Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 2, 2010

MAYBE THE FREE MARKET CAN PROTECT MINERS, TOO.... After 29 miners were killed at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch coal mine -- at a non-union site run by a company that preferred to ignore regulations -- it's tempting to think regional candidates for public office wouldn't have the chutzpah to support deregulation.

Kentucky's Rand Paul, however, is not your normal extremist candidate.

Reform-minded lawmakers in both the House and Senate are pushing legislation to bolster the work-safety protections for miners working underground. But don't try to convince Rand Paul.

The Republican running to replace outgoing Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) in the coal-mining hub of Kentucky said recently that Washington has no business formulating mine safety rules.

"The bottom line is: I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules," Paul said at a recent campaign stop in response to questions about April's deadly mining explosion in West Virginia, according to a profile in Details magazine. "You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs."

"I know that doesn't sound ... I want to be compassionate, and I'm sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?"

Investigators still hope to determine the cause of the disaster, but Democrats in Congress intend to pass stronger regulations to prevent more deadly incidents from happening again. Republicans are resisting, and Rand Paul continues to stake out a pro-industry, anti-worker position.

More to the point, Paul is running on a platform of ignorance -- he's not qualified to shape federal policy, so send him to Washington, where federal policy is written, so he can avoid shaping federal policy.

Since the industry is doing such a bang-up job*, I'm sure coal miners will have nothing to worry about if Rand Paul is in the Senate looking out for them.

* edited for clarity

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Not that it would do any good but somebody might point out to Paul that a Senator doesn't need to be an expert on mine safety. That is why Congress is allowed to pass general laws authorizing regulatory agencies to determine the details of regulation.

Posted by: Camus on August 2, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Correction - Rand Paul continues to stake out a "pro-business, pro-wanker position"

He's a jack ass. The end.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on August 2, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.

Just think for a moment about the mindset required to make a statement like that. It begins with the presumption that individuals have a whole array of choices when it comes to employment so they just "won't apply" to those places where the conditions are less than optimal. Of course, they also have perfect knowledge of the relative safeness and work conditions of all of their dozens of options for employers so they will be able to make the right decisions in all circumstances. And further, no worker will take a job where conditions might be unsafe rather than starve to death.

But please understand, he tries to be compassionate. The bottomless stupidity of this sort of libertarianism used to be just an amusing sideshow. Now apparently, we are forced to take it more seriously.

Posted by: brent on August 2, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

And this moronic SOB has the lead over the Democrat.
But this is a unique twist. Usually, it's "I hate government" so vote for me to change it. He's saying, '... don't give me the power to change any rules.'
And your job as Senator is to do what, Mr. Paul?
To pontificate on pundit shows and get as much money as possible to be re-elected?
If this guy, or the Obtuse Angle win, will the last one out of the USA please turn out the lights? If there are any lights left, of course...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on August 2, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

There's nothing Paul can say that will prevent him from being elected. The good people of Kentucky seem to feel they're in some sort of perverse competition with Oklahoma to see who can send the most regressive, anti-intellectual greedhead to the Senate.

Posted by: dr. bloor on August 2, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure coal miners will have nothing to worry about if Rand Paul is in the Senate looking out for them.

Of course, for Republicans like Rand Paul, the idea is that it's not the government's job to look out for them. They should just take whatever the corporations choose to give them, and like it.

Posted by: drkrick on August 2, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

That "Was it just an accident?" quote should produce a huge "uh-oh" for anyone who is paying attention. Seriously-- there's a possibility that we're in "needs medication" territory.

Posted by: MattF on August 2, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

In Rand Paul's world, Moses led his people out of Egypt because there were too many restrictions on the pyramid builders.

Posted by: Danp on August 2, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

And YET !!

The Democrats are IN DANGER of losing their Congressional Majorities ??

Maybe someone could CAMPAIGN on this
Maybe Rand Paul's Democratic opponent
Maybe other Democrats in coal country

WHAT IS UP with Democrats ??

Are the American people and their Democratic reps THAT Dumb ??

Posted by: fRISCOsf on August 2, 2010 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Paul is really giving a specious argument. So what, he's not an "expert" in mining? That's why the federal government has agencies to cover those subjects. THEY are the experts, not congressmen and senators. I happen to work for the FAA. We are the ones that regulate the aviation industry and make the rules, not senators. Now, if a senator happens to want to push a specific thing, they can. But the Senate and the House do not make the specific regulations that govern mining, or drugs, or aviation, etc. etc. There are experts that have been hired to deal with that.

What a stupid argument.

Posted by: anon on August 2, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going to guess that coal miners in Kentucky vote overwhelmingly Republican.

You know, We the People really do deserve what ever happens.

Posted by: SaintZak on August 2, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK
I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules

Says the rabidly anti-choice gibbertarian. I guess being an eye doctor makes him an expert on womens health issues, reproduction and when life begins. But hey, he doesn't want people to vote for him so ...

Was it just an accident?

Maybe he means inadequate enforcement of federal safety rules inevitably lead to the deaths of 29 Kentuckians.

Ha ha ha ha ha! I made a funny. (Not as funny as Dabp's, but I tried.)

Posted by: The Answer WAS Orange on August 2, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I was surprised by this comment of yours: "it's tempting to think regional candidates for public office wouldn't have the chutzpah to support deregulation"

In places like Kentucky and West Virginia, politicians of all stripes stake out very pro-coal positions. Look at Rockefeller, who opposes pretty much all climate change legislation. Paul isn't acting loony when he supports mountaintop removal by saying it improves the land. And he's not crazy to argue that the coal companies should be allowed to regulate themselves. These are pretty standard views among statewide coal-state politicians. I'd be interested in seeing how all the pols from Ky and WVa come down on these reforms. It might give us some needed context.

Posted by: NHCt on August 2, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Quoth Rand Paul:

The bottom line is: I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules.

So, if elected, Mr. Paul intends to vote only on legislation involving eyecare? Since his occupation is ophthalmology?

Oh, wait. He's so bad at that that he had to found his own "national" accreditation group. So he's not really an expert on eyecare, either. What is he an expert on?

I know -- how about, he'll only vote on legislation involving duping hardworking people while masking wildly extremist views?

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on August 2, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Rand Paul makes a good point... to a point. Elected officials AREN'T qualified to decide what technologies to implement. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be involved. The solution is simply to impose enormous liability costs on the mining companies, giving them an incentive to invest in better safety equipment to reduce the risk of massive lawsuits.

Posted by: wag on August 2, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the Free Market can protect miners. OF course, that would require that they organize and form unions who will fight for their rights and be able to close down a dangerous mine without the National Guard being called in to use the iron fist of government to protect the mine owners and not the mine workers. Is this what Paul has in mind? I don't think so.

Posted by: martin on August 2, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Let's put Rand Paul's office in the mine along with that CEO as*hole Blankenship. Then let them sweat.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on August 2, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Rand Paul thinks that if coal mines aren't safe, then people won't apply for those jobs. However, many of the mines are in areas in which other occupational opportunities are absent. So if you don't want your family to starve, you will work in those mines....dangerous or not. The man is an idiot!

Posted by: winddancer on August 2, 2010 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Rand, Rand, Rand.... We .... Have .... Mining.... regulations .... Because... Mining... Companies.... Kept... Killing... People... Because... The... Mines... Were... Not... Safe.

people ... Worked ... There... Because... They... Had ... No... Other... Skills... And... Had... To... Eat... And... Feed... Their... Families...


Kentucky residents have a life expectancy of only 75.5 years. below that of Cuba, Chile and South Korea of 78.3, 78,6 & 78.6 years respectively.
1  Japan 82.6
2  Hong Kong 82.2
3  Iceland 81.8
4  Switzerland 81.7
5  Australia 81.2
6  Spain 80.9
7  Sweden 80.9
8  Israel 80.7
9  Macau 80.7
10  France (metropolitan) 80.7

And way below the life expectancies of the top ten nations in the world.

But hey, perhaps Rand Paul thinks the free market can fix this problem, like it fixed the problem of mine owners shooting strikers... Or fixed the problem of black lung disease... Or water pollution...

let's hear what Rand Paul thinks about the low life expectancy in his state and what he would do as a senator to help fix that.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on August 2, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Rand said:
You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.

Is this the same Rand that thinks unemployment compensation is making people lazy and they would apply for any available job if unemployment compensation were ended?

So, by Rand's logic, he will move people to poverty and homelessness by cutting benefits for which they paid and these workers will still be strong enough to refuse to apply for unsafe jobs to put a roof over their head and feed their family?


Posted by: KJ on August 2, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarians have always been anarchists only without the bombs, beards and long black trench coats. They yearn for a fantasy world that somehow runs itself without any organization or direction, and one that ignores human frailties and foibles like greed, avarice, selfishness, and violence. Like many of his fellow libertarians Paul is an unrealistic moron, but a dangerous one given his political ambitions.

With our dumbed-down electorate unable to dissect Paul's stupidity and see the dangers inherent in letting corporations make all the rules, set all the standards, and put workers' lives at risk, he may well join the ranks of the stupid caucus in the Senate.

Posted by: rrk1 on August 2, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Satire is not dead , but may be suicidal .

Posted by: FRP on August 2, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

rrk1 - well said. thanks.

Posted by: Rathskeller on August 2, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm. I wonder about this for the Democratic candidate's campaign:

"Rand Paul wants to help coal mine owners maximize profits by reducing the number of regulations they have to follow. You know the kind of troublesome regulations we're talking about, like health and safety rules. If you are a miner, or know one, you probably want to vote for someone who is looking out for you instead."

Posted by: nerd on August 2, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you CAMUS...I jumped right on to make the same point. I am seeing a disturbing tendancy among Republicans to pretend to be experts (economy, health care, safety) and that somehow REAL experts are just offering an 'opinion'. I had an argument with my GOP brother this weekend and he said 'Oh since I studied math/science I'm not qualified to have an opinion?' I said you can have an OPINION you just can't offer FACTS!

Posted by: SYSPROG on August 2, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Rand Paul's stupidity is the main reason he's the Republican candidate, since he will do Corporate America's bidding.

From today's Los Angeles Times:

Roger Nicholson, a senior vice president of International Coal Group, a mining company, wrote fellow executives Tuesday, urging them to raise money to deal with the "fiercely anti-coal" Democrats who rule Washington.

Specifically, he called for funds to defeat Democratic candidates, including Kentucky's Jack Conway, who is running for the Senate, and incumbent Rep. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

For more on Corporate America's political power grab, go here:


Posted by: TCinLA on August 2, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

"The bottom line is: I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules," Paul said at a recent campaign stop

I realize that Paul, to put it kindly, is not exactly known for his intellectual prowess, but that is one of the dumbest statements I've ever read from a Congressional candidate. If the people of Kentucky are dumb enough to actually elect this moron, then they deserve him. Let's just hope none of those who voted for him have family or friends working in the mines.

Posted by: electrolite on August 2, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Correction to above: should be "Senate candidate"

Posted by: electrolite on August 2, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

"The bottom line is: I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules," Paul said [...]

If there's a video version of this, I'd be all for taking it out of context and running an ad in which this is all Paul says. With a comment along the lines of "give Paul his wish and don't give him that power. Vote for Conway, who'll work hard to learn how to make the right rules for your safety"

Posted by: exlibra on August 2, 2010 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Beezus Mary and Joseph ....

"Was it just an accident?" What a F***ing ass. People who work very hard, many in very large corporations, have spent a huge amount of time pounding this canard out of peoples' heads. In my world - the world of drilling, mining, and oh, you know, those of us who sweat, and face soemthing more dangerous than an infected eyeball on a daily basis - we work on a very important premise - ACCIDENTS HAVE CAUSES; often, small chains of events cascade to bigger ones. THERE ARE ALMOST NEVER "FREAK" industrial accidents.

THis premise, when followed correctly, has saved 100/s of lives and 1000's on injuries in the US. When not followed, you get the mine disaster, the deepwater horizon, etc etc etc.

It is borderline madness, and pure ignorance, to utter this kind of shit.

Go suck an egg, Dr. Eyeball. Better yet, go work in a mine for a few days ....

Posted by: bigtuna on August 2, 2010 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

1. free market? if you want to make a living in most parts of coal country, you can become a cop, a teacher, maybe a lawyer or you become a coal miner. it's not like there's a ton of options.

2. i doubt most senators can qualify as experts on most things they vote on, especially when they first take office. that's why they have staff. you learn on the job. if expertise on such things as mine safety or other esoteric subjects was a qualification, no one would ever get elected to anything.

3. i doubt in most years that the likes of rand paul would stand a chance of getting elected to the senate (or even nominated). unfortunately this isn't most years.

4. from a political standpoint, there's a difference between favoring mining and favoring mining safely. because a jay rockefeller might be against a comprehensive energy bill that would reduce the market for coal, doesn't mean he would vote against coal mine safety legislation. coal companies might have clout in a state like w.va. but so does the united mine workers union. and miners do vote.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on August 2, 2010 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Rand really needs to have one of his kids killed in an auto accident where the automobile is messed up mechanically and then I would like to him whine about how it was "jut an accident."

Posted by: warren terrah on August 3, 2010 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight. I'm an unemployed mine worker in Kentucky. I'm offered three jobs, working in Mine A or Mine B or Mine C. There's no regulated safety records for either mine for me to review to help me make my decision. So, because it's closer to my home, I decide to work in Mine A.

Thanks to lax safety practices, Mine A explodes killing me and 27 other miners.

So now I'm the dead miner's son. And I'm offered two jobs working in Mine B or Mine C. There's no regulated safety records for either mine...

Posted by: chrenson on August 3, 2010 at 5:40 AM | PERMALINK



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