Friday, December 5, 2014

Should We Tell Terry Kilgore About This?

One of the stories featured in the Bible Story books this web site recently discussed comes from Genesis 14. In this story, five "kings" of cities went to war against four "kings," and only when Abraham, the "wandering Aramaean," intervened to rescue his nephew from being held prisoner was the tide of battle turned. (In feudal thinking, this showed that although God had not called him to settle down and rule over a city, Abraham could be considered a sort of king or equal to one.) The grateful king of Sodom offered Abraham whatever reward Abraham wanted from the spoils of battle. Abraham did not want to be obligated to the government of Sodom, so he said he wanted nothing, "Not a thread nor a shoe latchet."

I grew up with that story, and that's why I felt  uncomfortable recently when a person of good will recently said, about the funding impasse I've faced, "We ought to tell Terry about this." I hoped the person was thinking of some other friend or relative, but the person went on, "You know, Delegate Kilgore."

As regular readers know, this web site is generally supportive of our Delegate in the State Legislature. His mother and mine once compared notes and determined that he's my third cousin once removed, and I'm proud. Grandma Bonnie Peters has been known to hint that she would have liked him for an in-law. Adayahi doesn't recommend a younger man to prospective clients every day. I sincerely believe that we're blessed with a more honest, intelligent, sincere, competent, and responsive Delegate than some electoral districts may have. But that's partly because this web site has never asked for any kind of help or favors from politicians, nor have we pledged our unconditional support to any individual politician. We reserve the right to cheer for all of them when we like what they're doing, and jeer when we don't, too.

This web site also exists on cordial terms with a local Democrat activist known to cyberspace as Garrison McDavid. In the absence of data about the precise relationship, all I'll say is that people usually guess he's my brother, and that I know for sure he is not. For an extrovert who seems actually to prefer New York to Washington, he seems a decent fellow. This web site is not prejudiced against Democrats at all...only against some bad left-wing ideas the party has picked up. From Democrats as from Republicans, as parties, this web site accepts "not a thread nor a shoe latchet."

This web site is part of the Tea Party movement in the sense that we believe we are Taxed Enough Already. This web site is not connected with, or even aware of, a majority of the other Tea Parties in these United States, and it reserves the right to disagree passionately even with the ones with which we are usually allied...ask Patricia Evans!

This web site is still ambivalent, at this point, about whether it could best represent a for-profit business or a community service. We are definitely not a political party and do not collect taxable donations to campaigns, although we've been known to encourage candidates. We've considered trying to be a charity because the Cat Sanctuary does rescue feral cats, but the web site is much more about human affairs than it is about cats. Sometimes I think the guidelines for a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, which can be faith-based, education-oriented, supportive of political ideas without actually telling people how to vote, etc., sound like what I'm trying to do, and then again sometimes I think that there's absolutely nothing wrong with writers making a profit--as much profit as possible, even if we want to use the money for the good of others as well as ourselves. Sometimes I think legal advice would be helpful, but since this is not about litigation or avoiding litigation I've not bothered a lawyer about it so far.

But here, in the numbered-paragraphs format that at least amuses my family's Tennessee lawyer when applied to things that aren't really legal cases, are the 25 things I think Delegate Kilgore might be interested in knowing about this web site.

1. Scott County currently has one public-access computer center. At the time when I spoke to the aforementioned person of good will, that building had four computers available for the whole of Scott County. As of today, it has six again.

2. These six computers are crowded into what was originally designed as a walkway in between the front desk and the children's room in the public library in Gate City. They are slowed down by annoying "time-minder" software and by lots of filters and blockers designed to prevent anyone from using the computer to use E-Bay, Amazon, ad widgets, or almost any other program that helps people earn legitimate money online. (Associated Content used to work on the library's computers, and Bubblews does, but other pay-for-content sites don't.)

3. Expensive attempts have been made to allow more people to use the computer center by offering wireless Internet service. However, when I've made the effort to use that service, on more days than not it hasn't actually worked. Even wired Internet service is "iffy" in the mountains.

4. The library does not offer computer storage. Hauling computers in and out of buildings is not cost-effective in wet weather, which is the kind of weather Scott County has on the majority of days.

5. The library was not wired for a lot of use of privately owned computers. For the first year wireless users were forbidden to plug their devices into the outlets the library has, at all. Currently they're allowed to use one socket located under a table that's big enough for two work spaces.

6. Although smoke destroys computers and smoking is forbidden in workplaces, we can all smell that library staff smoke in the staff room. It's possible that this has contributed to the short lifespan of some of the library's computers.

7. The library also offers day care to toddlers, hosted by the character known to cyberspace as the Nefarious Librarian. Both of these features contribute to making the library a very inhospitable place for serious work or study.

8. For several years, nobody complained about the inadequacy of Gate City's computer center because the Scott County Telephone Co-op hosted computer centers more conducive to serious grown-up work in Yuma, Nickelsville, and Duffield. However, these computer centers were not profitable, so after grant money ran out, they were closed to the public. (Computers were removed from the building in Yuma; I'm told that computers were kept, but reserved for the use of a private organization, in Duffield.)

9. As a result, I've been forced to depend on the computer center at the community college in Big Stone Gap in order to maintain or publicize my web site. The web site has been growing, and most of the time I've not had to walk more than two or three miles to and from my workplace...but I believe that everybody should be able to have a workplace within two or three miles from their home.

10. Many people have been told that the "public-private partnership" mess known as Mountain Empire Older Citizens offers cheap transportation between Scott, Wise, and Lee Counties. This is not true. M.E.O.C. has consistently refused to offer bus service between Gate City and Big Stone Gap on any schedule that would work for any full-time student or worker commuting between these towns.

11. Many people express discomfort about the idea of anyone, but I suspect especially any woman, walking on public streets (just as if women paid taxes to maintain the streets). We need a public campaign to thank pedestrians for not driving. People who think they have to drive everywhere "accidentally" kill far more Americans than guns do.

12. Some people seem to think the solution to the problem of my walking to work should be early retirement. I am not in that kind of financial situation. If federal law had required the state of Maryland to recognize my marriage under D.C. law, so that I had simply inherited approximately $250,000, partial retirement might have been an option. Or if my relatives had chosen to participate in what the state of Maryland apparently preferred to do, which was to classify me as a home health aide who could collect $385,000 after allowing my husband's ex-wife to claim the $250,000 estate, which the ex-wife could and should have been forced to pay, partial retirement might have been an option. As things are, I still depend entirely on what I earn from writing and odd jobs.

13. Earning a living does not automatically become a hardship because a person passes the age of forty, or fifty, sixty, or even seventy, or because a person has a few white hairs. It seems currently to be difficult to me because of prejudice. American folklore romanticizes the ideal of very poor people succeeding through hard work, talent, and integrity, but Americans are extremely uncomfortable with the reality that, if people like that exist, they may be more than twenty-five years old.

(I've actually heard "Why don't you try to claim some sort of disability?" I was 4-F because gluten intolerance would have made it inconvenient for the U.S. Army to feed me, but I have no genuine disabilities. For the record:

(a) I was a Dean's List student at Berea College.

(b) My current "commute" is about the distance people "run" in a marathon, and I can do it in about the time women my age usually record when they run marathons.

(c) I have no addictions.

(d) People with blatantly selfish motives have tried to represent my independence and nonconformism as some sort of mental disorder...and all of those people, if not under psychiatric care at the time, have been put under psychiatric care shortly afterward. It may be dangerous even to indulge in verbal-abuse-as-sport about my "mental health."

(e) And I've never even had children, nor am I having any particular midlife crisis.)

14. While many middle-aged residents of Scott County have come to terms with the idea that social workers will enable them to report every little tooth or finger ache as a "disability," the federal budget is insanely overburdened. Every able-bodied person who claims residual pain from an old injury as a "disability" is preventing some blind or paraplegic citizen from receiving the pension that might keep him or her from becoming homeless. Conservatives who are serious about balancing and tightening the budget need to be thanking poor people who don't choose to beg for handouts based on "minor disabilities."

15. I've also heard "Can't you get Internet service at your home?" While I was in Washington, other family members tried to get Internet service in our home. It didn't work. And I'm glad. The Internet is not a safe place to store home addresses or any other private contact information. It is a business tool and should be accessed from business addresses only.

16. The majority of voters I know in Scott County would definitely agree that public access to the Internet should be funded by private business or organizations rather than by any increase in federal, state, or local taxes. So would I. The Internet is a business tool and, if worth funding, should be made profitable for its users, rather than burdensome for the public as a whole.

17. In Washington, D.C., privately owned public-access computer centers were profitable enough to maintain space in expensive uptown neighborhoods.

18. Due to fear that a computer center in Gate City might not have offered returns on investment (while S.C.T.C. was offering free unlimited computer access to the public), I conceived the idea of combining a for-profit computer center with a bookstore. However, despite the success of "Tales of the Lonesome Pine" in Big Stone Gap (or perhaps because that successful bookstore may be seen as competition), fear seems to persist that even this might not offer returns on investment.

19. One successful business owner told me that in order to be profitable in Scott County a business "has to have a vice." Nevertheless, two kinds of businesses that are perceived as honorable are consistently profitable in Scott County: gas stations and grocery stores.

20. Gate City's "flagship" grocery store location, originally planned by and for Giant Foods during Mr. Cohen's lifetime, is currently occupied by a tenant altogether unworthy of Mr. Cohen's vision, namely Food Lion. As a result, every day large amounts of money are taken out of Scott County and spent in grocery stores in Kingsport, Bristol, Big Stone Gap, or Norton.

21. To the extent that my work history forms a traditional resume, it can be read, and has been read by at least one supporter, as "lifelong preparation" for a final career as a bookseller. I worked in libraries, took "library science" courses in college, managed stores, had a small business, collected books, sold enough secondhand books to maintain a booth in a flea market for more than three years, worked on computers, and even managed a small computer lab on a college campus.

22. I don't have that kind of background experience for a career as a grocer. However, I did have the opportunity to observe what made Giant Foods the success it was during Mr. Cohen's lifetime. I also have some current information, which I'm not about to publish, that I'm willing to share with any local investor who wants to hire me as the consultant that could allow a local business to be more profitable than Food Lion. The owners of successful locally owned businesses such as Addco, Black Diamond, Broadwaters', Frazier & Mann, Gilbert's Guns & Pawn, Roberts & Jones, or Thriftway are welcome to bid on this opportunity, individually or in combination.

23. What we do not need is any other kind of "program" that doles out just enough of some sort of inadequate encouragement to poor people to keep a few more social workers employed. (Social workers, by definition, were recruited from the bottoms of their college classes and, if able to offer actual help to poor people such as scrubbing, driving, or shovelling, should keep their mouths shut and do what they're told.)

24. Also, we need no more distracting blather about non-options like trying to set up the Internet in anybody's private home. People who want to help the deserving poor need to be reminded: "If you're not helping them do what they want to do, you are not helping them." Any suggestions about ways to make my web site, writing, and bookselling more profitable need to be clearly focussed on the goal of setting up a privately owned public-access computer center in Gate City.

25. All the old families in Gate City are sufficiently connected, by blood or marriage, that my elders used to recommend thinking of everyone as at least honorary cousins. As private people, cousins and honorary cousins, and neighbors who stand to benefit from anything that is profitable in Scott County, Terry Kilgore and his family are certainly welcome on my team. As an elected official, Delegate Kilgore is the lawyer whom I consult only when able to pay whatever fee he requires, and from whom I intend to ask "not a thread, nor a shoe latchet."