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Upper Big Branch Mine Report: ‘Deviant Practices’ By Massey Energy

4:46 am in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

Untitled by uʌ, on Flick

 

Davitt McAteer was commissioned to lead an independent investigation into the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, an explosion in the Massey operated mine in Raleigh County, W.VA that killed 29 miners last April.  McAteer and his team finished their investigation and released the information to the families of the miners who perished in the disaster.  What they found was staggering, but to many it wasn’t surprising.  Many believed, as I have pointed out previously and thus subscribed to, that Massey Energy was to blame for the explosion.  Massey ran a non-union mine (to which former-CEO Don Blankenship proudly proclaimed) in Raleigh County, and appeared to disregard many safety regulations that culminated in the worst coal-mine disaster that the United States has seen in 40 years.  Coal Tattoo has provided a lot of information about the investigation panel’s findings and the subsequent reactions from the press etc.  The McAteer investigation team produced a lot of information that was compiled over the past several months, but the bottom line of the investigation clearly sticks out.

The bottom line in McAteer’s report:

The explosion was the result of failures of basic safety systems identified and codified to protect the lives of miners.

The disaster at Upper Big Branch was man-made and could have been prevented.

(Source: Coal Tattoo)

The bottom line: It could have been prevented.  Massey Energy’s negligence was a key player leading into the deaths of those West Virginia miners.  In a press release provided by the Coal Tattoo blog, McAteer’s investigation panel had this to say:

Such total and catastrophic systemic failures can only be explained in the context of a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable, where deviation became the norm. In such a culture it was acceptable to mine coal with insufficient air; with buildups of coal dust; with inadequate rock dust. The same culture allowed Massey Energy to use its resources to create a false public image to mislead the public, community leaders and investors — the perception that the company exceeded industry safety standards. And it became acceptable to cast agencies designed to protect miners as enemies and to make life difficult for miners who tried to address safety. It is only in the context of a culture bent on production at the expense of safety that these obvious deviations from decades of known safety practices makes sense.

This is a quickly developing story with more information to come soon.

Racism and Sexism: West Virginia Politics At Its Worst

8:38 am in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

I generally try to avoid the stereotypes of West Virginia (inbred, racist, un-educated, etc.) because for the most part they perpetuate a myth that the state itself doesn’t live up to.  We are not inbred redneck white-supremacists like a lot of the common jokes and stereotypes suggest.  However, much to my disappointment, racism is still alive in West Virginia.  It comes as no surprise because, frankly, you are bound to find racism anywhere in the United States (thankfully not to the extent of what the U.S. saw during the civil rights movement).  I’d like to believe that we live in a post-racial America, but sadly this is far from fact.  Our country has gotten better, and racism is detested for the most part by the rational portion of our population.

Even if someone is what one would describe as “racist,” they typically aren’t outwardly voicing this belief (we’ll leave out the skinheads etc. since they are in a league of their own for this).  However, sometimes people just let it slip.  One man vying for the GOP nomination to West Virginia’s Gubernatorial election did just that.

Larry Faircloth (R-WV) is one of several people gunning for the GOP nomination, and may have just killed his chances of winning.  Faircloth spoke at a candidates forum hosted by We the People of Hampshire County, an Eastern Panhandle Tea Party-affiliated organization.  Faircloth touched on the subject of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and decided to try his hand at a comedy.  Not the best idea Faircloth has had.

Faircloth referred to Pelosi as a “bimbo.”

“Is she not one?” Faircloth said in a Tuesday evening telephone interview. “I mean, a lot of people think she is a bimbo; that’s why they replaced Congress with Republicans, and they removed her as speaker. I don’t find that as anything different than a political poke at her.”

He also referred to Obama as a “Sambo,” a term many consider racist.

(Charleston Daily Mail)
Read the rest of this entry →

Little Love For Gays Or Women From West Virginia’s GOP

7:54 pm in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

Its been a long time since I’ve written for MyFDL, since December 24th, 2010 actually.  Its been too long!  I thought I would make my return an amusing one and introduce the FDL world to the “wild and wonderful” GOP field of candidates for the West Virginia Gubernatorial election (We’ll see how many get that pun).

The GOP field for West Virginia’s special election gubernatorial race is full of people just itching to win over the conservative electorate in the Mountain State.  It should come as no surprise to the MyFDL readership that there is a supreme lack of sympathy or compassion for pro-choice rights and LGBT rights from any GOP contenders, and West Virginia is unfortunately no exception. A recent voters guide, published by the Charleston Gazette, profiled the Republican candidates for governor in the 2011 election.

One of the primary questions asked by the Gazette was “Would you sign bills restricting abortion if passed by the Legislature?”  I challenge you to guess what their answers might have been.  Well if you couldn’t muster a guess, we’ll take Clark Barnes for example.  He is a small business owner that currently serves in the West Virginia State Senate.

“Absolutely. I believe in the sanctity of human life and that life begins at conception.”

No shock.  Boasting pro-life status is the equivalent to rapping about street cred in West Virginia Republican politics.  Larry Faircloth, another fine example of GOP brawn in West Virginia, touted his endorsement by West Virginia for Life (which totaled 24 years).  Every single GOP candidate for West Virginia’s gubernatorial election is pro-life, no big surprise here.  However, looking at gay rights is another story.

Candidates were also asked the question “Do you support adding sexual orientation to the state’s existing civil rights laws? Why or why not?”  The answers were a mixed bag of awful, stupendous, marginally accepting, and awkwardly political.  Take Bill Maloney’s answer to the question (Maloney is a Drilling Consultant running on the GOP ticket).

No, I’m 100 percent pro-traditional marriage, between one man and one woman.

Maloney must have been confused.  The question didn’t state “Do you support gay marriage?”  No.  The question simply stated whether or not civil rights laws should protect someone based on sexual orientation in order to protect their rights where laws explicitly do not cover them.  Maloney is trying to play his cards correctly among the potential voters of West Virginia.  The Mountain State has gone red in the past few national elections, and is known to be socially conservative.  One glance at Maloney’s website and you know what audience he is addressing.  Under the “Why I Am Running” page of his campaign site, one facet particularly sticks out. I’m 100% pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. I’ll fight to protect our Second Amendment rights.

And this is the story of many Republican candidates in the great state of West Virginia. They cater to guns, fetus rights, and gettin’ rid of the gays.
Read the rest of this entry →

Don Blankenship’s Coal-Dust Covered Golden Parachute

9:09 pm in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

Corporate Golden Parachute, from Essg on Flickr

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship announced his retirement rather suddenly earlier this month, much to the pleasure of environmental activists in West Virginia.  Though the realist in me believes his successor will be a carbon-copy of him, I’m grateful nonetheless that this truly despicable man is out of the head spot at Massey.

But Blankenship isn’t leaving empty-handed.  His astronomical retirement package, which ABC News coins a golden parachute, sets him up nicely with a house to live in (paid for by the company of course) for the rest of his life, fruitful stock options, and roughly $18,000/month for the next 10 years of his life.

The full breadth of Blankenship’s retirement package is still not known, but the web site Footnoted.com laid out some of the terms in an item posted this morning, including what it says is a $5.7 million pension, generous stock options, and $27.2 million from a deferred-compensation account, “a combination of pay he set aside and interest Massey has promised to pay him on those sums.” The web site also noted that the free housing Blankenship has enjoyed during his tenure as CEO will continue into his retirement, as will the company’s agreement to handle any income taxes he would owe for getting use of the house.

All this comes after a tenure which saw the controversial coal boss receive $38.2 million total compensation in the last three years alone, $26.7 million of it in cash, Footnoted reports.

Massey Energy officials declined to comment directly on the terms of Blankenship’s retirement. But the press release issued by the company notes that the coal mining giant has done very well under Blankenship’s tenure.

[Source: ABC News]

Blankenship leaves the company amidst a disastrous mine explosion that occurred last April, the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.  The explosion killed nearly 30 miners, and Mr. Blankenship is refusing to testify in front of MSHA investigators over the causes of the accident.  Guilty conscience much?  Surely we’d have to believe so.  Blankenship has caused a boatload of controversy and negative attention toward Massey Energy, one of the largest coal producers in the United States.

Blankenship’s leaving signifies a move away from the controversial figure for the company, and the mining disaster still has yet to be settled completely.  The people of West Virginia, and specifically those who were affected firsthand by the mine explosion, are left answer-less as Blankenship takes the easy way out.  A pathetic coal baron indeed.

Democratic Senator Skips DADT and DREAM Act Votes for…A Christmas Party!!

5:40 am in Democratic Party, Government, Legislature, Politics by Chuckie Corra

U. S. Senate podium (photo: scecon via Flickr)

Joe Manchin is an epic disappointment already.  He was the only Democratic senator to vote no on a DADT repeal earlier in the month, and then refused to even show his face for the vote on Saturday for the DREAM Act and DADT.  SO what pressing engagement had him so tied up that he couldn’t muster an appearance during one of the biggest voting days this Congress has seen thus far?

A Christmas Party, of course!

Manchin spokesman Sara Payne Scarbro elaborated to the Charleston Gazette in an email, saying that he and his wife “planned a holiday gathering over a year ago with all their children and grandchildren as they will not all be together on Christmas Day.”

“While he regrets missing the votes, it was a family obligation that he just could not break,” Scarbro said. “However, he has been clear on where he stands on the issues.”

Source: TPM

I’m a little embarrassed to call Manchin my senator right now.  The fact that he skipped out on clearly the most important vote since he has taken office is sad.  It doesn’t bode well for his future in the Senate either.  Thankfully he’s up for election in 2012; I’d like to see Secretary of State Natalie Tennant give him a run for his money then.

Manchin has pissed off the unions too.  In West Virginia, if you’re a Democrat, unions play a vital role in your political life.  If Manchin loses the union vote he can rest assured that his tenure as a United States Senator will not last very long at all.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

DINOsaurs in West Virginia: Joe Manchin Was Lone Democrat to Vote Nay on DADT Repeal.

5:41 pm in Conservatism, Democratic Party, Government, Legislature, Politics by Chuckie Corra

courtesy of Scott Kinmartin on flickr

Rawwwrrrr!  It didn’t take long for the Conservadem to show his true colors in West Virginia.  The newly-minted Senator in West Virginia, Joe Manchin, was your maverick stand-out Thursday during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal vote.  So what side did he vote with?  Of course, the Republicans!

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) was the only Democrat in the Senate to vote Nay on a motion that would repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law for the United States military.  Sadly, this comes as no surprise.  Joe Manchin ran a conservative-minded campaign in a state that could have easily gone Republican.  Its sad to see the seat that the late, great Robert C. Byrd used to hold go to such waste.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) appeared to take a stand on the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” Thursday, becoming the only Senate Democrat to vote against a procedural motion to move the measure forward.

But after the vote, Manchin blasted out a statement apologizing to anyone angered by his vote and said he believed the policy “probably should be repealed in the near future.”

“While I believe the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy will be repealed someday, and probably should be repealed in the near future, I do not support its repeal at this time,” Manchin said in the statement. “I truly understand that my position will anger those who believe repeal should happen now and for that I sincerely apologize. While I am very sympathetic to those who passionately support the repeal, as a Senator of just three weeks, I have not had the opportunity to visit and hear the full range of viewpoints from the citizens of West Virginia.”

(The Hill)

Apologizing already Joe?  Thats pretty sad.  If you’re going to cross enemy lines at least wait awhile before you concede to your stupidity.  I’m not really sure Manchin knows what he’s getting himself into voting like this.  Votes, simply votes like this, will alienate an entire electoral base.

I don’t really think there’s much to say other than the fact that I’m extremely disappointed in my Senator and the United States Senate for not being able to pass a common sense repeal of a discriminatory regulation like DADT.

The DINOsaurs live in West Virginia.

Don Blankenship To Retire as CEO Of Massey Energy

3:52 pm in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

Don Blankenship, who will now be known as the former-CEO of Massey Energy (From BillRhodesPhoto on flickr)

“He was like a caricature of all that was wrong with the industry today,” said Cindy Rank, longtime mining chairwoman for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

This quote, from a recent Charleston Gazette article, pretty much sums up my feelings (as well as many others) about Don Blankenship.

The coal baron’s days are finally coming to an end.  Don Blankenship officially announced his retirement.  Massey Energy is one of the largest coal producing companies and is based in Richmond, VA.  Blankenship was at the helm of Massey during the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster earlier this year, which caused a firestorm of controversy and many claiming that Blankenship had blood on his hands.

Blankenship has been the head of this company for several years, and has overseen the destruction of several mountains across Appalachia.  These mountains will never be seen again and are the result of the controversial practice that Massey finds themselves employing a lot nowadays, Mountaintop Removal Mining.  Mountaintop Removal (MTR) is literally what it sounds like, blowing off the tops of mountains, and has been a crucial contributor to ruining the landscape of Appalachia, contributing to several health related hazards due to coal slurries, and innumerable other complications across the area where it is practiced. Blankenship is one that seems to be solely driven by the dollar signs and nothing else.  On this day we bid him a farewell, and hope to never hear of the man again.

I caught word of this story from the Charleston Gazette’s fantastic blog on coal and its influence on West Virginia, Coal Tattoo.

The Board of Directors of Massey Energy Company (NYSE: MEE) today announced that its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Don Blankenship, will retire from the company effective December 30, 2010. Mr. Blankenship has led Massey Energy as Chairman and CEO since 2000, and he’s been with the company since 1982.

Baxter F. Phillips Jr., President of Massey Energy, will succeed Mr. Blankenship as Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Phillips has been with Massey Energy since 1981. Admiral Bobby Inman, Lead Independent Director on the Massey Board, will succeed Mr. Blankenship as Non-Executive Chairman. He has been a Director since 1985.

In a statement, Mr. Blankenship said: “After almost three decades at Massey it is time for me to move on. Baxter and I have worked together for 28 years and he will provide the company great executive leadership. Most of all, I want to thank the Members of Massey Energy whose hard work supports not only their own families, but also contributes greatly to the entire community of Central Appalachia.”

(Coal Tattoo) . . . Read the rest of this entry →

700-Person Lawsuit Against Massey Energy For Poisoned Water

3:03 am in Energy, Environment by Chuckie Corra

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, recently facing intense pressure for his company's operations in West Virginia (From Rainforest Action Network on Flickr)

Mingo County, West Virginia is a very rural area to the great Mountain State, and one synonymous with coal country.  Mingo County is also the home to an alleged crime committed by coal giant Massey Energy.  Nearly 700 plaintiffs have come forward to file suit against Massey for poisoning their water supplies and leading to devastating and life-altering health defects.

The contamination is said to come from the coal slurries that Massey has created. The slurries are a result of coal companies, like Massey, who wash the coal so it burns more efficiently.  The resulting water that comes from the washing process is called coal slurry.

The plaintiffs in the case are claiming that Massey has poisoned their water wells with water from the coal slurries, and has led to several life-long health problems.

Specifically, a woman named Christina Doyle has filed suit and has serious reason to do so.  Doyle’s daughter was born without a pituitary gland, and suffers from several hormonal problems and learning difficulties.  Others have lost family members to health problems that they believe are a result of Massey’s coal slurry-contaminated water supply.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Making the Grade for the Crazies: A Final Evaluation of The Midterm’s Most Mad

11:26 pm in 2010 election, Elections, Politics by Chuckie Corra

What Christine O'Donnell's Campaign Signs Should have Been (courtesy: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

We are all tired.  This election season is exhausting.  Those working on campaigns have been clocking hours reaching the triple digits per week to help boost their candidates chances of getting elected.  For the most part, an election such as this deserves a strict degree of seriousness throughout.  Our country’s livelihood is at stake, the economy is still in bandages and casts, and the troops still aren’t home.

However, I feel it necessary to bring a bit of lightheartedness to the scene.  Its been a long haul and a big final push towards November 2nd, so sit back and relax while I attempt to bring humor to the election cycle by grading this years most nutty candidates.

The grading scale: the classic A, B, C, D, or F

What they are graded on:

-Lack of Knowledge
-Scandal Caliber
-Overall Crazy

So lets get to our current Crazies of 2010 . . .

Read the rest of this entry →

Star Wars, Austin Powers, and Autographed Laser Blasters

3:10 pm in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

Imperial Blaster, Similar to what Joe Manchin will autograph for you (from Bolt of Blue on Flickr)

There was a point where I felt like it was beating a dead horse by continuously posting diaries about the West Virginia Senate race.  Joe Manchin’s newest ad campaigns proves that point moot.  It’s hard to genuinely do this wackiness justice by way of just words, however I will wholeheartedly do my best.

It’s that time of the year again, election season, and the cooky ads are nearly as populous as the amount of money poured into financing them.  We’ve seen some intentionally ridiculous ones, Republican Dan Fenelli’s videos that use skin tone to determine what a terrorist looks like particularly strikes my memory, and we’ve seen some that were unintentionally… well… hilarious.  Our hats go off to Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m not a witch, I’m you” videos.  Though not necessarily a perennial political powerhouse, she seems to have a budding career as a comedienne if she keeps this up.

When you think of funny ads, generally West Virginia is not the first place you look.  This, however, will clearly be the case no longer.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →