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Written by John Prine.

When I was a child, my family would travel,
To western Kentucky, where my parents were born.
And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered.
So many times that my memories are worn.
And Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg county,
Down by the Green River, where Paradise lay.
“Well I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in askin’.”
“Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”


Then the coal company came, with the world’s largest shovel,
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land.
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken.
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

Listen to Prine sing the soulful lyrics:

A bill currently in committee, the Clean Water Protection Act (HR2169), a mere two sentences long, would reverse the Bush Administration’s 2002 decision that toxic “waste” from mountaintop removal sites could be classified as “fill material” and dumped into the local streams.  That order has led to sickening environmental depradations by the coal mining companies.

At last count, the bill had 107 sponsors.  Lacy Clay’s name is on there, but I don’t see any other Missouri representative.  It is of especial importance that Russ Carnahan is not on the list since Carnahan is on the Water Resources Subcommittee, where the bill will go first.  If you live in Carnahan’s district, you have an opportunity to get more bang for your phone call than usual (202-225-2671  or 314-962-1523).  Call him and urge him to co-sponsor the bill.  I’ve always been grateful to live in the district of a true progressive, Lacy Clay.  But in a way, those of you who live in Carnahan’s district are more fortunate, because you have the opportunity to influence someone who often sits on the fence to do the right thing.  Go for it!

By the way, why isn’t Cleaver’s name on this list?  And where is Skelton on the issue?  They need phone calls as well. 

Faithfull, a diarist at Daily Kos, emphasizes the importance of stopping mountaintop removal:

More than 1 million acres have been blasted away, and shoved recklessly into creek-beds and hollows. 1200+ miles of headwater streams have been buried, poisoning the water for us and those who live down stream.

All this damage is being done for what amounts to, at most, another 10-15 years of coal–coal that adds to global warming.

Another Missouri Democrat plays a part in this drama.  Dick Gephardt is now a lobbyist, and one of his most important clients is Peabody Coal, headquartered in St. Louis and the largest private sector coal company in the world.  He’s working to get funding for clean-coal technologies.  There’s controversy about whether that’s worth the investment, but there’s no question that in the meantime, Peabody has “tortured the timber and stripped all the land.”  There’s no excuse for such rape, and seeing Gephardt sell his soul like this puts me in mind of a scene from a famous play/movie of the sixties, A Man for All Seasons

The main character is Sir Thomas More, who was put to death because he wouldn’t publicly approve of Henry VIII’s marriage to Ann Boleyn.  At More’s trial for treason, he listened to an erstwhile friend, newly appointed as Attorney General for Wales, commit the perjury that doomed More to death.  As Richard Rich left the stand, Sir Thomas fingered the medal of office hanging around Rich’s neck and said:  “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world.  But for Wales?”  Let me reword that piece of dialogue:  “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world.  But for Peabody Coal?”