Oct 052015

Mother Jones has an excellent article about the coal industry and one of its big players, Don Blankenship.  As the former CEO of Massey Energy Co., Blankenship is charged with conspiracy to violate safety laws, defrauding the federal government, securities fraud and making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  If convicted in this corporate accountability case, he could face 31 years in prison.  Not enough in my opinion for the misery and death he created and left in his wake.  Perhaps his golden parachute, nay platinum parachute he received from Massey Energy Co in 2010 when he left, will be taken back and distributed to the families of miners killed at a Blankenship operation.  That would be an attempt at justice for those families.


…he was a harsh taskmaster whose cutthroat management style transformed what was once a modest family business into the region's largest coal producer.  

Blankenship cultivated an image as a Mingo County son made good—a good ol' boy who ran a multibillion-dollar company from a double-wide trailer. And he saw himself as a heroic figure who brought jobs to the depressed enclaves of his native West Virginia. But with his gaze fixed on the bottom line, Blankenship crushed the mine workers union that was baptized in his backyard. Voluminous court records and government investigations show that he presided over a company that padded its profits by running some of themost dangerous workplaces in the country. Massey polluted the waterwaysthat had sustained Blankenship's forebears, rained coal dust on the schoolyards where his miners' children played, and subjected the men he grew up with in southern West Virginia to unsafe working conditions.

A mascot of the coal industry's worst excesses, Blankenship pumped millions of dollars into West Virginia's political system to promote an anti-regulatory agenda and curry favor with state lawmakers and officials.

The irony is that, even at the nadir of Blankenship's power, his ideology is ascendant. He transformed West Virginia not just physically (entire towns have been wiped out by Massey's footprint), but politically. Now, by playing off fears of creeping government involvement, the coal industry has strengthened its grip on state politics. Lawmakers friendly to the industry, with financial support from Blankenship, have won sweeping victories at the ballot box and used their mandate to roll back health and safety regulations while trumpeting the survival-of-the-fittest capitalism that was Blankenship's gospel. The man on the mountaintop may have fallen, but the widespread impact of his legacy shows no signs of diminishing.  

Down the road from Upper Big Branch, a memorial funded in part by Alpha touted the job-creating legacy of the coal industry. By a back entrance to the now-shuttered mine was a more informal installation—29 hard hats and two mourning angels. Their wings were solar powered.  



These are pictures of mountain top removal . . . from lush forested mountain tops to wastelands that resemble tar sands mines like those in Alberta.

From Alternet

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. had this to say about Blankenship in a report on EcoWatch last fall:

Don Blankenship once boasted to me that it was impossible to conduct mountaintop removal mining without violating the law. He prided himself on his cold-blooded capacity for turning America’s purple mountains majesty into coal company cash. His criminal mind allowed him to view the human beings of Appalachia as disposable production units. He is a sociopath and gangster whose gift was felonious greed and a stone-cold heart that allowed him to put his yearning for money and power ahead of human lives. Those qualities had great value to his friends and investors: the Wall Street robber barons. But they were poison and destruction to the noble communities of coal country.  We can’t bring back the towns he destroyed, the lives he took, the mountains he flattened, the rivers he poisoned, but there is some consolation in knowing that he’s getting what he deserves: three hots and a cot and long days in the company of fellow criminals of lesser appetites and lesser distinction.

Blankenship's trial has begun with the jury selection expected to be completed by today.  I understand that he has top notch counsel and is pleading innocent to all charges.  I wonder how far his cultivated political connections will get him?  Any doubt that he is a Republican!


Please sign the Protect Communities from Hazardous Coal Mining Waste prepared by the Sierra Club.


Sep 272015

The first part of the day was steady with trying to finish some research and work on a more involved article.  Then it was off to see my mother who lives in a care centre.  She needs 24/7 care as she is in the late stages of dementia.  I fed her dinner which smelled really good.  There was an extra dinner at the table which staff said I should eat, so I did and it tasted even better than it smelled.  As a member of the Family Council advocating for family members, I will be able to report back on the quality of food.  Again this evening, I was breaking up fisticuffs between several women — I wonder if the full moon has anything to do with it.  In addition to sitting with my mother and rubbing her back and shoulders which she really likes, I am an extra pair of eyes and hands to help staff.  When I arrived home, I was exhausted but also anxious.  It is hard to watch a parent die a little bit every day.  So now I am calm again and I am off to bed.  My three cats will be soothing to me, their gentle breathing and purring.  Good night all.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:13 (average 4:34). To do it, click here. How did you do? For those that don't know, we always do the 48 piece classic.

Short Takes

CBC — A U.S. drug company is taking the Canadian government to court for its attempt to lower the price of what has been called the world's most expensive drug.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals has filed a motion in Federal Court, arguing that Canada's drug price watchdog has no authority to force the company to lower its price for Soliris.

A University of Ottawa professor who specializes in health law said he was shocked that Alexion would challenge Canada's authority to regulate drug prices. If Alexion's case is successful, it could end Ottawa's ability to control the cost of patented drugs, Amir Attaran told CBC News.

"This is the single greatest threat to pricing of drugs in Canada ever," he said Thursday.

The provincial governments in Canada negotiate drug prices directly. Medical associations are currently pushing the federal government to do this nationally.  In the past, some Americans have also arranged to get their medications from Canadian pharmacies to take advantage of our lower prices.  So, if Alexion Pharmaceuticals wins this case, the whole idea of affordable medicines goes out the door.  For Alexion, this is all about their profits.  For Canada, this is all about healthcare for 33 million Canadians.  Watch also the rise in such things should the TPP come to fruition.

Daily Kos — Each week, TIME Magazine designs covers for four markets: the U.S., Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. Often, America's cover is quite, well – different. This week offers a stark example.

time magazine

How much does this contribute to the "dumbing down" of the US population (and Canada's since we get the same US cover)?  In general, the US population is wildly ignorant on international events, and often ignorant on domestic issues.  Have a look at the current political rhetoric, particularly from the Republican side.  It's a lot of marketing by fear . . . fear of diversity, fear of Iran, fear of Islam, and the list goes on.  Faux Noise aka Fox (I refuse to call Fox news because it is at best, opinion) is a prime example, but not the only one by far.  The author asks "do these moments of marketing (through a choice in covers) reveal more about Americans, or about the state of American journalism?"  I think both because the magazine in this case is pandering to make more money and increase its market share.  But it also serves to increase American xenophodia.

The Nation — Not content with alienating single women, Latinos and the LGBT community, the two front-runners for the Republican nomination indulged in some naked Islamophobia this past week.

Then Ben Carson appeared on Meet The Press, where he told Chuck Todd that Islam was inconsistent with the Constitution and said that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” 

…and there’s no evidence that they embrace extremism at a higher rate than Christians or Jews. 

It’s time for this to stop. After 400 years in the Americas, and having helped build and defend this country, we need to accept that American Muslims are just as American—and just as loyal—as anyone else. 

An excellent piece from The Natiion which I hope you'll read in its entirety. No one people or religion has a lock on extremism.  Timothy McVeigh, a white Anglo Saxon Roman Catholic, blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK where 168 were killed and over 680 were wounded.  

My Universe — The Box!

Sep 022015

Another day has brought another rush trying to get things done.  Today is a grocery delivery day, so I’ve been cleaning.  No heat waves are forecast through Labor Day, but it has been very humid.  I have a couple relatively light days tomorrow and Friday, so hopefully I can rest up then.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:14 (average 4:55).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: Saying that “things just didn’t work out,” the billionaire Koch brothers have decided to put Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker up for sale.

The Kochs, who earlier had purchased Gov. Walker with great fanfare, announced their plan to sell the politician in a terse statement from Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita.

“Scott Walker is a fine individual, and we wish him well,” the Kochs’ statement read. “We are confident that he will be a good fit for some other billionaire industrialists.”

Republican insiders, however, called the Kochs’ plan to sell Walker highly optimistic, and noted that the market for the Wisconsin Governor was, at this point, virtually nonexistent.

The Kochs, who reportedly had been frustrated by Walker’s poor performance in the polls, finally decided to sell the Wisconsinite after last weekend’s odd pronouncement, in which he seemed to support a border wall with Canada.

You’d better wish them luck, Andy. The Fartfuhrer of Fitzwalkerstan will be harder to sell than the Brooklyn Bridge!

From Daily Kos: John Oliver is making his presence felt.  After only about a year on the air, he’s influenced the FCC on NetNeutrality (causing their comments to overload), formed his own Church to make a point about "Prosperity Gospel" scams and engaged in an internet war with the President of Ecuador.

Now, he’s been cited by a Judge on one of the Courts just below the Supreme Court — the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  On his show on March 8, he mocked the lack of representation in US Territories because of a hundred year old group of Supreme Court cases — The Insular Cases.


I have no doubt that fascist five Injustices of SCROTUS will want to uphold the racism in The Insular Cases. These Americans should get to decide their own status.

From NY Times:

Defying the Supreme Court and saying she was acting “under God’s authority,” a county clerk in Kentucky denied marriage licenses to gay couples on Tuesday, less than a day after the court rejected her request for a delay.

Alex Wagner has the story on The Last Word.

…and more.


Her own marital history is the epitome of Republican Supply-side pseudo-Christian hypocrisy.



Aug 112015

I’m in a huge rush to get my articles written and posted in time to take a nap before going to prison to do volunteer work.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:24 (average 4:38).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: Josten Bundy found himself before Judge Randall Rogers in an east Texas courtroom to face a misdemeanor charge stemming from a fight he got into with the ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Jaynes. With Elizabeth by his side, the judge asked Bundy if "she was worth it" and then put him on probation with bizarre stipulations:

“I said, well to be honest, sir, I was raised with four sisters and if any man was talking to a woman like that,” recalled Bundy,  “I’d probably do the same thing.”

Judge Rogers asked Bundy if he was married to Jaynes and then said, “You know, as a part of my probation, you’re going to have to marry her…within 30 days.”

That’s right. Judge Rogers forced the young couple to get married, which they did. Bundy was fearful the jail sentence would cost him his job and the couple had previously talked about getting married…..in the future. Judge Randall also forced Bundy to get counseling and write Bible verses.

Rogers should be defrocked and disbarred for 1st Amendment violations against Bundy and 8th Amendment violations against Janes.

From Alternet: Informed readers are well aware that US police have the dubious reputation of killing lots of civilians, compared to other countries. The War on Drugs provides much of the basis for this abomination…

…The Free Thought Project constantly reports on senseless, unjustified murders carried out by police, in the attempt to bring accountability to law enforcement run amok. Here are 10 of the most outrageous excuses police have used for killing unarmed people during the last year.

“He was walking with a purpose.” Officer Vanessa Miller killed Ryan Bollinger, 28, after witnessing him “dancing in the street” during a traffic stop. After a low-speed chase, Bollinger exited the vehicle and was “walking with a purpose” toward Miller, who then shot him from inside the car through the rolled-up window.

I’ve shared just one and ten examples of excuses made by police after they murdered innocent victims. Click through for the other nine.

From Democrats Unite: If I wrote that “Bernie Sanders admits to being a socialist,” nobody reading it would need an explanation of the word “admits.” “Socialist” is as dirty a word in US politics as “racist” or “bigot.” And for lots of voters, it’s probably even more of a deal-breaker. When a Republican really wants to insult President Obama, for example, he or she calls him a socialist.

The thing is — as the video below makes clear — America is already a socialist country, but just quietly, and only for the rich and for corporations. So the insult “socialist” only seems to really apply to things we ask the government to do for the rest of us.


In a word, Amen.



This is humor.  It is NOT s suggestion to do violence against Republicans.

Jul 152015

I have a busy day today.  I’m trying to keep pace with the news, watching Obama, and it’s a grocery delivery day, so I have all that work to do..  It’s also quite muggy.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:12 (average 4:51).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: The former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would bring much-needed dignity to the 2016 Republican field, a new poll shows.

According to the poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, Palin’s ability to articulate her positions on issues with precision and restraint is sorely lacking among other entrants in the G.O.P. race.

Additionally, voters said that the former governor’s breadth of knowledge in the fields of economics, foreign affairs, and American history would place her head and shoulders above the current crop of Republican hopefuls.

In the words of one voter who was surveyed, “When I hear some of these candidates talk, I sure do miss Sarah Palin.”

Dang Andy! As much as I hate to admit it, you’re right. Bloody Bullseye Barbie is rather tame, compared to the Clown Car.

From Daily Kos: I wonder if Rep. Steve "Melon Calves" King is going to commandeer Republican anti-LGBT policy like he commandeered the party’s anti-immigration policy.

It would have no force of law, but U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on Friday announced he has introduced a House resolution for representatives to formally disapprove of the June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized gay marriage nationally. […]

King said the "resolution expresses the sense" by the House that the court ruling "unconstitutionally and indefensibly perverts the definition of marriage," that states are not required to license gay marriage and that "individuals, businesses, churches, religious groups and other faith-based organizations are encouraged, empowered, and protected to exercise their faith without fear of legal or government interference."

Since a Sense of the House resolution does nothing, this serves only as one more opportunity for Republican to voice their hatred and display their sedition.

From NY Times: A federal appeals court Tuesday handed the Obama administration another victory in its effort to guarantee coverage of contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act, rejecting a challenge by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, found that the nuns could opt out of a requirement to provide contraceptive coverage under an “accommodation” devised by the administration. The rule does not impose a “substantial burden” on the nuns’ free exercise of religion, the court said.

Four other federal appeals courts — in the District of Columbia, Philadelphia, Chicago and New Orleans — have issued similar decisions upholding the accommodation, which is intended to address the concerns of nonprofit religious organizations that object to providing contraceptive coverage for women enrolled in their health plans.

Another win for women.



Jun 122015

When I learned that community activists had filed a motion before an Ohio court to indict the police officers, who murdered Tamir Rice, I expected to wait weeks, if not months, for a decision.  To my great surprise, it came in just a couple days.  It was not everything I had hoped, but almost.

0612TamirProtestA judge in Cleveland ruled Thursday that probable cause existed to charge two Cleveland police officers in the death of a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, but the judge also said he did not have the power to order arrests without a complaint being filed by a prosecutor.

In his ruling, Judge Ronald B. Adrine, presiding judge of the Municipal Court, found probable cause to charge Officer Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and dereliction of duty. He also found probable cause to charge Officer Loehmann’s partner, Officer Frank Garmback, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.

“This court determines that complaints should be filed by the prosecutor of the City of Cleveland and/or the Cuyahoga County prosecutor,” Judge Adrine wrote…

Inserted from <NY Times>

The problem is that the judge did not order the prosecutor to indict, and the decision will be left to a Grand Jury.

Chris Hayes provided excellent coverage, with three different guests.

Now what?  Will the Grand Jury even be allowed to know about Judge Adrine’s decision?  When officers Loehmann and Garmback testiLIE, recounting a deceitful account of the shooting, will the prosecutor challenge their perjury, or let it stand as fact?

Despite a major victory for the truth, justice remains far from assured.

Jun 042015

Republicans know that, if the coming election is a fair one, they will lose.  That’s why they are doing everything they can to strip likely Democratic voters of their right to vote.  I’m pleased to see that Democrats are filing suits to prevent Republican attempts at election theft.

GOPvotingDemocrats allied with Hillary Rodham Clinton are mounting a nationwide legal battle 17 months before the 2016 presidential election, seeking to roll back Republican-enacted restrictions on voter access that Democrats say could, if unchallenged, prove decisive in a close campaign.

The court fights began last month with lawsuits filed in Ohio and Wisconsin, presidential battleground states whose governors are likely to run for the Republican nomination. Now, Democrats are attacking a host of measures, including voter identification requirements that they consider onerous, time restrictions imposed on early voting that they say could make it difficult to cast ballots the weekend before Election Day, and rules that could nullify ballots cast in the wrong precinct.The effort, which is being led by a lawyer whose clients include Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, reflects an urgent practical need, Democrats say: to get litigation underway early enough so federal judges can be persuaded to intervene in states where Republicans control legislatures and governor’s offices. But Republicans dismiss it as little more than a publicity gambit to energize minority voters in support of Democratic candidates.

A similar lawsuit was begun last year in North Carolina. Other potential fronts in the pre-emptive legal offensive, Democrats say, could soon be opened in Georgia, Nevada and the increasingly critical presidential proving ground of Virginia.

Almost all of those states have growing African-American or Hispanic populations, groups crucial to Mr. Obama in 2012 but whose voting rights Democrats say could be impinged next year, damaging the party’s prospects…

Inserted from <NY Times>

I fully support these efforts.  Republicans want elections to become meaningless exercoses held for show only, because they get to decide who is allowed to vote.