In my last installment of the Great Takeover of Chicago Schools, I took some heat for blaming Rahm Emanuel for his part in the school closure debacle. Commenters claimed Rahm had nothing whatsoever to do with the CPS, that it was independent and the mayor wasn't involved at all.
They were wrong.
The video has footage of a paid protester at one of the school closure hearings, who isn't exactly sure what he's protesting, but he's definitely convinced the pay is worth the effort, evidently. Kenzo Shibata at Huffington Post explains who paid him:
The video also features a man admitting to being paid to protest at the 2012 Crane School closing hearing. The Chicago Tribune reported last February that Rahm Emanuel's associate Greg Goldner's firm Resolute Consulting, a firm that worked on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2002 Congressional bid, allegedly paid people to protest at these hearings. The paid protesters largely blamed Chicago Teachers Union for problems in Chicago's schools.
There's more, and the partnerships are confusing and ugly.
FreedomWorks seems to be in a deep state of disarray following Dick Armey's attempted coup and effort to oust executive director Matt Kibbe. MotherJonesreports that two more high-profile directors have resigned from FreedomWorks' board of directors.
In December, these two board members, James Burnley IV and C. Boyden Gray, sent a letter to FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe informing him that they had received "allegations of wrongdoing by the organization or its employees." They noted they had retained two attorneys, Alfred Regnery and David Martin, to conduct an independent investigation into the accusations. Burnley and Gray, both of them high-profile veterans of Republican administrations, ordered Kibbe to cooperate with the lawyers, to ensure that no records were "destroyed, deleted, modified or otherwise tampered with" and to send Regnery a check for $25,000 to cover his initial fees. The investigation followed several months of conflict inside the group that included the surprise resignation of FreedomWorks' longtime chairman, Dick Armey, a former Republican congressman and onetime House majority leader. Armey accused Kibbe of improperly using FreedomWorks resources to promote a book Kibbe had written.
That's Glenn Beck in 2011, telling his audience why the UN wants to rule the world and suppress all independent thought. From Alex Jones to the John Birch Society to Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, the U.N.'s Agenda 21 is not simply a plan for sustainable development, but a seekrit plot to rule the world!
There will always be conspiracy theories and there will always be nuts spouting them, but we don't usually add them to official school curricula.
Springboro Community City School District’s new curriculum — part of an effort to help students think critically and learn to “identify important issues” — mandates that “[a]ll sides of the issue should be given to the students in a dispassionate manner” to help “students to be taught to think clearly on all matters of importance, and to make decisions in the light of all the material that has been presented or can be researched on the issues.”
religion when not used in a historical or factual context, sex education, legalization of drugs, evolution/creation, pro-life/abortion,contraception/abstinence, conservatism/liberalism, politics, gun rights, global warming and climate change, UN Agenda 21 and sustainable development, and any other topic on which opposing points of view have been promulgated by responsible opinion and/or likely to arouse both support and opposition in the community.
Teachers would have to provide equal weight to widely-accepted scientific theories like evolution and right-wing conspiracies advanced by Glenn Beck. Under the policy, students could not learn about sustainable development without also assessing the impact of U.N. Agenda 21, a series of non-binding U.N. recommendations for ensuring that economic growth does not undermine the environment, which conservatives believe will destroy American sovereignty and freedom. The Agenda was developed at a summit in Brazil in 1992 with support from President George H.W. Bush.
Don't you love the way they frame it as teaching "critical" thinking? Because offering a whacknut conspiracy theory as if it were the same as proven science translates to giving kids a good education?
This nonsense reaches all the way back to the John Birch Society, when they were convinced the Council for Foreign Relations was an evil Communist foothold in the United States. Birchers have updated their rhetoric and now stand firmly opposed to Agenda 21 because you might not be able to drive a gas-powered car or own private property (both lies).
This time around, the effort to legitimize this crackpot theory are more widespread and well-funded. Americans for Prosperity use it as a way to attack the Common Core standards in schools because they would include teaching about sustainable growth. FreedomWorks' membership and community websites are now virtually controlled by the John Birch Society with the Agenda 21 nonsense at the top of their agenda.
After electing Tea Party representatives to school boards and city councils across the nation, the move is on to push these whacko theories into the mainstream, and in the case of at least one Ohio school district, they're succeeding.
Senator Ted Cruz paid a surprise visit to a FreedomWorks organizing meeting last week to congratulate them for their 'victory' with regard to gun safety legislation. After telling them they're 'winning', Cruz went on to share his special secrets of successful interactions with his colleagues with the group.
In his short time at the Capitol, Senator Ted Cruz, a freshman Republican from Texas, has shown little regard for long-standing rules of decorum. But on Friday, he publicly discussed the closed-door dealings of the Senate Republican Conference — and trashed his colleagues in the process.
Stopping by a Texas meeting of the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks, Mr. Cruz called many of his colleagues “squishes,” forced to stand on conservative principles by the uncompromising stands of a triumphant trio of Republican “constitutionalists”: himself and Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
At stake was the gun control legislation that the Senate dragged down this month. At issue for Mr. Cruz might be his exposure of a series of closed-door luncheons in which fellow Republicans took the three to task for announcing in advance that they would filibuster every single vote on the gun measure, including the simple motion to take up and begin debating the bill. Such meetings are expressly off the record.
“We’ve had probably five or six lunches with a bunch of Republican senators standing up and looking at Rand and Mike and me and yelling at the top of their lungs — I mean really upset,” he told the group to laughter and titters, according to a video posted by a Tea Party blogger and promoted by the liberal group People for the American Way. “And they said: ‘Why did you do this? As a result of what you did, when I go home, my constituents are yelling at me that I’ve got to stand on principle.’ I’m not making that up. I don’t even bother to argue with them. I just sort of let them yell.”
Cruz has a persuasive way about him. That shirtsleeve-and-hometown accent gives him the air of a good guy just trying to do the right thing in that polluted Washington town. His cadence is almost like that of a Southern Baptist preacher, casual yet urgent, and above all, righteous. Nowhere was this more evident than when he accused President Obama of using the Newtown families as "props." I think the president has already shredded that particular slam, but I'm sure it played well with the Faithful Ones.
While I'm one who thinks that there are many Senate traditions which are long past due to be broken, I don't think trashing one's colleagues is the way to do that. Principle is great, but Cruz presumes only his principles matter. For those Senators who actually think of life and liberty as a fundamental right that clashes with the right to bear arms, there might be room for some compromise. Under Cruz' 'principles' why not make tanks and nukes legal to purchase without identification or a background check? How about grenade launchers? Land mines?
It's great to stand on principle and the like, but the Senate is a deliberative body. Or at least, it's supposed to be, and that means they actually listen to the other side of their Very Serious Principled Argument and craft a way forward.
Calling your colleagues 'squishes' might not be the best way to do that.
Golden Dawn Recruiting Video, with English subtitles
This video reminds me of some of the more extreme promotional videos done by right-wing fanatics in this country, with scary music and all. In fact, if you looked hard enough, you could probably find more than one made by FreedomWorks with the same music.
You'll definitely find the same message. In the video, the promoters of Greek neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn send the message that they want to "take their country back." They're interested in evangelizing that message to other countries, too. The Guardianreports:
Emboldened by its meteoric rise in Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn party is spreading its tentacles abroad, amid fears it is acting on its pledge to "create cells in every corner of the world". The extremist group, which forged links with British neo-Nazis when it was founded in the 1980s, has begun opening offices in Germany, Australia, Canada and the US.
[...] But Golden Dawn is hoping to tap into the deep well of disappointment and fury felt by Greeks living abroad, in the three years since the debt-stricken nation was plunged into crisis.
"Golden Dawn is not like other parties in Greece. From its beginnings, in the early 80s, it always had one eye abroad," said Dimitris Psarras, whose book, "Golden Dawn's Black Bible", chronicles the organisation since its creation by Nikos Michaloliakos, an overt supporter of the colonels who oversaw seven years of brutal anti-leftist dictatorship until the collapse of military rule in 1974.
"Like-minded groups in Europe and Russia have given the party ideological, and sometimes financial, support to print books and magazines. After years of importing nazism, it now wants to export nazism," added Psarras. By infiltrating communities abroad, the far-rightists were attempting not only to shore up their credibility but also to find extra funding and perhaps even potential votes if Greeks abroad ever won the right to cast ballots in elections.
"[Golden Dawn] not only wants to become the central pole of a pan-European alliance of neo-Nazis, even if in public it will hotly deny that," claimed Psarras, who said party members regularly met with neo-Nazis from Germany, Italy and Romania. "It wants to spread its influence worldwide."
Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In ordinary times, people would reject the message of groups like Golden Dawn out of hand. But the rise of the Tea Party illustrates the damage done and the exploitation opportunities when ordinary people's anger at Wall Street's unpunished malfeasance gives rise to irrational and xenophobic solutions.
I felt obligated to watch the FreedomWorks webcast Monday afternoon, if only to capture a few golden moments with star videographer lying liar James O'Keefe. O'Keefe was sharing his secrets of successful videography with the FreedomWorks crowd, while tossing in an occasional pitch for that bastion of integrity, the Franklin Center and their MediaTrackers project.
I took the liberty of editing the video to save you seventeen minutes of O'Keefe's peculiar brand of smirk-laced bravado, but I think I caught the essence of what he was trying to say in just under five minutes.
Here are O'Keefe's Five Rules, summarized:
Force a consequence: A different way of saying this is "Be the story." When O'Keefe addressed the criticism he's gotten for the editing he did to create a false narrative, he didn't deny he did it, but justified it by saying laws were changed after he released those videos. He failed to note that the consequences of the 47 percent video weren't forced, but were the quite natural consequence of seeing Mitt Romney, up close and unscripted.
Rachel Maddow's summary here of the deep, wide divide between the Tea Party groups and the so-called "mainstream" Republican party is interesting, but what's more interesting is how the tea party groups themselves are imploding.
First, there was the FreedomWorks meltdown and split with Dick Armey, which has worked itself up to a silly crescendo with the tale of the Hillary Clinton sex-with-a-panda video. Then, there was yesterday's mess with the Tea Party Patriots and their depiction of Karl Rove as a Nazi.
Now we have news of some housecleaning over at Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed groups pushing their corporate agenda of privatizing everything and killing government services with an axe and a hatchet. It seems they've turned the hatchet on themselves.
AFP president Tim Phillips wouldn’t comment on specific personnel moves, though he generally cast the cuts to his group, which now has about 190 employees, as an anticipated back-end result of a major election-year ramp up.
“The vast majority of it reflects a field effort that increased dramatically in late 2011 and 2012, and then it comes down to a more long-term sustainable size,” Phillips said. “Washington is an artificial hothouse as far as how folks move and how organizations change. A year or two years is an eternity working for the same organization in Washington D.C.”
But the departure of AFP’s chief operating officer Tracy Henke, which occurred around the time of Charles Koch’s holiday party criticism of AFP, was acrimonious, according to sources.
Henke and other departing AFP staffers signed nondisclosure agreements, and she did not respond to requests for comment, but she appears to have completely left the Koch network of groups.
That’s in contrast to other top AFP officials who recently left the group to join or start other new groups regarded as part of the Koch family, including Cobb’s Association for American Innovation and Phil Kerpen’s American Commitment.
The moves fit a pattern the Koch operation has pioneered of creating — and channeling millions of dollars to — political groups since it began increasing its political involvement.
According to Tracy Henke's LinkedIn bio, she's now with H&H Advisors, a political consulting firm. That's a polite and corporate way of saying she's out on her own, and it doesn't seem like a very amiable split. Henke is a veteran of the George W. Bush administration who worked for John Ashcroft and as Kit Bond's policy advisor. She also has ties to the Abramoff scandal. It could be that Henke's most serious sin was her work lobbying on behalf of the Rockefeller family foundation in favor of the CLEAR Act in 2009. How could the Kochs possibly have someone who acted as a paid shill for climate change and carbon tax proponents, after all?
Do you think she was let go because she was too moderate? After all, American Commitment, Phil Kerpen's new, fully Koch-funded venture, is hardcore right-wing with an extra strong dose of hot love for coal, oil and gas while denying climate change and hating unions. The one thing it seems to be missing is the usual hard core right wing war on women aspects, but the Kochs fund Concerned Women for America to cover themselves on that front.
According to Politico, there is the possibility that the Kochs are going to retreat from campaign politics and stick to policy-building via think tanks like Cato, Heritage, Franklin Center and others:
If they continue an expansion into electoral politics that helped spawn the tea party and push the GOP to the right, they could find themselves on a collision course with Karl Rove, who has pledged to raise big money to boost more centrist or “electable” GOP candidates. But if they begin steering cash away from ads and political organizing and back toward the free-market libertarian ideological and policy spheres, that could diminish their role at the ballot box.
Early indications suggest that they’ll continue playing in politics but will tweak their approach to reflect 2012 lessons.
There's no way the Kochs are retreating from electoral politics. All of their moves indicate a round of "creative destruction" and reorganization toward redoubling their efforts. American Commitment is only one of their new projects. There is the John Hancock Committee for the States, currently overseen by Eric O'Keefe but with assistance from the Ryun brothers of American Majority fame. The most recent Donors' Trust reports show large sums of money going into that operation, alongside another called Empower Texans. Generation Opportunity, referred to in the Politico article, is another front group for the Kochs aimed at young voters, with leadership apparently connected back to the tobacco lawsuits in the 90s.
Meanwhile, over at FreedomWorks, there's no doubt about their direction. It's not toward the center. It's farther right --so far right, we'll start thinking of Karl Rove as the party moderate.
The only soul-searching going on with Republicans, whether of the corporate type like Rove or of the super-corporate type like Americans for Prosperity, is how far right they think they can go.
Rachel Maddow is a great commentator and host, but she is a bit too glib about what's going on right now with the right wing. There's a lot of sound and fury, but it's just cover for the alignments they're making for 2014. Stay on guard.
Furries do it Gangnam Style! No, not the video in question, it's just entertaining.
Too bad no one's leaked the video (yet), but I suppose you would want to hang onto it for the lawsuits those interns will probably bring. And they think liberals are the strange ones, huh? What brilliant young staffer came up with the bright idea of showing this to Christian conservatives?
I have to say, this sounds like it was planted by Dick Armey to blow things up now that he got his payday. But still entertaining, nonetheless! Via Raw Story:
The controversial conservative super PAC FreedomWorks created a promotional video that depicted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton having oral sex with a woman in a giant panda suit, according to a report published on Thursday.
Former FreedomWorks officials told Mother Jones‘ David Corn that an internal investigation was focusing on the group’s president, Matt Kibbe, and a possible area of inquiry was the video in question.
“The video included a scene in which a female intern wearing a panda suit simulates performing oral sex on Hillary Clinton,” Corn reported, noting that the film had been created to play on large screens the FreePAC conference in July 2012.
Sources told Corn that the premise of the video was a dream sequence, where Executive Vice President Adam Brandon voyeuristically observes “a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently fellating the then-secretary of state.”
Oopsy! Slip of the tongue, so to speak. There are so many wingnuts in the closet, I guess they forgot that you don't "fellate" women.
Here's a screenshot of the archived U.S. Tea Party site, as it appeared online on Sept. 13, 2002.
Send this one to your teabagger relatives and watch their heads explode:
A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.
Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry's role in driving climate disruption.
"Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry's anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda."
The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now "supporting the tobacco companies' political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws."
Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity were once a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch, and received over $5.3 million from tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, between 1991 and 2004.In 1990, Tim Hyde, RJR Tobacco's head of national field operations, in an eerily similar description of the Tea Party today, explained why groups like CSE were important to the tobacco industry's fight against government regulation. Hyde wrote:
"... coalition building should proceed along two tracks: a) a grassroots organizational and largely local track,; b) and a national, intellectual track within the DC-New York corridor. Ultimately, we are talking about a "movement," a national effort to change the way people think about government's (and big business) role in our lives. Any such effort requires an intellectual foundation - a set of theoretical and ideological arguments on its behalf."
The common public understanding of the origins of the Tea Party is that it is a popular grassroots uprising that began with anti-tax protests in 2009.However, the Quarterback study reveals that in 2002, the Kochs and tobacco-backed CSE designed and made public the first Tea Party Movement website under the web address www.usteaparty.com.
This may possibly be the movie you never heard of and are glad you haven't. Runaway Slave was released in January, 2012, to movie theaters everywhere.
To date, it has grossed a massive $48,000 or so. It has a top-flight list of stars, including Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart, Allen West, and Herman Cain, along with Rev. C.L. Bryant. The description at IMDb:
A perpetual state of welfare exists in the U.S., creating a form of modern slavery for a large percentage of African-Americans. Rev. C.L. Bryant presents an insightful and compelling look at how freedom can be restored.
Presumably this was the version of Dinesh D'Souza's 2016 for black folks. It may have failed at the box office, but it didn't fail overall, evidently. On the consolidated balance sheets for FreedomWorks released by Mother Jones yesterday, there is a recurring set-aside beginning in April and running through September for $500,000 per month. The set-aside is called "Prepaid Funding for Runaway Slave Theater Funding."
Hmmm. Well, let's see. In January, 2012, there was a big Los Angeles premiere with Matt Kibbe and Herman Cain. Free tickets were available for all!
Timing is everything
But wait. The set-asides didn't happen until April, so that wasn't it. Oh, here's a big free screening in New York with a discussion of how progressive values have enslaved black people all over again. What's the date on that? OH. November 2, 2012, the Friday before the election, and now the description and intro are markedly different:
This former NAACP chapter president says he has committed himself to helping others secure the blessings of liberty that are guaranteed by the Constitution.Rev. Bryant takes viewers on an historic journey across America that traces the footsteps of runaway slaves who escaped to freedom along routes that became known as the Underground Railroad. But in the film, he also travels a “new underground railroad” upon which blacks Conservatives are speaking out against big government policies which have established a “new plantation”.While Rev. Bryant’s compelling story helps launch the film, we soon discover he is not alone as he treks across the new Underground Railroad in America. RUNAWAY SLAVE features interviews with politicians, community leaders and everyday Americans; The documentary’s underlying theme asks the questions:What does the black community have to show for its 95% support of the Democratic Party?Would black America vote for a white Obama?Is it truly “free at last?”
That's better. At least they're honest about it here, but it raises a very serious question in my mind. This film was created by Ground Floor Video in connection with FreedomWorks Foundation and Filmcrest Entertainment. FreedomWorks Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which is not to engage in political activity.
Where is the line between electioneering and "education"?
I know, I know. Citizens United was all about Hillary: The Movie, so how is this any different? In my mind, budgeting $500,000 per month for six months in advance in order to book theaters and screen this movie the week before the election is nothing, if not overt political activity and candidate endorsement, which are two activities non-profits are not supposed to engage in. Yet I don't see how you present a documentary like this, featuring one of the Republican candidates in the primary who also happens to be African-American and ask the audience to consider whether their current African-American president has done anything for them and then claim to be apolitical.
It flops like roadkill on the highway.
Rocky Mountain Pictures
Rocky Mountain Pictures first caught my attention during the distribution of Dinesh D'Souza's 2016: Obama's America. The principals are Ron Rodgers and Randy Slaughter. Rocky Mountain Pictures is based in Salt Lake City, Utah and is run by the two industry veterans. It also appears to be the distributor of choice for docudramas produced by right wing organizations. In addition to these two films, they distributed a Chuck Norris-endorsed film called Last Ounce of Courage as well as the Koch-funded dog of a movie, Atlas Shrugged.
It's hard for me to understand how that $500,000 per month to pay for free movie tickets around the country in order to ask black people what Barack Obama has done to deserve their vote after bashing progressive values is not some kind of independent expenditure that should have been reported at the time the funds were spent.
This is our new political economy. It sort of tracks on the way they trap people into buying timeshares. Give them a free weekend, then sell the heck out of it while they're captive. Give them free movie tickets to get time to bash the opposing candidate.