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Vast Stretches Of Impoverished Appalachia Look Like They Have Been Through A War

West VirginiaIf you want to get an idea of where the rest of America is heading, just take a trip through the western half of West Virginia and the eastern half of Kentucky some time.  Once you leave the main highways, you will rapidly encounter poverty on a level that is absolutely staggering.  Overall, about 15 percent of the entire nation is under the poverty line, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty.  Most of the people would work if they could.  Over the past couple of decades, locals have witnessed businesses and industries leave the region at a steady pace.  When another factory or business shuts down, many of the unemployed do not even realize that their jobs have been shipped overseas.  Coal mining still produces jobs that pay a decent wage, but Barack Obama is doing his very best to kill off that entire industry.  After decades of decline, vast stretches of impoverished Appalachia look like they have been through a war.  Those living in the area know that things are not good, but they just try to do the best that they can with what they have.

In previous articles about areas of the country that are economically depressed, I have typically focused on large cities such as Detroit or Camden, New Jersey.  But the economic suffering that is taking place in rural communities in the heartland of America is just as tragic.  We just don’t hear about it as much.

Most of those that live in the heart of Appalachia are really good “salt of the earth” people that just want to work hard and do what is right for their families.  But after decades of increasing poverty, the entire region has been transformed into an economic nightmare that never seems to end.  The following is a description of what life is like in Appalachia today that comes from a recent article by Kevin D. Williamson

Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short — the typical man here dies well over a decade earlier than does a man in Fairfax County, Va. — and they are getting shorter, women’s life expectancy having declined by nearly 1.1 percent from 1987 to 2007.

In these kinds of conditions, people do whatever they have to do just to survive.  With so much poverty around, serving those on food stamps has become an important part of the local economy.  In fact, cases of soda purchased with food stamps have become a form of “alternative currency” in the region.  In his article, Williamson described how this works…

It works like this: Once a month, the debit-card accounts of those receiving what we still call food stamps are credited with a few hundred dollars — about $500 for a family of four, on average — which are immediately converted into a unit of exchange, in this case cases of soda. On the day when accounts are credited, local establishments accepting EBT cards — and all across the Big White Ghetto, “We Accept Food Stamps” is the new E pluribus unum – are swamped with locals using their public benefits to buy cases and cases — reports put the number at 30 to 40 cases for some buyers — of soda. Those cases of soda then either go on to another retailer, who buys them at 50 cents on the dollar, in effect laundering those $500 in monthly benefits into $250 in cash — a considerably worse rate than your typical organized-crime money launderer offers — or else they go into the local black-market economy, where they can be used as currency in such ventures as the dealing of unauthorized prescription painkillers — by “pillbillies,” as they are known at the sympathetic establishments in Florida that do so much business with Kentucky and West Virginia that the relevant interstate bus service is nicknamed the “OxyContin Express.” A woman who is intimately familiar with the local drug economy suggests that the exchange rate between sexual favors and cases of pop — some dealers will accept either — is about 1:1, meaning that the value of a woman in the local prescription-drug economy is about $12.99 at Walmart prices.

I would encourage everyone to read the rest of Williamson’s excellent article.  You can find the entire article right here.

In Appalachia, the abuse of alcohol, meth and other legal and illegal drugs is significantly higher than in the U.S. population as a whole.  In a desperate attempt to deal with the pain of their lives, many people living in the region are looking for anything that will allow them to “escape” for a little while.  The following is an excerpt from an excellent article by Chris Hedges which describes what life is like in the little town of Gary, West Virginia at this point…

Joe and I are sitting in the Tug River Health Clinic in Gary with a registered nurse who does not want her name used. The clinic handles federal and state black lung applications. It runs a program for those addicted to prescription pills. It also handles what in the local vernacular is known as “the crazy check” — payments obtained for mental illness from Medicaid or SSI — a vital source of income for those whose five years of welfare payments have run out. Doctors willing to diagnose a patient as mentally ill are important to economic survival.

“They come in and want to be diagnosed as soon as they can for the crazy check,” the nurse says. “They will insist to us they are crazy. They will tell us, ‘I know I’m not right.’ People here are very resigned. They will avoid working by being diagnosed as crazy.”

The reliance on government checks, and a vast array of painkillers and opiates, has turned towns like Gary into modern opium dens. The painkillers OxyContin, fentanyl — 80 times stronger than morphine — Lortab, as well as a wide variety of anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, are widely abused. Many top off their daily cocktail of painkillers at night with sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. And for fun, addicts, especially the young, hold “pharm parties,” in which they combine their pills in a bowl, scoop out handfuls of medication, swallow them, and wait to feel the result.

Of course this kind of thing is not just happening in the heart of Appalachia.  All over the country there are rural communities that are economically depressed.  In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, economic activity in about half of the counties in the entire nation is still below pre-recession levels…

About half of the nation’s 3,069 county economies are still short of their prerecession economic output, reflecting the uneven economic recovery, according to a new report from the National Association of Counties.

So what are our “leaders” doing to fix this?

Well, they plan to ship millions more of our good jobs overseas.

Unfortunately, I am not kidding.

Republicans in the House of Representatives are introducing “fast track” trade promotion authority legislation that will pave the way for rapid approval of the secret trade treaty that Barack Obama has been negotiating.  The following is how I described this insidious treaty in a previous article

Did you know that the Obama administration is negotiating a super secret “trade agreement” that is so sensitive that he isn’t even allowing members of Congress to see it?  The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being called the “NAFTA of the Pacific” and “NAFTA on steroids”, but the truth is that it is so much more than just a trade agreement.  This treaty has 29 chapters, but only 5 of them have to do with trade.  Most Americans don’t realize this, but this treaty will fundamentally change our laws regarding Internet freedom, health care, the trading of derivatives, copyright issues, food safety, environmental standards, civil liberties and so much more.  It will also merge the United States far more deeply into the emerging one world economic system.

Once again, our politicians are betraying the American people and millions of jobs will be lost as a result.

Not that the economy needs another reason to go downhill.  The truth is that our economic foundations have already been rotting away for quite some time.

But now the ongoing economic collapse seems to be picking up steam again.  For example, the Baltic Dry Index (a very important indicator of global economic activity) is collapsing at a rate not seen since the great financial crash of 2008

Despite ‘blaming’ the drop in the cost of dry bulk shipping on Colombian coal restrictions, it seems increasingly clear that the 40% collapse in the Baltic Dry Index since the start of the year is more than just that. While this is the worst start to a year in over 30 years, the scale of this meltdown is only matched by the total devastation that occurred in Q3 2008. Of course, the mainstream media will continue to ignore this dour index until it decides to rise once again, but for now, 9 days in a row of plunging prices is yet another canary in the global trade coalmine and suggests what inventory stacking that occurred in Q3/4 2013 is anything but sustained.

Soon economic conditions will get even worse for Appalachia and for the rest of the country.  The consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are rapidly catching up with us, and millions upon millions of Americans are going to experience immense economic pain during the years to come.

So what are things like in your area of the country right now?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

West Virginia

If One Storm Can Turn D.C. Dark For Several Days, What Would A Massive EMP Burst Do?

Sometimes we all get a little reminder of just how completely and totally dependent we are on the power grid.  Massive thunderstorms that ripped through Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia left millions without power over the weekend.  At this point it is being projected that some people may not get power back until the end of the week.  The “super derecho” storm that pounded the Washington D.C. area on Friday night with hurricane-force winds is being called unprecedented.  But the truth is that there are other events that could happen that would be far more damaging to our power grid.  For example, a substantial EMP burst over a major U.S. city would fry virtually all of the electronics in the city and take the power grid in the area down indefinitely.  A gigantic EMP burst over the entire country (caused by a massive solar storm or a very large nuclear explosion high in the atmosphere) could theoretically take down the entire national power grid.  Just try to imagine a world where nobody has any electricity, nobody can pump gas, nobody can use their credit cards or get any more money, where most vehicles won’t start, where nobody has the Internet, where all cell phones are dead and where nobody can heat or cool their homes.  That is how serious an EMP burst could potentially be.  We are talking about an event that could be millions of times worse than 9/11.

Hopefully this latest storm has reminded Americans about how vulnerable our power grid really is and about how close we really are to being knocked back to the late 1800s.

Let’s review some of the damage that this “super derecho” storm caused to the D.C. area….

-Thousands of businesses have been forced to close temporarily because they cannot operate without electricity

-Many federal agencies were closed on Monday because there was no power

-Many 911 call centers throughout Northern Virginia were down over the weekend and could not respond to emergencies

-Without electricity, many families have not been able to cook warm meals

-Without warm water, many families have not been able to take hot showers

-A “boil water advisory” was put into effect for several areas of northern Virginia

-Many families that still do not have power are in danger of losing much of the food in their refrigerators and freezers

-Many gas stations were not able to operate because of a lack of electricity and so this has made filling up the gas tank a major hassle for many families

-Hundreds of traffic lights are still out and this is making commuting a major problem in some areas

-Without air conditioning many families are absolutely sweltering as high temperatures remain well above 90 degrees

-During the power outage some people have been without cell phone service because many cell phone towers were inoperable

-Without electricity, thousands upon thousands of people have not been able to use their computers for several days and this is causing a lot of frustration

-Several major websites were totally knocked offline by the storms as Robert McMillan of Wired Magazine explained….

Hurricane-like storms knocked an Amazon data center in Ashburn, Virginia, offline last night, and a chunk of the internet felt it. The six-hour incident temporarily cut off a number of popular internet services, including Netflix, Pinterest, Heroku, and Instagram.

But to be honest this was not a major disaster.

After a few days the damage will be fixed and people will start to forget what just happened.

Well, what if the damage was permanent and the entire nation had to go without electricity for the foreseeable future?  The following is from a USA Today article by Dan Vergano….

The sky erupts. Cities darken, food spoils and homes fall silent. Civilization collapses.

End-of-the-world novel? A video game? Or could such a scenario loom in America’s future?

There is talk of catastrophe ahead, depending on whom you believe, because of the threat of an electromagnetic pulse triggered by either a supersized solar storm or terrorist A-bomb, both capable of disabling the electric grid that powers modern life.

As I have written about previously, an EMP attack could fundamentally change life in America in a single instant.

What would you do if such a scenario happened?

Would you try to go somewhere?  Even if the electronics in your car were not totally fried, you would not be able to pump more gas anywhere.

Would you try to call someone?  Most phones would be totally dead and all normal communications networks would be down.  So who would you call?

Would you bunker down and try to survive on what you have at home?  Most of the food in your refrigerator and freezer would rapidly go bad and most Americans only have enough food to last a few days or a few weeks.  In addition, most Americans would no longer be able to heat or cool their homes, so extreme cold and extreme heat would become huge problems very quickly.

How in the world would any of us survive in a world without electricity?

In past centuries our forefathers knew how to survive in such a world, but most of us do not have the same skills or resources that they had.

The following is how an article in the Wall Street Journal once described what a massive EMP burst would do to this nation….

No American would necessarily die in the initial attack, but what comes next is potentially catastrophic. The pulse would wipe out most electronics and telecommunications, including the power grid. Millions could die for want of modern medical care or even of starvation since farmers wouldn’t be able to harvest crops and distributors wouldn’t be able to get food to supermarkets. Commissioner Lowell Wood calls EMP attack a “giant continental time machine” that would move us back more than a century in technology to the late 1800s.

What would you do if you were suddenly cut off from all electricity, all money, all modern forms of communication, all modern forms of transportation and all modern forms of shopping?

Don’t think that it can’t happen.

Scientists tell us that massive EMP bursts generated by gigantic solar storms have hit our planet in the past and that it is inevitable that it will happen again.

In addition, nations all over the planet are aware of what an EMP burst can do and have been developing “Super-EMP” weapons that can take power grids down in a single strike.

The following is a short excerpt from a statement by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry to the United States Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security on March 8th, 2005….

Russian and Chinese military scientists in open source writings describe the basic principles of nuclear weapons designed specifically to generate an enhanced-EMP effect, that they term “Super-EMP” weapons. “Super-EMP” weapons, according to these foreign open source writings, can destroy even the best protected U.S. military and civilian electronic systems.

That doesn’t sound good.

But perhaps even more troubling is that North Korea has been reportedly developing this type of weapon.  In fact, it has been reported that North Korea may have tested a “Super-EMP” weapon all the way back in 2009….

North Korea’s last round of tests, conducted in May 2009, appear to have included a “super-EMP” weapon, capable of emitting enough gamma rays to disable the electric power grid across most of the lower 48 states

In time, these kinds of weapons will get into more and more hands.

Will someone try to use this kind of weapon at some point?

Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy, believes that a single EMP burst could potentially end up killing the vast majority of the population of the United States….

“Within a year of that attack, nine out of 10 Americans would be dead, because we can’t support a population of the present size in urban centers and the like without electricity”

Once you understand these kinds of threats, it makes it a lot easier to understand why preppers are so busy preparing for the future.

Our world is becoming incredibly unstable.  Another major economic crisis could hit us at any time, war in the Middle East could erupt without warning, earthquakes and other natural disasters are becoming more frequent and society seems to get a little crazier with each passing day.

The era of tremendous peace and prosperity that we have all been enjoying is rapidly coming to an end.  In a world filled with instability and chaos, it only seems prudent to take some precautions.

You might want to get prepared while you still have time.

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