David Koch Is Dead. We Must Now Take On His Harmful Legacy in Higher Education ~ Truthout

As David Koch’s family mourns his loss, we are taking a moment to pause and grieve, too. We grieve for the families who lost loved ones due to limited health care access. We grieve for the Black communities living alongside waterways polluted by Koch’s chemical plants. We grieve for the Indigenous nations whose lands were used to build Koch’s industrial wealth. We grieve the destruction of democratic values through Koch’s investments in higher education.

David Koch died with a net worth of $59 billion. There is no doubt that his estate will continue to sow the same evils into the world that he did alongside his brother Charles. When one has this amount of wealth at their disposal, their money buys immortality; so for us at UnKoch My Campus, we will continue to organize against David Koch’s legacy.

The political infrastructure that Koch’s wealth has created exists to uphold cultures of white supremacy and capitalism long after his death. The work of David and Charles helped maintain institutionalized violence and it will continue to reinforce structural oppression. The mainstreaming of right-wing ideology through Koch’s lasting investments in higher education will, unfortunately, continue to bring death and grief to our communities every day. For us, this means David Koch’s death is not a victory for the democracy movement. Any progressive that attempts to lionize him for his pro-choice, LGBTQ contributions, or even his financial support of PBS, conveniently ignores that these actions were a part of a strategy in service of his interests, and were in no way liberatory.

In 1980, David Koch made a failed bid for Vice President on the Libertarian Party’s ticket. From that point forward, he stepped back from direct campaign efforts and instead focused his attention on a strategy that would stealthily shift our nation’s culture and society over the next 50 years. He and his brother Charles even had a name for their grand design: The Structure of Social Change.

Following this covert strategy, David and Charles began investing the wealth they derived from their corporation, Koch Industries, into an expansive infrastructure of political influence, particularly in education. The Koch family’s wealth underwrote the creation and growth of over 300 university programs and 200 think-tanks and advocacy organizations that are still alive and active across the country today. It also bankrolled the careers of many state and federal politicians who are actively shaping state and federal policy. Together, these investments allowed the Koch brothers to pursue their goals of privately-funded policy change without ever having to get elected to office themselves.

The Koch family’s university investments are the most crucial components of this infrastructure. For decades, David and Charles have leveraged colleges and universities as a “recruiting ground” to introduce young people to the “liberty movement,” effectively aiding them in generating expansive consumer support to “build state-based capabilities and election capabilities.” These capabilities in turn allowed them to develop a “talent pipeline” to achieve widespread support for, and adoption of, favorable policies at the state and federal levels.

But the Kochs weren’t just eager to shape the minds of young college students. They also leveraged university investments to educate future lawyers and judges. By influencing hiring and programming at George Mason University’s Law School, Koch’s network of conservative donors has also been able to develop a talent pipeline of future lawyers and judges trained in applying free-market principles to their judicial decisions. The Koch network is then able to activate the other layers of their political infrastructure to advocate for the appointment or election of judges who have been trained in their judicial education seminars to powerful positions nationwide.

By leveraging educational institutions to mainstream the ideas that support an anti-democratic policy agenda, David Koch ensured that his family’s ideological legacy will live on well past his physical end.

This is why UnKoch My Campus will continue to build power locally and nationally to directly confront this infrastructure and develop a better system that our communities actually consent to. We have empowered over 150 campuses across the country with the resources necessary to organize against undue donor influence on their campuses. At George Mason University, we supported students in filing a lawsuit against their university for denying access to gift agreements with the Charles Koch Foundation, resulting in the release of agreements that exposed Koch influence over who is hired within the school’s economics program. Our efforts also empowered faculty to successfully organize for improved gift acceptance policies on campus.

We also worked with the Professional Firefighters of Alabama, a network of 45,000 public employees, to save the state retirement system after our research exposed Troy University’s Koch-funded research center bragging about “tak[ing] over” several departments, “ram[ing] through” curricular changes and produc[ing] research to “take down the state pension system.” We joined community members in Tucson, Arizona, as they organized to prevent the use of a biased Koch-funded textbook in high school economics classes in local school districts. Most recently, we successfully blocked the confirmation of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald as Chief Justice to the New Hampshire Supreme Court via our “UnKoch Our Courts” campaign by exposing his connections to the Koch network and Federalist Society.

But our work is nowhere near finished.

Despite David Koch’s death, we all must continue to support campus and community activists working on the ground to reverse the violent reverberations of Koch’s donations, and commit to building stronger partnerships across different issues to directly confront Koch’s agenda in all of its manifestations.

Trump 2020: Be Very Afraid ~ RollingStone ~ Taibbi style is almost a Hunter Thompson revisit to the political landscape …

America is the first country to ever elect a Mad King, and the way things are going, we may be dumb enough to do it twice

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Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone

Listen to audio version of this story below:

Early evening, August, Cincinnati. The Queen City’s many bridges are sealed off, its sky is dirty with helicopters, and seemingly every cop for 100 miles is patrolling Pete Rose Way along the Ohio River. A crowd of 20,000 or more stands in punishing heat, waiting to enter U.S. Bank Arena. The evil rumor buzzing down the line of MAGA hats is that not everyone will get in to see Donald Trump.

“Can we just get in for a minute?” complains a boy of about 10 to his mother. There are a lot of kids here.

Donald Trump doesn’t visit Middle America. He descends upon it. His rallies are awesome spectacles. Gawkers come down from the hills. If NASA traveled the country holding showings of the first captured alien life-form, the turnout would be similar. The pope driving monster trucks might get this much attention.

Almost everyone in line is wearing 45 merch. Trump is the most T-shirtable president in history, and it’s not even close. Trumpinator tees are big (“2020: I’LL BE BACK”), but you’ll also see Trump as Rambo (complete with headband, ammo belt, and phallic rocket-launcher), Trump as the Punisher (a Trump pompadour atop the famous skull), even Trump as Superman (pulling his suit open to reveal a giant T).

Slogans include “Trump 2020: Grab ’em by the Pussy Again!” and the ubiquitous “Trump 2020: Fuck Your Feelings.”

One merch hawker — an African American man with a visor, wraparound sunglasses, and spiked, dyed-white hair — is snaking through the crowd, pushing a T-shirt: “Donald Fuckin’ Trump.” On the back, the shirt reads “Bitch I’m the President!” “Five bucks for hats, 10 for tees!” he yells. “ ‘Bitch, I’m the president!’ ‘Make America great again!’ ”

“Four more years!” someone in the crowd yells back, to cheers.

Two and a half years into his presidency, Trump has already staked a claim to a role in history usually reserved for hereditary monarchs at the end of a line of inbreeding. Historians will list him somewhere between Vlad the Impaler and France’s Charles VI, who thought his buttocks were made of glass.

Much of America loves its Mad King, whose works are regularly on display. Russians under Ivan the Terrible used to watch dogs being hurled over the Kremlin walls when the tsar’s mood was bad. Americans have grown used to late-night insults tweeted at nuclear powers from the White Housebedroom.

Royal lunacy is traditionally a secret, but in Twitter-age America it’s a shared national experience. We are all somersaulting down and out the sanity chute. The astonishing thing about Trump is that he wasn’t foisted on us by a council of Bourbons, or by succession law. We elected the man, and are poised to do it again.

History will judge us harshly for this, and will look with particular venom at Trump’s political opponents in both parties, who over the years were unable to win popularity contests against a man most people would not leave alone with a decent wristwatch, let alone their children.

Trump’s original destiny was the destruction of the Republicans as a viable entity in modern American politics. Then he ran a general election like he was trying to lose, and won. Now his legacy is the spectacular end of America’s fragile racial consensus.

Ten years ago, an African American won the White House in a landslide; today, the president is somewhere between a Klansman and Jimmy the Greek. The media legend is that Trump succeeds because he’s a racist, but this undersells it. Trump is 50 years behind the worst elements of the Republican Party, which spent decades carefully stuffing race under bromides like “states’ rights” and “free stuff.” The GOP now is in an all-out bucket brigade to rescue the dog whistle.

The rescue is failing. We’ve gone from Trump being skeptical of Obama’s citizenship to musing about “very fine” neo-Nazis to a Twitter version of “Go back to Africa.” In Cincinnati, even his most hardcore supporters talk about wanting him to shut up. “I wish,” says one fan, “he would edit himself a little bit.”

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For all this, every time Trump seems headed for the dustbin of history, he bounces up again off the messageless paralysis of his Democratic opposition. When Trump vanquished a giant primary field of Republicans in 2016, Democrats cheered. When they lost the general election, they acted like it was an unrelated surprise event, an outrage to decency itself. They remain ineffective as anything but a punchline to the Trump story.

This cycle has led to more alienation and made the 2020 election a gruesome, exhausting black comedy. This is our penance for turning the presidential campaign into a bread-and-circus entertainment. Middle Americans got so used to getting nothing out of elections, they started treating national politics for what it had become to them, a distant, pretentious sitcom.

Now they’re writing their own script. They can’t arrange for Jake Tapper to be fed to a shark, so they’ll settle for rolling Donald Trump into Washington. It’s hard to see right now, it being the end of our society and all, but the situation is not without humor, in a “What does this button marked ‘Detonate’ do?” sort of way. Can America shoot itself in the head a second time? It sounds, appropriately enough, like the premise of a Trump TV show.

Here’s how degraded the political landscape has become: Mike Pence looks like a vice president now. In 2016, especially after the “grab ’em by the pussy” episode, the genuflecting Indianan often came across like a man appointed public defender to a ring of child cannibals. Now, onstage in Cincinnati, he looks stoked to be introducing His Trumpness.

“And now, it’s my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce you to my friend” — Pence sells it hard — “and the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump!”

The crowd bursts into roars, hoots, cheers. Trump pops out onstage. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” booms over the stadium.

Trump takes his sweet time to get to the podium. He gives photogs every pose: the clap, the wave, the arms akimbo, the blown kiss. It’s “I’m Too Sexy” brought to politics. A lot of candidates scan crowds like they’re looking for the sniper, but Trump acts like he’s ready for a mass frottage session.

“There’s that, too,” agrees a young Trump supporter named Andrew Walls later. “He l-o-o-o-ves what he does.”

Trump gives a double-fist pump in the direction of a man in a red headband and a green Army vest. When Trump looks in his direction, the man spasms like a dog blowing a load. Others are waving their arms like Pentecostals or doing V-for-victory signs. It’s pandemonium.

Trump takes the lectern. His hair has visibly yellowed since 2016. It’s an amazing, unnatural color, like he was electrocuted in French’s mustard. His neckless physique is likewise a wonder. He looks like he ate Nancy Pelosi.

“You know,” Trump says, referencing the Democrats’ debate in Detroit, “I was watching the so-called debates last night. . . .”

Boooo!

“. . . That was long, long television.”

That part is true enough. One wonders if Trump scheduled a rally the day after the debates on purpose, to steal the end of the flailing Democrats’ news cycle. He goes on:

“The Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me, practically,” he says, to cheers. “And this morning that’s all the fake news was talking about.”

BOOOOOOO!!!!

Nobody draws bigger catcalls than the “fake” news media. Trump knows this and pauses to let the bile rise. He expresses pleasure at being back in “the American heart land,” which he pronounces as if he’s just learned the term.

He then reflects on his 2016 run, when hordes of people turned out to send him to D.C., from places he, Trump, would never have visited, except maybe by plane crash.

“You came from the mountains and the valleys and the rivers, and, uh, you came for —” He seems to not know what comes after rivers. “I mean, look, you came from wherever you came from, and there were a lot of you.”

He ends up telling a story about early voting in Tennessee in 2016, and a congressman who told him if the whole country was voting like this, he was going to win by a lot. “And we won,” he says. “And we won by a lot.”

Press accounts will call this a lie, and of course it is, and even the crowd knows it. But they cheer anyway. In response, Trump stops and does his trademark stump flourish, turning sideways to flash his iguanoid profile before stalking around the lectern in resplendent, obese glory, inviting all to Get a load of me!

It’s indulgent, absurd, narcissistic, and appalling, unless you’re a Trump fan, in which case it’s hilarious, a continuation of the belly laughs that began in many parts of America with Hillary Clinton’s concession speech.

Trump crowds have changed. At the beginning of 2016, trying to pull quotes out of Trump rallies was like stopping a bunch of straight men who’d just whacked each other off behind a trailer. They didn’t want to talk about it.

As time progressed, the crowd’s profile widened. You met union members, veterans, and where it got weird was the stream of people who appeared to be neither traditional Republicans nor, seemingly, interested in politics at all. Among both young and old, people turned out who had no conception of Trump as anything but a TV star. This second group’s numbers seemed to have swelled.

“I watched the Celebrity Apprentice, and I loved that,” says Jackie Hoffman, a 60-year-old grandmother who gushes “we never had” someone like Trump run for president before. “Ronald Reagan was a celebrity, but he wasn’t, like, a big celebrity,” she says.

“I just want to get a feel for the spectacle,” says Walls. As we talk, he’s gazing at a stand full of Trump merch. He likes the Punisher motif, but also the Terminator tee. “If I had money,” he says, “I’d probably buy that.”

Walls and his friend James Monroe drove in from Kentucky. Walls is an enthusiastic Trump supporter, Monroe not — he’s here for the show. Though they disagree about Trump’s politics, they express surprise he won the last time.

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A man in a shirt with images of Donald Trump during the rally.

This is a common theme, when you ask people what impresses them most about Trump, i.e., that he won despite the press. The news media rate somewhere between herpes and ISIS in much of the country. “A lot of the media are very liberal,” says Monroe. “I don’t know how he won.”

Skylar Easter, 23, and Sahara Hollingshead, 19, are a young couple who came down from Circleville, Ohio. Skylar’s got long blond hair, a beard, and a tie-dye shirt, and looks vaguely like the True Romance version of Brad Pitt. Sahara’s got purple glasses and says, “There are more minorities and women employed right now than there’s been in almost 30 years. That’s great.” Both recently landed jobs at a company called TriMold, making parts for Hondas. “We stand in one place and operate a machine,” says Skylar. Sahara likes Trump’s attitude, because he’s “not scared to go for it.”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Should voting be required by law? ~ Prism

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Carolyn Copeland for Prism

 

In the months leading up to Election Day, Americans are constantly bombarded with Get Out the Vote efforts by organizations, politicians, and celebrities. We’ve all heard the ads begging people to register to vote. We’ve heard political candidates tell us that “this is the most important election of our lifetime” in order to mobilize eligible voters. But while these efforts can certainly be effective, they generally don’t result in an impressive voter turnout.

In 2018, a Pew Research Center survey found that 70% of Americans think voting in presidential elections is important. That same study also found that 78% of people think it is critical for the public to be informed about candidates and their policies. But even with the majority of Americans acknowledging the importance of voting, our turnout rate is still embarrassing—particularly when compared to other nations. If Americans maintain an ambivalent attitude about voting, or only vote when they’re excited about a particular candidate, important elections will eventually be decided by only a handful of people. This is why Americans should actively consider adopting a compulsory voting system.

The concept of compulsory voting is not new. Today, 22 countries have compulsory voter participation. While some countries like the United States consider voting a democratic right, others view it as a civic responsibility. Take Belgium, for example. Belgium first adopted compulsory voting in the late 1800s. In many of those countries, failing to vote without a sufficient excuse can result in penalties like small fines or even passport confiscation. Currently, Belgium’s average turnout rate for general elections is 90 percent. Massive voter turnout rates can also be found in countries with similar policies like Australia and Brazil. In contrast, America’s last presidential election in 2016 drew approximately 58 percent of eligible voters to the polls.

Australia’s compulsory voting system, which was adopted in the 1920s, has been credited for an inflated number of stable and moderate candidates being sworn into office. Presumably, this is because the law forces candidates to appeal to the broader population, rather than spending all of their time working to energize a small group of likely voters.

With a high number of candidates with extreme ideologies on both sides of the political aisle in America, compulsory voting is likely the most effective way to tone down divisive rhetoric and produce more reasonable policies by candidates. It would also shine a spotlight on lawmakers, holding them more accountable to the people they represent. In a country where lawmakers are beholden to the lobbyists who funnel money into their campaigns, implementing a law requiring all eligible citizens to vote would divert attention away from special-interest groups and return it to constituents.

 

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One of the biggest benefits of compulsory voting in America would be the elimination of voter suppression. Although the 1965 Voting Rights Act drastically improved voter turnout and preserved the rights of minority communities, actions by the Supreme Court to dismantle key provisions have made the problem even more widespread. States around the country have been making an effort to restrict the votes of certain demographics. The American Civil Liberties Union says the states with the highest voter turnout in 2008 were Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, New Hampshire, and Colorado. All five states later introduced laws creating additional obstacles to vote. These harsh restrictions on voting have been proven to disproportionately impact Democrats and minority voters. Tactics to suppress votes include voter ID laws, the purging of voter rolls, technical problems at polling stations creating long lines, and insufficient information on polling locations. Compulsory voting would not only phase out this problem entirely, it would likely generate more faith and trust in our electoral system. When citizens believe elections are being run fairly and that all eligible people who want to vote have access to do so, the country can rest more comfortably and government officials can work more efficiently. Compulsory voting would also make more people accountable to civic responsibilities like jury duty, resulting in more diverse juries.

While some countries impose fines on citizens who opt out of voting, America wouldn’t necessarily have to follow suit. According to the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an organization that works to support and strengthen democratic institutions and processes around the world, compulsory voting laws don’t need to be enforced in order to be effective.

“Some laws are created to merely state the government’s position regarding what the citizen’s responsibility should be,” the organization’s website says. “Although a government may not enforce mandatory voting laws or even have formal sanctions in law for failing to vote, the law may have some effect upon the citizens. For example, in Austria voting is compulsory in only two regions, with sanctions being weakly enforced. However, these regions tend to have a higher turnout average than the national average.”

Historically, Americans don’t like to be forced into doing anything, regardless of whether it’s good for the country. Even with a policy like compulsory voting, there would still be uninformed voters and people who begrudgingly cast a ballot out of obligation to the government. However, the American voting process has never required citizens to be informed about issues in order to vote. There is no evidence to guarantee the percentage of uninformed voters would be any higher than it is now.

Above all, the biggest priority should be making sure citizens are heard by the people they put in power. Requiring voting by law is the most logical and effective way to ensure everyone has a say in how the government is run.

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Was Trump’s El Paso Visit a Turning Point? NYT Op/Ed

A day of racist comments left him looking small and isolated, while the city united against him.

By

Mr. Parker is the author of “Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America.”

Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

 

EL PASO — If consoling the nation in a time of desperate need is a vital and yet simple task of the American presidency, Donald J. Trump failed miserably this week.

From his flight on Wednesday to Dayton, Ohio, to this sprawling high-desert city on the Mexican border, the 45th occupant of the White House not only littered his consolation tour with petty insults — but just to rub salt in the wound, doses of renewed racism. Yet most striking was how alone and outnumbered the president was: rejected, ostracized and told to go home.

The people who streamed the scene of the terrorist attack here — brown, black, white and every hue in between — defiantly defended the nation’s diversity. With no public appearances, the president seemed to shrink, ever more alone as he clung to his white nationalist politics and governance. But he and his supporters were grossly outnumbered. For perhaps the first time in his angry, racist and cruel presidency, the tables were turned in smoldering, righteous popular anger — and he was on the receiving end.

You have to give this to Mr. Trump: He never backs off. He doubles down like a wild gambler in a casino, raising the stakes one more time demanding just a few more chips from the house. Leaving the White House on Wednesday morning, he said, “I think my rhetoric brings people together,” adding he was “concerned about the rise of any group of hate. I don’t like it, whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy.”