Implicit Blame

For the past six months or so my dissertation work has kept me from keeping up with any mining or mining safety news. Nevertheless, I do my best to watch the headlines. The latest headline out of West Virginia’s legislative response to the Upper Big Branch Disaster in 2010 has me boggled. Dave Jamieson at Huffington Post has what looks to be a good overview of the situation. The legislation in question is pushing for mandatory drug testing. This is in spite of the fact that drug usage played no role in the disaster. I also want to emphasize that there seems to be no evidence of any drug usage by any of the victims of the disaster.

More than likely there are any number of influences from the industry on this legislation. That said, I have to go even further than Celeste Monforton, the public health expert Jamieson quotes in his article. Monforton describes the drug testing discussion as a distraction. I think it’s worse than that. There’s an implicit cast of blame that occurs with this rhetoric when it’s attached to legislation specifically labeled as a response to Upper Big Branch. It becomes a red herring that suggests the men who died were somehow responsible for the fate that befell them. Whatever the merits of drug testing in the mining industry, the legislative battle over it has implicitly created a fallacious discourse about Upper Big Branch that needs to be cut off before it can get started.

Yes, I’m still taking pictures

1/20/12 by Errant Ventures
1/20/12, a photo by Errant Ventures on Flickr.

Despite January being a horrible month, I’m still woking on my 365 project. Admittedly I missed a few days in there, but I’m willing to give myself a break. I did a fever and was somewhat delirious after all. Anyway, the last batch of pictures were…rough to say the least. Still, like the poster says…

More on Colbert’s Shenanigans

Dahlia Lithwick has an interesting piece at Slate that covers Stephen Colbert’s shenanigans (and let’s face it, shenanigans is really the word to use) with his super PAC. Lithwick points to a lot of the issues with Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010. Personally I’m a fan of what Colbert is doing if for no other reason than it raises awareness of the inherent…well, shenanigan nature of campaign finance and the murky waters that is the sea of super PACs. If nothing else the ramifications of money (be it public, private, limited, or unlimited) on our political campaigns is something that deserves widespread attention. That said, you can certainly make an argument about the quality of that awareness, but I’m willing to say that at this point quantity might be more important than quality.

Also, there’s some genuinely good comedy coming out of all of this. I’m pretty sure none of this would be happening if that wasn’t the case.