National Politics

Fox + Henhouse = Tragedy


I am posting clips from this this Huffington Post article
without much additional comment. The article speaks for itself, particularly in light of yesterday’s terrible news out of Utah.

As you read what’s below, keep in mind that coal mining deaths started to decline in 1926
. That 80 year decline, which continued under both Republican and Democratic presidents, ended last year when 47 minors died, the most in a decade and the largest percentage increase in 107 years. And now, of course, we have this year, so far at 20. Another thing, after the Sago mine disaster, a series of new safety regulations were strongly recommended for the industry. But Richard Stickler, the man in charge of mine safety for the nation, declined to endorse them.

Okay, now here’s the article:

The man who will oversee the federal government’s investigation into the disaster that has trapped six workers in a Utah coal mine for over a week was twice rejected for his current job by senators concerned about his own safety record when he managed mines in the private sector.

President George W. Bush resorted to a recess appointment
in October 2006 to anoint Richard Stickler as the nation’s mine safety czar after it became clear he could not receive enough support even in a GOP-controlled Senate.

In the wake of the January 2006 Sago mine disaster in West Virginia, senators from both sides of the aisle expressed concern that Stickler was not the right person to combat climbing death rates in the nation’s mines.


Over the course of his career in the private sector, Stickler managed various mining operations for Bethlehem Steel subsidiary BethEnergy Mines, Inc.

The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette reported
in January 2006 that three workers died at BethEnergy mines managed by Stickler during the 1980s and 1990s.

Gazette reporter Ken Ward, Jr. wrote that in the worst of the incidents
, one mechanic was killed, and eight other workers were injured when the portal bus that was carrying them to the mine-shaft bottom derailed. A report later said the portal bus had not been properly maintained.


In addition to concerns about the safety record at his mines, Stickler also faced opposition from senators, union leaders and relatives of those killed in mine accidents who felt an industry insider should not oversee safety inspectors.

United Mine Workers of America President
Cecil Roberts said that miners “could not tolerate” another industry executive overseeing their health and safety.

“Too often these mining executives place priority on productivity, but fail to focus on miners’ health and safety,” Roberts told Mike Hall at the AFL-CIO’s blog in June 2006.

The wife and daughter of a miner killed at Sago
wrote a letter to lawmakers that same month urging them to reject Stickler’s nomination.

“Mr. Stickler is a longtime coal executive
and because of his connections with the coal industry, we are concerned that his primary objectives may be solely on compliance and production, not on miners’ health and safety,” Debbie Hamner and Sara Bailey wrote in a letter quoted by the Gazette.

Bush first nominated Stickler to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration
in September 2005. He received renewed attention from lawmakers following the Sago disaster. By May 2006 it was clear that Byrd and other Senate opponents would not allow Stickler’s nomination to pass, and Republicans withdrew a scheduled vote on his job.

In July 2006, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao hired Stickler as a consultant and adviser, but insisted through a spokeswoman that she was not attempting to circumvent the nomination process.

In August and September of the same year, the Senate twice voted to send the Stickler nomination back to the White House.

In October 2006, Bush used a recess appointment to install Sticklera decision that was quickly denounced by senators from both sides of the aisle.

What is wrong with these people that they consistently feel they know better than everybody else? This isn’t governance. It’s pathology.


  • I was going to comment on that myself later today on the other site. Pretty amazing ain’t it?

    I like Rick Pearlstein’s name for these people – “E Coli Conservatives.”

  • My dad used to provide rescue equipment and advice in coal mine explosions, and my grandfather managed over 12,000 miners and was highly recognized for developing innovative methods to hold up mine roofs, so I’ve learned a little bit about this subject along the way. I trusted them because they had experience in the field.

    So, when I read that you chose the authority of The Huffington Post–scatttered, smothered, and covered with put-up quotes from unions and Democrats, I wondered why you thought that their information would be accurate and unbiased and even relevant. That was a political article and had nothing to do with the engineering reality of this situation.

    Coal mining is a dangerous business. This disaster would have occurred whether or not Stickler had been appointed. And, pu-leeze, don’t confuse Democrats trying to “Bork” someone with people who are truly concerned about the welfare of miners.

  • Nope. It’s not a political attack. It’s an entirely personal attack aimed with extreme prejudice at the Bush White House—and their staggering pattern of malfeasance in so many different areas of governance that it defies rational explanation.

    As for Stickler, the Republican controlled Senate twice refused to confirm his appointment, so I’m certainly not slamming the Republicans. They didn’t want him either.

    Here’s what the conservative National Journal says:

  • Well, you should be. If all this mine safety was so essential, I’m sure that Bill Clinton and Al Gore would have put it into place–just like they would have shored up the New Orleans levees and anticipated 9-11.

    You can only do so much within practical limits. Have you ever seen a man walking on the beams of skyscraper under construction? Do something now before another one falls and Bush gets blamed.

  • Perspective
    Great, it’s the Bush’s fault for every mine tragedy in the US, because he put someone in place that the Democrats don’t like.

    Guess what, mining is dangerous, but not as dangerous as Agriculture where 832 workers died in 2006 and the fatality rate (per capita) is even higher.
    – 632 Foreign born Hispanics died from work place accidents in 2006

    Can we step back and look at the facts for a second and get some perspective.
    The coal mining injury rate is down for 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006.
    Last year 47 minors died in 2006 in the USA, while production grew.
    Fatalities for the last 6 years are far less than the previous 6 years under Clinton.

    Certainly every life is precious, but for perspective we should compare the 47 deaths in the US to China’s 4,746 deaths in coal mining accidents. (100 times more US)

    While we are at it – “MEN SHOULD BE PAID MORE” – 92% of all work fatalities are men even though women make up 46% of workforce.

    In 2006 we lost:
    1226 Construction workers
    832 Transportation workers
    646 Agriculture workers
    501 Government workers
    447 Manufacturing workers

  • Pokey is correct, mining is a very dangerous occupation, even in open pit mines. To blame a statistically insignificant uptick (except on the families involved of course) on any one person is stretching which makes this a political polemic, just as Senator Reid blaming the Minnesota bridge collapse on Bush in less than 36 hours was a political stunt in the worse possible taste.

    Now, I’ll sit back and watch the blathering lefties call Pokey, Woody and Me all kinds of names because we call this bulls**t exactly that, bulls**t.

    You might also note, that death rates for windturbine work was 32 in 2005. THIRTY TWO… Wind for chrissake.

    Celeste, I loves ya darlin’ but this was a hit piece, plain and simple.

  • Last night, of the three people killed in the rescue effort, one was a federal mine inspector, an “expert” who wouldn’t have gone down there himself, presumably, if anything were clearly out of the ordinary. He worked for the Bush admin. and so clearly, this isn’t a matter of blaming one party. Mining policies, like those which let the bridge collapse happen, have accrued over many years and decades.

    This changes the original intent of the post to turn it into another condemnation of the Bush administration, I hope. Not withstanding that I think he’s the biggest idiot when it comes to foreign relations, understanding other cultures, and hence policy; but I don’t think he can personally be blamed for every thing wrong in America — although he can be for federal spending issues, like depleting the fed budget in Iraq and turning New Orleans into a third world country.

    But he isn’t directly responsible for something at this level. Yes, the mine received recommendations to widen the collapsed posts some few months ago, but that was a business decision by the mine company (were they cheap?). But the lapse was clearly not so unusual as to require closing down the mine, or to prevent the fed “expert” from going down himself.

    It IS a call to more stringently re-examine a lot of federal priorities, from mine, bridge and levee engineering safety issues, to others that are accidents waiting to happen.

  • poplock: I cant believe you guys are fighting over what political party or ideology has some type of resonsibility on this one.

    That’s exactly what we’re saying, too. This is an ACCIDENT–not negligence by the Executive Branch, which was the intent of Huffington, and as repeated by this post, to imply. There isn’t any accident to which someone can’t point fingers–wrongly.

    Exp.: The car crash, caused by a drunk driver on the wrong side of the road, injured people because Bush didn’t mandate more car safety standards (which might increase the cost of the car by $3,000.) It’s so easy…but stupid.

    The only accident that I can blame on the administration is V.P. Cheney shooting the lawyer on the hunting trip.

  • Today’s News…. This is grim.

    LINK: Flooded Chinese Mine

    Saturday, Aug. 18, 2007 By AP
    (Beijing) — Water from a rain-swollen river poured into a coal mine in eastern China, leaving 172 miners trapped and feared dead…. A dike on the Wen river in Shandong province broke Friday afternoon, sending water flooding into the mine in the city of Xintai, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Work areas were submerged and the miners “had only slim chances of survival….” China’s coal mines are the world’s deadliest, with thousands of fatalities each year…. In China’s deadliest reported coal mine disaster since the 1949 communist revolution, an explosion killed 214 miners on Feb. 14, 2005, in the Sunjiawan mine in Liaoning province.

    Mining is dangerous. All reasonable efforts are taken to protect the miners of this country. Government safety violations, such as a stall being out of toilet paper, keep mine operators tied up in red tape rather than helping.

    Keep everything is perspective.

  • Well, I was pretty surprise that neither one of you guys made any negative comments on the couple of Mexicans killed.

  • V.P. Cheney shooting the lawyer wasn’t an accident. Cheney was drunk-stupid and should have not have shooting off a firearm period. There should have been a clear cut criminal filing on that incident. If I was in his shoes, I would have been ordered to leave my government position pending the outcome of the investigation on a non-paid status. I would be waiting for the CA or DA to prosecute the crap out of me. I would be stripped and banned from ever being an officer again. But then again, I’m not the V.P of the U.S. that sobered up and conspiring a story to get away. THere is no such word as negligence in the webster dictionary to the President or the VP guy.

  • Poplock, I’m surprised you were there to see Cheny “drunk.” Why didn’t you report it. Or, as is more likely this something you’ve heard but can’t substantiate? If you can, please do so. Thanks, ’cause I’ve not heard it before.

    As to the two Mexicans killed, no body rejoices in anybody getting killed our comment is that mining is inherently dangerous and no one should be surprised when there is a mining tragedy.

  • poplock, wouldn’t you rather have the immunity that Ted Kennedy had when he killed a girl when he was drunk?

    I have absolutely no idea why the nationality of the miners should make any difference to us. Perhaps you believe what others tell you rather than what you know to be true.

  • Ask the Secret Service on the 13 hours before the local Sheriff got called in. Dont ask me.
    Ted should get a boot in the ass too. If the facts say he is guilty, he has to go too. No excuses for anyone – Red-Blue-Donkey ears or Elephant Butt.

    Only when its an issue of the Mexican border security does nationality play a role….right?
    Tell your boy crooked eye Dick to run for an office in 08 – so the beans can get spilled.

  • Bush gots one DUI under his belt.
    Dick gots two DUI under his belt.
    That means that if I get one DUI on my raps, I’m cool.

  • No, Poplock, it’ll just mean you’re like Paris, Britney, Nicole, and Gore’s son — tacky company you don’t want to keep. UNLESS you become an elected official, THEN it’s cool. So you can say, “I’ve overcome my past.”

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