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Saturday Night Fun – an open thread

I’ve been so busy all week – catching up here at The Confluence, updating Eat4Today and WALKING that I’ve hardly had any time for my usual 40 hours of frivolous reading.

Much less any significant amount of political reading. . .

But, I happened to pick up a copy of Jim Hightower’s Lowdown and it was pretty interesting:

How corporate money took over Washington–and created the mobs who rant against reform got me so wound up, I actually subscribed to the online version of the Lowdown.

This story is behind the subscription portion of the site but, I hope it’s OK if I post a little of it here:

It’s none of my business, but maybe you have Northern tissue on your toilet roll. You might also buy Brawny paper towels, Dixie paper cups, and Vanity Fair napkins. Maybe you have clothing that owes its clingy and comfy stretchiness to Lycra, and perhaps you have a Stainmaster carpet or a Solarmax couch in your home.

All of these well-known brands are owned and produced by a global conglomerate that deliberately tries to stay little known: Koch Industries (pronounced “coke”). Based in Wichita, Kansas, Koch is also a major producer of oil, gas, timber, coal, and cattle. It’s a petroleum refiner, too, as well as a manufacturer of asphalt, chemicals, polyethylene plastic, nitrogen fertilizers, cement, and lumber products. It owns or controls some 4,000 miles of pipelines, including a piece of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. And, in a poetic bow to its desire for anonymity, Koch also owns Teflon.

With 70,000 employees in 60 countries, this publicity-shy giant is America’s second-largest privately owned corporation. Being private means it makes very few disclosures about its finances and operating practices, but we do know that it has sales topping $100 billion a year, which means it is bigger than such corporate giants as Verizon and Morgan Stanley.

The billionaire brothers

Charles and David Koch, who control this family-owned empire, are tied for a spot as the 19th-richest billionaire in the world, according to a 2009 ranking by Forbes. Each brother has a net worth of $14 billion, just below the wealth held by four heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. Charles, 73, and David, 68, boast of being “self-made” billionaires. Actually, that’s a fib, for they had a little help from Daddy. Fred Koch, who died in 1967, started his name-sake business after inventing a method of turning heavy oil into gasoline, and his sons got a leg up on their climb to billionairedom by inheriting Fred’s company.

They also inherited something else: a burning ideological commitment to right-wing politics. How right wing? In 1958, Daddy Fred helped found the John Birch Society.

From there, Hightower goes on to itemize all the ways the brothers not only followed in their fathers footsteps but, expanded on his idea in frightening ways.

For some three decades, there’s been a steadily increasing flow of think-tank studies, legislative proposals, articles, books, corporate lawsuits, citizen petitions, and other efforts to push for the deregulation of most industries and the privatization or elimination of government functions. These extremist ideas have never had strong public support, yet they’ve moved from the back burner of American policy in the 1970s to the red-hot front burner in the Bush years–and today we’re paying the price for the adoption of these concepts at all levels of government, from privatization of local water supplies to the deregulation of Wall Street.

My question to Confluencians everywhere is — How can we fight these people?  What can we regular people do to push back against people with all the money in the world?

And while we discuss it – The Bar is Open!  Rico!  The drinks — iced tea tonight for me — are on me!

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning, Conflucians!!!!

I’ve been surfing around the ‘net for awhile, and I’ve come up with a somewhat eclectic collection of links that mostly ignore current events in Washington DC. These are some stories that caught my eye. What are you reading? Is there anything big happening in the Village that I missed?

First up: more evidence that Professors with Harvard degrees are no better than the rest of us regular folks.

From the NYT: Professor Said to Be Charged After 3 Are Killed in Alabama

Three faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville were shot to death, and three other people were seriously wounded at a biology faculty meeting on Friday afternoon, university officials said….a biology professor, identified as Amy Bishop, was charged with murder.

According to a faculty member, the professor had applied for tenure, been turned down, and appealed the decision. She learned on Friday that she had been denied once again.

The newspaper identified Dr. Bishop as a Harvard-educated neuroscientist. According to a 2006 profile in the newspaper, Dr. Bishop invented a portable cell growth incubator with her husband, Jim Anderson. Police officials said that Mr. Anderson was being detained, but they did not call him a suspect.


Officials said the dead were all biology professors, G. K. Podila, the department’s chairman; Maria Ragland Davis; and Adriel D. Johnson Sr. Two other biology professors, Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera and Joseph G. Leahy, as well as a professor’s assistant, Stephanie Monticciolo, are at Huntsville Hospital in conditions ranging from stable to critical.

This is a terrible tragedy that also demonstrates that academics are no more immune to rage, violence, or psychological dysfunction than anyone else. I was thinking about how horrible this must be for the students at UAH, and then I read this.

From MSNBC: Professor charged in university shooting

Gina Hammond, a UAH student, told WAFF that she lobbied the University of Alabama trustees to allow students with gun permits to carry their weapons on campus. She was turned down.

“I’m scared to go back to school,” Hammond said. “However, if they were to allow me to carry my pistol on campus, I would not be as scared.

“… I’m sorry that nobody in that room had a pistol to save at least one person’s life,” Hammond said.

OK, I’m not sure allowing everyone to carry guns on college campuses is the solution to this kind of tragedy. Maybe it would have been better if Dr. Bishop hadn’t had access to a firearm. Then maybe she could have calmed down a little bit, thought things over, and started looking for another job.

Here’s another odd, sad story along similar lines: Psychiatrist Tips Off Police about Her Husband’s Paranoia and Weapons Stockpiling

Gregory Girard, 45, is now being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing tomorrow in Salem District Court, where he pleaded not guilty yesterday to multiple weapons charges.

Police arrested Girard late Tuesday night after a brief standoff outside the 23 Bridge St. condo where he had been living with his wife and their 16-year-old son.

Girard had a huge collection of weaponry in the family’s home and a shooting range in the attic.

On Monday, Girard’s wife, a psychiatrist, contacted police to express concern about her husband’s increasing paranoia and apparent stockpiling of weapons, Segal said.

Kristine Girard told police that while her husband hadn’t threatened her, she was afraid to return home after an argument.

She said her husband had recently told her, “Don’t talk to people, shoot them instead,” and “It’s fine to shoot people in the head because traitors deserve it,” Segal said, reading from a police report.

This guy is too old to have recently developed schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenics sometimes function fairly well. Perhaps he has suffered with the disorder for years and has taken medication that helped him, or perhaps he has some other type of bipolar disorder that can lead to psychotic episodes (bipolar disorder or major depression are possibilities).

Regardless, this man has some kind of severe psychological disorder that wasn’t caused by attending tea party demonstrations or admiring Sarah Palin as the prog blogs have been busy implying. More nutty interpretations of a psychologically troubled person’s motivations at TPM here and here. Meanwhile, right wing blogs are focusing on the fact that Girard’s wife is psychiatrist who works in Cambridge, MA.

Guess what you Obot morons, psychiatrists are subject to human failings just like Harvard education professors and all the rest of us “ordinary people.” Get a clue, why don’t you? This is a human tragedy, and the man has a 16-year-old son who is probably really upset right now.
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Woman’s Last Stand

I saw this yesterday at OpenLeft (H/T Natasha Chart).  It’s a parody of the Dodge Charger commercial that was shown during the Superbowl.  There’s something here for every woman.  I particularly identify with the asserting yourself at work statement.

The genie was let out of the bottle in 2008.  The 2010 Superbowl ads were a throw back to an earlier, MadMen era.  Let this be a lesson to the Obot women out there.  When the guys you were partying with were groping Hillary’s cardboard breast and silkscreening “Sarah Palin is a cunt” T-shirts, they weren’t doing it because of Clinton’s overhyped DLC connections or Palin’s alleged lack of intellect.  If you don’t hold them accountable, this is the crap you get a year later.  And these assholes will be in charge for THREE. MORE. YEARS.

I’m skiing today with Brook and her friends.  REAL skiing, not wii skiing.  Pray for me.