It was a beautiful night. The sun had dropped behind a ridge, but the fading light painted a huge bank of clouds in colors of pink, tangerine, and gold.

This is why West Virginians care about the right to be able to sit on our porches and listen to the sounds of wind through the trees, rather than be accosted by the migraine-inducing din of fracking operations.

This is what we mean by “almost heaven“; it’s why we fight for our neighbors, why we value our peace.

Because THIS.

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This is why I moved to my secluded, tumbledown little house way out here in the country. This is why West Virginians come, or why we’ve stayed, rather than moving somewhere with more career opportunities. Because we value this more, whether we’re sitting on a porch swing or in a deer stand. 

So, we understand it’s not just some mistake—ooops!—when a politician like Jim Justice doesn’t pay $15 million in bills and taxes and fines for safety violations, and reneges on $30 million in promised charitable contributions… all while using his position to pressure others to pledge to help his business by placing more burdens on the rest of us.

That is not his mistake, it’s his calculation.

  • He’s calculating that he can collect interest by keeping it his bank account, while other businesses and even taxpayers don’t get paid.
  • He’s calculating that he can make empty promises and still get credit—like having a Boy Scout Camp named after him—but avoid following through once he gets what he wants.
  • He’s calculating that win or lose the election, his business will benefit from his dirty pledge. What he cares about is getting promises from politicians to put money in his pockets.
  • He’s calculating that operating safely costs money.  He doesn’t actually care about miner safety, or he wouldn’t have the worst safety record in the nation. By his actions, we know he’d rather put miners at risk than spend money to make sure they’re safe.

That is not a mistake; it’s who he is. He’s not alone; many politicians use the same bizarre reasoning. Let me spell out how he rationalizes it.

Justice sees himself as a good guy; he thinks that any actions he takes are therefore good by virtue of the fact that he did them. He reasons that he’s good, so his actions must also be good by definition. In other words, he’s judging the virtue of his actions based solely on their effects upon himself. If it’s good for him, it’s good for everyone, right?

But by that logic, it would be “good” to steal, if you could legally get away with it. In fact, that’s what many Resource Barons have been trying to do: they lobby to legalize the theft of your land, like Antero does, or they work to drive you out by removing your ability to enjoy what you most value about it. Like… um, Antero.

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Some of us want to save this state and protect all our citizens. Let the sun set on the Resource Baron Welfare Queens.

And we know that anyone calculating how much money can be made by taking away rights of regular people to enjoy experiences like this is making the wrong calculations.