Weekend Roundup: Hicks, Country and Blake Shelton

Postal Service trying to sell historic offices • Blake Shelton mouths off • Why not get a "hick" to lead climate change effort? • Rural residents closest to neighbors

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Rural residents are much more likely to have “very closely connected neighbors” than those living in cities or suburbs.

This not-too-surprising finding is in an article in The Atlantic about how people maintain good health. “Strong communities made up of neighbors that care for, and about, one another” improve people’s health, but they are “low on the list of health concerns of most Americans,” writes Lindsay Abrams. 

When people think about health care, they think about hospitals and doctors. They look to the system that caters to sick people.

But people stay well for a number of reasons — one of which is having close connections with neighbors. And on that score, rural America excels. 

Thirty-seven percent of people living in rural areas say they are “very closely connected” to neighbors. It’s 21 percent in the suburbs and 25 percent in urban areas.

Military Suicides — Last year 325 members of the U.S. Army committed suicide. That’s a record. 

The National Journal reports that combat experience or post traumatic stress disorder are not apparently related to these suicides. Suicides are concentrated among white males 17 to 24 years old. (Blacks commit suicide at much lower rates than whites.) Brian Resnick reports:

What seems to be happening is that young white men are entering the military with preexisting distress, and that distress manifests over the course of their service. And the Army isn’t addressing trouble signs at critical moments.

Higher Ed Spending at 25-Year Low — State and local financial support (measured per student) fell 7 percent last year to a 25 year low. (Oh, it dropped 9 percent the year before that.) The amount being spent per student on public higher education, $5,896, is the lowest in the quarter century national records have been kept. 

Nearly half the cost of public higher education is now borne by student tuition.

New York Assembly Bans Fracking — The New York State Assembly has approved a two year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state. The vote was 95 to 40.

North Country Public Radio reports the bill is unlikely to pass the state Senate. 

The bill would ban fracking until May 15, 2015, and it calls for the State University of New York to conduct an independent health review of the drilling procedure. 

Mississippi Lege Forms Rural Caucus — State House Ag Chair Preston Sullivan, an Okolona (Mississippi) Democrat, announced from the floor this week that he wanted to form a rural caucus. The Clarion-Ledger’s Sam R. Hall explains

It seems that a bipartisan group of between 20 and 30 lawmakers have been discussing the need to bring more focus to bills that impact rural areas. Some feel they are being left out of the discussion on what passes for more mundane legislation but that actually has a lot more impact on the local level than fights over Medicaid expansion and gun permits.

One example would be the Department of Public Safety’s decision to close a number of rural driver’s license stations across the state, replacing many of them with kiosks. Rural lawmakers tried to persuade DPS leaders not to undertake the cuts last year, but they were not successful.

At the first meeting, there were 18 Democrats and 12 Republicans. Rural brings the parties together.

The Observant Farmer — Tanya Tolchin writes about how to farm as a traditional Jew. 

Landline Threats — The Speaker Pro Tem of the Kentucky House accused AT&T of “heavy-handed” practices in trying to move a bill that would relieve telecoms of their responsibility for providing landline phones. Rep. Larry Clark said the company was using robocalls to threaten lawmakers who might oppose AT&T. 

Consumer and rural group oppose the bill that would allow companies to drop land-line service.

House Would Require Saturday Delivery — The House approved a budget this week to fund government through September — and it would require six-day mail delivery. 

The Postal Service had planned to end Saturday delivery in August. 

Post Offices For Sale — The New York Time writes today about the proposed sale of a number of beautiful post offices. Eleven historic post offices are already on the market, in towns such as Yankton, S.D. and Gulfport, Miss. Above is a fantastic post office in the center of Northfield, Minnesota. 

Save The Post Office has been writing about the sale of historic post offices. See a story here. There are over 2,000 post offices either on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Postal Service wants to sell 600 offices, though it doesn’t say how many are historic.

The Times says preservationists are fighting these sales. “Unless the U.S. Postal Service establishes a clear, consistent process that follows federal preservation law when considering disposal of these buildings, a significant part of the nation’s architectural heritage will be at risk,” the National Trust said in a citation that placed historic post offices on its most endangered list.

Blake Shelton — Country’s Male Vocalist of the Year Blake Shelton isn’t making many friends. He said in a documentary:

Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music, and I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, ‘My God, that ain’t country.’ Well, that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. 

Ray Price has a nice answer, here. Texan Dale Watson described Shelton as the “Lance Armstrong of country music” and wrote a quicky song with the line, “Well, I’d rather be an old fart than a new country turd.”

And Robert Everhart writes

Country music came from rural America. The music, the songs, the stories, the plaintive pleas were, and still are, the main reason for its existence. Rural America IS ‘country’ music, not the urban comfort of ‘judging’ another’s talent from the comfort of a million dollar studio set. Anyone with enough money can buy a ‘male vocalist of the year’ award, anywhere, anytime, any day.

Rural Teens and Pregnancy — We reported earlier from a new report showing that rural teens had birthrates about a third higher than teens in urban counties. 

Angela Lu reports in The World, a Christian magazine, that this is hardly new — that the liberal Guttmacher Institute found the same phenomenon in 1997. Guttmacher found, however, that, “The major difference between rural and metropolitan areas is not in the probability of teenagers becoming pregnant, but in the likelihood of their obtaining abortions if they conceive.”

Hicks Fix Climate Tricks — Timothy Egan is a New York Times columnist who wrote a very good book about the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time. This week he proposed that President Obama appoint a farmer to be head of an effort to stem global climate change. He notes that most farmers probably don’t care much for Obama, and writes

But imagine if a farmer led the cause against climate change. Franklin Roosevelt chose Hugh Bennett, a son of the North Carolina soil, to rally Americans against the abusive farming practices that led to the Dust Bowl. Big Hugh was blunt, smart and convincing. “Of all the countries in the world, we Americans have been the greatest destroyers of land of any race of people,” he said, without apology.

Obama’s picks for energy secretary, the M.I.T. scientist Ernest Moniz, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator, the seasoned regulator Gina McCarthy, are cautious and qualified insiders. The problem with those nominees is that they come from the same general neighborhood. Just as every justice on the Supreme Court is an Ivy Leaguer, top government posts are thick with people from the same provinces of success, usually the Northeast and its top schools.

Clay Pope, a rancher from Loyal, Okla., recently cut a YouTube video urging President Obama to highlight the climate change threat to agriculture. It was good to see Pope, who speaks with the kind of vowel-crushing twang rarely heard in Washington policy circles, take up the good fight, especially considering the risk he exposed himself to from primitive politicians in his home state.

Either by push from a regulator, or shove from the weather itself, or persuasion from a person whose very livelihood depends on what comes from the sky, agricultural life will be unrecognizable within a generation’s time. If a farmer led the way to a better era, we might see this headline during the transition, a rewrite of one of the most famous in newspaper history: Hicks Fix Climate Tricks.







 

 

 

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