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Sunday, January 08, 2006

STILL ON MY SOAPBOX ABOUT THE MINERS

When I finished the last two posts about Alley Oop and the angry one about the coal miners, I sat in my rocker to catch the CNN news before going to bed. I'm a night owl plus suffer from insomnia so 5 A.M. is not an unusual bedtime for me. I was still pumped up about the miners and their seemingly needless deaths but was simmering down a bit.

By sheer coincidence, CNN was just starting a special : "Hope and Heartbreak in the Sago Mining Tragedy." Egads! Here goes the blood pressure again.

Earlier in the evening I was chatting on the phone to a friend - no, that's a lie. I was on my soapbox ranting and raving about the mining incident. I will not call it an "accident", even though I know mining is one of the most dangerous occupations in the nation, and yes, accidents do happen. In an effort to defuse the situation, my friend reasonably pointed out to me that it was "only" a dozen men, that that tragedy in no wise compared to the 9/11 disaster nor the Katrina hurricane catastrophe, and I should try to see things in proper perspective. If she thought her sweet reason and logic (?) was going to make me be reasonable, she erred greatly. She merely poured fuel on the flame.

I was able to restrain my self from succumbing to a fleeting urge to slam the phone down in her ear, but I can't say that my restraint was due to good manners or the fact she had inspired me to greater heights of indignation and ranting. Hence, my post below about the miners. You can blame it on her.

The CNN special was both moving and enraging. Watching and listening once again the families and friends of those men suffer through their agonizing wait brought me to tears of sympathy and empathetic grief. Hearing the carefully worded reports about the mine fired my anger and Sheba the Cat, as my only audience, was forced to listen to my outbursts, which in true cat fashion ignored completely.

Twelve people, three thousand, or one. How do we weigh the value of a human life, especially if that one life is that of someone beloved to you?

I noted that West Virginia Governor Joe Manchi (D), was at a football game in Atlanta when he recieved the news of the explosion in the mine. He immediately left the game to fly back to W. Virginia. By 6:30 P.M. he was on site preparing to speak to the families of the miners.
For 12 men.

In contrast, what did our President do when he was advised of the New Orleans catastrophe? An entire American city, one of the nation's most important ports, with a huge human population. The worst natural disaster in our history. Oh, he did have his plane fly over the area on his way home after he gave his speech and finished his meeting, didn't he?
We won't even mention what he did when he was advised of the twin Towers horror. .

Report: That mine had been cited for 200 safety violationslast year, some "significant and substantial". 16 for inadequate monitoring of buildup of explosive gases. The injury rate is 3 times the national average.The mine owners said the methane levels were low so they didn't know what caused the explosion.There were lethal levels of carbon monoxide present, probably caused by the explosion ?

The mine was cited for the above violations. Is there no system in place to assure that the necessary safety protocols are implemented? Are there no laws and enforcement agency to force the owners to comply with safety standards? Is there no punishment for failure to do so, other than a buddy-buddy token slap on the wrist? Just like the BP explosion outside of Houston, Texas last year. That company had been cited numerous times over the years for safety violations and none of the recommended changes had been made.So people died.

When reporters asked why it took 20 hours for rescue operations to begin, it was announced in a stumbling voice that rescue efforts take time to assemble the teams, get the equipment, that it is a "troubling experience".No one faults the rescue teams for delaying entering the extremely dangerous, gas filled mine.It would serve no good purpose to send more men to their deaths.

I am ignorant of mining operations, but isn't there technology available for some sort of exhaust systems to help clear smoke and deadly gases more quickly? And since mining is such a hazardous operation, why don't the owners have emergency equipment at the ready since they know that explosions are possible? Why does it take so much time to get the equipment, assemble the teams?

Why did the President cut back the budget for the safety inspectors?. If their findings were useless, safety standards were not enforced, I suppose that's a good reason to cut back. Why did the Bush Administration relax the safety standards? Don't bother to answer that; we know why.

Who the heck is driving this bus? Sadly and infuriatingly, we know. Big business and money drives it, and if a few people get run over, oh well, c'est la vie.

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