Despite Mitt Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout, his family personally gained at least $15.3 mln from the bailout and a few of Romney’s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 bln, as they profited from a daring scheme to seize control of a key car parts supplier and exported 25,000 auto industry jobs to China, Greg Palast reported at TheNation.com (10/17).
In an exposé that has been largely overlooked by the corporate media, Palast, an American investigative reporter for the BBC, noted that, in addition to the massive loans the government made to automakers in 2009, the federal government also sent, directly or indirectly, more than $12.9 bln to Delphi Automotive, the former General Motors subsidiary whose auto parts remain essential to GM’s production lines.
Palast noted that Delphi (formerly Delco) was spun off by GM into a separate company in 1999. On its own, Delphi foundered and declared bankruptcy in 2005, after which vulture hedge funds began to buy up the company’s old debt. Later, as the nation’s financial crisis accelerated, Paul Singer’s Elliott Management bought Delphi debt, as did John Paulson & Co. Paulson, like Singer, is a $1 mln donor to Romney. Also investing was Third Point, run by Daniel Loeb, who was once an Obama supporter but who this summer hosted a $25,000-a-plate fundraiser for Romney and personally donated about $500,000 to the GOP.
With Delphi in bankruptcy, the bonds were considered junk by the banks holding them. The hedge funds were able to pick up the securities for a song; most of Elliott’s purchases cost just 20 cents on the dollar of their face value.
By the end of June 2009, with bailout negotiations in full swing, the hedge funds, under Singer’s lead, used their bonds to buy up a controlling interest in Delphi’s stock. According to SEC filings, they paid, on average, an equivalent of only 67 cents per share.
According to Palast, Obama’s Auto Task Force, headed by Steven Rattner, was working to save GM, Chrysler, their suppliers and, most importantly, auto industry jobs. In Rattner’s memoir of the affair, Overhaul, he describes a closed-door meeting held in March 2009 to resolve Delphi’s fate. He writes that Delphi, now in the possession of its hedge fund creditors, told the Treasury and GM to hand over $350 mln immediately, “because if you don’t, we’ll shut you down.” His explanation was corroborated by Delphi’s chief financial officer, John Sheehan, who said in a sworn deposition in July 2009 that the hedge fund debt holders backed up their threat with “an analysis of the cost to GM if Delphi were unwilling or unable to provide supply to GM,” forcing a “shutdown.” It would take “years and tens of billions” for GM to replace Delphi’s parts. At that bleak moment, GM had neither. The automaker had left the inventory of its steering column and other key components in Delphi’s hands. If Delphi laid siege to GM’s parts supply, the bailout would fail and GM would have to be liquidated or sold off — as would another Delphi dependent, Chrysler.
Rattner could not believe that Delphi’s management — now effectively under the hedge funders’ control — would “want to be perceived as holding GM hostage at such a precarious economic moment.” A Wall Street Journal analyst suggested that Singer was treating Delphi “like a third-world country.” Rattner likened the subsidies demanded by Delphi debt holders to “extortion demands by the Barbary pirates.”
The Obama administration had tried to arrange a deal in which GM, with the support of the United Auto Workers, would take back control of Delphi via a joint venture with Platinum Equity, a buyout firm led by billionaire Tom Gores, who had grown up in the shadow of Delphi’s Flint plant. The plan would have closed 14 plants, but would have left several plants still in business, still unionized and still in the US. The hedge funders stunned Delphi by refusing to accept the Platinum plan. They demanded 45 cents on the dollar for the debt bonds they had bought on the cheap — more than double what the Treasury-brokered Platinum deal would pay.
After the hedge-fund takeover of Delphi, the squeeze on workers intensified through attacks on their pensions. During its years of economic trouble, Delphi had been chronically shorting payments to its pension funds — and by July 2009 they were underfunded by $7 bln. That month, Singer’s group won their bid for control of Delphi’s stock adn made clear they would neither make up the shortfall nor pay any more US worker pensions. The government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. agreed to take over Delphi’s pension payments. Relieved of its healthcare and pension obligations, its debts to GM and its union contracts, and now loaded with subsidies form GM funded by TARP, the company’s market value rose from zero to approximately $10.5 bln today, Palast reported.
Once the hedge funders, including Singer — a deep-pocketed right-wing donor and activist who serves as chair of the conservative, anti-union Manhattan Institute — took control of the firm, they rid Delphi of every single one of its 25,200 unionized workers, Palast wrote.
Of the 29 Delphi plants operating in the US when the hedge funders began buying up control, only one remains, with not a single union production worker, Palast said. Romney’s “job creators” did create jobs — in China, where Delphi now produces the parts used by GM and other major automakers here and abroad. Delphi is now incorporated overseas, leaving the company with 5,000 employees in the US (versus almost 100,000 abroad).
Third Point’s Daniel Loeb, whose net worth of $1.3 bln owes much to his share in the Delphi windfall, told his fund’s backers this past July that Delphi remains an excellent investment because it has “virtually no North American unionized labor” and, thanks to US taxpayers, “significantly smaller pension liabilities than almost all of its peers.”
Then Obama was blamed for the pension disaster. In a TV ad airing in swing states since September, one retired Delphi manager says, “The Obama administration decided to terminate my pension, and I took a 40% reduction in my pension.”
Palast noted, “These people are real. But it’s clear that these former workers, now struggling to scrape by, were hardly in the position to put together $7 mln in ad buys to publicize their plight. The ads were paid for by Let Freedom Ring, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization partially funded by Jack Templeton Jr., a billionaire evangelical whose foundation has sponsored lectures at the Manhattan Institute (the anti-union think tank whose board of directors includes not only Singer but Loeb). The ads also conveniently leave out the fact that the law sets specific ceilings on what the PBGC is allowed to pay retirees — regardless of what they were originally owed.”
“Of course, it wasn’t Obama who refused to pay the Delphi pensions; it was Paul Singer and the other hedge funds controlling Delphi. The salaried workers’ pensions were, after all, an obligation of Delphi’s owners, not the government. Delphi’s stockholders — the Romneys included — had one easy way to rectify the harm to these pensioners, much as GM did for its workers: just pay up,” Palast noted.
Making good on the full pensions for salaried workers would cost Delphi a one-time charge of less than $1 bln, he noted. This year, Delphi was flush with $1.4 billion in cash — meaning its owners could have made the pensioners whole and still cleared a profit. Instead, in May, Delphi chose to use most of those funds to take over auto parts plants in Asia at a cost of $972 mln — purchased from Bain Capital.
As for Romney’s role in the auto bailout, it might be one of the reasons he chose not to release his 2009 income tax returns. “The Romneys were invested with Elliott Management by the end of 2010, before Delphi was publicly traded,” Palast wrote. “So, in effect, they got Delphi stock at Singer’s initial dirt-cheap price. When Delphi’s owners took the company public in November 2011, the Romneys were in — and they hit the jackpot.”
In their 2011 and 2012 Federal Financial Disclosure filing, Palast noted, Ann Romney’s trust lists “more than $1 million” invested with Elliott. This is the description for all of her big investments — the minimal disclosure required by law. Had Romney kept the holding in his own name, Palast noted, he would have had to disclose if the investment had made more than $50 mln.
Palast said the Romneys’ profits could be anything from $15.3 mln if they invested only $1 mln with Singer to $115 mln if they invested 3% of their reported net worth, or $7.5 mln. (Palast noted that ABC News reported that he invested “a huge chunk of his vast wealth” with Singer.
The Romneys’ exact gain, however, remains nearly invisible — and untaxed — because Singer cashed out only a fragment of the windfall in 2011. And the Singer-led hedge funds have kept almost all of Delphi’s profits untaxed by moving Delphi’s incorporation from Troy, Mich., to the Isle of Jersey, a tax haven off the coast of France.
Palast concluded, “The Romneys might insist that the funds were given to Singer, Mitt’s key donor, only through Ann’s blind trust. But as Mitt Romney said some years ago of Ted Kennedy, ‘The blind trust is an age-old ruse, if you will. Which is to say, you can always tell a blind trust what it can and cannot do.’ Romney, who reminds us often that he was CEO of a hedge fund, can certainly read Elliott Management’s SEC statements, and he knows Ann’s trust is invested heavily in a fund whose No. 1 stake is with Delphi.
“Nevertheless, even if the Romneys were blind to their initial investment in Elliott, they would have known by the beginning of 2010 that they had a massive position in Delphi and would make a fortune from the bailout and TARP funds. Delphi is not a minor investment for Singer; it is his main holding. To invest in Elliott is essentially a “Delphi play”: that is, investing with Singer means buying a piece of the auto bailout.
“Mitt Romney may indeed have wanted to let Detroit die. But if the auto industry was going to be bailed out after all, the Romneys apparently couldn’t resist getting in on a piece of the action.”
See the entire story in The Nation (11/5) or online at (http://bit.ly/U8Wlid), with more details in Palast’s book, Billionaires and Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps (Seven Stories).
ROMNEY CLOSES IN ON 900 LIES. During the town-hall debate at Hempstead, N.Y. (10/16), Igor Volsky of ThinkProgress.org counted 31 “myths” told by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney but Steve Benen of MaddowBlog identified 41 instances of Mitt’s Mendacity, out of 49 misstatements of the truth told during the week ending Oct. 19.
Since Benen has been chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity for 39 weeks, starting when the presidential campaign heated up in January, we consider Benen’s as the official count, and Romney’s 49 stretchers bring him to 857 told so far this year. If there is a bigger liar in American politics, we’re at a loss to identify him. (We exclude active Fox News hosts and commentators as well as Rush Limbaugh, of course.)
The Romney campaign (10/20) released what Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler called a “greatest hits version of claims that have been thoroughly debunked by fact checkers.”
The 30-second ad stated: “If Barack Obama is reelected, what will the next four years be like? One, the debt will grow from 16 tln to 20 tln dollars. Two, 20 mln Americans could lose their employer-based health care. Three, taxes on the middle class will go up by $4,000. Four, energy prices will continue to go up. And five, $716 bln in Medicare cuts that hurt current seniors.”
Of those five misstatements, the best that can be said is that energy prices probably will continue to go up, but it will be despite the increased fossil fuel production under Obama, as well as increased fuel efficiency and green energy sources he has supported. Romney’s energy policy is focused entirely on developing fossil fuels — which are then sold on the worldwide market.
We expect Romney to breeze past 900 lies by Benen’s next report on 10/26 — and he got a good start with 24 “myths” told during the foreign policy debate(10/22), according to Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress.org (10/23), but it will still challenge Mitt’s mendacity to reach the plateau of 1,000 lies in the two weeks remaining in the campaign as of this writing.
VOTE-FRAUD-TAINTED FIRM GOT $600,000 FROM GOP IN SEPTEMBER. The Republican National Committee paid Strategic Allied Consulting LLC $416,665 for “management consulting services” in September, according to Federal Election Commission filings and the Republican Party of Virginia paid it another $200,000. The firm, owned by GOP operative Nathan Sproul, was fired by the RNC and five state Republican parties after apparently fraudulent voter-registration forms turned up in 10 Florida counties. The payments were provided before Republican ties with the firm were cut off, Meteor Blades reported at DailyKos.com (10/22).
A spokesman for the RNC said at the time Strategic Allied Consulting was fired that the party has “zero tolerance” for anything that smacks of voter-registration fraud. But Blades noted that the RNC has stuck with Sproul over nearly a decade despite repeated allegations in various states that his firms have been involved in trickery and deceit. There’s a pattern of alleged misbehavior.
The Florida party had previously paid the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, $1.3 mln in July and August, according to the Palm Beach Post. The RNC had directed a total of $3.1 mln to the firm through state organizations in Florida, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched a criminal investigation of Sproul and Strategic Allied Consulting because of allegations of 220 criminal acts. Among were allegations of dead people being registered to vote as well as numerous other voter-registration infractions used to try to increase Republican voter rolls.
The company has also been linked to a case of voter registration form destruction in Virginia. A former employee of the company, Colin Small, 23, was charged (10/18) with destroying eight voter registration forms there. Small, like many employees originally hired by the company, continued to work on behalf of the Republican Party after the company was fired. TalkingPointsMemo.com reported (10/22).
Blades also noted that Sproul’s firms have run similar voter registration efforts for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, for McCain-Palin in 2008 and Romney since late last year. Operating under different names, the firms have been accused of altering information on Democratic voter registration forms in several states, including Oregon and Colorado. The Florida Party, a spokesman said, had hired SAC “at the request of” the RNC.
GEORGE McGOVERN, R.I.P. George McGovern died on Oct. 21, late in our editorial production cycle. We anticipate more tributes to be published in the next issue, but our colleague, Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, spoke for many when he noted that the former three-term senator “lived a life nearly as large as his heart.”
“George McGovern will be remembered as a stalwart of American liberalism. For my generation, he was beloved for his courageous opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War. That opposition came from his knowledge of war learned in heroic service in World War II. He brought common sense prairie populism to Washington. His efforts to end hunger both here and across the world made him a remarkable champion for the ‘least of these.’
“His candidacy for president in 1972 helped forge the consensus that forced the eventual ending of the war. Along the way, he transformed the Democratic Party, opening up its doors to women and minorities, and making its nominating process far more democratic.
“McGovern led the challenge the growing US military involvement in Vietnam. He fought for years for a legislative solution; the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment sought to end the Vietnam War. McGovern took a personal financial risk in order to take this fight to the American people. In May 1970, he got a second mortgage on his Washington, D.C. home to buy TV time to promote the anti-war amendment.”
McGovern moved public opinion but the amendment was defeated in September 1970 by a 55-39 vote.
“Demonstrating his compassion for the vulnerable, McGovern worked to feed the hungry, not just in the US but around the world. He issued a report that led to a new set of nutritional guidelines for Americans. He also led the effort for a school meals program that has provided food for millions of children worldwide since 2000.
“McGovern worked to unleash the power of grass roots activists. He worked to open up the nominating process of the Democratic Party beyond elite party insiders. The McGovern-Fraser Commission fundamentally altered the Democratic presidential nominating process, by increasing the number of caucuses and primaries and reducing the influence of party insiders.”
Harold Meyerson closed his tribute at Prospect.org (10/21) with this note: "George McGovern was not just a staunch liberal, but also the most decent human being to be a presidential nominee in the past four decades. That obviously was no guarantor of victory or even judgment, but it certainly guarantees that those of us who remember him do so with great fondness."
Some conservatives also appreciated McGovern, such as Bill Kauffman, who wrote in a 1/30/2006 article, "Come Home, America," for *The American Conservative* that "George McGovern was a liberal Democrat. He voted for social-welfare programs of every shape and size; his philosophy then and now was a product, he says, of the Social Gospel movement, which translates Christianity into an interventionist welfare state.
"But at its not-frequent-enough best, McGovernism combined New Left participatory democracy with the small-town populism of the Upper Midwest. In a couple of April 1972 speeches, he seemed to second Barry Goldwater’s 1968 remark to aide Karl Hess that “When the histories are written, I’ll bet that the Old Right and the New Left are put down as having a lot in common and that the people in the middle will be the enemy.”
“[M]ost Americans see the establishment center as an empty, decaying void that commands neither their confidence nor their love,” McGovern asserted in one of the great unknown campaign speeches in American history. “It is the establishment center that has led us into the stupidest and cruelest war in all history. That war is a moral and political disaster—a terrible cancer eating away the soul of the nation. … It was not the American worker who designed the Vietnam war or our military machine. It was the establishment wise men, the academicians of the center. As Walter Lippmann once observed, ‘There is nothing worse than a belligerent professor.’”
ARMED FORCES FAVOR OBAMA IN DONATIONS. Members of the military and civilian employees of the Department of Defense overwhelmingly support of President Obama in their donations, OpenSecrets.org reported (10/22). Obama has raised $678,611 from the armed forces through September, while Romney has raised $398,450, according to figures reported to the Federal Election Commission. Ron Paul raised $399,274 from military donors during his Republican primary campaign.
ROMNEY'S MAJOR FLIP-FLOPS IN THIRD DEBATE. Mitt Romney reversed several of his talking points on foreign policy during the third presidential debate, noted Mideast observer Juan Cole of the University of Michigan noted (10/23). Among the flip-flops:
On Israel and Palestine, Romney said, "Is — are Israel and the Palestinians closer to — to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven’t had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we need to have ...”
But in a secretly videotaped fundraiser in Boca Raton last May, Romney had said about the Israel-Palestine conflict: “So what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem … and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
On Afghanistan, Romney said he would make sure US troops are out by the end of 2014, flip-flopping from earlier hedging where he said he would make a decision based on conditions on the ground and the advice of military commanders.
On the Egyptian revolution, Romney said he agreed with the replacement of President Mubarak, who "had done things which were unimaginable," though in February Romney had refused to call Mubarak a "dictator."
On the Iraq War, Romney said "We don't want another Iraq," seeming to admit that the war was an error, although in 2003 he supported it.
ISSA REVEALS LIBYANS WORKING WITH US. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) compromised the identities of several Libyans working with the US government and placed their lives in danger when he posted 166 pages of State Department communications on the committee’s website (10/19) without redacting sensitive details, according to Obama administration officials.
One of the cables released by Issa names a woman human rights activist who was leading a campaign against violence and was detained in Benghazi. She expressed fear for her safety to US officials and criticized the Libyan government, *Foreign Policy* magazine reported (10/19). Another cable names a Benghazi port manager who was working with the US on an infrastructure project. One cable names a local militia commander dishing dirt on the inner workings of the Libyan Interior Ministry. Another cable names a militia commander who claims to control a senior official of the Libyan armed forces.
Foreign Policy’s Cable columnist noted that even WikiLeaks had approached the State Department and offered to negotiate retractions of sensitive information before releasing their cables last year. A spokesman for the Oversight Committee confirmed that Issa did not grant the State Department that opportunity but said it was the State Department’s fault for not releasing the documents when they were first requested.
“When you’re so desperate to win an election that you see the murder of four Americans as a political opportunity to be exploited, things like this happen, Jed Lewison noted at DailyKos.com (10/19).
FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT FOR MITT. Newspaper endorsements don’t mean as much as they used to, but it had to hurt Mitt Romney when the Salt Lake Tribune opted for the incumbent (10/19).
After noting Romney’s successes in business, religion and politics, and organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics that made him Utah’s favorite adopted son, Tribune editors wrote, “this is the Mitt Romney we knew, or thought we knew, as one of us.
“Sadly, it is not the only Romney, as his campaign for the White House has made abundantly clear, first in his servile courtship of the tea party in order to win the nomination, and now as the party’s shape-shifting nominee. From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: ‘Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?’ ...
“In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.
“Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.”
The Tribune endorsement is not expected to have much of an impact in heavily Mormon Utah, where there has been little polling since the Republican primary, but in Massachusetts, where Romney served one term as governor, he trailed Obama by 27 points (Boston Globe/UNH, 9/21-27) to 18 points (Public Policy Poll, 10/15-16). In his native Michigan, Romney trailed Obama by 2 (Gravis Marketing, 10/5-8) to 10 points (YouGov, 10/4-11) and 9 in the most recent (Angus-Reid, 10/18/20).
ROMNEY-LINKED MACHINES TO COUNT OHIO VOTES. Hart Intercivic machines will be counting the votes in various counties in the crucial swing states of Ohio and Colorado and elsewhere Nov. 6 — even though it has extensive corporate ties to the Mitt Romney camp, and a study by the state of Ohio labeled its voting system a “failure” when it comes to protecting the integrity of elections, Craig Under reported at Salon.com (10/23).
Reports of Hart Intercivic’s ties to Romney first surfaced in late September, in a by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis at FreePress.org, an Ohio website that reported that a key investor in Hart was HIG Capital, seven of whose directors were former employees of Bain & Co., where Mitt Romney was once CEO. (Romney left the company in 1984 to co-found a spinoff company, Bain Capital.) HIG Capital announced its investment in Hart on 7/6/11, just one month after Romney formally announced the launch of his presidential campaign.
Also, four HIG directors, Tony Tamer, John Bolduc, Douglas Berman and Brian D. Schwartz, are Romney bundlers, along with former Bain and HIG manager Brian Shortsleeve. , HIG Capital has contributed $338,000 to the Romney campaign this year. Moreover, according to The Nation, HIG Capital is tied to the Romney family via Solamere, a private equity firm that has invested in HIG and is run by Tagg Romney, the candidate’s son.
A spokesman for Hart Intercivic, Peter Lichtenheld, vice-president of operations, confirmed that HIG was a major investor, but downplayed its role in Hart’s management. “HIG Capital is an investor with Hart,” Lichtenheld told Salon, “but it has nothing to do with management at Hart. We don’t want the perception that we have some political agenda. We are in the election business and integrity is paramount.”
‘WAR ON COAL’ OBSCURES REALITY. A few generations ago, coal miners were at war with their employers, spilling and shedding blood on West Virginia’s Blair Mountain in a historic battle for union representation and fair treatment. Vicki Smith of the Associated Press noted (10/20) that today, their descendants are allies in a carefully choreographed rhetorical war playing out across eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia and all of West Virginia, fueled by a single, unrelenting message that they now face a common enemy — the federal government — that has decided that coal is no longer king, or even noble.
To hear the coal industry tell it, coal miners are an endangered species in the crosshairs of overzealous environmental regulators directly responsible for wiping out thousands of jobs. But the US Department of Labor reports that the number of coal jobs nationwide actually has grown steadily since 2008, with consistent gains in West Virginia and Virginia and ups and downs in Kentucky.
But when St. Louis-based Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy in July, it didn’t mention a war. It said the industry is going through “a major correction,” a convergence of “new realities in the market.” Environmental standards are growing tougher as Americans outside coal country demand clean air and water. Old, inefficient, coal-fired power plants are going offline or converting to natural gas, cutting into a traditional customer base. And that gas poses fierce, sustainable competition, thanks to advanced drilling technologies that make vast reserves more accessible than ever.
Production in the East has been falling for more than a decade, and was surpassed by Western states such as Wyoming in 1998. Now even those states are struggling as domestic demand dwindles. US coal production plummeted 9.4% between the first and second quarters of 2012. By the end of the year, coal is expected to account for less than 40% of US electricity production, the lowest level since the government began collecting data in 1949. By the end of the decade, it may be closer to 30%. But coal exports are booming, as the Energy Information Administration expects US producers to ship a record 125 mln tons this year, surpassing the previous record of 113 mln tons in 1981. Boosted by growing deand in Asia, most of the coal is used for power generation.
Coal country remembers Obama’s statement in a 2008 campaign interview: “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” he said. “It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
He now espouses an energy strategy that includes a role for coal. But the EPA has rolled out tough new air pollution standards, some of which had begun under the previous, Republican administration. It vetoed a permit for a massive West Virginia mountaintop removal mine four years after it was issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, triggering a federal court battle that’s still playing out.
And EPA cracked down on the permitting process for mountaintop mining, a highly efficient and highly destructive form of strip mining unique to Appalachia. The practice of flat-topping mountains, then filling valleys and covering streams with rubble has divided communities and led to multiple confrontations between coal miners and environmental activists.
In one of his last major speeches in 2009, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd warned that change was upon coal country. He chastised the industry for “scapegoating and stoking fear,” calling it counterproductive. “To be part of any solution,” he said, “one must first acknowledge the problem.” The greatest threats to coal, Byrd warned, come not from regulations “but rather from rigid mindsets, depleting reserves and the declining demand.”
Byrd was 91 at the time and revered in his home state of West Virginia. The speech was largely ignored.
When Sen. Jay Rockefeller gave a similar speech in June, deriding the industry for what he said were divisive, fear-mongering tactics, the state’s Young Republicans said he’d “gone from out of touch to dangerous.” They even invoked the language of terrorism, suggesting he’s “an anti-Mountain State sleeper cell that has lain dormant for 40 years.”
From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2012
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