Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky’

Jean Ritchie, who brought hundreds of traditional songs from her native Appalachia to a wide audience and wrote additional songs, especially about the disasters of coal mining—”and in the process helped ignite the folk song revival of the mid-twentieth century—died on Monday at her home in Berea, Kentucky.

Here are the lyrics to her “Black Waters”:

I come from the mountains, Kentucky’s my home,
Where the wild deer and black bear so lately did roam;
By cool rushing waterfalls the wildflowers dream,
And through every green valley there runs a clear stream.
Now there’s scenes of destruction on every hand
And only black waters run down through my land.

CHORUS
Sad scenes of destruction on every hand,
Black waters, black waters, run down through my land.

O the quail, she’s a pretty bird, she sings a sweet tongue;
In the roots of tall timbers she nests with her young.
But the hillside explodes with the dynamite’s roar,
And the voices of the small birds will sound there no more;
And the hillsides come a—sliding so awful and grand,
And the flooding black waters rise over my land.

CHORUS
Sad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

In the rising of the springtime we planted our corn,
In the ending of the springtime we buried a son,
In summer come a nice man, said, “Everything’s fine—
My employer just requires a way to his mine”—
Then they threw down my mountain and covered my corn,
And the grave on the hillside’s a mile deeper down,
And the man stands and talks with his hat in his hand
As the poisonous water spreads over my land.

CHORUS
Sad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

Well, I ain’t got no money and not much of a home;
I own my own land, but my land’ s not my own.
But if I had ten million – somewheres thereabouts—
I would buy Perry County and I’d run ’em all out!
Set down on the bank with my bait in my can,
And just watch the clear waters run down through my land!

CHORUS
Well, wouldn’t that be like the old Promised Land?
Black waters, black waters no more in my land!

“West Virginia Mine Disaster” was another of her original songs, performed here by Betsy Rutherford:

And here are the lyrics:

Say, did you see him walking? it was early this morning
He passed by your house on his way to the coal
He was tall, he was slender, and his blue eyes so tender
His occupation was miner, West Virginia his home

It was just about noon, I was feeding the children
Ben Moseley come running for to give us the news
Number eight is all flooded, many men are in danger
And we don’t know their number, but we fear they’re all doomed

So I picked up the baby and I left all the others
For to comfort each other and pray for our own
There’s Timmy, fourteen, and there’s John not much younger
Soon their own time will be coming to go down the black hole

Now if I had the money to do more than just feed them
I’d give them good learning, the best could be found
And when they grew up they’d be checkers and weighers
And not spend their life drilling in the dark underground

And it’s what will I tell to my three little children?
And what will I tell his dear mother at home?
And it’s what will I tell to my poor heart that’s dying?
My heart that’s surely dying since my darling is gone

Say, did you see him walking? it was early this morning
He passed by your house on his way to the coal
He was tall, he was slender, and his blue eyes so tender
His occupation was miner, West Virginia his home

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Special mention

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children homeless

According to a new report from the National Center on Family Homelessness [pdf], a staggering 2.5 million children are now homeless each year in America. This historic high represents one in every 30 children in the United States.

In just one year, from 2012 to 2013, the number of children experiencing homelessness increased by 8 percent nationally. It increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia and by 10 percent or more in 13 states and the nation’s capital.

homeless-states

And because we’ve just survived the midterm elections, when Mitch McConnell was reelected as senator and will likely be the next majority leader in the Senate, and as Rand Paul prepares his run for the Republican presidential nomination, I should note that Kentucky is ranked 50th in the extent of child homelessness!

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While a special compensation committee of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees met Tuesday to discuss whether or not to increase President Eli Capilouto’s salary, which is currently $615,825, the Lexington Herald-Leader discovered that the UK president’s pay increased an average of 9.7 percent each year over the last decade, eclipsing the average annual tuition increase of 7.3 percent and far outpacing the average faculty and staff pay increase of 2.1 percent.

In 2012, analysts at the financial management firm Bain & Company wrote in a white paper for its clients about administrative spending in higher education,

Boards of trustees and presidents need to put their collective foot down on the growth of support and administrative costs. Those costs have grown faster than the cost of instruction across most campuses. In no other industry would overhead costs be allowed to grow at this rate—executives would lose their jobs.

As colleges and universities look to areas where they can make cuts and achieve efficiencies, they should start farthest from the core of teaching and research. Cut from the outside in, and build from the inside out.

The problem, of course, is that the presidents of colleges and universities are the ones benefiting from the increase in administrative spending.

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Special mention

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c_trends_mining

There hasn’t been a war on coal in the United States. There’s been a war by the coal industry on coal miners.*

The modern peak of coal employment was in 1984, when 177,848 miners (about .16 percent of the national labor force) were employed by the coal industry. Since then, coal production grew but mining employment decreased. Thus, by 2011, the coal industry employed only 88,000 miners (about .06% of the labor force), a decrease of 51 percent, while producing 22 percent more coal than in 1984.

Here’s the decline in total mining employment in the United States:

coal employment

The coal industry’s modern war on miners has consisted of two major shifts: one technological, the other geographic. The switch to surface mining meant an increase in labor productivity (many fewer miners are required to extract each ton of coal with mountaintop removal and other forms of surface mining). The move to the west—within and across states—has meant a sharp decline in coal production and employment in old coal regions (such as Appalachia) and an increase in production (with some increase in employment) in newer regions (such as western Kentucky and Wyoming).

The fact is, the coal industry won the war on miners. And there’s no hope that a revitalization of the coal industry will do anything more than line the pockets of the owners of the coal mines.

 

*Actually, the mining industry has engaged in a permanent war on miners: early on, it involved an attack on miners’ pay, safety, and unions (think Blair Mountain and Harlan County); since the mid-1980s, it’s been a war on miners’ jobs.

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Special mention

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