On today's BradCast, a former Wisconsin State Senate official says GOP Photo ID voter suppression led him to leave the party; And Don Blankenship, West Virginia's "Dark Lord of Coal Country" is sentenced to just one year in prison for acts leading to the deaths of 29 miners. [Audio link for complete show follows below.]
First up today, Todd Allbaugh, a former Chief of Staff in the WI State Senate says he left the Republican Party when, during a closed-door caucus meeting to discuss the state's Photo ID voting restriction law in 2011, GOP lawmakers were "giddy" about the prospect of using the law to disenfranchise Democratic voters in the Badger State.
Then, WV's own Bob Kincaid, Head-On Radio Network host, co-founder of the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Campaign and President of Coal River Mountain Watch, joins us to discuss Blankenship's federal sentencing yesterday for his part in conspiring to violate mine safety regulations leading to the tragic 2010 Upper Big Branch (UBB) coal mine explosion.
Kincaid details the once-powerful coal baron's rise to power, why the former CEO of Massey Energy got off so lightly in both federal and state court, why coal remains king among both Democrats and Republicans in WV, and how Obama's mythical "War on Coal" shows no signs of ending deadly coal mining and toxic mountaintop removal in the state.
On the emotional reaction by families of UBB victims following Wednesday's sentencing (see this from a miner, Tommy Davis, who lost his brother, son and nephew in the disaster), Kincaid describes it as "heartbreaking" and yet "another chapter in the 125-plus-year-long exploitation and devastation of the people of this state and this region" which has resulted in coal industry-caused deaths numbering "in the tens of thousands".
Despite the disaster that has devastated the community, he warns "of course, it's going to happen again, because Don Blankenship was not the only coal boss who hates safety regulations. Remember, here in West Virginia, and generally in the Republican Party, those are not 'safety regulations' that Don Blankenship conspired to evade. Those were 'job-killing regulations'."
"In 2014," Kincaid notes, even after the horrific UBB disaster, WV voters "ran --- they did not walk --- they ran to the polls to elect a slate of Republicans on the principle that the Republicans said they were going to make the coal come back." He goes on to explain how "Appalachia has lost 500 mountains" through the toxic practice of Mountain Top Removal mining (allowing coal companies to get more coal with many fewer miners) and how the Obama Administration has done nothing to stop it during his nearly 8 years in office.
"The idea that there's a 'War on Coal' is just a sad, cynical, and tragic little joke --- perpetrated on people who, I guess, like their confirmation bias," he tells me. Near the end of the enlightening and colorful conversation (in which he also offers his unvarnished opinions on the plans for Coal Country from Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders), as I beg for evidence of a hopeful sign, somehow, somewhere out of Coal Country, Kincaid offers: "You know what's hopeful? The fact that the people who do understand the reality of it aren't backing down. We're not going away. We're not going to quit. We're not going to quit living in the land of reality while other people live in a fantasy world. We're going to keep making the noise. We just need more people making noise with us."
Please listen to the complete, very lively interview in the show linked below!
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