Monday, May 18, 2020

Charlie Kirk's Turning Point Empire Takes Advantage of Failing Federal Agencies As Right-Wing Assault on Division I College Campuses Continues

As CEO of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), Turning Point Endowment, Turning Point Action (TPA), and Students for Trump (SFT), 26-year old Charlie Kirk has established an "alt-lite" non-profit empire, funded by the rich and powerful, and supported by President Donald Trump. Kirk's network includes close ties to Donald Trump Jr. and access to the White House for Turning Point events President Trump has attended.

As progressive celebrities cancel speaking engagements on college campuses this fall, TPUSA and Students for Trump have a clearer path to continue their "aggressive" assault on Division I college campuses in battleground states: Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, with the major purpose of getting President Donald Trump reelected. 

Charlie Kirk's organizations have become well-funded Donald Trump youth groups, supporting unrestrained gun rights, fossil fuels, deregulation, and political cover for whatever Donald Trump needs.

Jane Mayer (New Yorker), Lachlan Markay (Daily Beast), Mike Vasquez (Chronicle of Higher Education), Haley Victory Smith (USA Today), Alex Kotch (Sludge), the Southern Poverty Law Center (Hate Watch) and the Anti-Defamation League have done good work in documenting important and unsettling aspects of Kirk's empire: questionable business practices that evade IRS and federal election rules, acting as a corrupting influence in college elections, promoting disinformation for the National Rifle Association and the fossil fuel industry, lying for President Trump, using surreptitious listening devices on campuses, intimidating professors and minority students who oppose President Trump, and opening the door for hate speech on campus

Politico has also documented Turning Point's Arizona headquarters, a beehive of activity for Kirk's non-profits. But Politico failed to ask any tough questions about TPUSA's questionable practices on and off campus. They didn't even bother to ask questions about the potentially illegal intermingling of personnel and resources at Turning Point. While Politico noted the organization's access to the White House, they failed to mention Turning Point's use of Trump's Mar-a-Lago Resort for exclusive, high-priced events.

Turning Point Action was formed in May 2019 and now acts as the parent company of Students For Trump (SFT). SFT previously acted as a non-affiliated political committee, but it was administatively terminated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in April 2018. Their only treasurer, John Lambert, pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in August 2019. Less than a month later, SFT sponsored a relaunch in Las Vegas at the Palms Hotel, owned by Trump allies, the Fertittas.

Should Turning Point Action be filing with the FEC as a political action committee? It's anyone's guess, and it really doesn't matter during the Trump era. Current rulings and guidelines, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and lack of a quorum at the FEC make a complaint to the FEC next to useless. The same is true about asking the IRS to look into the intermingling of funds between Turning Point USA, a 501c3 and Turning Point Action, a 501c4 and parent organization of Students For Trump.

An essential part of the story now is how Charlie Kirk has been able to take advantage of weaknesses in federal oversight, making complaints to the FEC and IRS fruitless. Another part is Kirk's close collaboration with the White House, through Donald Trump, Jr. and Turning Point USA events at the White House and Mar-a-Lago

With Trump's Executive Order for Free Speech on Campus (which penalizes colleges for preventing "speech" of all sorts, particularly Trumpian speech), Charlie Kirk and his organizations have more openings for hate speech and dirty tricks on campus. Schools that deny this "free speech" could potentially lose their federal funding streams. Perhaps college students should exercise their 1st Amendment rights and employ a Watchlist for Turning Point activists that are breaking federal and state election laws.

Turning Point USA Blurs the Line Between Charity and Pro-Trump Political Group (Alex Kotch, Sludge)

A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity (Jane Mayer, New Yorker)

5 Takeaways From Turning Point’s Plan to ‘Commandeer’ Campus Elections (Michael Vasquez, Chronicle of Higher Education)

Students For Trump Is More Dangerous Than You Think

Pro-Trump Non-Profit Sign of the (Corrupt) Times

Turning Point USA opens door for hate groups and gun violence on campus

Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA incite racial conflict, secret surveillance on campus

The Rise of the Battleground Campus (Kyle Spencer, Politico)

Trump’s Free-Speech Executive Order and the Right’s Fixation on Campus Politics (Osita Nwanevu, New Yorker)

I went inside a rightwing safe space to find out the truth about universities (Cas Mudde, The Guardian)

Extremism, Terrorism, and Bigotry: Turning Point USA (Anti-Defamation League)

Turning Point USA accused of boosting their numbers with racists by long-established conservative student group (Southern Poverty Law Center, Hate Watch)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

"Let's all pretend we couldn't see it coming"

How is the working-class Depression of 2020 similar to the other 47 financial downturns in US history? 

Downturns are frequently precipitated by poor economic and cultural practices and preceded by lots of signals: over-speculation, overuse of resources, oversupplies of goods, and exploitation of labor. What I see are many poor practices brought on by corruption--with overconsumption, climate change, growing inequality, and moral degeneration at the root.

The "disrupters" (21st century robber barons) have enabled an alienating and anomic system that is highly dysfunctional for most of the planet, using "algorithms of oppression." And this cannot be solved with data alchemy, marketing, and other forms of sophistry.

Put down your iPhone for a minute and ponder these rhetorical questions:

How long have we known about all of this dysfunction? Academics have known about the effects of global climate change and growing US inequality since at least the 1980s. The Panic of 2020 should be a lesson so that we don't have a larger economic, social and environmental collapse in the future.

Who will hear the warnings and do something constructive for our future? Or is this Covid crisis another opportunity for the rich to cash in on the tragedy?

The answer lies, in part, to an ignorance of history and science, and oversupply of low-grade information, poor critical thinking skills, and lots of distractions. That's in addition to the massive greed and ill will by the rich and powerful.

US downturns are baked into this oppressive system. And crises are used to further exploit working families. With climate change and a half century of increasing inequality, these situations are likely to worsen.


Workers will resist and fight oppression; they always do, but will they have a voice as the US faces another self-induced crisis, as trillions are doled out to those who already have trillions?

Here are the dates of the largest economic downturns.
1797-1800
1807–1814
1819–1824
1857–1860
1873–1879 (The Long Depression)
1893–1896 (The Long Depression)
1907–1908
1918–1921 (World War I, Spanish Flu)
1929–1933 (Stock Market Crash, Great Depression)
1937–1938 (Great Depression)
Feb-Oct 1945
Nov 1948–Oct 1949
July 1953–May 1954
Aug 1957–April 1958
April 1960–Feb 1961
Dec 1969–Nov 1970
Nov. 1973– March 1975
Jan-July 1980
July 1981–Nov 1982
July 1990–March 1991
Mar-Nov 2001
December 2007 – June 2009 (The Great Recession)
March 2020-

We live in an economic system that is unsustainable, unjust, and exploitative. While many of us in academia and the thought industry have known this for decades, those with greater wisdom have known for centuries. Techies and disrupters think it can all be solved with technology, not with profound wisdom. The ultimate in hubris and reductionism. We have to change the system politically, socially, and culturally. We have to be wiser.

How do we do that, radically change society, when our economic system has driven us in the wrong direction for so long? Some of these lessons can be learned from working class history, but they have to be applied with wisdom.