The News from Sam´s Branch
A Memoir and History in Letters to the Editor
What is This?
I don´t mean to sound arrogant in calling this a history. It is a history through one
tiny peep hole. These op-eds and letters to the editor deal mainly with West Virginia and
the threats to our environment. I started limiting my editorials to environmental issues
because the mining method called mountain top removal coal mining concerns me more
than any other issue and the newspapers aren´t going to give me a weekly column to
discuss all of my other concerns. I wish I could have written more about the way children
are raised and their education’. Racism has been a lifetime interest of mine as I have tried
to work my way out of the osmosis-like absorption of my White culture´s prejudicesI
imagine this has been easier to do in West Virginia than in the deep south states. War and
the absence of peace in my lifetime has concentrated my attention and is a subject I would
have liked to write more aboutif I pause to list the wars, government overthrows and
assassinations the United States has been a part of in my lifetime it goes like this: Second
World War, Korean War, the invasions of Lebanon(twice), Vietnam, Cambodia, Granada,
Panama, Dominican Republic, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and a proxy invasion of Cuba and
a proxy war inside Nicaragua--missile attacks on the Sudan and Pakistan, bombing of Libya,
Bosnia, Serbia and Cambodia. Add to those the overthrow of the governments of Iran,
Chile(assassination of Allende), the Congo(assassination of Lumumba), South
Vietnam(assassination of Diem) and Guatemala. I am sure I have left some out.
Boy, Was I Naïve!
The Morgantown Post, January 18, 1964
I had just started as the first full-time foreign student advisor at West Virginia University.
I was 26 years old and just back from two years in the Peace Corps. Looking back I am amazed
at what must have been a lack of concern about losing my job.
I thought the stupid, near fascist philosophy of right wing extremism was
beaten badly enough in the last election to negate the possibility of such asinine
and uninformed editorials as have appeared in your paper recently. In one of those
so-called editorials you admitted that not only did you not know where Indonesia is
but that you didn´t care either. From this I gather that you probably never went to
school since most schools find it rather anti-intellectual to ignore in their
geography classes a country with one hundred million people. I didn´t write to you
at the time you printed that confession of your ignorance because I didn´t want the
one person in Morgantown from Indonesia to be offended by such a public
discussion and I was also somewhat chagrined by your outburst. More recently you
printed more of the same reactionary garbage in an article entitled Back Home in
Indiana.’ In that article you assumed that the major reason for our foreign aid
program was to protect the free world. Did it ever occur to you that it is moral and
good to give milk to a child that gets no other protein or to give a shot of penicillin
to a child suffering from yaws? The men, women and children who receive this aid
need it badly and they have never heard of the free world’ and couldn´t care less
who wins the struggle as long as they can live to see tomorrow. We give this aid
because it is what our moral and religious heritage has taught us is good to do for
our fellow suffering human. The next time you think of printing such inhumane
opinions stop to consider if your God isn´t coming out more like John D.
Rockefeller than like a Jesus or a Gandhi. Must you gain from everything? Can
you sacrifice nothing?
Barry Goldwater was defeated by Lyndon Johnson because many of us were convinced
Goldwater was too dangerous and that he would bomb North Vietnam back to some prehistoric
condition. Johnson´s TV campaign ads pretty much said Goldwater was crazy enough to use
atomic weapons. Well, to our surprise our man Lyndon let himself pretend to believe the
invented report that there was an attack on some very big American ships by a few very small
Vietnamese motor boats. He used that phantom attack as an excuse to destroy the oil storage
facilities in North Vietnam. This bombing eventually reached its peak with the B-52 carpet
bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. A Jew secretary of state ordered the massive Christmas Eve
bombing of a Buddhist country´s capitol. Henry Kessinger was Ecumenical for sure.
The Sheriff´s Bumper Stickers
The Morgantown Post, May 6, 1964
As a private, tax-paying citizen, I would like to comment on a campaign
tactic I have observed in Monongalia County. I notice that the Sheriff´s cars have
stickers advertising the campaign of one of our gubernatorial candidates. The
Sheriff told me when I called him that he saw nothing unethical about this. He said
he owned those cars himself and even bought the sheriff´s emblems that are on the
I asked him if it is unethical to use a sheriff´s car for campaigning during the
day when the people driving them were on official duty and when the taxpayers of
this county were paying their salaries and seven cents a mile. He replied that one
cannot operate a car on seven cents a mile and that he did not consider it unethical
to juxtaposition the official sheriff´s emblem and the campaign sign. He said,
patronizingly, that the car was his and that he had the right to campaign for
whomever he pleased.
It seems to me that during the normal duty hours of an elected public official
it is quite unethical to use a vehicle for both official county matters and political
campaigning, regardless of who owns the vehicle.
The following two articles appeared side by side on the front page of the
Daily Athenaeum, the student newspaper at West Virginia University. I was
informed that the coach was going to write a column concerning the allegation
that the Negro basketball players were told not to date White girls. I did not see the
coach´s article in advance of publication.
This editor´s note preceded the two articles: In a sermon decrying campus
apathy last Sunday, the Rev. Michael Paine mentioned Negro basketball players
were warned against dating white girls. Here, the two sides of the issue are
presented by Julian Martin as the source of Paine´s comments and by the head
Light Shed on Controversy
The Daily Athenaeum, November 4, 1966
On October 21, 1966, I sent a memo to some of my colleagues, including
some of the campus ministers, in which I asked them if they would believe that the
Negro basketball players had been told not to date white girls because it would be
bad for the image.
Michael Paine included this information in his sermon after I confirmed to
him that the information was true. I was informed that a group meeting had been
called of Negro basketball players and that during that time it was made clear that
the Negro basketball players should not date white girls.
It seems that this understanding’ was carried to the extent of calling in a
Negro basketball player and asking him about the white’ girl he was seen with
ironically, the girl was white in color but Negro by our interesting method of
This must make it difficult on the Negro student trying to figure out who is
white and who isn´t, especially when about 85 % of southern white’ people have
some Negro ancestry.
As this argument progresses don´t be surprised to hear such qualified
statements as the head coach didn´t make such a statement,’ or no one every said
that to us.’ But bear in mind that no one has accused anyone of making any
particular statement. There are many ways to make a point clear without being
directthis is not to say that the Negro basketball players were not told directly,
just that no one has made that accusation.
The sad part of the whole controversy is that in our concern with image’,
our culture is mainly concerned with how one dresses and how one behaves
publicly rather than whether or not one is really spiritually and intellectually
Why not encourage the Negro athletes to foster the image’ of the
brotherhood of man across the state by being seen dating whomever they want to
date without reference to race, color or creed?
Perhaps by copying the total image’ of the basketball team the youngsters
of our state would not only learn to dress in a neat and clean manner but might also
learn to grow up without harboring the subtle hate that prevents one race from
dating or marrying another.
The Coach Speaks
The Daily Athenaeum, November 4, 1966
It is with great disappointment that I reply to public accusations of the
administration of our basketball program.
To publicly portray a lack of mutual respect between player and coach and
imply an unwholesome rapport between any individuals in our program without
the courage or slightest effort to substantiate the facts with me is of great concern.
The word alleged’ cannot vindicate the total irresponsibility of this act.
We do not always expect to be correct, but as long as we reside in the United
States, we hope that our position will be accurately determined before being held
up to public scorn. It is distressing to have to defend young men who need no
defense and an issue that never existed, but it is apparent that I must clarify an
My position in regard to the social life of our athletes has been clearly
definedfor them and for anyone else who wishes to know. Their areas of
responsibility are as follows:
1) Strict adherence to the training regulations.
2) Their appearance will be exemplary because they have pride in themselves and
3) Their conduct will always be that of a gentleman representing a God-fearing and
wholesome organization and the youth of our state would do well to emulate them.
These are the only areas of their lives we try to influence.
We have complete confidence in their ability to manage their own personal
lives as they have proven this without question to anyone who has had the pleasure
of contact with our young men.
No university possesses a coaching staff or squad that strives harder than
ours to attain success in our field of competition and we do not apologize for that.
However, as long as I am directing the program, we will never lose sight of the
important role we have in projecting the image of our University and state.
Millions of people will see, hear or read about our program. These same
people may never see our campus, meet our president or speak with our students
and faculty. They will probably not know how many volumes are in our library
and, in fact, may never set foot in our state. To these people we are more than just
individuals who play basketballwe represent a university and a state.
I confess that our program is guilty of being concerned with image and it has
and will continue to bring pride to our school and our state both on and off the
Te preserve the dignity of our program, there will be no more statements or
contributions to perpetuate this alleged’ controversy.
Monongalia County, c1965
Today I saw the Humphrey mine belching large quantities of foul colored
smoke into the air. It appears from their activities that coal companies in this area
own the streams and the air. They are intent on destroying both the air and water
and endangering those of us who drink and bathe in their acid mine water and
breathe their smoke-filled air.
Perhaps the air was stolen at the same time they stole the once beautiful
Monongahela and killed its fish and began to feed us the acid mine water. They
even told us that we were lucky because the mine acid was killing the bacteria in
the water. It was as if they dumped the acid into the river in a spasm of civic
The coal interests take our coal almost free of taxes. They pollute our air and
streams and seduce our politicians. Coal barons don´t build anything more lasting
and beautiful than a rusted out coal tipple or a mountain top stripped bare of its
natural beauty. They ask us to consider them our number one asset.
Cecil Rhodes and Economic Advancement in Rhodesia
Morgantown Post, November 16, 1965
In your editorial of November 15 entitled The Rhodesian Situation,’ you
indicate that a new deterrent will be created to keep advanced nations from going
into the backward areas of the world to take the lead in working for their
economic and social advancement.’ The advanced nation of Great Britain never
went into Rhodesia in the first place. A charter company headed by Cecil Rhodes
first went into Rhodesia without any intention of working for their economic and
social advancement. Rhodes´ company was there for one reasonto get rich. The
best land was forcibly taken from the Matabele and Mashona tribes. Rhodes´
company first expected to find gold and when this dream did not pan out they
turned to land speculation. They encouraged immigration so as to sell the fertile
land they expropriated from the Africans. The only economic advancement that
has been worked for since that time has been the advancement of the white settlers
at the expense and on the labor of the Africans.
The settlers worked so hard for their own economic advancement that by
1957 the average per capita annual income for a white person in Rhodesia was
about $2,000 compared to $40 for the average African. And the whites, comprising
9% of the population, controlled 50% of the land (which happened to be the most
fertile 50%) while the Africans, comprising 90% of the population, were confined
to 22%. The whites were only cultivating 2.5% of the land they heldthe rest was
involved in land speculation by absentee landlords. Enough for the economic
advancement of Rhodesia.
As for social advancement, the Europeans had done such a good job by 1958
that of three million Africans in Southern Rhodesia only about 1,695 could vote.
The European Rhodesians were receiving fifteen times as much per capita for
education than were the Africans.
Your editorial sounded as if you thought the Africans of Rhodesia ought to
be more grateful for the way the white settlers have taken their land, exploited their
labor at below subsistence wages, and robbed them of their dignity.
The part of Rhodesia now called Zimbabwe has descended into a hell that the former
White settlers might point to with an I told you so.’ Mugabe´s government has taken revenge
on the White settlers. He has turned the place into a police state dealing harshly with any
opposition. By 2008 starvation and cholera were added to woes of the people of Zimbabwe.
The Daily Athenaeum, November 10, 1966
With little doubt in mind I believe that we have a bunch of aesthetic idiots
destroying what physical beauty this university has. I bit my tongue when the
horribly ugly physical plant building was set up on the Evansdale Campus, and
when the bare asphalt parking lot at the Medical Center Apartments was enlarged.
But today comes the revolution. A giant ugly asphalt parking lot has been place on
the field in front of the Medical Center totally ruining the aesthetic quality of that
Parking lots can be built with proper landscaping that will be beautiful to
look at, such as the original lot around the Medical Center. However the new one
has no landscaping within the lot and don´t be surprised if there is none put around
Almost everyone to whom I talk about the subject of campus beauty is
disgusted with what is happening. Students are disgusted because there is no place
for recreation. There is plenty of asphalt for parking lots but none for outdoor
basketball and tennis courts. We have 900 students in the Twin Towers and not one
recreational facilitybut baby we´ve got parking lots all over hell out there. We
need large playing fields, parks, benches, sidewalksbut all we get are ugly
parking lots that are fast chewing up the landscape. Towns-people are disgusted
with how the beauty of their town is being ruined and they are wondering what
horrors the University has in mind for the Morgantown Golf and Country Club
property. If the University can do no better than this it ought to get out while there
is still some semblance of beauty in Evansdale.
The Evansdale Campus had a chance of being beautiful when the Medical
Center was built and then it was ruined with the totally graceless engineering
building. Now we have the tin can’ there and asphalt strips everywherenext we
will probably let someone build a junkyard. I´m sure that if there was a river
running through the Evansdale campus that we would pollute it and brag that we
have the only polluted river on any campus in the United States. I fully expect to
see a strip-mine operation most any day begin on what is left of all that grass and
stuff on our campus.
Now , the area around the WVU medical school is infested with gaudy fast food joints and
a hodgepodge of cheaply built condos and apartments. The country club property mentioned in
my letter now has a football stadium named for a man who gave the most money.
Ode to President Jim
The Daily Athenaeum, 1967
Jim was a West Virginia University student body president who had trivialized the causes of long
haired politically active students and warned of incipient violence. I used insipient as more
descriptive of the potential violence.
Every time and for every
War, student rights, civil rights
Long hair everywhere
And that is bad
Long hair is no little cause
It is strength
But insipient violence
Lying not so deeply
Under the square-jawed
Fraternal sort of fellow
Is the violence of our freedom
Ah! He is our spirit
He is our salvation
Uncorrupted with variety
He is most qualified
The Daily Athenaeum, October 17, 1967
Because such programs as Project Emphasis carry so much hope for
increasing the awareness of the students of this university, I write to suggest
some additions. In the section entitled, Man in Relationship to His Creation’, I
suggest that three of West Virginia´s worst problems cannot be overlooked and
they are: strip mining, water pollution and air pollution. To miss these timely
topics of such urgent importance in favor of automobile safety is an interesting
choice of priorities.
In the section entitled, Man in Relationship to Himself;’ only officials from
riot-torn cities are being invited to participate in a discussion on racial relations.
That´s like having a program on the cowboys and Indians and only inviting the
cowboys to speak and show their old movies. If the city officials hadn´t been out of
touch with the realities of what caused the racial riots there would very possibly
not have been any riots. Who has been invited to represent the people’ in this
issue? How about Floyd McKissick or Father Groppi, to name just a few
possibilities. Last year the racial issue wasn´t even included in the program and
this year it appears that we might hear from city officials and police chief types
that what caused the riots were hoodlums and subversiveswe get enough of that
from Senator Byrd.
And somewhere under some title there has to be a frank two-sided
discussion of the war in Vietnamthis is hardly what Chet Huntley will give. And
somewhere, somehow, it seems something on student activism and the hippie’
revolution would have been included.
Project Emphasis has the glorious but dangerous potential of awakening the
long dull and slumbering WVU student. Let´s live dangerously for a change and
make this a 20th century university.
Floyd McKissick was director of the Congress of Racial Equality known by the acronym
CORE. Father Groppi was a priest at Marquette University who was active in anti-war and civil
The reference to Senator Byrd was in honor of his habit of gratuitously entering into the
Congressional record negative statistics about African-Americans living in the District of
To Senator Robert Byrd, November 29, 1967
I was astounded and depressed to learn that the House version of the anti-
poverty bill would forbid anti-poverty workers or beneficiaries from taking part in
any picketing or demonstrations whether legal or illegal. I cannot imagine how any
part of a bill could be any more unconstitutional than that. Does this mean that
picketing of unfair employers, etc., is prohibited of the beneficiaries of the anti-
poverty program? It appears to me that this is a method of buying silence from the
poor to demand that they not picket or demonstrate when they feel a grievance
warrants this. I certainly hope that this part of the bill and the other amendments, as
well, will be removed from the final version that is worked out of House-Senate
I hope you will agree that it is a dangerous business to use federal law to
deny persons their rights.
Vista volunteers, Appalachian Volunteers and others were organizing poor people to seek
redress of their grievances by among other activities, picketing and demonstrating. In Mingo
County, West Virginia, these groups succeeded in purging 3,000 non-residents and dead people
from the voting rolls. After such success the rules were changed. Vista volunteers were no longer
assigned to community groups for the purpose of organizing for action. Vistas were to be
assigned to do good works but not in community organizing. They could work in clinics, food
pantries etc., but no politics allowed. The Vista threat to the local power structures was ended.
(This was never sent.)
A friend and I just spent a very wonderful vacation in Narragansett. It was
our second year there and we intend to return many more times. We love the beach
and the ocean and we delight in walking in the evening along the sea wall. We
enjoy watching the surfers and it may surprise you to know we get a kick out of
seeing the kids on their motorcycles, with their long hair and lovely dress, dancing
and just hanging aroundthey seem to be of a free and refreshing spirit.
The ocean is new to us and so we still thrill in finding shells and stones as
we walk along the beach. We had visited the beach after five o´clock everyday
except the last day of our vacation. You might imagine the shock and
disappointment when we were asked to pay a dollar each to walk on the beach that
we had thought was free to meander about. The money wasn´t the problem. Two
dollars wasn´t going to break us up. To us the ocean belonged to everyone. No
person, government or corporation should be allowed to build a fence around it and
charge to see it as if it had been captured in some faraway land and brought to
Narragansett for exhibition.
If you come to the Appalachians you won´t have to pay to look at the
mountains or to smell the flowersthey belong to everyone, as should the ocean.
In order not to have to pay filthy lucre’ to visit our new friend and comforter, the
ocean, we would even be willing to pay a recreation tax to Narragansett or Rhode
Island or an additional gasoline tax or anything! One of our sanctuaries is now the
ocean, please don´t make us pay to pray and meditate there.
Pesticides and Patriotism
To The Appalachian Center at West Virginia University, January 17, 1968
This letter is in response to your cover letter of January 1966 to Mr. Lewis
McLean´s speech on pesticides and fertilizers. I thought Mr. McLean had some
sound arguments for the use of pesticides but am at a loss to understand why he
chose to not so subtly associate those who are against the use of pesticides with
hippies and insinuate that critics are un-American. This line of argument was not
necessary to get his point across. I cannot understand why people choose to destroy
the character of those who disagree with their point of view. It might be more
intellectual and more worthy of a publication produced by the Appalachian Center
to print speeches and reports that stick with the substance of issues and refrain
from character assassination.
It appears that, perhaps, Mr. McLean did have an ax to grind for on the first
page of the speech he seems to be addressing himself to fertilizer dealers which
leads me to believe that he was seeking their approval.
I find it distasteful that you believe that it is important to recognize the
character’ of those who are against pesticides or man-made synthetics. Character
has nothing to do with an opinion on such subjects and whether a man is for or
against pesticides has nothing to do with whether he is American or un-American,
hippy or non-hippy.
I never in my wildest nightmares expected to see the American flag waved
in a speech on pesticides and chemicalsunless of course, the speaker has a vested
interest in promoting the sale of pesticides and chemicals.
I later learned that Mr. McLean was speaking under the sponsorship of Velsicol
This was written three months before I resigned as Foreign Student Advisor and headed
for San Francisco. My exodus was encouraged by the new WVU administration after I
participated in a picket protest at the 1967 graduation ceremonies. We, me and members of the
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), were objecting to the awarding of an honorary
doctorate to Senator Robert Byrd. Besides bringing millions of dollars in pork to WVU, Byrd´s
most memorable political action was to filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He joined the Ku
Klux Klan in 1942 and held the offices of Exalted Cyclops and Kleagle (recruiter).
In 1944, Byrd wrote to segregationist Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo: I shall never
fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side... Rather I should die a thousand times, and
see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours
become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.’ Byrd
later wrote a letter to the Grand Wizard of the KKK saying, The Klan is needed today as never
before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia and in every state in the nation.’
While running for the House of Representatives in 1952 Byrd said that he was no longer
a member of the clan and was not interested in it. In 1956, I heard Byrd say, after a patriotic
speech to a Baptist Church in Morgantown, that he was proud to have been a member of the
While on the house committee that oversaw the District of Columbia, Byrd made
gratuitous and racist entries into the Congressional Record that were damaging to the African-
American population of the District.
When it was no longer expedient for Byrd to be a racist he shifted gears and hired an
African-American staff member.
Labor Law Reform?
To a member of the Board of the Morgantown Chamber of Commerce
February 27, 1968
Knowing that you are a progressive member of the Board of Directors of the
Chamber of Commerce, I am astounded to find in the Newsletter of the Chamber
of Commerce of February 22, 1968, an article entitled Your Stake in Labor Law
Reform’ by Allen Shivers, President, Chamber of Commerce of the United States.
In this article, Mr. Shivers is extremely biased against labor unions and the
good that they have brought to this country. I would hope that you and the other
progressive members of the Board of Directors would see to it that the other side of
the issue concerning labor law reform is presented or that such articles cease to
appear in the newsletter.I think you will agree that the many people in the labor
unions in this area would appreciate your efforts on their behalf.
The Institute of International Education
Sent to the New Republic, March 25, 1968
In light of some of your past articles, I think you will find the following of
The Institute of International Education (IIE) conducts an annual census of
foreign students in the United States. When finally analyzed and distributed to
foreign student advisors and others, the information serves as a valuable source of
statistics needed to help promote a clear picture of the foreign student in the U.S. to
the general public.
In the past couple of years, a new item has been added to the census card
that each foreign student fills out. The foreign student is now asked to provide not
only his name but his exact home address. IIE claims that the student's name and
home address will not be released to anyone if the student marks an X in the
appropriate box on the card. However, IIE still wants the student´s name and exact
home address, both of which seem useless for merely statistical purposes. Just why
does IIE want the name and address if they swear they aren´t going to release it
and if it is of no statistical value? Surely they don´t need street numbers and first
names to correlate their data.
IIE claims that listing of foreign students by name, country and home
address are prepared at the request of reputable corporations ’ One wonders if
the giant electric companies, whose officers were sentenced to jail for price-fixing,
or the corporations recently brought to court for over-charging on drugs are among
those so-called reputable corporations’. One wonders if the great exploiters such
as the United Fruit Company and the others aren´t at the top of this reputable’ list.
The helping hand that IIE claims to want to give to foreign students on their
return home is a bit superfluous. Most foreign students have little trouble finding
their way to the giant corporations who are interested in using them as fronts back
home. WVU is certainly not a Harvard nor MIT, but the foreign student graduates
from here have little trouble in finding jobs. They find them in the open market
where the reputable corporations’, who always trust in such free competition,
must bid against the others.
Sincerely yours, Julian Martin
Coordinator of Foreign Student Programs, West Virginia University. Past chairman
of Region IX of the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs
It later became clear that the information was also for the CIA.
Cold Facts about Coal
The Highlands Voice, April, 1979
Only 3 percent to 10 percent of West Virginia´s coal must’ be obtained by
the surface method. All the rest can be deep mined.
Strip mining is easier and cheaper and has much quicker return on initial
investment than deep mining.
The overriding question of a landowner´s right to do with his land what he
wants is an interesting one. The Air Pollution Control Commission can tell a man
who lives outside the city limits if and when he can burn brush which pollutes the
air. There are virtually thousands of city, county and federal police state laws like
this one and there´s not much that can done about it. Yet, you can hardly breathe in
the Kanawha Valley not because of burning trash but because of the chemical plant
pollution. The only reason strip miners can do what they want when they want is
because they are backed by powerful mineral and landowners who control some of
the largest corporations in the U.S. and the world. This makes the question not one
of working citizen pitted against blind environmentalist but one of unconscionable,
multi-national, status and money loving conglomerate domination over every life-
loving, creator-creation loving individual in the State.
The majority of West Virginia´s land is owned by out-of-state and out-of-
country corporations. Their concern is with the profit they can make and for the
most part they will tell you openly that they do not care what they do to the land to
make their profit.
In many instances the mineral rights to the land or the land itself was
obtained by false pretensesphony unpaid tax assessments, fake deeds, outright
lieslong, long ago when many of our ancestors could not read or write.
During the period July, 1967 through July, 1977, 206,626 acres were placed
under surface mining permits and 17,859 acres under prospecting permits. There
appears to be no record available anywhere in the Department of Mines or the
Department of Natural Resources as to how many acres were stripped in West
Virginia prior to 1967. However, a rough figure for the period 1939 to 1967 is
300,000 or more stripped. (At a minimum three times more surrounding land is
disturbed than is actually stripped, not to mention the water pollution and erosion
and sedimentation which ruins stream beds and kills water life for miles. That hurts
everyone from fishermen and swimmers to taxpayers footing the bill for upkeep on
sewage systems and millions of dollars in flood relief.) The minimal number of
acres actually disturbed in West Virginia from 1939 to 1977 using the above
figures is at least 2,000,000 acres. The total land area of West Virginia is
25,000,000 acres. (Source: Department of Natural Resources.)
If strip mining continues at its present pace, within 10 years all strip mine
coal will have been stripped, all stripminers (the laborers) will be out of work, the
fat cats will move out west or anywhere else they can get richer and will have fit
place to live.[I was dead wrong about this. Huge mountain top removal equipment
has made it possible to get at coal never before thought mineable.]
Damage done by active stripping should be considered a grave problem. The
Charleston Gazette reported on April 9, 1977: Governor Rockefeller said Friday
during a news conference that there is no question that old, unreclaimed strip
mines, ongoing strip operations, and those where reclamation hasn´t been
completed substantially contributed to the flooding in southwest West Virginia.’
Still he refuses to use his power to delete areas of the state from stripping.*
The usefulness of many federal reservoir projects has been severely limited
by sedimentation and water pollution from stripping. The taxpayer is again paying
for this. (SourceAdverse Effects of Coal Mining on various Federal Reservoir
Projects,’ Sixteenth Report by the Committee on Governmental Operations, 93rd
Congress, 2nd Session, House Report No. 93-1156, Union Calendar No. 5456, June
In West Virginia an average of $750 is spent on reclaiming an acre of
stripped land. In West Germany, where strip mining is permitted only for special
kinds of coal and then only on gently rolling and flat terrain, reclamation costs are
$4,000 to $9,000 per acre. To reclaim the mountainous terrain in America would
greatly reduce the amount of profit to coal companies. Money, not people or land,
is the supreme consideration.
Mountain top removal obliterates our last resource of fresh pure surface
water, mountain springs. The land is extremely unstable for years and while there
has been much talk about building homes on mountaintop removal projects, so far
talk is about all that´s happened.
While it is possible to grade steep slopes to something approximating
original natural contour, it is frequently impossible even after re-vegetation growth
to keep them from sliding.
Even when the best reclamation possible is completed and the operators are
relieved of further responsibility, no one takes care of the site and the re-vegetation
frequently dies, leaving the land barren.
While West Virginia has a better law than other states, it has not been
properly enforced. Although the Federal strip mine bill passed recently, no amount
of laws will prevent environmental damage from stripping no matter how strong
and no matter how strictly enforced.
Appalachian deep mined coal employs approximately 10 times as many
people as western surface mines for each million tons of coal produced.
Each year the stripper´s numbers grow larger. Their ranks have doubled
since 1974. The coal is mined so quickly that the continuous opening of new mines
is essential to support the dependence of the operator and his workers.
Since 8,031 surface miners produced 20,982,316 tons of coal in 1976 and
51,771 deep miners produced 87,811,278 tons of coal, the average surface miner
produced 2613 tons and average deep miner produced 1673 tons, around 1000 tons
less. 8031 strippers put 12,539 deep miners out of work. Surface mining, therefore
is not favorable to maximum employment for extended periods. (Source:
Department of Mines).
West Virginia coal operators shipped 108,944,000 tons of coal in 1976 as
Within West Virginia 25,876,000
Within Continental U.S. 55,553,000
To Canada 8,800,000
Martin, based in Lincoln County, is a member of Save Our Mountains
I had fled Morgantown and my job of Foreign Student Advisor at West Virginia
University. I drove to San Francisco with a girl friend and lived there for three years and then
traveled via my thumb to Vancouver, across Canada and to West Virginia. It was wonderful to
be back home. By 1979 I was living in Lincoln County and teaching at Duval High School. I was
married to a lady with two children and we had a son on the way.
*Here are two revealing quotes from Rockefeller:
December 20, 1970--"I will fight for the abolition of strip mining completely and
forever." John D. Rockefeller IV while running for governor of WV as a strip mine abolitionist.
March 12, 1977-- "...mountaintop removal should certainly be encouraged, if not
specifically dictated." Gov. Rockefeller's testimony to the U. S. Senate Subcommittee on Energy
and Natural Resources, March 12, 1977.
More from Rockefeller--
Strip-mining must be abolished because of its effect on those who have given most to the
causethe many West Virginians who have suffered actual destruction of their homes; those
who have put up with flooding, mud slides, cracked foundations, destruction of neighborhoods,
decreases in property values, the loss of fishing and hunting, and the beauty of the hills "
Rockefeller in 1972 while running for Governor of West Virginia.
Rockefeller lost to Arch Moore in the 1972 election. Moore had the help of corrupt
Democratic politicians in southern West Virginia and huge contributions from coal companies.
I was told by Ken Hechler, former congressman and West Virginia Secretary of State, that
Rockefeller followed the advice of his advisors and changed his mind on strip mining and on
attacking corrupt politics in southern WV. He won the1976 election for Governor as an
advocate of strip mining and mountain top removal and had shut up about corruption.
A Rockefeller aide told a group of us in his Senate office that Rockefeller was for
mountain top removal, that his mind was made up and so there was little use in us talking to him
about the issue.
When I confronted Governor Rockefeller in Lincoln County about strip mining he said,
"Do you want to deny the people of southern WV the flat land necessary to build new homes?"
A friend sitting next to me who was not politically active responded with, Oh come on Jay!’
Rockefeller got his start as a sort of social worker in my birthplace of Emmons, WV. I
had his campaign bumper sticker on my truck the first time he ran for Governor. I have not
forgotten the betrayal. He sold out for a political career. Would that he had donated the over
$24 million he has spent getting elected and re-elected and the $6 million he spent on his home
in DC to environmental groups in WV. With that kind of money we would have already won the
battle against mountain top removal.
The Charleston Gazette, January 4, 1977
Several nights ago on the ABC Evening News it was mentioned that the
Army admitted to conducting germ warfare experiments in the subways of New
York, Chicago and San Francisco.
The Army said that the germs were of a non-disease carrying kind. Others
have said that these Army germs cause heart valve infection and pneumonia. But,
even if they are harmless germs, what right does the Army have to experiment on
the people who ride those subways? And, since they only admit to what they get
caught at, what other experiments are they conducting against the health of the
American people? Perhaps swine flu and French polio are ‘army experiments.
These experiments shocked me so much that I called my friends and asked
them to send a telegram to Jimmy Carter asking him to stop the Army germ
warfare against the American people or any people for that matter. I ask everyone
who reads this letter to do as I have done, send Jimmy Carter a telegram or letter
and ask your friends to do the same and to pass the word along.
Remember, you and your family may already be part of a germ warfare
I called Ned Chilton, the inspired publisher of the Charleston Gazette daily newspaper. I
told him that the Army released germs in several locations in the United States to find what the
pattern of distribution would be as time went on. He said, It was probably just an experiment.’
I replied You got it!’ Soon after that a front page article in the Gazette by reporter Lawrence
L. Knutson, revealed that this experiment had gone on for twenty years ending in 1969.
The Gazette article revealed that, The Army secretly conducted simulated germ warfare
attacks using live bacteria against 19 American civilian targets including the Pennsylvania
Turnpike, the city of San Francisco and National Airport in Washington Overall, the Army
staged 239 open air tests .In 79 of the cases, disease-causing agents were used. The other 160
tests involved stimulants such as sulfur dioxide, fluorescent particles and soap bubbles.
However, some critics have questioned whether some of these theoretically nontoxic bacteria
may have caused pneumonia or other respiratory diseases.’
I recall reading of a family in San Francisco suing over the death of their father, which
they claimed was caused by the Army´s germ warfare experiments.
More recently, June 2009, there was a TV documentary confirming once again the Army
germ warfare experiments on U.S. citizens.
Juries Must Be Respected
Lincoln Journal, July 1979
This letter is in response to the interview with Sgt. Andy Galford of the State
Police which was in the Lincoln Journal on July 3. In that interview Sgt. Galford
said police morale was low in Lincoln County because our juries are made up of
people who do not take their duty seriously and who are irresponsible. He seemed
to be saying that the police were unhappy about the way our citizens judge their
fellow citizens and that police morale would go up if the people were sent to
The morale of the police should come from a feeling of satisfaction that they
are serving the people who pay their salaries. It is not the job of the police to tell
the very people who employ them how to think when they are members of a jury.
It is the duty of the police to honor and respect the decisions of the people who
serve on juriesthe police have no right to be granting interviews in which they
criticize the entire population of Lincoln County for not seeing things their way. If
a policeman wants to criticize juries then he should resign as a policeman and
criticize his fellow citizens as a fellow citizen not as a public servant.
Police have rights to criticize their supervisors or even politicians but not
juries. Juries are established to determine who is telling the truththe police or the
defendant. For the police to speak against juries is an attempt to control the whole
legal process. The jury is there to protect the defendant against illegal
investigations, police brutality and the very good chance that someone with
political power was trying to railroad the defendant.
It isn´t surprising that a jury might let someone off for stealing a typewriter
when they consider how much Nixon and Agnew stole. I wonder if the morale of
the police would go up if more of our corrupt public officials were found guilty of
Not long after I wrote this letter Sgt. Galford parked his police cruiser within view of my
home. I went out and talked to him. He told me he didn´t like the letter I wrote. I told him that
was his right. He no doubt meant to intimidate me but it didn´t work. A couple of years later he
was the state policeman who threw me in a chair and doubled his fist in my bloody face. I was
there to file a complaint about being assaulted at a board of education meeting and ended up
being assaulted and threatened by Sgt. Galford.
State Police Review Board
The Lincoln Journal
Several years ago I was sucker punched’ after a Lincoln County
Board of Education meeting. A few years later the man who threw the punch was
sentenced to forty years in prison for murdering a teen-age boy. When he
blindsided me, he was a big cog in the Democratic Party machine in Lincoln
County and he was the director of transportation for the board of education. His
brother in law was the superintendent of schools. Among other things, my wife
and I had complained at the board meeting that he got a $2,000 raise and teachers
After the assault a board member called the State Police. My
wife and I told the state policeman that we wanted to file a complaint against my
attacker. When we got to the Hamlin state police headquarters he kept
delaying us about filing the complaint. We told him more than once that we
wanted to file a complaint. He would shuffle papers and say, In due
Suddenly a pickup truck roared into the area in front of the
door and two state policemen with assault rifles jumped out of the truck. Let's get
out of here’ I said to my wife and headed for the door. The state policeman we had
been talking to ran from behind his desk, grabbed me from behind, threw me into a
chair. He held me with one hand and doubled up his fist in my already bloodied
face. He turned to the policeman standing in the door with the assault rifle and
said, He won´t listen to anybody’.
Up to that point we had had no confrontation with the policeman, we had
discussed nothing that could lead him to believe I wouldn´t listen. We had come to
the state police headquarters of our own free will to file a complaint of assault and
Lucky for us the two armed state policemen needed help with a
hostage-taking situation in another part of the county. The police
had to leave and as you can imagine we got out of there, too. The policeman who
had just had his fist in my face called to us to, Come back tomorrow and file that
complaint’. We looked at him in disbelief.
We talked to a lawyer in Hamlin about the situation. He told us the best
thing we could do for the people of Lincoln County would be to get some publicity
on the brutality of the state police. Every time I have a
teen-age client who has been arrested by the state police, either the teenager
or an adult male relative has been beaten.’
An investigation was conducted into police brutality in Lincoln
County. The investigator was another state policeman from northern West
Virginia. He was driven to our house by Sgt. Galford, the same state cop who
assaulted me at the Hamlin headquarters. Sgt. Galford sat in front of our house
with his cruiser motor running while we were being interviewed inside. At one
point the investigating officer defended the actions of the state policeman who
assaulted me. I literally became speechless. When I recovered I told him that he
could depend on one thing. I would never call the state police again. We were
wasting our breath with this guy. Sgt. Galford was not punished as a result of the
impartial, in-house investigation’
Except for certain politicians, local citizens have no control
over the state police. Local citizens do have some control over the Sheriff and
deputies. The Sheriff is elected and if he or she or the deputies get
too rough on too many people they can be thrown out of office by the
voters. Sometimes it just takes an informal complaint to the Sheriff to rein
in an abusive deputy. There is no such threat controlling the state police.
When they get out of line and someone protests, they investigate
themselves and they do not have to answer to the voters.
State police officials are opposed to a civilian review board. If the recent
brutality by state policemen in McDowell County had not been recorded in a 911
call there is little doubt, based on my experience, that the in-house investigation
would have another white-wash.
The state police are working for the people. The people should
have some way to control abusive behavior. Everyone would benefit from a
civilian review board. The good cops would not be tainted by a few renegades.
They would have to answer to the people not their fellow employees. It may be
just human nature for fellow policemen to want to take it easy on their comrades in
arms. Reviews of complaints should always be done by independent agencies.
Very few people trust an "in-house investigation".
John Raese´s insight into the school-to-work programs was refreshing. He
could have omitted the gratuitous attack on David Hardesty**, but otherwise he
was right on the mark. Raese is a Republican and a capitalist, two drawbacks I
didn´t think left much room for human freedom and individuality’. My mouth
was hanging open as I realized I was in agreement with someone far across the
The school-to-work programs and the schools that work program (the
bureaucrats keep changing the names) seem to me to be a whole new way
to give some marginally talented academic hustlers a good salary. They
were proposing to change the whole educational system without adding
one dollar to the process. They were going to shift the words around
and suddenly everything would be better. It is a big wasteful paper
chase to keep the departments of education busy.
When I was asked to teach a high school course called Principles of
Technology I knew the course had a chance because with it came $8,000
for the equipment needed to teach the course. When they started
talking about this schools-to-work concept that would revolutionize the
whole educational system they said we could do it from a standing start
without any increased funding. I knew they were kidding.
At my 1959 Chemical Engineering class reunion at WVU we were given a
tour of the facilities. We passed bronze plaques honoring men who have
decapitated the Appalachian range. An old thought came back that the university
is a technical training school for industry. It also became
clear that the university officials were so hamstrung by the need to
cozy up to corporate money, to keep the technical training schools
running, that they could never give a divergent opinion on critical
issues like mountain top removal or global warming.
It is not imaginable that anyone who runs an educational institution
could give moral leadership to the people of WV. There was not a chance , for
instance, that Wade Gilley, recently president of Marshall
University and chairman of Governor Underwood´s task force on mountain
top removal strip-mining, would suddenly gain insight into the total
destruction of mountain top removal strip-mining and proclaim that he
was against it. Even if he got the insight he had to keep the coal
barons clearly in his vision, for after all, who really controls the
colleges and universities? How many working class people are on the
governing bodies of our secondary schools, colleges and universities?
How many coal executives, other big business officials and corporate
lawyers are on these governing bodies?
Big money not only controls our elections it controls the very words
that our so-called educational leaders utter. There is a country saying
that, He wouldn´t say shit if it was in his mouth’. The whopping
salaries paid to College and University presidents is whopping because
they must be compensated for swallowing all that crap and never telling
the truth if it damages the people who finance higher education. Most
people have too much self-respect to swallow crap for less than
$250,000 a year.
John Raese is right, higher education should teach the great
literature, history, arts, philosophy, science, math...and let industry
provide the training on top of that. We need to keep politics and big
business out of education.
The money, you say, where will the money come from? Try the super tax
credit. We have wasted billions of dollars on corporate welfare in tax
giveaways. Let´s make big business work for a living and pay taxes
like the rest of us. They get out of taxes and then contribute to the
institutions they want to control.
* John Raese was the unsuccessful Republican Party candidate for the United States Senate in
1984 and 2006.
**David Hardesty was West Virginia University President at the time
Forests Are Helpless Without Foresters
The Charleston Gazette
Randy Dye* recently wrote of the glories of man controlling and subjugating
the earth under the guise of forest management.’ Dye´s rhapsody carries one back
to the days when West Virginia must have been a desert, only to be saved by
To Dye the forest is one big factory and wildlife is that big stuff you can see
and hunt with a gun. Untold wildlife habitat is destroyed, fragmented and altered
forever by the bulldozer blades, trucks and skidders that rip and tear the forest floor
and creek beds in timbering jobs.
Dye claims that foresters have benefited the forest by learning how to
improve it through scientific management practices.’ On a recent trip to the
Olympic National Park, I was so glad that foresters didn´t get an opportunity to
benefit and improve’ the Olympic rain forest as they have scientifically
managed’ the clear cutting just outside the park. Next to mountaintop removal,
clear cutting on the Olympic peninsula or in Fayette County, West Virginia, is the
worst environmental disaster I have ever seen.
The wonderful thing about old growth forests is that the foresters have been
kept out and the woods can be enjoyed in their natural state. There are roads cut
across every forest in West Virginia. Why can´t we preserve some that are left
alone, unmanaged and natural?
Let´s leave our grandchildren the gift of state forests full of old growth trees.
The problem isn´t where can we find more trees to cut. The problem is where can
we save a few from the rapacious appetite of chip mills led by flag-waving
Dye brags that our state is more heavily covered with forest than it has been
in more than one hundred years. I sure hope so. One hundred years ago the
foresters of the day had been clear-cutting our virgin forests for 20 years.
It seems logical that if the whole state is covered with forests, we don´t need
to be invading the state forests with chain saws and bulldozers. Do we cut it all
down because it is so big and nice?
It seems that from the number of log trucks on the highways the foresters
and timber industry are getting all they can haul from privately owned forests.
Why do we give them the publically owned state forest trees?
The secret to Dye´s soaring praise of foresters is found near the end of the
article where he shamelessly proclaims that in the state forests 25 percent of the
money generated from timber sales goes back into the forest where the logging
occurred.’ There is the dirty little devil that makes logging so tasteful to the state´s
chief foresterhis outfit gets a load of money from it. He claims this saves the
taxpayers money. I will happily pay my share of taxes to keep logging out of state
forests. Are timber industry tax breaks forcing us to cut the trees in state forests?
Once again the We had to destroy the village to save it’ illogically wiggles
to the surface. It sounds similar to the mountaintop removal pleas that we must
destroy the mountains to save the mountain state.
The foresters are busting a gut to get into Kanawha State Forest and cut
trees. They are stopped by a law that says they can´t. They are going to try to get a
law passed this next session to let them have at those trees. A law should be passed
that they can´t cut trees in any state forest. Enough, already!
* Dye is director of the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
The Lincoln Journal 4-29-87
We received the following from Duval science teacher and environmental
activist Julian Martin.
Coal River runs foul today
As we see the black coal gob
Ruin our drinking water
We thank the coal industry
for being so good
As to destroy
With a strip mine
We happily trade our mountains
For thirty pieces of silver
The strippers will bruise the land
and expose the springs
Until it looks like a hog
Ready for slaughter
Oozing inner liquids onto
The shaved carcass
Then the coal will be gone
The jobs will be gone and
The mountains will be gone
and our grandchildren
a wasted land.
287 acres is a very small strip-mine. There are strip-mines that cover 26,000
The News from Sam´s Branch
Sam´s Branch is the creek that ran beside my house in Griffithsville, West
Virginia. In August it usually became almost dry with an occasional puddle of
water with minnows darting about, probably with little notion that if it didn´t rain
pretty soon they were goners. Sam´s Branch roared with dangerous volume in the
spring and in the tailwind storms of summer and fall Hurricanes. The rushing
waters that saved the minnows would have killed a man, woman, child, dog, cat or
livestock if they got too close and fell in.
The Lincoln Independent arose as a Republican challenge to the long
established Lincoln Journal. The Journal could hardly be called a proponent of
liberal Democratic Party philosophy. It was plenty conservative but always
supported the Democratic Party slate of also conservative candidates. The memory
was lost as to why the Democrats swept the Republicans out with the coming of
FDR. The average voter might have known that the Democrats were supposed to
be for the working people but their candidates seldom mentioned it. Even in
Lincoln County the local rich had retaken the Democratic Party and were not
interested in any left wing ideas. There was no real need for a Republican’
paper except to back the Republican Party candidates. I never once saw any
statement of political philosophy by candidates from either party in either paper.
The political advertisements usually said nothing more complicated than vote for
me. Since Democrats way outnumbered Republicans the ads only showed party
affiliation of the Democratic Party candidates. It was a sure give away if a
candidate´s political advertisement didn´t say Democrat on it somewhere. It was
hard to understand who the Republican candidates thought they were fooling by
not mentioning in their ads that they were Republicans.
If you voted for the Democrats and they knew it then your road might get
fixed, you might get a government job, your driveway might get a load of
government gravel and if your kid got in trouble with the law you could get a break
before the justice of the peace. People who voted for the Republicans had trouble
getting any favors from the Democratic machine unless they were willing to tuck
their tail between their legs and change their voter registration. It was sort of like
joining the church, total acceptance and inclusion and all past sins forgiven if you
joined up. The Republicans didn´t seem to have any higher political belief than
replacing the Democrats.
The editor of the new Lincoln Independent was Craig Headley an ornery
young man who enjoyed stirring the local political shit. He admitted to having
been saved from being a right wing fascist by a West Virginia University professor
who had a concentration camp number tattooed on his arm. But he was still way
over on the right. He asked me to submit a weekly column about anything I wanted
and he would print it, and he did. He caught some flak from Republicans who
recognized a hated liberal bias in my writing.
The Lincoln Independent lasted one year. Terry Headley is now Director of
Communications for the West Virginia Coal Association and I am Vice-president
for State Affairs of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. We are on opposite
sides of the mountain top removal controversy.
A Cobalt-Blue Sugar Bowl
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, 1996
There were two things that used to make Griffithsville, West Virginia,
different from any other stretch of Route 3. There were those large, beautiful,
silver maples that lined the road next to the old Osborne home tennis courts. Those
trees were majestic and took a long time to get that way. Suddenly one day they
were gone. When I saw the naked stretch that used to be so comforting I got an
empty, sinking feeling almost like a friend had died.
You can destroy something if you own it, I guess. Beautiful old buildings,
and even eucalyptus trees in San Francisco, have been declared state or national
treasures and historic sites to shield against the I can do anything I want with my
property attitude. A cheap looking Wal-Mart can´t replace a priceless piece of
architectural history or a beautiful piece of unique nature with protections in place
like in San Francisco. Graveyards, Native American burial grounds and Civil war
battle sites all coupled with citizen outrage has sometimes been all that stopped
some greedy developer’ or bull-dozer happy money grubbers from tearing up
everything in sight. The love of money has no sense of reverence. It all looks like
money to developers.’
Like the trees, Osborne´s Store is now gone, burned to the ground by a
troubled teen-ager. The spirit and soul of that store disappeared years ago. The new
world order or progress’ in the form of convenience stores and franchised grocery
stores made it impossible to turn a profit with an old fashioned country store. And
Osborne´s was old fashioned.
Osborne´s was our favorite place when we move here twenty-one years ago.
Harnesses, shotguns, plows, bulk nails, seeds, groceries and clothes were all
available at Osborne´s. Tobacco farmers charged their purchases for a whole year
until they sold their crop. It was normal to go into Osborne´s and take a half an
hour buying four or five items and savor the time spent. Tuck and Mabel Roberts,
Marita Thornton, Louise Janes, Janette Saul or Mrs. Dragoo took our order and got
each item one at a time. They patiently wrote the orders in a little bill book and
gave us a carbon copy.
While we were being waited on other people came in and we traded stories,
joked, laughed and sympathized with one another. We discussed the weather, who
was related to whom, who was getting married, who was sick, who died, what time
was the funeral and county politics. We could get just about anything we needed at
Osborne´s plus enjoy good company. People seemed warmer and happier there in
Osborne´s, talking and remembering and laughing. We never went in expecting or
wanting to get out in less than half an hour.
We found a house to rent on Sugar Tree Creek through the Osborne store
high tech communication network. We had to move and mentioned that to Janette
Saul, a clerk at the store. She told us that a family from up sugar Tree was just in
thee getting boxes to pack their stuff in for moving.
Some older boys broke into Osborne´s. They did it the hard way. First they
stole acetylene and oxygen tanks. They crawled under the floor dragging the tanks
behind them. They connected stolen hoses and a torch to the tanks, cut a hole in the
store floor and climbed in. They must have reconnoitered carefully because they
came up in a part of the floor with nothing standing on it. They could have easily
burned the building down burning a hole through a heavily oiled wooden floor.
They mainly stole cigarettes, which couldn´t have equaled the value of the tanks,
hoses and torch nor the time they put in on the job. Maybe it was for the adventure.
It is told that Huey Elwood Hager, my son´s great grandfather on his
mother´s side, came over to Griffithsville in 1925 from Hewitt´s Creek in Boone
County. He drove a wagon of corn to be ground at the mill. He slept the one night
of the trip under the wagon with his dogs. Huey went down to Osborne´s and
bought a pretty cobalt-blue sugar bowl for his wife. We had that bowl when
Huey´s great grandson started his life three miles from Osborne´s. Osborne´s is
gone now and the silver maples are cut down. What used to make Griffithsville
pretty much different now leaves it looking like any other run-down stretch of
A Hidden Treasure
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, October 21, 1995
The consolidation fight has made it obvious that we need a recall and
referendum amendment to the West Virginia Constitution. Right now we could and
would recall and replace at least three board members and maybe a state senator. If
we could put this thing to a vote of the people with a referendum it would be over
in no time.
How is it that two unelected boards have so much control over our lives?
How do you get rid of members of the State Board of Education and the School
Building Authority if they go against the will of the people? I know we would get
some losers on those boards if they were elected, but at least we could vote them
out, as we did in the county commissioners´ race.
These two boards are now made up mostly of people who gave money to
Caperton´s campaign. How can we expect justice and due process from people
who bought their positions?
Vote buying is the School Building Authority´s specialty. They usually give
about one-half the money a county needs to consolidate on the condition that the
county pass a bond issue for the rest. If the people in a county vote the way the
SBA says they get the money for their votes. Did they learn this from Lincoln
Consolidation is on us because the Legislature passed the Super Tax Credit
so that coal companies and other large corporations like Wal-Mart, get close to one
hundred million dollars per year in tax write-offsin ten years that´s a billion
dollars! With the Super Tax Credit the coal companies use the kick-back to buy
long-wall machines** and put miners out of work. The intent of the law was to
increase employment, but it is doing just the opposite. They ought to cancel the tax
credit and tax the long-wall machines. If we had one-hundred million dollars per
year for schools every community could have a new school.
The perfect school system for the SBA would be one giant school in Braxton
County for the entire stateit would only be a three hour bus ride for most and
rest could go to school in neighboring states. Actually, there would probably have
to be two schoolsone at Flatwoods in Braxton County and one on the Steele
*This is no casual assumption. After this was written, Jerry Weaver, the Lincoln County
Assessor, went to prison for vote buying as did, Craig Stowers, son of the late Democratic boss
of Lincoln County.
**Long-wall machines are used in underground mining and require fewer workers than
older methods. These machines take all the coal and then let the top collapse causing
undulations on the surface which can make houses and barns shift and creeks to puddle.
***The Steele Farm was the proposed site for the new consolidated Lincoln County High
School. The land was to be donated by Wiley Stowers, the political boss of Lincoln County. Wiley
lived in the area and the school would be near a shopping mall that he owned.
The News From Sam's Branch
The Lincoln Independent, October 28, 1995
Political commentary has shifted unchallenged so far to the right
that liberals are made fun of as hare brained radicals of the far left. Liberals used
to be considered moderate until Newt Gingrich redefined himself as a reasonable
man and liberals as radicals.
I am at least a liberal. Being a liberal always meant to me
that I was for free education for everyone for as far as they could go I have seen
brilliant minds wasted because they could not afford the price of college while the
idiot sons and daughters of the rich could play around in college for as long
as daddy was willing to send the dollars.
As a liberal I am for free medical care for everyone from birth to
the grave. Liberal means we are our brother's keeper. Liberal, to me, means we
care about poor children and think they should get the same opportunities as
Liberal means that I accept everyone no matter what their color
or their nationality or their income or their physical or mental disability and yes
accept them if their sexual preference differs from mine.
Being a liberal does not mean I am for abortion. There is no
doubt in my mind that life begins at conception--I don't kid myself. I do wish the
people who are the loudest against abortion would be equally loud in support of
programs that care for children born into poverty.
Liberal means my daughters should get the same respect and the
same opportunity as my sons and they should get the same pay if the work is the
And the cry goes up "but how do we pay for this" and the answer
is easy. Tax the rich. The coal companies are getting a tax write-off of one
hundred million dollars a year which they are using to buy machines that put
miners out of work. On the national level rich people quit paying social security
tax after their income reaches about $60,000. If this loophole for the rich were
eliminated it would pay for half of the national deficit.
Newt Gingrich and his fellow travelers want to balance the budget
on the backs of the poor. They are more worried about the capital gains tax
and giving the rich a tax cut than the health of old people & lunches for school
children. They want to turn their big business friends loose to foul the air, water
and land and disguise it as getting the government off our backs. They want to get
rid of all the good things for people and unleash the most selfish influences in our
Beware of the Republicrats
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, November 4, 1995
I used to think that to be a Democrat meant that you were a liberal. But now
we have two millionaire governors who are Democrats because that is what it takes
Republicrats are rich people using the Democratic Party label to help their
kind and hurt the working people.
Rather than blaming the companies that owe millions of dollars in Workers´
Compensation payments our Republicrat legislature decided to make it tougher on
working people to get help when they get injured on the job.
And what about NAFTA? This idea was put together by rich Democrats and
rich Republicans to provide cheap, non-union labor south of the border. Try buying
something made in America.
The wealthy are traitors to their own country. For cheaper wages they don´t
hesitate to move their factories to countries that have no child labor laws and no
environmental lawsbut they use the American flag in their advertisements.
A friend of mine told of visiting Korea and seeing ten-year olds making
basketball shoes sold in America for over one hundred dollars a pair.
And get this! West Virginia style quilts are made in China with slave labor
and sold in the Charleston Town Center Mall.
Think about the elected officials who claim to be Democrats and I think you
will find that not very many are working people. The few that are not rich are
usually controlled by the wealthy.
Take a look at who is giving large amounts of money to Senator Manchin.
He is the candidate of big money. Senator Manchin is a Republicrat. A right-wing
Republican dressed up as a Democrat.
Maybe we should quit kidding ourselves and form a third part that represents
the people. And I don´t mean a party led by another rich man like Ross Perot.
Abraham Lincoln said God must love the common man because he made so
many. We outnumber the rich, let´s take our government back from them.
The Magnificent Golden Hills*
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, November 11, 1995
I was standing under a walnut tree. The sun had gone down below the
mountain and darkened the holler. A slight wind blew up the creek and the
last leaves were persuaded to fall from the walnut tree.
The leaves were magical as they spun down in a perfect spiral. The
mountain ridge behind the spinning leaves was golden as the sun said goodbye to
the holler and crowned the mountain tops.
I love this time of year, when the air gets brisk and exciting color warms my
heart. Later, I wondered how anyone could take a bulldozer and destroy that
beautiful ridge. I guess it was the money.
A woman from Missouri, whose husband worked on a strip-mine in Boone
County, said that she didn´t like these mountains and thought they ought to be
flattened out like most of Missouri. A teacher at Harts told me, It breaks my heart
to see what they´ve doneI see the destruction when I go hunting.’
People have to earn a living and the coal operators know this. The coal
companies choose to strip-mine because it is a lot cheaper, requires fewer
employees, and if they are clever they can avoid the so-called reclamation. Coal
companies have closed deep mines and opened strip-mines, often non-union, with
far fewer employees to pay. This is the same industry that gets nearly $100 million
per year in super tax credits.
Strip mining is a quick-buck’ operation. There is enough underground coal
that we could wait a hundred or more years before resorting to the destruction of
Somehow, that golden ridge in the Autumn** sunlight is worth more than
money. I hope my grandchildren will enjoy that magic sight.
*I did not decide what the titles of my articles were. I would not have chosen this one.
**I understand that capitalizing Autumn is considered incorrect. But I think it represents too
much beauty for a lower case beginning.
Republicrats and Real Heroes
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, November 22, 1995
The Republicrats were at it again over the weekend. For only one thousand
dollars you could have met with the Vice-President of the United States, Al Gore.
Actually, you would only get to be in the same room with Gore, a big room,
with several hundred other small fry rich people. Imagine how rich you would
have to be to talk to him one-on-one. And imagine how rich you would have to be
to get him to listen to you.
Government of the people, by the people and for peoplethe rich people
And on the other side, the Republicans in ‘Congress are trying to dole out to
the rich a $245 billion tax break. Republicrats everywhere!
The real heroes in our fight to keep one-school consolidation out of Lincoln
County are people like Vicki McCoy and Kitty McCallister.
They worked overtime on those transportation figures and they were tough
with the political dogs.
It was an insult to the citizens committee and the people of Lincoln County
that a secret meeting was called by members of the state board of education. Only
two members of the citizens committee were present. No one from the Hamlin or
Guyan Valley committees was included in the meeting.
It added insult to injury that the discredited Jackson-Stowers faction had
more people there than did the citizens´ committee. Have a good long memory
every political dog has his day.
If we ever get those two schools where we want them, how about naming the
Lloyd Stowers High School and the Wiley Jackson High School.* Or maybe we
could call them the Economy of Scale High School** East and West.
*This is a play on the names of the two most politically powerful people in Lincoln County both
of whom wanted one school consolidation.
**Economy of scale was the mantra for consolidating four smaller schools into one huge school.
Hoss’ Farley, a leader against the consolidation and a candidate for the board of education,
joked that he and his wife were going to name their about to be born son Economy of Scale.
The Secret of PoliticsBananas
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, November 29, 1995
Although I am a Democrat and I think Bill Clinton is much better for the
working people than those stingy, mean-spirited Republican candidates, I am still
saddened by how much the rich control the Democratic Party. Saturday night I saw
a program called A Presidential Gala’. One of the comedians asked why the man
sitting behind Clinton in the second row was there. The answer from a Clinton aide
was, because of a lot of money.’
When asked what the man did for a living, Clinton replied that he was in
bananas!’ I suspect that everyone in the audience was in bananas’ or better.
Success at greed seems to be the only credential you need to get next to politicians
of either party. Can you imagine what kind of wages that guy pays the people
down in Central America who are really the ones in bananas? One percent of our
population controls forty-percent of the wealth and near 100 percent of our
Getting back to consolidationthe politicians just don´t get it. I feel sure
that they blame politics for the resistance to the one school plan. They probably
can´t absorb the fact that this was a grass-roots uprising that they, nor any party or
faction could control. They met democracy face-to-face and are such strangers to it
that they didn´t recognize it.
Think of the money that would be available for schools if our Congress
would quit building $5 billion submarines. The USS West Virginia, one of over 30
such $5 billion submarines, is doing us good in name only.
Bring the money home!
We hardly need any more of these boondogglesone of these boats can
destroy the entire former Soviet Union.
Combine the money spent on building submarines with the super-tax credits
of $100 million per year given to big business and we could take care of all our
money problems. We could reverse consolidation.
Newt Gingrich often refers with respect to Franklin Roosevelt. Newt would
choke on this quote from Roosevelt. Government has a final responsibility for the
welfare of its citizens. If private cooperative effort fails to provide work for willing
hands and relief for the unfortunate, those suffering hardships through no fault of
their own have a right to call on the government for aid. And a government worthy
of the name must make a fitting response.’
We Can´t Afford the Rich
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, December 6, 1995
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray
in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men But when you pray,
go into your room and shut the door and pray ’ Jesus.
With this in mind, will someone please explain to me prayer before ball
games, team prayers in front of thousands of people and prayer in school? To have
prayer in school we would have to have a room for each student to pray as Jesus
taught. Or is someone going to tell me that Jesus really didn´t mean what he said?
Watching college and professional football I realized, in light of recent
personal experience, that those playing are the ones who didn´t get seriously
injured at the previous level. As much as I love to watch football and as crazy as I
get as a fan, I wonder if it is really worth it in the long run. I have arthritis in the
neck and both knees from high school football injuries and I only played one year.
My son has three broken bones and a severed tendon in four years of football.*
Four years ago, as junior high players, this year´s Duval team had five
players out with broken bones. As my friends know, even at the height of my
enthusiasm as a Duval fan, I have said it is a crazy game’ and ought to be
outlawed. If OSHA inspected a football game or practice they would close it down
as an unsafe workplace.
There is and should be education about all the cultures in our nation. This is
called multi-cultural education. It is not an ism’ like communism or capitalism.
Multi-cultural education is not a sinister plot of the tri-lateral commission. Multi-
cultural education means that we face the reality that there are lots of different
kinds of people in this country and the more we respect our differences the better.
Wanting everyone to be of the same culture sounds a lot like consolidation. One
culture, one religion, one political party, one school, one way of thinkingStalin
As a culture we get insulted practically every day in the mediaI wish they
taught about our Appalachian culture in schools outside West Virginia. I´ll bet
there are a lot of people in Bosnia who wish they had learned respect for one
another´s cultures instead of all insisting that theirs should be the mega-culture.
Does mega-culture mean more Wal-Marts?
Did you know that the average pay of the chief executives of corporations is
187 times more than the average worker?
The average pay of the bosses is now $3.7 million per year. The Congress is
now trying to give the wealthy a capital gains tax cut that would cost $25 billion
each year. And to save money we are told we must consolidate our children into
two-hour bus rides to huge impersonal crime-ridden schools.
The rich get richer and take it out on our children.
We can´t afford the rich.
*That increased to five broken bones, a separated shoulder and an injured vertebrae by the time
he finished playing college football.
There Sure Are a Lot of Communists Around Here
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, December 13, 1995
Buck Harless, millionaire Republican, is backing Joe Manchin for Governor,
what does that tell you about Manchin? Republicrats everywhere!
In this very paper last week was an editorial that implied that Bill Clinton
was a communist for opposing the war in Vietnam. Most of us who opposed that
terrible war were trying to save the lives and souls of our friends and relatives. I
lost two good friends in Vietnam. One friend, Tom Bennett, got the Congressional
Medal of Honor for bravery after he was killed. Two of my cousins left part of
their spirits over there. Cousin John* came back from Vietnam addicted and was
shot by a drugstore owner while attempting a holdup.
Robert McNamara, who was responsible for sending our young friends and
relatives to an early physical or spiritual death, just confessed that those of us who
opposed the war were right after all. He was too late to save John and Tom.
We were not traitors for opposing that war and neither was President
Clinton. According to the man who masterminded the killing of two million
Vietnamese and destruction of their environment, we were right and the
government was wrong.
Six months after the end of the Vietnam War, American oil companies were
drilling for oil for the communist governmentso who was the communist?
The rich can work for the communists and not be called traitors, but if
ordinary people try to get our government to stop killing our friends and relatives
and two million Vietnamese, we are call communistsgo figure.
Calling people traitors who opposed our government´s policies is trashy
journalism and, I had hoped, beneath the dignity of this newspaper.
If you are a communist for standing up to your government then there are a
bunch of communists in Lincoln Countywasn´t it the government that wanted to
put everybody in one school?
Communist governments don´t allow back talk. We live in America where
you can talk back, where it is your duty to talk back if you think the government is
wrong, and where patriots have the right to speak against anything. Long live the
freedom of speech!
I was once called a communist, a hippy and an outsider all in one sentence
and quoted in a rival paper. My relatives settled on Sugar Tree Creek in the early
1800s, and one even married the daughter of Alexander Griffith**. I have never
been a communist, although as an American it is my right to be a communist, or
join the flat earth society, or heaven forbideven be a Republican.
The most consistent definition of a hippie that I hear is someone who doesn´t
wash and has long hair. I bathe on a dailyand sometimes twice dailybasis. My
hair does get long sometimes, which probably does make me a communist. ***
I finally went to The Wall’ in D.C. and found war hero Tom Bennett´s
name. I cried my heart out.
Tom was a brilliant, sensitive, dedicated boy who would no doubt be giving
corrupt politicians a frit right now. West Virginia University named Bennett hall in
Thanks to Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and others, Tom is now just
a memory. We lost so much good over there.
I wonder whose boy is going to come home in a box from Bosnia.
*John´s brother Bill also came back hooked on drugs. John was addicted to heroin and Bill to
opium. Both spent ten years in prison for holding up drug stores.
**After whose family Griffithsville was named. Griffithsville is where Duval High School was
***In 1969 I visited Cuba with a group of former Peace Corps Volunteers and found that
communists there did not like long hair nor beards on anyone but the original revolutionary hero
It Won´t Be Apples They Smell
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, December 20, 1995
The pulp mill proposed for Apple Grove on the Ohio River about 28 miles
from Hamlin will release 1.3 million cubic feet of rotten egg’ gas each year.
Guess what it smells like.
One student in my chemistry class can send this hydrogen sulfide smell all
over the school with one small test-tube reaction. It´s the same gas that comes from
sulfur water’. Some say you will be able to smell the rotten eggs in Hamlin. Some
say you already can on board meeting nights.
Hydrogen sulfide is more poisonous than cyanide gas. Lucky for us, humans
call smell small amounts better than any detector made. But small amounts will
gag a maggot. The amount of rotten eggs’ gas emitted will be five and one-half
times stronger than the amount needed for the human nose to detect.
Every day, twenty-four hours a day, Apple Grove will smell like rotten eggs.
But it will bring 600 non-union jobs. Why does West Virginia seem to get these
choices between no jobs or hell on earth?
If we let them tear up our mountains with strip-mining they throw a few jobs
our way. Dump out-of-state garbage in our hollers and get a few more jobs. Poison
our air and water and we can work. Destroy our beautiful hardwood forests and we
can stay off welfare. Guard criminals and you can earn a living. Moorefield sold
out to the chicken people and now that sweet little town smells like several million
dead chickens. Progress?
Do we have to commit suicide to survive? Is suicide survival?
But that is not all on Apple Grove. What a beautiful name for what is going
to happen to it. Every year they will foul our air and rain with 66 million cubic feet
of poisonous carbon monoxide, 6.5 million cubic feet of sulfur dioxide which turns
to sulfuric acid in the clouds, 41 million cubic feet of nitrogen oxides which also
come back as acid rain, 400,000 cubic feet of hydrochloric acid and over a million
pounds of unnamed volatile organic compounds.
The state is about to give the pulp mill an air pollution permit that will dump
around 13 million pounds of pollution into the air every year. That´s about 36,000
pounds of pollution every day! Every day! Besides the 600 scab jobs it will create
a bunch more in the health care industry. Imagine the occupational diseases the
workers are going to get along with their pay checks.
Where will the pulp mill get the stuff to mall all that mess? They are going
to cut down all our trees for as far as you can see and replace the hardwoods with
quick-growing evergreens and do away with the spring and fall color. There is a
Weyerhauser plant going up in Flatwoods (site of my proposed one school for all
of West Virginia) that will take care of gutting the forests in that area. There is
another wood products operation going in near Fayetteville which will rob the
beauty of that area. The middle of West Virginia is going to be destroyed unless
strict timbering laws are passed. And like coal companies they will contract out the
cutting so that local boys will get the jobs and the blame for destroying the woods.
The companies know it is hard for us to want our neighbors to lose out on jobs, so
they bank on us silently watching the destruction.
Hypocrites pray in public, says the Man from Galileeit was suggested last
week that there should be voluntary prayer time in school, that there should be a
moment of silence every morning for voluntary prayer. What do you do if someone
doesn´t want to be silent, but would like to sing rock and rolls songs during that
time? Do we punish them for not being quiet while others pray? Should
punishment and prayer be linked together? Do you have the right to pray and make
everyone else be quiet while you do it? I think you do in church, but not in
everybody´s school. Voluntary prayer is possible all day long, every day, and no
one needs to show off like the hypocrites to do it.
I pray when I want to pray and when I think I need it. And I don´t need the
prayer police telling me I have to pray every morning at 7:30. State religion would
be a disaster! Imagine the local political bosses telling everybody when to pray or
to pray at all. The so-called religious right-wing claims they want the government
off our backs but they want the government to tell us when and where to pray.
Some good news for a change. The U. S. Congress passed a bill banning
gifts from lobbyists to congressmen. This was done over the objections of the
Republican leadership! Bob Dole, Trent Lott and Mitch McConnell all wanted
those free vacations from the friends of good government who try for the best
Congress money can buy. Do you ever get the feeling that the national government
is just a big version of Lincoln County? A group call Common Cause is still
working to shut down the political action committees that pour tons of money into
the campaigns of those politicians who are for sale. Are there other kinds? I am
president of the Lincoln County Education Association Political Action Committee
and I say get rid of them all. We can´t match the money the rich pour into the
Ugly politiciansI used to see pictures of all those ugly, sour-looking men
standing on Lenin´s tomb in Moscow and would then turn to the local paper and
see the same guys shaking hands with Rockefeller in Hamlin. If it wasn´t for the
language difference you could switch their guys for ours and no one would know
the difference. I concluded that the Soviet Union was just a bunch of Lincoln
Counties back to back.
Republicrats Are Locking Our Children Out Of College
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, January 27, 1995
Quote from the Charleston Gazette: No one paid any attention to accounts
that were delinquent.’ This was said by Ed Staats, chief financial officer for West
Virginia´s Worker´s Compensation Fund. And so there is a man named Ted
Osbourne, down in McDowell County, who owes $10.1 million to the Worker´s
Compensation Fund. Our own Lloyd Jackson* helped push through a so-called
reform bill that would punish injured workers when the real problem is people like
Osbourne is also spending weekends in jail for cheating the federals out of
$150,000 in mine reclamation fees. Another example of what the coal industry is
doing to us. The Republicrats in Congress and our state legislature do their best to
take government off our backs’ and let thieves like Osbourne do weekends in jail.
Imagine if some poor kid from Lincoln County held up a bank for what
Osborne has stolen from us with paperwork!** Lloyd Jackson and his fellow
Republicrats chose to punish the worker whose back doesn´t work right anymore
because a mine roof dell on it. Medicare and Medicaid have been broken by
outrageous hospital and doctor´s fees. Guess who it is the Republicrats have
chosen to punish. Punish the victim is the battle cry of the big money politicians.
And once again, are there very many politicians other than big money politicians?
An old high school friend, who is a doctor, once told me that he got himself
through medical school by hard work and sacrifice. People on welfare could do
what he did. Anyone who wants to get ahead can do it because I did and I was as
poor as you could get,’ he said. I reminded him that the taxpayers of West Virginia
built the schools that he attended, including the WVU Medical School. We built
the roads he drove on, we provided the mail service and we provided the GI Bill of
Rights that paid him to go to school. He didn´t do it alone, nor only by his hard
work and grit. A combination of social services provided by the dreaded
government and his extreme smarts made him a doctor. I am glad we made it
possible for him to become a doctor and I hope we continue to make it possible for
poor kids to become all they can be.
I have students right now who have the ability to be anything they want to be
except for the damn moneythat isn´t fair, no sir! People will tell you there is
money for college education if you want it badly enough. There is some money if
you have excellent grades, but there is almost no money for the B-average
It is the old Jackie Robinson syndromehe had to be the best player in
baseball to get a chance at the white big leagues. There were all kinds of average
players who never got a chance because they were Black. For a long time, most of
the average players in any sport, college or pro, were white. The same applies to
poor students, white and black. If you are in the top5-10 percent of your class you
have a chance at some college money.
Rich kids don´t have to be near as qualified as poor kids to go to college.
The Republicrats are trying to make it even harder for poor kid to go to college.
And don´t forget the $100 million Super Tax Credit going to those poor’ coal
Now to important stuff.
Marshall lost the national championship because of character. Two late hits
out of bounds, one roughing the punter and a taunting penalty probably cost them a
couple of touchdowns. It is a physically violent sport and without coaches with a
firm grip on discipline, it gets spiritually violent.
While on the all-important subject of footballMarshall had four players
from West Virginia on the starting offense and defense. Four players out of
twenty-two from West Virginia. WVU´s football team is also overloaded with out-
of-state players. Both bought the best professional players that were left over after
the big money got through recruiting. Land we proudly call these foreign
mercenaries, our team.’
L. T. Anderson, who once wrote for the Charleston Gazette and now*** for
the Daily Mail (My grandpa Charlie Barker used to call the Charleston Daily Mail
a scab paper, but the Gazette has since joined them in union-busting) once
proposed that WVU schedule football games with Brown, Harvard, Princeton,
Yale, Cornell and other Ivy League types. Every game those teams play is covered
in the New York Times. WVU would probably go undefeated every year and get
nation publicity in the Times. Anderson then suggested that WVU wisely turn
down any bowl bids. Football fans like to win, they don´t care much who it is they
I would like to amend Anderson´s suggestions and propose that only West
Virginia high school graduates be allowed to play sports at WVU, Marshall and
other state colleges. There would be no athletic scholarships, and all games would
be with teams within a bus drive who adopted the same rules. In other words, we
would de-criminalize college sports. Our kids would get to play for their home
Close to half of the students and almost all of the athletes at West Virginia
University are from out of state. Out-of-state tuition doesn´t come near paying for
the cost of education. We pay the taxes, a lot of their costs and they have all the
fun! Let´s take our schools back. Make the out-of-state students pay the full cost of
their education. It is crazy that a state as poor as West Virginia is subsidizing out-
A friend of mine says that when I thought I was being called a communist I
was really being called a columnist.
I hope you had a nice Christmas and do have a Happy New Year.
*Lloyd Jackson was a state senator representing Lincoln County
The Arabs Are Coming To Duval High School
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, January 17, 1996
This is a true story. It happened a long time ago at Duval High School. For
three weeks representatives of an oil-rich Arab Sheik telephoned Duval High
School to make arrangements for the Arab´s two sons to attend Duval. The Sheik
was moving to West Virginia to get into the coal business. He didn´t want his teen-
aged sons going to school in Charleston. He wanted them away from the drugs and
violence of big city schools. One Wednesday near the end of school the principal
announced to the teachers over the p.a. system that there would be an emergency
faulty meeting immediately after school. So far the faculty didn´t know about the
negotiations to enroll the Arab students at Duval.
The principal solemnly informed us at the beginning of the meeting that
everything we heard during the meeting was to stay in that room. This was a
serious matter and if not handled right could have international implications. We
were brought up to date on the negotiations, the Arabs were coming tomorrow. The
Sheik was a very important man, a wealthy man and we must handle this situation
with kid gloves. The students must understand that there could be no making fun of
these two distinguished, well connected Arab students. The principal beamed at the
coaches as he informed them that one of the boys averaged 17 points a game in
basketball and the other was a quarterback.
The place was buzzing the next day. Someone didn´t leave the news in that
faculty meeting room. One girl turned around and went home and got all dressed
up for the occasion, this could be a short-cut to riches. The sheriff met the new
students at the Alum Creek bridge and gave them a light flashing police escort to
Duval. The Sheik´s sons were driving an old blue VW bug.
At Duval a pep assembly was in progress when the Arabs arrived. They
were introduced to the entire student body between cheers. The cheerleaders' eyes
were sparkling at the tall handsome boys. One was blond haired and they were
both light skinned. They explained that their mother was a white American.
After being shown around the school they were taken to Hamlin for a
personal audience with the superintendent of schools. The superintendent
welcomed them to Lincoln County and made it clear he was there to help them in
any way he could.
The boys were brought back to Duval where the coaches took them out on
the football field and into the gym to see what they had. State championships were
flowing in all directions. The quarterback couldn´t throw and the basketball star
dribbled like he had a hand full of thumbs. It was the altitude difference between
West Virginia and Saudi Arabia that accounted for the poor performance. The
Arabs should have left before the sports tryouts. They had blown their cover.
These Arabs were from the far-off exotic Arab land of South Charleston,
they were very creative, red-blooded American boys, students at South Charleston
High School. Their dad was American, too. They had pulled the whole thing off
themselves. I was never sure if the Arabs were put in jail overnight because the
authorities had no sense of humor or because they did. The boys should have
gotten an Oscar. The whole thing was hushed up and never made the papers. It
finally has. I wonder where those Arabs are now.
**My grandpa Charlie Barker said that rich people stole with a pen.
Multiculturalism, Long-Hair and Mountain People
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, January 3, 1996
Three cheers for Cecil Roberts, new president of the United Mine Workers.
In his inaugural speech he sounded like my grandfather, UMW member and
veteran of Blair Mountain, Charlie Barker. Roberts said, I am here to tell you that
I am militant. I´m going to stay militant and I will make every one of you who will
be militant as militant as I am ’ We need a militant leader of the UMW. We all
depend on the UMW to keep the big money from running over us. If the UMW
wins the rest of us win. They keep the Caperton-Jackson Republicrats in line. The
UMW made a big mistake under Trumka in resorting to selective strikes instead of
being more militant and shutting the whole coal industry down.
Roberts condemns the Pharisees and so-called Christian right wing
Republicans (and Republicrats) with How can you be living the way the Bible
tells you to live when you are working cut off your mom and dad´s health
care that same Bible tells us that it is harder for a rich man to get into the
kingdom of heaven than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle.’
After Charlotte Pritt´s* eight years let us put Cecil Roberts in the Governor´s
As I have told the editor of this newspaper before, there is no such thing as
multi-culturalism. Using the multi-cultural approach in schools is not an ism. It is
not a religion nor a political philosophy. Multi-cultural education simply
recognizes that there are different kinds of people in this country and that we
should honor and respect their culture and background. Multi-cultural education is
Christian and is an attempt to fight the racism of the right-wingers who would
make everyone exactly like them.
We mountain people, of all people, should want other cultures to respect us
and not turn us down for jobs because we speak a different accent of English.
Outside these mountains there is a widespread prejudice against us. On TV they
can still make fun of two groupsmountain people and midgets.
We should unite with other cultures and make sure our culture is taught to
students all over this country. Do we all have to talk like we are from Indiana?
What is it with these right-wing republicans who claim they want less government
but want the government telling us we can´t honor or ancestral culture? Wasn´t it
Hitler who wanted to get rid of everyone different? Anyway, worrying about multi-
cultural education is just what the right-wing Republicans want us to do while they
give away the store to the rich.
Speaking of tolerance and wise judgmentthree more cheers to Coach
David Kiser for not making a big issue out of hair style on his basketball team.
Right wing Republicans and small-minded coaches want everyone to look alike
diversity threatens them and they need to lighten up.
My first run-in with the Board of Education was over the all-important
moral issue of hair length. It was my first semester teaching at Duval. It was track
season and the coach kicked a boy off the team for having long hair. He needed to
be part of a group. He needed acceptance. He had had enough rejection already. I
confronted the coach about it and told him my oldest son had long hair and wanted
to be an athlete. He told me that he was boss and that my son wouldn´t play for
him if his hair was long.
My wife and I wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Lincoln County
Schools. We wrote as parents about the long hair policy of the coach. A week later
I saw a copy posted in the men´s lounge at Duval High School. It was also posted
in the coach´s office and in the field house. Our confidential personal letter was in
rest rooms and offices. No doubt it was being used to ridicule and humiliate our
oldest son, who by the way was a darned good athlete. (The coach is not one of our
Jesus could never play basketball for some coaches with all that long hair
and those radical ideas.
And speaking of wise coaches, Kim Matthews and Richard McCallister are
among the wisest and most compassionate coaches I have ever witnessed. They
rank with the truly legendary Sammy LeRose, my football coach at St. Albans.
Like LeRose, they are always positive, never blame, humiliate, curse or scream at
anyone. When a kid made a mistake it was, Hey, don´t worry about it and you´ll
do better next time’ or Good try, way to hustle.’ On the rare occasions when their
teams lost they didn´t whine and blame the referees. I am so grateful that my son
had them for his first coaches in football and I am grateful for Sammy LeRose.
*Charlotte Pritt was the first woman to run for Governor on either the Democrat or Republican
tickets. She was betrayed by some Democrat leaders who supported her Republican opponent.
The present (2009) Governor Joe Manchin was one of those Democrats who supported the
Republican Cecil Underwood. They called themselves Democrats for Underwood.
Raising Dogs and Raising Kids: Which Do Politicians Care
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, January 24, 1996
According to Fanny Sieler in the Gazette, Earl Ray Tomblin's mother got
over $160,000 the past two years for raising racing dogs. The state gave her that
money. We the people gave her that money to raise dogs! How about giving
money to people who raise gamecocks. I shouldn´t have suggested that. Earl Ray
might be in that business, too.
Where do we get these senators? As the state cuts back on medical care for the
poor, Earl Ray´s family gets money to raise dogs. As we are asked to bus our
children four hours a day, the Tomblins get rich for contributing to the gambling
industry. Perhaps that money could be given to people who have a hard time
finding enough money to raise a human being. Seiler says the Tomblin dog money
was earned’ right here in Lincoln County, at a puppy farm in Harts. Just trying to
contribute to the local economy, I guess. A vote earl Ray is a vote for the dogs.
Bark for Earl Ray.
*Marshall beat WVU in basketball. Most of the players on both squads were
from out of state. My proposal again: Only West Virginia residents be allowed to
play sports or coach at our colleges and universities. Play teams that are a short bus
ride away and give no athletic scholarships. Our kids are being cheated when we
hire these mercenaries from out of state. We have a history of letting outside
interests ruin our fun. Look who owns most of our mineral rights and destroys our
state with strip mining, pulp mills, clear-cutting and such. Perhaps we should all
commit suicide and let the out-of-state rich have it. Maybe we already have.
*What is that rotten smell? Could it be the smell of the Mason County pulp
mill? Or is it the smell of the tax write-offs Parsons and Whitmore will get?
Caperton* has assured them that they qualify for over $700 million in super tax
credits, and up to 41.1 billion in total corporate welfare. Add to that the $1 billion
in tax write-offs West Virginia is already giving to big business in ten years. Why
don´t we just give them the state Capitol? Maybe we already have. It appears to be
for sale. What we have here is welfare for the rich. The Republicrats are at it again.
There is no end to their trickery.
Two billion dollars is only three words, but how much is that? It is two
thousand million! If you spent one thousand dollars a day and started when Jesus
was born, you would finish spending the money in 5476! And we are so poor we
have to consolidate schools to save money? Parsons and Whitmore will be the
biggest welfare queen ever.
No wonder Caperton tried to stop the release of documents about the deals
made with the stinking pulp mill people. One of his people wrote that the
Governor must support non-union activity must get law enforcement people.
Get local judge´s enforcement to ascertain if injunction can be implemented.’ They
are already planning to bust any union activity and hire scabs. How did we get this
Republicrat, union-busting, air-polluting rich man as governor? Who was his
campaign manager? **
*Tell me it is not true that the UMWA is backing John Perdue for state
treasurer! Weren´t he and Lloyd Jackson Caperton´s boys in getting the so-called
workers compensation reform through the legislature?
**Reference to Lloyd Jackson of Lincoln County who was Caperton´s campaign manager
Missiles Just Sit There
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, January 31, 1996
Fanny Seiler reports in the Charleston Gazette that the dog owners* got
$654,824 from us generous taxpayers Must be the origin of the expression, Well I
be dog owned.’ Is Earl Ray Tomblin** going to the dogs? Stop me somebody!
The Republicans do not care if they balance the budget a balanced budget is
being used as a smokescreen to hide what they are really doing. They are trying to
erase all the reforms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy
and Lyndon Johnson. They want to destroy Medicare and Medicaid. They will go
after Social Security if they get a Republican president. The environment means
nothing to them but a roadblock to more profit. School lunch programs and other
programs benefiting children are on their hit list. They want all that money for
themselves. A tax cut for the rich shows how badly they want to balance the
budget. If they really want to balance the budget, why are they giving the military
$7 billion more than they wanted?
It was under Republican presidents that the budget deficit boomed to three
hundred trillion dollarsmind you they had plenty of help from Republicrats in
the Democrat-controlled Congress. Our money went down the bottomless pit
called the military. Of the money Congress can allocate at its own discretion the
military gets more than all the others combined. We have over thirty nuclear
submarines that can each destroy all of the former Soviet Union. They cost five
billion dollars to build and ten billion to armeach!
Five billion dollars is enough money to solve all the financial problems of all
the school districts in the country. One nuclear submarine less and all of our school
financial problems are solved. Less a couple of more submarines and you have free
medical care for everyone! We could still have twenty-seven submarines capable
of destroying the former Soviet Union. Military spending has been a big
boondoggle for military contractors.
When we spend our money on the military we don´t spend it on other things
like hungry children and old people. Military spending is a dead-end street, it
doesn´t generate any more money. A missile just sits there after it´s built. The
same money spent on education causes individuals to earn more money, contribute
to society, maybe employ other people, and buy groceries, cars, houses, gasoline.
A missile just sits there. We´ve got a zillion of them just sitting there. Spending on
peaceful items generates more money in the economy. Missiles just sit there.
If Hillbilly, Dickie and Snake*** get too cute on this one-school garbage
they may end up with no high schools in Lincoln County. If the board doesn´t
place the two schools in the areas we, the citizens, agreed to, the bond issue
doesn´t stand a chance. If Hillbilly succeeds in sabotaging the bond issue election,
the state just might send all of our kids out of the county. Chapmanville,
Huntington, Hurricane, George Washington, South Charleston, St. Albans and
Scott all make more sense than one school in Wiley world.****Lincoln County
would become no-man´s land. Our children would become strangers in a strange
Is it possible for our board members to outsmart themselves? Can a snake
*Racing dog breeders.
** Earl Ray Tomblin was and is (2009) president of the West Virginia Senate. His mother was
one of the dog breeders who got a huge subsidy from the state.
***Hillbilly, Dickie and Snake were nicknames of members of the Board of Education.
****Wiley world refers to land near political boss Wiley Stowers´ shopping mall.
Sharing the Trough with Senator Tomblin
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, February 7, 1996
Two weeks ago, it was mentioned in an article by Jerry Alford that the two-
school plan now being considered for Lincoln County was not the plan proposed
by the Facilities Planning Committee. He said the committee plan called for two
schools of grades seven through twelve. No one on the committee wanted seven
through twelve high schools. We knew it was a mistake to put seventh and eighth
graders in with high school students. But we were told that the two high schools
had to meet the economy of scale’ or it would be back to the one-school plan.
The only way two high schools would meet the economy of scale’ would
be as grades seven through twelve high schools. The politicians called a secret
meeting in Charleston minus eighteen of the Citizens´ Facilities Planning
Committee. It turns out they were just kidding about economy of scale.’ It must
have been kind of a joke to watch the Citizens´ Facilities Planning Committee
squirm. They approved the 1990 idea of two nine-thru-twelve high schools with
nary a word about economy of scale.’ Economy of scale’ was another one of
those rules that only applied if it could be use as a roadblock to our efforts to stop
one-school consolidation. They never really cared how many grades we had as
long as they got the one-school at Wiley World. All of those meetings, trying to
make the figures work were just a big hoax. They figured we couldn´t pull it off
and they would win by default. When they saw they were beaten they had another
of secret meetings, minus eighteen of the Citizens´ Facilities Planning Committee
members, and did however they wanted.
Why must they do everything in secret? And the answer is: Republicrats
don´t trust people. For the big shots, democracy is a messy business. They didn´t
want us to taste victory. We might have gotten out of control and decided we
didn´t need them. I was told their secret meeting allowed them to save face. To hell
with their face. They should have been forced to come, hat in hand, before the
people of Lincoln County and tell us they were wrong. They put us through a lot of
agony. They just want to stay in power. They know that if we find out we can beat
them they won´t be in power very long. I do want to thank them for uniting us and
giving us the opportunity to find out we have real power if we stick together.
I am very glad we aren´t, sorry, they aren´t going to build two high schools
with junior high students mixed with senior high students. I still think we should
have complete vocational schools at the two high schools.
Having two giant middle schools is a mistake. Those young children are still
going to be on the buses for a long time, and they will be going to unnecessarily
large schools far removed from their communities. And don´t tell me it is because
of the economy of scale’ that we must have two middle schools. Economy of
scale lives with the tooth fairy. And don´t tell me it is because we don´t have
enough moneymillions are going to coal companies for laying off coal miners, to
pulp mills who will terrorize our forests, to politicians who raise racing dogs, and
on and on. How about a super tax credit for people to build schools.
Maybe we can get in the back door on some of that money. How
about a giant greyhound puppy farm at the vocational school. The school system
could suck from the same trough as Earl Ray Tomblin.*
* According to Fanny Sieler in the Gazette, Earl Ray Tomblin's mother got over $160,000 the
past two years for raising racing dogs. Earl Ray Tomblin is (2009) President of the State Senate.
Seven Girls Pregnant at School
The News From Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, February 14, 1996
Once when Larry Wilkerson was principal at Duval High School, he got a
phone call from an irate citizen who told Larry that he had heard that there were
seven girls pregnant down there at Duval.’ Larry told him to back up just a little
bit. Those girls aren´t pregnant at Duval, those girls are pregnant, period. Larry
informed him that to the best of his knowledge, they didn´t get pregnant at Duval.
It is a common practice to blame the schools for whatever is wrong with our
children. If the students at schools are violent’ it is not because of the schools.
The kids don´t learn violence at school. The few that are violent were violent when
we got them. Schools don´t cause societies problems, rather, we have the difficult
job of trying to correct those problems, and it ain´t easy. Any situational ethics
they have they already had when we got them. It is as silly to blame the schools for
society´s problems as it is to blame the churches. Many of the students with
behavior problems go to church, play football or belong to other groups, none of
which should be singled out as causing the behavior problem. The churches,
schools and other institutions aren´t to blame. In most cases, the problem is at
home where parent or sibling abuse has planted the seed of violent behavior. If
children are abused they will abuse others. They learn that abuse is normal before
they have anything to compare. Abuse seems normal to the abused child. A person
is pretty well determined by age five, and that time is spent at home, not at church
No more than two to five percent of the students at Duval have problems
that are so serious they can´t function within the expected school behavior. Most
parents have done a good job with their kids. If we teachers are firm, fair and
present a class that is interesting, we will have few problems. The students want
reasonable limits on their class behavior, and they want us to help them to learn.
However, those children who seem to have been raised by wolves, create for
more problems than their numbers warrant. If the class size is reduced to no more
than fifteen students, most behavior problems disappear. It is hard for the abused
child to abuse others if they can´t hide in a crowd. With smaller classes, it is easier
for the teacher to minister to the needs of the individual student. It is especially
important to have small classes in the lower grades so that healthy patterns of
behavior can get started early. Younger students are less mature, and more inclined
to disruption if they already have serious problems like home abuse.
Up to a certain point the main indicator of success in school is family
income. Families that don´t have to worry about where the money is going to come
from to pay for school clothes, medical bills and other necessities of life are less
frustrated and less angry and abusive.
So what are our rulers trying to do? That´s right, they are trying to make it
harder on poor families and easier for the rich. In general, children from low-
income families score lower on standardized tests.
Thoughts on a Friend´s Life
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, February 21, 1996
John Maxwell died two days ago. John was an old friend of mine. He was a
professor of history at West Virginia University. John was a nice guy. He was
popular with his students, and a very effective and demanding teacher. One student
commented that he didn´t like to take notes in John´s class because he enjoyed the
lectures so much he just wanted to listen. John was one of those warm souled
people that everybody liked. He always took interest in what you had to say, and
seemed to exude a love for people.
I called John´s wife, and during the conversation, I told her of one of the
most incredible coincidences that I ever experienced. It involved John many years
When President Kennedy announced he was forming a Peace Corps, I was a
chemical engineer at American Cyanamid in Wallingford, Connecticut. A bunch of
us had been transferred from Willow Island, West Virginia, to help start a new
plant making socially useless melamine plastic. The day after Kennedy´s
announcement, I called Washington and volunteered. My application went
unanswered for five months. I figured they didn´t want me so I headed to
Washington, D.C. got a job in the Naval Propellants plant near there and got
accepted to Georgetown Law School for night classes. After a month of being
trained to supervise the making of Sidewinder missiles I heard from the Peace
CorpsI was in.
We trained at UCLA for three months, and were then sent to Nigeria in West
Africa. In Nigeria I taught in a high school. We had three-month terms with a
month vacation between each term. During one of those monthly vacations, my
seven-month pregnant wife and I along with another couple who were also seven
months pregnant, decided to go to the Cameroon Republic, next door to Nigeria.
Crammed in our Volkswagen bug the school gave us, we headed for the
border. On the way, still on a hardtop road, we passed a bearded white man
hitchhiking. We had four adults and two almost in the tiny bug, so we couldn´t
help. Later that evening, after a day on deeply rutted dusty roads, we arrived in the
city of Bamenda. Bamenda had an old German fort on top of a plateau overlooking
the city in the valley.
The Cameroons were captive to the Germans until they lost all of their
colonies after World War I to Britain and France. Britain and France each took half
of the former German colony. This kind of colony loss brought Hitler to the rescue.
The Cameroons had a split personality. They had grown accustomed to the rule of
the Germans and their language, and suddenly half of the people had to learn
French and the other half English.
At the border between the British half and the French half, the rules
suddenly changed. In the British part you drove on the left side of the road, and
abruptly at the border you had better get used to driving on the right side with the
French. Adjustment to that sudden lane change caused more than one head-on
In Bamenda, we stayed at a government rest-house, which was similar to a
motel but much nicer. The next morning, we met the bearded hitchhiker at
breakfast. He was an American. He had recently been discharged from an Army
Intelligence unit in Germany. A buddy of his drove him down to Gibraltar and
waved goodbye as he crossed the straits to Africa. His goal was to hitchhike
around the perimeter of Africa.
We finished our vacation, which included having a machine gun pointed into
our car window right at my face by a soldier who thought we might be members of
a rebel group they were after. Anyway, we got back to our school, welcomed our
daughter into the world and headed home. We detoured through Egypt, Greece,
Russia and France. The trip to Russia is another storyJohn Kennedy, who sent us
to Africa, was murdered while we were on our roundabout way home. We were on
a Russian ship going from Greece to Odessa, Russia, when we learned of
Back home in West Virginia I got a job as foreign student advisor at West
Virginia University. John Maxwell got a job teaching history there at about the
same time. We had been freshmen at WVU together in 1954. I went to see him.
We talked all night and finished off a fifth of bourbon. While I was telling John
about Africa, he suddenly said, About the time you were in Africa, I had a buddy
who went to Africa. When he got discharged from our Army Intelligence unit in
Germany, I took him down to Gibraltar and saw him off on a hitchhiking trip. His
goal was to hitchhike around the perimeter of Africa.’
I loved John Maxwell. I am very sorry he is gone. He was magic.
[Editors note: Maxwell was an excellent teacher and a good man. I can attest that he helped at
least one freshman make it through. TLH]
In the Cameroons we met a despicable old German who gave a group of local people a
large bag of salt if they would perform a dance for us. I felt shame watching those poor, hapless
people go through the motions of drumming and dancing for us American tourists.
I was driving in Lagos. It was the capital of Nigeria at that time. It suddenly appeared
that I was going to have a head-on collision with a Nigerian taxi. In former British colony
Nigeria, cars drove on the left side. It suddenly appeared that I was going to have a head-on
collision with a Nigerian taxi. I instinctively swerved to the right to avoid the collision. That is
the way I would have swerved had I been in the U.S., driving on the right side of the road. The
taxi driver swerved to his left which was right towards me. We both stopped in time. In the
nearby formerly French colony of Dahomey, they drove on the right side of the road. The taxi
driver assuming I was from Dahomey, yelled angrily out the window of his car, French!’
In government rest houses we were awakened for coffee around 6 am and later for hot
tea. This was something the British colonists introduced for their servants to treat them to
comfort and pleasure. This was not something they experienced at home where they had no dark
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, February 28, 1996
I don´t like censorship. I don´t like giving anyone else the right to decide
what I read, write, say or view. Yet, I also know that I was very concerned about
the covers of magazines that were at eye level when my son was a little guy. At
Kroger´s, the magazine rack showed gruesome scenes of women being brutalized
on the covers of detective magazines. I complained to the manager. A week later
when the brutal murder of women was still depicted at children´s eye level in
Kroger´s tore the covers off the magazines. I figured they could put them there and
I could remove them. I became a censor.
The stuff on television is awful for children to be watching. The cartoons are
full of horrible characters doing horrible things to other horrible characters. What
happened to sweet, innocent stories for sweet innocent children? Why should
children be subjected to such harsh scenes? What kind of people are deciding to
send such negative images into innocent minds? What companies are sponsoring
such fearful stuff? Why?
It doesn´t take a rocket scientist to figure highly possible connections
between things like smoking and lung diseases, heavy drinking and liver diseases,
violence and mental disease .
To preserve our freedoms I don´t think there should be any censorship of
anything for adults. Adults should be allowed to do anything they want to do if it
does not harm anyone else or their property. I don´t like the idea of crimes with no
victim. If an adult wants to destroy their mind and body with alcohol they have the
right. Outlawing alcohol didn´t work and outlawing other drugs isn´t working. A
certain number of people will be alcoholics no matter what the law. A certain
number of people are addicted to drugs no matter what the laws. You just can´t
stop people from putting things in their mouths or veins or lungsit is an
impossible police job to watch everyone all the time.*
Love will cure most need for self-destruction. The most effective love is a
parent for a child. Love them when they are young and they can survive most
anything. Help them feel important and worthwhile when they are babies, and they
usually don´t want to destroy themselves. I see happy looks on the faces of
teenagers that are the result of happy childhoods.
Good-looking people are often not really good looking, if you take away the
sparkle in their eyes. Elizabeth Taylor never seemed good looking to me because
there didn´t seem to be any twinkle of happiness in her eyes. But short, strange
looking Danny Devito is beautiful. I see physically unattractive people who are
beautiful because they radiate happiness. That is very attractive no matter where it
is coming from. Those happy looks are usually a result of loving parents early in
Adults should be free to destroy themselves, but somehow we have to
protect the delicate minds and emotions of children. The difficult problem is how
to protect children without putting adults in chains. If the V-Chip bans violence
from television, will it mean that Shakespeare´s great works of art will be
censored? Would the Vietnam War reporting have been censored as too violent if
the V-Chip had been around then?
Who will decide what gets a violent rating. Is the answer to allow anything
to be on television and Internet, and put the responsibility on parent to regulate
what their children see? Or do we introduce the very dangerous idea of censorship
because some parents won´t do their job? Do we throw the baby out with the bath
water? Do we give up our freedoms to censors because some cannot be responsible
parents? Are we so helpless that we must delegate our moral responsibility to
government censors? Is the V-Chip more or less government on our backs?
* Such laws cannot be enforced against every violator. Selective enforcement has been used to
imprison people who are trouble makers.’ A young African-American at Texas Southern
University was a leader in civil rights and anti-war activities. He was sentenced to thirty years in
prison for possession of one joint of marijuana.
Buchanan, Wallace and other Populists
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, March 6, 1996
Pat Buchanan reminds me of George Wallace. George Wallace started out as
a racist and ended up getting elected, in Alabama, with what were called the
negro’ votes in his day. Wallace was a populist. He really did believe in the
people. At first, he had a very narrow definition of who the people’ werethey
were white. I think he really liked being around people and one-on-one he was
probably not a racist. But in front of a mob of his people’ he would out-seg the
best of them. He was angry at the establishment for being the establishment, for
being rich and not having a clue as to what the people needed or wanted. He
brought his racial bias into the fray and his populism got clouded. He was easy to
dismiss as a redneck racist.’
Be proud to be a redneck. Red-neck started back in the coal mine wars on
Cabin and Paint Creeks, when the union miners wore red bandanas around their
necks so they could recognize each other. I was started by a wonderful, far-left
union called the Industrial Workers of the World, better known as the Wobblys.
The Charleston Gazettethen the Republican businessman´s frienddenounced
the rednecks’ as ignorant hillbillies. I like to think of my twenty-year old
grandfather Charlie Barker and his brother Kin being rednecks in the coal mine
Dole, Alexander and Forbes are all in touch with the rich, but way out of
touch with the working people. As a demagogue will do, Buchanan has grabbed
hold of the real issue in our countryjobs here and now. A right-wing Republican
has made the rest of them talk about our unpatriotic corporations going overseas
for slave labor and right to destroy the air and water. What we need here in West
Virginia is someone who will galvanize the same anger toward the super tax
credits or Republicrat legislature give to large corporations.
Buchanan has just fired a guy who loves the militia stuff, and another who
was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. KKK wizard David Duke is a Buchanan
supporter and says that if Buchanan becomes president the KKK will have to get
some of the credit. Buchanan lamely claims that he can´t check everyone who
wanders into hi campaign. But why are these sleazebags that wander in´ attracted
to Buchanan? Buchanan attracts haters with his own hateful attitude.
If we had a Democrat Congress to moderate him, Buchanan might be fun to
have in the White House. With the radical right-wing Republican Congress we
have now he would be free to the racist, Nazi dogmatist that he seems to be.
National columnist Molly Ivins figures Buchanan would be a lot more fun to have
a beer with’ than Dole or Gramm, and I add Alexander and Forbes. Those other
guys are stuffy and afraid to be who they really are. They wouldn´t say poop if it
was in their mouths, to paraphrase my aunt. They are such stiff, predictable
nerdsno one to have a good time with at all. Very uptight, Clinton isn´t able to
reveal his real self either, but I see him as our only chance to block the total
destruction this country by the Republicans.
Buchanan is right on the money when he rails at companies that move their
plants overseas to avoid paying Americans a living wage. But I´ll bet my ´79
Chevy that Buchanan used to blame union wages for forcing companies overseas.
So I wonder if he believes what he is saying, or just wants to use the American
worker´s fears to get in power. Maybe he just enjoys a good fight. Buchanan used
to be for free trade, and drove around in a foreign-made car. How does he explain
that Mercedes to the autoworkers? His conversion to a popular cause, a cause that
politicians on both sides choose to ignore, is indeed suspicious. I think he is a
demagogue. He feeds on the people´s fears for his own power.
If Buchanan is a populist he has to take the rest of it. He must be for a higher
minimum wage, for unions, collective bargaining, expanded Medicare and
Medicaid, strict environmental laws, women´s rights, minority rights, and
education for working class kids. I suspect he will gag on most of these. The
working class isn´t going to cheer him for bringing the factories home at a dollar
an hour wage. He won´t be supported for allowing industry to choke our air and
poison our water.
As Molly Ivins points out that it isn´t the immigrants and homosexuals who
send the factories overseas, it is the greedy American business people. Minorities
are easy to pick on and blame, Hitler understood that very well. Buchanan also
knows how to scapegoat.
Suddenly someone has pointed out that the American people are far more
worried about how they are going to feed their families than they are about the
budget. The rest of the candidates, who like Buchanan, are for whatever will get
them elected, will jump on his bandwagon, condemn him and rework his ideas into
Buchanan is a God-send for the Democrats. He will be easy to beat. He has
been too crazy in the past, and it will effectively be used against him. Some of his
advisors are racist kooks who would love to bomb a courthouse, and there is the
embrace of David Duke. Buchanan even suggested selling nuclear weapons to
South Korea. Boy, that´s all we need, more bombs in the hands of crazies.
Buchanan makes fun of Mexicans by referring to immigrants from Mexico as all
being name Jose.’ He exaggerates the pronunciation of Jewish last names and he
speaks to white supremacists in code words they understand. The minorities he
dislikes might constitute a majority of the voters. Haters never know when to stop.
Like George Wallace, Buchanan has a good chance of getting shotso far,
just about everyone who has aroused the emotions of the working class on a
national scale has been shot. The rich may not let Buchanan live if he gets too
In a letter to the editor last week, Lyle Stowers made much of being a
Democrat. I offer this column to Mr. Stowers to tell the people of Lincoln County
what the difference is between a Republican and a Democrat in Lincoln County.
Mr. Stowers´ ideas will be printed without negative editorial comment from this
Lyle Stowers´ brother Greg, County Clerk of Lincoln County, was sent to prison for
buying votes. One rumor was afloat that he gave 230 of his employees a thousand dollar bonus
and they in turn signed the checks back to his campaign. Stowers copped a plea and turned
evidence on his fellow criminals with the government concession that he didn´t have to testify
against his relatives.
A Mother´s Place is in the Home
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, March 13, 1996
The Charleston Gazette ran a headline this week that read, Appalachians
are fat smokers who refuse to wear seat belts.’ This headline was based on a study
that showed Appalachian people are a couple of percentage points worse off than
the rest of the country in eating, smoking and car safety belts. The headline could
have read, 75 percent of the Appalachian people aren´t fat, don´t smoke and do
* A man in Charleston was sentenced to life in prison for being a habitual
criminal. He was a pimp. So far, none of his customers have been judged
* On Sunday, the Charleston Gazette printed an article from the Knight-
Ridder newspaper chain. The article was about parenting. It said that since a
book called Parent Effectiveness Training’ was published in the early
1970s that the bottom has dropped out of child behavior. Author John
Rosemond points out that since that book and some so-called left-wing
parenting ideas every single indicator of positive mental health in
children has been in a state of precipitous decline.’ This book evidently
advised parents to be democratic in their child rearing. Rosemond cites this
as a sharp turn to the left in parenting practices.’ Obviously it was the book
and those left-wing parenting ideas that caused all our problems with
children. What logic! I have never heard of the book and I doubt if one
percent of the parents in this country ever read it.
In most families both parents have got work to make ends meet. The
children get left with someone else to raise them. Mothers feel this awful pressure
to go back to work and leave babies without their mommies. Economic disruption
of the American family is causing our problems, not some book hardly anyone has
read. The right-wing Republicans want to blame everything but their own greed for
Mothers should be paid to stay home and raise their own childrenit would
save us a lot of money in the long run. Raising children is the world´s most
important job, and should be done by parents and not strangers. The most
important job in the world deserves an important salary. When I was growing up
(dinosaurs were three for a dollar back then) every home in our neighborhood had
a parent home with the kids. The jobs then paid a living wage. Teenage or child
crimes of robbery, murder, rape or mugging were unheard of among the thousand
or so kids who lived in that large government housing development called
Ordnance Park in St. Albans in the 1940s. We were free to roam and play happily
without fear because our mothers were home and our dads were making a living
The radical right-wing of the Republican Party claims to be pro-family, but I
hear nothing from them about the low wages that are destroying the American
family. If they are pro-family, how about universal health coverage for all
families? Or will that cost the rich too much? Or how about extending free
education beyond high school level so that poor families with bright kids can get
out of the cycle of poverty. How about a children´s Bill of Rights that promises
education for as far as your talents will take you and health care when you need it?
The G.I Bill of Rights after the Second World War turned this country around. My
uncle got a college degree on the G.I. Bill, and went on to become a plant manager
for Ford Motor Company. Without the G.I. Bill he would probably have been a
casualty of the coal industry.
* A belated public thanks to Greg Collard for having the courage to expose
the conspiracy by our beloved Republicrats to put our children in one giant
concentration camp. There is a statue of Chuck Yeager for his courage and
the hope he gives to young Lincoln County people that they too can conquer
the world. I propose a statue of Greg Collard for showing the young people
of Lincoln County (and us older ones too) a courage of spirit. It´s too bad he
ran into a judge name of Joe Bob, who was good ol´ boys with our
Republicrat rulers. Greg can always count his worth as directly proportional
to the scum-like character of his enemies.
It took fifteen years but the four high schools in Lincoln County were consolidated into one
school but without the people´s permission. Bond issues to consolidate were voted down several
times because the voters didn´t want their children sitting on buses for sometimes three hours a
day. Parents also understood the importance to the community to have a local school. Because
the people voted down bond issues for the one consolidated school, the state board of education
had to pay the entire cost of the school construction. To accomplish the consolidation the state
took over the Lincoln County school system.
Greg Collard was editor of The Lincoln Journal and was fired for uncovering and
editorializing about the conspiracy to consolidate schools behind the backs of the citizens of
The Stowers Faction´s Amazing Transformation
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent March 20, 1996
I´ve been told that the Board of Education candidates being supported by the
Wylie Stowers faction of the so-called Democrat Party are campaigning for
keeping four high schools! Let me get this straight. Wasn´t it the Stowers-Jackson
faction that wanted one big concentration camp down by Wylie World? Now they
are acting like they want four schools? Sure. I am for four schools too, but it ain´t
going to happen. If the Stowers faction wins the school board election the bond
issue of two schools will lose at the same time. The state will then move in and
build one high school right where the Republicrat factions want ittwo hours
away from some students.
Not in our lifetime is the State Board of Education nor the School Building
Authority going to build four high schools in Lincoln County. If the four-school
candidates backed by the evil empire win, we might just get no high schools with
students bused out of the county in all directions. Or still worse, the county board
will be forced to consolidate the present Duval and Hamlin buildings. One would
be the high school and the other the junior high. In this last nightmare, Harts and
Guyan Valley would probably be put together at Guyan valley or bused out of the
My votes go for the Bowman-Farley combination. Both these men worked
long and hard to defeat the one-school plan. They deserve a chance to see if they
can straighten this mess.
Just a reminderthis whole consolidation mess is with us because of the
super tax credit. Our Republicrat lawmakers give one hundred million dollars a
year to big coal companies, Wal-Mart and others. This is one billion dollars every
ten years. The Republicrat solution is to take it out of the hi8des of our children.
Coal operator Gary White is on the State Board of Education. I am told he is Buck
Harless´* boy. I don´t guess we can expect Gary White to see the problem.
The State Chamber of Commerce is ecstatic that more people are moving into
Putnam and Jefferson counties. Two more places that are being ruined and trashed
by over-population and concrete everywhere. In a world that is being ruined by
over-population, why does anyone want more?
What about that stock market? It goes up when AT&T lays off forty thousand
people and it goes down when employment goes up. Rich people get richer when
working people lose their jobs and rich people lose money when working people
get jobs. The stock market is just a big gambling casino for the rich. It has no
connection to the welfare of the people. Decisions that control the stock market are
not based on what is best for the country. Short-term profit controls the stock
market and the stock market controls the country. A bunch of rich gamblers decide
who gets what and how much and they aren´t on our side.
I am really upset with the non-story about violence being a growing problem
in our schools. Duval High School is a very peaceful school. The students are
happy and fun to be around. There is no gang violence. Our biggest problem is the
opposite of violence. They want to get a bit too familiar with their sweethearts and
often have to be reminded to back off a little. In the spring of the year there are
usually a couple of fights between boys with raging testosterone levels.
Duval was raided by the State Police a couple of years ago, with dogs and
all. No drugs were found. The police missed the chance to presume innocence and
congratulate our students. Instead, they said that the drugs were there but they
didn´t find them. So our students were guilty no matter what the search showed.
Duval is the last place on earth that needs cameras to spy on students. I hate
those cameras. They insult my dignity and they are a waste of money
And what about that $313,000 bridge in Griffithsville? Somebody has some
*Buck Harless is a Mingo County coal and timber tycoon.
The State Giveth
And The County Taketh Away
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent March 27, 1996
I read the dreaded words open up southern West Virginia.’ A proposed
airport would do that. Southern West Virginia has been opened up many times by
outside hucksters who stole our mineral rights and then raped the land as the John
Prine song says al in the name of progress.’ When they say open’ up they mean
exploit, make profit, get rich and get out, pollute the air and water and destroy the
land. Watch as corridor G gets developed’that Southridge thing looks like a
painted whore. The pimps who call themselves developers’ will trash it all if
given the chance. They would have back to back mass the world over. They are
like locusts and they are legion.
Jobs is the war cry. Open up for jobs, develop for jobsyet jobs at
McDonalds for minimum wage and no medical care. The so-called developers
always use jobs to get their foot in the door and then they make our beautiful land
ugly and give us starvation wages. Why make rural West Virginia like South
Charleston or Nitro or Institutethat´s development, that´s what you get when you
open up’ an area. You get short future. A bit of prosperity for permanent ruin. It
is another form of strip mining. Quick profits, foul air and water and devastated
A cousin, who had the misfortune if living next to a strip-mine on Coal
River, said that strip-mine companies are like catsWhat they don´t tear up they
poop all overonly she didn´t say poop. So-called developers are the same. They
promise jobs and prosperity and in a few years we all live on the longest street in
the country. It runs coast to coast and it is just one big neon sign with fast-food
joints. Development’ wipes out small business and trashes the environment. It has
become almost unpatriotic to talk like this. We have to figure a way to have jobs
for people without destroying the future.
Let´s give everybody forty acres and start over. We could get the forty acres
from out-of-state land owners who own 90 percent of some counties. In the land of
the free and the brave it is the land of the rich and the slave.
The board of education got way behind and spent a whole lot more money
than they have. Their solution is to cut supplemental contracts. Athletic trainers
will be expected to be at every senior and junior high football game, both home
and away. They will be paid nothing. The best speech and debate program in the
state will be ended. Is the superintendent taking a pay cut? Not likely.
When it was suggested that the superintendent take a cut equal to the one he
is asking of principals and assistant principals, he laughed. And how about the
board members donating their pay to the causeafter all, they were on guard when
the budget went down the tubes. Is their only job to terrorize us with one-school
concentration camps and mismanage money? Remember when you vote this is the
Stowers-Jackson faction at your servicenot exactly first class service.
What the state giveth the county taketh away. I will get about $800 in salary
increase from the state next year. The county is taking away $500. I end up with a
$300 pay raise. About a dollar a day take-home pay. Factor in inflation and I took a
pay cut. I don´t mind giving up the $500 for being the science department head. I
wish those who have led us in such a miserable fashion would find the humility
and generosity to share some of the burden and cut their own pay. Hell hasn´t
frozen over, has it?
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, April 3, 1996
We are engulfed in a mindless destruction of our home, the earth. The
problems we leave our children in unbalanced budgets are nothing compared to the
awful and permanent destruction of this planet earth. Look at the trash along the
road. I´m like the Sundance Kid in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid’who are these people? I would like to be inside their heads at the moment
they roll the window down and throw out the pop can or fast food debris. I don´t
understand people who do that. Are they that stupid, or do they see this lace as
worthlessso what difference does it make? Maybe they are like James Watt,
Ronald Reagan´s Interior Secretary, who said that Jesus is returning in this
generation, so it doesn´t matter what we do to the earth. Go ahead and tear it up
because it ain´t going to be here long. But the litter people, whose work the beauty
of spring will cover as it did with the snows of winter, are no problem compared to
what Hobet is about to do to Upper Mud River.
Hobet is going to destroy two thousand acres of West Virginia hills, forever.
They will do their so-called reclamation’, but neither oaks nor hickories will ever
grow on that land again. With the rock strata below the surface destroyed the long
tap roots of hardwoods can´t find water. Trees that have shallow roots and drink
surface water might grow on land that the soil has been turned upside down. We
have about three inches of top soil in these mountains; there is no way the topsoil
can be skimmed off and put back as it was. The so-called reclaimed land’ is hard
as concrete. They have these plants that make it appear the soil is healthy, but
when you get close the soil looks barren and rocky in between the plants.
This is the only planet we have to live on, and it is being destroyed at an
alarming rate. Our grandchildren are going to inherit a stinking cinder. I would like
to inside the head of the people who can permanently destroy these hills. I would
like to know what they are thinking about when they push those hardwoods over
and gut the land until it bleeds like a stuck pig. Jobs? Money? We got to eat. But
what about the future> Will our grandchildren eat? Will they have jobs when the
coal is gone? We get the electricity, the miners get a wage, the companies get
millions of dollars and a super tax credit and the mountains are gone. The coal is
gone, the jobs will be gone, the electricity will be use dup, and what do we have
but a stinking cinder for an earth. The stink will be provided by the pulp mill in
nearby Mason County, or the chemical plants in the Kanawha Valley; take your
If we think coal is the answer to our problems, take a look at McDowell
County and Mingo and Logan .Coal has ruined those places. They have the
worst of everything--the worst roads, the worst schools, the worst environment,
and the worst poverty. If coal is so great how come places that have it are so
awful? I wouldn´t live in those counties for all the tea in China.
When the coal companies get through with us they will return to their
mansions and beautiful scenery, nice roads, and good schools, and leave us with a
stinking cinder. Our children will inherit the gom. With their technology, the coal
industry provides few jobs anymore. No jobs, no mountains, and no hope--they get
Jerry Alford tells me he resigned from the board so that he could feel free to
campaign for the bond issue and BOE candidates. Alford is willing to speak to any
PTO or other organization about the bond issue.
The two board of education candidates who seem aligned with the Stowers-
Jackson gang are nice people, I just think they are being use to get one large high
school. Kim McCoy was my student, and I coached her in basketball. She is a good
person, and I don´t think that will ever change.
On the Make A Difference endorsement committee I was strongly opposed
to endorsing Charles McCann. McCann spoke for the one high school
consolidation plan in Hamlin and in Charleston. His campaign signs appear with
those of the Jackson-Stowers faction. McCann does a good job as principal of a
school. I found it easy to work for him at Duval. I just don´t agree with his politics.
Pennzoil is trying to destroy the union by selling out to another company.
The buyer will probably lay people off and contract work out to non-union
companies. Some of those non-union contractors are big-time Democrat party
leaders. How do those guys have the nerve to call themselves Democrats? They are
Republicrats. If you want to help the Pennzoil workers, call the Public Service
Commission in Charleston and tell them not to allow the sale. The toll-free number
is 1(800)344-5113. Ask for the Consumer Advocates Office and/or the Chairman´s
The Perfect School
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, April 10, 1996
I´m not outraged about anything right this minute. I´m going to visit my
grandchildren in California and Arizona during Spring break. I would love to be
those little hillbillies to come home and let me spoil them. Oops! An outrage just
came to mind.
It costs as much to fly from here to Columbus as it does to fly to California
from Columbus. A friend says this is because U.S. Air has no competition out of
Charleston. Competition is about all that makes capitalism work for the average
Let´s talk about schools! Schools are backward and upside down. The way
schools are set up now the superintendent tells the principals if they are doing a
good job or not. The principals drop into our classes once or twice and tell us how
we are doing. We give students tests and tell them how they are doing. It is an
upside down pyramid. In the rest of life whoever is using something tells how well
it works. The customer decides if the product is any good. The customers in the
school system are the students and parents. Students should be grading teachers,
teachers should be grading principals, and the principals should be grading the
The students are there every day. They know if they are learning. They know
if the teacher is trying to do a good job. The students with a committee of parents
should interview prospective teachers and decide on the hiring. The teachers
should interview applicants for the principal and assistant principal and hire the
best they can find. The principals should hire the superintendent. The user would
do all the deciding, not the other way around. The user of the product would decide
if it is any good. As it is now teachers are told how well they are doing by someone
who is in their class a few times a year. It is a political system with the few
controlling the many.
After a student learns to read, write and cipher, all classes should be
electives. Schools should have the money to offer courses for everyone. Everyone
is interested in learning something.* If we don´t provide the opportunity for all
types of interests we are just a boring, babysitting service. Without the super tax
credit of $100,000,000 a year to large corporations the money would be no
problem. With that money we could have labs in every school for woodworking,
metal working, ceramics, computers, physics, chemistry, biology, visual arts,
dramatic arts, dance, music, electronics, building construction, physical education,
language, radio and TV communication, and on and on. There would be something
of hands-on nature for everyone. Students could choose what they wanted to study
and what teacher they wanted. Teachers would have to be good.
Teachers´ salaries would have to double to fill the highly technical positions
in this wonder school. Many highly-skilled people would like to teach but they
can´t raise a family on a teacher´s salary. To be effective class size would have to
be cut in halfto no more than 15 students in a class. Teachers and students would
be tested to see if learning can and is taking place. You can´t have teacher
competency testing if you pay low salaries. If you fire a teacher who fails a
competency test who will be seeking the job? There are some exceptions, but most
highly-skilled people want more than what teachers are paid.
To make a long story short, we can have it all, if we are willing to pay for it.
But we can´t pay for it if we continue to let the rich rob us. Down with the super
* A teacher told me about losing patients with students and telling them that they should
just put on jump suits and go out and help someone fix their roof or build on a room. The
students exclaimed that they would love to do that.
The City’ and Phoenix
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, April 17, 1996
I just got back from California and Arizona. Hugged those grandchildren
and tried to keep my mind off troubles in Lincoln County. Except for being so far
from my children and grandchildren I´d rather be here than in most of where I was
Columbus, Ohio was the first stop. You can save $300 in airfare by driving
down there and staying with your aunt. My parent´s siblings all fled to Ohio in the
first hillbilly migration in the early fifties. Jobs! It is always jobs. Times were
rough here and jobs looked more plentiful over in Ohio. So four of mother´s sisters
moved with their families to the land of the Shawnee. I´m like the guy from
Kentucky when it comes to Ohio. I would rather be dead in West Virginia than
alive in Ohio.
Where my Columbus aunt lives there are wall-to-wall malls. They´ve got
every franchised, fast food outlet I ever heard of and then some, in triplicate. The
place is lit up like a strip-mine at night. They waste more light in one night than we
use all year in West Virginia. You can´t see the stars. Family warmth and
generosity hasn´t been destroyed by the mega-culture. Somehow my aunt and
uncle have held on to their humanity and family is always welcome.
Bernoulli´s Principle explains why an airplane flies. It is easy to
demonstrate. Hold a piece of paper by two corners and blow across the top. The
other end of the paper will rise. Air goes across the top of the airplane wing faster
than the bottom, which decreases the pressure on top of the wing. The pressure on
the bottom then pushed the wing up. I know that, many times my students have
done that and other activities that prove Bernoulli´s Principle. Air goes across the
top of an airplane wing faster than the bottom, which decreases the pressure on top
of the wing. The pressure on the bottom then pushed the wing up. But when I sit in
a huge metal airplane I am still amazed that it floats through the air. And it floats
so smoothly that at over 500 miles per hour you can´t tell you are moving. Anyway
Bernoulli´s Principle got me to San Francisco, one of two cities I love. The other is
Vancouver, British Columbia.
San Francisco is another word for tolerance. There you are free and at peace
to be however you really are or want to be. All types of individuals and groups co-
exist in the city by the Bay. San Francisco is so special that it is simply referred to
in northern California as The City.’ It is no accident that San Francisco was the
center of that great cultural revolution that I call the hippie wars. In San Francisco
they cherish diversity and individual expression. New, good ideas find fertile soil
there. The City is only seven miles by seven miles, which is 49 square miles,
which fits nicely with the Forty-Niners. You can travel all over the city in buses,
trolleys and cable cars. You don´t need a car. With all the beautiful parks and
ethnic restaurants to discover, walking is the best way to get around.
It is expensive to live there but cheap to visit if you are lucky enough to have
a daughter just fifty miles to the north. I can get to my daughter´s home from here
for about $300 round trip. It is four dollars by bus and ferry from my daughter´s
place to the city and for six bucks you can ride public transportation all day. There
are a zillion great and cheap restaurants. Golden State Park is fifty blocks long,
stopping at the ocean. You don´t have to buy anything to have a great time in the
city. People watching is artful there and the average annual temperature is sixty-
I was walking from a cable car stop to a trolley stop when a large crowd of
people in a suddenly dingy, dirty neighborhood feared me around that block rather
than test my love of diversity. San Francisco is so small that you can go from an
almost heaven of beautiful houses and views of the Bay to hell itself just two or
three blocks away. The good and the bad stand close together there. In one or two
blocks you can change from wealth to poverty. Like all big cities they pay a big
price for their prosperity. It reminds me of what the late great Eddie Gillenwater
said to me one timeMartin, prosperity isn´t worth the price you have to pay.’
The beauty of the city was built by working people for the rich. So no matter how
much I enjoy San Francisco I know it was stolen from the labor of the working
people and few of them can afford to live here. And I know I am lucky to be able
to save enough money to make an annual trip out there and enjoy what my people
built for the rich.
Next to Phoenix. My daughter-in-law said people shouldn´t be living there.
It is a desert. The temperature is over 110 degrees in June. No one but mad-dogs
and I are ever seen of foot in that environment. People go from air-conditioned
houses to air-conditioned cars to air conditioned work places. April there is a mild
85 to 90 degrees. It is a dry heat but in June and July, when it stays above 110
degrees, dry doesn´t matter, it is just too hot to live. In the old days the natural
environment probably supported a thousand native people along the river. Now
there is a population of millions. The Salt River was dammed up under Teddy
Roosevelt. The water no longer flows through Phoenix. There is just a dry
riverbed. The Salt River is diverted for irrigation and some electricity. Without the
dam, Phoenix would not be there. Flash floods during the brief rainy season would
destroy the progress’. They just made one of the dams higher to allow for more
progress’. My daughter-in-law says that Phoenix is a labor camp. People live in
miles and miles of expensive adobe brick look-a-likes ten feet apart. It is a fancy
work camp with parks and malls. Company-owned towns of West Virginia come
to mind except in Phoenix you own your own house. But you really don´t ever
quite own it or you are too old by the time you do that you really rented all your
life. Mankind doesn´t live very well on small postage stamp pieces of territory.
My grandchildren go to a beautiful, well-equipped school. Parents and
family were treated to a musical program at the school that celebrated the cultural
diversity of the students in the school. Brown and White and Black sang together
of the land we all love and that we all came from somewhere else. I was impressed.
Despite a continent separating us we have managed to remain a family. I
wish my California and Arizona branches were here in relatively undeveloped
West Virginia. It would be nice to see my little hillbillies running and playing in
Stay tuned for an article on the American flagI went to an art exhibit in
Phoenix that featured the flag in art and on some people´s underwear.
1884 Tax Commission Report
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, April 24, 1996
The wealth of this state is immense; the development of this wealth will
earn vast private fortunes The question is, whether this vast wealth shall belong
to persons who live here and who are permanently identified with the future of
West Virginia, or whether it shall pass into the hands of persons who do not live
here and who care nothing for our state except to pocket its treasures which lie
buried in our hills.
If the people of West Virginia can be roused to an appreciation of the
situation, we ourselves will gather this harvest now ripe on the land inherited from
our ancestors. On the other hand, if people are not roused the vast wealth will
have passed from our population into the hands of non-residents and West Virginia
will be almost like Ireland and her history will be like that of Poland.’
Those two paragraphs were written in 1884 in a West Virginia Tax
Commission report. Back then the tax collectors appear to have been on our side.
Today they let the coal companies have it all and give them nearly $100 million a
year in super tax credits.
Hobet´s* boss said that they like to reclaim the land they destroy and leave it
in better condition than they found itrather God-like arrogance. Try to grow
hardwoods on those so-called reclaimed mountains. Dense forests of hickory and
oak with ginseng, mayapple, bloodroot and molly-moochers will never grace the
ruins of a strip-mine. Reclaimed ground will bounce a steel pick. Hobet can put it
back looking better than God made it. Almighty Hobet.
Every mountain that is destroyed will give us some temporary electrical
pleasure and the mountain will then be gone forever. They can´t put it back
anywhere near what it was and definitely they can´t make it better than it was.
The first stage of destruction of the land and culture of upper Mud River
was the watershed dam. It is now obvious that it will serve as a secondary settling
pond for Hobet´s destruction. If they had their way they would destroy every
mountain and write it all down as the progress of man. If there were no restrictions
just where would they stop? As Eddie Gillenwater said, Prosperity isn´t worth the
price you have to pay.’
Candidate for Governor Joe Manchin tried to make doctors and hospitals
richer and state employees poorer. In 1989 he led the fight to make us pay the
doctors and hospitals all they wanted to charge. State employees insurance says
they will pay only so much for each procedure and that is all the doctors and
hospitals are allowed to charge. Joe Manchin was going to let them charge us for
the balance above what our insurance said was a fair price. Guess who gives him
money? Why is it I think he is against minimum wage increases? Is he the
candidate of the rich or what? Look who supports him in Lincoln County? Pick up
your free gift if you guess the Jackson-Stowers gang.
It is spring and the spring green is again amazing but probably not as
amazing as Hobet can make it. My neighbor has tilled his garden and mowed his
forty-five degree yard and will probably be repairing his roof againit takes three
ladders to get up there. Not unusual except Rome Hale is in his ninety-sixth year.
His hair is not as gray as mine, his mind is clear as
April sunshine and his eyes twinkle like a man in love with life.
In about four weeks I am going to cry at graduation. I have never understood
crying at graduation. It was silly to me. Now I feel why people cry when their kid
graduates. I don´t know why they cry but I feel why they cry. My roommate, friend
and son will graduate and go on to college and he won´t be around much after that.
I´ll miss him a whole bunch.
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your
private heart is true for all menthat is genius.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson goes on to
point out in his essay Self Reliance’ that if you believe something deeply others
probably believe it as well and you should not be shy about expressing your
thoughts, Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely
what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with
shame our own opinion from another.’ I think Emerson is telling us to speak our
opinion because it is probably better than we think.
The election draws neara vote for four schools is a vote for one giant
concentration camp in WileyWorld.** Look who is backing the four-school plan
the very people who brought you the one school scam. We need to cooperate,
compromise and recognize our common enemy.
*Hobet is a coal mining company engaged in mountain top removal mining.
**WileyWorld refers to a long time political boss in Lincoln County who owned a
shopping mall near the proposed consolidated school site. Wiley never went to prison for illegal
political activities but one of his sons did. The son plea bargained that he would testify against
others as long as he didn´t have to testify against family members.
Eventually the four schools were consolidated into one. It took fifteen years. The West
Virginia Board of Education took over the Lincoln County schools and forced the issue. County
citizens voted down bond issues for consolidating the four high schools. They knew it meant long
bus rides and parent alienation from school involvement. The state had to foot the whole bill to
get their way.
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, May 3, 1996
In a recent letter to the editor I graduated from communist-hippy-outsider to
hypocrite. The charge was that I am a hypocrite if I use electricity and wood
products and criticize the damage done in their production. The writer also
suggested that since my salary comes from taxes I shouldn´t criticize strip-mining.
Years ago a prominent citizen of Griffithsville called me a communist, hippy
and outsider and then denied it in spite of the fact that the newspaper reporter who
quoted him was sitting beside him at the time. Instead of saying why he disagreed
with my opinions about the corrupt political system we have in Lincoln County he
called me names. The writer of the letter to the editor, in which I am called a
hypocrite, is no coward. She signed her opinions and gave reasons for them.
The communists have fallen in much of the world partly because they too
don´t believe in the freedom of speech. When you disagreed with the Soviet
communists they would call you an enemy of the state and send you to Siberia.
Until it became unfashionable you could be called a communist if you disagreed
with the political system in this country. The Chinese call you capitalist-roader if
you disagree with them. In every system people are scape-goated to avoid a
rational discussion of their ideas.
Ibsen wrote a great play called An Enemy of the People. There is a resort that
attracts large numbers of people seeking the benefits of the natural mineral water
springs. The water is reputed to have healing powers. It is discovered that the water
is contaminated. Of course the person who wants to make this information public
is called names and shunned by his fellows. You can´t tell the truth it will cost us
our jobs! We depend on this foul water to attract tourists and make a living!
Hypocrite or not, I think strip-mining is the worst thing that has ever
happened to West Virginia right after the law separated mineral rights from surface
rights. If we must have electricity and if we must mine we can deep mine for two
hundred more years before we have to face the decision of whether it is necessary
to destroy the mountains with strip-mining. Strip-mines have replaced deep mines
because it is cheaper and hires fewer miners.
Is a person not free to criticize the coal industry because his salary comes
from taxes? Must one bow to the almighty dollar? Would it be prostitution to say
the opposite to what you believe if you did it for money? Money for education
comes mainly from property taxes that the coal industry tries mightily to avoid. If
you buy advertising in a newspaper should the paper be bought off by those ads or
should the paper be free to say the truth as it sees it? Do the people who have the
money get to say what the truth is? Is everything for sale?
Coal mining cost my dad his eye and my father-in-law his lungs. As a little
boy I stood on a UMW picket line with my dad. As a young man my grandpa
fought the union-busters at Blair Mountain. It was from my grandpa and grandma
that I learned of Mother Jones, Sid Hatfield and Bill Blizzard.
Back then those names did not appear in school textbooks. It was word of mouth
history. My family was a coal mining family. My sympathies are with the miners.
People have to make a living and strip-mine jobs are often all the rich will offer.
It is not the miners; it is the mine owners who have brought this plague on
us. They want quick cheap coal and they don´t care about our future. The coal
companies certainly don´t care about the minersthey fight every pay raise and
every benefit. Look how they have fought against black lung benefits and worker´s
compensation. Look who they support for governor, Mexico Joe. Manchin had
campaign t-shirts made in Mexico after saying he was against bringing out-of-state
workers into West Virginia. I guess he meant that he wanted out-of-country
workers. Now there is a hypocrite for you.
When I was very young we did not have electricity at Emmons on Big
Coal River. It seemed like a wonderful life to me. My Uncle Kin was a logger with
a mule team on Bull Creek. Kin logged before bulldozers were used to torture the
woods. Now we have electricity at Emmons but Bull Creek was destroyed by strip-
mines to make that electricity. How much of the country do we destroy so the rest
can have electricity and jobs? Where does it stop if profit is the only consideration?
Is electricity eating us alive as it lulls us to sleep with its conveniences?
We used to have electricity without strip-mining. We used to have 125,000
coal mining jobs in West Virginia. Automation and strip-mining have reduced us
to 22,000 coal mining jobs. Production has increased and the jobs have
Flipping the light switch doesn´t cause strip-mining. They don´t have
to use strip-mined coal to make electricity. Hypocrisy would be publicly criticizing
strip-mining and secretly owning stock in a strip-mine company. Hypocrisy is Joe
Manchin buying Mexican t-shirts for his campaign.
I have hated strip-mining since I saw it for the first time as I rounded a curve
on the way home from WVU in the mid-fifties. I couldn´t believe what they were
doing to our mountains. Is it hypocritical to call ourselves Mountaineers and sing
of O Those Beautiful Hills’ and tear the tops off of them at the same time? Is
West Virginia like the Vietnam village that Had to be destroyed to be saved?’
Remember on Election Day that it was Bryant Bowman and Hoss
Farley who led the fight to stop the one-school consolidation. The Stowers-
Jackson-McCann faction did everything they could to get the one giant
concentration camp. They now claim to be for four schools. You would have to be
dumb as a sled track to fall for that. Charles McCann has been for one school, two
schools, three schools and now he claims he has always been for four schools.
Vote for Con Hoke!
The Jackson-Stowers-McCann faction supports Joe Manchin for governor
and so do the rich business people in the state. The unions support Charlotte Pritt.
Whose side are you on? I see Cecil Underwood as the back-up candidate for the
richthey will support him if Pritt gets the nomination.
For the Supreme Court the people´s candidates are Joe Albright, Arthur
Recht and Danny Staggers.
Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, May 10,1996
The middle 1950´s were golden years in athletics for West Virginia
University. For forty-seven dollars tuition a semester we lucky hillbilly children
got those for free and from fifty yard line seats and saw Bruce Bosley knock Jim
Brown backwards from the two yard line and Bosley didn´t even see him coming.
He just ran into him accidently and knocked Brown backwards and on his butt.
There was a picture in a Milwaukee newspaper showing Bosley holding two
Marquette blockers and a running back. The picture caption referred to Bosley as a
Giant Mountaineer.’ Bosley´s 225 pounds of solid, natural, Little Abner muscle
was a giant in 1954 before steroids, fast food joints and weight rooms.
Sam Huff was on that team and Joe Marconi and a freshman named Chuck
Howley. They played both ways then and had no facemask. At the beginning of the
second quarter West Virginia would often put a whole new team on the field that
was almost as good as the first team. Chuck Howley was so good that he got MVP
in a Dallas-Miami Super Bowl. He played middle linebacker for Dallas, the losing
team, and still got the MVP. That is the only time a defensive player for the losing
team ever got MVP in a Super Bowl.
Hot Rod Hundley was a joy to watch play basketball. I was there when he
ran the famous football play. Clayce Kishbaugh got the ball and put it on the floor
as the center. Hundley was the quarter-back. Lined up behind were the other three
players in T-formation. Hundley smoothed Kishbaugh´s duck tail hairdo, took the
snap, faked a handoff and threw a pass to the man in motion who was in the corner,
the shot missed but it was a hoot anyway. In a Southern Conference tournament
game Hundley once made a shot behind his back from the corner, but as one wag
in the crowd yelled, it was his second try. Hundley did a hook shot for a foul shot
and missed. He was within one point of breaking the Southern Conference
tournament scoring record. I wouldn´t have anything to shot for next year,’ was
his reply to a reporter in a post game interview that was broadcast throughout the
gym´s public address speakers. A fan from New York University in Madison
Square Garden got such a kick out of Hundley´s play that near the end of a NYU-
WVU game he went on the floor and gave Hot Rod a bear hug. He was a one man
Harlem Globe Trotterone of a kind in the history of college basketball. The last
time I saw Hot Rod as a broadcaster for the Utah Jazz he was as serious as Ted
Hot Rod was by far the most fun to watch but Jerry West was the best and he
could make you very proud to be a WVU fan. Yale University was winding its way
back north during the Christmas break. They had just come from finishing last in
the Dixie Classic in Alabama. West guarded their best player. West would give
him ten or fifteen feet and still block his shoots. I´m not sure the boy even scored.
Those poor Ivy League boys were out of their league, at least in basketball.
Against St. Boneventure on national TV the Mountaineers were behind
fifteen points at the half. WVU had one of the best records in the country and they
were being humiliated in front of the whole nation and on their home court. West
moved under the basket at a mighty six foot two or three and completely
dominated the rest of the game and WVU won going away. I have seen West get
the defensive rebound throw it out for the fast break and score the lay up at the
other end of the court.
The American Family is not Falling Apart
The News from Sam´s Branch
May 24, 1996
You hear a lot these days that the American family is falling apart. Well our
family is falling together. We visit children and grandchildren clear across the
continent, we go to weddings and family reunions, comfort one another at wakes
and send presents to nephews and nieces. A whole bunch of families are not falling
apart. My Barker clan, descended from Ethyl and Charlie Barker, will get together
July 4 for a reunion of relatives from as far away as California, Florida and Texas.
We will get together on the farm in Emmons that narrowly escaped becoming a
coal processing plant. The more we get together at the farm the harder it is going to
be for the dogs of the coal industry to get hold of it. I hope those little nieces and
nephews grow fond of our piece of the earth.
Labor Secretary Robert Reich spoke out against the war between the states.
This new war between the states is an economic war. If we give Toyota more tax
breaks than Kentucky we get the new plant. If we let the pulp mill people pollute
our water, smell up our air and get a million dollars for every job they promise
they will be nice enough to cut down all our hardwood forests for as far as you can
drive in a day. If we cooperate they will rape us rather than some other state. We
give away the store.
My brother was a plant manager for Bell and Howell. Puerto Rico offered
them all kinds of tax breaks if they would move their plant down there. After the
tax breaks expired they closed the plant and left Puerto Rico. When Toyota´s tax
robbery expires you can bet they will threaten to move their plant to Ohio or
Kentucky if we don´t kiss their butt. Everything we get from these companies is
short-term. They really don´t care about us unless we are cheap. Is this the welfare
state that Terry Headley was writing about last week? Welfare for the rich is a
zillion times greater than welfare for the poor, yet a lot of people gag on the gnat
and swallow the camel.
I am very concerned about the gripe-line that I hear about in the Lincoln
Journal. It appears that vicious rumors can be called in by anyone and it will be
printed as is. I would be embarrassed and ashamed to be a part of that. The callers
are obviously cowards because they will not own up to their opinions. The
publishers and editors who allow such damaging poison-pen trash to be printed are
obviously of low character or of low intelligence or both. Do Lloyd Jackson, Wiley
Stowers and Charles McCann endorse this social McCarthyism. It is obviously
their paperdoes it reflect their character?
Trashy journalism makes me think of ice hockey. Man, what a sport! It is as
brutal and hateful as any bunch of Lincoln County Republicrats. In Phoenix
recently, my son, his family and I went to a minor-league hockey match. Hockey in
Phoenix is ice in hell. What must it cost to keep that water frozen when it is one
hundred and ten in the shade? Hockey is like so-called professional wrestling
except hockey is for realthey ain´t faking.
In hockey there is no pretense at sportsmanship. In football, as violent as it
is, you will often see an opposing player help his downed foe get up. In Hockey if
the referee isn´t looking and your opponent is on his knees you knock him on his
ass. The fans boo every opposing player as they are introduced, they sing dirty
little songs about how much the goalie sucks if he lets a puck get by him. There is
not a Black or Mexican face in the audience. People are lined up two hundred deep
to get an autographed pair of boxer shorts of the county sheriff who brutalizes
prisoners by housing them outside in tents in the desert heat.
Trashy journalism and violent hockey make me think of blatant politics. I
loved the Lloyd Jackson quote in last week´s paper. Lloyd allowed that it was nice
having Earl Ray Tomblin speak for airport locations in Lincoln County cause by
golly the chairman of the Port Authority, Fred Van Kirk is also commissioner of
highways and often has to go to Earl Ray for funding.’ Buddy he tells it like it is.
Burn the Flag
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, June 5, 1996
In Phoenix, Arizona, during spring break I went to the art museum and saw
the exhibit on the American flag. It was an excellent exhibit, by most anyone´s
standards, until the end. One of the last pieces was a new American flag draped in
a new toilet commode. The flag was clean and toilet had never been used. It
qualified as art if art is supposed to arouse emotion. At the very end of the show
was a book on a podium where people could write comments. But to write
comments you would have to stand on an American flag that was on the floor in
front of the podium. I couldn´t do that. I stood to the side and made my comments
in the book.
Since birth we are taught to respect the flag almost as if it is a living god. Is
the act of saluting the flag a form of worship? The Jehovah´s Witnesses have been
persecuted, imprisoned and even tortured because they will not salute the flag.
They see saluting the flag as worshipping a false god. They put God above
country. Do they have the right to refuse to salute the flag?
Is a person´s flag their property? Can they do anything they want to
something they bought with their own money? Should you respect an American
flag that says made in Taiwan’ on the label? Is it desecration to draw a flag with
crayons and then burn it? What if you just imagine burning a flagshould that be
Can you wrap your garbage in a flag? Many people have done worse on an
old newspaper that used the flag in an advertisement. If it is patriotic blasphemy to
put the flag in a toilet commode is it also desecration to use the flag to sell toilet
paper? Is it desecration of the flag to burn a newspaper that has the flag printed on
its George Washington day advertisement? In the sixties it gagged self-proclaimed
patriots to see irreverent young people wear the flag sewn to the rear end of their
blue jeans. Not too long ago a group of veterans presented the man who dresses as
Uncle Sam with a pair of underwear that the American flag on it.
Does saluting the flag make you a patriot? Has there ever been a corrupt
politician who didn´t very publicly salute the flag at every opportunity? I think it
was H. L. Mencken , a noted journalist, who said that the first thing a scoundrel
does is wrap himself in the American flag. Crooks from Richard Nixon to Dan
Rostenkowski have always made sure that the American flag was on the screen in
their TV speeches. When dishonest, thieving politicians have their prayer
breakfasts in violation of the Biblical injunction to pray in secret they make sure
the American flag is on display. The money hungry TV evangelists usually connect
what they are doing with the flag and patriotism. Are Christianity and American
patriotism the same thing? Can you be a Christian and not a patriot?
If I wouldn´t stand on an American flag would I also not stand on a flag of
Britain, France, Mexico, Canada, China, and Vietnam? If you had been raise in
Nazi Germany would you have saluted the swastika? If you had been raised a loyal
citizen of the Soviet Union would you have respected the hammer and sickle?
Our flag is a symbol of freedom to us but to millions of Vietnamese it must
be a symbol of terror. Was the American flag on the uniforms of the soldiers at the
Mai Lay massacre? Did the soldiers carry the flag when they slaughtered the
Indians at Wounded Knee? Did the police have the American flag on their sleeves
when they were beating Rodney King? There is a famous picture of a White man
trying to spear a Black man in Boston with the sharp end of an American flag pole.
Why does the flag seem to represent war? Does the flag represent Food for
Peace, the Peace Corps and disaster aid around the globe as much as it does the
carpet bombing of Hanoi? Would it be appropriate to have children walking with
the flag spreading flowers in parades? Does the flag need an armed guard in its
own land? Does the flag represent those who believe in the freedom of speech or
those who want everybody to speak the same party line?
The American flag has been a welcome sight to millions of people all over
the world. The prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps must have loved the sight
of our flag as our soldiers liberated them from a living hell. The starving people
who have received food with the American flag on the box will no doubt be
forever grateful to us.
Is our flag strong enough to stand for all freedom, even the freedom to
desecrate the flag?
The principles the flag represents deserve allegiance, not the flag itself. I like
the last line of the pledge, with liberty and justice for all.’
The American flag has been a welcome sight to millions of people all over
the world. The prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps must have loved the sight
of our flag as our soldiers liberated them from a living hell. The starving people
who have received food with the American flag on the box will, no doubt, be
forever grateful to us.’
It has been pointed out by other writers that flag burning is offensive to
almost everyone but so are KKK parades and Louis Farrakhan´s racist speeches.
The first amendment protects everyone´s right to outrageous opinions, no matter
how offensive. If everything that is offensive loses constitutional protection there
will be a long list of behaviors that will become unconstitutional.
What the flag symbolizes is strong enough to keep us free. You can´t destroy
the meaning of the American flag by burning it. So burn away if you chooseit is
a free country and no fire can destroy liberty and justice for all.
I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a
man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag’ Craig Washington. If
you have a weak candidate and a weak platform, wrap yourself up in the American flag and talk
about the Constitution’ Matthew Stanley Quay
School Prayer, HMOs and Big Government
The News from Sam´s Branch
June 9, 1966
Why is it the right wing politicians condemn big government, government
regulations and government control over our lives and yet want to force school
children to pray all at the same time and outloud every day. I think what they really
want is to be able to dump toxic waste in our air, water and land, clear-cut our
hardwoods and strip our mountains without big government telling them to stop.
As demagogues will do, they use religion and patriotism to hide their real intent.
The medical profession and health insurance companies wave the same red flag
when they preach against government control of your choice of doctors when what
they really want is more money.
Doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies killed the Clinton health
plan claiming there would be no choice of doctors. The health insurance companies
spent $100 million trashing universal health care. Clinton lost, the medical and
insurance professionals won. Now people are stuck with HMOs that force them to
go to a primary care doctor tyo get permission to go to a specialist. The HMOs
make it worthwhile to the doctor to refer as few as possible to specialists. With less
referrals to specialists the HMOs make more money and can pass some on to the
primary care doctors. The old kick-back scam. The defeat of Clinton´s plan left us
with nearly forty million people without health insurance.
I don´t understand why we need the insurance companies in the health
business. Let´s eliminate the middle man and have a single-payer system. By ptting
health insurance under the government we eliminate the insurance company and
HMO profit. Some HMO presidents are making over a million dollars a year at out
expense. Do they own the politicians, or what? It is alarming that our health care
programs are run by people who just want to get rich.
Since 1979 health insurance companies have given $180 million to
congressional campaigns. Nothing more than a bribe to keep them on the gravy
Medicare, Social Security and the Military
The News from Sam´s Branch
June 16, 1996
They say Medicare will be bankrupt by 2001 and that Social Security will
go under by 2029. The Republicans immediately call for cutting benefits. The
answer to both these problems is simple. Force price controls on doctors and
hospitals and bring prices down. Put all medical services on a non-profit basis. Let
no one get rich off the health of our people. Get health insurance companies clear
out of the picture. Adopt a single-payer system like they have had in Canada for
decades. Then grab the military budget by the throat and cut it in halfwe would
still have the strongest military in the world. Put that money from the military into
health care and social security. Anyone who has ever been in the service knows
that you could do the job with half the money. The military budget is to the country
what the super tax credit is to West Virginiathe answer to all our money
The Republican Congress voted to give the military $7 billion more than the
military requested. If they had given them $7 billion less than they requested that
could be $14 billion available for Medicare and social security every year! If that
isn´t enough cut the military even more. At $7 billion less the military would still
have $251 billion. If you could spend a thousand dollars a day it would take a
million days to spend just one billion dollars. That is about 2700 years!! To spend
$251 billion at one thousand dollars a day would take you over 680,000 years. And
the Republicans have the nerve to suggest cutting Medicare and Social Security
benefits. Throw the rascals out! But be careful not to replace them with
Of the money that Congress can dole out (called discretionary spending) the
military gets more than all other categories combined. The military gets over $250
billion, veteran benefits and services get $19 billion and education gets $27 billion.
The rich pay social security taxes on only their first $62,000. If that loophole
were closed it would pay off half the national debt or it could be used to save
Medicare and Social Security.
We might be able to solve the whole problem by making doctors and
hospitals donate one month´s earnings. They could go to Watoga State Park instead
of the Bahamas this year.
The cartoon in the Lincoln Advertiser received on June 7 was a tasteless
piece of racist trash. You don´t need to be spreading and encouraging hateful
stereotypes of other races be they liberal, conservative or Hare Krishna. That
cartoon was way beneath the dignity of the Lincoln Independent, I had hoped.
The News from Sam´s Branch
June 21, 1996
I just got back from two weeks in Progressland. Progressland is that solution
to all of our problems. Progressland is about everywhere you go outside West
Virginia. Some of the soldiers of progressland have invaded West Virginiatake a
look at how much of Jefferson County in the eastern panhandle doesn´t look like
West Virginia anymore. The hucksters don´t even call it the eastern panhandleit
is now the Eastern Gateway’. Gateway to open up’ West Virginia so that it is no
longer unique, no longer any different from the rest of yuppie land.
Progressland all looks alike. It is four lane highways that have destroyed
small business in small town America. There are trashy stretches of fast food joints
and filling stations on both sides of every little town. The little main streets are
boarded up and wasting away. People in the country are locking their houses now
that the four-lanes bring criminals right to their doors.
Progress and development have made guard house’ communities seem
necessary to scared populations. It was eerie to pass through guard houses manned
by people who can´t afford to live in the fortress communitiesBlack uniformed
guards watching over mostly white communities in the deep south. In the more
upscale walled-in communities the houses have that fake instant antique look.
They were built new to look old and comfortable like farm houses in freer country.
In the North Carolina Appalachians there was a sign by the road advertising cabins
for sale that read New Rustic Cabins’. Like a new old friendinstant roots.
Progress’ brings big money for a few and part-time jobs for the rest. So-
called progress opens up’ an area for development’. Development means bright
lights, noise, crowding, pollution and tourists looking for the happiness they can´t
see to find at home.
More on Progressland
The News from Sam´s Branch
June 28, 1996
More on Progressland and development. When coming into West Virginia
from Ohio on Interstate 77 cross the lovely Ohio River into Wild Wonderful West
Virginia. Do you see beautiful tree-filled mountains? You see giant billboards
covering what are probably beautiful mountains. Of course they are notifications
that can´t wait. Instead of looking at those pesky mountains, McDonalds and their
ilk let you know immediately where you can find quaint Appalachian hamburgers.
It is the same on the Virginia border coming into West Virginia from the south.
McDonalds gets you on both ends. Who needs mountains when you can come to
West Virginia for hamburgers? The song will have to be changed from Those
Beautiful West Virginia Hills’ to Those beautiful West Virginia hamburgers’,
and don´t forget the cappuccino. Pretty soon all our mountains will be either strip-
mined or covered with billboards or both.
Speaking of strip-miningask Hobet or any strip-mining company if they
would strip every mountain in West Virginia if they had the mineral rights. If they
are hones they will say yes. Does anyone really think they care about us and our
silly mountains? Must we strip all of West Virginia to have jobs? Must we destroy
West Virginia to save it?
In the mountains of North Carolina at the very western tip of that state lives
Martha Owen and David Liden and their three beautiful children. They lived
briefly in Lincoln County. David did the West Virginia Land Study and found out
that West Virginia is owned mainly by out of state rich people who love taking the
tops of mountains off without being taxed very much.
They moved to the mountains of North Carolina to be near their kin. Martha
still raises sheep and rabbits. She processes the wool and fur from conception to
lovely handmade sweaters and hats. They built, with their own hands, a sturdy
home with large natural beams. They do their best to preserve the mountain stories
and music by performing for school groups and camps. They try to hold back the
tide of tacky development and wanton disregard for what is unique about our
mountains. They win a few and lose a few.
Since I was there last McDonalds has installed an arch taller than the church
spire across the road in downtown Murphy. A new development has gone in down
the road from David and Martha´s place that would make a nature-lover vomit.
Some favorite quotes (paraphrased as best as I remember them): It is easier
for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the
Kingdom of Heaven.’, Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.’ All
attributed to Jesus. And attributed to J. Paul GettyBlessed are the meek for they
shall inherit the earth but not the minerals rights.’ From my favorite book of
Ecclesiastes--Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you shall die.’ The rich man
forgets when he was poor and the King forgets when he was a prisoner.’ From J.
Weldon MartinThe corporations are now taxing the government.’
Somerset Oil Company
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, June 26, 1996
Pennzoil is trying to sell its West Virginia utilities operations to a company
recently formed called Somerset Oil and Gas. Somerset is going to keep only
sixteen of seventy employees statewide. There is some serious doubt that Somerset
is a real company. It smells like it was thrown together just for this deal. Somerset
was put together in September of last year and is owned by people from New York
and Greece. Welcome to the world of multi-national rip-offs.
Somerset smells even more like one of those union-busting scams that are
going on all over the nation. The sixteen employees will be non-union, which
means their wages and benefits will probably be too low to support their families.
The sales agreement between Pennzoil and Somerset reads, None of the
employees who are members of a union, or subject to any collective bargaining
agreement or obligation, have any rights to continue their employment’. Is Lincoln
County´s own Boyce Griffith, head of the Public Service Commission going to let
working people of Lincoln County take a beating like this? Is Boyce a Democrat or
a Republicratwe shall see?
Since Somerset has no employees in West Virginia, they will hire bands of
scab contractors to do repair and to respond to emergency situations. These
contractors will be people with no knowledge of the gas lines and customers in our
area. They will pay low wages and probably no benefits. They will be far away and
hard to find when you need them.
By laying off about sixty employees, Somerset will be able to reward
themselves with higher management salaries. The game is lay off union workers,
hire cheap contract labor and make more profit for the stockholders and the
There is a good chance we will all be switched over to propane before it is
over. Gas companies don´t want to fool with providing gas to homes when they
can sell their gas in bulk to Carbide, DuPont and other large companies. We are
just a bother to them, as are their employees.
The hearing on the Pennzoil sale in Griffithsville on Saturday had a feeling
similar to those board of education meetings. It seemed like a big fix, and that the
hearing was just a going through-the-motions shell game to make it all legal. The
law is on the side of big business and seldom do we get our way. This is the real
issue in America today. It is a class war started by the rich against the poor. The
rich own the law and the law-makers.
I might have missed someone, but I didn´t see any of Lincoln County´s
elected officials at the hearing. Republicrats don´t care about the working people.
The only politician there on Saturday was Charlotte Lane, who was the
lawyer for Somerset and is running for Secretary of State on the Republican ticket.
Darrell McGraw is running for re-election as Secretary of Stateguess who I am
voting for. Darrell is one of the few Democrat office-holders who is not a
How Many Companies Do You Own?
The News from Sam´s Branch
July 15, 1996
Headline in the Charleston GazetteJobless figures best in six years.’ And
right below that in a sub-headlineNews has negative effect on Wall Street.’ The
working people do better, the rich panic and sell their stock. The stock market is a
gambling casino for the rich that has no relation to the needs of the rest of the
If you want to help put Newt Gingrich back under the rock he slithered from
send a contribution to the Georgia Democratic Party, P.O. Box 1616, Atlanta,
Georgia 30301-1616. Tell them it is to be used to send Newt back to Georgia.
Do you know how many companies you own? Can you work for nothing?
Well the main man, O´Neil by name, in the Somerset Oil and Gas scam to buy the
Pennzoil customer gas service, has that problem. He couldn´t remember how many
companies he owned and claimed he would be paid no salary as president and our
new owner. He and the other out of state robber barons put all the stock for
Somerset in their daughter´s names. So their daughters will make the profit on
firing Pennzoil workers. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Once again
none of Lincoln County´s elected officials were present at the Public Service
Commission hearing on July 8 to defend the interests of the Pennzoil workers
whose side are they on? Perhaps Caperton´s best buddy in Lincoln County
should have intervened on behalf of the teamsters union at Pennzoil. Maybe he
doesn´t like unions. Maybe he is the rich man´s boy. Maybe he is too mixed up
with the oil and gas crowd to spit in their soup.
Maybe we need to let Pennzoil tax the government as did Columbia Gas.
Columbia Gas Transmission taxed our state government $4,000,000. For this price
they promised not to leave Charleston. But they said they may still lay off 150
It could be worsethe state of Alabama had a corporate welfare law, since
repealed, that would allow companies to keep the state payroll deduction from their
employees. Eliminate the middle man and let the corporations tax us directly!
Where can we save money? Listen to former CIA Director William Colby
who stated that we could cut $40 billion from the defense budget and still have the
world´s best military.
According to Paul Nyden of the Charleston Gazette, Buck Harless has
contributed to North Carolina Senator Jesse Helm´s campaign. Helms is a blatant
racist who supported the death squad leaders in Guatemalathe people who raped
and killed nuns and assassinated the arch-bishop of the Catholic Church as he was
saying mass. Several of the soldiers involved in the murders were trained at Fort
Bragg, North Carolina. Helm´s is also in favor of right to work laws which are just
a union busting strategy and which really right to work for less’. Buck Harless is
also a big supporter of Cecil Underwood. Buck Harless is rich.
Books I likePraying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene published by
Fawcett Columbine. It is the well written true story of McIntosh County, Georgia
as the African descendents struggle with the White sheriff who runs the county.
There are some similarities to Lincoln County. And Pigs in Heaven by Barbara
Kingsolver and published by Harper Perennial. Kingsolver is a native of Kentucky
who move to Tucson and liked it (something I can´t grasp). Heaven is a town in
Oklahoma. Her Kentucky characters sound a lot like us. It is fun to read. Every
West Virginian needs to read Storming Heaven and The Unquiet Earth by Denise
Giardinia. They are novels based on our coal-miners´ struggles in southern West
Virginia. Denise wrote part of her first novel, Good King Hank in Griffithsville.
Simple pleasuresmy two year old grandson at the Barker reunion waving a
sparkler back and forth in front of his face. Thinking the sparkler was too close to
little Patrick´s face, his father said Straighten you arm out.’ Patrick obeyed
immediately by extending straight out the hand that was empty.
Krushchev Was a Communist
The News From Sam´s Branch
July 17, 1996
So how do you like your new board members so far? Raise your hand if you
think all votes on the board of education will be five to nothing. Does the same
master pull all the puppet hands up at once? It reminds me of the votes in the
Supreme Soviet of the Soviet UnionKhrushchev would lower his head and all
hands would go up in favor of whatever he said. Khrushchev was a communist.
In their first major act the new members voted to use money needed for
education to hire a political hack from another county. Is this to protect them from
what they are planning to do to the children of this county? They have a $300,000
deficit and they throw money down a political rat hole.
It is ironic that if Charlotte Pritt gets elected she may save this board of
education from having to consolidate our kids into one concentration camp. I have
been told she plans to stop forced, unpopular consolidation. However, since the
Jackson-Stowers gang ran on a four school platform we don´t have to worry. But
then they hired that lawyer.
About the time I decide that the Republicans are worthless I remember that
all five of those board members call themselves Democrats. Republicrats, maybe?
As George Wallace said there ain´t a dimes worth of difference between
Republican bosses and Democrat bosses. And we have another rich man trying to
start a third party. We need a labor party which makes no apologies for being in the
hip pocket of the working people.
The Republicans in Congress are trying to destroy the strip-mine regulations
so their buddies won´t even have to act like they are cleaning up after themselves.
And the Democrat leadership in West Virginia (read Lloyd Jackson´s buddy
Gaston Caperton) is doing its best to let that proposed pulp mill over in Mason
County dump dioxin in the Ohio River. The fish in the Ohio River already contain
way above the safe limits. They say you might be able to smell that mill in Hamlin.
If that mill gets built your introduction to West Virginia as you come in from
the northeast will be billboards on the mountains and rotten eggs in the air. There
is a song title; Billboards on the Mountains, Rotten Eggs in the AirAlmost Hell,
See if you can guess whether the following quote came from the Christian
Coalition or a Roman Catholic Cardinal: American corporations are endangering
capitalism by treating workers as commodities that can be eliminated to produce
more profits for stockholders unless we find a way to show respect for the
worker as a worker, then I think the whole system is going to go. I think that if
capitalism doesn´t correct itself from within, capitalism as we know it is going to
be in jeopardy.’
More favorite quotes: The love of money is the root of all evil.’--Paul the
apostle; Prosperity isn´t worth the price you have to pay.’Eddie Gillenwater;
These Temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a
perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the
mountains, lift them to the almighty dollar.’John Muir.
Simple pleasuresStanding on top of Wilkerson´s knob and seeing
mountains three ridges deep.
Scary visionsSeeing the strip-mine lights in the distance from Sumerco.
Shirley Mullens was at the Pennzoil hearings in support of the Pennzoil
workers. As far as I know she was the only elected official present.
Some simple pleasures: Orange butterfly weed, sweet pea blossoms, elder
blow and all the beautiful people at the Barker reunion. Glory!
In Defense of Hillary: A Great First Lady
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, August 14, 1996
Terry Headley, our editor, has finally provoked me to defend Hillary
Clinton. It is silly to call the Clinton´s common criminals as Headley did. Of
course I have been fooled before by folks like Arch Moore*, who indeed was a
common criminal. And there was Wally Barron**, who was sent to prison for
bribing a juror in a jury bribery trial. Ol´ Wally was sure creative now.
Bill Clinton, who could hold on for twelve years as governor of a state more
corrupt than West Virginia (God, is that possible?), has made many a deal and his
closet is full of trash, for sure. But I would rather have a slick, waffling Bill
Clinton in the White House than a Republican any day.
When Governor Marland was being run out of the state for trying to put a
severance tax on the coal companies, he turned to the bottle and was reputed to be
a drunk. My first vote ever for governor was for Cecil Underwood. I only knew of
Marland´s drinking habits, and had no idea that he was so far ahead of his time on
the severance tax issue. The coal operators fooled us and they got us to vote for
their manCecil Underwood. I argued with my grandpa about Marland and
Underwood****. How could you vote for a drunk’, I wailed. Grandpa replied,
I´d rather vote for a drunk Democrat than a Republican any day.’ After seeing the
damage that a Republican Congress can do to the working people of this nation I
now know what he meant. In Lincoln County it will be hard to know who the
Democrats and Republicans are. The Jackson-Stowers faction is not supporting the
Democrat nominee for Governor.*** They are really Republicans or
Republicratsthey will probably support Dole for president.
Calling the Clintons names is a diversion that Republicans want us to follow
and ignore the real issues. The real issues in this country are the rescuing of our
environment, universal health care, Medicare, Medicaid, quality day care for
working people, school lunch programs, a decent minimum wage, defense
spending verses domestic spending, etc. On all these issues the Clintons have been
on the side of the working people. The Republicans have always been against the
welfare of the working people.
It sheds no light on the issues to personally attack Mrs. Clinton. Her
personality and personal life aren´t important. It is important that she cares about
such things as the welfare of children, about quality education and about medical
Mrs. Clinton gets attacked because she is a threat to the Republicans. She is
smart and unafraid to speak out. The Republicans like to paint her as an uppity
woman. The Republicans don´t want their rich buddies to have to pay equal wages
for equal work, and they know a first lady like Mrs. Clinton will fight for such
equality. The Republicans want women to be Uncle Toms and stay in their so-
called place. If Republicans can keep women down they can keep costs down for
big business. The attacks on Mrs. Clinton are designed to save the rich a lot of
money. Mrs. Clinton scares the hell out of the rich Republicans.
It has been a long time since we have had a first lady who cared so much for
the working people. Mrs. Bush was a nice lady who was in favor of abortion. Mrs.
Reagan was a mean-spirited woman who was downright catty towards highly
educated and cultured Mrs. Gorbachev. Mrs. Ford was an alcoholic who was drunk
on TV during a Barbara Walters interview. Rosalynn Carter was an outstanding
intellect who had compassion for the poor people of this country. Richard Nixon´s
wife was a nice lady who seemed to wish her husband was in some other line of
work. Lady Bird Johnson was an effective wheeler-dealer. I´m not sure what Mrs.
Kennedy was. Mrs. Eisenhower was also an alcoholic. Mrs. Truman was another
nice lady who was a good mother. And Mrs. Roosevelt was a spiritual giant among
men and women.
With the exception of Mrs. Roosevelt, Mrs. Clinton may be the greatest first
lady of all.
*Republican Arch Moore was a three term West Virginia governor from 1969 to 1977 and again
from 1985 to 1989. He pled guilty to five felony charges and went to prison for lying and
stealing. A good friend of mine in high school was one of his bag men. After taking out some for
himself, he delivered bribes to Moore. A briber snitched and the feds found out my friend had not
reported his income to the IRS. To get a light sentence, my friend ratted on Governor Moore.
**Democrat Wally Barron served as governor of West Virginia from 1961-65. His
administration was riddled with corruption, as was he. He was being tried for bribing a jury
when his wife offered $25,000 to the wife of the head juror. Wally, ever the gentleman, took the
fall for his wife.
***Charlotte Pritt was the first woman running for governor on either the Democratic or
Republican parties. She was betrayed by the Democratic Party leadership who supported
republican Cecil Underwood. The present Democrat Governor Joe Manchin (2009) was a
Democrat for Underwood.
****Some of this is wrong. Underwood was running against Congressman Bob Mollohan. A
week before the election, it was discovered that while Mollohan was superintendent of the
reform school at Pruntytown he had received bribes of $20,000 and two cars from a coal
operator for the right to strip mine on the reform school property. In the same election former
Governor Marland ran for the U.S. Senate and lost to Republican Chapman Rivercomb. I voted
for Rivercomb only because Marland was a drunk. My conversation with my grandfather was
about the Marland-Rivercomb election. I did vote for Underwood over Mollohan. My Dad´s best
friend was a close friend of Mollohan and was involved in counting the absentee ballots. He told
my father how I had voted. Neither my dad nor his friend could understand the idealism that
rejected a drunk and a corrupt politician. Since then, seeing what the Republicans really have in
mind and what mean spirited people they are, I have come to agree with my grandfather Charlie
Barker that if the choice is between a Democrat and a Republican, I too would vote for a drunk
Democrat before I would vote for a Republican. Of course, I would prefer a liberal, left wing
choice over either one. I figure we have one party with two factions. The Republicans believe
beating the slaves will make them work harder while the Democrats offer health care and
retirement benefits to the slavesbut they both believe in slavery.
We Cannot Afford the Rich II
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, August 26, 1996
I watched Bill Clinton speak in Ashland on television. I loved what he said. I
wanted to believe him, but I don´t trust him anymore than I do Bob Dole. They are
both controlled by the bankers and the other big money people. Dole is so sold out
to the tobacco money that he says tobacco isn´t addictive. Tobacco addicts know
they are addicted. Smokers know that they are addicted when they will drive
twenty miles at eleven o´clock at night to get a pack of cigarettes. Dole is paid to
say the opposite to the obvious truth.
In light of Dole´s foolish statement, Clinton cynically declares that nicotine
is an addictive drug for the political advantage it might give him. Clinton signed a
welfare bill that is awful, just for the votes. That mean-spirited welfare bill was
designed by Newt Gingrich and Clinton is going to get credit for it. Tweedle-dum
Big business paid for the Republican convention and they will pay for the
Democratic convention. The two parties ought to merge into one. As George
Wallace suggested, there is not a dime´s worth of difference between the rich
Democrats and rich Republicans.
The Christian Coalition and the Ross Perot Reform Party are symptoms that
the people feel left out by both parties. Maybe we ought to do like the Russians and
get rid of this one-party system. The Republicrats run the country for the rich and
the rest of us suck hind teat.
I want a Green-Labor Party. This party would develop jobs that are kind to
the environment. As Lyndon Johnson said, Don´t spit in the soup, we all gotta
eat!’ The environment is our soup. We have to have clean air and water, and we
have to preserve our land or die.
A Green-Labor Party would recognize that if we continue with capitalism
we will have to have welfare for the unemployed to function smoothly. We can´t
blame the unemployed for not having jobs. How do you get a job if there are no
jobs? Did you ever notice that no candidate runs on the platform of full
employment? There can be no full employment in our system. Full employment
causes inflation and raises wages to high for the rich to afford their luxuries.
The obscenity in this country isn´t about sex. The obscenity in this country is
that one percent of the people control 40 percent of the wealth. We cannot afford
This was during the 1996 Clinton-Dole campaign. I remember Clinton making a grand
entrance into Ashland, Kentucky on a train. It looked regal, elegant and powerful
Memories of Roger
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, September 4, 1996
The death of Roger Lovejoy was shocking. It was hard to believe. Without
thinking about it I just assumed he would always be around. Yet, suddenly he was
Jesus taught that to love people was to love God. He said, I was a stranger
and you took me in,’ and If you have done it to the least of these you have done it
to me.’ About fifteen years ago we had moved to Sam´s Branch from Sugar Tree. I
was not exactly an L.L. Bean model back then. I had the biggest and maybe the
only Afro’ in Lincoln County. Roger Lovejoy didn´t let differences bother him.
He was kind to me. He was friendly to me. He invited me into his home. I was a
stranger and he took me in.
Roger was a Republican, worked for a strip mine company, and fought in
Vietnam, but he had the grace to ignore those big differences between us. He drew
a circle that took me in. I will miss him because he always had a smile for me, and
always wanted to know what I was thinking about.
Roger´s funeral was a time when a community came together to honor his
memory, to comfort his family, and to comfort one another. I felt sad, but I also
felt the meaning of community. There is a community of people in this area. They
care about one another. This community is probably present in all rural areas
where the real family values have a chance to be practiced. This sense of
community is above politics, above religion, and above economics. It is spiritual.
It is a strange connection, but this feeling of community at Roger´s funeral
made me want to be with this community even more that day. Contrary to my
previous plans, I went to the Van and Duval football game that night, just to be
with our people again. Roger´s sparkling eyes were absent from the sidelines, but
he was deep in our feelings, memories and conversations that evening. Roger
would have loved to have seen Blaine* call fifteen pass plays the first half.
It was a bittersweet day .
*Blaine Wilkerson was the conservative Duval High School football coach.
Babbitt and Strip Mines
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, September 11, 1996
Good news for the Pennzoil workers! The judge ruled against the sale of
Pennzoil to a bogus company called Somerset. Somerset was going to fire most of
the workers and hire non-union, scab contractors.
The Republican platform in the State of Mississippi commits the party to
outlaw certain environmental terrorists that oppose every business development
or industrial project on the grounds of environmental protection.’ So now you are a
terrorist if you oppose a new business because you think it will hurt the air we
breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on. Sure is a broad definition of
terrorism. It ranks environmentalists right there with the World Trade Center
bombers, airplane hijackers and hostage takers.
Maybe we would not seem so extreme if so many of the proposed uses of
our land, air and water weren´t so extremely awful. We have learned the hard way
that industry will not willingly regulate themselves. If it weren´t for the protests,
demonstrations, and lobbying of environmentalists there would be no protection at
all for the general public against the gross greed of business and industry.
Don´t think for a minute that there would be anything but high walls, spoil
banks and gashed mountain sides all over southern West Virginia, if it had not
been for the environmentalists. The coal operators have been dragged kicking and
screaming. They have resisted every reasonable environmental protection. The
coal, oil, gas, timber and chemical companies are the real terrorists in this picture.
They have terrorized us and our land for years.
And so, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the strip mine legislation, guess
where Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt chose to mark the occasion? He stood on a
strip mine in Boone County behind a podium with Hobet Mining written across the
front, spoke into a microphone provided by Hobet, and bragged on how strip
mining is doing such a nice job of turning our hardwood forests into savannah
forest lands. He even mouthed the coal industry´s favorite absurdity that it was
now better than before.’ I suppose that compared with Babbitt´s native Arizona
deserts, anything looks better. It reminded me of the time County Commissioner
Duncan said he liked the way strip mining made our mountains look like the semi-
desert scenes of Utah. West Virginia mountainslove ‘em or leave ‘em!
Babbitt chose to stand with the very industry that has helped the Republican
Congress gut the strip mine legislation. Babbitt doesn´t stand alonethat paragon
of virtue, Nick Joe Rahall grinned at the cameras too. If it weren´t an election year
maybe they would have honored all the environmentalists who made the legislation
Babbitt´s honoring the fox at the henhouse is in keeping with the way the
coal industry has taken over Earth Day to make it look like they care about the
environment. The only thing the coal industry cares about is money.
Now comes the newest terrorist threat to our environment. West Virginia
woods are on the verge of being clear-cut. West Virginia will be clear-cut to supply
wood chips to Weyerhauser in Braxton County, Georgia-Pacific in Mount Hope
and Tru-jois McMillian in Buckhannon. West Virginia was savagely clear-cut
ninety years ago, and the trees are ready to be harvested’ again. The timber
industry doesn´t cut trees down, they harvest’ them. They hire the same type of
amoral public relations liars who created the term surface mining to clean up the
sound of strip-mining. It´s called a euphemism.
There are virtually no regulations on the timber industry. They bulldoze all
over the place, destroying wildlife habitat and causing massive erosion. They claim
that they will regulate themselves. Where have we heard that before? We need
legislation at least as tough as the strip mine legislation or we are going to look up
in a few years and our woods are going to be destroyed. According to Ken Ward,
in the Charleston Gazette, the timber industry will be cutting an area the size of
Putnam County every five years. Without regulations, West Virginia will look like
One of the reason the big coal and timber operators are supporting Cecil
Underwood for Governor is that he will make it easier to moonscape West
*High walls are huge rock cliffs left behind by strip mine operations when they blow a gash in
the side of a mountain. Spoil banks are the blasted rocks and earth than are dumped over the
hillside by strip mine operators.
**This is the same Cecil Underwood whom I voted for when he was elected the youngest
governor of West Virginia. This time around he was elected a second time as the oldest governor
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, October 16, 1996
I have read every word I could find about the FBI arrests of the militiamen’
in Clarksburg. The Gazette headlines made it seem like these men were about
ready to blow up the FBI fingerprint headquarters in Bridgeport. The story didn´t
match the headlines. It appears that this is what happened: An undercover FBI
agent offered $50,000 to Floyd Looker, who calls himself the commander of the
West Virginia Mountaineer Militia.’ In return, they wanted Looker to give them
blueprints and pictures of the FBI fingerprint headquarters. The FBI agent was
posing as a go-between for a Mideast terrorist organization. The FBI knew that
another member of the Mountaineer Militia, James Rogers, had access to the less
than secret blueprints and pictures. The stuff was on file at the Clarksburg fire
department where Rogers has been a fireman for seventeen years. It doesn´t sound
like the blueprints and pictures were kept under any top secret’ security. It sounds
like most anybody working for the fire department would have access to the
information since it was there to help the firemen in case of an emergency at the
So Looker must have figured that, heck yes, we can make $50,000 off some
Arabs we consider inferior anyway. We can sell them something they could
probably get for free without much trouble. So Looker gets the man what he wants
and the man arrests him for being part of a conspiracy. Looker was offered the
opportunity to participate in what the FBI considered a crime, but the offer wasn´t
possible without the FBI first inventing the crime.
The militiamen are way over the other side of insanity as far as I am
concerned. But the crime they are being charged with couldn´t happen without the
FBI. No FBI, no crime. The FBI informant helped Floyd Looker put the blueprint
and photo package together for the ‘FBI agent posing as a Middle Eastern terrorist
contact. This whole caper reminds me of how the FBI infiltrated groups that
opposed the war in Vietnam. The FBI agent would suggest a violent action that the
group could take. If the group took those actions the FBI arrested them. If they
didn´t take the actions they would be arrested for conspiring or plotting the violent
actions. It is called entrapmentsuggest a crime and then arrest them for it.
The FBI said in a curious statement that, actions taken by the defendants
did not pose an immediate threat to the FBI facility.’ Explosives were bought by
the FBI informant for the Mountaineer Militia. The FBI claims that Looker ordered
the purchase. In another curious statement, the FBI said all the explosives were
under the control of the FBI at all times.’ I am beginning to wonder if everyone
involved in this scam were FBI agents. Maybe Looker is an FBI man. The crime
was suggested by the FBI. The FBI bought the explosives and had them under its
control at all times.
I feel less than comfortable agreeing with William Pierce, the pro-Nazi over
in Pocahontas County. He says the FBI may be putting on a show at the expense of
some poor, naïve guys. Pierce is quoted in the Charleston Gazette that, the
government responds to disasters like Oklahoma City by entrapping individuals so
they can say to the people they´re fighting terrorism.’ It reminds me of those
pictures of Republican Mayor Mike Roark in the Charleston Gazette holding
marijuana plants to show how tough he was on drugs. The mayor was decked out
in camouflage fatigues and wore a sidearm. Later that evening, the mayor could be
seen snorting cocaine right off the bar in a local tavern.*
These militia types leave little doubt that they are a brick shy of a load. They
think the United Nations has troops in the United States along with Russian tanks
ready to take over the country in the name of the New World Order.’ They are so
ignorant they don´t realize that the UN is controlled by the United States, not the
other way around.
My concern is the government entrapping its own citizens. The government
creates the opportunity for a crime, and whoever bites gets arrested. It is downright
tacky for the government to tempt its weaker-minded citizens into a crime. In the
case of the Mountaineer Militia, entrapment meant that people got arrested for that
they would have done if the FBI agent had really been a Middle Eastern terrorist
agent. They got jail for what they would have done if .Seems like there is enough
real crime without the government creating more opportunities.
*Mayor Roark´s code name in these raids was Mad Dog Mike.’ He was convicted on drug
charges and sentenced to one day less than six months. Pictures had revealed him white water
rafting with big time drug dealers from Florida. After prison, Roark studied to be an Episcopal
Priest but died before that was completed.
Clinton and Iraq
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, September 18, 1996
President Clinton is playing macho with Iraq. Bob Dole said Clinton was a
sissy if he didn´t hurt somebody bad and quickly. Clinton, looking through the
rear-view mirror at Dole trying to catch up, figured he had to drop some bombs.
The US can´t control Iraq with airplanes and bombs, and it would bankrupt us to
invade and occupy.* It would take a million troops. Those troops would have to be
rotated and replaced every year or so, and it is already starting to sound like
Vietnam. The Arabs would learn to hate us even more, as have people in
Okinawa**, when our soldiers abuse and offend.
From the TV it appears that Saddam Hussein is indeed a mad man and I
don´t have the answer for how to deal with him. We will do something to warn him
to back off, and for a time he will back off. We will then bring our planes and
soldiers home, and then he will do something else. We can´t play cat-and mouse-
with him forever. Bush decided to stop short of putting Saddam Hussein out of
power. I think that might have been done to keep Iran form moving into Iraq and
becoming even more powerful and difficult.
The question really boils down to: can we police the world. The answer is
no. The world is too big and it´s problems too out of control for one country to
solve it all. We can get our young soldiers killed, kill their young soldiers and
civilians, and still not solve the world´s problems. In the meantime, our own
problems go unsolved.
Imagine what we could do about school consolidation with what it took to
fly just one of those B-52s and the missiles it fired. How much money has been
already spent trying to put the stops to Iraq? Several billion dollars have been
poured down that rat hole.
Clinton and Dole are not statesmen when they act like two schoolyard
bullies daring each other to make a move. Some people in Iraq died because these
two played political games. And Saddam Hussein is still in power.
*As I write this footnote in 2009 it appears the country has been bankrupted by a combination of
two wars and greedy, lawless bankers.
**There was a case of American soldiers raping an Okinawa woman.
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, September 25, 1996
I was visiting in a home the other day and the woman of the house was
showing me pictures of her children. She said, Tammy, our oldest, is gay.’ She
expressed her love for Tammy and what a joy she had been as a child. She didn´t
understand Tammy´s sexual orientation, but she loved her and was not about to
reject her. The mother told me, Tammy´s partner is such a wonderful person. I
never dreamed that my favorite daughter-in-law would be my daughter´s lover.’
Here we have a woman who has considered herself and her values as normal’ and
her daughter is part of a minority that certain politicians use as a scapegoat to get
Gay people are a very small minority in our society and, like the Jews in
Germany, they are an easy target for politicians who want to divert attention away
from bigger issues like the millions of children living in poverty. Gay bashing is a
vote getter among weak minded voters.
I would bet that every family has one family member or close relative who is
gay. Most of these people are gay for genetic reasons, and can´t be sincerely
heterosexual. All of these gay people are members of families who hopefully love
them even if they disapprove of their sexual preference. So how do politicians get
away with scapegoating members of our loving families?
Tammy´s mother thinks there is an economic connection to politicians trying
to limit Gay rights. If companies have to recognize gay couples as legal unions it
will cost the companies more money in benefits such as health care.
By now, about everyone knows of or is related to people who are HIV
positive. There was a man two years ahead of me in high school who has since
died of AIDS. One of my former students is HIV positive. The son of my boyhood
family doctor died of AIDS. These people who are HIV positive or have AIDS are
members of families, many of which are heroic in their support of the suffering
So, if we are all related in some way to gay people and people stricken with
AIDS, why do we tolerate laws and politicians that discriminate against our loved
Governor Underwood and Gay Rights
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent, October 2, 1996
I am against discrimination against gays,’ said Cecil Underwood as quoted
in the Charleston Gazette. He was also quoted as saying that he was for the
inclusion of gays under the protection of the West Virginia Human Rights Laws.
Underwood is a decent man. He doesn´t have a need to bully people with
unpopular sexual orientations.
I won´t be voting for Underwood because he is supported by coal companies
and other large businesses in West Virginia. These supporters are licking their
chops at the thought of having a governor who will let them do whatever they want
to the environment, and to the working people. They know that with a Republican
governor the environmental laws will not be enforced with any vigor. They know
that Underwood will help them hold wages down for working people. They see a
return to rape and pillage of our land, water, air and forests.
The Republicrats who support Underwood see him as their ticket to get the
machine candidate back in power after four years.
From the Charleston Gazette´s support of Underwood it is obvious that we
have two Republican papers in Charleston. In Lincoln County, we have one
Republican and one Republicrat paper.
Underwood came out with an economic development plan that he says is not
much different from Caperton´s. He praised the Caperton staff for doing a good
job. These are the people who never saw a bulldozer they didn´t like, a road they
didn´t like, nor a polluting factory they didn´t like.
The Caperton style of economic development is to do anything that will
change West Virginia from the wonderful, wild place it is, into just another fast
food joint. Underwood praising Caperton is a way of telling us that he and
Caperton are the same kind of politicians. Both are sponsored by the rich against
the working people and the environment in which we live.
The rich people who control the Democratic Party don´t want Charlotte Pritt
because she is for the working people before big business, and the environment
before reckless development. She scares the jerks whose only motivation is money
Toyota gave $500,000 to the Putnam County school system. This is only a
fraction of the taxes they would have paid to the school system if the Caperton
Republicrats had not given the store away in tax write-offs for Toyota. This
corporate welfare will run out in fifteen years, and if we don´t bow to Toyota then,
they will move to a state that will pay their taxes for them. Toyota is taxing us
good deal if you can get it.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the crack epidemic was started by
the CIA in Los Angeles to get money to support the contras in Nicaragua. The
CIA-sponsored agents shipped crack to Los Angeles street gangs. This happened
during the Reagan-Bush years. This was Ollie North stuff. Nice people.
The Republicans wanted to ban children from school if their parents were
illegal immigrants. They also wanted to deny illegal immigrants and even legal
immigrants from getting welfare. You don´t teach them to read and write, you
insist on the English language in all transactions, and when they can´t get jobs you
let them starve. As it says on the Statue of Liberty, Give me your huddled
masses.’ They must have meant only if they are white people.
A friend wrote me a letter commenting on my articles. He used the term
Republicrat in the letter. When he used the spell checker on his computer it
suggested that for Republicrat he use the words Republic Rat.’
Right Wing Wants Big Government?
The News from Sam´s Branch
The Lincoln Independent
Why is it the right wing politicians condemn big government, government
regulations and government control over our lives and yet they want to force
school children to pray all at the same time and out loud and they want to enforce
patriotism by forcing a pledge to that effect everyday, at the same time and out
loud? I think what they really want is to be able to dump toxic waste in our air,
water and land, clear-cut our hardwoods and strip our mountains for coal without
big government telling them to stop. As demagogues will do, they use religion and
patriotism to hide their real intent. The medical profession and health insurance
companies wave the same red flag when they preach against government control of
your choice of doctors when what they really want is more money.
Doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies killed the Clinton health
plan claiming there would be no choice of doctors. The health insurance companies
spent one hundred million dollars trashing universal health care. Clinton lost, the
medical and insurance professionals won. Now people are stuck with HMO´s that
force them to go to a primary care doctor to get permission to go to a specialist.
The HMOs make it worthwhile to the doctor to refer as few as possible to
specialists. With less referral to specialists the HMOs make more money and can
pass some on to the primary care doctors. The old kick-back scam. The defeat of
Clinton´s plan left us with nearly forty million people without health insurance.
I don´t understand why we need the insurance companies in the health
business. Let´s eliminate the middle man and have a single-payer system. By
putting health insurance under the government we eliminate the insurance
company and the HMO profit. Some HMO presidents are making over a million
dollars a year at our expense. Do they own the politicians, or what? It is alarming
that our health care programs are run by people who just want to get rich.
Since 1979 health insurance companies have given $180 million to
congressional campaigns--nothing more than a bribe to keep them on the gravy
State Socialism and Corporate Welfare
The News from Sam´s Branch,
The Lincoln Independent October 21, 1996
It was a gas to read in the Charleston Gazette that Buck Harless* is for state
socialism and corporate welfare. I wonder if Buck´s candidate for governor, Cecil
Underwood, is aware that Buck is red on the inside. Buck wants the working
people of West Virginia to pay for the stuff it will take to start a furniture
manufacturing industry in West Virginia.
I could say he wants the taxpayers to finance his socialist idea but we all
know that it is only the working people who pay taxes anyway. The big
corporations pretty much get off with tax credits. I wonder how he feels about
giving money to unemployed working people. Bet he doesn´t like those welfare
bums a´tall. How about if Buck and his fellow rich boys take the risk in the old
fashioned capitalist tradition. Let them borrow the money they need to get the
furniture business going in West Virginia and then they can feel guilt free about
getting the profit. Take some risk, Buck. Don´t go on welfare Buck, please. I´ll bet
you would rather be dead than red, so take a risk.
In the 1950´s, according to Molly Ivans, corporations paid 31 percent of the
Federal government´s general fund tax collections. They now pay only 15 percent.
In the 1950´s individuals paid 49 percent of total taxes, today they pay 73 percent.
And Buck Harless wants us to pay more. Those tax and spend, corporate welfare,
It was said years ago that what we have in America is socialism for the rich
and capitalism for the poor. Maybe Charlotte Pritt** has the right ideagive tax
breaks to businesses if they will pay union wages.
*Buck Harless is a timber and coal tycoon of Mingo County, West Virginia. He has timbered in
the Appalachians and the Amazon rain forest. He is a major influence in politics and higher
education in West Virginia. He often donates large sums to both political parties.
**Charlotte Pritt is strikingly beautiful. She was the first woman nominated by the Democratic
Party for Governor of West Virginia. The Republicans have never nominated a woman for
Governor. Pritt was betrayed by the Democratic Party machine which threw its support to a
former Republican governor, and sometime coal company executive, Cecil Underwood. The
present  West Virginia Governor, Joe Manchin, sometime coal broker, lost to Pritt in the
Democratic primary and supported Underwood in the general election.
The Highlands Voice
A couple of years ago at the Putnam County Fair, a mountain top
removal miner gladly signed the Save Blackwater Canyon petition I
offered and then told me about his job. At the end of the day I look
at the destruction and feel like I am taking blood money.’ he told me.
Another miner told me of arguing with fellow workers on a mountain top removal
site about the destruction that four wheelers were doing to the
woods. He told the other miners, Look all around you, it is
devastation for as far as you can see, how can four wheelers compare
with this?’ Still another miner, doing volunteer work for the Wildlife
Federation, told me there were many miners who don´t like destroying
the mountains, but are trapped in a situation where the alternative is
minimum wage jobs or unemployment or moving to dreaded North Carolina.
What I have discovered going to hearings and town meetings on mountain
top removal in the last few months is that when just local people show up everyone
speaks against this destruction of their communities,
homes, health and mountain beauty. It is also becoming obvious that
almost none of the miners live near the mountain top removal sites.
Some of the miners are in the ironic position of being outsiders’.
Some live two counties away from the mine sites. Some live in Kentucky.
Most of the owners are clearly outsiders with headquarters in other
states and other countries. I only mention outsiders because that is
what we [environmentalists] are often called. Having lived in coal camps it is hard
for me to consider myself an outsider. My dad, grand-dad, son, brother-in-law and
uncles have worked in the mines of Boone, Logan and Kanawha
At a hearing for a mountain top removal permit and then at a town
meeting about coal sludge dams in the Whitesville and Marsh Fork area,
on the border between Raleigh and Boone counties, there was a parade of
testimony all opposed to the permit and all worried about the danger of
the sludge ponds. One pond hovers right over their grade school. Not
one person spoke in favor of the permit, none had kind words for the
coal companies involved and all were worried about the sludge ponds
failing like the one at Inez, Kentucky. Many of the testifiers were
former coal miners. It would be interesting to witness a genuine
dialogue between mountain top removal miners and people living near the
mines. There is a conference for someone to organize.
These industrial atrocities against nature could be stopped if only
the meaning of the phrase, Must be done in an environmentally sound
manner’ had not been changed by industry and the so-called Department
of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency.
This change has made it possible to qualify as environmentally sound
such hideous practices as taking the tops off beautiful mountains and
dumping them in the hollows. This environmentally sound manner’ is
about to happen across the creek from Jim Weakley´s home. It has made
the ridges disappear all around Larry Gibson´s homeplace, and has
brought a sludge dam high above the school of Judy Bond´s grandchildren.
More than one friend has asked me if I think we can win these
environmental battles. They point out the incredible odds, the
mountains of cash put into destroying our mountains, buying our
politicians and the false twists and spins that industry executives
and public relations companies put on the facts.
My answer to the question can we win in the struggle to save our
environment is that I don´t know if we can win or not. I know that I
am going to die but I don´t quit living. I also know that we could
lose out on some of our efforts to preserve nature (ourselves included)
but that doesn´t mean we should stop trying. We have to speak the
truth whether it prevails or not. It would be bad enough to lose but
still worse to lose without speaking the truth.
Since this was written I interviewed a Massey Energy dump truck driver. He said he hated
Massey and hated his job. His wife said, But it is the best money you have ever made.’
Toyota and the War Between the States
We are blessed to have Toyota in West Virginia’, chortled a member
of legislature on West Virginia Public Radio. Have you noticed how West
Virginia news on Public Radio is a series of chortlings from various
politicians? Seems that Senator Rockefeller, Senator Byrd and Governor Wise are
the most often quoted and with nary a dissenting thought.
Judging from the commercials and the news sound bites it is fairly
obvious who owns West Virginia Public Radio--a combination of big
business and politicians. Of course this is the two headed monster
that has always run the state. Public radio sucks up to those guys
with seldom a thought to denouncing some of their more self-serving and
devious sound bites.West Virginia Public Radio has become the press agent for
incumbent politicians and companies busy decapitating the Appalachain
Being blessed’ to have Toyota in West Virginia puts God in the
picture. Being blessed means by some diety, or did Toyota bless us? Is
Toyota our God, now? The people in Kentucky must be looking for a new
God since our common diety blessed us with the new Toyota plant that
they wanted. It is like thanking God for football victories. Did God
forsake the side that lost?
Toyota must be thanking their diety that they were blessed with a
state that would give them fifteen years without property taxes, a
four-lane highway, a bridge and an airport. And we are doubly blessed that
our politicians would fall all over themselves praising our new diety
for giving five hundred thousand dollars to the Putnam county school
system. Sounds like a good deal to me--five hundred thousand dollars
and no property tax for fifteen years. How much you want to bet that
the five hundred grand is tax-deductible?
There is a new civil war. It is indeed the war between the states.
Fifteen years form now Toyota will probably ask for another
fifteen-year gift from the poor tax payers of West Virginia. If we
turn them down, Kentucky is ready and waiting.
Workers Aren´t Equal to Corporations
West Virginia Public Radio 7-29-98
Unfortunately for our environment, prosperity in this economic system
depends on how much money is spent and that depends on people making good
wages. If everyone's wages suddenly went down people would have less money to
buy the goods that are on the market, the goods would
sit there and workers who make those un-bought things would be laid off
and we would have a good old-fashioned depression.
With the top 1% of Americans owning more than the other 99% combined
perhaps we could start at the other end. Let the obscenely over-paid executives
take a pay cut. Let´s see if they want to live on less. With
Bill Gates owning more than the poorest 106 million Americans combined
maybe it is gagging at a gnat and swallowing a camel to ask people to
work for less.
With 40 million Americans having no health insurance it
is bizarre to propose that people would be better off with lower wages.
It is mighty hard for a worker to agree to a pay cut when the
executives in his company are getting pay increases in the millions of
dollars, usually for firing thousands of workers.
American companies are already racing to the bottom on the wage scale by
taking their factories to poverty-stricken third world countries
and hiring desperate people to replace American workers who demand a
To say that "Just as workers are free to look for work wherever they
want to, businesses should be free to look for workers wherever they
want to,’ is to say that one lone worker and the corporation he or she
works for are equal. Since the workers can shop around then the
company should be able to hire and fire whenever they please. Let's
take the cover off this. What is being advocated is that General
Motors should be able to hire scabs or in Orwellian newspeak
"replacement workers" whenever their workers show dissatisfaction by
going on strike.
It would be wonderful if workers and corporations were equal--we
could all get super tax credits and use loopholes to avoid paying
taxes. Workers aren't equal to corporations and that is exactly the
reason we must organize and match our numbers against their billions of
Perhaps wages should depend on what a person needs to have a decent
life. Maybe wages shouldn't be dependent on General Motors auctioning
off jobs to the lowest bidder.
This is Julian Martin on West Virginia Public Radio.
This was a rebuttal to a commentary by an industry owner representative who did
actually say "Just as workers are free to look for work wherever they want to, businesses should
be free to look for workers wherever they want to,’ Unfortunately West Virginia Public Radio
has discontinued commentaries and rebuttals. And Governor Joe Manchin, who was elected
Governor in 2004 and again in 2008, got things changed so that he heads up West Virginia
Public Radio. Don´t expect much to be said against big corporations now that they have one of
their own in power. Manchin actually changed the slogan on the welcome to West Virginia
billboards to read West Virginia, Open for Business. Public anger over the change from West
Virginia, Wild and Wonderful caused the Governor to wiggle out of his mistake by holding a vote
on what slogan people wanted on the welcome signs. Of course Wild and Wonderful was a
previous change from The Mountain State. All three slogans were cooked up by public relations
hacks. Open for business is probably the more accurate of the two considering that 500,000
acres of wild and wonderful mountains have been destroyed by mountain top removal coal
The Charleston Gazette, August 23, 1998
J. Wade Gilley, president of Marshall University and chairman of the
Governor´s Task Force on Mountaintop Removal, claims in a Sunday Gazette-Mail
commentary on Aug 3 to want, A thorough, thoughtful and fair study of
mountaintop removal.’ However, in his first public comment on the first public
hearing, he insults many people who testified, calling them professional
Gilley discounted the testimony of many who were, in his words, proudly
pointing to their past appearances before public groups on this and other topics.’
How can Gilley prejudge people who are concerned about things in their
communities and who speak out about their concerns? Why does he find it odd that
people are proud of the stands they have taken for things they care about?
You would think that a man of learning and a molder of young minds would
congratulate people who are concerned for their communities and who don´t lay
low when something needs to be said.
The professional testifiers’ are not we who have no financial incentive to
speak. The pros are the coal company lobbyists who are paid big money to testify
before committees. Why didn´t Gilley denounce that group?
Wade Gilley left Marshall University to become president of the University of Tennessee.
He left Tennessee in disgracesomething about sexy emails.
It Is Insane, It Is Madness
The Charleston Gazette, December 26, 1998
Governor Cecil Underwood is either a liar or he has advisers who lie to him.
He was quoted in a Gazette article on the report of the Governor´s Task Force on
Mountaintop Removal as saying, when asked to produce usable information,
the environmental people didn´t come forward didn´t offer proposals. They
didn´t attend hearings.’
Underwood is wrong. We were there. We made proposals. Many of us
proposed that mountaintop removal strip mining be banned. In Underwood´s mind,
banning mountaintop removal strip mining is not usable information.’
At the next-to-last hearing of the task force, the number of environmental
people’ who spoke outnumbered the coal industry speakers.
Underwood appointed a task force that had three subcommittees. There was
only one environmental people’ representative on the entire task force. Therefore,
when the three subcommittees had separate meetings and hearings, there was no
one representing the environmental people’ on two-thirds of the subcommittees.
This task force was an obvious cruel joke. Several of its members have
dedicated their lives to taking the tops off the mountains of West Virginia. Over
one-third of the task force has direct ties to the coal industry. The three elected
politicians on the task force have received thousands of dollars from the coal
industry in campaign contributions.
Ex-officio task force member Michael Miano, the current head of the so-
called Division of Environmental Protection, and a longtime employee of the coal
industry, replied to one of the environmental people.’ He said, We have been
doing mountaintop removal for 40 years and there has been no problem.’
Wade Gilley, the chairman of the task force, classified many of us
environmental people’ as professional testifiers’ in a Gazette article after the
very first task force hearing.
As I said in my last testimony to the task force, Mountaintop removal strip
mining is the most insane idea that has ever been tried in West Virginia.’
Mountaintop removal strip mining is justified with sentiment expressed with the
infamous we had to destroy the village to save it’ statement from the Vietnam
War. We have to destroy the mountains for the economy. We have to destroy West
Virginia to save it. That is insane.
It is not mountaintop removal; it is mountain removal. They aren´t just
taking the tops off the mountains; they are digging down like a dentist doing a root
canal and removing the entire mountain.
Southern West Virginia from the air looks like it has been carpet-bombed.
They claim they are making it better. The reclaimed ground is as hard as concrete
when they get through reclaiming’ their moonscapes. Madness.
The coal industry people tried to change the name of strip mining’ to
surface mining’ because strip mining’ sounded as ugly as it is. Now they are
trying to change the name of mountaintop removal to mountaintop mining.
Mountaintop removal strip mining is the worst thing that has ever happened
to West Virginia. These coal industry people who are removing our mountains call
us environmental people’ extremists. Removing mountains is far more extreme
than wanting to leave them alone. It is insane. It is madness.
The Lincoln Journal
There have been a few saints in my life, people who have influenced me
deeply. Being saints didn´t mean they were perfect. Being saints meant they
understood human nature and listened to you when you talked and shared their
ideas and feelings with you.
My football coach, Sammy LeRose, is one of the saints of my life. He was a
wonder of a coach. He never raised his voice, never cussed and never showed
disgust for his players. He was kind. My great uncle Kin Barker was another. Kin
was a logger on Bull Creek before logging tore up the earth much like a strip-mine.
Grandma Ethyl Atkins Barker is another of the saints who have smiled into
my life. Kin and Grandma have died, but I remember them every day. Now another
saint has died but not passed away, for I will keep him fresh in people´s memories.
Eddie Gillenwater died the other day doing one of the things he liked best.
He died in the woods hunting rabbits. Eddie went fast and he gave up the spirit out
where the ginseng grows and where his dogs ran.
Eddie was amazing. He built my kitchen cabinets when he was seventy years
old. He left a beautiful table, a rocking chair and two stools in my house. I write
this on the table he built. Eddie was at Pearl Harbor. He looked up and saw planes
shooting at him. I expected a heroic tale about Pearl Harbor. Eddie told me that he
ran down a hill to escape the bullets and tried to get inside a drainage culvert. But
he could only get his head in-- the rest of him didn´t fit. So there he was with his
rear end as a target for the Japanese air force. Eddie would rather tell a funny story
than make himself look good.
He was a paratrooper and told me that he made one combat jump. I think his
jump was in New Guinea. Once again I expected to hear about the brave soldier in
hand-to-hand combat. Not so, Eddie landed in the courtyard of an unarmed
Japanese hospital. He said that within twenty minutes he was on the third floor
balcony flirting with the Japanese nurses.
Eddie read about every major American novel and many minor ones. He was
a friend, an intellectual, a woodworker and a musician. He raised Beagles, dug
‘sang and smoked a pipe. As a young man he could shoot a dime out of the air with
a 22 rifle.
Eddie was most of all a philosopher and he left me with my favorite quote
about the stress of modern life. Eddie said, Prosperity isn´t worth the price you
have to pay.’
I loved Eddie Gillenwater and if it weren´t for my grandma Barker and great
uncle Kin and Sammy Lerose I´d say he was in a class by himself.
Rest in peace, Eddie, and thanks for all the great memories.
Eddie´s grandson, a high school student of mine, met me in the hall of Duval High School
and told me with a sad and serious tone, Grandpa Eddie died yesterday.’ I searched for
someone to commiserate with, but none of the other teachers knew him. I went into the assistant
principal´s office and broke down telling him of Eddie´s death.
I left some things out about Eddie that didn´t fit in a eulogy. Eddie took a drink of
whiskey about every half hour or so. Once, when he was our star witness in a suit against a
bunch of outlaw gas well drillers, I was assigned to stay with him and make sure he got his
drinks on time and that he made it to the trial.
He was almost always just a little high, not enough to notice. Maybe he was just on an
even keel. Addictions will do thatmake you want the drug just to get back to a normal feeling.
He came to my house one day around noon to collect money I owed him for making and
installing cabinets in my kitchen. He said he needed the money to buy some whiskey. He was
grumpy and short with me. I told him that was what I didn´t like about his drinking-- it made him
impatient and short tempered. He replied, Martin, this is why I drink. I am sober right now.
Now give me my money so I can go buy some whiskey.’
Eddie saw me at the end of an election day in which he had helped a candidate get votes
out. He told me he felt ashamed and dirty for what he had done that day. He was probably
referring to buying votes with money and booze.
Eddie was at least once found drunk and passed out over the hill in his wrecked pickup
truck along with a woman who was probably thirty years younger.
As a young man during the depression he rode boxcars all the way to California and
back. One of his brothers did the same thing and found a job taking care of John Wayne´s horse
on a movie set. Eddie could play a decent guitar and told me that, when in the Army, stationed in
the Caribbean, he roomed with Chet Atkins. Men of Eddie´s age had great adventures. They
traveled to exotic places riding the rails or a navy landing barge. Some ended up in enemy
prison camps. Most came home determined to get a job with the gas company and never go back
out into that dangerous world.
Eddie was no saint but he did love just about everybody and his dogs.
The Charleston Gazette, March 13, 1999
The coal industry tries to call it "mountain top mining" instead of
mountain top removal and "surface mining" instead of strip-mining. The
timber industry and forest service use "over-mature" and "decadent" instead of old
growth. And here is a doozy-- "Temporary meadows" for clear cuts. There is the
old stand-by "harvest" instead of cut. The milk people use
"somatotropin" for bovine growth hormone. "Somatotropin" is Latin for growth
hormone. During the war against Iraq [this was the first Iraq war] there were
"KIA's". Never did the military public relations briefings use the word kill. I
suppose they discarded "harvest" early on. The Gazette and other news media use
"environmentalists" instead of concerned citizens.
The coal industry does its best, along with other industries to
demonize the term "environmentalists". The news media cooperates with
the industry, helping them in their effort to isolate concerned citizens by
calling them "environmentalists", of course their favorite is
"environmental extremist’.Visit a strip-mine and you will see who is being
environmentally extreme. If the PR firms working for the coal companies
succeed in making "environmentalist" a dirty word then everyone who
cares about what happens to the mountains, the water, the air, the trees and
the scenic beauty of West Virginia will be descredited.
So far the PR campaign isn't working. In a recent visit to a rural
high school 146 students defined environmentalist in very positive
terms, nine students gave negative definitions.
It ought to scare the polluters and destroyers of our state to know
that the massive resistence to their pillage is done by people from all
walks of life and a wide variety of occupations. I know of only three or four
people in West Virginia who get paid to help concerned citizens organize
to defend the earth and most them are paid half-time for a double-time
The people who most consistently represent the coal company view
are public relations people who would spout whatever line the boss pays
them to spout. If we concerned citizens could double their salaries they
would work for us, they believe in nothing and their talents go to the
Fanny Seiler's article in the March 10 Charleston Gazette was a
pleasing exception to the rule. She reported on the strip-mine
mitigation bill without once using the word "environmentalist". To identify
people who wanted a stronger bill she used terms like "private citizen", "members
of the West Virginia Organizing Project", "lobbyist for the West Virginia Citizen
Action Group", "a member of the Environmental Council", "a representative of the
West Virginia Rivers Coalition". However, the
headline for Seiler's report reverted to the coal industry newspeak euphemism of
"surface mine" instead of the uglier, more accurate and publicly named strip-
mine.’ And the report just below Seiler's, on the conflict of interest lawsuit against
Michael Miano*, uses the term "environmentalists" in the second paragraph.
Mind you, I am happy to work for the environment but I have a life
besides that. I like basketball very much and played full-court until I
was fifty years old. So if you quote me and think you have to call me
something other than citizen just call me an ex-jock.
*Miano was a former coal company operative who became boss over the West Virginia
Department of Environmental Protection.
The Lincoln Journal, April 14, 1999
The following letter from the late Doug Waldron appeared in the April 14 issue of the
Lincoln Journal. Doug and I were allies a few years ago in opposition to school consolidation in
Lincoln County. His daughter was a student of mine at Duval High School.
Julian Martin, a well-respected Lincoln County resident, stated that
all people who support Mountain Top Removal were just doing what their boss
was telling them to do, and that they were for sale to the highest
Now let me set the record straight, sir, and explain, the cold hard
facts of West Virginian life.
First, we have loyalty and pride, being employed by coal and coal
support companies, but no one tells us what to say. We are much more
professional than the members of the environmental organizations operating in
Years ago, we were going off to basic training at Fort Knox, while
others were going to Canada and Africa to avoid the draft. After being in the
service, we came home to work on our fathers' farms, raising corn and
tobacco, while others were raising marijuana. Upon finding a job and
working hard, we received a pay check while others received a welfare
We worked hard day after day because we were taught that the world
owed us nothing. While others protested, demanding society freely give them
everything, at no charge. We were called hicks and hillbillies-they
were called hippies and flower children.
Thirty years later, these social lines are still drawn. All people
have the right to their own views and opinions, but likewise all people have
the right to work, prosper and support their families. And yes, we take the
responsibility very seriously. But, on the other hand, a small minority of people do
not have the legal or moral right to direct the majority of the people and their
I believe we have a breakdown of communication between these two
groups. I believe all those who feel the same as Mr. Martin should visit a
present day surface mining operation. And, likewise, I believe every coal miner
support employee and anyone connected to the coal mining industry should
Immediately join and be a voting member of the WV Highlands Conservancy, the
High Seria[sic] Club, or any other environmental organizations operating
within the state. These organizations are of non-profit status, and open membership
is guaranteed by state and federal laws.
Let's all get involved, let the voice of the majority rule, no
justice, no peace. Our great state of West Virginia belongs to us, the people,
not out of state environmental extremists. We can and will make a difference.
Employee of Walker Machinery Co., Lincoln County
Commissioner, and a true, W.Va. Hillbilly.
The following letter appeared in the Lincoln Journal the week after Doug
Doug Waldron, who works for a company in the earth moving business is
understandably in favor of mountain top removal. However, his letter of 4/14 is
disturbing, and disturbing for reasons that have nothing to do
with mountain top removal. There are strong arguments on both sides of
this divisive issue, some of them supported by facts. Mr. Waldron
addresses none of them. Instead, he belittles those who don't see
things his way: he describes those on his side as hardworking, patriotic,
responsible citizens; those opposing his view are lazy, unpatriotic,
drug-using parasites. We are all tempted to demonize those who don't
agree with us, but name-calling is no argument at all. Perhaps Mr.
Waldron's intention is chiefly to increase one side's hatred of the
It is destructive enough when we do that as private citizens.To do
it as an elected official is especially disturbing. One can be passionatewithout
being unfair and illogical.
Don Churchill, Sweetland, W. Va.
The Lincoln Journal, May 1999
In a letter to the editor on April 12, Doug Waldron put words in my
mouth and then attacked his own invention. In an article of March 13,
1999, I wrote "The people who most consistently represent the coal company view
are PR people who would spout whatever line the boss pays them to spout...they
believe in nothing and their talents go to the highest bidder." Waldron rephrased
this to say, "... all people who support mountaintop removal mining were just
doing what the boss was telling them to do and that they were for sale to the
highest bidder." The public relations people the coal companies hire say what they
are paid to say. Coal-miners say what they feel and believe. Come the next strike
and those public relations people will be paid to denounce the miners as extremists.
I have never questioned the sincerity of the working people who mine
coal in West Virginia. I do question the sincerity of the owners and
managers of the coal mines. They would fire every miner in a New York
minute if they could find a machine to replace them.
In the same letter Doug Waldron refers to "out-of-state extremists".
My family has been in this state since the early 1800s when Isaac
Barker settled at White Oak Creek on Big Coal River. My father lost an eye in the
mines, my grandfather fought at Blair Mountain. My Uncles,
brother-in-law, son, friends and former students have been miners. I am not from
out-of-state and being for the mountains as they are seems far less
extreme than destroying the mountains. Absentee owned coal companies like Arch
Coal of St. Louis and Massey of Virginia are the "out-of-state
Those destroyed mountains will provide no jobs in the future. On the
300,000 acres that have been strip-mined in West Virginia, 180 million
board feet of hardwood lumber could have been cut every year, forever.
Hardwoods don't grow on so-called "reclaimed" strip-mine sites, the ground is as
hard as concrete.
The Charleston Gazette, March 2, 1997
At Duval High School in Lincoln County, I teach Chemistry and physics.
Next year we may not be offering genetics at Duval unless creationism, as a
science, is given equal status with evolution.
Jeff Harper lives across Sam´s Branch Creek from me. Jeff is the man who
objected to evolution being taught in the genetics class. Jeff is a former student of
mine and a friend. He is a wonderful father and neighbor and works hard at two
jobs. He keeps National Guard planes flying and helps keep he family farm going.
We fought side by side against one-school consolidation. So you can see the
problem is not simple.
I think Jeff is wrong, but I know he is sincere in his beliefs and I know that
he stands up for what he believes. I would much rather have him on my side than
on the other side.
My guess is that in Lincoln County an overwhelming majority agrees with
Jeff. Members of the board of education are very aware of this. The night the board
voted not to approve the evolution-tainted syllabus for genetics, a crowd of angry
parents was on hand. This board of education, elected as opposed to
consolidations, was busy consolidating some grade schools. The members didn´t
need anymore trouble that night in front of those already stirred-up citizens.
The creationists claim that evolution is just a theory.’ There is confusion as
to what the word theory means. To scientists, a theory comes about after a
hypothesis has been tested over and over by many different scientists and it
appears the evidence points in a certain direction. A theory is the result of lots of
data collection and evaluation; it is not just someone´s casual opinion.
It would be more accurate to say something is just an hypothesis.’ A
scientific hypothesis is an idea that can be tested by experiment. Science deals with
ideas that can be tested in the physical world. If it can´t be tested by experiment, it
is not science.
Is creationism scientific? Can it be tested in the physical world? Can we use
our senses or instruments to bring information to our senses to test the hypothesis?
This is the issue. If the answer is yes, then creationism can be taught as a science.
If the answer is no, then it could be included in a course that studies religion.
I don´t think creationism can be tested. To test it you would have to
interview God and have the interview repeated many times by many different
people. Maybe that is prayer. But I can´t check your prayer to see if God really
spoke to you.
Evolution gets tested every summer. Farmers, using insecticides, breed
resistant strains of bugs that by the end of the summer are laying eggs in the
insecticide bags. Overuse of antibiotics has bred varieties of bacteria that are
immune to the medicine.
Certain mutations, caused among other things by radiation, survive and their
offspring are resistant and multiply. Creationists object to random mutations. They
prefer God as directly causing the mutations. Why would God cause mutations that
kill innocent people? If God is causing the mutations, God is not on our side.
When someone claims to have proven a hypothesis by experiment, other
scientists jump all over it like a chicken on a June bug. Not too many years ago,
two scientists in Utah claimed to have produced nuclear fusion at room
temperature. Fusion is what causes the sun and all the stars to be so hotif you
Other scientists were skeptical of this cold fusion.’ Science´s greatest virtue
is skepticism. Skepticism is insurance against fraud. The skeptics tried to repeat the
results. No one could get cold fusion to happen. The hypothesis that fusion could
happen on a lab table in test tubes was tested and found wanting. Cold fusion never
became a scientific theory because it could not be proven over and over by
independent experiment. Science works only when evidence meets honesty.
The creationists whom I have heard speak seem to think that scientists are a
bunch of dishonest people who make things up to fit the model they have for the
universe. One even doubted that uranium decays into other elements. Proof that
there are liquid regions beneath the surface of the earth was rejected because you
can´t go there and observewhich is strange, since they base their beliefs on
Officials at the Institute for Creation Research are sure that the space
program and the search for extra-terrestrial life are government plots to indirectly
promote the rejection of Genesis as the true account of origins.’ They count
Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Muslims as their only fellow travelers among
the denominations and religions of the world. They come within a cat´s hair of
calling the Pope a communist. Somehow, globalism creeps into their disgust for
evolution, and they don´t fail to mention the Trilateral Commission.
Creationists aren´t looking for answers. They already know the answer, and
the facts must fit that answer. Science doesn´t know the answer. Science examines
the evidence and follows where it leads. If the evidence shows that God causes the
mutations, then the scientist says so. Contrary to creationist paranoia, scientists are
not a bunch of heathen atheists out to prove that God doesn´t exist. If you believe
that god exists, you believe it on faith and that´s religion, not science.
Some people believe that evangelist Ernest Angley can heal by bumping the
afflicted on the head and shouting, heal!’ The hypothesis that he can heal is a
scientific hypothesis. It can be tested. Simply take him a person with an arm that
has been cut off and ask him to put the arm back on.
Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart claimed that he healed his Studebaker many
years ago on the way to a tent meeting. He simply rubbed anointing oil
on the hood ornament and commanded the stalled car to heal, he said, and it ran
just fine. This hypothesis, too, could be tested.
In 1600, a Catholic priest named Gordano Bruno was burned at the stake by
the creationists of his day for saying that the earth wasn´t the center of the
universe. Galileo was more fortunate. Because of his popularity with the people, he
was merely threatened with torture and put under house arrest for the last eight
years of his life.
Galileo had the gall to trust what he observed more than what the creationist
leaders said he had to believe. Through his telescope he saw craters and mountains
on the moon and four satellites going around Jupiter. From his observations he
concluded that the earth went around the sun. Church leaders told him he couldn´t
have seen these things because the earth is the center of God´s creation. The earth
was the only place that could have moons. I am happy to report that the Pope
cleared Galileo less than 10 years ago.
Creationism is an all out attack on the scientific method. The motto of
science is question authority.’ The motto of creationists is we are the authority.’
The proven theory of evolution isn´t the only theory that would have to be
trashed under a new world order of creationism. The theory of relativity would
have to be burned with Darwin´s books. Relativity depends on the postulate that
the speed of light is the maximum speed throughout the universe. Many stars are
millions of light years away. If the universe is only 6,000 years old, as the
creationists claim, those stars can´t be more than 6,000 light years away. The Ice
Age could not have occurred 10,000 years ago because there was no earth then.
If religion is brought into the schools, which religion will it be? Which
creation story will be taught? To be fair, do we teach them all or just the Christian
version? I have read that there are Hindus who believe that the world was created
in a cosmic butter churn, and another religion believes that God created the world
out of ant dung, and another claims that the world sits on top of a giant turtle. And
what about Voodoo? Do reading chicken entrails get equal time? And of course
there are those pesky snake handlers.
Who would be the creationist commissar for educationJerry Falwell? The
Pope? I lean toward the Pope. He declared last year that evolution is no longer just
Can you imagine the power struggles that would go on between the
multitude of denominations and religions? The founding fathers saw this one
coming. Does God need all this coercion? Does God have to be defended against
science and evolution? Many compromises will have to be made to accommodate
every religion in the diverse country. Maybe the best compromise is to keep the
separation of church and state.
If creationism is made part of the curriculum, as creation science,’ let´s be
honest and call it divine revelation. Every test question could be answered with,
That´s the way God made it.’ We wouldn´t have to do all those experiments in
science class. But maybe God is revealed in the results of those experiments,
maybe not. How would you test that hypothesis?
The Lincoln Journal
It is important that students feel safe and secure at their schools. Students
need to feel that the teachers and administrators in charge of the schools are
capable of solving the problems they encounter without calling in uniformed police
with dogs. When the police and their dogs come into a school on a surprise raid,
every student in the school becomes a suspect and the teachers and administration
lose control over the school.
Principals have the right to search any locker in the school if they suspect
drugs are present. That´s enough police power in the schools. We don´t need
armed, uniformed strangers with mean dogs sniffing out every student in the
school to contain the drug problem.
Police and their dogs in the schools is an over reaction and would disrupt the
educational process beyond repair. The police might want to spend more of their
energy catching the vote-buying politicians who destroy democracy every election
day. It wouldn´t be surprising to find that these same corrupt politicians are also
involved in the drug tradethey destroy democracy, why not sell drugs.
I despair at the commercialism that causes ball parks and bowl games
to be named for whatever company puts up the money. Poor Watt Powell.* It´s
getting as bad as public radio and television having corporate sponsors’, some a
little short of criminal in their own operations and/or tearing the environment limb
In the spirit of incorporating everything once holy in America I offer
the following possibilities: Counties and towns in West Virginia could
seek corporate sponsors’ and endure such name changes as, Amazon.com
Cabell County, Toyota Putnam County, Arch Coal Logan County, and Wampler
Moorefield. Mudsuck and Big Ugly will have a hard time finding a
buyer. West Virginia could become The National Coal Association West
Virginia. This could catch on.
Actually the corporate naming is just a continuation of the tradition
of naming towns and counties after robber barons. In the old days
companies were often dominated by one aggressive and greedy capitalist.
Thus towns got named Davis, Elkins, Huntington and Itmann (for I. T.
Mann) and streets for Camden and Ruffner. Towns like Junior were
named for robber baron children. In the past we didn´t charge for the
However, we must be careful-- the legislature might try to continue the
tradition of giving the store away. In keeping with the super tax credits and the
decision to pay NASCAR for giving them free advertisement on license plates the
legislature will probably offer to pay the National Coal Association for the
privilege of connecting their name to West Virginia. After all West Virginia is
Coal’ you know.
West Virginia used to be mountains but that was before mountain top
removal strip-mining. The slogan will eventually slither down to West
Virginia used to be Coal’ or West Virginia Used to be Coal and
Mountains.’ The state seal could evolve showing the mountains
gradually disappearing with maybe a coal train heading out of state.
Coal industry euphemism Union Free’ would replace the hilarious
Mountani Semper Liberi as our state slogan.
A commentary on names and slogans could not possibly omit Senator
Robert C. Byrd. Once every road and college building is named for Byrd
we should also consider naming every possible street, school and
mountain removed of top after him just for the fun of watching people
from Ohio get confused. Byrd fills an important gap made vacant by A
James Manchin´s inability to hire people who could make money in a
booming stock market.
Heathen, communistic, atheistic Cuba, often referred to as Castro´s
Cuba, has a law against anything being named after a living person.
The bust of Arch Moore in the Cultural center and the streets and
institutions named for him point up the wisdom of the Cuban policy.
We can be sure politicians will not be convicted of any crimes after
they are dead. So we should wait. I feel cheapness oozing every time
I walk by the plaque honoring Gaston Caperton at Tamarack. The profile
of Caperton looks so very much like Byrd´s profile--watch out Gaston he
wants it all!
To become even more of a legend, Robert C. Byrd could insist that
everything named for him be changed to honor some real heroes. My
first nomination would be Tom Bennett. Tom was a conscientious
objector to war, served in Vietnam as a medic and died winning the
Congressional Medal of Honor.
Another nominee who comes to mind is noted historian Carter G.
Woodson. Woodson´s memory suffered the ignominy of being erased from
the grade school named for him in St. Albans when schools were
integrated. The newly integrated Weimer grade school was named for a
St. Albans lumber baron.
Parade Magazine, with Byrd´s serious countenance on the cover, would tell
of his unselfish act of honoring real West Virginia heroes.
Send your nominations to Senator Robert C. Byrd, United States
Senate, Washington, D.C. and don´t hold your breath.
*The name of an old baseball park named for a man who organized the first baseball teams in
the Kanawha Valley.
Board of Education Bottoms Out, Again
The Charleston Daily Mail, April 23, 1998
Just about the time I think the Lincoln County Board of Education has
bottomed out, it swims deeper. Now it is co-sponsoring an essay contest that offers
fifty-dollar savings bonds to students who write essays in favor of the proposed
regional transpark. Students who want to write an essay in opposition are out of
The constitutional guarantee of free speech and equal protection of the law
eludes the board of education and the co-sponsors, the Lincoln County
Commission and the Lincoln Economic Development Authority. These people are
shameless in their exploitation of school children to promote their political agenda.
They think they are still back in the USSR. I have often thought that the USSR was
just a bunch of Lincoln counties back-to-back.
Concerned citizens from Lincoln County and throughout the state are
pledging money to offer the same opportunity to students who want to write essays
in opposition to the airport. At this point we can offer fifty-dollar savings bonds to
the best thirteen essays. Awards will be given to the best grade school essays,
junior high school essays and high school essays.
We would prefer that the Lincoln County Board of Education see the error
of its ways and not exploit school children for its political agenda.
Unemployment Equals Inferior Schools
The Charleston Daily Mail, February 26, 2000.
It is out of the clear blue that you attribute the unemployment rate to
"inferior schools" in your February 25 editorial about Lincoln County Schools. If
the schools are inferior it is because of the high unemployment rate. "Superior"
schools seem to develop where wages and employment rates are high. I doubt
there is evidence showing areas of low employment that increased employment by
creating a superior school system. In fact it is rare for a quality school system to
develop in an area that has low wages and employment rates. Consistently low
income areas have poor schools. Generally children from low income families
score low on tests.
The community support that a school like George Washington High School
has is possible because the area it serves has a relatively high employment rate at
good wages. Parents at affluent schools have the money which gives them clout to
demand the best for their children. Where they can't get what is best from the
system they contribute time and money to their schools to make them "superior".
There is the charge to deal with that says, You are against Mountain top
removal strip-mining so how do you expect to get any good paying jobs in Lincoln
County." Coal mining of any type is done with fewer and fewer people each year.
Coal mining jobs have dropped over one hundred thousand since the 1960's, down
to less than sixteen thousand today. Not one per cent of those job losses were
because of environmental regulations. Large machines replaced those one hundred
thousand miners and will continue to replace them. Those large machines are
producing more coal than the one hundred thousand miners.
When it comes to the environmental effect of mining on its neighbors the
coal executives have already said, "No neighbors are the best neighbors.’ Witness
the extermination of Blair, West Virginia. By their actions they are also saying,
"No miners are the best miners." These coal companies will replace as many
people with machines as they possible can. The late Ned Chilton said that someday
the mines would be operated by a few people at computer stations. When profit is
the only motive there is little room for people.
Mining jobs are not going to be the answer no matter what becomes of
mountain top removal strip-mining. I don't pretend to know what the answer is but
I think it will require a major change in our economic system. If you notice the
unemployment rate never goes much below five per cent. When it does interest
rates are raised by the Federal Reserve Board to "slow the economy down", to
"keep the economy from overheating". These are code words for "too many
people have jobs."
Low unemployment means a higher demand for workers. Workers can get
higher wages when the demand is high and the supply is low. Workers would get
some of the money that stockholders were getting. If stockholders can't pressure
the Federal Reserve Board into raising interest rates they make their executives
raise prices. Inflation occurs because those stockholders don't want a cut in pay.
They either want the workers to take that cut or they want prices to go up.
We have an economic system that says a five percent unemployment rate is
necessary and acceptable. Between five to ten million people out of work is
acceptable. Forty million people with no health care is acceptable.
Your editorial is cynical about the people of Lincoln County. You see it all
in terms of efficiency and money the rest of the state pays to help this poor county.
You accuse the people of Lincoln County of not caring about their school system
because it isn't their money. You say that they refuse to put education ahead of
politics. The people of Lincoln County don't want their schools turned into large,
impersonal, crime filled semi-prisons. They want their children in a school close
to home. They want the schools close enough for their children to participate in
extra-curricular activities, close enough for the parents to participate in the life of
the school, close enough to avoid long bus rides. The people of Lincoln County
really care about their children and they want them close to home so they can feel
better about their safety and security. People everywhere have a right to expect
that their schools be on a humane scale.
Kanawha County Prosecutor, Bill Forbes, has given the green light to
the likes of bigots, racists and nazis to beat up just about anyone
they disagree with as long as the other feller is kind of out of sync
with the political and industrial powers. He decided, without informing
the victims, to drop charges against the mob that assaulted people
reenacting the United Mine Workers march on Blair Mountain.
About one year ago a mob drove from Logan County to Hernshaw in
Kanawha County and assaulted citizens including the Secretary of State
of West Virginia and a state administrative judge. They were doing
nothing more than carrying signs down the road in honor of the march
our grandfathers made on Blair Mountain.
When the state police arrived they would not let the marchers proceed
until they did what the mob demanded--take off all United Mine Worker
t-shirts. To continue the march, a retired coal miner and descendents
of the original marchers, some of them women, had to change clothes on
the side of the road.
The state police took no names, made no arrests, charged no one with
anything! Some twenty names of attackers were given to Forbes by the
victims. Forbes took only four names to the grand jury and only charged
them with misdemeanors instead of felony civil rights violations. Now he is
dropping even the misdemeanor charges.
Coal company executives have eliminated over ten thousand mining jobs in
the past decade. Miners have great reason to be angry with people
who have replaced them with machines. How do you suppose the state
police and Bill Forbes would have reacted if that mob attacked coal
company executives? My guess is they would have been on the mob
quicker than a chicken after a June bug. Nobody is going to get by with
beating up the president of Arch Coal. But they can get by with beating
up the Secretary of State of West Virginia.
There is a similarity between the justice of Bill Forbes and what I
received in Lincoln County twenty years ago. Lloyd Jackson, now a
state senator, was the very effective lawyer for a man who assaulted me
after a board of education meeting. The attacker was active in Lincoln
County politics and was treasurer of the Democratic Committee. Despite
eight eye-witnesses to the attack, Jackson was able to convince the
jury that I was hit, as he put it, For the glory of Lincoln County.’
The sister in law of the county democratic chairman was on the jury.
The man Jackson so enthusiastically defended is now in prison for
Now comes Senator Truman Chafin defending a group that includes two
elected officials of Logan County and a Logan County school bus driver. It is
ironic that the scabs who fought against the original march on
Blair Mountain were from Logan County and were led by another Chafin,
Don, the sheriff.
In my case and in this case it appears that if you have political
connections you may assault people. If Forbes gets his way it extends
that a mob may attack you if they don´t like your religion, race, or
political opinion. A mob took the law into their own hands that
infamous day in Hernshaw and Bill Forbes is trying to let them get by
with it. If the law offers anyone protection from violent mob action
then this case better go to trial, and on felony charges. Otherwise
everyone´s freedom of speech and public assembly are in danger.
When a mob is allowed to assault one group, neither individual nor group is
The march referred to here was on the anniversary of the1921 miners´ march on non-
union mines and the ensuing battle of Blair Mountain. The union mines were forced by the union
to pay their workers by the actual weight of the coal that they shoveled onto the coal buggies. A
union representative was present to make sure the scales were read correctly. In counties farther
south the non-union mines paid their workers by how many buggies they filled. The bosses made
sure the coal was heaped up as high as possible and even put wooden extensions called cribs on
the sides of the buggies to allow more coal to be piled in. Thus the coal from the non-union
mines was produced and sold at a cheaper rate than the union mines. The non-union mines´
cheaper coal had the potential of putting the union mines out of business.
Five to ten thousand miners gathered at Marmet in Kanawha County to march on the
non-union mines and equalize the cost of coal. My grandfather told me that, When they killed
Sid Hatfield that was the last straw.’ Sid Hatfield was the police chief of Matewan in Mingo
County who led miners in a gun battle that the coal companies have succeeded in labeling a
massacre. Baldwin-Felts detectives, who had been expelling striking miners from their company-
owned homes, were ambushed at the Matewan train station. The detective agency got even a
short time later when they murdered Sid Hatfield on the McDowell County court house steps.
It was at my grandparent´s dinner table that I first learned of Sid Hatfield, the miner´s
march and the Battle of Blair Mountain. My elementary and high school textbooks and teachers
never mentioned it.
Act of God or Satan?
The Charleston Daily Mail, January 12, 2000
Pittston Coal claimed the 1972 Buffalo Creek* murder of 125 people was an
act of God’. A.T. Massey Coal Company says the same thing about
the Martin County, Kentucky, sludge release’.** It seems that someone
in the coal industry would be embarrassed by their seemingly endless
supply of tacky euphemisms. This one is a work of ignorance. Release’
sounds intentional while spill would sound more like an accident.
No doubt God was with the coal company as it decided to build a
mammoth pond for sludge right above underground mines. God must have
been grateful for his helpmates who provided the right stuff in the
right spot. All that was left for God was to make sure the gravity
valve was wide open. How it must have pleased the creator to watch
this joint venture of coal and heaven shoot a jet of sludge out the
side of a mountain, knocking down trees on the other side of the
All manner of wild and domesticated life created with considerable
care by the Lord was snuffed out as the black sludge oozed out of the
banks of Kentucky and West Virginia streams and poured finally into the
Unlike Virginia Beach, we had no Pat Robertson prayer to deflect the
disasters onto some other state of a lesser god. Anyway, we have no
business praying against an act of God’.
Our previous god slew and tormented multitudes of enemies. Poor
choices of inferior and false gods will often bring such punishment. It
is almost as bad as being with the losing Democrat faction in a West
Virginia primary election.
Now comes the coal companies with a new god. Love for the new god is
announced on bumper stickers throughout the land. It is apparent that
the coal god is far superior to any other. The coal god has slain hundreds of
thousands. Counting the lesser organisms, billions have been killed by this new,
angry and powerful deity. But it is silly to this coal god to suppose that
hellbenders, snake doctors, and micro-organisms have any value. After all, people
are more important than these and if we must kill everything else for money, then
so be it. Anyway some of these creatures are slimy, ugly, and surely the work of
There were no doubt millions of deaths in the sludge spill, er, excuse
me, release.’ Of course the god of coal only recognizes human deaths, with
which it is so very familiar. Even a Gazette editorial claimed there were no deaths
in the sludge disaster.
Now let´s suppose that God didn´t kill those people at Buffalo Creek
and was not floating happily downstream in the black sludge on the Big
Sandy River. Who else could be responsible for these disasters? Not
the killers of Monongah, Farmington, Holden 22 and Cesco Estep. No, it
couldn´t have been the coal companies and if it wasn´t God then who
could it have been...could it have been... Satan?
*In 1972, huge coal sludge dams broke loose and killed 125 people on Buffalo Creek in Logan
County, West Virginia.**In Martin County, Kentucky another huge coal sludge pond broke into
old underground coal mines and shot out the side of the mountain dumping more sludge than the
oil dumped by the Exxon Valdez tanker. Some yards were covered with eight feet of sludge.
I Was Sucker Punched
The Lincoln Journal, March 15, 2000
Several years ago, I was sucker punched’ after a Lincoln County Board of
Education meeting. The man who threw the punch is now in prison for murder.
Back then he was a big cog in the Democratic Party machine in Lincoln County.
He was the director of transportation for the board of education. His brother-in-law
was the superintendent of schools. Among other things my wife and I had
complained at the board meeting that he got a two thousand dollar raise and
teachers got nothing.
After the assault, a board member called the State Police. My wife and I told
the State Policeman that we wanted to file a complaint against my attacker. When
we got to the Hamlin State Police Headquarters, he kept delaying us about the
filing of the complaint. We told him more than once we wanted to file a complaint.
He shuffled papers and said, In due time.’
Suddenly a pickup truck roared into the area in front of the door and two State
Policemen with what looked like assault rifles jumped out of the truck.
Let´s get out of here,’ I said to my wife and headed for the door. The State
Policeman we had been talking to ran from behind his desk grabbed me from
behind and threw me into a chair. He held me with one hand and doubled up his
fist in my already bloodied face. He turned to the policeman standing in the door
with the assault rifle and said, He won´t listen to anybody.’ Up to that point, we
had no confrontation with the policeman; we had discussed nothing that could lead
him to believe I wouldn´t listen. We had gone to the State Police headquarters of
our own free will to file a complaint of assault and battery.
Lucky for us, the two armed State Policemen needed help with a hostage-
taking situation in another part of the county. The police had to leave and, as you
can imagine, we got out of there, too. The policeman, who had just had his fist
double up in my face, called to us to, Come back tomorrow and file that
complaint.’ We looked at him in disbelief.
We talked to a lawyer in Hamlin about the situation. He told us the best thing we
could do for the people of Lincoln County would be to get some publicity on the
brutality of the State Police. Every time I have a teenage client, who has been
arrested by the State Police, either the teenager or an adult male relative has been
beaten by the police.’
An investigation was conducted into police brutality in Lincoln County. The
investigator was another State Policeman from northern West Virginia. The same
State Policeman who assaulted me at the Hamlin headquarters drove him to our
house. The cop, who had his fist in my face, sat in front of our house, with his
cruiser motor running, while we were being interviewed inside our house. At one
point, the investigating officer defended the actions of the State Policeman who
assaulted me. I literally became speechless. When I recovered, I told him that he
could depend on one thing. I would never call the State Police again. We were
wasting our breath with this guy. The State Policeman, who assaulted me, was not
punished as result of the impartial, in-house investigation.’
Except for certain politicians, local citizens have no control over the State Police.
Local citizens do have some control over the sheriff and his deputies. The sheriff is
elected and if he or she or the deputies get too rough on too many people the voters
can throw them out of office. Sometimes it just takes an informal complaint to the
sheriff to reign in an abusive deputy. There is no such threat controlling the State
Police. When they get out of line and someone protests, they investigate
The State Police officials are opposed to a civilian review board. If the
recent brutality by State Policemen in McDowell County had not been recorded in
a 911 call, there is little doubt, based on my experience, that the in-house
investigation would have whitewashed the whole thing.
The State Police are working for the people. The people should have some way to
control any abusive behavior. Everyone would benefit from a civilian review
board. A few renegades would not taint the good cops’. The renegades would
have to answer to the people not their fellow employees. It may be just human
nature for fellow policemen to want to take it easy on their comrades in arms.
Reviews of complaints should always be done by independent agencies. Very few
people trust an in-house investigation.
Foregone Conclusions as Science
The Charleston Daily Mail, June 21, 2000
I worked for West Virginia University long enough to find out that
institutions of higher learning are mired in the same political muck
that sucks at the feet of the rest of the state. Arch Coal has a board
member at Marshall University and Buck Harless* has them wrapped around his
little finger with his big pocketbook. Still, my idealism caused
me to hope for research at Marshall to be research and not something
commissioned from the coal industry with the result determined by the
This was actually said by Calvin Kent, Dean of Marshall University´s
Business College: The purpose of this study was to lay to rest some
myths.’ Now that is objective scholarship! Dean Kent already knew
what the outcome of his study would be. He already knew that it would
lay to rest some myths and by golly it did. What a surprise, he found
the answer he was told to find. The coal industry commissioned this
narrowly defined study. You might object that it was the legislature
that told Marshall to do the study. Do you really think the legislature acted as
anything more than a conduit to launder ideas for the coal industry?
Besides already knowing the answer, the so-called objective
researchers at Marshall were pitiful in constructing straw men that
could be blown over by less wind than we´ve had during some of these
high pressure inversions. Dr. Kent produced this academic gem: Those
myths include the idea that coal is no longer important to the West
Virginia economy.’ No one with a grip on reality ever said coal isn´t
important to the West Virginia economy. It is easy work for a great’
University to knock over myths, especially ones that don´t exist.
Can you imagine the outcry from the coal industry if Marshall
University produced a study’ that laid to rest the myth that the coal
industry has been good for West Virginia? Imagine Dr. Kent telling the
legislature that The purpose of this study was to lay to rest the
myth that removing the tops of the mountains and filling the valleys is
good for West Virginia’.
If I had the clout the coal industry money has, Marshall would do a
study, involving all the social sciences, that looks into the future
and asks the question, Will West Virginia be better off in one hundred
years if mountain top removal and valley fills are allowed to
continue?’ I suspect the study will show that my late friend Eddie
Gillenwater** was right when he said, "Prosperity isn't worth the price
you have to pay."
*Buck Harless is a timber and coal operator who has cut down trees in the
Appalachian Mountains and the Brazilian rain forest.
**Eddie Gillenwater´s story can be found elsewhere in these letters.
A Woman Runs for Governor on Third Party Ticket
The Charleston Gazette, October 16, 2000
Shudders follow the thought of another four years of the coal company
controlled Cecil Underwood as Governor. It is embarrassing and disgusting to
admit to friends in other states that all of the top officials of the department that is
supposed to protect the environment come from the coal industry. Underwood and
his advisors are so stupid or arrogant that they can´t figure out the trick; appoint
people who will do your bidding and who have no direct connection to the coal
industry. This is not a large pool of people but there are some who will sell their
soul to devil coal, bureaucratic advancement and a very good salary. The concept
you must be sly to get by’ is surely covered in public relations 101.
The Democrat alternatives to Republicans like Underwood usually
understand the concept of sly to get by.’ It appears that if Bob Wise is elected he
will appoint David Callaghan as head of the Department of Environmental
Protection. Callaghan presided over massive destruction of West Virginia
Mountains when he was protecting the environment under Democrat governors.
Callaghan is nothing if not sly. He knows how to play the game of brushing some
crumbs off the table for people concerned about the environment while letting our
mountains be decapitated and dumped in our valleys. There is an annual award
with his name on it given to coal companies which do good’ strip-mine
reclamation; one of the most oxymoronic phrases ever devised. It ranks with Bob
Wise´s responsible mountain top removal’. Callaghan is so good at the game, or
he was overcome by a dose of candor, that he said out loud on National Public
Radio that West Virginia would be better off if there were no coal here.
If Bob Wise loses, it will be because of Democrats like Bob Kiss and
Earl Ray Tomblin. Kiss, speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, refuses
to endorse Wise. Tomblin, West Virginia Senate President, did so very late in the
campaign. Kiss and Tomblin enjoy having a weak Governor who agrees with them
on most issues. Underwood is the Democratic Party machine´s governor.
Charlotte Pritt* was betrayed by that machine and Republican Underwood was
elected. As George Wallace might have said; there ain´t a dime´s worth of
difference between Kiss, Tomblin and Underwood. Why should Kiss and Tomblin
support a guy who will get in their way of being de facto co-governors and their
future ambitions for the real thing?
Notice the similarity between the two factions of the Rich People´s
Party. Republican Cecil Underwood brags that he has continued the policies of his
millionaire Democratic Party predecessor Gaston Caperton, while Democrat Bob
Wise says he agrees with Underwood on eighty-five per cent of the issues. Eighty
five percent agreement with Underwood is enough to qualify as a Republican.
According to PERC, People´s Election Reform Coalition, Coal industry
contributions support both Wise and Underwood campaigns...Not a dimes worth of
We are led to believe that there will never be a good’ time to vote
for a third party candidate. There will always be the excuse that the
Democrats are the best we have, no matter how much they suck up to the
coal companies. I am sick of the two parties led by men who seem to
believe in nothing except greed and power, and who hate our mountains.
I will vote for Denise Giardina and the Mountain Party.
*In 1996, Charlotte Pritt ran as a Democrat for governor and lost narrowly. She
was the first woman to be nominated for governor of West Virginia by either of the
two major political parties
Diatribe Against Denise Giardina
The Charleston Gazette
In Democratic Party co-chairmen, Pat Maroney and Steve White´s
strident, shrill, diatribe in the Gazette against Denise Giardina,
(especially vicious in that they were attacking a person who got only
2% of the vote against Bob Wise) they gave away their master´s voice
by using the coal company euphemism for mountain top removal. They of
course called it mountain top mining. That´s how you tell a commentator´s bias.
Those who want to save the mountains of West Virginia call it what it´s always
been called, mountain top removal.
When the word went out to change to a smoother sounding name those who
follow the coal company party line dutifully shifted to mountain top mining.
Governor Bob Wise calls it mountain top mining.
When politicians change even the way they speak it is the nadir of
sycophantic groveling and reveals the coal companies´ total control.
Next we may see the people´s representatives chasing hub caps down the
street. They join in the coal company propaganda efforts, warned of by
George Orwell. Instead of saying I love big brother’, they repeat, I
love coal’. Expect West Virginia´s new slogan to descend from Almost
Heaven’ to Coal is Big Brother’.*
Maroney and White claim that Bob Wise was endorsed by the
environmental community’. To refer to people who love the mountains,
the streams and clean air and water as if they are a separate community’ living in
some segregated part of town is an attempt to show us as a minority of the state´s
population. My estimate is that eighty per cent of our citizens are in the
To imply that environmental organizations endorsed Bob Wise is a lie. By
law, none of the non-profit West Virginia environmental organizations are allowed
to endorse candidates. Neither did they endorse Underwood. For individuals it was
indeed a choice of the least of two evils. Rewarding Art Kirkendoll, of the
infamous Hernshaw ambush, and his son with state jobs must have been Bob
Wise´s way of saying thank you to the so-called environmental community’. For
Wise to pretend that he
believes there was no violence at Hernshaw and that Kirkendoll was an
innocent observer, who traveled sixty miles just to watch people being
peacefully’ kicked and knocked down, was shabby indeed.
Bob Wise once was passionate in going after the coal companies and
other large land owners for not paying their fair share of taxes. It is
how he won his first election. That was when he might have cared for
the mountains. It was before he acquired the ability to look at clear
water leaving a strip-mine pond, and declare it as good as or better
than before. It was a miracle he performed, for contaminated water is
often clear and pure looking. It was also miraculous that he knew the
quality of the water before the strip-mine made it better’. Was he
abducted by aliens who planted a special chip in his brain that could
analyze water on sight and determine its previous quality?
Wise need not worry about making a living after governing. He can work as
a water analyst extraordinaire. He will need no lab, no expensive
equipment, just a casual glance and his x-ray vision will do the job. At last we have
superman for governor.
There was a revealing picture in the Gazette of Bob Wise dedicating
a statue of an underground coal miner with a flunky of the Coal
Association standing right behind the Governor. The flunky´s presence
reminds us who controls things. The statue of an underground miner
represents a job the coal association is rapidly eliminating. Perhaps
the statue should be in memory of the lost jobs, the uprooted families
and the ghost towns as underground miners are cast aside and replaced
by increasingly larger and numerous mountain top removing machines. To
the coal companies the statue represents a defeated foe. It was obscene to have the
coal association pretending they give a damn about coal miners, past or present. It
was like having the cavalry´s public relations hack present at Wounded Knee for
the dedication of a monument to murdered Sioux. Coal miners, more than anyone
else, are what the coal operators want fewer of.
In spite of the coal association´s obscene attempt at identifying with
deep miners, I will always view the statue as honoring men like my dad,
Pepper’ Martin. He lost an eye in the mines and told me of shoveling
coal, on his knees, in a foot of water.
Over the years the coal companies have done everything in their power to
persecute miners by fighting against black lung benefits, resisting
mine safety laws, waging war on union miners, killing union organizers,
hiring scabs, refusing to pay their fair share of taxes and yet their
boy was there, right behind Governor Bob Wise. Ah Bobby, say it ain´t
*Eventually Governor Manchin changed the slogan greeting visitors entering West Virginia to
Open For Business.’ An uproar caused him to back off and replace it with West Virginia,
Wild and Wonderful’ which was another public relations invention from several years back.
Most West Virginians have always thought of our state as The Mountain State.
Appoint School Board?
The Charleston Gazette April 15, 2000
For a long time I thought it was a good idea to have members of the
state board of education appointed by the Governor. It seems fair that
the positions are staggered so that no one governor could stack the
board. Appointed for long terms the board would be independent of
political pressure, I thought.
Then it occurred to me that all of the board members are political
appointees. Most often the appointees have very strong ties with partisan politics.
Just to name a few: Gary White, the right hand man of multi-millionaire and
Underwood contributor, Buck Harless; James MacCallum of Madison a political
ally of Lloyd Jackson; Cleo Mathews, chairwoman of the Democratic Party in
Raleigh County. The list goes on.
All of the appointees owe their appointments to political friends and
aren´t likely to disappoint them. Given West Virginia politics it is a real possibility
that the appointees are conservative and pro big business. Under the present system
there is little chance that a populist would be appointed to the board. There is no
chance that anyone strongly opposed to forced consolidation of schools would ever
meet the standard for political appointment. Since most people in West Virginia
are opposed to forced consolidation of schools it would be easy to elect members
of that persuasion to the board.
If the board members are elected we might get a few people who are
independent of machine politics. It is hard to get elected in West
Virginia without machine support but at least there is the possibility.
There is no possibility that an appointed board member will be free of
the stamp of approval of some part of the political machines.
Howard O´Cull, in his Gazette article of April 3, expresses concern
that the rabble will take over if the board members are elected. O´Cull figures that
candidates would be sponsored by big-business, labor, religious fundamentalists,
left wing groups, right wing groups, anarchists or
whomever.’ Sounds like just about all the people in West Virginia,
except for bureaucrats, are represented in this list. Is there a fear of the chaos of
democracy here, a fear of the people taking over the government? I don´t want the
anti-evolution fundamentalists taking over the board but they have every right to
try for representation.
It would be better to have the people´s voice on the board than have
everybody appointed with the approval of Buck Harless, Lloyd Jackson
and the other republicrats. It sounds like O´Cull would have the
aristocracy run things, perhaps technocrats of the bureaucracy. Now
there are only two sponsors’ of board members; the Democratic Party bosses and
the Republican Party bosses.
O´Cull again: Appointed boards could make unpopular but
necessary educational policy....Such as closing schools...’ Who decides that these
unpopular’ decisions are necessary? Obviously the people don´t
decide or the decisions wouldn´t be unpopular to start with. These
unpopular decisions are made possible by a legislature so in bed with
big business that they give them over one hundred million dollars a
year in tax breaks rather than use that money for community schools.
O´Cull falls for the same line the big business backed politicians in
the state spout. Their line is that we don´t have enough money to keep
small schools open. But we do have enough money to give over one
hundred million a year in tax breaks to lure big businesses when many
would have located here anyway. The tax breaks were meant to create
jobs. Since getting super tax credits the coal companies have reduced
employment by over 10,000 jobs. Small, local businesses reduce
employment in Wal-Mart´s wake. Wal-Mart gets tax breaks and the locally owned
Charleston Department Store has to compete with them and pay part of Wal-Mart´s
taxes. The tax breaks reduce jobs and we have poor
The people of West Virginia are opposed to forced consolidations as is
witnessed by O´Cull´s, Can you imagine an elected state board dealing
with school closures...’ West Virginia parents don´t want their
children to be bused long distances to large, cookie cutter designed, cold-hearted
consolidated schools, where parent involvement is diluted, and student
participation in after school activities is often ruled out for those without
transportation. Closing schools is only "prudent", to use O'Cull's
word, because we have given the store away to big business in the form
of tax breaks.
Why does O´Cull find it bad for someone to get elected who clings,
...to an extremely popular single issue’? Is that worse than clinging
to the extremely unpopular single issue of forced consolidations? What
is wrong with someone representing, ...an extremely popular issue...’?
Seems like that is who we want on the board, people who represent
extremely popular issues!
O´Cull admonishes, ...the board must become more inclusive.’ A few
paragraphs before he advocated excluding just about everybody. No
doubt he meant inclusion of the elite, certainly not the people. The
way to have inclusion is through elections and let the chips fall where
Democracy and elections are messy but at least there is a chance for
the people. With appointed board members we get the same old, same
old--a dishonest state superintendent and secret meetings. It appears
that everything in the process is designed to keep the people off the
board and in the dark.
During a state board meeting a couple of years ago citizens of Lincoln
County were present in large numbers to protest forced consolidation.
Superintendent Hank Marockie* spotted Senator Lloyd Jackson II in the
crowd and unctuously invited him to sit with the board members.
Jackson was the only one there who spoke in favor of forced
Contrary to the headline that accompanied O'Cull's article the state
board of education could not be any more political than it is now. It is Alexander
Hamilton´s elite versus Thomas Jefferson´s trust in the people.
*Hank Marockie was the West Virginia Superintendent of Schools. He responded to my
testimony by saying I had no credibility. Dan Radmacher, editorial page editor of the
Charleston Gazette and the winner of the 2001 National Education Writers Award for Opinion,
wrote of Marockie´s credibility in the spring 2002 issue of The Masthead:
This man's rise and fall were both marked by smug arrogance’ He believed he was
entitled to all the perks of a CEO, too: country club memberships, company cars, inflated
salary’ . [and] $300 dinners with his wife, a bureaucrat in the school system’.... He
charged mileage for hundreds of luncheon trips from the Capitol to restaurants a couple of
miles away .and for driving home to his wife in Wheeling. Sometimes, he charged mileage
when he was driving a state car’ [The state was charged for,] Christmas candy for his
secretaries; first-class upgrades on flights and flowers for the funeral of an employee's
relative.’ . The facts were clear enough -- though we never did get all the details of how
Marockie spent nearly $100,000 of money from the nonprofit Education Alliance.
They Have Lost Their Minds
The Charleston Gazette, August 28, 2000
Environmental Quality Board (EQB), sounds like a group that would be
partial to the environment. The quality part is in the eye of the beholder; after all, it
doesn´t say what kind of quality, good or bad.
The EQB held a hearing the other evening on rules they had drawn up
concerning keeping West Virginia rivers as clean as possible. It is called an anti-
degradation policy. That seems clear; don´t degrade the streams. So it sounds like
quality in the board´s name must mean good quality.
Twenty-five years ago the State was told by the Environmental Protection
Agency to formulate a policy to prevent degradation of the streams. With the aid of
a threatened lawsuit from the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the EQB reluctantly
decided they might as well go ahead and do something. One board member was
even quoted as saying that they were only doing this to avoid the lawsuit. They do
a version of their job when they are forced to. Sounds a lot like leaning on shovels
at a state road repair job.
I arrived at the board meeting room very early so that I would get to speak
early. You know, the old first come first served idea. Two friends signed in ahead
of me. It appeared from the list that it might not be first come first served. There
were eighteen names ahead of us but only six or so people in the room, certainly
not 18. Maybe they went next door for a beer.
Every since the Gulf of Tonkin, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the removing of
mountaintops and dealing with the Lincoln County board of education for twenty-
two years, I assume hanky-panky. Numbers five through 16 were in the same
handwriting. I thought, well, this is unfair but since the signatures are numbered, at
least I will be the 21st speaker. When they called number 21 to speak I was going to
ask them how twelve people above me could duplicate one another´s handwriting
so well. Did they have the same grade school teacher?
Five of the signed-in speakers ahead of me were on the list twice. They
signed in when they actually arrived. It appeared someone else signed in for them
earlier. This is not good coordination, not a well-planned conspiracy. Maybe they
signed in early, went down the street for that beer and under the influence forgot
that they had already signed in and did it again when they came back. But how
could they write just like all those other people? Doubt reared its ugly head. I was
having the unpatriotic thought that someone was a crook.
I didn´t count the speakers but it started to become evident that a whole
bunch of speakers representing Carbide, Dupont, Rhone-Poulenc, Walker
Machinery and others who signed in after I did were speaking before me. Finally I
went to the table where the board was seated and asked why my name hadn´t been
called. I looked at the sign-in sheet they were working from and they were clear
down in the 60s. I pointed to my name back at 21 and they told me I would get to
I went back to my seat and waited and waited. Exasperated, I stood up and
told my story out loud to the whole damn room. I was assured that I would get to
speak real soon. I asked why they were not going by the numbered sign-in sheet.
They told me that I would get to speak very soon. I asked again why they didn´t go
by the sign-in sheet. They answered that I would get to speak real soon.
I asked again and finally they answered my question. One of the board
members said it was because the list had too many industry speakers at the
beginning and they were trying to mix in speakers from both sides. They were
doing just the opposite. They had lost their minds.
I wondered later and wished I had said, Why did you put numbers on the
sign-in list if you are going to ignore the order in which the speakers signed up?
And how did you know the industry speakers so well? There was no place on the
list to identify industry representatives.’
The industry speakers all pretty much said the same thing, so one could have
spoken for all and shortened my wait somewhat. Their general line was: We will
do business with whichever state will let us dump the most pollution in the water.’
Speaker after speaker threatened to take their plants to Ohio where they claimed
the regulations were weaker. I told the board that it was a good thing we didn´t
border on Mexico.
Since the industry speakers got to jump the line, it was their testimony that
dominated the story in the Gazette the next morning. The reporter had a deadline
and couldn´t stay all night waiting for the rest of us to speak. You reckon that´s
why they let all those industry people go first?
Be Not Like the Hypocrites
The Charleston Gazette, November 2, 2000
Some advice from Jesus for those who want prayer in classrooms, at high
school football games and other public events: And when you pray, you must not
be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the
street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you they have their
reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your
father who is in secret; and your father who sees in secret will reward you.’
Agents of God
The Charleston Daily Mail, January 6, 2001
If the 1972 Buffalo Creek* murder of 125 people and the Martin County
sludge release’ (another coal company euphemism) were acts of God, then the
coal companies must be agents of God, providing the stuff for God to act on. In
Martin County* the prayers of Pat Robertson* would have deflected the sludge
The Old Testament God slew thousands and brought epidemics of boils and
bugs on the enemies of God´s chosen people. The slain worshipped an inferior god.
Now come a new chosen people of God, agents of Godcoal companies.
Their God is coal, as testified to by the stickers on bumpers that announce their
love for the God.
The God of the people in the path of destruction wrought by the Coal God
was the God of mountains, of nature, of all creation. It is apparent that the Coal
God is far superior to the Mountain God. The later has slain no one. The Coal God
has slain hundreds of thousands.
In the Martin County disaster, they claim to have caused no deaths. There
were no doubt millions of deaths in that spill, er, excuse me, release.’ Of course
the Coal God recognizes only human deaths, with which it is amply familiar.
Now let´s suppose that God didn´t act at Buffalo Creek and was not
swimming happily downstream in the black sludge and the Big Sandy River. Who
else could be responsible for those two disastersnot the killers of Monongah,
Farmington, Holden 22 and Cesco Estep.*
No it couldn´t have been the coal companies, and if it wasn´t God, then who
could it have been? Could it have been Satan?
Coal River Valley
The Charleston Gazette, February 28, 2001
I rode through the Big Coal River Valley the other day, the valley of my
birth, where I learned to swim, where my dad, grandpa, uncles, brother-in-law and
son worked in the underground coal mines.
Random memories floated through my mind of the one room school, taking
cows up the hollow, the barn full of wonders, tossing Frisbees’ of flat, dry disc-
shaped cow piles, watering the horses at the river ford, sleigh riding in the snow
and the earnest prayers in the little church across the river.
But no matter how many times I pass through that valley, I am stunned out
of my reverie by the dreary, desolate abandonment that envelops it, as does the
black coal dust.
Before the robber barons, before the virgin forests were cut, before coal
mines, Coal River Valley must have been gorgeous. It would be interesting to
know what the Indians thought of it and what they named it.
If you want to see the local benefits of the coal industry take a drive on
Route 3 up Big Coal River. The roads, dirt, mud and trees along the edges are
black with coal dust, every other mountain has been gouged and altered. Huge
piles of spoil’ and overburden’ have been pushed into the hollows and tower
menacingly. Those valley fills look like huge, black glaciers getting ready to ooze
out into the roadway.
Stop at the Coal River Mountain Watch office in Whitesville and look at the
maps that show mountaintop removal mines under consideration. The blast zones
overlap at Marsh Fork High School. Drive on up the road and see for yourself the
gigantic sludge dam hovering over a grade school, which is also within the blast
zones of the two newly proposed mines. It might forewarn of a tragedy like the one
in Wales when a mountain of coal refuse broke loose and covered a grade school,
crushing and smothering all the children inside. There is a sludge dam expansion
that will be nearly as high as the New River Gorge Bridge and it hovers over
Marsh Fork Elementary School.
Whitesville was once a thriving community with an active, exciting
downtown, where thousands of miners came and spent their money. Many of the
storefronts are now abandoned. Whitesville is a dilapidated, decayed, dirty
skeleton of its past. There are at least eleven coal mines in the area, and they have
produced the very opposite of prosperity.
The view along the road between Whitesville and Marsh Fork looks as bad
as anything I saw in the so-called Third World in the early ‘60s. The rural areas of
Nigeria actually looked much better. In Nigeria, people lived off farming of the
land and there was little environmental damage. They worked hard to bring enough
to eat out of poor, sandy soil. But their environment was intact and there was a
joyful celebration of life. There was nothing in that rural area of Nigeria as bleak,
joyless and depressing as the Whitesville and Marsh Fork environs.
I feel certain that the people who run the coal industry will not hesitate to
take the top off very coal-bearing mountain in West Virginia. As the demand and
price for coal goes up there will be excuse to mine the high-sulfur seams in
northern West Virginia, those mountaintops might well be leveled. And if you
think that some places will be too pristine to be stripped, too beautiful, too much in
public view, take a look at the strip mine and the quarry at Snowshoe, the quarry in
Germany Valley and stand on a ridge above Webster Springs and look out at the
beautiful ridges and see that one in the middle distance has been stripped.
Alarmist!’ you may accuse. But if someone had said fifty years ago that the
mountain tops of West Virginia would be removed, they too would have been
called alarmist. How could the tops of the mountains be removed in the Mountain
State? This is severe, extreme environmentalism.
For the most part it is out-of-state extreme environmentalists who are
destroying our mountains. Arch Coal got its name from the arch near their
headquarters in St. Louis. Massey has headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. The
Addington brothers are from Kentucky.
Coal River Valley suffered a greater defeat than Jay Rockefeller when he
lost in his first bid for governor. Rockefeller got his political start at my birthplace
of Emmons on Big Coal River. He was then in favor of the abolition of strip
mining. I believed him and put his bumper sticker on my truck.
How I wish he had spent enough money to get elected that time. How I wish
the money he sent to Democratic bosses in Southern West Virginia had not ended
up being used to support Arch Moore. Rockefeller said in December 1970, I will
fight for the abolition of strip mining completely and forever.’ He must have been
kidding, for just seven years later, as governor, Rockefeller testified to a U.S.
Senate subcommittee considering the new strip mine law that, mountaintop
removal should certainly be encouraged, if not specifically dictated.’
If you have the stomach for the devastation, drive to the Stanley Family
graveyard on Kayford Mountain just above Whitesville. There you can look down
at what remains of mountains that used to cast shadows on the cemetery; see the
earth turned upside down, a treeless wasteland, forever useless; see the future for
the Mountain State if this beast isn´t stopped.
Almost Heaven West Virginia has become, in the Coal River Valley and
other little valleys and hollows, an Almost Hell, West Virginia.
You Often Get What You Pay For
The Charleston Daily Mail, March 3, 2001
To paraphrase Fiddler on the Roof,’ I don´t want a big fortune, just a
living. Since teaching was my profession for twenty-one years, it was good that I
wasn´t very materialistic. When your kids are eligible for reduced-price lunches,
you are very near the poverty level.
I am not complaining for myself. I was happy being poor. It´s that hippy
gene. Our old house was cold. In the record-setting winter of ´94, the water in the
pipes under the house froze, expanded and thawed. There is an amazing pressure
caused by the V-shaped water molecules when they slow down and realign. It can
even burst brass fittings and iron pipe.
Our plastic pipes were no match for the bipolar water molecules. It was three
weeks before the temperature got above freezing and I could get under there and
re-invent the plumbing.
We could not afford anything near a new car. We thumped around in old
clunkers. Again, the hippie gene served me well. We got where we needed to go
and didn´t quite freeze to death in the house. We were happy and I loved teaching.
Parents hope their kids will have an opportunity to materially improve or at
least not be worse off than their progenitors. Most people who spend the money
and time to go to college want to provide the same possibility for their children.
Teaching is a sure way to make certain that doesn´t happen.
If you reproduce to the tune of two or three kids and your teacher´s salary is
the only one in the house, you are probably going to live in a rundown home, drive
a clunker, and watch your offspring go straight from reduced-price lunches at
school to serving hamburgers for minimum wage and no benefitsall this while
some former students start out at salaries sometimes twice or more what a teacher
with 20 years experience draws.
Anybody with a family and only one income will avoid the teaching
profession. They will find a job that pays more than teaching where they will not
have to put up with those bizarre administrators. To understand bizarre, start at the
top with a Hank Marockie* and imagine what it is like in the trenches. Where do
they get those people?
* This is a partial repeat of the note following a previous article:
Hank Marockie was the West Virginia Superintendent of Schools. Dan Radmacher,
editorial page editor of The Charleston Gazette wrote of Marockie in the spring 2002 issue of
This man's rise and fall were both marked by smug arrogance’ He believed he was
entitled to all the perks of a CEO, too: country club memberships, company cars, inflated
salary’ . $300 dinners with his wife, a bureaucrat in the school system’.... He charged
mileage for hundreds of luncheon trips from the Capitol to restaurants a couple of miles
away .and for driving home to his wife in Wheeling. Sometimes, he charged mileage when he
was driving a state car’ The state was charged for, Christmas candy for his secretaries; first-
class upgrades on flights and flowers for the funeral of an employee's relative.’ . The facts
were clear enough--though we never did get all the details of how Marockie spent nearly
$100,000 of money from the nonprofit Education Alliance.
A Pay Cut
The Charleston Gazette
When state government tells teachers that health care premiums are going up
and coverage is going down, it announces a pay cut. Does anyone think this will
attract ambitious, hardworking, dedicated teachers?
It gets worse when a teacher retires. Through the magic of inflation and the
legislature refusing to pass a cost of living increase, retirement benefits rapidly
approach worthless. Now legislators want to take away the option of trading
unused sick days for health care premiums. Taking away benefits is not going to
keep or attract good employees.
Teachers notice that the people at the top of the roost in West Virginia
government get salary increases on a regular basis. Sometimes the increases are
more than a teacher´s yearly pay. Some legislators make more in a sixty-day
session than this retired teacher makes in a year.
Headlines warn that we cannot compete for top talent unless the highest paid
people get more money. The same warning holds true for teachers.
If the Legislature wants to attract dedicated, qualified people who just want
to make a living, not a fortune, they had better start increasing, instead of
decreasing, pay and benefits.
We often get what we pay for.
Decapitation is Better
Charleston Daily Mail, July 16, 2001
It was disappointing to read the coal company propaganda puff piece about
mountaintop removal in the July 4, Daily Mail.
Has the Daily Mail shamelessly hired itself out as a public relations
consultant to Arch Coal? It was shocking to see such outrageous claims on the
front page as: When we´re done with the land, it´s going to be as productive or
more productive than it was originally.’
The picture on the front page of the productive land’ left after mountaintop
massacre showed nary an oak, hickory or any other hardwood tree. Hardwood
forests have never grown on such barren land.
It is an insult to the entire Mountain State to be destroying the tops of the
mountains. Only an employee or owner of a coal company would say the
mountains are going to be better after being decapitated.
Over 1000 miles of streams already have been covered with hundreds of feet
of rubble. Close to 400,000 acres of mountaintops have been decapitatedover
three times as much land as is in our state parks.
Every year, forever, we are losing 80 million board feet of hardwood timber
that would have been the new growth on the 400,000 acres, that been rendered
useless by mountaintop removal. Every year, forever, we are losing the jobs that
would have been employed to cut and process that timber.
The incredible claim that after mountaintop removal, the beheaded mountain
would be much more diverse’ is not even close to reality. Second only to the
tropical rainforest, the mountains of West Virginia support the most diverse plant
and animal wildlife habitat of any forest in the world.
This coal company from St. Louis is telling us that by destroying the
hardwood forest, removing the mountaintops and dumping millions of tons of ugly
mine waste in the streams, they are going to make an environment more diverse
than it was before.
Out of over 400,000 acres already destroyed. It is generous to say that
10,000 have been use for schools, jails, airports, shopping centers and whatever
else qualifies for development.’
It is not likely that we are ever going to find a use for 390,000 acres of
flattened mountains that won´t even grow hardwood trees.
Here is what U.S. District Judge Charles Haden wrote: If the forest
canopy is leveled, exposing the stream to extreme temperatures, and aquatic life
is destroyed, these harms cannot be undone If the forest wildlife are driven away
by the blasting, the noise, and the lack of safe nesting and eating areas, they cannot
be coaxed back If the mountaintop is removed, even Hobet's engineers will
affirm that it cannot be reclaimed to its exact original contour.
Destruction of the unique topography of southern West Virginia cannot
be regarded as anything but permanent and irreversible.
Here is what Bill Maxey, director of the West Virginia Division of Forestry
from 1993 until 1998, says about mountaintop removal:
I think mountaintop removal is analogous to serious disease, like AIDS .
It will take 150 to 200 years before trees would become re-established following
such a drastic mining practice . All native plant and animals are practically
eliminated . I resigned as a matter of principle, for I did not want to share in the
blame of guilt for the loss of West Virginia´s heritage through the loss of our
Mountaintop removal is a form of biological warfare, destroying the natural
habitat of thousands of species. Fly over southern West Virginia. It looks like it has
been carpet-bombed by B-52s.
Mountaintop removal is the worst environmental and economic disaster in
As for the mountains being more diverse’ and more productive’ after
mountaintop removal, ask the people of Booger Hollow in Raleigh County. A
week ago, they watched this diversity’ and productivity’ wash their homes
What Would Jesus Do?
The Charleston Daily Mail, November 12, 2001
Thousands of innocent people of all ages, races and faiths were
murdered on September 11. Their families and everyone else in America
are saddened, shocked and horrified by what happened. The killers
should be caught and brought to justice for their crimes.
However the other people who are suffering for this attack are
also innocent. September 11 was planned and carried out mainly by citizens
of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. None of the hijackers were citizens of
The Taliban soldiers who are dying by the thousands are probably
like any army; composed of patriotic, idealistic, young men between the ages of
eighteen and twenty-five who are doing what their government has
ordered them to do. They have been brainwashed to believe in the motto,
My country, right or wrong.’ They believe that God is on their side.
Bombs of enormous killing power are being dropped on them by young men
who believe in the motto, My country, right or wrong’ and who believe
that God is on their side. They both claim to worship the same God, the
God of Abraham and Isaac. Since there can be no winner in this ghastly slaughter
and counter-slaughter we will never know which side God is really on.
Jesus sent these messages: Do not kill; Love your enemies; Turn the
other cheek; Forgive seventy times seven; Do good to those who persecute you;
Blessed are the peacemakers.
What would Jesus do?
The Charleston Daily Mail, December 26, 2001
The assaults on Katie Sierra* at Sissonville High School bring to mind the
infamous Hernshaw ambush*.The assault at Hernshaw was by people who seem to
have no idea what freedom of speech and freedom of assembly mean to this
country. As if to encourage violence, Governor Bob Wise honored one of the
leaders with a political job that never existed before. Perhaps to make certain
everyone got the idea; Wise also gave the leader´s son a state job.
I was pleased to learn that Forrest Mann, principal at Sissonville, called the
students to two assemblies to tell them not to assault other students. Following
Wise´s example I was afraid Mann might give them jobs, perhaps as thought police
in the halls.
The principal overreacted to a situation that would have faded away for lack
of student interest if he had figured out a way to allow Katie Sierra to express her
views, to lay claim to her constitutional rights. Surely he could deal with one
His students imitated him, and they have followed the lead of board
members who said she was un-American and should live somewhere else. The
principal and board members sent a clear signal for violence to students at
Sissonville High School.
A man from Mississippi once explained to me what happened in the schools
of that state during 1964, when three young idealistic believers in civil rights were
beaten to death, castrated and buried under a dam. He told me the thoughtful
students at his school let the haters take over, and before they knew it, the hallways
of the school were controlled by Klan types.
Similar things happened in Germany. Good people backed off and the Nazis
moved in. During World War II, Jehovah´s Witnesses were tarred and feathered in
Richwood because they would not salute the flag. In the ‘60s, longhaired males
were heckled and attacked as they walked across the West Virginia University
campus. Vietnam War protesters were beaten in Hamlin.
Recently, at the Greyhound Bus station, a surgeon was thrown to the ground
and handcuffedhe thought for being of dark skin. People have been kidnapped
and beaten to death for their sexual orientation.
Katie Sierra has been run out of the school. Is it now open season on any
student who is different from the majority and has the courage to say so?
How about some law and order and protection of minority rights? Can´t the
principal and the board of education control a few hoodlums at Sissonville High
School and make it a school safe for diversity and freedom of speech?
* Katie Sierra was a tenth grader at Sissonville High School in West Virginia. She asked the
school principal if she could start an anarchy club, so that like-minded or curious students could
gather, have reading and discussion groups and do community service. Her request was denied.
She wore home-made t-shirts to school that featured the "anarchy" circle-a symbol, and anti-war
messages such as "When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly
recovered sense of national security. God Bless America." Another shirt read "I pledge the
grievance to the flag Of the United State of America and to the Republicans whom I can't stand,
one nation under smog, indespicable with liberty and justice for some, not all." The school's
principal suspended Katie for three days and forbid her to wear the shirts. Katie attended a
Kanawha County Board of Education meeting and got a negative response from some board
members; "This isn't something funny or cute," said one member. "You're talking about
overthrowing the government!" Another yelled that Katie is a traitor, and suggested that what
she is doing is "like you stood up and waved a Japanese flag on Pearl Harbor day." The
president of the school board added, "What the hell is wrong with a kid like that?" Katie left in
tears. Following her suspension, she filed a suit against the school district and the principal,
maintaining it was her First Amendment right to wear what she wanted, express her political
views and start the club. A jury ruled against her.
Coal Ads Invading WV Public Radio
The Charleston Gazette, April 8, 2002
Support for Weekend Edition is provided by Arch Coal Incorporated,
reclaiming the land for community projects such as the Twisted Gun Golf Course
opening soon in Mingo County.’
That´s a coal industry editorial disguised as a commercial on West Virginia
Public Radio. This editorial-commercial makes it sound as if Arch Coal is fixing
something that someone else destroyed, when in fact Arch is just cleaning up a
very small portion of West Virginia that it is tearing up.
No mention is made of the fact that Arch and other coal companies have,
just since 1987, destroyed over 300,000 acres of West Virginia mountains. An
attempt is being made, in cooperation with West Virginia Public Radio, to create
the illusion that a golf course on a destroyed mountaintop is better for a community
than the original mountain and trees and streams.
And guess just what fraction of the neighbors of the community project’
will ever play golf there. Like Public Radio editorial-commercials, the golfing will
not be free; there will be a price.
At the rate ruined mountaintops are being developed,’ it would take more
than 3,000 years to finish the job, and that´s if not another mountaintop is blasted
Imagine the size of the job of developing’ mountaintop removal mine sites.
The 500 square miles already destroyed equal a mile-wide bulldozed swath
running all the way from Charleston to Manhattan, plowing through the entire
island and going on into Connecticut, or from here to Myrtle Beach and on down
The degree of truth in the Arch Coal editorial-commercial compares with
one that might read: Brought to you by your good friends in the tobacco industry,
promoting healthy communities throughout West Virginia.’ I dare Public Radio to
run that one.
I like Public Radio. It is wonderful to listen to programs that are not yet
constantly interrupted by loud corporate propaganda. Conservative politicians have
reduced Public Radio funding. For Public Radio to survive, we are asked to endure
coal company fabrications and witness the humiliation of the professional
employees of West Virginia Public Radio who must read the coal company
propaganda or lose their jobs.
In a way, these editorial-commercials are a good sign. They show that the
coal companies, the ultimate eco-terrorists and environmental extremists, realize
that the public expects them to clean up their mess.
However, if with one hand, they can dazzle us that they are in the benign
business of reclaiming land for community projects, they can continue to strangle
the mountains and streams with the other hand.
Would a $25 contribution to Public Radio give a person access to the
airwaves to counter the coal company creativity with the truth? Perhaps it is like
access to politiciansthe more you pay, the more you say.
There Are No Ads on Public Broadcasting
The Charleston Daily Mail
The chairman of the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority
wrote in a recent Daily Mail commentary that ...there are no ‘ads´ on Public
Broadcasting.’ Considering the obvious presence of commercials
on Public Broadcasting, was this disingenuous double talk or just old
Public Broadcasting is by far the best, most informative,
comprehensive and balanced source of news and information that is
available. At one time it was commercial free. Sadly, starting with
Ronald Reagan, the Republicans and conservative allies tried to either
destroy Public Broadcasting or, failing that, take it over. Government
funding cuts forced Public Broadcasting to find money somewhere else or
go out of business. Because contributions from individual citizens have
not been enough to keep Public Broadcasting going they have turned to
corporations for money.
The corporate invasion of Public Broadcasting has been gradual. At
first it was just an announcement that a particular program was brought
to you by a certain corporation. Then Public Television started using
colorful corporate logos. And now we have rather extensive commercials
on both Public Television and Radio which are really editorials of
self-praise. Oil company commercials on Public Television bragged over
and over that they were cleaning up the environment (a mess they made
themselves). As a result wags were inspired to call PBS the Petroleum
An example of an ‘ad´ on West Virginia Public Radio goes like this:
"Support for Weekend Edition is provided by Arch Coal Incorporated,
reclaiming the land for community projects such as the Twisted Gun Golf
Course opening soon in Mingo County." Arch Coal is being portrayed as
a harmless company making land better and more useful, trying to help
people build communities. There is nary a word about Arch Coal´s role
in the coal industry destruction of over 300,000 acres of West Virginia
mountains and hardwood forests by mountain top removal strip mining and
the burying of one thousand miles of streams with mountain top removal
waste and the killing of hundreds of species of wildlife and the
destruction of homes and communities. For a more typical Arch Coal
community project check out what is left of the community of Blair.
Public Broadcasting please be careful what you sell, it may be your
soul. Too many of us depend on you to let that happen.
The Charleston Gazette, November 9, 2002
There is a certain accuracy and a bunch of irony in the four panels on the
base of the West Virginia Coal Association's sculpture being built
on the Capitol grounds. Burl Jones, the sculptor, wrote in the Gazette
that the sculpture "...is a monument to the history and traditions of
West Virginia coal mining." He is correct.
Three of the panels show the machines that have made the coal miner on top
almost extinct. One shows the sinister dragline used on mountaintop
removal strip-mines. This dragline has played a major role in making the
miner that will stand on top of the base an endangered species. The
dragline picture is realistic. It shows the ugly destruction of our beautiful
mountains. There is nary a tree in sight.
The irony runs deep. For the West Virginia Coal Association to sponsor a
statue dedicated to miners is award-winning cynicism. The Coal
Association has a history of resisting mightily any wage increases,
health and retirement benefits, workers compensation, safety and
environmental regulations and taxes that would benefit coal miners,
their families, their neighbors and the people of West Virginia.
Since the beginning of coal mining in West Virginia, the members of the
West Virginia Coal Association and their predecessors have been getting
rid of coal miners as fast as they possibly can. Over 100,000 miners
have been killed and more than 100,000 coal mining jobs have been
eliminated in West Virginia.
When my dad was a miner, there were 125,000 coal miners in West
Virginia. Now there are less than 17,000. I suspect the Coal Association
would secretly prefer that there be no miner standing on top of that
statue; maybe a bull dozer, a dragline or a long wall mining machine. They
A monument in memory of the coal miners killed and maimed would be
more fitting than this monument to machines. Plans for the Coal Association statue
make no mention of the 78 miners who died in Consol No. 9 at Farmington in 1968
or to the at-least 551 who were killed at Monogah in 1907.
There will be no tribute to miners, like my dad, who lost an eye, or
like my father-in-law, who came down with black lung and had to fight
like hell to get any benefits. Miners whose legs and backs were crushed
in roof falls, who can't stand up straight or walk, or who must wheel
around a bottle of oxygen because of black lung disease are left out.
The Coal Association statue is a monument to their success in replacing
miners with machines.
More Like China
The Charleston Gazette, January 21. 2003
It is sad to see Don Nehlen, the ultimate Mountaineer from Ohio, sell his
good name to further the destruction of the mountains of West Virginia.
Until now the highest level of Nehlen´s public opinions had to do with how tough
the next football opponent would be, even if it were Ball State. He has elevated his
game, moved to the next level.
He is now a paid shill for the coal companies, paid to remake the truth and
create a warm fuzzy image’ of the monstrous atrocity called mountain top
removal strip mining. Nehlen´s new found love for destroying West Virginia
mountains surfaced after the coal companies showed him the money.
Charles Ryan is another shill hired by the coal companies to reinvent their
sorry past. Ryan was quoted in the Gazette telling the coal barons, Your tentacles
are everywhere in this state.’ The man tells it like it is.
The coal company image’, which Nehlen and Ryan are being paid to put in
the winning column, was well earned by years of destroying our mountains and
streams, beating and shooting union miners, opposing safety standards, fighting
against black lung benefits, cheating widows out of their pensions, opposing all
coal taxes, bribing politicians, sucking at he trough of tax credits, refusing to pay
into Workers´ Compensation, destroying entire watersheds with black sludge,
flooding Southern West Virginia communities over and over again, drowning 125
people at Buffalo Creek, killing or maiming over 100,000 West Virginia miners.
With Don Nehlen and Charles Ryan, the coal companies are hoping to turn lies
into truth and history into the memory chute.
The Charleston Gazette quotes Nehlen as admitting, I don´t exactly know
the regulations .’ Yet he claims they need to be changed. Nehlen continues, But
in China, they mine for six bucks a ton, and we must be able to compete with that.’
Is Nehlen advocating for Chinese style starvation wages for West Virginia miners?
Does he favor the terrible safety standards, which kill 10,000 Chinese coal miners
each year? Does he admire the use of prison labor in China? Maybe he prefers a
totalitarian state like China where a coal company can produce cheap coal without
being bothered by pesky laws to protect miners and the environment.
It is ironic that some of the companies Nehlen is trying to pull out of the
sludge of their own image’ in West Virginia are mining coal in China. If we
could just be like China, everything would be doggone peachy keen*.
*To avoid cursing Nehlen often uses doggone and other substitute curse words.
Again, What Would Jesus Do?
The Charleston Daily Mail March 29, 2003
In a March 26 editorial, Protesters: Activists need to be careful about whose
interest they serve,’ the Daily Mail dragged that mean ol´ Joe McCarthy out of his
grave and pointed his finger and yelled communist, traitor.’
It is tiresome logic that whoever disagrees with the madness of our
appointed president in attacking Iraq must be a commie and not have feelings for
the awful danger our soldiers are in.
Americans have the right to disagree with anything we want to disagree
with. That is why we aren´t communists. We are being patriotic Americans. We
are saying what we believe.
It is illogical to point out that people in Iraq don´t have our freedoms. Does
Iraq´s lack of freedom negate our freedom of speech, too? Should we become
silent and fearful to speak out for what we believe because people in Iraq can´t?
And of course we all want our fellow Americans to be safe and to come
home from this invasion in one piece. But that doesn´t make the war just, or the
What he is doing is so unnecessary and horrible that we must oppose it even
if it means being called a commie by the Daily Mail.
If we wage war on every country that lacks our freedoms, we are going to be
very, very busy, get a lot of people killed, and break the bank.
Here is a partial list of the countries we might want to invade to free their people
* Saudi Arabia, where women aren´t even allowed to drive cars.
* Kuwait, run by millionaires of inherited power (sound familiar?)
* Syria, also a family empire.
* Pakistan, ruled by a military dictator.
* China, which brutalize the Tibetan people every day. (But China is a big
country that supplies us with a cheap labor market and we know for sure
they have weapons of mass destruction).
* Iran, because they don´t like us and they do have oil, and probably
* Cuba, just because.
* Myanmar, maybe the most brutal regime’ on earth.
* Several divisions of the former Soviet Union
* All those African countries coming apart at the seams.
* North Korea
* Vietnam, ripe for another go-round.
Perhaps our job is not to police the whole world. Maybe it is too
expensive in lives and money. And if you are a Christian, just ask yourself: What
would Jesus do.’
Protesters and Terrorists
The Charleston Gazette, April 26, 2003
Protesters and terrorists: Majority approval doesn´t justify war.
Some supporters of the Iraq war have suggested that peace advocates go
live with the French, Germans or Russians. Does this mean that
Americans who exercise freedom of speech to question the president
should leave America? Which leads me to Ed Rabel and Lt. Col. Herb Lattimore.
Lattimore of the state Department of Emergency Services was quoted in the
Gazette as saying: Potential domestic terrorist groups... include religious
organizations, racial hate groups and environmental activists.... Think of West
Virginia coal mining, strip mining.’ Whoa there, just a minute! Is he lumping
religious groups and environmental activists with hate groups? Does opposition to
the terror called mountaintop removal qualify a person as a potential terrorist’?
Lattimore went on to say that potential terrorists are everywhere.’
Sounds a bit paranoid, or maybe it is a job-security boondoggle to scare everyone
into thinking we need an army of well-paid anti-terrorist bureaucrats in West
In another recent Gazette article, former Charleston newscaster Ed
Rabel tried to dismiss and ridicule the hundreds of thousands of
Americans who have protested Bush´s war. He called us professional
protesters and Hollywood celebrities.’ Does he read? Practically every major
newspaper in the country carried editorials against the war, especially if it were to
be launched without the United Nations. I was at one of the huge Washington
demonstrations. The crowd was from all age groups and all walks of life. There
didn´t seem to be many professional protesters’ and there was only one
Hollywood celebrity. But there were many of Col. Lattimore´s potential
terrorists’ disguised as Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Jews, and
Muslims. And there was another bunch of potential terrorists, those bloodthirsty
Rabel blew on the embers of hate with the accusation that opponents
aren´t sincere or real people, that they are some kind of alien species
who have the temerity to stand up for what they believe. Rabel didn´t
speak to the issue. He attacked the credibility and sincerity of those
who disagree with the pro-war view.
I infer from Rabel´s article that the war is justified by polls showing
70 percent support. He failed to mention that before the war, about the
same percentage opposed war if it was to be without U.N. participation. There was
probably more than 70 percent support for slavery around 1776. And during the
mean years of school and swimming pool segregation, it was
pretty obvious that it was what the majority wanted. Injustice does not
become justice because of majority opinion. Slavery, segregation and an
unjust war do not become just when a majority thinks so.
The Charleston Gazette, May 6, 2003
For the Gazette to applaud Arch Coal for planting pine trees on a strip mine
is like praising a madman for giving his victim artificial arms and legs after having
cut off the good arms and legs.
Torture is the New Standard
The Charleston Gazette
Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have set a standard in Iraq and Afghanistan that
will no doubt remain there if ever American troops are pulled out. The standard is
abuse, torture and murder the prisoners. Stand tall and proud, America.
Biting the Hand That Feeds You
The Charleston Gazette
An outrage, silly, stupid, corrupt, very dangerous. Why is it I still
get shocked at the pettiness of the state legislature, and their brutal
disregard for the bill of rights and specifically the first amendment?
Their attitude seems to be if the press wants to be free it will have
to pay for it. Those newspapers that have the nerve to say something
bad about our legislative clowns will be punished by those clowns. When
it comes to legislatures we can no longer fall back on, Thank God for
Mississippi.’ Enlightened Mississippians are now cleared to utter, Thank
God for West Virginia.’
A Gazette editorial criticized 15 senators for voting against the smokeless
tobacco tax. Senator Sarah Minear, R-Tucker, one of the criticized senators had the
bill removed from the Senate calendar in protest over that editorial. To further
punish the Gazette for believing they were located in the home of the free, the bill
was amended to give the Gazette less money for running legal advertisements than
the other state newspapers.
The Charleston Daily Mail, May 25, 2003
In his Daily Mail review of Razing Appalachia,’ reporter Chris Stirewalt
says that it ranks as one of the most depressing movies ever made.
Indeed, the truth about mountaintop removal is depressing. There is little
about mountaintop removal that offers hope for the future. It destroys the
mountains and their future economic use and all their spiritual and aesthetic values.
These values seem to embarrass Stirewalt, as he sneers at people who get
overcome with grief when interviewed or who sing folk songs about the
destruction of their mountains and communities. He calls for compromise.
The problem is that coal companies accept no compromise. They intend to
destroy every coal-bearing mountain in West Virginia. When laws like the Clean
Water Act get in their way, they can rely on their politicians to change the rules.
Contrary to Stirewalt´s cynicism, mountaintop removal is arguably the
country´s worst ecological devastation.
Stirewalt says he grew up in a family supported by Arch Coal. So far, only
people who make money from mountaintop removal speak of it with affection.
To his knowledge, Arch Coal´s mountaintop removal is a modern operation
that follows the best practices in the industry. The best practices’ of Arch and
other coal companies has led to the destruction of over five hundred square miles
of West Virginia mountains and a thousand miles of streams.
He writes that Arch Coal´s claims they are good stewards of the land were
followed by images of the earth ravaged by draglines and explosions. Perhaps he
doesn´t want the public to see their mountains being blown up or witness the
hypocrisy of coal company claims.
And he was right on the money when he wrote that it will reassure public
television viewers that the earth is in immediate jeopardy. For some reason, this
obvious truth is lost on Stirewalt.
He says that for in-state environmentalists, the film was a triumph. Indeed, it
was wonderful to see some counterbalance to outrageous coal company claims on
Stirewalt unwittingly proclaimed the truth when he described coalfield
residents as the little guy standing up to the bully on the block and as the heroes on
the front line in the struggle to protect defenseless nature.
He says it best when, referring to the coal companies, who wants to be
on the side of the monster?’
This appeared in Charleston Gazette Sports Editor Shorty’ Hardman´s column when Coach
LeRose retired in 1974.
Sports writers have been putting it down in black and white for a long time
that one of the really great coaches West Virginia ever had was Sam LeRose who
is retiring as head coach and athletic director at St. Albans High School. But not
many of the people who have otherwise come in contact with LeRose and his boys
have taken time out to say it like it is. Julian Martin however is the exception. A
former St. Albans player, he writes:
Sam LeRose has been praised for his most obvious talents---his ability to
win at football and track. But his greatest talents have gone without much
commenthis compassion, gentleness and his very real love for all of his players,
not just the starting lineup. When LeRose came to St. Albans in 1953, he found
only 45 boys interested in football. The following year he had 125 boys out for the
team and they all were suited up for games and many of them got to play
‘He taught us to think on our own, to change plays on the field and meet new
situations, to rely on ourselves and to know what to do at all times. He never
condoned dirty playing and never showed us any sly tricks that we could get by
with. He felt it unethical as well as a waste of time to play dirty. I shall forever be
grateful to him for giving me a chance to play football at a time in my life when
that was exactly what I needed most.’
The Charleston Gazette, 2003
Sammy LeRose was a young 37. He was our new football coach. He was
quick in his step, confident, successful and he was kind. In 1953, my senior year,
Coach LeRose came to St. Albans High School from Gauley Bridge High. We
were hopeful. He helped us fulfill our hope. We had a winning season for the first
time in five years.
The next year, his team lost only one game. In his third season, most of the
starters from the year before had graduated. He welcomed a bunch of very small
inexperienced players to the 1955 season. His Kennedy Award winning
quarterback weighed 130 pounds, and at least one tackle weighed only 140
pounds! They won every game they played and the state championship. Although
St. Albans didn´t even have a track, Coach LeRose´s track teams won four state
So what was his method, his philosophy? How did he succeed so fast at a
school that had quit winning? Players at other schools were astounded. They
couldn´t believe what they had heard. Some even came to see for themselves.
Unlike any other team, we practiced in shorts in the afternoon of those hot
and horrible August two-a-day workouts! Our morale soared. We worked on
timing and went over real game scenarios without the pain.
Coach LeRose told us that he would wait each day for one-half hour, after
we got dressed and on the field, before coming out to start practice. He said, You
linemen, get out there and kick the ball, pass the ball, enjoy that half-hour.’
He convinced us that every play could go for a touchdown, and that cheating
was wrong and a waste of time. He never taught us any dirty tricks or rule benders.
Sammy LeRose taught us to think for ourselves. He sent every play in from the
bench, but we were to make changes if we saw a weakness in the other team that
he didn´t see. His bag of trick plays added to our and our fans´ joyful experience.
Coach LeRose played as many players as he possible could. Little, fast guys
were put in on the kickoffs, and their enthusiasm seemed to get them downfield
before the ball. Word got around that if you hustled, Coach LeRose would let you
play. On the first day of his first season, there were only 45 of us. The third season,
that championship season, he dressed 125 players! What a sight as they completely
encircled the field and the other team as they trotted out for pre-game workouts.
I never heard Coach LeRose raise his voice in anger, nor did I ever hear him
curse. He was gentle and compassionate. He taught us to never express disgust
with our mistakes, no temper tantrums, no helmet throwing, no kicking the ground,
no cursing. Everything was positive about Sam LeRose. He never jumped on
anyone for a mistake. He very patiently, and with his kind smile, helped us correct
our miscues. He lifted us up and never did we feel humiliated.
Next to my parents, Sammy LeRose was without a doubt the most influential
person in my life. For a period of just twelve weeks when I was turning seventeen,
this man gave me self-confidence and allowed me to succeed. He may have saved
my life. Rest in peace, good man, rest in peace.
Sam LeRose coached the St. Albans High School football team from 1953 to 1956 and
from 1962 to 1973. Every season was a winning season. His record was 124-35-3. He coached a
state champion football team and four state champion track teams. Coach LeRose died
November 3, 2003
Charleston Gazette, 2003
Ed Rabel in a recent Gazette article added to the shrill and dangerous
dehumanization of opponents that erupts in all contentious issues. He tried to
deride the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have protested Bush´s war as
professional protesters and Hollywood celebrities.’ I was at one of the
Washington demonstrations, the crowd was from all age groups and all walks of
life. I would say 90% of the crowd did not fit Rabel´s description. How could
Rabel know who was in the crowd and how can he be so sure that peace is just a
cause du jour’ for those of us who were there. Rabel makes it sound like it was
all an insincere lark and that participants were all kooks, nerds and publicity
It is dangerous to fan the flames of hate with the notion that opponents aren´t
sincere, real people, that they are some kind of alien species who have the temerity
to stand up for what they believe. And to do that in America of all places!
Rabel didn´t speak to the issue, he attacked the credibility and sincerity of
those who disagree with his view. It is a well tested technique that works just about
every time. I infer from Rabel´s article that the war is justified by polls that show a
70% support for the war. Had there been polls in the days of slavery the support
might have been even higher than 70%. During the mean years of school and
swimming pool segregation it was pretty obvious that it was what the majority
wanted. Injustice does not become justice because of majority opinion. An unjust
war does not become a just war when a majority thinks so.
I remember fondly the good old days when Ed Rabel was cutting his
teeth as a teen age St. Albans radio reporter. I remember when he was a teen age
radio announcer covering the St. Albans Jaycees Turtle Derby.
The Charleston Gazette, March 26, 2004
When the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy lawsuit against dumping
mine waste in our streams came before Federal Judge Charles Haden, I hoped he
would go by the law. And that is what he did. The law is clear; mine waste cannot
be dumped into intermittent and perennial streams. As a conservative, he believed
in the law, and he ruled that the law meant what it said. People who love our
mountains were overjoyed at his decision.
Judge Haden wrote that the destruction of the unique topography of
Southern West Virginia by mountaintop removal is permanent and irreversible’
and that if the forest canopy is destroyed, our streams are exposed to extreme
temperatures and aquatic life is destroyedthese harms cannot be undone.’
As a birdwatcher, he was concerned that If the forest wildlife is driven
away by the blasting, the noise, and the lack of safe nesting and eating areas, they
cannot be coaxed back.’
Haden chastised administrators for trying to change the Clean Water Act
behind the back of Congress. He wrote that amendments to the act should be
considered and accomplished in the sunlight of open congressional debate and
resolution,’ and not within the murk of administrative after-the-fact ratification of
questionable regulatory practices.’
To exclude dumping mine waste from the Clean Water Act would, in
Haden´s words, be an obviously absurd exception’ that would turn the Clean
Water Act on its head and use it to authorize polluting and destroying the nation´s
waters for no reason but cheap waste disposal.’ Haden further observed that
Congress did not authorize cheap waste disposal when it passed the Clean Water
Speaking to the question of whether dumping mine waste into streams had
an adverse effect on the streams Haden wrote that, When valley fills are permitted
in intermittent and perennial streams, they destroy those stream segments’ and if
there is any life form that cannot acclimate to life deep in a rubble pile, it is
eliminated.’ Haden pointed out the obvious truth that, No effect on related
environmental values is more adverse than obliteration. Under a valley fill, the
water quality of the stream becomes zero. Because there is no stream, there is no
A mutual friend told me that Judge Haden was stunned when he was taken
on a flyover and viewed mountaintop removal from the air. He observed in his
ruling that The sites stood out among the natural wooded ridges as huge white
plateaus, and the valley fills appeared as massive, artificially landscaped stair
Some mine sites,’ he said, were 20 years old, yet tree growth was stunted
or nonexistent compared to the thick hardwoods of surrounding undisturbed hills,
the mine sites appeared stark and barren and enormously different from the
It is ironic that Judge Haden died just 10 days before the Bush
administration will conduct a hearing Tuesday in Charleston. They are proposing
to change the buffer zone rule to make it legal to dump mine waste into the streams
Judge Haden so valiantly tried to protect.
Long after the names of the people of limited vision, who are destroying our
mountains and streams, are forgotten, the name of the very distinguished Judge
Charles Haden II will live on. He is indeed an authentic West Virginia hero.
Carp Eating Crap
April 18, 2004
As Mark Kemp-Rye did, in the Sunday Gazette-Mail April 18, 2004 article,
it is good therapy to look back at how awful the environment was when we were
kids and to take note that some improvements have been made.
In 1950 I stood on top of a sewer pipe in St. Albans that emptied into the
Kanawha River and saw carp, which we called sewer bass, gulp down the human
waste that was washing out into the river. Another day from our front yard high
above the same river bank I looked down on a flotilla of large carp floating on their
backs; miniture Moby Dick white bellies reflecting the sunlight. Carbide,
Westvaco or some other chemical polluter had fed the carp a toxic mix that even
they could not live on.
One memorable day, when I was in about the eighth grade, Monsanto or
someone unknown down in Nitro, released a foul gas into the air that smelled like
rotten eggs. The gas drifted up and across the river to my neighborhood. It was a
humid summer morning, dew was condensed on the sides of the houses. The gas
dissolved into the dew and set the sulfur ions free to react with the lead in the white
paint. The white houses became coated with a silvery, brown, black muck known
as lead sulfide.
With the coming of clean water and clean air laws, carp no longer gulp
clumps of human feces at open sewer pipes and I see water skiers where the dead
fish once bobbed past my house and I don´t hear of the white houses in St. Albans
turning that horrible color anymore. And other varieties of fish besides catfish and
carp are returning in abundance to the Kanawha River.
However there is a catch or two. One catch is you better not eat your
catch. Kanawha River fish will poison your body with less obvious pollutants like
dioxin and mercury. Another catch is that George W. Bush is gutting the clean
water act so that coal companies can dump their waste into the tributaries of
Kanawha River and he is gutting the clean air protections and cynically calling it a
Clear Skies’ initiative.
On a small local level if you travel down a road in South Hills of Charleston
called Stonehenge and then vere off to the right on Brookstone and go a mile you
will come to a Charleston city sewage pumping station which smells like the gas
from Nitro that turned all the houses such a lovely color.
This pump station is old and inadequate and there is a sign that warns
Combined Sewer Outfall. This Outfall Pipe may Discharge Untreated Sewage.
Avoid Contact With River After Rain.’ The sign goes on to assure that the
Charleston Sanitary Board has been given an EPA Permit to dump raw sewage into
Coal Hollow Creek. That Creek during and after rain empties human waste into
Davis Creek near where Connell Road meets the Davis Creek Road; anyone living
downstream of this juncture better stay out of that creek. People on Davis Creek
get the quadruple whammy from the sewage; the silt runoff from the mountain top
removal project disguised as Southridge Center, from muddy water from the
construction of new houses at the Jamestown development and from gas well sites.
In fact our environment is much worse than it was back when the carp were
dining on our bowel movements. Government agencies, called for some illogical
reason names like the Department of Environmental Protection, are making it
easier through rule changes and incompetent enforcement for large corporations to
continue destroying the only earth, the only water, the only air, the only mountains
Lets enjoy and celebrate our victories, but lets not delude ourselves into
believing that all is well. The Monongahela River*, as Mark Kemp-Rye pointed
out, is a nicer color now than years ago. But just last week the nonprofit
organization American Rivers announced that the Monongahela is one the nation's
10 most endangered river systems. And scientists at WVU say untreated
discharges, many from abandoned coal mines, dump acid and thousands of tons of
iron oxide, manganese oxide and aluminum oxide into the Monongahela each
year*. And in the southern coal fields there are one thousand miles of streams that
no longer exist buried under hundreds of feet of mine waste and there are over
400,000 acres of mountain tops gone forever with the area destroyed increasing by
30,000 acres each year. We are losing 80,000,000 board feet of new growth timber
every year forever that would have come from the mountains that have already
been destroyed. And to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut Jr., in his book Breakfast of
Champions: Within three months the coal from stripmining is burned, the
electricity is used up and the mountain is gone forever.
The environment is in a crisis, much worse than it was when I or Mark
Kemp-Rye were kids. Mr. Kemp-Rye expressed a gratitude for all the people who
have worked to protect our environment. I share that gratitude. But lets not leave it
in the past tense. Many people are working very hard for the environment right
now and there is much to be done.
*I have since learned that muscles can no longer live in the Monongahela River because of the
acid mine drainage
The Charleston Gazette, May 18, 2004
The Gazette headline And then there were two’ (May 13) was a little
inaccurate. There are three candidates for governor. Jesse Johnson of the Mountain
Party will be on the same ballot as the two who got their pictures on the front page.
I hope as all media covers the race for Congress in the 2nd District they will
not leave me out like Jesse was left out*. (And I have a really handsome picture
ready for the same exposure as Capito and Wells get.)
*I was the Mountain Party candidate for Congress. Shelley Moore Capito was the
incumbent Republican and Erik Wells was the Democratic Party candidate. Capito won then and
again in 2006 and 2008 when Obama was elected along with a host of Democratic
Congressional and Senate candidates.
Two Bit Hamburger
The Charleston Daily Mail, April 24, 2005
In her Word for Word column of March 13, Johanna Maurice defended the
Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage. So far the Republicans have
stopped every attempt to raise the wages of the very poor for eight years. It looks
like they mean to keep it at $5.15 forever. She says the market for a $2 hamburger
is vastly larger than for an $8 hamburger and that increased wages for the poor will
drive up prices and drive down employment. Why not go for the whole hamburger
for almost nothing by paying no minimum wage at all. With slavery, all free
people could have a hamburger for a quarter.
The Charleston Gazette, October 30, 2005
One day when I was teaching chemistry at Duval High School a student
plopped down a plastic zip-lock bag on my desk.
What is this Mr. Martin?’
Well it is white,’ I said and pushed on the clumps in the bag. And it
crumbles. Where did you get this?’
It was dumped on the road up our hollow,’ he replied. Recognizing a
teachable moment I told the student to get out the chemicals he would need to find
what metals and non-metals were in the mystery substance. The student´s tests
showed that the white substance contained calcium and sulfate. I wondered all day
about the origin of the stuff. The next day I was driving past John Amos power
plant and it hit me. They use limestone to scrub out the sulfur dioxide in the fumes
from burning coal. Limestone contains calcium. A by-product of the scrubbing
would be calcium sulfate.
I tell this story to point out that when the poisons are removed from the
noxious fumes at power plants they don´t just disappear. The coal companies and
their client federal and state governments like to fool the public with the oxymoron
clean coal’ technology. Clean coal’ technology speaks only of the burning of the
coal and even then it is a cruel deception. Instead of going into the air, deadly
poisons like mercury go on the ground and then into the creeks and rivers. The
mercury has thus been taken from what we breathe to what we drink and eat.
Nothing just goes away, everything continues to recycle.
The Gazette has more than once repeated the coal association´s oxymoronic
clean coal’. How can clean’ ever be applied to the thousand miles of streams
filled with coal mining waste from mountain top removal and the five hundred
thousand acres of mountains destroyed forever? That 500,000 acres is equal to a
quarter-mile wide swath from New York to San Francisco. I am hoping the Gazette
doesn´t go for the whole enchilada and start using the coal industry´s most
ridiculous of all Orwellian claims that coal is the cleaner, greener energy.’
Anyone who would use clean or green to describe coal has never lived near where
it is mined, nor seen mountain top removal, valley dumps, gob piles, slate dumps,
flooded hollows and poisoned streams. Or maybe the money hardens their hearts
and they count on the public being stupid enough to swallow their lies.
Unlike the Charleston Daily Mail and state and federal regulating agencies,
the Gazette usually resists the coal company signals to substitute euphemisms for
the ugly truth. Strip mining becomes surface mining’ and mountain top removal
morphs to mountain top mining.’ I hope the Gazette will resist the clean coal’ lie
Where Is Away?
This first appeared in the July, 2008 issue of the Highlands Voice, newsletter of the West
Virginia Highlands Conservancy and again in the July 3, 2008 edition of the Charleston Gazette.
On Thursday I took the trash out and thought once again about what I was
doing. My trash will end up in what was a beautiful West Virginia valley. When
that valley is filled another will be sacrificed and then another and another.
Recently the people who make money by dumping garbage wanted more
McDowell County valleys for dumping out-of- state garbage. The idea had local
support. The legislature wisely saved them from themselves. Claims were made
that out of state garbage would bring jobs and of course jobs are most important no
matter what the damage.
Way back in 1960 I was a young engineer working in Connecticut. A friend
took me to Newport, Rhode Island. It was November and in those days there were
no guards to protect the seasonally vacated Newport mansions that faced out on the
ocean. My friend and I climbed a fence and explored the grounds. We walked out
to the edge of the magnificent rock cliffs and there I looked upon the ocean for the
first time. It was indeed an awesome experience to see the seemingly limitless
water swelling and crashing against the cliffs.
The feeling that oceans are limitless has led us to dump into it all kinds of
garbage, chemical and nuclear waste, human urine and feces, trash and oil from
ships and who knows what else. I have read that ninety percent of all the plastic
ever made is now in the oceans. We even have an expression that indicates how
huge we imagine the ocean--something considered to have no impact is like
pissing in the ocean.
There is no away’ to where stuff we don´t like can be sent. Air pollution
doesn´t just blow away,’ it goes somewhere else. Take a look at the smoke stacks
at John Amos power plant. The stacks are high so that the pollution will be blown
away.’ Our away’ is someone else´s backyard. That yellow stuff coming out of
the stacks is sulfur dioxide. It changes to sulfuric acid and rains down on your
head, your baby´s head and heads of your fellow creatures and plants and the heads
of the cabbage in your garden. Some of the sulfur dioxide is removed by reacting it
with calcium carbonate (limestone). A student of mine once brought me a white
substance that had been dumped on the dirt road that ran by his house. We
analyzed it and found that it contained calcium and sulfate. I figured that it was
calcium sulfate from a power plant scrubber. The calcium sulfate had been thrown
I remember TV preacher Pat Robertson praying a hurricane away’ from his
hometown of Virginia Beach. The hurricane did not go away.’ It hit people
farther up the coast where the reverend didn´t live and where people must have
been quite sinful.
And there was my upstream neighbor who laid his trash on the creek bank to
await high water to wash it away.’ It went away’ all right. It ended up in the
trees in front of my house. I could tell how high the creek got by where the plastic
diapers were hanging. That same neighbor was talking with me one day while
enjoying a soft drink. When he finished the drink he threw the can away’ into the
weeds on the edge of my yard. I picked it up and told him the can would never go
away.’ But my neighbor was no guiltier of littering than I am when I send my
trash via a garbage truck to a once wild and wonderful valley.
Maybe we should be required to dispose of our waste where we live. Are
homes surrounded by trash any worse than concentrating it out of sight in one
irreplaceable valley after another? If we had to look at and smell our garbage
maybe we would quit creating so much. Back in the sixties I knew of a large
household in San Francisco that generated no waste and refused to pay the garbage
pickup fee. They composted their food waste and reused everything else. It can be
Coal companies dump mountain top removal mine waste into nearby
valleys. As more mountains are decapitated more valleys will be needed and then
more valleys again. There is nothing to worry about since, as any fool can see; our
mountains and valleys are, like the oceans, infinite. There will always be another
mountain, another valley into which waste can be thrown away.’ And once the
Charleston Gazette´s favored coal company billboard slogan clean coal’ rescues
us from global warming we can destroy every mountain with coal in it and not
worry because, as fools assume, the mountains are infinite, the valleys are forever.
A couple of years ago my wife and I went to Alaska with an Elderhostel
group. One day we got a rare glimpse of Denali as some of the cloud cover drifted
away. That glimpse of North America´s highest mountain led one of our group to
look in awe and say that humans cannot have any significant impact on nature
because it is so huge. He argued that we don´t have to change our ways, we can do
anything we want to the earth, that the earth is just too massive, never ending,
infinite for mere humans to have a significant impact. In his view we are simply
arrogant to think we can move those Alaska mountains. Two days later our train
passed a mountain that had been removed to get at the coal. The coal was shipped
to Korea to meet our nation´s energy needs I suppose.
Our sewage and garbage is only going to increase with increased population.
Coal mine waste is increasing as you read this. The oceans are not infinite, neither
are the mountains and valleys. This earth is finite, there is just so much and then no
more. A place called away’ does not exist. We have to come up with ways to live
without creating waste that requires the sacrifice of oceans, mountains, streams and
The M Word
The Charleston Gazette
The July 7 editorial "Endangered" began like an enlightened, courageous
commentary on endangered species. I kept reading, hoping, saying to myself, yes,
yes they are going to say it. They are going to say the "M" word. Once again I was
disappointed. The Gazette editorial went up to the edge and then, as usual, backed
off. The editorial hinted at the "M" word by including industrial development as
one of the threats to endangered species.
There were soaring words about the beautiful Cerulean warbler and its need
for a mature Appalachian hard wood forest for survival. I thought, oh yes here it
comes. They are going to use the "M" word. The editorial again came close to
using the M word with, "The decline of those forests threatens them [the Cerulean
warbler]." Decline! Our forests aren't just "declining" they are plunging head first
in a dive to their deaths. And it is all because of the "M" word that seems to be
banned from the Gazette editorial page.
My grandmother often said about people who did not have the courage to express
the obvious that they would not say shit if it was in their
mouth. Can the Gazette say mountain top removal?
Patriotism Is The Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel.
The Charleston Gazette, June 2, 2005
Steve Walker´s May 30 reply to Kathryn Stone´s article about moral choices
in the coal industry was full of oxymorons. Greener coal’ and clean coal’ are
two doozies. Is cleaner, greener coal what is up there in that giant sludge pond
glowering down at Marsh Fork Elementary School? To combine green and clean
with coal is merely a public relations gimmick.
Early on, Walker says of Stone´s article, Her remarks facilitated my more
thoughtful considerations of the issue...’ And he accuses Stone of being self-
righteous? Walker asks, Is it ethical to offer a criticism without practical
solutions?’ It would be unethical to remain silent, even without offering
alternatives, about something as evil as mountaintop removal. Growing poppies in
Afghanistan and coca in Colombia leads to addictions and death in the United
States. By Walker´s reasoning it should not be criticized without offering another
way for the farmers and dealers to make a living.
Of the several hearings that I have attended, no one has spoken in favor of
mountaintop removal if it wasn´t their moneymaker. Does anyone really think that
Steve Walker would be giving ethical and moral justification for mountaintop
removal if he weren´t getting rich from it? Walker speaks for short-term prosperity.
He seems to ignore that he is destroying the future.
The late Bill Maxey was a highly respected director of the Division of
Forestry. He retired in protest against mountaintop removal. Maxey said
mountaintop removal ...is analogous to serious disease, like AIDS.’ Based on
Maxey´s data, we now lose 100,000,000 board feet of new growth timber every
year forever to mountaintop removal. That is enough to build 4,000 houses every
Walker trivializes the coal industry´s cruel history and pretends that it has
reformed itself when he writes that In the past some individuals may have been
negatively affected by some practices and incidences that would shock us by
today´s standards.’ He can´t bring himself to admit the horrors of the past without
the caveat that some individuals just may’ have been negatively affected’ (here I
think he means killed, maimed and flooded). More than 100,000 miners were
indeed negatively affected’ as were the millions injured or left gasping for breath
from black lung disease. The present ongoing destruction equals a quarter-mile-
wide swath from New York to San Francisco.
Walker wraps the flag around coal by giving the industry credit for
homeland security. Coal has enabled the United States to defend itself and
freedom around the world...’ he claims. As the great Samuel Johnson said many
years ago, Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’
The Charleston Gazette, June 19, 2005
Geemony Christmas! I think I said it out loud, maybe whispered in awe.
There was a dip in the Kanawha State Forest trail and drops of last night´s rain
were sliding off the green canopy. An old log disappearing into its own humus was
covered with green moss, thick and wet. Large ferns hung over like fans for the
potentates of nature. The soil was black and damp. It was like a piece of the
Olympic rain forest. I was pleasantly tired, serene and happy to be there, to pause
and look at my kingdom.
I love walking in the forest. I was practically born in the woods, just up the
bank from Coal River. The feeling is deep inside me, a feeling that only death can
erase, and if I pass the feeling on to Luke, Patrick, Levi and little Henry, Hadley
and Elizabeth Marie, the feeling may go on forever. I hope so.
It is that deep feeling, the trust, the happiness I feel in the woods that makes
me sad beyond all words when, as I come to the top of the trail, I hear the rumble
and roar of industrial bedlam. Just across the valley from Kanawha State Forest the
mountain is being blasted away. The moss-covered logs and the ferns will never
return. I don´t understand the hunger for money that blunts feeling for what makes
me whisper in awe.
High Profile Protestors
The Charleston Gazette
Chris Hamilton, vice-president of the West Virginia Coal Association,
stretched the truth considerably in his recent rant against Wheeling Jesuit
University, its forum on coal mining and the highly respected Davitt McAteer.
Hamilton said the forum was filled with individuals with a history of high-
profile protests and opposition to coal mining.’ There were four members of the
forum: Harold Erdoes, Ohio political coordinator for the United Mine Workers of
America; Charles Keeney, a West Virginia University history professor, whose
great-grandfather was the heroic United Mine Workers leader Frank Keeney;
Davitt McAteer, a vice-president of Wheeling Jesuit University; and Cindy Rank,
also highly respected and the mining chair of the West Virginia Highlands
Mrs. Rank has done outstanding work in battling against the ravages of strip
mining near her home in Upshur County. Statewide she has led the fight against
mountain top removal strip mining, the most destructive and short sighted of all
coal mining methods. She is a lady of mild manner, determination and courage.
Mrs. Rank speaks truth to the power of Mr. Hamilton´s bosses.
Mountain top removal strip mining blasts off the tops of mountains and
dumps the waste material into the valleys. At least 500,000 acres of mountains
have been destroyed by mountain top removal strip mining. This is equal to a
swath one quarter mile wide from New York to San Francisco. 1000 miles of
streams have been buriedthat is longer than the Ohio River. Less than five
percent of this devastation has any economic development on it. The hardwoods
will not return so we lose 100 million board feet of new growth hardwood timber
every year forever.
West Virginia University had this to say of Davitt McAteer: McAteer is
acknowledged worldwide as a leading authority in mine safety. He authored
pioneering work on the subject and served as a consultant to unions, governments
and industries from South Africa to China to Eastern Europe. His involvement with
mine safety and health issues began in law school, when he developed and directed
a study of the West Virginia coal industry. The findings of this study led directly to
the nation's first comprehensive general coal mine health and safety act in 1969
and indirectly to the election of reform candidates to lead the United Mine Workers
of America in 1972. When a reform movement won control of the United Mine
Workers of America in 1972, he became solicitor of safety for the union where he
helped revitalize the union's safety and health program and improved the training
of rank-and-file safety inspectors.’
Mr. McAteer was a very successful director of the Federal Mine Safety and
Health Administration. Governor Manchin appointed him special advisor to get to
the bottom of the cause of the tragic deaths at the Sago mine. Governor Manchin
praised Davitt McAteer as a noted authority on mine safety.
Mr. Hamilton seems to be making an attack on the character of the forum
members, particularly Mr. McAteer. Chris Hamilton probably does not often
encounter people of such high character as Davitt McAteer. It obviously has
confused Mr. Hamilton.
Davitt McAteer has been on the side of the coal miners, the people of West
Virginia and their safety all his life. Wheeling Jesuit University was wise to have
recognized Mr. McAteer´s character and excellent world-wide respect and
The Charleston Daily Mail, February 2, 2006
After the Sago* deaths a Daily Mail editorial listed positive things about the
coal industry. It brought back memories of Arch Moore* at Buffalo Creek and
Tony Boyle** praising Consolidation Coal at Farmington. To balance the Daily
Mail praise of what the coal companies have done for us, let us remember what the
coal industry has done to us.
Coal mine accidents have killed over 20,000 West Virginia miners.
Thousands more have suffered injuries such as my dad´s lost eye and health
problems like my father-in-law´s black lung.
Over 100,000 West Virginia mining jobs have been replaced with
machines. Permits have been issued to bury 1000 miles of streams with the waste
from mountain top removal--that is longer than the Ohio River.
Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines affects at least 570 streams totaling
more than 3,000 miles. The West Virginia Department of Environmental
Protection reports that approximately 7,260 stream miles are influenced’ by acid
According to a federal study the coal industry destroyed 380,000 acres of
mountaintops between 1992 and 2002. The total destroyed before 1992 until now
is estimated to be 500,000 acres***.
Less than 5% of the desecrated mountains have any economic development.
The European Union reported that the cost of producing electricity from coal
would be doubled if the 'external' costs, such as environmental damage and health
costs, were included.
The late Bill Maxey, a highly respected director of the West Virginia
Division of Forestry, said of mountain top removal strip mining: All native plant
and animals are practically eliminated; It makes the landscape so unsightly that it
ruins tourism; It actually destroys more coal mining jobs than it creates; It is
analogous to serious disease, like AIDS..."
Using Bill Maxey´s estimates the total mountain tops destroyed would
have produced one million board feet of new growth hardwood timber every year
forever, enough to build 5,000 houses every year forever.
Dave Callaghan, former chief regulator of strip-mining and no tree hugger
for sure, said on Public Radio that West Virginia would have been better off if it
had no coal.
* The Pittston Coal Company sludge dams on Buffalo Creek, in Logan County, West Virginia,
failed on February 26, 1972. 124 people were killed. Governor Arch Moore visited Buffalo
Creek shortly after the disaster. Moore´s infamous statement as he looked over the massive
damage was that the media coverage of the disaster was an even greater tragedy than the
accident itself.’ The state sued Pittston for $100 million. Governor Moore negotiated a $1
million settlement three days before leaving office in 1977.
** At the still smoking mine entrance with 78 miners entombed below, Tony Boyle, then
president of the United Mine Workers of America said as long as we mine coal, there is
always this inherent danger of explosion." Boyle went on to praise Consolidation Coal Company
as being one of the safest coal companies. Boyle later went to prison for paying $5,000 to three
men to murder his rival Jock Yablonski and Yablonski´s wife and daughter.
***500,000 acres is my estimation. An Environmental Protection Agency study estimated that
from 1992 to 2002, 380,547 acres of the forest environment (vegetation and soils) in the study
area were cleared by strip mining. This is just in the study area which did not include all strip
mining. By now[September,2009] it is conservative to estimate that more than 500,000 acres
have been destroyed by strip mining.
Friends of Coal: Nehlen and Pruitt
I am a WVU football fan, so much so that I was one of the frozen in the zero
wind-chill at the WVU-Pitt game. I have a WVU Chemical Engineering degree
and was once an Assistant Director of Student Educational Services at WVU.
Several members of my family have attended WVU and most even got degrees. I
played football in high school and one of my sons was an all-state football player.
All this is by way of saying that I am a loyal Mountaineer and I have an irrational*
liking for football.
And just to make it clear that I have nothing but admiration for underground
coal miners, my grandfather and his brother fought for the UMWA at Blair
Mountain, my dad was a UMWA miner and lost his eye at Armco Steel´s Nellis
mine. My uncles, my brother- in-law and my son all worked in the coalmines.
WVU fans were proud to read in the Gazette that Don Nehlen had been
inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He did a good job competing with
some of the best teams in the nation. Heck, his teams twice won every game on the
schedule. One year his team might have won the dad-gummed national
championship game had not super star Major Harris been injured in the first
quarter. And who can ever forget the Oklahoma game?
Proud as I am that a WVU coach made the College Football Hall of Fame, it
is hard to be proud of Nehlen´s performance in the coal industry radio ads heard
during the recent South Florida game. To my knowledge Nehlen has no previous
experience with the coal industry whether as a miner, an owner or an executive. He
for sure has never endured life down below a mountain top removal strip mine.
The devilish part is that Nehlen comes across on the radio as a good old boy with a
grandfatherly voice that could reassure an unsuspecting listener that he is full of
wisdom and truth.
Nehlen, joined by former Marshall Coach Bob Pruitt, pretends on the radio
to take us to a coal mine. What we hear in the background are the happy voices of
children playing in a schoolyard. This is reclamation,’ Nehlen purrs. He leads us
to believe that this school is typical of so-called strip mine reclamation.’
It would have been more truthful to reveal that Mountain View High School,
which coal companies like to hold up as one of the examples of their success at
reclamation, has had a ton of money poured into it to shore up the building from
the settling of the reclaimed’ strip mine.
According to a Mountain View teacher, the walls and floors in a rest room
and in the gym pulled apart. A boardwalk was built around the edge of the gym
floor to protect students from falling into the crack. The teacher also said that
thirteen cubic yards of concrete were poured into a hole that subsided under the
gym and that corners of the building had to be reinforced with steel. And there was
the day the fire department was called to pry open the gym door after the settling
trapped the students and teachers inside.
Truth would have been better served if Nehlen had bothered to mention that
95% of the acres leveled by mountain top removal strip mines have no
development on them at all. More than 380,000 acres** have been left a wasteland
with little to no chance of the magnificent Appalachian hardwoods ever coming
Nehlen and Pruitt demean themselves. They are forfeiting their good
reputations by stretching the truth to where any reasonable person would call it
lying. Surely, neither of them needs money bad enough to lie for it. But if money is
their motivation they should heed the words of Paul in a letter to Timothy--The
love of money is the root of all evil.’
Many WVU fans are proud that Don Nehlen was inducted into the College
Football Hall of Fame. But when it comes to telling the truth about mountain top
removal strip mining Don Nehlen, and his good buddy Bob Pruitt, belong in the
Hall of Shame.
*The irrational part owes to my recognition that football is a brutal sport that should be
outlawed as should boxing and as is cock fighting. I nurse lifetime injuries to my knee, neck and
brain from playing just one season of three months and ten games of high school football. I
suspect that everyone who has played one season of football at or above the high school level
has a permanent injury. My son started playing football when he was in the second grade and
continued through his junior year in college. He broke five bones, was knocked almost
unconscious once, could not play his senior year in college because of a back injury and I
recently learned that he, now at age 31, has hip pain and shoulder dislocations from football
If the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration, better known as simply OSHA, did
a work place inspection of a football practice or game they would shut the sport down as unsafe.
No other occupations require that employees run full speed and crash into one another and often
head to head.
One improvement in the game´s violent toll would be to throw away the helmets. Players
would stop running into one another head first like they don´t in Rugby. The helmet is a weapon
and I know from experience that they don´t protect a 150 pound seventeen year old when he
lowers his head and tackles a 225 pound fullback.
**An Environmental Protection Agency study estimated that from 1992 to 2002, 380,547
acres of the forest environment (vegetation and soils) in the study area were cleared due to strip
mining. This is just in the study area which did not include all strip mining. By now  it is
conservative to estimate that more than 500,000 acres have been destroyed by strip mining.
The Highlands Voice, 2002
The coal industry knows they are losing the battle for the hearts and
minds of the people of West Virginia. Walker Machinery began an
advertisement about mountaintop removal reclamation with contrary to
popular opinion...’ And Steve Leer, president of Arch Coal, started a
defense of mountain top removal with, Despite widespread criticism of
the process...’ A couple of years back in the Charleston Gazette, Ken
Ward quoted a coal executive as saying that their polls showed that 80%
of the people in West Virginia opposed mountain top removal. The
executive was using the poll results to warn that the coal industry
needed to launch an all out public relations attack about mountain top
Now comes a letter and a brochure from CEDAR of Southern West
Virginia. CEDAR stands for Coal Education, Development and Resource.
CEDAR admits that Our coal industry is facing the biggest reclamation
challenge of our history. And that job is to reclaim the understanding and support
of our state and nation´s citizenry.’ If the reclamation of their reputation is
anything like how they reclaim mountains and valleys then we can look for the
truth to have its head lopped off and covered with tons of lies.
CEDAR continues, Many of us in the coal industry believe the
solution now, and over the long term, to many of the current issues
facing [sic] can be achieved through better education.’ In other words
the issues don´t need to be addressed just change the spin.
CEDAR is seeking ...support for a new initiative designed to get
coal education back in our schools.’ And get this, Its purpose will
be to facilitate a knowledgeable and unbiased understanding of the many
benefits the coal industry provides in our daily lives...’ And they
plan to dump some money into this project, ...by providing financial
resources and coal education materials for implementation in school
curriculum grades K thru [sic] 12.’
CEDAR´s first targets are Mingo and Logan county schools ...with more
counties to be added later.’ Logan ought to be easy for sure, their
superintendent testified in behalf of mountain top removal to a
legislative committee. He claimed that they needed more flat land for
Rest assured that CEDAR will present little if any unbiased
treatment of labor and environmental issues. I doubt seriously that
the young minds of Mingo and Logan will get to see the great
documentary, Even the Heavens Wept’, nor West Virginia Highlands
Conservancy board member Bob Gates´ classic film In Memory of the Land and
The CEDAR propaganda will most likely not include a knowledgeable and
unbiased presentation of the coal mine wars, the so-called Matewan massacre’,
the notorious mine guards and the murder of Sid Hatfield* by coal industry
detectives. Don´t expect much about such important issues as child labor and black
lung. It is doubtful CEDAR will include coal industry resistance to regulation,
taxation and health and safety
Will CEDAR own up to killing 125 people on Buffalo Creek and the
dumping of 300 million gallons of sludge into the Tug Fork and the Big Sandy
rivers? And will they connect mountain top removal and other
strip-mining with the two one hundred year floods of last July 8 and
this May 2?
It will be a big surprise if CEDAR mentions how much money the coal
industry has used to buy politicians. And don´t expect to learn from
CEDAR about how large coal companies got by with not paying into
worker´s compensation, and then settled for twelve cents on the dollar. Try not
paying your taxes and see what happens. How about the 132 forfeited mine sites,
the 136 sludge dams, the 1000 miles of streams under tons of rubble and the over
380,000 acres of mountain tops decapitated?
Do you reckon CEDAR will brag on the replacement of miners with
machines and call it progress? Will they reveal having eliminated over
100,000 West Virginia mining jobs? Will they justify multi-million
dollar salaries for coal executives? Is it likely CEDAR will mourn
over twenty thousand West Virginia miners killed on the job? My guess is that
CEDAR will stick with an unbiased’ presentation of the many benefits the coal
industry provides in our daily lives.’ The mantra will no doubt be Coal Keeps the
Lights On’. And you can bet that every student will get a t-shirt with that slogan.
CEDAR plans to infiltrate our schools with ‘Coal Fairs’ followed by
regional coal fairs with 63 Cash Prizes to Category Winners’. They
plan to provide a Coal Study Unit’ with Grant Money, Educational
Materials, and Cash Incentives for participation and performance in each
CEDAR claims that there will be, No One Left Behind, Coal study
units can be available to every student no matter what discipline or
interest because coal affects virtually ever [sic] aspect of our lives.’
According to their brochure, CEDAR intends to invade the realms of
science, mathematics, literature, art, music, technology and social
studies with ...an unbiased understanding of the many benefits the
coal industry provides in our daily lives.’
What do you think about this? Would you like to help organize a
program that would give an honest version of the story? Should we file
a protest with the WV Department of Education that this propaganda
should not be part of any school curriculum? Let me know what you think
either in a letter to the Voice and/or to me at email@example.com
*Sid Hatfield was the chief of police of Matewan, West Virginia. During a coal mine strike near
Matewan, coal companies hired Baldwin-Felts detectives, referred to by union miners as gun-
thugs, to throw striker families out of their homes. The gun-thugs carried everything found in the
houses and placed it outside by the road. When these detectives were waiting for a train to take
them back to their Bluefield headquarters a gun fight broke out. Union miners killed several
detectives including brothers of the founders of the Baldwin-Felts organization. Coal company
spin doctors succeeded in labeling the gun fight as the Matewan Massacre.’
Sid Hatfield was later murdered by the detectives as he and his wife were walking up the
steps of the McDowell County courthouse.
Charleston Gazette, March 15, 2006
Some things are simply bewildering. Some are so obvious they need no
comment: like auctioning off the Monongahela National Forest; tax breaks for the
rich; and attempts to destroy social security. Here are some happenings that have
recently left me with my mouth hanging open:
1. The Coal Association´s vice-president represented both the coal
companies and the United Mine Workers at a recent legislative hearing.
Lordie, lordie, John L. Lewis, Arnold Miller*, Mother Jones and my dad and
grandpa are rolling over in their graves.
2. Our government opposed releasing the names of the prisoners held at
Guantanamo Bay because it would violate the detainees´ right to privacy.
They sure don´t seem to worry about their right not to be tortured but are
concerned that word will leak out that they are in jail.
3. Our government wanted to outsource our ports to Dubai. Imagine how
you would feel if our airports had been outsourced to Dubai. I am not anti-
Arab but it wasn´t too bright of George Bush to not expect a landslide of
concern over giving our sea ports to an Arab nation. The Dubai deal is really
just more globalization which is another way of saying cheap labor.
4. BrickStreet took over our workers compensation program and
immediately assaulted the well-being of widows. BrickStreet´s president
topped that off with an assault on the first amendment by sending a memo to
employees who were worried about losing their jobs. In writing, mind you,
he told them they should quit gossiping’ at Murad´s and Applebee´s, quit
talking out of school in their emails and during breaks at work. It reminded
me of the time a vice-principal told teachers that we were not to talk with
one another in the halls between classes. He was concerned about teachers
gossiping’ about one of the many scandals in the school system. My
response to him was that I did not leave my first amendment rights at the
door and that I would talk to anyone about anything I wanted to, at any time
I wanted. Others agreed and the meeting adjourned in disarray. Where do
they get those guys?
5. In a recent Gazette story the County Commission President exalted that
It´s a great feeling’ that the prison industry was coming to McDowell
county. It would mean jobs. His happiness reminded me of an old Little
Abner comic strip. There was a great celebration when the comic strip
characters learned that their community had been selected as an atomic
bomb test site. Expect McDowell county officials to hoop and holler if they
get a toxic waste dump or a federal torture center for prisoners of war. If it
means jobs, bring it on.
When my dad was a miner there were around 125,000 coal miners in
West Virginia, now there are around 15,000. That´s not a very promising record on
job creation in the land of the Friends of Coal. So Babbitt-like county officials
Jubilation over prison jobs underlines how desperate it is to live in the
land of the Friends of Coal. We will do just about anything for a job. Come, take
what you want, do to us what you will, you can even take our mountains and dump
mine waste in our streams, but give us jobs and we will be quiet.
Visitors used to comment on how awful the Kanawha Valley smelled.
Local replies were often it smells like jobs to me.’ Those noxious awful smelling
gases once turned all the white houses in our St. Albans neighborhood to a very
ugly brown. And what went into the Kanawha River in South Charleston sent
schools of dead fish floating white bellies up by our house. It all smelled and
looked like jobs.
Of course jobs’ is a smokescreen that hides the fact that the real
reason for destroying our mountains, forests, air and water is the money it makes
for the large coal, timber and chemical interests. Those same industries do
everything they can to downsize, automate and eliminate jobs. Jobs are what they
say but money is what they mean.
Denise Giardina, acclaimed West Virginia novelist, nailed it with the
Mafia creates jobs, the Colombian drug cartel creates jobs and pimps create jobs."
Now for an uplifting item with a bewildering ending: How about former
Republican governor Cecil Underwood testifying for Charlotte Pritt in her case
against the Republicans. Pritt lost to Underwood partly because of negative ads
paid for by out of state Republicans. Underwood testified that the ads were
inappropriate and that he had asked that they be withdrawn. The jury ruled against
Pritt, it is now open season.
*Arnold Miller was a leader of the Miners for Democracy and was the first
democratically elected president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Tony Boyle,
the previous president of the UMWA, was sent to prison for ordering the murder of Jock
Yablonski and his wife and daughter. Yablonski was Boyle´s unsuccessful opponent in the 1968
Friends of Coal Bowl
The Charleston Gazette, July 4, 2006
They sold out cheap, really cheap*. The coal companies, masquerading as a
grassroots organization called Friends of Coal, bought each WVU-Marshall
football game for less than two four-year scholarships for each school. It cost the
coal companies the wages of about three employees to turn WVU and Marshall
football helmets, with Friends of Coal logos, into moving billboards for
With WVU officials referring to football games as products and exalting that
the Friends of Coal Bowl will enhance the coal industry´s image,’ it is plain to
see where this branding of our football players is going. The coal barons have had
over 100 years to develop a good image, but they must have failed if it still needs
to be enhanced.
The coal companies must be losing the public relations battle in West
Virginia or they wouldn´t be making this desperate attempt to foist their
propaganda onto WVU football fans. A few years ago, the coal bosses
admitted that 80 percent of West Virginians opposed mountaintop removal. To
counter their bad reputation, they rolled out a public relations blitz and
created Friends of Coal, an instant grassroots’ organization. Their
billboards and radio and television ads try to convince us that destroying
half a million acres of mountains and burying a thousand miles of streams is good
for us. ***
The Friends of Coal Bowl agreement allows the coal companies to use signs
and the giant video boards inside the stadiums to promote their views on
controversial issues. They are free to repeat one of their more ridiculous
Claims: that mountaintop removal makes the mountains better and more
useful; like claiming that cutting off your arms and legs will make you
better and more useful.
Imagine the nightmare if every WVU football game is sold to corporate
sponsors: For two more scholarships, logos are plastered all over the players´
uniforms a la NASCAR drivers. Even cheerleaders, coaches and
referees are included in the tacky parade. The huge video screens, which
cannot be turned off, blast out corporate propaganda that polluted air,
water and land are good for your children. Mountaineer Field becomes one
big advertising venue and is renamed each game for the corporate sponsor. ****
Could some bowl games be named for Friends of Clear-cutting, Friends of
Smog, Friends of Toxic Waste Dumps, and Friends of Adult Sex Shops? Logo-
clothed cheerleaders chant Tear down the mountains, dump in the creeks, beat the
hell out of Pitt!’ and Take the ball and run boys, give
a good return for our dollars, while we scalp the mountains clean, boys,
and flood the hillbillies out of their hollers.’
But imagine a pleasant dream: WVU and Marshall put education first. They
use football games to tell the real story of coal in West Virginia. The
football players, cheerleaders, coaches and referees wear symbols that
honor the over 20,000 miners killed in state mines and the hundreds of
thousands disabled by black lung and mine accidents. The video boards show re-
enactments of the Battle of Blair Mountain, and news clips of the
Farmington mine disaster, the Buffalo Creek flood and Sago. Green armbands are
worn in memory of the dead mountains.
The Friends of Coal Bowl is propaganda, not education. The president of
WVU should be ashamed of such blatant distortion of a university´s duty to tell the
truth and to educate. A quality university would not be a willing agent of
corporate public relations. But what can we expect, our WVU president is one of
them, he is on the board of directors of Consol Energy. It is on the way to
becoming a tradition, a previous president is on the board of Massey Energy.
My Mountaineers sold out to an industry that is destroying the reason for
*I know, I know, it should be cheaply but cheap sounds so, well, cheap.
**Earlier news stories said that the players' helmets would have the Friends of Coal logo on
them, but they didn´t.
***A more recent claim shouts from billboards Clean, Carbon Neutral Coal.’ And Clean
Coal, Clean Water’. Those have got to be an embarrassment if people who are decapitating the
Appalachian Mountains can be embarrassed.
****The WVU football stadium has been renamed Milan Pushkar Stadium at Mountaineer Field.
Guess who gave a bunch of money for that.
*****Under pressure from students at Ohio State University, Gordon Gee their president has
resigned from the Massey board. He was accused of hypocrisy for advocating for green energy
and being on the board of the environment devastating Massey Energy.
Friends of Nigeria Newsletter
I called Washington and volunteered the day after Kennedy announced the
creation of the Peace Corps. I did not want to go to Africa. News from the Congo
told of Simbas killing and raping. Patrice Lumumba, the Congo´s first Prime
Minister, was beaten to death*. By the time I heard from the Peace Corps I was
about to start night classes in law. By day I was training to supervise the
production of sidewinder missiles.
Studying chemical engineering didn´t include much about Africa so I was
happy to learn so much in our training at UCLA. After a pleasant in-country two
week training with Nigeria I Peace Corps volunteers we were taken to our
schools.** I was picked up in Enugu by the priest and head master of my school.
As we drove south he pointed with pride to the large churches along the way that
were built by his tribe, the Holy Ghost fathers. Built by a black man’, he sneered
as he pointed to some poorly built churches. We took an eight mile unpaved short
cut that was busy with pedestrians and bicycles. Barefoot women were carrying
loads’ on their heads, some had babies wrapped to their backs and little children
running alongside. The priest drove recklessly and much to fast. He came close to
hitting people, pressed his horn in anger and muttered hateful things as they
scurried out of the way. I was feeling dizzy, my face was hot, and there was a lump
in my stomach.
After about a month teaching chemistry I happened to casually mention to
the headmaster that only one student passed the first test. The next day he came
into my room, lectured the students on their study habits and ordered them all,
except Edwin Igbozurike who had passed the test, to line up at the door. As the
students passed in front of him he bent each outstretched hand and beat it two or
three times with one of the several canes he had with him. He then marched them
back into my room and repeated the process on the other hand. The boys were
crying as they returned to their seats. I was horrified. When the priest left I told the
students that I was very sorry and that it would never happen again. If necessary I
was resolved to physically prevent him from beating my students.
One day the school carpenter, Mr. Augustine Okemadu, told me that his
brother was going to Fourah Bay College to study French. He confided, I am
beginning to worry now that all of the money is paid out and he has signed for the
courses. Father said no Ibo man could learn French.’
I assured him that the priest was wrong about Ibos and that his brother
would be able to learn French.
Augustine looked puzzled, I have been wondering about this Ireland. Are
there any people there but priests?’
I said that they weren´t all priests.
Well, I thought that they were all equal and most of them priests and for
this reason they don´t know people. I always listen on the radio to these prime
ministers of all these countries and presidents and I never hear anything about
Ireland. Do they have government there or is everybody a priest? These reverend
fathers treat everyone like they don´t know any law. They treat workmen like they
are very common and only local and cannot do a good job which is worth a fair
I didn´t let the headmaster ruin my experience. Those two years in the Peace
Corps were most happy, exciting and wonderful. I learned more than any other
time in my life. My two years in Nigeria were peaceful. How could I have missed
seeing the coming apocalypse called Biafra?4 On a third class train trip from Enugu
to Kaduna I did notice that while the people of different ethnic groups were very
kind and helpful to me they ignored each other. And we had a Yoruba Peace Corps
driver who told us that the Ibos ate people.
Most of the time I felt celebrated and admired as an American and part of
Kennedy´s Peace Corps.’ Once while showing a USIS film on Kennedy I heard
my Nigerian friend, John Nwosu, saying, as in a duet with Kennedy, his inaugural
address. But there was that one time I was chased by a machete waving member of
a group dancing down the road with a man dressed in a ceremonial mask and raffia
palm costume. Heck, I just wanted to take one little picture. That was really pretty
traumatic for the first month in country.
At the end of two years the admiration and respect for America extended all
the way home through Egypt, Greece, Russia and France. I was in Moscow for
Kennedy´s funeral, the hotel maids were crying as they watched the ceremony on
TV. The admiration and respect disappeared with what Robert McNamara has
agreed was a tragic mistake in Vietnam. I joined a large group of returned
volunteers and became active in the Committee of Returned Volunteers. Our only
purpose was to help end the war and get our troops home alive. Today I am part of
West Virginia Patriots for Peace. Each Friday at noon in downtown Charleston,
West Virginia, we have a one hour vigil holding a Wall of Remembrance’ with
the name, age, hometown, and date of death of soldiers killed in Iraq. When we
started there were 800 names.****
My first job after the Peace Corps was as West Virginia University´s first
full-time foreign student advisor. With 150 students from other parts of the world,
WVU also had an East African agriculture program with fifty-two students from
Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. They had made some pretty bad mistakes, like
housing all these various ethnic groups in one section of a student apartment
building. And the unwritten housing policy was to place Black with Black, Asian
with Asian.... Of course no African was assigned a white roommate. On top of that
the barbershops were segregated. With help from the African-American and
Caucasian-American students we integrated the housing and the barbershops. As
the Vietnam War got worse a group of students formed a chapter of Students for a
Democratic Society and I signed on as a charter member. These students were
idealistic and peaceful. My membership in SDS and participation in the first picket
at WVU against the war and a picket against Robert Byrd receiving an honorary
doctorate did not please the president of the University. It became obvious that I
might as well resign. The picket against Byrd was when his only claims to fame
were that he had been a KKK organizer and filibustered the Civil Rights Act. He
has since redeemed himself and has courageously opposed the war on Iraq.
Nigeria was like West Virginia in some ways. The railroads in Nigeria were
designed to bring raw materials to the coast to be shipped to Britain. Railroads in
West Virginia were designed to carry out the logs and coal and deliver it out of
state. When I returned to West Virginia the similarity to a third world nation
disturbed me and led to my involvement with environmental groups that are trying
to stop the coal industry´s destruction of West Virginia mountains and streams
with mountain top removal strip-mining. So I am now vice president for state
affairs of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and vice president of the
Kanawha State Forest Foundation. I also participate in the activities of the Ohio
Valley Environmental Coalition, the West Virginia Environmental Council,
Friends of Mountains, The Sierra Club and the Coal River Mountain Watch.
*It was later revealed that the CIA was responsible for Lumumba´s murder.
** Nigeria 1 was the first of three groups of Peace Corps Volunteers that arrived in Nigeria in
late 1961. I was in Nigeria 3. We trained at UCLA and Nigeria 1 trained at Harvard.
*** Mr. Augustine Okemadu was an excellent carpenter. He built all the home furniture in the
teacher´s and headmaster´s homes and the lab tables in the new science lab that was being built
when I arrived at the school. When my daughter was born I requested and he designed and built
screens on the windows to keep the mosquitoes away from her.
****In 2009 over 4,000 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq and close to ten times that
have been wounded.
*****Eastern Nigeria seceded from the rest of the country and a brutal civil war followed in
which the Soviet Union and England supported the Nigerian government and China and France
supported the Biafrans. It was all about oil in the Niger Delta and Biafra lost and ceased to
West Virginia Power
April 11, 2005
A few years ago the Charleston Gazette reported that the coal companies´
decided to ratchet up their public relations. They were alarmed by industry polls
showing 80% of West Virginians opposed to mountain top removal. They came up
with such deceptions as the absurd billboard that calls coal a cleaner, greener’
energy* and a program that takes their brainwashing into classrooms, even
West Virginia Power looks like the newest partner in the coal company´s
public relation scams. West Virginia Power is the new name for the Charleston
Class A baseball team. The name was inspired by the energy production in West
Virginia and the fact that the power of West Virginia government is in Charleston.
Their logo is the Capitol with POWER written beneath. By all indications the
naming of the team is a way of promoting big coal in West Virginia and that means
promoting mountain top removal strip mining.
The owners of West Virginia Power must be frustrated that the mountain top
removal pending on the edge of Charleston (just 300 feet from Kanawha State
Forest) isn´t ready for reclamation’. What a coup it would have been to build a
baseball park on a decapitated mountain. This would add to the illusion that
reclaimed’ mountain top removal sites are loaded with economic development. In
reality only 5% of the over 400,000* West Virginia acres, ruined by mountain top
removal, has any economic development.
Friends of Coal (FOC) and the West Virginia Coal Association got into the
bidding for the naming rights for the new baseball park. FOC and the Coal
Association is essentially the same thing. FOC is a coal company creation
disguised as a grassroots organization. FOC is a descendent of the company town
with its company store, company union and company preacher. What grassroots
organization has the money to even consider buying the naming rights’ to a
baseball park? FOC even hired a public relations firm (they are paid to act like
they believe something) to speak for them. The same FOC spokesperson from the
public relations firm is also the president of West Virginians Against Law Suit
Abuse which helped put Don Blankenship's boy** on the Supreme Court.
I guess the owners of Power figured that FOC West Virginia would not be a
good name for the new venue so Appalachian Electric Power, a consumer of
mountains through their use of mountain top removal coal, is naming the park after
themselves for $125,000 a year. The public is putting about $20 million into the
team and park but we were not asked to help with the names.
There are plans for a cute little coal train inside our new park to represent, I
suppose, the hauling away of our mountains. And how about gagging on your hot
dog at the Coal Car Café’ and Mine Shaft’ concession stands. Won´t it be cute if
they accept scrip?
Professional baseball in Charleston has always been a marginal operation.
To save face the coal companies will have to keep The Power afloat when the
inevitable decline in attendance follows the initial novelty. And AEP sure doesn´t
want The Power turned off so they are probably going to subsidize it even more
heck everyone might get in free to keep the Power on. Now there is a socialist
concept! Free baseball!
The Power will no doubt have events like Massey Energy Night and Arch
Coal Night. Considering the coal companies´ history, here are some special
evenings that would be more appropriate: Buffalo Creek Night*** in honor of the
125 killed; Black Lung Night with free oxygen hookups; Take a Mountain Home
Night, the first one thousand fans would get a miniature baseball bat made of coal
from their favorite destroyed mountain.
For the nature lovers there could be The Old Swimming Hole Night or Dead
Fish Night in remembrance of the over 1000 miles of streams (longer than the
Ohio River) covered with mountain top removal waste. Fisherman´s Night would
celebrate the fish contaminated with mercury from Appalachian Power´s
For the children, struggling to breath and competing with Appalachian
Power for air, there could be Asthma Night. Sludge Night would help us keep in
mind the Marsh Fork Elementary School children who learn at the base of a huge
sludge pond. A second sludge night would be for the giant Massey sludge pond
failure into the Tug River. A follow up could be Sludge Wrestling Night. On
Overloaded Coal Truck Night, fans could dodge them as they speed around the
parking lots. Flood Night would honor the people killed and homes destroyed by
mountain top removal induced floods.
There could be a Scab Night for those who have ever crossed a UMWA
picket line. On Workers Comp Night, crippled coal miners would pay extra to get
in. And during the seventh inning stretch on UMWA Night, Don Blankenship
would be stretched in effigy.
The Power intends to honor towns with community nights. Sylvester Night
would be a good community to show how big coal treats its neighbors. Fans would
have their seats and faces covered with coal dust. Of course the power in the
luxury boxes would look down on the game in clean air conditioned comfort.
Ghost Town Night would recall all the towns boarded up by the replacement of
100,000 miners by continuous miners, long wall machines and mountain top
removal. Jumping around and threatening people on all these nights will be Axe,
the violent and destructive looking coal mascot.
To close out the season how about Coal Sucks Night and invite all the
politicians who grovel before big coal. Every living past and present governor
would be guests of honor. Remember when Jay Rockefeller changed his mind
about strip mining and became an advocate of mountain top removal to get elected
and do you remember when Arch Moore took payoffs from coal companies? New
Governor Joe Manchin has promised big coal he will speed up the decapitation of
our mountains. And don´t forget the most recently disgraced Governor Bob Wise´s
devotion to the coal companies.
I figured The Power people might name our new publicly funded ball park
Massey Energy Field or Don Blankenship Park to rub West Virginia´s nose in the
dog poop left over from the rubbing of noses in the last election. Remember what´s
his name, that Supreme Court justice the Don bought? Appalachian Power would
gain far more in public respect if they named our new park the Miner´s Memorial
Park to honor the over 20,000 West Virginia coal miners killed and the untold
thousands, like my dad, who were maimed and blinded for life. The miners are the
real producers of the energy, not the power company and not the coal companies
they are nothing without the miners.
Appalachian Power could honor the memory of perhaps the youngest victim
ever of big coal by naming the new park the Jeremy Davidson Baseball Field.
Jeremy was the three-year-old boy crushed to death, while asleep in his bed, by a
boulder from a mountain top removal strip mine.
*Walker Machinery has since put up billboard ads that say Clean Coal, The Carbon Neutral
Fuel’ and Clean Coal, Clean Water’ Joseph Goebbels would have been proud.
**Blankenship is president of Massey Energy, the largest coal company in West Virginia which is
of course headquartered out of state. He paid five million dollars to defeat a progressive, pro-
labor West Virginia Supreme Court justice and replace him with a corporate lawyer of no
particular distinction. It has paid huge dividends. John Grisham wrote the novel Appeal’
based on this episode.
***On February 26, 1972, Buffalo Creek in Logan County was wiped out by a failed coal sludge
dam. 125 people were killed.
The Charleston Gazette, May 5, 2005
The other day I overheard someone say with a happy voice, Did you read
Susanna Rodell´s* column this morning?’ The next day I read that excellent and
environmentally sensitive article about the discovery of an Ivory Bill woodpecker.
The Ivory Bill was believed to be extinct. She wrote that, ...the great birds
disappeared as their habitat was logged into oblivion.’
Every spring there are beautiful song birds living in central and South
America who pack up and head north to the mountains of West Virginia. It is hard
to imagine that those little sweet sounding fellers can fly across the Gulf of
Mexico! They even have beautiful names. Cerulean Warbler translates to Sky Blue
Warbler. Like our relatives who moved to Ohio and North Carolina, they love this
place and they want their young ones to enjoy the forests and streams and
mountains. They return expecting that their habitat will still be here where they
were born and where they learned to fly and sing. But like the habitat of the Ivory
Bill which was logged to oblivion, the nesting habitat of our lovely birds from
Latin America is being mined to oblivion.
In 2002 a Federal study reported that in the previous ten years 381,000 acres
of forest were lost to mountain top removal strip mining. The same study says that
by 2012 the total lost will be 1.4 million acres. This will be equal to a mile wide
swath from the tip of the northern panhandle of West Virginia all the way to Key
West Florida. That is almost a million and a half football fields, or Wal-Mart´s, or
golf driving ranges.
Three of the little songbirds gracing us with their presence in West Virginia
summers are the Cerulean Warbler, the Black Throated Green Warbler, and the
Louisiana Water Thrush. A report of the Forest Service in 2003 found that the
latter two were losers’ in surveys of reclaimed’ mountaintop removal sites.
Song birds are very sensitive to fragmentation of forested breeding habitat.
Mountain top removal is the ultimate in forest fragmentation. Our forests are being
fragged by the coal companies and a wink of the eye by the Department of
The Gazette editorial policy seems to have shifted to joining the Department
of Environmental Protection in winking at the fragging of our mountains. The
Gazette has quit taking an editorial stand against what is the worst environmental
disaster on earth. Nowhere else are 1.4 million acres of a mountain range being
destroyed and the Gazette editorial page is just watching it happen.
We are all happy that the Ivory Bill is back and we hope the Gazette will
come back too and regain its past editorial concern for our mountains and the
people who live in the shadow of the monstrous mountain top removal. I urge the
Gazette to please continue to be concerned for the birds and include in that concern
our lovely Appalachian song birds who travel so far to be with us.
Or, As Dr. Suess wrote in The Lorax, Unless someone like you cares a
whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It´s not.’
*Susanne Rodell was the editorial page editor of the Charleston Gazette.
Rape Is Evil
The Charleston Gazette, 2005
In Susanna Rodell´s first editorial on mountain top removal she chastised the
people at Coal River Mountain Watch for using the word atrocity’ to describe
mountain top removal strip mining. She thought it an exaggeration. She did not
bother to criticize the gross exaggeration of coal company ads that claim by
beheading mountains and dumping the waste in the valleys below they are
somehow making them better.
Ms. Rodell´s most recent editorial implied that the Mountain Justice
Summer volunteers were exaggerating to claim that coal companies are evil. One
confirmation of that evil, as if just the sight of mountain top removal isn´t enough,
is the story of a young woman who, as part of her job, rode into the coal fields with
some coal company officials. When she returned she exclaimed to a co-worker,
They are evil.’
Ms. Rodell wrote, Here's the thing that bothers me the most: How many of
us who are so upset at the rape of the mountains are equally concerned about the
human beings who work there?’ It took honesty and courage for Ms. Rodell to
include herself among those of us who see mountain top removal as rape.
Everyone agrees that rape is evil. Ms. Rodell sees mountain top removal as rape. I
am sure she would call rape an evil act. It is not a long jump for her to agree with
the Mountain Justice Summer volunteers that the coal industry is evil since it rapes
our mountains and that this rape is an atrocity
Destroying our mountains does support some families. But monstrous
draglines and other large equipment like longwall machines have replaced over
100,000 families formerly supported by coal mining. There will be no jobs for the
descendents of the 4,000 miners who work at decapitating our mountains. If the
mountains had been left to grow hardwoods the new growth alone would amount
to enough wood to build 5,000 houses every year, forever. Yet Ms. Rodell chokes
on words like atrocity and evil as being exaggerations. There is no exaggeration
that can match what the coal companies are doing to our mountains.
*Susanne Rodell was the editorial editor for the Charleston Gazette.
Farewell to The Mountains
The Charleston Gazette
A clever headline writer nailed it with Farewell to the Mountains.’ That
was the headline on Susanna Rodell´s last column as editorial page editor of the
Gazette. It is not so much that she is leaving but more importantly she abandoned
Some of what Ms. Rodell wrote in her last editorial is worth repeating: I´ve
seen what mountain top removal does and it´s truly appalling. It makes huge
swathes of the state´s forested hillsthe kind of primeval landscape now so
precious and rare in Americalook like the surface of the moon.’ Why oh why, I
thought, have you not been saying that for the last three years?
On a couple of occasions Ms. Rodell´s editorials claimed that people who
live near and suffer most from mountain top removal use exaggerated language in
describing their loss. It is almost impossible to exaggerate mountain top removal; it
is itself a gross exaggeration. But in her parting editorial Ms. Rodell appeared to
agree with the language of those most afflicted by mountain top removal. She
wrote, The landscape that´s been subject to this sort of rape will never recover.’
Among the assaults on our environment Ms. Rodell agreed that mountain
top removal might be, the absolute, down-and-dirty, worst-case manifestation
of the process.’ She says, It eats up primeval landscape at warp speed and creates
the ugliest consequences I´ve ever seen.’But just as I thought she was among the
saved Ms. Rodell cops out. Because of her feelings of guilt about using coal-fired
electricity and her concern for West Virginia´s short term economy she justifies
her three year failure to address the issue of our disappearing mountains.
Ms. Rodell thinks that ending mountain top removal would destroy West
Virginia´s economy. She agrees with the coal barons that quarterly profits make an
economy. It is this short-term greed that destroys the economy in the long run.
Mountain top removal is ending all hope of a future for West Virginia, be it
economic or spiritual. If she is truly concerned about our long-range economy Ms.
Rodell would advocate for the abolition of mountain top removal.
Just one example of our future economic loss is in the hardwood timber
industry. Every year we lose 100,000,000 board feet of new growth timber that
would have grown on the mountains already destroyed. This could build 5,000
houses every year forever. Since this is just the new growth there would be no net
loss of forest volume. The loss of renewable forest growth increases with each
mountain removed and valley smothered.
Ms. Rodell figures the Gazette can at least try to ensure that those who
are chewing up the landscape abide by the regulations now in place.’ She had
multiple opportunities to help ensure that the regulations were followed. She could
have been a voice from the editorial page that pulled with Ken Ward and Paul
Nyden in their heroic reports of the tragedy of mountain top removal. But she
refused to speak out against what she now calls rape.
Ms. Rodell states that it is not responsible to buy into a crusade unless she is
willing to contemplate the consequences of its success. By default she is buying
into the success’ of the continued rape of our mountains. She saw the rape but
stood by silently while the mountains screamed for her help.
Ms. Rodell turned her back on our mountains and now she waves goodbye
as they disappear.
Buying Votes in Lincoln County
The Charleston Gazette, January 24, 2006
The poorest of the poor are vulnerable to the vultures offering cash and other
benefits for votes. The cure for vote buying and a lot of other things is full
employment at decent wages. People with good jobs seldom sell their votes. Few
people making $20 an hour are willing to sell their birthright for less than they can
make in an hour of honest work.
It is risky for a poor person to turn down any offer they get to sell their vote.
When I lived in Lincoln County, the Jackson-Stowers faction of the Democrat
Party controlled the Board of Education, the County Commission and the welfare
department thus controlling almost all of the jobs in the county. A poor person or
one of their relatives could easily get hurt economically for not cooperating with
that kind of power.
A few years ago a man close to the operation told me that there were 160
votes for sale at one precinct in Lincoln County. The man should know because his
wife worked inside the polling place and gave signals to the paymaster outside
when bought votes were cast as directed. A vote sold to the winning side might get
some gravel in your driveway courtesy of the other taxpayers. One Election Day
dirt roads all over Lincoln County were paved.
A neighbor offered to drive me to the polls to vote, with the understanding
that I would be paid. When I told him that I wouldn´t sell my vote, he pointed to
the new gravel in his driveway and asked, I got a load of gravel for my vote, what
will you get for yours?’
If you are smart enough to sell your vote to the winning side and your kid
gets in trouble with the law the charges can mysteriously disappear. A traffic ticket
can be dismissed if you are a friend’ of the ruling political faction. Now if you bet
on the wrong horse, you could be in deep trouble. One beer joint owner found out
real fast what it means to get on the wrong side of Lincoln County´s ruling
families. Cops waited at closing time down the road from his tavern and arrested
anyone leaving who was driving under the influence. Sometimes I felt that the
Soviet Union was probably a whole bunch of Lincoln Counties, back to back.
Votes are not always bought with money. Often substances of real value are
offered. The older generation likes to sell their votes for some whiskey while the
younger go for marijuana.
It was a hoot to read in the Gazette of Jerry Weaver, the disgraced Lincoln
County Assessor, allowing as how he fixed traffic violations based on friendship
and not votes. It´s not clear if he was bragging about being a prince of a guy or just
revealing his lack of a moral compass. Perhaps he thought it was not a crime to fix
a ticket if done for friendship. Kind of reminds me of Chicago Mayor Daley the
elder answering to charges of nepotism. It´s the American way, he said, to take
care of your family.
According to the Gazette, the federal prosecutors are going to recommend
home confinement for Greg Stowers!* That will confirm the Lincoln County
cynicism that the big guys always get off. The disgraced Stowers, who resigned
his circuit clerk position after pleading guilty, admitted that he organized and led
the vote-buying program. Amazingly he is going to get to lounge at home in
exchange for snitching on the people he hired to break the law.* Hopefully he will
rat on those above him too.
It is also revealing that the Federal prosecutors are not going to ask Mr.
Stowers to squeal on his family. The logical conclusion is that there is something
very bad he could say about his kin. In return for snitching on his private army his
Greg Stowers is no small player in the Democratic Party. Among his good
friends are both of West Virginia´s United States Senators**. Greg was a member
of the state Democrat Executive Committee. His brother Lyle is vice-chairman of
that committee. They inherited their power from their father Wiley Stowers.
Getting caught verified the commonly held opinion in Lincoln County that the
boys aren´t nearly as smart as the old man.
A school administrator, active in Lincoln County Republican politics, told
me in 1979 that every school bond issue election that ever passed was stolen. In a
fit of deformed social responsibility, Democratic and Republican leaders decided
that for the good of the school system the bond issues should pass. They joined
forces to rig the elections. Lincoln county parents are so united against school
consolidation that it was politically expedient to let them have their way and defeat
bond issues that would match School Building Authority grants.
Another school official, who has played both sides of the political fence, told
me that he bought votes for the Stowers faction back when the old man was
running things. He expressed disgust for people who would sell their vote. Sort of
like a John´s’ disgust for a prostitute. A man who taught Principles of Democracy
to high school students was caught with a trunk load of half pint bottles of whiskey
destined for the polling places.
An election can be won in Lincoln County by investing just $5000 in vote
buying. Maybe all past elections should be nullified and monitors from the United
Nations brought in to supervise new elections.
Corruption is not a southern West Virginia phenomenon. Arch Moore*** is
from the northern panhandle and Jerry Messatesta lives in the eastern panhandle.
Neither do the Republicans have reason to get smug, old Arch was not a Democrat
and neither is Tom DeLay. Wealthy people have bought both parties and victimize
the poor and, in turn, all citizens.
*Stowers did actually serve some prison time.
**Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller
***Governor Moore did time in Federal prison for lying and stealing. Democratic Governor
Wally Barren also went to prison for bribing a jury foreman in a trial in which Barren was being
tried for bribery.
The Huntington Herald-Dispatch July 8, 2006
I was driving through Mingo County and saw a sign that pointed to the
Twisted Gun golf course. I had to drive up there and see what the coal company
TV ads have been bragging about.
In David Walsh´s June 15 Herald-Dispatch puff piece on Twisted Gun he
exudes about the view. He says that when golfers drive up to the parking lot they
see a stark contrast. Stark is right, in every direction there is stark reminder that the
beautiful mountains are gone. There was not a tree in sight. It was green fairways
sitting in the middle of a moonscape. Of course there were no trees. The native
hardwoods like hickory and oak will never grow there, nor will the lush understory
of an unmolested Appalachian hardwood forest.
Walsh writes that golfers have unobstructed views of ridges in West
Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. The view is unobstructed because the closest
mountains have been blasted away.
One golfing official allowed as how, It best exemplifies what coal operators
can do.’ It sure does! The destroyed mountains all around and the streams filled in
with mine waste show what the mine operators can do.
The same official said that the hills are a hurdle to having more great
courses. Well what a pity that those pesky old Appalachian Mountains get in the
way of knocking a small white ball around. Who needs the mountains if it means
we can´t play golf?
The title of the article Twisted Gun turns coal mine to gold mine.’ is surely
a joke. There were 17 cars in the parking lot at 3 pm on a Thursday. I suppose
three or four of those belong to employees. That golf course will never pay for
itself. It will probably never meet operating expenses. It will never be shut down as
long as the coal companies can use it for their propaganda.
Walsh wrote that there are reminders of the region´s heritage everywhere. If
destroyed mountains is our heritage it is certainly viewed in all directions from
Twisted Gun. A stark reminder of what our children are inheriting. So far that
heritage is to the tune of 500,000 acres of destroyed mountains. To get a grasp on
500,000 acres try to imagine a quarter mile swath of destruction from New York to
San Francisco. Only five per cent of the destroyed mountains have any kind of
economic development.’ 475,000 acres look like the moon with non-native grass
that could grow through Teflon.
The golf official who seemed to be able to ignore the destruction all around
Twisted Gun asked, "What more could you want?"
How about the end of mountain top removal.
The Charleston Gazette, October 8, 2006
In a recent Gazette article, Joseph C. Atkins recited a list of Moslem
atrocities. Atkins observed that, All my life, from Sirhan to today, we have known
little of Islam but as a religion of blood-thirsty killers. Muslims, not Christians, not
Jews, not Buddhists, not Hindus carried out these atrocities.’
It is simple to selectively look at history, pick out certain events, leave out
others and come to a distorted conclusion. A casual view of Atkins´ time frame
will reveal that if Islam is a bloodthirsty religion it surely isn´t the only one.
Atkins´ beginning with Sirhan Sirhan´s murder of Robert Kennedy was
especially poignant for me. As a Kennedy campaign volunteer on Election Day I
took voters to the polls in the mission district of San Francisco. On television that
evening I saw my candidate murdered by a Moslem. Earlier that year Martin
Luther King had been murdered and not by a Moslem.
In 1968, the year Sirhan murdered Kennedy, an army of Viet Cong, I assume
mostly of the Buddhist culture, in the TET offensive, killed thousands of Christians
and Buddhists. In that sad, mad war, America´s Christian Quaker president Nixon
ordered the bombing and invasion of Cambodia and Laos, killing thousands of
Buddhists. And there was Mai Lay where Christian’ American soldiers murdered
Buddhist women and children. In the Vietnam deception there was the irony of a
Jewish Secretary of State of our oft-claimed Christian’ nation ordering the carpet
bombing of Buddhist Hanoi on the eve of the birthday of baby Jesus.
Christian’ America has been at war most of my life. Since I was born in
1936, America has invaded and/or bombed at least 21 countries. This does not
include the CIA supplying arms, mercenaries, and intelligence to one side or the
other, sometimes, as in the case of the Iran-Iraq war, to both sides.
Maybe the devil made them do it, but in World War II Christian’ America
and Great Briton fire bombed Dresden killing 400,000 mostly Christian civilians.
The Nazis, also of the Christian culture, murdered 6 million European Jews and 20
million Russians. The Shinto Japanese raped Confucian Nanking. A Christian
president ordered the vaporization of hundreds of thousands of Shintos, Buddhists
and Christians with nuclear weapons. Buddhist´s in Cambodia created the killing
fields and murdered 1,000,000 fellow Buddhists. In India, Hindus have been
known to go on periodic Moslem and Sikh killing rampages. Pat Robertson, a self-
appointed TV spokesman for Jesus, called for the murder of the president of
Venezuela. Four American soldiers in Iraq are accused of raping a girl and
murdering her Moslem family. A West Virginia woman and her fellow Christian’
American guards tortured and sexually abused Moslem prisoners at Abu Ghrab.
And there is the American concentration camp secretly away from Christian eyes
down there in Cuba.
Our born again Christian president* confessed, maybe bragged is more like
it, to operating secret CIA prisons. Guess what they do to prisoners in secret
prisons. If the CIA isn´t torturing Moslem prisoners just why does our born again
leader exclude the CIA from the Geneva Convention ban on torture? It is
astounding that we are even debating whether torture is right or wrong, what has
happened to us?
Every belief has a long list of killers, often their very heroes. It was Martin
Luther who had the Anabaptists, precursor of the Mennonites, placed in cages and
lifted to the ceiling of cathedrals and left there. John Calvin slowly burned
Unitarian theologian Miguel Serveto, taking half an hour to kill him. Saint’
Augustine approved the killing of Donatists in North Africa. When Catholic
Columbus was exterminating and enslaving native populations in the new world,
his brother in Christ, Torquemada, was torturing and burning Jews and Moslems in
Spain. And now Israeli Jews and neighboring Moslems continue to spill one
There just isn´t enough space to enumerate the atrocities exchanged between
Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland or the Christian Crusades against
Moslems, Jews and just about anyone in their way. Our born again leader declared
at the beginning of his war on Iraq that it was a crusade. His word crusade’ must
have confirmed the Moslem world´s suspicions.
Perhaps not noticing the moat in Christian eyes, Atkins instructs the
Moslems that it is their responsibility to change the perception of Islam from
bloodthirsty cult to peace-loving culture. Ah so, and it is the responsibility of
Christians to prove they are followers of the Prince of Peace. Following Jesus isn´t
easy for the Bible says that Christian´s must love enemies, return good for evil,
turn the other cheek and forgive seventy times seven.
In Atkin´s most recent article he seems to suggest that Christians are about
ready to quit being Christians. In what sounds like a veiled threat, Atkins wrote, I
also believe that for more and more Christians across the globe and, especially here
in 80 percent Christian America, Sister Leonella´s dying words--I forgive. I
forgive.’--are increasingly more difficult to live by.’ Is Atkins calling for a
*George W. Bush
Sculpting the Earth
The Huntington Herald Dispatch, September 22, 2007
In a September 7 opinion column (MU and area have been great to Friends
of Coal’), Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, and
Andrew Jordan, president of the so-called Friends of Coal’ praised coal miners as
if that is who they represent. Raney and Jordan represent the owners of the coal
companies, not the miners. Jordan is himself a strip mine operator.
Their column tried to link loving West Virginia and rooting for the Marshall
University and West Virginia University football teams with support of the coal
A few years ago, the coal companies admitted that 80 percent of West
Virginians oppose mountaintop removal. So there are a bunch of us who cheer for
the Herd and/or Mountaineers who do not cheer for what the coal companies are
doing to our mountains.
Marshall and WVU sold out really cheaply. The coal companies,
masquerading as a grassroots organization, bought each WVU-Marshall football
game for less than two four-year scholarships per school.
University officials refer to football games as products and exalt that the
Friends of Coal Bowl will enhance the coal industry image.’ The coal barons
have had more than 100 years to develop a good image, but they must have failed
if it still needs to be enhanced.
To counter their bad reputation, they rolled out a public relations blitz and
created Friends of Coal, an instant grassroots’ organization. Some ads feature the
indignity of former Marshall and WVU coaches paid to spout coal company
propaganda. They try to convince us that destroying half a million acres of West
Virginia mountains and burying a thousand miles of streams is good for us.
The Friends of Coal Bowl is propaganda, not education. Marshall and WVU
are supposed to be educational institutions, not willing agents for corporate
propaganda. As a WVU alumnus and former employee, I was saddened to see my
university making a deal with people who want to destroy the very reason we call
Imagine a pleasant dream: WVU and Marshall put education first. They call
their game the Friends of Mountains Bowl and tell the true story of coal in West
Virginia. The football players, cheerleaders, coaches and referees wear symbols
that honor the more than 20,000 miners killed in state mines and the hundreds of
thousand disabled by black lung and mine accidents. The video boards show re-
enactments of the fight for black lung benefits, better safety, wages and work
conditions, the Battle of Blair Mountain, news clips of the Farmington mine
disaster, the Buffalo Creek flood and Sago. Green armbands are worn in memory
of the half a million acres of dead mountains and the thousand miles of streams
filled with mine waste.
Raney and Jordan refer to the massive destruction of our Appalachian
Mountains as sculpting the earth.’ What a cute phrasea new euphemism for
total devastation. Strip mining was changed to surface mining,’ mountaintop
removal became mountain top mining and now they sculpt the earth.’ So expect
that soon they will refer to mountaintop removal as mountaintop sculpting.’
Massive destruction becomes art.
The Charleston Gazette, December 4, 2007
The Gazette gave smiles to the coal industry for putting two golf courses on
reclaimed’ flattened mountains and to Massey for an office building on land they
had flattened. But there has been nary a frown for the hundreds of thousands of
acres destroyed by mountain top removal or for the hundreds of miles of streams
And a Gazette editorial observed that coal companies should pursue "clean
coal" technology. Clean coal’ is an oxy-moron invented by the coal companies.
There is nothing clean about the massive destruction caused by mountain top
This letter to the editor concerned only the editorial page of the Charleston Gazette. In reporting
about the devastation of mountain top removal strip mining the Gazette has been the number one
newspaper in the country. Award winning reporters Ken Ward and Paul Nyden have and are
doing an excellent service for the people of West Virginia in their courageous presentation of the
truth about mountain top removal strip mining.
Liquid Coal Will Be Costly, Too
The Charleston Gazette, January 13, 2008
In his Dec. 16 commentary, Roger Nicholson, a senior vice president
of International Coal Group (Sago* was theirs) said he wants his children to settle
in this beautiful state. He figures that coal-to-liquid plants will make that possible.
What he fails to mention is that those plants will increase already massive
mountaintop removal strip mining. With that increase there may be no beautiful
West Virginia left for Nicholson´s children to find jobs. The beauty will be gone
with the disappearance of even more mountains and the burial of even more
Jeff Goodell says in his book Big Coal that about 3.5 barrels of water are
consumed for every barrel of fuel made from coal. Nicholson backs Gov.
Manchin´s goal of producing 1.3 billion gallons of fuel from coal every year. That
will take about 5 billion gallons of water per year, 14 million gallons a day. Boy,
that ought to dry up a bunch of streams, underground aquifers and water wells.
Goodell also says that the carbon dioxide produced in coal-to-liquid plants
can be 50 to 100 percent higher than that in the refining of petroleum. Nicholson
sloughs off concerns of reputable scientists about the increase of carbon dioxide in
Nicholson tried to place negative labels on thousands of West Virginians
who love the mountains just as they are. He called us extremists, alarmists,
obstructive and a vocal minority. Nicholson becomes extreme and alarmist himself
in the act of trying to scapegoat people who love mountains more than they do coal
and money. For the coal industry to call anyone else extreme is a knee-slapper. It is
hard to imagine what could be more extreme than the massive mountaintop
removal strip-mining that will increase with coal-to-liquid plants.
Contrary to Nicholson´s mean-spirited labels, the people I know who love
the mountains just as they are more easily fit the labels of gentle, kind, aware and
intelligent. They are folks who are indeed alarmed at the destruction of hundreds of
thousands of acres of West Virginia mountains. They are extremely angered by the
burying of over a thousand miles of West Virginia headwaters. And the only thing
they want to obstruct is the wholesale destruction of the environment, a very
worthy obstruction. Thanks to the first amendment to our Constitution, we are all
free to be vocal.
We are not a minority as Nicholson claims; far from it. Even if we were a
minority, we still would have the right to be vocal, to express our opinions, to seek
mercy from the courts. Vocal is good. Indeed, for democracy to survive we must
be vocal when we see crimes against man and nature.
Predictably, Nicholson wraps himself in the flag. He uses the phrases help
our country,’ and our nation´s energy needs.’ We are called upon to be patriotic,
to remain silent, and to be a sacrifice zone for the rest of the country. Nicholson
seems to be paraphrasing the infamous quote from the Vietnam War; we have to
destroy the state to save it and the nation.
And jobs, they never leave out jobs, except at the mine site. When my dad
was an underground miner there were over 100,000 miners in West Virginia. Now
there are fewer than 20,000. As Larry Gibson says, if that is job-creation, I hope
they stop before they run clear out of jobs. Whenever it will save money, coal
miners will continue to be replaced with machines. No matter what smoke screens
the coal companies put up, it is money they care about.
At permit hearings on mountaintop removal and other forms of strip mining,
it is always the same. Speakers for the permit stand to make money from the
destruction of the mountains. Those who speak against the permit are not there for
the money, they are there for the mountains. Those who want more mountains
destroyed are in it for the money.
Upton Sinclair said it best: It is difficult to get a man to understand
something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.’
*On January 2, 2006 eleven coal miners died from carbon monoxide poisoning after an
explosion in the International Coal Group´s mine in Sago, Upshur County, West Virginia
Giant Wind Turbines in Almost Heaven
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy´s Highlands Voice
I don't want to see the beautiful highlands of West Virginia industrialized
with giant windmills. I also want the horrible practice of mountain top removal to
David Buhrman of Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy wrote an
article in the April Highlands Voice entitled Greenbrier County Group Opposes
Windfarm. Among other things he suggested that we should focus on making coal
"Clean coal" is a coal industry public relations slogan, it is an oxymoron.
There is nothing clean about the way mountain top removal has destroyed 500,000
acres of West Virginia mountains. Nor is there anything clean about the one
thousand miles of West Virginia streams that have been buried in valley fills.
"Clean Coal’ is 2.8 billion gallons of sludge (waste water runoff from cleaning’
coal) looming over the Marsh Fork elementary school at Sundial in Raleigh
In areas where the mountains and streams are being destroyed we
are fighting for everything that is dear to us, our beloved mountains, water, homes,
health and most of all our children. The people opposed to windmills in the West
Virginia highlands and those of us fighting the horror of mountain top removal are
natural allies. Both should be fighting for the right of the other to preserve their
I hope April Crowe, a Conservancy member living in Trout, speaks for other
members of Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy. She wrote this in the
Charleston Gazette: "In regards to mountaintop removal, I have to say that no
words could accurately describe the destruction wrought to our state, to Appalachia
and to the planet. At a time of global warming when we should be going out of our
way to protect the natural and rich biodiversity of our forested mountains, we
instead continue to obliterate them. We are in effect extinguishing our own hope of
a future in our fragile Mother Earth. Is mankind insane?"
The proposed Greenbrier County windmills are only fifty miles from mountain
top removal. Physically we are close. We need to get closer in fighting the
monsters that threaten us both.
Charleston Gazette, June 11, 2008
I was outraged to see that an April 2008 article in Wonderful West Virginia,
a Department of Natural Resources magazine, gave two whole color page photos to
the Twisted Gun Golf Course in Mingo County. I have been there, and it is
devastation surrounded by devastation. There is nary a tree in sight and all around
a view of mountaintop removal strip-mining. The coal companies use that golf
course in their propaganda as one of the ways they have improved’ our
mountains, made them better’ than they were before. For Wonderful West
Virginia to promote a coal industry ad campaign by including this hapless golf
course is indeed sad. To wax poetic saying that the course is located on a heath-
like plateau’ is a cruel joke.
Aerial Spray for Mountain Top Removal
The Charleston Gazette
The Gazette reported on July 18 that aerial gypsy moth suppression
treatment is offered for the 77,904 West Virginia acres defoliated in May and June.
We sure could use an aerial suppression treatment on the acres that have been de-
mountained by mountaintop removal.
All-Terrain Vehicles in Chief Logan State Park
The Highlands Voice, April 2008
Chief Logan State Park is an oasis in Logan County amid massive
destruction done by mountain top removal coal mining. And adding insult to
injury, mineral owners recently threatened to drill thirty-five gas wells in the park
or sue the state for millions of dollars in takings’. Now comes more insult in the
form of all terrain vehicles (ATV´s).
Friends of Chief Logan State Park (FCLSP) say a plan is being hatched to
connect the Hatfield-McCoy ATV trail to the Chief Logan State Park Lodge. The
connector would go through four miles of the park before arriving at the Lodge.
The lodge stands on an old strip mine but the four-mile trail would cut a swath
through the park that so far has not been assaulted by coal mining or gas wells.
A FCLSP flier says that, Four wheeled, motorized vehicles pose a serious
threat to wildlife that is protected within the confines of the park. Conservation
officers note that easier access to lands not currently open for hunting would create
a whole new area of poaching. Loss of vegetation on trails would result in erosion
thus greatly impacting the park habitat.’ ATVs are not allowed in any of the thirty-
eight state parks. Creating a connector would set a precedent to allow access in
other state parks.
The West Virginia State Parks website states that the parks are places of
quiet and solitude. ATVs in Chief Logan would surely disturb the peace and quiet
of the park.
Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation
Authority, was quoted in the Logan Banner as saying that the site for the four-mile
trail will have very little impact on the park itself as it consists of an old goat
trail around the ridge of the mountain.’
Follow the politics and money might be the best advice here. The Logan
Banner reported that Senate President, Earl Ray Tomblin of Logan County has
asked the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority to, cut a path’ to the
lodge. The huge, and by my eye ugly, new lodge is underused with only 25.83% in
2006-07. The lodge is in a location where use is not likely to increase.
To register your opposition to ATVs in Chief Logan State Park and all state
parks please contact the Chief of State Parks & Recreation.
Senator Foster´s Mining Stance Troubling
The Charleston Gazette, May 23, 2007
Senator Dan Foster* has always seemed to be intelligent, reasonable and
environmentally conscious. He was a great help in getting legislation passed to
better protect state forests from the destructive practices of the oil and gas industry.
I was shocked to read in his op-ed commentary of May 9 that he has fallen for the
clean coal’ scam. Clean coal’ becomes a cruel oxymoron when you consider the
massive destruction of West Virginia mountains and streams by the coal industry.
If the 60 billion tons of coal that Senator Foster say are left in West Virginia leave
as much damage as the 10 billion that have already been mined, then there will be
nothing left of our once beautiful state.
*Surgeon and Senator Dan Foster is a member of the West Virginia Legislature.
Changing the Rules
Imagine a football game, but this is about something more deadly than
a game. In this game your team is ahead at the half-time. While your coach is
mapping out your second half strategy the losing coach is talking with the rules
committee. When you come out for the second half you notice that a very high
stonewall has been built on the goal line that your team must cross to score a
touchdown. The referee joins your team in objecting to the wall but the president
of the rules committee says the wall stays. The rules have been changed so the
other team can win. Of course this cannot happen in a real game, only in a bad
The bad dream has become reality. The president of the United States
[George W. Bush] is changing the rules that govern the mining of coal. The coal
industry aided by Kanawha County delegate and chairman of the judiciary
committee, John Amores and others, wants to change the rules that govern how
much coal a truck can carry on our roads.
After years of coal companies breaking the law, President Bush decides,
without public hearings, that in order for the coal companies to continue destroying
West Virginia streams he will just change the rules and let the waste from
mountain top removal be dumped legally over the sides of our mountains and into
our streams. The rules have been broken in the past to fill in one thousand miles of
streams in West Virginia.The president is going to make it legal1.
When citizens complain about illegal over-weight coal trucks and illegally
destroyed streams, they aren´t going to be allowed to win. The rules will be
changed, a giant wall will be built that they cannot get around nor over.
It appears we are living in a country and state where when the big boys get
caught breaking the law the government just changes the law and builds a wall to
keep citizens out. It should come as no surprise if citizens, given no chance of
winning and deserted by their government, become like the coal companies,
*And indeed on his way out of office George W. Bush has changed the rule making it legal to
dump mine waste into streams.
No Environmentalists in State Delegation
The Charleston Gazette, Fall 2008
Congressman Nick Rahall said, "Coal is under attack, and not only from
strident environmentalists..." Raise your hand if you are against mountaintop
removal. Those with your hands up are "strident" environmentalists. Rahall is good
on the Mon Forest and other public lands, but outside those areas he is 100 percent
in favor of destroying every coal-bearing mountain in West Virginia. But alas, so
are Capito, Mollohan, Rockefeller and Byrd. None of them are environmentalists,
let alone stridently so. I am hoping Anne Barth* will breathe fresh air into our D.C.
*Anne Barth was defeated for Congress by incumbent Republican Shelley Moore Capito,
daughter of former Governor and convicted felon Arch Moore. One of West Virginia´s other
members of Congress, Alan Mollohan, is the son of a former congressman who was defeated for
Governor because of a land scheme scandal.
There Isn´t Enough Money
The Charleston Gazette
To paraphrase Fiddler on the Roof--I don´t want a big fortune, just a living.
Since teaching was my profession for twenty-one years it was good that I wasn´t
very materialistic. With a family of five and a teaching salary, my three children
qualified for reduced priced lunches at the high school where I taught. When your
kids are eligible for reduced lunches you are very near the poverty level. I am not
complaining for myself, I was happy being poor. It´s that hippy gene.
Our old house was cold. In the record setting winter of ‘94 the water in the
pipes under the house expanded as it froze and thawed. There is an amazing
pressure caused by the V shaped water molecules when they slow down and realign;
it can even burst brass fittings and iron pipe. Our plastic pipes were no match for the
bipolar water molecules. It was three weeks before the temperature got above
freezing and I could get under there and re-invent the plumbing. Snow was in our
yard for weeks after it was gone in our neighbor´s yards over on the sunny side of
the creek. There was an advantage to our location. We had natural air conditioning
in the summer. It seldom got above eighty in the house. But that was a disadvantage
too, for our house grew the finest blue mold any allergy has ever endured.
We could not afford anything near a new car. We thumped around in old
clunkers. Again the hippy gene served me well. We got where we needed to go and
didn´t quite freeze to death in the house. We were happy and I loved teaching.
Unfortunately for the mountains and trees and air and water, most people
don´t want to live a simple life. Parents hope their kids will have an opportunity to
materially improve or at least not be worse off than their progenitors. Most people
who spend the money and time to go to college want to provide the same possibility
for their children. Teaching is a sure way to make certain you can't do that. If your
spouse works you might afford to send some of your kids to a commuter college. If
you reproduce to the tune of two or three kids and your teacher salary is the only
one in the house you are probably going to live in a rundown home, drive a clunker
and watch your offspring go straight from reduced lunches at school to serving
hamburgers for minimum wage and no benefits. All this while former students start
out at salaries sometimes twice or more what a teacher with twenty years experience
In the real world just about anybody with a family and only one income will
avoid the teaching profession. They will find a job that pays more than teaching and
where they will not have to put up with those bizarre administrators. To understand
bizarre start at the top with a Hank Marockie* and imagine what it is like in the
trenches. Where do they get those people?
It is a pay cut announcement when the state government tells teachers that
health care premiums are going up and coverage is going down. Does anyone think
this will attract ambitious, hardworking, dedicated teachers?
It gets worse when a teacher retires. Through the magic of inflation and the
legislature refusing to pass a cost of living increase, retirement benefits rapidly
approach worthless. Now they want to take away the option of trading unused sick
days for health care premiums. It should be obvious that taking away benefits will
neither keep nor attract good employees.
Teachers notice that the people at the top of the roost in West Virginia
government get salary increases on a regular basis. Sometimes the increases are
more than a retired teacher´s social security and teacher retirement checks
combined. Headlines warn that we cannot compete for top talent unless the highest
paid people get more money. The same warning holds true for teachers. If the
legislature wants to attract dedicated, qualified people who just want to make a
living, not a fortune, they better start increasing, instead of decreasing, pay and
benefits. We often get what we pay for.
With our pro-business legislature there is probably no solution to this
problem. They like to give huge tax breaks to just about anybody who will promise
a few jobs. Ostensibly the super tax credits were given as a reward for creating new
jobs. Over ten thousand miners have lost their jobs since the coal companies started
slopping at the super tax trough. Wal-Mart gets tax gifts from the state for creating
jobs but by the time they get through putting older tax-paying businesses out on the
street, there is actually a net reduction in employment.
Giving all that money away for less than nothing makes it possible for
governors and legislators to throw up their hands and chant their yearly mantra:
There isn´t enough money’.
*Hank Marockie was the West Virginia Superintendent of Schools. Dan Radmacher, editorial
page editor of The Charleston Gazette wrote of Marockie in the spring 2002 issue of The
Masthead: This man's rise and fall were both marked by smug arrogance’ He believed he
was entitled to all the perks of a CEO, too: country club memberships, company cars, inflated
salary’ . $300 dinners with his wife, a bureaucrat in the school system’.... He charged
mileage for hundreds of luncheon trips from the Capitol to restaurants a couple of miles
away .and for driving home to his wife in Wheeling. Sometimes, he charged mileage when he
was driving a state car’ The state was charged for, Christmas candy for his secretaries; first-
class upgrades on flights and flowers for the funeral of an employee's relative.’ . The facts
were clear enough -- though we never did get all the details of how Marockie spent nearly
$100,000 of money from the nonprofit Education Alliance.
Bailout Is Socialism For Capitalists
The Charleston Gazette, winter 2008
I have two credentials for writing about the $700 billion gift to a bunch of
anti-socialist capitalists: I once got the only A in a very large economics class at
WVU. We engineers were required to take economics but, of course, the
economics majors didn't have to return the compliment by taking calculus. My
other credential is that I ain't stupid.
Karl Marx predicted this downfall of capitalism sometime around 1850. And
more recently, my wife and I have been wondering just what was supporting the
building of all these huge McMansions and more and more shopping malls. West
Virginia has had no increase in population and no increase in jobs. So where is the
money coming from?
We watch the turnover of fast-food joints, the empty look of older malls and
deserted parking lots in front of some of the national franchises right there on
Corridor G. We reasoned that if the number of houses are doubled then half of the
total houses will go empty and that if the number of malls double then half the
stores will go broke. So we figured that half the people must be going broke. Lo
and behold here it is. The bottom has dropped out of this foolishness. Half the
people are about to go broke.
The Bush government solution is a very free-market, conservative kind of
solution -- socialism. Only it is socialism for the rich, and of course the rest of us
get capitalism. And it ain't gonna be cheap. If it won't work in the capitalist
marketplace they pawn it off on the government. That means me and you because
when it comes to something like this, we peasants suddenly become very important
to the capitalists. Karl Marx probably never figured that it would all collapse
because the capitalists sold their worthless properties to the government, to us.
It is only fair that I offer a better solution. So here goes: How about a
$700 billion investment in repairing all our aging national parks and our
decaying school buildings; real research into alternatives to destroying our
mountains to keep the lights on; free health care for all of us and, daggone
it, include my eyes and teeth for that $700 billion? Just this modest
proposal would employ all kinds of hardworking steel workers, plumbers,
carpenters, concrete finishers, roofers, equipment operators, scientists,
mathematicians, engineers, health-care workers, teachers, social workers,
building supply companies, computer programmers, surveyors, architects ... .
There must be a bunch of ways to go in debt $700 billion that are better
than just letting the rich get by with it again.
To add more injury to this calamitous insult there was buried on page 3 of
the Sept. 25 Gazette, an article that told of the House of Representatives passing a
year-end budget of $630 billion. Dear lord! That and the buyout comes to $1.3
trillion! And that will just be for next year! We may not end up with enough left
over to bring my grandson home from Iraq. As if that pullout will ever happen.
This is what they said they wanted: free markets, globalization (especially of
our debt, like to China) and no government regulations to stifle the muscular
engine of capitalism. So let them have it. If the government has to buy them out
then it should all belong to us, and by golly I volunteer to manage it for just a cost-
of-living adjustment on my teacher retirement check and, of course, eye and ear
health coverage. I will not require a golden parachute at the end of my tenure.
To get a grip on $1.3 trillion, put in all the zeroes -- $1,300,000,000,000. Or
if you tried to spend it all at the rate of a dollar a minute it would take you around
2,500 years. Your spending would be completed about the year 4508, about the
same time our government will get out of debt.
Irresponsibly Extreme or Extremely Irresponsible?
The Charleston Gazette and the Huntington Herald Dispatch, November, 2008
Perhaps D. Steven Walker, in his OP-ED article of October 23, was looking
into a mirror when he called extremists those of us who oppose the massive
destruction of our mountains. For what could be more extreme than blasting the
mountains away, filling in the valleys with the leftover waste, injecting coal waste
sludge into the water table, forever destroying wildlife habitat and eliminating any
future renewable hardwood timber industry and its permanent jobs? And what
could be more extreme than building a coal waste sludge pond above a grade
Walker rolls out clean coal’, the ultimate oxymoron, and includes
environmental opportunities’ as one of its benefits. What could he possibly be
talking about? What opportunities are in store for the increased mountain top
removal that will be made possible by irresponsibly dumping gases from burning
coal into our earth, into our water table? There is no way to know what horrible
side effects will appear after pumping that waste material into the ground. It is the
madness of, We can´t continue to pollute the air and survive so let´s pollute the
earth.’ That´s the ticket.
The West Virginia Council of Churches falls into Walker´s definition of
state and national extremist groups.’ On September 11, 2007 they issued a
statement on mountaintop removal coal mining. These state religious leaders
proclaimed that, Mountaintop removal mining blasts the tops from our mountains
and obliterates healthy streams, filling them with waste material. The damage done
is permanent and irreplaceable. Once the top of the mountain is removed it cannot
be put back. The streams cannot be replaced, and the native hardwood forests and
diverse understory do not grow back. The animals, birds, and people are deprived
of the welcoming environment that once nurtured their minds, bodies, and spirits
and provided food, water, and shelter for them.’
Walker says the way to sustain WV´s economy is to responsibly grow the
coal industry.’ He has been forced by the terrible coal industry reputation of death
and destruction to add the qualifying word responsible.’ This is obviously an
admission that they haven´t been mining coal responsibly in the past. And from
what I see that past comes right up to this very day. Just how do you responsibly’
decapitate mountains and bury a thousand miles of streams?
So is the coal industry irresponsibly extreme or extremely irresponsible?
* Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, West Virginia, is located 400 yards down slope from
a Massey Energy mountaintop removal strip-mine. A coal waste impoundment containing 2.8
billion gallons of coal sludge is precariously held back by a 385-foot-high earthen dam. There is
also a coal loading silo within 150 feet of the school. It is against the law to have this facility less
than 300 feet from a school.
Pay The Players
The Charleston Gazette, November 28, 2008
Gene Budig* said in his November 24, 2008 commentary about collegiate
sports: With rare exception, the major donor wants to be entertained, and by the
president at a sporting event.’ According to Budig, one president of a large
university intends to raise between $2 billion and $3 billion by entertaining
wealthy donors at athletic events in upper-level private suites. Another says the
state is in no position give universities what they need and deserve. So they must
turn to private donors.
If wealthy donors can give large amounts to universities, they certainly are
not paying enough in taxes to governments that could then finance higher
education without prostituting themselves to what amounts to professional
And if universities can make $3 billion on the backs of athletes, then those
athletes should be making very high salaries. Instead, many are left with lifetime
injuries and no marketable skills. Setting aside just 1 percent of $3 billion would
come to $30 million for athlete salaries.
* Budig has served as president of Major League Baseball's American League and as president
of Illinois State University, West Virginia University and as the chancellor of the University of
Kansas. Active in the Air National Guard, Budig retired at the rank of Major General in 1992.
Charleston Gazette March 2009
I know a single mother waitress who usually gets only five hours of work a
day. The Federal minimum wage is $2.13 an hour for people like her who work for
tips. For her five hours of work the minimum wage pays her a whopping $10.65.
With tips added she sometimes makes less than $30 a day. Last year she made only
$7200. The Economic Policy Institute says a single-parent with one-child should
make about $30,000 to meet basic needs. The waitress´ modest two bedroom
apartment in a safe neighborhood goes for $525 a month plus the electric utility.
Her monthly income is almost all gone after the rent and utility is paid.
With one hand congress renders single mothers into a state of poverty. With
the other hand, they make up for it by paying for almost all day care expenses,
child health care, food stamps, an earned income credit that returns income taxes
and housing subsidies(which are often in unsafe neighborhoods where a single
mother might not want to raise her child). However there are no day-care facilities
open in the evenings when lots of single mother waitresses are at work. And there
is still no health care for a single mother making $7200 dollars a year and she sure
can´t afford it on that income.
This is a strange arrangement. The owners of the restaurants get slave-wage
labor, and in the case of the waitress I know, give no health coverage and no
retirement benefits. Tax-payers end up with the bill. What we have here is a
government subsidy for restaurants. The government bails these restaurants out
every payday and consequently provides cheap dining for the public and a profit
for the owners. Eating out would cost a whole lot more if the restaurants had to pay
a living wage, health care and retirement benefits. But without the subsidies I
figure most restaurants would close down and the workers would be without jobs.
Most of us cannot afford to eat out if we insist that the people who serve us
be paid a living wage with benefits. But if we don´t eat out a lot of people will lose
their jobs. To make the food service business work it must be subsidized by the
government, or we all must get a big pay raise to afford to eat out and leave a
So how do you vote? Should we have socialized restaurants with food
servers getting more from the government than they do from their employers? Or
do we resort to another socialist idea of forcing the restaurants to pay a living wage
with benefits, in which case we pay a lot more to eat out?
What would the restaurants pay if there were no minimum wage? My guess
is food servers would work for tips only and Republicans and Governor Manchin
might generously observe that, I would think they´d be tickled to death to have a
CEDAR And The Ladies Auxiliary
The Highlands Voice, April 2009
A year ago, at the WV Environmental Education Association conference, I
asked Dr. Steven L. Paine why CEDAR was being allowed to spread its pro-
mountain top removal propaganda in the schools of southern West Virginia. He
claimed he had never heard of it and said he would look into it. Dr. Paine is
superintendent of West Virginia Schools. He had never heard of a program that
bragged three years ago to being in sixteen southern West Virginia schools. A year
later, after hearing the testimony of Janice Nease, Lorelei Scarbro and me, Dr.
Paine was instructed by the president of the state board of education to do what he
had promised me a year earlier. He said he would look into it and that he would
meet with us. We have an appointment to meet with him on May 18.
Dr. Paine is to include the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary in his
investigation. The Ladies Auxiliary tried to take their pitch into Stratton Middle
School in Beckley. Lorelei Scarbro of Coal River Mountain Watch met with the
superintendent of Raleigh County schools and the program was cancelled. The
Superintendent said that the students had already missed too many snow days to
include anything else in the school day. Watch out for the Ladies Auxiliary to try
again next year.
CEDAR which stands for Coal Education Development and Resource of
Southern West Virginia, Inc. is a coal industry invention. CEDAR´s mission is to
facilitate the increase of knowledge and understanding of the many benefits the
coal industry provides in daily lives by providing financial resources and coal
education materials to implement its study in the school curriculum. CEDAR's
target group is grades K-12 in Mingo, Logan, Boone, McDowell and Wyoming
counties in southern West Virginia.’
The many benefits the coal industry provides ’ are key words in
CEDAR´s mission statement. Learning outcomes for West Virginia Schools don´t
include promoting the many benefits of any industry. Just promoting the many
benefits qualifies CEDAR as one-sided propaganda, not education.
The many benefits the coal industry provides couldn´t possibly include:
Flooding caused by mountain top removal--the selenium from valley fills
producing fish with eyes on one side and curved spins. Recent studies of hatchlings
from below valley fills show 10 % have abnormalities as compared to trace
numbers in normal streams--heavy metals in coal sludge impoundments--acid mine
drainage--acid rain--injecting coal sludge into the ground water and out into
people´s sinks--miners coughing to death with black lung--the Buffalo Creek
disasterthe massive sludge disaster in Martin County, Kentuckythe coal ash
dam collapse in Tennessee--coal mine accidents at Farmington, Mannington, Sago
and the many, many others--the destruction of habitat for migrating song birds. 44
bird species were counted in the wooded area that Larry Gibson saved on Kayford
Mountain while only 3 species were counted at the edge with the mountain top
removal strip mine--the effect of blasting on people´s homes and their health--the
research of Dr. Michael Hendryx of the WVU Department of Community
Medicine documented that as coal production increased rates of cardiopulmonary
disease, lung disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and kidney disease
It is not likely that the many benefits’ of the coal industry would include
the miners march on Blair Mountain--the Black Lung Movement--Miners for
Democracy--The so-called Matewan Massacre and subsequent murder of Sid
Hatfield--the Bull Moose Special’ and murder of Cesco Estepchild labor in
coal mines. CEDAR is not holding back, they have the coal industry money to seep
into every crook and cranny. CEDAR awards cash prizes to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place
for each grade level of K-4, 5-8 and 9-12.’ There is a regional coal fair where
students enter coal projects in Science, Math, English-Literature, Art, Music,
Technology-Multi Media and Social Studies.
The Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary are also ambitious. They exclaim that
"We'd really like this to be statewide, that it be mandatory in the schools that they learn
about coal.’ Aw, yes, that´s the ticket, the coal industry mandating the school
curriculum from top to bottom.
We met with Dr. Paine. The following is an email summation I sent to a
friend on the state board of education:
Dear Ms. Haden: Lorelei Scarbro and Janice Nease from Coal River Mountain Watch
and I met with Dr. Paine on Monday. I will tell it like I saw it. He hadn't done his homework,
didn't know our names or who we represented and if he had read the information we gave him at
the Bd of Ed meeting he didn't seem to remember any of it nor did it appear he had bothered to
prepare for our meeting by reading it again. A social studies supervisor said she contacted
social studies teachers in the several counties where CEDAR claims to be in the schools and
none of them had heard of or used the CEDAR information. Two or three years ago CEDAR
bragged on-line of being in 16 schools. They claim their program is for all grades
and disciplines and pay teacher coordinators in schools where CEDAR is used.
Paine claimed it was a jurisdictional issue and seemed powerless to take meaningful action.
He agreed to tell the superintendents at the next meeting with them that they should have
balanced programs teaching both sides of issues.
I offered to show Dr. Paine mountain top removal up close. He didn't seem too interested and
didn't seem to know much of anything about the issue. He did say he was a friend of Bill Raney*.
He referred to Chuck's ruling as infamous as in Judge Haden's infamous ruling. I assume he
does know the meaning of infamous.
I am sorry that my report is so pessimistic. Both Lorelei and Janice agree with my
We all thank you for your help and concern about this issue.
*Bill Raney is president of the West Virginia Coal Association.
Marsh Fork Demonstration
The Highlands Voice, July 2009
The story went nation-wide almost instantaneously via Twitter, YouTube,
Facebook, Satellite TV and radio. My son-in-law saw it in the Santa Rosa,
California newspaper the next day. No it wasn´t Iran. It was the protest rally
against mountain top removal in Raleigh County, West Virginia on June 23, 2009.
Our demands were that Massey:
Withdraw plans to build a second coal silo within 300 feet of Marsh Fork
Fund the building of a new school at a safe location in the children´s own
Withdraw its permits on Coal River Mountain in order to facilitate the Coal
River Wind Project, which would provide a permanent source of clean energy and
Stop conducting mountaintop removal operations.
We hold it self-evident that these demands are just, feasible, and essential.
No job or profit margin justifies Massey´s ongoing threats to the community by
We drove past lines of miners with signs telling us to go home which I
figured didn´t apply to me being the eighth generation to have lived in the Coal
River Valley. One sign mocked the Earth First organization with Earth First,
Mine the Other Planets Later.’ I honked for the sign that said Honk For Miners’
since many in my family have been underground miners.
At the Marsh Fork Elementary School rally site the miners limited
themselves to disruptions of the speakers with loud insults and counter arguments
and noise from motorcycle engines and chants of Massey, Massey, Massey.’ My
father and grandfather, both union coal miners, probably turned over in their
graves at hearing coal miners lovingly chant the name of their employer.
As the rally was nearing its end the miners slowly left the school property.
They gathered about a thousand yards up the road just outside the mine entrance
area. We walked silently two by two from Marsh Fork Elementary School to the
area in the road where the miners were blocking the public area leading to the
Massey mine entrance.
The miners yelled insults and invited us to come on over and take them on.
If the state police had not been there a bunch of people would have been hurt. Judy
Bonds, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch and a past recipient of the
Goldman International Environmental Prize, was attacked by a woman who passed
up other targets to get at her. It was not a random act of violence. The woman
seemed surprised that she was arrested. The mob of Massey miners cheered her.
Fortunately there were lots of state police including a swat team with body
armor, shaved heads and automatic rifles. However the state police did not offer to
clear the miners from the public access to the Massey mine property.
Rather than try to enter the Massey property for civil disobedience and
create a confrontation that would lead to violence, our leaders sat down in the
middle of the road to block traffic as an act of civil disobedience. Thirty protestors
were arrested including Ken Hechler who was the absolute most principled
member of Congress and Secretary of State we ever had. Dr. James Hansen,
Director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was arrested as was actress
Daryl Hannah. Hansen wrote in the Charleston Gazette, that mountain top
removal and strip mining of coal is a shameful abomination.’ Say Amen.
Dr.Hansen also wrote that Don Blankenship, Massey CEO and seemingly a
role model for a few of his employees, suggested he would like to debate’ me
about global warming. I agreed to a discussion in which I could make a
presentation (of order 40 minutes) of the science, he would have as much time
(before or after), followed by discussion and interaction including audience.
Mountain State University eagerly agreed to provide the auditorium. It seemed
fool-proof, because if Blankenship failed to show, I could give a bit longer talk and
have discussion with the audience. But, after I got a room in Beckley, staying an
extra day, Blankenship decided he would only do a debate in a television studio
with his favorite moderator. When Mountain State University learned what
Blankenship wishes were, they withdrew permission to use their auditorium. I
turned on the television news and heard: Blankenship offered to have a discussion
with me, but Dr. Hansen was still trying to check his schedule’ this was a
television station that knew exactly what had actually happened. It seems that even
the media is owned by coal.’ Say Amen again.
Most moving of all at the rally was when a semi-circle was formed around
the arrested Dr. James Hansen and his wife and we chanted thank you, thank you,
Skinner By Trade
The Charleston Gazette, September 13, 2009
One of our family stories is that a Mr. Skinner came up Coal River from St.
Albans buying mineral rights at rock bottom prices. He made his generous’ offer
to my ancestor who told him, You are Skinner by name and you are Skinner by
trade, but you will not skin old Isaac Barker.’ Consequently my uncle owns forty
acres with the mineral rights intact on Big Coal River in Boone County.
Mountain top removal strip-mining is closing in from all directions on our
beautiful farm. The Farm has ten acres of fertile bottom land and a barn built in
1917 by lumber washed ashore in the 1916 flood. The ridge running toward our
farm and parallel to Big Coal River from Ashford to Bull Creek is being destroyed.
Andrew Jordon´s Pritchard Coal is tearing it to pieces. The Graley family testified
to the destruction of their peace and quiet and their hunting, fishing and hiking
places. They told of the cracks in foundations and the awful view they now have of
the mountain top removal mess at Bull Creek just across Big Coal River from their
lovely family compound. I sat on our home place porch, just down river from the
Graley compound and looked across the river at the beautiful mountain and
suddenly realized that unless the monsters are stopped they will kill that mountain
My great uncle Kin Barker was a mule team logger. He lived and logged on
Bull Creek. Bull Creek no longer exists. This spring, I had a conversation with a
foreman on the Bull Creek strip job. As we talked, I stood on private property on
the edge of the most diverse temperate forest in the world and he was standing on
the wasteland created by mountain top removal strip-mining. I told him of walking
up the Bull Creek hollow as a young boy to visit my Uncle Kin. I assumed the
foreman was local and told him that Charlie Barker was my grandfather. Of course
he had never heard of him, the foreman lives in Cross Lanes. He doesn´t have to
look out at the mountains and streams he is destroying when he is home. It is not in
his back yard.
As I have said many times, I am proud that my grandpa Charlie Barker and
his brother Kin were in the 1921 United Mine Workers march on Blair Mountain.
Pritchard Coal Company is destroying the ridge across Big Coal River from where
those two brave men are buried in the Barker Cemetery.
A recent Gazette article by a Boone County public relations agent made fun
of the value of mayflies and by extension I suppose all small seemingly
unimportant creatures. It showed an ignorance of ecology and how human survival
depends on small creatures. Perhaps the public relations agent knows better but
was playing to an ignorant audience. That same play to ignorance is displayed on
billboards that surely must be joking with their oxymoronic slogans of, Clean
Carbon Neutral Coal’ and Clean Coal, Clean Water’. They probably figure if
they tell big lies over and over that eventually uninformed people will fall for it.
The Boone County public relations agent rolled out the outrageous claim
that they are flattening mountains to host economic development. A friend has
calculated that at the present rate of economic development, on mountains
destroyed by mountain top removal, it will take 3,000 years to develop the over
400,000 acres that have already been destroyed. And just how will they develop
the over 1,000 miles of streams that have been buried with mine waste?
Pritchard, Massey, Arch, Patriot, Consol and the others will take down every
mountain that has coal in it if we don´t stop them. They don´t plan to quit at
400,000 acres. They are skinners by trade.
Global Warming Denial
The Charleston Gazette, Oct. 13, 2009
Dear Vent Line,
Regarding Don Blankenship's* denial of global warming, here are some
facts from the WV Council of Trout Unlimited: 552 tons of ice melted this summer
from the Greenland ice sheet, 15 % more than the annual average summer
melt(NASA). Surface ice lost over Greenland this year was 12-15 percent more
than the previous worst year (University of Colorado)--enough to cover D.C. a half
mile deep in ice. Surface temperatures in the Arctic Ocean this summer were the
highest in 77 years. The shrinking summertime ice is about 30 years ahead of the
climate model projections.
*Blankenship is CEO of Massey Energy
Army Corps of Engineers Mob Hearing
The Highlands Voice, November, 2009
Tuesday evening, October 13, 2009, at the Charleston Civic Center, the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers feebly attempted to hold a hearing on a proposal to
modify and suspend Nationwide Permit 21. Joe Stanley tells best what happened
that night. Joe is a native of West Virginia and a retired coal miner. He worked
underground and in the coal processing plant. He was a certified and qualified
surface miner. Joe was elected President of the Local Union 93 in 1993 and was
also a member of the Health and Safety Committee. Here are excerpts from his
comments to the Corps of Engineers:
After numerous speeches on the merits and the goodness of the coal
industry the first opposing view was presented by Maria Gunnoe [A coalfield
resident and organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC)]. No
respect was given her by the crowd. The court reporter said he could not hear her
comments and Ms. Gunnoe was shouted out many times. The panel made no
reasonable attempt to control the crowd. The insults and the profanity were great.
The meeting should have been controlled then and there. All of the opposing views
that followed were greeted with the same insults. The opposing views could not be
heard by the court reporter and he indicated so on several occasions.
When it was my turn to give my comments, I asked the panel before I
started if my time would be adjusted if I was interrupted; Colonel Peterson said it
would not and that my time had already started. I tried to speak but a constant roar
of profanity and insults drowned me out . The panel was asked to remove the
people who were disrupting the meeting but refused to do so. As each person who
had an opposing view to the coal industry spoke, they were shouted at until their
message could not be heard The panel made no viable attempt to control the
uproar and I felt that our well-being was in danger. Michael Morrison [OVEC
volunteer] and I began to make our way out of the room. We were shouted and
screamed and cursed at constantly
We went to the side door and waited with some Charleston police officers.
Maria Gunnoe, Robin Blakeman, Vivian Stockman and a few others joined us and
we left. Upon exiting we were surrounded by people wearing reflective clothing
[Miners often wear their coal company safety clothing to hearings and
demonstrations]. A very large man started toward me calling me names. I
sidestepped him and he continued toward Michael Morrison continuing to shout
profanity. The other people close behind him were saying they were getting paid to
stomp our a**’. The man cursing at Michael Morrison kept his right hand under
his chest clothing which made me think he was armed. He bumped into Michael
Morrison and said he would kill him’. I told Michael to keep moving The
large man and his followers pursued us and I then saw the large guy push Maria
Gunnoe who was spun around by the contact. At this point a Charleston Police
Officer came directly up and into the face of the large man and told him Do not
touch her’. As the police officer told him and the others to move back, turn
around and leave,’ I told the police officer we don´t want any trouble. The police
officer put his hand on his gun and told them (face to face with the big guy) Don´t
follow them. Leave the area.’ A second Charleston Police Officer came running up
to back up the other officer. The two officers stayed between our group for several
blocks until we were at one of the parking lots where Maria Gunnoe, Robin
Blakeman, and Vivian Stockman were parked. The mob had continued to follow
the policemen. The policemen waited at the corner. Vivian Stockman thanked them
and told them that there were others inside that needed help getting out
It is a miracle that one of us was not killed by the men who threatened to
kill us. I have been around mining people all of my life and I haven´t seen anything
like this Not enough police protection was provided and no West Virginia State
Police were present. This was a U.S. Government sponsored meeting and we were
blocked by an organized effort to prevent us from expressing our opinions. I
believe the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate what occurred.
Freedom of Speech
The Charleston Gazette, November 11, 2009
The Highlands Voice, November, 2009
Our constitution says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the
freedom of speech. George Washington declared that if the freedom of speech is
taken away we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. Ben Franklin knew that there
can be no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.
Noam Chomsky wrote that If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe
in freedom of speech for views you don't like. Stalin and Hitler, for example, were
dictators in favor of freedom of speech for views they liked only. If you're in favor
of freedom of speech, that means you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for
views you despise."
On the evening of October 13, 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers held a
hearing in Charleston, West Virginia, to hear the testimony for and against their
proposal to modify the Nation Wide Permit 21(NWP21) concerning mountain top
removal valley fills.
Speakers in favor of the Corps´ proposal were shouted down. Colonel
Peterson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowed the screams, shouts and
booing. He would say please let the gentleman or lady speak, then a thank you,
whereupon he would allow the shouted insults and booing too continue. There were
no state police present, no county deputy sheriffs and just four or five city police.
Outside, both before and after the hearing, people in favor of the Corps
proposal were verbally abused and threatened. One large man even threatened to
murder two people who were leaving the Little Theatre. To their credit two
Charleston policemen got between the potential murderer and his victims and
escorted those being threatened to their cars.
There were some respectful people at the hearing who were on the opposite
side of the issue from me. As I arrived outside the Civic Center, a former student, a
fifteen year strip mine worker, greeted me and he and his friend and I had a civil
discussion of the issue. Others were verbally abused as they waited in line to get in
at the Civic Center. Amazingly one group being threatened was forced to leave the
line by city police. Nothing was done to those making the threats.
What happened under Colonel Peterson´s watch did not have to happen. At
the Kentucky hearing on NWP21, I am told that an official of the Kentucky Coal
Association asked the crowd to let all speakers have their say without interruption.
In Pittsburgh the presiding Army officer told the crowd that when he put on his
uniform he took the oath that he would support the U.S. Constitution and that
everyone would get to speak and be heard.
A biographer said, in describing Voltaire´s sentiments, I may disapprove of
what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." At future strip mine
hearings, I hope our elected officials agree with Voltaire and provide police
protection. No matter which side of the mountain top removal issue you are on, I
hope you will be present at future hearings, defending the freedom of speech. If you
don´t use it, you will indeed lose it. If freedom of speech is denied one group it can
be denied to other groups as well. Your group might be next.
Sent To the Charleston Gazette, November 2, 2009
It was disappointing to read hate speech on the editorial page of the Gazette.
In Carl Hubbard's op-ed he refers to those of us who love our mountains more than
money or coal as "limp-wristed." That is homophobic hate speech designed to
dehumanize gay people and everyone who wants our mountains saved. I know the
Gazette would not allow Hubbard to call us nigger-lovers.
[My point is made in that you will change the nigger-lovers in some way to avoid
that hate speech, and I hope you do.]
Hate Speech Letter Revised
Dawn--please accept this revision--I realize that as Voltaire was credited with
saying, I should defend to the death the freedom of speech. It does raise the
interesting discussion of whether hate speech should be restricted in public forums-
-I don't know the answer to that. Dawn Miller is the editorial page editor of the Charleston
In Carl Hubbard's op-ed he refers to those of us who love our mountains more
than money or coal as "limp-wristed." That is homophobic hate speech designed to
dehumanize gay people and everyone who wants our mountains saved. Gay people
comprise 10 % of our population and that includes strip-miners and pro-mountain
top removal op-ed writers. This was printed in the Charleston Gazette except
Chief Logan Threatened Again
The Highlands Voice, November 2009
I rode with Cordie Hudkins to the Chief Logan State Park court hearing on
drilling for gas in the park. He was Chief of West Virginia state parks for ten years.
I first heard of Cordie when he leant his support to the effort to save Blackwater
Canyon from logging. We discovered that we were two years apart at St. Albans
High SchoolWest Virginia is a small state, often with only one degree of
separation. Cordie understands and laments the impact coal mining and logging
have had on West Virginia. He observed that if the mountains of Logan County
and other coal producing counties had been left in a natural state they would be as
beautiful as the Smokey Mountains. He was going to Logan where he successfully
became an intervener, along with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and
the Sierra Club, in the lawsuit to stop the possibly 35 gas wells proposed for the
Logan has suffered perhaps the worst coal industry devastation of any West
Virginia county. Just before arriving in the town of Logan there is a huge Wal-
Mart based shopping center built on a former strip mine.(Ironically the Department
of Environmental Protection Logan office is located on an undeveloped section of
this gouged out land). This sort of development’ came like a kick to the gut after
the victim was already down. Unemployment caused by mechanization and
mountain top removal strip mining has just about brought the town of Logan to its
knees. It looks like Wal-Mart has finished it off. Those working in the natural
resources and mining industry make wages of a little over $1,000 a week. But the
average wage of all workers in Logan County is less than $500 a week compared
to a national average of $841 a week.
There is a lot of opposition against drilling for gas in Chief Logan State
Park. A man who works in the coal industry told me that 80% of the people in
Logan County oppose the drilling. I heard it said that the state park was all they
have in Logan and to let it get roughed up by gas well drilling was just too much.
John D. Rockefeller IV
The Charleston Gazette, November 23, 2009
People were charmed when John D. Rockefeller IV came to Emmons. He
was a tall, handsome young man from a rich and famous family. From all that I
heard, Rockefeller fit in and was well liked by most of the people in Emmons. My
uncle, who owns the Emmons farm of my birthplace, describes Jay as a good man.
In 1972 I lived with my Grandma in Emmons and tried to make a go of
raising organic tomatoes. I put Rockefeller's bumper sticker on my truck when he
ran for governor the first time. I supported him because of his statement of Dec.
20, 1970, that he would, "... fight for the abolition of strip mining completely and
forever." And in his campaign of 1972, he got my hopes up with, "Strip-mining
must be abolished because of its effect on those who have given most to the cause -
the many West Virginians who have suffered actual destruction of their homes;
those who have put up with flooding, mud slides, cracked foundations, destruction
of neighborhoods, decreases in property values, the loss of fishing and hunting, and
the beauty of the hills. ..."
In his Gazette op-ed of Nov. 8, Rockefeller wrote that he is concerned by the
"... disturbing number of Republicans and Democrats in Congress who oppose
surface mining altogether." Perhaps they understand the horror of strip mining as
did Rockefeller when he also said in 1972 that, "We know that strip mining is
tearing up the beauty of our state. We know that strip mining is not a good
economic future for West Virginia and not a good economic future for our
children. And we know that, whatever advantage it has now, the damage that it
leaves is a permanent damage."
Rockefeller betrayed those of us who trusted him to stick by his principles
and fight for the abolition of strip mining "completely and forever." In his second
try at governor, he cast aside his idealism and as he recommends in his op-ed,
As governor on March 12, 1977, Rockefeller told the U.S. Senate
Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources that "... mountaintop removal
should certainly be encouraged, if not specifically dictated." That was quite a flip-
flop from his 1972 stance for the abolition of strip mining.
The irony of Rockefeller getting his start in Emmons is on display there
now. The ridge from Ashford to Emmons is being destroyed by mountaintop
removal strip mining. I fear it won't be long until that destruction will blow right
on past Emmons. Emmons might well cease to exist, thanks in part to Rockefeller's
loss of what he called, in his op-ed, his central core principles.
Rockefeller does some good work in the U.S. Senate. He advocates for the
elderly, children, veterans and universal health care. None of Rockefeller's many
good works can mitigate or withstand the blast from the destruction of our
mountains, streams and homes. He abandoned them to the coal companies without
a fight. Would that he had donated to the pro-mountain environmental
organizations the 30 or so million dollars he spent on elections and lavish homes.
Instead he chose a political career over the beauty of the hills. He chose to be pro-
mountaintop removal rather than pro-mountain.
In his commentary, Rockefeller said nothing about the destructive nature of
mountaintop removal strip mining. He offered no relief to people whose homes and
communities are being destroyed. Rockefeller didn't mention the loss to strip
mining of fishing and hunting and the beauty of the hills that so enamored him in
Rockefeller's op-ed was a transparent attempt to keep the good favor of the
coal companies. Those folks don't need to worry about Rockefeller; he is their boy.
The Highlands Voice Feb, 2010
Keystone Industries has applied for a mountain top removal mine permit for
600 acres just across the creek and a little over 300 feet from the border of
Kanawha State Forest. The permit boundary starts across the road from the gate to
Middle Ridge road and runs past the shooting range. If approved this mine will
dump over two million cubic yards of mine waste into Middle Lick Branch and
Kanawha Fork; both are tributaries of Davis Creek. Mining is expected to last five
years. Tom Scholl of Ft. Myers, Florida owns Keystone Development.
Keystone is asking for seven variances of the strip mine laws. One variance
request is to change the post mining land use from forestland to a combined use of
industrial/commercial and forestland. Industrial and commercial land use three
hundred feet from Kanawha State Forest! This led one critic to wonder if that
means a Taco Bell or other big mall lights shining into Kanawha State Forest.
Could it mean a factory across the creek from the Forest?
Nearly 200 comments were sent by Kanawha State Forest Foundation
members and others to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
Here are some excerpts from those comments:
I am concerned about losing the quality of the outdoor experience. Already
mining is visible from some of my favorite trails...from time to time a loud boom
or explosion breaks into my meditative state . Part of this outdoor experience for
many people includes Davis Creek. Any degradation to this water course would be
detrimental to the whole of Kanawha State Forest.’
Nearly 400,000 visits from WV taxpayers occur in KSF yearly.’
The Kanawha State Forest is one of our greatest assets in bringing people
back to West Virginia to live and work. Allowing this permit revision to go
through will impact the one last draw the city has for residents and tourists.’
If we continue to add to the ugly, black and polluting aftermath of
mountain top removal, what tourists would want to come here with their families?’
While the physical MTR site isn´t within the KSF, the impacts of the
cleared land and desolation that would be left by this site will impact the
ecosystem within the KSF for generations to come.’
Imagine a small child playing in Davis Creek, as I saw several times this
summer while hiking. What is he being exposed to as a result of contaminated
water from mine run-off?’
My father grew up on a farm beside your site. I´m sure he´s raging in the
grave to think of what you´re doing to rape the countryside.’
In recent years, the residents of this area experienced devastating flooding.
Depositing this waste into these creeks could increase the potential for flooding
and endanger residents and their property.’
Kanawha State Forest has been described as a botanist paradise .To see
the lovely Cerulean Warbler that finds a haven in that Forest is an especial
delight... Kanawha State Forest provides fun, nature study and solace for me, my
children, my grandchildren and now my great grandchild. It must not be
I love that within minutes of being in downtown Charleston I can enjoy the
quiet solitude, beautiful scenery and be deep in the hills, mountains and trees of
Kanawha State Forest.’
What a jewel we have and we just can´t afford to let it slip away.’
there has to be a line drawn at some point and Kanawha State Forest is
it this is a disgrace.’
Over 100 commentors have requested a public hearing on this permit. Stay
tuned for the date and time for that hearing.
Please contact your Legislators, Governor and Congressional delegation and
anyone else who may help protect Kanawha State Forest.
The Charleston Gazette, Feb 28, 2010
Overpopulated?’ Yes, you heard me right. West Virginia is overpopulated.
Overpopulation exists when there are not enough jobs for the number of people
who need themor at least not enough jobs without destroying the very
environment the people live in.
But even destroying the environment doesn´t seem to bring more jobs, as is
plainly demonstrated in coal industry employment statistics. There were over one
hundred thousand coal miners in West Virginia in1950 and about seventeen
thousand in 2010. And this decrease in jobs was during near-record coal
production and its requisite destruction of the mountains, trees, water, wildlife,
people, and culture. So, even if we agree to let the land be raped, we still won´t
have high employment. They will just rape with bigger machines.
Around the year 1900 people were brought into West Virginia from the
south and from Europe to mine coal. They stayed and reproduced, and the jobs
declined as the population increased. With the cooperation of the union, the mines
were mechanized and then mechanized again, accounting for a huge job loss. The
population that was in West Virginia in 1880, when the horrendous scale of
environmental destruction started, is about all this state can handle without eating
the mountains like tent caterpillars on a wild cherry tree.
My people came here long before the coal companies recruited immigrants
off the boats in New York and ex-slaves from the south to work the terribly
dangerous mines. On my mother´s side of our family, only three of us are left in
West Virginia. In response to overpopulation, which combined with technology
resulted in high unemployment, my mother´s siblings fled to Ohio and Florida and
mine to the Carolinas. I tried California but only lasted three years and had to come
back, job or no job.
However, the overpopulation isn´t confined to West Virginia. You can´t
escape it by leaving; it is worldwide, and the environment is being torn to pieces
worldwide to feed, clothe, shelter and pamper some of this swarm of people. The
rain forests of South America are being destroyed as are the Appalachians, waters
of the world are being polluted, 5,000-year-old redwoods have been cut down,
highways are opening up’ and developing’ pristine areas with strip malls, filling
stations and fast food joints.
Our wasted West Virginia environment results in the sorry spectacle of
people destroying limestone mountains to treat trout streams ruined by acid mine
drainage and acid rain as a result of destroying other mountains. Fishermen
following stock trucks in order to catch trout almost before they hit the water are
another sorry result of an abused environment. And there is the shame of profiteers
wanting to drill 36 gas wells in Chief Logan State Park and two more in Kanawha
State Forest along with the threat of mountain top removal right across the creek.
Humans are devouring the food and habitat of other species. We cannot eat
the whole world and live on this planet alone in a junkyard environment. We do
need the other living things. We need the salamanders. The salamander is the
largest animal biomass in our forests. It is at the bottom of the food chain. Most
every other animal species in the forest depends on the salamander being there in
large numbers at the base of the pyramid. Salamanders don´t survive on a forest
floor scrambled by bulldozers. Little creatures in streams buried by mountaintop
removal valley fills are vital to the life forms farther down the stream. Everything
is indeed connected, including us.
We, too, are part of nature. We have a right to be here and to flourish. But
humans have become an infestation on the body of the earth. The worst sores are
the huge cities. As you leave the cities, the inflammation decreases and the
countryside appears healthier. There is less concrete and asphalt, more green space,
less noise, the air is cleaner, the water looks better, and there are fewer people. But
to feed the infection in the cities, rural areas are losing their mountaintops, their
streams, and their forests. The effects of the infection are spreading.
It is madness.
What follows are excerpts from comments about Overpopulated’ from a friend who has
written several op-eds on climate change.
First I'm not sure "madness" is an appropriate term for human's destruction of the
biosphere. We overpopulate because we CAN be destructive and overpopulate. We are
animals. As I'm sure you know all organisms will overpopulate until Nature steps in (famine or
predation). However, because we have opposable thumbs and the intelligence to invent fancy
technology we can delay Nature's wrath for a while, but we will destroy the biosphere. If chimps
or elephants had these characteristics to our degree, a different species would be causing
problems. We are on the Titanic and we are out of time. With time running out, all we are doing
is increasing speed and dancing with the band.
The level of affluence (lifestyle) and climate change are overpopulation multipliers.
These factors accelerate the pace of catastrophe (through over resource use and biosphere
destruction). I seriously doubt it's possible to curb humanity's love of overconsumption. As
Chinese and Asian Indians make more money, they will buy cars and bigger houses and more
stuff (10s of millions of them are already doing it).
We waited far too long to keep climate change and overpopulation within limits to
prevent catastrophe. We'll be at 7 billion next year (the buns are in the ovens). If we had wished
to keep population below 8 billion, we would have needed to adopt strict breeding controls years
ago. Same deal with climate change. There are 40 to 50 years of increased climate change
impacts still to go in the system (due to thermal inertia) even if we stopped all green house gas
emissions this year. Anyway, my advice is to enjoy life now by doing things which give you
fulfillment, because it's going to hit the fan in a few decades. I used to write 5 to 6 op-eds a year
on climate change until I understood at a deep level it's too late. As a friend once told me, " we
are on an earthride to hell."
Incentives offered by the state of West Virginia to the proposed pulp mill would have amounted
to one million dollars for each job that was promised.
Terry Headley was the editor of the Lincoln Independent. He editorialized about the welfare
state as if only poor people received welfare.
Lloyd Jackson, the late Wiley Stowers and Charles McCann were powerful Democratic Party
Earl Ray Thomblin was and is(2010) West Virginia Senate president.
Samuel Johnson said that Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’
Mencken did say that patriotism is a favorite device of persons with something to sell.’
Rostenkowski was a Chicago Democratic congressman of doubtful integrity.
As this is being transcribed in 2010 it is obvious that Medicare did not collapse in 2001.
If Canadians didn´t like their health care system they would have already been rid of it.
The super tax credit started as a gimmick to attract the first Saturn automobile plant to West
Virginia. Saturn went to Tennessee and now (2010) Saturn cars are no longer made. The coal
industry persuaded the legislature to extend the super tax credit to them. They were supposed to
get credits for creating jobs. All kinds of scams ensued. They used the tax credits to buy long
wall mining machines which replaced coal mining jobs. They also closed underground mines
and later opened mountain top removal strip mines thus reducing jobsbut they counted the
jobs on the strip mines as created to satisfy the super tax credit stipulation that jobs must be
created to get the credit.
A man drove on Interstate Highway 64 from Virginia almost all the way across West Virginia and took a random
exit and drove into a random driveway, knocked on the door and shot the woman who answered the knock. A
campus guard at Emory and Henry University in western Virginia told me she is armed because Interstate 81 runs
right past the campus. And an author and doctor in Johnstown, Tennessee writes that interstate highways are a
conduit that brings AIDS from the metropolitan areas to more rural communities by way of truck drivers and local
truck stop male and female prostitutes. The interstate highways are also conduits for invasive exotic plant species
and plant diseases.
I have one of her wool sweaters with worn out elbows from maybe forty years ago.
Gaston Caperton, governor of West Virginia
State senator Lloyd Jackson who managed Caperton´s campaign.
Lloyd Jackson runs a gas well drilling company started by his father.
Buck Harless is a timber baron who has timbered in the Appalachians and the Brazil rain forest.
Cecil Underwood was a Republican governor.