Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reagan, the Koch Brothers and a chicken...

I’m going to comment on a number of diverse and unusually interesting articles that appeared in the Sunday papers and online.  Why are they so unusual?  Perhaps it’s the influence of the extraordinary Egyptian revolution that we see unfolding before our eyes, thanks to tv, computers and brave journalists.  The events have forced us to pay attention to both the large geopolitical picture but we also feel ourselves captivated by the small details in Tahrir Square-- the person holding a rock against advancing thugs or the lines of arrested protestors being led away with their hands clasped over their heads.  
We are living in an extraordinary moment in history.  Meanwhile, life goes on here with a seemingly endless tribute to Ronald Reagan on the occasion of his 100 birthday or as FireDogLake put it, his 1,000 birthday.[Here]  (The tributes seem endless, don’t they?) 
There have been some interesting essays about Reagan’s administration and others speculating about Obama’s admiration of the man.  ThinkProgress ran an analysis of some themes in Reagan’s presidency in a piece titled, “10 Things Conservatives Don’t Want You To Know About Ronald Reagan.” [Here]
1. Reagan was a serial tax raiser...  [He raised taxes 7 times.]
2. Reagan nearly tripled the federal budget deficit...
3. Unemployment soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts... 
4. Reagan grew the size of the federal government tremendously...
5. Reagan did little to fight a woman’s right to choose...
6. Reagan was a “bellicose peacenik”...
7. Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants...
8. Reagan illegally funneled weapons to Iran...
9. Reagan vetoed a comprehensive anti-Apartheid act...
10.Reagan helped create the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden...
(Everyone seems to have forgotten that the United States under Reagan funded and helped train Islamist mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan.  In fact, the GOP and many Democrats seem to have forgotten the real Ronald Reagan, if they ever knew him.)
Had enough of Ronald Reagan?  Let’s move on to greener fields--much greener fields.  Remember the billionaire Koch brothers?  Crooks and Liars, the splendid progressive blog, is continuing to report on their political influence.  (C&L has also posted an interview of The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer whose essay on the brothers first focused progressive and liberal eyes on them and their activities.)
C&L’s latest is titled “Money Can’t Buy Happiness--But It Can Buy The House Energy and Commerce Committee For The Right-Wing Koch Brothers." [Here]  We have written many times before about these men and their political activities but some of these facts stunned even me: [The emphasis is mine]
The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington's political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Wichita-based Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the panel, ahead of giants like Exxon Mobil, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee's 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats.
Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases.  Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign...
Perhaps the Kochs' most surprising and important ally on the committee is its new chairman, Rep. Fred Upton. The Republican from Michigan, who was once criticized by conservatives for his middle-of-the-road approach to environmental issues, is now leading the effort to rein in the EPA.
Upton received $20,000 in donations from Koch employees in 2010, making them among his top 10 donors in that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics...
...Last week the chairman released a draft of a bill that would strip the EPA of its ability to curb carbon emissions...
We need not quote more, but until we deal directly with the effects of Citizens United v. FEC, there will be more and more stories like the one above and our democracy will operate like a banana republic.
The final piece was in the Home and Garden section of the NYTimes.  [Here]  It is the story of a chicken who was stolen from the front yard of a family living in Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Yes, she was returned, although her name is no longer Gertrude, but Kiki.
Go read the charming story.  It will take the taste of the Koch brothers away.
But what do we do about Scalia and Thomas?...

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