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Defending the Koch Brothers

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By William Reed
NNPA Columnist

On one hand you hear that the Koch brothers are evil and corrupt, and on the other, they’re depicted as dedicated champions of the free market. In Black communities, the Koch brothers have been accused by politicians, of causing: the government shutdown, voter suppression, global warming and numerous other diabolical and evil plots.

Did you know that the Koch brothers advocate an end to Social Security and welfare? You’re probably not certain, but the Koch brothers’ name has been besmirched among Blacks for quite some time. Writer Robert Parry said: “The Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires who provoked the government shutdown … see themselves as people who deserve to rule without interference from lesser citizens, especially those with darker-colored skin.”

At a Harlem church, singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte compared Charles and David Koch to the Ku Klux Klan, branding them “evil men” and “white supremacists.” Most Blacks believe the Koch brothers seek “to undermine government by financing libertarian initiatives and the Tea Party.” The late Manning Marable called capitalism “racist” and “Black Americans’ greatest enemy.”

Modern-day Black Americans have put their faith and endeavors on the electoral franchise, at the expense of organized movements to build wealth through ownership and development of businesses. This mindset has much to do with anti-Koch attitudes and missives among Blacks. The phrase “Koch brothers” refers to the sons of Fred C. Koch. Fred Chase Koch founded the oil refinery firm that later would become the second-largest privately-held company in America, Koch Industries. Today, Koch Industries, Inc. is a multinational corporation based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $98 billion and subsidiaries in manufacturing, trading and investments.

Koch Industries own Invista, Georgia-Pacific, Flint Hills Resources, Koch Pipeline, Koch Fertilizer, and Koch Minerals and Matador Cattle Company. The companies are involved in core industries such as manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, chemicals, energy, fiber, and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, ranching, finance, commodities trading, and other ventures and investments.

Koch Industries employ 50,000 people in the United States and another 20,000 in 59 other countries. The current leaders of the pack are Fred C. Koch’s sons: Charles, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, and David H., executive vice president – they’re the principal owners of the conglomerate. The dynamic duo bought out their two other brothers, Frederick and William “Bill” Koch, for $1.1 billion in 1983.Charles and David H. Koch each own 42 percent of Koch Industries. The brothers have contributed to a variety of free-market adherence. They have donated more than $196 million to free-market individuals and advocacy organizations.

Black political activists insist that the Koch brothers sought to defeat Barack Obama’s re-election, the Democrats and health care reform. But the messengers among us are primarily political operatives taking issue with the Kochs. The Koch brothers are only guilty of strong support of private enterprise. Their family and foundations have financially supported organizations “fostering entrepreneurship, education, at-risk youth, arts and culture, and medical research.”

In case you didn’t know, the “free market” doesn’t mean you get stuff for free. The masses of Black Americans need to develop a culture and proficiency in free-market economics. The Kochs have given to conservative and libertarian policy and advocacy groups, including the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and Americans for Prosperity. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is an American conservative political advocacy group.AFP’s stated mission is “educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process.” AFP and Freedom Works are organizations with links to both the Kochs and the Tea Party movement.

Because of our propensity toward “big government,” the shutdown has generated much ire from Blacks toward the Tea Party. Many Blacks see the Tea Party movement as racist and against Obama; some others see it as “a political movement” advocating a reduction in the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit by reducing U.S. government spending and taxes. The movement is partly conservative, libertarian, and populist.

William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.

Fans are Complicit in the Injuries of Tony Dorsett and Others

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(NNPA) The recent news about NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett was more than unsettling. Having been diagnosed with the early stages of chronic encephalopathy (CTE), an illness directly related to head traumas, he feels his life slipping away from him. At the age of 59 he faces an uncertain future, yet it is a future that has confronted many football players, past and present.

Dorsett was part of the group of former football players who settled with the NFL recently for $765 million in connection with conditions such as CTE that have resulted from their football years. The settlement itself was highly controversial since it underestimates the extent of damage done to football players and, in effect, let’s the NFL off the hook. Nevertheless, many former players were desperate for a settlement in order to address their on-going medical problems.

Dorsett was a star among stars, someone who seemed nearly invincible in his greatness. Nevertheless, careers end and the physical damage inflicted on the players over the years takes its toll, resulting in conditions such as CTE and a shortened life-span for these modern-day gladiators.

When we hear the news about former players, such as Dorsett, most of us shake our heads in both sadness and frustration…and then we turn on the next football game. We create a peculiar sort of disconnect between the reality of the injuries faced by these players, and the activity that so many of us watch on any given Sunday. We do not stop and think about the sorts of demands that we, the fans of professional football, need to place on the football industry in its entirety. The issue of safety is not one exclusive to the NFL. It really is a matter that must be addressed when high schoolers start playing and then when they work their way to college. The injuries start early and there is no scientific certainty as to how many injuries ultimately result in conditions such as CTE, not to mention countless other challenges, such as injuries to bones and joints.

There comes a time when shaking our heads, as those watching the gladiators competing on Sundays, makes us complicit in the misery that many of these players face upon the end of their careers. Perhaps it is time to join with the NFL Players Association in demanding greater steps to address safety, but also appropriate medical care and long-term assistance for the players when they have moved on. To do otherwise feels no different than the equivalent of watching the gladiators do battle in the ancient Roman coliseums. The only difference seems to be that death was quicker in the coliseum. Today, we allow our modern day gladiators to end their lives slowly in misery and absent dignity.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Is America Becoming a Nation of Bullies?

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“Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.” -American Psychological Association

(NNPA) When 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death from an abandoned concrete plant tower on September 9 because of bullying from her classmates, the world stood up and took notice. While some teen-on-teen bullying was once accepted as a rite of passage, we now know it can have deadly consequences and is being taken more seriously today. The same cannot be said about adult-on-adult bullying, which though possibly just as harmful, is a much less highlighted and much more complex story. Consider the current case of alleged bullying by White Miami Dolphins lineman, Richie Incognito against his Black teammate Jonathan Martin.

First, it must be said that a certain amount of hazing is part of football locker room culture. Playful teasing, mild insults and innocent pranks are commonplace among both White and Black football players at all levels, from high school to the pros. For the most part, this has been viewed as acceptable and even beneficial team-building behavior in the high testosterone world of male competitive sports. But every person and every football player is different. Not all are comfortable with locker room roughhousing and crude language, especially when it crosses the line into racial slurs, including Incognito’s alleged use of the N-word.

Incognito’s words and actions caused Martin to abruptly leave the team and seek counseling. Incognito has been indefinitely suspended by the Miami Dolphins and the NFL is conducting an investigation of the matter.

Attitudes on the team and within the football fraternity are split, with many of the team’s Black players even defending Incognito and criticizing Martin for breaking a code of silence. Some of this may be because as a Stanford grad and the son of Harvard-educated parents, Martin does not fit the traditional tough football player mold.

As Jason Reid wrote recently in the Washington Post, “To African Americans on the Dolphins, Martin was a 6-foot-5, 312 pound oddball because his life experience was radically different from theirs. It’s an old story among African Americans. Too often, instead of celebrating what makes us different and learning from each other, we criticize more educated or affluent African Americans for not keeping it real.”

How this turns out is anybody’s guess, but what concerns me more than the particulars of this incident is the larger message it sends about setting and honoring racial and other boundaries of respect in the schoolyard, at the workplace and in public discourse.

Nearly every state has mandated measures to prevent bullying in our schools and more attention is being paid to cyber bullying. But, name-calling still too often takes the place of civil discourse in public debates, “attack ads” have become a staple of political campaigns and the “comments” section on many newspapers and blogs are filled with hateful speech. In addition, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, about 35 percent of U.S. workers say they are bullied on their jobs. As the NFL and the Miami Dolphins decide the fates of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, we must all ask ourselves: Is America becoming a nation of bullies?

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Protest Planned to Support Walmart Workers on "Black Friday"

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(NNPA) The day after Thanksgiving, so-called “Black Friday,” will be a moment for national protests over the conditions faced by thousands of Walmart workers. You may be one of many who go regularly or periodically to Walmart, looking for the good deals. Well, this November 29, things will be a bit exciting and informative outside of Walmart facilities.

If you have any questions regarding why these protests have been happening; why they will take place on November 29; and why they will continue to unfold, just consider the following: almost two-thirds of the Walmart’s workforce of approximately 825,000 earn poverty-level wages (less than $25,000/year). Now, contrast this fact with another fact: six of the Waltons, the major shareholders in the company, are collectively worth more than $144.7 billion, putting them ahead of the combined worth of 42 percent of the people of the United States.

In other words, for all of their platitudes we regularly hear on television and radio commercials, Walmart stands as a stark example of the wealth polarization that we have been witnessing in this country, a wealth polarization unlike anything that we have seen since 1929.

The conditions of Walmart workers are insulting, not only to the Walmart workers but to the rest of us. Workers find it difficult to obtain full-time schedules, thus making it impossible for them to earn the sort of wages needed to survive. Like many other retail workers, they are then forced to either try to assemble more than one part-time job and/or depend on governmental assistance.

The Walmart workers, joined together through an organization known as OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), seek public support. They are seeking justice in their workplace and they know that the attitude of the Walmart customer is critical in that regard. The message that you, as a customer and consumer, convey to the Walmart management; your willingness to stand with the Walmart workers; and the attitude elected officials in our cities and towns take towards the expansion of and requests for assistance by the corporate owners of Walmart, will all make a world of a difference.

If you think of nothing else, just stop for a moment and remember that $25,000/year does not take anyone very far these days. How can a family worth more than $144.7 billion not believe that improving the wages, benefits and working conditions of those who make it possible for their family to be so wealthy is a burdensome request?

Just asking…

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the chairman of the Retail Justice Alliance which supports retail workers fighting for economic justice. He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Chris Christie Provided Model for GOP Success

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By Raynard Jackson
NNPA Columnist

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been the talk of the political world for the past week. He won reelection with more than 60 percent of the vote. The coalition he put together is unheard of in today’s political climate where Republicans routinely right off significant parts of the electorate. This failed approach leaves little room for electoral error and is the biggest reason why Republicans have lost two successive presidential elections. Christie has shown the Republican Party a path towards electoral victory if they would adopt his approach.

Exit polls revealed that Christie:

Won among both men and women: 63 percent of men and 57 percent of women;
Won 21 percent of Black voters;
Won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote
Won nearly every education level and income group;
Won 32 percent of the Democratic vote;
Won 66 percent of independents and 61 percent of moderates.

Christie took his governing philosophy, his personality, and his blunt honesty to the market place of ideas and won convincingly.

Too many D.C. pundits are totally missing the point behind the Christie phenomenon. In a capitalist society, the market place responds to what is appealing or unappealing to it. Regardless of what you think about Christie on a philosophical scale, the marketplace of New Jersey responded to his message.

Many pundits attributed Christie’s remarkable success to voters in New Jersey being stupid. In other words, they didn’t know who or what they were voting for. If talking heads want to know who’s stupid, they need only to look in the mirror.

The truth is people in New Jersey voted for someone who diminished union influence in education, who is against homosexual marriage, pro-Second Amendment, pro-life, supports lower taxes, etc.

I am a native of St. Louis and no matter how great my analysis of the recently completed World Series, nothing can change the fact that Boston won. The same is true with Christie. Politics is all about winning, not making a statement.

In additional to his enormous political skills, Christie was aided by Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, Reince Priebus, who engineered the Growth and Opportunity Project, a program with the goal of getting more Blacks and Latinos engaged with the Republican Party.

In applied research, you take the best of what was discovered in the laboratory during the basic research phase and apply that to real world situations (elections). This will lead to empirical data that will either support or reject your findings in the laboratory.

In this sense, Priebus and Christie are Siamese twins, tied at the hip. Priebus and the RNC provided Christie and his campaign with a lot of basic research. Christie was politically astute enough to take this information and incorporate it into his campaign strategy.

In addition, Priebus put 33 fulltime staffers on the ground in New Jersey earlier this year with instructions to engage with people of color. The GOP put about $ 2.5 million into this race.

I had a private conversation with Christie back in March about the Black vote. He said all the right things (as they always do when I discuss the Black community with them). He only received 9 percent of the Black vote in 2009 and he told me that he would build better relations with the Black community as governor. I will clean up my language considerably, but I looked him in the eye and asked him very bluntly if he was serious or just blowing smoke at me? He literally pulled me nose to nose with him and said, “Brother, I got you. I don’t BS. Now I want to introduce you to my campaign chairman, Bill Palatucci. The two of you should get together and discuss this.” Within 30 days, the meeting took place.

Priebus can provide all the basic research in the world, but it’s up to the candidate to take advantage of what the chairman is doing.

So, to all the pundits who are trying to discredit Priebus and Christie, stop. They devised and executed a winning strategy. If you have a better way of putting together the coalition that Priebus and Christie did, then I am all ears.

Blacks will vote for a Republican, but they want to be listened to and not talked to. They want to feel like their concerns are important to the Republican Party. The election in New Jersey sent a message to Republican candidates who want to broaden their voting base: Take Christie model, personalize and adapt it as needed. Those who copy the New Jersey model can be victorious. Those who insist on going the Tea Party route are likely to suffer the same fate as state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli , who lost his bid to become governor.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.

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