Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Dumbass Quote of the Day

This time it comes from one of our own, Raging Bee, in a comment on the post about Bristow’s murderous fantasies:

No, we reject Cato because it’s a wholly-owned creature of the Koch brothers, dedicated to the purpose of customizing a political-economic ideology of, by, and for the rich — and no one else.


Then you’ve got a lot of explaining to do. If the Cato Institute is “dedicated to the purpose of customizing a political-economic ideology of, by, and for the rich” then explain the following things:

1. Why is Cato not only one of the loudest voices against the transfer of hundreds of billions of our tax dollars to the coffers of huge business conglomerates, but one of the only voices against it? The rich spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year lobbying Congress to get that largesse from Congress in many forms — tax breaks, subsidies, loopholes, elimination of liability for pollution, etc. — and the Cato Institute firmly opposes what they want. If they were really just in favor of getting wealthy corporations anything they wanted, the opposite would be true.

2. Why is Cato firmly opposed to the use of eminent domain to take property from poor people and minorities and give it to companies who can develop it and pay more in tax to the local governments for it? If they were really on the side of the rich and against the poor, the opposite would be true.

3. Why is Cato firmly opposed to the war on drugs, at least partly because it is enforced in a blatantly racist manner that puts poor blacks in prison at a rate 4 or 5 times higher than their percentage of the population that buys and sells drugs? If it was all about helping the rich, why do they spend so much time talking about the devastating effects of the war on drugs in splitting up poor and minority families?

4. Why is Cato one of the rare voices in the country calling for a major decrease in defense spending? Neither the Republicans or the Democrats have shown any desire to reduce the defense budget (Obama has only increased it, at a time when the Democrats have total control of Congress). Again, major corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year lobbying Congress for more and more defense spending because they get rich from it.

5. Why does Cato spend so much time and energy advocating for poor criminal defendants about denial of access to DNA evidence, lack of competent legal defense, prosecutorial misconduct in railroading suspects (especially poor and black defendants with no money for a real defense), police misconduct and abuse, false confessions, coerced testimony, fake informant affidavits and so forth? Seems an odd thing to do if the only thing they’re dedicated to is making the Koch brothers rich.

6. Why does Cato spend so much time and energy fighting against executive branch overreach — against torture, warrantless wiretaps, violations of habeas corpus, violations of the Fourth Amendment, and so forth? None of those things helps the Koch brothers or the wealthy in any way at all. Indeed, it is a position soundly opposed by the economic elite.

7. Why did Cato oppose our intervention in Iraq? Surely the Koch brothers, who make their money in the oil industry, were all in favor of invading that country and taking control of the oil fields. And they surely got rich off the massive increase in gas prices that resulted from that invasion.

8. Why is Cato consistently pro-gay rights when it comes to serving in the military, being allowed to marry with all the rights of straight couples, etc.? Surely that doesn’t make the Koch brothers any money and flatly contradicts the positions of other organizations funded by them.

Charles Koch did indeed help found Cato. And yes, some of the positions that Cato takes are in line with his ideology. But a hell of a lot of their positions are firmly opposed to his ideology. And the fact that you and I would both agree that gutting environmental regulation, for example, is a bad idea, that does not make all of the positions above — positions that are absolutely right and totally in line with the positions taken by liberal intellectuals — suddenly non-credible or false.

Cato gets only 2% of its funding from corporations. 77% comes from individuals.

13% comes from foundations, including Koch’s foundation, but it also includes liberal foundations like the Ploughshares Fund, which is an anti-war peace organization that fights militarization. It includes the Marijuana Policy Project as well.

The problem here, Raging Bee, is that you are thinking of the world as an absolutely black and white place, where there are either crystal clear good guys or incomprehensibly evil bad guys and nothing in between. You are projecting a simplistic hatred of the Koch brothers in precisely the same manner that the right responds to George Soros — they fund these things that I disagree with, therefore any person or organization that has ever received funding from them is obviously a part of a grand conspiracy to take over the country and nothing they say can ever be taken seriously. It’s precisely the kind of reasoning that Glenn Beck uses on a nightly basis.

There is plenty of accurate criticism to be made of the Koch brothers, of course, and there is plenty of accurate criticism to be made of some of the positions taken by the Cato Institute, many of which I consider quite wrongheaded. Making such criticism is entirely fair comment.

But dismissing everything this huge think tank says because they get funding from someone you don’t like is positively irrational — especially since you likely agree with them on nearly everything I listed above. Neither people nor organizations are wholly good or wholly evil except in very rare cases. Criticize them when you think they’re wrong, certainly. But when they’re right, they don’t suddenly become less right because they also take positions you don’t like.

Ironically, this all or nothing approach you take is highly fundamentalist in nature. It’s exactly the way fundamentalists think about the Bible, for example, that is must either be 100% true or absolutely worthless. Rational people, on the other hand, will evaluate each claim or idea on its own and either accept it or reject it on the basis of evidence and reason, not on the mere fact that someone whose total demonization you’ve accepted might agree with it.

People and organizations can be right on one thing and wrong on another. I spend a good deal of time fighting against religious right legal groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, the American Center for Law and Justice and the Thomas More Law Center. But the ADF is sometimes right when it comes to free exercise cases. The ACLJ is right to oppose defamation of religion resolutions in the UN and Europe. The Thomas More Law Center was right to defend those Christian missionaries in Dearborn this summer.

You don’t have to demonize and dismiss, you can simply agree or disagree depending on the issue.