Sunday, May 29, 2011

Taking the Side of the Billionaires

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By Robert Parry

America’s Right pitches itself as populist, taking the side of the common man against “big guv-mint” and “lib-rhul elites,” but its actual policies – from the NFL lockout to Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget – side with the billionaires in what amounts to an escalating class war against the middle class and the poor, Robert Parry reports.

If American football fans end up facing a fall without NFL games, they probably won’t blame George W. Bush and other Republican presidents for packing the federal courts with right-wing judges, but it was two Bush appointees who reversed a District Court ruling that would have ended the lockout of players.

The Appeals Court judgment encouraged the NFL’s hardline billionaire owners to resist making the kinds of compromises that a few less intransigent owners recognize could easily resolve the impasse.

Now, the hardliners simply assume that Republican judges will keep siding with the NFL owners and thus enable them to beat down the players, eventually assuring the billionaire owners a bigger piece of the revenue pie – even if that means losing some or all of the 2011 season.

What many average Americans, especially white guys, don’t seem to understand is that whatever the populist-styled rhetoric of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, the Right’s default position is to side with the billionaires – and to show little or no regard for the fate of anyone else, whether NFL players or sick senior citizens.

Still, one must give the Right credit for having worked hard refining how to phrase its arguments. Right-wingers even have turned the term “class warfare” against the Left by shouting the phrase in a mocking fashion whenever anyone tries to blunt the “class warfare” that the billionaires have been waging against the middle class and the poor for decades.

On right-wing TV and talk radio across the country, there are tag teams of macho men pretending that ”class warfare” exists only in the fevered imagination of the Left. But billionaire investor Warren Buffett has acknowledged the truth: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

The right-wing propagandists further earn their keep by disparaging science as “elitist.” So, even as the dire predictions from climate-change experts that global warming will generate more extreme weather seem to be coming true, many Americans who have listened to the “climate-change-deniers” for years still reject the scientific warnings.

While no single weather event can be connected to the broader trend of climate change, the warnings about what might happen when the earth’s atmosphere heats up and absorbs more moisture seem to be applicable to the historic flooding in some parts of the world, droughts in others, and the outbreak of particularly violent storms.

Heat and moisture are especially dangerous ingredients for hurricanes and tornados.

Ironically, the parts of the United States hardest hit by this severe weather are those represented predominately by Republicans who have been at the forefront of obstructing government efforts to address the global-warming crisis.

Flooding, hurricanes and tornados have inflicted horrendous damage on Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri and Oklahoma – all part of the Republican base.

God’s Punishment?

If televangelist Pat Robertson were a left-winger instead of a right-winger, he might be saying that God is punishing these “red states” for doubting the science of global warming.

However, even as the U.S. news obsesses over the violent weather, mainstream media stars have steered clear of whether global warming might be a factor. It’s as if they know that they’d only be inviting career-damaging attacks from the Right if they did anything to connect the dots.

The Right also is not eager to explain how these catastrophes will require emergency funding and rebuilding assistance from the federal government. After all, you don’t want Republican voters to understand that sometimes “self-reliance” alone doesn’t cut it; sometimes, we all need help and the government must be part of that assistance.

In the case of the killer tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, House Republicans, without a hint of irony, are extracting the funds for disaster relief from green energy programs, which remain a favorite GOP target since many Republicans still insist there is no such thing as global warming.

At both state and national levels, Republican leaders have lined up behind climate-change deniers, with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty just the latest GOP presidential hopeful to apologize for his past support of a cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing global-warming gases.

Any serious move toward alternative energies would, of course, be costly to the giant oil companies and their billionaire owners, like David Koch of Koch Industries who has spent millions of dollars funding right-wing organizations, such as the Tea Party. The Right’s media/political operatives know better than to bite the hand that feeds them.

GOP orthodoxy also disdains tax increases on the rich or even elimination of tax breaks for the oil industry. The Republican insistence on low tax rates for the wealthy, in turn, has forced consideration of other policy proposals to achieve savings from services for average Americans.

That is why congressional Republicans have targeted Medicare with a plan that would end the current health program for the elderly and replace it with a scheme that would give subsidies to senior citizens who would then have to sign up for health insurance from private industry, which has proven itself far less efficient in providing health care than the government.

The GOP budget, drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would impose the Medicare changes on seniors beginning in 10 years.

Most attention on the Ryan plan has focused on estimates that it would cost the average senior citizen more than $6,000 extra per year, but the proposal also has the effect of privatizing Medicare, meaning that the government would make direct “premium support” payments to profit-making insurance companies whose interest is in maximizing profits, not providing the best possible care for old people.

While the Ryan plan would achieve budget “savings” by shifting the burden of health-care costs onto the elderly, Ryan’s budget also would lower tax rates for the wealthiest Americans even more, from 35 percent to 25 percent. Partly because of that tax cut, Ryan’s budget would still not be balanced for almost three decades.

Class Warfare

Thus, the battle lines of America’s “class warfare” are getting more sharply drawn. The conflict is now over the Right’s determination to concentrate even more money and power in the hands of the rich by hobbling any government capability to protect the people’s general welfare.

If the Right wins, individual Americans will be left essentially defenseless in the face of unbridled corporate power.

Ryan’s Medicare plan may be just the most striking example because it envisions sick old people trying to pick their way through a thicket of private insurance plans with all their confusing language designed to create excuses for denying coverage. It is not an exaggeration to say that Ryan’s tight-fisted Medicare plan could consign millions of Americans to a premature death.

The Right’s priorities hit home at a town hall meeting held by Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Georgia, when he chastised one of his constituents who worried that Ryan’s plan would leave Americans like her, whose employer doesn’t extend health benefits to retirees, out of luck.

“Hear yourself, ma’am. Hear yourself,” Woodall lectured the woman. “You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, ‘When do I decide I’m going to take care of me?’”

However, another constituent noted that Woodall accepted government-paid-for health insurance for himself.

“You are not obligated to take that if you don’t want to,” the woman said. “Why aren’t you going out on the free market in the state where you’re a resident and buy your own health care? Be an example. …

“Go and get it in a single-subscriber plan, like you want everybody else to have, because you want to end employer-sponsored health plans and government-sponsored health plans. … Decline the government health plan and go to Blue Cross/Blue Shield or whoever, and get one for yourself and see how tough it is.”

Woodall answered that he was taking his government health insurance “because it’s free. It’s because it’s free.”

Self-reliance, it seems, is easier to preach to others than to practice yourself.

Woodall’s explanation recalled the hypocrisy of free-market heroine Ayn Rand, whom Rep. Ryan has cited as his political inspiration. In her influential writings, Rand ranted against social programs that enabled the “parasites” among the middle-class and the poor to sap the strength from the admirable rich, but she secretly accepted the benefits of Medicare after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

A two-pack-a-day smoker, Rand had denied the medical science about the dangers of cigarettes, much as her acolytes today reject the science of global warming. However, when she developed lung cancer, she connived to have Evva Pryor, an employee of Rand’s law firm, arrange Social Security and Medicare benefits for Ann O’Connor, Ayn Rand using her husband’s last name.

In 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, Scott McConnell, founder of the Ayn Rand Institute’s media department, quoted Pryor as saying: “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out.”

So, when push came to shove, even Ayn Rand wasn’t above getting help from the “despised government.” However, her followers, including Rep. Ryan, now want to strip those guaranteed benefits from other Americans of more modest means than Ayn Rand.

It seems it’s okay for average Americans to be wiped out.

Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy

While the Right’s penchant for hypocrisy is well-known (note how many Republicans involved in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton had their own extra-marital affairs), the bigger mystery is why so many average-guy Americans volunteer to fight for the rich in the trenches of the Right’s class warfare.

Clearly, the Right’s propaganda with its endless repetition is very effective, especially given the failure of the American Left to invest significantly in a competing message machine. The Right also has adopted the tone of populism, albeit in support of a well-to-do economic elite.

Yet, perhaps most importantly, the Right has stuck with its battle plan for rallying a significant percentage of middle-class Americans against their own interests.

Four decades ago, President Richard Nixon and his subordinates won elections by demonizing “hippies,” “welfare queens” and the “liberal media.”

Then, in the late 1970s, a tripartite coalition took shape consisting of the Republican Establishment, neoconservatives and the leaders of the Christian Right. Each group had its priorities.

The rich Republicans wanted deep tax cuts and less business regulation; the neocons wanted big increases in military spending and a freer hand to wage wars; and the Christian Right agreed to supply political foot soldiers in exchange for concessions on social issues, such as abortion and gay rights. Ultimately, each part of the coalition got a chunk of what it wanted.

From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, the rich got their taxes slashed, saw regulations rolled back and gained a larger share of the nation’s wealth and political power. The neocons got massive military spending and the chance to dispatch U.S. soldiers to kill Israel’s Muslim enemies. The Christian Right got help in restricting abortions and punishing gays.

But what did the American middle-class get?

Over those three decades, the middle-class has stagnated or slipped backward. Labor unions were busted; jobs were shipped overseas; personal debt soared; education grew more expensive, along with medical care. People were working harder and longer – for less. Or they couldn’t find jobs at all.

With today’s Tea Party and the Ryan budget, the Right’s coalition is staying on the offensive. If the House budget were passed in total, tax rates for the rich would be reduced another 10 percentage points; military spending would remain high to please the neocons (who foresee a possible war with Iran); and Planned Parenthood and other pet targets of the Christian Right would be zeroed out.

Yet, with the proposed elimination of traditional Medicare, the Ryan budget has lifted the curtain on what the Right’s “free market” has in mind for most average Americans, who could expect to find their lives not only more brutish but shorter.

The real-life-and-death consequences of the Right’s tax cuts, military spending and culture wars are finally coming into focus. If you’re not rich – and can’t afford to pick up the higher tab on health care – you’re likely to die younger. Or your kids might have to dig into their pockets to help you out.

Less extreme but still troubling, another consequence of the Right’s remarkable success over the past three decades might become apparent on your TV screens this fall.

Thanks to all those right-wing judges packed onto federal appeals courts by Reagan and the two Bushes, American football fans might not have the NFL to watch.

The NFL’s lockout of its players seemed to be ending several weeks ago when a lower-court judge ruled against the billionaire owners, but the NFL’s lawyers confidently filed an appeal to a three-judge panel on the Eighth Circuit, knowing that they would surely get one dominated by Republican judges.

They did. Steven Colloton and Duane Benton, two Republicans appointed by George W. Bush, constituted the majority on the panel and reflexively sided with the NFL’s owners.

The ruling should have surprised no one. After all, the Right’s default position is almost always to side with the billionaires.

The Myth of U.S. Democracy and the Reality of U.S. Corporatocracy

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By Bruce E. Levine

Polls show that on the major issues of our time -- the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts and health insurance -- the opinion of We the People has been ignored on a national level for quite some time. While the corporate media repeats the myth that the United States of America is a democracy, Americans, especially Wisonsiners and Ohioans, know that this is a joke.

On March 3, 2011, a Rasmussen Reports poll declared that "Most Wisconsin voters oppose efforts to weaken collective bargaining rights for union workers." This of course didn't stop Wisconsin Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature from passing a bill that -- to the delight of America's ruling class -- trashed most collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Similarly in Ohio, legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for public workers is on the verge of being signed into law by Governor Kasich, despite the fact that Public Policy Polling on March 15, 2011 reported that 54 percent of Ohio voters would repeal the law, while 31 percent would keep it.

It is a myth that the United States of America was ever a democracy (most of the famous founder elite such as John Adams equated democracy with mob rule and wanted no part of it). The United States of America was actually created as a republic, in which Americans were supposed to have power through representatives who were supposed to actually represent the American people. The truth today, however, is that the United States is neither a democracy nor a republic. Americans are ruled by a corporatocracy: a partnership of "too-big-to-fail" corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.

The reality is that Americans, for quite some time, have opposed the U.S. government's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but We the People have zero impact on policy. On March 10-13, 2011, an ABC News/Washington Post poll asked, "All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?"; 64 percent said "not worth fighting" and 31 percent said "worth fighting." A February 11, 2011, CBS poll reported Americans' response to the question, "Do you think the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the U.S. not be involved in Afghanistan now?"; only 37 percent of Americans said the U.S. "is doing the right thing" and 54 percent said we "should not be involved." When a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll on December 17-19, 2010, posed the question, "Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?" only 35 percent of Americans favored the war while 63 percent opposed it. For several years, the majority of Americans have also opposed the Iraq war, typified by a 2010 CBS poll which reported that 6 out of 10 Americans view the Iraq war as "a mistake."

The opposition by the majority of Americans to current U.S. wars has remained steady for several years. However, if you watched only the corporate media's coverage of the 2010 election between Democratic and Republican corporate-picked candidates, you might not even know that America was involved in two wars -- two wars that are not only opposed by the majority of Americans but which are also bankrupting America.

How about the 2008 Wall Street bailout? Even when Americans believed the lie that it was only a $700 billion bailout, they opposed it; but their opinion was irrelevant. In September 2008, despite the corporate media's attempts to terrify Americans into believing that an economic doomsday would occur without the bailout, Americans still opposed it. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll in September 2008, asked, "Do you think the government should use taxpayers' dollars to rescue ailing private financial firms whose collapse could have adverse effects on the economy and market, or is it not the government's responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayers' dollars?"; only 31 percent of Americans said we should "use taxpayers" dollars while 55 percent said it is "not government's responsibility." Also in September 2008, both a CBSNews/New York Times poll and a USA Today/Gallup poll showed Americans opposed the bailout. This disapproval of the bailout was before most Americans discovered that the Federal Reserve had loaned far more money to "too-big-to-fail" corporations than Americans had been originally led to believe (The Wall Street Journal reported on December 1, 2010, "The US central bank on Wednesday disclosed details of some $3.3 trillion in loans made to financial firms, companies and foreign central banks during the crisis.")

What about health insurance? Despite the fact that several 2009 polls showed that Americans actually favored a "single-payer" or "Medicare-for-all" health insurance plan, it was not even on the table in the Democrat-Republican 2009-2010 debate over health insurance reform legislation. And polls during this debate showed that an even larger majority of Americans favored the government providing a "public option" to compete with private health insurance plans, but the public option was quickly pushed off the table in the Democratic-Republican debate. A July 2009 Kaiser Health Tracking poll asked, "Do you favor or oppose having a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance through an expanded, universal form of Medicare-for-all?" In this Kaiser poll, 58 percent of Americans favored a Medicare-for-all universal plan, and only 38 percent opposed it -- and a whopping 77 percent favored "expanding Medicare to cover people between the ages of 55 and 64 who do not have health insurance." A February 2009 CBS News/New York Times poll reported that 59 percent of Americans say the government should provide national health insurance. And a December 2009 Reuters poll reported that, "Just under 60 percent of those surveyed said they would like a public option as part of any final healthcare reform legislation."

In the U.S. corporatocracy, as in most modern tyrannies, there are elections, but the reality is that giant corporations and the wealthy elite rule in a way to satisfy their own self-interest. In elections in a corporatocracy, as is the case in elections in all tyrannies, it's in the interest of the ruling class to maintain the appearance that the people have a say, so more than one candidate is offered up. In the U.S. corporatocracy, it's in the interest of corporations and the wealthy elite that the winning candidate is beholden to them, so they financially support both Democrats and Republicans. It's in the interest of corporations and the wealthy elite that there are only two viable parties--this cuts down on bribery costs. And it's in the interest of these two parties that they are the only parties with a chance of winning.

In the U.S. corporatocracy, corporations and the wealthy elite directly and indirectly finance candidates, who are then indebted to them. It's common for these indebted government officials to appoint to key decision-making roles those friendly to corporations, including executives from these corporations. And it's routine for high-level government officials to be rewarded with high-paying industry positions when they exit government. It's common and routine for former government officials to be given high-paying lobbying jobs so as to use their relationships with current government officials to ensure that corporate interests will be taken care of.

The integration between giant corporations and the U.S. government has gone beyond revolving doors of employment (exemplified by George W. Bush's last Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, who had previously been CEO of Goldman Sachs; and Barack Obama's first chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers who in 2008 received $5.2 million from hedge fund D. E. Shaw). Nowadays, the door need not even revolve in the U.S. corporatocracy; for example, when President Obama earlier in 2011 appointed General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt as a key economic advisor, Immelt kept his job as CEO of General Electric.

The United States is not ruled by a single deranged dictator but by an impersonal corporatocracy. Thus, there is no one tyrant that Americans can first hate and then finally overthrow so as to end senseless wars and economic injustices. Revolutions against Qaddafi-type tyrants require enormous physical courage. In the U.S. corporatocracy, the first step in recovering democracy is the psychological courage to face the humiliation that we Americans have neither a democracy nor a republic but are in fact ruled by a partnership of "too-big-to-fail" corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.

10 Steps to Defeat the Corporatocracy

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By Bruce E. Levine

The only way to overcome the power of money is regain our courage and solidarity. Here's how to do that.

Many Americans know that the United States is not a democracy but a "corporatocracy," in which we are ruled by a partnership of giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite and corporate-collaborator government officials. However, the truth of such tyranny is not enough to set most of us free to take action. Too many of us have become pacified by corporatocracy-created institutions and culture.

Some activists insist that this political passivity problem is caused by Americans' ignorance due to corporate media propaganda, and others claim that political passivity is caused by the inability to organize due to a lack of money. However, polls show that on the important issues of our day - from senseless wars, to Wall Street bailouts, to corporate tax-dodging, to health insurance rip-offs - the majority of Americans are not ignorant to the reality that they are being screwed. And American history is replete with organizational examples - from the Underground Railroad, to the Great Populist Revolt, to the Flint sit-down strike, to large wildcat strikes a generation ago - of successful rebels who had little money but lots of guts and solidarity.

The elite spend their lives stockpiling money and have the financial clout to bribe, divide and conquer the rest of us. The only way to overcome the power of money is with the power of courage and solidarity. When we regain our guts and solidarity, we can then more wisely select from - and implement - time-honored strategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have long used to defeat the elite. So, how do we regain our guts and solidarity?

1. Create the Cultural and Psychological "Building Blocks" for Democratic Movements

Historian Lawrence Goodwyn has studied democratic movements such as Solidarity in Poland, and he has written extensively about the populist movement in the United States that occurred during the end of the 19th century (what he calls "the largest democratic mass movement in American history"). Goodwyn concludes that democratic movements are initiated by people who are neither resigned to the status quo nor intimidated by established powers. For Goodwyn, the cultural and psychological building blocks of democratic movements are individual self-respect and collective self-confidence. Without individual self-respect, we do not believe that we are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and we accept as our role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, we do not believe that we can succeed in wresting away power from our rulers.

Thus, it is the job of all of us - from parents, to students, to teachers, to journalists, to clergy, to psychologists, to artists and EVERYBODY who gives a damn about genuine democracy - to create individual self-respect and collective self-confidence.

2. Confront and Transform ALL Institutions that Have Destroyed Individual Self-Respect and Collective Self-Confidence

In "Get Up, Stand Up, " I detail 12 major institutional and cultural areas that have broken people's sprit of resistance, and all are "battlefields for democracy" in which we can fight to regain our individual self-respect and collective self confidence:
• Television
• Isolation and bureaucratization
• "Fundamentalist consumerism" and advertising/propaganda
• Student loan debt and indentured servitude
• Surveillance
• The decline of unions/solidarity among working people
• Greed and a "money-centric" culture
• Fear-based schools that teach obedience
• Psychopathologizing noncompliance
• Elitism via professional training
• The corporate media
• The US electoral system

As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike."

3. Side Each Day in Every Way With Anti-Authoritarians

We can recover our self-respect and strength by regaining our integrity. This process requires a personal transformation to overcome our sense of powerlessness and fight for what we believe in. Integrity includes acts of courage resisting all illegitimate authorities. We must recognize that in virtually every aspect of our life in every day, we can either be on the side of authoritarianism and the corporatocracy or on the side of anti-authoritarianism and democracy. Specifically, we can question the legitimacy of government, media, religious, educational and other authorities in our lives, and if we establish that an authority is not legitimate, we can resist it. And we can support others who are resisting illegitimate authorities. A huge part of solidarity comes from supporting others who are resisting the illegitimate authorities in their lives. Walt Whitman had it right: "Resist much, obey little. Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved."

4. Regain Morale by Thinking More Critically About Our Critical Thinking

While we need critical thinking to effectively question and challenge illegitimate authority - and to wisely select the best strategies and tactics to defeat the elite - critical thinking can reveal some ugly truths about reality, which can result in defeatism. Thus, critical thinkers must also think critically about their defeatism, and realize that it can cripple the will and destroy motivation, thus perpetuating the status quo. William James (1842–1910), the psychologist, philosopher, and occasional political activist (member of the Anti-Imperialist League who, during the Spanish-American War, said, "God damn the US for its vile conduct in the Philippine Isles!") had a history of pessimism and severe depression, which helped fuel some of his greatest wisdom on how to overcome immobilization. James, a critical thinker, had little stomach for what we now call "positive thinking," but he also came to understand how losing belief in a possible outcome can guarantee its defeat. Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), an Italian political theorist and Marxist activist who was imprisoned by Mussolini, came to the same conclusions. Gramsci's phrase "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will" has inspired many critical thinkers, including Noam Chomsky, to maintain their efforts in the face of difficult challenges.

5. Restore Courage in Young People

The corporatocracy has not only decimated America's labor union movement, it has almost totally broken the spirit of resistance among young Americans - an even more frightening achievement. Historically, young people without family responsibilities have felt most freed up to challenge illegitimate authority. But America's education system creates fear, shame and debt - all killers of the spirit of resistance. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and standardized testing tyranny results in the kind of fear that crushes curiosity, critical thinking and the capacity to constructively resist illegitimate authority. Rebel teachers, parents, and students - in a variety of overt and covert ways - have already stopped complying with corporatocracy schooling. We must also stop shaming intelligent young people who reject college, and we must instead recreate an economy that respects all kinds of intelligence and education. While the corporatocracy exploits student loan debt to both rake in easy money and break young people's spirit of resistance, the rest of us need to rebel against student loan debt and indentured servitude. And parents and mental health professionals need to stop behavior-modifying and medicating young people who are resisting illegitimate authority.

6. Focus on Democracy Battlefields Where the Corporate Elite Don't Have Such a Large Financial Advantage

The emphasis of many activists is on electoral politics, but the elite have a huge advantage in this battlefield, where money controls the US electoral process. By focusing exclusively on electoral politics at the expense of everything else, we: (1) give away power when we focus only on getting leaders elected and become dependent on them; (2) buy into the elite notion that democracy is all about elections; (3) lose sight of the fact that democracy means having influence over all aspects of our lives; and (4) forget that if we have no power in our workplace, in our education and in all our institutions, then there will never be democracy worthy of the name. Thus, we should focus our fight more on the daily institutions we experience. As Wendell Berry said, "If you can control a people's economy, you don't need to worry about its politics; its politics have become irrelevant."

7. Heal from "Corporatocracy Abuse" and "Battered People's Syndrome" to Gain Strength

Activists routinely become frustrated when truths about lies, victimization and oppression don't set people free to take action. But when we human beings eat crap for too long, we gradually lose our self-respect to the point that we become psychologically too weak to take action. Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that, after years of corporatocracy subjugation, we have developed "battered people's syndrome" and what Bob Marley called "mental slavery." To emancipate ourselves and others, we must:
• Move out of denial and accept that we are a subjugated people.
• Admit that we have bought into many lies. There is a dignity, humility, and strength in facing the fact that, while we may have once bought into some lies, we no longer do so.
• Forgive ourselves and others for accepting the abuser's lies. Remember the liars we face are often quite good at lying.
• Maintain a sense of humor. Victims of horrific abuse, including those in concentration camps and slave plantations, have discovered that pain can either immobilize us or be transformed by humor into energy.
• Stop beating ourselves up for having been in an abusive relationship. The energy we have is better spent on healing and then working to change the abusive system; this provides more energy, and when we use this energy to provide respect and confidence for others, everybody gets energized.

8. Unite Populists by Rejecting Corporate Media's Political Divisions

The corporate media routinely divides Americans as "liberals," "conservatives" and "moderates," a useful division for the corporatocracy, because no matter which of these groups is the current electoral winner, the corporatocracy retains power. In order to defeat the corporatocracy, it's more useful to divide people in terms of authoritarians versus anti-authoritarians, elitists versus populists and corporatists versus anticorporatists. Both left anti-authoritarians and libertarian anti-authoritarians passionately oppose current US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Wall Street bailout, the PATRIOT Act, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the so-called "war on drugs" and several other corporatocracy policies. There are differences between anti-authoritarians but, as Ralph Nader and Ron Paul have together recently publicly discussed, we can form coalitions and alliances on these important power-money issues. One example of an anti-authoritarian democratic movement (which I am involved in) is the mental health treatment reform movement, comprised of left anti-authoritarians and libertarians. We all share distrust of Big Pharma and contempt for pseudoscience, and we believe that people deserve truly informed choice regarding treatment. We respect Erich Fromm, the democratic-socialist psychoanalyst, along with Thomas Szasz, the libertarian psychiatrist, both passionate anti-authoritarians who have confronted mental health professionals for using dogma to coerce people.

9. Unite "Comfortable Anti-Authoritarians" and "Afflicted Anti-Authoritarians

This "comfortable-afflicted" continuum is based on the magnitude of pain that one has simply getting through the day. The term comfortable anti-authoritarian is not a pejorative one, but refers to those anti-authoritarians lucky enough to have decent paying and maybe even meaningful jobs, or platforms through which their voices are heard or social supports in their lives. Many of these comfortable anti-authoritarians may know that there are millions of Americans working mindless jobs in order to hold on to their health insurance, or hustling two low-wage jobs to pay college loans, rent and a car payment, or who may be unable to find even a poorly paying, mindless job and are instead helplessly watching eviction or foreclosure and bankruptcy close in on them. However, unless these comfortable anti-authoritarians have once been part of that afflicted class - and remember what it feels like - they may not be able to fully respect the afflicted's emotional state. The afflicted need to recognize that human beings often become passive because they are overwhelmed by pain (not because they are ignorant, stupid, or lazy), and in order to function at all, they often shut down or distract themselves from this pain. Some comfortable anti-authoritarians assume that people's inactions are caused by ignorance. This not only sounds and smells like elitism, it creates resentment for many in the afflicted class who lack the energy to be engaged in any activism. Respect, resources and anything that concretely reduces their level of pain is likely to be far more energizing than a scolding lecture. That's the lesson of many democratic movements, including the Great Populist Revolt.

10. Do Not Let Debate Divide Anti-Authoritarians

Spirited debate is what democracy is all about, but when debate turns to mutual antipathy and divides anti-authoritarians, it plays into the hands of the elite. One such divide among anti-elitists is over the magnitude of change that should be worked for and celebrated. On one extreme are people who think that anything is better than nothing at all. At the other extreme are people who reject any incremental change and hold out for total transformation. We can better unite by asking these questions: Does the change increase individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, and increase one's energy level to pursue even greater democracy? Or does it feel like a sellout that decreases individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, and de-energizes us? Utilizing the criteria of increased self-respect and collective self-confidence, those of us who believe in genuine democracy can more constructively debate whether the change is going to increase strength to gain democracy or is going to take the steam out of a democratic movement. Respecting both sides of this debate makes for greater solidarity and better decisions.

To summarize, democracy will not be won without guts and solidarity. Risk-free green actions - such as shopping from independents, buying local, recycling, composting, consuming less, not watching television and so on - can certainly help counter a dehumanizing world. However, revolutions that truly transform fundamental power inequities and enable us to feel like men and women rather than children and slaves require risk, guts and solidarity.

Ailes Reportedly "Fell Hard" For Chris Christie -- So Did Fox News

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New York magazine reports that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes "fell hard" for Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and recently "encouraged him to jump into" the Republican presidential race. Fox News similarly "fell hard" for Christie, with on-air figures lavishing praise on him, asking him about a presidential bid, and giving him ample airtime in the run-up to his 2009 election.

New York Mag: Ailes "Encouraged" Christie To Run For President

New York: Ailes "Fell Hard For Christie." From New York magazine:

A few months ago, Ailes called Chris Christie and encouraged him to jump into the race. Last summer, he'd invited Christie to dinner at his upstate compound along with Rush Limbaugh, and like much of the GOP Establishment, he fell hard for Christie, who nevertheless politely turned down Ailes's calls to run. Ailes had also hoped that David Petraeus would run for president, but Petraeus too has decided to sit this election out, choosing to stay on the counterterrorism front lines as the head of Barack Obama's CIA. The truth is, for all the antics that often appear on his network, there is a seriousness that underlies Ailes's own politics. He still speaks almost daily with George H. W. Bush, one of the GOP's last great moderates, and a war hero, which especially impresses Ailes. [New York, 5/22/11]

Fox Figures Gush Over Christie, Ask Him About Presidential Candidacy
Doocy On Christie: "I Love That Guy." From Fox & Friends:

GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): A heated exchange between a teacher and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

CHRISTIE [video clip]: What you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk. Well, then, I have no interest in answering your question.

CARLSON: But in the end, some teachers came to the governor's defense. We'll tell you why.

STEVE DOOCY (co-host): I love that guy. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/13/10]

Varney: Christie Is "My Hero." From Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: I thought he wanted to stick around for the rapper story.

STUART VARNEY (Fox Business host): You throwing me out?

CARLSON: I guess not.

VARNEY: Governor Christie's going to be taking my place shortly. My hero. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/23/10]

Cavuto: Christie Has "Become A Bit Of A National Sensation, To Put It Mildly." From an interview host Neil Cavuto conducted with Christie on Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: In the meantime, tough love from the gov. Only, this just ain't any gov and this ain't just tough love. For screaming public workers in New Jersey, this is war.

They are going bonkers today after Governor Chris Christie all but told them the party's over, guys, and he is cracking down on their pensions, first by suspending future cost-of-living adjustments, then rescinding a 9 percent benefit increase granted back in 2001, then increasing retirement ages and even changing the formula for which a lot of those benefits are set.

The government is also calling for state workers to kick in more for their pension and their health care benefits, common in the private sector, virtually unknown in New Jersey's public sector.

Well, let us just say this news has not exactly got state workers feeling misty for Christie, the teachers union the first out the gate promising to fight the governor.

Reaction now from the governor.

Joining me exclusive from Edison, New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie.


CAVUTO: You know, when you have these rallies, Governor -- I have been to one the last time I had the pleasure of speaking with you -- you invite anyone in, right? And you know that -- that you can get some folks who really hate you.

And I was at one where there was a teacher who was no big fan of yours. I know, this last week or so, I think there was another teacher who was browbeating you. You browbeat her back.

How does that go with these events of yours? Is it just anyone come in? Because, now, after this union thing today, it could get very messy.

CHRISTIE: Listen, anybody who shows up at our town hall meetings can come in until the room is filled.

And, yesterday, we had to turn people away because we had reached capacity. Today, we had a room that was absolutely packed with people. Some people ask questions that are supportive and some people don't.

But, in terms of how it goes, this is Jersey, Neil. I mean, you know, I expect arguments. I expect back-and-forth. And I engage in it. And I enjoy it, because that's the way we're going to make our state a better place, is to have that kind of open, active dialogue back and forth with people.

And I am happy to stand up and defend my views and what I'm doing on behalf of the people of the state. So, that's why I do these town halls.

CAVUTO: All right. Well, they are entertaining and informative.

Governor Christie, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you very, very much.

CHRISTIE: Neil, thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.

CAVUTO: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he's become a bit of a national sensation, to put it mildly. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/15/10 (transcript from Nexis)]

Beck: Christie Is "One Of The Only Guys" I Would "Vote For For President." From Fox & Friends:

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): All these governors are standing up, Democrats and Republicans, saying, "We can't afford the pension situation." So you're telling me that a politician with the courage to stand up and say, "That doesn't work," can get elected and re-elected?

GLENN BECK: Chris Christie. Chris Christie. Chris Christie. Chris Christie is a guy -- Chris Christie is one of the only guys I see that I would today vote for for president of the United States. This guy has courage beyond belief. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/10]

Hannity: Christie Is "Turning Heads And Garnering National Attention," Asks If He'll Consider Presidential Run. From Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is turning heads and garnering national attention. He is taking on the special interests, he's standing up to the unions, and he's doing something very rare in politics these days. He's actually following through on the promises he's made on the campaign trail that helped get him elected. And he now joins me in studio.

Governor, welcome back to the show. Good to --

CHRISTIE: Great to be here, Sean.

HANNITY: Wow, the skin -- Jon Corzine, eat your heart out.

CHRISTIE: [laughs] We've lost a little weight.

HANNITY: He took some shots at you at the campaign. That was pretty cheap, as far as I was concerned.

CHRISTIE: It was pretty cheap, and he wouldn't even admit that he was doing it. But that's OK. And now -- I've got four kids between 7 and 16, so it's time for me to get in shape. I've got to be there for them.

HANNITY: All right, well, first of all, congratulations. And as you have declared, the bluest of blue states, you achieved what many thought were impossible. And that is a Republican victory. You ran on fiscal responsibility, on strong leadership, on taking on unions.

How'd you pull it off?


HANNITY: You won't run -- I saw Cavuto, he's pressing you. You won't even consider the idea of maybe being -- running for president one day?


HANNITY: Won't even consider it.


HANNITY: But your mind is open, maybe it'll change.

CHRISTIE: Listen. You know what?

HANNITY: I'm giving you a hard time. Don't answer my stupid question.

CHRISTIE: But, you know, listen, you met my wife tonight.


CHRISTIE: You convince her.

HANNITY: Miss Christie, do you have a moment? Come on over. All right. Good to see you, Governor. Best of luck honestly in turning the state around. We wish you the best.

CHRISTIE: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

HANNITY: Appreciate it. [Fox News, Hannity, 6/30/10]

Beck: Christie "Tells The Truth" About "Radicals" Trying To "Collapse The System." From Glenn Beck:

BECK: The progressives, the unions, the communists, the Marxists, they're doing a bang-up job to the entire planet. You keep listening to them and not to voices of reason, and we're in trouble. You know, when you hear Chris Christie speak, you may not like him that much, you may think, "Oh, he's had too many Ho Hos -- well, that's why I like him.

You listen to this man, and it's common sense. It's really hard to argue with because he talks about numbers.

The unions and progressives hate him because he tells the truth. He exposes what many radicals are trying to do -- Cloward and Piven, collapse the system. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 6/23/10]

Beck On Christie: "He's Amazing, Isn't He?" From Glenn Beck:

BECK: We have a studio audience here from New Jersey today. And I'm sorry for the whole New Jersey thing. Although -- look there. He's like, "What, are you taking -- you talking to New Jersey? You talking to me? Huh?"

Chris Christie, what do you think of -- he's amazing, isn't he?


I mean, I haven't seen a guy -- I haven't seen a politician who's actually like -- I mean, he's like -- I don't even know how to act. He's doing what he said he would do. It's weird.

Oh, he'll be sleeping with the fishes soon. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 3/18/10]

Doocy: "Some" Say Christie Would "Make A Great President." From Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: Sure if -- you know, I know some have suggested you would make a great president. If you were in that chair today, what would you do immediately?

CHRISTIE: I wouldn't be in that chair. So, I --

DOOCY: Well, I know. Theoretically, Governor.

CHRISTIE: No, no, no. See, this is what happens. You get me going down this theoretical, hypothetical road, and that's what people --

DOOCY: Well, give him a hand. I mean, you are doing very well in New Jersey. He needs help.

CHRISTIE: I think you just have to talk to people like adults. I really do. I think the country understands. I saw yesterday -- I was on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore with my family. And I can't tell you how many people came up to me and were so dispirited, out of confidence because they don't feel like tomorrow is necessarily going to be better than yesterday. I think you have to talk directly to people, tell them we know we've got huge problems. Let's start working together to dig out. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/7/10]

Bret Baier Delivers Fawning Profile Of Christie. From Special Report with Bret Baier:

BAIER: Of all the potential candidates we have profiled on our "12 in 2012" series, Chris Christie might be the most reluctant. The New Jersey governor has joked that only extreme measures would convince people to believe him when he says he's not interested in running. Tonight, the many people nevertheless describe him as one of the party's rising stars.

[begin video clip]

CHRISTIE: I said, "You punch them, I punch you." And that's what we're doing in New Jersey.

BAIER (voice-over): It's that fiery speech, with his tell-it-like-it-is attitude that helped get New Jersey Governor Chris Christie elected in the first place.


BAIER: Christie's tendency to stand up to the liberal establishment has ignited a national grassroots following that is begging Christie to throw his hat in the presidential ring.

LARRY SABATO (University of Virginia professor): I think Chris Christie is so popular with the Tea Party because they like both his style and his substance. He has a very forthright style. He doesn't hesitate to confront critics and tell them exactly what he thinks, whether they're the press or citizens.

BAIER: In fact, privately, Tea Party leaders say he's the politician they most want to draft in 2012.

SABATO: They would love to see him run. Christie has appropriately concluded, at least for the time being, that it's not in his interest to do so. It's amazing how many public officials are perfectly happy to abandon the position they've got to run for the higher one.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I've said I don't want to. I'm not going to. There's zero chance I will. I don't feel like I'm ready to be president. I don't want to run for president. I don't have a fire in the belly to run for president, but yet everybody still thinks, "Well, he's left the door open a little bit."

BAIER: Christie was all set to sit down for an interview with us, but pulled out, perhaps to make sure no one can accuse him of even looking like he's considering a run.

CHRISTIE: Short of suicide, I don't really know what I'd have to do to convince you people that I'm not running. I'm not running.

BAIER: But try as he might, Christie is still seen as a rising leader who could reshape the GOP.

CHRISTIE: We need to start taking our country back not in 2012, not by focusing on who our nominee for president is going to be. It is put up or shut up time for our party. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 11/19/10]

Fox Figures Gave Christie Almost 37 Minutes Of Airtime In Run-Up To 2009 Election
•Christie on Fox News. Christie appeared on the October 26, 2009, edition of Hannity, the October 27, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, and the November 2, 2009, edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, for a total of 18 minutes 47 seconds.
•Christie on radio. Christie appeared on the October 27, 2009, and November 2, 2009, editions of Fox News host Sean Hannity's radio show for a total of 18 minutes 6 seconds. [Media Matters, 11/2/09]

Fox News' $55 Million Presidential Donation

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Last year, five potential Republican presidential candidates (Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, John Bolton, and Rick Santorum) who also serve as Fox News contributors or hosts appeared on the network for more than 85 hours. Media Matters for America estimates this time to be worth approximately $54.7 million in free advertising.
Fox Gave Potential Candidates $54.7 Million In Free Advertising
Fox News Candidates Appeared On The Network For More Than 85 Hours In 2010. Media Matters calculated the amount of on-screen time each of the five potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates appeared on Fox News as contributors or hosts in 2010. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared for a total of almost 48 hours. Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, appeared for close to 14 hours. Fox gave former House Speaker Newt Gingrich almost 12 hours. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under George W. Bush, and Rick Santorum, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, each received around six hours.

Potential Candidates' 2010 Fox News Appearances Were Worth Approximately $54.7 Million. Media Matters also estimated the cost advertisers would pay for the amount of time Fox gave to each of the potential GOP presidential candidates in 2010. Advertisers would have spent about $31 million for Huckabee's time for the entire year. Gingrich's and Palin's time each would have cost advertisers about $7.5 million each for the entire year. Santorum's estimated ad-value equivalency for the year comes to almost $5 million, while Bolton's is approximately $3.7 million.

Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee, Santorum, And Bolton Have All Hinted At 2012 Presidential Runs
Sarah Palin. A November 21 New York Times Magazine article reported that Palin is "weighing a run for president," and quoted her saying: "I'm engaged in the internal deliberations candidly." [New York Times Magazine, 11/21/10]

Newt Gingrich. The Des Moines Register reported on November 17 that Gingrich "said Tuesday he is making personal arrangements that would allow him to launch a campaign for president early next year, which his closest political adviser expects him to do." [The Des Moines Register, 11/17/10]

Mike Huckabee. Huckabee appeared on Fox News Radio's The Alan Colmes Show on November 15 and talked about how his media presence would impact a potential 2012 run: "The one nice thing, whether I should decide to run or not, is that more people at least would know me by what I actually believe and say, as opposed to what some opponent has defined me to be, and that's kind of encouraging." [Fox News Radio, The Alan Colmes Show, 11/15/10]

Rick Santorum. National Review Online reported on October 13 that Santorum spoke at a Republican event in Iowa and said in an interview: "The folks in Iowa are great. As the first-in-the-nation caucus state, politics are a part of their lives." Santorum added: "If I were to get into this, I would certainly not be one of the favorites, so doing well out of the box would be much more important to me than to some of the more well-known candidates." [National Review Online, 10/13/10]

John Bolton. On September 9, Bolton said on Fox Business Network that he is considering running for president: "I am thinking about it because I think legitimate issues of national security should be more at the center of the national debate than they have been for the last two years." [Fox Business Network, Varney & Co., 9/9/10]

Methodology: Media Matters updated the results of our previous study counting appearances by each of the five candidates on Fox News shows available in the Nexis database. Media Matters also included Huckabee's weekly program, which does not appear in Nexis.

Media Matters counted pre-taped interviews as appearances but did not count brief statements by the potential candidates that aired as part of news packages.

Media Matters reviewed video for all appearances recorded in the Nexis search (as well as Huckabee's show) and tallied the total time for each. Using advertising data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group, Media Matters calculated the total amount spent on ads during each program in which one of the five potential candidates appeared. For each broadcast, we divided this dollar amount by an estimated amount of ad time per show* in order to calculate an estimated value of one minute of air time on that show. That result was then multiplied by the total time that Fox candidates appeared during that broadcast, yielding an estimated value for each appearance by a Fox candidate.

In other words:

Monetary value of appearance = (Total ad revenue from a given broadcast / average total ad time for that show) X length of candidate's appearance on given broadcast

In instances where the ad costs were not available for a specific broadcast, Media Matters instead used the median cost of ads on that show during the relevant month.

In instances where the video was not available for review and the length of an appearance could not be determined, Media Matters instead used the median appearance time for that specific potential candidate calculated from all appearances over the course of the study.

*Ad time per show was estimated by selecting three random airings of each relevant show and averaging the total amount of time devoted to ads.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why arch-polluter Koch Industries owes the planet its entire net worth

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by Christopher Mims

The only thing equal to the obscene wealth of Charles and David Koch, who jointly own the privately-held Koch Industries, is the obscene damage they cause to the environment. Every gold coin in their Scrooge McDuck money pool means a monetarily equivalent amount of damage to the planet, says a new analysis of the social impact of the company's cumulative impact on the earth.

If that pisses you off, you're not alone. This past weekend, a bunch of rageaholic malcontents protested the secretive annual meeting of Koch Industries bigwigs and various right-wing luminaries. (From where we're standing they actually looked like a bunch of old folks in Dockers, but the prophylactic police presence says otherwise. Malcontents are sneaky.)

What's got them so fired up: The Kochs are taking out massive loans against your future. Koch Industries represents a gigantic, direct wealth transfer from the environment to the pockets of the Koch brothers and their GOP beneficiaries, says Brad Johnson of ThinkProgress.

Koch Industries has a cumulative carbon footprint rivaling that of most nations, says Johnson. With a true cost of carbon pollution between $30 and $300 a ton, that means "[t]he potential liability the Kochs face for having knowingly destabilized the global climate system -- and funded a propaganda network to prevent political action to end their pollution -- represents practically the whole of their wealth."

Koch Brothers Behind “Healthy Formaldehyde” Campaign

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By Leon Kaye

It isn’t easy being a Koch brother these days. Preferring to stay behind the scenes and fund causes that have little benefit for society yet plenty for their business portfolio, they have found that more of their schemes have been revealed. They have been funding California’s Proposition 23, which would overturn AB32 (California’s emissions reduction law); their funding of purported groups denying climate change makes ExxonMobil’s contribution look like that of a dime store’s, and now they are behind an organization that is attempting to convince the public that formaldehyde is safe. …

Formaldehyde is in some pharmaceuticals, building materials, and yes, those animals that you dissected in your high school biology classes. Millions of tons are manufactured around the world annually, and it is na├»ve to believe it could be replaced with substitutes overnight. Mind you, I am a little biased as I had an uncle who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and some research has linked formaldehyde to ALS. With the dependence on products that make life convenient, lies the possibility that some inconvenience could occur in the long run.

Many chemicals can be safe when they are handled with integrity and are not overused. But that is not always the case, which is why health issues have been documented over the years. And consumers should know what is in the products they buy and what various organizations have stated about toxicity levels in chemicals present in those products. California’s Air Resources Board, for example, has suggested that formaldehyde could be a potential air contaminant; the EPA, meanwhile, has identified formaldehyde as a possible carcinogen. Like many chemicals, synthetic or “from nature,” there is always the “possibility” that a material is harmful. So as is the case with many things in life that we encounter, there is a possibility that something could cause us harm and make us sick—so as consumers, we should expect those risks to be articulated and transparent, and then make that decision whether we will go with product or find an alternative.

This is particularly helpful in the case of building materials, especially with the push to make homes more energy efficient. Plenty of documentation exists that often the most harmful air we breathe is in our homes and offices—and this is coming from someone who’s lived in Seoul, the San Joaquin Valley, Baltimore, and LA. Formaldehyde is in many building materials, which are great if they help us make our homes energy efficiently, to a point. It is beneficial that we prevent heat from leaking out of our homes, but there is the trade-off of having more contaminants like formaldehyde accumulate in the home—hence the need to either ban the use in building materials, or at least ensure we have a market where alternative products exist. I make the analogy to a friend who does not allow her kids to drink cola or other potentially unhealthy snacks in the home—she cannot control what they eat at school or at friends’ homes, but she sure can make the choice in the environment she controls. So I look at building products and other goods the same way—I may work in an office built before I was born and likewise cannot control the conditions of other places that I visit, but I sure can make those decisions about where I spend my evenings and weekends.

I am not sure what is more offensive—industries like tobacco and asbestos that denied any dangers associated with their products for decades, or a purported industry group that shows pictures of multicultural families that say that hey, formaldehyde is all right because it is in trees. And to that end, it is even more absurd when some make the assertion that those who advocate a clean energy economy or dare I say, environmental causes, are exerting some kind of socialist “mind control” or crass government-subsidized agenda, when it is well documented that industries from fast food to oil exploration companies have been extracting government subsidies for years—leaving the rest of us to pay for and subsidize the costs, whether they create health epidemics or leave behind massive environmental cleanups.

It is not my or anyone’s business to tell Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, or my neighbors where or how to spend their money. But when characters like the Koch brothers fund phony organizations with bucolic sounding titles to obfuscate an issue or take down anyone who brings up another point of view, or speaks out to expose the risks with a product on the market, it is anyone’s perogative to expose them for the frauds that they are. Let me have a choice, and do not passive aggressively dupe us into thinking that something that may pose a danger, even if a small one, to be 100% safe.

Of course, I may change my mind when I hear about the cancer patient who spent too much time hanging out with trees.

Koch Industries 3,667% Return on Its Tea Party Investment

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By Peter Cohan

Koch Industries has gotten a tremendous return on its investment in the Tea Party. As the details of the April 8 budget deal emerge, it's become clear that $1.65 billion of the $38.5 billion in budget cuts that kept the U.S. government hostage was a fraction of Koch's ransom payment.

After all, Koch is a $100 billion privately held refining, chemicals, plastics and textiles company, that has contributed at least $45 million to the Tea Party through various Political Action Committees. And Koch is not going to be satisfied until it has zeroed out the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget so it can exercise what it believes is its right to pollute.

While the last-minute budget deal was vague on the details last week, it has become clearer who will pay the price for the Tea Party's electoral victory last November (TPM provides a list of all the cuts). According to the Wall Street Journal, the $38.5 billion deal includes a 16% cut in the EPA's budget, taking it down to $8.7 billion. Those cuts will make it harder for states to enforce environmental laws and includes the following initiatives that will gut the EPA:

•Cut $1 billion from programs to build sewage-treatment and drinking-water plants;

•Slash by 33%, or $149 million, a federal fund for buying land for environmental purposes; and

•Reduce by 13%, or $49 million, programs related to climate change.
557 Million Reasons Why Koch Wants To Gut The EPA

Why is Koch eager to wipe out the EPA and why would it love to cut the $8.7 billion left in its budget? That's easy, Koch has an outstanding record when it comes to polluting -- including repeated spills from its oil pipelines and thwarted efforts to dump Dioxin -- the genetic-mutation-causing chemical in Agent Orange -- into a river in Florida. How so? In these three examples alone, the EPA has required Koch to pay $51.5 million in fines and $505 million in facilities upgrades:

•$1.5 million in EPA fines and $500 million in facilities upgrades. In 2009, the EPA announced that Koch would pay $1.5 million in fines and invest $500 million to add pollution control equipment to 12 plants in which the EPA found 680 violations of water, air, hazardous waste, emergency planning and preparedness laws.

•$30 million EPA fine for 300 oil spills. In January 2000, the EPA and the U.S. Justice Department required Koch to pay a $30 million fine and to spend $5 million on pipeline upgrades after 300 oil spills from Koch pipelines and facilities in six states -- Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Alabama. Among the spills was one 100,000 gallon oil spill in Texas that "caused a 12-mile oil slick on Nueces Bay and Corpus Christi Bay."

•$20 million Justice Department settlement for benzene release. In late 2000, Koch faced 97 counts of covering up the illegal releases of 91 tons of benzene, a carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi. Koch agreed to settle the charges, that could have included $350 million in fines, in exchange for a guilty plea for falsifying documents, and a $20 million settlement.

Koch is also being stymied by the EPA in its efforts to dump cancer causing chemicals from one of its Florida toilet paper plants. After all, Georgia-Pacific wants to dump waste from one of its Florida plants into Florida's Saint John's River. And according to the Florida Independent, "Georgia-Pacific has long come under fire as one of the St. Johns River’s top point-source polluters." Moreover, it reports that Koch has not been able to build a pipeline to pollute that river even more with Dioxin -- the genetic-mutation-causing chemical in Agent Orange -- due to its war of words with the EPA.

Koch appears to be a very successful company. And it even has its own management philosophy -- dubbed Market Based Management (MBM). According to an interview with MBM's author, Charles Koch, between 1960 and 2009, Koch's book value rose 2,500-fold -- 17.1 times the 146-fold growth of the S&P 500. It's an impressive, if self-reported, performance.

And that performance seems to have given Koch the ability to delude itself big time. A key principle of MBM, according to Koch, is "integrity and compliance. Without them, we cannot create real value or survive as a company. We place integrity first. In addition, we strive for 10,000 percent compliance, which means 100 percent of employees fully complying 100 percent of the time with all environmental, health, safety and other applicable laws and regulations 100% compliance and 100% integrity."

In comparing Koch's record of violating environmental laws and paying record fines for these violations, I wonder how Koch would reconcile its words with its deeds.

But if its self-reported returns on investment are accurate, then it's pretty clear that Koch 3,667% return on its Tea Party investment so far is only the beginning. If it can zero out the EPA, or even cripple it enough to practice its unfettered right to pollute, it will have succeeded in achieving 10,000% compliance by eliminating the environmental laws the violation of which has cost it at least $51.5 million in fines and $505 million in pollution control investment.

If those laws go away, then it can keep doing what it has been doing and will have no legal limits on how much it can pollute. The only question then will be whether the Americans who live next to its polluting plants and pipelines will have any ability to stop what Koch can do in pursuit of its interests to profit and pollute.

Koch-linked group serves notice on Senate EPA vote

Original Link:

By Ben Geman

A conservative group that spent heavily in the 2010 elections is pushing Senate lawmakers to vote this week in favor of stripping the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The group Americans for Prosperity — which has strong ties to the conservative Koch brothers — is sending memos to senators urging them to support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) amendment to small-business legislation that’s on the Senate floor.

“The Obama administration’s attempt to use a decades-old statute to advance climate change policy via an unelected bureaucracy must be stopped,” the group states.

The “key vote” alert also urges senators not to vote for a pair of Democratic amendments that would limit or delay the rules while keeping EPA’s regulatory authority intact, alleging neither will “alleviate the painful economic impact or the threat to the separation of powers.”

The memo warns that the group will “rate these votes in our congressional ratings.”

Industry groups including the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity are using ads to press politically vulnerable lawmakers to vote in favor of scuttling EPA climate rules.

Votes on the climate measures are expected this week, but the timing is uncertain.

Koch Industries' Toxic Gifts to Wisconsin

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By Rebekah Wilce

Koch Industries ranks in the "top ten" of the Toxic 100 list of the Political Economy Research Institute, which identifies the top U.S. air polluters among the world's largest corporations based on their chronic human health risk. Koch Industries is included in the list as the parent corporation of a diversity of industrial facilities that process and distribute fossil fuels, paper, wood products and synthetic fibers. The pollution from these facilities has a significant effect on the natural environment and on human health.

The Wisconsin Record

The Center for Media and Democracy decided to take a look at the record of Koch Industries here in Wisconsin where CMD is located. We examined the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most industrial facilities are required to report toxic pollutant discharges to the air and to surface waterways to the EPA via the TRI program. The numbers companies report are for the most part unverified by the EPA and the discharges themselves are unmonitored, so the numbers reported are to some extent estimates based on certain calculations and assumptions.

Koch Industries operates twelve industrial facilities in Wisconsin: Georgia-Pacific and its wholly-owned subsidiaries in Green Bay (4 plants), Oshkosh, Phillips, and Sheboygan; and Flint Hills Resources in Green Bay, Junction City, McFarland, Milwaukee, Stevens Point and Waupun.

Dr. David Zaber, an eco-toxicologist, who was recently the Science Fellow at the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago and the Director of Science at Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C. before moving to Wisconsin, assisted the Center with a review of the most recent TRI data available from these facilities, for the years 2007, 2008, and 2009.

As Dr. Zaber notes, the TRI is "an underestimate of the total amount of toxic pollutants released to the environment because many facilities are exempt from reporting -- e.g. municipal sewage treatment plants, small discharges, etc. -- because they are either below relevant thresholds such as number of employees or otherwise not covered by TRI."

However incomplete, though, the data reveal that over the course of those three years, Koch Industries' facilities emitted over 5.4 million pounds (PDF)1 of toxic discharges into Wisconsin's air and water. Of these discharges, nearly 100,000 pounds (PDF) were of substances known or suspected to cause cancer.

Michael Ash, an Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and coauthor of the "Toxic 100 Air Polluters," says the numbers indicate that Koch Industries is a "major polluter" in Wisconsin. Rich Puchalsky, a TRI expert and a consultant for half a dozen environmental groups on TRI, concurs.

It's Raining Sulfuric Acid: #1 Worst Emitter of All Paper Facilities in Wisconsin

Georgia-Pacific's Green Bay Broadway plant, courtesy of the Capital TimesFrom 2007-2009, TRI data shows that Koch Industries' facilities in Wisconsin released a total of 1.25 million pounds (PDF)2 of sulfuric acid, a major contributor to the formation of acid rain that, as an aerosol, causes respiratory tract irritation, especially to children and adults with asthma. Occupational exposure can cause cancer3 of the larynx. Koch Industries' Georgia-Pacific facility on Broadway Avenue in Green Bay was responsible for almost 23 percent (PDF)4 of the total discharges throughout the state in 2007-2009. The same Georgia-Pacific facility was the number one releaser of sulfuric acid of the six paper facilities in Wisconsin that reported the release of sulfuric acid to the EPA in 2009, disposing of 410,000 pounds of sulfuric acid on-site in that year. This was over 100 percent more than the total release of sulfuric acid of the next biggest polluter in the industry in the state.

According to the Georgia-Pacific website, "Wisconsin is the Number One paper manufacturing state in the United States." So, this Koch Industries' facility emitted the most sulfuric acid of any paper processor in the state that manufactures the most paper in the United States.

Koch Industries' two Georgia-Pacific facilities in Green Bay produce and distribute the following retail brands of paper products: Quilted Northern®, Vanity Fair®, Sparkle®, Mardi Gras®, Angel Soft®, Soft N' Gentle®, Brawny Industrial® and Dixie®.

Deadly Dioxins: #4 Worst Emitter of All Wisconsin Facilities
From 2007-2009, Koch Industries' facilities in Wisconsin released a total of over 5 grams (PDF)5 of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds (dioxins are usually measured in grams rather than pounds because they have a lower reporting threshold as persistent bioaccumulative compounds, meaning these substances can accumulate in the human body and the environment). Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds are toxic to humans and animals in multiple ways and are a known human carcinogen.6

Dioxins graphic, courtesy of the National Cancer Institute websiteEven a small amount of dioxin can have a powerful impact. Dr. Zaber, who recently contributed to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation report Taking Stock: North American Pollutant Releases and Transfers and is an expert on toxic effects of chemical releases on wildlife, comments that "dioxins released in the Great Lakes basin are of particular concern because they persist in the environment and are passed up the food chain to humans through fish and other aquatic wildlife."

In 1997, the United States and Canada jointly developed the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy (BTS) committing to quantified reductions in the amount of contaminants released into the environment. Dioxins are what is known as a "Level I" persistent toxic substance targeted to be "substantially reduced" because of its hazards to humans and our ecosystem.

And yet, a decade and more after the BTS was developed and implemented, Koch Industries' Georgia-Pacific facility on Broadway Avenue in Green Bay emitted more dioxins on-site than any of the 17 paper facilities emitting dioxins in Wisconsin in 2007. In 2009, it ranked second highest in dioxin emissions out of 14 total facilities in Wisconsin.

Nickel Compounds: #1 Worst Emitter of All Wisconsin Facilities

From 2007-2009, TRI data show that Koch Industries in Wisconsin released 9,780 pounds (PDF)7 of nickel compounds. Nickel is a heavy metal, and nickel compounds are a known human carcinogen (PDF)8 and cause other adverse effects on respiratory function. An important review of studies on heavy metal poisoning commissioned by the National Water Research Institute, entitled "A silent epidemic of environmental metal poisoning?" (PDF) emphasized that "as a global problem, the potential health effects of metallic hazards should be a matter of public health concern, especially if the emissions of toxic metals into the environment continue at the current rate... . [M]etals that can adversely affect human reproduction include As, Sb, Be, Cd, Hg, Cr, Co, Ni and Al" (arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, mercury, chromium, cobalt, nickel and aluminum). "These elements are… released in large quantities into the environment and may be contributing to the reproductive failures being experienced by contemporary populations."9

In 2007, Koch Industries' Georgia-Pacific facility on Broadway Avenue in Green Bay emitted more nickel than any other of the 32 industrial facilities reporting nickel discharges to the air and/or water. Of a total statewide discharge of 6,645 pounds, the Georgia-Pacific facility emitted 3,410 pounds, or 51 percent, greater than all the other discharges of other facilities combined. In 2009, the same Georgia-Pacific facility was the only paper facility in Wisconsin to report the release of any nickel or nickel compounds to the EPA, at a total of 3,260 pounds of nickel compounds. Of that amount, almost all of it (3,160 pounds) was emitted directly to the air or water, again leading all 38 of the reporting industrial facilities in the state.

Cancer-Causing Benzene: Koch's Subsidiary Was One of Top Ten Worst Emitters of All Wisconsin Facilities

From 2007-2009, TRI data show that Koch Industries' facilities in Wisconsin released a total of 5,546 pounds (PDF)11 of benzene, which is a known human carcinogen12 and causes other serious adverse human health effects. In 2009, discharges of benzene from Koch Industries' Flint Hills Resources facilities in Milwaukee, McFarland, and Junction City were ranked 6th, 7th, and 9th, respectively, out of 20 industrial facilities in Wisconsin that reported benzene releases to the EPA.


This data demonstrates that Koch Industries generates significant pollution in Wisconsin. It is important to keep in mind that the TRI data are self-reported and do not cover all discharges in an area or to a watershed. Nor does this information indicate all of the possible effects of all the possible mixtures of chemicals that could occur with these discharges and the resultant risks to ecosystems as well as to reproductive health or other effects on disease or lifespans of people in the state and region.

According to Dr. Zaber, "It is expected for industrial facilities to generate some toxic emissions. However, at a time when good technology exists to reduce pollution, when operating in a place as environmentally sensitive as the Great Lakes basin, and at the scale of a conglomerate as large as Koch Industries, what comes out of their stacks and pipes has a lasting impact on Wisconsin." Plainly, further examination of the impact of Koch Industries in Wisconsin and elsewhere is warranted.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Koch Industries: Behind the Fight to Gut the EPA

Original Link:

By Kirsten Korosec

While President Obama laid out his support for some “sensible” regulation during his friendly overture to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week, big industry continued to push for something quite the opposite. Their first target is the EPA.

Companies and business groups as well as some lawmakers have sought to strip the EPA of its regulatory authority for some time. But since the midterm election, that effort has picked up considerable speed and backing from industry behemoths like Koch Industries that hope to influence the debate. Koch Industries were major contributors during the 2010 election and donated $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats, the LA Times reported. Their efforts appear to be paying off:

The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington’s political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Why the House Energy and Commerce Committee? Koch Industries and other like-minded folk in big industry are deeply opposed to any efforts to regulate greenhouse gases — an authority the U.S. Supreme Court says resides with the EPA. The effort to strip away some of that authority begins with this particular committee. Not so coincidentally, nine of the 12 new Republicans on the committee have signed a pledge distributed by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-founded organization, to oppose efforts to regulate greenhouse gases, according to the LA Times.

Since then the committee, headed by Rep. Fred Upton, has wasted little time getting to work. EPA chief Lisa Jackson is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the committee for a hearing on legislation to block EPA’s power. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked for business and industry groups to identify government rules they consider burdensome. The submissions, which he released Monday, predominantly complain about EPA regulations.

Issa has been empowered in his effort, ironically by Obama, who last month launched a review to weed out and eliminate outdated regulations or ones that place an unreasonable burden on business. Obama’s review was meant to identify those old and outdated regulations that no longer make sense, not to end its own regulatory proposals on greenhouse gas. Of course, that hasn’t stopped lawmakers and industry from going after the EPA.

The effort to hamstring the EPA has moved to the courts as well. In this case, the GOP and the Obama administration find themselves on the same side, although for different reasons. Three Congressional GOP members filed a brief late Monday with the Supreme Court that asks the justices to overturn a lower court ruling that allowed several states and environmental groups to sue utilities over their emissions, the NYT reported. The Obama administration has taken the same position, but argues it’s because the White House is already working on the emissions issue and doesn’t need the court to intervene.

Kochs Spent Big on EPA Foes

Original Link:

By Kate Sheppard

If you really want to influence politics, it's not enough to fund think-tankers and build a network of media buddies. You also need some friends in high places. The brothers Koch know that better than anyone, and they've spent big on the members of Congress who will craft energy policy for the next two years.

The Los Angeles Times has a piece today looking at the election expenditures that the Kochs' Kansas-based oil and gas conglomerate and its Political Action Committee have made in recent years. As it turns out, much of the money has gone to Republican candidates (and a few Democrats) who now hold prime seats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This election cycle, Koch passed Exxon and Valero as the largest oil and gas sector donor to current members of the committee. The Kochs and their employees gave $279,500 to 22 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats on the committee during the 2010 election cycle. Of the five Democrats that Koch PAC supported in 2010, three voted against the cap and trade bill in 2009—John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike Ross of Arkansas. From the article:

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity—to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.
Many of the committee-members the Kochs have supported are leading the efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the new chairman of the panel, was one of the biggest recipients of donations from Koch employees, at $20,000. Upton used to be a moderate on climate and energy, and once even supported the principle of cutting emissions, but took a giant leap back on the issue amidst a contentious race for the top spot on the panel. In late December, Upton coauthored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with AFP head Tim Phillips stating that they are "not convinced" that greenhouse gas emissions are a problem that needs to be dealt with. Last week, Upton released a bill that he wrote with the Senate's biggest climate skeptic, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), that would permanently bar the EPA from regulating planet-warming emissions.

It's also worth noting that the network of Koch associates is also influential when it comes to funding candidates. The forthcoming Greenpeace report I noted last week also found that the members of the guest list for last year's Koch strategy confab have contributed more than $61 million to federal campaigns since 1990.

The LAT piece has more on the ties between the Kochs and the candidates they have supported. It is worth checking out.

Bowing To Koch Pressure, Chris Christie Announces Plan To Withdraw From Successful Climate Initiative

Original Link:

By Stephen Lacey

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to kill New Jersey’s participation in the nation’s first successful carbon trading program. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a ten-state climate and clean energy program that has reduced emissions and brought tens of millions of dollars to New Jersey ratepayers. Following a multi-million-dollar campaign to derail RGGI by the Koch front group Americans for Prosperity, Christie today called RGGI a “gimmicky” program that is “nothing more than a tax on electricity.”

But in a 2008 campaign ad, Christie said, “I will be New Jersey’s number-one clean-energy advocate.” He explicitly embraced President Obama’s climate and clean energy goals, which included a national cap-and-trade system for clean energy investment:

There is no doubt that renewable energy is the future here in New Jersey and there is really no better time for us to begin the discussion about how it will not only lead us to energy independence, but also how it will help create more good paying, middle class jobs in New Jersey. It’s a change that President Obama stands firmly behind. I couldn’t agree more.

Christie has now joined Tea Party opposition to Obama’s clean-energy policy to the detriment of programs he once supported. In his press conference today, Christie said he didn’t want to “overplay” the benefits to ratepayers because “we’re not talking about a huge difference.”

In fact, in addition to reducing New Jersey’s emissions by around 80,000 tons per year, this “gimmicky” program brought back $29.6 million to New Jersey ratepayers in 2010, supporting enough clean electricity to supply 20,000 homes. A new progress report out from RGGI shows that for every dollar invested by the program, states have gotten $3 to $4 in benefits.

“There’s only one thing you need to do in order to pull out of RGGI – ignore all the tangible, clean energy benefits. That’s it,” said the Conservation Law Foundation’s Seth Kaplan to Think Progress. “Christie’s had a good record in the past. The only reason to pull out now would be to score some ideological political points.”

New Jersey follows three other states – Delaware, Maine and New Hampshire – that have considered pulling out of RGGI. Resisting the polluting influence of Koch-backed lobbying and media campaigns, all those states decided to remain in the program because of the proven, positive benefits to ratepayers and businesses.

Update Politico notes that Christie is trying to make clear that he is not a global warming skeptic. “In the past I’ve always said that climate change is real and it’s impacting our state,” Christie said at the start of a 14-minute prepared statement. “There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. This decade, average temperatures have been rising. Temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Privatization: The Road to Hell

Original Link:

By Jim Hightower

Billionaires are different from you and me, for obvious reasons, including the fact that they buy much pricier baubles than we do.

A sleek car costing $100,000? Why, for them, that’s just an easy impulse purchase. A few million bucks for a Matisse original? Go ahead — it’ll liven up the hallway. How about throwing a fat wad of cash at a university to get an academic chair named for you? Sure, it’s all part of the fun of living in BillionaireLand.

Then there is the top crust of the upper-crust — such megalomaniacal megabillionaires as the Koch brothers. Using money from their industrial conglomerate, their foundation and their personal fortunes, these two far-out, laissez-faire extremists are literally buying public policy. Their purchases of everything from politicians to the tea party help them push the privatization of all things public and the elimination of pesky regulations and taxes that crimp their style.

To advance their plutocratic privatization cause, brother Charles has even gone on a shopping spree for an invaluable bauble that most of us didn’t even know was for sale: academic freedom. And it’s surprisingly cheap!

For only $1.5 million, Koch bought a big chunk of the economics department of Florida State University a couple of years ago. His donation gives him control of a new “academic” program at this public institution to indoctrinate students in his self-serving political theories.

The billionaire gets to screen all applicants, veto any he deems insufficiently ideological, and sign off on all new hires. Also, the department head must submit yearly reports to Koch about the faculty’s speeches, publications and classes, and he evaluates the faculty based on “objectives” that he sets.

Charles has made similar purchases of academic freedom at two other state universities, Clemson and West Virginia. Also, in a May 20 piece at, investigative researcher Lee Fang reveals that Koch has paid $419,000 to buy into Brown University’s “political theory project,” $3.6 million to establish Troy University’s “center for political economy” and $700,000 for a piece of Utah State’s Huntsman School of Business, which now has the “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy.”

Imagine the screams of outrage we’d hear from the Kochs if a labor union were doing this.

A recent article in The Onion, the satirical newsweekly, printed a downsize-big-government spoof that Charles and David would love to turn into reality. The parody disclosed that President Obama had come up with a surefire plan to balance the federal budget: Rob Fort Knox! “I’ve got the blueprints,” Obama is quoted as saying, “and I think I found a way out through a drainage pipe.”

Unfortunately, with today’s political climate dominated by howling winds from the far-right fringe, there’s no longer any room in American culture for satire. Sure enough, some laissez-faire extremists at such Koch-funded corporate fronts as Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation are presently howling for the government to sell all of America’s gold stored in Fort Knox. Noting that we have billions worth of bullion in the vaults, a fellow from Heritage made this keen observation: “It’s just sort of sitting there.”

Uh, yeah, professor. Like Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, the Lincoln Memorial and other national assets — being there is the point.

Yet these ivory tower ideologues are using the current brouhaha over the budget deficit as an opening to push their loopiest fantasies of selling off all of America’s public properties, facilities, systems and treasures to create a no-government, plutocratic paradise. Just spread our public goods out on tables, like a flea market from hell, and invite the global rich to buy it all.

For example, a fellow from another Koch-funded front, the American Enterprise Institute, observes that the government could raise billions of dollars to retire that pesky deficit simply by selling our interstate highway system. Americans would then have to pay tolls forever to the corporate owners, but hey, he exclaims, remember that tolls “work for the River Styx, why not the Beltway?”

What a perfect metaphor for privatization! In ancient mythology, dead souls must pay a toll to be ferried across the River Styx and enter the depths of hell.

Monday, May 23, 2011

‘Tea party’ bank BB&T flying under the radar in FSU scandal

Original Link:

People are focusing on the strange arrangement between the Koch brothers and Florida State University, which appears to hand academic control to the right wing, Ayn Rand-loving billionaires. But what about their partner in that and other university takeovers: a bank called BB&T?
Tucked into this story about the growing scandal over the Kochs’ arrangement with FSU were these telling grafs:

Koch and his brother David Koch are among America’s wealthiest people and well known for their efforts advocating fewer taxes and less government regulation.

A Southeastern regional bank, BB&T, sometimes partners with Koch in these efforts. They also are identified for working closely with the tea party movement.

And while the Kochs have in the past denied bankrolling the tea party movement, they have in recent months — particularly in the run-up to the 2010 election — become more blatant about their political activities, and have attracted commensurate attention from people opposed to their views. But BB&T, which was touted by FSU in a press release that seemed to bury the Koch lead, has so far attracted little attention, even though they appear to be just as aggressive as the Kochs in buying into university economics departments.

The FSU annoucement of the 2008 deal read in part:

FSU President T.K. Wetherell thanked Sullivan and Hillis for the generosity and foresight shown by BB&T in making the gifts.

“In these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that public universities find new ways to partner with the private sector to develop the sorts of academic programs that our society will need in the coming decades,” he said. “We are very appreciative of the confidence that BB&T has placed in Florida State University to create programs to emphasize the moral and ethical dimensions of our free enterprise system.”

With one of the BB&T gifts, the Department of Finance in the College of Business and the Department of Economics in the College of Social Sciences will establish a joint BB&T Program of Free Enterprise. Among other things, this $1.5 million gift will allow for the creation of two professorships — one in each department — to develop and promote a free-enterprise curriculum; will enable the development of a Web site that focuses on the program’s free-enterprise principles and highlights a new Speaker Series with the inclusion of podcasts from previous speeches; and will fund the establishment of a new economics course, “Morals and Ethics in Economic Systems.”

In addition, the finance department will offer a new course, “Free Enterprise and Ethics.” Included in that course will be a lecture seriesbased on BB&T’s core values( titled “Perspectives on Free Enterprise.” Eventually this new course will become part of a new Certificate Program in Free Enterprise and Ethics.

The BB&T Program of Free Enterprise also will support four new doctoral fellowships and the undergraduate organization Students in Free Enterprise.

And that’s just one university arrangement BB&T has entered into. In recent years:

■BB&T donated $3M to fund the establishment of BB&T Program of Free Enterprise at the Florida State University.[9]
■The company donated $2M to fund research on Ayn Rand‘s work, which she called Objectivism, at the University of Texas.[10]
■The company donated $600,000 to Florida Gulf Coast University for the growth of programs at the Lutgert College of Business.
■The company donated $350,000 to fund the teaching of “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism” at the Loyola College in Maryland.[11]
■The company donated $1.5 Million dollars to the University of Georgia to “expand teaching and research into the foundations of capitalism and free market economies”. [12]
■The company donated $1 Million dollars to the University of Central Florida to create the BB&T Program for Business Ethics and fund the teaching of “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism”[13]
■The company donated $1.75 million to West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics.The funds will establish a BB&T Chair in Free Market Thought and enhance the school’s free market research and teaching programs.[14]
In fact, BB&T’s retired CEO (and continuing chairman) John Allison is a hero to the tea party movement and to Libertarians because:

In addition to running one of the nation’s largest banks, Allison and BB&T fund programs at more than 40 universities that teach the moral defense of capitalism. “Although each of these programs differs in its composition and mission,” says Clemson University’s business profile of BB&T’s charitable programs, “all are united by a commitment to teaching and research on the moral foundations of capitalism.”

Through contributions to organizations like the Ayn Rand Institute and universities across the nation, Allison has begun to build the foundations for a future electorate who not only understands the issues surrounding the defense of capitalism, but also desires to see capitalism protected and advanced.

… and for his faithful devotion to the philosophy of Ayn Rand The New York Times wrote this about Allison in 2009:

Speaking at a recent convention in Boston to a group of like-minded business people and students, Mr. Allison tells a story: A boy is playing in a sandbox, only to have his truck taken by another child. A fight ensues, and the boy’s mother tells him to stop being selfish and to share.

“You learned in that sandbox at some really deep level that it’s bad to be selfish,” says Mr. Allison, adding that the mother has taught a horrible lesson. “To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say it’s bad because he’s alive.”

If Mr. Allison’s speech sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, who celebrated the virtues of reason, self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism while maintaining that altruism is a destructive force. In Ms. Rand’s world, nothing is more heroic — and sexy — than a hard-working businessman free to pursue his wealth. And nothing is worse than a pesky bureaucrat trying to restrict business and redistribute wealth.

Or, as Mr. Allison explained, “put balls and chains on good people, and bad things happen.”

Ms. Rand, who died in 1982, has all sorts of admirers on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms and in the entertainment industry, including the hedge fund manager Clifford Asness, the former baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. and the Whole Foods chief executive, John Mackey.

But Mr. Allison, who remains BB&T’s chairman after retiring as chief executive in December, has emerged as perhaps the most vocal proponent of Ms. Rand’s ideas and of the dangers of government meddling in the markets. For a dedicated Randian like him, the government’s headlong rush to try to rescue and fix the economy is a horrifying realization of his worst fears.

Indeed, so many bad things are happening that many followers of Ms. Rand, known as objectivists, believe that the ugly scenario in her 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged” — in which the government takes over industry as the economy progressively collapses — is playing out in real life.

New regulations are being enacted by the day. The rich may be forced to pay for health care for the poor. The auto industry is a ward of the state. An activist administration occupies the White House. And, of course, the federal government has inserted itself into the nation’s banks, including BB&T, which accepted $3.1 billion in bailout money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“Rand predicted what would happen 50 years ago,” says Mr. Allison, who notes that his bank was forced to take the money, which he labels “a rip-off.” “It’s a nightmare for anyone who supports individual rights.”

Watch Allison being interviewed by a fellow objectivist Libertarian, John Stossel last January (also on the panel, one of the Clemson University professors endowed by BB&T cash):

Allison, like Ron and Rand Paul and other Libertarians, believe property rights trump all other rights, and are sympatico with the tea party movement. Allison can be found all over Youtube explaining how in his view, the 2007 economic collapse was caused, not by big bank greed or excesses, but by government regulation.

So if you bank with BB&T, you can sleep soundly knowing you’re doing your part to advance Rand’s philosophy at a university, possibly near you.

What’s amazing his how far reaching the Libertarian grasp is becoming — not just on Wall Street or on Fox News (and Fox Business Channel) and in politics with the Paulites and the tea party (with the latter now being merged with the Christian right) – but even on the supposed left.

If she were alive today, you’ve got to figure Ayn Rand would be very much in her element.