Thursday, August 26, 2010

Republicans Organize Grassroots for the Wealthy and Flirt with the 19th Century

The tea party mad hatters are threatening to take the United States back to the 19th century—but, the way things are going, these folks may be flirting with the 17th century when emperors, kings and various aristocrats forced average people into fighting for them so that the emperors, kings and various aristocrats could have a little more power and wealth for themselves and their heirs. In the Thirty Years War alone, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people died for the sake of a few hundred powerful people. It took ordinary people two or three generations just to get back to where their grandparents had been.

Timothy Egan
has a post on the growing irrationality of a large number of Republicans (but is it irrationality or simply a stubborn refusal to do some homework?):
It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

Take a look at Tuesday night’s box score in the baseball game between New York and Toronto. The Yankees won, 11-5. Now look at the weather summary, showing a high of 71 for New York. The score and temperature are not subject to debate.

Yet a president’s birthday or whether he was even in the White House on the day TARP was passed are apparently open questions.

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, who are notorious for uttering facts more by accident than by design, are only partially responsible for the current state of affairs. Certainly people like Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove manage to time their utterances to add kindling to the fire of right-wing anger. Never mind for a moment the damage news outlets not owned by billionaires like Murdoch are doing by not pointing out the outright lies. The fact is that the tea party people are being organized and some curious people are paying the bills. Here's a post from The Mahablog:
Kate Zernike writes for the New York Times that the “tea party” movement is largely being organized and funded by FreedomWorks, which isn’t really news.

FreedomWorks staffers are going around the country training the teabaggers how to be useful political tools and get out the vote for FreedomWorks candidates. It is this organizing that is behind the several upsets in recent Republican primaries, in which “tea party” candidates upset long-entrenched Republican incumbents.


FreedomWorks itself evolved from another organization, Citizens for a Sound Economy, created in 1984 by the Koch Foundation with help from Big Tobacco. Joshua Holland of AlterNet has called FreedomWorks a “Wall Street front group,”, although I think it’s probably more accurate to call it “astroturf for hire.” FreedomWorks works with a number of PR firms to manipulate public opinion for a number of right-wing special interests.

According to SourceWatch, its funders in 2007 included –
Armstrong Foundation, $20,000
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, $80,000
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, $100,000
Sarah Scaife Foundation, $200,000
Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation, $20,000
In other words — grassroots, my ass. What’s behind the “tea parties” are the same mega-wealthy familiy trusts that bankroll everything else that’s right wing in America.
The New Yorker has an article on a particular pair of right-wing billionaires who are behind the tea party folks, the Koch brothers:
[The Koch brothers own] virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. ... 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....

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.

Many Republicans, when they aren't complaining about immigrant and Muslims, continue to believe that the biggest danger to America is big government rather than big business. The Koch brothers show how unproductive that belief can be. Keep in mind that if the United States takes global warming seriously and turns to alternative energy in a major way, the oil giants will still be pumping oil and the coal giants will still be mining coal for many years to come. Switching to alternative energy is going to take time. There is still a lot of money that big coal and big oil can make, and a lot of work for those in those industries (however, very rapidly, there will also be many workers needed in alternative energy and the infrastructure projects). Rationally, the billionaires and other big investors who own coal and oil ought to know all this. Business is supposed to be rational, right? But greed and power do funny things to people. It seems people like that can never have enough. It's clear that right-wing billionaires have an itch to throw their weight around.

In the meantime, people who deal with facts are getting uneasy. I live in Northern California and I learned something new about global warming this month. All over the world, we have been seeing record heat this year. Russia, still an important breadbasket for various nations, had record heat and drought that has drastically affected its agricultural output (I know, the Republican with his head in the sand is complaining that this has nothing to do with him).

But we have also been seeing other things. We have seen record floods in Pakistan and China. And yet, despite the record heat around the world, a very few places like the western counties of Northern California have experienced a very cool summer. Cool? Yes, and there's a reason for it. And it does not contradict the climate scientists. The interior counties to the east are experiencing long periods of record high temperatures and when the conditions are just right, the heat rising in the interior areas is allowing the marine layers to flow farther inland.

There is a reason the scientists prefer the term climate change to global warming. Most of the effects in the years to come will be rising temperatures but there will be any number of weird side effects around the world. We are seeing these things far earlier than we thought we would and it's only 2010.

Climate scientists are doing a lot of modeling trying to understand what is happening. The science is powerful but it is not exact. An example of powerful science was the development of the atomic bomb. In the beginning, no one knew exactly how much the first nuclear weapons would yield. Before the first explosion at White Sands, the scientists did their calculations and came up with a range. A few calculations suggested nothing might happen. One or two calculations suggested the Earth's atmosphere might catch on fire. The great bulk of the calculations were somewhere in between. But even the calculations near the actual power of the bomb had quite a range. It turns out the actual explosion was a little bigger than most thought it would be. We know nuclear weapons are real. Only a fool would say they're not.

Climate science is a less accurate science than physics but not by as much as one might think. Still, the calculations the climate scientists have made so far have not been entirely correct. So far, they have been underestimating the effect and speed of global warming. Some scientists are trying to get ahead of the curve and taking more seriously the possibility of worst case scenarios. For an article on the growing odds of worst case scenarios, check out this post at Early Warning on the probability distribution of various temperature scenarios.

In the Guardian, Bill McKibben has some thoughts on the record summer heat:
But this is no longer an environmental battle. As this summer demonstrates, if you're concerned about development, climate change is issue No 1 (how much development is going to go on in Pakistan, now that its bridges are all gone?). If you're concerned about war and peace, climate change is issue No 1 (when Russia stops sending grain to Egypt and Nigeria, and when wheat prices start to rise, what do you think comes next?). If you're concerned about the future, then climate change is issue No 1 – because this summer is a tiny taste of what the future is all about. So far we've barely raised the earth's temperature a degree, and that's caused all that we've seen so far. But climatologists assure us there's four or five degrees more by the century's end unless we work with incredible speed to end the fossil fuel era.

The Tea Party crowd is determined to turn the Republican Party into the American Taliban. If by Taliban we are talking about fundamentalism, xenophobia, self-righteousness, a turning away from rationalism toward authoritarianism and an inward turn toward the past, there can be no doubt the United States has a problem. The question this fall is whether enough Americans will join right-wing Republicans to form a majority or whether Americans will turn away from the kind of nonsense that has never done our nation any good.

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Blogger Fred said...

Woot! Your title is rich given Barack Oblame-ah's reach into the past for the "high speed rail" projects.

He's just the man for 1879 I tell yah!

And really democrats are trailing edge political technology. Anyone with half a brain sees that.

7:35 AM  

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