Don Blankenship, the former CEO of coal giant Massey Energy, was found guilty of conspiring to commit mine safety violations on Thursday in federal court in Charleston, West Virginia. However, Blankenship was found not guilty of making false statements to federal regulators in the aftermath of the 2010 explosion at a Massey-owned mine in West Virginia. Blankenship faces up to one year in prison on the conspiracy charge, a misdemeanor, and his attorney Bill Taylor told reporters he will appeal.
The irony of the Blankenship trial was that while the Upper Big Branch disaster—the deadliest in an American mine in 40 years—seemed to hover in the background of the prosecutors' arguments, it was his paperwork after the accident, not his mine's safety record before it, that posed the biggest threat to his freedom. As I reported in October:
What threatens to put the 65-year-old away for decades are two allegedly false statements Massey submitted in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission: "We do not condone any violation of MSHA regulations," and "we strive to be in compliance with all regulations at all times," Blankenship informed investors, even as his company was allegedly outflanking the regulatory system. It's the mining equivalent of busting Al Capone for tax evasion.
"I have all the respect in hell that at least somebody was able to say, 'Wait a minute, that isn't right,'" says Bruce Stanley, who represented Caperton in his suit against Massey. "But he's up for what, a possible 30-year sentence? Well, there's only one count that puts that kind of mileage on it. That's the one that says he lied to Wall Street. When it comes to human lives, he gets maybe a year."
Read MoJo's in-depth profile of Blankenship's rise and fall here.
Last year, a man named Brian Chambers announced a world-changing advance: An international research organization called the Health Sciences Institute had found an incredible cure for cancer hidden in the Book of Matthew. For just $74, you, too, could discover the secret.
That was the breathless pitch emailed to hundreds of thousands of Huckabee's followers in January, beneath a "special message" from the Republican presidential candidate trumpeting "important information." Upon closer inspection, the divine remedy—eating fewer carbs—was never recommended by St. Matthew. Chambers is not a doctor, and the studies on starvation diets he cited make no mention of "cures."
The Health Sciences Institute is part of a company called NewMarket Health, which is just one asset of a Baltimore-based publishing empire named Agora Inc. Agora's subsidiaries and affiliates publish more than 40 newsletters and sell more than 300 books on a range of topics, including biblical health tips, natural-healing supplements, and "insider" investment advice—a mix of ideas the company considers the intellectual equivalent of the marketplace of ancient Athens. To find new readers for its ever-expanding catalog of publications, Agora's subsidiaries have tapped into a network of conservative heavyweights, including Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich, who sell access to their massive email lists to advertise Agora's products.
Gingrich sent out more than a dozen Agora-related emails after he dropped out of the 2012 race, including one from an investment newsletter warning that Obama might seek a third term (sell, sell, sell!). In April, Paul appeared in a 51-minute video for an Agora subsidiary in which he argued that the United States was on the verge of martial law and societal collapse. The libertarian patriarch, whose own Survival Report newsletter once played to its white readers' worst fears, urged viewers to buy a newsletter subscription to find out more. Conservative outlets including National Review and Townhall have also rented their email lists to Agora subsidiaries. While it's not unusual for publications (including Mother Jones) to send sponsored messages to their subscribers, Agora's emails skirt the line between spammy and scammy. An email sent last year to followers of the popular right-wing site RedState on behalf of the Health Sciences Institute claimed that the Obama administration was blocking a miracle cure that "vaporizes cancer in six weeks."
These disingenuous endorsements for dubious products epitomize what historian Rick Perlstein has dubbed "mail-order conservatism," the monetization of right-wing paranoia that started in the 1970s and has flowered ever since a secret Muslim socialist won the White House. Glenn Beck, like many of his talk-radio colleagues, has warned of the collapse of the global financial system while shilling for gold companies. Conservative operatives have created a booming field of "scam PACs," political action committees that ostensibly raise money to help popular candidates but don't produce much more than big checks for direct-mail firms. Confronted by Politico, Erick Erickson, RedState's editor-in-chief, said, "It horrifies me that the list sometimes get[s] rented to some of these guys." And Agora has played the game of stirring up and cashing in on the conservative psyche longer and better than most of its competitors.
Christmas isn't just a time to fantasize about going Zero Dark Thirty on a bunch of elves—it's also a chance to show your friends and family how much you care about them by spoiling them with gifts. The problem is that you're bad at it. You either get them something they'll forget about and leave in a closet somewhere for years, only to rediscover it later in life when they're finally moving out of that run-down apartment and getting a place in the burbs. Or it's something they'll mindlessly fold into their daily lives, as if an immersion blender was just something they always had. But not this year. This year you're getting them something they can't return. Something that will scar them permanently. You're getting them some weird political swag you saw on Etsy.
Bern your house down with the Bernie Sanders prayer candle! This is perfect for that special someone who loves Bernie Sanders but isn't really convinced that he's Jewish. GoSaintYourself will donate $3 from every purchase to Sanders' campaign.
This oddly specific piece of apparel was inspired by a GQ article by Drew Magary entitled "Fuck Ben Carson," which Carson supporters considered far more distasteful than Carson's suggestion that victims of an Oregon mass murder should have stopped the shooter themselves. Available in three colors—but not denim—this is a surprisingly functional T-shirt, perfect not just for Carson supporters, but for anyone who's ever gotten upset (or will get upset at some point, any point) over the magazine's depiction of women, overpowering cologne ad inserts, or skinny-suit recs.
Celebrate the fourth (or was it the fifth?) incendiary statement that was going to sink Donald Trump's campaign but didn't because pundits are worthless and it turns out a large percentage of Republican primary voters also prefer people who weren't captured, okay? For $45, we'd prefer at least a few more doves, and maybe some quotation marks. It's not the most absurd of Trump statements, either, but this one probably reads less offensively to neutral house guests than "Somebody's doing the raping." (If you are looking for some less subtle embroidery, there are other options.) You may also enjoy:
The hair comes from a feather boa, and according to the seller, "His tie is actually done up in a full-Windsor." Each doll is shipped via USPS, in solidarity with the pro-Sanders postal workers union, and 10 percent of all proceeds go to the Sanders campaign.
So here's the thing about art: We're all just pretending it makes sense. Billionaire Bill Koch—of the billionaire Kochs—just sold a Picasso for $67.5 billion. But not, like, one of the really famous ones, where various household objects are split into weird pieces that don't make sense. It was kind of a low-grade Picasso; he painted it when he was 19, and I mean, you can't hang that thing just anywhere. You can have this for $10—a steal—and it's got a nice little post-modern touch, in conversation with themes of modernity, feminism, and notions of identity in the digital age. If you're looking for something with a little more darkness, we might recommend:
gears of war 3 hillary anya stroud clinton vs hair deep sea lambert leviathan donald trump utilizing chainsaw lancer
You never know you need a butter stamp until you really need it, and then it's too late. At that point you will have to engrave the visage of some racist rich dude from Queens into your butter by hand. Be smart. Think ahead. Stay vigilant.
Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order on Tuesday immediately restoring voting rights to more than 100,000 ex-felons convicted of nonviolent offenses. Until now, Kentucky was one of three states, along with Iowa and Florida, that did not give ex-felons their voting rights back after they completed their sentences. "This disenfranchisement makes no sense," Beshear, a Democrat, said in his announcement. "It makes no sense because it dilutes the energy of democracy, which functions only if all classes and categories of people have a voice, not just a privileged, powerful few. It makes no sense because it defeats a primary goal of our corrections system, which is to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes."
The restoration does not apply to sex crimes, other violent crimes, or treason. Going forward, felons exiting the criminal justice system will be presented with a certificate indicating the restoration of their right to vote and to run for public office. Those who are already eligible must submit a form to get their rights back. The Brennan Center for Justice in New York estimates that 140,000 Kentuckians are now eligible for rights restoration, along with another 30,000 who will become eligible in the future.
A spokesman for Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin told Insider Louisville that "restoration of voting rights for certain offenders is the right thing to do," but he did not weigh in on the specifics of Beshear's order. Beshear's move is particularly significant because such restrictions on the franchise have disproportionately affected African Americans—often by design. Racial disparities in the criminal justice system are generally reflected in felon disenfranchisement rates, and Kentucky is no exception. According to 2010 census data compiled by the Sentencing Project, 5.5 percent of the state's voting age population were disenfranchised due to a past conviction. But for African Americans, the number is 16.7 percent.
Beshear's order comes after years of failed attempts by Kentucky lawmakers to address the issue. Because permanent disenfranchisement is in the state's constitution, a change would require approval by 60 percent of lawmakers and by voters via a ballot referendum. In 2014, the effort stalled. The GOP-controlled state Senate wanted a five-year waiting period before ex-felons could apply for their rights, and the Democratic-controlled state House would not agree to it. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, now a Republican presidential candidate, opposes disenfranchisement for ex-offenders and tried to revive the issue earlier this year.
Beshear said he waited until now to take executive action in order to give the legislative process a chance, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Bevin will be sworn in December 8.
Kentucky joins several states that have eased restrictions on felon voting since the mid-1990s. One of the exceptions to this trend is Florida, a perennial swing state where Democratic-leaning black voters are disenfranchised at an even higher rate than in Kentucky. In Florida, many ex-offenders must personally petition the governor and his cabinet for rights restoration. Under the current governor, Republican Rick Scott, Florida has made it very difficult for ex-felons to have their rights restored.
New Day for America, a super-PAC supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of the back-of-the pack GOP presidential contenders, has a bold new plan to take down front-runner Donald Trump: tell Iowa voters how creepy he is. The group posted a web ad on Tuesday that mocks Trump for, among other things, saying of his daughter, while sitting next to her on national television, "If Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her."
Of all the Republican wannabes, Kasich took the lead in the last debate in assailing Trump, noting that Trump's plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants was nutso. But Kasich's verbal punches did not land, and, so far, it's tough to see him as the guy to dethrone Trump—and there's not much evidence to date that a YouTube clip like this will persuade Trump fans that he's too weird to be president.