|New Civilization News: The Ugly Legacy Of Coal|
Category: Environment, Ecology
17 comments18 Dec 2005 @ 11:19 by jazzolog : Some Humor For Your Sunday
but with an edge. I found this "fable" about a donkey at the Canadian site [link] and it seems to have resonance somehow with us Yanks. See if your chuckle agrees~~~
A young man named Paul bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. When the farmer drove up the next day, he said, "Sorry son, but I have some bad news...the donkey is on my truck, but he's dead." Paul replied, "Well then, just give me my money back." The farmer said, "I can't do that. I went and spent it already." Paul said, "OK then, just unload the donkey anyway". The farmer asked, "What are ya gonna do with him?" Paul said, "I'm going to raffle him off." To which the farmer exclaimed, "You can't raffle off a dead donkey!" But Paul, with a big smile on his face, said, "Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody that he's dead."
A month later the farmer met up with Paul and asked, "What happened with that dead donkey?" Paul said, "I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $698.00." Totally amazed, the farmer asked, "Didn't anyone complain that you had stolen their money because you lied about the donkey being dead?" And Paul replied, "The only guy who found out about the donkey being dead was the raffle winner, when he came to claim his prize. So I gave him his $2 back plus $200 extra, which is double the going value of a donkey, so he thought I was a great guy." Paul grew up and eventually became the Prime Minister of Canada, and no matter how many times he lied or how much money he stole from Canadian voters, as long as he gave them back some of the stolen money, most of them thought he was a great guy.
24 Dec 2005 @ 19:45 by Ge Zi @22.214.171.124 : dirty coal
Interesting article, brought back memories, because I grew up in a coal mining area. But that was coal 1000 yards deep down back in Germany. I remember that my mother had to take in the laundry, that she put on the cloth line to dry, back in as soon it was dry, otherwise it would have been dirty again.
But when in the sixties oil became so much cheaper that the coal mining all these mines closed and shortly afterwards my home town was (jokingly) named a health resort.
2 Jan 2006 @ 15:31 by jobrown : Hello there, Jazzo!
your article was full of info I never heard before! I had no idea that all these coal fires ever even existed, but ...., heyyy, it all makes sense!... -in a sad way!
But, you Jazzo, have yourself a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!/ hugs/Astrid
5 Jan 2006 @ 10:49 by jazzolog : An Ancient Horror In Mining Country
I'm very grateful to Dana for finding and sending this out last night. Let me urge you to click the links in case you're not aware yet of the work private, individual researchers are doing with their home computers to bring the power elite to check in this country. I know many of us, me included, have been feeling pretty hopeless lately, as evidence of corruption and crime mounts daily within the network of corporate and political cronies that runs the United States and its global "partners" now, and yet nothing seems to get done about it. Events like the Sago mine disaster seem to shake the country awake for a few minutes, but the next entertainment comes on the tube and soon we shrug tragedy away with confessions of powerlessness and apathy. One of my elder mentors, who has been an activist all of his life, told me last night he was thinking to cancel his online subscription to TruthOut because "everything is too negative." I was so shocked I could barely respond...and besides, the meeting we were at was called to order just then. I hope he thinks better of it, and like me takes heart with the struggles of ordinary people still working hard for peace and justice.
Incidentally, if you want to get involved with the problems of coal mining---which go on literally in our backyard here in Southeastern Ohio---and you're close to Athens, there is a meeting tonight on just this topic. Elisa Young, whom I mention in the main text of this entry, is driving up here from the River, to bring us up to date, as will Bill Price, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Resource Director for Central Appalachia (whew). He's from West Virginia, I believe. The meeting is at the Athens Community Center in Room C at 7:00 PM. This is the regular meeting night for the Sierra Club here, but the notice I received was from the Appalachian Ohio Group---which may or may not be an official part of Sierra. You know how liberals are! I'm sure everyone is welcome...and we can always make more room at that place.
----- Original Message -----
From: dana carlson
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 10:56 PM
Subject: An Ancient Horror In Mining Country
digby 10:49 AM Comments (44) | Trackback (0)
in light of the deaths of 12 coal miners [link] , a timely reminder that Mr. Alito is on the record as deciding that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act should protect miners less than it does [link] .
It's also worth remembering that since reaching office, Our Fearless Leader cut MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) funds in real dollars, fired a whistleblower, put a mining company executive in charge [link] , reduced staff by 170 [link] , tried to slash funding even more [link] , and exempted the MSHA from the Freedom of Information Act [link] .
He did, however, arrange a photo op with the last group of high-profile miners trapped in the ground, and said this for the cameras:
"It was their determination to stick together and to comfort each other that really defines kind of a new spirit that's prevalent in our country, that when one of us suffer, all of us suffers."
Mr. Bush, we are told, has given up spirits.
Scott [link] and Barb [link] tell us that the mine in question had (among other issues) a full 273 safety violations in the past two years
Leah puts all this into context: [link]
If you have time for nothing else, please click Leah's blog!
Digby's blog Hullabaloo is here [link] .
6 Jan 2006 @ 08:22 by vibrani : Good stuff, Jazz
I forwarded this to interested family and friends. My niece is married to a miner and now she wants him to find another job.
7 Jan 2006 @ 00:42 by jmarc : you may find
this blog interesting. LINK
7 Jan 2006 @ 01:18 by vibrani : Yes, jmarc
change does not come easy to that region, and it's pathetic that students drop out of high school generation after generation. You'd think they'd have enough love and respect for their parents AND be able to make them happy by having a better life. It's not a put-down. It's a complicated matter but no one making the step to change isn't helping. Highest unemployment and insurance rates, lowest educational levels, no factories anymore, and so on. Why are they settling for this? Is it a lack of self-esteem - yes, and that comes from religion that teaches a person is sinful and life is always a battle. I noticed one thing watching the miners' families this week - most of the women are really overweight. I don't think the Gospel as it is is what people need. The article is right - they don't need religion. They need to really understand what the Gospel says - not the twisted versions churches teach. And what they teach is BE THE WAY YOURSELF.
7 Jan 2006 @ 10:21 by jazzolog : The Destructive Gospel Of Appalachia
The wit and author/narrator of Christmas Story, Jean Shepherd, used to talk on his WOR radio show a lot about his midwest childhood. He was from south of Chicago, which ain't Appalachia but certainly Bible Belt. He liked to remember strange and violent storms that would pop up out there---like the black cloud that hung over Zeke's farm for a few minutes before...POW...nothing left but a hole in the ground: next Sunday the churches were full. Much fundamentalist religion is punishment-based, with Old Testament attention to a fearsome God who protects and rewards the faithful to bring them victory over the infidels. The whole fear thing fits very nicely into current Administration strategy for corporate profits. The megachurch is essentially a huddle of the frightened, no matter how loud the self-righteousness blares. Here in Ohio the current attorney general, Jim Petro, is running for governor this very minute with a political ad displaying his pro-life church involvement. The frightened voter goes for that pitch like a lemming.
The kids don't drop out of school as much as they're thrown out. Some of us think the diet problems Vibrani mentioned are involved in their poor performance. I know tons of teens who eat nothing but pizza or something deepfried you can dip in ketchup. They'll throw up before they'd touch a green leafy vegetable. Nearly a quarter of the 7th grade in Athens has IEPs (individualized education plans) which means a student has some sort of disability or challenge identified that hinders learning. Often the more serious the problem, the more the kid is moved around. Foster homes, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, mom's new boyfriend in Florida...these are the living conditions. Time with dad? Weekend on the road to the next NASCAR race...or a run in his semi on loan.
Behavior problems from all this? Schools can't be bothered with such things. Funding is so low, particularly in areas where property taxes pay for education, teachers buy their own supplies---some of which expense they can deduct from income tax. The pressure is on for high scores on tests issued by the state. Your school doesn't get a good score you lose government funding. Students who bring the score down may find themselves transferred, because of ongoing discipline problems, to "alternative school," places where little is taught and the boot camp is modeled. In defense, Appalachian kids, like inner city ghetto kids, begin early to prepare aggressively for such detention...wearing punishment like a proud badge of initiation. Redneck is a compliment here, and what one might view as a lack of self-esteem may be worn like a new tattoo or piercing...or blood-letting in the beautiful and eternal hills, where there've been no jobs for 3 generations.
7 Jan 2006 @ 11:00 by vibrani : That is true, Jazz
look at Jeff Foxworthy who made millions on the redneck gig. Or, Gretchen Wilson and her redneck woman song - all pride in being sleezy, cheap, "I ain't no high class broad, I'm just a product of my raising I say, 'hey ya'll' and 'yee-haw'" and shop at Wal-Mart. And as long as they know all the words to a Charlie Daniels or Tanya Tucker song, hey, they're in like Flint in their neck of the woods, literally.
That is also what I've seen in education - doesn't seem to matter what city, either. But, one thing that I will say is that in some places kids are graduating without knowing basic third grade English. They can't spell for shit, their grammar is awful, they have no idea what geography is, or who is who. It's appalling and that's nothing to be proud of, but that's life for them. They don't care if they don't go to college. What matters is getting married and having kids, playing ball, going to NASCAR, and church and gambling every week.
So now another question is coming to mind - should the rest of America care about what they do, and that America is often seen through the eyes of foreigners as being mostly stupid, and redneck, even though that's not how all Americans are? I know it's easy to reach such conclusions just by seeing the many idiotic sitcoms on television these days that are catering to the redneck way of life.
By the way, speaking of tv - did you watch "The Book of Daniel" on Friday night? I enjoyed the program. It was well-written, realistic, fun to see JC with human characteristics and a good sense of humor as a spirit guide to the reverend. Good cast, too.
7 Jan 2006 @ 11:59 by jazzolog : Caring
It's worse than that. Their "neck of the woods" is now Iraq...or anywhere else a job for the Boss beckons. We have teachers, principals...and I have a district superintendent...who can't spell or write a decent memo either. Should we care? Well, for one thing the "rest of America" apparently is in the minority now. The whole redneck mentality is based on generations of the rest of America not caring what happened to them. You depend on nobody! A government program? HA! It'll vanish as fast as that mining company did...and they'll be left to hunt roots and herbs in the woods. Now, if those people finally have some clout with supposed fellow rednecks in office and in power, what do you think their foreign policy is going to look like? What kind of church will they have? What kind of schools? Wal-Mart becomes the town hall.
7 Jan 2006 @ 16:57 by Quinty @126.96.36.199 : Intereting stuff
For those of us who are somewhat isolated (before moving to Providence, Rhode Island I lived in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland California) this news of what it's like out there is very interesting. And has the ring of truth. I also lived in Indiana for five or six years and know first hand how mean people can be. Cities (I'm originally a New Yorker. God I've gotten around!) are reputed to be violent, with large teenage gangs, the mafia, unsafe streets, etc. But I never saw anything in New York compated to the spontaneous violence I sometimes saw in this small Indiana town. It was something under the skin, something hateful, very dark, deeply racist, blind and foul. And, of course, these people were all "my country right or wrong" flag wavers who never questioned the rightness of any US war. Vietnam was in full swing when I was in Indiana and a sure way of picking a fight then would be to criticize the war. Yes, I agree, fear has been a major aspect of our national character the current administration has deeply exploited, and continues to exploit.
An aside: I knew a guy at that time who was extremely critical of our war in Vietnam. He was the one guy I knew who could go into a small town Indiana bar, sit down, call LBJ a liar, etc., without starting a fight. And, trailing along, I often saw him perform. Then one day he disappeared. Later we found out that this loud vocal critic of the war had volunteered into the Marines, a sure one way ticket to Vietnam. When he returned he was a totally different person, uninterested in associating with those of us who didn't know war. Who hadn't been there. Yes, a totally different person. I wonder what he had learned.
7 Jan 2006 @ 20:14 by vibrani : the solution
is more nuclear energy plants - a panel discussed/argued on Foxnews today. A couple of other countries have been living on nuclear power for many years and the only little problem is disposing of toxic waste, but "we" can deal with that! Okay - HOW?! It stays active for a million years (or something like that). Send more toxic garbage into space? Hell, no. Do you think miners would go work for a power plant if one was built in their area? Maybe.
Quinty - I think that being in a war has a profound affect upon one's soul - takes them a little further away from the Source - more separation - by killing, by seeing death and torture. It makes you question existence altogether. Some people can come through a war, the service and be even better people as a result, while others sink into a depression and shock and never fully emerge from that. They need someone who can relate to what they experienced.
7 Jan 2006 @ 23:28 by Quinty @188.8.131.52 : Brutalizing effects of war
War is brutalizing, no doubt about that. And the current war is adding to the large numbers of vets with "post traumatic shock" or "battle fatigue," whatever you wish to call it. And their numbers have become extemely large over for several decades. War easily brings out the worst in people: all society's rules become suspended to face the national "emergency." Look at our current president, who claims he has a right to do whatever he pleases - even if against the law - because we are in "a state of war." And this current pervasive state, need I add? was created through a fabric of lies and decepetion. The victims are many in any war: soldiers, civilians, relations. As well as we ordinary citizens who live through this climate, one tightly bound by deceit. Considering the unacceptable.
I can't think of any human behavior more immoral than war. Perhaps you can? The only excuse is self-defence. What we have today is the oldest reason for war: which is simple theft.
Yes, I fully agree. War has a profound effect upon the soul, not only of those who participate as soldiers or civilians, in combat zones, but the nations which "back" them, encourage the troops, whip up civilian support and condemn critics and noncomformists as "traitors."
An uncle of mine served in the First World War, in France. He told his family he had been in the Quartermasters. After he died we discovered, seeing his personal papers, that he had actually been a machine gunner. That's what he did in that war. He never told anybody.
9 Jan 2006 @ 21:01 by jazzolog : The True Cost Of Coal
The Sierra Club meeting I mentioned in the January 5th comment above was so inspiring and chock full of issues and information that I've been hoping for a writeup somewhere I could post here. I'm really not very expert in the technical aspects of all this, so I hesitated to try it myself. Finally this morning a good review of the meeting turned up in our Athens NEWS~~~
In Athens, Sierra Club raises concerns about 'true cost of coal'
By Jonathan Hunt
Athens NEWS Writer
Monday, January 9th, 2006
Fresh off last week's coal-mining disaster in Upshur County, W.Va., members of the Appalachian Ohio Group of the Sierra Club met in Athens Thursday to discuss "the true cost of coal" and statewide mining trends.
"In some coal executive's office, there's a dartboard with Ohio in the target," said Bill Price, an environmental justice coordinator for the Sierra Club. "Be ready for it."
The push to decrease dependence on foreign oil is making untapped coal reserves in southeast Ohio more attractive, according to Price, and horizontal coal seams in Ohio are well suited for longwall mining, which moves more laterally than other methods. The more rugged landscapes in neighboring states are conducive to room-and-pillar mining - the type used in the Sago Mine where 12 miners died last week - and mountaintop removal.
"We have got to be able to say, 'if you're going to do coal mining, you're going to do it right, or you're not going to do it at all,'" asserted Price, a resident of Dorothy, W.Va. He said the Sago Mine deaths "highlight" a lack of safety enforcement by federal regulators. The Upshur County mine was cited 273 times for safety violations since 2004, but its owners paid just $24,000 in fines.
"What we always see is a repeated pattern of violations," charged Price. "MSHA (the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration) has a terrible record in enforcing the law. The good-old-boy network is killing people."
Former coal company executives have occupied key regulatory positions in the Bush administration, including former MSHA head David Lauriski and former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles.
Lauriski resigned after MSHA whistleblower Jack Spadaro lost his job for saying the agency ignored safety problems at a Martin County, Ky., coal waste pond that ruptured five years ago.
Energy policy is being driven by the energy industry, charged club member and Athens resident Loraine McCosker. "It's real important that we take control of that," she said.
Meigs County resident and club member Elisa Young, a self-described seventh-generation Appalachian, said it's too difficult for Ohio citizens to find information about proposed coal mining in their communities. Young said permit applications should be available at a centralized database - more like what's available in other coal-producing states - and that Ohio is "behind the times" in this regard. She's trying to get more details about proposed longwall mining near her home, which she fears may be threatened. Longwalling causes subsidence of the land above the mine, which leads to ecosystem and property damage when everything shifts and sinks.
"There's no other piece of land I would go to that has that generational value to me," said Young.
Mike Sponsler, chief of the Division of Mineral Resources Management of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said Friday there's simply no money to create online coal-mine mapping on par with what West Virginia offers.
"We don't have the resources at this time," he said.
Once Sponsler's office has received a completed mining permit application, he explained, a public notice must be published once a week for four consecutive weeks in a newspaper "of general circulation" in the affected area. The division then accepts public comment for 30 days after publication of the final notice, or citizens can request an informal public conference during this period. Finally, after an application revision process, the mine permit is approved or denied. Any party can then request an appeal, which is reviewed by the Ohio Reclamation Commission.
SIERRA CLUB MEMBERS ON Thursday also discussed companion bills in Ohio's Senate and House that would create an oil, gas and timber leasing board and make it easier to extract resources from state-owned land. They questioned whether state Rep. Jimmy Stewart, R-Albany, would support the bill.
Stewart said Friday he's not committing to a decision on House Bill 193 yet, but he's leaning towards voting no.
"I'm not convinced there will be adequate protection for some of these areas that will be extremely sensitive," he said.
Club members and Stewart agreed it's unfortunate that state legislators have attached the bill to spending projects based on revenue that would be generated by increased drilling, mining and timber cutting.
"What they're trying to do is take the money and use it for wonderful purposes that everyone supports," Stewart said. If the bill earmarks funds for public lands such as Ash Cave or Forked Run, the state representative acknowledged, "Who could vote against such a thing?"
"That is an incredibly important piece of legislation that's going to be decided in the fall," said McCosker.
Stewart thinks he has received about 25 letters on House Bill 193, but said he had hoped to hear more, and that anyone wishing to testify before a House committee on the matter should contact him.
STATE SIERRA CLUB MEMBERS are also preparing to petition American Electric Power (AEP) - an electric utility giant and major coal consumer - to make environmentally responsible decisions about how the coal it buys is mined. "Clean-coal technology" and the politics of foreign oil are improving coal's reputation - last week's deadly accident notwithstanding - even among some environmentally concerned people, according to some who spoke at Thursday's meeting.
"There's nothing clean about coal," asserted Price, who added that the notion of "cheap electricity" is also a shibboleth. These rosy calculations look at what consumers pay and what pours out of smokestacks, he said, but often fail to take into account the impact of mining. "Why are we using their terminology?" he asked.
Price warned against letting the Sago Mine disaster sway public sentiment toward increasing surface mining, which could lead to more activity in Ohio.
Overall, Sponsler reported seeing a small increase in mining around the state, but said he wouldn't call it a boom. "Traditionally, Ohio produced more surface coal than underground coal, but that's not the case anymore," he said. Most of the mining is in eastern Ohio, especially Belmont and Jefferson counties, he added.
According to federal data, 31 companies mined coal at 94 mines in Ohio during 2004. Nearly 61 percent of the total coal production came from eight underground mines. One mine currently operates in Athens County north of Glouster.
AEP announced plans last year to build the world's largest Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant - using a form of "clean coal technology" - in Meigs County.
A major longwall mine was proposed for Dover Township in Athens County in the late 1980s but the proposal never went anywhere.
22 Jan 2006 @ 11:38 by jazzolog : A Valiant Death
With the bodies recovered yesterday of the 2 miners who perished in Alma No. 1 mine in Melville, West Virginia, words of support are arriving from public figures. The director of West Virginia's Office of Miners' Health Training and Safety said the remains indicate the men put up "a valiant effort." The Governor told the families that, like the dozen who died at Sago, "they have not died in vain." (Wouldn't you love to have a politician tell you something like that along about now?)
I have a colleague at work, who's lived in this area all his life, served as a Marine in Viet Nam, now attends THE megachurch in Athens, and refers to me as "my favorite liberal" around the school. When news first arrived about the men at Sago, he declared to me in the hallway that if conditions were unsafe there, why would men be so stupid as to get in the elevator! My reply was essentially the contents of this article---but I was far from this eloquent---which was sent to me the other day by Appalachian community organizer and sociologist Mike Maloney~~~
"Well, bless us all, boys and girls: for today’s story, Jon Carroll, super-columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, whose wife comes from Cincinnati (and thus has visited these parts), asked me to pass his Tuesday, Jan. 10th column on to all I know and know of in Appalachian areas and approximations:"
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
We begin today with a note from reader Sue Briggs of Benicia: "I had the misfortune of trying to tune in 'Countdown With Keith Olbermann' on MSNBC last night to catch his 'OddBall' segment before bed. Instead I was greeted by Rita Cosby (ugh!) asking a coal miner in West Virginia, in the midst of the drama there, 'Why did you decide to be a coal miner?' "
This kind of stuff happens all the time. TV bigfoots are sent to the sites of breaking news stories, put on camera as soon as possible and told to say something. There's not a lot you can say in the waiting hours of a mine disaster; even more important, there's not a lot you should say. Our duty as humans in that situation is to lend as much dignity to the situation as we can by just shutting up.
The few times I have been in an analogous situation, I've felt a little predatory just for taking notes, which is, after all, a silent activity that can be done discreetly. I know reporters who do it more than I have, and most of them are visited by the same sort of qualms and have developed a personal code of ethics that is more nuanced than anything an official management document could provide.
Of course, I've met some total grief vampires too. It's just that relatively smart and sensitive people can be turned into total idiots simply by putting microphones into their hands and turning the cameras on.
But the nature of the dopey question is interesting. "Why did I become a coal miner? Well, I was all set to become a veterinarian with a minor in classical literature, but there's something about the mines -- the constant danger, the lung damage, the unpredictable explosions, the claustrophobia -- that really spoke to me."
It's a question that comes from the world of "having a choice." It's one of the big dividing lines in American society, the chasm between those who think they have a choice and those who think they don't. (It is my experience that a lot of human growth comes when people realize that they have choices they didn't know they had.) (Underlining mine) As far as I can tell, all the men who were killed in the Sago Mine disaster came from coal mining families. Many of them had lived in West Virginia all their lives.
Most of them were older than 50, so they had lived through the 1968 Consol Mine No. 9 explosion and fire in Farmington, West Va. It was the first big coal mine disaster of the television age, and it was followed coast to coast. Ten days after the fires started, rescue workers had to admit defeat and seal off the mine to put out the fires. The concrete plugs reminded everyone of crypts. Attempts to recover the bodies went on for 10 years. The final death toll was 78; 19 bodies were never recovered. The date of the No. 9 disaster, Nov. 20, is still memorialized every year in that part of the state; it's part of the background narrative that informs the lives of West Virginia coal miners.
Coal mining is inherently a dangerous business, and coal mine operators are notorious scofflaws. The Sago Mine has been charged with 270 safety violations in the past two years; it has paid $24,000 in fines. That is, as the New York Times said, "little more than the cost of doing business." As economic times get rougher, West Virginia men are increasingly tempted to go back into the mines, and operators are increasingly tempted to cut corners.
I've been reading about this obsessively for two days, and thinking about the families of the victims, and thinking that maybe I should never complain again. Death and misfortune and disappointment and fear are part of the human condition, and I've certainly shaken hands with each of them. But I realize I have never done anything as brave as what coal miners do every working day, taking the noisy elevator deep into the ground, listening to the creaks of the mountain settling, holding on to a jackleg drill as it performs the most counterintuitive act possible, removing the rock that supports the earth above me.
So I think you should pray for the families, if you do pray. But I also think you should give a thought today for all the men and women in West Virginia and Kentucky and all places who are, even as you read this, working deep underground, living with fear and fatigue and black, black dust.
"Well, Rita, I'd seen 'Coal Miner's Daughter,' and I really just wanted to be like Levon Helm. He had a great look, sort of a Heath Ledger meets Hank Williams thing."
So bless our hearts and save our souls, and the air we breathe down in the devil's hole; just last week when the ceiling fell and the explosion trapped firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle
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