Coal Miner's Slaughter

April 28, 2015

Jason Johnson
The Sneezing Opossum

My columns can be broken into two camps: The silly ones, where I make jokes about boogers and genitalia; and the serious ones I pass off as humor by using colorful obscenities, like calling Dick Cheney a ham-faced, animatronic lizard’s dickhole.

See if you can guess which type this is going to be.


Two notable indictments are in the news. One is Michael Slager, the police officer who shot an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, eight times in the back. The officer said he feared for his life—which is plausible only if the back of Scott’s shirt had a picture of a racist, batshit-crazy police officer.

I know we’re supposed to presume innocence, but fuck this guy. What’s his defense going to be? A time-space reversal, during which Scott charged Slager while running backwards, and Slager’s gun went off eight times while he was cleaning it? That requires a convolution of logic not seen outside a Sarah Palin speech.

If you think Scott would’ve been stopped had he been white, or you think the officer would’ve been charged had the incident not been caught on video, then I suspect that, somewhere, you’re also keeping a Nigerian prince neck-deep in liquor and whores.

But what I really want to talk about is the indictment of coal baron Don Blankenship, who was the CEO of Massey Energy when one of its coalmines exploded and killed 29 miners.

In Blankenship’s defense, he’s white and rich. Despite an estimated salary of over $17 million, he found that safety measures cut into Massey’s profits, which might explain why a methane detector was shut off shortly before the explosion, and why, after his sentencing, I will become a staunch defender of prison rape.

After being warned repeatedly about the faulty ventilation system in the mine, Blankenship threatened to fire miners who complained. He then threatened to fire workers who took the day off to attend their dead co-workers’ funerals. If there’s any justice in the world, Blankenship’s funeral will be a national holiday.

Not allowing workers to attend the funerals of employees whose deaths he caused is almost comic book evil. I’m pretty sure even Osama bin Laden told his followers, “You know what? You guys crashed a plane into a building. Go ahead and take an extended lunch.”

Now, to you or me or anyone with a functioning conscience, Blankenship’s indictment would appear inevitable. But try to imagine it under a Rand Paul presidency.


You can’t, because that would mean imagining Rand Paul as president, and it’s actually easier to picture Indiana Governor Mike Pence leading a gay pride parade wearing nothing but chaps and body oil.

Given Blankenship’s ties to Republican Party politics, it’s difficult to imagine any U.S. attorney pursuing the case if a Republican were president. Even I can’t picture it, and thinking up crazy shit is my job at this paper.

If there’s a cynical wrinkle to the case, it’s that 25 of the 30 years in prison Blankenship is facing aren’t for negligent manslaughter or for hogging the Earth’s supply of asshole-ism. No, they’re for lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Murder is one thing, but we got him for lying to the government, which gives Blankenship just that extra touch of Al Capone.

I mention his politics because every time the Republican or Libertarian Right complain of “burdensome regulations,” they’re talking about the kind of laws that may have saved these people’s lives. If you think safety inspections are burdensome, try a thousand tons of rock on top of you. (No, seriously, Blankenship, try it.)

I hear the Right say, “If you don’t like the job, just work somewhere else.” This assumes that (a) people can change careers the way George Clooney changes girlfriends; and (b) the next job you take won’t also be run by a sociopathic asshole who thinks installing a $10 fire alarm might force him to scrimp on the dessert tray at Le Bernardin.

And when people say this is “just about politics,” please slap them for me, because I can’t be everywhere. Politics is how we make the rules of society, and it’s as important as things come. Saying something is “just politics” is like saying Kat Dennings’ breasts are “just mammaries.” No, sir! They are magic incarnate!

You vote Republican, and people die. They die in preventable accidents; they die without healthcare; they die from unregulated assault weapons. If you think I’m being histrionic, there are about 100,000 Iraqis targeted under false pretenses who would like to weigh in.

Unfortunately, they can’t, because they’re dead. But I suspect they would say something like, “Dick Cheney is a ham-faced, animatronic lizard’s dickhole.”

I’m done.


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