It’s part of the deterrent that they cannot target them all. There’s always a great big question mark.“

►  UN chief: Nuclear threat at highest level since Cold War

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the world’s leaders Tuesday that the threat of a nuclear attack is at its highest level since the end of the Cold War and “fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.”

In his first state-of-the-world report since taking the reins of the United Nations on January 1, Guterres put “nuclear peril” as the leading threat warning that “we must not sleepwalk our way into war.”

The U.N. chief told presidents, prime ministers and monarchs at the opening of the General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting that millions of people are living in fear “under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests” of North Korea.

His message on “fiery” rhetoric was implicitly directed at North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, but also at the United States and Donald Trump, who has warned of “fire and fury” if North Korea does not back down.

Guterres said a solution to the North Korea must be political and stressed to leaders: “This is a time for statesmanship.”

Beyond the nuclear threat, Guterres painted a grim picture of a troubled world facing grave challenges with many people “hurting and angry” because they “see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.”

“Societies are fragmented,” he said. “Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.”

“We are a world in pieces,” Guterres said. “We need to be a world at peace.”

But Guterres said there are seven threats and tests that stand in the way: nuclear peril, terrorism, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law, climate change, rising inequality, unintended consequences of innovation, and people on the move.

These issues are expected to dominate the six-day meeting. But on day one, the spotlight was on Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron — both of whom were also making their debuts at the General Assembly.

Many world leaders, concerned about U.S. priorities and role in the world, will get their first chance to hear and meet Trump. He spoke after Guterres and Brazil’s president, who for more than 35 years has been the first leader to address the 193-member General Assembly.

Brazilian President Michel Temer, charged last week with obstruction of justice and leading a criminal organization, continued the tradition.

He said the U.N. has represented “hope and prospects for a more just world” for the last 70 years and at “this time in history, marked by so much uncertainty and instability, we need more diplomacy not less — and “we need the U.N. more than before.”

But Temer said it is imperative to reform the U.N., particularly to expand the powerful Security Council to align it with the reality of the 21st century. Brazil is part of a group with Germany, India and Japan seeking permanent seats on the council.

Trump told leaders that the United States seeks harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife on the world stage, but he warned that nobody should take advantage of America.

He threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies against aggression. He called Iran an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence.

And Trump said all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and “the Islamic extremists that inspire them. And “it is time to expose and hold responsible” nations that provide funding and safe harbor to terror groups, he said.

Not far behind North Korea on the list of issues needing urgent international attention is the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, victims of what Guterres calls a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” that has driven nearly 400,000 to flee into Bangladesh in the past three weeks.

Facing accusations of ethnic cleansing from Guterres and the U.N. human rights chief, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier Tuesday defended the government and said her country does not fear international scrutiny. She invited diplomats to see some areas for themselves.

Guterres told leaders in his General Assembly speech that “I take note” of Suu Kyi’s speech.

“We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State,” he said. “The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.”

The secretary-general has repeatedly focused on the major challenge posed by climate change.

The world leaders gathered as Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, smashed the small Caribbean nation of Dominica with 160 mph winds. It ripped the roof off even the prime minister’s residence and caused what he called “mind-boggling” devastation. The storm was on a track to strike Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

On Monday, Guterres and top government officials from several countries devastated by the other Category 5 storm, Hurricane Irma, addressed a hastily called U.N. meeting and appealed for help to rebuild following that storm’s destruction.

Guterres called this year’s hurricane season “the most violent on record” and warned that extreme weather linked to climate change is having an impact all over the world, “including floods in southern Asia and landslides and droughts in Africa.”

How We Are Failing the Founders

The Free Press WV

Opinion polls consistently show that we hold the institutions occupied by our elected officials in low regard.  The latest Gallup Poll shows Congress with just a 16 percent approval rating.  President Trump’s approval rating hovers at around 40 percent.

Gallup finds the U.S. Supreme Court fares better with 40 percent of Americans saying they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the institution, but 56 percent says they have only some or very little confidence.

We grouse and ask what our government leaders are doing wrong, and that’s fair. We need to hold our public officials accountable.  We are less willing to hold the mirror up to ourselves, but that would be a worthwhile exercise.

A new survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds that for all the complaining we do, many of us don’t know much at all about the targets of our discontent.  For example:

–More than a third of those surveyed (37 percent) can’t name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.  About half do know that freedom of speech is included, but only 15 percent could identify freedom of religion and just 14 percent could identify freedom of the press (10 percent could name right of assembly and 3 percent knew right to petition.)

–Only 26 percent of those surveyed can name all three branches of government. One third could not name any of the three branches.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said the findings do not bode well for us.  “Protecting our rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome.”

So often we hear the clatter of, “I know my rights,” but as it turns out, most Americans really don’t.

Chris Stirewalt, Fox News Political Editor, writes that after reviewing the poll, “you cease to wonder why things are so bad and begin to wonder why they are not already worse.”

We witness the animosity toward the so-called “elites,” but as Stirewalt concludes, “it’s easy to be an intellectual elite in a nation where not even half of the people know what kind of government they have… This should be cause for deepening alarm.”

If Senator Byrd were alive today, he might be shedding a tear for us.  After all, it was Byrd who so revered the Constitution that he always carried a dog-eared copy in his breast pocket and successfully convinced Congress to make September 17th Constitution Day.

(The day is being marked today this year because the 17th fell on a Sunday and one of the purposes of Constitution Day is to study the document in public schools.)

Byrd, writing in his autobiography said, “Only with a citizenry that understands its responsibilities in a republic such as ours can we ever expect to elect office-holders with the intelligence to represent the people well, the honesty to deal with people truthfully, and the determination to effectively promote the people’s interests and preserve their liberties, no matter what the personal political consequences.”

This is our charge, not only on Constitution Day, but every day.

Who Is Ignoring The Science On Climate Change Now?

The Free Press WV

There’s hardly time for the winds to die down and the flood waters to recede before the “climate change” mantra is repeated.  CNN and MSNBC seemed particularly whetted to linking climate change to the storms.  Anchors wondered when the hurricanes would prompt President Trump to take the threat more seriously.

The Charleston Gazette editorial page rarely misses an opportunity to link bad weather to global warming.  “These evils (hurricanes and drought-fueled wildfires) fit precisely scientific warnings of what to expect from global warming.”

Well, not exactly. Climate alarmists are always saying they are relying on science, so what does the science say about these hurricanes?

A report released August 30 by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it’s too soon to make the connection between rising global temperatures and the storms.

“It is premature to conclude that human activities—and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming—have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global cyclone activity,” according to the researchers.

The report does say there is a possible linkage between Atlantic hurricane activity and Atlantic sea surface temperatures, but it’s inconclusive. They do warn that if the connection does exist there could be a significant increase in big storms. But NOAA adds that there is little statistical evidence to suggest that will actually happen.

NOAA researchers say that if greenhouse warming does cause an increase in Atlantic hurricane activity then we should have had an increase in the number and intensity of storms starting in the late 1800’s, but that hasn’t happened.

“We find that… there is a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. But statistical tests reveal that this trend is so small, relative to variable in the series, that it is not significantly distinguishable from zero,” according to the study.

The ongoing study of the impact of human activity on the climate is critical.  It’s illogical to think that the activities of 7.5 billion people are not having an effect on the planet. However, it’s also important to de-politicize the debate and consider the science.

NOAA’s researchers asked this specific question: “Have humans already caused a detectable increase in Atlantic hurricane activity or global tropical cyclone activity?”  The answer, for now at least, is that it is premature to conclude that.

That conclusion is not a denial of climate change; it’s just the opposite. It’s an acknowledgment of what the science does actually say about human activity and hurricanes.

Right-to-Work Arguments in WV Go On… and On

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia legislature passed a bill during the 2016 regular session making West Virginia a right-to-work state. Governor Tomblin vetoed the bill, but the House and Senate overrode the veto and the law went into effect July 01, 2016.

However, nearly 15 months later West Virginia is still not a right-to-work-state.

The state AFL-CIO challenged the law in court and in August 2016, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the law from being enforced.  State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey challenged the court order and finally last week the state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case.

The high court should rule soon, but that won’t be the end of it.  The issue before the court is whether the circuit judge’s temporary order blocking the law should stand.  Regardless of how the Justices rule, it’s likely that a court fight over the merits of the right-to-work law is ahead.

Labor argues the law is unconstitutional because it is tantamount to an illegal taking since a union may have to represent a worker even if that worker does not join their organization or pay dues.  “Our contention remains as strong as it was the day we filed this lawsuit in 2016 that this law is an unconstitutional taking of property rights from local unions and their members,” said AFL-CIO President Josh Sword.

Sword is right that the union will have to represent all employees at a workplace whether or not they join and pay dues, but only if the union acts as the exclusive bargaining agent.  If the union chooses to have that exclusive representation–which carries with it a considerable amount of power and benefits–then under federal law it must represent all employees.

If the union does not wish to be the exclusive bargaining agent, then it can operate with a “members only” arrangement where it represents only dues-paying workers who willingly join the union.

These and related issues have already been adjudicated a number of times in many of the 28 states that have adopted right-to-work laws. West Virginia’s law is not substantially different from these other cases to warrant it being tossed out, unless a judge or a court here makes that call for political reasons.

For years, West Virginia was not a right-to-work state because Democrats controlled the legislature. That has changed and the Republicans wasted no time passing the bill and even overriding a gubernatorial veto.

Whether or not West Virginia is a right-to-work state is a public policy decision to be debated and voted upon by the people’s representatives.  That process was followed and the courts should recognize that while the unions are upset, their arguments do not justify overturning the legislature’s will.

September 11, 2001

The Free Press WV

Sixteen years ago this morning our country was changed forever. Nineteen Islamic extremists hijacked four airliners to carry out horrific and nihilistic attacks against the United States.

Those attacks killed more than 3,000 innocent people while damaging the Pentagon—the epicenter of the country’s military—and destroying the twin towers—the very emblems of commerce in the heart of one of the world’s great cities.

The New York Times editorial following the attack began this way: “Remember the ordinary, if you can. Remember how normal New York City seemed at sunrise yesterday, as beautiful a morning as ever dawns in early September.”

And for a long time we could not contemplate the normal.  The attacks were so sudden, so dreadful that we were shaken to our core. Would we ever be able to return to the innocence of our safe routines again?

Of course in time most of us have.  There has been physical and emotional healing, and that’s a testament to our strength and resolve.  We go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Only then do we learn to live with the loss.

It is remarkable that life for most of us has largely become ordinary again. The fact that it can be this way is a tribute to the human spirit and a brave and relentless effort by this country’s defenders to try to prevent another attack.

We know the date when our war on terror began, but there is no end in sight.  The threat is constant and the enemy is often vague. Traditional modes of security are not enough.  As we have witnessed here and around the world, an individual radicalized on the Internet can wreak havoc by driving a truck through a crowd or going on a shooting rampage in a nightclub.

Tragically that is part of the new normal, and these lone wolf attacks are incredibly difficult to prevent.

Think about this freshman class of college students.  They were only two years old when the twin towers crashed in fiery heaps. Post 9/11 generations must be reminded on the anniversary of what evil incarnate is capable of, just as our parents and grandparents ensured that we had December 07, 1941 etched in our minds.

Every year since 2006, MSNBC has replayed NBC’s coverage of the attacks in real time. I hope they do it again this year and every year. Some have criticized it as “tragedy porn” that titillates and that it dredges up the horror for family members once again.

But I think it’s critically important that young people can witness for themselves how those events unfolded while those of us who lived through them are graphically reminded of our generation’s Pearl Harbor.

As time has passed we can again go about our ordinary routine, but on this day we are obligated to remember why that once seemed unimaginable and the events that made it so.

I’m Jealous….

Awesome Teen Reading Selection for Today’s Young Readers
The Free Press WV

As a young teen, my daughter read these books that I dubbed as her “death” books.

Lurlene McDaniel wrote books about dying teens and family members. I thought they were a bit depressing to read constantly and attempted to steer my daughter occasionally toward other books, but true to my own beliefs, I never censored what she read. I figured if it was in the children’s/young adult section of a major bookstore or in the library, I wasn’t going to be one of those hovering parents who read a book and approved it before allowing my child’s fingers to turn the same pages.

I trusted my daughter’s choices in books, so consequently, after she grew out of the Babysitter Club books, those “death” books took a place of prominence on her bookshelves. Thankfully, and I will admit I heaved a sigh of relief, she eventually moved on to a mix of other topics.

I think that was a time when that young adult genre was emerging from a cocoon it had been wrapped in for, well, forever. The advent of Harry Potter jump-started the move into a much broader range of fiction books for teens. There wasn’t much when I was that age – I remember moving straight from Nancy Drew and the likes of “Freckled and Fourteen” by Viola Rowe into adult books such as the 1960s “Coffee, Tea or Me?“ A rather racy book to be read by a 15-year-old. I’m not sure I even remember what the book is about but the experience of buying it is indelible. I did read way above my age group as a teen but truth be told, not much held my interest in the scant “young adult” category which, back then, didn’t even have a name.

Note: Ironically, Donald Bain is the ghost writer for “Coffee, Tea or Me?“ He’s also the writer for one of my favorite book series – Murder, She Wrote – created in line with the old television series and “written” by fictional character Jessica Fletcher, impossible, we know, and Donald Bain.

Today, there really is no need for young adults to read books not befitting their age group – there is such a wide selection with well-scripted plots and phenomenal writing that even adults read the genre. Thought is put into the characters, the plot and the message, whether it’s set in current times or in an embattled dystopian environment. One of the best series around is the “Divergent” series by the young Veronica Roth. It starts with the same named book and goes into “Insurgent,“ “Allegiant” and then “Four.“ Her new book, “Carve the Mark,“ is sitting on my shelf waiting patiently to be read. The Divergent series is thought-provoking: Teens learning to find themselves within a crooked, bureaucratic one-size-fits-all culture until they rebel.

And I will cop to liking the “Twilight” series, too. I read all the books as soon as they came out and watched all the movies as soon as they came out. One holiday year, I was the only adult with a passel full of teens heading off to the movies after Thanksgiving dinner.

I do agree with some oft-heard statements that much of the teen reading today is futuristic, dystopian or paranormal. Not every parent’s cup of tea, but in my mind it’s harmless. I do know parents who won’t allow those books to be read by their kids, magic and darkness and such, and that’s up to them.

But, I do think that mindset feeds into the way life was dictated for kids back in the ’60s and early ’70s. Fiction books written in my era were designed to shelter and protect, not let in the grit, controversy and dirt – or if so, maybe just a peek, such as “Summer of My German Soldier,“ by Bette Greene. Gasp, at the far-flung likes of “Go Ask Alice” and that gave just a hint of the turmoil behind drug addiction. Thought provoking, be damned.

I think shutting teens out of the darkness in life, even in fictional settings with paranormal/fantasy as a back drop, does a disservice to that age group – and sends them running to the likes of “Coffee, Tea or Me?“ a tad bit too early in life.

My picks for best teen reading today (these authors also have additional series’ worth checking out):

  • Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
  • Divergent series by Veronica Roth
  • The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
  • Selection series by Kiera Cass
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
  • Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins

My top books as a young teen (many not geared for teens):

  • “Summer of My German Soldier” by Bette Greene
  • “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
  • “Carrie” by Stephen King
  • “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom
  • “Love Story” by Erich Segal
  • “Rich Man, Poor Man” by Irwin Shaw
  • “The Winds of War” by Herman Wouk

~~  Susan Winlow ~~

G-ICYMI™: WV Same-Sex Couple

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Why WV same-sex couple filed lawsuit instead of complaint with state

Samantha Brookover and Amanda Abramovich wanted to prevent discrimination against other same-sex couples, so they filed a complaint with the West Virginia Human Rights Commission.

But in the end, they filed a lawsuit in federal court instead, arguing that their constitutional rights had been violated.

They felt like too much of a “burden” to the state Human Rights Commission, Brookover said.

West Virginia’s Human Rights Act protects people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. It says that all West Virginians — regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability — should have equal rights in areas of public accommodation.

Public accommodations, like the Gilmer County clerk’s office, where Brookover and Abramovich applied for a marriage license and deputy clerk Debbie Allen told them, in February 2016, that what they were doing was wrong, and that God would judge them.

West Virginia’s Human Rights Act does not explicitly mention sexual orientation. But Cameron McKinney, attorney for the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, said he could have proceeded with the case anyway. The West Virginia Human Rights Commission is a state agency created by the West Virginia Human Rights Act. It is “charged with the responsibility of working to eliminate discrimination in West Virginia,” according to its website.

McKinney said he could have made the argument the women were discriminated against based on sex.

The Free Press WV
Samantha Brookover (left) and Amanda Abramovich.

In other words, they were each doing something Allen didn’t think a woman should do — marry another woman.

After a person files a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, an investigator makes a recommendation as to whether there is probable cause. McKinney said they had received the complaint, and were investigating it, when the women asked to withdraw the case and said they planned to pursue a lawsuit instead.

“The only decision we made was that it was probably within our jurisdictional reach,” McKinney said.

Brookover and Abramovich filed a suit in April of 2017, represented by attorneys from Americans United for Separation of Church and State and cooperating counsel for Fairness West Virginia, an LGBT rights advocacy organization.

McKinney did not give names, but Brookover confirmed this week that she and Abramovich were the couple involved. A judge had dismissed the case Wednesday, after the parties agreed that Gilmer County would pay them $10,000, apologize, and Fairness West Virginia would hold a workplace sensitivity training.

“Americans United, this is a sole focus for them,” Brookover said. “Where the Human Rights Commission is, I feel, a little less in tune with the LGBT community.”

Brookover said they felt like “a burden” to the state Human Rights Commission.

“I felt like I was using up a lot of their resources and a lot of their time and effort,” she said. “Americans United took us further under their wing.”

“They were great and they were very concerned,” she said, referring to the Human Rights Commission. 

But, “we kept getting bounced around an awful lot,” she said.

Earlier this year, the West Virginia Supreme Court found that Steward Butler, who attacked a same-sex couple in Huntington after he saw the two men kissing, could not be charged with a hate crime.

West Virginia’s hate crimes code also does not mention sexual orientation, but it does protect people on the basis of sex discrimination.

Cabell prosecutors had, like McKinney, argued that discrimination against a same-sex couple could fall under sex discrimination. They argued that Butler attacked based on his own views of how men should behave. Some federal courts have found that discrimination against same-sex couples can fall under sex discrimination.

Not long after the state Supreme Court found that the criminal statute cannot be interpreted that way, McKinney noted that the West Virginia Human Rights Act — the civil statute — is to be “liberally construed to provide people as much benefit as possible.”

“I think that there is room for an opposite interpretation from what they reached in the criminal case,” he said. “I don’t know what Allen Loughry would say,” he said, referring to the chief justice who wrote the opinion in Butler’s case. 

The couple’s lawsuit, he noted, doesn’t cite West Virginia law.

“So far we just don’t have that case,” McKinney said.

McKinney said the only other person who had approached the commission about sexual orientation discrimination, whom he was aware of, was a woman from Huntington. He told her she had the option of filing with the commission, but state law “presented some risk to her.”

“The best approach is for the Legislature to amend the law,” he said. “Businesses and young, working people don’t want to go to backward places that are not open and receptive to all kinds.”

Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said McKinney and another HRC employee have contacted him before about cases, and that “we’re in touch with each other so we make sure no one falls through the cracks.”

He added though, “I think a lot of people from the LGBT community are probably discouraged from approaching them, fearing that the law doesn’t protect them.”

As for whether any LGBT people contact the West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office with discrimination complaints, earlier this year, Steven Travis, of the attorney general’s office, said, in response to a public records request, that the office “does not receive these complaints but rather acts as legal counsel for the West Virginia Human Rights Commission who receives, investigates, and refers claims for prosecution to our office.”

~~  Erin Beck - Gazette-Mail  ~~

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GOP Leaders Predict House Departures

The Free Press WV

Several West Virginia Republican Party leaders are addressing concerns about a possible higher-than-usual turnover rate in the House of Delegates in 2018.  Republicans hold a commanding 64-36 advantage in the House, and the GOP will likely still have the majority after the 2018 election, but there will be some shakeup.

Officials and candidate recruiters estimated that from 10 to 15 current Republican House members will not run for re-election next year.  The reasons vary.  Several are running for different offices, including Congress, County Commission and State Senate.  Others, I’m told, are just ready to move on from politics, especially after the last session.

Lawmakers worked through a controversial and aggravating special session that took the state right up to the July 1st deadline for the start of the new fiscal year. Some left Charleston tired and frustrated with the whole process.  And the budget outlook for the next couple of years also looks grim.

However, state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas believes GOP Delegates who were considering not running may change their minds.  “In June, a lot of folks who had been there for the extended session were frustrated, but now they’ve been back home and regained perspective,” Lucas said. “It’s not a concern for us at all.”

Lucas says he plans to personally contact every Republican House member soon to find out for certain their plans for the next election.  After that, the party can begin recruiting to fill any vacancies.

Greg Thomas, a Republican consultant who has played a critical role in candidate recruitment in recent elections, acknowledges the possible high turnover, but he is confident Republicans can keep their advantage. “Nearly all of the seats that are being vacated are in Republican strongholds or heavily leaning GOP districts,” he said.

Kris Warner, Republican National Committeeman for West Virginia, says voting data collected by the national party will be made available to state candidates. “Our conservative candidates (will) have access to the same information in West Virginia that was available to the Trump campaign last cycle and continues to be updated daily so our candidates do not waste money on inaccurate voter information,” he said.

Just a few elections ago, the only thing missing from the Republican ballot in many parts of the state was the image of tumbleweed rolling over the empty pages. That has changed dramatically with the GOP now in control of the House and Senate, not to mention Governor Jim Justice has recently switched to the Republican Party.

The challenge now is to retain the majority, protect incumbents and recruit replacements where necessary.  “We know the importance of having a full ballot,” Lucas said, “and we have every reason to believe we will have a full ballot next year.”

No doubt the GOP will, but depending on decisions made in the next couple of weeks, the party may have to mount a bigger recruiting effort than expected.

Merical, Lowe to Serve as Co-Field Commanders for GSC’s Marching Band

Two Glenville State College students will be serving as co-field commanders for the Pioneer ‘Wall of Sound’ Marching Band this semester. Evan Merical, a Millwood, West Virginia native, and Derrick Lowe, who hails from Chapmanville, West Virginia, will share the field commander duties. Together they are tasked with ensuring rehearsals run smoothly, helping the band director lead the band, and to keep up the morale of the band’s members.

“Being given the opportunity to be one of Glenville State College’s field commanders is a true honor,” said Merical. “There are many musicians in our department that are beyond capable of serving and to be selected out of a field with such strong talent is an honor and blessing.” Lowe echoed his sentiments saying, “I feel proud and honored to be a field commander of the marching band. It’s amazing to be in front of the band and have your head bombarded by all the beautiful music as they perform.”

The Free Press WV
Glenville State College students Evan Merical and Derrick Lowe will be serving as co-field commanders for the Pioneer Marching Band this year | Photo by GSC Professor Emeritus Jim Meads

Both students have a strong appreciation when it comes to the musical arts. “My inspiration for music comes from a little church in Logan County called Orville Holiness Gospel Church. Until after a surgery, I was deaf for the first five years of my life. However, I remember distinctly being drawn toward the music because it was the first thing I technically ‘heard’ – I felt it more than anything. The energy behind the drums and just watching fingers make simple chords and feeling that sound…that was when music became more than just something to listen to. Music became a best friend to me,” Lowe said.

“We all as individuals have something that allows us to temporarily get away from all the stress of college classes, jobs, and our day-to-day lives. For myself, and many others in the Fine Arts Department, that ‘something’ is music. It allows us to express ourselves in ways words cannot,” said Merical.

The pair will trade off field commander duties and collaborate during performances. “We plan to share the duties by working together to accomplish and surpass the goals expected of us. From my perspective, Derrick is great at many of the things I am weaker at, and that only makes us more capable of success,” Merical said. “Evan is a really great guy and he’s easy to work with. If I don’t know an answer to a question, he usually does. It’s a pretty nice balance between the both of us,” Lowe added.

Merical, whose primary instrument is the alto saxophone, has been playing for 11 years. In addition to studying music performance at GSC, he’s also a business student working on majors in accounting, management, and marketing. After graduation he plans to find employment while working toward either a Master’s in Business Administration or a Master’s in Accountancy from Auburn University. He is the son of Connie and Willard Merical.

In addition to playing piano and guitar, Lowe mainly plays trombone – something he’s been doing for around nine years. The music education major also enjoys singing. After graduation he plans to continue on to graduate school for composition and arranging. He is the son of Alice and Denver Lowe.

“Evan and Derrick are conducting both themselves and the band with great professionalism. They are truly a dynamic duo!” said Marching Band Director Dr. Lloyd Bone.

For the innumerable followers of GSC’s Marching Band, the duo say to expect a great field show this year with many of the selections in tribute to the famous musicians lost in 2016. “Fans can expect the most diverse show that they’ve seen since in a while,” Lowe said. “And we may need to change the name from ‘Wall of Sound’ soon…we’re definitely something bigger than a wall this year. And it is glorious.”

After expressing interest in serving as field commander, the applicants take part in an audition day where they try out in front of a guest adjudicator. Candidates are expected to conduct a prepared piece and also to answer questions in regard to band leadership.

Can We Discuss These Statues Before We Tear Them Down?

The Free Press WV

The current combustible debate over statues and memorials with connections to the Confederacy and slavery has its share of irony.

White nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month chanted, “You will not replace us,” and, “Jews will not replace us.” The torch-bearing men and women gathered at the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Virginia campus to make their point.

The anti-Semitic racists must not have known that the sculptor of the bronze statue was Moses Jacob Ezekiel—a Jew.  (Ezekiel was also the sculptor of the statue of Stonewall Jackson on the West Virginia Capitol grounds.)

This statue controversy is complicated.  Historians, art and culture preservationists, community members where statues are located all have views, often contrary, on what’s to be done with the statues of Jackson, Robert E. Lee, confederate soldiers and others connected directly or tangentially with slavery.

Dr. Jason Phillips, WVU Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies, says when emotions run high like they are now, reason and rational decisions become more difficult. “The problem is when these protests get ugly, and get big and get violent, then you are creating a situation in which city councilmen and mayors decide in the middle of the night the safest thing to do is to make the statue disappear.”

During a calmer time we would have a more levelheaded discussion that includes asking questions such as:

What was the motivation behind the construction of the statue and when was it put up?  There’s a difference between a Confederate memorial from shortly after the war and a statue of a Confederate leader erected during the 1950s as a rallying point for whites opposed to integration.

What is the artistic value of the statue?  For example, Ezekiel was one of the more accomplished artists of his day.  The National Museum of American Jewish History houses a number of his works.  Shouldn’t that weigh into any decision about the Stonewall Jackson statue?

What were the merits (and flaws) of the subject and can they be viewed with a historical context rather than judged by today’s mores?  Thomas Jefferson is an example of the complexity; he owned slaves, but also authored arguably the single most important document in the country’s history that articulated the values of a new nation that still hold true today.

Is there a suitable replacement?  If some monuments should come down, perhaps there are new ones that can be erected honoring more recent contributors to our nation.

Would the statue be better suited someplace else?  If a community objects to Robert E. Lee seated on Traveler in the town square, then maybe it could be moved to a cemetery were Confederate soldiers are buried.

Breaking down the debate into these and other questions would help us reach more thoughtful decisions about these statues and other symbols from our history.  Without a balanced approach, the fate of these sculptures will be decided by angry mobs with torches and spray paint or weak-kneed public officials during the dark of night.

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