"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lost but Well-founded

Somewhat overlooked in the sad tale of the dozen miners was the truly heroic - some would say saintly - character of their dying moments, as reflected in the notes they penned. Their thoughts were only to assuage the fears and pain of their families. The scene was redolent of Balaam's pronouncement: "May my spirit die the death of the righteous..." (Numbers 23:10)

Over at The American Spectator, I composed a brief paean to their lives and deaths.

Herewith the merest foretaste:

"Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor."


This was a very solid group of men; we need to mourn them and learn to appreciate more those that remain. They work hard and are not wont to complain. Nor do they come home and spew a gospel of resentment. Instead, they live a friendly small-town existence with strong religious affiliation: no atheists in that foxhole. Look at the beautiful letters that they left their families when they sensed that death was near. No bitterness, no complaint, just love and reassurance to parents, spouses and children. What does it tell you about the character of a person when his primary concern in his dying moments is to mollify his loved ones with the image of him passing painlessly?

Rest in peace.

31 comments:

Tlaloc said...

If we really want to honor their memory maybe we could start by reconstituting the government program charged with overviewing mine safety? Like virtually every other government watchdog it has been emasculated and loaded with industry shills since 2000.

connie deady said...

I have to echo Tlaloc on this one. Those people deserved better. The Administration has consistently cut funding for mine safety and inspection. This is a case where corporations desire for profit has to be checked by the government.

I live in the heart of Pennsylvania coal country. My husband's grandfather was a coal miner. The coal companies in PA were among the most greedy heartless rich people around. You want to know why people like me think wealthy, Republican, corporate types don't care about the common person (Katrina being a modern example) go watch the movie The Molly Maguires with Sean Connery and Richard Harris

Donna said...

My grandfather and uncles all worked in the coal mines. Thank you for your beautiful tribute to these humble and hard working people.

ex-democrat said...

Nice post, Jay. There was an interesting discussion of the subject over here http://yargb.blogspot.com/2006/01/character.html

tbmbuzz said...

In other words, if Gore or Kerry had been president the methane gas in the mine would not have exploded. Yeah, right.

Try googling miner deaths during Clinton/Gore vs miner deaths during Bush/Cheney.

I am not surprised that classless people have to spew their hate politics everywhere.

Hunter Baker said...

Buzz, I had a bit of a similar thought. I think it's wrong to take incidents like these and immediately tie them to a political program when it is not known whether the causality is there.

Tlaloc said...

"In other words, if Gore or Kerry had been president the methane gas in the mine would not have exploded. Yeah, right."

No we don't know that. What we do know is that Bush has gutted the MSHA. We furthermore know that the mine in question had a long history of poor safety. Therefore it is possible that a well functioning MSHA might have prevented the disaster. Then again even if it didn't prevent THIS disaster it may well have prevented others.



"Try googling miner deaths during Clinton/Gore vs miner deaths during Bush/Cheney."

Sure, overall mine safety has improved over the last ten years, that's to be expected. But by providing virtually no government oversight the other expectation has also come true: bad mines do not improve.

Tlaloc said...

"Buzz, I had a bit of a similar thought. I think it's wrong to take incidents like these and immediately tie them to a political program when it is not known whether the causality is there."

I agree we don't know what the causality is. But we do know the mine had a long record of poor safety. And we do know the MSHA under bush has reduced fines to a pittance- a fatal accident in kentucky resulted in a $440 fine. Four hundred and forty dollars for a screw up that cost someone their life. You think paying less than half a grand made any difference to the mining company? Of course not because the mine never paid it and the MSHA never went after them for it. So they killed a man through their sloppiness and suffered no consequence except for the trouble of hiring a new expendable employee.

Even if you don't know causality it is possible to know the environement in which the problem occured. Much as with the hurricanes last year. We don't which may have been caused or made worse by global warming but we know the overall intensity was far far above what we would predict by the past.

JC said...

This statement disturbs me more:
You want to know why people like me think wealthy, Republican, corporate types don't care about the common person (Katrina being a modern example) [...]
That's a gross generalization---much like a (hypothetical) extreme conservative claiming that "whiney, Democrat, immoral hippies don't care about the safety of Americans (9/11 being a modern example)"
Politics aren't that simple. Liberals emphasize privacy over security to widely varying degrees, and conservatives do the opposite. Liberals emphasize the rights of the individual more while conservatives are somewhat more concerned with keeping the economy running (which affects individuals just as much, but not as directly). Liberals want more "freedom" and "tolerance," while (American) conservatives want freedom but without the government condoning immoral or unethical acts.

Now, it's easy for either side to exaggerate the opponents' position and Nazify them. Civil people keep that to a minimum. In cases where the exaggeration argument (slippery slope) can be used both ways, it accomplishes nothing.
Examples.
1. "If the NSA can order a few warrantless wiretaps, it could/will order thousands." This is a good slippery slope argument. It only goes one way, since we could eliminate wiretaps to get off the slope. I'm not actually commenting on the NSA thing at the moment, it's just an example.
2. "If we let the government remove a few regulations, they could/will remove thousands until there is no safety anywhere---you heartless beast." The problem here is that the counterargument uses the same logic: "If we let the government add a few regulations, they could/will add thousands until we can't do anything---you bureaucrat."

My point is that the quote above is not logical; it's almost inflammatory in its generality. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't intend it that way.

Nidsu said...

I have a couple of simple questions.

When did it become the federal government's responsibility to protect every person from every danger?

Where in the Constitution of the United States does it say the the federal government will ensure that mines are safe, ensure the everyone's houses are rebuilt in case of disaster, ensure that no one needs to carry flood insurance, ensure that a city that is 12 feet below sea level will be safe when a Category 4 hurricane comes?

Maybe it is just me but I think that people don't take enough responsibility for themselves. Also, I think that there are certain responsibilites that happen to be state and local issues.

Tlaloc said...

"That's a gross generalization---much like a (hypothetical) extreme conservative claiming that "whiney, Democrat, immoral hippies don't care about the safety of Americans (9/11 being a modern example)""

It is a gross generalization when applied to all conservatives, absolutely. It is not at all a generalization when applied to the GOP power structure. That power structure exists for only one purpose to further it's own power. The democrat power structure is the same. Where they differ is in the power groups they have aligned to. The GOP is aligned with the fundamentally anti-human big business while the dems are aligned with organized labor and identiy politics groups.

Would we be better off without both? Surely. But if we have to choose I'll take the whiney PC police over the GOP slavers any day. Why won't you?

It's not like the GOP even pretends to be conservative anymore in any real sense of the word. They have become admitted fascists celebrating a corporate controlled big government machine with no regard for individual liberty.

There ar many conservative ideals that are honest and decent. ALl of them have been betrayed by the GOP. SO you have to ask if you are a Republican or a conservative, it is simply no longer possible to be both.

Tlaloc said...

"When did it become the federal government's responsibility to protect every person from every danger?"

Who else can hold mine companies responsible? There is no other entity with the power to match that of big business. So you either let them run unchecked (in which case we'll get a first hand demonstration of darwinism in action) or you check them with the government. Or you get rid of big business and government both.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Silly me. I thought that we could all use the fresh air of a non-political subject.

JC said...

Sorry Jay, those are few and far between. Surely you heard people complaining about mine safety as soon as there was an accident? Or about the government's response in the midst of the tragic hurricanes? Hardly anything is non-political anymore. But I see your point.

Tlaloc said...

"Silly me. I thought that we could all use the fresh air of a non-political subject."

Everything is politics Jay, you know that. Besides which this is a political blog. Don't fight your raison d'etre.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

I would like to thank JC for adding common sense to the discussion here.

Nidsu is right on target.

I could claim that the US Govt. is killing people by having a speed limit above 5mph ... but I won't. :)

connie deady said...

When did it become the federal government's responsibility to protect every person from every danger?

Then I guess I'm right that the Republicans generally don't care about miners?

Last time I looked the Republican Congress has passed oodles of anti-crime bills, mandatory DUI laws, mandatory steering wheel locks, etc.

No I don't think it's the federal goverment's job to keep everyone safe. In fact, I think they have usurped at lot of crime and public safety obligations that belong to local governments.

Shall we abolish meat inspection? the FDA, whatever the name is of the people who investigate and regulate airlines and other public transportation?

The issue ALWAYS is not whether they should, they do, but to what ends, at what cost and to whose protection.

connie deady said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tbmbuzz said...

We don't which may have been caused or made worse by global warming but we know the overall intensity was far far above what we would predict by the past.


The first part of your statement is true, the second isn't. But let's not get into this again. You said your piece, I've said mine. Cheers!

Tlaloc said...

"The first part of your statement is true, the second isn't."

Actually both are true. It was the worst year for hurricanes in the history of all weather data. It had more hurricanes than ever before and more big storms than ever before.


"But let's not get into this again. You said your piece, I've said mine."

Sorry, I have no intention of letting you get away with distorting facts.

tbmbuzz said...

It had more hurricanes than ever before and more big storms than ever before.

This was not the statement I take issue with. It is not what you said at all. This is what you said: the overall intensity was far far above what we would predict by the past.

Not only was the overall intensity (whatever that means) not "far far above" what we would predict by the past, but the increase in frequency and intensity, in line with the 50-60 year KNOWN cycle, was amply predicted.

It is your hyperbole I take issue with.

Tlaloc said...

"Not only was the overall intensity (whatever that means) not "far far above" what we would predict by the past, but the increase in frequency and intensity, in line with the 50-60 year KNOWN cycle, was amply predicted."

Uh, no. See here:
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2484.htm

During the 2005 season the NOAA had to revise their estimates up repeatedly. That's not possible if the estimates were correct or high in the first place.


or see here:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0601_050601_hurricanes.html

"Forecaster William Gray of Colorado State University expects a busy summer in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Gray, a pioneer in long-range hurricane forecasting, thinks eight hurricanes will form during the season, which officially began today and runs to November 30.

Gray said four of those storms will become major hurricanes, with winds exceeding 111 miles an hour (178 kilometers an hour)."

Notice the prediction? 8 hurricanes and four of them major. What were the actual results? 13 hurricanes. 7 major. And that prediction was made on June 1st 2005. So even right on the edge of the hurricane season they underestimated the severity severely.

No hyperbole, just fact.

James Elliott said...

In other words, if Gore or Kerry had been president the methane gas in the mine would not have exploded. Yeah, right.
...
I am not surprised that classless people have to spew their hate politics everywhere.


Buzz, you have got to knock this crap off. It's total BS, rude, stupid, and it's no way to be taken seriously by anyone. Look at JC's first comment for an excellent example of how to be taken seriously by your opposition.

Where in the Constitution of the United States does it say the the federal government will ensure that mines are safe, ensure the everyone's houses are rebuilt in case of disaster, ensure that no one needs to carry flood insurance, ensure that a city that is 12 feet below sea level will be safe when a Category 4 hurricane comes?

Nidsu, this is along the lines of the dumbest "Little Green Footballs" comments. The Constitution is not the end-all-be-all of the law. You remind me of when I was 11 and broke Chad Brown's glasses. I spent like an hour telling the teacher, "There's nothing in the Constitution that says I have to pay for those!" Are you 11? Because otherwise, you need a new line of reasoning. Because otherwise, your line of reasoning is, "Those miners worked for a corrupt, unsafe company, and they don't deserve any kind of protection because by damn it makes my genitals feel big to blame other people for their bosses' negligence."

Nidsu is right on target.

God, CLA, and you'd been doing so well lately.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Let me see ... YOU break someones glasses then wonder if YOU have to pay for them?

Quite a leap of logic in comparing that situation with the mine disaster, don't you think?

James Elliott said...

CLA, it was a comment on Nidsu's understanding of the Constitution and what it contains, not an allegory to the mining situation. Don't be deliberately drafty 'twixt the ears.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

My point, and that of Nidsu I presume, is that of responsibility.

I don't believe s/he is absolving government (feds) but instead writing about his feelings regarding responsibility.

Thus, forgive me for misunderstanding your story about the glasses.

I hope you paid for 'em... :)

ps ... my apologies to the administrators for straying off coarse here.

James Elliott said...

Frankly, I fail to see where the argument of personal responsibility (or rather, the one you and Nidsu were trying to make) has any bearing. The mining company quite clearly eschewed any and all responsibility towards its workers. Without a government regulatory and oversight body, the only other recourse those miners would have would be to unionize (as in old-school union organizing) or to file a lawsuit. And if we had neither of those options any more (which seems to be something y'alls' party wants), what recourse at all would the miners have to correct the behavior of their employer? None. You're trying to refute Tlaloc by placing hte blame squarely on the miners.

The "Constitution" arguments that people like Nidsu use are blatantly juvenile - hence my anecdote. It's like saying "my employment contract doesn't say I can't hit you in the face, so I shouldn't face consequences if I do." It's just dumb.

connie deady said...

James, I didn't see anyone advocating that we eliminate meat inspections, or the FDA, or the FBI or the FCC, or airplane safety so apparently there is agreement that the federal government has some regulative responsponsibilities to ensure the protection of the general public.

But it's so much easier to say government shouldn't be involved in something when it's a policy you DON'T favor.

connie deady said...

Another mining accident with two missing miners. The mine had 95 safety violations in the past year, the most recent on December 20th.

James Elliott said...

But don't worry, because the Republicans will return a culture of personal responsibility and the mines will start being concerned for the safety of their employees.

Oh, wait...