Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Googling Mountaintop Removal

My friend Sam is riding his bike for mountaintop removal. Err, well, for stopping it, at least. He started riding last week and plans to visit a number of mining towns and gather a petition to end it, which he will deliver to someone in D.C. for the inauguration.

No, I don’t really get it either. I think he might be getting class credit out of the deal, but I’d pretty much sooner graduate late than freeze my tuckus off on a bike from here ‘till the 20th. Now, Sam’s a bit of a liberal moonbat (he won’t mind me saying that- he thinks I’m loony, too), but when he told me about it, I had to admit that I didn’t know enough to form an opinion about his position on mountain top removal. So I’m trying to learn something, here.

Well, my initial Google search turned up a lot of what I'm thinking of as "Sam style" sites, of the hippy "stop it now!" variety. While these might be informative, I want to explore all of the bases here. My suspicion is that, while this might be associated with some environmental damage, it’s probably also associated with a lot of desperately needed employment, so most the residents affected are probably all for it. Of course, those folks are probably too busy actually earning a living to go out and start a blog about it, so there’s that.

Well, Appalachian Voices does note that this form of mining actually reduces the number of workers needed to do the mining, but I doubt that matters to much if the companies are able to produce more. Otherwise, this site’s pretty hysterical (lead quote: "It's like having a gun held on you with the hammer back and not knowing when the man's gonna pull the trigger."), so it’s probably not really the balanced set of facts I’m looking for. But I peruse their “Myths and Facts” section just be sure.

Some of these just plain don’t make sense. For example:

Myth: Mountaintop removal mining improves local economies.Fact: Tourism pumps
far more money into West Virginia economy each year than does the coal
industry.Source: Citizens Coal

Fact: Surface mining (which includes MTR mining), accounts
for only 1.2% of jobs in WV and brings in just 2.6% of the state’s total
revenues. The counties where surface mining predominates are some of the still
poorest counties in the country.Source: 2002 economic census data;

Be that as it may, those don’t refute an argument that this improves local economies in any way. I also note some questionable sourcing:

The Appalachian Highlands are characterized by some of the best and most diverse
forest habitats in the world. Current reclamation practices are unable to
restore native mixed hardwood forests, but rather replace these ecosystems with
fields of non-native grasses. These changes in habitat may significantly impact
neotropical bird populations, native salamander populations and other sensitive
species.Source: Trial Lawyers for
Public Justice

Not exactly established scientists, there. Moving on:

National Geographic tells a story of a family that had been in the area for generations, but moved because of the dust and explosions. However, when you look closer you realize that this this was before the "mountaintop removal" started, so I’m not sure what the point is. That all coal mining is bad so we shouldn’t have any coal? Sorry NatGeo, not going to buy that one.

NatGeo has some more details about job reduction:

Seems that what once required 125,000 workers can now be accomplished with 19,000. But isn’t this the case with all manufacturing/labor type jobs as technology advances? I’m not sure that keeping jobs is the goal for people like Sam. The story goes on to tell some truly sad tales about family dying from various lung ailments, but, again, there’s no indication that these problems have changed at all since the development of mountain top removal mining (in fact, several of the dates cited go back far before the development of it), so again, unless we’re looking to stop all coal mining, this is not making me hate mountaintop removal.

Flooding is discussed, but not in any way that would allow anybody to judge the mining company’s culpability:

The issue of flooding also evokes conflicting views. Raney sees no connection
between mountaintop mining and floods. "Science doesn't bear that out," he told
me during an interview in his Charleston office. "What causes flooding is too
much water falling in too short a time."

Yet a study by federal regulators,
obtained by the Charleston Gazette through the Freedom of Information Act,
predicted that one valley fill at the Hobet 21 mine could increase peak runoff
flow by as much as 42 percent.

Vivian Stockman, a project coordinator with the
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in Huntington, contends that 12 West
Virginians have died since 2001 because of floods related to mountaintop mining.
"Old-timers will tell you property that has been in their families for
generations never flooded severely until mining began upstream," Stockman
says."It's common sense. Denuded landscapes don't hold water the way forests

(would it have been so hard to pull some records or newspaper archives and check this out, NatGeo?)

The question of what is to be done with the used land is interesting:

It was not the intent of Smackra, of course, to allow coal companies to walk
away from their surface mines and leave them denuded. Stripped mountainsides,
the law declared, must be restored to their "approximate original contour" and
stabilized with grasses and shrubs, and, if possible, trees. But putting the
entire top of a topped-off mountain back together again was an altogether
different—and more expensive—matter. So mountaintop mines were given a blanket
exemption from this requirement with the understanding that, in lieu of
contoured restoration, the resulting plateau would be put to some beneficial
public use. Coal boosters claimed the sites would create West Virginia's own
Field of Dreams, seeding housing, schools, recreational facilities, and jobs
galore. In most cases it didn't work out that way. The most common "use" turned
out to be pastureland (in a region ill-suited for livestock production) or what
the industry and its regulators like to identify as fish and wildlife

"The coal companies have stripped off hundreds of thousands of
acres," says Joe Lovett, an attorney for the Appalachian Center for the Economy
and the Environment, "but they're putting less than one percent of it into
productive use."

Yet the industry should get some credit for what it's
managed to accomplish in post-mining land use over the years. It's provided a
number of West Virginia counties with the flat, buildable space to accommodate
two high schools, two "premier" golf courses, a regional jail, a county airport,
a 985-acre complex for the Federal Bureau of Investigation near Clarksburg, an
aquaculture facility, and a hardwood-flooring plant in Mingo County that now
employs 250 workers.

"Economically, we were dying on the vine," said Mike
Whitt, executive director of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, as we
toured the 40-million-dollar flooring plant, financed by grants from federal,
state, and local governments and by private investors. "So we got OPM —other
people's money—to get the job done. Without the infrastructure to create jobs,
you're out of the game."

There’s also some discussion of reforestation of the area, but with skepticism. Sam’s main complaint when he stated the problem to me was that this was impacting people’s culture and way of life. The NatGeo article hits this as well :

Standing in the doorway of the Mountain Watch office on the main street of
Whitesville, I listened to Judy Bonds reminisce about the way it was 50 years
ago when she was a child. "I used to swim in the Coal River then," she said,
"but now it's so full of silt that the water barely comes up to your knees. It
breaks my heart. I look at my grandson, and I see that he's the last generation
that will hunt and fish in these mountains and dig for ginseng, and actually
know mayapple when he sees it. These mountains are in our soul. And you know
what? That's what they're stealing from us. They're stealing our soul."

Maybe I’m just not as sensitive to these geographic links because I’ve moved around a lot, but the thing is, things do change. If I said that my neighborhood isn’t the same as it used to be, it used to be that everyone was one religion and the children all had a mommy who was home all day and a daddy who worked, the liberals would be all over me, and rightfully so. Things change. Mountains aren’t one’s soul. One’s soul comes from the things one accomplishes and the people one embraces, not from a place. I’m sorry that you can’t swim or hunt or fish there, but there are dozens of other places that you can. I’m still not convinced. More to come.

'[We] Don't Even Bother Raising Our Hands Any More...'

Guy Benson, at National Review Online, has some interesting information about Obama's "press conferences":

As I watched President Bush's final tango with reporters this morning, I
was reminded of how Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin described President-elect Obama's press conferences thus far:

"As ferociously as we march like villagers with torches against
Blagojevich, we have been, in the true spirit of the Bizarro universe, the polar
opposite with the president-elect. Deferential, eager to please, prepared to
keep a careful distance.
The Obama news conferences tell that story, making
one yearn for the return of the always-irritating Sam Donaldson to awaken the
slumbering press to the notion that decorum isn't all it's cracked up to

The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any
more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of
correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day."

Troubling indeed.

Also posted at Unfair Doctrine.

'[We] Don't Even Bother Raising Our Hands Any More...'

Guy Benson, at National Review Online, has some interesting information about Obama's "press conferences":

As I watched President Bush's final tango with reporters this morning, I
was reminded of how Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin described President-elect Obama's press conferences thus far:

"As ferociously as we march like villagers with torches against
Blagojevich, we have been, in the true spirit of the Bizarro universe, the polar
opposite with the president-elect. Deferential, eager to please, prepared to
keep a careful distance.
The Obama news conferences tell that story, making
one yearn for the return of the always-irritating Sam Donaldson to awaken the
slumbering press to the notion that decorum isn't all it's cracked up to

The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any
more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of
correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day."

Troubling indeed.

Also posted at Unfair Doctrine.

Julius Genachowski to head FCC

News reports say that Obama has selected his former Harvard Law School classmate Julius Genachowski to head the FCC.

Here's his bio, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Genachowski, 46 years old, is a former Harvard Law School classmate of Mr.
Obama. He previously worked at the FCC during the Clinton administration. More
recently, he co-founded LaunchBox Digital, a Washington, D.C.-based venture
capital firm. He worked at Barry Diller's IAC/InterActive Corp. in various
executive positions for eight years after leaving the FCC.

Curiously, I can't seem to find anything that indicates his position on the "Fairness Doctrine." Apparently, I'm not the only one:

Interesting. According to a Google News search, none of the articles on Julius
Genachowski, Obama's pick to head the Federal Communications Commission, mention
the Fairness Doctrine. The issue has been mentioned in the online comments
section underneath several news stories, but no one on the FCC or Obama
administration beat has had Genachowski's position regarding that
issue on their radar.

Also posted at Unfair Doctrine.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blogging Atlas Shrugged

One of my goals for the winter break was to finally get around to reading Atlas Shrugged. The blogosphere has been increasingly full of discussions about the book, its implications, and, notably, “going John Galt,” so, although I had picked up the basic premises through these discussions, I felt left out for not having read the actual book.

My collegue Akal's recommendation a few months ago sealed the deal, and I had to read it. It is certainly a compelling book. I had assumed that John Galt would be a main character and that the story would trace his development, but not only am I yet to meet Mr. Galt (other than through very vague references), I was pleasantly surprised to find a female lead, Dagny Taggert, who instantly reminds me of myself in oh so many ways.

One of the first things that I’m noticing about the book is that it is dialogue heavy, and many of these sections are written in curious and somewhat maddeningly illogical exchanges that frequently remind me (somewhat oddly) of Catch-22. For example (I’m cutting extensively because Rand is nothing if not wordy):

[Eddie Willers] looked at James Taggert and said, “It’s the Rio Norte
Line.” He noticed Taggert’s glance moving down to a corner of the
desk. “We’ve had another wreck.”
“Railroad accidents happen everyday. Did you have to bother me about that?”
“You know what I’m saying, Jim. The Rio Norte is done for. That track is
shot. Down the whole line.”
“We are getting a new track.”
Eddie Willers continued as if there had been no answer: “That track is
shot. It’s no use trying to run trains down there. People are giving
up trying to use them.”
“There is not a railroad in the country, it seems to me, that doesn’t have a few
branches running at a deficit. We’re not the only ones. It’s a
national condition – a temporary national condition.”
Eddie stood looking at him silently. . . . “What do you want?” snapped Taggert.
“I just came
to tell you something that you had to know, because somebody had to tell
“That we’ve had another accident?”
“That we can’t give up the Rio Norte Line.” . .
. “Who’s thinking of giving up the Rio Norte Line?” he asked. “There’s never been a question of giving it up. I resent you saying it. I resent it very
“But we haven’t met a schedule for the last six months. We haven’t
completed a run without some sort of breakdown, major or minor. We’re
losing all our shippers, one after another. How long can we last?”
“You’re a pessimist, Eddie. You lack faith. That’s what undermines the moral of an organization.”
“You mean that nothing’s going to be done about the Rio Norte Line?”

“I haven’t said that at all. Just as soon as we get the new

“Jim, there isn’t going to be any new track. . . I’ve spoken with Orren
Boyle.” . . .
“What did you bother him for? I believe the first order of rail wasn’t due for delivery until next month.”
“And before that, it was due for delivery three months ago.”
“Unforeseen circumstances. Absolutely beyond Orren’s
“And before that, it was due six months earlier. Jim, we have been waiting for Associated Steel to deliver that rail for thirteen months.”
“What do you want me to do? I can’t run Orren Boyle’s
“I want you to understand that we can’t wait.”
. . .
“Well, what do you want me to do?”
“That’s for you to decide.”
“Well, whatever else you say, there’s one thing you’re not going to mention next – and that’s Rearden Steel.”
Eddie did not answer at once, then said quietly, “All right, Jim, I won’t mention it.”
“Orren is my friend. . . . I resent your attitude. Orren Boyle will deliver that rail just as soon as it’s humanly possible. So long as he can’t deliver it,
nobody can blame us.”

I’m also particularly drawn to Rand’s use of the word “adequately,” which she repeats over and over. Businesses and workers do not believe that they have to be the best, or even good, only “adequate.” They do not believe that they should have to compete as long as their performance is “adequate.” It’s similar to the adage about how most workers work only hard enough to not get fired, and most businesses pay only enough to keep the workers from quitting.

Similarly, she constantly returns to the theme of blame. “As long as . . . nobody can blame us.” Going above and beyond, doing extra, working and innovating around unforeseen circumstances are not even considered. If you’ve ever seen the Fox show House, there is one episode which calls out this attitude quite brillantly, “3 Stories.” In this episode, the ever misanthropic Dr. House is asked to lecture a medical class. He tells them 3 stories about various patients with leg ailaments, and asks them to attempt to diagnose and suggest treatments for these patients. “Student # 1” constantly objects that they can’t be blamed, or that they didn’t know certain things about the patients, as if believing that the disease

Dude . . . . Not cool.

Protester Calls for Jews to 'Go Back to the Oven' at Anti-Israel Demonstration.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Most Sexist Ad of the Year?

Tennessee Guerrilla Women has the story on TGW's pick for the number one sexist ad of the year, an ad for shoes by Dolce and Gabbana.

I can't seem to copy it for this post, so you can look at it here:

Hmm, it's a static picture, so it's pretty hard to tell what's going on there, but my first thought was a sexy dance, not rape.

Even if it was sexual, what clues do we have that this is against her will? I mean, it's not what I would choose, but just because it's somewhat unconventional sex (with voyeurs, if that's what it is) certainly doesn't make it rape.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm having a hard time believing that "rape," or even something like "dominance" was on the mind of the people shooting this scene. I wish people would understand that when you call everything "rape" like this, you really de-legitimize the real problems out there.

I used to live in New Jersey, and you know what, it kind of sucks

And now there's this:

NEWARK, N.J. - Some business owners in this crime-plagued city say recent
enforcement of a 1966 ordinance banning some types of barbed wire and razor wire is making Newark more attractive - to thieves.

Burglaries are up 17 percent from 2007 through
November in Newark, which has a young, charismatic mayor who has vowed to help
the city rebound from decades of official inaction, incompetence and
criminality.The city is aggressively courting new investment and
development, but people who have been ordered to downgrade their fences say
officials are worried more about aesthetics than security.

John DeSantis, owner of a lot used by an auto-repair business in Newark's West Ward, says his property has been the site of more than a dozen burglaries
since the summer, when the city forced him to remove razor wire
on top
of the 7-foot-tall fence that surrounds the lot.

(bolding mine) But at least theives won't get hurt!

DeSantis said he was surprised when a city official told him that the ordinance was being enforced to prevent passers-by or anyone climbing the fence from being injured by the barbed wire.

Umm, last I checked, the only way that a "passer by" can get injured on barbed wire is when that person tries to climb it, say, to go somewhere that person isn't allowed.

Quick quiz- Which political party has a deadlock hold on New Jersey?

Is new DNC chair Tim Kaine really even a democrat?

According to Tennessee Guerilla Women,

President-elect Obama has chosen anti choice,
pro abstinence education
, anti
embryonic stem cell research
, anti labor, anti
, anti
same-sex marriage and anti civil union
Tim Kaine to chair the DNC

Hmm, how interesting.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What's Wrong With Women Today, Part II

So I was perusing SHAMblog some more (I just found it, and it intrigues me, and classes haven't started back yet), and came across this discussion about an article from Working Mother Magazine, which has suggested that 91% of working mothers may suffer from depression. Now, the first thing that strikes me is that, if 91% of people doing something as normal as working and being a mother suffer from an illness which is supposed to be debilitating, maybe, just maybe, the criteria for that illness are being set just a little bit too low. Perhaps the normal ups and downs of life are not actually depression, is what I'm saying. (The only acceptable alternate would be that, if it makes 91% of mothers sick to do so, then mothers shouldn't be working, but I'm having trouble buying that one.) (To be fair, as SHAMblog points out, the article in question actually states one in 5 working women is depressed, a number which is still outrageously high in my opinion, but doesn't shed light on the number for working mothers.)

Anyway, I click over to the article, and the absolute first thing that I notice is the name of the feature: "Focus on You." Because, really, that's what motherhood is all about, isn't it? You? I mean, back when fathers were usually the sole breadwinners, they were always focused on themselves, weren't they? Never working overtime to be better providers, never taking care of the family? Right?

What's Wrong With Women Today

Steve Salerno at SHAMblog discusses one of Oprah's many deranged guest's ("life coach" Marcus Buckingham) step by step guide to life, which he describes thusly:

1. You are the best judge of your strengths. Don't focus so much on
feedback from others. Focus on what makes you feel good about you.
2. If your child comes home from school with 2 As, a B, a C, and an F, most
parents will concentrate on the F, because that's where we think help is needed.
Wrong. We should focus most of our energy on validating the As. Put the emphasis
where the strength is.
3. You have to do what you really want to do, because otherwise, though you
may be outwardly successful, you will feel like an inner failure.
4. If you're doing things because you think "no one else will do
them" should stop.

Now, SB does an excellent job at pointing out several reasons why this advice is completely moronic and would cause the breakdown of society as we know it (including some very insightful references to American Idol), so, if for some reason you can't figure that much out for yourself, read the whole thing.

Here's my concern. For some reason that I have never understood, women like Oprah. From what I hear, quite a lot of them, and they like her quite a bit. Men, not so much (God bless 'em).

And according to Mr. Salerno:

And yet women in Oprah's audience are crying. Crying! They are crying at
the brilliance of this Brit-inflected window into their tormented souls.

Because for many women (at least, women of the Oprah worshiping variety), isn't it always about them, and their tortured soles, and their dreams, which must be followed, and their needs and desires, and most importantly, feelings?

Isn't this why women are initiating divorces at middle age, blindsiding their husbands and families, rather than making any attempt to work out their problems? Isn't this why working in a women-centered office can be so frustrating (if you've actually done that, you'll know what I'm talking about)?

I think that if I were a man, and had to be married to one of these types of women, I'd have a new respect for homosexuality.

WSJ: HGTV to blame for housing bubble

Writes Jim Sollisch:

So now we know what happens when too many people who have too few assets
buy too much house with the help of too many risky mortgage products and too
little oversight. And while there's plenty of blame to go around -- unethical
mortgage brokers, greedy bankers and irresponsible homeowners -- one culprit
continues to get off scot-free: HGTV.

That's right. The cable network HGTV is the real villain of the economic
meltdown. As the viewership reached a critical mass over the past decade -- HGTV
is now broadcast into 91 million homes -- homeowners began experiencing deep
angst. Suddenly no one but the most slovenly and unambitious were satisfied with
their houses. It didn't matter if you lived in an apartment or a gated
community, one episode of "House Hunters" or "What's My House Worth?" and you
were convinced you needed more. More square feet. More granite. More stainless
steel appliances. More landscaping. More media rooms. More style. You deserved

If you had any doubts about your ability to afford such luxuries, all you
had to do was look at the 20-something couple in the latest episode choosing
between three houses. Should they go for the fixer-upper, priced at $425,000? Or
the one with the pool for $550,000? What about the one with room to grow for

"How much money can these people possibly make?" I shout at my wife before
wrestling the remote from her house-hungry little hand and switching it to the
nearest sports program. "The guy can barely string together two

Ironically, here in good old East Tennessee, most of these shows make me feel just great about what I have. I don't watch them with any regularity, but my favorite when I get the chance is Sell This House on A&E (not, HGTV, but same diff, I'm sure).

In this show, the outrageously adorable Tanya and Roger fix up a tiny and ugly house into something, well, somewhat nicer, usually for around $500 and 2 days work. What gets me, however, is that these houses, particularly those on the east or west coasts, are usually about 1/2 the size of my 5 year old, cathedral ceiling-ed East Tennessee suburban, and are outdated and old, with low ceilings, tiny windows, and ugly everything. And they cost 2-3 times as much as mine! It's a freakin' miracle, I say!

Huffington Post: {Man-made climate change] is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind.

Yes, you read that right. The Huffington Post has published an article not only questioning, but outright denying man-made global warming. The Huffington Post! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't read it with my own eyes!

You are probably wondering whether President-elect Obama owes the world an
apology for his actions regarding global warming. The answer is, not yet.
There is one person, however, who does. You have probably guessed his name:
Al Gore. Mr. Gore has stated, regarding climate change, that "the science is

Well, he is absolutely right about that, except for one tiny thing. It
is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of

So, kudos to you, Ariana, and the rest of the HuffPo staff. I've never thought of HP as the type of place that did much to encourage alternative points of view, so I'm glad to either 1) be proven wrong, or 2) see a change in direction. I certainly hope that other politically inclined blogs, particularly the major ones like HP, will follow suit.

Of course, on the other hand, maybe my optimism is misplaced. Roger Simon, more cynically, but perhaps more realistically, says:

Why now, you ask? Because “These late eclipses of the sun and moon portend
no good to us,” as My Lord

Well, close. Perhaps it’s because with the economy in the tank, there is
little My Lord Obama can do about anthropogenic global warming, so it is best
left off the table or hastened off the scene. If the Lord of Gore is
slighted in the process, so be it. He’s last year’s news. And, as we
all know, his movie sucked anyway.

Take a closer look at the last 2 paragraphs of the HuffPo piece (before the P.S.):

Again, Mr. Gore, I accept your apology.

And, Mr. Obama, though I voted for you for a thousand times a thousand
reasons, I hope never to need one from you.

Principled statement of one's opinion of the science, or permission to President Obama to change course without argument from the left? You be the judge.

"Ditch the Bible. Just Do as Barack Does"

Michelle Malkin carries stories from the Washington Post about parents using a "what would Barack Obama do"? approach to encourage their children to do everything from read to brush their teeth.

You could call it Obama discipline or Obama etiquette, and it goes
something like this:

Get up! Do you think Obama would have slept late and not made it to school
on time?

Why don't you guys share? Don't you think Obama would want you to share?

How much did you read? Obama would have finished the book by now.

Do you think Obama would sneak cigarettes? (Oops.)

Well, if teenagers still rebel like I remember them, I sense a whole slew of up and coming Republicans.