Thursday, August 11, 2011

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on Big Coal, Corporations, Democracy (Video) *USA democracy has been subverted*


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: "Corporations do not want democracy, they want profits."

The Last Mountain Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was on Tavis Smiley upon the release of the documentary, The Last Mountain. The Last Mountain is the story of a community that fights back to protect Coal River Mountain and stop Massey Energy from destroying it with mountaintop removal. This documentary was reviewed in a previous post: The Last Mountain: A fight for our future (Video) *Mountain Top Removal: reducing mountains to rubble*. Kennedy states, "We are cutting down the Appalachian Mountains, literally. They are blowing the tops off the mountains to get at the coal seams beneath. They detonate 2,500 tons of explosives every day and the explosive power of a Hiroshima bomb once a week."

Corporations versus Democracy Kennedy says, "Appalachia, especially West Virginia, is the template for when corporations take over a democracy. It's a company town, what they are doing is illegal. They have flattened an area larger than the State of Delaware. They have blown up the 500 biggest mountains in the State of West Virginia in the last 10 years - and it's all illegal. They've buried 2,500 miles of rivers and streams. That's illegal, you can't do it! I debated on West Virginia TV, Don Blankenship who is the head of Massey Energy [now Alpha Natural Resources], the biggest mountaintop removal company. I said to him, By your own records you had 67,000 violations of the Clean Water Act. Over the past 5 years you've had tens of thousands of violations of labor laws, mining safety laws, all these other laws. Is it possible for you to make a profit without violating the law? He said, 'no'. He said, 'These are silly laws'. So he acknowledged his company is a criminal enterprise and their business plan is to break the law and to get away with it. In order to do that, you have to subvert democracy."

Democracy Essentially Doesn't Exist in West Virginia When corporations control the political process, democracy ceases to exist. Kennedy states, "If you go to West Virginia, democracy essentially doesn't exist. If you are a property owner in the state, you have no right to stop corporations from raining boulders down onto your property, poisoning your children, poisoning your wells, drying up your streams. You don't have the right to participate in local democracy, which is the fundamental zoning laws and planning laws. In West Virginia, you can't zone out these corporate activities. The transparency has disappeared in government, which is the hallmark of democracy. The agencies which are supposed to protect the West Virginia public from these companies have become the sock-puppets, the instrumentalities for the companies they're supposed to regulate. The judiciary and virtually every public-elected official in the state has been corrupted by Big Coal. Every poll, 2/3's of the West Virginia public wants to see mountaintop removal banned, but not a single politician dares to say that in the state." See a previous post, Massey Energy Falsified Safety Records (Video) "Single most destructive coal mining company in history".

Unleashed Corporate Power West Virginia is an example of unleashed corporate power. Kennedy says, "This is what happens when corporations take over government. Big government is a threat to democracy, but a bigger threat is unleashed corporate power. The domination of government by business is called communism. The domination of business by government is called fascism. That's what you are seeing, that form of government. Our job is to walk that narrow trail in between and hold big business at bay with our right hand and big government at bay with our left, and walk that narrow trail in between, which is free market capitalism and democracy. To do that, we need an independent press." He also stated, "When corporations take over a democracy, such as West Virginia, everything becomes a commodity."

We Need An Independent Press and Informed Public An independent press watches both big government and big business. Kennedy says, "We need an independent press that stands up and speaks truth to power and informs the public. We need an informed public that can recognize all the milestones of tyranny and we don't have either of those things left in this country", that is an independent press or informed public.

There Is Hope! Kennedy quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., "Martin Luther King said the tools of advocacy are agitation, legislation, litigation, and education. I would add to that innovation. We are seeing today a wave of innovation in this country", including the media and energy system. "This is going to democratize our energy system and take it away from Big Coal", not because of legislation but because of solar and wind power. These "disruptive technologies are cascading and at a tipping point". "That gives me a tremendous amount of hope".

Mountain Seer Conclusion A corporation's ultimate goal is to maximize shareholder wealth. This should be a disclaimer at the beginning of every advertisement on television, radio, the Internet, print, etc. Advertising and marketing campaigns are propaganda first and foremost. Corporations are only concerned ultimately about customers buying their product or service. This is enhanced by a positive public image sometimes. One way to enhance this public image is through charitable contributions, but only to the extent earnings per share are not materially affected negatively. Corporations want a financial, political, tax, and economic system that maximizes their profitability and therefore shareholder wealth. This is enhanced by political contributions. The Supreme Court of the United States has given corporations carte blanche to manipulate the tax and political system through bribes, sometimes called political contributions, to politicians in the United Corporations of America, formerly known as the United States of America and the Land of the Free. Maintaining or restoring clean air, clean water, and a functioning ecosystem costs money, reduces profits, and ultimately decreases earnings per share for the shareholders. Therefore it is cheaper for corporations to evade these expenses through a variety of legal maneuvers and pass on the costs to the public and taxpayers.

Tavis Smiley: Environmental Advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The environmentalist, who appears in the documentary The Last Mountain about the fight over coal, discusses the lack of government transparency and shares whether elective office is in his future.

West Virginia Environment and Economy Kennedy goes on to explain. Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy [now Alpha Natural Resources] admitted to 67,000   violations of the Clean Water Act over 5 years. The West Viriginia DEP, Department of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for enforcing that law, has never given him a penny in fines. Massey Energy has thousands of other violations that other agencies. Don Blankenship has been able to disable the agencies that are supposed to implement democracy in this country. So it can be illegal under the law, but he can get away with it. His business plan is to break the law, violate the law, and get away with it. He also stated, "When corporations take over a democracy, such as West Virginia, everything becomes a commodity." Big Coal says the coal industry brings prosperity to West Virginia. Kennedy responds, "It doesn't. It's emptying West Virginia of people. It's [Big Coal} whole business plan is to depopulate the countryside. Also, they've reduced the number of miners. My father said, 'West Virginia is the richest state in the country, in natural resources, but it is almost the poorest for the people, behind Mississippi. Why is that? It's because the corporations have stolen the resources from the people in the state'.

Supreme Court of the United States or of Corporations? Kennedy says of the current Supreme Court and ruling bloc, "The coherent philosophy of Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts, Jr., and Clarence Thomas is one thing, the corporations always win. If it's government against an individual, the government wins. If it's corporations against the individual, the corporation wins. If it's corporations against the government, the corporation wins. Show me one exception to that in any decision written by that Supreme Court." In 2010, this ruling bloc repealed a 100-year old law and made it legal for corporations to "flood our federal political campaigns with a tsunami of money. And that is the beginning of the end."

Biased Media and the Uninformed Public Kennedy notes that while the Supreme Court unleashed corporate power, the media and public "spent the last year talking about Charlie Sheen and Britney Spears, instead of talking about what's really about to destroy our democracy, which is this huge flood of corporate money that is going to put corporations in the driver's seat." If journalists do tell the truth, "they are branded and marginalized as being liberal just for telling the truth."

Devolution of the American Press Kennedy says the the devolution of the American Press began in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine as a political payback to the Christian right-wing. There was a law since 1928 that said, "the airwaves belong to the public, the broadcasters can be licensed to use them but only if they use them to promote the public interest, to inform the public, to advance democracy". The other rule was to "avoid corporate consolidation, a diversity of control". This second rule was strengthened after 1944 by Congress because, "they saw what Hitler had done", taking control of the media. Kennedy adds, "Now you have 5 giant corporations that control virtually all 14,000 radio stations, all 2,200 TV stations, 80% of our newspapers, all of our billboards, and most of the large Internet content providers. You have 5 guys who are deciding what Americans hear as news. They know no longer have an obligation to serve the public interest, their only obligation is to their shareholders. They serve that obligation not by informing us, telling us the things we need to know to make rational decisions in a democracy, but by entertaining us. So they appeal to our prurient interests of sex and celebrity gossip. So we are today the best entertained, least informed people. They got rid of their investigative reporters - 85% of them lost their jobs in the last 15 years. They got rid of their foreign news bureaus.

Ignorance, Fairness Doctrine, Corporate Money "The Canadians still have a Fairness Doctrine", Kennedy compares. "Fox News can't go to Canada, it's illegal to lie on the air in Canada. So Fox News can't go there". England and Europe also have similar rules. But in America there is no longer such rules and Kennedy says, "We know a lot about Britney Spears' gradual emotional decline and we know a lot about Charlie Sheen, but we don't know much about global warming or the fact that the Appalachian Mountains essentially no longer exist. So much of the media is dependent on corporate money".

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