November 22, 2014

One to watch

The latest legal developments in the case of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship are interesting. First, the gag order will make events a little hard to follow. The accused pleaded not guilty, which wasn't a surprise. I was a bit surprised to learn about the requirement for him to post a $5 million bond.

A friend of mine suggested that the judge might have been afraid of another Marc Rich incident. Rich was a financial speculator who fled abroad to avoid prosecution until pardoned by President Clinton for some ungodly reason during the final moments of his presidency. Ken Ward reports that the federal magistrate seems to be concerned about Blankenship's financial affairs as well.

The irony in all this is that Blankenship's legal troubles are occurring just as his political dreams for West Virginia have come true in the wake of the last election.

November 19, 2014

In case you needed some more depressing news...'s something about the assault on labor unions.

WHAT WAS HIS FIRST CLUE? It seems that economist and Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson may have gotten the memo that some people may not be all that happy with the current state of the economy.

ONE WV BRIGHT SPOT is progress on child nutrition, especially in schools. This article features my friend Rick Goff, director of the state Office of Child Nutrition. The good news is that breakfast participation is going up in the wake of the passage of the 2013 innovative Feed to Achieve Act.

SPEAKING OF FRIENDS, another pal, the Rev. Jim Lewis, was featured in a nice spot on WV Public Radio yesterday. It's worth a look.


November 18, 2014

Light reading

If you are curious about the 43 page indictment of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship, you can read the whole thing here. There are 108 numbered sections, although I may not be using the right term.

THIS SHOULD BE EASY TO FIX. There's a lot of talk here and elsewhere about the need for economic transition in West Virginia. One thing that could easily help is more state investment in promoting WV tourism. Oh yeah, and it might help if we stop trashing and poisoning the place.

BIG DOGS TAKE AIM AT A GOOD POLICY. One policy idea long advocated here is the creation of a system of Voluntary Employee Retirement Accounts for workers without pensions. The financial industry, which so far hasn't stepped up to do squat for these people, is gunning to kill the idea.


November 17, 2014

Sad but true

This article from the Washington Examiner takes a look at how Logan County, WV has been coping with the decline of coal. Short version: not too well. I'd only add that I think they leaned a little too hard on regulations and not hard enough on market forces when talking about what brought on the hard times. Still, it's hard to say that the situation is anything but bad.

This is an example of why Congress needs to put up or shut up on coal. Places like Logan desperately need some kinds of transitional assistance.

NO SHOCK HERE. Inequality is getting way worse.

November 16, 2014

Will justice be done?

The news of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship's indictment on federal charges related to the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster has made national news. The show starts this week, but it looks like we won't see a lot of it unwind due to a gag order by the judge.

Meanwhile, as my friend Ken Ward reports, it looks like Blankenship's tendency to micromanage Massey operations provided an opening for prosecutors.

This NY Times editorial on the subject is worth a look. It both commends the investigation and condemns Congress for its failure to act in the wake of the deaths of 29 miners. Final paragraph:

The investigation is praiseworthy for seeking accountability for miners who should not have died. But the question of industrywide reform has been shamefully neglected by Congress in general and by industry allies in the Republican Party, like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the incoming majority leader, in particular. The Upper Big Branch disaster continues to expose the need for stronger federal fines and for the authority to shut mines that are repeat offenders of safety rules and threaten the lives of their employees.
While we're at it, you can find my two cents near the bottom of this item from

“I think the fact that these indictments have gone this far up the corporate ladder is truly historic,” said Rick Wilson, of the American Friends Service Committee's West Virginia Economic Justice Project, “and will send a message to future CEOs in coal and other industries that there are limits to the liberties that can be taken with the lives of other people.”