Monday, January 30, 2006

fundraiser for Mountain Justice Summer

*** Press Release - For Immediate Release ****

Kentucky author Erik Reece will be signing and reading from his new book about mountaintop removal coal mining in Kentucky entitled
"Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness - Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia" (Riverhead Books, 2006)
on Friday, February 10 at 7:00 at Communality, 112 High Street in Lexington
(2 doors down from Bombay Brazier Indian restaurant).

This event is a fundraiser for Mountain Justice Summer, a multi-state grassroots movement to stop mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. A spaghetti dinner will be served and donations for Mountain Justice Summer 2006 are welcomed at the door (no one turned away).

What the critics are saying about "Lost Mountain":
"A portrait of coal country as stark and galvanizing as Harry Caudill`s classic Night Comes to the Cumberlands" - Kirkus Reviews

" ... An impassioned account of a business rife with industrial greed, devious corporate ownership and unenforced environmental laws. It's also a heartrending account of the rural residents whose lives are being ruined by strip-mining's relentless, almost unfettered, encroachment." - Publishers Weekly

“Reading Lost Mountain is like grabbing a hot electrical wire – it fills you with fire, and makes you want to scream like hell.” - Men's Journal

About the author: Mr. Reece is winner of the 2005 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism for "Lost Mountain," his Harper's magazine story on mountaintop removal, and his work has been featured in Orion magazine, The Oxford American, and the Lexington Herald-Leader. He teaches writing at the University of Kentucky. He can be reached at email

Contact: Dave Cooper 859 299 5669
Patty Draus 859 299 5669

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

The One Campaign kick-off was a great success last night and in the spirit of seeking justice in our city/region/world i thought i would post some things coming up locally. For more information about KFTC events/actions, go here .

Witness Tour / Trip to Pike County – Saturday, January 28th. We will organize a group of folks from Central Kentucky to join with others across the state to see the effects of Mountaintop Removal mining first-hand and to talk to KFTC members in directly-effected communities. We’ll carpool from Lexington starting at 8am and meet at the Grapevine Community Center in Phyllis. The carpool from Lexington will leave from Eastland Shopping Center off Winchester Rd. near the True Value. We will see examples of bad reclamation sites, effects of MTR and valley fills, and the impact of overweight trucks in the community.

Writing that Letter – Sunday, January 29th at 6pm at Third Street Stuff On the corner of Limestone and Third St. in Lexington). We’ll have a weekly gathering of members to hang out, enjoy some food, and write letters to the editor of local papers. We’ll provide fact sheets, information, and other help. This is an easy and fun way to really get our messages out.

I Love Mountains Day in Frankfort – Tuesday, February 14th. A focus day for lobbying in Frankfort to support or “Streamsaver” bill and to stop mountaintop removal See “KFTC Citizen Lobbying (continuous)” above for more information.

Music For The Mountains in Frankfort – Tuesday, February 28th. We’ll bring musicians to perform at the Capitol in Frankfort. We’ll focus on celebrating Eastern KY history and heritage while lobbying the legislature to preserve our mountains. See “KFTC Citizen Lobbying (continuous)” above for more information.

Living Wage Campaign Meeting – Tuesday, February 28th at 7pm at the Community Action council main office.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ONE campaign Kick-off 2006

Hello everyone, please remember to come on out Thursday and bring your friends and family!
The ONE Campaign Kick-off 2006!
The ONE Campaign invites you to an evening of music, speakers, and fun
Thursday, January, 26, 2006
5:00-6:30 PM
112 W. High Street
Lexington, KY 40507

Come celebrate a great 2005 with ONE and find out how you can help in 2006
Featured guests include:

Congressman Ben Chandler
Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller
Donna McClure, Office of Senator Mitch McConnell
Rev. Albert Pennybacker
Music by Pitch Blue
Free and open to everyone
Light refreshments provided

ONE is a new effort by Americans to rally Americans -
ONE by ONE - to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty.
The ONE Campaign is engaging Americans through a diverse coalition of
faith-based and anti-poverty organizers to show the steps people can take,
ONE by ONE, to fight global AIDS and poverty.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

the snow is melting after only one day and i am thinking of thomas merton sitting so long ago and not many miles from here receiving news that his younger brother was gone from this world, shot down over the north sea. he was a pilot in the royal canadian airforce in the 2nd world war. merton had the bravery to talk about that war as the inevitable result of the world he helped to create. it would have been so easy to identify the evil of hitler, or of the nazi's. instead he saw the evil in himself. kentucky seems to be a million miles away from the deserts of iraq, but in the melting snow i see my complicity with the powers of this world. there is a dinginess to it. forgive us.

Friday, January 13, 2006

mountain justice

another brilliant article about MTR from Erik Reece here.
it starts like this...

NOT SINCE THE GLACIERS PUSHED toward these ridgelines a million years ago have the Appalachian Mountains been as threatened as they are today. But the coal-extraction process decimating this landscape, known as mountaintop removal, has generated little press beyond the region. The problem, in many ways, is one of perspective. From interstates and lowlands, where most communities are clustered, one simply doesn't see what is happening up there. Only from the air can you fully grasp the magnitude of the devastation. If you were to board, say, a small prop plane at Zeb Mountain, Tennessee, and follow the spine of the Appalachian Mountains up through Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, you would be struck not by the beauty of a densely forested range older than the Himalayas, but rather by inescapable images of ecological violence. Near Pine Mountain, Kentucky, you'd see an unfolding series of staggered green hills quickly give way to a wide expanse of gray plateaus pocked with dark craters and huge black ponds filled with a toxic byproduct called coal slurry. The desolation stretches like a long scar up the Kentucky-Virginia line, before eating its way across southern West Virginia.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

wondering bout the big things

Beautiful, heart-rending reading – The Color Purple. I have to thank our friend Rachel in London for insisting on this one. Deeply moved, I finished it in the wee hours this morning. The book offers a poignant portrayal of segregation, rape, family ties, loss, exploitation of the weak, and the cost of slavery. And yet it allows for the hope of redemption in much of it. A highly recommended book…here is one small excerpt at the end of the story from a conversation between Celie (the narrator) and the husband that abused her for years:

“I tried to do something bout my children after you left me. But by that time it was too late. Bub come with me for two weeks, stole all my money, laid up on the porch drunk. My girls so far off into mens and religion they can’t hardly talk. Everytime they open they mouth some kind of plea come out. Near bout to broke my sorry heart.

If you know your heart sorry, I say, that mean it not quite spoilt as you think.

Anyhow, he say, you know how it is. You ast yourself one question, it lead to fifteen. I start to wonder why us need love. Why us suffer. Why us black. Why us men and women. Where do children really come from. It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t hardly know nothing. And that if you ast yourself why you black or a man or a woman or a bush it don’t mean nothing if you don’t ast why you here, period.

So what you think? I ast.

I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn more about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, he say, the more I love.”

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I thought this Wakley Prize Essay was poignant and a good read:


The road

Cornelus JG Sanders MDa, aDepartment of Dermatology G02.124, University Medical Centre, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584CX Utrecht, Netherlands Available online 16 December 2005.

The green lawns that once surrounded the tuberculosis hospital had turned into desert, and the flower-beds that once had ameliorated the suffering of the inpatients looked like rubbish heaps. I had been employed in this place for 7 years and had seen it all deteriorating. An increasing number of inpatients now occupied the beds that had refused to multiply along with the sick, and therefore patients, naturally, had spread out over the floors. The suffering of the inpatients oozed from the walls. The oozing was constant so no paint would stick to these walls that were flaking continuously. Nurses were underpaid and scarce, as were the drugs available for the practice of medicine. “Out of stock” was neither a call to arms nor a protest, but rather the standard morning call reverberating through the wards as a loud sigh of resignation. The hospital spilled its corpses into the overflowing morgue and eventually into the deserted flower-beds outside. Notwithstanding their demanding and desperate situation, the patients tried to observe their decency. They struggled hard to convince anyone, including themselves, that they had the “good tuberculosis”. The “good tuberculosis” was “TB1” and not “TB2”. Patients would do anything to obtain a diagnosis of TB1 to avoid being stigmatised and ostracised. TB2 was actually that other disease that one could not talk about, namely HIV or AIDS. Evil spirits caused “TB2”, while “TB1” descended upon us mortals from the damp air and the morning cold. Everyone knew that.
The morning rounds had dragged themselves a long way into the afternoon, together with endless rows of diseased men and women, skin and bones, with feverish sparks of hope in their eyes and bodies ready to collapse from their infections. The best thing I could do was to give them a diagnosis of “TB1” and try to keep them comfortable. The nurse did not blink an eyelid when she told me that painkillers were out of stock, but asked me to speak to an old man who had come to collect the body of his son. I did not realise I was leaving the beaten track.
I sat down in the doctor's office and looked at the man who stared, absentmindedly, out of the window, watching the traffic along the busy road.
“Good afternoon”, I said. “I am sorry about your son. He was very ill when he came here last week and the medicine that we could give him did not help.” I paused, pondering the diagnosis I was going to write on the death certificate.
“Was it AIDS?” he asked. I hesitated with my answer. I hadn't heard this frank reaction before and it caught me off guard.
“You can answer me”, he said, with sincerity in his voice.
“Your son died of AIDS”, I said, “and we have no medicine for that.”
Then he looked at me with his staring gaze and said: “You brought us AIDS.”
After that remark the silence hung heavily in the air, a weight descended on my shoulders and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
“You brought us AIDS”, he repeated.
Visions of competing CIA and KGB labs, developing horrid microbes for their warfare, rolled through my head.
“Well, if you mean that I personally imported AIDS into your country, let me reassure you because all I am trying to do is to treat …”
“We never heard about AIDS before you came along.”
The superpowers fighting their wars on the African continent, while keeping its people ignorant and in perpetual poverty, and so gradually destroying these innocent bystanders.
“You brought us AIDS but have not brought your medicine.”
Or the fairytale about these microbes put in contaminated vials and distributed during vaccination campaigns in Africa. I had heard the story before.
“You brought and taught us about AIDS”, he whispered.
I took a deep breath, since this conversation was not going in a direction of my liking.
“And that is all right”, he said.
“You know about the spirits of our forefathers that guide us during our life, or sometimes stand in our way and wreak havoc”, the old man continued.
I nodded my head.
“I have lost my eldest son and, before you brought us AIDS, we would say that ‘evil spirits’ have caught up with him, or that maybe he had done something to upset the good spirits. We would ask the medicine man and he knew what to do, sometimes.”
Like my patients I felt moving sensations in my head and my knees weakened.
“With our young children we always wondered whether this child was going to stay or leave again after some time in our home. We were not used to older children leaving us behind. I never thought that I would see my eldest son leave. I assumed I had seen enough children leave.”
The old man stared out of the window. “Maybe it is like the road out there”, he mused.
I wondered out loud: “What is like the road out there?”
“The life we are leading”, he replied. “You travel along the road from here to there without knowing where to go or what direction to take. Things pass you by, but you are not sure if you should cling to them or push them away, just like people in your life who may come and go, without warning or purpose.”
The pot-holed tarred road was teeming with cars, buses, bicycles, and people. “Before they constructed this road there was only a small dirt track”, the old man continued. “The road construction was not meant for us but for the rubber plantations farther on. Never before or after have I seen so many workers tearing down trees, levelling ground, and working big machines. Some people were meant to stay and eventually built this town and many have left or will be leaving. The road suddenly changed our life and ended the isolation of this remote corner in this land. It brought prosperity. Shops appeared along the way while cars became a regular sight. Before they could spoil me, my father said, that real men were meant to walk and summoned me to help him with his shoemaking business. We started to make sandals from used car tyres and I have been making shoes ever since. This road gave us plenty of raw material. I can spot the difference between a Goodyear and a Bridgestone tyre from a distance.”
His calloused hands lay in his lap. “The sluggish feel of a rundown tyre”, he muttered, looking down, “and my hands putting new life into them. Another pair of sandals ready for the road. The road has brought me my wife along with her sisters. We were very much in love. But after many years she left, one night, in agony, after a week of fever and moving things in her tummy. The doctor could not do anything and said he was sorry. I think it was due to a witch, looking for lovers at night, making them crazy and then leaving one of them in a dead-end street.”
I could see that the pain was still there but life did not pause for him. He told me that he had married his wife's sister and his children were well looked after by his new wife. However, over the years, they had fluttered from the tree like leaves after a thunderstorm.
“I have lost all my girls and two sons”, he said. “We tried to take good care of our children, but how can you keep the thunderstorm out of your backyard or make sure leaves stick to their branches? We used all the potent medicine to comfort the good or fight the bad spirits and we watched out for witches. The doctors in the clinic claimed victory once in a while, just to lose the battle again some time later. The road had brought Father Josiah who carried Jesus and erected a church building. He smoked two packets of cigarettes a day while taking care of the lepers in the settlement and complaining about the injustice of being sent to this God-forsaken place. The reason why God had left was not immediately obvious since everybody tried very hard to contact him by prayer throughout the week and especially during Sunday Mass. But lepers are known to consume spirits so probably God had vanished into their community. That's at least what the medicine man was saying and he sometimes knows.” Despite all the prayers his children still left one by one.
“So this road has brought me my wife and children and now they say it has taken away my children.”
“Who says so?” I asked.
“Those people came to my house and told me to take away my tyres. They said that tiger mosquitoes lived in my tyres and they had given evil spirits to my children that made them disappear.” He looked at me in disbelief. “You know that we tried our best to please the spirits but apparently our medicine was not strong enough. We still have evil spirits that take away our children. Often they take away the young children and not the old ones. They were meant to stay. No person in the world is strong enough to bury his own children, except those that are comforted by good spirits.”
The tears in his eyes reflected the many good spirits that he had needed in his life.
“And now my eldest son has also left”, he mumbled.
As I watched his children fall from his hands like grains of sand, I was beginning to feel lost in his presence. I said that I was sorry for his misfortune.
“Oh, it is not that that you should feel sorry for”, he said. “This road of life that we travel from birth to death has so many secrets and surprises and so little guidance. At the end of life there is no magic that is suddenly revealed to you to live your life better or with fewer worries. There are good spirits that put their hands over your head for protection or arms around your shoulder and we call that love. This is what you have for your wife or children. The lesser spirits are what we call compassion and of course we show that to our friends and relatives. Most people that you meet along the way have to make do with the sympathy that you are prepared to give to them.”
I felt utterly impotent and told him that I wished I had more medicine to help out.
“Oh, but the medicine is all in you.”
I stared at him in confusion.
“You are showing me respect by sitting here with me and listening to my story. I don't need your pills. I need your attention. We have come to the end of this little bit of road that we travelled together. It is your being here, taking a moment in time to let me talk and give me your ear that goes well with you. With that you took some of the load off my shoulders and carried me a little farther down the road. Although you cannot bring my children back, I will be less tired when I arrive at the end.”

happy new year

it's that time. reflections and projections.
this article by Rabbi Gellman is an interesting summary of religious trends in 2005 (mostly sourced in Barna's research -
he lists his 5 major are the two that stuck out for me.

3. The energizing of the evangelicals. Although only 7 percent of adults are evangelicals, their voice is the loudest and their energy, charity, Bible study, and prayer life is the greatest. They give away more than three times as much money as other Americans. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was the evangelical volunteers who came in the greatest numbers and stayed for the longest time. I hope that even people who are suspicious of their motives for America can admire the power of their good works when America needed good works the most. Even if they wanted to evangelize the storm-tossed remnants after giving them food, shelter and clothing—who cares? They were there, and most other religious groups were not there in anything like their numbers or sacrificial kindness. People who cannot appreciate the energy of evangelicals for good after the experience of their posthurricane mobilization have eyes, but they do not see. Most pious people flee from the culture and its needs. Evangelicals are engaging the culture and producing the most constant and cogent critique of cultural crud that we are seeing from any religious group in our time.

5. Revolutionaries. Barna labels as “Christian revolutionaries” the more than 20 million people who are pursuing their Christian faith outside the box. They meet in homes or at work. I even knew some New York Knicks who had a prayer and Bible-study group, but perhaps to see members of the Knicks turning to deep prayer may be motivated more by necessity than by faith. Anyway, these revolutionaries, as Barna labels them, are really passionate Christians who have no patience for the moribund bureaucracy of organized church life. The havurah movement in Judaism is fed by the same spiritual energy. For many people faith comes from a fire within, not a cup of coffee and a Danish after services in the social hall. And let us say, amen.