The Sociopaths Who Make Federal Energy, Work Safety Policies
April 6, 2010 - 7:55pm ET
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One of the hardest things about training people for combat is that human beings are normally strongly averse, to put it mildly, to killing each other, or even being indirectly responsible for someone's death. The survivor's guilt of just having outlived people who died in your presence doesn't only affect those who survive car crashes that took the lives of friends or loved ones, but can haunt hardened military veterans who did everything in their power to save their comrades.
So what are we to make of a person who's careless of lives they could keep out of harm's way and whose remorseless negligence has led directly to the injuries or deaths of others on multiple occasions? What are we to make of a person who would turn to such a freak for advice or support?
Meet Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship. Yesterday, at Massey's Upper Big Branch coal mine, an explosion killed 25 miners, with four miners unaccounted for. The mine where the explosion occurred had been cited for 450 safety violations, including 57 just this past year, including violations for having poor ventilation systems that could have contributed to a buildup of explosive gases.
Blankenship says that "violations are unfortunately a normal part of the mining process (sound file)," such that it's hard to know which violations demand attention since they "hardly ever result in tragedy like this."
Blankenship also despises energy conservation efforts, and runs such a socially destructive business that a map of Appalachian poverty neatly corresponds to a map of mining intensity for mountaintop removal mining such as practiced by Massey. There are simply no other industries that have been able to develop in coal's deep economic and pollution shadow.
Now meet Blankenship's favorite 2010 candidates, including Pennsylvania's Republican candidate for Arlen Specter's Senate seat, Pat Toomey. If elected, they'll join other politicians that have taken Blankenship's blood money, like the the justices of West Virginia's State Supreme Court.
Such is the character of the people that elected government officials consider worth listening to.
Massey Energy will likely get a significant say in any climate legislation that might come out of the Senate this year, and they're one of the many industries that helps create a pervasive corporate scofflaw culture, which routinely ignores workplace safety and costs too many workers their lives. Businesses like ExxonMobil and GE, which paid no taxes in the United States for last year, can write their own tax loopholes, while their wholly-owned congresscritters fight tooth and nail over every government benefit or tax credit that goes to lower income Americans.
In a year where long term unemployment lasting longer than a year has affected 3 million people, an all time high, the government is going to be taking the economic, energy policy and workplace safety advice of employers who subject their workers to dangerous conditions as the price for having medical care or not going homeless. Is there anyone in the US this year in the bottom 90 percent of the country who isn't just a little more afraid of losing their job? Exactly. The more afraid people are of losing their jobs, the less power they have to force employers to be careful of their health and safety.
When a person kills another person by intent or gross negligence, they'll probably at least end up in court and be tried. If they do it again, that record is going to count against them.
When a business owner uses their economic power to force workers into deadly situations from behind the shield of a fictitious corporate person, they may get off with fines that cost less than the yearly salary of the dead employees, and they often get to go on back to business as usual. That business owner may get to have lunch with judges and Senators, they get to proudly show their face in public anywhere like they were decent people. It's revolting.
What's the matter with this country? It isn't rowdy kids, it isn't the petty vices of an exhausted work force. It's people like Don Blankenship. This fish rots from the head.
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