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KOCH DOCUMENT REVEALS LAUNDRY LIST OF POLICY VICTORIES EXTRACTED FROM THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION February 26, 2018

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Democracy, Environment, Labor, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: 99% of Western liberal analysis misses the point, which is staring us right in the face: to wit, that we are not a democracy but rather an oligarchy.  In order to avoid the elephant (no pun intended) in the living room, analysts, op-ed writers, academics and other opinionators and talking heads have made a fetish out of the word “democracy.”  Statements like “we deserve the government we get” bring bile up my gizzard; and strategies for social change focused on winning elections for Democratic candidates are in the long run an exercise in futility.

Of course we have elections and there are elements of democracy in our society, but to say that we are a “democracy” without qualifying in with the adjective “capitalist” is beyond missing the point; it is misleading, criminally misleading, if you will.

The Koch brothers are the poster children for out capitalist oligarchy, but they are far from the only determining actors.  They are generals on the oligarchy’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and there is an entire army below them.  Make no mistake.  We are at war.  They are after our environment, our jobs, our labor unions, our sense of community, our human rights and dignity, our families, our youth, our health and our very lives.  They are literally killing us.

A PS:  the article below is comprehensive, but doesn’t touch on what is being done to our healthcare or how a foreign policy of permanent war is already in place.

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IN THE BACKDROP of a chaotic first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the conservative Koch brothers have won victory after victory in their bid to reshape American government to their interests.

Documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented show that the network of wealthy donors led by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have taken credit for a laundry list of policy achievements extracted from the Trump administration and their allies in Congress.

The donors have pumped campaign contributions not only to GOP lawmakers, but also to an array of third-party organizations that have pressured officials to act swiftly to roll back limits on pollution, approve new pipeline projects, and extend the largest set of upper-income tax breaks in generations.

“This year, thanks in part to research and outreach efforts across institutions, we have seen progress on many regulatory priorities this Network has championed for years,” the memo notes. The documenthighlights environmental issues that the Koch brothers have long worked to undo, such as the EPA Clean Power Plan, which is currently under the process of being formally repealed, and Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, among their major accomplishments. The memo also highlighted administration efforts to walk back planned rules to strengthen the estate tax in a list of 13 regulatory decisions favored by the network.

The network’s political operation includes a polling and research outfit, Capitol Hill lobbyists, several hundred field staff, groups designed to air campaign ads, and an assortment of grassroots groups set up to appeal to certain constituencies. The LIBRE Initiative is a network group geared toward selling Koch policy ideas to Latino communities. Generation Opportunity works to reach out to millennials and college students; Veterans For America for veterans and military-minded voters.

 

To win support for the Republican tax legislation, the Koch network claims that it organized over 100 rallies in 36 states, contacted over 1.8 million activists, and knocked on over 33,000 doors. The group also spent freely on digital and television advertisements, with $1.6 million in TV spots to support the legislation in Wisconsin alone.

As The Intercept previously reported, the Koch network told its surrogates to downplay concern over the deficit, a major issue they raised during the Obama administration, in order to convince lawmakers to support the package.

Days after the tax bill passed, Charles Koch and his wife donated $500,000to Speaker Paul Ryan’s joint fundraising leadership PAC, which has a heightened threshold for donations.

Despite some public antagonism over Trump — including flirtations with replacing him as the nominee with Ryan at the Republican National Convention —  the Koch brothers have enjoyed incredible access with his administration. The president’s lawyer, Don McGahn; the president’s chief liaison to Congress, Marc Short; and the president’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway all previously worked for the Koch network before taking their current positions in the White House. Ethics forms reveal that officialsacross the government, including at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, previously served at Koch think tanks or other Koch groups. Vice President Mike Pence also maintains a very close relationship with the Koch brothers.

The Koch brothers are also hoping to fundamentally reshape other aspects of American society, including labor unions and the judiciary.

The memo details efforts to weaken the power of labor unions, including a broad attack on private sector labor unions in states controlled by Republicans in 2017. Meanwhile, the memo notes that the Trump administration has shelved a number of Obama-era rules that were viewed as too friendly to workers and labor unions, including the Overtime Rule and the Joint Employer Rule. The latter would have reduced the barriers for workers at franchise businesses, like fast food outlets, to form a union.

“Labor reform is not an overnight process; advancing major federal labor reform requires a long-term strategy,” it adds. To that point, the Koch network plans to press forward with the Employee Rights Act, legislation to extend right-to-work laws nationally and set up new barriers for labor activists hoping to form new unions.

The memo notes that they believe Justice Anthony Kennedy will soon retire, and the effort to replace him will be “far more contentious” than the effort to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch.

“If President Trump nominates a principled, constructionist nominee for Justice Kennedy’s seat or any other vacant seat, we anticipate engaging with both grassroots and under-the-dome tactics, bringing paid and earned media and events to support the confirmation.” The memo notes that the network sponsored pressure effort on Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., all of whom eventually voted to confirm Gorsuch.

In Indian Wells, California, last month, the network held a retreat with 700 donors. Several journalists were invited to attend as long as they promised not to name the donors present.

Operatives from the network also led sessions to explain how to move forward into the midterm elections. The Koch brothers intend to spend $400 million to preserve the Republican majority in Congress and maintain GOP power at the state level.

In recent days, Koch network groups have purchased ads targeting Democratic lawmakers in key elections across the country. This week, a new ad began airing in Missouri criticizing Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is up for re-election this year.

“We’ve made more progress in the last five years than I had in the last 50,” Charles Koch reportedly said. “The capabilities we have now can take us to a whole new level.”

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Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister. January 31, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Constitution, Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Trump, Uncategorized, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: As we confront the groundwork for massive atrocities being laid in these first days of the neo-Fascist Trump government, perhaps we need to be reminded that a substantial amount of the groundwork had already been put in place, much of it by the Obama administration.  That the political classes and the mainstream media have no problem with the president of the United States ordering bombings that kill dozens of civilians, including American citizens, it an abomination.  I had read in the New York Times that an American soldier died in these attacks.  That was it.  No mention of the atrocity described in this article.

In 2010, President Obama directed the CIA to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that he had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, and the agency successfully carried out that order a year later with a September 2011 drone strike. While that assassination created widespread debate — the once-again-beloved ACLU sued Obama to restrain him from the assassination on the ground of due process and then, when that suit was dismissed, sued Obama again after the killing was carried out — another drone killing carried out shortly thereafter was perhaps even more significant yet generated relatively little attention.

Two weeks after the killing of Awlaki, a separate CIA drone strike in Yemen killed his 16-year-old American-born son, Abdulrahman, along with the boy’s 17-year-old cousin and several other innocent Yemenis. The U.S. eventually claimed that the boy was not their target but merely “collateral damage.” Abdulrahman’s grief-stricken grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, urged the Washington Post “to visit a Facebook memorial page for Abdulrahman,” which explained: “Look at his pictures, his friends, and his hobbies. His Facebook page shows a typical kid.”

Few events pulled the mask off Obama officials like this one. It highlighted how the Obama administration was ravaging Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries: just weeks after he won the Nobel Prize, Obama used cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. Even Obama-supporting liberal comedians mocked the arguments of the Obama DOJ for why it had the right to execute Americans with no charges: “Due Process Just Means There’s A Process That You Do,” snarked Stephen Colbert. And a firestorm erupted when former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs offered a sociopathic justification for killing the Colorado-born teenager, apparently blaming him for his own killing by saying he should have “had a more responsible father.” 

The U.S. assault on Yemeni civilians not only continued but radically escalated over the next five years through the end of the Obama presidency, as the U.S. and the U.K. armed, supported, and provide crucial assistance to their close ally Saudi Arabia as it devastated Yemen through a criminally reckless bombing campaign. Yemen now faces mass starvationseemingly exacerbated, deliberately, by the U.S.-U.K.-supported air attacks. Because of the West’s direct responsibility for these atrocities, they have received vanishingly little attention in the responsible countries.

In a hideous symbol of the bipartisan continuity of U.S. barbarism, Nasser al-Awlaki just lost another one of his young grandchildren to U.S. violence. On Sunday, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, using armed Reaper drones for cover, carried out a commando raid on what it said was a compound harboring officials of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A statement issued by President Trump lamented the death of an American service member and several others who were wounded, but made no mention of any civilian deaths. U.S. military officials initially denied any civilian deaths, and (therefore) the CNN report on the raid said nothing about any civilians being killed.

But reports from Yemen quickly surfaced that 30 people were killed, including 10 women and children. Among the dead: the 8-year-old granddaughter of Nasser al-Awlaki, Nawar, who was also the daughter of Anwar Awlaki.

 

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As noted by my colleague Jeremy Scahill — who extensively interviewed the grandparents in Yemen for his book and film on Obama’s “Dirty Wars” —  the girl “was shot in the neck and killed,” bleeding to death over the course of two hours. “Why kill children?” the grandfather asked. “This is the new (U.S.) administration — it’s very sad, a big crime.”

The New York Times yesterday reported that military officials had been planning and debating the raid for months under the Obama administration, but Obama officials decided to leave the choice to Trump. The new president personally authorized the attack last week. They claim that the “main target” of the raid “was computer materials inside the house that could contain clues about future terrorist plots.” The paper cited a Yemeni official saying that “at least eight women and seven children, ages 3 to 13, had been killed in the raid,” and that the attack also “severely damaged a school, a health facility and a mosque.”

As my colleague Matthew Cole reported in great detail just weeks ago, Navy SEAL Team 6, for all its public glory, has a long history of “‘revenge ops,’ unjustified killings, mutilations, and other atrocities.” And Trump notoriously vowed during the campaign to target not only terrorists but also their families. All of that demands aggressive, independent inquiries into this operation.

Perhaps most tragic of all is that — just as was true in Iraq — al Qaeda had very little presence in Yemen before the Obama administration began bombing and droning it and killing civilians, thus driving people into the arms of the militant group. As the late, young Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana told Congress in 2013:

Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants. … Unfortunately, liberal voices in the United States are largely ignoring, if not condoning, civilian deaths and extrajudicial killings in Yemen.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, the rage would have been tremendous. But today there is little outcry, even though what is happening is in many ways an escalation of Mr. Bush’s policies. …

Defenders of human rights must speak out. America’s counterterrorism policy here is not only making Yemen less safe by strengthening support for AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] but it could also ultimately endanger the United States and the entire world.

This is why it is crucial that — as urgent and valid protests erupt against Trump’s abuses — we not permit recent history to be whitewashed, or long-standing U.S. savagery to be deceitfully depicted as new Trumpian aberrations, or the war on terror framework engendering these new assaults to be forgotten. Some current abuses are unique to Trump, but — as I detailed on Saturday — some are the decades-old byproduct of a mindset and system of war and executive powers that all need uprooting. Obscuring these facts, or allowing those responsible to posture as opponents of all this, is not just misleading but counterproductive: Much of this resides on an odious continuum and did not just appear out of nowhere.

Congress voted on border wall in 2006, Hillary, Schumer, Feinstein voted Yes https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=2&vote=00262  Bernie voted no http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll446.xml 

 

It’s genuinely inspiring to see pervasive rage over the banning of visa holders and refugees from countries like Yemen. But it’s also infuriating that the U.S. continues to massacre Yemeni civilians, both directly and through its tyrannical Saudi partners. That does not become less infuriating — Yemeni civilians are not less dead — because these policies and the war theories in which they are rooted began before the inauguration of Donald Trump. It’s not just Trump but this mentality and framework that need vehement opposition.

The Top Five Special Interest Groups Lobbying To Keep Marijuana Illegal April 22, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Drugs.
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By posted Apr 20th 2012 at 9:04AM, www.republicreport.org

Last year, over 850,000 people in America were arrested for marijuana-related crimes. Despite public opinion, the medical community, and human rights experts all moving in favor of relaxing marijuana prohibition laws, little has changed in terms of policy.

There have been many great books and articles detailing the history of the drug war. Part of America’s fixation with keeping the leafy green plant illegal is rooted in cultural and political clashes from the past.

However, we at Republic Report think it’s worth showing that there are entrenched interest groups that are spending large sums of money to keep our broken drug laws on the books:

1.) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, we published a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide.

2.) Private Prisons Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, to pass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes.

3.) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed.

4.) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”

5.) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 million to defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”

RELATED: Why Can’t You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on Drugs

How Shadowy Right-Wing Front Groups Engineered Our National Embrace of Debt Reduction Over Job Creation July 29, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: repeat after me, “political democracy without economic democracy is not democratic.”  Economic democracy is synonymous with (gasp!) Socialism.  Under capitalist economic relations, money always trumps the interest of living breathing human beings.  Right wing money is taking things to the extreme, but it is corporate money — left, right or center — that controls education, information, news and therefore public opinion.  Has been that way since day one.  What we are seeing today is the slow and steady collapse of world capitalism.  You can’t get blood from a stone.

 

Friday 29 July 2011
by: Lee Fang, ThinkProgress                 | Report

(Photo: Vanessa Arn / Flickr)

For the entire year, as a sluggish economy sputters by and states continue to struggle with falling revenue, the conversation in Congress has centered solely on spending reduction. Earlier this year, we witnessed looming government-showdown duels between competing spending reduction plans. Now with the debt ceiling debate, the only two options are a choice between a package of painful cuts and a package of deeply draconian cuts. There has been no lively discussion of new policy ideas for job creation, foreclosure mitigation, or how to spur demand, the key driver of economic recovery.

Earlier this week, Politico published a piece outlining the vast disparity in the ad war over the debt ceiling. Republican-aligned groups have run over $21.2 million in attack ads highlighting Democrats as irresponsible drivers of the national debt, and elevating the debt ceiling as a top priority. Meanwhile, groups on the left have spent about $30,000 on ads calling out Republicans on the debt, with one hitting lawmakers for “recklessly risking default.” Some Democratic leaning groups have even run ads casting Democrats as better at cutting than Republicans.

Since the end of the Bush presidency, shadowy right-wing groups, many of them formed for this very purpose, have primed the public with a sophisticated public relations campaign to shift the national discourse to a focus on debt reduction. Many of these groups do not appear partisan, and have figured out ways around registering their activity with the Federal Elections Commission (so the true extent to their ad-buying is rarely recorded):

– Founded in 2010 by former Bush admin flak Gretchen Hamel, the group Public Notice has quietly pumped millions into advertising about debt reduction: Public Notice sponsored at least $3 million on a debt ad called “Shovel” that falsely claims the spending doesn’t create jobs, an undisclosed amount for online ads promoting a highly produced web series on the evils of government spending, a debt pledge that features pop singer Justin Bieber, and what is believed to be another multimillion dollar ad buy recently for a commercial, appearing like a PSA, that warns that government spending is akin to cocaine addiction. To warp elite opinion, the group sponsored billboard ads at Reagan National Airport and on buses and bus shelters near Capitol Hill. Although Hamel does not reveal her donors, she is connected closely with the Koch network of billionaire and investors. Last year at a right-wing donor conference attended by top hedge fund manager Steve Schwarzman and Charles Koch, Hamel gave a presentation on “Framing the Debate on Spending.”

Retired investor Pete Peterson has dedicated $1 billion of his personal wealth to reducing government spending; much of that money has gone to a multifaceted marketing campaign: The Peterson Institute has spent $1 million underwriting a movie about the debt, at least $1,010,232 developing a children’s debt sports game that also directs users to a Econ4U, a front group created by infamous lobbyist Rick Berman, millions more for a TV ad campaign called “Hugh Jidette,” an MTV-U cable television series that misleadingly conflates personal debt with the national debt, a newspaper partnered with the Washington Post, and even a program at Columbia University to develop a national debt-related K-12 curriculum.

Corporate astroturf lobbyist Rick Berman has spent large amounts orchestrating a scare-mongering campaign over the national debt. Along with his connections to the Peterson network mentioned above, Berman has set up a campaign called “Defeat the Debt” to push the public into believing the national debt is the country’s top priority. He has run ads on television, purchased billboards throughout the Washington D.C. metro area, and aggressively marketed his campaign to Capitol Hill staffers. Last year, Berman purchased an ad during the Super Bowl — spending approximately $3 million — that showed schoolchildren pledging allegiance “to America’s debt, and to the Chinese government that lends us money.”

A network of other right-wing groups have used a series of public relations gimmicks — like barnstorming bus tours filled with highly paid GOP operatives posing as Tea Party activists — to orchestrate an astroturf effort to build support for cutting spending over creating jobs. Groups like Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform sponsored a group called Spending Revolt that toured the country organizing debt-related rallies with Republican candidates last year. The group, which has organized events with the Ohio Coal Association, gained countless local press hits appearing as a genuine citizens groups, despite the fact its sponsors are corporate lobbyists. This year, Americans for Prosperity has continued a separate effort to organize debt-themed rallies. American Majority, a group founded after Obama’s election by two GOP operatives, has quietly provided training efforts across the country to mobilize around the issue of the national debt.

This is only a snapshot of the debt-related public relations campaign; millions more have been spent by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, and other big business advocacy groups.

The incredible resources the right has amassed for its debt campaign are unmatched by progressives. Moreover, at a time when solving the unemployment crisis should be our national priority, only the very wealthy and privileged have the money to direct national ad campaigns of any real impact. In an era of unlimited corporate money in politics, the unemployed and the Middle Class have a quickly disappearing voice in public life.

      Originally published on ThinkProgress