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We went, last night, to a small fund-raiser for Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, an umbrella group of do-gooders who have become this region's most visible opponents of mountaintop removal. They do or try to do many other good things, but that's how I stumbled into their clutches.

Because time is short and I wish not to insult anybody's intelligence here, I will not trouble to link to photos of mountaintop removal, nor to speak of its many ills. I'm going to presume that in this progressive hothouse of ideas and opinions, y'all know what I'm talking about.

It's not Guantanamo, but it's the same kind of evil. And maybe another morning that's an idea I'd like to explore. But, as I said, time presses and my daughter's going to want her French toast soon.

So please follow me over the fold to see what happened when a couple U.S. Representatives planned to visit mountaintop removal sites, to see, finally, what all the fuss is about.

The plane wouldn't start.

I will quote from this morning's Lexington Herald-Leader, a piece bylined by Cassondra [cq] Kirby-Mullins, though at dinner last night we had a quick printout of another wire service story. Kirby-Mullins' piece reads, in part:

Two congressmen planned to tour mountaintop mining sites Saturday and speak with residents living deep in the central Appalachian coalfields, but canceled the trip after their plane wouldn't start.

U.S. representatives Ben Chandler and Norm Dicks [in whose district I once lived] intended to fly over dozens of mining sits in West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky in what Chandler's office decsribed as "a fact-finding trip."

Chandler's spokesman, Jim Creevy, said the trip was canceled because the plane's battery was dead. A main switch was left on overnight, and it would have taken three hours to recharge the battery, he said.

We were joined at dinner by one of the activists who had meant to speak to these two representatives. Mild hilarity went around the tables, along with the printout of the wire story, because we knew he was coming before he arrived.

There's a kicker, though, that's not in either piece I've seen. Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association and a bulldog advocate for anything the coal industry wants or thinks will benefit it, he wasn't there. None of the advocates for mountaintop removal were at the scheduled meeting.

Somehow, apparently, they knew not to come.

You have to understand a little bit about the geography and the quality of roads leading from big cities into those mining sites to understand why that is a tiny bit, um, suspicious. In order to make the scheduled meeting, one would have had to leave Lexington (or Frankfort, or wherever Caylor was holed up) somewhat before, I'm told, the plane would have had to leave D.C.

And, of course, there was only one plane available that could do the job. There's that.

As the Herald-Leader piece notes...

The trip would have been especially significant because Chandler was bringing Dicks with him.

Dicks, D-Washington, chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that has oversight of environmental matters, giving him a great deal of clout in such issues.

Both Congressmen had given up their weekends to go on this fact-finding flight. Dicks, whose lineage goes back to the late Senator Warren G. Magnuson, if memory serves, is (to borrow from Marvin Gaye) a stubborn kind of fellow. So here's hoping that, if chicanery were somehow involved in this modest debacle, it backfires.

One final, and only tangentially related note: Pushing hard into 50, I am tired of going to meetings and finding myself among the younger generation there. I talked with several of the KFTC greybeards to ask where the next generation(s) might be found, and they shook their heads. "At Wal-Mart," one said, sadly. And then his eyes lit up a bit. "Barack Obama has energized young people like nobody for generations," he said. And therein lies a slender hope for our future.

Originally posted to Shocko from Seattle on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 06:05 AM PDT.

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