Manchin butting into the PSC

January 21, 2010

Apparently Joe Manchin thinks negotiating telephone deals is more important than negotiating a budget or laws through the Legislature. He’s had the administration “doing very little else for the last 10 days. Working with the companies, trying to get comfortable with the terms of the deal” between Frontier and Verizon.

Unfortunately, the PSC has been busy trying to work through this deal. The PSC has had meetings and received “thousands of pages of documents from proponents and opponents” and as soon as the Governor steps in, he stops all that process. There are deadlines to file briefs with the Commission, but now that Joe has butted in, nobody can do anything.

“Any agreement Manchin orchestrates would have to go back to the commission for approval to proceed. That probably would not be a problem.” I’m not sure I’m happy with that. Does the PSC represent the interests of the Governor or of the public?

Apparently Manchin wants WV wired for broadband across the state by 2010. He’s not likely to make that goal, But my question is: does he think that responsibility falls to the phone carrier? Typically, broadband coverage is a combination of wire and cable access.

Broadband coverage maps are a joke anyway. They don’t account for blank spots within a region that a cable or wire carrier claims they have coverage. DSL has a distance limit from a switch where it just quits working, so people up hollows that have phone service may just be too far away from the switch. OTOH, there are people in very high-rent subdivisions that don’t have cable because there’s not enough homes to make it worth the money to run cable (and internet) out to those homes. They already have satellite TV and get by with dialup. Is it Verizon’s responsibility to provide the high speed internet when the cable company says they just don’t want to bother?

There’s also figures that show that actual signups for broadband access are lower than normal in WV. A lot of people have it available, but don’t see the need or don’t want to spend the money. So it’s not just a problem of access (every school and library in WV has broadband), it’s a problem of interest.

What difference does it make if Frontier has a “92% reach” on broadband in the area it serves? Maybe it only serves a few square miles. Verizon has only “60% reach.” How much does Frontier think it’s going to cost to make up that other 38% over the state of WV? How long does it think it’s going to take?

The PSC wants to advise that Verizon front $300M in quality of service improvements. Frontier said it plans on spending $12M this year. There’s a big difference between those two figures and the amount of work they represent.

All Manchin wants to do is close the deal. The question is whether the deal will be good for the public.

Cake decorating!

January 13, 2010

So this is the best use they can find for the state Culture Center? No art exhibits, no concerts scheduled, but Commissioner Reid-Smith can give us cake decorating classes, taught by an employee of Education and the Arts. I wonder if Robin Taylor had to get an Ethics Commission exemption to be paid for this.

Faux News Lies Again

November 11, 2009

How the hell can Sean Hannity and Fox News get away with deliberately lying in their newscast? Jon Stewart shows how they edited video from weeks ago into a story (or complete fabrication?) set a couple of days ago, in order to expand the “crowd” from a few hundred to tens of thousands.

Is Stewart the only news accuracy watchdog the American people have anymore?

How about a Big Fat Liar Tax?

October 30, 2009

Joe Manchin is claiming these days that he never said anything about charging obese state workers higher premiums. He even sent state employees an email saying he never said it:

A Message from Gov. Joe Manchin III to our Public Employees:

The rising cost of health care is one of the most pressing issues facing our state and nation. And, there have been several news articles in the last few days about the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) looking for ways to continue providing quality health care to our hard-working state and local employees without having to dramatically increase premiums.

Unfortunately, there’s been grossly inaccurate and hurtful information reported that suggests that PEIA and I have supported what some media have termed a “fat tax,” a health insurance penalty for employees whose individual body size or Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds a particular limit.

Let me be clear in saying that this is completely false. And let me also sincerely apologize to you if you were led to believe that this insensitive and offensive term would ever be used by this administration.

I am as offended and disheartened as many of our state employees may have been upon hearing that this proposed “tax” could be suggested in West Virginia…

“Completely false”?  On October 22 Phil Kabler reported:

Gov. Joe Manchin is asking the Public Employees Insurance Agency to consider following North Carolina’s lead to impose higher health insurance premiums on overweight public employees.

“He asked me, “Why aren’t we doing something like that?” PEIA director Ted Cheatham told the PEIA Finance Board Thursday. “I told him, we had talked about that as a board, but there was no political will in the past to go down that road.”

On October 26, Manchin spokeman Matt Turner said “What we want is ways to incentivize people, to reward them for healthy lifestyles.” If a higher premium isn’t an incentive, I don’t know what one is.

But in the numerous reports in the media, the Manchin administration never said that the reports were incorrect, or that Ted Cheatham was wrong when he was quoted as saying Joe Manchin asked for this. Has Turner ever called Kabler up and told him he was wrong? Probably because WVEA President Dale Lee attended the board meeting, and verified that Cheatham said Manchin instructed him to bring the North Carolina plan up for discussion at the Finance Board.

But what we need to remember is that, now that it has been proposed, PEIA is not removing it from the agenda. That means it’s up for discussion at the various meetings around the state. That means it will get a lot of heated argument, which will take a lot of attention away from other proposed changes, including another general increase in employee contributions, removing more drugs from availability to employees, and other items that might be of greater interest to state employees.

So if that stuff gets ignored, PEIA wins. And if the fat tax gets approved in spite of employees’ arguments, PEIA wins. And Joe Manchin will claim he had nothing to do with it.


October 25, 2009

For months I’ve felt the fear over HN1, aka swine flu, was blown out of proportion. Yes, it can be dangerous, like any flu, but is it really the next plague?

The flu is hitting closer to home now, but still, none of my friends who contracted it (from teen to middle age) have suffered worse than a really bad flu break. Yes, a few people have died, but people die from the flu every year, and it doesn’t make the news unless it’s swine or avian or something special. Plain old killer flu just isn’t a newsmaker.

But we have a vaccine out now, and people are getting it, and for some reason that’s causing even more fear.

Posts like this one demonstrate that the fearmongers are as afraid of the cure as they are the sickness. Unfortunately, the reason they fear the cure is because they trust neither the government nor scientists. But these folks who fear science are happy to believe in quackery like ozone treatments.

Perhaps these folks are suffering from what Jon Stewart calls Doubt Break ’09.

Or maybe they’re just not happy unless they’re in a State of Fear.

The Heir to the Throne

June 20, 2009

Governor Manchin officially annointed Earl Ray Tomblin as the next governor of West Virginia.

He didn’t say it in so many words, but at today’s ceremony at the Capitol, Kay Goodwin twice referred to Earl Ray as the “Lieutenant Governor.” When Joe spoke, the first time he mentioned Earl Ray he called him the Senate President, did a little double-take, then called him the Lieutenant Governor. He proceeded to refer to him at least four more times as the Lieutenant Governor.

Further, in his talk, Manchin gave great praise to Tomblin for his role in helping renovate the Capitol building, and about how Tomblin is on board with Manchin’s plans to add a mural and otehr artwork to the Capitol rotunda.

West Virginia doesn’t have a Lieutenant Governor. The Senate President is next in line should the Governor vacate the office, but nowhere in the West Virginia Constitution is a Lieutenant Governor mentioned. If you search the Legislature’s website you can find several bills proposing an amendment to the Constitution from the 1990’s, but that’s never happened. Section §6A-1-4. Additional successors to office of governor of the state code  says

(b) The Legislature recognizes that pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, the president of the Senate is charged with the responsibility of first successor to the governor in the event the governor is unable to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of his or her office and in that regard, the president of the Senate is functioning similarly to a lieutenant governor. Therefore, the Legislature determines that the president of the Senate shall be additionally designated the title of “lieutenant governor” in acknowledgment of the president’s responsibility as first successor to the governor.

I can’t seem to find when that was added, but I wonder if it was very recently. In any case, today was the first time I’ve ever heard anyone refer to a Lieutenant Governor in West Virginia. Manchin and Earl Ray will be at various events this weekend around the state, and I expect you’ll hear more of the same. Earl Ray’s Legislative webpage refers to him as “Senate President – Lieutenant Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.”

Of course, the idea is to start associating “governor” with Earl Ray Tombin. He’ll need that association up in Wheeling and Harper’s Ferry if he expects to be the heir to the Manchin throne.

The TV image

March 9, 2009

State workers need and deserve a raise. There’s no two ways about it. The plight was televised on CNN recently, and it can’t have been good publicity for Joe Manchin and his massive personal pay raise.

However, if the various unions that represent, or want to represent,  state workers have half a clue, they’ll think about the image their workers are showing on national television.

I was embarassed to once again see my fellow West Virginians represented on national television by sloppily-dressed, overweight people. Who told Ms. Triska it was a good idea to wear a T-shirt with a heart on it for a TV interview? Who selected the four people to be on the interview panel near the end of the clip? We understand that we want to show West Virginia workers as downtrodden, but let’s not perpetuate the hillbilly stereoptypes. They’re supposed to look like professionals.

More help at setting up podiums?

March 9, 2009

After giving his staff sizable raises on the premise that the staff is short-handed,  Joe Manchin is now robbing from the DOH to move Harry Bergstrom into the Deputy Chief of Staff position in the Governor’s Office.

Besides wondering how much this will increase the salary budget in the Governor’s Office (and how much raise Bergstrom gets from his Right of Way job at Highways), one has to wonder why they thought they needed another chief on the staff when apparently what they need are more people to help set up podiums.

The state of ketchup in education

February 24, 2009

This email was sent from a county board of education office to all principals of that county:


A topic has been brought to my attention concerning condiments (notably ketchup) being distributed by teachers to his/her students to use in the cafeteria.  If this is occurring, it is considered undermining the child nutrition program and is a practice that cannot continue.  I equate this to my intervening with a reading program or math program and basically interfering where I shouldn’t. There are very strict federal and state guidelines that must be followed if we are to receive the reimbursements for breakfast and lunch.  Monitoring  sodium is one of the critical areas.  If a child brings a packet of ketchup, we can’t confiscate it, but if teachers are providing ketchup bottles/packets and distributing to students, this is a different situation.  I am certain this is not happening in all schools, but I felt it necessary to address all schools so we are all on the same page.

If you need to discuss please call.

I’m glad they’re dealing with such serious educational issues up at the board office.

Randall’s retreats

February 15, 2009
Fun is a big part of a retreat!

Fun is a big part of a retreat!

Word is getting out about Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith’s interesting “directors retreats.” Last week he dragged his senior staff out to the South Charleston ice arena for some skating – of course, this was on work time, what were you thinking, it’s a retreat! Previous “retreats” involved a trip to Camden Park and a visit to the Mystery Hole. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a black hole, and he returned to work, or what Reid-Smith thinks is “work.”