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May 122011

Those self-serving, right wing fanatical Ayn Randian Koch brothers are at it again.  Earlier this week, we learned that they had used their money to buy influence at Florida State University that would give them the authority to reject potential professors from being hired, to recommend their own, and to have a say in the curriculum as well.  As Think Progress reported,

The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation entered into an agreement with Florida State University in 2008 in which the foundation would provide millions of dollars in funds for the school’s economics department.The funds were marked to add multiple faculty positions in the economics department. But the money came with multiple strings attached, including a demand that Koch have the ability to directly approve who ultimately filled the positions. As the St. Petersburg Times reports, the agreement is now raising questions across the board about academic freedom and integrity at public colleges and universities:

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.

Koch wasted little time in asserting his influence. In 2009, he denied 60 percent of the faculty’s suggestions to fill the positions in the new programs, called the Study of Political Economy and Free Enterprise (SPEFE) and Excellence in Economics Education (EEE). The hires that were made were agreed upon by Koch and the department’s faculty.

But according to a memorandum about the agreement, obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, the ability to pick and choose faculty members was hardly the only string attached. In addition, Koch wanted the ability to review work done by the economics faculty and much more: (continue reading the Think Progress report here)

Last night, Think Progress posted a new report, showing that this purchase of influence was not limited to FSU.  Lee Fang joined me on the show this morning to discuss his piece, which details their findings after analyzing data from the Charles Koch Foundation that found that trend to much more far-reaching than previously realized:

Many of the Koch university grants finance far right, pro-polluter professors, and dictate that students read Charles Koch’s book as part of their academic study:

West Virginia University: As ThinkProgress reported last year, Koch funds an array of academic programs at West Virginia University, a public university. One Koch-funded academic at WVU, economics professor Russell Sobel, has written a book blasting regulations of all types. He even argues that less mine safety regulations will make coal miners more safe. As the St. Petersburg Times reported, a similar arrangement has been made with WVU as with FSU in accepting at least $480,000 from Koch.

Brown University: The Charles Koch Foundation funds the Political Theory Project at Brown, which provides funding for “Seminar Luncheons for undergraduates, academic conferences, research fellowships for graduate students, support for faculty research, and a postdoctoral fellowship program.” Amity Shales, a pop-conservative writer who argues that the New Deal made the Great Depression worse, an odd theory promoted by Charles Koch himself, has been a featured speaker at the Koch-funded Project at Brown. Moreover, Koch’s donation of at least $419,254 to Brown has underwritten a number of research projects in the Economics and Political Science deparments, including a paper arguing that bank deregulation has helped the poor.

Troy University: The Charles Koch Foundation, along with the Manuel Johnson and the BB&T Foundation, provided Troy University, a public university, a gift of $3.6 million to establish the Center for Political Economy last year. The Center’s stated goal is to push back against the belief following the financial crisis that markets need regulation. Notably, the entire Advisory Council for the Center is made up of Koch and BB&T-funded professors at other universities, including Russell Sobel at West Virginia University and Peter Boettke at George Mason University. Currently, the Center’s only staffer, Professor Scott Beaulier, is a board member of the ExxonMobil-funded attack group, American Energy Alliance, and a former staffer for Koch’s think tank at George Mason.

Utah State University: The Charles Koch Foundation has given nearly $700,000 to Utah State University, mostly for the Huntsman School of Business. The money has been used to hire five new faculty members, and establish a program for undergraduates to enroll and learn about Charles Koch’s “Science of Liberty” management theory. Professor Randy Simmons, the “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy” at the school, helps select students — who must provide information about their ideological interests in their application form — to the Koch program. Simmons also works for several Koch-funded front groups, and writes papers against environmental regulations. Charles Koch’s book, “The Science of Success,” a book Forbes mocked for proclaiming a “Marxist faith in ‘fixed laws’ that govern ‘human well-being,’” is part of the required reading list for the program. A representative for Utah State did not return ThinkProgress’ calls about conditional strings attached to the Koch grant.

Charles Koch Foundation grants, along with direct Koch Industries grants, are distributed to dozens of other universities around the country every year, to both public and private institutions. Some of the programs, like the Charles Koch Student Research Colloquium at Beloit College, are funded by grants of little over $130,000 and simply support conservative speakers on campuses. We have reached out to several of the schools to learn more about the agreements, but none so far have returned our calls.  (Read the rest of this report here)

Today is May 12.  I’ve been telling you about what would happen in NYC today all week… but in case you haven’t heard, please visit and, if you’re in the vicinity, get out and participate.  Last night, the OnMay12 coalition, with assists from Brave New Foundation and The Other 98% and Koch Brothers Exposed had a little fun while exposing the Koch Suckers Brothers for the blood suckers they are.

They held a “Guerrilla Drive In” in NY – in which they showed a film on the side of the “Charles H. Koch Theater” at the NYC Ballet/NYC Opera on Manhattan’s west side…  The first order of business was to plaster a giant “thought” sticker above the Koch name:

Then, as hundreds gathered, they watched some Brave New Films’ videos about the Koch Brothers, like this one



Comedian Lee Camp was there, and he told us all about it on today’s show too.

And, one last thought before you leave for the weekend…. apparently, the geniuses in the Florida legislature didn’t realize that human beings fall under the scientific category of  “animal” when they passed legislation, ostensibly to outlaw bestiality.

The good scientific folks at Southern Fried Science put it in graphic form for us:

Why would anyone think that sex between two consenting adults in the state of Florida would be illegal after October 1? Just read the newly-passed bill for yourself:

An act relating to sexual activities involving animals; creating s. 828.126, F.S.; providing definitions; prohibiting knowing sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal; prohibiting specified related activities; providing penalties; providing that the act does not apply to certain husbandry, conformation judging, and veterinary practices; providing an effective date.

Do you still wonder why I call it FloriDUH?



May 092011

You might remember during the Egyptian revolution, I called and spoke to a number of regular Egyptians – from hotel clerks, to Marwa Rakha, a woman who dispenses relationship advice online (and just gave birth to her son, Adam. on May 3 – a great day to have a kid.  It happens to be both my daughter’s and my mother’s birthday too!).

Today, I reached out to Kaswar Klasra, a young man born and raised in Pakistan, he works as a journalist for The Nation (Pakistan).  Although it’s difficult at times to understand what he’s saying due to his accent, it’s worth a listen to our conversation.  Just trying to bridge the gap between two countries in a delicate situation by speaking as one human being to another.

I hope that some news organization with pockets deep enough to do what he suggests will do some sort of journalist exchange program to help the Pakistani population better understand the American people, and vice versa.

Here in our own country, the problems we’re facing continue.  We can trace most of our problems back to the greedy money manipulators on Wall Street who keep getting richer while the rest of us suffer a little more with each passing day.  I received a press release last week from a group called the May 12 Coalition, who has big things planned for this week in NYC:

New Yorkers to Wall Street on May 12: MAKE BIG BANKS AND MILLIONAIRES PAY!
National Movement Connects the Dots to NYC, Demands Reform and Fair Share in Taxes from Financial Sector

NEW YORK  -  A growing coalition of community, labor, and progressive groups announced today plans for a week of events starting May 9th, calling for Mayor Michael Bloomberg to end taxpayer-financed giveaways to Wall Street and ask for fair-share taxes from millionaires to mitigate his proposed budget cuts.  The week of action will culminate in a major mobilization in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, May 12.

The coalition, uniting under the banner “Make Big Banks and Millionaires Pay” will contrast the corporate welfare, property tax giveaways, and seemingly endless local and national tax cuts enjoyed by the financial sector with Bloomberg’s proposed cuts to childcare, classrooms, public safety, and dozens of other services working New Yorkers rely on.

“The big banks wrecked our economy and are back to making billions in profits and lavish bonuses, while the rest of us are still cleaning up the mess they created,” said Mary Brosnahan, the Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless.  “Now Bloomberg has a choice: ask Wall Street bankers to contribute their fair share to fixing New York City, rather than enacting devastating cuts to working families.”

The organizers promise more than a typical “rally” on May 12th, with a day of diverse, creative actions across the downtown financial district.  Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, said: “On May 12, tens of thousands of New Yorkers will descend on Wall Street, creating a giant school without walls throughout the financial district.   Together, we will educate our city and expose the people and institutions that are destroying our jobs and our economy, and the politicians who are letting them get away with it.”

The week of actions coincides with a growing national movement by communities increasingly questioning the practices of the financial industry and fighting back against attacks on working people. “We are connecting the dots from the big banks that crashed our economy, destroyed millions of jobs and foreclosed on millions of family homes to the human impact here in the financial capital of our country, ” said Michael Kink, Executive Director of Strong Economy for All Coalition.

As the week of action approaches, organizers plan to release new data detailing the tax breaks and giveaways New York City doles out to the banking industry, as well as the effect of Wall Street-caused foreclosures on New York’s communities and tax revenue.  “When New Yorkers see the skewed choices this city has made, it is no longer an abstraction,” added Kink.  “Homeless shelters are bursting at the seams, and child care and senior centers are closing down — not because we have gone broke, but because Bloomberg has chosen to spend hundreds of millions in subsidies for the people who need it least.”

The following community groups and unions have joined the May 12 coalition (list in formation):

Center for Children Initiatives
Center for Working Families
Citizen Action of New York
Coalition for the Homeless
Community Voices Heard
Housing Works
Make the Road New York
New York Communities for Change
New Deal for New York Campaign
Organization for a Free Society
Picture the Homeless
United Students Against Sweatshops
Urban Youth Collaborative
1199 SEIU
CWA 1104
CWA 1180
CWA District 1
Professional Staff Congress – CUNY
United Federation of Teachers

Learn more at
On Facebook:
On Twitter:

I spoke about it this morning with Greg Basta of NY Communities for Change, who’s the social media director for OnMay12.  We’ll follow up on this on Wednesday too…

Speaking of getting out and protesting, Awake The State is waking up Florida again tomorrow.  Visit the site, and find an action near you.  We’ll talk about it tomorrow morning on the show.

Every Monday morning, Crooks & Liars’ Nicole Belle joins me for a segment we call “Fools on the Hill”© – recapping the Sunday talking head shows.  Here’s what Nicole brought us this morning:

If you ever needed a case study to show how the media frames narratives with a clear agenda rather than impartially provide information to their viewers, this week would be it.  Just one week after the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, every single one of the Sunday news shows had on a former Bush administration member to clamor and insist that they too deserve credit for removing terrorist #1, and all those illegal things they did–waterboarding, rendition, indefinite detention—they set the wheels in motion for the current president do to nothing more than give the okay.

The Big Dick himself, former VP Cheney, appeared on that friendliest of news outlets, Fox News, to tell us that the success of the bin Laden means that torture should absolutely be back on the table.  No, seriously.   Because we need a foreign policy dictated by a sociopath.

Speaking of sociopathy, Chris Wallace actually asked why it’s okay to kill bin Laden but torture isn’t okay. The very fact that that question could be asked chills me to the bone.

Meanwhile, David Gregory shows the kind of hard-hitting journalism that landed him the host spot on the stalwart Sunday show Meet the Press, when he lobs Rudy “A Noun, a verb and 9/11” Giuliani the ultimate softball: are you running for President?

Fareed Zakaria did a slightly better job asking former CIA Director Michael Hayden why the trail grew so cold in the search for bin Laden.  Unfortunately, Hayden can’t be honest and admit that the Bush administration didn’t want to find bin Laden because he was a useful tool to politicize terror and keep people fearful  (as Howie Kurtz and Brian Ross also implicitly admit) so that they could do things like invade and occupy Iraq.

And then finally, we have Christiane Amanpour and ABC News, both of whom I’ve given up on at this point.  Not only do the producers of This Week ask on nothing but Bushies to discuss the bin Laden killing, then they put on Liz Cheney on the roundtable panel and Christiane Amanpour starts the discussion off with “Well, we know waterboarding gave us information, isn’t that right, Liz Cheney?”


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