Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Whether it's the UW or in helping recovery, don't trust RW donors

You bet I think that there is serious bullshit going on with yesterday’s announcement of plans for a new Tommy Thompson Center for Alternative Facts on Public Leadership at UW-Madison. I’ve recently written a few things on this pattern of increasing privatization and the desire of right-wingers trying to direct the UW toward an agenda that steers away from revealing truths that might be inconvenient to WisGOP’s agenda. It also involves using right-wing GOP-perganda and fake stink tanks to blur reality for the average Wisconsinite.

While UW Chancellor Becky Blank and some UW faculty insist that the Thompson Center was their own idea, and will function as a non-partisan outlet, comments from the WisGOP Speaker of the Assembly seemed to indicate otherwise.
Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the center has “no agenda,” but also indicated he sees it as a counter to left-leaning research organizations on campus.

“It’s not a conservative think tank,” Vos said. “Hopefully it will be able to offset some of the liberal thinking so that we at least have somebody who is bipartisan.

“Far too many of the organizations … (have) a left-of-center thought” at UW-Madison, Vos added. “This is just hoping that we can have a balance of thought on campus.”

Vos joined Gov. Scott Walker, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and others Tuesday to announce their plans to fund the center with $3 million of public money in the 2017-19 state budget. The center would also seek private funding.

Becky, what are you doing with these slugs?

Ok Robbin’, the Thompson Center will have “no agenda”, but it’s intended to “offset some of the liberal thinking.” Gotcha. And who is the center looking at as a “private funder”? Can we say “Bradley Foundation” or "Koch ‘philanthropy’”? I bet we will.

This is part of a disturbing trend where right-wing oligarchs and their puppet GOP politicians try to micro-manage and redirect public research universities from coming up with statements of fact that counteract their BS claims and policies. I saw the documentary “Starving the Beast” 2 years ago at the Wisconsin Film Festival (UW-Madison and Walker's "reforms" are a part of the film) and it was ahead of the curve in recognizing the ALEC-based mentality at the center of these attempted right-wing takeovers of universities, with false claims of “balance” and "modernization".

This mentality is why I don’t trust right-wing organizations to have any intentions of improving society when they give a donation or try to “reform” some kind of social good like public education. These people don’t believe in public goods and view independent research and analysis as a threat (after all, reality does have a liberal bias, as Stephen Colbert famously told us in 2006). These oligarchs want to mess up and delegitimize these institutions, not help them, and they want to control the message while doing so. They pony up money and use the lawmaking process to bully their way into a seat at the table, no matter whether they have merited it.

Even when the purpose is good, I think certain people deserve to have their donations be given a second look. That thought was triggered with me when I read about this “good deed” in light of last week’s devastating tornadoes in the state.
Rice Lake native Foster Friess has donated $1 million for a "Challenge Grant" with Red Cedar Church in Rice Lake for a relief fund in the wake of last week's tornadoes and severe weather which claimed one life, injured multiple people, and caused an estimated $10 million in damage in Northwestern Wisconsin. Mr. Friess says his family will double every amount sent to Red Cedar Church.

"Please dig deeply to help these people, who in less than an hour’s time, life was changed so dramatically for them," Foster Friess said. "Many of them have nothing but the clothes on their back. Their car is damaged, their home gone, including all the contents blown into the next county. My eagerness to issue the challenge grant to you was inspired when I saw how touched Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was as he met the people, hugged them, and encouraged them."
There are a lot of people who need help in Northwestern Wisconsin, and it’s likely that Friess still has ties to and affection for Barron County (he grew up there and graduated from Rice Lake High School), and he wants to help it recover from this devastation. This is definitely a good thing on the balance. But why funnel the money through a favored church, instead of either giving it through the state or local emergency management department? Or why didn’t Friess set up a separate organization to handle the relief efforts?

That may seem like I’m being harsh on a guy doing a good thing. But it’s because the name Foster Friess maes me VERY suspicious. Remember this quote from the 2012 GOP primary, when Friess was propping up cynical “Christian” nutjob Rick Santorum with millions of dollars?
“Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed. We have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about, and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture," [Friess] said. "We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are.”

He went on: “On this contraceptive thing, my Gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive,” he added. “You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
Santorum is far from the only GOP politician that Friess has given big money to if they are willing to follow his fundie edicts, and his donations include $100,000 sent to Scott Walker during his recall election in 2012, do you find it coincidental that Walker's office was the one helping to publicize Friess's recovery gift? How can I not believe there’s going to be a “thank-you” coming from Scotty to this guy in the near future, along with a public PR event and a further campaign kickback? Yes, that’s dark and cynical, but the 2010s have taught me to always look for the strings and eventual kickbacks when it comes to “charity” from right-wingers.

You can see where these things tie together. Among rich right-wing oligarchs, if you donate to university’s research or set up your own relief fund or give some other kind of philanthropy, this means that you get to control what that organization does and what form the assistance or other outcomes are. Taking it out of the purview of government means that there is no overarching purpose of charities or scientific research outside of whatever you want to have done….or not have done.

These guys (with an occasional Diane Hendricks thrown in) really do see themselves as the Masters of the Universe, with the ultimate goal making the other 99% of us the peons that depend on them for wages, knowledge, rights, and pretty much anything else. You need to know that if you ever start to be tricked into thinking that people like Foster Friess or the Kochs or members of the Bradley Foundation give a damn about improving services like education, or anything else that involves the lives of anyone they do not personally know.

It’s not much different than the mentality of these guys.

No matter how benevolent and decent their donations may be, the Kochs and Bradleys and Friesses and other right-wing "philanthropists" are not to be trusted.

1 comment:

  1. They take full advantage of the tax code in making charitable contributions to these fake non-profits that promote a certain world view.