Appalachia: National Sacrifice Zone

(Cross-posted at the new Appalachian Voices blog)

Jeff Goodell, author of Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future, just wrote a terrific editorial in the New York Times called Our Black Future, which touches on the growing need and want of coal in supplying America energy.

I can tell you 400,000 reasons why coal can NOT play an increasingly significant role in our energy future.

But the #1 reason to stay away from coal is a human one.

From 1984 to 2004, the average coal miner's per-shift productivity more than doubled, while wages declined by 20 percent (adjusted for inflation). If we simply increase consumption, we will be condemning large areas of the country, including eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, to national sacrifice zones.

Add that phrase to the mountaintop removal vernacular - NATIONAL SACRIFICE ZONE.

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Crimes Against Nature

Most of you probably know all this, but maybe you'll enjoy reading this anyway,

Crimes Against Nature

Bobby Kennedy was a pretty amazing guy. One of my favorite stories about him took place when he found out Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered. He had been seriously considering asking MLK to be his vice presidential running mate.

Bobby was on his way to address a crowd of black people in the ghetto of Indianapolis. The Secret Service and local law enforcement told him to cancel the appearance, they could not guarantee his safety. The news hadn't hit TVs or telephones yet. What if the crowd found out about it during Bobby's speech? Anything could happen.

Bobby refused to cancel. He went out there and told them Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. His impassioned speech ended with a (misquoted) line from Aeschylus: In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

The next day ghettos in over one hundred American cities erupted in flames but there was no riot in Indianapolis thanks to Bobby Kennedy. He was assassinated not long after.

In 2004 his son Bobby Kennedy Jr., an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, published a book called Crimes Against Nature. It's a meticulous account of the horrifying damage being done to our water, air and other natural resources by conscienceless corporate psychos aided and abetted by the Bush administration.

He shows how Joe Coors (DO NOT BUY COORS BEER) and a few of his right wing gazillionaire cronies cooked all this up back in the day by cleverly creating think tanks and acquiring as much media as they could. When Ronald Reagan threw out the Fairness Doctrine and Clinton deregulated telecom these assholes went nuts pushing their own agenda. Today the media is firmly in their hands.

Bobby doesn't buy the whole red state vs. blue state, anti-abortion vs choice game. His travels all over America have convinced him that the problem isn't that red staters hate homos so much they are blind to Republican corruption. He says they don't know what's going on because the news they get is so censored and spun.

For example all of Clear Channels news feeds to its legion of stations is direct from Fox News. Those two outlets are by far the largest sources of news for Americans and as has proven Fox is practically a PR arm for the Republican party.

Did you know the EPA says 18.000 Americans a year are killed by the pollution allowed under the new Bush administration rules? That's six times the number of people killed in the WTC attack.

Did you know since Bush abolished the Clinton era mercury rule all fish are now unsafe to eat in 19 states and one in six American women have dangerous levels of mercury in the womb?

Bobby Jr. talked to Viacom (MTV, VH1) chairman Sumner Redstone (a lifelong Democrat) about Viacom's open support for Bush. Bobby said: "Sumner, what about our children and what about our country?" Redstone answered: "Viacom is my life. I have to do what's best for the company. I need to buy more stations and the Republicans are going to let me do it."

John F. Kennedy when he became president asked the steel barons to hold back their prices to help cool inflation. He explained how it was not just good for the country, it was in their interests, too. They ignored his ass and raised prices anyway. JFK used his power to force a price rollback. JFK's private comment was: "My dad said all businessmen are sons of bitches. I didn't believe him till now."

But assholes like Redstone aren't mere sons of bitches, they are mentally ill. Because anyone already obscenely wealthy who would sacrifice human lives and the natural resources of future generations to make an extra buck is certainly mentally ill.

Bobby Jr. ends his book with this quote from Bill Moyers: "I think my peers in commercial television are talented and devoted journalists, but they've chosen to work in a corporate mainstream that trims their talent to fit the corporate nature of American life.

"The decline in American journalism is the biggest story of our time. The right wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that's interested only in the bottom line. Therefore we don't have a vigilant independent press whose interest is the American people. The quailty of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined."

I'm going to end this blog with a quote from JFK. Here's what a real president sounds like: "What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope to build a better life for their children."

Read the book: Crimes Against Nature by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. And pass it on,

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Bush's Excuse for High Gas Prices Disappears

Earlier this year, as gas prices continued to creep up, President Bush tried to blame the myriad of environmental regulations around the country for the high cost to consumers. Although most Americans didn't buy this argument -- it's clear that the rising price at the pump is a direct result of the rising cost of a barrel of oil -- the media of course repeated and gave it at least some credibility, as they are usually wont to with statements out of the White House.

But like many other comments out of the current administration, the claim that regulations around the country were even in part to blame for the high cost of a gallon of gas are just not true, as Jim Snyder reports for The Hill.

A draft Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report contradicts President Bush's suggestion that boutique fuels, designed to cut pollution from cars and trucks, have contributed to higher gasoline prices.

While they could complicate gasoline distribution when a hurricane or pipeline rupture disrupts supplies, the various fuel types used by states have provided "significant, cost-effective air-quality improvements," the report states.

Contained within the energy bill passed by the Republican Congress last year was a provision prohibiting the "EPA from allowing the number of boutique fuels in use to increase." Given the fact that this report shows that these environmental regulations do not increase the price at the pump -- a fact that even the oil industry has conceded -- Congress ought to reverse course immediately by overturning that provision and by actually encouraging localities to improve their environments by passing new regulations.

This, of course, will not happen any time soon. But as Americans grow ever more conscious about both the cost of gasoline and the effects that we are having on the environment around us, opposition to common sense regulations that can help clean up the air without adding significant costs to the consumer will be a real losing issue for Republicans.

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The New Meaning of "Hippie"

All my so called leftist friends are freaking out on Al Gore's new movie. They've become like moonies or fundamentalists preaching the unimpeachable gospel. Such trivialities as art, music, and other pleasures of life fade away for them and they only feel worthwhile when they are convincing others to rue their ways. I'm glad they're doing it. Even if it turns out Global Warming was another Y2K, the more lucid about consequences society gets the better.

I've rued my ways for years now. I only spend about twenty bucks a month on my Honda Civic for gas. Almost everything I need is close by. West Hollywood was the first city to have citywide recyling so I've been doing that since I was a kid. I turn off lights and keep the thermostat down enough that I sweat in summer and shiver in winter, and I try to keep my friends up to date on what's going on.

My so called rightest friends are thinking the apocalypse is just around the corner. They may not agree with the Dominion Theology extremist point of view that natural resources should be gobbled up as fast as possible because it brings us closer to Jesus, but they can't really muster any enthousiasm about environmental causes when the apocalyptic end times are so near. Again.

Death and destruction on both sides, no wonder people would rather eat junk food and watch American Idol. Now, I've been called a hippie, of course. By friends and enemies. There are some resemblances. I do have long unruly hair. I do like Hindu and Egyptian religious symbols. Sex and intoxication are pastimes I enjoy, too.

But it used to be that hippie was pretty closely defined. Ronnie Van Zandt may have looked like he was a hippie but any real hippie could tell you Ronnie was really more a redneck. I'm more clean freak redneck than hippie myself, and despite my long hair, my guts are punk.

Lately I've seen a resurgence of the word hippie. From military guys threatening to beat up emo kids in MySpace Fuck the Troops groups to political pundits, the word hippie is back in vogue, right there with commie and faggot as a synonym for words like democrat, liberal, feminist, and pro-choice.

At first witnessing this curious turn of events I thought: what the hell are these people talking about? What hippies? There were never that many hippies in the first place. There are even fewer hippies now. What the hell was a hippie? Someone who adopted the Native American spiritual relationship with Mother Nature? A smelly horny long haired drug addict? Anybody who prefers peace to war? Was every person at Woodstock a hippie?

If you are reading this you are probably a hippie in the eyes of the neocons who are somehow still locked not only in the Crusades but also in the Sixties. They are still enacting some sort of primal revenge in the ultimate high school reunion horror melodrama (because hippies got blow jobs, I'm guessing from the constant reference to blow jobs whenever Bill Clinton is mentioned).

Hey, it's a tough thing not to get a blowjob in high school. Makes a man feel inferior. Even when you get powerful enough to be able to force or pay for any kind you want, well, it's still not high school. The primal rejection lives on. And it never would have been there if those damn hippies had just played by the rules.

Punk rockers, queers, tattoo lovers, emo kids, people who care about the rights of animals, most comedians and all actors and actresses, porn fans, skaters, pot smokers, nature lovers, vegetarians, most musicians, artists, people who think South Park is funny, South Park itself, organic food enthusiasts, most black and brown people, Buddhists, Moslems, athiests, and anyone else who isn't white, christian and republican, you are hippies one and all.

Welcome to being a hippie. If I may sound like a hippie for a moment, brothers and sisters, let your freak flag fly, we should be learning from each other, sharing information, we should find out what we can do when we work together. We are a community with common goals, common sense goals. We just want to have good lives and pass on as much as we can to the children, right, man?

To quote that long haired womanizing probably pot smoking reincarnation believing in Paris lovin' (and I don't mean Hilton but he would have if he could have and I bet he would have scored too) hippie Benjamin Franklin that freaky mofo: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately."

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Courage 'Truth Squad' shines light onto Smith's act

Monday morning, the Team Courage Truth Squad gathered outside City Hall in Austin, TX as Lamar Smith held a press conference touting himself as an environmentalist.

The truth is that Smith has never supported the environment, and has been to the right of his party.  In 2005, Smith received ratings of "zero" from the League of Conservation Voters, The Texas Environmental Watch Alliance, and The Sierra Club.  Now, with a tough challenger who is clearly dedicated to working for the environment, Smith is trying to fool Austin voters into believing he supports the environment as well.  Not only is Smith's act dishonest, but it's degrading to Austin voters.  

The Truth Squad stole the story on Austin's local KVUE TV, with their message setting the frame for the entire piece.  The story highlighted Smith's poor environmental record, and even included an interview with campaign director Nick Lawrie, who commented that Smith's pandering was "too little, too late."

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