Archive for January, 2006

Entry for January 31, 2006

January 31, 2006

Spent the day gathering papers for the IRS filing.  Makes me think how much of my money is going for war, instead of programs that invest in the lives of American citizens and others around the world.  The  above is from the War Resisters League.  And I wonder of the 34% spent fo r”human resources” how wisely is it spent?  Consider the new prescription drug benefit baffling seniors, which is a big gift to the drug companies, since  the government is not even allowed to negotiate a price break based on volume.

At the State of the Union tonight,  according to Google, the  the CNN story of 10:45 p.m.  startlead off with:

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Tuesday in the House chambers after she unfurled an anti-war banner just minutes before President,,,
Unfortunately, there’s no cached version of the story.  Political Cortex  had the CNN story as follows:

CNN is reporting that Sheehan had ‘unfurled an anti-war banner in the house chamber’ just prior to arrest. It is still unknown what was written on the banner. They are also reporting that Capitol Hill police will hold Sheehan for at least one hour for questioning, keeping her until after President Bush’s speech has concluded.

The As if 11:45 pm the page reads,

An early report from a senior House official indicated that Sheehan was arrested for unfurling an anti-war banner,
 
Does that mean that CNN reports what the senior House officials dictate the news, rather than the reporters actually reporting it.  No mention that CNN also reported it.  No mention of what the T-shirt said, since the police said they didn’t know.   Were the CNN reporters even there?
 
David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org. said it was a black t-shirt  “she  was wearing all day, which had the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq…It was already ‘out of date’ and she had to add 3 more to the previous numberI”.
 
According to the Associated Press  Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said Sheehan had worn a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan to the speech and covered it up until she took her seat as the guest of Lynn Woolsey.   Police warned her that such displays were not allowed. When Sheehan did not respond,  she was lifted out of her seat and taken in handcuffs to police headquarters for booking as Bush spoke.

There was  a demonstration in Blacksburg as part of  The World Can’t Wait‘s efforts.  Nothing in Roanoke.  Sure wish Plowshare would get on the ball.  According to today’s San Francisco Chronicle, police were planning to  close  streets around Union Square this evening at one of the demonstration.  This group made the Museum of Left Wing Lunacy’s list,  an   

online archive dedicated to Liberal Lunacy. To track their blogs, organizations and media outlets.

Nah, I’m not going to link to them.  It’ll just get their Google and Technorati scores up.   just  add  www. before the name and  .com after it and you’ll find it, if you must.

If you’d rather stay home,  United for Peace & Justice was  suggesting house parties (complete with a party planning guide)  to raise money for itself and local peace groups. 

The Nation hosts the alternative by the  Congressional Progressive Caucus   It also has Gore Vidal’s piece, “President Johah” ,  And speaking of Vidal, his annual alternative State of the Union messase is featured today on Demoncracy Now.   Vidal starts off by saying about Bush,

Now, we’ve had idiots as presidents before. He’s not unique. But he’s certainly the most active idiot that we have ever had.

The Perspectives column at Newsweek solicits quotes and I sent this one along. 

Had dinner with Barry at Norberto’s Restaurante in Grandin Villiage and then on to Roanoke College library to work on the Sago mine poem cycle.

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Entry for January 30, 2006

January 30, 2006

Sadly, as I was leaving the house this morning, Misty called me over and told me that Juanity died this morning.

The illustration, again  from the terrific Rob Rogers , is copyright 2006 Rob Rogers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Just found out that CNN has transcripts, especially of Anderson Cooper’s coverage.  What struck me the most, other than the voices of the miners’ families, is how the industry tried to minimize this.  Take the Tom Foreman interview aired January 3.   Bruce Watzman of the National Mining Association, ” the voice of the American mining industry in Washington, D.C.”, the “only national trade organization that represents the interests of mining before Congress, the Administration, federal agencies, the judiciary and the media. 

Asked by Foreman, “in making a quick review of these violations, you don’t see anything there that leaps out at you as endangering miners’ lives?”  Watzman says “They could be paperwork errors, they could be reporting errors. A lot of violations, but many of which were not significant to really impact minor safety.” 

Contrast this assessment with former MSHA official Davitt McAteer.  He told Ken Ward, Jr. in a January 3, 2006 story in the Charleston Gazette, “Sago mine has history of roof falls”,”The numbers don’t sound good….[they are] sufficiently high that it should tip off management that there is something amiss here. For a small operation, that is a significant number of violations.” McAteer said the roof fall frequency “suggests that the roof is bad and that the support system is not meeting the needs of the roof.”

McAteer also told Christian Science Monitor reporters Mark Clayton and Amanda Paulson for their January 6,  story, “Sago raises red flags for mine oversight”, “If you have a widespread practice of S&S violations over an extended period of time like we have here, it suggests that you’ve got much more serious problems than just paperwork violations.”

To read the transcript of interviews with those miners’ families, as well as folks from Quecreek and from the 2001 Alabama disaster, see  Hope and Heartbreak: Inside the Sago Mine Tragedy; Chronology Of Events Before, During And After Sago Mine Disaster   I am working on using some of these for my poem for VE, which I’d better finish tonight.

FYI, discovered  Tailrank, a  blog aggregator today. 

 

 

Entry for January 29, 2006

January 29, 2006

Some things I’ve been reading:

Jack Spadaro, who my Free Press readers may remember was demoted by MSHA for refusing to sign on to a whitewash the Martin County Kentucky coal sludge spill, had plain words about Sago.  “The mine should have simply been closed…The fines were absolutely absurd, but that’s all the inspectors can do. The only other option they have is a closure order, and the managers in Washington won’t let them close a mine.”

Davitt McAteer, MSHA chief during the Clinton administration told Ken Ward, Jr. of the Charleston Gazette, “The numbers don’t sound good….[they are] sufficiently high that it should tip off management that there is something amiss here. For a small operation, that is a significant number of violations. McAteer said the roof fall frequency suggests that the roof is bad and that the support system is not meeting the needs of the roof.
 
McAteer is leading West Virginia Governor Manchin’s investigation to be completed by July 1.  He will be working with six members of the West Virginia legislature, all of whom have first hand experience with the mining industry in various capacities.
The rescue at Sago mine was delayed because of high carbon monoxide levels, but there were other factors.  ICG did not contact MSHA until two hours after the explosion.  Federal regulations call for two mine rescue teams per underground mine, but allowed ICG to use another mine’s rescue teams within 2 hours of ground travel time,which does not take into consideration the time required to gather and equip the team members, who have other jobs. And ICG only equipped the Sago miners with the minimum required 1 hour of air in their  self-contained self-rescue devices.  
 
UMWA’s Roberts speaking in a hearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on January 23, reviewed equipment and procedures that could have made a difference  and recounted the number of rules proposed under McAteer that had been withdrawn by his successor at MSHA, Bush appointee David Lauriski.  Roberts cited a September 2003 General Accounting Office report  which found, “that of all the citations issued by the Agency, including those written as ‘significant and substantial,’ despite inspector-imposed deadlines by which problems were to be abated, 48% of the time the Agency failed to follow-up in a timely fashion to see if the operator fixedthe hazards. GAO also found that MSHA collected information about accidents and investigations, but then failed to use the information effectively to prevent future accidents.”
 
Roberts summed up his testimony “MSHA is full of former mine management executives who spend toomuch time trying to appease their friends, and too little time looking out forminers’ interests. How can we expect a regulatory Agency to effectively and fairlycarry out its duties and responsibilities when it is run by some of the very coaloperators it was designed to regulate? Many of MSHA’s top-level administratorsspent years opposing any regulatory efforts attempted by the Agency. They continue to be influenced by other coal operators, effectively muting the voices of miners who need a healthy and vibrant enforcement Agency. For years, the fox has been inside the henhouse at MSHA.”
 
Jordan Barab has an excellent explaination  of weaknesses in MSHA enforcement at .
The Charleston Gazette is offering its archive  of Sago mine articles free of charge.

Entry for January 28, 2006

January 28, 2006

The illustration is by long time labor activist Mark Pollack.  On January 21, Mark Reutter posted Q&A: Wilbur Ross and the Sago Mine Accident on the site for his book, Making Steel. Reutter started following Ross when he was involved in consoldating the steel industry.  He appears to  have great credentials from the Baltimore Sun and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  It’ too bad the publication to interview him on Sago was  Executive Intelligence Review. a LaRouche outfit.   Paul Gallagher, the interviewer,  is a close associate of LaRouche. 
 
I’ve asked Reutter for the original records (SEC and newsletters) .  I’ll let you know what I find out.  In the meanwhile, it’s interesting to read what he says about Ross.
In 1997, Ross purchased $41 million of senior debt in the Anker Coal Group through Rothschild Recovery Fund, which he ran as its managing director. Anker used this money to open the Sago Mine in 1999… By September 1999, Anker couldn’t pay interest on its debt, so in stepped Wilbur Ross.  Ross swapped Anker notes for Anker stock in a “private restructuring,” meaning there was no public disclosure to the Securities & Exchange Commission. But the terms came out in newsletters that track these things: The Rothschild Recovery Fund received $800 principal amount of 14.25 percent new notes for each $1,000 principal amount of 9.75 percent old notes exchanged, increasing annual debt service charges by almost one-fifth. In addition, Rothschild received warrants to purchase 20 percent of Anker’s common stock at the nominal exercise price of $0.001 per share.
 
Over the next year, Rothschild Recovery Fund forked over some additional cash and got more cheap Anker stock. By early 2001, WL Ross & Co. (successor to Rothschild Recovery) controlled more than 40 percent of Anker’s stock and Ross was sitting on the board of directors. A year later, the board threw out the old management and installed a “corporate workout” specialist. Anker then entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. When it emerged six months later in May 2003, its bondholders were wiped out, and Ross was de-facto boss. His right-hand lieutenant, Wendy L. Teramoto, was named chairman of Anker Coal. She also became CEO of CoalQuest Development, an Anker subsidiary that is now attempting to license a new mine in Taylor County near Grafton, W.Va.”
 

Ross served as the Executive Managing Director at Rothschild Inc., an investment banking firm, from October 1974 to March 2000.   In April 2000, he became  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC, a merchant banking firm, according to his board bio at Mittal Steell , the world’s largest steelmaker after its 2004 buy-out of Ross’s  International Steel Group. for $4.5 billion, according to the January 27, 2006 Business Week.   

 Interestingly, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia invested $20,000,000 of its endowment in Rothschild in October of 1997, according to its minutes  due to “attractiveness of distressed debt as an opportunity for investment.”

Business Week published an interesting article on Ross in 2002 calling him the “king of bankrupcy.  If you haven’t already done so, check out my link to Ward Harkavy’s January 5 article I posted yesterday. 

Ward Harkavy on Wilbur Ross’s Union Busting

January 27, 2006

Illustration by Ward Harkavy, Senior Editor for the Village Voice who writes the “Bush Beat” (used with permission)

*

In his January 5 column Harkavy he wrote about Wilbur Ross, principle owner of International Coal Group (ICG), pictured above as a vulture, substitute for the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

The billionaire consolidation expert previously had been involved in the steel and textile industries.  He buys bankrupt companies that have already been stripped of union and pension agreements. For instance, in the coal industry, he bought Horizon coal’s holdings, which had voided its union contracts on September 24, 2004, to make the sale more “more lucrative for a buyer”, according to Jennifer Bowen writing in the October 17, 2004 issue of the Belleville News-Democrat.

Sago mine’s sole survivor, Randal McCloy, Jr., was  was transferred  to  HealthSouth Mountainview Regional Rehabilitation Hospital in Morgantown yesterday afternoon, where his was responsive, could eat, but was still unable to talk.

Also yesterday, the federal inspection finally began after U. S. Circuit Judge Robert E. Maxwell  in Elkins ordered ICG to allow United Mine Workers (UMWA) officials to participate. UMWA is representing several of the miners employed at the Sago mine, as well as families of two of the twelve killed.

Said Judge Maxwell, “There’s no question that the public interest is best served by a complete and thorough investigation into the occurrence of the problems at the Sago Mine….There is a strong public interest in allowing miners to play a role in this investigation, as it is their health and safety that is at issue.”

On January 18,  ICG had objected to the UMWA’s participation, saying in a press release,. “The UMWA is attempting to manipulate a provision of the federal regulations,  [It]  does not represent the employees at the mine…[and has] no familiarity or knowledge….that will benefit the investigation…[It] seeks to interfere with the investigation inorder to exploit the tragedy…for [its] own purposes…to revive organizingefforts that have floundered for more than a decade.”

UMWA’s International President, Cecil Roberts, had already decried the lack of progress in mine safety in a release issued January 17.  “The fact is that in the wake of several accidents, including tragedies like that at Sago dating back a decade or more, investigations done by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) have identified causes of these accidents and recommended many solutions to them that have never been implemented. Other proposed regulations that could perhaps have prevented this tragedy, or at the very least helped get a rescue operation underway faster, were discarded by the newly-installed MSHA leadership in 2001.

“In addition, advancements in communications technology that could have helped speed the rescue effort and a new generation of oxygen-generating personal rescue devices have been languishing for years because of inaction and a lack of direction by the policy-makers at MSHA.”

Roberts responded to ICG’s actions on January 18. “We are not manipulating anything…we are fulfilling our responsibility under the MSHA regulations and we will continue to do so to the best of our ability….Just because ICG doesn’t like the law doesn’t give them license to trample it. It’s interesting to note that the very first thing ICG did this morning as part of the interview process that is taking place in Clarksburg was to attempt to get the identities of the miners who designated the UMWA as their representative. MSHA did not release their identities, nor will we. But the bigger questions are: Why do they need to know that, and what would they do with that information if they did know it? “

Of Pharisees and Plotto

January 26, 2006

I was pretty amused that the pop-up ads at NewAdvent.com (dedicated to the Holy Heart of Mary) were all directed at those of us of the Jewish faith–a Jewish dating service, a Jewish High School, a Jewish t-shirt company. Yes, a Jewish t-shirt company, Mazeltough.com–their slogan, “Jews Kick Ass!” (see above)

I was on NewAdvent to check out the Catholic Encylopedia and its definition of “Pharisees”.

A politico-religious sect or faction….[when the] monarchial form of government had become a thing of the past; in its place [was created] a community which was half State, half Church. A growing sense of superiority to the heathen and idolatrous nations among whom their lot was cast came to be one of their main characteristics.

Sound familiar? Writer John Dufresne in an email today, asked me about Alito. I will be surprised if isn’t a done deal. The problem lies with who’s in the White House. Many in this country seem to cave to the right. Take the example of even that mildly amusing television program, the Book of Daniel. The American Family Association crows about its power of the pocketbook quoting its chairman Donald E. Wildmon:

NBC didn’t want to eat their economic losses…Had NBC not had to eat millions of dollars each time it aired, NBC would have kept ‘Daniel’ alive. But when the sponsors dropped the program, NBC decided it didn’t want to continue the fight.

AFA claims 2 million supporters online. Does that mean they count me, since I registered for the newsletter, just to keep an eye on them? These are the same folks who are reminding their followers to call for an up or down vote on Alito. Someone should remind these Pharisees that it’s too soon to use that slogan after their treatment of that “closet liberal” Harriet Meyers.

It seems Mazeltough posts a lot of ads. One blogger, Vampirical, (Jeff Marion) actually questioned the addition to his site by Google ads on November 30. Through his site I learned about GNOD.com (Global Network of Dreams), the cool site artificial intelligence experiment of Marek Gibney of Hamburg, Germany. In his subsite, Gnooks, type in any three names of authors you like and it will recommend a fourth.

John Dufresne

Ed Falco

Bobbie Ann Mason

yields John Yount. I haven’t read him, but I just may. Am on my way over to the library for the writer’s practice group. By the way, substitue Marc Estrin for Bobbie Ann and you get Richard Russo. William Stafford for Bobbie Ann and you get May Sarton.

By the way, did you know that for folks who can’t type, there’s actually a site, http://dictioinary.com/ That’s a good thing, because I can’t. In fact, I just went back to this entry and corrected Bobbie Ann’s name. (Yes, I know her from the Hindman Settlement School, where I walked her back to the Quiltmaker’s Inn, but maybe I should still call her Ms. Mason.)

When I originally typed it Mason’s name, Gnook suggested “Bobby”. Since John Yount seemed on target and I lack confidence in both my spelling and my memory, I acceded. (Which I had to look up to get the spelling–did you know it also means to take the throne? That threw me (pun intended.) Then John Dufresne wrote me back, that Gnook mispelled Alice Munro’s name. Maybe because the creator’s German?

John’s blog has a new feature, excerpts from Plotto: the Master Book of All Plots. He cites this one on January 25:

Involved in a Hopeless Love Affair, and Seeking to make the best of a Disheartening Situation: “A, and his friend A-2, traveling together, meet with a tragic accident in which A-2 is killed. Before he dies, A-2 requests A to carry the news of his death to his sweetheart, B. A proceeds with his mission.”

Evidently, screenwriter/director Don Roos has a copy of Plotto. Consider his minor movie, Bounce: A man switches plane tickets with another man who dies in that plane in a crash. The man, feeling guilty, goes to check up on the widow and falls in love.

Is anything starring Ben Affleck except Good Will Hunting and Dogma minor? Roos also wrote The Opposite of Sex, Boys on the Side, and Love Field.

By the way, I wonder if John knows that the original author of Plotto, Michiganer

William Wallace Cook, prolific writer of dime novels. Heroes such as Frank Merriwell, Nick Carter, and Buffalo Bill were his specialty. Employed by Street and Smith, serial publishers, Cook’s problems in turning out quantities of material on a tight schedule were described in the autobiographical account, The Fiction Factory. He later systematized his writing technique in Plotto, A New Method of Creative Fiction.

By the way, evidently Plotto is also a board game. Which is seredipitous, because, I was just about to pass on something about games which I got from the Guardian’s news alert today.

I subscribe for its superior news coverage, not games. Yes and you bought Playboy for the interviews? You can now now download authentic Japanese hand drawn “addictive” sudokus, rather than their computer-designed imposters at its site.

(Sounds like a poem form). Dell used to call them Number.Places until a few months ago. I used to work them first in every issue of their Math and Logic Puzzles. They are addictive.

Of Pharisees and Plotto

January 26, 2006

I was pretty amused that the pop-up ads at NewAdvent.com (dedicated to the Holy Heart of Mary) were all directed at those of us of the Jewish faith–a Jewish dating service, a Jewish High School, a Jewish t-shirt company. Yes, a Jewish t-shirt company, Mazeltough.com–their slogan, “Jews Kick Ass!” (see above)

I was on NewAdvent to check out the Catholic Encylopedia and its definition of “Pharisees”.

A politico-religious sect or faction….[when the] monarchial form of government had become a thing of the past; in its place [was created] a community which was half State, half Church. A growing sense of superiority to the heathen and idolatrous nations among whom their lot was cast came to be one of their main characteristics.

Sound familiar? Writer John Dufresne in an email today, asked me about Alito. I will be surprised if isn’t a done deal. The problem lies with who’s in the White House. Many in this country seem to cave to the right. Take the example of even that mildly amusing television program, the Book of Daniel. The American Family Association crows about its power of the pocketbook quoting its chairman Donald E. Wildmon:

NBC didn’t want to eat their economic losses…Had NBC not had to eat millions of dollars each time it aired, NBC would have kept ‘Daniel’ alive. But when the sponsors dropped the program, NBC decided it didn’t want to continue the fight.

AFA claims 2 million supporters online. Does that mean they count me, since I registered for the newsletter, just to keep an eye on them? These are the same folks who are reminding their followers to call for an up or down vote on Alito. Someone should remind these Pharisees that it’s too soon to use that slogan after their treatment of that “closet liberal” Harriet Meyers.

It seems Mazeltough posts a lot of ads. One blogger, Vampirical, (Jeff Marion) actually questioned the addition to his site by Google ads on November 30. Through his site I learned about GNOD.com (Global Network of Dreams), the cool site artificial intelligence experiment of Marek Gibney of Hamburg, Germany. In his subsite, Gnooks, type in any three names of authors you like and it will recommend a fourth.

John Dufresne

Ed Falco

Bobbie Ann Mason

yields John Yount. I haven’t read him, but I just may. Am on my way over to the library for the writer’s practice group. By the way, substitue Marc Estrin for Bobbie Ann and you get Richard Russo. William Stafford for Bobbie Ann and you get May Sarton.

By the way, did you know that for folks who can’t type, there’s actually a site, http://dictioinary.com/ That’s a good thing, because I can’t. In fact, I just went back to this entry and corrected Bobbie Ann’s name. (Yes, I know her from the Hindman Settlement School, where I walked her back to the Quiltmaker’s Inn, but maybe I should still call her Ms. Mason.)

When I originally typed it Mason’s name, Gnook suggested “Bobby”. Since John Yount seemed on target and I lack confidence in both my spelling and my memory, I acceded. (Which I had to look up to get the spelling–did you know it also means to take the throne? That threw me (pun intended.) Then John Dufresne wrote me back, that Gnook mispelled Alice Munro’s name. Maybe because the creator’s German?

John’s blog has a new feature, excerpts from Plotto: the Master Book of All Plots. He cites this one on January 25:

Involved in a Hopeless Love Affair, and Seeking to make the best of a Disheartening Situation: “A, and his friend A-2, traveling together, meet with a tragic accident in which A-2 is killed. Before he dies, A-2 requests A to carry the news of his death to his sweetheart, B. A proceeds with his mission.”

Evidently, screenwriter/director Don Roos has a copy of Plotto. Consider his minor movie, Bounce: A man switches plane tickets with another man who dies in that plane in a crash. The man, feeling guilty, goes to check up on the widow and falls in love.

Is anything starring Ben Affleck except Good Will Hunting and Dogma minor? Roos also wrote The Opposite of Sex, Boys on the Side, and Love Field.

By the way, I wonder if John knows that the original author of Plotto, Michiganer

William Wallace Cook, prolific writer of dime novels. Heroes such as Frank Merriwell, Nick Carter, and Buffalo Bill were his specialty. Employed by Street and Smith, serial publishers, Cook’s problems in turning out quantities of material on a tight schedule were described in the autobiographical account, The Fiction Factory. He later systematized his writing technique in Plotto, A New Method of Creative Fiction.

By the way, evidently Plotto is also a board game. Which is seredipitous, because, I was just about to pass on something about games which I got from the Guardian’s news alert today.

I subscribe for its superior news coverage, not games. Yes and you bought Playboy for the interviews? You can now now download authentic Japanese hand drawn “addictive” sudokus, rather than their computer-designed imposters at its site.

(Sounds like a poem form). Dell used to call them Number.Places until a few months ago. I used to work them first in every issue of their Math and Logic Puzzles. They are addictive.

Entry for January 25, 2006

January 25, 2006

The above AP photo is Senator Harkin at federal hearings on Monday.  But unwilling to wait for the federal government to protect his state’s miners, West Virginia Governor Manchin has stepped up to the plate and submitted legislation to the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, which, in an unusual move, suspended their rules and passed the bill  in a single day, also on Monday.

SB247 will require  companies to notify state officials quickly in case of an accident, electronically track miners underground and place reserve portable air supplies throughout mines. The bill creates a Mine and Industrial Accident Rapid Response System to be maintained by the state Division of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training. Together, the two agencies will operate a 24-7 communications center to coordinate response and dispatch rescue teams to mine emergencies. Under the bill, coal operators would face a $100,000 fine if they do not contact emergency officials within 15 minutes of an accident.

Things are going to change and they’re going to change rapidly. …The technology is there…These are not a great cost.

Meanwhile in Washington,  the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Labor, Heath Human Services and Education held a hearing January 23.  Said West Virginia Senator Byrd, when he requested the hearing:

The families of the Sago miners deserve to know what happened in that mine,” Byrd said. “Just as importantly, miners and their families across this country want to know that steps are being taken to prevent others from ever experiencing such pain.

He added,

The investigation at the Upshur County mine will tell us what caused that deadly explosion. But one conclusion is already evident: it’s time for the decisions affecting America’s miners to be made with their best interests at heart. That should be the legacy of the Sago miners.

In Congress, there are tough questions to be asked of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Is enforcement of coal mining regulations tough enough? Are the regulations on the books today current enough to handle the challenges posed by 21st century coal mining? Are mine hazards being minimized? These and other issues demand scrutiny, and the miners’ families deserve the answers.

One federal witness,  Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Dye, managed to tick off Arlen Spector who was chairing the hearing.  Writing for the New York Times in an article “Senators Have Strong Words for Mine Safety Officials ” the next day, Ian Irbina noted that about midway through the two-hour hearing, Mr. Dye said he had other matters to attend to and had to leave.

Senator Specter responded with frustration: “I can understand your pressing other business. It may well be that some of the senators here have pressing matters, too. We don’t think we are imposing too much to keep you here for another hour.”

After Mr. Specter added, “That’s the committee’s request, but you’re not under subpoena,” Mr. Dye got up and walked out.

“I can’t recollect it ever happening before,” Mr. Specter said of the departure. “We’ll find a way to take appropriate note of it.”

Other federal witnesses were Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Bob Friend, Coal Mine Safety and Health Administrator Ray McKinney and Mine Safety and Health Associate Solicitor, Edward Claire. Industry witnesses will be International Coal Group (ICG) President and CEO Ben Hatfield, West Virginia Coal Association Senior Vice President Chris Hamilton and National Mining Association Vice President for Safety and Health Bruce Watzman. West Virginia witness will be investigation leader Davitt McAteer. Labor witness will be United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts. [20]

The Republican members of the subcommittee in addition to Specter are  Cochran (MS), Judd Gregg (NH), Larry Craig (ID), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Ted Stevens (AK), Mike DeWine (OH) and Richard Shelby (AL). The Democratic members are Tom Harkin (Ranking Member) (IA), Daniel Inouye (HI), Harry Reid (NV), Senator Herb Kohl (WI), Patty Murray (WA), Mary Landrieu (LA), Richard Durbin (IL).

The written versions of testimony from the January 23 hearing were posted on the Appropriations Committee website.

Here’s some supplemental information I also added at Wikipedia:

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) wrote Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee chairman Mike Enzi(R-WY) and ranking Democrat, Edward M. Kennedy (MA) asking for a hearing. Also signing the letter were Byrd and other coal state senators Rick Santorum (R-PA), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Barack Obama (D-IL), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Richard Lugar (R-IN). In a press release about the letter, Rockefeller stated,

“We need to know why the administration thinks that it can carry out a policy where it is committing fewer and fewer resources to meet an industry that has more and more needs.

“We need congressional hearings not only so that we can determine what happened at Sago, but, more broadly, about the state of mine safety across West Virginia and across the country.” [22]

That date, Enzi issued a press release found on the committee’s website that he was working with Kenneday to hold an oversight hearing in early March into safety procedures and enforcement measures related to the disaster. He also would hold a confirmation hearing January 31, 2006 for Bush’s nominee to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Richard Stickler. He announced he had written a January 5, 2006 letter to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao requesting “regular and comprehensive briefings on the progress and preliminary findings” of the MSHA investigation. and enforcement efforts at the Sago mine. 

On January 4, 2006, Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Major Owens (D-NY) wrote a letter posted on Miller’s website to House Education and Workforce Committee: Workforce Protections Subcommittee government investigation Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) asking for a hearing, saying Congress had abdicated its oversight responsibilities on worker safety issues, while the Bush administration filled worker safety agencies with industry insiders. [23]

On January 5, 2006, Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) wrote Chairman Boehner requesting him to schedule a hearing at the earliest possible date and posted the letter on her congressional website. [24]

The chairman, along with subcommitte Charlie Norwood (R-GA) issued a statement posted on the committee’s website, “We expect MSHA to produce a thorough account of the events that occurred before, during, and after this tragedy, and the Committee will closely monitor this investigation to ensure its timely completion. Following a full accounting of the facts, the Committee will examine the results of the investigation and determine what appropriate steps may be necessary to ensure a similar tragedy never happens again.” [25]

 

Happy Birthday, Walter Zevon

January 24, 2006

Today is the great Warren Zevon‘s birthday. The illustration is by editorial cartoonist R. J. Matson who, when he’s not drawing for The New York Observer, Roll Call, The New Yorker, The Nation, MAD Magazine, City Limits, etc., also illustrated a CD for Zevon and others for the Capitol Steps comedy troupe.

Zevon was an honorary member of Dave Barry’s Rock Bottom Remainders and played with them in 1998. This excerpt is from Barry’s remembrance in the Miami Herald from 9/9/03:

He was also fascinated by writing. One of his closest friends was The Herald’s Carl Hiaasen, a fellow twisted mind whom Zevon sought out at a book signing after Hiaasen mentioned him in his book Native Tongue. Through Hiaasen, Zevon became an honorary member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band of writers (I’m one) who periodically attempt, without success, to play rock ‘n’ roll. In 1998, at Hiaasen’s urging, we invited Zevon to perform with the band; to our shock, he agreed, and flew to Miami to join us on stage for a performance at the Miami Book Fair.

We did several of his songs, including Poor, Poor Pitiful Me; the hilarious Hula Hula Boys; and the legendary Lawyers, Guns and Money. We also did Werewolves of London, but Zevon insisted that it had to be sung by Stephen King. King happily agreed, belting out a truly frightening version of the song, much to Zevon’s delight.

Carnacki has a nice remembrance on his site today.

Entry for January 24, 2006

January 24, 2006

Today is the great Warren Zevon‘s birthday.  The illustration   is by editorial cartoonist R. J. Matson  who, when he’s not drawing for The New York Observer Roll Call The New Yorker, The Nation, MAD Magazine, City Limits, etc., also illustrated a CD for Zevon and others for the Capitol Steps comedy troupe.

Zevon was an honorary member of Dave Barry’s Rock Bottom Remainders and played with them in 1998.  This excerpt is from Barry’s remembrance in the Miami Herald from 9/9/03.:

He was also fascinated by writing. One of his closest friends was The Herald’s Carl Hiaasen, a fellow twisted mind whom Zevon sought out at a book signing after Hiaasen mentioned him in his book Native Tongue. Through Hiaasen, Zevon became an honorary member of the Rock Bottom  Remainders, a band of writers (I’m one) who periodically attempt, without success, to play rock ‘n’ roll. In 1998, at Hiaasen’s urging, we invited Zevon to perform with the band; to our shock, he agreed, and flew to Miami to join us on stage for a performance at the Miami Book Fair.
We did several of his songs, including Poor, Poor Pitiful Me; the hilarious Hula Hula Boys; and the legendary Lawyers, Guns and Money. We also did Werewolves of London, but Zevon insisted that it had to be sung by Stephen King. King happily agreed, belting out a truly frightening version of the song, much to Zevon’s delight.

Carnacki has a nice remembrance on his site today.