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“Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King … Charles Koch?”: Why the Koch Brothers Are Heroes In Their Own Minds

When Charles E. Wilson appeared before a Senate committee in January 1953 as President Eisenhower’s nominee to become Secretary of Defense, he was asked whether his large holdings of stock in General Motors, where he had been president and chief executive, might cause some conflict of interest. “I cannot conceive of one,” he replied, “because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country.” While Wilson is often misquoted as saying that what’s good for GM is good for America, a quote often used as a symbol of corporate arrogance, his intent seemed at least somewhat more benign. But however you interpret it, Wilson was almost certainly sincere in believing that when you get right down to it, the country and its largest corporation, as GM was then, rise and fall together.

Koch Industries is not quite as big as General Motors was then, at least not relative to the rest of the economy. But the two men who control it, Charles and David Koch, seem just as sure that what’s good for them is good for America. They probably wouldn’t put it that way, and maybe they don’t even think about it that way. All they know is that the things they believe are right and true, which in at least one way makes them no different from you or me.

This weekend, the Kochs, who plan to spend nearly a billion dollars of their money and their friends’ money to elect a Republican president in 2016, held a confab where they could gather to discuss their plans to move America in a direction they find more amenable. When Charles addressed the plutocrats, he told them to give themselves a hearty pat on the back:

Charles Koch on Sunday compared the efforts of his political network to the fight for civil rights and other ‘freedom movements,’ urging his fellow conservative donors to follow the lead of figures such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr.

‘History demonstrates that when the American people get motivated by an issue of justice that they believe is just, extraordinary things can be accomplished,’ Koch told 450 wealthy conservatives assembled in the ballroom of a lavish oceanfront resort [in Dana Point, California].

‘Look at the American revolution, the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement,’ he said. “All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.”

Other reports note that Charles talked a good bit about the disadvantaged and downtrodden, and how they will be the true beneficiaries of the expansion of liberty that is the Kochs’ fondest dream.

You can call that ridiculous, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But while Democrats see the Kochs as cartoon villains, twirling their moustaches as they contemplate a future with low top-end marginal tax rates, I assure you that they believe themselves to have only the purest motives for their political action.

Ask any liberal activist why it’s a threat to democracy when the Kochs spend millions to elect their favored candidates, but less so when liberal billionaires do the same thing, and you’ll get two answers. The first is that “We can’t unilaterally disarm,” which is also what you hear from candidates who support campaign finance reforms but would like to get money from super PACs. It’s reasonable enough, if not particularly high-minded. The second answer, and perhaps the more common one, is that when the Kochs advocate for things like low taxes for the wealthy and loose regulation on corporations, they’re being self-interested, while a liberal billionaire who takes the opposite position is acting altruistically.

It’s an answer that is simultaneously true, at least to a degree, and unsatisfying. First of all, there are times when the Kochs advocate on issues that don’t have anything to do with their bottom line. And if they succeed in helping a Republican get elected president, only a portion of what that president does will affect them directly, even if they wind up being pleased with almost all of it.

Secondly, it runs the risk of devolving into a caricature that doesn’t help us understand the Kochs. Right now, Charles is probably asking himself why anyone would make a fuss about his speech. After all, he believes that the liberty embodied in unfettered capitalism is a source of prosperity and human flourishing. How could anyone think otherwise?

Of course, there’s a difference between telling yourself, “We’re advocating for the right things,” and telling yourself, “This thing we’re doing is as noble as anything anyone in our nation’s history has done.” But perhaps grandiosity isn’t surprising in a man whose fortune is estimated to be over $40 billion.

We all justify our actions and rationalize our decisions, and no one thinks they’re the villain of their own story. We all believe we’re good people, that we have a strong moral sense, and that the world would be a better place if it were ordered in the way we’d like. If would be shocking if the Kochs thought differently about themselves.

My point isn’t that we should automatically forgive people for their outrageous claims of moral rightness, any more than we ought to excuse outlandish claims of suffering and oppression (see War on Christmas, The). But it’s useful to appreciate that when someone like Charles Koch looks in the mirror and says, “You know, I really am a lot like Martin Luther King,” he may be utterly wrong in a hundred ways, but it isn’t a surprise that he feels that way. It’s human nature.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, August 2, 2015

August 4, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights Movement, Koch Brothers, Women's Suffrage Movement | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Politics Of Division And Sexism”: The Republican War On Women Can Be Blocked At The Ballot Box

Question: How do you get politicians to pay attention to issues that matter to women?

Answer: Get them elected — or defeated.

A month from now, voters in two states will go to the polls to elect a governor. In Virginia, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe; and in New Jersey, Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono is running against Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Both campaigns know they can’t win without strong support from women.

According to the National Journal:

In New Jersey and Virginia — the two states with gubernatorial elections this year — women made up more than half of the 2009 turnout (52 percent in Virginia and 53 percent in New Jersey), ensuring an intense competition for their votes in 2013. These battles will be closely watched as the national Republican Party seeks to boost its appeal to women and to lay a positive foundation for the 2014 midterm elections.

If the Republicans sweep the 2013 contests, you’ll be reading blog posts here and seeing pundits on TV saying that the GOP and the Tea Party have gained valuable momentum for 2014. That’s why the financiers of the Republican war on women are doubling down in Virginia and New Jersey today.

As I wrote in Politico back in June,

The anti-abortion rights group that calls itself the Susan B. Anthony List has announced plans to make this year’s statewide elections in Virginia a “template” for rolling out national strategies in 2014. It plans to spend $1.5 million to elect Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli governor and political gadfly E.W. Jackson lieutenant governor.Would Susan B. Anthony agree with Cuccinelli, who frequently attacks Planned Parenthood, charging that they have “an open willingness to participate in human trafficking?” Or that the “homosexual agenda … brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul?”

Would Susan B. Anthony stand by Jackson, who called Planned Parenthood “more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was?”

I know about Susan B. Anthony. Susan B. Anthony is a hero of mine. This List is no Susan B. Anthony.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the race is between a tireless champion for women’s rights, Barbara Buono, and Chris Christie, the first anti-choice governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade

Chris Christie cut $7.5 million in funding for family planning service, and used his veto pen on marriage equality legislation, equal pay laws and a minimum wage increase while signing off on a record $1.57 billion in corporate tax cuts.

Like Barbara Buono, Terry McAuliffe is providing a clear contrast to a candidate with a record of attacks on women’s rights.

A New Republic article headlined “Ken Cuccinelli’s Record on Women’s Issues Is As Bad As Ever” says:

Cuccinelli does not support a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. He does not see the need for the state to fund Planned Parenthood — which provides services as wide-ranging as HIV testing, prenatal care, and adoption referrals for thousands of women living in the Commonwealth.He has supported legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to provide emergency contraception if it violates their conscience, and feels employers should be able to dictate whether the health insurance plans they offer cover contraception. He pushed legislation that would have banned third-trimester abortions in Virginia, even in emergencies that endangered the life of the mother.

Four years ago, he had the opportunity to help amend Virginia law in a way that would make sex with minors a more serious offense; he opted instead to defend the statute lawmakers were trying to replace, an unconstitutional state ban on sodomy. He is silent on whether he supports equal pay legislation.

Cuccinelli demanded that Virginia institute a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound law, which has rightly been characterized as state-sponsored rape, is a zealous proponent of TRAP laws designed to shutter abortion clinics, and even supported a law that would have criminalized later-term abortions including those necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life.

Ken Cuccinelli was one of only three state attorneys general to refuse to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. His relentless focus on restricting women’s health care caused the Washington Post to call him “the most overtly partisan Attorney General in Virginia’s history.”

Elections matter in this country for a wide range of reasons. They codify our values and priorities as a society and help determine our future. They put the breaks on destructive policies and fuel the progress of urgently needed solutions.

My message to women in Virginia and New Jersey is that these elections are doubly important, because not only will they set the path that these two states will follow, but they will also deliver a verdict on the politics of division and sexism that Republicans think is a winning formula for 2014, 2016 and beyond.

Your vote is your voice. Use it!

 

By: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women; The Huffington post Blog, September 25, 2013

September 26, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“100 Years Of Women’s Rights”: Today’s War On Women Carries Profound Implications For The Future

Sunday, March 3 will mark the 100-year anniversary of the Woman Suffrage March on Washington by brave women demanding the right to vote. The fight for women’s rights didn’t begin in 1913; in fact, the movement had over 50 years of history prior to this momentous event led by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Two prominent women in American history—Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—were introduced by abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson in 1851 during an anti-slavery gathering in Seneca Falls, and from there they began their friendship and partnership. At the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848, Stanton wrote in The Declaration of Sentiments, “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice…”

In letters between Stanton and Anthony, Stanton described the challenges she faced in her personal life. Women’s suffrage weighed on these women; the political issue affected their everyday lives, and family and friends began opposing the movement. Nothing would stop them from moving ahead two decades to the founding of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, aimed at promoting amendments to the Constitution that would ultimately give women the right to vote.

On March 3, 1913, led by American suffragist activists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, men and women from across the country met in Washington, D.C. to march down Pennsylvania Avenue in support of women’s rights. Taking place the day before President Wilson’s inauguration, this historic march and subsequent demonstrations across the country succeeded in bringing national publicity to the issue through protests and speeches, proving that women deserved an equal place in politics. But they faced angry opposition from a faction of Americans – mostly but not all male — who resisted social progress for women. What came of this opposition was an all-out war on feminism.

Women marching in the Washington parade were physically assaulted, spit on, hit, and heckled by spectators. Accounts detailed police ignoring edicts from Major Richard Sylvester, D.C.’s Chief of Police, who gave orders to protect those marching. Men who supported the movement were targeted as well. A report from Major General Anson Mills, who marched with some of his men, said in a New York Times article, “Crowds of hoodlums sneered at my division in the parade and made insulting remarks. The police made no effort to rebuke them. They were ruffians whom I had never seen before and who seemed to be strangers. I think they were Baltimore hoodlums. They charged us with being henpecked. They indicated their determination to send us home by breaking up the parade. The crowd was lolous [sic] and made vicious attempts to break up the ranks of the marchers, with practically no interference from the police.”

A separate article featured in the Times from March 4, 1913 details, “At times fighting its way, the suffrage procession passed through a narrow channel with walls of spectators on either side. They effect of the parade was spoiled, the marchers were greatly inconvenienced, and at times were subjected to insult and indignity. Many persons were injured. The leaders of the suffragists are very indignant, and their sentiments are shared by many members of Congress. Many men here who do not believe in the suffrage cause say that the treatment given to those who marched yesterday was an insult to American womanhood and a disgrace to the Capital City of the Nation.”

From groups who resisted the movement came unrelenting assaults on women’s femininity—painting them as either lesbians or unattractive, lonely women incapable of finding husbands. Such misogynist propaganda infiltrated the news, portraying suffragists completely unfairly. Opponents claimed that women should remain out of politics and find a man to speak for them, since allowing women into the political process would be detrimental to the state.

Despite the fear-mongering, proponents of woman’s suffrage were able to draw the attention of members of Congress, and with the support of President Wilson gained momentum. Susan B. Anthony would never see the result of her efforts, but the Nineteenth Amendment, drafted by her and Stanton, was finally ratified in 1920.

From Seneca Falls to the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, MA, to the founding of the National American Woman Suffrage Association by Anthony and Stanton, women’s rights have come a long way. Yet today women’s issues are still hotly debated—abortion, access to birth control, the Violence Against Women Act (which finally passed in the House on Thursday)—with profound implications for the future of women in the United States.

 

By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, February 28, 2013

March 3, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Winking With A Blind Eye”: Where Are The Pro-Life Reactions To The Romney-Stericycle Story?

Yesterday, David Corn reported in Mother Jones that Mitt Romney may have played an active role Bain Capital’s $75 million investment in Stericycle, a company that disposes of medical waste from abortion clinics. According to Corn, Bain had previously claimed that Romney left the firm in February 1999 and that Romney probably had nothing to do with the deal.

Since this could potentially lose Romney some enthusiasm among social conservatives, I initially thought I would write a post about reactions to the story in the pro-life blogosphere.

Except… I couldn’t find any. Guys, I looked, but as of Tuesday afternoon, here’s where it stands:

Lila Rose’s Twitter feed? No mention as of this writing.

National Right to Life? Top headline as of July 3, 3:57 central time was “Supreme Court Decision Means Americans Must Elect Mitt Romney and a Pro-Life Congress Committed to Repealing ObamaCare.”

Susan B. Anthony List? Its president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, wrote a column for National Review Online yesterday titled “Pro-Lifers Must Unite Behind Romney.” (The discussion in the comments thread did make its way around to the Stericycle story, with folks chiming in both to support and criticize Romney.)

Americans United for Life? Again, as of 4 p.m. central, their online media center made no mention of it.

LifeSiteNews, which previously reported on a Romney fundraiser at the home of a pharmaceutical executive whose company makes the morning after pill, and which published a piece in January calling Stericycle a “medical waste giant allied with the abortion industry” didn’t turn up anything when I did a search for “Romney” and “Stericycle,” and the story wasn’t in their top headlines.

Jill Stanek? Again, no mention in the top headlines and a site search turned up nothing.

World Magazine, which is currently taking a critical stance toward the National Association of Evangelicals over the latter’s acceptance of a grant from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy? Again, my site search turned up nothing.

It could be that nobody’s gotten around to writing about it yet, I guess. Or, it could be that the pro-life blogosphere isn’t thrilled to learn about Romney’s possible role in the Stericycle investment; but, particularly on the heels of the Supreme Court decision, cares most about defeating Obama. In any case, the question will be whether it has any effect on voter enthusiasm. If no likely Romney supporters hear about it, I rather imagine it won’t.

 

By: Sarah Morice-Brubaker, Religion Dispatches, July 3, 2012

July 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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