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Does Evil Lurk in West Virginia?
By Joe Consumer
?Evil? has been making a comeback in the news lately. First, there was the arrest of former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, described by former associate Johnny "Red" Shea as ?an evil man" who?s ?done tons and tons of evil.? He?s a suspect in 19 murders. Then, there?s the judge who sentenced Bernie Madoff to 150 years in prison, who this week explained his sentence by calling Madoff?s crimes ?extraordinarily evil? in that he ruined many lives.
Which brings us to Massey Energy whose treacherous mine conditions caused the deaths of 29 miners and whose officials blamed it all on the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which kept finding safety violations, as well as ?unions, lawyers and President Obama.?
Now we discover that the company was using a ?dual accounting system ? in which safety problems and efforts to fix them were recorded in an internal set of books, out of sight of state inspectors, and off the official books that the law required them to keep.?
But it is true that the government?s hands are hardly clean here. Writes the New York Times, "the mining authority knew about the conditions at the mine ? in the year before the blast, the mine received more orders to shut down unsafe areas than any other coal mine in the country ? and had stopped short of applying the toughest measure of closing it.? More about the government?s responsibility here.
We have to sympathize with residents of West Virginia lately, whose civil justice system - the last line of defense against misconduct - is also being gradually weakened. Last week, for example, the state Supreme Court upheld a severe ?cap? on compensation for West Virginia patients harmed by medical negligence - although fortunately, it ruled yesterday that a mandatory arbitration clause in nursing home contracts was unconscionable and unenforceable. So at least that?s something .
But it?s gonna take a lot more to make up for what this state has been through lately.
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