Of Chicken Shit And Billionaires

I want to begin with a story that appeared on the front page of the Joplin Globe this Friday morning:

Moark is a subsidiary of Land O’Lakes in Minnesota and is the second largest distributor of fresh shell eggs in the country (about 6 billion eggs sold each year). Naturally, when millions of chickens are concentrated in one area there is a problem with waste and smell, which tend to diminish the quality of life for those residents who happen to live nearby.

The point of the Globe story was really to chronicle the lack of interest on the part of those nearby residents to resist this latest expansion of Moark’s production, since citizen resistance to an earlier expansion in 2005 met with utter failure. The state sided with the corporation.

Dave Boyt, one of those who challenged Moark’s 2005 expansion said this time:

People get tired of beating their heads against a wall. We knew during the earlier expansion what we were up against. We knew that the chances of stopping the expansion or getting even some concessions were absolutely minuscule.

Another nearby resident said:

Ordinary people can’t afford to fight something that big. Money talks, and as a little guy, unless you’ve got the money to fight them, you really can’t do much.

Such resignation may be behind the tendency, when one discusses money in politics, to resort to a “both sides do it” stance and just hope the wind blows the smell of chicken shit the other way.

But, folks, what Republicans are doing this election cycle ought to scare the complacency out of you, if, that is, you give a damn about our democracy. Last night on MSNBC, Ezra Klein (subbing for Saint Rachel) presented this graphic:

What this comparison shows is that Karl Rove, W. Bush’s Turd Blossom, will spend this election cycle, through his Crossroads group, nearly as much as the entire McCain-Palin campaign did in 2008.

But that’s not the whole story, of course. As Politico reported:

POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit.

Just the spending linked to the Koch network is more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago.

So, from just two sources, Rove and Koch, Romney’s effort to become CEO of America will have funding amounting to about twice as much as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate had last time.

But that still doesn’t include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the super PAC supporting Mittens (Restore our Future), which when added to the Rove-Koch dough will exceed $1 billion. Can you smell the chicken doo-doo yet?

But we still haven’t got to what the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee expects to raise—according to Politico about $800 million!

Add it all up and we are damn close to $2 billion that Republicans will have to slander and trash Obama and other Democrats. But we’re still not at the end:

Chicken caca, anyone? That Forbes article relates that the Las Vegas billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, who “has made more money during the Obama administration than just about any other American, based on Forbes tabulations,” will do “whatever it takes” to defeat the President. Adelson is quoted as saying:

What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years. That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives…I believe that people will come to their senses and not extend the current Administration’s quest to socialize this country. It won’t be a socialist democracy because it won’t be a democracy.

It won’t be a democracy because people like Sheldon Adelson—worth a reported $25 billion—and the Koch brothers—combined net worth of $50 billion—and other wealthy Republicans will have cannibalized it, if voters don’t stop them.

And, again, if all this isn’t enough to get folks to electorally rebel against this hostile takeover of our politics—aided greatly by the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court—then the American experiment with democracy—with government of, by, and for the people—will soon be over.

The people will have surrendered to the oligarchs and America will become a much different place, one where the Adelsons and the Kochs will rule and the Moarks of the world can pollute the countryside with impunity.

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15 Comments

  1. Duane

    I think chickenshit is a pretty accurate and certainly fair description of some of the more politically zealous billionaire aristocrats in this country. To that point here is part of a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, on October 28, 1785, when Jefferson was in France.

    “The property of this country [France] is absolutely concentrated in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not laboring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers and tradesmen, and lastly the class of laboring husbandmen. But after all there comes the most numerous of all classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work. I asked myself what could be the reason so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are undisturbed only for the sake of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their revenues by permitting these lands to be labored.”

    Almost four years later, the French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789. There will be a point, no doubt, when Americans will get fed up with the bullshit in Washington and are going to want to storm something; call it a shit storm.

    Herb

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    • Herb,

      That is an eye-opening quote from TJ (whom Republicans frequently and erroneously claim as one of their own, as do the Democrats) and I am in total agreement with your point:

      There will be a point, no doubt, when Americans will get fed up with the bullshit in Washington and are going to want to storm something..

      I am hopeful, though, that changing demographics will rectify the problem politically, maybe in just a generation.

      Duane

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    • Duane,

      Of course, water pollution and pollution in general are emblematic of the deeper problem that you have touched on here. It began and continues with an increasingly larger portion of the private sector riding roughshod over government administered pollution abatement programs. It started with Hooker Chemical pouring carcinogenic waste into Love Canal, and continuing all the way up to the nightmare that is Tar Creek, a veritable stone’s throw from Joplin. It gives “trickle down” a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?

      But it’s more than the pollution issue, it’s what those on the far right denounce as government interference in almost any aspect of our society. This is the profits-at-any-cost mentality, the get-rid-of-the-regulations idiocy, the hollow and meaningless “trust us” hubris. These champions of free enterprise would have us believe that they could build a prison without any locks.

      And when our elected officials, those who are supposed to represent the common interests of the people, are controlled by corporate special interests and then write laws for their exclusive benefit, and when there is an increasing disrespect of our president, and when the Supreme Court acts in concert with the corporate juggernaut, then we will have moved from a constitutional republic to a form of Fascism. Sinclair Lewis said it best: ”When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Sounds a lot like the tea party to me.

      Now, about this chicken shit thing . . .

      Herb

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      • ”When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

        There has never been a more appropriate time for that Sinclair Lewis quote than now, Herb. I’m glad you reminded us. – Jim

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      • Herb,

        I second Jim’s hurrah for the Lewis quote, as well as your dead-on comments. And I want to say that I love very much your example of the prison with unlocked doors. I have criticized the right-wing craze over laissez faire many, many times and I can’t think of a better metaphor to illustrate it than yours.

        Duane

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  2. @ Duane & Herb,

    The increasingly-unequal distribution of wealth may have a tipping point, but Duane’s Moark case seems to indicate that if so, it’s not near. Herb’s interesting anecdote may indicate that the situation must be much more extreme before that happens.

    Is it not ironic but typical then that the real situation is the opposite of Adelson’s paranoia concerning socialism? Marie Antoinette, a contemporary of Jefferson’s whom I’m sure he met, would understand Sheldon very well, and I’m sure could have advised him.

    Like

  3. Jane Reaction

     /  June 15, 2012

    Don’t Get in the Water: It is Zoned Toxic

    Every stream in SW Missouri is now posted by the DNR as hazardous to be in the water.

    My brother and myself used to float Shoal. Ten years ago it was getting murkier. Five years ago the large birds were all gone and there was an increased presence of cow manure in the stream. In areas you had to float through some.

    Two years ago was our last kayak trip. Everything in and along that poor stream was dead, lifeless, and the water was now all subject to some degree of opaqueness. Mammoth dumps of shit and fertilizer had helped cover most of the bottom with green slime.

    Where there used to be herons, no fish or fish nests were found. We had not seen another paddler in 3 or 4 years. We got out.

    A fellow we know just got out of Freeman after a week because he had an open wound on his knee when he picked up a staph infection in Shoal Creek. He could have lost his lower leg.

    The Missouri CAFO legislation makes it essentially impossible to zone any “farm or farm-related structures” in this state. That blanket exclusion was enacted by the GOP-controlled congress in 2008. With it, nobody CAN win against polluters of any sort. In BIG AG-land, a shit lagoon is a farm structure.

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    • From the Globe in 2008:

      Doyle Childers, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, touched on a number of environmental issues during a speech Friday morning at the first Four-State Regional Environmental Conference.

      But maintaining an adequate supply of drinking water, he said, is the main issue.

      “Southwest Missouri and Northwest Missouri have major water issues,’’ he said. “The challenge is saving our water in a measured way. We can’t count on evaporation and rainfall to get it here.’’

      Childers said he has been monitoring for some time the activities of the Tri-State Water Resource Coalition in its quest for a new pump-storage reservoir or off-stream reservoir in the region. The coalition is seeking to construct such a reservoir to keep up with population growth and lessen the impact of prolonged droughts on the region in the future.

      Citing historic cultures that have collapsed because of water shortages, Childers said, “You have to look 20 to 30 years into the future. If you don’t do that, you will endanger your future.’’

      Noting that Missouri is rich with water when compared with its neighbors to the west, Childers said even the Missouri River is now at risk because of upstream diversion. He said 60 percent of the state’s population is dependent on the river for drinking water and wastewater management.

      He said the increasing presence of antibiotics and mercury in the state’s waters pose new challenges. He said mercury, a hazardous chemical, has been detected in every stream and water body in the state.

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  June 18, 2012

    Leaving water polution aside for the moment, I wonder about the money in politics issued that seemed to be the key point attempted to be made by Duane. For sure he listed GOP money raising efforts in detail.

    But I wonder how much the Dems are raising as well. Koch Bros usually seem to come up short in contributions, etc. to Sorros, just as a example. Of course we heard about a year ago how Obama already had a $1 Billion warchest for this years campaign. So how do both sides of the ledger balance out, I wonder.

    But then, whatever the totals might be in fundraising and SuperPacs, how much difference does that really make in a national election. If one side raises twice the amount of the other, does that mean they get twice the votes?

    Why do “little people” (those unable to meet corporate financial strength lose against a major corporate effort to grow business in a particular area? Is it because economic growth, jobs, taxes, etc. ultimately mean more to average voters than “chicken shit” in Shoal Creek?

    Like

    • Relentless and dramatic repetition of simplistic ideas is effective, and expensive, slick ads deliver just that, whether the message is true or not. For example, what Bain Capital does is a necessary business function and there’s nothing inherently dishonest about it. (People don’t socialize with their trash man, but they’re glad he’s there.) But accusations of “vulture capitalism” and depictions of good, honest people laid off in the process of deconstructing a business are effective in depicting it as something bad. Similarly, repeated accusations of excessive stimulus spending by Obama resonate, never mind that it was necessary and saved many jobs, not to mention an entire industry. Then there’s “ObamaCare”, a term that has become pejorative despite the fact that it incorporates a myriad of sensible improvements contributed by both left and right over the years.

      What Citizens United has meant for the political process, in my opinion, is to deepen the political divide, to make elections more emotional, less cerebral (if that’s possible). In the process and because of that divide, there is real danger that essential financial decisions lurking at the end of this calendar year are being delayed and might not be sensibly addressed. The economy is being held hostage because of Citizens United.

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      • Jim,

        You know I agree with you totally about Citizens United and the examples you have given. Sure, most of us wish campaigning involved reason and logic and not raw appeals to emotions. But they don’t and compact messages skillfully utilizing emotive language can be very effective on the small percentage of voters who don’t follow politics closely or at all, until near the end.

        My problem, as a partisan, is that right now the other side is much more effective at that game than my side, especially considering President Obama, who is admirably rational and exactly the kind of thinker that appeals to me, but who may be rational to a fault, in terms of winning this particular election.

        He has to get tougher and more emotional, if he expects to win, in my opinion.

        Duane

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        • Yep, I agree with you, Duane. And speaking of Obama getting tougher, I think his use of executive power on the immigration issue was a master stroke. If you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend the cover article in this week’s Time Magazine, “We Are Americans”. Its author is a self-outted Filipino illegal immigrant who was sent here with a forged green card at about age 10 and is now a journalist with the Washington Post. It was only after I read his well-written and persuasive essay that I learned he is a Pulitzer prize winner as well. He even called ICE on himself and asked if they intended to deport him. They demurred, saying they “had no record of him”. Talk about journalistic courage!

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          • I will take a look at it since such “journalistic courage” is how things get changed. And I agree Obama’s move was a political stoke of genius (but it should have been done three years ago, frankly), particularly since it preempted Rubio’s phony attempt to make the GOP’s position on immigration palatable to Latinos.

            Duane

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  June 19, 2012

    Let me try to understand what you are both saying. According to Duane, Citizen’s United has given the GOP a major advantage in terms of creating “spin” in their favor and for now at least are “beating” the Dems in such an effort using “slick advertising”. In other words money in politics, particularly Citizen’s United money, is causing a political tilt that is of concern to progressives, right?

    Now consider at least my question posed in a recent blog about the ability of democracy to cope with information, a vast amount of information, so true, some outright lies and most of it “spin” of all sorts in terms of poltical “news”.

    Duane as a partisan thinks that Obama must get “tougher” and put out some REAL NEWS enforcing progressive ideas. His “master stroke” to provide relief for illegal immigrants was just such an effort for sure. Undoubtedly it will increase his Hispanic vote support by some margin now. But of course that will be countered by outrage from the right, giving them more incentive to vote against Obama.

    What is missing in such “calculations” is the question of what is the “right” thing to do in our national dilemma dealing with illegal immigrants. I though Don Ray’s column was on the mark in that regard. He said FIX the LAWS governing illegal immigration and then enforce those laws.

    What we see today is a federal government that refuses to enforce the law, sues States that then try to do it themselves, yet refuses to put forth legislation to even try to fix the laws. As noted by Ray, the DREAM Act could have become the law of the land, but…….

    Now a progressive administration has put an “executive band aid” on the problem to circumvent the law. Why? Pure politicis in a presidential election campaign, in my view. And if Romney wins he will use executive action to gut ACA unless SCOTUS does it for him instead.

    We are suppose to be a nation built on LAW. Yet when SCOTUS rules against one’s political views we then try to undercut of circumvent the law. Imagine the South in the 1950’s and 60’s if that region had simply said and DONE, we will follow the law and integreate our schools, etc?

    Civics 101 tells us that ALL laws must be Constitutional, regardless. Call it Step 1. Step 2 in that process means pass laws democratically through elected representatives and step 3 says enforce those laws with executive authority.

    Illegal immigrantion is an argument over Step 3 right now. But the root of the problem is really Step 2. Step 2 for now says if you “sneak across” our borders then get caught later on, you are “outta here”. But in fact for now as long as you are here we will educate, medicate and otherwise care for you and yours unless you “get in trouble”. Then we “might” get you “outta here” unless you are residing in a “haven” that in fact is a sanctuary to protect violators of the law of the land.

    Good leadership means first of all to follow the law, period. If laws are “bad” then good leaders make the case and change them, democratically. And for sure good leaders in the executive branch do not try to “lecture” the SCOTUS on LAW OR POLITICS.

    I could go on but why bother, here. But I will say that our democracy is under more stress than I have ever seen in my lifetime because of these types of issues, today.

    Anson

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