I saw the news today about the deaths of three rescuers in the Utah coal mine, and after the initial burst of sorrow for them and their families I thought about the incredible sense of commitment miners must have to each other – much like soldiers, firefighters and LEO’s. It’s something that’s there within our society, but is too often buried – our commitment to protect and rescue each other. I’d read about the instability in the mine – either seismic or due to roof failure, I certainly don’t know – and I’d thought about the risks those teams of workers were taking for their colleagues who they may not have even known personally. I wish I’d been wrong about the risks they were taking…
My next thought was to wonder when the first article or blog post blaming this on Bush would come out…and I wish I’d been wrong about that as well…At 10:50 this morning, let me bring you the Liberal Avenger:
Letâ€™s keep in mind that this accident was completely preventable, but efforts to regulate mine safety in the wake of several mine tragedies in 2006 were derailed by corruption and an anti-regulatory mindset within the Republican party. President Bush signaled his unwillingness to regulate the coal mining industry when he appointed Richard Stickler as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety…
So in the wake of series of fatal mining disasters, the Bush administration decided to circumvent the nomination process in order to put a former mining executive in charge of enforcing mining regulations. Is anyone surprised by the result?
Well, I sure as heck was when I did a little research back in 2006.
So in the news recently are the mining tragedies that have killed 21 miners so far this year. And a lot of coverage has focused on the lower fines, and perceived lax enforcement by an industry-friendly Administration.
So I started a post on the importance of re-regulating the industry, and toughening regulation to save miner’s lives.
And I went to the Mine Safety & Health Administration to trend out the pattern of deaths.
And got the data that made up this somewhat surprising graph:
I updated the graph to include 2006 data and annualized the 2007 data as of 8/13/07:
Look, I may not like the industry cozyness of Bush’s appointments in this area. And maybe there are exogenous factors that are driving the decline in deaths.
But the deaths are declining. And to ignore that is just plain bullshit. Just as it’s bullshit to cite rising troop suicide rates without noting that they remain below those of the civilian population.
Does that mean we shouldn’t look hard at mine and industrial safety? Absolutely not. Of course we need to keep looking at it. Just as we need to look at the psychic welfare of the troops.
But it’s bullshit, pure and simple, to make arguments like this. First, because they are so easy to pick apart – and if you care about worker safety or about troop well-being, you have an obligation to make good arguments in favor of those things.
There was just news about a newsroom in Seattle that erupted in applause when Rove resigned; the editor wrote a perfect memo explaining why that was wrong:
If we wore our politics on our sleeves in here, I have no doubt that in this and in most other mainstream newsrooms in America, the majority of those sleeves would be of the same color: blue. Survey after survey over the years have demonstrated that most of the people who go into this business tend to vote Democratic, at least in national elections. That is not particularly surprising, given how people make career decisions and that social service and activism is a primary driver for many journalists.
But if we allowed our news meetings to evolve into a liberal latte klatch, I have no doubt that a pathological case of group-think would soon set in. One of the advances of which I’m most proud over the years is our willingness to question and challenge each other as we work to give our readers the most valuable, meaningful journalism we can.
The result: A newspaper that is known nationally for aggressive watchdog and investigative reporting, without fear or favor. From a Democratic United States senator (Brock Adams) to our region’s biggest employer (Boeing) to a large advertiser (Nordstrom) to our school districts and courts and police, we have confronted them all with tough questions to which they had no good answers. The result has been a better community, laws changed, lives saved.
Itâ€™s not about “balance,” which is a false construct. It isn’t even about “objectivity,” which is a laudable but probably unattainable goal. It is about independent thinking and sound, facts-based journalism — the difference between what we do and the myopic screed that is passed off as “advocacy” journalism these days.
“It is about independent thinking and sound, facts-based journalism…” Wow. Can I just applaud that line?
And can I ask my fellow pundits to opine away – in fact encourage them to – in favor of worker rights, worker safety, and the well-being of the members of our military? But to do so in a way that’s rooted in provable fact?