Thursday, January 27, 2011


In the following post, I explore the several different meanings and uses of the word "drag," which is the first word of the massive machine that demolishes mountains

Aerodynamics: Sometimes called "air resistance," refers to the forces that oppose an object moving through a fluid, a liquid or a gas.

Police Drag: "In some police departments a small dredge (sometimes called a drag) is used to find and recover objects and bodies from underwater. The bodies may be murder victims, or people who committed suicide by drowning, or victims of accidents. It is sometimes pulled by men walking on the bank" (Wikipedia--"dredge").

A Police Drag is a type of dredge, which is also a process (like Mountain Top Removal) that " creates spoils (excess material), which are carried away from the dredged area. Dredging can produce materials for land reclamation or other purposes (usually construction-related), and has also historically played a significant role in gold mining. Dredging can create disturbance in aquatic ecosystems, often with adverse impacts." ("Dredging").

Smoking: "Drag" is also used as a verb for cigarette smoking: "take a drag," thus leading us back to the possible carcinogens and harmful chemicals found in coal slurry.

MSNBC report

Clothes: Ulmer made a joke about my site attracting the 'drag' community and I thought I would explore this uncanny connection. Particularly since we discussed the "counterforce" consisting of the cabaret, where all "law" or "deceny" was transgressed in a search for pleasure. "Drag" can be considered a search for that same kind of free pleasure, that "jouissance."

In the above performance, we can see that the "host" has some characteristics of the modern drag show. Though he is not in a dress, he has a certain androgyny about him. As he lifts his arms and dances with a bunch of women. There does not seem to be any difference between them. . .he is not the leader, but one of them. The cabaret is excessive--it is about EXPENDITURE, as we discussed with Bataille.

Is it possible that the 'drag show' is our modern equivalent?

It may sound silly, it may sound "irrational," but--can we queer mountain top removal? Can we queer the "dragline." How can we transform the erect phallus that is fucking our mountains?


Acrylamide is a known chemical in coal slurry. Although says that they are all "not necessarily toxic," many experts have questioned its health effects--including the possibility that it may be a carcinogen. The most interesting thing about Acrylamide and, really, any investigation into the chemicals used for a process is that it can be found in a wide array of things:  "Most acrylamide is used to synthesize polyacrylamides, which find many uses as water-soluble thickeners. These include use in wastewater treatment, gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), papermaking, ore processing, and the manufacture of permanent press fabrics. Some acrylamide is used in the manufacture of dyes and the manufacture of other monomers" ( 

The connection between coal washing and press fabrics and dyes reminds me of Thomas Pynchon's connections of dyes to the government's development of bombs, which relates to game theory. Acrylamide can even be found in French Fries:

So looking at the chemical aspects of the cleaning of coal, we see that there are things that are edible with acrylamide in it. But the chemicals all mixed together create a mass of something that is unpredictable and unknowable (at least to the general public). 

Coal Washing/Coal Slurry

The accidental part of Mountain Top Removal is the process that is essential to process the coal that the companies find. This process is referred to as "washing" the coal, which sounds like it is making it "clean," but at the expense of producing an inordinate amount of waste. As one informational website puts it,

"The washing process consists of several stages of chemical and physical cleaning before the coal can be sold. Up to 60 different chemicals, some of which are known carcinogens, can be used in the coalwashing process. The refuse from the washing process is known as slurry and is a combination of huge amounts of water, rock, soil, chemical cleaning agents and several heavy metals including nickel, cadmium, and mercury"

Slurry may contain tons of chemicals.  However, according to, "The manufactures give the polymer blends trade names like Comax 1000 or Enviroguard 2000 and call the chemical formulations "trade secrets." That means citizens have a hard time finding out exactly what chemicals the processing plants use. Some that we do know about have been shown to be harmful to aquatic life, choking fish (by causing particles to stick to their gills), aquatic insects and fresh water mussels."


One of the chemicals frequently found in the slurry for coal washing is Acrylamide. Acrylamide is used for many different purposes--not just to clean coal slurry. The implications of Acrylamide will be explored in another post.

Where does it go?

The coal cannot be sold without "cleaning" process. But where does all the waste go? 

"all of this industrial waste is placed behind huge dams. These slurry ponds, as they are known, can contain millions of gallons of toxic material, and are an order of magnitude more dangerous than the earlier-permitted sediment ponds. Such dams can fail from any number of causes: rain, general dam failure, earthquakes, construction inadequacies, foundation failures, mechanical failure or drainage obstruction" (

In other words, these ponds are like the drunk in Virilio's forward, "an accident looking for somewhere to happen."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Game: What is it?

As with Socrates' query on Justice, "Game" is a difficult thing to pin down. Wittgenstein uses it to show that all things cannot be defined in an Aristotelian ways, but that games have some resemblances to one another and differences. We have video games, which involve the hands and the eyes but usually not the feet (pretend that the Wii doesn't exist for a minute); we have board games, which are not on a screen, but still involve narrative; We have card games--some that you play with others and some that you play by yourself.  What is the "essence" of game? What is the accident of game? And, most importantly, what is the contrast to game?

Do all games involve competition--either with self or others (or objects?). I suspect that yes, most games do involve competition. Furthermore, all games seem to contain "strategies," or, ways to play the game. We are going to keep the concept of strategy, but how can we modify this sense of strategy? 

Playing the Game

We "play" or "play at" games. "Play" is as difficult as game to define or pin down. In one reading, 'play' is a synonymous with "pretend," "imagine." We imagine play to be a non-serious activity that only has effects within the realm of the game. Kids play at being adults in the familiar "game" (but is it a game? there is no competition) of "house". Thus, play takes on the role of an imitation or representation--an appearance. How does this relate to our notion of "game" as competition--as a binary position between winning and losing (cooperation only tolerated as a means to an end, an exchange--such as in Settlers of Catan or Monopoly). 

In other words, games in game theory's sense do not allow the "freedom" that the notion of "play" gives us in contrast. What is the relationship of these 'rule bound' games and free play? Is there such a thing as "free" play? Poundstone cites anthropologist Gregory Bateson saying, "Von Neumann 'players' differ profoundly from people in that these robots totally lack humor and are totally unable to 'play'" (168). 

This idea that Game Theory lacks humor I think gives us a clue to what we can substitute for the dilemma. As I pointed out in my last post, I think the joke, humor, and irony may be the only way out of dilemmas. Games are not just about winning and losing always, but the playing itself--the going through the motions--the ritual--its pleasureful. There are so many 'accidents' in games that make up the entire meaning (or lack thereof) of the gaming situation. 

Leaving me with this question: How can we regain this sense of pleasure/pain in play and games?

The Dilemma


"A form of argument involving an adversary in the choice of two (or, loosely, more) alternatives, either of which is (or appears) equally unfavourable to him. (The alternatives are commonly spoken of as the ‘horns’ of the dilemma.) Hence in Logic, a hypothetical syllogism having a conjunctive or ‘conditional’ major premiss and a disjunctive minor (or, one premiss conjunctive and the other disjunctive)" (OED).

As part of the system of Aristotelian logic, dilemmas are still within the old metaphysics of literacy. It is our task to substitute something for the dilemma. If Game Theory is our contrast, perhaps we should look at the way game theory uses dilemmas as a primary mode of engagement. Two assumptions come to mind immediately: 

--Dilemmas are usually conceived in binaries--either/or. Even in 'volunteers' dilemmas when there are more than one person the choices that people have still appear limited and finite.
--The choices in a dilemmas may only "appear" unfavorable--they may not in reality 'be' unfavorable.

Dilemmas in History

Poundstone's commentary on Game Theory proper suggests that one of the problems with game theory is that it doesn't take into account how humans actually behave. Part of the way game theory portions off human behavior is that it structures things in terms of dilemmas. Poundstone claims that throughout human history the prisoner's dilemma (and the dilemma in general) is a primary mode of philosophical and literary engagement. He mentions Kant, Hobbes, Poe, Puccini, and Jesus (123-125).

Though not always, the dilemma is frequently conceived in terms of moral situations/examples, as Poundstone does in the first few pages of his book. Game Theory, however, conceives of dilemmas in terms of utility/value/choice/preference. Can we conceive of dilemmas in terms of other situations? Or should we ignore the dilemma altogether?

Poundstone argues the best solution to prisoner's dilemma is to avoid prisoner's dilemmas: "This is what we've been trying to do all along with laws, ethics, and all the other cooperation-promoting social machinery" (278). Thus, we have to find a way to conceive of the situation in which it would not be a dilemma. To a certain extent, it is only by framing situations in terms of dilemmas that they come about. 


For our own project, the task I think is to find an electrate way to promote cooperation strategies. In a recent email, Ulmer suggested to me that we might substitute "Prisoner's jokes" for a Prisoner's dilemma. How can we make a joke out of the "prisoner" situation described in Poundstone? Jokes maintain a sense of irony and distance, a sort of extra something--"wit" (Baudrillard will go into more detail about the importance of Wit) in the way Freud understood it. 

Can the joke/wit be applied to an accident?

Preliminary Thoughts on the Uses of "Strategy"

Communication and Opposition
Going back to Walton's example of the Dark Knight (I also immediately thought about this--thank you Utopia class), the dilemma really comes about by not knowing what the other person is going to do, but attempting to anticipate their actions. This situation means that the two (or three or four) people are completely isolated from one another and their interests are opposed. My first question is--how "isolated" are we in our fatal strategy? Do we need to anticipate an opposition? Must we act without the assumption of either a) iteration or b) communication? In one sense, we are isolated because our blogs will most likely circulate within our class and other people who will eventually interact with the CATTt and Heuretics. Furthermore, none of us are going to come up with a definite decision or plan of action and send it to the powers that be (that could change something) or find a way to change something materially on a mass scale. So, perhaps we need to "keep" the idea that we are prevented from communicating. But, I ask again, who is our 'opponent'? Do we have an opponent?

Volunteer's Dilemma

Part of the difficulty with understanding the contrast is going to be distinguishing between what Rebecca referred to as the "metaphysics" of game theory and the particular manifestation of Game Theory that Poundstone chooses to focus on: the prisoner's (and other) dilemmas. Is there one dilemma that will work better than the others as a model? Are these the essential situations of game theory? I believe Todd suggested either in blog post or an email that we can think about his e-waste problem as the "volunteer's dilemma". I'd like to second this emphasis because its our unawareness/ignorance/apathy of the world that I think we are trying to remedy--the attitude that "someone else will do it." This loss of affect (in all senses--not just 'emotional') is our postmodern condition (Jameson). Lynn Worsham in an essay on violence and composition argues that part of the task is to get students to feel like they have some sort of effect in the world--to get rid of the "someone else will do it" feeling. We have lost a sense of community and solidarity. When Ulmer came into one of my courses last year, he spoke of trying to develop a "sensus communis"--a term deriving from Kant who uses it to describe the aesthetic sense that presumably all humans have in common (Kant's claim is questionable, but I think the reference is appropriate). Anyway, this is all to say that I think the volunteer's dilemma is particularly interesting--but I could be wrong.

The necessity of Finitness in game theory

Ok, so that last paragraph was a bit of a deviation (but, to paraphrase Heidegger, to err is an essential part in the quest for truth). But I want to get back to the this instantaneous discussion. Poundstone defines strategy as "a complete description of how to play a game" --which he also moves on to say that this is usually not written down in the case of chess for instance (Poundstone 48). This is how one will find the "rational" ways of playing. This notion of strategy is tied up with the idea that (even a game like chess) is theoretically FINITE. Meaning, that in this sense, a game can be described as "a table of possible outcomes" (47). However, there are many different strategies that one can play; indeed the idea that game theory is outside of probabilility theory but still does not rely on chance is something we need to hang on to when we get to Baudrillard who will deny pure 'chance' exists if I remember correctly).

But lets dwell on this notion of "all" possible outcomes. I wrote in my notes, thinking Derridianly (yes, I just make an adverb out of Derrida's name) that this leaves no room for the (im)possible, which is the possible that is unexpected. Now, whether Derrida is relevant in this CATTt can be debated and I'd like to know now if I'm off track with this one. Still, game theories insistence of finiteness is a key part of its "metaphysics." Poundstone clearly points out that if bidding possiblities are indefinite there is NO WAY to work backwards in these games (270). The real world example is that there is no way to know hwo much a nation is willing to spend on defense (271).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Game Theory, Mathematics, and. . .Art?

I think we might understand our own research (to use a Baudrillardian construction) as a "more pure than pure research." This, according to Von Neumann, leads to the degeneracy of research. Although, strangely enough, Von Neumann did once compare pure mathematical research to art:

"If the deductions are lengthy or complicated, there should be some simple general principle involved, which 'explains' the complications and detours, reduces the apparent arbitrariness to a few simple guiding motivations. These criteria are clearly those of any creative art" (Von Neumann qtd. in Poundstone 28)

Classical pure research

At one level, this kind of simplification is akin to our search for an image, but our image is not seeking to explain all of the complications, but to provoke people to complications. In that sense, we are more like the art that Von Neumann considers degenerate:

 "In other words, at a great distance from its empirical source, or after much 'abstract' in breeding, a mathematical subject is in danger of degeneration. At the inception the style is usually classical; when it shows signs of becoming baroque, then the danger signal is up" (Von Neumann qtd. in Poundstone 29).

Baroque Pure Research

Baroque! The question is there some way that the Baroque relates more to Abstract Modernist/Avant-Garde Art (that we are interested in) than the "classical?" I think the answer is an unequivocal YES. Baroque recalls to my mind Deleuzian rhizomes proliferating in all directions and lines of flight--irrational? Perhaps. But this baroque style is much more related to our own work. It bursts with energy and passion, breaking out of all the lines that reign thought inside. The CATTt may direct us toward an image, but ultimately the image is going to look more like a Jackson Pollock painting:

And yet, we have the CATTt. . .is this a baroque mechanism? Surely our mode of research "documentation" is closer to the baroque accumulative aesthetic as opposed to the reserved classical?

Contrast: Game Theory

I found an illustrated example of a simple 2x2 Prisoner's dilemma:

Game theory, developed by John Von Neumann and others is our contrast in our CATTt. The difficulty with the contrast, and really any of the slots of the CATTt is that we need to decide which parts to keep and which parts to throw away. In other words, what does it mean to do the "opposite" in terms of instructions for our own heuretic endeavors. I think that the key to finding this is to find the main assumptions of game theory

The most important assumption of game theory is that Von Neumann developed it on the model of the game where each opponents (for in this first stage there is only two opponents) interests are completely opposed: Von Neumann makes the claim that there is always a rational way for a two player game to be played if this is so (Poundstone 7). This kind of thinking worked well for Cold War ideology where, as Poundstone writes, "by 1950, many in the United States and in the Soviet union saw the other nation as an implacable foe" (131). While we still engage in this kind of Us vs. Them ideology, the more accurate description of this relationship would be something like "Us vs. them, them, them, and them, but not them, but maybe them. . .not sure about them or him or her." In the world of terrorism, it is difficult to pin point exactly what we are up against. Hopefully Baudrillard in our 'theory' section will be able to help us out with defining our situation a bit more.

A corollary to this first assumption is that game theory is predicated on individual interests. Poundstone writes that "the game demonstrates just what it was intended to; namely, that individual interests can overturn the common good" (Poundstone 277). Now, how do we contrast this assumption? Do we want to say that a fatal strategy will demonstrate that the common good can outweigh individual interests? But is this not another form of terrorism (totalitarianism)? Thus, we are going to have to rather say that a fatal strategy may allow individual interests to contribute to the common good.

 As we have already pointed out in class and others have pointed out in their blogs, we also must consider that game theory assumes that human beings are rational. However, as Todd also pointed out, Poundstone takes the view that this is obviously not how human beings behave. In a prisoner's dilemma, for instance, the purely rational thing to do would be to defect every time given the conditions of the game. However, people did cooperate sometimes. Another assumption with the prisoner's dilemma at least is that it is a one-shot game. As Poundstone points out, most situations are iterated: that is, that they are repeated more than once.

I'm not sure exactly what to do for this contrast instruction. I'm not sure that we need to just flip the rational assumption and argue that we must be 'irrational'. Indeed, it is hard to decide sometimes if an act is rational or irrational in real human actions. To a certain extent, we need to do some things against what we think of as "common sense." In this sense (pun intended) we are actually like the RAND corporation, who, according to Poundstone "studied disturbing or bizarre ideas that occurred to military leaders or to RAND's own thinkers" (91). Furthermore, RAND "structures itself more like a university than a military body or a corporation" (88). The EmerAgency could be considered a kind of 'answer' to the RAND corporation. We are the new intelligentsia--the humanistic intelligentsia rather than the mathematic. However, like Von Neumann we are interested in "pure research" that, rather than having a clear application to the world is the application itself (more on this in a forethcoming post. I think we might understand our own research (to use a Baudrillardian construction) as a "more pure than pure research." This, according to Von Neumann, leads to the degeneracy of research.

Finally, we need to consider that game theory is ridiculously disembodied, completely removed from what Merleau-Ponty calls "the flesh of the world." The system is a pure abstract system with no room for fleshly beings, a system composed of pure mind and unrestrained desire, like Von Neumann himself who had the "best brain in the world," but who also only desired immediate sexual pleasures rather than emotional connection (Poundstone 26). Although one could argue that this makes him in touch with this body, it was clear that it was not a connection of the flesh in all its implications. Indeed, Poundstone notes that he was frequently away from Klara and would write love letters, but Klara was a cold woman. This coldness and distance is something I think we want to avoid. Furthermore, we should note that game theory helps Von Neumann develop computers and some of the later experiments using game theory were set up using computers as models. However, computers/robots have no emotional attachment to life or to anyone else--a key different from ourselves.

This difference between computers and humanity also crops up when discussing the specific definition of strategy:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Preliminary Images

In my last post, I was discussing Maurice Merleau-Ponty's understanding of 'depth'. I would like to try and look at my own attempts at finding an abstract 'image' or form from my disaster. I attempted to created depth not by use of linear perspective, but by layering images one on top of the other until, hopefully, the images converged into one.


 I began with this picture of coal sludge. I "liked" it (of course I don't really like what it is) because the coal sludge doesn't look like what we would normally call "coal," but like a glassy volcanic material. I though the veins and big bubble at the bottom really evoked the kind of sludgy slurry that would ooze out of the mountains and into the river. Indeed, the slurry itself looks like it has taken the form of a river.
Coal sludge picture--Tenessee

Next, I decided that I would take the piece of the picture that was bubbling over toward the middle bottom and make that an abstract square of photo. I then started to play with filters to see how I could alter the sludge while still maintaining some of its qualities that seemed to embody the event. Luckily, I ran across the "ripple" effect, which turned the sludge picture into something that resembles the after effects of mountain top removal. I thought that it was conceptually interesting to merge the 'effect' or the 'accident' of surface mining with the surface mining itself in this image. So I found a picture of the mountains and started playing with layering. I came up with these two images.

I like the first one of these 'better' because I think that it forms into a 2-dimensional (and yet not without depth) abstract pattern that seems to get at the destruction done to the area. You can't really tell that there are mountains in the picture, but you get the sense that the 'background' (though its hard to distinguish between the background and foreground) has been covered over with some sticky substance, destroying it.

Finally, I decided to try and overlay the small sludge photo with the picture of the mountains, this time in black and white--to see if I couldn't get at once a "purer" abstract form and yet signify the sludge with more force:

I actually like this image the best because it maintains a more '3-d' quality that suggests that things are getting lava or some substance all over it. I think it is because the bubble makes it pop out as if it were a mountain.

The other abstract form that i thought might work well would be the form of a crater on the moon. I'm not sure though. Still working it out.

Merleau Ponty and Depth

After listening to Ulmer talk about the importance of abstract/avant-garde art for our class, and his mention of Merleau-Ponty--I thought that it would be interesting to re-read his "Eye and Mind" essay, which discusses his views on painting as a kind of analogy for how vision works. MP, as Ulmer said, was an important French phenomenologist and a contemporary (and in some sense rival) of Jean-Paul Sartre. However, Merleau-Ponty was also very interested in gestalt psychology and throughout his career maintained not only an interest but an active engagement with thinkers in the social sciences and other humanistic disciplines
In a way, Merleau-Ponty seems to be trying to find a different kind of metaphysics--just as we are trying to do with the accident. He contrasts (and yet draws upon) Descartes conceptions of space and the artwork that he chooses to analyze: copper engraved paintings. MP writes that "any theory of painting is a metaphysics" (Merleau Ponty 171). For Descartes, "pictures" are conceived mainly in terms of line drawings that, like the copper engravings, "preserve the forms of objects [. . .] present the object by its outside or its envelope" (172). As Ulmer mentioned before, MP contrasts this way of thinking of 'pictures' with 'secondary qualities' like color. Although he clearly says that color is not a key to painting's metaphysics. Indeed, he argues that "lines" can also give a sense of 'depth' to a painting. Particularly Matisse, who though will still put in what MP calls the "prosaic" dimension of the line but also the "hidden operation which composes in it such softness or inertia and such forces as are required to constitute it as nude, as face, as flower" (MP 184). 

Thus, Merleau-Ponty attempts to get at a kind of poetic understanding of the concept 'depth'. Depth uses to be understood as the trick of the eye technique of the Renaissance painters. MP argues that though this technique was not more artificial than the others, the painters mistakenly thought that this was the final achievement of painting. Instead, he looks for a visible that suggests the invisible: "the proper essence o the visible is to have a layer of invisibility in the strict sense, which it makes present as a certain absence" (187).

I think that we too should attempt in our 'paintings' to indicate an invisible layer of depth that has nothing to do with a representation of depth perception, but everything to do with drawing the viewer in. MP's description of the painting may give us a poetic attitude/mood to inhabit while we work with even our digital photographs: "The actions most proper to him [the painter]. . .to him seem to emanate from the things themselves, like the patterns of the constellations. Inevitably the roles between him and the visible are reversed. that is why so many paintings have said that things look at them" (MP 167, my italics). This notion of reversibility will return when we get to Baudrillard, but for now I want to argue that this is another way of forming the event as a sign that we do not explain, but that 'explains us'. As Merleau-Ponty puts it,  "the question comes from one who does not know, and it is addressed to a vision, a seeing which knows everything and which we do not make, for it makes itself in us" (MP 167). Thus we are not meant to look at the event as an 'interpreter', but as a painter who is responding to the event in light that we believe it can give us an aesthetic explanation.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

They say I can move a Mountain. . .

Welcome to a blog devoted to discovering a "Fatal Strategy" (no, i don't know what it is yet) to decide on policy formation regarding mountain top removal. The title of my blog refers to the giant machine (shown above). According to a newsletter on mountain top removal, the machines used can weigh up to 8 million pounds with a base as big as a gymnasium and as tall as a 20 story building. This is used to remove coal from the tops of blasted mountains. The drag line is so powerful that it takes a minimal amount of workers to operate it so that a small team of people can destroy an entire mountain.

A wikipedia article reveals that the dragline's power comes at the high cost of its limitations: "The primary limitations of draglines are their boom height and boom length, which limits where the dragline can dump the waste material." It is this limitation--built in to the very essence of the technology--that creates the accidents/disasters of coal slurry spills that have already occurred a second time. Because the drag line cannot move waste out of the area, both the solid and liquid waste from washing coal that is dumped into a sludge pond in the valleys of the mountains.

These spills from these ponds has resulted in death, wrecked homes, and poisoned water. As in the Martin County Sludge Spill, where 300 million gallons of sludge poured into two rivers in 2000. 

According to the MJS newletter, the Massey Coal Company responsible for this second spill called it "an act of God"--denying that their action led to the possibility of disaster.

While this particular accident was 10 years ago, the OldSpeakJournal Blog has connected this event (and several potential disasters) to the recent issue of the BP oil spill:

"In 24 states across the country, coalfield citizens have been living with area watersheds contaminated by toxic coal slurry and coal ash for decades. Thousands of miles of streams have been jammed and sullied with coal waste from strip-mining and mountaintop removal operations" --OldSpeakJournal Blog

Although the BP oil spill has gotten lots of press (as the exxon Valdez did  when it happened--even though the Martin County spill dumped more), these disasters waiting to happen are largely ignored. One of the reasons for this might be that there is no "affective" image for something that might happen--only images of what happened elsewhere. 

From what I have read, Massey Energy has "apologized" for the spill and has been fined lots of money for violation of the Clean Water Act (I read 20 million). However, it seems that in a utilitarian understanding of the disaster it is better to take this monetary hit than to stop what they are doing.

Recently, the EPA has taken a small step forward in stopping Mountain Top Removal by revoking a mining permit in West Virginia on January 14th, 2011. See the official press release.  The mining company is furious, arguing that this will "block an additional $250 million investment that would create 250 jobs" and that the obama EPA is taking a step backward in this time of recession. It seems that the company is trying to use the recession to justify their irreversible damage to the environment and, possibly, damage to more homes and people by poisoning the water.

But despite this step from the EPA, this is not a full scale stopping to the mining:

"The EPA is reviewing applications for about 80 other mining operations and has allowed some mountaintop projects to go forward. The agency also noted in a statement that it worked with a different mining company to reduce by half the impacts its operations would have on nearby streams.In January, 2010, Patriot Coal Corp. received a permit for an expansion of a mine in West Virginia. The EPA had held up that permit for evaluation on whether surface mining operations pollute local water.

The EPA, in its announcement of the Arch decision, also expressed support for coal. "Coal and coal mining are part of our nation's energy future and EPA has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation's waters," EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Peter S. Silva said in a written statement"

Thus, we arrive at a problem: surface mining creates jobs and coal is considered crucial to our nation's energy. As much as the environmentalists want all mountain top removal to stop, it seems that it is a bit more complicated than that. This brings me to a questioning of my own task: how could a "fatal strategy" solve this issue?

I am a bit confused on exactly what I am trying to do here. Are we trying to theoretically justify stopping something so that the accident doesn't occur? Or are we looking for a different solution? To end up at the end of this project with basically the strategy that we need to stop mountain top removal because it is destroying our mountains and harming people seems equivalent to the banal activism that doesn't seem to be getting the nation's attention. We all know that the company needs to consider profit and jobs and so my protesting that these values are not what we should focus on doesn't seem like it would help all that much.

Still, I suppose that I need to have faith that there can be something done about these accidents that occur because of surface mining. I think I still need to learn more about surface mining and the complications (not juts from activist groups, but from the news and perhaps even the company's perspective), but then its hard to sort through all this information while also thinking fatally.

For now, here is another youtube video that shows more damage done by the sludge spills.