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King Coal: Willing To Kill For Kilowatts

When a suicide bomber blows a half dozen of our soldiers into smithereens, Americans get understandably outraged. And here at home, when a deranged malcontent goes postal and guns down classmates or co-workers, we call it a massacre.

But if you kill nine men for the sake of keeping the juice flowing through America's veins, well, evidently, we're so addicted to cheap energy that we're willing to write off dead coal miners as collateral damage. What looks like manslaughter, if not outright murder, is handled as some sort of infraction. The penance? A pittance. Not enough to make much of a dent in King Coal's deep pockets. As the AFP reports:

The operators of a Utah mine at the center of a collapse that led to nine fatalities last August have been fined 1.6 million dollars, health and safety officials announced Thursday.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said the operators of the Crandall Canyon Mine had failed to report repeated collapses at the facility which meant inspectors were unable to assess practices there.

Two federal reports released on Thursday reveal previously unknown details about the August 6th disaster. Now we know, for example, that the sheer force of the collapse probably killed the six workers who were trapped in the mine pretty quickly. So, they were probably dead long before three rescue workers died 10 days later trying to save them.
It all adds up to nine needless deaths, because the reports also make it excruciatingly clear that the mine's operator, Genwal Resources, had to know that it was risking its workers' lives. One of the reports found that Genwal had ignored warning signs that the mine was unsafe, and concealed dangerous conditions from the MSHA:

In a statement, Richard Stickler, assistant secretary of labor for the MSHA, said the tragedy had stemmed from mine operator Genwal Resources' "reckless failure" to report three previous coal "outbursts," including one just three days before the initial incident on August 6...

..."MSHA also found that the operator was taking more coal than allowed from the barrier pillars and the floor. This dangerously weakened the strength of the roof support."

Ah, but the other report--this one from the Labor Department--sticks Stickler's own agency with some of the blame, finding that the MSHA never should have approved Genwal's mining plan in the first place, and failed to take full control of the rescue operation following the collapse. As Nelda Erickson, whose husband Don was killed in the August 6th collapse, told the New York Times:

"If everything was as bad as it was, then the men shouldn't have been in there...It's hard to swallow. I don't understand how the company got approval to do mining that deep underground."

Terry Byrge, whose son-in-law, Brandon Kimber, was one of the rescue workers who died, told the Times:

"They had those men working in a section they knew was doomed to fail...They were playing spin the bottle with their lives every day and taking a chance on whether those men would come out alive."

What we've got here is a government agency and a corporation who shared the mindset that a miner's life has less value than the coal that lies so deep that you're courting disaster to extract it.

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Batman and Bush's Failure to Combat Terrorism

This past weekend witnessed the release of one of the biggest cinematic events of all time: The Dark Knight. For this auspicious occasion the Living Liberally Blog is rolling out multiple Big Picture reviews in the next couple days. I'm going first. Enjoy!

Of the countless movies made since 9/11, this new Batman film might have the most accurate depiction of the political and social climate of the world as it is today. A world largely uncontrolled by law and order, instead run by criminals, who are in turn pursued by vigilante heroes who stand in for a largely ineffective law enforcement. This leads to feelings of great fear and insecurity among the people of Gotham.

In The Dark Knight, Gotham is faced with its most treacherous villain yet: The Joker. Heath Ledger's brilliant and maniacal anarchist clown should be remembered one of the finest movie villain performances of all time. Ledger's Joker eschews all order, whether it is the power of the state or the invisible hand of capitalism. He appeals to a side of humanity more disordered than even the basest most animalistic parts of our minds. His complete unpredictability becomes a power that he uses to control the population of Gotham, much like the specter of terrorism has dominated the American psyche since 9/11.

Batman, our hero, who, in the time between the first movie and this one, has fought to put most of Gotham's big villains behind bars. He's done so as a vigilante and without much support (and a little disdain) from the people of Gotham City. While much of the film focuses on Batman's trying to reconcile the good that he's doing with the hate he incurs from the public and it's elected officials, the film's true protagonist is the people of Gotham City, whose mood, almost like that of a Greek Chorus echoes throughout each scene.

The political side after the jump!

Reading Liberally Read of the Day

The one release every liberal must read today:

by George W. Bush, President

President Bush expands sanctions on Muagbe's corrupt and illegitimate Zimbabwe government. In addition, Bush offers greater incentives if a fair election is held. He also expands financial support of Zimbabwe's refugees. Finally, someone learns the meaning of diplomacy. Good job, Mr. Pres.

Is Barack Obama Jewish? Shocking new evidence!

by Lee Camp, Laughing Liberally

IS BARACK OBAMA A JEW??? It's the internet rumor that the Obama campaign has been unable to quash (because we just started it). Recent photos of Senator Obama wearing traditional Jewish garb have raised a lot of questions about the candidate's religious background. Most obvious, of course, is the Jewish device pictured on Obama's head. This item is called a "yarmulke" (pronounced: Jew-ma-ka). However, there are many other pieces of evidence in the photograph that suggest Obama is "of the tribe," as the Jews say when they're alone in their secret caves.

1. Yarmulke

2. Master Jew in close proximity to Barack Obama. Only fellow Jews are allowed near Master Jews. (Or this might just be Obama's accountant.)

3. Secret Jew message placed in crevice of Jewian monument. These messages are how the Jewish people secretly communicate with each other. (You know who else makes use of secret communications? Nazis. Also, warlocks.)


4. Senator Obama's first name is "Barack," which is a Jewy name. In fact, Israel's former Prime Minister is named Ehud Barak. Furthermore, the word "baruch" is the first word in most Jewish prayers (or curses). Loosely translated "baruch" means "death to non-Jews."

5. Obama attended a Jewian socialist elementary school, or "kibbutz," once when he was ten. He claims he only needed to use their restroom, but witnesses say he stayed for nearly three hours.

6. Although he grew up relatively poor, Senator Obama's recent book earned him upwards of $100 million. You know who else has a lot of money? Jews.

7. The name "Obama" sounds similar to "Ahabah," and Beth Ahabah is a common name for a synagogue. Synagogues are where the Jews hold their cult-like ceremonies including genital mutilation on babies.

And perhaps most damning of all...when you vandalize a photo of Barack Obama by drawing peyos and a black hat, he looks totally Jewish.

In the face of this shocking evidence, voters must decide how they really feel about Senator Baruch Ahabah. Would a God-hating money-grubbing Jew make for a good president? Let us answer that with two words: Jew Lieberman.

Screening Liberally Watch of the Day

Nas and Color of Change make a special delivery to racist Fox News.

Blogging Liberally: Hey you!

Obama is a giant monster! Run!

1. Turns out the Pentagon made Obama cancel his troop visit.

2. Apparently, the RNC hasn't been watching the news lately.

925 Days, 01 Hours, 07 Min, 00 Sec.

Funny, I seem to remember him being there earlier this week.

3. All the President's Scandals, in colorful chart form!

4. Sounds like Nick Sarkozy has a mancrush on his pal Obama.

5. Net Neutrality gets the backing of every major senate democratic challenger.

6. Vote and Die. Does it still count?

7. Home sales drop, foreclosures rise, Bush sucks.

8. The media is still in love with McCain.

Netroots Nation 2008: Caucus Refugee with Katie Halper

In case you don't believe Chris O'Reilly's claim that the Netroots Nation is like a "Klan gathering" and as hateful as the Nazis, check out this video I'm in. Five Steps Forward Media and I expose the Nazism! Why are they so hateful towards me and my people? You'll notice there is no Gypsy Caucus either, a group the Nazis tried to exterminate. What say you? Coincidence? I think not!

College Should Be Free

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that college must be free. Being myself enrolled in a college where I watch my tuition rocket ever skyward each year, I to was taken aback by this idea. College should be free? What is this, some sort of wing-nut radical utopian pipe dream? Please people, this is not Scandinavia.

Then I realized that this idea is no more radical than the assertion in the 1850s that elementary school should be free to everyone, or half a century later when reformers said that high school should not only be a luxury for the rich. America has a long history of fighting for publicly funded schooling against many who wanted to keep it private.

With each new age of American society it became clear that publicly funded education was an absolute necessity. First elementary, then high school, and now a college education are an absolute must to function in the American economy. For young people entering the market today, wages have fallen in every category since 1970, for people who have schooling less than a BA. Even for most people with a BA wages have only slightly risen or remained the same as their 1970 levels. We young people will be the first generation to end up less well off then our parents’ generation. Today a college education is as much a necessity as is clean drinking water.

In every discussion of falling wages, outsourcing, and immigrant labor the conclusion always seems to be that America has to build a modern workforce prepared to take on the task of a modern economy. The only way for this to truly happen is for college to be free. Moving from a system of dept based financial aid back to providing federal academic grant is a good short-term solution, and decent first step. It is also true that our K-12 schooling systems are riddled with problems, that some might say need to be addressed first. But we cannot get bogged down in fighting for small change; we must set our sights higher than simply tackling imbecilic legislation like No Child Left Behind.

What this nation needs to succeed is a publicly funded Higher Education, anything short of that will not cut it in the long term. In the face of a faltering economy one might nervously ask where this sort of money will come from, but there is no better time. When there are not jobs to be had people go back to school, retrain, and restart. This is not to say that where should not be private universities, but if College is a necessity, it should not be something that you have to afford. We do not need to make college affordable, we need to make it available.