Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, May 21, 2010

  Rand Paul: Coal miners have gotta die

This ought to go down well in rural Kentucky, far from his suburban base. Rand Paul implied this morning on ABC that sometimes coal miners just have to die. That’s the upshot of Paul’s perverse assertion that Americans shouldn’t be so ready to blame the mining corporations for disasters that occur in their mines. After complaining that the White House is unfairly blaming BP for its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Paul added:

And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.

As a simple matter of fact, it always is someone’s fault when mining disasters occur. Mines are artificial. When they become deadly, it must be due to human agency. Nearly all deadly mining accidents in recent times are due ultimately to poor adherence to mining regulations, precisely because it costs money to uphold safety standards. No mining deaths are acceptable or excusable. Finding where fault lies in a mine disaster is exactly what the government should be doing, not looking the other way fatalistically.

Many commenters today have focused on Paul’s bizarre defense of BP, while nearly ignoring his even more shocking statement excusing the killing of coal miners. As environmentalists have warned for years, oil spills are a nearly inevitable part of offshore drilling (however badly BP screwed up in this case). It is not inevitable however that coal miners must die – at least not unless profits are put before safety. The notion that it’s a normal cost of business for a certain number of miners to die comes directly from the coal barons themselves. Even more than Paul has drunk deep from the oil companies’ wells, he has most shockingly imbibed the full ideology of the most ruthless coal corporations.

In his ABC comments Paul was trying to exculpate Massey Energy over the horrific disaster recently in one of its West Virginia mines, which took 29 lives. It was caused by methane gas buildup. Methane levels are strictly controlled for a reason. Had Massey wanted to spend the money, it could in fact have prevented any such buildup. The non-unionized Massey has long been notorious for its poor safety record. A single one of its mines in Pike County, Kentucky has been cited by MSHA for more than 3000 violations since 2005. This even though it appears from the immediate aftermath of the West Virginia disaster that inspections of Massey mines have been quite lax (MSHA suddenly began to find all manner of Massey violations that it had overlooked heretofore).

Rand Paul is simply indifferent or oblivious to the facts of the matter. Miners just gotta die because they do. That’s the privilege of the ideologue, to ignore the real world, actual history, and human suffering.

For Paul, an unfettered free market is a panacea for all of society’s problems…you know, the things created by government itself. Businesses can never be shown to be predatory or unscrupulous because that would tend to legitimize government regulation. Far better to let those miners perish, in the dark out of sight, than to rethink the purity of his ideology…not that it remains entirely pure whensoever the libertarian’s self-interest or personal preferences might be advanced through the agency of government. But hey consistency, hobgoblins and all that.

Speaking of consistency, political commentators in the corporate media have for more than a decade been insisting that the extremists on the right wing are mirrored by others on the left. That’s simply untrue. Specifically, there is no left-leaning equivalent of the fanatical Tea-baggers such as Rand Paul who would offer glib justifications for looking away when men are killed recklessly.

There used to be such leftists – all the way back in the 1930s, when some of Stalin’s apologists in America thought a few deaths here and there shouldn’t force them to rethink their rank ideology. But none of those clowns ever made their way into mainstream politics, most eventually smartened up and the rest long since faded into deserved obscurity.

By contrast, the unfettered-corporations-shall-be-our-saviours-but-taxes-are-the-spawn-of-satan kind of right-wingers have been very much with us without cease for more than a century. Their hold on the Republican Party is as strong as it has been for quite a while. There are plenty of these half-baked ideologues already serving in Congress, and now a truly pernicious version of this type has won the Republican Senatorial primary in Kentucky. There is no left-wing analog to the kind of craziness that has become mainstream within the Republican Party nationally, and there hasn’t been for decades.

Update: AP reporter Michele Salcedo interprets Rand Paul's comment on ABC as a reference to a smaller mine disaster at the Dotiki Mine in Kentucky, in which 2 miners died in a roof-collapse in April. Dotiki, operated by Webster Coal, has also been cited for safety violations many hundreds of times in recent months. Seventeen of those citations were for failing to secure the mine roof and walls adequately. And like Massey, the non-unionized Webster routinely contests many of the MSHA citations. The owner of Dotiki Mine, Alliance Resource Partners, has a miserable record of maintaining safety standards.

crossposted at

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