Friday, April 23, 2010

Massey Energy Shows Us Just How Cold Coal Can Be

If you follow the news about clean energy, chances are you have read about the atrocities committed at the coal mines controlled by Don Blankenship at Massey Energy. Earlier this month disaster struck at one mine in particular, leading to the deaths of twenty-nine miners. Since then word has gotten out that the safety record of that mine and others owned by Massey is particularly abhorrent. Blankenship has bought judges and intimidated safety regulators into looking the other way so that profits (and his salary) could be maximized as much as possible. Of course, regard for his employees was thrown to the wayside in the process.

Even after this terrible tragedy, the Washington Independent shows that Blankenship's cruelty knows no bounds:

Massey Energy, the Virginia-based coal giant that runs the Upper Big Branch Mine, has denied time off for miners to attend their friends’ funerals; has rejected makeshift memorials outside the mine site; and, in at least one case, required a worker to go on shift even though the fate of a relative — one of the victims of the April 5 disaster — remained unknown at the time, according to some family members and other sources familiar with those episodes. In short, the company might be taking heat for putting profits and efficiency above its workers, but it doesn’t appear to have changed its tune in the wake of the worst mining tragedy in 40 years.

“They told my husband, ‘You’ve got a job to do and you’re gonna do it,’” said the wife of one Massey miner, referring to the funerals he’s missed this month for friends who died in the blast. “What else are we gonna do?”

The threat of losing their jobs has been effective in keeping mouths shut and leaked information to a minimum. The problem is that Massey is king in West Virginia and the state has few economic opportunities other than mining that dirty black fuel out of the Earth. Since Massey's objective is to exploit their (mostly non-union) workforce beyond the limit, it is up to the government to put Massey in line. In a just world, those responsible for the dead should be in jail and the company itself should be dealt with accordingly. Whether or not Massey should be broken up is not a question I have the answer to at the moment, but those that are better acquainted with the company should have a say in the matter.

What is most important in the short-term is that Blankenship and his culpable managers must be held liable for the deaths of their workers.

Obama's Comment on AZ's Racial Profiling Bill Could Give A Glimpse For Immigration Reform Fight

Health care reform has been checked off Obama's list, and once financial reform is taken care of the agenda will turn to immigration reform. Seeing this on TV today gives immigration reform advocates hope that he will make sure that immigrants are protected from the more bigoted and nativist sections of our society. What the Arizona Legislature passed earlier this month was an atrocity and I am thankful that Obama is looking into helping Latinos from being discriminated against.

I Could Never Forget You Pedro

Even though I was on a nine month blog hiatus, I never lost track of Senator Espada's dishonorable mentions in the press. I've written about him in the past and will continue to do so until he is placed where he jail. Pedro's rap sheet is lengthy to say the least, and many things he does that aren't illegal are still quite shady. While the disgraceful excuse for a Senator lashes out at the Attorney General like a petulant five year old, the people of his district and the whole of New York state is sick and tired of his criminal behavior.

Pedro Espada started out well enough as a tenant rights' advocate and founder of a medical clinic that serves countless Bronx residents. However in the end he will be remembered for the $20,000 in sushi deliveries to his home in Mamaroneck (which happens to be outside the district he supposedly lives in).

The details of his $14 million looting spree of Soundview is what makes for the best headlines this week. That does not mean though that we should forget Pedro Espada has a sordid history that stretches back for at least a decade. He has been fingered for multiple failures to submit accurate campaign finance documents in his failed race for Bronx Borough President in 2001 and his latest campaign that successfully reintroduced him for the third time to the State Senate in 2008.

Yes that's correct, he's been booted by the people of the 32nd Senate District twice. The only reason he won a third time (in the 33rd District this time) is because Senator Efrain Gonzalez, his predecessor, was more corrupt than himself, at least at the time.

And now Mr. Espada is in the middle of a scandal that deals with crimes concerning a non-profit just as Mr. Gonzalez was ultimately convicted for last year.

Mr. Espada is the epitome of corruption and abuse of power in Albany. Sure, there are plenty of other miscreants that supposedly serve at the behest of the people of New York, but Mr. Espada is the worst of them all.

So what needs to be done? I would love nothing more than to see him beaten in November. No one knows better than his constituents that this man needs to be thrown out of office and having it done by ballot is always an exhilarating process. Yet what really needs to happen is for the justice system to deal Mr. Espada the punishment he deserves. Once these alleged crimes become legal fact, he must be stripped of any and all power and then thrown in jail for as long as the judge possibly can.

An example must be set here in New York so that politicians realize there are consequences for using the people they elect for their own contemptible plots. Trying and convicting the kingpin of the L.O.B.'s crooks is a great place to start.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Yes We Can!" Is Harder Than Obama Realizes

Welcome back to the Big Apple Mr. President. I hope your flight up the coast was a quick and uneventful one, for the reason you came might just be as unnoticed at the end of this fiscal reform we are being promised. Heaven knows this country needs help in saving ourselves from the vicious corporatists that currently run things on Wall Street and it's appendage within the Beltway.

Now in the moment, on this day, many people are making a big deal about the President's speech at the storied Cooper Union. However, if the President actually believes that Wall Street is going to work with him and Congress to reform the system, then this speech will amount to nothing for the great majority of us that want to take back power from the titans of the financial services industry.

Here's a few snippets from the speech via Huff Post:

"Ultimately, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street. We rise or we fall together as one nation. So I urge you to join me -- to join those who are seeking to pass these commonsense reforms," according to Obama's prepared remarks for a speech in New York City. "And I urge you to do so not only because it is in the interests of your industry, but because it is in the interests of our country."
See Mr. President, the people you are trying to address do not care about their country, nor do they care about their industry. The only concern the majority of elites on Wall Street is to get as rich as possible at all costs. Perhaps you forgot about what happened at Lehman Brothers? Or maybe you didn't learn your lesson on bipartisanship and conciliation during the prolonged battle over health care reform?

The Huffington Post article linked above draws the perfect contrast in this situation. Looking at what F.D.R. did in the 1930s is above and beyond Obama's shtick in 2010. Franklin Delano Roosevelt by and large did what it took to rein in the financial abuses that brought about the Great Depression. Obama's effectiveness at cleaning up the abuses seen in the last thirty years starting with Reagan is yet to be seen.

Now I agreed with Obama in 2008 that we needed change, and that "Yes We Can" make it happen. Yet, no matter how good your slogans are, it takes political will, strength and fortitude to make things happen in Washington and on Wall Street. The best reforms possible are going to be pushed back upon with the greatest ferocity by those that it seeks to place limits on. However, if Obama seeks to work with Citibanks, Wells Fargos and Bank of Americas then not only will the President look foolish when he either passes a tempered and weak reform bill or fails to pass a bill entirely.

So Mr. President, I hope you enjoy the great media hoopla surrounding you here in the city today. Just remember that it won't amount to a hill of beans if the big bankers running things now continue their pillaging of our country, even after a cooperative "reform" bill is passed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Paladino's "My Best Friend Is Black" Excuse Will Not Work

Carl Paladino and his campaign's PR firm had the gall to put this message out today:

I'm sorry, but by not even bothering to apologize or explain the fact that he likes to spread bigoted and racist emails around the Internet, he shows his callousness for those he offended and for the office that he wishes to run for. These emails are disgusting to say the least. He is certainly free to express his opinions of course. Yet when Paladino trashes the "liberal media" for his transgressions and his opponents on the left he shows New York that he would just be another problem in Albany.

Furthermore, the filth he claims to be running to clean up is considerably dubious since he has shown he likes to play in the mud himself.

Finally, Accountability Is On The Horizon For Goldman Sachs

For the last two years especially, and for a decade or two generally, how Goldman Sachs gets away with how they practice business has bewildered me. Now that isn't to say that I don't get how Washington elites abuse their power to enrich themselves and Wall Street at the expense of the people they are supposed to represent. What gets me is that it has taken this long for public outrage to hit a level where someone with an ounce of authority is willing to take these financial felons to task for their heinous crimes.

From The New York Times:

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud suit on Friday that essentially says that Goldman built the financial equivalent of a time bomb and then sold it to unwitting investors. Mr. Egol, 40, was not named in the S.E.C.’s suit.

Goldman has vowed to fight the S.E.C. But the allegations have left many on Wall Street wondering how far the investigation might spread inside Goldman and perhaps beyond.

Pressure on Goldman mounted on Sunday as two members of Congress and Gordon Brown, Britain’s prime minister, called for investigations into the bank’s role in the mortgage market. Germany also said it was considering legal action against the bank.

Nothing short of a worldwide effort to punish these crooks will do. The pockets of Goldman Sachs make the Mariana Trench look shallow and their ruthlessness would make Al Capone blush. This is serious business and the S.E.C., despite taking action now was fast asleep at their regulatory wheel when this crisis was building.

As the story of the mortgage market manipulation becomes more widely known and specific details are unearthed, a large pool of resources must be utilized so that no one who deserves blame escapes it. Not only must this be done for the guilty to receive justice, more importantly, an example must be set so that those that work in the financial industry realize that screwing hard working Americans over does not fly.