Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Instapundit's Challenged Analysis Of Mine Safety

One popular theme in the sureal world of the right wing political Blogs is a constant zeal to attempt to undermine the credibility of the MSM. The problem is that their attempts at undermining the MSM's credibility usually come up far short of influencing few more than the true believer's of the right wing gospel of myths and false doctrines.

Instapundit's latest attempt to hurt the credibility of the NEW YORK TIMES over a feature about mine safety really came up short. According to the Instapundit analysis, because somehow they claimed that that there were less deaths during the Bush Administration years than the Clinton years, there was a nonsensical attempt to make it appear that Bush Administration appointments of coal industry executives and lobbyists to major appointments has had no impact on mine worker safety. It was even claimed that less mine deaths occured during the Clinton years than the Bush years.

But this is a statisticly troubled analysis. There are thousands of less coal mine industry workers in states like West Virginia than during the Clinton years. When the number of deaths is based on the number of coal mine workers, there is no suubstantial change or difference in deaths where the death rate remains actually remains virtually constant.

The problem is also not addressed that Canada has made mining more safe than in the U.S. where higher mine safety standards are required. In a recent Canadian accident similar to the one that took 13 lives in the Sago Mine accident in West Virginia, every life of every Canadian miner was saved because of the use of a safe room where the miners waited until a successful rescue was launched. The Sago Mine not only did not have this higher safety standard, but was a nonunion mine in which a bankruptcy judge threw out the mining union when the previous owners declared bankruptcy. Union membership allows for job security from termination when safety complaints are made by workers. Nonunion miners will often say nothing about workplace safety problems because of fear of losing their job. It is only after some accident or problem that is reported by the mine owners themselves that a prblem is fixed or a fine imposed by the Mine Health & Safety Administration.

Many of the fines are mines such as Sago were as little as $60, which is hardly an incentive to making needed safety repairs. Of course no mine owners want to see workplace accidents that injure or kill their workers. But without tougher standards such as those in place in Canada, more accidents will likely occur in the U.S. And while 16 West Virginia miners lost their lives in January, in China where safety standards are far worse, 16 miners lose their lives each day.

And the Bush Administration has actively opposed some improvements in mine safety such as opposing a provision to make conveyor belts from fire resistant materials. But with the appointment of coal mine industry lobby attorney, John Roberts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is highly unlikely that worker safety will advance very much in the courts, and with a number of coal industry execitives appointed to the Mine Safety & Health Administration, it is also unlikely that improved safety equipment such as newer communications equipment, safe rooms, fire resistant gear, or other life saving tools will see much of a chance for mandates as they do in Canada.

The far right always looks for a way to justify profits above people. They often see no balance in the reasonable use of life-saving tools if they cost money. And when some of their Blogs like Instapundit attempt to justify the weakening of the safety of mine workers by the appointment of many coal industry executives to leadership of the Mining Health & Safety Administration under the Bush Administration with a statisticly flawed analysis that misses the fact that less workers are in the industry than some years ago, and that weaker safety mandates in the U.S. than in Canada take lives that are saved in Canadian mine accidents.


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