The Sago Mines: Negligence by the Republicans

I want to follow up on Scott's post on the mining deaths.  Leon H at Redstate went apoplectic at Scott's reasoned discussion of the mining accident.  I consider Redstate the smartest right-wing site on the internet; it's run by professional right-wing consultants who see politics as a blood sport. In this case, they are scared of the Sago mining accident because of what it reveals.  

Leon H's post against Scott just gets the facts wrong.  He posits that government regulation of the mines were working, since the mine had been fined 208 times in 2005.  Apparently, this was simply an act of God, with no responsiblity for anyone involved.  Leon H says this about the fines:

A reasonable man who knows next to nothing about coal mining, or the coal mining industry, but I'll grant the fact that a mine which has been fined 208 times (I believe this is within a 2 year period) ought to have at the very least been fined into oblivion.

The Sago mine generated $15.7 million through the third quarter for the International Coal Group.  The company has been fined $24,000 through 2005, and has paid $14,500 of that.  It's pretty obvious that failing to ensure the safety of their workers is profitable for the International Coal Group.

A self-described reasonable man like Leon H assumes that fines mean something.  In this case, they don't.  Government is broken, by design of the right-wing and George Bush.  Mine safety was compromised.  And so people died.

That's the reality of the Republican leadership.  And let me just offer, to all principled conservatives out there, you may one day need the protection of the legal and political system against a large employer that has invested in political corruption, as the mining companies did.  Keep that in mind.  Acts of God happen, there's no doubt, but we have means in modern America to prepare for them and mollify their consequences.  Let's not forget in reflexively defending a President who fails in his job.  There will be other Republican Presidents in the future, and your credibility is on the line here with those people who will have to face the legacy of Bush every day of their Presidency.

Tags: Republicans (all tags)



So, how do you account for the fact that
mining fatalities have been declining since Bush became president?

I believe those statistics were posted in the original thread; so it's not as if you couldn't have seen them.

Bush's record on workplace safety overall isn't quite so rosy - after declining for the previous 10 years, workplace fatalities stopped declining around the time Bush became president. But mining fatalities continued to decline.

I also notice that you don't mention that the current owners of the mine have only had it for a few months and that the previous owners were bankrupt - and what I've read indicates that it was the previous owners that racked up the safety violations. (I could be wrong on that, however, I have yet to see a detailed analysis of exactly what safety violations there were in the Saga mine and when they became a problem.)

by ObviousTroll 2006-01-05 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: So, how do you account for the fact that
ObviousTroll, I recommend you run down to the local community college and sign up for a course in statistics.  You seem to want to imply that Bush's strategy of relaxing regulation and cutting mine safey enforcement budgets somehow directly resulted in an increase in mine safety, a concept that is ridiculous on its face, and would require a much longer historical trend to have any statistical significance.  I moved into a new home about the same time Bush entered office, but I'm not going to claim that event had an influence on mine safety statistics.

Accidents, by their very nature, tend to occur in random patterns.  The US has gone several years without a major airline disaster, but as a frequent flyer I'm not interested in relaxing commercial airline maintenance regulations based on a couple years of good data.

by jcsinclair 2006-01-05 11:27AM | 0 recs
Nice straw man.
There's a difference between saying "statistics show Bush made the mines safer" and saying "you have no evidence for the claim that Bush made the mines worse."

You have made very strong claims that Bush has made the mines less safe, but the statistics show that there is little evidence to back that up.

That is what I am saying - you are making accusations without proof.

by ObviousTroll 2006-01-05 03:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Nice straw man.
You'all need to go BACK TO SCHOOL, which assumes you went in the first place, and study some statistics. If you understood the math you would see that your argument is without validity. You cannot make arguments on this data without understanding sampling and standard regression for starters.

Kinda like the guy I had an argument with recently over whether or not we had "invaded" Iraq of not.

One thing is clear: These folks died on Bush's watch. He bears some responsibility for the actions of his governmental APPOINTEES does he not.

Oh, sorry I forgot....IOKIFYAR.

Wonder if the relatives would agree.

by Pericles 2006-01-05 06:18PM | 0 recs
Sonny, I went to school, got my degrees
and I've been working with statistics longer than you've probably been alive. For the kind of discussion we're having your arguments are pure strawmen - and you still haven't provided any actual evidence that Bush's actions have a causal relationship with the Sago mine disaster.
by ObviousTroll 2006-01-06 04:30AM | 0 recs
These fines were nothing more than a CYA memo
Given the numbers here it is obvious that these fines acted as nohting more than a CYA (cover your ass) for those who were were doing the fining.  The fines clearly did nothing to stop any operations and consequently failed to protect those whom it REALLY was supposed to protect.  Is anyone aware of the labor union for these particular workers (given the demographics here I take it upon the commuity to know a significant amount more about the unions than I do) and what if anything it was doing to protect the workers.  What sort of affect has the dismantling of union power had in this incident?
by Mark J. Bowers 2006-01-05 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: These fines were nothing more than a CYA memo
Gee, the company made over $1,000 on the mine for each dollar it made in fines.  What an incentive.  Sure.  Compaere the $14,000 in fines to the million dollars a day paid by the TWU in New York City.

The United Mine Workers is probably the union for these coal workers.

by David Kowalski 2006-01-05 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: These fines were nothing more than a CYA memo
Update:  This is a non Union mine. Something made clear on the UMW web site although not on the front page (see statements).

Suburban Guerilla links investors in the mine with contributing over 1 million to Republicans vs. $25,000 to Democrats.  This includes linked companies, etc. The data MAY be a bit iffy as the name is AEI not ICG.  

The most prominent investor, Wilbur Ross, is linked to the NY Republican establishment.  His wife, Betsey McCaughey, was George Pataki's first Lt.-Gov. but broke with Pataki and ran unsuccessfully on the Liberal ticket against Pataki.  She claims to have played a prominent role in the killing of the Clinton health care role through her "analysis."

by David Kowalski 2006-01-05 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: These fines were nothing more than a CYA memo
Thanks for doing the dirty work for me.  One of the things that I love about this place is that I can put something in go away for hours (When I bartend I don't have significant sources of data from which to research these things) and get an answer.  
by Mark J. Bowers 2006-01-05 09:02PM | 0 recs
Mining, death, and politics
My take on this (crossposted at Bill Camarda's Blog)

What is politics for?

Politics is to make the world a better place. Otherwise, what the hell's the point?

Case in point: the tragic, horrific deaths in the Sago mine in West Virginia.

In the past few days, we have been reminded by the mine's owners that mining is no longer "even in the top 10" of the most dangerous jobs in America.

For hundreds of years, it was. What changed? Mine workers organized themselves into the United Mine Workers. And the Democratic Party (along with the occasional Republican -- nowadays, I supposed you'd call `em "Republicans in Name Only") worked to establish rules and regulations to protect them.

In other words: politics.

If you think mining would have gotten safer if it had been left entirely up to mine management, you're so naïve it's a wonder you managed to grow up.

Now, what can we learn from the Sago mine disaster to keep it from happening again?

1. Investigate thoroughly and independently. We don't know yet why this happened. Bring in the technical experts and scientists. Make sure they're given a chance to work unfettered by the industry. That's common sense. But, with the Bush administration in charge, it's a lot to ask. Look at what happened to Jack Spadaro, the widely-admired superintendent of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy who Bush's people hounded out after he told the truth about a disastrous coal mining leak in Kentucky.

It's not "politics" to tell that story. It's just the truth.

Since the Bush administration has a record of interfering with impartial investigations of the mining industry, demand that Congress supervise closely. ("Trust, but verify": where have I heard that before?)

Which brings me to point #2: Get the foxes out of the chicken coop. As soon as he took office, Bush packed the federal government's mining regulatory apparatus with mining executives. Long-planned mine safety rules were systematically and peremptorily abandoned. Budgets and staffing were cut. Aggressive inspections were discouraged. "Industry partnerships" became the watchword.

(Kinda like telling federal labor inspectors they need to give Wal-Mart advance warning of any inspections! You're laughing. Bush did that, too. But that's another blog entry.)

As we work on getting the foxes out of the chicken coop, we might want to revisit those Clinton rules from a more objective, less self-interested viewpoint. It could well turn out that some of them would have saved these lives.

Finally, point #3: You get what you incent. You don't get what you disincent. Simple market economics.

Over the past two years, the Sago mine was charged with 205 orders and citations for health and safety violations, 96 carrying a "significant and substantial" risk of death or injury. And fined $24,000. That's less than $120 a fine.

Subject to deeper analysis, what does this tell you? That the cost of the fines was far lower than the cost of fixing the problems. Low enough to make them a mere inconvenience: just a (deductible) cost of doing business.

OK, what does this tell you about the likely solution? Raise the fines. Make `em hurt. Especially for mines where, as in Sago's case, the violations have been ongoing and worsening.

Three simple points. Each focused like a laser on one positive goal: making mines safer. Each of `em pointing up the difference between Democrats and George Bush. Politics? Damn straight. Politics that does what it's supposed to do: make life better for people who need and deserve the help.


By the way, see the Christian Science Monitor's article on Sago today...

by bcamarda 2006-01-05 12:09PM | 0 recs
I was a Coal Miner Near this Mine:Bush Failed Them
I would also add even more so the company failed them. Furthermore this was a nonunion mine and that too elimanated any voice these miners had in the safety issues involved. I worked ten years as an underground coal miner, several of them in a union mine about thirty miles away. Basically these miners died because the company and the labor department (and by extension the Bush administration) failed to enforce the minimal standards here. Explosions in coal mines happen because there is an ignition source and that ignition reaches coal dust. One tablespoon of coal dust in one cubic foot of air equals one stick of dynamite. Explosions can be prevented by mixing coal dust with limestone dust (called rock dust). These were essentially the violations cited by MSHA. MSHA actually has the power to shut down a mine until these conditions are corrected. Instead under the Bush administration MSHA has "worked with" management, by issueing small fines and giving companies ample time to "correct the violations."

Various trolls here have cited numbers indicating "fatalities" fell under Bush. The numbers they cite don't reflect what they seem to think they do. First of all what has happened over the past two years has been something quite unusual. We have had back to back mine disasters. (A mine disaster is when two or more miners die). In Pennsylvania a mine flooded and the miners were rescued, so a disaster was averted by the rescue, At Sago that did not happen. Mine disasters represent system failures. In Pennsylvania it was mine maps that weren't properly kept, hence the flood, here the mine itself was not properly maintained. These are big deals when they occur because whole shifts are threated as a result. Since the Mine Safety and Health Act was passed these have become exceedingly rare. Most underground coal miners die individually in roof falls.

Here are the average mine deaths per thousand miners employed per year by administration.
                         Mean         Percent Change
Nixon/Ford        0.73                  
Carter                0.52                   -29%
Reagan/Bush     0.43                   -18%
Clinton              0.31                   -29%
Bush II               0.29                   - 6%

You will have fewer deaths if fewer miners are working, so you adjust the numbers to reflect employment. What stands out here is that in every administration since Carter there have been  double digit percent falls in this number. While with Bush II it is almost zero. There are powerful technological reasons why, since Carter, this number would fall. In underground mining there has been a shift a technology called longwall mining which means miners always work under a secured roof. There has also been a shift to surface mining which is safer than underground mining. If MSHA enforcement remained the same while these trends continued we would continue to see double digit falls in deaths per thousands. It is not the same. Furthermore these numbers only cover through 2004. With this mine disaster, and the same performance as the first term, Bush might well be the first adminstration to see an actual rise in deaths per thousand. One more accomplishment to add to his legacy.

by coalminer 2006-01-05 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: I was a Coal Miner Near this Mine
Fantastic work, coalminer. Can you provide a source for the deaths/thousand?
by sdedeo 2006-01-05 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I was a Coal Miner Near this Mine
The source is the same as the data provided by the Troll, you can find it on the MSHA site. I divided the fatalities by the the number of coal miners and multiplied by a thousand. I used data that ran from 1973 through 2004. I averaged data by administration using years in office. I was actually quite surprised by the results. But a bit of thought, led me to the conclusions.
by coalminer 2006-01-05 02:05PM | 0 recs
He got his results the same way I did
go to the BLS and grab the reports and do the math. The only difference is coalminer grouped them by administration rather than by year, and gave the results as per/thousand instead of per/ten thousand.
by ObviousTroll 2006-01-05 03:52PM | 0 recs
Good post, but I still disagree.
First, I think we agree on the numbers and I accept that the rate of change in the fatality rate has slowed since Bush became president. (I apologize if I did not make that clear, I've been having the same conversation on two different sites and it gets confusing).

Second, let me make sure I understand what you are saying. You are saying:

  1. Mine fatalities due to normal accidents are decreasing due to improvements in technology and techniques.
  2. Mine disasters have become more likely because Bush gutted the MSHA.


Okay - I admit, up front, that I do not have the background you claim to have. That said, I note that the CDC defines a "mine disaster" as an accident with 5 or more fatalities. Not a big deal, but it's their numbers I'm looking at.

According to them, there were no coal mine disasters, at all, between 1992 and 2001. Since then there has not been another till Sago - so, 9 years then 4 years. You mentioned a near miss in 2004, but the CDC doesn't track those so I can't figure that into my data. Anyway, there have been two disasters in the first 5 years of the 21st century, there was 1 in the 1990s and then 9 in the 1980s.

Looking at this, all I am comfortable in saying is that mine safety during the Reagan administration sucked big time; but given the irregular nature of disasters it is not clear to me that two in 5 years is a clear sign that Bush is just as bad.

Please don't get me wrong - I did not vote for Bush, and I will not defend him if the data clearly says that the MSHA could have prevented this calamity. But the data I have seen so far does not support that conclusion and I dislike it when people waste political time and energy chasing chimera rather than focusing on what can be proven and what can, for example, have an impact on the next election.

by ObviousTroll 2006-01-05 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Good post, but I still disagree.
Let's get the "claim" part out of the way. I worked at the Kitt mine in Phillippi West Virginia for a number of years. It went through a couple of owners, first Republic Steel and then Old Ben Coal. Before that I worked in two nonunion mines in Preston County West Virginia owned by Preston Energy.

As far as you data; you missed a third-The Brookwood Mine Disaster in Alabama that happened shortly after 9-11 . It should be in the data youj have. so in about six years of data you have 3 mine disasters with a one being a "near miss." Would 3 in 5 qualify? It was a miracle that anyone survived the PA flood. They literalyy were saved within an hour of when they would have died. I am merely outraged, not focusing on Chimera's of whatever sort. I know that people will forget these deaths. And I doubt any ture accountability will occur. But an injustice should not be forgotten for mere political expediancy.

by coalminer 2006-01-09 01:03PM | 0 recs
Re: I was a Coal Miner Near this Mine:Bush Failed
"I would also add even more so the company failed them. Furthermore this was a nonunion mine and that too elimanated any voice these miners had in the safety issues involved."

This is exactly what the son of one of the miners said when he was interviewed by matt lauer on the today show. It seemed to me that matt tried to move the discussion away from the union talk as quick as he could, he wanted to talk about the personal angle of the tragedy. But it was good to here someone saying on national TV how important unions are.


by keith johnson 2006-01-06 04:59AM | 0 recs
Sago Mine
Coal deaths for 2001-2005 for the US and WVa are
42/14  27/6  30/8  28/12  22/3

This mine was acquired in 11/02 by ICG (stock symbol ICO) so the revenue figures from above are not for the current owner. The mine did not operate in 2002 or 2003, (the WVa. mine website shows no production). Since the inspections were regularly occurring but the infractions weren't deemed to necessitate closure, I have a tough time making the leap to this being the government's fault. There are enough other things that are far more serious (although obviously not to the people in WVa.) particularly the continued lack of up-armored Humvees and body armor. The latest defense appropriation bill contained a provision to reimburse the families $1100 for body armor.When is the last time the army couldn't provide adequate equipment to the soldiers?

Wilbur Ross is a Democrat and has been for a long time,he divorced McCaughey when he wouldn't cough up the money for her to run for office.The guy is in no way a Bush crony (per NewYork magazine).

by Tom Swift 2006-01-05 12:54PM | 0 recs
The Sago Mines: Negligence by the Republicans
"There will be other Republican Presidents in the future, and your credibility is on the line here with those people who will have to face the legacy of Bush every day of their Presidency."

Yes. You can be sure that they will get there via the coal mining towns of WV, KY and VA...after he preaches "moral values." Some of the folks who lost loved ones at the mine will also vote for the GOP candidate. These people will never learn.

by Boilermaker 2006-01-05 03:43PM | 0 recs
At last Matt Gets it
Scott Shields started this thread, and Matt Finishes it. Classic! good work.

There is a dimension to liberalism that involves being a citizen of a planet, that can get hit by asteroids - that prepares for disasters by building huge spaceships to escape the earth.

Thats the one thats cool. Think for a second. This mine paid, what - 24,000.00 ? And they were an unsafe mine. Slap on the wrist.

No wonder Representative CORNYN of TEXAS wanted to add onto the KATRINA RELIEF BILL the ability of COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS IN PENNSYLVANIA to pollute the air more, with more mercury -

There is a process, that is abused, which is driving the corruption , and that is that each and every bill gets turned into 10,000 pages of pork. As a result, these companies can hire wordsmiths like Matt Stoller to spin and spin various small pieces of the bills around so that the constituency gets all lathered up about it, case in point "the death tax" out of the estate tax.. a moniker that helped cut federal tax revenues significantly and is contributing to underfunded levees in New Orleans in its own way.

This process needs to be corrected.


by turnerbroadcasting 2006-01-06 12:18AM | 0 recs
Coal Mine Safety
Sago Outrage is a maillist, gathering supporters. We plan to put the issue of the safety of coal miners, and by extension the safety of all working people, on the national agenda.

Here's the first message, an overview of the Sago disaster:

If you're concerned that there's no justice for coal miners, please join Sago Outrage:


richard myers
Moderator, Sago Outrage
Denver, Colorado

by Richard Myers 2006-01-25 11:39AM | 0 recs
by sarah22 2006-08-01 11:33AM | 0 recs
by koana1 2006-08-14 09:41AM | 0 recs


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