Word came up the River that Massey Energy ("We calls it Ole Massa'") had sold itself and its whole plantation South to an Alpha something, presumably a dog, so we wondered who would be our new overseer and would he whup us?
That's just what we need, somebody with Alpha in its name to own us and our politics.
Meanwhile, inspired by Jeopardy's Watson vs. Jennings, IBM trotted out the result of its lengthy effort to craft a computer which can be governor. In earlier years, an old model, Nunnler Jones-Combs was found to be too slow and endowed with too few chips. The tentative name for the new computer governor is a combination of Paul Patton, Ernie Fletcher and Steve Beshear, or for short "Paterear."
The new governor/computer is like the human governor in that the intelligence of both is artificial, but Paterear will admit it. One of the challenges of programing a governor computer is whether you put any honesty at all into the algorithms. Or do you just feed the computer data about what all the other governors have done and let it do, not what is honest, but what correlates with key factors like money and reelection? Do you program in bad stuff, like coal company influence?
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So on the night of the big televised match between a sitting governor and Paterear, one was machine-like and programmed and the other was a computer. Looking over the shoulder of the governor into the camera was a sleepy-eyed guy in a hard hat with a carbide light and black face, wanting to play, too.
Paterear scored first. In the category, Friends of Coal, the Jeopardy man gave as the answer "strip mining" and the governor hit the buzzer first but said "What is the greatest thing that ever happened?" And got it wrong. Paterear got it right by answering, "What is the biggest job killer in the coalfields?"
Then Alex Trebek in the same category gave as the answer: "This term is used to designate the surface of the Earth composed of varying proportions of decayed and decaying animal and vegetable matter which is missing from strip mined property."
Paterear had no trouble getting this one: "What is soil?" The governor was about to guess "blacktop."
In the straight-out question-and-answer logic event, the computer asked the governor two questions and had him trapped. The first was, "Do you want every single coal-bearing mountain to be leveled off?" The governor, as any non-fool would, said "no" and so when the computer asked the governor what was going to keep that from happening, the governor acted like a train went by and he didn't hear the question. But the governor beat the computer during the question-and-answer segment with this simple question: "Why do you think I can ignore hundreds of the most intelligent Kentuckians who plead to me to protect the uplands from irreparable harm? "
That had even the multi-byte Paterear stumped. The governor had to tell the answer: "Because I pay no political price for using sincere and bright people as a backdrop for a campaign commercial for something they loathe. Ninety-five percent of those people voted for me and 95 percent will vote for me again."
That's when the programmers realized they had forgotten to program Gatewood into the computer. His perennial candidacy claims a few thousand progressive votes, meaning that Democrats with a chance of winning need not pay any attention to the left or to greenies because they will either vote for Gatewood or the Democrat.
That leaves the best and brightest with no voice in elections. No computer can figure that out.
Larry Webster is a Pikeville attorney.