The Man Who Made Earthquakes

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The Man Who Made Earthquakes by C. L. Cook
As the families and co-workers of six coal miners trapped hundreds of meters under the ground waited anxiously for news, the chairman of the company that owns the mine addressed the cameras.
Not one known for subtlety, Bob Murray used his fifteen minutes before the world's media as an opportunity to promote the coal industry, deny its contribution to global warming, and warn American pensioners that without the electricity emanating the "non-greenhouse gas producing" plants using his coal they were toast.
During the "briefing" Murray too harangued environmentalists - they meant to deprive the nation of its economic power - before eventually finding time to inform the anxious families and co-workers that the fate of their comrades and loved ones trapped in his mine was in God's hands, whom he still claims is responsible, through the agency of one of His earthquakes, for the mine collapse. This he maintains despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

The US Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center says, the temblor they monitored as a 3.9 Richter magnitude event did not reveal expected earthquake identifiers, but is consistent with mine collapses they've recorded in the past.
But Robert Murray is not one to let either science, or truth stand in the way of a good yarn. And, he's famous for his intractability. One of George W. Bush's greatest supporters yet, Murray and the coal industry have lobbed millions into the coffers of Bush and his party. He's been a trusted "testifier" on Capitol Hill for regulation changes workers and their unions say have degraded occupational safety standards, and undermined their collective bargaining.

In a way, Robert Murray is the Kenneth Lay of his day; only the days are a lot harsher now than when Ken merely cornered and collapsed the other end of the coal power tunnel, the electricity grid. Both the privatization of the grid and broad slashing of labour, safety, and environmental requirements for mine owners by a corporate controlled America frames Murray's story, (its climax in this instance yet to be written) making it emblematic of the country today.
Faltering Pillars

Divers are still searching the Mississippi, beneath the fallen I-35W highway bridge for bodies still within smashed cars. Two more were reported recovered today, nearly a week after the terrible rush hour collapse of the St. Anthony Bridge. So far, seven are confirmed dead, with six others believed missing. The wreckage of twisted iron, busted slabs of concrete and strong river currents have slowed efforts, and the priority now is protecting the safety of recovery workers.
As it has been all week in Minneapolis, so it's proving for rescuers at the Crandall Canyon mine collapse in Utah. Picking up the pieces of disaster is proving a much greater human and financial reality than the cost-benefit risk analyses conducted by the last administrations of government reckoned for. And, one gets the sense this is just the beginning.

Combined as closely as they now are, the running of the country has become more about the merry chase of government servants playing courtier to Monied business interests, each riding a revolving door to deregulation and personal enrichment; living on the fruits of the treasury once plowed back into the nation to build bridges, highways, and pay for their maintenance and such is a debt come due; but while those necessary public infrastructures aged and suffered the predictable ravages of that process, the games at court continued on as if there was no tomorrow: And today there is none.

It is not just the thousands of bridges crossed by millions of Americans everyday, bridges ominously sharing St. Anthony's "deficient" rating, or the number of coal miners sacrificed in America every year through the practice of "retreat mining," (as was in progress in the very shaft collapsed at the time of the Crandall Canyon "earthquake") signaling the capital "Dee" decline of the nascent American Empire, it is most marked by the corrosion within the psyche of the populace.
The stench of corruption and betrayal are spreading faster than the deserts eating the heart out of the country's South West, the hopes of the people thinning faster than the topsoil of the Great Plains. The twin disasters of the wars and occupations abroad, and the federal government's abandonment of citizens in need both before and after Katrina the Great made landfall has shaken to the core citizen faith in the government, and tried their trust in the country's institutions.     

Today America is a nation experiencing unprecedented levels of personal and official debasement. Run by maniacal characters, exemplified by their almost cartoonish personal ambitions for world domination, and occupied by an infantile population made docile through years of thumb-sucking, easy debt, and low civic expectations, the looming prospect of a really huge, "perfect storm" kind of economic, political, and environmental disaster seems certain.
And if experiences of the recent past are any indication, that storm's effects will be unprecedented. A horrifying thought, considering the scope of the disasters we've seen in just the last six years or so.

For those digging tonight for their comrades buried below the earth under tons of coal and slag, and for the families and friends waiting the fate of those men, the disaster is now. Next will come the questions: Why continue a mining practice most civilized authorities declaim as too dangerous? Why no unions? Why immigrant labour?
Whether these questions, and others even more pertinent concerning the mining industry, manage their way through the media filter, forcing the Bush administration to act is itself an open question, but what is clear is: Years of religious deregulation of industry, and the determined effort of this administration to fulfill Grover Norquist's famous dictum to "shrink government to a size small enough to drown in a bathtub" is now paying awful dividends in and for America. 
But, no matter what I, or anyone else says, Bob Murray will still be pointing his finger heavenward.       

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