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Propagandapalooza: Koch Bros. Festival on Las Olas for Spring Break

A bouquet of reactionaries and crackpots will blossom at a "Freedom Academy" on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale on March 9. They'll be there to explain why the "foundations of liberty" rest on the ability of corporations to rape the environment and bust up unions, enriching the rich and impoverishing the poor.

The party is being organized by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), a propaganda mill started in 1946 by the head of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, with the support of executives in the auto and energy industries. Its current executive director made his bones serving the Koch Brothers, working to defeat health care and environmental legislation.

The Kochs are all over the show, cosponsoring the "Freedom Academy" via front groups including Americans for Prosperity and Florida's own James Madison Institute. Wilton Manors is in the house, courtesy the Lou Church Educational Foundation, a project of local orthodonist, ideologue, and onetime perennial political candidate Bob Helmholdt.

The list of speakers makes quite the cast of characters:

Larry Reed, FEE's president, came up through 20 years at Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a hotbed of climate-change denial, originally funded by insurance industry interests and Dow Chemical. Like most of the "Freedom Academy" crew, Mackinac works closely with the Kochs' notorious ALEC.

ALEC will be directly represented by Jonathan Williams, the Kochs' chief lobbyist on state tax issues. Valencia College Professor Jack Chambless will be down from Orlando, perhaps to denounce "Republican socialism" and advocate "more guns." Christianist academic Anne Rathbone Bradley will be there too, with her "systematic biblical theology of economic freedom." Hallelujah!

FEE board member Michael Yashko (who not coincidentally, toils as an attorney, counseling banks and financial institutions on "distressed loan situations") will also put in an appearance. Yashko appears to believe that present-day Americans "are being forced to choose: become full-blown socialists or turn back to our historical roots as a constitutional republic."

Yashko's also a big fan of nullification, a doctrine originally put forth by proponents of slavery and that most sane people (not you, Ron Paul) understand to be unconstitutional.

The Freedom Academy crew say some things that make sense.

Helmholdt, some 30-odd years ago, was reported to have spoken out for legalized pot. Cravenly, however, when his position was brought up in the midst of a 1991 campaign for a seat on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, he told the Miami Herald the revelation "sounds like a desperation attempt to dig up some skeletons and throw around some irrelevant facts."

Yashko, in his warped way, has expressed sympathy with Occupy Wall Street, pointing to its limited and superficial similarity to the Tea Party. What he failed to mention was the differences.

If OWS had ever shown real strength and the fuzz was deputizing citizens to take the pinkos out, the Tea Party would have stormed to the head of the line, slavering for a badge and the state's blessing to wreak havoc on the hippies. Them TPer's are law'n'order folk.

The reverse isn't true. In the unlikely event the Tea Party had ever proved a threat to the established order OWS wouldn't have asked to serve the authorities and, even more to the point, the authorities would never in a million years think to call on OWS as an ally. That tells you something.

OWS, hapless as it proved to be, was a challenge to the establishment--corporate capitalism included. The Tea Party -- and the Koch Bros. pawns of the "Freedom Academy" -- work to see corporate capitalism run rampant.

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected].

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