“We have 250 years of coal. Why in the heck wouldn’t we use it?”
With the Republican National Convention now behind us, and Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan officially designated the two candidates on the ticket, we have the Democratic National Convention next week with no surprises anticipated. And then let the games begin!
I watched a lot of the RNC convention and it reminded me of what I don’t like in modern politics (and this happens on both sides of the aisle, so I’m being critical of the process rather than the party here): professionally-written speeches given by professionally-coached individuals reading from teleprompters. It’s like a movie and they’re nothing more than actors. Except that Tom Cruise would do a much better job of portraying a politician than the real ones do. There are lots of motherhood statements with little or no substance, and such puffery as “No one will work harder for you. Or for America.” Sheesh!
With that out of the way, now I have to pick on the party and its dirty tricks. I can’t help but comment on a recent speech Mitt Romney gave at an Ohio coal mine earlier in August. He was surrounded by coal miners which made for great photo ops. Guys in hard hats, standing behind Mitt, showing their solidarity. And Mitt standing there at the podium with the words “Coal Country Stands With Mitt” on it.
Only the show of solidarity was totally fabricated. It turns out these miners weren’t there because they believe in Mitt or the Republican ideology. They weren’t even there because they believed in their jobs or the industry. They were there because the owner of the mine—Murray Energy, the largest privately-owned coal company in the US—made them go. And without pay.
This came to light when many of the miners wrote letters to a local radio station explaining their presence at the campaign event. As one miner put it: “Just for the record, if we did not go, we knew what would happen.”
In one of the best recent examples of Orwellian doublespeak, Murray Energy CFO Rob Moore denied that workers were “forced” to be there. Instead, he explained their presence at the event was because it was “mandatory.” In case you think I’m misleading you somehow, here’s Moore in his own words: “Our managers communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” (I suppose he means no one was physically forced to attend? Like at gunpoint?) He did, however, confirm during the interview that pay was indeed docked for all workers.
Bob Murray, the Chief Executive Officer of Murray Energy is known to be an outspoken denier of climate change. Here’s a choice selection from an interview he did this past January (with the complete interview here if you’re interested:
“The fraudulent individuals around the world who have attempted to capitalize on the promotion of their theory that the Earth is warming are now finding out that it’s just not true. … They did it for what I call crony capitalism—to make money off global warming. … Albert Gore has made hundreds of millions of dollars over his hoax, and now they’re finding it’s simply not true.”
So if you are the boss of a coal company, and you don’t believe in global warming and climate change (which of course would hurt your company substantially since it’s part of the problem), then you would do whatever you could to protect your interests. Like donate money to candidates who will support your efforts. (Murray Energy donated $900,000 to Republican politicians last year. Zero to Democrats.) And you would want to help those on the fence to be swayed to your perspective. And since people feel better about their decision if they think it has a lot of support, you’ll make your employees stand behind a candidate you support, implying that your employees support him too. You’ll even make a sign in case the employees’ presence is too subtle.
That, my friends, is astroturfing. False grass roots support. Something the GOP has been doing all to often, it seems.