It is a tribute to the power of television, I think, or to people’s affection for the late Gilda Radner, that the largest response I have had all year was to yesterday’s column on mining. Oh, sure, a few of you chimed in on the side of the environmentalists or in defense of arsenic contamination. But most of you wrote to tell me — and you were right, of course — that when I said . . .

In truth, this reminds me (a little) of Roseanne Roseannadanna . . . (“Oh, Soviet jewelry. Well. That’s different. Never mind.”)

. . . I should have said it reminded my of Emily Litella, another of Gilda Radner’s wonderful Saturday Night Live characters.

Dennis King: “This is the not the first time that you have mis-attributed ‘Never mind.’ This one belongs to Emily Latella, not to Roseanne Roseannadanna. Please watch a few old tapes and set the record straight…for Gilda’s sake. (I can hear you now saying, “Oh, Emily Latella. Well. That’s different. Never mind.”)

Oh, Emily Latella. Well. That’s different. Never mind.

I checked, by the way, and Emily’s last name seems to be spelled both Litella and Latella. I’m sure there’s a correct version — or then again maybe there’s not. She may have left it purposely ambiguous. Like Pat, an SNL character from a later era.

As I say, a few of you responded, as well, to Canadian Jim’s not inconsiderable treatise on mining. All of you shared my admiration for Jim’s passion, wit, and expertise. But not all of you agreed with him 100%.

Hank Gillette: “I’m sure glad that Jim Whyte doesn’t want to interfere in U.S. politics; otherwise you would have had to publish a book.

“There’s no doubt that mining is necessary. There’s also no doubt that without government intervention many mining companies would do their mining with a total disregard for the environment. How does insisting that these companies clean up their mess equate to being anti-mining? One way or another, someone is going to pay for the environmental costs of the mining. It makes a lot more sense to me to force the mining company to do it. They’ll just pass the cost on to the users of the mined product anyway.

“As for letting the mining companies mine the materials on government land almost free, that’s a national disgrace. Same for letting ranchers graze their livestock nearly free on government range land. Yet it is often these people who suck wholesale on the public teat that complain about various forms of government aid to the poor and disabled. Go figure.”

J. Raymond: “While I appreciate Mr. Whyte’s passion, I believe that in many respects a virtually identical argument could be made in presenting the ‘environmentalist’ side of these issues. If the market does not accurately reflect all of the long-term costs of a particular behavior (e.g. cleanup), then the activities undertaken in that market will be skewed. Certainly the ability of mining companies to purchase land at prices established back in 1872 represents one skewing factor as an example.

“The average person engaging in the wonderful [mining-enabled] activities we are privileged to enjoy is at least as far removed from considering the hidden costs.

“There is of course no simple answer to any of this, but it sometimes seems to me that the occasional sixteen words referencing environmental impact in Time and its ilk are merely ‘spit in the consumption-driven wind.'”

Anonymous: “Jim Whyte’s letter was interesting and entertaining. Even though, as you say, he was a little off point, so are you.

“The real point is: what the heck were you wasting an entire flight on that big metal boat for a measly lunch meeting! *THAT* is the real waste! At least the metal plows used by farmers make farming more productive; and the big, flying metal boats make travel quicker, cheaper and more efficient. But using one of those boats for a single lunch meeting is a waste of the world’s resources that were used to get you there (not to mention that in one entire business day the only thing you accomplished was a single lunch hour meeting, so you weren’t exactly excessively productive that day). Ever hear of video teleconferencing? telephone calls? email?”

It would be funnier to have left it at that and not respond. But I have to tell you that, first, the flights were astonishingly empty — I was amazed how few people fly between Miami and Omaha on a Wednesday — so my body weight added to the world’s costs only a few gallons of fuel. And I came back, as I mentioned, with $100,000 for the DNC, which could be the very $100,000 that buys the extra READ MY LIPS: NO NEW TEXANS bumper stickers that win the vote in a swing state that swings the election to Gore and thus saves us from a conservative Supreme Court for the next 25 years and much else that I would hate to see. So this plane trip may have been a waste; but it may also have assured continued prosperity and world peace. Not to mention a woman’s right to control her own body, a fair minimum wage, more widely available health care, sensible gun regulations, and a whole lot more. It seemed like a long way to go for a dry turkey sandwich. But it may have been . . . The Flight That Saved the World.

 

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