Saturday, January 07, 2006

Bush Knows Him Some Jack

And not just Jack Daniels, either. From ThinkProgress:

Abramoff Met With Bush In May 2001

[] he attended [] three events, holiday receptions at the White House....


The Texas Observer reports that Abramoff met with Bush on May 9, 2001, with his clients, the Coushatta tribe. (The chairman of the Coushatta tribe initially denied the meeting occured, but subsequently admitted that it did.) Abramoff charged his client 25,000 to arrange the meeting.

They're Reading Your Mail, Too

Homeland Security opening private mail
Retired professor confused, angered when letter from abroad is opened

Privacy? So Last Century

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Your phone records are for sale

How well do the services work? The Chicago Sun-Times paid $110 to to purchase a one-month record of calls for this reporter's company cell phone. It was as simple as e-mailing the telephone number to the service along with a credit card number. The request was made Friday after the service was closed for the New Year's holiday.

Most powerful investigative tool

On Tuesday, when it reopened, e-mailed a list of 78 telephone numbers this reporter called on his cell phone between Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. The list included calls to law enforcement sources, story subjects and other Sun-Times reporters and editors.

Sago Mine Disaster: The Untold Story

I was reading dailykos this morning and came upon this long, detailed article about coal mining and how the Sago Mine Disaster probably happened:

Underground Mining, Sago, and Death by Greed

The conclusion:

So why didn't ICG keep Sago safe? Because these guys are vultures. Outfits like this exploit corporate bankruptcy laws to take over mines that are on the ropes, then squeeze their bones for every last cent. In the case of Sago, ICG's corporate shell game managed to avoid safety and environmental citations, to escape black lung payments, and break a union contract. Then they got to sell coal into the highest priced market ever. How nice for them, huh?

What killed those men at Sago? Stupid corporate laws that make corporations into "super citizens" and allow shell companies to come and go at will -- companies that squeeze out union support and ignore safety to make another dime. An MSHA that has been gutted and weakened (the mine where I use to work had an MSHA inspector on site ever single day, and sometimes as many as six). And they were killed by men like this:

Wilbur Ross, the New York financier and Palm Beach socialite who swallowed up the company, has been seen squirming before the cameras in the aftermath of the Sago disaster. Maybe he should have gotten his ass down there to rescue the Sago miners -- they're his workers. Well, OK, maybe he shouldn't have. But like other mine owners, he and his company didn't want the expense of keeping a rescue squad on the scene, which some speculate is why it took almost a full day to get the effort going. In any event, the Sago mine, like many others, had numerous citations for safety violations.

That's right. Sago Mine had no rescue team, a fact so astounding, I still have a hard time grasping it. But hey, if it saves Wilbur another dime...

The story of how Wilbur Ross and other corporate vultures are fleecing and destroying the American middle class is from the Village Voice:

Vulture in a Coal Mine
Rescuing dying mine companies? Wilbur Ross is your man. Rescuing dying miners? Well, er, uh..

Here's Ross's MO: He buys a company that is in bankruptcy proceedings. He gets a federal bankruptcy judge (most have been appointed by Republicans) to approve screwing the workers by

1. Busting the union. No union, no union benefits, no union safety voice.

2. Eliminating retirees health insurance.

3. Eliminating retirees pensions.

4. Making millions for himself personally in the process.

He's done it, according to the article, to the Coulterville, Illinois mine (250 miners), which as well as five other union mines in Illinois lost their union jobs, health insurance, and pensions:

After the sale, six union operations previously owned by Horizon were shut down. The nonunion mines remained open.

Under the bankruptcy and reorganization plan, U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Judge William Howard in August agreed that Horizon should not be responsible for $800 million in health insurance contractual obligations to more than 3,000 active and retired United Mine Workers of America union members.

The judge threw out the contract and voided the collective bargaining agreement to make the sale of the mines more appealing to Ross and his partners.

Zeigler No. 11 was the last UMWA-operated mine in Southern Illinois. … The union tried to prevent the judge from allowing Horizon to sever its contract with the union and void its obligations to union retirees. But under federal bankruptcy guidelines, the move is legal.

The 2300 retired union members who lost their health insurance were especially hard hit. Many are less than 60 years old and not eligible for Medicare yet. So many of them are essentially bankrupt (although they probably can't actually declare bankruptcy and void those bills under the new, draconian bankruptcy bill).

Wilbur Ross? He turned around and sold the now non-union mines to a Netherlands-based conglomerate and made, between 267 and 300 MILLION DOLLARS on the deal.

He's also made money by eliminating health benefits and pensions for the retirees of Bethlehem Steel:

Approximately 90,000 widows and retirees of defunct Bethlehem Steel, for example, collectively lost $380 million in health-care benefits between March 31, 2003, when those benefits were terminated by Judge Burton Lifland of U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and October 25, 2004, when Ross sold the former Bethlehem assets to Mittal [the conglomerate].

Of course, we the taxpayers end up paying the medical costs of people whose retiree health care is stolen by corporate raiders like Ross.

In back-of-the-envelope terms, these Americans, plus a government agency and, indirectly thousands of U.S. businesses, absorbed roughly $1.2 billion in losses coming from Wilbur Ross's "rescue" of the bankrupt steel companies.

And he couldn't be bothered to have a rescue squad on hand at the Sago Mine.

Wilbur Ross. Now there's a man who should be in jail.

Recruiting Woes

Bushco sends its generals out to rag on John Murtha. He's hurting recruiting, they say:

Lawmaker's Talk About Military Irks Joint Chiefs Chair

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized Rep. John P. Murtha yesterday for sending "the wrong message" to American youth when the congressman indicated in an interview this week that he would not join today's military.

Here's what really hurts recruiting:

Pentagon Study Links Fatalities to Light Armor

A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

The ceramic plates in vests now worn by the majority of troops in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back. In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach.

Thirty-one of the deadly wounds struck the chest or back so close to the plates that simply enlarging the existing shields "would have had the potential to alter the fatal outcome," according to the study, which was obtained by The New York Times.

For the first time, the study by the military's medical examiner shows the cost in lives from inadequate armor, even as the Pentagon continues to publicly defend its protection of the troops.

Why does the Bush Administration hate the troops? Why have they let them die rather than properly equip them? Are they STILL, three years later, "surprised" by the insurgency?

Bremer Says U.S. Was Surprised by Insurgency

Just the usual. The incompetence, the corruption, the cronyism. Dumber than a bag of hammers, and half as useful. These bums have to go.

Friday, January 06, 2006

WalMart PR Machine Busy

I posted on the Walmart/Planet of the Apes story this morning and was soon thereafter visited by "Edelman PR". I didn't connect the two, but became curious when the same outfit visited my blog two times more today.

Edelman must be assigned to this issue, as they are on the WalMart payroll to provide reputation management. They must be sending some big bills if they've visiting my little blog 3 times today (3 of my 25 visits). I wonder how many times they've been to firedoglake or Crooks & Liars?

Too bad they didn't just advise WalMart against eliminating surplus food donations to the homeless. Morons.

From Sourcewatch:


In October 2005, Reuters reported that Edelman is to mount an aggressive campaign against Robert Greenwald's new documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of a Low Price. In what is reported to be a movie industry first, Edelman's representatives emailed reporters press kits containing a point-by-point rebuttal of the film's trailer, which Wal-Mart is demanding be altered or removed from the website. (The trailer is under fire because the documentary itself will not be released until November 1, 2005.) "The press kit includes snippets from negative reviews of Greenwald's earlier works - one dating as far back as 1980 - and three examples of what the retailer calls factual errors in the latest documentary."

I do love my site meter.

The Plot Thickens

From, the Bush Administration's foray into illegal wiretapping started BEFORE 9/11.

You heard that right. Before 9/11.

Tinker, Tailor, Miner, Spy
Why the NSA's snooping is unprecedented in scale and scope.

A former telecom executive told us that efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president's now celebrated secret executive order. The source, who asked not to be identified so as not to out his former company, reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a "data-mining" operation, which might eventually cull "millions" of individual calls and e-mails.

Presstitute of the Day: Jim VandeHei Buys Operation Photo Op, Oval Office edition, 1.0, Hook, Line and Sinker

Is Jim VandeHei the worst political journalist currently plying his trade? He's gotta make the top five, for gems like this:

New York Times on Operation Photo Op, Oval Office edition: Visited by a Host of Administrations Past, Bush Hears Some Chastening Words

Jim VandeHei's take on the very same meeting, for the Washington Post: Voices From History Echo Anew
Former Cabinet Officers Offer Advice on Iraq to Commander in Chief

Journalism is all about the basics, right? Who, what, when, where, why.

Like, how long did this "meeting" take?

Bush spent an hour with [] prominent foreign policy voices

Not really, according to David Sanger of the New York Times:

an exceedingly upbeat 40-minute briefing to 13 former secretaries of state and defense about how well things are going in Iraq,

followed by
But if it was a bipartisan consultation, as advertised by the White House, it was a brief one. Mr. Bush allowed 5 to 10 minutes for interchange with the group - which included three veterans of the Vietnam era: Robert S. McNamara, Melvin R. Laird and James R. Schlesinger - before herding the whole group into the Oval Office for what he called a "family picture."

And who did the assembled really get to meet with? Not exactly the principals:
Those who wanted to impart more wisdom to the current occupants of the White House were sent back across the hall to meet again with Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But as several of the participants noted, by that time Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had gone on to other meetings.

All of the detail provided by Sanger, omitted by VandeHei, as to the details of the meeting tell us the truth. It was a photo op, using the former officials for that nice Oval Office photo at the top of each article. Bush didn't even meet with them for more than 5 or 10 minutes, if he listened at all. (Listening not exactly his forte, you know?)

VandeHei's concludes his paean of praise to Bush for the photo op with this obsequious paragraph:

Still, it was a sense of the span of history in the room -- as much as the future of Iraq -- that left a lasting impression for many in attendance. "It was a sense that when we walked into the room and you see the personalities as far back as McNamara . . . that it was a good feeling among people who have shouldered considerable responsibility in the past and understand what this administration now confronts," Cohen said.


Bush Knows Jack

Good column by E.J. Dionne in today's Washington Post, outlining some of Abramoff's ties to the Republican Party and George W. Bush:

Abramoff and His Vanishing Friends

After the 2000 election, Abramoff was named to the Bush transition team for the Interior Department, which regulates the Indian casinos that paid Abramoff his inflated fees.

Remember that when the Bushies start to claim that Bush didn't know Jack Abramoff. Bush doesn't know jack, but he did know Jack.

When I Get Audited, I'll Know Why

From dailykos:

IRS tracked taxpayers' political affiliation

IRS officials acknowledged that party affiliation information was routinely collected by a vendor for several months. They told the vendor last month to screen the information out.

"The bottom line is that we have never used this information," said John Lipold, an IRS spokesman. "There are strict laws in place that forbid it."


According to Murray's office, the 20 states in which the IRS collected party affiliation information were Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

How can you believe the IRS when they say "strict laws" forbid using this information, when their bosses are illegally wiretapping us? Laws, schmaws, we know Bushco does what it wants, damn the laws and the Constitution.

The IRS itself is in open violation of a court order: Above the law: Bush's IRS defies court order

Better get my last 6 years of tax files in order.

Blog RoundUp

When you looked at "Planet of the Apes" the movie on WalMart's website, they also recommended movies about blacks. Story broken by firedoglake, , here, and here, also Crooks and Liars, Steve Gilliard, Washington Post. Turns out their website also linked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Power Puff Girls, Polar Express, and Home Alone to African-American-themed DVDs. As a result, Wal-Mart Halts Movie Suggestions on Web

Glenn Greenwald, guestblogging for Digby, good post on the culture of criminality in the Bush Administration: An ideology of lawlessness

Tbogg on Operation Photo Op, Oval Office edition, 1.0: My Big Fat Publicity Stunt

Paul Cummins on HuffPost: The Emerging Bush Legacy

1. Tax cuts leading to massive, unprecedented deficits
2. Preemptive wars against non-aggressive nations
3. Sanctioning of torture
4. De-regulation of environment protections
5. Weakening of the separation of church and state
6. Exempting the gun industry from lawsuits
7. Weakening of individual privacy protections
8. Rejection of international organizations - U.N., World Court, etc.
9. Increased hatred of the U.S.A. in Islamic countries
10. Increase in terrorist attacks since 9/11
11. Neglect of poverty in the U.S.A. and abroad
12. Shifting the tax burden from wealthy corporations and individuals to wage earners
13. Reducing (hoping to abolish) estate taxes thus creating "a permanent aristocracy" in America
14. Furthering anti-intellectualism - a president who admittedly does not read and is embarrassingly inarticulate
15. Increased military spending; hostility to spending for social services
16. Increased number of Americans without health care
17. Rejection of minimum wage increases - five consecutive years
18. Applying the principle of awarding lucrative contracts to crony companies without competitive bidding
19. Attempts to privatize Social Security
20. Four consecutive years of increases in the percentage of Americans living in poverty

Just Another Little Miscalculation

The Cost of The War

Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes plan to present this week a paper estimating the cost of the Iraq War at between $1-2 trillion. This is far higher than earlier estimates of $100-200 billion.

That's $1,000,000,000,000 to $2,000,000,000,000 for those of us using an abacus.

Time for another tax cut for the millionaires.

LaHood: DeLay is El Toast

From Reuters:

DeLay's bid to return to US leadership in jeopardy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rep. Tom DeLay's bid to return as majority leader of the House of Representatives was in mounting jeopardy on Thursday as fellow Republicans feared his ties with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff have made the Texan too much of an election-year liability.

"I would not support him for majority leader," Rep. Ray LaHood told Reuters in a telephone interview from his central Illinois district.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Delay: Dehypocrite

"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents?"

-- Rep. Tom DeLay, in remarks on the floor of the House [link is to a PDF file], Nov. 16, 1995

Operation Photo Op, Oval Office Edition, 1.0

Bush and Former Cabinet Members Discuss Topic No. 1: Iraq

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 - Colin Powell said nothing - a silence that spoke volumes to many in the White House today.

His predecessor, Madeleine Albright, was a bit riled after hearing an exceedingly upbeat 40-minute briefing to 13 living former secretaries of state and defense about how well things are going in Iraq. Saying the war in Iraq was "taking up all the energy" of President Bush's foreign policy team, she asked Mr. Bush whether he had let nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea spin out of control, and Latin America and China policy suffer by benign neglect.

"I can't let this comment stand," Mr. Bush shot back, telling Ms. Albright and the rare assembly of her colleagues, who reached back to the Kennedy White House, that his administration "can do more than one thing at a time."

The Bush administration, the president insisted, had "the best relations of any country with Japan, China and Korea," and active programs to win alliances around the world.

That was, according to some of the participants, one of the few moments of heat during an unusual White House effort to bring some of its critics into the fold and give a patina of bipartisan common ground to the strategy that Mr. Bush has laid out in recent weeks for Iraq.

But if it was a bipartisan consultation, as advertised by the White House, it was a brief one. Mr. Bush allowed 5 to 10 minutes this morning for interchange with the group - which included three veterans of another difficult war, the one in Vietnam: Robert S. McNamara, Melvin R. Laird and James R. Schlesinger. Then the entire group was herded the Oval Office for what he called a "family picture."

I'm not sure you really need to read the article. Anyone who is really paying attention to this White House knows that George W. Bush doesn't listen to anyone but his inner circle. This meeting was all about the photograph at the top of the article. Operation photo op, Oval Office edition, 1.0. People will hear, or see, that this bipartisan group of former officials gathered. They won't hear or see the substance. Rove's theory -- and it's been working to date -- is that a good picture triumphs the facts or the truth.

As media have proliferated, people just don't read any more. They don't even have the attention span to watch the entire evening news program. People hear a fragment, they read a headline, they glance at a picture on the front page or as they flick through the channels looking for something interesting. My parents watched the evening news religiously, and discussed it. Today, they'd be reading their email, answering their cell phones, driving their kids to extracurricular activities (in my day we took the bus for such things), flicking through their 57 or 300 or 1000 television channels, surfing the web, or working late to keep their jobs and their health insurance.

And even if people were paying close attention, there is always the Mighty Wurlitzer, Faux News and talk radio and MSNBCNNCNBCABCD, all saying "On the one hand, on the other hand...", all issues have two sides and both are equally valid.

And thus the New York Times headline: "Bush and Former Cabinet Members Discuss..." Discuss, my Irish ass. There was no discussion. There was a short, faux meeting and a very real photo op. No substance. They may have been talking, but Lalala I Can' Hear You George Bush isn't listening.

More on Recess Appointments

Bush Appointments Avert Senate Battles

Hacks, cronies, and Michael Brown-like incompetents

Now You Know Something That's Not in the Papers Today

NBC is investigating, and probably has information supporting their questions, whether the United States government wiretapped CNN reporter Christine Amanpour.

NBC changes official transcript of Andrea Mitchell interview, deletes reference to Bush possibly wiretapping CNN's Christane Amanpour

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

This very interesting question did not make ONE outlet of the corporate media.

So you know something that journalists didn't bother report today.

Fun, huh?

Left blogtopia (yes! skippy invented that word!) rules.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

King George Goes to Cronys-R-Us To Celebrate Abramoffakuh

From the White House website:

Personnel Announcement

President George W. Bush today recess appointed the following individuals:

Floyd Hall, of New Jersey, to be a Member of the AMTRAK Reform Board.

Enrique J. Sosa, of Florida, to be a Member of the AMTRAK Reform Board.

Nadine Hogan, of Florida, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Foundation (Private Representative).

Roger W. Wallace, of Texas, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Foundation (Private Representative).

Gordon England, of Texas, to be Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Benjamin A. Powell, of Florida, to be General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Ronald E. Meisburg, of Virginia, to be General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board.

Julie L. Myers
, of Kansas, to be Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Tracy A. Henke, of Missouri, to be Executive Director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness at the Department of Homeland Security.

Arthur F. Rosenfeld, of Virginia, to be Federal Mediation and Conciliation Director at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Ellen R. Sauerbrey, of Maryland, to be Assistant Secretary of State (Population, Refugees, and Migration).

Dorrance Smith, of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs).

Robert D. Lenhard, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.

Steven T. Walther, of Nevada, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.

Hans Von Spakovsky, of Georgia, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.

Peter N. Kirsanow
, of Ohio, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board.

Stephen Goldsmith, of Indiana, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

I googled all of them except for Myers and Sauerbrey, who had made previous appearance on this blog in "The Incompetence, The Corruption, and The Cronyism" posts. Couldn't find anything of note on Nadine Hogan. Most of the linked material is from These were appointments that are on hold for specific reasons. Lawyers who advocated for torture; AMTRAK board members who've never ridden a train; just your typical Bushco appointees meant to kill the governmental entity to which they are being appointed.

And hey, who needs the Senate and all that pesky Advise and Consent stuff when you've already declared "ah'm a wahr prezident"?

Update: Firedoglake points out that

Amongst them -- Hans von Spakovsky, who was in large part responsible for the purge of mostly Democratic, mostly African American and mostly legitimate people from the Florida voting lists in 2000.

Another payback for the stolen 2000 election, a la John Roberts.

Army Corps of Engineers/Orleans Levee District Death Toll: 588 Dead

From Knight-Ridder:

Majority of New Orleans deaths tied to floodwalls' collapse

NEW ORLEANS - Nearly 600 people who died because of Hurricane Katrina might have survived had floodwalls on two New Orleans canals not collapsed, a Knight Ridder analysis of where bodies were found after the storm indicates.

The bodies of at least 588 people were recovered in neighborhoods that engineers say would have remained largely dry had the walls of the 17th Street and London Avenue canals not given way - probably because of poor design, shoddy construction or improper maintenance - after the height of the storm.

In contrast, 286 bodies were recovered in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East and neighboring St. Bernard Parish, where Katrina's storm surge poured over levees and flooded neighborhoods.

The role of the 17th Street and London Avenue canal floodwalls in the destruction of New Orleans has been hotly debated in the four months since the storm. Engineers who are investigating their collapse think that floodwaters generated by Katrina never rose high enough to pour over the walls, and they blame flawed design, construction or maintenance for the walls' failure and the flooding that followed.

Today Big Media is agog about the Sago mine disaster. In three months it will be forgotten by the MSM, as it has forgotten and ignored the aftermath of the much greater American disaster, Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the New Orleans levees. Pay no attention to the pious pronunciations by blow-dried anchors that they will follow this story in the days and weeks ahead. There will be another missing white woman, another fake war (War on Easter? War on Valentine's Day? War with Iran?), another White House press statement to be delivered verbatim, without questioning or analysis.

Look for coverage of the flawed levee story on TV. I dare you. You won't find it.

Presstitute of the Day: Gloria Borger

I heard Gloria Borger's report on the Abramoff indictment on the CBS morning show. She ended her description of his nefarious doings by saying, of course, Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans.

This is not true. Abramoff never gave money to any Democrat.

Bloomberg (via firedoglake):

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees and nothing to Democrats, federal records show.

Jack Abramoff's political contribution history, from the Federal Election Commission (via Newsmeat). Not a penny, not to one Democrat.

Gloria Borger: Presstitute, delivering (false) Republican talking points as fact.

Modern Air Travel

Remember when flying was romantic? Now I hate flying. It is a horrible, unpleasant experience. I just returned from a week at my brother's in St. Louis. My mom & I flew Continental Airlines. While we flew Economy class, our flights cost over $325 each round trip, with taxes & fees.

On our departing flight, we were crammed into the tiny seats of our plane. My knees hit the back of the seat in front of me, and I am only 5'4". The magazine & emergency card were in the seat-back pocket in front of me, which was ripped away from the seat and hanging loose. I reached in and found everything in there sopping wet. So much for reading the emergency instructions. There was no padding left in the seat cushion, which flattened completely when I sat down. I reached up to turn on the air to find that the vent buttons of both seats in my row were missing. So, no air.

Then the pilot announced that we would be leaving slightly late because "they" (as though "they" had no connection to Continental Airlines) had forgotten to clean the plane's lavatories, and that this would be completed quickly. Minutes later we took off. Needless to say, I didn't use the facilities.

Our return flight was even worse. The seat cushion was thin again, but no obvious disrepair. Then, about 10 minutes after takeoff, in a bank of clouds, our plane rocked and rolled. I was sent up, down, and sideways -- twice -- into Mom's seat. I grabbed her arm thinking, this is it. I almost threw up. Most violent turbulence I ever went through. I kept saying, Go up or go down, as in, get out of these clouds, you fool pilot. We finally emerged from the clouds into the sunshine. Nothing from the cockpit. I guess throwing the passengers from side to side in a small plane is de rigeur to them. No announcements, they didn't even mention it until an hour and half later when we were ready to land -- "Hope we don't have any turbulence like we did on take-off." Huh.

The CEO and the board of Continental Airlines should be forced to sit in a seat the size of their airline economy seats while they do their work. Rock 'em about every two hours without explanation. Pour water over the papers on their desks randomly. Turn off the HVAC system. See how they like it.

The Final Insult

Twelve Found Dead in W.Va. Coal Mine

SAGO, W.Va., Jan. 4 -- Great joy turned suddenly to deep sorrow Wednesday morning when stunned family members were told that 12 of the 13 miners trapped 13,000 feet into a mountainside since early Monday were dead rather than alive, as they, and the world, had been told hours earlier.

The first announcement, of a "miracle," was the result of a "miscommunication," a company official said.

The new announcement came at roughly 3 a.m., interrupting and then silencing celebratory church bells in this small town and leaving relatives of the miners in shock, grief and anger.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sago Mine Disaster: By The Numbers

2 years

273 safety Violations

$24,000 in penalties ("corporate pocket change")

1 dead, 12 missing

Safety Violations Have Piled Up at Coal Mine

Time and again over the past four years, federal mining inspectors documented the same litany of problems at central West Virginia's Sago Mine: mine roofs that tended to collapse without warning. Faulty or inadequate tunnel supports. A dangerous buildup of flammable coal dust.


In the past two years, the mine was cited 273 times for safety violations, of which about a third were classified as "significant and substantial," according to documents compiled by the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Many were for problems that could contribute to accidental explosions or the collapse of mine tunnels, records show.


Other inspection reports over the past two years fault the mine for "combustibles," including a buildup of flammable coal dust and a failure to adequately insulate electric wires. Sparks from electrical equipment can ignite coal dust and methane gas, triggering fires and explosions.

The mine is contesting some of the violations, while agreeing to pay more than $24,000 in penalties to settle others.

The Republicans have decimated OSHA. I'd get a bigger fine for speeding on the Massachusetts turnpike than a coal company would get from OSHA for endangering the lives of its workers. Shame.