Rand Paul should read the Midrash

So I have two little secrets for everyone the first is that I am a pretty lousy Jew.  Ya I don’t eat pork, but that is more or less the only Jewish thing that I do.  However, I do enjoy the scholarly aspects of Judaism, and I seem to retain bits and pieces.  The second secret is I am a closet libertarian.  I believe that as long as what your doing doesn’t harm me (or someone else), I don’t see it as the governments role to regulate it.  That is why I believe gay marriage should be legalized, and that is why I am pro legalization of marijuana.  When I hear Rand Paul talk most of the time, I can empathize on where he is coming from even if I don’t agree with him because I have that little libertarian in me telling me to listen (I also have a big brain telling me to ignore) him.

Anyways, when I saw an interview of him posted on Crooks and Liars, the Jew in me gave the libertarian in me a little lesson.  During the interview, Dr. Paul talks about his support of mountaintop removal mining.  As he states in the interview, if its private property, you can do whatever the hell you want on it.  And he is right.  Except that he isn’t.  Those two sentences aren’t typos.  I am a firm believer in being able to do whatever you want on your own property. Now this is where the my bad Jew schooled my little libertarian.  There is a parsha  (segment) of the Torah that recounts two men on a ship.  One man is boring a hole through the hull beneath his seat.  The other guy says “hey cut that out”, and then the first guy say “its my seat, I can do what I want”.  The obvious moral here is that just because its your land, you cannot do anything you want if it is going to harm anyone (everyone) else. 

And therein lies the problem with mountaintop removal, it doesnt just effect the property that is being mined.  Communities surrounding them are endangered with a polluted environment.  It is the same reason you cant dump toxic waste into groundwater on your property, because it pollutes everyone else’s water.  Even worse, disasters can, and do result from mountaintop removal.  There is a great article on National Geographic about this, where some tragic stories are told

I grew up beholden to West Virginia bituminous coal. My parents’ house in Cincinnati was heated by it until they switched to oil in 1945. The coal came down the Ohio River by barge, and every wintry month or so a dump truck would deliver a big pile beside our garage. I remember helping my father cart it to the furnace inside, and the grating screech of his shovel on the cellar floor. And I remember the trail of black soot and the coal dust on my shoes. I was grateful for the warmth the coal gave us, but I hated it too because it was dirty. This was before public health and clean-air regulations obliged the mining industry to wash coal and, in Appalachia at least, dispose of the dust, dirt, and wastewater in impoundments, often perched precariously on the sides of the mountains.

There are some 500 of these impoundments in Appalachia today, more than half in Kentucky and West Virginia. Variously referred to as slurry ponds, sludge lagoons, or waste basins, they impound hundreds of billions of gallons of toxic black water and sticky black goo, byproducts of cleaning coal, mostly from underground mines but also from surface mines. Mountain folk residing downhill from these ponds worry about what a flood of loose sludge might do—and has already done in a number of tragic cases.

In Logan County in the winter of 1972, following two straight days of torrential rain, a coal-waste structure built by a subsidiary of the Pittston Coal Company collapsed and spilled 130 million gallons (492 million liters) into Buffalo Creek. The flood scooped up tons of debris and scores of homes as it swept downstream. Survivors recalled seeing houses bob by, atilt in the swift current, the doomed families huddled at their windows. The final count was 125 dead, 1,000 injured, 4,000 made homeless. The Pittston Company called the disaster an “act of God.”

In neighboring Kentucky on an October morning in 2000, the bottom of a waste pond near the town of Inez collapsed, pouring 250 million gallons (946 million liters) of slurry—25 times the amount of oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster—into an inactive underground mine shaft. From there, the slurry surged to the mine’s two exits and flooded two creeks hell-bent for the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy and the Ohio River beyond. Miraculously, there was no loss of human life, though 20 miles (32.2 kilometers) of stream valley would be declared an aquatic dead zone, water systems in ten counties would have to be shut down, and the black slick would eventually reach out toward the riverfront in Cincinnati. Lawyers for the Martin County Coal Company, a Massey subsidiary and owner of the impoundment, blamed the accident on excessive rainfall, which was simply another way of saying what had been said at Buffalo Creek. It was God’s fault.

So Dr. Paul, on the off chance that you read this, please go look at some Jewish law.  If legal scholars were able to get this one down pat thousands of years ago, I am pretty sure you can figure it out to.

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