Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Miner's deaths and the right to ride my ATV

The rural masses fighting oppression and the right to ride
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The supporters of this blog not only distrust government, the US government in particular, we believe that the emancipation of the working class can only be achieved by overthrowing it and replacing the rule of capital with the rule of workers, with a workers’ government.

However, we also recognize that this is not possible until, and if, a huge section of the working class believes it and acts on it. Nothing is guaranteed in this world

Meanwhile, we accept that we live in a society governed by a class whose rule we want to abolish. There are times when we accept that the involvement of the state, or government in our daily lives is a positive thing.  We have won the right to vote from this hostile government, albeit for one of the other of their candidates in the main. We have won the right to unionize, an effort that was met with extreme violence. We won the right to unemployment insurance, social security. We have forced the state to protect some areas of our public space to a degree and to place some limits on child labor for example.

So while it might appear we are similar to Clive Bundy and a few other right wing types when it comes to our attitude toward the state in general, we have little else in common with him and those who hold his views (we do recognize the state exists for example).  The right wing, led by some extreme right wing members of the 1%, tap in to this distrust of government and rail against “big government”, except for defense and hand-outs for corporations of course.

I am reminded of this with the recent news that the federal government will be “interfering” with the owners of the railroads and their right to ship highly volatile shale oil from the Bakken field to other parts of the country. Big government again; treading on people’s rights. The government says that the railroads will have to notify first responders whenever oil shipments travel through their states.  Railroads with trains that carry more than one million gallons of crude will be required to provide state emergency personnel with “detailed information about their shipments within 30 days of the emergency order” according to the New York Times.  One million gallons of cruse is about 35 tank cars worth and the average train pulls 100 cars or more.

The railroad bosses do not like divulging information about their business and have been under no obligation whatsoever to notify the general public or authorities about their shipments.  Regulators have been trying to get information about the nature and volatility of the Bakken shale oil but, as the WSJ pointed out on Monday, “…only three companies active in North Dakota have been willing to provide information about the oil.” WSJ Corporate watch, 5-12-14.  The WSJ has conducted its own analysis of Bakken oil and concluded that it is “…highly inflammable and contained combustible gases at several times the level of other types of crude…”

The pressure is on due to the spate of accidents of late like the recent derailment in Lynchburg Virginia that spilled 30,000 gallons of oil in to the James River and forced 350 people to be evacuated.  An oil train explosion in Quebec last year killed 47 people. Regulators are also demanding that older cars be taken out of operation and placed with newer, safer models but the industry has “resisted” any government insight in to their shipments and operations and has “…traditionally been secretive about its routing of hazardous material citing security concerns…” the NYT adds.

Surely these are government actions that should be supported. They are never adequate mind you as the government represents the interests of the 1% in the last analysis and the political sphere is dominated by the two parties of Wall Street. In the case of the regulations on deep water drilling that led to the deaths of 11 workers and the catastrophic BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, regulators allowed energy companies to write their own rules.

And this week two West Virginia miners died in a mine collapse at the Brody mine #1. “Brody Mine No. 1”, CNN informs us, “…. has been cited in the past for safety violations. Last year, MSHA issued 514 citations, orders and safeguards to Brody Mine… There was a "pattern of violations" and repeated failure to meet mandatory safety standards at the mine, according to an October 2013 letter from the MSHA to the mining company.”

So despite being known to the feds and regulators as a death trap, not much was done to stop the killings at Brody. Patriot Coal is the owner of Brody, a non-union mine.  West Virginia governor Tomblin told West Virginians “to continue praying for them during this very difficult time for our mining community.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said that “We know that mining deaths and injuries are preventable, and last night’s tragedy is particularly troubling given the operator’s history of safety violations. So he knew did he? Every step must be taken to make sure this operator — and all operators for that matter — are held accountable for the safety and health of their miners,”

For as long as people have been praying, you’d think that they’d figured it out by know that more needs to be done. Both Rockeffer and Tomblin represent the interests of the 1% and have political power, their calls for prayer is pure hypocrisy. If they all knew this mine was a deathtrap they should all be in jail.

And meanwhile Utah’s version of Clive Bundy are challenging big government’s right to prevent them from riding their ATV’s in to Utah’s scenic Recapture Canyon.

"My grandfather called that canyon the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen in his life. It's important to our family. To see it as the focal point of a conflict is painful." says one resident.

I couldn’t help looking at this picture of this guy on his ATV with his US flag and kid.  He wants to be able to drive that gas guzzlin’ piece of junk over public land to his hearts content; never mind the ecosystem, never mind historical relics. In this case, the interests of society as a whole are better served by denying this guy that right.  If they were being denied the right to hike, walk, ride horseback or enjoy the natural beauty of the land in a responsible way that would be different.

"They're just roaming bands of loners who want to pretend they're 19th century cowboys," says Patrick Shea, a former head of the BLM, "They scare me. If someone gets drunk or angry and decides to use their weapon, then we have bloodshed. And there's always a loose nut who's going to show how much testosterone he has." For Monty Python fans it appears we have our Mr. Gumby.

The point is that that there are times when we have forced the capitalist state to make concessions.  But just like a union contract, the bosses are violating it before the ink is dry and the time between contracts is spent defending it as best one can.

We will never have a free and safe workplace until we control the labor process and the means of production is owned collectively and subject to a democratic socialist plan. The numerous disasters we are seeing almost daily are preventable as Rockefeller says, but not when the mining industry is in private hands and prosecution based on profit. This doesn't mean we would oppose all regulation. But only when those that work it own it will we see a difference.

In the market economy, Profits trump safety, the ecosystem, and human life every time.

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