Brave New Foundation’s Political Director Derrick Crowe talks to radio show host Randi Rhodes about what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s decision on Afghanistan really means for America’s future role in the area.
Brave New Foundation’s Political Director Derrick Crowe talks to radio show host Randi Rhodes about what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s decision on Afghanistan really means for America’s future role in the area.
Imagine Charles and David Koch testifying, under oath, in Congress.
Even though the billionaire oil industry brothers continue trying to dodge accountability, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) invited the Koch brothers to testify and answer a few simple questions about how the Kochs are positioned to gain financially by the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a 1,700-mile long boondoggle that would make the Koch brothers even richer.
There’s ample evidence linking the Kochs’ business to the Canadian tar sands, which is the dirtiest energy in North America. Indeed, the Koch brothers’ stand to be among the pipeline’s biggest beneficiaries. Even the Koch brothers’ website confesses to being a party to tar sands oil.
The Koch brothers are doing whatever they can to avoid testifying in Congress, despite the fact that the Kochs informed the Canadian government of their “direct and substantial” interest in the pipeline. Waxman has been trying to get answers from the Koch brothers since last spring, but the Kochs have not cooperated.
At the same time, the Kochs’ allies in Congress are doing their best to stonewall oversight. This outcome doesn’t surprise me one bit given the Koch brothers’ near-monopoly on the influential and powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. According to the Los Angeles Times, Koch Industries and its employees are the single largest oil and gas donors to the committee. They’ve contributed $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats. Talk about the best democracy money can buy!
In the 2010 elections that gave the Republicans the majority in the house, many of these committee members were ones who owed their electoral fortunes to the Kochs or groups affiliated with the Kochs. One representative hired a Koch Industries lawyer after election day. Another needed a lift from the Koch brothers’ Tea Party group, Americans for Prosperity, to unseat an incumbent. No matter how you slice it, the Koch brothers have their fingerprints, not only the oversight of the Keystone XL pipeline, but on the pipeline’s profits.
Since last year, the Koch brothers have attacked those in and out of Congress who’re merely trying to find the truth. And sorry Charles and David, your word alone is no substitute for the truth.
So what are the Koch brothers hiding? It’s time to stop whispering and start shouting. Insist the Koch brothers testify before Congress.
The Keystone XL pipeline is but another example of the Koch brothers use their wealth to advance policy that makes them richer. Their wealth enables them to write the script for politicians and others to follow.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If you’re like me and are demanding truth, I invite you to help us shine a light on the Koch brothers position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline but signing our petition to leading members of Congress.
What’s happening to academia in Florida demands national attention. Billionaires Charles and David Koch are infringing on intellectual freedom and independence in colleges and universities. It’s an old fashioned quid pro quo where the Koch brothers get allied professors who’ll preach Ayn Rand, supply side economic policies and the values of the 19th century Guilded Age to students and the college gets some funding.
Every year, thousands of individuals move through the Koch-supported classes, lectures and fields of study, which in their totality amount to an ideological assembly line bought and paid for by the Koch brothers. There are Koch-funded agreements at more than 150 American colleges and universities.
“The Koch brothers have paid tens of millions of dollars to get their point of view instilled in classrooms, amongst faculty members and in students,” said Cary Nelson, President of the American Association of University Professors. “Programs they start tend to be one point of view only.”
The Koch brothers’ business has annual revenue that are about 200 times the size ($100 billion) in one year than the entirety of Florida State University’s endowment ($423 million). At a time when governors like Florida Gov. Rick Scott are slashing spending on education, colleges and universities are virtually forced into restrictive and ideological funding agreements with questionable sources to meet students’ demands. Instead, they’re meeting the Koch brothers needs and the students are paying the intellectual price.
Enter the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which has given more than $14.39 million in grants to universities like Florida State, Auburn, Clemson, West Virginia and Utah State. All five campuses are in financial agreements with Koch-supported groups requiring the university to hire candidates who adhere to defined ideological guidelines. In some cases, the Koch-supported groups recommend candidates to the faculty or have sway over the college’s hiring committee.
Conflicts of interest of this magnitude cannot be ignored, and Florida State students and professors didn’t swallow the Koch agreement willingly. There was an uproar on campus when the Koch brothers began infringing on academic freedom.
A campaign to organize the campus against the Koch brothers and wealthy so-called “philanthropists” who seek to use their wealth to influence academia is under way. Student leaders are fanning out across Tallahassee to organize against the Koch brothers and their ilk who would infringe on academic independence if given the chance. If the students are successful, they’ll have earned enough support to take action against the Koch brothers’ influence.
Their work deserves national exposed. We can do our part if we all tweet @ Ed Schultz and ask expose the Koch brothers’ psycho talk.
Billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch were stopped today. The Keystone XL oil pipeline will meet its end today in a Washington DC press conference. The pipeline would’ve been one of the largest oil developments in American history. The pipeline would’ve destroyed American homes, farmlands and sensitive ecosystems along the nearly 2,000-mile path from Northwest Canada and through six U.S. states to the Gulf of Mexico.
But it also represented a win for brothers Koch, who’ve used their net worth to influence politicians and the media to support policies that would make them richer.
The Koch brothers helped fund and start the Tea Party group, Americans for Prosperity. It’s Nebraska chapter has actively promoted and organized around the Keystone pipeline despite numerous concerns voiced by the Republican governor of Nebraska and thousands of Cornhusker residents. Many activists in our Koch Brothers Exposed network have said they’ve seen Americans for Prosperity commercials in their communities supporting the pipeline.
The Koch brothers have a profit and greed motive behind the pipeline too. The Kochs’ subsidiary company admits on its website that it is among Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters. Throughout the public hearings and process behind the Keystone pipeline’s formation, the Koch brothers have smeared journalists writing about their Keystone agenda. The Kochs and their Congressional allies stonewalled lawmakers when they began asking too many questions.
What are the Kochs hiding? They won’t even answer questions from Joel Francis, a college student and military veteran who’s passionate about protecting the environment.
There have been many cases of legal misconduct behind the Keystone XL pipeline like cost miscalculations and conflicts of interests. For years, the state department had one person handling the entire $7 billion project who virtually outsourced oversight to an unaccountable consultant company.
Peer review and independent analysis of the pipeline’s claims have exposed deception and legally corrupt tactics used to justify the project. The Canadian company building it is inflating the project’s value. Gas prices in the Midwest will be higher, and the pipeline won’t create jobs as advertised. Media Matters has documented the full spin campaign.
The Koch brothers’ echo chamber has also had devastating effects on popular programs like Social Security. We’ve been producing videos and activism that illustrate how the Koch brothers use their wealth to write script and set the goals for politicians, activists and influentials to follow. The Kochs use their wealth to launch think tanks, family foundations and nonprofit organizations to foment policies that make the Koch brothers richer.
This case has a different ending and one that puts people over profit. Organized people beat organized money and that’s reason to have hope as we confront the Kochs in 2012.
Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch look like they’re easy graders. Their tea party group released its rankings this week of senators and congressman who tow the Koch line most, and it gave a total of 44 A+’s for the 112th Congress.
Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group funded by the Kochs, based its grades on opposition to affordable health care, clean air, alternative energy and net neutrality. Scores were also boosted if the elected official signed the tea party group’s anti-revenue pledge.
In sum, the five senators who scored 100 percent on the Americans for Prosperity how-can-we-make-the-Kochs-richer test received $187,400 in campaign contributions from the Kochs and their allies.
These senators are Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and potential Republican vice presidential nominee Marco Rubio, a freshman from Florida. Indeed, Rubio, Johnson and Coburn have a lifetime of A+ scores!
Though the brothers are worth about $42 billion, a little political donation here and there goes a long way. Factor in the brothers’ self-serving “philanthropy” with the Kochs’ numerous other nonprofit foundations and academic think tanks and you’ve exposed a vast echo chamber of perpetuating myths and distortions designed to make the Kochs richer.
While the Koch brothers use their enormous wealth to influence democracy in the Capitol, they’re also funding or supporting groups that aim to replace the values of working families with policies that make the Koch brothers richer. At the same time, the Kochs are working to bolster their clout with influential members of the political and media elite to favor devastating environmental developments that would boost the soaring profits of Koch Industries.
To complement their political giving, the Kochs are also working with partners to curb access to the voting booth. The Kochs fund the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has helped facilitate the proliferation of voter suppression laws across the country. These laws would have their most adverse effect on students, seniors, minorities and disabled citizens.
At a local level, a Americans for Prosperity chapter helped make a community North Carolina school board race the most expensive in recent memory and favored candidates who pledged to resegregate public schools. They were ultimately rebuked by voters last year.
Exposing the Kochs reveals a pattern of selfish and manipulative priorities that consistently favor the most fortunate among us. In an era of Patriotic Billionaires, Occupy Wall Street and a decaying democratic process, the Koch brothers and their allies continue to demonstrate their satisfaction obstructing progress and social justice.
What do you think Martin Luther King Jr. would have to say about it?
Jamie Dimon, the infamous CEO of JPMorgan Chase, is back to doing what he does best: defending the bankers of the 1% against the petulant 99%. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I just don’t get it,” he said at a recent investors conference. “Sometimes there’s a bad apple, yet we denigrate the whole.”
Dimon says this as if he’s not one of the baddest apples in the barrel. Let’s review a few of his misdeeds:
This staggering lack of self-awareness is not limited to Dimon. A spate of one-percenters have been defending their tarnished image by insisting that they’re the ones who create jobs and allow the economy to succeed. They’re calling their critics “imbeciles” and saying an attack on them is an attack on “the very productive.”
Let’s forget, for a moment, that jobs are actually created when middle-class and lower-income consumers have enough money in their pockets to drive up demand. Let’s just look at what some of worst of the 1% have done to exploit the 99% and make our economy worse, not better.
This list could go on, of course — and it does, at the Who Are the 1 Percent website, where people are voting to determine which corporate bad guys I’ll make videos exposing. We started this vote, which will close by Christmas, to fight those who are making their fortunes on the backs of the 99%. Jamie Dimon is one of our nominees, and those who visit the site can rate him and many others on a scale of “ho-hum” to “pure evil.”
After all, the so-called “bad apples” actually reflect a systemic problem: those who use their wealth for destructive purposes are rewarded instead of punished, even when their tactics are illegal. Wealth doesn’t always come from making products that people enjoy or investing in small companies à la George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Things really are worse for the 99% because of a rigged system that allows certain rich people to play by different rules than everyone else.
So, Jamie Dimon, are you bad just because you’re successful? No. You’re bad because your success comes at everyone else’s expense. You’re right about one thing, though: you just don’t get it.
Media lapdogs are marked by stenographic tendencies, sympathetic frames and a reliance on industry jargon. Politico’s latest report about Congressional Republicans working to undo looming defense cuts meets all three criteria.
The piece is accurately headlined “GOP eager to scuttle defense cuts,” and nowhere in the article is any reference to data disputing the Republicans’ assumptions. The cuts on the table only take us back to the huge 2007 levels.
By the second paragraph, the story has begun parroting partisan talking points. The so-called Republican plan will “undo hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts by replacing it with budget savings elsewhere,” the article by Seung Min Kim says. However that’s the last we hear of the plan’s specifics until much later when the savings are pegged at $100 billion.
That’s a far cry from the original bipartisan plan that phases in several billion dollars more in budget savings (or cuts, depending on your point of view). Why the Republicans oppose the military savings they originally agreed to is obliquely mentioned in the sum of multiple paragraphs. A better and simpler way to report this would’ve been in a crisper “nut graf” that supports the article’s genesis: that after agreeing to across the board cuts as a way to force bipartisan agreements, Republicans are using Congressional purse strings to pick winners and losers.
By the third paragraph, there’s not much new information to report and the reporter’s forced into diving right into he-said journalism, which has the effect of elevating Republican senators onto an unchecked authoritative pedestal. There’s no caution that these Republicans senators could be misinformed (one of whom, Jon Kyl, coined the phrase “not intended to be factual statement“), under ideological and grassroots orders to oppose anything the White House favors, or anything that might help military families confront a 26 percent unemployment rate.
The article shifts halfway down and moves away from the issue of military cuts toward a showdown with Congressional Democrats. And voila: the reader is taken from a misleading overview of the story’s core issue to trite optics of hot potato budget knife fights. Favoring conflict more than the educational element inherent in the Fourth Estate is increasingly a systemic issue in journalism and one that threatens to accelerate the industry’s demise.
But that’s not Politico’s game. It sells papers on insiderness– something best thought of a Congress equivalent of Stephen Colbert’s truthiness, but with gridlock, name calling and deception in place of hypocrisy-busting laughs. It’s a drip-by-drip process that institutionalizes corporate jargon and ideological prisms into political factions and discourse.
It’s not about Republicans or politics or Congress or Barack Obama. It’s that revisionist reporting can make the internment of Japanese-Americans in 1940s, as another example, seem palatable to readers of The New York Times.
It’s was like a meaningless coda, as the war contractors at Blackwater USA changed its name again, two weeks after delivering Katy Helvenston-Wettengel with another insult.
For the last eight years, Helvenston-Wettengel has been fighting for justice and accountability for the preventable death of her son, a Blackwater employee named Scott Helvenston, in Iraq.
“Child prostitution, gun-running, rendition– Blackwater has this history, but to this day, there’s been zero accountability,” Helvenston-Wettengel said. “I feel like I not only lost my son, but I lost my country.”
She spoke directly to company President and Founder Erik Prince in 2004, having got his number from a reporter. She requested Prince send her son’s contract and an incident report, which documented the mission that sent her son to his death.
“He said he’d send it Fed-Ex in a few weeks,” she said. “Blackwater said I was going to have to sue them to get it.”
She still doesn’t know why her son was sent into a death trap on that awful day in Fallujah. Blackwater has never come clean about why her son was without the proper armaments, maps, protections and manpower or why he was reassigned to this particular mission, she said. They had dispatched four men who had never been to Fallujah before, and if they at least had a map, they wouldn’t have gotten trapped in the fatal ambush, Helvenston-Wettengel said.
Scott Helvenston joined Blackwater because its founder was, like Scott, a Navy SEAL, his mother said. Scott Helvenston believed he could use his years of SEAL experience and training to save American lives in Iraq. Above all, Blackwater offered rare two-month contracts that let him provide for his two children at home.
Helvenston-Wettengel’s 2004 call with Prince sparked a tumultuous journey to try and bring her family a modicum of accountability. Fighting for justice for her son’s brutal death required bringing Blackwater into a courtroom, but the corporation has managed, or arranged, to duck any responsibility.
Despite White House claims that the war in Iraq is ending, Blackwater’s latest namesake is in play to employ some of the 15,000 war contractors slated to stay behind. Taxpayer dollars would also flow into the company’s legal department, which is tailored to dodge responsibility for the deaths of its employees– just ask Helvenston-Wettengel.
“They want to force me into a gag order [and] take away my constitutional rights,” she said. “They just don’t care.”
Blackwater’s moral culpability in the death of Scott Helvenston is a story well documented. But the company, which changed its name from Xe Services to Academi, is attempting to punctuate its legal battle against Helvenston-Wettengel with a dictatorial whimper.
It was Nov. 28 and there was an email from her attorneys introducing a Blackwater proposal that left nothing for Scott’s grandchildren.
“It was an insult,” Helvenston-Wettengel said. “I wanted a closing statement. I want to know who’s getting what.”
It was neither justice nor accountability. It was cowardice and a departure from the America she grew up in, Helvenston-Wettengel said. She declined to say more, knowing that her words could spark another round of litigation. (She has been sued by Blackwater previously for her attempt to read her son’s employment contract and the incident report.)
She was a few pen strokes away from putting an end to a journey that led her to testify before Congress and take on the most secretive military-industrial complex: the cadre of war contracting companies that took root around the time the U.S. invaded Iraq.
“How dare they,” she said. “I can’t in my conscience sign it.”
Blackwater’s aggressiveness in and out of the courtroom has contributed to Helvenston-Wettengel’s exhaustion. The Florida realtor suffered a stroke last year and said she’s tired of taking on what journalist Jeremy Schaill said was the most powerful mercenary army ever.
“The government is protecting Blackwater” she said. “With all the lawsuits against them, how can that be possible?”
As more Americans sour on our 10-year-old national nation-building experiment in Afghanistan, there’s a growing community of policy mandarins, activists and elites uniting to expose the myriad of ways war spending and military contracting have plunged our nation into a jobs crisis.
The existing counter insurgency operation in Afghanistan is hurting the American economy, and there is data to prove it.
Job Creation Per $1 Billion Spent:
-Tax Cuts for Personal Consumption: 15,100
-Clean Energy: 16,800
-Health Care: 17,200
If we really want a society where people who want to work can enjoy a moderate standard of living, says Robert Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, “the best thing to do is to start cutting the military.”
Congressional allies for big war contractors at Lockheed Martin and Boing justify the bloated, corruption-filled war budget on the backs of job creation and security. But, unlike the war industry, people whose livelihoods are not dependent on weapons of mass destruction agree that military spending is the worst performing job creation program. Like Upton Sinclair says, “It is difficult to get a man understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
The data proves education and infrastructure spending create 50 percent more jobs than building tanks and jets, which by the way, will not see one iota of combat.
Afghanistan hawks clamor that victory can be bought abroad, and even the voices who have most adamantly insisted on a balanced budget amendment have still supporting pouring taxpayer money into the quagmire. Afghanistan has usurped many good-paying jobs at home.
But why is it the national blue ribbon panels and commissions tasked with budget reduction have identified the corruption-filled military budget as a meaningful target for cuts? There’s widespread political support from the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission, budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and the Center for American Progress. And it’s good policy: we can save almost $1 trillion by ending our foreign entanglements, which would free job creating programs from undue pressure.
Instead of solutions to a 26 percent unemployment rate for military families, we get misplaced and misinformed priorities in Washington DC. That’s why we’re working to unite popular support behind cutting taxpayer subsidies to military contractors.
Much of the justification for military spending spewing from the establishment is going unchallenged. And it’s not encouraging when the spin echoes Iraq War-era empty promises.
One of the Iraq War’s biggest apologists is advocating for the same blank check strategy for Afghanistan. Michael O’Hanlon from the ostensibly data-driven Brookings Institution argues our Afghanistan effort has made fragile and reversible gains, which is almost verbatim what we heard him say about Iraq in 2003 and last month.
O’Hanlon and his ilk are free to favor nation building abroad, but neither cheerleading nor escalating our commitments abroad will help the American jobs crisis. Military spending is the worst way, relative to more progressive projects, to foster sustainable job creation.
There’s momentum on our side that’s making job creation the No. 1 priority in Congress. This month, the Senate passed an amendment that would accelerate the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and save billions in the process. It’s a strong first step, and hurdles remain, but it’s a sign that we need to do our part to give Congress and the White House support to trim the war budget and focus on sustainable job creation.
Bellwether legislators are working to foster consensus around building roads and schools in the U.S. instead of in Afghanistan, and they need our support. Without our help, you’ll see elites argue the politics of naming warships after labor leader Cesar Chavez.
Now is the time to pressure Washington DC and make job creation the No. 1 priority in 2012.
Our vote on the 1% has been vigorous since it started last week, with thousands of people rating nominees representing Wall Street, dirty energy, war profiteering, and more. We’re going to make videos exposing the ones our audience thinks are doing the most to exploit the 99% — and so far, the most unpopular of the bunch are media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the democracy-crushing Koch Brothers.
Murdoch, whom we’ve dubbed “the Propagandist,” has a net worth of about $7.4 billion and uses his right-wing media empire to put ideology over truth. One commenter at our voting website assailed him for using “sensationalism, fear, lies, and distortions to achieve” his ideological ends.
Charles and David Koch, “the Puppeteers,” are familiar to Brave New Foundation fans who have seen our Koch Brothers Exposed campaign, which details how their factories spew obscene amounts of pollution while giving them the wealth (about $50 billion) to bankroll groups fighting worker rights, climate change science, and Wall Street regulation.
We’ve got a lot of great (or rather, awful) nominees, but these two are in the lead because, as commenter Sharonc put it, “they foster and enable all the other people on the list.” On a rating scale of “ho-hum” to “pure evil,” our audience has given both Murdoch and the Koch brothers an average rating of…pure evil.
Who else do you want us expose? Which financial fraudster? Which big polluter? Which union buster? Which hedge fund operator? Tell us by rating our nominees.
Here’s who’s now rounding out the top ten — for now:
The vote is far from over, though. Nominees like Darrell Issa, Pete Peterson, and Hugh Grant (the Monsanto CEO, not the English charmer) are nipping at their heels. But we can expose only the worst ones. Who will it be? Tell us.