April 01, 2007


Caption: This kid looks pretty happy now, but it's too soon to tell.

El Cabrero just finished a second slow slog through The Histories of Herodotus, which is a long, rambling account of the conflict between ancient Greece and the Persian empire, complete with any number of random digressions.

Herodotus has been called "the father of history." The book jacket notes that he's also been called "the father of lies."

(I would suggest "the father of BS" as a reasonable compromise, but I have a feeling that BS was already pretty old by the time of the battle of Marathon.)

For my money, such as it is, one of the best parts is the story of a conversation and its aftermath between Croesus, the fabulously wealthy king of Lydia (in what is now Turkey), and the Athenian sage and statesman Solon on the perennially interesting subject of happiness.

Both of their names have since become proverbial, as in to be "rich as Croesus" or a Solon or wise lawgiver.

That story will be the thread that holds this week's Goat Rope together.

Sneak preview: Croesus, fishing for a compliment, asks Solon who is the happiest of mortals and gets a wise answer he never expected. Solon answers in effect that the wisest course is to call no one happy until he or she has died and you know the whole course of the life in question. Things change and happiness or virtue can often be mistaken for luck.

TOUGH DAYS FOR MASSEY ENERGY. Speaking of which, Massey Energy has had a run of bad luck lately. Gee, I'm really torn up about that. Please wait while I try to compose myself. OK, I'm back. Here's why:

FIRST, as mentioned last week, Massey received the biggest fine in U.S. history for its "reckless disregard" for safety at the Aracoma fire that killed two miners in Jan. 2006. The fine was $1.5 million, the maximum allowed by law.

Here's the link to the MSHA report and here's a sample from their press release:

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today announced that it has fined the operator of the Aracoma Alma Mine No. 1 in Logan County, W.Va., where two miners perished in a fire on Jan. 19, 2006, $1.5 million for contributory safety violations. The fine is the largest ever assessed by MSHA in a coal mine accident. MSHA's investigation team determined that 25 violations of mandatory health and safety laws contributed to the accident.

"The number and severity of safety violations at the mine at the time of the fire demonstrated reckless disregard for safety, warranting the highest fine MSHA has levied for a fatal coal mining accident," said Richard E. Stickler, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "MSHA has referred this case to the U.S. Attorney's Office for possible criminal charges."

Stickler added: "We at MSHA extend our thoughts and prayers to the families for their losses, and we thank them for their patience as we worked to complete our investigation. We appreciate the cooperative working relationship we have had with the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training and the West Virginia Governor's Office, as represented by Davitt McAteer."

In March 2006, MSHA referred the Aracoma case to the U.S. Attorney's Office for possible criminal charges (assuming any of them still have their jobs).

SECOND, Ken Ward reported Sunday in the Charleston Gazette-Mail that

More than a year after two miners died in a conveyor belt fire, federal inspectors continue to find serious safety violations at Massey Energy’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine.

In the last six months, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors have cited the Logan County operation for more than 170 violations, agency records show.

Actually, Ward also shows that mine inspectors before the fire "missed or ignored major violations that agency officials say were key factors in the deaths."

FINALLY, a March 23 decision by U.S. District Judge Robert C. "Chuck" Chambers, former speaker of the WV House of Delegates rescinded the valley fill permits of four large surface mines, all of which were, according to The State Journal, subsidiaries of Massey Energy.

Maybe if Solon were with us today, he'd urge us to call no corporation happy until we see how it all shakes out.



Jspiker said...

Don Blankenships cat has a few words to say about that too....

For the sake of the kids, I hope he takes up a new line of work.

El Cabrero said...

My compliments to the cat! That was a good post on WV Blue.