The Bodies of Miners:
Sometimes being a leftist is exhausting. Essentially, these days especially, you're just reduced to a plaintive "Told you so" when the typically hideous, awful slide into corruption or calamity occurs. The stripping away of civil rights in the wake of 9/11? Told you so. The degradation of the environment to the point that it endangers the way in which humans exist? Told you so. And part of the frustration is saying, "Told you so" again and again on the same goddamn issues.

It's not unlike watching your best friend constantly going home with men, getting fucked, declaring the hope of love for the fucker, and then getting dumped within six to nine months. And no matter how many times you tell him, "You know, maybe you shouldn't emotionally commit to everyone you fuck," he'll just keep goin' along, gettin' his heart broken almost as much as he gets his rocks off. But you're a good friend. You'll be over to help delete the photos from the hard drive, wash the semen stains from the sheets, get him ready for the hope that he's learned something this time, praying that he'll at least go into therapy.

Take worker safety. No, let's get even more specific: let's say mine safety. No, let's get even more and more specific: let's say mine safety in the administration of George W. Bush. Back in September 2001, another of the great disasters of that time was the series of explosions at a coal mine in Brookwood, Alabama on September 23, killing 13 people. The mine's owner, Jim Walter Resources, had been cited more than 250 times in three years by the Mine Safety and Health Administration for "allowing combustible materials...to build up underground," according to the November 12, 2001 In These Times. The MSHA, in December 2002, said that the company was at fault for the explosions and deaths at Brookwood, because of a botched evacuation and rescue effort and for the aforementioned build-up. It was fined $435,000.

This was shortly after the time that President Bush was proposing cuts in the budget of the MSHA, specifically targeting its safety enforcement funding. This was around the time that Elaine Chao's Department of Labor halted work on proposed mining safety regulations, started during the Clinton administration (according to In These Times, September 16, 2002.) This was around the time that Bush stood and took photos with the 9 rescued men at the flooded Quecreek coal mine in Somerset, Pennsylvania.

The United Mine Workers of America conducted its own investigation of Brookwood, and concluded in January 2003 that not only shows that "JWR did not comply with the Mine Act...It reveals that MSHA's failure to fully enforce the law contributed to the operator's non-compliance and the hazardous conditions in its No. 5 mine." But, of course, by then Republicans were firmly in control of both houses of Congress, and whatever hearings occurred on mine safety before the 2002 midterms were forgotten and whatever hearings occurred after were a show, and, by the way, no body of the government was left that gave a flying batfuck about what a union had to say.

Oh, and the date the UMWA issued its report, there was an explosion at a West Virginia mine that killed three workers: "MSHA had never gone underground to inspect the site where the accident occurred."

So let's be clear here: whatever neglect during the Clinton administration led to the Brookwood accident, Brookwood was the wake-up call to the Bush White House and the Republican Congress to fucking do something instead of getting in bed with the mining corporations like a twenty-buck a fuck meth whore. If you buy a house and the goddamn hot water heater breaks two weeks later, you can't go back and get the old owner to fix it.

This ain't about theories of deregulation and laissez-faire economics and budget cutting and safety enforcement capabilities. It ain't about political ass-covering (which is what the MSHA is engaged in). It's about workers' bodies, as it ever is, since the charred corpses at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, since the mines of Monongah. Real alive and dead bodies of miners, who do a shitty job for increasingly shitty pay. And after Brookwood and after Quecreek, those bodies were violated again and again by the failure of both Washington and state legislators to do a thing, as, no doubt, the bodies of the workers at Sago and Alma will be.

The Sago disaster is so much like Brookwood in its cause that one can only stand back and shake one's head, wondering when the next pathetic "Told you so" will have to be intoned.