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Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Tentacles of 'Kochtopus'

If you heard that someone in your home community was accused of the following, would you tolerate them getting away with such alleged offenses or would you want them fined or prosecuted? Consider then:

1) Following the 2011 death of the chairman of a public policy research group, there was a reported effort to procure the shares of that corporate entity held by the chairman's widow, arguing that "they were not hers to hold". A business agreement was reached by which the organization's President, who opposed the takeover, resigned and was replaced by a President more attuned to the philosophy of the original perpetrators; the latter dropped pending lawsuits as a result of the change. Happens all the time; business is business. But is harassment of a widow, and attack upon her inheritance, acceptable or injurious? 

2) Again in 2011, a grant of $1.5 million was made to a Deep South university in "exchange for allowing a foundation, via an advisory committee, to approve hiring decisions in the university's economics department for a program that promotes 'political economy and free enterprise'." The foundation also sought to have the university create a class called Market Ethics: The Vices, Virtues, and Values of Capitalism. Required reading for the class included books by a certain controversial economics writer. The student senate introduced a resolution protesting "undue influence on academics as established by the current agreement with the University's Economics department. Sure, it happens all the time: "donations" or "contributions" influencing a particular course of action. But what about your children? Is it all right with you that your children are being influenced by certain courses offered at a college or university in accordance with the political philosophy of donors?  Is such 'bribery' in the academic sphere acceptable to you?

3) Then consider this: the attempted takeover of an entire public school system in another southern state, in order to ensure that a certain social, ethical and political philosophy is taught and promulgated. The alleged occurrences were documented on film in 2012. It was portrayed as a blatant attempt to remake a school district's policy on diversity and to thereby re-segregate that particular school district. Grassroots protests and objections were raised effectively by the district's citizens. But is this attempt not akin to the breaking of current law? If nothing else, it is certainly a scoffing at current policy as legally promulgated. Do you want to allow men with money to determine the legal status of anything, just because they want it that way (think: Hobby-Lobby decision by SCOTUS)? In other words, is our democracy founded upon the Rule of Law or the rule of Men? You decide.

4) In legal parlance, "conspiracy" is defined as:
An agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawful or criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself but becomes unlawful when done by the combination of actors.
Federal statutes, and many state statutes, now require not only agreement and intent but also the commission of an overt act in furtherance of the agreement.
Let's take that just a bit further: "Conspiracy is a consultation or agreement between two or more persons, either falsely to accuse another of a crime punishable by law; or wrongfully to injure or prejudice a third person, or any body of men, in any manner; or to commit any offense punishable by law; or to do any act with intent to prevent the course of justice; or to effect a legal purpose with a corrupt intent, or by improper means." (Black's Law Dictionary (online at thelawdictionary.org).

In recent years, certain very rich men have organized semi-annual seminars to promote their political views. In June 2010, one such event was held in Aspen, Colorado, called "Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity" (a more recent one in Las Vegas). The invitation stated that "[our] prosperity is under attack by the current Administration and many of our elected officials" and "we cannot rely on politicians to [defend our free society], so it is up to us to combat what is now the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetimes".

It has been reported more than once that these meetings are conspiratorial in nature, in that they are used to plan strategies (with Republican officials who are also in attendance) for the Right-wing of the GOP that end up falsely accusing the President and his administration of criminal wrong-doing; and have been used to prejudice a particular entity - the Congress of the United States - with the intent to prevent a just course, and even to effect a legal purpose with a corrupt intent. How do they do such dastardly acts? With the influence of money, of course. How else would the all-out campaign against Obamacare have been funded except that these multi-millionaires and billionaires provided the funds to mount a nation-wide assault on this piece of legislation?

But here's the rub: the conservative Justices of the Supreme Court have enabled these Right-wing conspirators to give enormous amounts of money to PACs and other third party groups who are not required to reveal either the donors or the purpose for the use of such monies. Having decided to make bribery or influence-peddling a non-crime in this instance, the radical Right Justices have become part of the conspiracy. By means of their decisions, bribery has become a first amendment right (protected by free speech given to individuals and corporations as individuals), the intention being to enable an anonymous prevention of justice for poor folk, and to effect a legal purpose with an improper means of activity.

And you thought legal meant according to the Law! No, legal now means according to the conservative justices' interpretation of the Constitution and the Code of Laws emanating from it. In case you've forgotten, let me remind you that a central tenet in this conspiracy is that the federal government is corrupt and unnecessary except in some overriding national interest such as war. If you believe as I do that there is no basis in the Constitution or our Laws for shutting down the central government or for the federal government to default on its debt, then it might be interesting to call to mind in this context, the definitions given for conspiracy. Have these Right-wing conspirators actually pushed the Congress "to effect a legal purpose with a corrupt intent or by improper means"? I believe they have.

5) A key factor in the Democratic coalition of forces needed to win a national election has always been Labor unions. The Right-wing conspiracy has been quite aware of it for some years now, but only began to do much about it while Clinton was in office and more visibly during the Obama Presidency. For most of us, the conspiracy to quell union power was focused in Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker of Tea Party fame was elected with right-wing millions poured into his campaign. Once elected, he joined hands with Republican representatives in the Wisconsin House to enact legislation that put great restrictions on collective bargaining, a major key to union strength. Remember the protests that ensued in 2011, and the recall election that failed to unseat Gov. Walker? 

In February 2011, the NY Times reported that a particular PAC for millionaires - Americans for Prosperity - most influenced both the squashing of collective bargaining and the defeat of recall. (According to a Wikipedia article) the PAC actively supported Walker's proposed bill on bargaining to the tune perhaps of $700,000 for ads supporting Walker's changes. Support for Walker in his first run for Governor was estimated at $3 million from Americans for Prosperity. After Walker took office, he and the Republican representatives in the Wisconsin House enacted legislation that placed limitations on collective bargaining by public employees. Widespread protests ensued. When the New York Times reported that Americans for Prosperity had actively supported Walker's proposed bill, those contributions became a symbolic target for the protests. 

Here again, it seems to me that the legal definition of conspiracy fits quite well in the circumstances. How do you feel about millionaires and billionaires being able to destroy part of the foundation upon which the Labor Movement was built, and the basis on which voting is founded: one person, one vote?

6) Finally, let us point to the huge conspiracy that exists because this same gaggle of multi-millionaires and billionaires decree that it shall. I'm speaking, of course, of that area of life that will one day - sooner than later - affect us all negatively-- the failing environmental health of this planet.

This is where the conspiracy becomes more than political maneuvering or fighting against liberal causes, because here is where the millionaires prosper: it is their businesses that are at stake, and so political conspiracy becomes intertwined with self-aggrandizement and personal protection and business promotion. According to the environmentalist group Greenpeace, organizations that the rich Right-wingers help fund such as Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Manhattan Institute have all been active in questioning global warming. Through Americans for Prosperity, the conspirators have influenced more than 400 members of Congress to sign a pledge to vote against climate change legislation that does not include equivalent tax cuts (Richard Hanna was one of those 400!).

But that's just the tip of the iceberg (so to speak!). And here is where we must pause to reveal the fact that the hosts and the provocateurs and the catalysts for the Right-wing planning and actions that manifest as conspiratorial are, of course, the Koch brothers, David and Charles. I'm sure you had already guessed that fact. So let's look briefly at some of their machinations having to do with their opposition to regulations and restrictions on the oil and gas industries. Koch Industries is, by the way, the second largest and most powerful company in America.

Utilizing a myriad of sources (including Huffington Post, Bill Moyers, Minute News Press, Buzz Feed and the Guardian.com), let us tell part of their horrific story. (Should you want more of the story, use this link to go to a hard-hitting story in Rolling Stone: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924?page=5)

Fred Koch, a wealthy industrial engineer, created a new method of oil refinement leading to the creation of Koch Industries. Fred, father of four, left the powerful company to his wife and four children. In the 1980’s, after the children took more active roles in the every day management of the company, a massive litigation process led by David and Charles, the two middle children, fought to gain full control of the multi-billion dollar corporation and in the end Charles and David gained full control, pushing out the other two. Soon after they took over Koch Industries the criminal accusations began. Koch Industries illegally took oil from Federal and Indian reserves. Not long after the illegal activities came to light the brothers began delving into financing legislation benefiting Koch Industries and their subsidiaries. In the end the company received fines for just a pittance of $25 million compared to the annual revenue of $115 billion to settle the allegations of theft from the Federal government and Indian land owners.

David and Charles learned early on that financially supporting legislation would lead to less restriction on the side of business. In the 1990’s they quietly began financing individual candidates that would legislate in a manner benefiting Koch Industries. The beginnings of their financial control began with the regulatory side; however they have become masters of American propaganda. When scientists introduced the world to the damages of industry on the environment; David & Charles Koch poured millions of dollars into the climate denial machine. Specifically the Koch brothers paid for individuals to vilify the world’s most prominent scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying the earth and atmosphere. The propaganda never gave actual evidence; it simply reiterated the Koch theory that science is an opinion-based activity that has improperly demonized industry. When the Koch brothers funded research studies discrediting global warming, the scientists indeed confirmed that the globe is heating up, so the brothers changed the game plan and pushed propaganda that global warming is actually good for the environment.

Along with funding the verbal propaganda, they bought legislation that removed barriers meant to counteract the damage the industry had done to the environment. Koch Industries has repeatedly filed lawsuits against activists that have found proof that their corporation has purposely tainted drinking water, polluted land and waterways, and killed off protected wildlife. Koch Industries, fined over $400 million dollars in penalties, has paid little of those charges. In most cases Koch Industries, released from responsibility by the courts, walked away simply because the individuals or non-profit organization did not have the same financial power to continue fighting. Corporate affiliates in other countries actively violate bribery laws that are swept under the rug. Many international legal suits against Koch or their subsidiaries have also been dismissed with little fan fare.

Such examples are just the tip for the Koch brother’s "un-American activities." The reward for financing policy has paid off ten fold in added revenue to the expanded Koch Industries. Acquiring Georgia-Pacific and partnering with Goldman Sachs, Koch Industries own just about every aspect of American business. Every home in the United States has the Koch brothers in it. From every day goods to the carpets and processed furnishings in American homes, the American people are financing the political activities from which they are not benefiting.

Recently the Koch brothers have created a list, distributed in election cycles, of Koch-approved candidates at every level of politics. Every approved candidate had been previously linked to the Koch lobbying activities over the last three decades. Each had worked for companies or firms that pursue lenient legislation benefiting industrial activities.

The Koch brothers have prospered so heavily through their political funding activities that they have been pursuing opportunities to completely control the election process. The brothers have gone beyond politics and policies that benefit them to taking on roles to reign over all political realms.

The summary article concludes: "In the last decade tens of millions of dollars have gone towards effecting policy and elections that could benefit them or their companies. But now they are pursuing policies that give them universal government control. Taking the helm in creating policy on education in states like Texas and North Carolina allows the Koch brothers to have control over public education nationwide. For two men who never had a child in a public educational institution, creating educational policy for other’s children is unsettling. It is as if they are choosing how their future workforces should be informed. Such activities have been the standards for communist cultures for hundreds of years. Decades of undermined democracy has only set back the election process 50 years. Working from the Stalin playbook, the Koch brothers un-American activities have only grown stronger and harder to combat. Luckily the decades of hidden activity is finally coming to light for the American electorate."

A few more provocative quotes will serve to conclude our thoughts today on the conspiratorial Koch brothers and their millionaire partners in crime.

>In 2011, the EPA reported that Koch Industries "emitted over twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide", as much as is typically emitted by five million cars

>A study from the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University reported that "In 2011 and 2012, Koch Industries Public Sector LLC, the lobbying arm of Koch Industries, advocated for the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would have rolled back the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could regulate greenhouse gases."

>The Koch Foundation is a major funder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, an effort to address the criticism of records of the earth's surface temperatures. At least two of the project's seven scientists are seen as climate change skeptics by many in the climate science world.

>In addition:
  • Spending more than $28 million, the Koch's have funded hundreds of reports, commentaries and books which popularized the fiction that Social Security is on the brink of collapse.
  • Koch money has supported voter ID laws in 38 states. These laws are billed as a way to avoid voter fraud, but they are actually intended to make it more difficult for Democrats to vote.
  • The Koch's use their influence to sway legislation regarding the Keystone XL pipeline. Koch Industries has a significant financial interest in this oil and gas project.
  • A Koch paper plant pollutes the air and water of a community in Arkansas. The film about the 'Koch Brothers Exposed'' explores a link with a cancer cluster in the small African-American community of Crosset.
  • As we reported above, the Koch's give millions of dollars to universities, with the stipulation that the schools must hire Koch-sympathetic professors.
  • In this election cycle alone, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.
In an article in the August 30, 2010 issue of the New Yorker, writer Jane Mayer wrote,
"The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry – especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers' corporate interests. ... Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a 'kingpin of climate science denial.' The report purported to show that, from 2005 to 2008, the Koch's vastly outspent ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies – from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program – that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the "Kochtopus."

A fitting name for this many-tentacled conspiracy. Watch-out friends -- there is no limit to the resources they are able and allowed to use to achieve whatever ends they desire! When you vote on November 4, 2014, please focus your mind on the fact that voting for any Republican running for national office increases the power and the audacity of the Koch brothers and their co-conspirators. Behind every Republican name on that ballot is an invisible empire controlled by the Koch Brothers and fellow-conspirators intent on controlling every aspect of your lives -- and they are well on their way to gaining that control by totally corrupting the political system for their own purposes.