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Monday, September 6, 2010

Funding the “birthers” and the Tea Bag movements: Kansas’ White Christian Nationalism Contends for America Hegemony

By now most have heard rumors about the Koch Brothers being a power behind the smear campaign and degradation of the office of the presidency by the Tea Baggers. Rachel Maddow did a report on the brothers’ support of extreme right wing – white nationalist – politics. Koch Industries is based in Wichita Kansas. Having been born and raised in Kansas, I am not embarrassed about being from Kansas (home is home), but I must say I am embarrassed for Kansas. I left Kansas in 1961, thank goodness. I had my issues with its racism to the point of being a part of a sit-in at Dockums Drug Store in 1958, but Kansas was not Mississippi. More recently, however, Kansas backward political climate was revealed by the State Board of Education’s requirement that creationism be taught right beside evolution in school curriculum.

This fact alone proved Thomas Frank’s point in his award winning book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” He concluded that the reason these working class and farm communities did not vote their economic interests was for cultural reasons. White Christian Nationalism has been at the center of the anti-abortion debate. With Bill O'Reilly and Fox News fanning the flames, Wichita was storm center for the anti-abortion movement that led to the assassination of Dr. Howard Tiller in his church.

With bizarre coincidence, one of the nation’s more infamous serial killers terrorized and killed at least 10 people, mostly women, in Wichita from the 1974 to the 1991. The BTK killer for “Blind them, Torture them and Kill them.” He committed these heinous acts as he terrorized that city of 300,000. The interesting thing about Dennis Rader, the serial killer, was linked him to this White Christian Nationalist culture as President of his fundamentalist Lutheran congregation.  He was not arrested until 2004 when his ego got in the way of his secret.  He thought someone was going to steal his story. Another personal coincidence when it comes to my Kansas connection, it was my cousin, Judge Greg Waller, who sentenced Rader to 175 years in prison.

When I attended my 55th high school reunion in October 2008, the Obama supporters were an intimidated minority. Of the over 90 alums in attendance, about 10 or 12 supported Obama. They formed their own little quiet campaign. After announcing at the dinner that I had informed the Obama campaign that the class of ’53 was behind him, I was booed. Even though a few of these Republicans did whisper to me later that they were going to vote for Obama, the husband (Class of ’51) of one of my classmates vowed that if Obama won he was leaving the country. Often I get email from distribution lists of classmates. Like Koch’s campaign, ridiculing the President is the order of the day. One thing this shows is that race trumps respect for the institution of the presidency.

Is it any wonder that major funder of the Tea Party comes right out of this milieu. The Koch brothers are putting their libertarian ideology to work to demonize the President just because he is African American. The brothers are underwriting the so-called “grassroots” Tea Party movement. While that may not be a surprise, what is more likely to be very illuminating is how connected they are to America’s elite, sharing the spotlight with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg at the Metropolitan Opera. These connections are buying legitimacy for their criminal behavior. There is a consistency between their racist politics and their anti-government capitalist class interests. Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said:

“The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”

Remember the Birchite billboards denouncing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as Communist? These are the same people who are pushing the white Christian Nationalist Tea Bagger, “birther,” anti-immigration, and “Ground Zero” anti-Muslim sentiment. Now they are exposed. Jane Mayer is a must read. RGN


The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.

by Jane Mayer AUGUST 30, 2010

David H. Koch in 1996. He and his brother Charles are lifelong libertarians and have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes.

On May 17th, a black-tie audience at the Metropolitan Opera House applauded as a tall, jovial-looking billionaire took the stage. It was the seventieth annual spring gala of American Ballet Theatre, and David H. Koch was being celebrated for his generosity as a member of the board of trustees; he had recently donated $2.5 million toward the company’s upcoming season, and had given many millions before that. Koch received an award while flanked by two of the gala’s co-chairs, Blaine Trump, in a peach-colored gown, and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, in emerald green. Kennedy’s mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had been a patron of the ballet and, coincidentally, the previous owner of a Fifth Avenue apartment that Koch had bought, in 1995, and then sold, eleven years later, for thirty-two million dollars, having found it too small.

The gala marked the social ascent of Koch, who, at the age of seventy, has become one of the city’s most prominent philanthropists. In 2008, he donated a hundred million dollars to modernize Lincoln Center’s New York State Theatre building, which now bears his name. He has given twenty million to the American Museum of Natural History, whose dinosaur wing is named for him. This spring, after noticing the decrepit state of the fountains outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Koch pledged at least ten million dollars for their renovation. He is a trustee of the museum, perhaps the most coveted social prize in the city, and serves on the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where, after he donated more than forty million dollars, an endowed chair and a research center were named for him.

One dignitary was conspicuously absent from the gala: the event’s third honorary co-chair, Michelle Obama. Her office said that a scheduling conflict had prevented her from attending. Yet had the First Lady shared the stage with Koch it might have created an awkward tableau. In Washington, Koch is best known as part of a family that has repeatedly funded stealth attacks on the federal government, and on the Obama Administration in particular.

With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

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. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid 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.

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