Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tax Increase for Most Under Republican Plan

This should come as no surprise to anyone.

The proposed Republican plan to eliminate personal and corporate income tax and replace it with an 8% sales tax on everything, including food, will result in an overall tax increase for 80% of West Virginia households.

The proposal's lead sponsor is none other than Webster's quack senator, Robert Karnes, and supported by Webster's other bozo senator, Greg Boso.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Former Chief Justice Endorses Marijuana Legalization

Former Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Richard Neely has endorsed the legalization of marijuana in West Virginia for both medicinal and recreational use. Despite this and other similar endorsements from well placed officials, it is likely the backwards thinking legislature will not approve this until West Virginia is the last State in the Union to legalize it for any purpose. What follows is a reprint of Justice Neely's endorsement:

"Has anyone noticed that a person can roller skate down Charleston's Quarrier Street at high noon without fear of being hit by a car? That is because West Virginia's economy is dead: our mines are closed; the price of oil and gas is so low that there is no drilling; and, the chemical industry is slowly moving to the Gulf because plants there can "pipe" chemicals to one another.

Furthermore, our local government units, like the Boone County Board of Education, are going bankrupt; the current state deficit for fiscal 2018 is projected at nearly $500 million with the cities and counties being in no better shape.

And the bad news doesn't stop there: The new billion dollar casino and hotel complex in the D.C. area is draining money from our video lottery facilities at race tracks and the Greenbrier Resort, which probably means a bigger deficit than even was at first predicted.

Therefore, the issue of legalization of marijuana is not a social issue, and it is not a medical issue. It is an economic issue. And as an economic issue, there is great urgency. As it stands now, neighboring states have not legalized recreational use of marijuana, although Ohio recently legalized medical marijuana. Therefore, right now - not next year, not after the next election, not "down the road," but rather right now - we have a great opportunity to begin a new industry that will employ thousands directly and many more indirectly. In Colorado, the industry generated about $1.1 billion last year in sales, and governments collected $150 million in direct taxes. Indirect taxes, of course, produced more through worker income tax, real estate tax on new industrial facilities, and state fees like workers compensation premiums.

In economics, the Boston Consulting Group propounded an empirically-based theory in the 1980s that the greater a firm's total lifetime production of any product, the lower the firm's costs per unit. Called the "learning curve theory," Boston Consulting pointed out that a large-scale producer will inevitably be more competitive than new entrants in any field because of what the firm has learned about quality control, efficient production and economical distribution. Therefore, if West Virginia can get the jump on other Eastern states now and exploit a monopoly in the East for three or four years, we can become the experienced and low-cost producer of high quality marijuana.

Today marijuana is an "industrial," and not an "agricultural" product. In Colorado, it is illegal to "grow" marijuana in open fields; rather, all production is done through "hydroponics," where the plants are grown indoors in large tanks using 24-hour sun lamps. Among other things, this industrial process is a boon to the electric utility companies who are currently experiencing an exodus of West Virginia industries and middle class workers (Kanawha County, for example, lost 700 students in the public schools last year alone) with no commensurate reduction in the cost of electrical infrastructure maintenance.

As to marijuana as either a social issue or medical issue, any 12-year-old in West Virginia attending a public school can get marijuana for either recreational or medical purposes within half an hour! And, with eight states already making marijuana legal for recreational purposes, its pervasive legal use in the next 10 years is all but inevitable. For all intents and purposes, West Virginia already has a "conspicuous policy of non-enforcement." Therefore, the only question is whether the West Virginia Legislature - most of whose members have campaigned on "providing jobs" - will sit around gathering wool until the one "real" opportunity for jobs has gone down the toilet, or do something very un-West Virginian, namely be innovative and creative, in the next seven weeks.

All of the heavy lifting on marijuana legalization has already been done. Colorado has an excellent set of statutes regulating the industry, so all we need do here is copy those statutes. Among other salutary things, as I indicated before, Colorado does not allow marijuana to be grown outdoors for public safety reasons, which means jobs and more jobs building, maintaining and controlling the indoor growing and harvesting of the product.

We have a fair, but not spectacular, tourism industry. Particularly we have Timberline and Snowshoe for skiing and modest all-season recreation, and we have white water rafting in Fayette County. In addition we have The Greenbrier hotel and some very nice state parks. But if we legalized marijuana, West Virginia would become much more attractive for tourism, second homes, and as a place for young, entrepreneurial millennials to live. This has been Colorado's experience, where the real estate market is booming in Denver from young people attracted by legalization and what "legalization" says about the tone of the society.

West Virginia's population is the second oldest of all states, right behind the retirement Mecca of the World, Florida. But we need to understand that people under 40 aren't social conservatives la old bastards like me: the young people are generally a libertarian, live-and-let-live bunch, so if we want to keep our own young and attract new blood, we must accommodate the young and not drive them off.

What, of course, will discourage our legislature is that Republicans must always fear challenges from the right. The Tea Party is always a much greater threat to Republican incumbents than the Bernie Sanders socialists are to Democrat incumbents. And, for so long as marijuana usage is presented as a "social issue" to benefit long-haired, poetry-reading, NPR-listening, gun-controlling beatniks and hippies, the right wing threat will be there in spades. However, if legalization of marijuana is presented as an opportunity to put unemployed coal miners to work in places like Pineville, Logan, Cabin Creek and Webster Springs, or as an opportunity to rejuvenate our state to keep our kids home and bring in some new, well-educated young people, or as a cure for our cities' and counties' endemic insolvency, we might have a chance of getting a statute passed this year.

Finally, it does us absolutely no good to legalize "medical" marijuana or to take any other half-way measure. That kind of thinking still conceptualizes marijuana as a "social" or "medical" issue, which will cause America once again to stamp our foreheads with the name "loser," printed backwards so we can read it in the mirror!

If we want a new industry and all the campaign talk about "jobs" wasn't just bovine excrement, then we must legalize recreational marijuana in the next seven weeks!"

Neely is a former chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and now a practicing lawyer in Charleston.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

More Hoops Heartbreak for Highlanders

It was a strange game.

The Webster boys' team fell behind by as many as 18 points in the third quarter before mounting a furious rally to pull to within 1 point with about 20 seconds remaining in the game, but fell short to the visiting Williamstown Yellow Jackets by a final score of 57 to 56 Thursday evening.

Strange events occurred throughout the second half. 

First, a Webster player intentionally made a layup on the wrong end of the court early in the third quarter, giving the Yellow Jackets two free points. Second, at a critical time in the fourth quarter, a Webster fan sitting three rows back near the Webster bench called (yelled) for a timeout and the referee actually gave a timeout to Webster. Even coach Mike Gray had a smile on his face over that. He wanted a timeout but the fan beat him to the call. Third, one of Webster's livestream announcers about came out of his chair, along with countless Webster fans, over several non-calls by the referees. The usually calm, cool, and collected announcer was in total disbelief, a feeling shared by many. Fourth, and finally, when it looked like the Webster players were resigned to lose the game when they were behind 18 points, prodding by coach Gray and assistant coach Eddie Mazzella encouraged the team not to give up and they slowly and methodically ran a near flawless press, resulting in countless turnovers and points to nearly win the game.

The teams were tied at 12 at the end of the first quarter thanks to a buzzer beating layup by senior Chase Rose. Williamstown then opened up a 10 point lead at 34 to 24 at halftime. The Yellow Jackets then increased the lead to 18 points midway into the third quarter, but Webster chipped away at that lead to trail 49 to 35 at the end of three quarters. Early in the fourth quarter, Williamstown ran up a 17 point lead before the Highlanders mounted their comeback, and had a chance to tied the game but for a missed free throw.

Dalton Gray led the Highlanders with 18 points. Dorian Groggs and Hayden Williams both netted 11 points. Bradin Miller had 8 points, Chase Rose had 4 points, and Tyler Gray and Mathias Palmer each had 2 points to round out the scoring for Webster.

With the loss, the Highlanders' season record falls to 12 wins, 9 losses, with a final regular season game at Richwood on February 22. The last two losses for Webster puts their hopes of hosting a home playoff game in serious jeopardy. The final game against Richwood will weigh heavily on those hopes.

The Webster JV team improved to a perfect 18 and 0 in their rout of the Williamstown JV team by a final score of 77 to 38.

WV Senate Republicans About to Ruin State

Today, Senate Republicans in the West Virginia Legislature introduced a bill to eliminate all income tax and, of course, all corporate taxes and replace it with an 8 percent sales tax on everything from food to services.

Sounds good? No more West Virginia income tax.  Yea.

But now you will pay 8% on food, any purchases, and any services.

Who will feel the impact of this new proposal? Anyone making less than $50,000 per year will experience an overall tax increase, and anyone making over $50,000 will experience an overall tax decrease. In other words, over 80 percent of the West Virginia population will pay more in taxes and the richer 20 percent will pay less.

Who won't feel the impact of this proposal? Corporations, who will pay no income tax, and the coal, oil, and gas industry because the severance tax is lowered to 3% under this plan. See a trend here folks? Corporations win, people lose.

Typical Republican plan: take from the poor, give to the rich.

The lead sponsor of this plan is none other than our quack Senator from Upshur County, Robert Karnes, who, if he had his way, would eliminate all taxation and all government services. He is joined by our other Senator, Greg "Bozo" Boso from Nicholas County.

The bottom line for the state's budget will be less revenue and more deficits. The fact is these legislators have no data to support whether this "consumption tax" will generate enough revenue to fund state government even if they cut $500 million from the budget to balance the same as it stands now.

At least West Virginia will be first in something: the highest grocery tax in the nation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Overtime Heartbreak for Highlanders

In a nip and tuck battle all evening long, the Highlanders boys' team finally fell in overtime 72 to 71 to the visiting Greenbrier West Cavaliers on Tuesday before a large crowd.

West held a 14 to 12 lead at the end of the first quarter and the teams went into halftime tied at 26. West then opened up a five point lead at 44 to 39 at the end of three quarters. 

The Highlanders then mounted a comeback, but trailed by 4 with less than a minute remaining. With 47 seconds remaining, senior Dalton Gray banked in a seven foot jumper. At 38 seconds remaining, sophomore Dorian Groggs stole the ball in the backcourt and quickly tipped the ball to Gray for an easy layup and the game was tied at 63 with 32 seconds remaining in regulation. After a West charging call, Webster had 17 seconds left to make a game winning shot. At 6 seconds, Gray's 10 foot jumper fell short and the Cavaliers launched a half court shot that missed as the buzzer sounded, sending the game into overtime.

In overtime, West quickly built up a four point lead, but the Highlanders came racing back to take a 71 to 69 lead. A Cavalier player grabbed an offensive rebound with 16 seconds remaining in overtime and made a layup and was fouled in the process. With the game tied at 71, the West player sank the free throw for the West lead, setting up once again a final chance for the Highlanders to win.  Gray's 12 foot jumper at 3 seconds remaining bounced off the rim and West grabbed the rebound to preserve the 72 to 71 win for the Cavaliers.

The Highlanders' efforts in the second half and overtime were not helped by the referees who called 16 fouls on Webster to only 8 on West (did Webster commit 16 fouls? Yes, but West committed a lot more than 8). Despite the obvious disparity in foul calls, Webster had their chances in regulation and overtime to win the game but fell short both times.

Once again, senior Billy Wilson proved why he has been inserted into the starting lineup by both his offensive and defensive play during this game. If stats were kept for players who take charges from the other team, Wilson would walk away with the title as he proves again and again his willingness to lay his body on the line for his team. In addition, most of the night he was defending one of West's six foot seven inch players, and he held his own. Off the bench tonight, senior Bradin Miller contributed several points and key defensive plays. Wilson and Miller's play was complemented by the regular, consistent scoring and defensive cast of Gray, Groggs, Hayden Williams, and Mathias Palmer.

Gray led all scorers with 27 points. Miller had 13 points, and Groggs added 11.

This game was surely a heartbreak to lose with so many chances to win. With the loss, the Highlanders' season record drops to 12 wins, 8 losses on the season, with two regular season games remaining (on February 16 at home against Williamstown and on February 22 at Richwood). The loss also snapped Webster's four game win streak. The JV team did not play as a girls' CWVAC 7th/8th grade playoff game was played just prior, which Webster won handily.

The video included at the link below shows the final minutes of the regulation and overtime periods:
Game Video

Monday, February 13, 2017

Power Rankings Have Webster Third in Playoff Section

Of the seven teams in the playoff sectional in which the Webster County Highlanders boys' team will compete, Webster is currently ranked third behind number one Fayetteville and number two Charleston Catholic. Following Webster at fourth is Pocahontas County, with Richwood at fifth, Valley Fayette at sixth, and Midland Trail at seventh.

The Highlanders have beaten Valley Fayette, Midland Trail, and Richwood (with a rematch at Richwood on February 22), and they have lost to Fayetteville and Charleston Catholic. All teams in Webster's section have winning records except for Midland Trail, who currently posts an 8 win, 9 loss record.

If the regular season were to end today, and the win/loss records along with the power ratings are used to seed the teams in the playoffs, Webster would likely host Valley Fayette in an opening round playoff game. The other opening round matchups would include a bye for Fayetteville, with Charleston Catholic hosting Midland Trail and Pocahontas County hosting Richwood.

Whether Webster will host an opening round playoff game will, of course, depend on the results of their final three games as Charleston Catholic, Pocahontas County, and Richwood have records and power ratings very close to that of the Highlanders.  Webster's record stands at 12-7, Catholic is also 12-7 (but ahead of Webster based on their win against the Highlanders earlier this season), Pocahontas is 11-7, and Richwood is 9-7.

Webster's section is clearly the stronger section in the Region which will send two teams to the State Tournament in Charleston.  Of the six teams in the other section, only Greenbrier West and Greater Beckley Christian have .500 records, both at 9 wins, 9 losses on the season.  The other four teams are below .500, and all six teams in this other section have power ratings lower than Midland Trail, who is the lowest rated team in Webster's section.

Given all of these records and scenarios, Webster is in control of its own destiny, whether it is hosting an opening round playoff game, or in making it to the State Tournament.  Their performance in their final three games will send a strong signal, either way, regarding their playoff hopes.

The most recent power ratings for all Class AAA, AA, and A teams can be found at this link (scroll down for Class A teams):
Power Ratings

Friday, February 10, 2017

Highlanders Win on Senior Night

The Webster boys' team took care of business on senior night as they defeated the visiting Roane County Raiders 79 to 73 Friday evening, avenging an earlier loss to Roane.
Senior basketball players along with senior livestream announcer before the game.
Senior Dalton Gray sustained a serious injury, losing half of one of his front teeth, but never left the game and helped lead his team to victory. Gray had 23 points in the win. Sophomore Dorian Groggs led all scorers with 27 points. Also scoring for the Highlanders were: Michael Malcolm 2, Billy Wilson 10, Hayden Williams 13, and Mathias, Palmer 4.
Senior Dalton Gray shows his front tooth that was broken during the game.
Webster scored an impressive 33 points in the first quarter and never relinquished the lead. With the win, Webster improved to  12 wins, 7 losses on the season and vastly improved their chances to host a home playoff game.

According to Assistant Coach Eddie Mazzella, Webster will host Greenbrier West next Tuesday, February 14, and will host Williamstown next Thursday, February 16. Because the Highlanders did not place in the top two in the LKC conference, they will not be playing next Saturday at the WACO Center in Glenville for the LKC championship, although Webster will have two players competing in the three point shootout at the WACO. Williamstown sports an 11 win, 8 loss record. As far as common opponents go, Williamstown, like Webster, beat Calhoun County and lost to Fayetteville. Webster will then play on February 22 at Richwood to finish the regular season.

On another positive note for Webster, the JV team keeps rolling along with their perfect season, which now stands at 17 wins, 0 losses, after defeating the Roane County JV team this evening.