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 West Virginia is the

  • Mon, May 23, 2011 - 05:04pm

    #899

    xraymike79

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     West Virginia is the

 

West Virginia is the Template for How Democracy is Subverted by Crony Capitalism 

…Kennedy further elaborated that [in] the current regime of crony capitalism, rather than a corporation investing money to better a given business, money is (unfortunately) better spent investing the political process, thus to dismantling the free marketplace while subverting environmental laws.

One example Kennedy cited was clear cutting mountains for coal in Appalachia. It was once illegal to fill certain waterways and watersheds with debris. This law was in place for many decades. The law was even upheld against violators when brought to court. So what happened?

If you can’t win in court, maybe you can “invest” in congress.  Lobbyists were hired to not change the law, but redefine the law. The term “fill” was redefined, legally allowing companies to fill local waterways and watersheds with clear cutting debris. Kennedy summed up this travesty as the “demise of democracy.”

….

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR.: it’s not just about the destruction of the environment. It’s about the subversion of democracy. And wherever you see widespread environmental injury, you’re also going to see the subversion of democracy. And West Virginia is really the template for that dynamic. You’ll see the destruction of the public process at the local level, where people no longer have a say in the allocation of the public trust, the resources of the commons. You’ll see the destruction of transparency in government. You’ll see the capture of the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution. They become—in West Virginia, the West Virginia DEP has become the sock puppet for the industry that it’s supposed to regulate. You’ll see the widespread corruption of public officials, which you’ve also seen. Virtually every relevant public official in the state of West Virginia is now an indentured servant for the coal industry. And you’ll also see the destruction of the press and the role of the fourth estate. And again, in West Virginia you see the press largely blind, holding a blind eye to this wholesale destruction of the landscapes and to the people whose lives are being destroyed in this process that’s making a few people rich by systematically impoverishing virtually everybody else in the state.

Bill Haney: …when the environmental standards were passed in the ’70s, all the plants, which were presumed to be going out of business soon, were exempt from complying with wide pieces of the Clean Air Act, and then, as a result, became wildly more profitable and have been kept going for 50 years as a result. And so, enormous pieces of the arsenic that’s dumped into American families, the lead emissions that we pick up, the mercury that’s contaminating riverways across the country, the carbon dioxide emissions, sulfur, nitrous oxide, ground-level ozone, is coming out of this small number of coal-fired power plants, which are spending enormous money to prevent themselves from being regulated in a way that would force them to be on a level playing field with solar plants or wind power plants or geothermal plants, and therefore lose.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR.: you have virtually all of the political figures in the state who appear to have been corrupted by the industry now. I’m a practicing attorney, and I practice in front of the bar in West Virginia, and there’s ethical standards that prohibit attorneys from impugning sitting judges. But the Supreme Court itself has said—the United States Supreme Court has, in one of the few times in its history, remanded a case to the state of West Virginia because the appearance of corruption by West Virginia judges, particularly by Massey Coal’s influence on West Virginia judges. And in one case, one of the Supreme Court justices, Justice Benjamin, was the beneficiary of $3 million of private money spent by Massey CEO Don Blankenship to defeat his opponent, who had ruled against Don Blankenship in a dispute with another coal company. Blankenship then appealed in front of the judge that his money had helped elected and got that case reversed. Shortly—during the pendency of that case, Don Blankenship, again, the CEO of Massey, was photographed on the French Riviera on vacation with Justice Spike Maynard, who was another justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, who was also hearing that case…

…the coal industry has consistently and systematically blocked other types of economic development from coming into the state, so that they can say to the people and to the press of the state, “We are your only alternative. The only thing a West Virginian can do to make money is to work for us in our coal mines. And you’re not even going to have a union to protect you.” And in fact, mountaintop removal coal mining is incompatible with any other kind of economic development. Nobody is going to move their business to a coal field, when there are explosives going off that’s showering toxic dust onto your business, where you have the explosive power every week in the coal fields of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky that is the equivalent of a Hiroshima bomb once a week, that shake the earth, that break the foundation—shatter the foundations of these rivers, that cause cracks in the earth to appear, that dry up the rivers, that poison the water. None of—who wants to move to a state where that kind of stuff is going on?…

The Fight over Coal Mining is a “Fight About Democracy”