- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

Nobles: The 13 West Virginia coal miners, the ones who tragically died and the one who miraculously still lives.

In 21st-century America, coal-mining accidents are rare and getting rarer. Perhaps this explains why national attention focused almost immediately Monday on the Sago, W.Va., mine explosion, which trapped 13 miners whose ages ranged from 27 to 61. Fifty years ago, a comparable accident would have been common, especially for a profession that lost an average of 1,000 miners every year. Today, that number has dropped to 30. As the Wall Street Journal reported, China is still losing 5,000 miners annually.

Wherever it is practiced, however, mining is by no means a safe vocation. Miners understand the risks associated with plunging thousands of feet into the bowels of the Earth, where oxygen is rare and the chance for mistakes all too likely. Still, President Bush has called for an investigation into how a mine like Sago, which was cited 200 times for safety violations last year, could remain operational.

The tragedy of Sago was made all the more worse when family members were falsely notified that the miners were alive. Newspapers working on deadline reported the rumor the next day, and for a brief moment it seemed 13 miracles had occurred. In fact, the miracle is that even one of the miners, Randal McCloy, was found alive, though he remains in critical condition.

The prayers of a nation go out to Mr. McCloy and to the families of the 12 miners who never came home.

For knowing the risks and doing their job anyway, the 13 West Virginia coal miners are the Nobles of the week.

Knaves: Vermont Judge Edward Cashman, for sentencing a confessed child-rapist to just 60 days in prison.

Listening to Judge Cashman pronounce his sentence on Mark Hulett, one can’t help but wonder if he is a servant of the law or an anger-management guru. “The one message I want to get through is that anger doesn’t solve anything,” he said Wednesday. “It just corrodes your soul.” Thanks for the tip, doctor — er, judge.

Perhaps the “one message” the judge should have wanted to get through is that when you rape a little girl multiple times over a four-year span like Hulett did, you will be sent away for a very, very long time. Hulett gets 60 days and sex-offender treatment.

But it appears the judge is so over all this punishment nonsense. “I discovered [punishment] accomplishes nothing of value,” he explained to a courtroom packed with the little girl’s relatives. If that’s the case, Judge Cashman must resign.

For knavery rarely surpassed in this space, Judge Cashman is the Knave of the week.

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