An argument could be made that the greatest beneficiary of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf has been Massey Energy's CEO Don Blankenship. Until the Gulf Gusher took over the front pages, the serious heat, in both media and Congress, had been on Blankenship and the coal mine explosion which took the lives of 29 miners at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Remember that?
Well, the investigation has very quietly --- and largely behind closed doors, to the chagrin of family members of the victims --- proceeded into that fossil fuel-related disaster, even as Blankenship must be thanking the Oily Gods for taking him momentarily out of the spotlight. So let's put him back in it, shall we?
Given that the mafia-like strongman tactics seen in remarkable video tape revealing Blankenship roughing up an ABC News reporter in 2008 --- which we've only just now seen (it's posted in full below) --- could as well be a scene straight out of Goodfellas or The Sopranos, the news today from the Charleston Gazette seems par for the course.
Ken Ward Jr. is reporting at the paper's "Coal Tattoo" blog today that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has reportedly told victim's family members that a page is mysteriously missing from the "fireboss book" at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine...
That’s according to a new court filing by lawyers for the families of two of the miners who died in that horrific April 5 explosion in Raleigh County.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials revealed this potentially important piece of information to the families of the Upper Big Branch miners during a closed-door meeting last week at Liberty High School in Beckley, according to the court documents.
Rachel Moreland and Mark Moreland, lawyers for the families of William I. Griffith and Ronald Maynor made this revelation public in a legal memorandum filed in the lawsuit in which they and the United Mine Workers seek to force MSHA to conduct its investigation of the disaster through a public hearing. The legal memo, filed today in U.S. District Court in Charleston, says this is what happened at that meeting last week:
After much prodding by miners’ families, MSHA admitted that the investigative team determined that one page of a fire boss book has been removed.
The legal memo does not indicate what date the page covered, or provide any additional details (though I’m told it was from sometime in October 2009).
Given what we've already learned about Massey's extraordinary tactics deployed to evade any real accountability for thousands of safety violations at their mines over the years, the out-and-out destruction of evidence in a case in which the company or its owners and board members could (or at least should) be held culpable for man-slaughter, at the very least, wouldn't come as much of a surprise.
That point is especially true in the context of the following video from ABC News, taped in April of 2008 for 20/20, showing Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in all his thuggish glory.
As you'll see, not only does Blankenship attempt to intimidate the reporter with the threat of being killed --- "If you're going to start taking pictures of me, you're liable to get shot," Blankenship tells the journalist at first sight --- but he then proceeds to rough him up, pushing him across the parking lot. Take note of how far Blankenship actually shoves the guy --- looks as if it could be 50 to 100 feet --- during the tussle, by comparing where the footage begins right next to the trailer, and then ends far, far away after the Massey CEO finally stops jostling the camera...
As WV environmental activist and radio host Bob Kincaid explained to The BRAD BLOG via email this week: "The culture of violence that exists in Massey flows from the top down. In the last year, Massey supporters have been convicted twice in WV Magistrate courts for attacking/assaulting peaceful individuals. No jail time in either case."
Kincaid notes that, following, the ABC incident, "Blankenship, of course, was never charged. Should've been, but I assume ABC News didn't think it worth their time. How wrong they were!"
He says the incident "shines a light on the wholly dysfunctional, utterly corrupt judicial system in this state. Add that into the same hopper with two misdemeanor cases (one assault, one battery) in which Massey supporters got off with fines only and no jail time, while peaceful protesters have received two month jail sentences, and been subjected to ridiculous bonds."
That Massey's board kept Blankenship in charge even after that footage was released two years ago speaks volumes.
That the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has kept Blankenship on as a member of their Board of Directors also speaks volumes about the thugs at the Chamber as well.
Velvet Revolution's StopTheChamber.com campaign has long been calling for accountability for the Chamber's CEO Tom Donohue, having issued a $200k reward offer for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
Earlier this month, the VR campaign announced another reward offer of $50k "for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any Massey Energy executive official for paying a bribe to any federal official for any purpose, including to cover up or ignore safety violations, pass legislation, or install or appoint pro-Massey people in key oversight positions."
[Full Disclosure: The BRAD BLOG is co-founder of VR]
How's that Whole 'Look Forward, Not Backward' Thing Workin' for Ya?
And finally, where the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is essentially the equivalent of the U.S. Mineral Management Service (MMS), at least when it comes to responsibility for overseeing safety issues for the federal government --- the former responsible for overseeing coal mining, the latter responsible for overseeing oil drilling and rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon which blew up last month killing 11 workers and spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico --- accountability is needed for those federal agencies and their failures to have shut down both of the deadly operations long ago.
Under the Bush Administration, both MSHA in the Dept. of Labor and MMS in the Dept. of Interior, became little more than extensions of the fossil fuel industry itself, having both long ago abdicated their statutory roles as federal regulators.
But where we are happy to hold the Bush Administration to account for their utter bastardization of the idea of "federal regulation" in these industries, we're also happy to hold the Obama Administration accountable for having utterly failed to seek accountability for the eight years of criminal failure by the previous administration on virtually every account.
The buck now stops with them. And they have simply refused to hold their criminal predecessors accountable.
The Administration's political strategy to 'look forward, not backward' is precisely what has allowed overly powerful scofflaw corporations like BP and Massey (and thugs like Donohue and Blankenship) to get away with the crimes they have for so long, raping and pillaging the country's resources to the nearly-sole benefit of their officers and shareholders, even as the carnage --- including very real human bodies --- continues to pile up.
Will the Obama Administration ever get serious about accountability and bring these thugs --- all of them...all the way to the top --- to account for what they've done to this nation? Or will this administration end up equally liable for having helped to assure the bar of executive branch and corporate criminality stays forever lowered?
Think the Bush administration was bad? Just wait for what the next Republican administration will believe they are allowed to do if nobody in the Bush Regime is ever held accountable for their historic crimes against this nation, and all that it once stood for.
Our long national nightmare continues unabated.