Why I decided to try and fund this blog....

Portrait of Judy Bonds by Robert Shetterly for his project, Americans Who Tell the Truth, used by permission of the artist. (0rdering info). To read my July 23 blog post on Judy's having to take a medical leave of absence, see: "Judy Bonds: "Fight harder and finish them off."

Want to know more?

Shoot me an email at communitypoweredreporting@gmail.com Or you can ask to join the group community-powered-reporting@googlegroups.com.


An experiment in "community powered reporting"

I'm experimenting with what my friend David Cohn, who started Spot.us, calls "community powered reporting."

Writing about politics and culture, I'm often linking to books and films. When Newstrust readers rate one of my posts high on the list I get a lot of hits. For instance, my post of 7/16, "PBS: Can you say, unlevel playing field?" (reviews here).

Here are some others that were reviewed:
But traffic doesn't translate to money. So here's the experiment--my readers can help fund this blog if they used my referral code to open up the webpage for Amazon when they want to shop there. I'll also be adding links to Powell's Books and perhaps E-Bay--if you have any other suggestions for places you shop online which have affiliate programs, let me know. (I've added a handy widget to go there on the right side of the blog.)

I would have loved to have already found someone to fund my writing

Say, if Spot.us had brought crowd-funded journalism to Appalachia. (And it may happen yet. Until then, you can still help me and David, if you want to be a sponsor of his community centered advertising on mtr or other topics you care about...but that's a topic for another post.)

Or if I had a day job in new media. I had more time to write when Newstrust.net to had enough money to budget my salary as community developer. Even a few stints as paid editor, a position I held for three news hunts this year, helped. (The last funded by a donation from a friend who wanted to support my coverage of energy issues)

So, while I wait, this is one small step

After all, Jonathan Greene of Gnomon Press explained to Meredith Sue Wilson for her September 10, 2007 Books for Readers Newsletter,

Small Press Distribution and Consortium that distribute books for many small presses return even less to small presses that Amazon: they normally sell books to stores or chains at 40% - 55% then take half of the gross receipts of any payment and put the amount due the publisher in escrow for three months. And Consortium charges the publisher a re-stocking fee for any books stores or distributors return [sometimes in unsellable condition.

Why Amazon?

After a brief trial, I refused to use Google Adsense (with its odd matches from folks like Friends of Coal or ambulance chasers following disasters). Not to mention its odd notion that folks need to click through, rather than read a display ad.

And I loathe camouflaged paid-product endorsements masquerading as independent assessments.

So here's the disclosure

Amazon pays a cut, if folks buy from its site, after clicking on my link. I get to pick what I'm endorsing, and it's based on my opinion, not revenue from the producer to flack a product. So, it's kind of like a merchant selecting an item for a store, although, nowhere near the profit.

If you buy the soft cover version of Bob's book for $7.99 (Puffin, 2008, 48 pages) using this link, 4% will go to support my writing on mtr, renewable energy and energy efficiency. I'm not sure what Amazon is paying authors and publishers, but once I find out, I'll share it here.

So, spread the word on Bob's book? http://amzn.to/coa6km.

That's a buck for each $25.01 order

I'm using that amount because, with it, you get free shipping. You can even order together with friends, as long as it goes to one snail mail address. That's a great deal or I wouldn't suggest it.

I checked. You can order it few places for 27 cents less, but Amazon has a 4-for-3 sale going on. When you order any four eligible books under $10, you get the lowest-price book free. (http://amzn.to/bBbUAM).

BTW, Dutton's 2005 hardcover edition of Bob's book is available for $14.81--part of the $25.01 free shipping deal but not the 4-for-3 special. This is marketed as a juvenile book because of the reading level, but I promise you, it's inspiring to adults.

You can also get the companion volume to the movie Coal Country... Rising Up Against Mountaintop Removal Mining was edited by Shirley Stewart Burns (http://amzn.to/cZL1YT Mari-Lynn Evans (http://amzn.to/ad27Vx) and Silas House (http://amzn.to/dkPVwv). In paper (http://amzn.to/aROM0X), it's $17.10. In hardback, $30. (http://amzn.to/cd6GBb.) And there's the dvd of the film and the cd of the score.

For any month where I earn more than $1000, I'll share with activists

I need to pay part of my rent and utilities, my health insurance, groceries and car expenses, since the research, linking and writing takes time.

But I'd rather write on things I view of import than hawk "to-do" articles to airline magazines.

Since I'm not clear on what "units" means , let's assume the worst--that "unit" means an order. (I'll update this post when I do find out the answer.) So, if 616 folks order $25.01 during the month, after that, I'll start sending checks to the activists associated with the post--Coal River Mountain Watch, Robert Shetterly and the filmmakers behind Coal Country in the case of this post.

So which other books are eligible for the 4-for-3 deal?

I was happy to see Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina (http://amzn.to/c1rR9Y), also $7.99 (http://amzn.to/d38ycu) Or her sequel Unquiet Earth for $6.99 (http://amzn.to/ct0VbU . Also Borrowed Children by George Ella Lyon (http://amzn.to/cmyBiz) for $9.95 (http://amzn.to/bqxC5C). Couldn't find any other Appalachian books, right off hand, but The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (http://amzn.to/baRFCq), who lives in SW Virginia, features a KY native as the protagonist who travels elsewhere. It's $7.99 (http://amzn.to/9ed7nU). No books by Pearl Buck (http://amzn.to/dgzOVz). Sigh.

Of course, if you pick two for $7.99 @, one of the books has to cost at least $9.03 to get to discount to work. So if you don't order George Ella's book, there's The Epic of Gilgamesh for $9.95 (http://amzn.to/bhBlrw) or Travels in Alaska by John Muir for $9.75 http://amzn.to/bxdV08 or Swann's Way ( the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust for $9.95 (http://amzn.to/9XjBwB).

Or check out the choices for yourself

For instance:
Or pick out your favorite category here. (http://amzn.to/a1CxgO)

You can also help by ordering Kindle downloads

The affiliate share is 10%. David Rothman and I have this on-going debate. Hey I love beautiful paper books, but some prefer e-books. He started Teleread (and has sold it to someone who has a business model to pay its writers.)

Kindle seems to be helping authors (to its own business model), offering 70% in royalties after delivery costs (about 6 cents) compared to publishers who offer 15% for hardcovers, 7.5% for trade paperbacks, and 25% for e-books. (And I suspect that this is after expenses, which will be higher than 6 cents.

So, if I run across a kindle version of a book I recommend, I'll include it, despite my preferences.

You get the idea. Can you help?

As folks know, I always advocate for ordering from the author, small press, or locally-owned bookstore to keep these folks in business. But, as Jonathan tells it, Amazon is pretty good for small publishers. So if you're ordering from Amazon, ...why not support coverage of the fight against mtr? And if you'd rather not order from Amazon, it's still a great site to research the book...before you head out to the brick-and-mortar store, if you're still lucky enough to have one near you.


ICG didn’t just trespass on McKinley Sumner's land

Photo from KFTC, via ilovemountains.org. I've checked with Jamie Goodman to try to get more info on the photographer.

Montgomery Creek Kentucky is one of those mountains that isn't any more. Today I was corresponding with fellow journalist Anne Butterfield who writes about coal issues from Colorado and she was surprised to learn that mountain removal operations in Appalachia often don't own the land they destroy. They lease it. And sometimes they don't even do that--they steal it.

Consider the case of McKinley Sumner, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) who testified in 2007. ICG is International Coal Group, which I have written about before in connection with its deep mine disaster at Sago. Evidently the corporation, having bought out companies in bankruptcy, is also blowing up mountains--without the permission of its owner. How the corporation would defend this, I don't know. Gene Kitts of ICG defends mtr in principle at Ken Ward's blog here. (pdf at the company's site, here.)

ICG had approached my siblings and I about selling or leasing them our land that is about 63 acres. I told them a number of times that we did not want to sell to them because I wanted to live out my days here on the land I grew up on. This company did me dirty on George’s Branch, and I didn’t trust them so every so often I would go up the ridge to make sure they weren’t getting on my property. Back in August, I was out in the yard one day and I heard this awful commotion. It didn’t sound right to me, so I decided to go to the top of the mountain. I put on my boots to keep the copperheads and rattlesnakes away and headed up. When I got back there, I saw this monster bulldozer. At about the time I got to the top, a truck pulled up. I went up to the person in the truck who was apparently the foreman, and asked him if he realized they were on private property. He said, “No, I don’t think so.’ I responded by saying, "Yes, I do think so!" I talked to him for a minute and then I started on down the ridge to see what all they had done. I started down the ridge, and he said, "You can’t go down the ridge."

I said, "I can go anywhere I want to on our own property, so you don’t tell me where I can go and where I can’t go. Furthermore, when I go down the ridge and see what all you’ve done, you don’t be here when I get back."
A few evenings after this happened a representative from ICG coal company called me. They said it was a mistake, and that they would make it good. I don’t think it was a mistake. I think the company wanted to see how far they could push me. They couldn’t say that it was a mistake because my property lines were well marked, and there was a big white oak tree that was well-marked by the surveyor where the property lines were. I had talked with them a number of times before and told them that they weren’t to get on my property. After the company realized that I had contacted a lawyer, they took it upon themselves to contact the state. When I talked to Susan Bush [Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources], she knew about the problem, and ICG said they had gotten off permit by mistake. The state gave them a citation back in August, but they still have not issued ICG a fine. It makes me think that the state does more for the companies then they do for the property owners of Kentucky. This whole situation has caused me a lot of aggravation and stress. I have had to put out a lot of money, about $7,000 in total, from my own pocket to make sure I knew where the property lines were and that the lines were well marked. The pegs and flags were removed on other part of the ridge, which cost money to have the property line remarked. I don’t know who else would do that but the coal company. I am 74-years-old, and I hike up to the ridgeline three times a week to make sure the company is not trying to come on my property again. I just want them to know that I’m still here and I’m watching. I just don’t think that this should be happening in the United States.

KFTC adds that Leslie Resources Coal Company started strip mining coal on the ridge tops above Montgomery Creek in 1999, affecting the hundred or more families that live in the Montgomery Creek hollow. Leslie Resources Coal Company eventually sold to the Addington Brothers who then went bankrupt.

This led to the purchase by so-called bottom-feeder Wilbur Ross Jr. and ICG. Ross went on to sell ICG, as in the case of his other acquisitions. As KFTC writes,

In order to make sure ICG stay off of his property, Mckinley Sumner, had is property surveyed with bright orange markers. When ICG decided they wanted to mine some of Mckinley’s property they not only removed the markers, but they also removed the line tree used to indicate the property line. One lawyer said it’s hard to get them (ICG) for trespassing on his property, because there is no property their any more. It’s just a straight drop-off now. They didn’t just trespass on his property they stole it.

Another KFTC member Carolyn Brown was quoted by Kentucky writer Mary Popham, in and July 9, 2007 op-ed in the (Lexington, KY) Herald-Leader about coal-to-liquid technology and its acceleration of mtr.
The wildlife is being destroyed. All the trees, the plants, yellowroot, wildflowers. Our streams are black, ruined. You drive through the areas, you see nothing, all the trees are gone. You see dirt, nothing won't grow on it. Where they plant grass, it won't grow. Some people still like to enjoy the natural look of the mountains. Our children will not get to see them. Because coal companies come in and make some people a few bucks. The land will be gone. It breaks my heart. It insults me. I really don't know how, but we have to save the mountains we have left.


Judy Bonds: "Fight harder and finish them off."

Portrait of Judy Bonds by Robert Shetterly for his project, Americans Who Tell the Truth, used by permission of the artist. (UPDATE 7/29: Ordering info--more details see the bottom of this entry.)

Vernon Haltom, Judy Bond's co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, just sent me the bad news that Judy has found out that she is battling stage three cancer. Vernon writes that "She said that some people have asked her before, "What do you want us to do if anything ever happens to you?" Her answer is "Fight harder." She repeated that today, to fight harder. " Her words:
We've got them on the ropes and smell blood. Don't let up, fight harder and finish them off.
I'm sharing this by permission. When I asked to what extent I should share the news, Vernon answer, "I asked how much of that she wanted me to let folks know, and she said there's no point in keeping it from people."

Treatment will take at least 3 months, and she doesn't expect to be back at work for several months. Judy had been sick for several weeks when her doctor sent her to the hospital in Charleston, after antibiotics didn't work on what had been diagnosed as pneumonia. Vernon wrote,
Judy has always been a fighter, never giving up. This is her big fight now; the only one she's able to do right now. ...Please, keep her in your prayers.
Judy won the prestigious Goldman Prize in 2003, for her work in fighting mountaintop removal. I also love the quotation on the page I've linked to.
The right to mine coal here ends where it endangers our health and safety. You may have your job tomorrow, but what do you tell your kids? That you wasted the future of these mountains?


Did you know you can support this post?

I'm putting this on a separate page, so as not to mix my discussion of how to crowd-source my journalism with news of Judy. But if you're interested, see my July 29 update: "Why I decided to try and fund this blog." (And, I might mention, if the experiment goes well, to also provide a way for me to fund support for activism in the coal fields and others' media coverage thereof. Too bad I didn't have the idea before I launched this page--for a while it was getting over 300 out of the last 500 hits, according to statcounter. If this works, I might also pitch in for something other than a free account and have better data.


PBS: Can you say "unlevel playing field?"

Photo of a mountaintop removal site by Daniel Shea of Chicago, who is now working on a series of photographs of coal plants, entitled Plume. (I'll be writing about his print sale to fund that project in my next post.)

In reading Alessandra Stanley's July 12 column, "Mr. Secretary, This Is Your Life (in Plenty of Detail) I thought of the PBS handling of the film Coal Country v.s. that of the tribute to George Schultz. At the time that PBS pulled the plug on airing Coal Country, citing its Sierra Club funding, I wondered whether Board member Sharon Rockefeller (wife of the big coal lovin' WV Senator) had played any role.

I had seen the film at its West Virginia premiere and found it to be pretty even-handed, using a much more sympathetic representative of the coal industry than, say, Black Diamonds. This is not to criticize Catherine Pancake or her film. I am just saying that Coal Country, by Mari-Lynn Evans and Phylis Geller, looked to me to be ready for prime-time PBS, more akin to Ken Burns, than say its more controversial programming, such as POV.

Funding for the George Shultz tribute

Now, according to Stanley, PBS is airing a three-hour George Shultz tribute, whose sponsors include
Mr. Shultz’s Nixon-era colleague, Peter G. Peterson, who is married to Joan Ganz Cooney, the founder of Children’s Television Workshop. The Stephen Bechtel Fund gave money, so did Charles Schwab, founder of the Charles Schwab Corporation, where Mr. Shultz also served as a board member. So did many prominent foundations and individuals, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California.

But John Wilson, the chief programming executive told Stanley that money had nothing to do with airing the program.
We evaluate programs on their merits ...PBS has a vivid track record of covering this administration’s key players. It goes without saying this is not our first look at the Reagan White House and not the last.

I guess just not so vivid a track record of covering mountaintop removal.

The directors of Coal Country react

The filmmakers of Coal Country have said,

It is important for us to state that THE APPALACHIANS airing on PBS (and one of their largest pledge films) was also funded in part by the Sierra Club. Now we learn that PBS has accepted a 3 hour film on George Shultz, funded in its entirety by his supporters.

PBS's decision regarding these two films surely appears to be a conflict of interest In looking at the site for Free to Choose Media, founded by Bob Chitester and producer of the Schultz film, it hardly seems to be involved in non-partisan projects.

Free to Choose Media: can anyone say "climate change denial?

Take a look, for instance, at what's next up for the company, What a Wonderful World. The site says it features

Johan Norberg, a noted Swedish Author and Scholar, will attack the pervasive and negative myths about Capitalism, Free Trade and Globalization with an insightful, engaging and often times humorous look at the world around us as it really is.

Then there's a finished project, Unstoppable Solar Cycles: The Real Story of Greenland, which
sets aside doomsday alarmism and political axe-grinding to look at the science behind the history of climate change on earth.

Supposedly, this is authoritative since
Dr. Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Dr. David Legates of the University of Delaware provide an easy-to-follow review of current climate science, which suggests that the sun's irregular patterns and other natural forces are the major sources of climate change.

Of course, climate skeptic Soon was Scientific Advisor to Greening Earth Society between Dec 1998 and September 2001 and had ties to the American Petroleum Institute, according to Sourcewatch. Legates, according to the same source is a frequent
contributor to publications released by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think-tank that strongly opposes climate change regulation.

PBS may have used Chitester before for a skewed series on economics

In 1980, at least according to his website, Chitester produced a series with Milton Friedman. (I can't find it on the PBS site, nor does IMDB list who aired it.)

Take a look at the PBS standards

Here are the network's standards on editorial integrity
PBS's reputation for quality reflects the public's trust in the editorial integrity of PBS content and the process by which it is produced and distributed. To maintain that trust, PBS and its member stations are responsible for shielding the creative and editorial processes from political pressure or improper influence from funders or other sources. PBS also must make every effort to ensure that the content it distributes satisfies those editorial standards designed to assure integrity.

Other journalists are weighing in--will PBS answer?

Greg Mitchell (email), formerly of Editor and Publisher, wrote this for his blog The Nation. But despite an action alert by Peter Hart at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler (email, phone: 703- 739-5290) has yet to respond on his blog--the last entry was July 9. I hope that he'll write about PBS's decision-making regarding these two films, given his role in upholding the station's integrity.


UPDATE (not part of my drafted op-ed):

In getting ready to write PBS, I also located some articles for further reading:

On July 14, I emailed Getler, copying the No New Coal Plants, Friends of Mountains, Appalachian Studies, Concerned Citizens of Giles County, Surry Justice and Mountain Justice Organizers lists, as well as the three writers above and Mari-lynn Evans:

Jul 14, 2010, 1:13 PM

Mr. Getler,

Consider the case of Coal Country v.s. the recent George Shultz tribute.


I hope your station will revisit the original decision to not show Coal Country. By copy of this, I'm letting friends on several email lists know about this, thinking that they may find the topic of interest and want to contact you.

BTW, as you might know, Greg Mitchell also has a post w. more info on this:


As does Joe Strupp at Media Matters:


And Peter Hart at FAIR


On July 16, I copied just the three writers and Mari-Lyn, plus I wrote the NYT's author at the contact form at the paper.

Jul 16, 2010, 10:29 AM

BTW, I notice that you have a blog and the last entry was July 9. I hope that you'll write about your decision-making regarding these two films, given your role in upholding the station's integrity, especially in light of the standards on editorial integrity:
PBS's reputation for quality reflects the public's trust in the editorial integrity of PBS content and the process by which it is produced and distributed. To maintain that trust, PBS and its member stations are responsible for shielding the creative and editorial processes from political pressure or improper influence from funders or other sources. PBS also must make every effort to ensure that the content it distributes satisfies those editorial standards designed to assure integrity.
These standards are especially interesting, given that you gave the filmmaker an extra hour, according to the New York Times.

Also, you might be interested to know that this is a quite a topic of interest. My blog post has had more hits than anything in a long while.


Morgan Cain Grim of Floyd County, Virginia on MTR

Illustration compiled from Daniel Shea's "Mountaintop Removal Site" and "West Virginia" in his 2007 series Removing Mountains. While Shea had a grant for that series, he is holding a print sale to fund Plume, his current photographs of Southeast Ohio and "its unusually dense concentration of coal-fired power plants."


I wrote on July 10 about the 5' by 3' poster at a Prestonburg, Kentucky golf course, featuring a semi-nude photograph of Ashley Judd. Accompanying the photograph was the slogan,

Ashley makes a living removing her top. Why can't coal miners?

By permission, I'm publishing here the poem "Topless," in which Morgan Cain Grim of Floyd, VA. Morgan examined the comparison of topless women to topless mountains back in 2009. For more information on Grim, see the bottom of this post.


TOPLESS (Listen along as Grim reads her poem here)

I read quickly as his car sped by…
curious what token he offered the world,
what statement defined him enough to brand his vehicle.
Squinting, I made out the small words on his bumper sticker:

The car sped off into the distance, but the slogan did not.
It stayed with me. Lingering. Repeating. Stuck.
Taking me back to a sad day.
A field trip unlike childhood years
with packed lunch and souvenir money.
The day I saw a mountain decapitated.
Invaded. Stripped. Topless.

With a stab to my chest, I dissected the words:
Topless mountain. Topless woman.
But no sensual silhouette would come to mind.
No ripened breasts, exposed, and proud.
Instead, a woman, in mourning like the mountain.
With shameful scars in place of breasts.
Wounds: Exposed. Abashed.
Where cancer had spared her life, but stolen her bosom.
Invaded. Stripped. Topless.

Is this what the driver meant?

The words were branded on my skin like his bumper.
Even though his car was infinitely distant from me…
As distant as roots feel, ripped from their earth.
As distant as babes feel, weaned from the nipple.
As distant as the woman and the mountain
from nature’s intentions.

All I thought of was the woman, the mountain.
All I felt was their shame. A victim’s shame.
Unjustly felt. Unjustly suffered.
I stared into her, I stared unto the mountain.
My eyes trying to apologize.

Her eyes stared back…
telling me how it once was.
How the bare chest she clutched once nursed babes.
How her breasts gave strength to precious little lives.
How she once knew herself through them,
part of her distinct shape, femininity, identity.
How she never knew she loved them…
never knew she would be without them.

The mountain, too, stared back at me…
speaking the wisdom of a timeless elder.
Tales of changes and seasons. Life and death.
Animal, tree, rock, fern.
The springs of life that once flowed abundantly.
The billions of years spent climbing, moving.
So slowly that man could not notice.
The infinite, patient journey since creation.

They stared back at me.
Telling me how it would never again be.
Of what was forever severed.
Irreversible. Irreplaceable. Gone.
Invaded. Stripped. Topless.

I stared. I listened. I cried.
Heavy tears turned to cleansing flood,
baptizing my stained conscience.
And then…I knew.
Healthy. Vivacious. Proud.
A new slogan branded to my soul!
A new song for you, woman,
a new ballad for you, mountain:

Woman, you survived.
Live shameless. Live assured
of tomorrow’s cure.
Mountain, live to see
God’s glory restore man’s rape.
For long before draglines,
there lived prophets, proclaiming:
“The Lord’s house shall be established
on the top of the mountains!”

You survived. You breathe.
And with all the life left in you,
You strive. You fight.
You live.
To see a future
with no more
Invaded. Stripped. Topless.


About the poet

Grim was a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies at Virginia Tech when "Topless" won first prize in the Steger Award for undergraduate poetry on April 24, 2009. Here's a picture of her accepting the award, standing along side poet Nikki Giovanni, who administered the award and University President Charles Steger, who funded it.

A honors graduate, Grim, while at Tech, also introduced Appalachian culture to Spain, and eventually brought Spanish gospel back to its African-American roots. While at Tech she also interviewed members of Wakefield, an African-American community in preparation for publishing her 350-page honors thesis: "“Wake Forest: Voices That Tell of a Faith Community.”

Endnote: the poster and permission

So, what about the unnamed person who funded the poster of Judd? Did s/he appropriate a work of art without permission or credit? I've written Caroline Noseworthy, a representative for the photographer, Ruven Afanador, to try and find out. If I hear back, I'll update this post.

Jul 17, 2010, 3:19 PM

Folks are speculating that the semi-nude photograph of Ashley Judd used in the 5' by 3' poster on a golf course in Kentucky is the one taken by Ruven Afanador for the 2006 Marie Claire story by Lucy Kaylin, "Ashley Judd: The Good Fight: As the global ambassador of Youth AIDS, actress Ashley Judd has stepped into the role of a lifetime: a knowledgeable, caring, committed crusader hell-bent on making a

According to a contemporaneous story, the cover is this one which appears to be similar to this one which accompanied the web version of the article.

I'm wondering if you can tell me if Mr. Afanador still holds rights to the picture, and if not, who does. If he does retain rights, did the anonymous funder of the poster obtained permision from Mr. Afanador to use the image?

An a hat tip for the recording

Thanks go to Mimi Pickering (email) of Appalshop who sent a link to a recording of the poem after WMMT posted an audio file posted July 8, 2010, while we were discussing the brouhaha on the Appalnet email list.


Open Letter to Dylan Lovan about Ashley Judd

Dylan Lovan is an AP journalist who uses the above stock illustration from jupiter images on twitter. He recently got lots of coverage for reporting on the strip miner's revenge on Ashley Judd for speaking out about mountaintop removal, reporting which has, in turn, been getting criticism on various list serves (and I'm sure support on others.)

Dear Mr. Lovan,

I'm glad that the later version of your story included quotes from Ms. Judd.

What disappoints me is that you went to press before getting her side of this--could you not wait for her reply? And if not, could you have at least interviewed others who oppose mountaintop removal and written a better lede?

The original story read,

Appalachian anger at Ashley Judd's outspoken criticism of mountaintop removal coal mining has led to a backlash using a topless photo of the actress.

This was not "Appalachian anger," although the story circulated by the likes of HollywoodNews.com, repeated a narrative of the do-gooder-outsider Judd versus "the locals."

Many whose roots in our region go back generations adamantly oppose mountaintop removal. And Judd was more than just KY-raised "outsider:" I've read that her mom was a KY native who returned home after a divorce from Ashley's dad. If the adage about outsiders, "if a cat had kittens in the woodbox, it wouldn't make them logs" is true, how about the converse?

Nor was Judd's appearance at the National Press Club the first time she's spoken out about mtr. Besides, as others have pointed out, the sexist sign is a sensational non-sequitur. Judd's top is hers to remove and she can put it back on. The mountains (and those who love them in their pre-mtr shape) don't have that option: those who engage in mountaintop removal are poisoning water and laying waste to our landscape and our communities.

I'd urge you to use your journalistic skills to research who funded the sign, so that s/he can not gloat anonymously.


BTW, Lovan has been with the wire service since 2000 and his bio says that he's

[r]esponsible for day and evening supervisory shifts, broadcast desk and general assignments
The Kentucky AP publishes Mr. Lovan's email address and I tried to write him via twitter, facebook and email before posting my take on his coverage, so as to get his response. Unfortunately, the server returned an error message:

550 550 #5.1.0 Address rejected dlovan@ap.org

I wrote an AP colleague of his to found out about the bounce, who can't explain it.

Since I haven't heard back and the library is closing and tomorrow I'll be in Beckley, I'm posting this without his response. Which is ironic, given the content, but I don't have anywhere near the AP's circulation, so if I do hear back, the correction will be included before many read this.


Financial Services for the Greater Good?

My friend Betsy in Lexington, KY, gave me a heads up that Jewish Voice for Peace is urging the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and the College Retirement Equities Fund (TIA-CREF) to stop investing in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including Caterpillar and Motorola. The organization hopes to deliver 1,000 postcards at the CREF annual meeting July 20 and has a petition to sign online.

The fact that TIA-CREF bills itself as " Financial Services for the Greater Good" should have made it somewhat susceptible to moral suasion. To date, though, the reaction from the fund is:

While TIAA-CREF acknowledges participants’ varying views on Israeli and Palestinian policies and the Gaza Strip and West Bank, we are unable to alter our investment policy in accordance with those views. Our responsibility to earn a competitive financial return on the retirement savings entrusted to us by 3.7
million participants obliges us to invest in a diverse line-up of companies
across all sectors of the global economy.

One wonders just how far "earning a competitive financial return" can be taken. As an American Jew, I flinch when I see a parallel between Israel and one of the reasons for its formation (Nazi Germany and anti-semitism), but the fact remains, that just such an argument about financial returns was used to excuse investments in Germany during the Third Reich. That the Israeli government makes itself susceptible to such comparisons is a source of continuing sadness for me.

Israel, of course, says it's not occupying Gaza. Well, tell that to the families of the eight Turks and the American of Turkish slain by the Israeli Defense Force May 31 in international waters. They were in the lead boat of the Freedom Flotilla. According to the AP, many aboard the flotilla refute Israel's statements that they were armed and dangerous. (The Guardian has a rundown of some the 600 people who took part in the attempt to breach Israel's Gaza blockade and deliver humanitarian aid.)

Obama has warned the Turkish Prime Minister, at least according to London's Al Hayat, newspaper of record for the Arab diaspora (as reported in the Israeli media including YNET and Ha'aretz) that

such an inquiry commission may lead to accusations against several passengers on the Marmara ship, or members of the IHH organization and Turkey must know that its request could turn into a double-edged sword.

To which I wish Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan that had replied,

Mr. President, if we're willing to be subject to such a sword, that should tell you something...
Interestingly, not all the hawks in Israel approve what happened. Ami Ayalon, former Chief of Shin Bet, Israel's secret service, and commander-in-chief of the Navy Ami Ayalon supports a two-state solution (without the right of return) but has criticized the Israeli peace movement. He told Rebecca Anna Stoil for a 07/02/2010 Jerusalem Post story that

Two days before the navy confronted the flotilla... an interviewer found him
participating in a conference at Tel Aviv University, and asked him what he
thought should be done to stop the flotilla. “I asked the interviewer why we
needed to stop it, and he was horrified...We must differentiate between the need
to stop entry of heavy weaponry into Gaza, which is a clear interest that nobody
questions, and between a situation in which we stand looking at six boats about
to come, on board which intelligence knows there is no heavy weaponry – I’m not
talking about a few handguns. Instead, this is a struggle for public relations,
and so I think from the beginning that the system should work completely
differently, involving the international community and only blocking weapons. So
I say to him, ‘Why do you think that the only option is to stop it? Let’s
imagine a situation in which we take a few civilian boats, go out, meet them at
sea, during daylight and with huge pictures of Gilad Schalit on our ships and we
sail together to Gaza. They bring humanitarian supplies and we demand that
Ismail Haniyeh allows us to see Gilad Schalit.’”

According to Stoil, Ayalon would like to see the international community – and particularly “pragmatic” states in the Arab world– take part in inspecting goods going into Gaza.

It is not that I believe that they have become Zionists, but rather that they too do not have an interest in seeing the increase in power of Hamas. Not [Mahmoud] Abbas, not the Egyptian president, not the king of Jordan. It is a confluence of pragmatic interests. And then, with international bodies in charge
of checking ships and goods, even if we get to violent events – say a boat that
wishes to break the blockade – it is them and not us. Thus, I argue that we must
to do as much as possible to integrate the international community.

For such a process to work, you need a lot of time. You need to stop all violent terror activities, and second, you need to stop all settlement activities, because in Palestinian eyes, settlement activity is almost terror. No Israeli government can completely stop the settlements and no Palestinian actors can completely stop terror. And thus the daily friction between Palestinians and settlers does not stop, but leads to events that in the end are what directs the process.

Because of this, he says, peace will require a mediator, someone who will say, according to him.

Gentlemen, you don’t see it – the Israelis say that they agree but the Palestinians don’t want it, and the Palestinians say that they agree but the Israelis don’t want it – but in fact, I am looking from another planet and I know that you both want it.


Jack Ferguson's Swiss Chard--yum

I went to the Roanoke City Farmer's Market a few weeks back and my favorite farmer, Jack Ferguson (space 46), who recently celebrated his 89th birthday, had great looking chard in three varieties--red, white, and rainbow (which includes yellow and pink, as pictured above from Brit site JungleSeeds.com).
I steamed it up the red plain for book group, but I wish I had taken the time to find and adapt this recipe from Epicurious.com for chard drizzled with balsamic syrup.  The original recipe included lamb chops, but I'd like it w. garbonzos, as below. Hopefully, there will be another opportunity to get Jack's kale.

For balsamic syrup
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns

For chard
1 pound Swiss chard
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon water

Make syrup:
Simmer syrup ingredients in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart stainless steel pan over moderate heat until just syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 8 minutes. Pour through a sieve into a small bowl, discarding rosemary and peppercorns.

Sauté chard:
Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack chard leaves and roll into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips.

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a cast iron skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add chard stems and ribs, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 6 minutes. Add 2 cups of already cooked garzbanzo beans.

Meanwhile steam leaves until tender, about 5 minutes and then add to skillet and toss. Remove to platter and serve mixture drizzled with balsamic syrup.