How Bush Failed the Sago 13

I haven't seen much discussion of it in the blogosphere, but there are 13 coal miners trapped under 260 feet of dirt right now in West Virginia. It's worthy of discussion here because, once upon a time, these guys were the bread and butter of the Democratic Party -- industrial workers doing hard labor to support their families. Now, they're just as likely to vote Republicans on social issues as they are Democrats on pocketbook issues. But none of that really matters now. What matters now is that air quality tests are indicating very high levels of carbon monoxide in the mine. What matters now is that rescuers heard no response when then tried to contact the miners. What matters now is their families back on the surface.

Undoubtedly, some will criticize me for placing blame on President Bush here. The defense will be that Bush didn't cause the explosion that collapsed the mine. My response will be that he didn't do anything to prevent it. In fact, if anything, the actions of his administration made the situation worse.

A New York Times article dated August 9, 2004 detailed the Bush administration's close relationship with the coal mining industry. While the piece largely focused on environmental issues, it still makes it clear that administration's concern for the health and safety of coal miners took a back seat to their concern for the bank accounts of their allies at the mining companies.

In 1997, as a top executive of a Utah mining company, David Lauriski proposed a measure that could allow some operators to let coal-dust levels rise substantially in mines. The plan went nowhere in the government.

Last year, it found enthusiastic backing from one government official - Mr. Lauriski himself. Now head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, he revived the proposal despite objections by union officials and health experts that it could put miners at greater risk of black-lung disease....

Safety and environmental regulations often shift with control of the White House, but the Bush administration's approach to coal mining has been a particularly potent example of the blend of politics and policy.

In addition to Mr. Lauriski, who spent 30 years in the coal industry, Mr. Bush tapped a handful of other industry executives and lobbyists to help oversee safety and environmental regulations.

In all, the mine safety agency has rescinded more than a half-dozen proposals intended to make coal miners' jobs safer, including steps to limit miners' exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency would make it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners say could increase the risk of fire.

In an interview, Mr. Lauriski said that the proposals that were canceled were unnecessary. He said the agency had instead concentrated on other measures "we believed were important to pursue."...

Over the last six years, coal companies have donated $9 million to federal political candidates and party organizations, and 90 percent has gone to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

More to the point, one of the "unnecessary" proposals canceled by the mining executive Bush appointed to head the MSHA was a Clinton-era rule titled "Escapeways and Refuges." It dealt specifically with "methane ignition" and "entrapment deaths."(Emphasis mine.)

"This standard would revise and clarify an existing standard that requires underground metal and nonmetal mines to have at least two separate exits to the surface. Because of the physical limits in underground mines, fire, massive ground fall, methane ignition, inundation, for example, could result in multiple entrapment deaths. A second escapeway increases the likelihood that miners will not be trapped underground during an emergency if one escape route is cut off."

In December of 2001, under the leadership of Lauriski, it was withdrawn from the agenda due to "changing safety and health regulatory priorities." In other words, increased regulation of the mining industry was seen as a roadblock to increased profits.

This morning, it's come to the media's attention that the Sago Mine "was cited 208 times for alleged safety violations in 2005." The Labor Department has said that a whopping 96 of those citations were "significant and substantial." In fact, some of them may have been directly related to the situation at hand.

As the AFL-CIO points out in their analysis of the 2006 budget, the President continues to underfund the MSHA, effectively freezing their enforcement budget. International Coal Group, the owners of the Sago Mine, claim they would have closed the mine if it had been deemed unsafe. Obviously, with 208 citations, 96 of them "significant and substantial," it was deemed unsafe. But MSHA has no teeth and they know it, so they had nothing to fear in keeping it open.

I hope like hell those guys get out alive. I'm praying that they do. But things are not looking good right now. No matter what happens, when all is said and done, one thing is certain. The President's unwillingness to do what's right in the face of incoming checks from mining executives has made coal miners in less safe, whether they're in Pennsylvania, Montana, or in Tallmansville, West Virginia.

UPDATE: Welcome Cornerites and Malkin readers. If you've gotten this far, you likely know that this piece most certainly does not blame Bush for the Sago Mine disaster. Now ask yourselves why the conservative pundits want you think that's what I was writing. Here's a clue: Bush's indefensible fealty to corporate power undercuts the health and safety of workers at every level of the economy. Corporations understandably want to save money any way they can. Sometimes government has to step in to remind them that there are some corners that just should not be cut. And that's what offends the punditocracy so much -- God forbid you should actually see this issue from the side of the workers.

UPDATE II:The New York Times is reporting that 12 of the 13 miners have been found alive and are being taken to nearby hospitals. This follows an earlier report that one of the miners' bodies had been found, so it is incredibly good news. My heart goes out to the family of the miner who did not make it.

UPDATE III: Sadly, the stories about all but one of the miners making it out alive were inaccurate. Twelve of the thirteen were in fact killed in the accident. If there's any silver lining to this truly horrible story, it's that at least one of them -- Randal McCloy, a young father of two -- has survived, even though he's in critical condition.

Tags: Labor (all tags)



No criticism
But George W. Bush, resident of Texas, graduate of Yale and bona fide mock-southerner

Had nothing to do with a coal mine in West Virginia and still doesn't.

If the labour unions weren't falling apart all over, you could place blame on them and be right, but now that they are - it just doesn't matter.

Your car is japanese. A labor union employee didn't work on it. You shop at wal mart, nothing you buy comes from unionized employees. The only time you see a Union electrician is by mistake, when you're looking at a home being built.

In the past decade, the Brotherhood built 80% of new homes in Colorado. Now, they are lucky to built 10%. The rest are being built by illegal immigrant labour that works for pennies on the dollar.

No criticism, its just that the day of the labour union is passed.  

Now, listen carefully - something has to take its place. Because it was a cohesive force for democracy. But those W. V. Coal miners all shopped at Wal Mart, and they're being buried in Chinese clothes and pulled out of the mine with Japanese equipment and cars. They'll be zipped up in a body bag made in china.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-03 05:13AM | 0 recs
Harsh as hell
but I cannot find a flaw in your argument.
by mrblifil 2006-01-03 06:25AM | 0 recs
Re: No criticism
My car is built by UAW workers. I have never been inside a wal mat or a sam's club. Bush is still at fault he only listens to big business which treats employees like dirt. Safety costs money and bush and his buddies don't care about human lives -- ask the 30,000+ that have been killed in the bush invasion in Iraq.
by kjpjr 2006-01-03 06:36AM | 0 recs
Re: No criticism
Dude. My car is built by the UAW as well, but that 2006 Acura is not, and it has a navigation system with a voice from Mr. T.  - The labor unions don't add any value - they can't protect your job, and they won't do anything but take dues and then pose alot and do upper level deals.

Corruption is all over the place now. Its sad but true.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-04 05:15AM | 0 recs
Re: No criticism
But I didn't say he had anything to do with the mine collapse, did I? What I'm saying is that the mining industry cronies that he installed at the MSHA have gutted safety proposals that could have tempered this tragedy. Governmental action -- or inaction, in this case -- has consequences. What we're seeing now in West Virginia is likely one of those consequences.

Bush doesn't believe in regulating health and safety for miners. Union or not, it doesn't make a bit of difference. It's wrong and it's driven by pure greed.

by Scott Shields 2006-01-03 06:57AM | 0 recs
Research Before Reflexive Criticism
Coal mine fatalities have actually decreased during the Bush Administration compared to Clinton's tenure:

Year    Miners    Fatalities
1993    141,183     47
1994    143,645     45
1995    132,111     47
1996    126,451     39
1997    126,429     30
1998    122,083     29
1999    114,489     35
2000    108,098     38
2001    114,458     42
2002    110,966     27
2003    104,824     30
2004    108,734     28
2005        n/a     22

There were an average of 38.75 coal mine fatalities per year under Clinton, compared to 29.8 under Bush. Even if you just compare the last 5 years of Clinton, fatalities were lower under Bush. Reflexive anti-Bush sentiments aren't a substitute for actual research - shooting from the hip ends up making Bush look better than may be otherwise warranted.


by SLinVA 2006-01-03 04:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Research Before Reflexive Criticism
I'm not sure if I'm reading your data correctly, but doesn't it show a major decrease in the number of coal miners, period, during the Bush years? With fewer miners out there (coal mines have been shutting down for decades so it's only natural for that trend to continue under Bush) it makes sense that the number of fatalities per year would drop too, right?
by elrod 2006-01-03 04:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Research Before Reflexive Criticism
Well, it's not my data, it's from the Mine Safety & Health Administration, part of the Department of Labor. While the number of miners has declined, the numbers from the Bush years were similar to the last 2 years of the Clinton Administration, when fatalities were higher. I'm sure the "research" could be improved if we had the hours worked or even the tons of coal mined, but I used what is readily available.  My main point was that diarist didn't even bother to do that, but just made the type of knee-jerk criticism that often actually ends up benefiting Bush.
by SLinVA 2006-01-03 05:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Research Before Reflexive Criticism
There was nothing "kneejerk" about what I wrote. I never said Bush was killing miners. I said that he and his mining executive appointee at MSHA were furthering policies that were bad for safety and good for business. That's true no matter what the fatality statistics show.
by Scott Shields 2006-01-03 10:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Research Before Reflexive Criticism
Listen: This last update to your column is sick. All of the miners died except one. You state that 12 of them are alive.

There is only one survivor. As I predicted initially - they're all dead. it was the CO that killed them off. Its like being trapped in a garage with the car running and no way to turn it off.

The only one that survived had a collapsed lung, that must've kept the Carbon Monoxide level low - CO suffocates you.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-04 05:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Research Before Reflexive Criticism
It wasn't sick and you're a total jerk for claiming it was. I wasn't there. I was reporting what had been reported. There was no reason for me not to believe it. That's like saying it was "sick" for the families to call their friends and say they were alive. That's what we all believed.
by Scott Shields 2006-01-16 07:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Research Before Reflexive Criticism
Not hardly.

If the fatality figures are falling on a per miner working basis, then whatever Bush is doing is not having an ill affect that you can prove by what you've said.

You're saying, essentially that it just stands to reason that it is so--you are making a baseless assertion.  If not, quote your sources.

And yes, you are blaming Bush personally to some degree if you are saying that policies he has enacted made it more likely for these miners to die.

The question is what degree of blame you have the moral courage to be specific about?  10%, 1%, 99%.

Please put up or shut up.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

by tdperk 2006-01-04 09:03AM | 0 recs
That was my first thought, but some quick math...
Looking at the 1993 data, we see 3.3 fatalities per 10,000 workers. The 2004 data show 2.5 fatalities per 10,000 workers.

Not as dramatic as the raw numbers, but it's still a decline.

by ObviousTroll 2006-01-04 05:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Research Before Reflexive Criticism
OK, and your point is?  Are you saying that we shouldn't continue to take steps to make coal mining safer?  28 deaths a year is an acceptable level to you??  The Bush administration's policy of relaxing regulation directly contributed to the reduced death toll???  As the old saying goes, there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.

Let me ask you a question.  Do you ever fly on commercial airplanes?  Should we relax maintenance guidelines for these planes because the US hasn't experienced a major crash in a few years?  Do you drive a car?  Should we stop asking the auto manufacturers to fix obvious safety flaws in their vehicles after highway deaths drop below an acceptable total?

Coal mining will always be a dangerous occupation, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do more to give the miners a fighting chance to escape when an accident occurs.

by jcsinclair 2006-01-05 11:14AM | 0 recs
Re: No criticism
First of all, you did indirectly accuse him of causing the death of these miners by saying that policies that he and his administration have shot down have made mining less safe. Second of all, I don't know how you can say that these 'shot down' policies had anything to do with it when we don't know what the cause of the explosion was. I think we should wait until after the investigation before we start knee-jerk innacurate criticism.

Third, if you look at the numbers that another commenter provided re: the deaths in mines during the last several administrations, I think it's obvious that deaths have been down as a percentage of workers. Finally, I think it's really tacky to start shooting inaccurate partisan criticism at a time when there are thirteen families suffering through a horrible tragedy. Couldn't you at least wait until the bodies were in the ground and the investigation was complete before you started your partisan attacks? What a bunch of BS

by Jim C 2006-01-04 04:24PM | 0 recs
Re: No criticism
"What I'm saying is that the mining industry cronies that he installed at the MSHA have gutted safety proposals that could have tempered this tragedy." --Scott

I found this Blog on Blue Collar Politics: Underground Brothers, while researching the ICG (International Coal Group.

Being a BCW myself, I feel that since the health and safety of these folks (13 Miners) were not made a number one priority, then, in the long run, my health and safety could be a life threatening reality, at some point in my life.

I was surprised to see how many people skirted around the "sane comments" presented on this blog by ChagrinRick, as well as, by Scott Shields, and that in and of itself, helps me understand how those sitting in seats of authority in this land lose sight of the "honest" issues that we all, as Americans, face together on a day to day basis.

I wholeheartedly agree with your comments herein, Scott, that "greed", whether it be for money, position, fame, legacy or just plain, "me-ology"  is wrong, and it is what is killing this country, whether it be the 12 West Virginia Miners, or you and me.  

by Sojourner 2006-01-06 07:27AM | 0 recs
Bush responsible?
You're wasting everybody's time by obsessing about such trivialities as the history of safety violations and the callous indifference to the plight of workers while the bottom line gets sucked on like a porn star with a tooth ache.

Clearly it was an act of god. Simple as that. Now let's have a bunch of nice funerals, heavy on the bunting, and be done with it shall we. That's what I call "new source review."

by mrblifil 2006-01-03 06:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush responsible?
Uh, Scott, I think this one was satire...
by Crazy Vaclav 2006-01-03 02:26PM | 0 recs
Cruel Thing to say...
But they voted for him...West Virginia went for the guy by a nine point margin if I am not mistaken. I also know that the town where the accident took place went for him by over 70%. Six months ago, a bunch of folks from NC were protesting CAFTA in front of the WH. They shoved a piece of paper on my face saying that they would be unemployed due to CAFTA.

Me: Where are you from?

The protestors: North Carolina. We work in textiles

Me: Who did you vote for?

The protestors: GWB

Me: You made your bed, now lie on it.

Every action has consequences. If you carry drug into some Asian countries you get hanged. You go into Iraq or Bali you will probably loose your life. You vote for this guy knowing very well that you may loose your job or even your life..well tough yourselves are to blame!

Cruel thing to say to the bereaved if it comes to that. But, if you vote based on race, southern strategy, Gay marriages and other so-called moral values at the expense of your future deserve your fate, whatever that fate might be.

by Boilermaker 2006-01-03 06:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Cruel Thing to say...
I know where you're coming from, but I just can't accept it. It's never fair to say that someone in a democracy should pay for his vote with his life. How can anyone know that all or even any of those trapped miners voted for Bush, anyway?

Besides all of that, until the local television stations in West Virginia start reporting nightly about the connections between mining industry dollars and the Bush administration's gutting of protections for miners, then how can we say they knew what they were getting? Not everyone has the background to know that they should be reading between the lines.

by Scott Shields 2006-01-03 07:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Cruel Thing to say...
"You go into Iraq or Bali you will probably loose your life."

Hey, your odds of dying from "going to Iraq" are about the same as dying from a car wreck.

And what statistics do you have for Bali, or were you just believing and posting BS?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

by tdperk 2006-01-04 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Cruel Thing to say
70% of white males in West Virginia voted for Bush and all the trapped miners are white male. It is highly unlikely that most of these guys did not vote for Bush. Life is very cruel. Sometimes the decisions you make cost you your life. Whether that decision is to go to Bali, carry drugs into Asian countries or a simple vote thinking that you are voting anti affirmative action or simply screwing a black guy. Life sucks. That is the way it is.
by Boilermaker 2006-01-03 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Re: Cruel Thing to say
You know, you have to wonder sometimes. A guy like Kerry for example, who fought in the war, and jumps into a lake to save a hamster. (forgot the name.. ).. well thats a good place to keep your vote.

If I kept my vote there, maybe when I was dying in a mine I could just steel myself instead of breathing like a drunk alabama national guardsman caught with a gram of coke on him.

Its a nice place to keep your vote, sort of like having a clean house to come home to. But in the end, even if you have a clean house, if you're sky diving and you're parachute doesn't open you're dead no matter who you voted for.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-04 05:21AM | 0 recs
So what if 70% voted for Bush?
That's still about 4 likely Kerry voters stuck under there right?  Chances are if they were unionized they voted 2-to-1 for Kerry, meaning that about 8 of them are Kerry supporters...If they all voted...but lets say 50% of them voted and they were union, that means that there are 4 likely Dem voters in there!  Lets get the netroots fundraising for a shovel!

....But this is pretty f'n callous way of looking at this ain't it?  

Gutting laws requiring two exits is pretty damned blatant, but I guess that's never stopped this administration.


by carlschr 2006-01-03 07:25AM | 0 recs
Disgusting Ghouls
Your ghoulish attempt to make political points out of this tragedy shames you more than any words I could offer.

Boilermaker on the other hand who goes even farther and suggests these miners got what they deserved for voting for Bush deserves a good beating. I hope he has the courage to travel to WV right now and deliver this message in person to the miners families. Of course he won't because he is a coward on the internet.

by The Ugly American 2006-01-03 07:30AM | 0 recs
Disgusting Ghouls
All I said was you get what you pay for. Not justifying anyone's deaths. Feel sorry for them all...but we are not living in a dictatorship whatever shennanigans by the administration you may point out. We still get to vote on that first week in november..will the clowns in WV or other coal mining areas such as south western virginia (which went for the other anti-labor candidate Jerry Kilgote)and Ky vote Dem? Dont count on it. Norhthrop and most other GOP are probably in. Mary Caputo is definitely in. Goodlate and Goode are far as Virginia is concerned. Goode will divert attention from his anti-labor stance including vote for CAFTA and attack immigrants as he has done in the past...and a substantial majority will vote for him. So what is new?
by Boilermaker 2006-01-03 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Disgusting Ghouls
Boilermaker. The point is that at this time the cause of the explosion that trapped the miners is unknown. The cause could be human error, an 'act of God', or other cause not covered by anyone's idea of safety measures and could well have happened no matter who the miners voted for or who was elected. Your claims are not substantiated, have no basis in known reality, and come off as callous and graspingly political.
by Praxis7 2006-01-03 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Disgusting Ghouls

Believe it or not, things happen in this world independent of politics.  At this point, who knows what caused the accident?  Your pompous "they deserve what they get because they voted for Dumbya" attitude is disgusting.  I hope that you have the fortitude of belief to come on in to WV and say that .

The first level of accountability rests on the corporation that owns the mine.  It has been cited an alarming number of times for safety violations (at a couple of hundred bucks a pop).  Of course, it is cheaper to pay the fines than to fix the problems (this is also speculation, but I admit to it).  

In your totalitarian world view, of course, Dumbya is responsible for everything that happens in the known universe, but you fail to recognize and understand the dirty little political world that is WV (long dominated by Democrats in the pockets of Big Coal and the UMW at the same time -- only in West Virginia).  After all, where do you think Jay Rockefeller came from?    

by XTeacher 2006-01-03 09:16AM | 0 recs
Sen. Byrd runs West Virginia
I thought Sen. Byrd ran West Virginia.  Isn't everything in West Virginia his fault?
by lostmyleggins 2006-01-03 07:42AM | 0 recs
Quecreek mine - Pennsylvania
I suppose you give full credit to GWB, and therefore hero status, for the rescue  in 2002 of the nine miners in Pennsylvania? By whatever you are using in place of a train of thought in your comments, it is inevitable that you must.

I wonder if Heinz ketchup ever used any energy derived from coal in their manufacturing process?

by jcrodden 2006-01-03 07:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Quecreek mine - Pennsylvania
Did anything Bush do positivly impact that situation?  Clearly the whole "two exits is one too many" approach was not helpful here, in hindight... how much money did the company save by no putting in the extra shafts?  How much would they be worth now?  How much do you think the miners' families would say they're worth?

It was wrong to ignore the safety of the workers, just like it was wrong to put 'Brownie' in charge of FEMA, and it was wrong to invade Iraq.

Bush makes horrible decisions (whaever criteria you think he uses, and no one really know except for him because they are so bad and schitzo), and people die.

The man SHOULD be impeached, convicted, and removed from office.  Of course, Cheney as well...   this tragedy is another clear example of how Bush's approach to public policy is toxic to anyone who isn't on the plus-side of his whims.

by teknofyl 2006-01-03 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Quecreek mine - Pennsylvania
Why are you equating this or even putting this tragedy in the same paragraph as Iraq? Doing this shows an unbelievable level of partisanship and stupidity. As I've said earlier, we don't even know what caused this explosion or if a second exit would have helped, and moonbats like you are sitting here blaming Bush for it. If you are so certain that Bush is to blame, then tell me what was the cause of the explosion and what was the cause of death for all twelve miners? Were they capable of getting all the way out of the mine? Were any of them capable of walking 2 1/2 to 3 miles to get to the surface? You don't know, and to put any kind of blame on Bush for this when you don't just shows how disgustingly partisan you are. To score political points on the backs of twelve dead men and twelve suffering families... you should be ashamed!
by Jim C 2006-01-04 04:43PM | 0 recs
Quecreek mine - Pennsylvania
The miners in PA were rescued in spite for GWB. Both accidents happened due to lax regulations..however, these are trade-offs you make...lax regulations and low prices at the cost of life or vice versa? People make their choices. As far as Byrd is concerned, he could end up breaking Thurmond's record.
by Boilermaker 2006-01-03 07:53AM | 0 recs
Three users registered to comment solely on this post (jcrodden, The Ugly American, lostmyleggins) and one user who registered a few months ago (mrblifil) came out of the woodwork to post his first two comments today. That's got to be some sort of record, doesn't it?

Whatever. I stand by every single thing I wrote. I'm not politicizing a tragedy. Nor am I blaming Bush for the mine collapse. The former would be crass and the latter would be stupid. What I'm saying is that mine safety is a serious, serious issue that Bush treats like a joke -- another way to benefit his cronies. How the Bush administration has specifically impacted this tragedy is not clear. But it is clear that they have thrown up roadblocks to regulations that could possibly have tempered this crisis.

by Scott Shields 2006-01-03 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Trolls
They probably came over here via Michelle Malkin.

It's my second time posting a comment on this site--I just don't comment much.  Anyway, I was hoping for some information on the topic and your post helped.  For these jerks to say that you're only blaming Bush is ridiculous since you're providing valuable background information on how federal policies can lead to potentially avoidable human tragedies.  Thanx!

by coeruleus 2006-01-03 10:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Trolls
Whoa. I made Malkin and The Corner? I'm glad to stand in direct opposition to either of those crews on this issue. They can oversimply what I wrote into "blame Bush" all they want. It's nonsense and I'm pretty confident that the majority of their readers who are coming here can actually see that for themselves.
by Scott Shields 2006-01-03 11:36AM | 0 recs
Don't jump to conclusions.
You're right that people are posting this on right wing sites (that's how I saw it) but don't take the easy out and call everyone who disagrees with you a "troll".

You did blame Bush - and in the same manner people blame Bush for Katrina: by gutting an agency by populating it with cronies.

Unfortunately, while you may have a point about Bush's appointments, you have not proven your case here. As I noted elsewhere, per-capita mine fatalities held steady under Clinton then began to decline in 2002 - right when Bush's appointees would have been expected to cause the reverse.

As for all the attention you're getting right now, relax. Sure, you're going to take some heat from some reactionaries but you're also getting a lot of free attention which may (if you handle it well) result in a larger readership for your blog.

I mean, I can't be the only person in the world who reads both right- and left- wing blogs...

by ObviousTroll 2006-01-04 05:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't jump to conclusions.
I mean, I can't be the only person
in the world who reads both
right- and left- wing blogs...--ObviousTroll

You're right, you're not!

In the wake of hurricane Katrina, all I heard was the mainstream media bad-mouthing the Bush Administration, for it's mishandling of the National Disaster Relief Effort, for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Still, one thing that kept coming back into my mind was what my Mother used to say to me, whenever she was right and I was wrong, "I thinkest thou protesteth too much."  

For me, living in a state that frequently is on the lookout for hurricanes cropping up here and there, learning how the government works from the local level upwards, (city, state, federal)helped me to rightly divide error from truth.

Blame? No. Accountability? Yes. Nagin, Blanco, Bush!  

by Sojourner 2006-01-06 08:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Trolls
After saying you didn't accuse him of being at fault you just went on to say -- in the next paragraph -- that he treats mine safety as a joke. If that's not casting blame, I don't know what is.
by Jim C 2006-01-04 04:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Trolls
By the way -- curtisy of "Obvious Troll" here are the stats:

Looking at the 1993 data, we see 3.3 fatalities per 10,000 workers. The 2004 data show 2.5 fatalities per 10,000 workers.
Not as dramatic as the raw numbers, but it's still a decline.

Bush treats mine safety as a joke indeed. Check your stats before you start making baseless criticisms.

by Jim C 2006-01-04 04:32PM | 0 recs
In 1984 during a Presidential Debate
held at my alma mater.  As part of defending/promoting the Democratic ticket, I stated that not only was Reaganomics hurting Americans it was killing them.  I was immediately challeneged and I quickly rattled off scores of statistics that showed lossening or eliminating government safety regulations had resulted in an increase in deaths in the workplace and an increase in deaths for consumers (mostly food safety).  The GOP debater couldnn't change topics enough -- the mostly GOP student body looked like deers caught in the headlight.

Deregulation is code for increased profits not for market efficiency....the result of deregulation is poorer quality, questionable quality and death

by kmwray 2006-01-03 11:55AM | 0 recs
well done
Well done Scott for doing the digging here. I'm surprised Malkin and the Corner linked to you -- they usually prefer to dig up left-wing fools. I would imagine the facts that you cite would strike reasonable Republicans as rather troubling.

Meanwhile, let's look forward to a media-generated drama as the television stations entertain us with the story of lives at risk.

by sdedeo 2006-01-03 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: well done
Thanks for the kind words.

Do a Technorati search on this post. They've all got me tagged as a rabid loon, which is kind of funny for those who know me. I'm more than happy to steal their readers for all the reasons you mention, though.

by Scott Shields 2006-01-03 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: well done
Hi Scott -- I'm not sure if you're new to blogging (? -- I'm new to myDD), but please just ignore the loons. I liked your little "update" response, but in general it's pointless to try to argue with those kinds of people or return their spin -- they're just trolling, and their real hope is to tie up your time so you don't get more damaging information out the door.

Just put the facts out there.

by sdedeo 2006-01-03 12:21PM | 0 recs
Re: well done
(PS -- just saw your user page, didn't mean to suggest that you seem like a newcomer! Just that you didn't seem to have the world-wearyness that comes from full-time progressive blogging.)
by sdedeo 2006-01-03 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: well done
HA! No problem. I just happen to like mixing it up with the trolls!
by Scott Shields 2006-01-03 02:02PM | 0 recs
Mine deaths
Bash Bush all you want, but the fact remains that mine deaths have been decreasing for the past decade. They are half of what they were 10 years ago.

When you make up stuff just to sound good it doesn't help your cause very much.

by dlapin 2006-01-03 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Mine deaths
Bush has only had a couple years to hire industry insiders to relax safety standards -- do give him time.
by sdedeo 2006-01-03 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Mine deaths
So what exactly did I make up? The fact that Bush appointed a coal mining executive to be the head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration? The fact that he then overturned safety proposals that could have prevented death and injury among miners? Nope, that's all verifiable.

The mine deaths numbers are not really relevant to what I'm talking about -- general health and safety regulations. There are far fewer miners than there were even a decade ago and far fewer deaths. The fatality rate has also fallen, but I'd damn well hope so, with advances in safety technology.

by Scott Shields 2006-01-03 02:01PM | 0 recs
Thank you
Thank you for this piece.  

And you're right.  What matters now is the family members left on top.  They will file for Social Security survivor benefits to eat, keep their houses and keep their kids in school, just as did thousands of families did after 9/11.  

We should feel proud that we fought hard to save their benefits.  

And we should remember that Bush wanted to drastically reduce these benefits through privatization; and that the Republican Congressional leadership STILL wants to reduce these benefits through drastic program changes.

by citizenKane 2006-01-03 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you
social security is the third rail of american politics.
by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-04 05:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you
Just FYI, CitizenKane, not a single proposal for privatization of Social Security would have changed survivors and disability paymetns at all--those portions of Social Security would have remained exactly the same. "Privatization" as it was proposed was limited only to the retirement portion of the program.
by movaughn88 2006-01-04 08:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you

Just saw this, and wanted to follow up bec it's important.  The President's 2001 commission on SocSec left unaddressed how survivors and disabled benefits would have to be cut in the face of 19 percent to 47.5 percent cuts to the fund estmated to be required after the year 2030 (economists Peter Orszag and Peter Diamond, who testified before Congress on the matter).  Not addressing the problem is different from there not being a problem.

by citizenKane 2006-05-13 06:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank You
"We should feel proud that we fought hard to save their benefits."

We will save their benefits and then they will repay us by voting for the GOP

by Boilermaker 2006-01-03 03:39PM | 0 recs
Curious about Statistics
Thank you for the welcome to Corner readers.  I think the confusion about whether you were "blaming Bush for the Sago Mine disaster" came from an arguably fair reading of the second paragraph of your post.  Saying that someone did nothing to prevent a disaster and possibly made the situation worse is pretty close to blaming.  

Once I read the rest of your post, these thoughts occurred to me.  

1)  Whatever Bush is doing or not doing about mine safety, it seems to be working.  According to the MSHA (link below), mine fatalities averaged 89 a year during Clinton's terms, and 62 a year during Bush's terms so far, a 30% decrease.   Some of this may be attributable to a decrease in mine employment, which I know has occurred in coal mining, but even if so, since coal production hasn't significantly decreased, it means that Bush is managing to satisfy the coal needs of the country at the cost of fewer people exposed to one of the riskiest occupations in the country, and fewer people dying in it.  Looking at this from the side of the workers, obviously this would be a mixed blessing because it might be my job lost as well as my life saved.  But long-term, surely it would be ideal if the inherently risky task of digging coal out of the earth could be automated entirely, and people wouldn't have to risk their lives to do it.

2.  The factoid about how many compliance violations Sago has been cited for can't really support any particular proposition.  If I got 208 traffic citations last year, it would prove I was a rotten driver, but if UPS gets 208 traffic citations in a year, I would say they're doing pretty good, considering how many drivers they have and how many hours a day they each drive.   To be meaningful, that factoid would have to be comparative to other mines or to some mine operated to your satisfaction, and calculated in relation to measures such as violations per worker and violations per ton of production.  

The article from which you took the factoid says the company got 68 citations in 2004.  This could mean they got really sloppy this year counting on a reelected Bush to bail them out, as you believe, or it could mean the regulations have gotten stricter or the regulators have gotten more competent or aggressive in enforcing the safety rules, which is probably a heretical concept to your way of thinking, but even so, just might be true.

Considering that 2005 saw the fewest coal-mining fatalities in the last 105 years, someone somewhere must be doing something right.  Not Bush, of course.  That's unthinkable.  But someone.  

Which is of no comfort to the victims of this particular tragedy, or their families, or their co-workers.  

Including almost certainly their employers.  

At every level of human endeavor including political punditry, there are callous individuals who want to attain their goals, whether to make money or gain power, any way they can.  The employers in this mine may be like that, but unless and until you have some real evidence to that effect, it is a vicious and callous thing to assume it.

by LiveBrainCells 2006-01-03 04:21PM | 0 recs
6 months
A lot of people down in W. Virginia are probably wondering how ICG could get away with having so many safety citations; how they could continue to operate, regardless of being in violation of standards.

We all know the answer -- the Bush admin caters to Big Business, and this is what Big Business wants: little regulation, and a blind eye turned towards what little regulation there is.

You can go down to W. Virginia and tell the people there this very fact. Many (most) will nod their heads, agree, and be rightly angered at Republican/conservative kowtowing to Big Business at the expense of the little guy.

But in 6 months, they'll all be too busy being pissed at liberals for whatever new bogeyman the Right has conjured up to even remember what you told them. The only thing they'll remember is a trip W. Bush might take down there to console the families, if he even does that.

That is the problem with this country. Sorry for the pessimism, but I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that the problem with this country isn't conservatives, the Republicans, the weak Democrats, the media, special interest groups, or anything else -- I think it's just the ordinary people and the strange disengagement with reality that has overtaken many of them.

by LiberalFromPA 2006-01-03 06:52PM | 0 recs
Re: 6 months
A lot of people down in W. Virginia are probably wondering how ICG could get away with having so many safety citations; how they could continue to operate, regardless of being in violation of standards.

Apparently, they could "get away with it" because they didn't own the mine during the period it was collecting all those violations - apparently they just took control of it a month or two ago. (Actually, that may not be entirely true - I saw one report that said they took over in November and one that said March)

Anyway, according to the christian science monitor the previous owners were bankrupt.

by ObviousTroll 2006-01-04 10:53AM | 0 recs
This raises an interesting trade-off question
There is a presumption that poor working conditions are the result of callous management.  That's a fair starting point for an inquiry and discussion, but "what if" the company is simply not in a position to do the things that would make the workplace as safe as it could possibly be?   Say it is operating in bankruptcy;could it make the capital expenditures needed to do X, Y, and Z?  And if not, should the company be shut down ASAP?  

Before we answer "yes, of course", we have to think about the impact on employees and their families and their communities.  I imagine the safety-related violations in this case were a matter of common knowledge to those working there, and to the community.  Yet, the shutting down of the mine would have potentially devastating effects.  

The ideal: fix everything that presents a serious risk.
The real world:  perhaps the company cannot afford to do that, at least not in the short term, and continue to operate.
The issue: which is the greater harm --- shutting down and putting everyone out of work, or continuing to operate with the risks known to those who make the decision to work there in spite of that?

NOW if the violations were being kept "secret" so that employees were unknowingly putting themselves in harm's way, that is REALLY shameful.   And, I would hope, egregiously illegal.

by Terry Ott 2006-01-04 08:12PM | 0 recs
Bush just pulled out 12
if Kerry were president this would have never happened in the first place.
Sorry for the short post.  I have to go to church to give thanks
by Caracu 2006-01-03 07:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush just pulled out 12
Your are right, this would have never happened if Kerry were President because we would all be speaking Arabic by now and they would have been out of the mines to pray to the east or the west instead of working to support their families.

While you were at church giving thanks, I hope you remembered to give thanks for our free will. If God gave us the right to choose, then the Dems certainly don't have the right to think that the government should make all our choices for us.

by DaneLimo 2006-01-03 09:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush just pulled out 12
Anyone who supports Bush goes against America. The 12 bush pulled out of the ground were dead, not alive.  Just like the thousands that were killed in 911.
by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-04 05:18AM | 0 recs
Senator Rockefeller
Senator Rockefeller is too wealthy so it must be his fault.
by lostmyleggins 2006-01-03 07:55PM | 0 recs
12 Saved, But Coal Still a Problem
They've found the 12 remaining miners alive! This is amazingly good news. But there seems to have been quite a few underlying problems, with this mine and the industry as a whole that caused this incident.

The real tragedy is that we still rely on an incredibly dirty fossil fuel to power our lives, when nuclear is both safer and renewable if used properly.

You can find all my reasons for preferring nuclear, as well as commentary about the Chinese coal situation (6500 deaths per year) at Earth Sentinel where you will also find peak oil, renewable energy, and climate change news.

by Earth Sentinel 2006-01-03 09:17PM | 0 recs
Bush Bashing
I am another right wing conservation that registered to comment on the mining disaster story.

Is there no limit to what you will blame on Bush? The mining accident is a disaster, not a political statement. You should be ashamed of yourself. If there is evidence of a poor work environment, then it is an issue for the courts. If it was a natural disaster, then talk to God about it, not our Commander and Chief.

We live in the United States of America - a free country. Those unfortunate people did not have to work in those mines, did not have to live in that area if they could find no other jobs. That's what this country is about, the freedom of choice.

If they felt they had no choices, then that is the product of too many democrat years representing WV, too many social programs that suck the life out of people, and too much goverment.

Our government was formed to protect us from foreign attack, not to brainwash us into to thinking that the government owes us a living. We are responsible for ourselves and our families.

If you want to live in a socialistic society, I suggest you move. As an American, you have the right to choose, but don't expect to convert this country from its capitalism.

by DaneLimo 2006-01-03 09:28PM | 0 recs
And Haitians should be blamed for being poor?
Your comment, If they felt they had no choices, then that is the product of too many democrat years representing WV, too many social programs that suck the life out of people, and too much goverment. shows a pitiful lack of knowledge about the history of West Virginia.  

I'm going to off-topic here a bit but I feel it's important to provide context those who don't get it that some people are miners simply because they have no better choices.

West Virginia was blessed with perhaps the most national resources than most any other state, especialy for its size. Coal, hardwood timber, as well as steel mill, glass, and chemical manufacturing. So with its many natural resources and value-adding industries, one would expect WV to be a rich state like Texas with its oil, right? Of course it isn't.  

Why not?  To excerpt from this speech by Senator Byrd to the U.S. Senate...

The State of West Virginia [was] an economic colony of northeastern, absentee landlords, the infamous Robber Barons of the late nineteenth century, who ruthlessly exploited the State for its rich natural resources.

Other problems came piling on. From the Monongah mine disaster of 1907, when I believe 361 miners lost their lives, the worst coal-mine disaster in American history, to the Marshall University plane crash of 1970, the worst sports tragedy in American history, the people of West Virginia came to know and suffer many and various forms of tragedy, including...a multitude of deadly mine explosions and disastrous floods.

And for too long, the State suffered from economic backwardness.

Through it all, the courageous, patriotic, and dedicated people of West Virginia have remained loyal to their country and their government.

[T]he people of West Virginia have struggled to overcome exploitation and oppression by joining unions and electing political leaders who would better represent them. It took decades and it took tremendous effort, but...the spirit of West Virginia is to `endure and to prevail.'

I first learned this history when my white collar job used to take me to WV often for extended periods of time.  I don't know who ran the state starting in the mid-1800s but you are very, very, very wrong to heartlessly suggest that these people who have suffered this recent mine accident had choices. Did Hurricane Katrina teach you nothing that some people do not have economic choices?  I guess not.

If perhaps you can learn by allegory, then you might better understand this topic by reading about the long-term plight and plunder of Haiti, a colonial victim in the traditional sense. Your time would be well spent to read Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor by Dr. Paul Farmer, or perhaps Mountains Beyond Mountains  where Tracy Kidder provides a thoroughly engaging description of Farmer's work in Haiti and a synopsis of Haiti's history.  How much either of these books affect your sensibilities would be a gauge of your humanity.

by sawgrass727 2006-01-04 06:59PM | 0 recs
Cutting back regulation is not always a bad idea
Disclaimer:  I know virtually nothing about the mining industry or its regulations
Context:  I am not a Republican, did not vote for Bush. Bush is just one more example of a flawed president.  Politics has changed little in my lifetime, sadly.
Qualifications:  I worked in industry, in union environments, and dealt with health and safety --- along with other "people" issues.  I have been directly involved in OSHA matters.

What I would offer to this discussion:
It is tempting to think that more workplace regulation is always in the interest of workers.  I am unconvinced of that.  The amount of time and effort and $$ wasted on OSHA-related compliance was, in the years I was involved, enormous.  BECAUSE there was so much regulation, and so much of it was picayune and (searching for a better word but can't find it) just stupid, it created a whole bureaucracy of nitpickers who could make a good civil service living by filling out inspection reports citing things like yellow lines on floors that were an inch too narrow, burned out lightbulbs in stairwells, railings that should be extended by 3 inches or raised by 1 inch, a machine guard that had one of its 6 screws loose or missing, etc.  You get the picture.  This meant that a marginally intelligent inspector could spend a couple of hours in your factory, make a list of 29 "violations", have 3 cups of coffee in your office writing his report for an inteminable period of time, and go home.  

What happens when you have meaningless regulation is that "enforcement" becomes a paperwork exercise with minimal relevance.

I guarantee you that if I had been empowered to make changes in OSHA and its enforcement processes, I would have cut WAY back on the number of regulations, perhaps the number of inspectors, too, and made the thing meaningful by having the OSHA staff focus on the several things that really MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the serious injury and death risks in various types of workplace settings.  A parallel would be this:  Do you want the one cop in town putting tickets on cars that are parked one foot too close to fire hydrants (thereby getting brownie points for generating fine revenue), or do you want him parked outside Joe's Bar after midnight observing and then tailing those who stagger to their car loaded and squeal tires leaving the parking lot?  Given the choice, the parking ticket gig is safer and less taxing.

Now --- I would do this reengineering in a way that made OSHA less onerous for "good employers", and made it a living hell for "bad employers" who had relatively little concern about their workforce.  

If you asked me what percent of the OSHA-related discussion and time and $$ I was involved in was pure BS, I'd say 70%.  So, if you gave me HALF the resources (budget and people) and asked me to focus on what really made a difference, I think I could have been a significantly better custodian of worker's interests (and employers' too, for that matter).

Maybe it's different in the mines, but I doubt it; government needs to be smarter and (mission impossible) more relevant --- not just bigger and more intrusive.

by Terry Ott 2006-01-03 09:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Cutting back regulation is not always a bad id
wow. I used to work with a company that had an OSHA officer, all he did was fill out the paperwork. He was kind of a dimwit. This is a very eye opening post.

I think I would agree sort of in theory and just tinker a bit with the practical in your solution.

First, less is definitely more - if you have key regs. you need to keep in mind, you'll keep them in mind and comply. I agree there.

But in practice, I think OSHA could benefit by labour unions having firm and practical things to teach their members about safety, and to make safety a part of the process. In the case of the miners, they have some contingency stuff but its an emergency - so they needed drills and practices and technique to get themselves out of it all.

They knew before they all died ( except one) that they didn't have enough air. As bad as it sounds, six of them could've killed the other six.  Things like that can't really be taught but instead of 12 dead, we might have only six. Sub captains do stuff like that.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-04 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Cutting back regulation is not always a bad id
My only experience with OSHA is in laboratory work. I have to agree that OSHA compliance mainly focused on easily-identified problems ("do you have steel-toed boots"), and not on serious problems ("did you just leave 220V exposed.")

In the end, employers (and employees) are the first line of defense. We generally didn't care about our own safety, and received inadaquate training. The lab safety class was a joke.

Unions in general need to make it easier for employees to blow the whistle. This is perhaps the most concrete step towards improvement. In our situation all of the most generally dangerous things had been long taken out of circulation, and additional OSHA regs did not help. What was needed was a culture of self-defense.

That said, the MSHA regs that Scott cites in this particular circusmtance seem like concrete things that would have led to greater safety.

by sdedeo 2006-01-04 07:33AM | 0 recs
Bush is going to be held responsible
This is going to be Bush's Waco like Clinton had in 1993.  Bush and Clinton had these traits in common, both tried to save the victims, but didn't do enough to get them from parishing.  This is going to travel around the country as appearing to be this way, eventhough it may not be this way.  Both Clinton and Bush tried to lie their way through the crisis.  This time Bush cannot blame the governor like his admin did with Katrina, with Kathline Blanco.  FEMA was a state issue, the trapping of coal miners was a national tragedy.
by mleflo2 2006-01-04 01:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush is going to be held responsible
Ah. Bush did nothing to save these guys. Sorry.
by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-04 05:28AM | 0 recs
Sago 13
Scott Shield wrote:

"Undoubtedly, some will criticize me for placing blame on President Bush here."

and then wrote

"If you've gotten this far, you likely know that this piece most certainly does not blame Bush for the Sago Mine disaster."

Scott Shields is either a genuine moron or thinks we all are.

Yours, Tom Perkins,
molon labe
montani semper liberi
para fides paternae patria

by tdperk 2006-01-04 04:38AM | 0 recs
Bush Supporters
will accept anything he does.  At least the ones that show up here.

It would help if they actually read the post they complain about.  

And, on "meaningless regulation", a second way out of a mine would clearly save lives.  Building codes uniformly require a second means of egress from structures and rooms.  There's a reason for this.  The "meaningless regulation" save lives.

At some point, the anti-regulation voices here should show some honest desire to protect life. After it leaves the womb.

by zak822 2006-01-04 05:41AM | 0 recs
Miners Trapped - 12 Dead
The news media is now reporting that earlier reports were mistaken and there are 12 dead miners and only 1 alive. The live miner is in the hospital in critical condition. Here's a snip from ABC News:

TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. Jan 4, 2006 --

In a stunning and heartbreaking reversal, family members were told early Wednesday that 12 of 13 trapped coal miners were dead three hours after they began celebrating news that they were alive.

The sole survivor, Randal McCloy, was in critical condition but showing no sign of brain damage or carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped for 1 1/2 days, a doctor said. At 27, McCloy was the youngest in the group.

The devastating new information about the others shocked and angered family members, who had rejoiced with Gov. Joe Manchin hours earlier when a report began to spread that 12 miners were alive. Rescue crews found the first victim earlier Tuesday evening.

by Curt Matlock 2006-01-04 06:16AM | 0 recs
I Was a Coal Miner Near this Mine:Bush Failed Them
There has been this truly wierd playing with statistics supposedly demonstrating that mine fatalities are lower under Bush than Carter. Actually what we have both at Sago and previously in Pennsylvania is back to back annual coal mining disasters. A mine disaster is defined as one where two or more miners die. In Pennsylvania 12 miners were rescued, here 12 died. This is unusual.( And even the statistics would look far different had the Penn miners died). Most miners die individually. Underground miners most frequently die from roof falls. Mine diasters have always been relatively rare. And since the passage of the mine safety and health act in 1970  I don't believe there has been two disasters in two succesive years.

How is Bush failing these miners? In  both Pennsylvania and here it was failure to force the company to make corrections prior to the disaster. In PA it was failure to properly maintain their mine maps, hence the flood. Here is was failure to properly rock dust and maintain ventilation. (One can also check the citations for this mine on the internet). Inspectors can force compliance, and even shut down a mine until it has complied, if the danger warrents it. At Sago we have a situation in which these dangers were cited, often repeatedly and no improvements were made. The result 12 dead. This is part of a policy change by the Labor Department that emphasizes management cooperation. (This is the same approach they have taken wirh Wall Mart on their egregious labor violations).

For those who want to play with statistics here are the average deaths per thousand miners employed broken down by administrations. These statistics are not broken down according to technology or underground versus surface mining. In general there has been an on going shift in technology from room and pillar mining to longwall mining underground that exposes miners to less risk of roof falls. Second mining is safer than underground mining and there has been a shift to surface mining. Given these trends the fact that in four years Bush has had almost no reduction from the Clinton administration tells you how much this administration is loosening MSHA regulations.
                      Mean  Difference in Means
Carter             0.52
Reagan/Bush  0.43          -0.09
Clinto             0.31          -0.12
Bush 2            0.29          -0.02

by coalminer 2006-01-04 03:37PM | 0 recs
Re: I Was a Coal Miner Near this Mine:Bush Failed
this math is wrong see my correction below were you reposted this.
by Trolling 2006-01-09 12:50PM | 0 recs
I Was a Coal Miner Near this Mine:Bush Failed Them
There has been this truly wierd playing with statistics supposedly demonstrating that mine fatalities are lower under Bush than Clinton. Actually what we have both at Sago and previously in Pennsylvania is back to back annual coal mining disasters. A mine disaster is defined as one where two or more miners die. In Pennsylvania 12 miners were rescued, here 12 died. This is unusual.( And even the statistics would look far different had the Penn miners died). Most miners die individually. Underground miners most frequently die from roof falls. Mine disasters have always been relatively rare. And since the passage of the Mine Safety and Health Act in 1970  I don't believe there has been two disasters in two succesive years.

How is Bush failing these miners? In  both Pennsylvania and here it was failure to force the company to make corrections prior to the disaster. In PA it was failure to properly maintain their mine maps, hence the flood. Here is was failure to properly rock dust and maintain ventilation. (One can also check the citations for this mine on the internet). Inspectors can force compliance, and even shut down a mine until it has complied, if the danger warrents it. At Sago we have a situation in which these dangers were cited, often repeatedly and no improvements were made. The result 12 dead. This is part of a policy change by the Labor Department that emphasizes management cooperation. (This is the same approach they have taken wirh Wall Mart on their egregious labor violations).

For those who want to play with statistics here are the average deaths per thousand miners employed broken down by administrations. These statistics are not broken down according to technology or underground versus surface mining. In general there has been an on going shift in technology from room and pillar mining to longwall mining underground that exposes miners to less risk of roof falls. Second mining is safer than underground mining and there has been a shift to surface mining. Given these trends the fact that in four years Bush has had almost no reduction from the Clinton administration tells you how much this administration is loosening MSHA regulations.
                      Mean  Difference in Means
Carter             0.52
Reagan/Bush  0.43          -0.09
Clinto             0.31          -0.12
Bush 2            0.29          -0.02

by coalminer 2006-01-04 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: I Was a Coal Miner Near this Mine:Bush Failed
I see you dropped the 2005 stats, I undestand we don't have a total number of miners but lets just assume that it stay at 108K like 2004.

And all of a sudden your numbers are way off, bush's little .29 become a .27 raising the diffrence to .06 three times your reported number.

Even if you assume only 100K miners in 2005 the diffrence is still .05 two and half times, so there has been a drastic reduction sice the Clinton area, thought I highly doubt either president did any thing to acctually effect these numbers for better or worse.

You like so many others on this site are only seeing what you want to see.

by Trolling 2006-01-09 12:48PM | 0 recs
I conducted MSHA Training for Coal Miners....
back in the late '70's so I've had a particular interest in this story.  And special sadness at its outcome.  I also have some knowledge that might be useful.

First, regarding the data that fatalities have gone down under Bush...the data are a big "So What?"  Mining fatalities have been on a downward trend for decades.  Fatalities were fewer under Bush than under Clinton, fewer under Clinton than under Bush I, fewer under Bush I than under Reagan, and so on.  The downward trend has a lot to do with changes in mining technology, decrease in the amount of coal obtained through underground mining, and decreases in coal production in general.  So the data don't point to culpability on Bush's part but nor do they absolve him.

Second, there has been a lot of "we don't know what caused this" sort of commenting.  We do know what caused it.  An explosion.  Mine explosions are caused by methane and/or coal dust.  I've read that the men had entered a previously abandoned part of the mine.  If that's true, it means that methane, which comes directly from the coal, was likely the cause rather than coal dust.  In either case, though, ventilation is the direct preventive measure.  It looks likely that the men entered and began work in the area without properly testing for methane and/or ventilating the area to rid it of methane.  

Third, this mine has a history of bad safety practices which is ALWAYS an indicator of poor management.  Others have pointed out that the present owners are new and have taken the new owners word that they have made improvements, at face value.  But there is also evidence that violations were occuring after the purchase.  

Fourth, there may be some safety issues that aren't immediately curable but most (not all) are "behavior based" i.e., they have more to do with what people do (and are allowed to do) while others are "resource based" i.e., the nature or condition of the equipment.  My point is that the behavior based violations (not ventilating properly, not following the roof control plan, working on equipment without locking and tagging it out, etc.) are almost immediately curable.  Managers simply go to supervisors and workers and say something like, "You either follow good safety practice or find another job.  No exceptions.  No excuses.  None.  Ever. Period."  And they provide training.  And they reward and promote workers and managers on the basis of safety performance.  And they go into the mine to see if there instructions are being followed.  A lot.  So, if bad safety practices by workers are allowed to continue, it's management's fault just as it would be if poor production practices were allowed to continue.  And not ventilating is a bad practice that's easy to catch.  (I can almost guarantee that this wouldn't have been the first time the workers and supervisors didn't ventilate.  Even if they weren't doing it regularly during regular production, the need to ventilate abandoned areas is especially important.)

Fifth, in my experience in the mines, there are managers who take a good approach to safety.  But there are many others...too many others...who have a "to hell with safety, just get the coal out" attitude.  (Most are somewhere in between.)  For these owners and managers (and for those in between, as well) you HAVE to have an external agency to enforce good safety practice.  An agency backed by laws that can send folks to jail for negligence.  An agency with leadership that supports rather than undermines the mission to keep miners safe.  Leadership that is active in pursuing that mission.  Leadership that says, "Our job is to keep workers safe."  

What happens, though, when those agencies are weakened?  What happens when Bush appoints, not someone steeped in knowledge of safety in mines, but an industry lobbyist with a history of supporting mine owners' efforts to reduce safety regulations?  What message does that send to mine operators?  How does that message affect their management approach?  Are they likely to think, "Well, the agency that used to press me to manage these operations safely is likely to be less attentive to that mission so I'm going to need to be all the more attentive?"  Or are they going to be thinking like the mine owner who told me in '79, "I'll be glad when Reagan beats Carter because he'll get rid of all these goddam safety rules."  (Trust me, that particular owner wasn't resentful because the regs got in the way of his own comprehensive safety program.)

So, did Bush directly cause the deaths of those miners?  No, but we elect Presidents to get things done.  What this President has done is repeatedly appoint people who are inclined represent the interests of the country club set at the expense of worker health and safety.  Agency directors who promulgate a culture of "profits before people". This is his culpability.

by Chagrin Rick 2006-01-05 04:23AM | 0 recs
Thank you for the first hand information
First, my point in posting the statistics was to counter the accusation that Bush had gutted mine safety - if that were true you would expect that mines would have a worse safety record overall under Bush than previously. The lack of such a trend at least partly rebuts this view point.

Before I draw conclusions either way, however, I would really like to know what the safety problems at the mine were - people have been quoting different numbers, but no one has (to my knowledge) said exactly what the problems were or how severe they were.

Can you shed any light on that, or provide a link to more information?

by ObviousTroll 2006-01-05 11:17AM | 0 recs
Blame the Right-Wing Bloggers
For caring more about kissing up to right-wing power than anyone they might kill, damage or maim.  How these people have the chutzpah to be so accusatory after the government breakdown that was Hurricane Katrina is beyond me.  An entire city experiences death, destruction and displacement, and what do they say?  Too bad those folks couldn't afford SUVs.  

It is SO their fault.  They have the government they deserve, and the rest of us have to do something about it.

by clb72 2006-01-05 11:13AM | 0 recs
Untrue, you Republicans need a different angle.
Alright, I'm going to make this short, sweet, and to the damned point.  Bush wasn't responsible for the death of those miners, however he is responsible for making their environment harder to work in.  For those of you that don't do manual labor, there is a person called a FOREMAN, he is there to make sure that all his workers are following government and health safety regulations to the book, well if those health and safety regulations aren't up to par(cause bush's party shot the good rules down in flames), because our idiot ass in the white house is going to lose a buck or too for safety, then obviously that foreman is only going to follow the rules that he has on his clipboard, IE - THE RULES AND REGULATIONS THAT THE GOVERNMENT MAKES.  Dammit!  You Republicans are so silly.  And its not like deathly silly or anything, just irritating the demons inside all of us fence sitters (I use this term now, as Democrats and Republicans are obsolete, can't you tell yet?  This whole world is going to hell in a hand basket because of money, greed, and power (mainly being a republican dominant issue, but bare with me, as I see a lot of great things with Republicans, and I see a lot of great things in Democrats).  But, Democrats think of themseleves to seriously, take the feminists as an example, they want to change the word mankind, to humankind (which is acceptable in my opinion), however they take themselves too seriously and want to change man hole cover, to person hole cover, etc... You get my point.  Republicans care way too much for money, and this is their draw back.  This is why i used the term fence sitter (I, along with my military friends and family consider ourselves inbetween what is Republican and what is Democratic, a balance of true democracy if you will).  Secondly, you idiot republicans that live in Oklahoma, or the middle of nowhere, need to stop fearing terrorism, the last time I heard about a terrorist attack in the boondocks is when cavemen were throwing spears at mammoths.  So, zip your damn lips and listen up.  I think that we should tear down this bi-partisan hokey pokey, and get rid of all the old guys in the govermnet, they seem to get older, richer, and all the while, their attention span is getting smaller.  I believe in most of the things that Democrats believe in, except gun control.  I am a firm believer that guns don't kill people, stupid idiots with guns kill people.  Have you guys (republicans and democrats) even been paying attention to the war in the middle east?  I have 8 friends, 3 in the Navy SEALS, 3 in the Marine Corps, and 2 in the Army Rangers.  We seriously don't know what is really going on there, they told me stories and emails, and believe me, it made my hair turn white (the whole objective of this terrorist hunt/invasion of the middle east is for oil, sorry, they don't care about us, I mean JHC, the Bush family has been in the Arab's pocket book even before the first bush was president. So in all honesty, do you think Bush cares about those poor coal workers families that now have to scrape and scrounge around to make it through their lives?  Probably not.  Would a Democratic President care either?  Probably not.  It's time for change people, wake the hell up and stop being so defensive.  Its time for change, and its time to start respecting this world, besides blowing it all to hell. One of the major reasons for the United States of America being where it is today is from the Industrial Revolution, oh yeah, go pick-up a damn history book and read it, better yet watch the Abe Linoln story on the history channel, this is how our president is supposed to be, not this lying, back stabbing (don't even ask me for examples, or i will fill 8 pages next time, with proof and Bibliographies, so you can all go do your damn research, but you probably won't if your a Republican, because your going to check your bank account after this, and then get mad because they took 19% of your pay for taxes, and cry about it).   Gee you think we could ever have the government take care of our medical like a majority of other democratic nations?!  IE, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, England, Canada, hell even parts of mexico.  I say this, in reference to the wonderful and mind boggling article that Scott wrote.  Yes, I agree with Scott that Bush defenitally had a role in what happened to those miners. But on the other hand, it would have been avoided if our government God Heads, would stop carring about how much the USD is worth versus the Euro and start caring about what is really important.  The damned human race.  And another thing, when your Republican leader says "oh we went after what we thought was important", that usually means that they went after the money, you idiots.
by Elite Knowledge 2006-01-15 09:48PM | 0 recs
Re: How Bush Failed the Sago 13
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by bombi 2006-12-18 01:38AM | 0 recs


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