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The Full Weight of Justice

Corporate Terrorism in West Texas

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

In his first statement in response to the Boston bombings, President Obama said that “Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.”

In the his first statement in response to the explosion outside Waco, Texas, President Obama said that “our prayers go out to the people of West, Texas in the aftermath of last night’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant.”

In his statement on Boston, President Obama said that “any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”

But when it came to the explosion in Texas, President Obama said nothing about responsible individuals, responsible groups or the full weight of justice.

Why not?

Because when it comes to street crime, President Obama is the top cop.

When it comes to apparent corporate crime and violence, he’s the enabler in chief.

Make no mistake, if it becomes clear that the Texas explosion was triggered by a terrorist attack, a la the Oklahoma City bombing, then Obama will begin talking about “the full weight of justice.”

But if the focus is corporate crime and violence, corporate recklessness, workplace safety,  “full weight of justice” rhetoric won’t see the light of day.

After all, it was Obama’s Justice Department that in December 2011 settled the case of the April 2010 Massey Energy Upper Big Branch explosion, which killed 29 miners, with a “non prosecution agreement.”

Outrageously, the Justice Department said it would not criminally prosecute Massey even though the Labor Department concluded that Massey’s “unlawful policies and practices” were the “root cause of this tragedy.”

Massey had a track record of skirting the law and even kept two sets of books for at Upper Big Branch — one for internal use, which kept track of workplace hazards — and one for law enforcement, which did not.

David Uhlmann, the former head of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section, and now a Professor at the University of Michigan Law School, says had he been in charge of the Massey Energy case, he would have criminally prosecuted Massey.

In his tenure at the Justice Department, he criminally prosecuted many major corporations for wrongdoing arguably less serious than one that results in the deaths of 29 workers.

And he says that the Massey non prosecution agreement is just part of a disturbing trend, one that has accelerated under the Obama administration, toward settling major corporate crime cases with deferred and non prosecution agreements.

Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.