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LIKE many Washingtonians, columnist Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post is upset with the partial shutdown of the federal government.

"Washington is a place where hundreds of children couldn't play soccer this past weekend; where cafeteria workers, janitors and secretaries aren't getting paid for who knows how long; where buses and subway trains run empty; where shoe shine guys sit idle; and where Girl Scout troops had to cancel annual camping trips," Dvorak wrote.

She blamed the people who elected the 535 members of Congress for this.

"America, you sent these guys here," Dvorak wrote.

"They represent plenty of you, none of us. That imported brand of cuckoo is what's causing this government shutdown."

Of course she is upset. Outsiders are trying to shut down her town's largest employer.

Just like the federal government is trying to shut down coal in Boone County, W.Va.

After their own brush with losing their jobs temporarily, because of outsiders, maybe a few bureaucrats will understand better the plight of coal miners, their families, their car dealers and others who rely on much maligned coal industry for a living.

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ON Sunday, "60 Minutes" showed how the Social Security Disability Insurance system is awarding disability checks to people who are not disabled.

The news show rightly came down on David B. "D.B." Daugherty, whom administrators allowed to retire as a disability judge in the wake of a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2011 that exposed him as a rubber stamp.

In 2010, Daugherty decided 1,284 cases and awarded benefits in all but four.

In the first six months of 2011, he granted benefits in all of his 729 decisions.

But no one should think his 31 former colleagues in West Virginia are just as easy in awarding disabilities worth an average of $300,000 each.

In fact, in the past year, the 31 judges approved 4,777 appeals and disapproved 4,497 — for a denial rate of 48 percent.

That tops a national average of 44 percent in disapprovals.

Disability claims skyrocketed in the Obama presidency, but actuaries say the fund that supports these payments will be broke in five years.

Thank you, 31 judges, for denying the false claims that jeopardize future payments to the truly disabled.

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IN 1954, Concord University in Athens, W.Va., did something it had not done in its first 82 years by

admitting its first black student, Billy Owens.  

He had just returned home from a hitch in the Air Force in the Korean War. His dad was a miner and the younger Owens was determined not to follow that path.

He was set to enroll at the black college, Bluefield State, but Billie Harries, who ran the post office in Giatto, talked him into enrolling at Concord, where the registrar, S.L. McGraw encouraged him.

"Mr. McGraw told me, 'Listen, Billy, you're going to graduate just like any other student from this school.' That made me feel pretty good. That moved me on to keep going," Owens told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

The 1954 Supreme Court reversal of its awful Plessy v. Ferguson case from the 1890s, which supported the doctrine of separate but equal, removed the legal color barrier, but it took men like Owens to actually break through so others could follow.

Which was fitting since Owens played football and could block.

Owens eventually retired from Long Beach Memorial Hospital in 2006 in New York, but not before breaking another barrier by becoming the first African-American to serve on the Long Beach zoning board.

This month, he was the grand marshal of the homecoming parade and returned to the field as an honorary team captain for the homecoming game.

Isaac Newton said he stood on the shoulders of giants. Many people stand on the shoulders of Billy Owens.

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When he was governor of California the first time in the 1970s and 1980s, Jerry Brown's then-girlfriend, Linda Ronstadt, nicknamed him "Moonbeam" for  some of his proposals, such as the establishment of a space academy.

Brown left the Governor's Mansion after two terms in 1983. He returned in 2011 for a third term at 75.

This week, the Democratic Brown vetoed a bill passed by his Democratic legislature that would have allowed non-citizens to serve on juries in California.

"Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship," Brown said. "This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury. I don't think that's right."

How far from the American ideal has the Democratic Party fallen? A fellow named Moonbeam is now the party's voice of reason.


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