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Sunday, June 19, 2005

How Many Mountains Should We Keep?

The editorial staff at the Roanoke Times had nothing to complain about today, at least nothing original, so they trotted out their stale attack on "mountaintop removal mining." Or what many folks around here call employment.
Annihilation of mountaintops
The destructive mining practice, which tears apart entire mountains to get at the coal beneath, should be limited to what the law actually allows.
The Roanoke Times

The Roanoke and New River valleys are blessed with much natural beauty, especially the green, forested mountains that define those valleys. Citizens who appreciate the peaceful splendor of those mountains should be horrified by the widespread practice in West Virginia called mountaintop removal mining.

Mountaintop removal involves blowing apart mountains to get at seams of coal beneath. The "spoil" is then dumped into adjacent valleys, burying entire streams.

Mountaintop removal mining is an affront to nature, the rule of law and the biblical concept charging humankind with dominion - not domination - of the Earth. People everywhere should join the fight to see it limited to what the law should actually allow. (
"An affront to nature." Gee. If only the enlightened folks at the Times felt the same revulsion when driving past the hovels belonging to people in those mountains who are trying to stave off poverty and starvation.

It's odd. I never read any editorials decrying the fact that the median value of a home in West Virginia is $46,800 less than the national average. Or that the median household income in West Virginia averages $12,298 less than the rest of the country. Or that the percentage of people living in poverty is 17.9 while the national average is 12.4%. (link) Or that the state of West Virginia is the only one of 50 to have lost population between the 1990 census and that conducted in 2000. The 2010 census will probably reveal that there are, by then, more mountains than human beings in West Virginia; just what the Times editors would prefer, no doubt.

The environmental extremists at the Times get worked up over rocks being turned into pastureland - after a handful of people earn a modest income in the process of retrieving the only commodity of value in that God-forsaken part of the world. The crusaders for a more primitive world have no interest in the fact that a mass migration continues involving, for generations now, the citizenry of West Virginia heading north looking for employment. They want to see trees and rocks when they go on vacation, damn it!

News flash: Those of us in the real world are well beyond this discussion.

It is time for us to come together and determine just how many piles of rocks we are going to leave in place for the Times editors to admire from afar. Personally, I think the number should somehow correspond to the relative level of wealth in the state. When every family in West Virginia is affluent, they can afford to join the lamentation chorus and will then have the opportunity to cry for that which was lost.

I just hope they never forget that which is being gained.

Byrd: KKK Just a Fraternity

Robert Byrd, the Democratic senator representing Virginia's western counties (known to some as West Virginia), is about to release a 770 page autobiography in which he, in part, tries to explain his leadership role in the Klan back in the 40's. If I could offer the old coot some advice, it would be to skip that chapter and let people wonder. Otherwise his role as Grand Dragon in the KKK is going to be portrayed thusly;
A Senator's Shame
Byrd, in His New Book, Again Confronts Early Ties to KKK
By Eric Pianin, Washington Post Staff Writer

The 770-page book is the latest in a long series of attempts by the 87-year-old Democratic patriarch to try to explain an event early in his life that threatens to define him nearly as much as his achievements in the Senate. In it, Byrd says he viewed the Klan as a useful platform from which to launch his political career. He described it essentially as a fraternal group of elites -- doctors, lawyers, clergy, judges and other "upstanding people" who at no time engaged in or preached violence against blacks, Jews or Catholics, who historically were targets of the Klan [my emphasis]. (link)
This must be a joke. Either that or the rumors about his having lost his mind are proving true. The Klan, if Grand Klingon Byrd is to be believed, was nothing more than a fraternity; a bunch of buds kicking back some brewskies and sharing pictures of topless women. The Rotary Club by a different name.


This is how the chapter in Byrd's book relating to his Klan years should read:
Resentment towards blacks, who were all considered former slaves, was a reality in the South. Racism, born out of a Southern culture that required the enslavement of blacks in order to survive, flourished. Violence and intimidation became the sword of the Ku Klux Klan but the exact toll in human lives will surely never be known. Throughout the following decades, the Klan’s influence increased dramatically, fueled by a sense of arrogant righteousness that seemed ingrained in southern culture.

In Watkinsville, Oconee County, Georgia in 1905, two brothers, Lewis and Rich Robinson were arrested and charged with the murder of a white man. They were brought to the local jail and held pending trial. In the same jail were seven other prisoners charged with a variety of crimes including theft. On the night of June 29, 1905, a mob of approximately 100 men wearing robes and masks showed up at the jail. The sheriff had been kidnapped and brought along to open the cell doors. At gunpoint, the deputies were forced to turn over all the prisoners, including the Robinson brothers. The prisoners were tied up and marched to the center of town where they were beaten and tied to a fence. The leader of the mob gave a command to shoot the men. Hundreds of shots were fired at the helpless prisoners. Eight prisoners lay dead on the ground. One man, Joe Patterson, escaped with two bullet wounds in his chest. It was one of the worst lynching incidents ever recorded and like all the others, not one person was ever charged or even arrested for these killings. Fear of the Klan, which had a strong presence in Oconee County for decades, was solidified for another generation. (link)
I had the misfortune of occasionally crossing paths with a couple of Klansmen when I lived in Bullitt County, Kentucky a number of years ago. They could best have been described as hardscrabble, lower class, hate-filled men who couldn't involve themselves in a casual conversation without launching into a verbal attack on "niggers" stealing "our" women, stealing "our" jobs, defiling "our" white heritage, and on and on. They were godless, penniless, and illiterate; destined to remain on the lowest rung on the socio-economic ladder.

They were - and are - the scum of the earth; the kind of people who make you want to go home and take a shower after having talked to them. These were Robert Byrd's Klan cohorts. They hated Jews. They hated blacks. They hated communists. They hated Catholics. They hated Republicans. They hated yankees. In Byrd's era, they particularly hated Civil Rights organizers. Byrd was at the forefront of their cause and was admired by his fellow Klansmen for having filibustered the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. At the time, he had this to say about an incident involving Martin Luther King, Jr:
"Martin Luther King fled the scene. He took to his heels and disappeared, leaving it to others to cope with the destructive forces he had helped to unleash. And I hope that well-meaning negro leaders and individuals in the negro community in Washington will now take a new look at this man who gets other people into trouble and then takes off like a scared rabbit." (link)
So. Robert Byrd has written a book characterizing himself as a former frat boy who was simply trying to get into politics. Whereas he may have gotten away with that lie for all these years, it no longer plays. Byrd's day is done.

Stick a fork in him.