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 192015

Here I am early on Friday evening and I am preparing another Open Thread for Saturday.  This is my 10th Open Thread and 12th article this year at Politics Plus.  I wish the circumstances were different.  I started following TC in August 2011 with the idea that I could learn a lot about Canadian politics by watching American political theatre.  And TC knew that.  He encouraged me to write more articles, but I kept putting it off.  A friend and former manager of mine keeps saying "You need to write a book." to which I scoffed "About what?"  Here are two people I respect pushing me forward out of my lethargy, out of my comfort zone.  But I think I learned the most from TC about life . . . about viewing people in different ways; about making a difference.  For that, I will be forever greatful.  Now, whether that book ever gets written is another matter, but at least I'm thinking.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:11 (average 5:02).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes

Mother Jones — When Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress next Thursday, there's a pretty good chance he'll talk about climate change, one of his favorite subjects of late. Paul Gosar, a Republican Congressman from Arizona, is not happy about that. 

Plenty of climate change deniers, Catholic and not, have expressed their displeasurewith the Holy Father over his stance on climate. But Gosar, himself a Catholic, just became the first member of Congress to announce he will boycott the speech because of it. …

Mother Jones

Interesting!  Republicans will invite the Israeli warlord Benjamin Netanyahu to address the Congress, he hoping to foment a war between the US and Iran, his sworn enemy.  But when it comes to Pope Francis, a man trying to live with respect to Creation and promote that idea, Republicans, or at least one will boycott the visit.  Stupid is as stupid does.

Robert Reich — I’ve had so many calls about an article appearing earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal – charging that Bernie Sanders’s proposals would carry a “price tag” of $18 trillion over a 10-year period – that it’s necessary to respond.

The Journal’s number is entirely bogus, designed to frighten the public. 

Read his 4 reasons why the Wall Street Journal's attack on Bernie Sanders is bogus at Robert Reich

That bastion of the right wing, The Wall Street Journal (Rupert Murdoch de-linked), engaged in deception.  In 16/09/2015's Open Thread, I posted a piece from The Nation regarding the WSJ's attempted take down of Bernie.  Robert Reich outlines 4 reasons why the WSJ was wrong.

Think Progress — Elementary school students are in their school gymnasium for a pep rally. An extremely enthusiastic young host shows them a video based on the year’s theme: a community spirit called “Rock’n Town Live.” He leads the students in loud cheers of “go Tigers,” “can’t believe it,” and “thirty to thirty-five laps.” And in addition to whipping the kids into a frenzy, he and the school’s principal take turns asking the kids to go home and get two adults to pledge a contribution. Roughly half of that money will go to benefit the school. Roughly half of it will go to Booster Enterprises Inc., a Georgia-based for-profit company putting on the event. …

Think Progress

This is outrageous . . . 48% of funds raised go to the fund raising companies.  If the US wants to have a highly educated workforce, then it needs to fund education properly, AND it needs to ensure that funds raised for special projects are accounted for.

My Universe



Sep 172015

Today has been one of those days.  It started out OK but then I had to go for my quarterly fasting blood tests.  It’s a diabetic thing.  Something that usually takes 20 minutes took 1.5 hours and by the end, I was well into low blood sugars.  Fortunately, I had my glucose tablets so half an hour later, I was fine.  Back to the keyboard, and don’t you know that I kept losing the Open Thread.  After 4-5 tries (I lost count), I’m going to go direct to publish.  If you see a low flying unpublished Open Thread, shoot it!

Puzzle — Today’s took me 2:58 (average 4:38).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes

The Hill — The House voted Thursday to give GOP leaders flexibility next week in fast-tracking a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.


Democrats protested over the move, known as martial law, which allows the House to consider a rule that establishes procedural guidelines for debating legislation on the same day it is produced by the House Committee on Rules.

Under normal circumstances, the House must wait a day before conducting a floor vote on a rule reported out of the committee. 

House GOP leaders routinely deploy martial law around tight legislative deadlines. However, Democrats have not always forced the House to conduct a roll-call vote to adopt it.

Four Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the rule change in the 237-187 vote: Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Walter Jones (N.C.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.).

The Hill

They are at it again!  Republicans using anything and everything to get their agenda done.

Alternet — It’s a scenario straight out of The X-Files: A prehistoric pathogen, isolated for millennia in Arctic ice, comes to light in the modern world.

The catch is that it’s not science fiction—and thanks to the great Arcticthaw, the discovery suggests an emerging public health worry unless nations sharply cut fossil fuel use in the next few decades.

French scientists announced this week that working in the lab, they have found a “giant virus” in a 30,000-year-old sample of permafrost from Siberia.

It is the second giant virus isolated from the same permafrost sample in two years. The team found each one by infecting Acanthamoeba, a common contemporary protozoan, with viral material from the sample.


Yet another reason that we need to do everything possible to slow and stop global warming.  I remember watching a series episode where this very thing happened.  My reaction then . . . yeh, right.  My reaction now . . . oh crap!

The Guardian — The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said Russia has proposed talks between the two countries’ militaries on the situation in Syria, apparently in response to Washington’s concern over reports of a Russian military buildup there.

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov made the offer during a phone call on Wednesday, said Kerry, adding that he was in favour of such contacts because the US wants a better idea of what Russia’s current intentions are in Syria. Kerry said Lavrov had told him Russia was only interested in fighting the Islamic State militants.

The Guardian

This and the following article are related.  Yesterday while driving, I heard the briefest of notes, almost a footnote to the days events — Russia aproaches the US about the civil war in Syria and the war with ISIL.  OK, they got me hooked.  So the Guardian article is more about the coming together against ISIL while the Slate article is more about Russia's motives.  I am sure that Putin will find fertile ground in a Republican dominated Congress should he decide to pull a "Netanyahu".

Slate — A few weeks ago, I noted that with Russia’s economy sagging under the weight of both international sanctions and low oil prices, and the situation in Ukraine mired in stalemate, Vladimir Putin’s government was badly in need of a new foreign crisis in which the president could demonstrate decisive leadership. As it turns out, that crisis has been found not in the Baltics or the Arctic but in Syria, where Russia, in recent weeks, has launched both a military build-up and a diplomatic offensive.

The Pentagon says that Russia, one of the main international backers of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been building up its military forces in Syria, setting up a forward operating base near the northern coastal city of Latakia and using an air corridor over Iran and Iraq to fly in military equipment and personnel. Defense officials have compared the operation to the build-up of Russian forces in Crimea prior to the 2014 annexation.


My Universe — h/t JL — This is my version of heaven . . . absolutely purrfect!



Sep 152015

Today has been a long day for me, taking my mother to a specialist doctor's appointment.  In July, she had botox injections for muscle spasticity as a result of dementia.  I am happy to report that the shots have made a difference to her pain level and quality of life.  The problem today . . . the doctor's office is on the third floor and there is only one elevator.  Sometime after we arrived, the elevator broke down so anyone in a wheelchair is stuck waiting.  There we waited for 2 hours.  That set my day back.  The good part . . . at least we weren't stuck IN the elevator!

Fantasy FootballI hope that this works out.

Rank Team W-L-T Pct Stk Waiver For Against

Playing without a helmetPlaying without a helmet

1-0-0 1.000 W1 10 118.24 116.10

Progressive UnderdogsProgressive Underdogs

1-0-0 1.000 W1 9 102.86 70.20

Monster MashersMonster Mashers

1-0-0 1.000 W1 8 98.12 89.62


1-0-0 1.000 W1 7 89.04 79.56


1-0-0 1.000 W1 6 83.24 80.94

Purple DemonPurple Demon

0-1-0 .000 L1 5 116.10 118.24

BALCO BombersBALCO Bombers

0-1-0 .000 L1 4 89.62 98.12

Lefty HillbilliesLefty Hillbillies

0-1-0 .000 L1 3 80.94 83.24

Size 9 StompersSize 9 Stompers

0-1-0 .000 L1 2 79.56 89.04

TomCat Teabag TrashersTomCat Teabag Trashers

0-1-0 .000 L1 1 70.20 102.86

It would appear that TC and I are at the bottom of the league.  He has an excuse.  What's mine?

PuzzleToday’s took me  3:44 (average 4:51).  To do it click here.  How did you do?

Rolling Stone — This is the present, and the future, of climate change. Our overheated world is amplifying drought and making megafire commonplace. This is happening even in the soggy Pacific Northwest, which has been hard-hit by what's been dubbed a "wet drought." Despite near-normal precipitation, warm winter temperatures brought rain instead of snow to the region's mountains. What little snow did hit the ground then melted early, leaving the Northwest dry — and ready to burn in the heat of summer.

The national data is as clear as it is troubling: "Climate change has led to fire seasons that are now on average 78 days longer than in 1970," according to a Forest Service report published in August. In the past three decades, the annual area claimed by fire has doubled, and the agency's scientists predict that fires will likely "double again by midcentury."

The human imprint on the bone-dry conditions that lead to fire is real — and now measurable. According to a major new study by scientists at Columbia and NASA, man-made warming is increasing atmospheric evaporation — drawing water out of Western soil, shrubs and trees. In California alone, the epic drought is up to 25 percent more severe than it would have been, absent climate change. And this impact doesn't respect state borders. The study's lead author, Columbia scientist Park Williams, tells Rolling Stone, "There's the same effect in the Pacific Northwest."

Standing near fire lines in late August, Inslee vowed to extinguish the blazes in his state. But the governor also called on Americans to confront an enemy fiercer and more insidious than fire itself. He declared, "We've got to attack this at its source: carbon pollution."

The fiery future is upon us. Pervasive drought and record temperatures — July was the warmest month ever physically recorded on planet Earth — have turned forests from Fresno to Fairbanks into tinderboxes. In Alaska, more than 5 million acres burned — surpassing the 10-year average for the entire country. With months left in the fire season, the blazes of 2015 have already scorched more than 8 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center — a record pace, likely to top the 9.8 million acres that burned in 2006. "Some of these fires that are in these forested areas could burn until it snows," said NIFC spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto.  …

For a glimpse of the future, look north, to Alaska and the Arctic — which President Obama, during a visit to Anchorage this summer, highlighted as "the leading edge of climate change." Soaring temperatures and an early-melting snowpack have brought raging wildfires to landscapes that have not been kissed by flame for millennia. "Climate change is no longer some far-off problem," Obama declared. "It is happening here. It is happening now."

The world is warming most toward the poles, and temperatures in Alaska have been increasing nearly twice as fast as the rest of the country in the past 60 years — up almost three degrees. And the state's average fire season has increased by more than a month — 35 days — since the 1950s. "We can detect the climate-change influence on fire," says Glenn Juday, a forest ecologist at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, who points to three indicators all on the upswing: "the area burned, the severity of the burning and then the frequency." 

Rolling Stone

Earlier today, I was thinking about all the wildfires in western Canada and the western US.  Australia has also found itself with severe drought and wildfires.  It seemed to me that it is one big "chicken and the egg" situation.  Drought makes for tinder dry conditions; human activity and severe lightning storms bring wildfires; wildfires generate carbon pollution in the air which generates climate change . . . and the cycle rolls on.  This is a long article but worth the read.  We must break the cycle which means making fossil fuel decisions, and of course that means keeping Republicans out of the White House and Conservatives out of Parliament. Everyday people like you and I need to have a bigger say in the sustainability of the planet, not greedy corpoations.

Daily KosThis is a short piece.  An "Awesome cartoon about Bernie Sanders @ Liberty Univ".

Daily Kos

Now that is a genuine WWJD!  I think that would really confuse Kim Davis and the Republicans.

Alternet — “Richard is sentenced to death because he’s poor,” Glossip’s new attorney Donald Knight told the Guardian. “Not very many people can afford a death penalty defense. That should scare everyone.”

With 60 more days, his attorneys say they could gather more evidence to present a petition allowing them to litigate in a court that could grant a new trial or a clemency review. 


In my book, the death penalty is never OK.  It is state sanctioned murder.  I think we all know where TC stands on this.

My UniverseThis is how I feel about TC's shoes!

Damn, they are soooooooooooooooooooooooo big!


Sep 012015

I’m swamped!  That’s always the case at the first of the month.  Between today’s normal research and collecting the data for tomorrow’s Monthly Report, I have already put in over eight hours on the4 blog today.  in addition, I’m waiting for Store to Door to call for my grocery order.  Tomorrow is a grocery delivery day.  I have bills to pay, and a guy has been using a jackhammer in the street below me for the last three hours.  Other than that, not much is going on.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:37 (average 5:16).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From: I Side With (Hat-Tip Mamabear): Answer the following questions to see how your beliefs match each political party

Click through to take the quiz to see which candidate is most like you.  Mt Results:  Bernie Sanders 98%, Hillary Clinton 85%, Martin O’Malley 80%.

From The New Yorker: As America’s bridges, roads, and other infrastructure dangerously deteriorate from decades of neglect, there is a mounting sense of urgency that it is time to build a giant wall.

Across the U.S., whose rail system is a rickety antique plagued by deadly accidents, Americans are increasingly recognizing that building a wall with Mexico, and possibly another one with Canada, should be the country’s top priority.

Harland Dorrinson, the executive director of a Washington-based think tank called the Center for Responsible Immigration, believes that most Americans favor the building of border walls over extravagant pet projects like structurally sound freeway overpasses.

“The estimated cost of a border wall with Mexico is five billion dollars,” he said. “We could easily blow the same amount of money on infrastructure repairs and have nothing to show for it but functioning highways.”

Andy is clearly doing straight news again.

From NY Times: President Obama on Monday issued a global call for urgent action to address climate change, declaring that the United States was partly to blame for what he called the defining challenge of the century and would rally the world to counter it.

“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now,” Mr. Obama said here at an international conference on the Arctic. “We’re not acting fast enough. I have come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second-largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating the problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.”

Clearly Obama has dome more to combat climate change than any other president in history. Now he needs to shut down drilling in the arctic.



Aug 292015

I’m starting a little late, because a thunderstorm interfered with my Wi-Fi. On the plus side, steam rose from the asphalt street.  What a relief!

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me  2:58 (average 4:53).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From YouTube (Hat-Tip Lynn Squance): Harperman is a protest song against the Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. We are organizing a cross-Canada singalong of Harperman on September 17, just a month before the expected date of the Canadian federal election. Please contribute, if you can, to helping organize the singalong. Our first crowdfunding program on Indiegogo has finished and a new campaign has been launched at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cro…


Thanks Squatch!! This could apply to any US Republican too!!

From Daily Kos: In recent weeks, there has been a lot of political debate among the Republican presidential candidates about immigrants and aspiring citizens in our country.

And frankly, it has become ugly and dangerous.

Please take a minute to hear my thoughts below.

In Solidarity,



I couldn’t have said it better.

From NY Times: …As Mr. Obama comes north for what the White House has described as an examination of the effects of climate change, Alaska is battling over oil — its chief source of revenue — and the thorny implications of drilling. Oil prices have fallen to multiyear lows, and production has declined from aging oil fields — with consequences rippling through a state that pays for just about everything with taxes from oil.

Mr. Walker, in an interview in his Anchorage office, said he planned to press Mr. Obama to loosen restrictions on exploration and to pledge support for a natural gas pipeline. More broadly, Mr. Walker said, he hoped to help the president understand Alaska’s dependence, because of climate and geography, on what can be extracted from the land or sea.

“From oil and gas development to fish caught in the ocean, we literally live off the resources,” Mr. Walker said.

But fossil fuels are also blamed for human-caused climate change, and that reality has set up a competing claim for the president’s attention. More drilling for energy, climate advocates say, is not the answer for Alaska or the planet. With a three-day trip for Mr. Obama planned out by the White House — including the first visit by a sitting president to some of Alaska’s most remote Arctic communities — the uncertainties and stakes are high, people on all sides of the energy fight say.

I hope that environmentalists hound President Obama wherever he goes. Allowing Shell to drill in the Arctic was one of his worst decisions while in office.



Aug 192015

Only Republicans still insist that man-made global climate change is not a critical reality, and I have no doubt that the stupidity exhibited by the leadership is completely willful.  I’m sad to say that the level of methane pollution by the Natural Gas industry is much worse than previously thought because of a combination of the industry lying about it and EPA underestimation.

0819polluteNatural gas gathering and processing plants leak much more methane than producers have reported, and even more than the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated, according to a study released Tuesday.

Researchers at Colorado State University found that U.S. gathering and processing facilities — where natural gas from nearby wells is consolidated for distribution through pipelines — leak 2,421,000 metric tons of methane each year. The facilities emit 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas every year, roughly eight times the amount previously estimated by the EPA.

Gathering facilities “could be responsible for something like 30 percent of emissions for all natural gas production,” the study’s lead researcher, Anthony Marchese, said on a press call Tuesday.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. It is the primary ingredient in natural gas.

The amount of emissions tracked in the study has roughly the same 20-year climate impact as 37 coal-fired power plants, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said. The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, is part of a series of studies organized by EDF that will compose the largest inventory of methane leaks in the U.S. natural gas industry to date. An earlier report in the series found that oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands leaked $360 million worth of fuel in 2013.

Controlling methane emissions, especially as the United States increasingly extracts and uses natural gas, plays an important role in the effort to curtail climate change. On Tuesday, the Obama Administration proposed a new rule that seeks to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

Since the study and the new rule were released in the same day, I consoler it highly likely that the new rule is based in an outdated estimate of the problem and needs to be strengthened right away.  I trust that the Obama Administration will respond appropriately, but we need to keep our eyes open to make sure.

However, the EDF contention that the Natural Gas industry is the the biggest source of methane leaks in the nation may not be correct.  I think there is one larger.