Saturday, February 11, 2006

Little Profits In Shredding Mountains For Coal

Writer Bobbie Ann Mason has some eye-opening info on the poverty that remains after shredding our mountains in search of coal in this article:

Appalachians love the mountains fiercely, yet mining is a way of life. Many don't want to protest the destruction of their mountains for fear the region will lose jobs. But nearly two-thirds of the mining jobs in Kentucky have been lost in the past 25 years because mountaintop mining is more efficient than deep mining.

The United States gets half its electricity from coal, and about a seventh of that comes from Kentucky. But coal money has not lifted eastern Kentucky out of poverty. In fact, the strip-mined counties have the highest poverty rates in the state, not much improved from when President Johnson visited about 40 years ago and declared war on poverty. Eighty percent of the coal, more than $2 billion worth, leaves the state, much of the profit going to distant corporations."

Here in Tennessee, grassroots actions have made coal mining operations take notice and seriously rethink their plans. Who says individuals have no voice or rights in our system? It took much time and consistent effort, but changes have been made:

"1. Tennessee will no longer issue ARAP (Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit) permits for the alteration of undisturbed perennial and intermittent streams

2. Tennessee will enforce a 100 foot buffer zone around these streams

3. Tennessee will no longer issue permits for mines where the coal seams are highly acidic (Ph 5 or lower)

4. Tennessee will tighten permitting restrictions on haul roads.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Birth of the Cool

Allow me the opportunity to bypass the normal movie post for a Friday and share this clip of a legendary musical performance recorded live in 1958 of Miles Davis and the band he gathered for his album "Kind of Blue". The tune here is "So What".

This album, along with the one preceeding it, "The Birth of the Cool", are classics in jazz and rock, and "Kind of Blue" still sellls thousands of copies each month, more than 50 years after it's release. This video shows why - it is Cool incarnate.

Miles brought John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderly, Paul Chambers and Bill Cobb together for sessions that still impress the most casual listener. They all stand and wait for each moment to step into the tune with their talents. No color picture could capture the Cool here. It needs black and white photography. And I love the way Miles hangs back smoking when he isn't wailing on that trumpet, stabbing notes into the song, and that shot at the end, when he finishes his last notes and then casually walks off smoking again.

No wonder that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be inducting Miles this March - Cool starts with Miles and spreads across the rest of the music industry throughout the 20th century.

If you've never dipped into the music before, you're in for an amazing journey. If you have, you'll enjoy the video above.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Feingold's Blunt Speech - Laws Broken

Senator Russ Feingold delivered a speech before the Senate that gets to the heart of the problem of the violations of the 4th Ammendment committed by the Bush Administration. Tough words, plain-spoken and easy to understand - the law is the law and no one is above it.

Some excerpts:

The President issued a call to spread freedom throughout the world, and then he admitted that he has deprived Americans of one of their most basic freedoms under the Fourth Amendment -- to be free from unjustified government intrusion.

The President was blunt. He said that he had authorized the NSA’s domestic spying program, and he made a number of misleading arguments to defend himself. His words got rousing applause from Republicans, and even some Democrats.

The President was blunt, so I will be blunt: This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program."

"At the hearing yesterday, I reminded the Attorney General about his testimony during his confirmation hearings in January 2005, when I asked him whether the President had the power to authorize warrantless wiretaps in violation of the criminal law. We didn’t know it then, but the President had authorized the NSA program three years before, when the Attorney General was White House Counsel. At his confirmation hearing, the Attorney General first tried to dismiss my question as “hypothetical.” He then testified that “it’s not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.”

Well, Mr. President, wiretapping American citizens on American soil without the required warrant is in direct contravention of our criminal statutes. The Attorney General knew that, and he knew about the NSA program when he sought the Senate’s approval for his nomination to be Attorney General. He wanted the Senate and the American people to think that the President had not acted on the extreme legal theory that the President has the power as Commander in Chief to disobey the criminal laws of this country. But he had. The Attorney General had some explaining to do, and he didn’t do it yesterday. Instead he parsed words, arguing that what he said was truthful because he didn’t believe that the President’s actions violated the law."
" ... this administration reacts to anyone who questions this illegal program by saying that those of us who demand the truth and stand up for our rights and freedoms have a pre-9/11 view of the world.

In fact, the President has a pre-1776 view of the world.

Our Founders lived in dangerous times, and they risked everything for freedom. Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death." The President's pre-1776 mentality is hurting America. It is fracturing the foundation on which our country has stood for 230 years. The President can't just bypass two branches of government, and obey only those laws he wants to obey. Deciding unilaterally which of our freedoms still apply in the fight against terrorism is unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately."
There is much much more to his comments. Read the entire speech here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


It started yesterday when I saw the picture of an enormous rabbit featured in a BBC story. That is one huge dang bunny. (Check out the link to the story and see for yourself how dang HUGE this critter is.)

That reminded me of the 20-year art installation project in the mountains of Italy project of a huge pink bunny, which people could allegedly hike and climb across and "relax on his belly." It kind of looks like it was flattened when it hit the ground, though.

When I was about ten years old, I raised and sold rabbits at flea markets and stuff, and used to sit by the For Sale sign and read Pogo comics. Those were good days. Started with four rabbits and had a gajillion more in no time. They sure like making more of themselves.

And since I thought of posting about these bunny oddities, I was reminded of the Angry Alien Productions web site, where you can view 30-second re-enactments of famous movies as interpreted and acted by bunnies. They are working on a new one, a version of "Casablanca".

And that's today's Bunny News.

The Great Cartoon Controversy of '06

Perhaps you'll get a better handle on the issue of the Great Cartoon Controversy of '06 if you consider that even a one panel drawing is still a work of art, made by an artist. And Art has been at the center of the blasphemous firestorm of Free Speech since it began and historically, religious and secular leaders have sought to contain Art and the artist somehow.

Hard to relate to the wild, murderous rioters? Then imagine the most sacred thing you can and then imagine someone taking that sacred image and making an artwork of it in the most vile and despicable of conditions. Righteous Indignation has been as common as grains of sand on the beach throughout human history.

Recently, hordes of angry emailers attacked NBC for a TV show called "The Book of Daniel" and many stations had to consider whether or not to show it. A sculpture of the works of the Ten Commandments in an Alabama courthouse brought fierce battles to the courtrooms. The scope and severity of a battle may change from one culture to another, but it is certainly a battle of great intensity. And it is about control, it is about containing the human imagination.

That pesky Freedom of Expression is still a revolutionary idea. Mix Free Will with Fundamentalism and you have an explosion waiting to occur.

Some in the American press and media are wrestling with the ideas of censorship and law and how can America maintain its leadership in the push for Freedom in these times.

Here's a few thoughts from cartoonist/writer Ted Rall:

Being provoked, as I tell myself when I'm sitting next to Sean Hannity, doesn't justify reacting with violence. And as Kuwaiti oil executive Samia al-Duaij pointed out to Time, there are better reasons to torch embassies than over cartoons: "America kills thousands of Muslims, and you lose your head and withdraw ambassadors over a bunch of cartoons printed in a second-rate paper in a Nordic country with a population of five million? That's the true outrage.

As the only syndicated political cartoonist who also writes a syndicated column, my living depends on freedom of the press. I can't decide who's a bigger threat: the deluded Islamists who hope to impose Sharia law on Western democracies, or the right-wing clash-of-civilization crusaders waving the banner of "free speech"--the same folks who call for the censorship and even murder of anti-Bush cartoonists here--as an excuse to join the post-9/11 Muslims-suck media pile-on. Most reasonable people reject both--but neither is as dangerous to liberty as America's self-censoring newspaper editors and broadcast producers

Read the whole column here.

And more from editorial writer John Leo considers whether or not all this is a matter of "being civil" and admits his argument fails as:

" ...
pressure to avoid publishing things that offend Muslims has been rising, particularly when death threats are made or expected. [Journalist Oriana] Fallaci, the target of many such threats, is said to be in hiding in New York. Nobody knows how many death threats have arisen from the cartoon dispute. Under the circumstances, civility might emerge as less important than standing up now to the danger of censorship through fear."