Bush's FEMA-ly values

The safe and sensational news story behind the tragic deaths of 12 miners trapped in a West Virginia coal mine is that initial reports declared that the miners had survived. Family members wept tears of joy and church bells rang. No, literally, church bells rang.

Then, suddenly, "by 3 a.m. mine company chief Ben Hatfield announced that 12 of the 13 were dead." The cousin of one miner, Anna Casto, made comments that indicated the early announcements came from Hatfield: "No, he strictly told us they was alive... Three hours later he come back and said they wasn't."

An outrage and a tragedy and one can only hope that for the sanity of the family members investigators get to the bottom of the "miscommunication." Casto said: "We have got some of us ... saying... that we don't even know if there is a Lord anymore," she said. "We had a miracle, and it was taken away from us."

But there's another story here -- a more familiar one. The Sago Mine's safety record was far worse than the national average. Ellen Smith writes:

"The national average for mining accidents (non-fatal days lost) in 2004 was 5.66 per 200,000 manhours worked. The Sago Mine, which was owned by Anker West Virginia Mining Co. at that time, had an accident rate of 15.90. In 2005, Sago's accident rate increased to 17.04, and 14 miners were injured."
So why didn't they do anything about it? Or, more to the point, why was this mine allowed to continue to operate?

The answer is a familiar one: because the incompetence and greed of the Bush administration led to the appointment of coal industry executives to oversee the industry. Wolves watching the henhouse is the expression, I believe.

Kevin Drum quotes from a Clara Bingham article from, sadly, a year ago:
"Bush also demonstrated his friendship to industry leaders when he awarded the top job at MSHA to an executive with Utah's Energy West Mining Company, David Lauriski, whose top two deputies would also be recruited from mining companies. The woman who would become their boss, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, is the wife of Kentucky's Republican senator Mitch McConnell, a long time political ally of coal companies."
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