September 08, 2009

Concentrated Craziness

Well, I was busy actually having fun this weekend, and I missed the political highlight of the fall season here in West-by-God-Virginia. A concert!

HOLDEN, W.Va. -- Thousands showed up to a free Labor Day rally at a reclaimed mine site in Holden, where musicians and speakers fired up the crowd with one part country music and another part politics at a gathering that highlighted jobs, the working class and the future of coal.

Musicians such as Hank Williams Jr. John Rich, Halfway to Hazard and the Blackwater Outlaws joined Fox News political commentator Sean Hannity and other speakers, including coal industry executives, on the main stage. Rocker Ted Nugent, nicknamed the Motor City Madman, emceed the Friends of America Rally and played a shrieking guitar rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Hank Jr. I've heard of. John Rich, "Halfway to Hazard" (is that a play on the Dukes of Hazard?), and the "Blackwater Outlaws" I've never heard of. However, they sound suspiciously country, which means I don't think I want to hear of them. Hannity is only slightly less spittle-flecked then Glenn Beck, so I want to stay far away from him. And the Nuge is so far round the bend that he's frothing. In general, I think I'm frightened of the list I see. And by no stretch can it be called "entertainment."

By early Monday afternoon, the crowd was well below the 100,000 expected to show.

Really? Thousands upon thousands of people DIDN'T drive to bumfuck WV (you look up Holden WV on Google Maps; tell me it looks like a mountain paradise) for a concert? Whatever one thinks of the merits of the location, it is not central to anything.

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who told the crowd he spent about $1 million on the rally, offered sharp criticism of multinational corporations, Republicans, Democrats and "environmental nuts" who are trying, he said, to ship American jobs to China.

Blankenship is nuttier than a Snickers Bar. Has been, will be. He's the guy who bought a seat on the WV Supreme Court, then got caught with the Chief Justice of the WV Supreme Court in Monaco or something. That case went to the US Supreme Court. The fact that Blankenship sponsored this nutfest doesn't really surprise me. Notice Blankenship's logic here: environmentalists (who seek to improve the environment) are encouraging US jobs to move to China (that bastion of environmental responsibility and cleanliness). The result of this is, somehow, a more clean environment? I don't see the logical chain here...

Federal cap-and-trade legislation was at the heart of Monday's rally. The speakers and musicians, however, evoked the weakened economy, jobs, President Obama, illegal immigration, hippies, hunting and gun rights, health-care reform, religion and Appalachian culture to strike a nerve with the audience.

Well, that looks like a standard wingnut recipe of topics. I'm not surprised that the "talent" had to reach outside the cap-and-trade argument to whip up the crowd. Even in coal-friendly West Virginia, cap-and-trade isn't widely debated/discussed (other than "it's bad"). I'm sure the folks who came for music just loved hearing a long discussion of cap-and-trade, so its no surprise they moved onto more "red meat" subjects.

"Today's the day when the American worker takes back this country," Nugent said. "That's what I think."

There's that keen Nuge intellect: a bunch of people taking a day off on an reclaimed coal mine in Nowheresville, WV will take the country back that same day. The concert will somehow do this. Or something. I'm confused at this point.

Blankenship criticized the political action committee of railroad company CSX for donating to the campaign of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and also Caterpillar, a top manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, for supporting caps on emissions of carbon dioxide.

"In my view they are un-American, and I have told them so," Blankenship said of Caterpillar.

Well, American corporate history is replete with companies playing both sides of the fence (contributing to both parties); its worked pretty well for them. Moreover, I'd be willing to bet that Blankenship donates to some WV Democrats; they run the state he's digging up for coal, so I'd imagine that he'd find a need to buy some access here. So, this is the pot calling the kettle black. And I'm sure that Caterpillar was very frightened to hear that Don Blankenship thought they were "un-American." Caterpillar has more problems (recession) than whatever crap Blankenship can throw their way.

Blankenship told the crowd their own government is the worst enemy of American labor today, and asked if they want a government that shuts down coal mines.

He dismissed the notion of global warming, and criticized TV ads that say it's real.

"Only God can change the Earth's temperature, not Al Gore," he said, later adding, "Global warming is pure make-believe."

This is the real howler in the article. I've never seen the (neo-Creationist) argument that global warming is incorrect because only the divine being can cause temperature shifts. This is a particularly nice utilization of Creationism: only God can move massive things like the earth and heavens, and our entire planet's weather is clearly in that camp of objects, so puny humans couldn't possibly have done anything to actually cause temperatures to change. Thus, QED, there is no global warming. (Note, by the way, that the actual logic here doesn't argue that there can't be global warming, only that any global warming must be caused by God, not by people. So there still can be global warming; its just a sign of divine dissatisfaction. I think that might be worse than the regular "humans did it" version.)

Like Nugent and others, Blankenship called on the crowd to contact their lawmakers to discourage cap-and-trade legislation.

"This crowd will scare these politicians to death," Blankenship said. "We all need to learn that cap-and-trade is a Ponzi scheme."

How is cap-and-trade like a Ponzi scheme? A Ponzi scheme uses a small number of suckers to create a larger group; paying off the few to suck in the many. A cap-and-trade system (even by the warped standards of the wingnuts) is a rationing scheme that will cause businesses to fail because they'll pay to pollute (and go out of business). How is one like the other? He's just making shit up at this point.

There aren't anymore good (awful) quotes in the article (the best of the rest is a Nuge quote telling everyone to "pack 'em and stack 'em" during deer hunting; but Nuge always says crazy shit like that, so I can't even begin to get worked up), so I'll call it quits here. I'm very glad this happened a long way away from me, and none of the crazies were local.

Its depressing that the wingnuts have destroyed rational discourse at this point. There are real issues facing us, decisions that will likely have generational impacts (health care, budget deficits, reforms of financial services, global warming legislation), and we have no rational debate about any of it. I'm not sure when rational discussion died, but it was somewhere around election time last year. I think those on the left though the election had actually decided something, and we'd all get to argue about how far Obama could take us. Those on the right took the election as a sign that they should double-down on their LSD and see how many people they could convince to join them on a walk to Pluto. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of shared ideology or belief between the two camps at this point, and the national dialog reflects that (Liberals: "We should do something about all the people without health care." Republicans: "BOOGA-BOOGA! SOCIALISTFASCISTCOMMIE! SHOW ME YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE! NO PRESIDENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS! DEMOCRATS WANT DEATH PANELS TO ELIMINATE MEDICARE! QUICK, I NEED MORE LSD!). I'm not sure any rational argument will bring the sides close enough to have a rational argument.

On the other hand, has anyone noticed that foreign policy issues have pretty much fallen off the table? The only thing going on is a low-scale debate among elites (and mostly left-wing ones at that) about whether the US should stay on in Afghanistan, or start moving out of there soonish. Everything else is mostly non-controversial (Iraq, North Korea, Israel, China, etc.). There are lots of international problems, but no one in the US seems to care much at this point. Which is strange, since the election was about a whole host of international problems that are still there, but just ignored by Americans.

We live in a very weird country right now.

Posted by baltar at September 8, 2009 10:43 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Clean Coal, My Ass | Corporate Bullshit | Crunchy Nutbars | Politics | West Virginia


So watching the WVU game I was repeatedly told (I'd swear at least 30 times) that I need to support coal. Does that mean I need to pull out of my health care plan, listen to Ted Nugent, and vote Republican? And if so ... what does that have to do with WVU football again?

And I'm perplexed why you think the election was about a host of international problems. Or why you are surprised North Korea and Shiite politics in Iraq aren't on the news. The airheads on tv don't even understand their own health care plans or what the public option is. You really think they want to dive into foreign problems given that they can't master terms in their own native language?

Posted by: Armand at September 9, 2009 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

I don't watch WVU football, so I don't get to see the barrage of TV adds (thank god). I'm sure we'll get more as the "coal bowl" approaches.

As for the IR issues, I'm just surprised that they have all fallen off the table. US troops are engaged in a shooting war in two states, and there are complicated relations in several others. While I admit that the economy was the number one issue for voters, it is clear that Iraq was a major issue in the campaign (Obama was supposed to cut and run, remember?). I would think that more people would be interested, or be aware. That's all.

Posted by: baltar at September 9, 2009 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

A couple of my local friends have started a watch for "Peak Wingnut", the moment where... well, you can figure it out.

I can't decide whether the idea that this will peak is funny or wishful thinking.

Posted by: jacflash at September 9, 2009 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

jacflash - Wishful thinking.

Baltar - Well, Iraq was mentioned in the campaign as a way to gin up one or the other base, true. But news coverage of the war had dropped dramatically before the McCain/Obama battle even got underway.

"During the first 10 weeks of 2007, Iraq accounted for 23 percent of the newshole fornetwork TV news. In 2008, it plummeted to 3 percent during that period. On cable networks it fell from 24 percent to 1 percent, according to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism."

Posted by: Armand at September 9, 2009 11:28 AM | PERMALINK
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