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 The Scourge Of Appalachia6 comments
picture28 Mar 2006 @ 10:06
I have deceived the Buddha
For seventy-three years;
at the end there remains only this---
What is it? What is it?

---Suio's Death Poem

Let us endeavor to live so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry.

---Mark Twain

The snow whisk,
sweeping sweeping,
forgets the snow.


Beth Skabar/Athens News Photographer
Elisa Young, a resident of Racine, Ohio, stands in front of American Electric Power's Gavin power plant, a coal fired facility in Gallia County. Young, a member of the SierraClub's executive committee, is concerned about the impact of the coal industry along the Ohio River on the health of her neighbors and the area environment.

As if divinely ordained, on each side of the United States run mountain ranges known as the Appalachians and the Rockies. The symmetry of the arrangement is satisfying to an element of the American character. So far as I know there is no section of the Rocky Mountains known as Rockalalia or Rockyland or some such. But over here there's Appalachia. The exact boundaries of the region are vague and open to dispute. The mountains themselves run from Maine to Georgia, but "outsiders" tend to think of Appalachia as the place where Lil Abner and Snuffy Smith live...and the people must be poor, lazy hillbillies like them. Popular songs of the '40s gave them attributes of a-feudin', a-fussin' and a-fightin', and doin' what comes natur'ly.

It's true the people are independent, strong of opinion (and prejudice---often proud of it: witness the hilarity of redneck humor), and wary of the government and regulation. They're quick to judge whether or not someone is an "outsider" and often put up little tests to check you out---like for instance even how you pronounce the word "Appalachia." You may come from an area of Appalachia yourself, as I do, but still be considered an outsider if your family hasn't been in the region you're in now for a couple hundred years. Where I grew up we didn't think of ourselves as Appalachia because there was no mining there, and for better or worse it's the poverty left by mining that constitutes in the American mind what Appalachia is. At first, coal and timber promised a lasting livelihood, but exhaustion of reserves and technological progress quickly changed the prospects of entire communities. There are towns around where I live now that haven't had real job opportunities in 3 generations...mostly since the mines pulled out and moved on.

Now our locally owned newspaper, The Athens News, has begun a 3 part series entitled "Cradle to grave: Tracking coal's journey through Appalachia." Its author is Katie S. Brandt, an Ohio University graduate student, who comes from Vernon Hills, Illinois, north of Chicago. Even though she's probably been a student here for half a dozen years, she still might be considered an outsider. But the fact is she's been shown around by someone whose credentials are impeccable...and that's Elisa Young. Elisa lives at Racine, by the Ohio River, trying to work a farm organically that's been in the family for generations. She's surrounded by electric companies, powered by coal, that supply an astonishing array of American towns and cities. Her dilemma has become typical of people whose families have owned land in Appalachia---and increasingly everywhere in the US---which is somehow in the path of commercial development. Do you sell out or stay and fight?  More >

 Rule By Executive Order24 comments
picture17 Feb 2006 @ 11:55
The wonderful thing about Zen practice is that you get to do it whether you like it or not.

---Zen saying

When we are not sure, we are alive.

---Graham Greene

I lay on the bowsprit, with the water foaming into spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight towering above me. I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it, and for a moment lost myself---actually lost my life. I was set free...dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm and the high dim-starred sky....I belonged within a unity and joy to life itself.

---Eugene O'Neill

I do not want to talk about the hunting weekend. As Joel Achenbach says the incident already has had more coverage than the landing at Normandy. What interests me are the final moments of the Britt Hume interview Wednesday on SweetMother Fox:

Q On another subject, court filings have indicated that Scooter Libby has suggested that his superiors -- unidentified -- authorized the release of some classified information. What do you know about that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's nothing I can talk about, Brit. This is an issue that's been under investigation for a couple of years. I've cooperated fully, including being interviewed, as well, by a special prosecutor. All of it is now going to trial. Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He's a great guy. I've worked with him for a long time, have enormous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case and it's, therefore, inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case.

Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.

Q There is.


Q Have you done it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order --

Q You ever done it unilaterally?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President.

Fortunately Pete Yost, of the Associated Press, picked up on the comment yesterday...but I hardly notice the nation reeling from this announcement. Here's his account...but stick with me: I've got more questions about this~~~ [link]  More >

 The Ugly Legacy Of Coal17 comments
picture16 Dec 2005 @ 10:36
When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.

---George Bernard Shaw

Searching for words, hunting for phrases, when will it end?
Esteeming knowledge and gathering information only maddens the spirit.
Just entrust yourself to your own nature, empty and illuminating---
Beyond this, I have nothing to teach.


Dying cricket,
His song so full
of life.


Mary Hufford took this photograph of mountain top removal. This and others are at the Library of Congress site Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia. [link]

One of the first questions people ask when they move to a mining area of the Appalachians---or even just drive through mountains of West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio---is "What's happening over there?" They're referring to a startling bare spot on the horizon, out in the middle of nowhere, no towns around, maybe a big crane thing sticking up. What you're seeing is called strip mining or mountain top removal, and the little part of the machine inadvertently visible from the highway might be something like The Big Muskie, which was the largest mobile land machine in the world [link] . It would take a stack of books to describe the history of coal mining and its effect on the lives of the people here---and certainly other regions of the Earth too---but did you know that history continues? Mining goes on here, providing jobs and taking them away, with mountain folks wrestling the same issues they've had to deal with for 200 years.  More >

 Tears For Baghdad4 comments
picture2 Nov 2005 @ 10:35
In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post office. You may depend on it, that poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while.

---Henry David Thoreau

Pride flees from the man who penetrates into the self as the light of a campfire before the rays of the sun.

---Zen saying

You should know that no one can hold the mind by himself, if it not be held by the Spirit. For it cannot be held, not because of its mobile nature but because, through neglect, it has acquired the habit of turning and wandering hither and thither....A mind thus inclined and withdrawn from God is led captive everywhere.

---St. Gregory Of Sinai

An Iraqi man cries over the bodies of his children in Hillah, some 110km south of Baghdad, after US troops bombed a residential quarter of the town. (Photograph:Reuters, April 1, 2003)

How many civilians, the elderly, women, children, male noncombatants, have died in the War on Iraq? It used to be that a casualty count was important in warfare. It's how you knew you were winning. Of course that's when soldiers would gather on a field of battle, face each other, march up with some fancy footwork and football plays, and shoot it out. Civilians got killed in the seige of a castle or city...or mass execution later...but it's been fewer than a hundred years of glorious history since we've improved ourselves enough to provide access to air attack.  More >

 All The World's A Factory7 comments
picture26 Sep 2005 @ 12:24
The farther you enter into the truth, the deeper it is.


To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.

---Oscar Wilde

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

---Rene Descartes

Some 30 years ago, I took my bag of teaching out of public and private schools and into a factory. The name of the company was TRW, which is about as nondescript as you can get, but I soon learned the initials represented the first letter of the last names of the 3 men who founded it. I also learned the 2 factories in our town, which were the last remaining major industry there, were only a toenail clipping in the vast global body of this corporation, headquartered in Cleveland. I decided TRW must stand for The Real World. At one point I even thought those guys could control the weather. Ho ho, clearly I was out of my mind.

Anyway, when I took the job I had a more naive view of manufacturing America. The place had a tutoring and education program especially for returned Viet Nam vets, who were trying to get back on their feet to support that wife and kid(s) that had come along during our "police action" over there. Most of these guys had put a payment down on a house, were settling in to a secure job with high pay and lots of benefits, and needed a program to improve some skills they had that might move them up into management. I thought this was a wonderful way for a corporation to share its wealth with the community of workers upon which it depends.  More >

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