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For The Record  

FTR #726 The Kochtopus: The Tea Party Movement Manifests Classical Fascism

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Introduction: The Tea Party movement has garnered tremendous media attention, most of which has focused on superficiality–images of “the angry voter,” false or misleading statements about Obama, and the assumption that somehow “they” are responsible for the discomfort felt by the adherents to the Party.

What has not received much publicity until recently is the fact that what appears to be a broad-based, “populist”, “grass-roots” movement is actually driven in considerable measure by institutions financed by the very wealthy and dedicated to advancing the interests of that element of society. That advance is at the considerable expense of Tea Party adherents, many of whom will succumb to the outgrowths of the philosophy they have embraced.

Labeling Obama alternately “a Muslim” and/or “a Marxist” (failing to understand the contradiction), attacking him for raising taxes (85% of Americans are paying lower taxes under Obama) and for “trying to take away” their guns (he signed into law a bill allowing the carrying of loaded firearms on public park lands), the Tea Party rank and file are moving in the direction of “intensifying politics of free-market fundamentalism at the very historical moment that proves the failure of such an ideology.”

Epitomizing the political dualism embodied in the Tea Party movement is the political machine put together by the billionaire Koch brothers, David Koch in particular. (David Koch is pictured above, at right.) Son of one of the prime movers of the John Birch Society, David Koch was a driving force behind the genesis of the Libertarian Party in the early 1980’s, running for Vice-President in 1980 against Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

The formidable array of think tanks and NGO’s, journalists and political pundits who owe their careers to the brothers and their institutions, together constitute the machine termed “The Kochtopus.”

The foundation of the Kochs political philosophy–embodied in the political realities underlying the Tea Party–is one of “corporatism” or “the Corporate State” as Mussolini put it. Indeed, Birch Society kingpin Fred Koch openly admired Mussolini’s supposed “suppression” of the communists. (In fact, communism was already waning in Italy when Mussolini took over. See Miscellaneous Archive Show M42.)

In this context, one should never forget the inclusion of Nazis and fascists in the Republican Party at a fundamental level.

Indeed, Charles Koch has opined that America could be on the verge of “the greatest loss of liberty and prosperity since the 1930s.” The reference is, of course, to the New Deal. Many of this country’s top industrialists and financiers attempted to overthrow Roosevelt in 1934, hoping to set up a dictatorship like Mussolini’s. The Bush family appear to have been involved with the plotting of the ’34 coup.

This translation of Corporatism into a broad-based political movement is a manifestation of classical fascism. Even former close friends and associates of the Kochs admit that the brothers have confused “freedom” with what will maximize their corporate profits.

Program Highlights Include: The Koch brothers’ founding of the Mercatus Center–an archetypal Kochtopus element; the Mercatus Center’s profound influence on Bush (II) administration policy; the Koch brothers manipulation of environmental regulations; the effect of that manipulation on regulation of formaldehyde–a carcinogen produced by Koch Industries; David Koch’s role in financing cancer research–one of a number of roles that places him in a position of conflict of interest.

1. Despite their attempts at cultivating the image of patrons of the arts and benefactors to society, the Kochs are, in fact, at the epicenter of the anti-Obama movement. The brothers main commercial undertaking is Koch Industries, a conglomerate with major participation in the fossil-fuels and chemical industries, in particular.

. . . In Washington, Koch is best known as part of a family that has repeatedly funded stealth attacks on the federal government, and on the Obama Administration in particular.

With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. . . .

“Covert Operations” by Jane Mayer; The New Yorker; 8/30/2010.

2. As major polluters and members of the ultra-rich, the Kochs stand to benfit from a frustration of the Obama political agenda.

. . . The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

In a statement, Koch Industries said that the Greenpeace report “distorts the environmental record of our companies.” And David Koch, in a recent, admiring article about him in New York, protested that the “radical press” had turned his family into “whipping boys,” and had exaggerated its influence on American politics. But Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.” . . .

Ibid.

3. As indicated above, the brothers learned their political philosophy from their father Fred Koch, a seminal member of the John Birch Society.

. . . . In 1958, Fred Koch became one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group known, in part, for a highly skeptical view of governance and for spreading fears of a Communist takeover. Members considered President Dwight D. Eisenhower to be a Communist agent. In a self-published broadside, Koch claimed that “the Communists have infiltrated both the Democrat and Republican Parties.” He wrote admiringly of Benito Mussolini’s suppression of Communists in Italy, and disparagingly of the American civil-rights movement. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he warned. Welfare was a secret plot to attract rural blacks to cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.” In a 1963 speech that prefigures the Tea Party’s talk of a secret socialist plot, Koch predicted that Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the President is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.”. . .

Ibid.

4. Disclaimers to the contrary notwithstanding, the Tea Party movement is deeply involved with the Kochtopus.

A few weeks after the Lincoln Center gala, the advocacy wing of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—an organization that David Koch started, in 2004—held a different kind of gathering. Over the July 4th weekend, a summit called Texas Defending the American Dream took place in a chilly hotel ballroom in Austin. Though Koch freely promotes his philanthropic ventures, he did not attend the summit, and his name was not in evidence. And on this occasion the audience was roused not by a dance performance but by a series of speakers denouncing President Barack Obama. Peggy Venable, the organizer of the summit, warned that Administration officials “have a socialist vision for this country.”

Five hundred people attended the summit, which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas. An advertisement cast the event as a populist uprising against vested corporate power. “Today, the voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests,” it said. “But you can do something about it.” The pitch made no mention of its corporate funders. The White House has expressed frustration that such sponsors have largely eluded public notice. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

In April, 2009, Melissa Cohlmia, a company spokesperson, denied that the Kochs had direct links to the Tea Party, saying that Americans for Prosperity is “an independent organization and Koch companies do not in any way direct their activities.” Later, she issued a statement: “No funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, or Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties.” David Koch told New York, “I’ve never been to a tea-party event. No one representing the tea party has ever even approached me.”

At the lectern in Austin, however, Venable—a longtime political operative who draws a salary from Americans for Prosperity, and who has worked for Koch-funded political groups since 1994—spoke less warily. “We love what the Tea Parties are doing, because that’s how we’re going to take back America!” she declared, as the crowd cheered. In a subsequent interview, she described herself as an early member of the movement, joking, “I was part of the Tea Party before it was cool!” She explained that the role of Americans for Prosperity was to help “educate” Tea Party activists on policy details, and to give them “next-step training” after their rallies, so that their political energy could be channeled “more effectively.” And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target. She said of the Kochs, “They’re certainly our people. David’s the chairman of our board. I’ve certainly met with them, and I’m very appreciative of what they do.”

Venable honored several Tea Party “citizen leaders” at the summit. The Texas branch of Americans for Prosperity gave its Blogger of the Year Award to a young woman named Sibyl West. On June 14th, West, writing on her site, described Obama as the “cokehead in chief.” In an online thread, West speculated that the President was exhibiting symptoms of “demonic possession (aka schizophrenia, etc.).” The summit featured several paid speakers, including Janine Turner, the actress best known for her role on the television series “Northern Exposure.” She declared, “They don’t want our children to know about their rights. They don’t want our children to know about a God!”

During a catered lunch, Venable introduced Ted Cruz, a former solicitor general of Texas, who told the crowd that Obama was “the most radical President ever to occupy the Oval Office,” and had hidden from voters a secret agenda—“the government taking over our economy and our lives.” Countering Obama, Cruz proclaimed, was “the epic fight of our generation!” As the crowd rose to its feet and cheered, he quoted the defiant words of a Texan at the Alamo: “Victory, or death!”

Americans for Prosperity has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception. In the weeks before the first Tax Day protests, in April, 2009, Americans for Prosperity hosted a Web site offering supporters “Tea Party Talking Points.” The Arizona branch urged people to send tea bags to Obama; the Missouri branch urged members to sign up for “Taxpayer Tea Party Registration” and provided directions to nine protests. The group continues to stoke the rebellion. The North Carolina branch recently launched a “Tea Party Finder” Web site, advertised as “a hub for all the Tea Parties in North Carolina.”

Ibid.

5. Epitomizing the construct of the Kochs’ political apparatus is the Mercatus Center, established at a private university in Virginia. It has asserted tremendous influence on policy, particularly in the administration of George W. Bush, for whose election the Kochs worked very hard.

. . . In the mid-eighties, the Kochs provided millions of dollars to George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, to set up another think tank. Now known as the Mercatus Center, it promotes itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas—bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.” Financial records show that the Koch family foundations have contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. “It’s ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington,” Rob Stein, the Democratic strategist, said. It is an unusual arrangement. “George Mason is a public university, and receives public funds,” Stein noted. “Virginia is hosting an institution that the Kochs practically control.”

The founder of the Mercatus Center is Richard Fink, formerly an economist. Fink heads Koch Industries’ lobbying operation in Washington. In addition, he is the president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the president of the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, a director of the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation, and a director and co-founder, with David Koch, of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

Fink, with his many titles, has become the central nervous system of the Kochtopus. He appears to have supplanted Ed Crane, the head of the Cato Institute, as the brothers’ main political lieutenant. Though David remains on the board at Cato, Charles Koch has fallen out with Crane. Associates suggested to me that Crane had been insufficiently respectful of Charles’s management philosophy, which he distilled into a book called “The Science of Success,” and trademarked under the name Market-Based Management, or M.B.M. In the book, Charles recommends instilling a company’s corporate culture with the competitiveness of the marketplace. Koch describes M.B.M. as a “holistic system” containing “five dimensions: vision, virtue and talents, knowledge processes, decision rights and incentives.” A top Cato Institute official told me that Charles “thinks he’s a genius. He’s the emperor, and he’s convinced he’s wearing clothes.” Fink, by contrast, has been far more embracing of Charles’s ideas. (Fink, like the Kochs, declined to be interviewed.)

At a 1995 conference for philanthropists, Fink adopted the language of economics when speaking about the Mercatus Center’s purpose. He said that grant-makers should use think tanks and political-action groups to convert intellectual raw materials into policy “products.”

The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of,” and noted that fourteen of the twenty-three regulations that President George W. Bush placed on a “hit list” had been suggested first by Mercatus scholars. Fink told the paper that the Kochs have “other means of fighting [their] battles,” and that the Mercatus Center does not actively promote the company’s private interests. But Thomas McGarity, a law professor at the University of Texas, who specializes in environmental issues, told me that “Koch has been constantly in trouble with the E.P.A., and Mercatus has constantly hammered on the agency.” An environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center called it “a means of laundering economic aims.” The lawyer explained the strategy: “You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank,” which “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.” . . .

Ibid.

6. David Koch has spent millions to fund cancer research. With his industrial concerns producing known carcinogens, such as formaldehyde, this constitutes a conflict of interest–a type of conflict that often results in resolutions that satisfy the major donors.

. . . And he became a patron of cancer research, focusing on prostate cancer. In addition to his gifts to Sloan-Kettering, he gave fifteen million dollars to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, a hundred and twenty-five million to M.I.T. for cancer research, twenty million to Johns Hopkins University, and twenty-five million to the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston. In response to his generosity, Sloan-Kettering gave Koch its Excellence in Corporate Leadership Award. In 2004, President Bush named him to the National Cancer Advisory Board, which guides the National Cancer Institute.

Koch’s corporate and political roles, however, may pose conflicts of interest. For example, at the same time that David Koch has been casting himself as a champion in the fight against cancer, Koch Industries has been lobbying to prevent the E.P.A. from classifying formaldehyde, which the company produces in great quantities, as a “known carcinogen” in humans.

Scientists have long known that formaldehyde causes cancer in rats, and several major scientific studies have concluded that formaldehyde causes cancer in human beings—including one published last year by the National Cancer Institute, on whose advisory board Koch sits. The study tracked twenty-five thousand patients for an average of forty years; subjects exposed to higher amounts of formaldehyde had significantly higher rates of leukemia. These results helped lead an expert panel within the National Institutes of Health to conclude that formaldehyde should be categorized as a known carcinogen, and be strictly controlled by the government. Corporations have resisted regulations on formaldehyde for decades, however, and Koch Industries has been a large funder of members of Congress who have stymied the E.P.A., requiring it to defer new regulations until more studies are completed.

Koch Industries became a major producer of the chemical in 2005, after it bought Georgia-Pacific, the paper and wood-products company, for twenty-one billion dollars. Georgia-Pacific manufactures formaldehyde in its chemical division, and uses it to produce various wood products, such as plywood and laminates. Its annual production capacity for formaldehyde is 2.2 billion pounds. Last December, Traylor Champion, Georgia-Pacific’s vice-president of environmental affairs, sent a formal letter of protest to federal health authorities. He wrote that the company “strongly disagrees” with the N.I.H. panel’s conclusion that formaldehyde should be treated as a known human carcinogen. David Koch did not recuse himself from the National Cancer Advisory Board, or divest himself of company stock, while his company was directly lobbying the government to keep formaldehyde on the market. (A board spokesperson said that the issue of formaldehyde had not come up.)

James Huff, an associate director at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the N.I.H., told me that it was “disgusting” for Koch to be serving on the National Cancer Advisory Board: “It’s just not good for public health. Vested interests should not be on the board.” He went on, “Those boards are very important. They’re very influential as to whether N.C.I. goes into formaldehyde or not. Billions of dollars are involved in formaldehyde.” . . .

Ibid.

7. When citizens have become sickened by pollutants produced by the Koch brothers and their ilk, they will have less chance of receiving adequate treatment if the Kochtopus has its way. The brothers have been implacable opponents of health care reform.

. . . Americans for Prosperity also created an offshoot, Patients United Now, which organized what Phillips has estimated to be more than three hundred rallies against health-care reform. At one rally, an effigy of a Democratic congressman was hung; at another, protesters unfurled a banner depicting corpses from Dachau. The group also helped organize the “Kill the Bill” protests outside the Capitol, in March, where Democratic supporters of health-care reform alleged that they were spat on and cursed at. Phillips was a featured speaker.

Americans for Prosperity has held at least eighty events targeting cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create. Speakers for the group claimed, with exaggeration, that even back-yard barbecues and kitchen stoves would be taxed. The group was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s “green jobs” czar, Van Jones, and waged a crusade against international climate talks. Casting his group as a champion of ordinary workers who would be hurt by environmentalists, Phillips went to Copenhagen last year and staged a protest outside the United Nations conference on climate change, declaring, “We’re a grassroots organization. . . . I think it’s unfortunate when wealthy children of wealthy families . . . want to send unemployment rates in the United States up to twenty per cent.”

Grover Norquist, who holds a weekly meeting for conservative leaders in Washington, including representatives from Americans for Prosperity, told me that last summer’s raucous rallies were pivotal in undermining Obama’s agenda. The Republican leadership in Congress, he said, “couldn’t have done it without August, when people went out on the streets. It discouraged deal-makers”—Republicans who might otherwise have worked constructively with Obama. Moreover, the appearance of growing public opposition to Obama affected corporate donors on K Street. “K Street is a three-billion-dollar weathervane,” Norquist said. “When Obama was strong, the Chamber of Commerce said, ‘We can work with the Obama Administration.’ But that changed when thousands of people went into the street and ‘terrorized’ congressmen. August is what changed it. Now that Obama is weak, people are getting tough.”

As the first anniversary of Obama’s election approached, David Koch came to the Washington area to attend a triumphant Americans for Prosperity gathering. Obama’s poll numbers were falling fast. Not a single Republican senator was working with the Administration on health care, or much else. Pundits were writing about Obama’s political ineptitude, and Tea Party groups were accusing the President of initiating “a government takeover.” In a speech, Koch said, “Days like today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors when we started this organization, five years ago.” He went on, “We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history. . . . Thankfully, the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow-citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.”

While Koch didn’t explicitly embrace the Tea Party movement that day, more recently he has come close to doing so, praising it for demonstrating the “powerful visceral hostility in the body politic against the massive increase in government power, the massive efforts to socialize this country.” Charles Koch, in a newsletter sent to his seventy thousand employees, compared the Obama Administration to the regime of the Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. The Kochs’ sense of imperilment is somewhat puzzling. Income inequality in America is greater than it has been since the nineteen-twenties, and since the seventies the tax rates of the wealthiest have fallen more than those of the middle class. Yet the brothers’ message has evidently resonated with voters: a recent poll found that fifty-five per cent of Americans agreed that Obama is a socialist. . . .

Ibid.

Discussion

50 comments for “FTR #726 The Kochtopus: The Tea Party Movement Manifests Classical Fascism”

  1. so riddle me this? how can Obama be a Socialist and in the pockets of the bankers simultaneously??? Oxymoron if ever saw one.

    Posted by leapinleopard | November 10, 2010, 10:07 pm
  2. Why do you refer to Chaves with the corporate framimg ‘strongman’? He ekection was more above board tham Bush’s? BTW I really really enjoy and often resource the fruits of your labors here. Thank You very much.

    Posted by J F | November 26, 2010, 11:14 pm
  3. […] Dave Emory has been working as well on the Koch brothers case for some time. In particular, FTR #726 is of great interest to get acquainted more with these shadowy figures of American politics. What […]

    Posted by Republican Reverse Robbing Hoods, part II: The Koch brothers caught pants down | lys-dor.com | September 14, 2011, 10:21 am
  4. “Americans Elect” is a nonprofit corporation registered as a third party in the United States which plans to use an internet-based nominating process to field a third-party corporatist ticket for the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

    Despite being registered as its own political party, Americans Elect describes its approach as nonpartisan. From the pool of candidates selected in secrecy by oligarchs, people who register online will openly vote for their candidate of choice from that list.

    Americans Elect claims to have gained ballot status in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Mississippi, California, Rhode Island and Arkansas.

    The organization is attempting the process of being accredited in every US state, allowing it to place candidates on presidential ballots nationwide.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americans_Elect

    Side comment: The result of this third-party electoral manipulation, in my opinion, is to engineer a 2012 presidential vote that will not reach the minimum number of electoral votes (270) required to win the election.

    This would (in accordance with the U.S. Constitution) throw the election into the (majority-Republican) House of Representatives, who would decide the presidency.

    This was last done in the U.S. election of 1824, in which John Quincy Adams was chosen president.

    However, in my opinion, the goal is not to elect a Republican president. The goal has been to create a split Republican vote, to (a) elect a default unpopular Democratic president who can be a patsy scapegoat that will leverage popular support for a military coup, and (b) eliminate Rove/Cheney fingerprints on a subsequent military purge, intelligence community purge, and executions of key dissidents (ala the Phoenix Program), using a Tea Party Cat’s Paw such as a President Palin who would be sworn in after a mass-casualty disaster in Washington, D.C. by “domestic Al Qaeda sympathizers” who would wipe out national-level Democrats in a single event.

    The consortium “Americans Elect” is being little-covered (so far) in the U.S. press, but has significantly wealthy backers. Who, of course, wish to remain secret.

    http://www.salon.com/2011/12/21/we_cant_know_whos_behind_americans_elect_because_we_might_make_fun_of_them/

    http://www.salon.com/2011/12/09/the_slick_schtick_of_americans_elect/

    Posted by R. Wilson | December 31, 2011, 9:09 pm
  5. Good Show and Happy New Year (!) R. Wilson!

    Note that in the Americans Elect imbroglio, we find Peter Ackerman and his brother Elliot.

    Check out the series on the Arab Spring.

    Peter Ackerman is the funder of Gene Sharp and deeply involved with the events surrounding that great outcropping of “democracy.”

    So it is more than a little interesting to see him looking to have an (ahem) American Spring.

    To you and all the other contributors, thanks and keep up the good work.

    Program production will resume sometime in 2012, when circumstances permit.

    In the meantime, I will continue to post on this site.

    Happy New Year,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | December 31, 2011, 11:49 pm
  6. @R. Wilson: That actually seems plausible, although I seriously doubt that the vast majority of Americans would support an actual military coup.
    There may be some hope, however, as that some Republicans are beginning to become disillusioned with the GOP and may end up voting instead for someone such as Ron Paul, which could very well backfire on the U.R. given that the GOP has been their favorite party since those scumbag Dixiecrats started taking over in the late ’60s, and also given that many Democrats still have a very bad memory of 2000, when Nader’s game helped cause the tie that allowed Bush to steal the election.
    In any case, it may be a while before things get any better…..but at least people are waking up.

    @Dave: Hope to see you in time for the next WFMU marathon!

    Posted by Steven l. | January 1, 2012, 1:02 pm
  7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/07/koch-brothers-database-2012-election?fb=optOut&mid=56481

    Koch brothers: secretive billionaires to launch vast database with 2012 in mind

    David and Charles Koch, oil tycoons with strong right-wing views and connections, look set to tighten their grip on US politics

    Ed Pilkington in New York
    guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 November 2011

    The secretive oil billionaires the Koch brothers are close to launching a nationwide database connecting millions of Americans who share their anti-government and libertarian views, a move that will further enhance the tycoons’ political influence and that could prove significant in next year’s presidential election.

    The database will give concrete form to the vast network of alliances that David and Charles Koch have cultivated over the past 20 years on the right of US politics. The brothers, whose personal wealth has been put at $25bn each, were a major force behind the creation of the tea party movement and enjoy close ties to leading conservative politicians, financiers, business people, media figures and US supreme court judges.

    The voter file was set up by the Kochs 18 months ago with $2.5m of their seed money, and is being developed by a hand-picked team of the brothers’ advisers. It has been given the name Themis, after the Greek goddess who imposes divine order on human affairs.

    In classic Koch style, the project is being conducted in great secrecy. Karl Crow, a Washington-based lawyer and Koch adviser who is leading the development, did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did media representatives for Koch Industries, the brothers’ global energy company based in Wichita, Kansas.

    But a member of a Koch affiliate organisation who is a specialist in the political uses of new technology and who is familiar with Themis said the project was in the final preparatory stages. Asking not to be named, he said: “They are doing a lot of analysis and testing. Finally they’re getting Themis off the ground.”

    The database will bring together information from a plethora of right-wing groups, tea party organisations and conservative-leaning thinktanks. Each one has valuable data on their membership – including personal email addresses and phone numbers, as well as more general information useful to political campaign strategists such as occupation, income bracket and so on.

    By pooling the information, the hope is to create a data resource that is far more potent than the sum of its parts. Themis will in effect become an electoral roll of right-wing America, allowing the Koch brothers to further enhance their power base in a way that is sympathetic to, but wholly independent of, the Republican party.

    “This will take time to fully realise, but it has the potential to become a very powerful tool in 2012 and beyond,” said the new technology specialist.

    Themis has been modelled in part on the scheme created by the left after the defeat of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Catalyst, a voter list that shared data on supporters of progressive groups and campaigns, was an important part of the process that saw the Democratic party pick itself off the floor and refocus its electoral energies, helping to propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.

    Josh Hendler, who until earlier this year was the Democratic National Committee’s director of technology in charge of the party’s voter files, believes Themis could do for the Kochs what Catalyst helped do for the Democrats.

    “This increases the Koch brothers’ reach. It will allow them to become even greater co-ordinators than they are already – with this resource they become a natural centre of gravity for conservatives,” Hendler said.
    { … }

    By dint of the secrecy surrounding the project, it is not known which bodies have signed up for the database. But it is a reasonable guess that groups that are highly influential within the tea party movement such as Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, as well as right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, will be among the participants. Between them, they have tentacles that extend to millions of voters.

    Lee Fang, a blogger at the Center for American Progress, thinks the combination of the Kochs’ capital and their new voter files could have an immense impact in 2012. “This will be the first major election where most of the data and the organising will be done outside the party nexus. The Kochs have the potential to outspend and out-perform the Republican party and even the successful Republican candidate.”

    Posted by R. Wilson | January 1, 2012, 8:54 pm
  8. And then there were three:

    TPM
    Koch Brothers Battle For Control Of Cato Institute
    Nick R. Martin March 1, 2012, 1:17 PM

    Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch launched a legal battle Wednesday over control of the Cato Institute, the influential libertarian think tank one of them helped found nearly 40 years ago.

    The Kochs filed a lawsuit in Kansas, where the institute was created, demanding that the widow of its longtime chairman give back his shares of the nonprofit company.

    In a copy of the lawsuit [PDF] posted online by Politico, the Kochs say they believe the widow of former chairman William Niskanen, who died in October, is barred from hanging onto his shares based on an agreement Niskanen signed when he joined the think tank in 1985.

    The suit provides a look behind the scenes of the influential organization as well as the lives of its wealthy leaders.

    Originally founded in 1974 as the Charles Koch Foundation, the Cato Institute settled on its current name two years later.

    In recent years, the only four people to own shares of the organization were the Koch brothers, Niskanen and co-founder Edward Crane III. Each had 25 percent voting interest, according to the suit.

    The lawsuit said all the shareholders signed agreements pledging not to give or sell their shares to anyone else before first offering them to the Cato Institute. The brothers want the Kansas judge to force Washburn, who is the representative of her late husband’s will, to offer his shares to the Institute so they can purchase them back from her.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 1, 2012, 11:46 am
  9. It’s never too late to ask overdue questions:

    The New Yorker
    March 5, 2012
    Kochs vs. Cato, Round Two
    Posted by Jane Mayer

    It’s really interesting to watch libertarians’ rising sense of disbelief and outrage over the Koch brothers’ attempt to take over the Cato Institute, the most prominent and respected libertarian think tank in the country. Suddenly, many former defenders of the Kochs are beginning to question the intellectual integrity and political purity of their benefactors. In one sense, it seems a petty and personal squabble within a small political faction. But from another standpoint, the stakes are much higher, putting to the test the lingering question of whether libertarianism is in fact a non-partisan intellectual movement, as its adherents insist, or just a fancy-sounding name for a subset of the Republican Party, aimed at enhancing the wealth and power of its deep-pocketed donors.

    Clearly, many libertarians who have long been funded by the Kochs genuinely believe that their cause is about promoting individual liberty and peace by reducing the role of the government—in other words, lofty, laudable goals, not just some hackish partisan political agenda. Suddenly, however, they are confronted with the news that the Koch brothers, who control half the seats on Cato’s board, have, as the Cato Chairman Bob Levy told the Washington Post, been choosing “Koch operatives,” their goal being to align the institute more closely with the Republican Party.

    Indeed, several eye-opening insider accounts appeared over the weekend, suggesting that what Charles Koch, the C.E.O. of Koch Industries, essentially wants is to transform Cato into an “ammo” shop, manufacturing whatever ordnance it takes stop President Obama from getting re-elected next November. In a fascinating post appearing at the Volokh Conspiracy, Jerry Taylor, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, writes about a meeting last November between, on one side, David Koch and several Koch functionaries, and, on the other, Cato Chairman Bob Levy:

    They told Bob that they intended to use their board majority to remove Ed Crane from Cato and transform our Institute into an intellectual ammo-shop for Americans for Prosperity and other allied (presumably, Koch-controlled) organizations.

    Americans for Prosperity, co-founded and heavily funded by David Koch, is an ostensibly non-partisan advocacy group, but, according to Taylor, the Koch faction’s complaint about Cato was that he “wasn’t doing enough to defeat President Obama in November and that we weren’t working closely enough with grass roots activists like those at AFP.”

    As proof that the Kochs are more interested in achieving Republican victory than in promoting libertarianism, Taylor goes on to examine their candidates for Cato’s board, noting that the roster includes individuals who have derided libertarians, opposed gay rights, and supported former President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, in defiance of libertarian principles. In summary, Taylor declares that the Kochs’ insistence that they are merely insuring that Cato hews to its principles, is, in a word, “dishonest.”

    And Jonathan Blanks, a researcher at Cato, wrote a critical post of his own about the situation in which he said, “Just because we support legalized prostitution doesn’t mean we want to live it.”

    The wake-up call to the libertarian movement concerning its benefactors’ partisan political ambitions seems a bit overdue to some of those who have been watching closely during the past few years. As Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist who was drummed out of the National Center for Policy Analysis for criticizing President Bush, told me yesterday, “This is not all together surprising. It happened at the American Enterprise Institute to David Frum. Staying on the good side of the Republican Party was more important than maintaining its integrity. The conservative right-wing Republicans who fund all these places now see they can serve their own agenda of paying no taxes, and screwing the hell out of the poor. They’ve drunk their own Kool-Aid on Obama. They see the guillotine around the corner, and they want to do anything they can to stop it.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 7, 2012, 8:46 am
  10. eek! Something sleazy and filthy is emerging from the shadows! It’s a vampire!

    Oh wait, no, false alarm. It’s just David Koch.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 4, 2012, 11:01 pm
  11. The Koch brothers want you all to know that they’re now super concerned with corporate welfare. If you haven’t heard from them about their concerns yet, don’t worry. You will:

    The Kochs’ quest to save America
    By Bill Wilson and Roy Wenzl
    Wichita Eagle
    Posted on Sat, Oct. 13, 2012 06:00 PM

    WICHITA, Kansas — In January 2009, just days after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Charles and David Koch met in their company headquarters in Wichita with their longtime political strategist, Rich Fink.

    The country was headed toward bankruptcy, they agreed. Fink told them bluntly that Obama’s administration represented the worst of what Charles and David fear most: a bloated, regulation-heavy, free-spending government that could plunge the country into another deep recession. That day, Fink advised two of the richest men in the nation that it would be the fight of their lives to stop the government spending spree and to change the course of the country, starting with the 2012 election.

    “If we are going to do this, we should do it right or not at all,” Fink, 61, recalled telling the brothers. “But if we don’t do it right or if we don’t do it at all, we will be insignificant and we will just waste a lot of time and I would rather play golf. “And if we do it right, then it is going to get very, very ugly.”

    Note that this isn’t that other notorious secret US far-right elite meeting that took place right after Obama’s 2009 inauguration where GOP heavyweights planned their upcoming four year “insurgency”(their words). That meeting happened the night of the inauguaration. The Koch’s meeting – where they planned to “get very very ugly” – happened a few day later.

    Continuing…


    Three and a half years later, Obama accused the Koch brothers of engineering “a corporate takeover of our democracy.”

    The brothers’ political spending and the network of conservative political organizations and think tanks they fund have sparked protests.

    Two years of condemnations and criticism prompted Charles Koch to break his silence about politics. In his most extensive interview in 15 years, Charles Koch, along with his family and friends, talked about why he wants to defeat Obama and elect members of Congress who will stop what he calls catastrophic overspending.

    Government recklessness threatens the country and his business, he said.

    The Kochs say the price for their political involvement has been high: Death threats, cyberattacks on their business, hundreds of news stories criticizing them, calls for boycotts of the company’s consumer goods, and what the brothers see as ongoing and unjustified public attacks from the Obama administration.
    corporate and agricultural subsidies.

    The country must deal with corporate welfare, which they say exceeds $350 billion a year, before it can rein in spending on Social Security and Medicare, Fink said.nn

    “How is any American going to feel good about reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security when there is so much cronyism going on with these companies, and businessmen are making off with so many tax dollars?” Fink asked.

    The brothers say they are taking risks by speaking out. Mark Holden, Koch Industries’ senior vice president and general counsel, said there has been a progression of attacks and lies about the company since Obama’s election, including:

    Summer 2010: Austan Goolsbee, then Obama’s chief economic adviser, commented on Koch Industries’ tax status during a briefing with reporters in Washington, accusing the company of not paying taxes.

    Under federal law, it’s a crime to improperly access or disclose confidential tax information, according to Holden, who suspects the administration was trying to intimidate them because of their political views.

    “It was false and malicious, too,” Holden said. “We pay a lot of taxes.”

    May 2012: Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said in a video that the campaign is “going to call their BS,” referencing the Kochs.

    “Really?” Holden said. “If my kids said that to me, they’d be going to their room. This is the deputy campaign manager? This is the discourse in this country?”
    l
    May 2012: David Axelrod, Obama’s senior political consultant, told the media in a telephone conference that Mitt Romney is being aided by “the (political strategist) Karl (Rove) and Koch brothers’ contract killers in super PAC land,” according to news accounts.

    “And when you have Axelrod, one of (Obama’s) top campaign officials, saying we are contract killers — I mean, I don’t know how somebody in the administration can say that about a private citizen,” said Charles Koch. “The attacks are unbelievable.”

    “It’s frightening because you don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said. “They have tremendous power. They can destroy just about anybody, whether you are totally innocent or not.”

    We can all be sure that two of the top power mongers in the nation are really terrified of Obama. They are helpless citizens that don’t control a vast private global business empire and propaganda/thinktank network. And they certainly don’t control the vigilante justice squad that recently kidnapped a senior Koch Industries executive that they suspected of corruption. Nope

    Skipping down…

    Jacobs, the Minnesota political scientist, calls the Kochs the powerbrokers of the Republican Party, but warns that if Romney loses they may be ostracized.

    The American business community, Jacobs said, is almost certain to take a dim view of the Kochs’ move against corporate subsidies.

    “Once you get into the other things businesses rely upon — subsidies and tax exemptions — there’s a tension between the Koch brothers and mainstream business that hasn’t played itself out yet.”

    The Kochs realize as they prepare for their campaign to end corporate subsidies that they are about to become even more unpopular with political parties and special-interest groups that depend on government.

    But throughout the history of the world there have been small groups of people who have changed society, Fink said.

    They aren’t backing down.

    “We believe America is at a tipping point,” Fink said. “That with our debt, with our government spending, if you look at the economics of it, it is totally unsustainable. … We are in the process of destroying America, of destroying the American dream. We believe just like the … American revolutionaries did, there is going to be a small group of people who stand up and fight to save the country. Otherwise we have lost it.”

    Yes, yes, the Koch brothers are just like the American revolutionaries. A couple of modern day George John Washington Galts, those two. Granted, they didn’t invent Galt’s electrostatic motor, but their dad, Fred, made his fortune improving the process of “cracking” crude oil (and then sold the technology to Stalin after the US oil barons used buried Fred in fraudulent patent infringement lawsuits to lock Fred out of the US markets at the height of the deregulatory fever of the roaring ’20’s. Pesky regulations!). So at least Fred totally gets partial-Galt credit. Fred’s kids? Eh…. Stll, with a pair of Koch Industries muppets possibly about to take the White House if everything goes well for them on election day, it’s understandable that our oligarchs might feel that they’ll be able to convince the American public to “touch the cheeseone last time. That old moldy piece of cheese that never completely degrades but just sits there getting increasingly stale.

    Now the cheese will aquire a new mold patch with an faux-anti-corporate-welfare greenish hue. Growing greener and moldier. Until it inevitably washes away and the unfortunate survivors of the cheese-touch era can finally move on.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 20, 2012, 5:45 pm
  12. Classical Fascism:
    Talk host Michael Savage calls for “Nationalist Party”

    “During an interview on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on Sunday, conservative radio host Michael Savage said that the United States needs a third, nationalist party.

    “There is no Republican Party,” he said in remarks first carried by the WND political news site. “It’s an appendage of the Democrat machine, as we’ve all just seen.”

    Savage criticized the current leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, calling Speaker John Boehner “drunk” and President Obama a “quasi-pseudo-crypto Marxist,” according to BuzzFeed.
    During the interview, Savage pointed to the tea party as a candidate should there be a “charismatic leader” as well as party restructuring.
    (snip)
    “I could do it if I was 20 years younger. I would do it right now. But I’m not 20 years younger and I don’t have 20 years left in me. This is going to require enormous resource and enormous energy,” he told Aaron Klein.

    However, he did accept the role as an educator through his show, teaching listeners what nationalism is really about, WND reports.

    “Nationalism is the only thing that can save America, and a new nationalist party that has a very strict firewall that does not permit the radical fringe of racism,” he said. “Borders, language, culture – it defines every nation on the planet, the flag, the language, the borders. And what is it the internationalists do? They want to dissolve the borders, they want to introduce multiculturalism, they want to introduce a Tower of Babel of languages.”

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/michael-savage-nationalist-third/2013/01/07/id/470352
    —————————-

    Angry old bastard.
    I’m sure the Confederacy would go for it, splitting the Republican vote.
    Still, unnerving at the least…

    “However, he did accept the role as an educator through his show, teaching listeners what nationalism is really about”

    Whoa…

    Posted by Swamp | January 9, 2013, 9:29 am
  13. Mussolini much?

    PolicyMic
    Republican Steve Lavin Wants to Give Corporations the Right to Vote

    Areej Elahi-Siddiqui
    2/24/2013

    The United States has seen the right to vote be extended from strictly land-owning white males to minorities of all kinds and all women over time — albeit not without a fight. Now it seems if Montana Representative Steve Lavin gets his way, corporations will also have the right to vote.

    This shouldn’t fully come as a surprise; GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney did say a while ago that “corporations are people.” However, the fact that a lawmaker has actually introduced a bill that would give corporations the right to vote is a little unsettling.

    The bill, which luckily has been tabled for now, holds:

    “Provision for vote by corporate property owner. (1) Subject to subsection (2), if a firm, partnership, company, or corporation owns real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote in a municipal election as provided in [section 1].

    (2) The individual who is designated to vote by the entity is subject to the provisions of [section 1] and shall also provide to the election administrator documentation of the entity’s registration with the secretary of state under 35-1-217 and proof of the individual’s designation to vote on behalf of the entity.”

    Section 3 continues to define real property as: “means lands, structures, buildings, and interests in land, including lands under water and riparian rights, and all things and rights usually included within the term “real property,” including not only fee simple absolute but also all lesser interests, such as easements, rights-of-way, uses, leases, licenses, and all other incorporeal hereditaments and every estate, interest, or right, legal or equitable, pertaining to real property.”

    In other words, being a non-resident property owner of just about anything will grant you the right to vote in Kalispell, Montana’s city council election via a mail ballot. The implication? This means that owners of corporations such as Walmart now may legally have a say in the happenings of a small town in Montana.

    There are certain restrictions in the bill on these corporate rights. For example, the corporation or non-resident property owner would not be allowed to vote in school elections. As of now, the bill would only pertain to municipal elections; but if something such as this actually passes, such measures could potentially transpire to state and federal levels, a scary thought in itself.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 25, 2013, 2:42 pm
  14. Texas tea party leader promotes Fascist Party as ‘pro-Constitution, pro-America’
    By David Edwards

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/19/texas-tea-party-leader-promotes-fascist-party-as-pro-constitution-pro-america/

    A tea party leader in Texas is defending his promotion of the American Fascist Party as something he thought was “pro-Constitution, pro-America.”

    James Ives, who was listed as the president of the Greater Fort Bend County Tea Party in 2011, confirmed to The Texas Tribune on Monday that he had made a promotional video for the American Fascist Party and advocated tea party principles on a Fascist Party message board.

    In the video, a man who looks like Ives sits in front of a Fascist Party logo wearing a uniform with yellow shoulder patches. Another photo shows a uniformed man sitting in front of a fascist cross. The blog that inspired Norwegian mass shooter Anders Behring Breivik describes fascist solar crosses as “symbolic representations buried deep in the regions of the brain where the primal responses to stimuli are rage, awe, and fear.”

    But Ives says that he was simply curious when he came to the Fascist Party as an “amateur political science student and frustrated novelist” in the early 2000s.

    “From my point of view, it was all pro-Constitution, pro-America,” Ives explained to the Tribune. “I never did anything… There really weren’t enough people involved to be a gathering, let alone a rally. It was basically a scattering of people across the continent just complaining.”

    The tea party leader claimed that he his participation in the Fascist Party was part of an effort to write a novel about what he thought was a cabal. But instead of writing that novel, Ives wrote on the message board about how building the Fascist Party in America was “our spirit, our calling.”

    “It will be our greatest challenge, and our sweetest victory, to finally surpass this dark menace, this numbing threat from the shadows, and replace it with the pure sunbeam that is our Fascist Faith, our Fascist Truth,” Ives wrote.

    Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick pledged not to host Ives on his radio show in the future if the links to the Fascist Party proved to be true.

    Patrick called the tea party leader’s involvement with the fascist movement “very disturbing, no matter how far in the past it is.” The state senator insisted that Ives had “never been on our payroll, never been an employee.”

    (Watch this video from James Ives, uploaded in 2006.)

    ————-

    There is indeed a video with the article, but it’s a real hack job. Some symbols and pictures of the guy dressed up as a fascist leader with cheesy bubble-gum music in the background.
    I guess “Serpents” need to learn to crawl before they can “Walk”.

    Posted by Swamp | March 19, 2013, 7:44 am
  15. It looks like the Koch brothers are expanding their personal “free-speech” empires to include a media empire. Considering that Citizens United made it certain that the dynamic duo would be buying up massive volumes of media ad space for years to come, the Koch’s latest attempt at democratic civil indecency is probably a decent investment:

    The New York Times
    Conservative Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers

    By AMY CHOZICK
    Published: April 20, 2013

    Three years ago, Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of libertarian causes, held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo. They laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes.

    he first two pieces of the strategy — educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics — were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media.

    Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

    By early May, the Tribune Company is expected to send financial data to serious suitors in what will be among the largest sales of newspapers by circulation in the country. Koch Industries is among those interested, said several people with direct knowledge of the sale who spoke on the condition they not be named. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31 and has hired JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its print properties.

    The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion.

    Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.

    One person who attended the Aspen seminar who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the strategy as follows: “It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ ”

    “It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?’ ”

    Guests at the Aspen seminar included Philip F. Anschutz, the Republican oil mogul who owns the companies that publish The Washington Examiner, The Oklahoman and The Weekly Standard, and the hedge fund executive Paul E. Singer, who sits on the board of the political magazine Commentary. Attendees were asked not to discuss details about the seminar with the press.

    A person who has attended other Koch Industries seminars, which have taken place since 2003, says Charles and David Koch have never said they want to take over newspapers or other large media outlets, but they often say “they see the conservative voice as not being well represented.” The Kochs plan to host another conference at the end of the month, in Palm Springs, Calif.

    At this early stage, the thinking inside the Tribune Company, the people close to the deal said, is that Koch Industries could prove the most appealing buyer. Others interested, including a group of wealthy Los Angeles residents led by the billionaire Eli Broad and Ronald W. Burkle, both prominent Democratic donors, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, would prefer to buy only The Los Angeles Times.

    The Tribune Company has signaled it prefers to sell all eight papers and their back-office operations as a bundle. (Tribune, a $7 billion media company that also owns 23 television stations, could also decide to keep the papers if they do not attract a high enough offer.)

    One person who has previously advised Koch Industries said the Tribune Company papers were considered an investment opportunity, and were viewed as entirely separate from Charles and David Kochs’ lifelong mission to shrink the size of government.

    Seton Motley, president of Less Government, an organization devoted to shrinking the role of the government, said the 2012 presidential election reinforced the view that conservatives needed a broader media presence.

    “A running joke among conservatives as we watched the G.O.P. establishment spend $500 million on ineffectual TV ads is ‘Why don’t you just buy NBC?’ ” Mr. Motley said. “It’s good the Kochs are talking about fighting fire with a little fire.”

    Koch Industries has for years felt the mainstream media unfairly covered the company and its founding family because of its political beliefs. KochFacts.com, a Web site run by the company, disputes perceived press inaccuracies. The site, which asserts liberal bias in the news media, has published private e-mail conversations between company press officers and journalists, including the Politico reporter Kenneth P. Vogel and editors at The New Yorker in response to an article about the Kochs by Jane Mayer.

    “So far, they haven’t seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about the role of the free press,” Ms. Mayer said in an e-mail, “but hopefully, if they become newspaper publishers, they’ll embrace it with a bit more enthusiasm.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 21, 2013, 7:33 pm
  16. David Koch can’t figure out why people think he’s a greedy monster so he’s starting a public relations campaign focused on promoting ideas that uplift the poor. Ideas like getting rid of the minimum wage:

    Charles Koch launching Wichita campaign about economic freedom, government overreach

    By Roy Wenzl
    The Wichita Eagle

    Published Tuesday, July 9, 2013, at 9:05 p.m.
    Updated Wednesday, July 10, 2013, at 11 a.m

    Charles Koch, who runs Koch Industries and contributes to political groups and campaigns, said he will launch a new campaign on Wednesday to laud economic freedom and warn the public about government overreach.

    He knows this means he will again draw fire from political critics. His memory of the 2012 political campaign is still fresh. People said he tried to buy elections, and he recalls critics calling him names.

    “Evil Koch brother,” he said. “Greedy and stuff.”

    In that campaign, conducted mostly out of the limelight, he spent millions (he has not said how much) helping 2012 candidates oppose President Obama and support conservative and libertarian economic policies.

    The effort beginning this week will cost the Charles Koch Foundation about $200,000 and run as a media campaign in Wichita for four weeks, he said. If people like it, he said, he might expand it to other cities.

    The point of it, Koch said, is that he believes prosperity grows where economic freedom is greatest, where government intervention in business affairs is kept to a minimum. He hopes his ideas will help the country grow, he said. In his interview he emphasized several times that he believes his ideas on economics will help disadvantaged people. Government regulations – including the minimum wage law – tend to hold everyone back, he said.

    “We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country, rather than saying ‘Oh, we’re just fine now.’ We’re not saying that at all. What we’re saying is, we need to analyze all these additional policies, these subsidies, this cronyism, this avalanche of regulations, all these things that are creating a culture of dependency. And like permitting, to start a business, in many cities, to drive a taxicab, to become a hairdresser. Anything that people with limited capital can do to raise themselves up, they keep throwing obstacles in their way. And so we’ve got to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor.”

    Reactions to strategy

    Some who have followed the Koch brothers’ rise to political power were intrigued when told about the campaign. Larry Jacobs, a professor of politics at the University of Minnesota, said this may signal that one of America’s more powerful and influential men has conceived of a new way to get his ideas across.

    “I actually find that what he’s done in stepping outside his cocoon, taking the risk of talking to you … to be personally poignant,” Jacobs said. “You almost get the feeling that he feels a frustration that he’s being misunderstood as a kind of a threat to America, a greedy threat, and that he feels like he’s unfairly demagogued. He wants his message to resonate, so he’s now offering a positive agenda that applies to all of America.”

    Many of Koch’s ideas about government regulations are contentious and “probably won’t go anywhere,” Jacobs said, because many people believe that some regulations give the poor and disenfranchised a “minimum floor” of protection.

    “But I do understand his frustration,” Jacobs said. “It’s really quite striking, you get a sense of a guy who feels mystified as to why he’s become demonized to some extent, as someone selfish, out for himself. There is a kind of caricature of the Koch brothers – obviously the Democrats and liberals do a lot of fundraising based on demonizing him.

    Another political observer who believes this signals a new strategy by Koch is Chapman Rackaway, former GOP political consultant and a professor of political science at Fort Hays State University.

    “For a long time now, the Koch brothers preferred to act very quietly, and you had to be really in the game to know who they were funding, who they were allied with what their motivations were,” Rackaway said. “They have seemed to be incredibly private people. But the thing about politics is, it forces people into the public eye. In their case, they were turned into a kind of shadowy bogeyman. So it looks like that may be some of the motivation here, that we’re getting dragged in, so we might as well use the public exposure as leverage for our ideas.”

    Campaign’s points

    Koch doesn’t directly criticize Obama in this campaign and wants instead to make several points: 1. Countries with the most economic freedom are the countries with by far the most wealth and 2. One follows the other. Even the poor in the free countries fare better than others, Koch said.

    The video, available on YouTube, starts by saying that if you earn more than $34,000, “you are one of the wealthiest 1 percent in the world.” Koch, one of the richest men in the world, acknowledged that assertion might be pounced upon.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2013, 8:57 pm
  17. @Pterrafractyl–

    With regard to the Paul family, father and son, and the Koch family, NEVER lose sight of the fact that these are the interests that loom large in the wings of Fast Eddie Snowden’s One Man Band.

    The notion that the little scumbag is somehow interested in human rights and the welfare of American citizens is a joke.

    Don’t expect the so-called human rights groups dancing to the tune of Eddie the Friendly Spook to latch on to the salient realities, however.

    Don’t expect the so-called progressive forces to reach clarity on this, either.

    “Obama’s a Neocon!”, they shriek.

    One of the interesting things about that dynamic is the fact that so many of those who profess to be “for the people” end up siding (in some cases unintentionally) with the most brutally inhuman elements.

    GOP slashes unemployment benefits to those who have lost work because of the depression they deliberately engineered under Dubya (see FTR #412, “The Engineer Intends to Wreck the Train.”)

    GOP slashes food stamps and medicaid, thereby instituting “Clausewitzian economics” on those affected. “War (or perhaps extermination) by other means.”

    Of course, the so-called progressive forces will NEVER come to terms with the realities concerning the assassinations of JFK, MLK, RFK or the Nazification of the GOP, the reality of AIDS or the other material covered here.

    These are also the same creatures that failed to come to terms with Operation Green Quest, which should have put the GOP bigwigs, including Norquist and Rove down in Guantanamo as enemy combatants.

    Fun,fun, fun!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | July 12, 2013, 2:31 pm
  18. Fred Koch: Oil Man Against Communism. And Civil Rights:

    Political Research Associates
    The John Birch Society’s Anti-Civil Rights Campaign of the 1960s, and Its Relevance Today
    By Rachel Tabachnick, on January 21, 2014

    Founded in 1958, the John Birch Society (JBS) fiercely opposed the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s and 1970s. Decades later, the rise of the Tea Party and the ongoing “Ron Paul Revolution” have helped the JBS make a comeback as it attracts young people by re-branding itself as “libertarian.” The organization is a significant force behind promoting the nullification of federal laws, as described in the most recent issue of The Public Eye. The JBS has also helped provide fodder for accusations that President Obama, considered by most Democrats to have governed as a centrist, is a Marxist.

    While many Americans have been puzzled by the use of the term “anti-colonialist” within the context of such accusations, author Claire Conner has helped illuminate the historical and rhetorical linkages among the JBS, opposition to civil rights, anti-Communism, and accusations of anti-colonialism. Her recent book, Wrapped in the Flag, is an autobiographical account of growing up as the daughter of two of the organization’s earliest and most dedicated members. (See an interview with Conner by Theo Anderson, editor of The Public Eye.) Conner’s descriptions of the JBS’ opposition to the Civil Rights Movement are further supported by many primary sources, including the JBS’ own media campaigns. Examples include pamphlets republished as advertisements in newspapers in the mid-1960s, in which the Civil Rights Movement is described as a communist conspiracy to form a “Negro Soviet Republic,” as well as a pamphlet written by a member of the JBS National Council most famously known as the father of the Koch brothers. Both publications are described below:

    “What’s Wrong with Civil Rights?”

    The first example of the JBS campaign to oppose the Civil Rights Movement is an advertisement in the October 31, 1965 issue of the Palm Beach Post titled, “The John Birch Society Asks: What’s Wrong With Civil Rights?

    The half-page advertisement begins with the statement that nothing is wrong with civil rights, just with the Civil Rights Movement. According to the JBS, it constituted a communist plot to build a “Negro Soviet Republic” in the United States. The “average American Negro,” according to the JBS in 1965, “has complete freedom of religion, freedom of movement, and freedom to run his own life as he pleases.” Moreover, “The pursuit of happiness enjoyed by the average American Negro has been far superior to that of any race or any people among at least ninety percent of the earth’s population.”

    The ad continues, “So what is all the complaining about?” The problem, according to the JBS, is that communist agitators are beginning to see the results from “patiently building up to this present stage for more than forty years.” The reader is informed that this Soviet strategy in the U.S. is a continuation of anti-colonialism fermented by communists in Africa and Asia and conducted by those who have no interest in civil rights. According to the John Birch Society, both the push for civil rights in the U.S. and anti-colonialist activism in Africa and Asia are a communist plot to destroy all that is good and holy—namely, capitalism.

    Across the bottom of the half-page ad is marketing of other JBS pamplets and books through American Opinion publishing, including It’s Very Simple and New York: Communist Terror in the Streets, both by Alan Stang. Stang published many works through the John Birch Society’s American Media, and also wrote widely on Christian Reconstructionism. Stang was a contributor to the Gary North-edited The Theology of Christian Resistance, one of many examples of the overlap between the JBS and theocratic Christian Reconstructionism.

    Stang passed away in 2009 and was eulogized in the pages of the JBS’ New American magazine. Yet other 1960s-era JBS leaders are again leading the charge in a contemporary state’s rights projects: nullification. Leaders who were involved with the organization in the 1960s include its current president, John McManus. McManus was the surprise guest speaker at the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic, the counter-rally to the Republican National Convention in 2008. In his remarks, he told the audience, “If you like Ron Paul, you’re going to love the John Birch Society.”

    A Businessman Looks at Communism

    Published by the Farmville Herald (VA) in 1963, A Businessman Looks at Communism was written by Fred Koch and provides an account of his work in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The pamphlet provided support for JBS’ claim to insider knowledge of the communist agenda.

    Page sixteen of the pamphlet sums up Koch’s attitude about labor unions. “Labor Unions have long been a Communist goal,” Koch asserts. “The effort is frequently made to have the worker do as little as possible for the money he receives. This practice alone can destroy our country.”

    On page 25, Koch explains his fear of the Civil Rights Movement: “You may be sure the Communists are fishing furiously in the troubled waters of integration on both sides. The Communists are not interested in the aspirations of the negro except as a means to stir up racial hatred … The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America.”

    Koch continues, “I have been told by the ex-Communists that the Communist Party has been influential in changing the relief laws of New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, and Chicago to make it attractive for rural Southern Negroes and Puerto Ricans to come to those cities. In the first place, the Communist Party intends to use the votes of these people to swing the balance in these populous states; secondly, when the Party is ready to take over these cities it will use the colored people by getting a vicious race war started.”

    This 1963 pamphlet was celebrated in the pages of The New American magazine in 2010, in an article titled, “Fred Koch: Oil Man Against Communism,” and closing with these words about Koch: “He would probably be dismayed, however, that the United States is still enmeshed in the United Nations, and that she has traveled very far down the road to socialist serfdom. He would no doubt perceive the irony that, despite the demise of the Bolsheviks, their program for America, as a wispy little revolutionary explained it to him so long ago, is still very much in force.”

    This and other JBS media provide a window into the underlying foundations of the worldview that has spread throughout the Tea Party Movement and much of the Right.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 30, 2014, 2:05 pm
  19. Oh my. Check out Rich Lowry’s recent justification for opening the campaign-finance floodgates in US politics: Campaign finance restrictions are analogous to censoring Thomas Paine:

    Politico
    The First Amendment Is Such a Nuisance

    By RICH LOWRY

    April 02, 2014

    Every time the Supreme Court rules in favor of the First Amendment in a campaign-finance case, the left recoils in disgust.

    The court’s 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC is the latest occasion for the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. The court struck down the limit on the aggregate amount a donor can give to candidates and political party committees, an arbitrary restriction it ruled incompatible with First Amendment protections for political expression.

    In unison, the left pronounced itself outraged. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — who had $11 million in his campaign treasury as of December 2013 — despite being a senator for life, called the decision “another step on the road to ruination.”

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has enough of a fundraising surplus that he was able to buy tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry for his donors from his granddaughter, resorted to a thunderous non sequitur in denouncing the decision: “All it does is take away people’s rights because, as you know, the Koch brothers are trying to buy America.”

    The First Amendment is for strippers, flag burners, pornographers, funeral protesters and neo-Nazis, but not for people trying to give money to political parties or candidates. They are a suspect class, marked out as a threat to democracy because they want to participate in democracy.

    In his decision for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that contributing to a candidate is political participation just like volunteering for a campaign or urging others to vote. As such, it is an exercise of the right to political speech and association.

    “Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some,” Roberts writes, “but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects.”

    The critics of the decision object to it partly on egalitarian grounds: Very few donors have the resources to contribute enough to bump up against the aggregate limits, therefore the decision is “unfair.” It gives disproportionate influence to a few people.

    A free political system always has such disparities, though. Should Thomas Paine have been silenced, since his incredible rhetorical powers made him so much more influential than other pamphleteers at the time, let alone ordinary people? Should The New York Times be shuttered since it exercises more power over the political process than almost anyone else in New York?

    That’s right, there’s no reason to fear that the Kochtopus’s embrace might strangle the meaningful debate democracy needs to live. It’s just Common Sense.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 18, 2014, 2:15 pm
  20. Well here’s a bit of good news: Oklahoma passed a new energy bill and it sounds like it’s designed to promote alternative energy sources. That’s unexpected:

    Okla. governor signs energy measure, other bills
    Posted: Apr 21, 2014 6:40 PM CST Updated: Apr 21, 2014 6:40 PM CST

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation that encourages the development of traditional fuels as well as alternative forms of energy.

    The energy measure was among more than 30 bills Fallin signed Monday. Fallin issued an executive order to accompany her signing of the bill that says its intent is to protect Oklahoma consumers and encourage all forms of energy use.

    The bill was developed in conjunction with the Oklahoma First Energy Plan, which promotes traditional fossil fuels like oil and natural gas as well as alternative forms of energy that include wind- and solar-generated power.

    The order says about 350 individuals and organizations rely on distributed generation produced by small wind turbines or solar power generators, a number that’s expected to grow.

    Well that sure sounds helpful. So how is this bill going to encourage alternative energy source? Ah. It’s going to force people to pay a fee for the right to sell electricity generated by solar panels to the utility company. Yes, people in Oklahoma with solar panels that have extra power that can be sold back to the grid are going to have to pay those utilities for that “privilege”:

    DigitalJournal
    Op-Ed: ALEC and the Koch brothers fight solar energy with surcharges

    By Justin King
    4/21/2014

    Citizens across the U.S. are attempting to break free of the fossil fuel industry and do what state and federal governments are unwilling to do by installing solar panels. They now face a backlash from politicians and the energy companies they back.

    Oklahoma’s House passed a bill last week that would allow those who generate their own energy to be charged by electric companies. The bill received almost no debate, and analysts expect Governor Mary Fallin to sign the bill into law. Incidentally, Fallin has taken in over $26,000 from the energy and natural resource sector in campaign contributions. The amount of the surcharge that was authorized by the bill has not yet been determined. Arizona companies were seeking a $50 surcharge recently.

    The stated reason to levy a penalty on those who are generating their own electricity is a convoluted argument involving the solar panel owners using the infrastructure of the electricity companies. This is true, solar panel owners do use the infrastructure. The key part that is left out of that reasoning is that solar panel owners use it to deliver excess solar energy to the grid so the company can sell it to other consumers. So the use of the infrastructure benefits the electric company. This energy is generated during peak use daytime hours when demand is highest. Solar panel owners, in essence, sell electricity back to the company through a policy known as net metering.

    In a statement about Oklahoma’s bill, Distributed Wind Energy Association president Mike Bergey said

    “The truly ironic thing is that net metering, a standard policy in 42 states, saves utility administration costs and, because so little small wind and solar capacity is installed in Oklahoma, implementing SB 1456 through the Corporation Commission would cost ratepayers and taxpayers $5 for every $1 that it could theoretically save the utility.”

    Once again taxpayers end up paying extra to give big business a break as the government helps enforce a monopoly. The fight against net metering is led by environmentalists’ worst nightmares. The deep pockets of the infamous Koch brothers have backed several attacks on the policy, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is at the forefront of the fight against net metering.

    In what should come as no surprise, ALEC awarded Fallin with their highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson freedom award. The award is reportedly

    “given annually to a current or former public official who has established an exemplary record of advancing the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty as a nationally recognized leader.”

    In light of the Fallin’s expected actions, the synopsis of the award seems almost sarcastic. She is advancing free markets by helping to protect the monopoly of the energy companies and the fossil fuel suppliers backing them. An amazing champion of limited government would certainly authorize a company to charge a person for not using their product. She is definitely going to protect the individual liberty of people by making sure they are penalized for what they do on their own land.

    Of course, one couldn’t expect much less from the recipient of an award given by an organization sourcewatch.org describes as

    “a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills.”

    Energy companies, and the fossil fuel magnates that back them, have had their sights set on discouraging rooftop solar panels since at least last year, when an industry study referred to the devices as “the largest near-term threat” to the current business model.

    Big energy supporters have even gone as far as taking people to court and attempting to force them to hook their homes up to the electrical grid. After a woman in Florida discussed her lifestyle of living off the grid, she was visited by a government officer who attempted to evict her because she wasn’t using state-sanctioned electric and water utilities.

    Ah, yes, the Koch brothers are behind this. We should probably have expected that by now:

    Los Angeles Times
    Conservative heavyweights have solar industry in their sights
    The Koch brothers and large utilities have allied to reverse state policies that favor renewable energy. Environmentalists are pushing back, but the fight is spreading and intensifying.

    By Evan Halper

    April 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

    WASHINGTON — The political attack ad that ran recently in Arizona had some familiar hallmarks of the genre, including a greedy villain who hogged sweets for himself and made children cry.

    But the bad guy, in this case, wasn’t a fat-cat lobbyist or someone’s political opponent.

    He was a solar-energy consumer.

    Solar, once almost universally regarded as a virtuous, if perhaps over-hyped, energy alternative, has now grown big enough to have enemies.

    The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation’s largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.

    Alarmed environmentalists and their allies in the solar industry have fought back, battling the other side to a draw so far. Both sides say the fight is growing more intense as new states, including Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, enter the fray.

    At the nub of the dispute are two policies found in dozens of states. One requires utilities to get a certain share of power from renewable sources. The other, known as net metering, guarantees homeowners or businesses with solar panels on their roofs the right to sell any excess electricity back into the power grid at attractive rates.

    Net metering forms the linchpin of the solar-energy business model. Without it, firms say, solar power would be prohibitively expensive.

    The power industry argues that net metering provides an unfair advantage to solar consumers, who don’t pay to maintain the power grid although they draw money from it and rely on it for backup on cloudy days. The more people produce their own electricity through solar, the fewer are left being billed for the transmission lines, substations and computer systems that make up the grid, industry officials say.

    “If you are using the grid and benefiting from the grid, you should pay for it,” said David Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, the advocacy arm for the industry. “If you don’t, other customers have to absorb those costs.”

    The institute has warned power companies that profits could erode catastrophically if current policies and market trends continue. If electricity companies delay in taking political action, the group warned in a report, “it may be too late to repair the utility business model.”

    The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.

    “State governments are starting to wake up,” Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources.

    “These green energy mandates are bad policy,” said Hanson, adding that the group was hopeful Kansas would be the first of many dominoes to fall.

    The arguments over who benefits from net metering, meanwhile, are hotly disputed. Some studies, including one published recently by regulators in Vermont, conclude that solar customers bring enough benefits to a regional power supply to fully defray the cost of the incentive.

    Utilities deny that and are spending large sums to greatly scale back the policy.

    In Arizona, a major utility and a tangle of secret donors and operatives with ties to ALEC and the Kochs invested millions to persuade state regulators to impose a monthly fee of $50 to $100 on net-metering customers.

    Two pro-business groups, at least one of which had previously reported receiving millions of dollars from the Koch brothers, formed the campaign’s public face. Their activities were coordinated by GOP consultant Sean Noble and former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams, two early architects of the Koch network of nonprofits.

    In October, California ethics officials levied a $1-million fine after accusing groups the two men ran during the 2012 election of violating state campaign finance laws in an effort to hide the identities of donors.

    In North Carolina, executives at Duke Energy, the country’s largest electric utility, have made clear the state’s net metering law is in their sights. The company’s lobbying effort is just beginning. But already, Goldwater’s group has begun working in the state, launching a social media and video campaign accusing Duke of deceit.

    “The intention of these proposals is to eliminate the rooftop solar industry,” said Bryan Miller, president of the Alliance for Solar Choice, an industry group.

    “They have picked some of the most conservative states in the country,” he added. “But rooftop solar customers are voters, and policymakers ultimately have to listen to the public.”

    That was some nice sentiments at the end: “But rooftop solar customers are voters, and policymakers ultimately have to listen to the public”. Yeah, the guys that hatched a currently very successful plan to tax the sun across the US are really concerned about what the voters think. LOL! Still, it was a pleasant thought.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 21, 2014, 6:52 pm
  21. Looking back at the values Fred Koch Sr imparted onto his sons – a love of the fascism, homophobia, visions of Red Scaring race wars, faith in social Darwinism – and comparing them to our contemporary political zeitgeist, you have to wonder if the Law of Attraction has some special cosmic loophole where it actually applies to oligarchic clans:

    The Huffington Post
    Koch Brothers’ Secrets Revealed In New Book

    Christina Wilkie Become a fan christina.wilkie@huffingtonpost.com

    Posted: 05/17/2014 12:24 pm EDT Updated: 05/17/2014 3:59 pm EDT

    WASHINGTON — Charles and David Koch are the unofficial standard-bearers of a new generation of billionaires, willing to spend immense sums to influence politics. Best known for bankrolling the tea party movement, the fiercely private Koch family has achieved a quasi-mythical status in political circles. Yet they remain an enigma to most Americans.

    Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty aims to change that. Written by Mother Jones senior editor Daniel Schulman, the biography, set to be released Tuesday, draws on hundreds of interviews with Koch family and friends, as well as thousands of pages of legal documents. The Huffington Post received a copy of the book on Friday.

    Schulman examines the roots of Charles and David Koch’s libertarian worldview through the lens of their family, including the formative relationship that all four Koch brothers had with their father, the cold, ambitious Fred Koch. Schulman also traces the bitter and litigious history of Charles and David Koch’s relationships with their lesser-known brothers: Frederick, the eldest, and Bill, David’s twin brother.

    At the center of the saga is patriarch Fred Koch, a staunch anti-communist who drilled his political ideology into his sons from a young age. In 1938, then sympathetic to the fascist regimes ruling Germany, Italy and Japan, Fred wrote that he hoped one day the United States would resemble these nations, which had “overcome” the vices of “idleness, feeding at the public trough, [and] dependence on government.”

    Elsewhere, Fred warned of a future “vicious race war” in which communists would pit black Americans against white. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he wrote.

    In private, Fred Koch “ruled the house with an iron fist” and faith in social Darwinism. Schulman recounts how the former boxer encouraged his sons to fight each other, sometimes with horrifying results. “During one bout, Bill bashed his twin over the head with a polo mallet,” Schulman writes. And “David still bears a scar from the time Bill pierced him in the back with a ceremonial sword.” Those early lessons left a deep imprint on the brothers.

    Frederick, the oldest, was an outsider in the rough-and-tumble boys club of the Koch house. “Freddie was a sophisticate, a man of the world, in addition to the fact that he was gay, [which] wasn’t easily accepted in those days,” said a family friend.

    Instead, it was Charles, the middle child, who became the vehicle for his father’s ambitions. According to a friend, the father worried that he had been “too kind to Freddie, and that’s why he turned out to be so effeminate. When Charles came along, the old man wasn’t going to make that mistake. So he was really, really tough on Charles.”

    The result was a serious, extremely disciplined man, who along with his younger brother David, would transform their father’s medium-sized oil refining business, Koch Industries, into one of the largest privately held corporations in the world. But their success came at a high price.

    Schulman describes how Charles, unable to convince brother Frederick to sell his stake in Koch Industries, allegedly resorted to “a homosexual blackmail attempt to force Frederick to sell his shares.” And when the youngest twin, Bill, launched a bid to wrest control of Koch Industries from his older brothers, Charles’ legal team responded by releasing a dossier of opposition research on Bill, filled with sordid details of his personal life.

    In 2000, Bill’s then-wife Angela, the mother of two of his children, called the police to accuse Bill of punching her in the stomach and threatening “to beat his whole family to death with his belt.” Bill was charged with domestic assault and threatening to commit murder. Angela later recanted parts of her account, shortly before receiving a divorce settlement worth $16 million.

    Nonetheless, Bill spent decades waging vicious legal battles against Charles and David, which cost the family tens of millions of dollars. Much of the book revolves around Bill’s failed attempts to gain control of Koch Industries.

    As Schulman recounts, Bill hired private investigators to bug his brothers’ offices and pick through the garbage cans at their homes. He planted false memos aimed at rooting out spies in his own company, Oxbow, who he suspected were secretly working for his brothers.

    While Bill’s anger may have been rooted in childhood rivalries, according to Schulman, it was exacerbated by Charles’ ultra-libertarian business philosophy, which Bill considered bad for business. Schulman describes how Charles, and by extension Koch Industries, regularly ignored environmental regulations on principle, believing them to be a hallmark of “Big Brother” government.

    After losing a string of huge regulatory battles in the 1990s and paying heavy fines, Charles softened his stance somewhat. Still, the company remains a libertarian venture to this day. Schulman writes that Charles believes the role of government should be “only to keep a check on those who might attempt to interfere with the laws of supply and demand.”

    Oh wait. Of course there’s a loophole, although it’s not very cosmic

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 18, 2014, 6:43 pm
  22. Judicial Junkets. Yep, they’re legal:

    PR Watch
    Federal Judge Who Halted Walker Dark Money Criminal Probe Attended Koch-Backed Judicial Junkets
    Posted by Brendan Fischer on May 27, 2014

    The federal judge who ordered a halt to Wisconsin’s “John Doe” criminal investigation into spending during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections has regularly attended all-expenses paid “judicial junkets” funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and other ideological and corporate interests.

    On May 6, federal District Court Judge Rudolph Randa blocked an ongoing John Doe criminal probe into allegedly illegal coordination between nonprofit groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth, which spent $9.1 million on electoral ads during Wisconsin’s recall elections, and the recall campaigns of Governor Scott Walker and state senators. John Doe investigations are similar to grand jury investigations, and Wisconsin Club for Growth — and its director, Eric O’Keefe, a longtime compatriot of the Koch brothers — asked the federal court to stop the probe, alleging it violated their “free speech” rights.

    Judge Randa sided with O’Keefe, and also ordered prosecutors to destroy all evidence gathered in the investigation, an extraordinary edict in a criminal case made even more astounding by the fact that it came in the context of a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit has blocked this part of his ruling; an appeal of the remainder of his decision is pending.

    An analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that Judge Randa attended privately-funded, all-expenses-paid judicial seminars put on by George Mason University in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, according to publicly-available financial disclosure forms. (The 2013 disclosure form has been requested but has not yet been publicly posted).

    The George Mason University seminars are bankrolled by a long list of right-wing foundations, like Koch, Bradley, and the Searle Freedom Trust, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporations like BP, Exxon Mobil, and Dow Chemical. Many of these interests have long opposed limits on money in politics, although it is not known whether campaign finance reform was a topic at the seminars Randa attended.

    The seminars amount to a privately-funded all-expenses paid trip for judges, with conference sponsors picking up the costs of a judge’s flights, hotel rooms, and meals. One seminar Judge Randa attended was in La Jolla, California, a swanky San Diego suburb that is home to both great golfing and Mitt Romney; the location of other seminars Randa attended is unknown. The content of the seminars has a decidedly pro-corporate bent, and the expensive gifts raise concerns about improper influence when corporate sponsors have a stake in a case before a judge. (Some reports have directly connected the trips to judge’s decisions).

    No other federal district judges in Wisconsin attended the privately-funded George Mason seminars, according to the Center for Media and Democracy’s review of publicly available financial disclosure documents.

    Judicial Seminars Reflect Principles in Powell Memo

    Some have drawn a direct line between these corporate-funded judicial seminars and the 1971 Powell Memo, a call-to-arms for corporate America to aggressively push back against the “attack on the free enterprise system” — represented by the likes of Ralph Nader — by developing a set of institutions to reshape politics and law.

    The Powell Memo reportedly sparked the development of a right-wing infrastructure and the formation of groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (better known as ALEC), the Cato Institute, the Federalist Society (with which Judge Randa is affiliated), and others. As the New York Times recently reported, Charles Koch specifically referenced the Powell Memo in a 1974 speech previewing what has become the “Koch network,” calling for a “well-financed cadre of of sound proponents of the free-enterprise philosophy” and for business to “undertake radical new efforts to overcome the prevalent anti-capitalist mentality.”

    Some of the memo’s most aggressive language was reserved for the judiciary, which its author, then-tobacco lawyer and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, called “the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.”

    As a Supreme Court Justice, Powell would play a key role in decisions like First National Bank v. Bellotti and Buckley v. Valeo, which declared that “money equals speech” and reshaped the First Amendment into a tool to protect the ability of corporations and wealthy individuals to spend on elections.

    Remember folks: If the Koch’s can’t finance junkets for judges the First Amendment dies.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 27, 2014, 11:21 am
  23. You have to wonder what kind of donation a stunt like this pays?:

    TPM Livewire
    Tea Party Group Files Ethics Complaint Against Harry Reid Over Koch-Bashing

    Caitlin MacNeal – June 2, 2014, 6:21 PM EDT

    The Tea Party Patriots on Monday filed an ethics complaint against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for his breathless criticism of the Koch brothers, Roll Call reported.

    “It’s been generations since a member of the Senate has abused the power of his office to attack private citizens the way Harry Reid has sought to vilify Charles and David Koch,” the group’s co-founder, Jenny Beth Martin, said in a statement.

    “Reid’s repeated and mean-spirited attacks violate federal laws and Senate rules against using taxpayer-funded resources for partisan politics and he knows it, yet he repeatedly takes to the floor of the Senate and the media to attack those with whom he disagrees – and then turns around and devotes the Senate floor to a ‘talk-a-thon’ on a major donor’s key issue of climate change,” she continued.

    The formal complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee will unsurprisingly not stop Reid from bashing Charles and David Koch’s political spending.

    “We are shocked — shocked! — that a publicity-seeking, extremist Tea Party group which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Koch brothers’ secret bank would attempt a frivolous publicity stunt to distract from the Kochs’ efforts to rig the system for billionaires like themselves,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told Roll Call in response to the complaint. “The shadowy, billionaire Koch brothers are pulling out all the stops to get Senator Reid to stop shining a light on their efforts to buy our democracy, but he will not be silenced.”

    Yeah, it’s true. The Koch Brothers are helpless private citizens that must be protected from the hateful words of Harry Reid. How will they defend themselves from these viscious assaults? Clearly, a vast, legally secret network of front groups that only a billionaire could afford will be necessary. Clearly:

    The Hill
    Sen. Cruz accuses Democrats of 1st Amendment assault
    June 02, 2014, 08:31 am

    By Rebecca Shabad

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is accusing Democrats of seeking an amendment to the Constitution that he says would diminish freedom of speech.

    Cruz calls the amendment on campaign finance reform proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) an assault on the First Amendment.

    “The contemplated amendment is simply wrong,” Cruz wrote in an op-ed published late Sunday for the Wall Street Journal. “No politician should be immune from criticism. Congress has too much power already — it should never have the power to silence citizens.”

    Udall’s amendment would overturn the Supreme Court decisions Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission from 2010 and the more recent McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, which both struck down limits on campaign contributions.

    Forty-one Democrats have signed on to co-sponsor the amendment.

    Cruz claims Democrats have already begun their attack on the First Amendment. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), for instance, “slanders” private citizens on the Senate floor for their political speech, Cruz said.

    That is a reference to Reid’s repeated attacks on David and Charles Koch, who have given tens of millions to conservative causes.

    Well, it looks like we should get used to a lot more congressional Koch-coddling coming up this year because, unlike most political issues, you can’t easily run a massive ad campaign in opposition to a amendment to regulate massive ad campaigns without risking an irony blowback. So proxies like the Tea Party Patriots are going to be required to really force this issue into the public sphere. And there’s a lot at stake for not just the Kochs but any individual with a lot of money to spend that they would prefer to spend in secret. Campaign finance systems this out of balance aren’t just some spontaneous event. Many horrible mistakes are required and must be protected. At all costs:

    The Washington Post
    The maximum freedom of the rich to influence elections

    By Paul Waldman
    May 15 at 12:18 pm

    Harry Reid today threw his weight behind a constitutional amendment designed to reverse some of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on campaign finance and allow for greater Congressional regulation of the spending that goes on in campaigns.

    In response, Mitch McConnell’s spokesperson Don Stewart took to Twitter to defend the free-for-all campaigns have become. He tweeted:

    Sen. Reid on the floor now calling for an amendment to the Constitution to restrict the First Amendment. #seriously.”

    And:

    Sen. Reid’s proposal for dealing with Americans who disagree with you? Amend the Constitution to restrict their 1st Amendment rights.

    And:

    Reporters: If Congress can restrict a citizen’s First Amendment rights by amending Constitution, what’s to stop them from restricting yours?

    You may have noticed how high-minded and principled Republicans tend to get when the privileges of the small number of Americans who have the money to wield vast influence over campaigns are under any kind of threat. Of course, no one thinks such an amendment would succeed any time soon, because you need a super-majority in both Congress and state legislatures to pass a constitutional amendment, and one of our two great parties happens to think that the system that their allies on the current Supreme Court have fashioned is just peachy.

    Despite the long odds, perhaps this is a good opportunity to think creatively about how our system might be altered, to tamp down the possibilities for corruption and bad government and still uphold values like freedom of expression.

    First, let’s remember that our current campaign finance system wasn’t handed down from above on stone tablets. It’s the product of a series of laws Congress passed, and Supreme Court decisions altering those laws. Every democracy has slightly different campaign finance laws; in some there are very low contribution limits, but far more common are spending limits for parliamentary candidates, often paired with time limits on campaigning. You don’t have to worry too much about the corrupting influence of money if a candidate is only allowed to campaign for six weeks and spend $20,000. Almost alone, we have the combination of contribution limits and unlimited spending, meaning candidates are always begging for money.

    There are two competing values at play here: the desire for uncorrupted political campaigns that don’t distort democracy even if no one’s breaking any laws; and the desire for everyone to have maximal freedom of expression. In most other democracies, they tolerate some limits on political speech to ensure the cleanest campaigns possible; here in America, we tolerate abysmal campaigns in order to ensure the maximum freedom for political speech.

    In practice, though, that means maximum freedom for the wealthy; Sheldon Adelson and I both have the right to spend $100 million on the next presidential race, but that right has meaning only for him.

    Sure, maximum spending laws might exclusively benefit the ultra-wealthy but hey, freedom isn’t free, right?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 2, 2014, 7:04 pm
  24. Check out the guy that took down Eric Cantor, the House Majority leader, in the GOP primary. Yes, the House majority leader just lost to some random guy that just might be crazier than Cantor as part of the GOP base’s ongoing primal scream:

    AlterNet
    New Ayn Rand Nutjob Goes to Washington? The Scary Economic Thinking of Dave Brat
    Majority Leader Eric Cantor is ousted by a Rand-worshiping econ professor.

    / By Lynn Stuart Parramore

    June 11, 2014 |

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, was ousted yesterday in a primary challenge. He is a smarmy piece of work and we can’t say we’ll miss him. But the swamp creature who beat him! Meet Tea Party activist Dave Brat, who surfed to political center-stage on an anti-immigration wave and aims to bring his special brand of economic hokum to the nation’s capital.

    Brat, you’ll be delighted to hear, is an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College who counts the fantastically nutty Ayn Rand as his intellectual hero. Not another one! Paul Ryan was about as much Randian baloney as we could swallow. But there could be another course coming: As Samantha Lachman reported, the professor gets dough from the banking sector to push Rand’s libertarian nonsense on college students:

    “Brat has taught classes for a program sponsored by BB&T bank that aims to spread Ayn Rand’s principles to college students. Brat got a $500,000 grant from the bank to bring the program to Randolph-Macon College and co-authored a paper titled ‘An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.’”

    We tried to find that paper, which was “presented and published in the proceedings of Southeast Informs, Myrtle Beach, SC, October 6, 2010,” but that publishing venue evidently doesn’t quite make the cut for Google scholar and JSTOR, so we can only guess at its contents.

    But looking over Professor Brat’s faculty page, you get the sense of his, um, intellectual perspective. A sample: “God and Advanced Mammon—Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?”

    No, we did not make that up. Brat actually attended Princeton Theological Seminary at one time, which is known to be a right-wing hotbed. The moral gymnastics required to defend usury from a Christian point of view are not too much for Professor Brat..

    As the Wall Street Journal reports, Brat has also mused on the need for a church model that fully supports capitalism, warning that if we don’t get on that, a new Hitler will surely rise.

    America’s big banks and corporate giants are always ready to fund college professors who are willing to embrace discredited economic theories that support their power. That is why BB&T kicked off its program “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism.” As John Allison, former chairman of BB&T’s board and champion of education privatization, helpfully explains:

    “About twelve years ago we re-examined our charitable giving and realized that our contributions to universities were not typically being used in our shareholders’ best interest. At the same time, we were studying the question of why the United States had moved from the land of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ to the ‘redistributive state.’ We became convinced that the reason for this transformation was that the Left had taken over the universities and educated future leaders, including teachers, in statist/collectivist ideas.

    “A related question occurred to us. Why do free-market principles, which by any objective analysis have won the intellectual argument, continue to be dismissed by most intellectuals? We concluded that the free-market economic arguments were routinely defeated by moral arguments, and those were primarily focused on the distribution of wealth.

    “Furthermore, BB&T has used the fundamental ethics expressed in Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism in very successfully growing our business, and we wanted Rand’s ideas to be heard in the academic community.”

    In order to spread Randian nuttery, BB&T has sponsored 68 programs “at most of the major universities in our operating area.” The reading list usually features Atlas Shrugged. The size of the money pile depends on how vigorously universities agree to promote the quackery, ranging from $500,000 to $2 million.

    Allison boasts that “many [students] indicate the program is the first time they have heard capitalism defended from an ethical perspective.”

    BB&T found a willing partner in Dave Brat, who has a position as the “BB&T Ethics Program Director,” serving 2010–2020. On the campaign trail, Brat reflected his capitalism-gone-wild brand of Tea Party Republicanism.

    Yes, David Brat, the new GOP Dragon Slayer that’s suddenly become a symbol of the GOP’s ongong Cruzification, is an economics professor with a particular focus on spreading the Gospel of Ayn. Also, he wants prevent the return of Hitler:

    Think Progress
    David Brat: Embrace Christian Capitalism, Or Hitler Will Come Back

    By Jack Jenkins June 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm Updated: June 12, 2014 at 9:11 am

    When David Brat defeated House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the Republican primary of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District last night, House Republicans likely lost their only Jewish representative. In his place, they may have gained a radically pro-capitalist Christian theologian.

    Christian Tea Party candidates are certainly not unusual, but a trail of writings show that Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon college, has an especially radical theology to support his right-wing politics. Brat’s CV lists him as a graduate of Hope College, a Christian school in Michigan, and Princeton Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian Church U.S.A. seminary in New Jersey. He claims to be a “fairly orthodox Calvinist,” but several of his published writings expose a unsettling core theology that is centered around lifting up unregulated, free-market capitalism as a morally righteous system that churches should embrace—or else.

    In a 2011 paper entitled “God and the Advanced Mammon — Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?”, published in Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, Brat champions the moral superiority of the capitalistic system. “Capitalist markets and their expansion in China and India have provided more for the common good, more ‘social welfare,’ than any other policy in the past ten years,” he writes, adding “So, as a seminary student concerned with human welfare, I naturally wanted to learn about these free markets.”

    Brat goes on to list a number of arguments for and against the practice of usury, but concludes the paper with a chilling warning about what will happen if churches fail to build a movement in support of free-market capitalism—namely, a Hitler-like figure could rise to power. He writes:

    Capitalism is here to stay, and we need a church model that corresponds to that reality. Read Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s diagnosis of the weak modern Christian democratic man was spot on. Jesus was a great man. Jesus said he was the Son of God. Jesus made things happen. Jesus had faith. Jesus actually made people better. Then came the Christians. What happened? What went wrong? We appear to be a bit passive. Hitler came along, and he did not meet with unified resistance. I have the sinking feeling that it could all happen again, quite easily. The church should rise up higher than Nietzsche could see and prove him wrong. We should love our neighbor so much that we actually believe in right and wrong, and do something about it. If we all did the right thing and had the guts to spread the word, we would not need the government to backstop every action we take.

    “I think the main point is that we need to synthesize Christianity and capitalism,” he adds a few lines later.

    This isn’t the only time Brat has sung the praises of religiously-supported capitalism. The idea was also at the center of Brat’s 200-page PhD dissertation at American University, entitled “Human Capital, Religion, and Economic Growth.” The dissertation, which was also obtained by ThinkProgress, examines the role Pietistic Protestantism — as opposed to Catholicism — played in the rapid industrialization of Germany and Great Britain in the 19th century. Although he is more cautious than in his 2011 article, Brat ultimately argues that Protestantism — particularly Calvinism — deserves credit for creating scientific advancement, economic prosperity, and especially a decentralized government in German and Britain. According to Brat, Christianity — especially Calvinist Protestantism — inherently supports “the decentralization of power” that, to him, leads to economic prosperity.

    And here’s a bit more on Brat’s views on usury and the role of the church in the modern society:

    Acton Institute PowerBlog
    David Brat’s Views on God, Mammon, and Economics
    by Joseph Sunde on Wednesday, June 11, 2014

    Last night, economics professor David Brat surprised everyone in defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) in a primary challenge for Virginia’s 7th congressional district. Predictably, the media is now a-buzz about Brat, rapidly catching up on his beliefs, his plans, and so on.

    Time will tell as for whether Brat is successful as a politician, and whether he is, in fact, a strong conservative alternative to his predecessor. But one item that sticks out in Brat’s academic CV is his unique interest in the intersection of economics and theology.

    Currently an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., Brat holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Hope College in Michigan, a Master’s degree in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D in economics from American University. I’m sure there are plenty of places to explore his thoughts on these matters, but one place of particular interest is an essay he wrote titled, “God and Advanced Mammon: Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?”

    Although the essay aims specifically at the issue of usury, in his analysis of the topic, we begin to see the deeper theology and philosophy that steers Brat’s political and economic thought.

    Given the length of the essay, the following excerpts are offered simply as a taste of where he’s coming from. Emphasis is added wherever text is bolded.

    On the (non)study of economics in seminary:

    Here are the typical lines a seminary student might hear from their thought leaders: “Usury is bad. Usury is morally bad. Usury is the charging of interest payments for simply borrowing money. Usury is frowned upon in the Bible. Liberation theology might be required here…. Usury should be regulated. The government should make laws that forbid outrageous interest charges. I’m calling my congressman to do this. The church should take a stand on this exploitation. The church should write some statements on usury. The church should hire lobbyists to work on behalf of the poor who suffer under usury.”

    Sound familiar? This is a caricature, but I think there is something to it. In summary, usury is not something to be studied. It is something to be condemned. I never saw a supply and demand curve in seminary. I should have.

    On the church’s silence on economics and ethics (re: the question of usury):

    The individual is responsible for knowing God’s will via revelation, reason, church, and faith. We will have an impact on our culture, but we are not the culture….As long as the church is silent on this issue, it will have no impact on our broader culture. The church needs to regain its voice and offer up a coherent social vision of justice and rationality. Soon. The Bible and then Calvin is a good start. Rule of Law is in the middle. Capitalism will be in the final chapters.


    On usury itself:

    The Bible is clear that usury should not be practiced in small religious communities where loans involving the deep familial bond of brothers and sisters occur, especially poor brothers and sisters. It is less clear on usury in general, but it is safe to say that a tension exists. I am trying to illuminate some of those tensions. The tensions become all the more acute as we move into the modern period of market capitalism… What is “unjustly charging someone” and what is it to exploit? These are the key questions for our day.

    On “good markets” and the necessity of the gospel:

    Preach the gospel and change hearts and souls. If we make all of the people good, markets will be good. Markets are made up of people. Supply and Demand are curves, but they are also people. Nothing else. If markets are bad, which they are, that means people are bad, which they are. Want good markets? Change the people. If there are not nervous twitches in the pews when we preach, then we are not doing our jobs.

    Yes, the GOP’s new Dragon Slayer is an Ayn Rand worshiping Catholic Calvinist with complicated feelings about usury that wants to replace economic regulations on the economy with the “angel/devil on your shoulders” regulatory regime because otherwise Hitler will rise again. Plus, according to Brat, corporations and markets are people. Neat!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 12, 2014, 8:17 am
  25. As Eric Cantor learned this week, when Dark Money attacks you may not see it coming:

    Truthout
    The Dark Money Machine That Beat Eric Cantor:
    Wednesday, 11 June 2014 15:23 By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty-four hours, you know by now that Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, lost his primary election last night to a little-known college professor named David Brat.

    This was a shocking upset, one that no one saw coming. So ever since news broke about Cantor’s defeat at roughly around 8 P.M. last night, the Beltway media has been trying to get to the bottom of just why exactly someone like him, someone so well-connected and established, lost to someone like David Brat, who spent less on his campaign than Cantor spent on steaks.

    The official narrative is that Cantor lost because he was too “moderate” (from a Republican point of view, at least) on immigration, that he didn’t spend enough time in his district, and that the conservative base was sick and tired of someone it saw as a sellout.

    And while there is a lot of truth to that narrative – just check out any right wing blog and you’ll see what I mean – it misses the bigger picture of what’s really going on here.

    One of the reasons – if not the biggest reason – Eric Cantor lost was that he totally underestimated the dark money machine that was the real force behind David Brat’s campaign.

    The media is making it seem like Brat was some sort of underdog, but in reality, he’s strapped to the hilt with billionaire support and billionaire money.

    In fact, you could argue that he pretty much owes his job to people like the Koch brothers and their cronies. John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T bank and the current head of the Koch-founded Cato Institute, gave Brat’s college a $500,000 fellowship back in 2010 so he could teach Ayn Rand and libertarianism at Randolph Macon University. Like hundreds of other college professors across the country these days, David Brat is really just a bought-and-paid-for shill of Charles and David Koch and their buddies.

    But the connections between Brat and the dark money machine don’t stop there. He was also the hand-picked candidate of the Koch-backed world of right-wing media.
    .
    Over the past few months, right-wing talkers like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin have been pushing Brat and attacking Cantor non-stop on their radio shows. Ingraham even went so far as to say that she wished that President Obama traded Eric Cantor to the Taliban in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl.

    Laura and Mark are both on the populist end of the Republican Party, so it’s not all that surprising that they would want to see Brat take down Cantor. But since both of them have taken a lot of money from conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity over the past few years, there’s good reason to be suspicious of why they’ve been pushing so hard specifically for Brat.

    As Politico reported a few months ago in what should have been a blockbuster story but was ignored by the mainstream media,

    “[F]ilings with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission, as well as interviews and reviews of radio shows, found that conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh … Since then, the sponsorship deals have grown more lucrative and tea party-oriented…”

    Levin alone apparently took about $757,000 from the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity over the 2012 election cycle, and if Politico’s report is accurate, he’s still taking money from them.

    And while we don’t really know specifics about just how much money Ingraham is taking from conservative groups, we do know that she is or at least was taking money from them, which could go a long way towards explaining why she was so enthusiastic to back David Brat over Eric Cantor.

    Once you’ve realized that David Brat wasn’t just some random college professor but was actually the hand-picked candidate of the libertarian billionaire class and its army of talk radio hosts, it’s easy to see another one of the major reasons Eric Cantor lost.

    We’re living in a brave new world of dark money politics, and in this day and age, doing what Eric Cantor did – hanging out with the Chamber of Commerce, K Street, and Wall Street – only gets you so far. If you want to win these days, you need to win the support of the Kochs, their libertarian billionaire friends, and their allies in the talk radio world.

    Sure, working the Kochs doesn’t always work out – Matt Bevin failed miserably in Kentucky – but when the situation is right and you have a weak, really unpopular candidate like Cantor to run against, it works like a charm.

    Don’t kid yourselves. David Brat’s victory wasn’t a fluke; it was a test run. The Kochs and their cronies now have a blueprint for how to beat establishment Republicans all across the country. For them, the revolution has just begun.

    “We’re living in a brave new world of dark money politics, and in this day and age, doing what Eric Cantor did – hanging out with the Chamber of Commerce, K Street, and Wall Street – only gets you so far. If you want to win these days, you need to win the support of the Kochs, their libertarian billionaire friends, and their allies in the talk radio world.” So in less than a decade we created a post-K Street era that makes Jack Abramoff and the K Street Project seem quaint in comparison.

    Still, the overall state of affairs in the US electoral system could be worse than legalized unlimited secret political spending. For instance, we could have a system of legalized unlimited secret political spending and a plague of still-unverifiable electronic voting machines. So, yeah, it could be a lot worse because it is a lot worse.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 12, 2014, 7:54 pm
  26. Pterrafractyl,
    Fascinating posts on Brat. I find it especially interesting to read about his forays into the subject of Usury.

    Usury is a subject that seems to jump out quite frequently when studying fascism. In John Roy Carlson’s “Under Cover,” I seem to remember the author describing a certain undercurrent of anti-usury sentiments in the flowering fascist underworld of the early-mid 20th century. Lo and behold, it has reared its head yet again in our time. However, with your posts on Brat, it appears that there is – at least the appearance of – differences of opinion on the matter in that camp.

    Take one Michael Hoffman, non-economist author of the 416 page “Usury in Christendom: The Mortal Sin that Was and Now Is Not.” Here, Hoffman (a fellow traveler of Adam Parfrey, Ernst Zundel, and occasional speaker at events in Sandpoint, Idaho) wildly swings away at the practice of usury among Christians, and lambasts conservative Ayn Rand followers such as Brat.

    But while Hoffman remains marginal (which could be his role as counterculture fascism activist – he certainly exploits “occultism”), the real money is invested in guys like Brat and the media mouthpieces listed above.

    These elements do share an anti-Semitic streak though, which is a calling card of sorts to pick out birds of a feather. Anyway, your research into this is fascinating, but at the same time troubling.

    Posted by Sampson | June 13, 2014, 5:30 am
  27. Here’s a great piece on how Friedrich Hayek’s ideological disdain for the poor and democracy helped created the current far right dominated political dynamic across the Western world in profoundly ironic ways:

    naked capitalism
    Bill Black: How Hayek Helped the Worst Get to the Top in Economics and as CEOs
    Posted on June 12, 2014 by Yves Smith

    By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

    Libertarians are profoundly anti-democratic. The folks at Cato that I debate make no bones about their disdain for and fear of democracy. Friedrich von Hayek is so popular among libertarians because of his denial of the legitimacy of democratic government and his claims that it is inherently monstrous and murderous to its own citizens. Here’s an example from a libertarian professor based in Maryland.

    [W]hen government uses its legal monopoly on coercion to confiscate one person’s property and give it to another, it is engaging in what would normally be called theft. Calling this immoral act “democracy,” “majority rule” or “progressive taxation” does not make it moral. Under democracy, rulers confiscate the income of productive members of society and redistribute it to various supporters in order to keep themselves in power.

    In order to finance a campaign, a politician must promise to steal (i.e., tax) money from those who earned it and give it to others who have no legal or moral right to it. There are (very) few exceptions, but politicians must also make promises that they know they can never keep (i.e., lie). This is why so few moral people are elected to political office. The most successful politicians are those who are the least hindered by strong moral principles. They have the least qualms about confiscating other peoples’ property in order to maintain their own power, perks, and income. In his bestselling 1944 book, ‘The Road to Serfdom,’ Nobel laureate economist F.A. Hayek described this phenomenon in a chapter [10] entitled “Why the Worst Get on Top.”

    But von Hayek’s critique of democratic government has proven to be the most monstrous blood libel of the post-World War II era – falsely declaring that democratic government must end in tyranny and the mass murder of its own people.

    The political scientist Herman Finer … denounced [The Road to Serfdom] as “the most sinister offensive against democracy to emerge from a democratic country for many years.”

    The economist Paul Samuelson, in a reminiscence of Hayek published last December, was more dismissive still. “Where are their horror camps?’ he asked, referring to right-wing bugaboos like Sweden, with its generous welfare spending. Almost 70 years after Hayek sounded his alarm, ‘hindsight confirms how inaccurate its innuendo about the future turned out to be.”

    Why the Worst Get on Top – in Economics

    Economists claim that their work should be evaluated based on predictive success. Von Hayek was made a Nobel Laureate in 1974, three decades after his prediction that democratic states were headed to tyranny and mass murder of their own citizens. In those three decades of experience in the nations he focused on (Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) – and the forty years since his award – this happened in zero nations. He is batting zero for 70 years in roughly 30 nations with, collectively, thousands of elections. What he claimed was inevitable has never occurred.

    Wesley Marshall and I are writing a book about why, disproportionately, economics bestows its top honors on those who fail their own purported test of success (predictive ability). This is the only field of academic study in which this occurs. We are trying to answer von Hayek’s question, but it his own field – “why the worst get on top.” Why do the von Hayeks of the world, the very worst of economists, “get on top?”

    I recently wrote a piece about the spectacularly bad timing of a libertarian who chose the 70th anniversary of D-Day (a product of exceptionally competent government planning) to denounce democratic government as incapable of planning and invariably leading to tyranny and the mass execution of its own workers and CEOs. As “support” for this claim the columnist presented the cartoon version of The Road to Serfdom that General Motors spread via pamphlet – this the day after General Motor’s admissions about the quality of its cars and the indifference to the safety of everyone on the roads by its senior managers and attorneys.

    Why von Hayek and Milton Friedman are the Patron Saints of Plutocracy

    It is telling that libertarians’ economic hero, writing what they claim was his single best chapter, “Why the Worst Get on Top,” invariably proved wholly and grotesquely incorrect about the certainty of tyranny and mass murder. Worse, since the time von Hayek wrote his chapter, the democratic governments he demonized have ceased the worst abuses against their own citizens, such as forced sterilizations. The worst abuses – mass torture and murder – have been committed by fascist regimes that von Hayek supported such as Pinochet in Chile. When we ask why von Hayek receives a Nobel Prize and remains Glenn Beck’s hero we cannot explain the results based on facts and predictive success (failure). Instead, we must look outside the realm of reality and enter into the realms that von Hayek glorified – ideology and greed.

    Von Hayek received his Nobel Prize because he was so willing to be so wrong about so many things. His blood libel about the democratic governments of “the West” was useful to another group in which “the worst get on top” in far too many cases – “imperial” CEOs. Von Hayek legitimizes that which cannot be legitimized through real economics, reality, ethics, or logic – plutocracy. Von Hayek and Milton Friedman are the patron saints of plutocracy.

    Von Hayek’s Denunciation of Democracy Rests on His Disdain for the Poor

    Von Hayek argues that there are three reasons why democratic government inherently leads to the elevation of the “worst” to the “top” – and by the “worst” he means murderous tyrants. Von Hayek begins Chapter 10 with the famous quotation from Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Democratic government, of course, is consciously designed to prevent the creation of “absolute power” by the state or private entities. Von Hayek, therefore, has to argue that a democratic system of government designed to prevent the creation of absolute power will invariably produce absolute power.

    The third component of the totalitarian troika is the “most important negative element.” These are the murderous bigots motivated by “hatred of an enemy … the envy of those better off.”

    Von Hayek is Blighted by his Bigotry

    What we are reading, of course, is the class hatred and bigotry common to minor Austrian aristocrats like von Hayek who were born in the 19th century. (The “von” was removed from all Austrian family names by statute when he was a young adult.) The idea of democratic rule by what he viewed as his inferiors appalled von Hayek. The fact that this kind of naked bigotry in this passage that I have quoted at length is viewed by his libertarian devotees as von Hayek’s finest work reveals the depths of libertarian hate for and fear of democratic government.

    Von Hayek’s Other Predictive Failures

    Under von Hayek’s theories, progressive and socialist candidates should be the great enemies of public education, for education would dramatically reduce their core “uneducated” group. For the same reasons, they should avoid at all costs teaching students how to engage in critical thinking and should instead spread nationalism/patriotism memes (such as American “exceptionalism” and flag pins) and spread racist propaganda attacking racial and ethnic minorities. The opposite is true. They should oppose legal protections, e.g., against job and housing discrimination. It is conservatives and European-style “liberals” who fought against public elementary and secondary education and the land grant colleges. It is conservatives who wear flag pins and claim that any acknowledgement of U.S. misconduct is unpatriotic. It is U.S. conservatives who to this day adopt variants of the racist “Southern strategy,” engage in state-sponsored homophobia, and oppose anti-discrimination laws. Von Hayek predicted that progressives would deny science. The cartoon version of his book portrays the government as preaching that the earth is flat. The reality is that it is corporate CEOs who lead the anti-science campaigns such as global climate change denial.

    If You Object to an Economic System in Which “The Worst Get on Top” You are not “Envious”

    Von Hayek tips his hand and dogmas when he uses the phrase “envy of those better off” and conflates it with virulent racism. Von Hayek assumes away the reality that all too often in business “the worst get on top” by the foulest means. Opposing their becoming “better off” through leading “control frauds” is not “envy” – it is justice, and it is essential to a well-functioning economy, society, and polity.

    Von Hayek implicitly assumes that corrupt CEOs will not control and abuse any political system. Assume solely for purpose of analysis that von Hayek were correct that it demagogues can manipulate the three unethical groups he identifies and seize control of government. Under his own logic CEOs can use the seeming legitimacy, power, and wealth of “their” corporations to serve directly as these demagogues or fund and control proxy demagogues that will serve their interests. They have vastly greater economic resources and they have the expertise that comes from advertising to run propaganda campaigns. They also had tremendous expertise in the era von Hayek was describing in “divide and conquer” strategies in the colonies that would be easily translated into efforts to split workers along ethnic lines. The alliance of elite and poor whites in the U.S. South against the freed slaves is a classic example of how such a coalition can provide dominant political power for roughly a century. Under von Hayek’s own assumptions the “inevitable” result should be plutocracy through crony capitalism with anyone who complains about the resultant inequality denounced for being “envious” of his moral and intellectual superiors.

    Why the Worst (CEOs) Get on Top: Accounting Control Fraud is a “Sure Thing”

    I have explained this point enough times that I will simply direct any new readers to the scores of articles that explain why this is true. I also stress how important the “Gresham’s” dynamic is in explaining why such frauds can become epidemic and why such epidemics drive our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. The least ethical CEOs “get on top” in such a world and they produce plutocracy, massive inequality, and crony capitalism. Von Hayek wants progressives to declare unilateral political disarmament while the most corrupt CEOs dominate our economies and our political systems. Von Hayek’s blood libel about progressive, democratic government is a classic example of Frédéric Bastiat’s warning:

    When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

    What a wondrous irony it is that three ultra-rightists, Lord Acton, Bastiat and von Hayek, should combine so perfectly to explain our current plight in which plunder by elite CEOs has become “a way of life.” CEOs do not yet have “absolute” political power, but their power and corruption is rising steadily and has become so great that they are able to “plunder” with impunity. That impunity arose because von Hayek’s disciples were able to use his anti-democratic bigotry and failed economic dogmas to “create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes [plunder] and a moral code that glorifies it.” Von Hayek was one the principal framers of that immoral moral code that glorifies plunder by CEOs. Libertarians glorify von Hayek’s bigoted glorification of elites as our moral superiors who have a right to rule and plunder our Nation. Tyler Cowen calls plutocracy and pervasive plunder a “hyper-meritocracy,” but it is a rule by the most unethical for the most venal of purposes and it is the greatest enemy of merit and justice.

    “What a wondrous irony it is that three ultra-rightists, Lord Acton, Bastiat and von Hayek, should combine so perfectly to explain our current plight in which plunder by elite CEOs has become “a way of life”. Yep.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 13, 2014, 9:05 am
  28. @Pterrafractyl–

    Note that, in T.H. Tetens’ “Germany Plots with the Kremlin,” (http://spitfirelist.com/books/germany-plots-with-the-kremlin/) there are documents that discuss the Third Reich’s plan to use intelligence assets in the West to craft propaganda designed to assure, among other things, that FDR would not get re-elected. This in 1944.

    That was the same year in which von Hayek published “The Road to Serfdom,” in which he equated FDR, Stalin and Hitler and cemented his arguments against democracy.

    The distinct possibility that he was working for Third Reich intelligence is one to be seriously considered.

    Check out the last item of discussion in FTR #786. (http://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-786-the-adventures-of-eddie-the-friendly-spook-part-16-the-obverse-oswald-update-and-summary-analysis/)

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | June 13, 2014, 4:52 pm
  29. @Dave: In the forward to the 1956 copy of The road to Serfdom, Hayek wrote “I had given little thought to its possible appeal to American readers when writing it.” So maybe that’s the case and he was just targeting a British audience. But according to this biography of Hayek (Friedrich Hayek: A Biography; Alan O. Ebenstein; 2003, p128) Hayek hurried to finish the book early in order to get it published by the the winter of 1943:


    Celebrity

    The Road to Serfdom was received positively when it was published in Britain in March 1944. The war was not yet over, but it was now a question of when, not if, Nazi Germany would be defeated. Hayek gave his impression of the book’s reception in England when he said later that he could “feel only gratifiation” at the success The Road to Serfdom had in Great Britian. This, while “very different in kind” than in the United States, was “quantitatively no smaller…On the whole, the book was taken in the spirit in which it was written, and its argument was seriously considered by those to whom it was mainly addressed.” He became famous in Britain as a result of the work. The Road to Serfdom was reviewed in leading papers, journals, and magazines. The initial print run of 2,000 copies sold out within days. According to British intellectual historian Richard Cockett, Hayek’s publisher, Routledge, ordered an immediate reprint of 1,000 copies, and in the “following two years they were to be engaged in a losing race to satisfy the huge public demand for the book.” Because of the wartime paper rationing, Routledge could not print as many copies as it wished. The summer following the work’s release, Hayek complainingly referred to is as “the unobtainable book.”

    There is a small question of his exact intentions for the book – what sort of impact he intended. He wrote to Routledge on May 30, 1943, that he had completed a “semi-popular” work, and perhaps even more significantly wrote on August 9, 1943, “I have made a special effort to get it ready rather earlier than I expected as I believe that there are many signs that the time is becoming rather favourable for the reception of the book of this kind and I am especially anxious not to miss the opportune moment. I believe you will find it worthwhile making an effort to get it out before the winter”. Much of this was, however, merely the promotion that any author engages in with his publisher. In an April 1945 speech, Hayek mentioned that he did not expect more than a few hundred people to read the book.

    So it’s pretty clear that Hayek both wanted to make an impact and really did make that impact. Almost immediately. And with the help of “leading papers, journals, and magazines”, at least in the UK.

    It’s also worth noting that if his desire to “get it out before the winter” was referring to the winter of 1943 and if he did really want to make a political splash the UK elections were mostly in 1945. For the US elections in 1944, on the other hand, the timing and of the exposure of The Road to Serfdom was pretty significant. The UK edition was published in March of 1944. In the US it wasn’t as readily accepted in the media, but after getting rejected by a several publishers the book was published by the University of Chicago in September 1944, with a glowing review by libertarian journalist Henry Hazlitt on the front page of the Book Review Section in the New York Times (September 24,1944). It was similar to the review Hazlitt gave to Hayek’s mentor, Ludwig von Mises six years earlier in 1938:

    Remembering Henry Hazlitt

    Mises Daily: Friday, July 27, 2007 by Bettina Bien Greaves

    Henry Hazlitt was one of a very special breed, an economic journalist who not only reported on economic and political events in clear and understandable language, but also made contributions to economics.

    When I arrived at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in 1951, I was just a neophyte in the freedom philosophy. Hazlitt was a trustee, author of the bestselling Economics in One Lesson, and for several years an editor of the fortnightly free-market-oriented news-commentary magazine, The Freeman, predecessor of FEE’s The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty.

    But he was easy to approach; his manner was pleasant, not aloof or overbearing. He was of average height. His features were regular, and he wore a mustache. He dressed appropriately for a journalist working in midtown Manhattan in his day — in suit and tie. He was modest, always thoughtful of others, and one of the kindest and most gracious men I have known. His friends called him Harry, and in time I too came to call him Harry. I was proud to have him as a friend.

    Hazlitt lived an active life as a newspaperman. He belonged to several literary societies, attended their luncheons, and met the leading authors and intellectuals of his day. He admired, he once said “almost idolized,” H.L. Mencken, whom he briefly succeeded as editor of The American Mercury. Hazlitt frequently debated prominent politicians on the radio: Vice President Henry Wallace, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and US Senators Paul Douglas and Hubert H. Humphrey. He came to know practically all the conservatives and libertarians of his day, not only Mises and Anderson, but also, among others, FEE founder Leonard E. Read, Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, John Chamberlain, William F. Buckley Jr., Lawrence Fertig, Sylvester Petro, F.A. Hayek, and Ayn Rand.

    In 1938 Hazlitt reviewed for the New York Times the English translation of Mises’s Socialism, describing the book as “the most devastating analysis of socialism yet penned.” Mises was then in Switzerland, but the two men corresponded briefly. Then in 1940 Hazlitt received a telephone call from Mises, newly arrived in New York. Hazlitt was dumbfounded: “It was as if John Stuart Mill had risen from the dead!”

    Mises, a refugee from war-torn Europe, had been forced to leave his home in Vienna, Austria, a comfortable position in Geneva, Switzerland, and the academic world of Europe where he was well known. He and Hazlitt soon became the best of friends, and “Lu,” short for Ludwig, found a special place in Hazlitt’s heart and mind.

    Hazlitt’s Helping Hand

    When Mises phoned Hazlitt, Mises was trying to start a new life in the United States. Hazlitt was always willing to help his friends. Through contacts in the State Department, he helped Mrs. Mises’s daughter to escape Nazi-occupied Paris (this was before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States was not yet at war). He asked his friend Benjamin Anderson, who had associates at Harvard University, to help Mises find a teaching position. Harvard wasn’t interested. Hazlitt arranged a dinner for Mises with Alvin Johnson, director of the New School for Social Research, where many European victims of Nazism had received positions. But when Johnson told Hazlitt that Mises was “too extreme,” Hazlitt realized that Johnson only hired socialists.

    By Hazlitt’s arrangement, Mises wrote several editorials for the New York Times. The Rockefeller Foundation gave Mises a grant for several years, enabling him to write Omnipotent Government and Bureaucracy. Mises soon obtained a position as visiting professor with the New York University Graduate School of Business Administration. Then Hazlitt brought him to FEE, and Leonard Read hired him as economic adviser.

    In the 1950s Mises’s NYU graduate seminar in economic theory was held in Gallatin House diagonally across Washington Square from the apartment where Hazlitt lived with his wife, Frances. Hazlitt felt sorry for Mises having to speak every Thursday evening to a small group of students who were tired after working all day at their regular jobs. So to buck Mises up, Hazlitt began attending the seminar. The topics varied from year to year — epistemology, history, Marxism, capitalism, monopoly, interventionism, monetary theory, and socialism. Mises frequently cited historical illustrations and amusing examples.

    “Interestingly,” Hazlitt said later, “what I found was, no matter how many times I would go, no matter how often I heard in effect the same lectures, there would always be some sentence, some incidental phrase or illustration that threw more light on the subject.”[2] On one occasion, laughter broke out. Mises: “The Soviets censor bad books.” And then proudly with a twinkle in his eye: “My books!”[3]

    Hazlitt considered himself especially lucky in counting Mises and his fellow noted Austrian economist F.A. Hayek (1899–1992) among his friends. Hazlitt had, of course, known both for many years through their writings, but it was only after he reviewed their books that they met and became friends. When F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom came out in 1944, Hazlitt reviewed it for the Times, calling it “one of the most important books of our generation.” The book became a bestseller. Hazlitt’s review attracted Hayek’s attention, and in 1947 he invited Hazlitt to attend the important first meeting of the free-market-oriented society he was organizing, later internationally known as the Mont Pelerin Society.

    So whether or not Hayek was specifically attempting to provide ammunition for anti-FDR forces in 1944, the roll out of the book in the US and UK media sure was well positioned to do just that.

    In related news, check this out: In January of this year the central banks of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland all joined together to create a new prize for research in economics, the Carl Menger Prize for Research. Menger was the founder of the Austrian school of economics.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 14, 2014, 5:53 pm
  30. @Pterrafractyl–

    Good find! Important against the background of what you’ve researched for us is the book “The Nazis Go Underground.” http://spitfirelist.com/books/the-nazis-go-underground/

    The plans for the von Clausewitzian postwar and the resurgence of Germany began in earnest after the battle of Stalingrad, concluded in February of 1943.

    That would be exactly when von Hayek was penning his anti-FDR, anti-democracy screed.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | June 15, 2014, 11:48 am
  31. @Sampson: Part of what makes Brat’s writings on usury interesting is that he seems to be trying to coming up with a moral argument that will simultaneously appease hardcore Christian Reconstructionists that want to see all forms of usury outlawed (by a church-dominated government) and Wall Street. At least, when Brat says:

    “If we make all of the people good, markets will be good. Markets are made up of people. Supply and Demand are curves, but they are also people. Nothing else. If markets are bad, which they are, that means people are bad, which they are. Want good markets? Change the people.”

    it sure sounds like he’s arguing that we should adopt Laissez-Faire laws and restrict regulations to the moral regulation of one’s conscience. It’s a fascinating method of threading the libertarian/Dominionist needle because the only law that would have to be enforced under this system is that you show obedience to your preacher of choice. It’s like the Koch brother’s economic paradise achieved through decentralized theocracy:

    Talk 2 Action
    A Brat Stomps Cantor: Is “Christian Economics” an Oxymoron?
    Chip Berlet
    Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 04:14:12 PM EST

    It depends on whose political ox is being gored and which uninformed pundit is the moron. With the defeat of Eric Cantor and election of David Brat the issue of “Christian Economics” is gobbling bandwidth. Much of the discussion is long on rhetoric and short on facts. Here is a very brief overview. More resources will be posted at Talk to Action over the next few days.

    Executive Summary: Brat’s election involves legitimate voter anger; right-wing populism as a social movement, the revival of economic and religious Calvinism, the rise of dominionism among Christian conservatives; and the drive to roll back President Roosevelt’s government funded social safety net.

    Understanding the concept of “Christian Economics” helps explain how these all got connected and took political power with the election of Ronald Reagan.

    There are numerous discussions about economics, money, wealth, and poverty in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. There are egalitarian and progressive versions that have emerged in forms of Catholicism and Protestantism, with clear examples in the Social Gospel, Catholic Worker, and Liberation Theology movements.

    The version of “Christian Economics” championed by sectors of the Christian Right in the United States, however, is rooted in Laissez-Faire capitalism as shaped by the Austrian School economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich August von Hayek; and later modified by Chicago School economic icon Milton Freidman. These ideas were the basis of President Ronald Reagan’s “Trickle Down” theory which flowed down the legs of numerous elite right-wing analysts.

    A more radical right libertarian version of Laissez-Faire “Christian Economics” drips down from the body of work by R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North. Ron and Rand Paul embrace much of this version of Biblical economics which is the basis for Christian Reconstructionism, a militant Protestant movement which is like Calvinism on crack.

    Both Rushdoony and North wrote for The Freeman, the political magazine of the Laissez-Faire Foundation for Economic Education. They were eventually purged when the old guard libertarians thought they had drifted too far into a theocratic interpretation of the relationship between religious theology and political economy.

    Christian Reconstructionists engaged in an ideological/theological debate with Christian Conservatives in the US, resulting in a fractious alliance against modern social welfare liberalism.

    Frederick Clarkson and I have dubbed this “Dominionism”–a political tendency that allows for electoral cooperation among Christian Reconstructionism (and other forms of doctinaire “Dominion Theology”) with the much larger variety of theologies found in the contemporary US Christian Right. Note that not all conservative theologies are tied to right-wing political views.

    The election of David Brat is an example of the depth of anger toward elites created by a crisis of legitimacy indicting the current political and economic systems. This widespread and legitimate sense of anxiety and anger is politically-shaped by massive cash drops into electoral and legislative campaigns by a handful of wealthy elites that result (intentionally or not) in the spread of demonizing and scapegoating conspiracy theories about elite betrayal within mass movements mobilized by right-wing populist rhetoric.

    It’s still unclear where exactly Brat is on the “Ayn Rand Seven Mountains Dominionism” spectrum but it’s pretty clear that what he’s engaged in one of the seemingly endless attempts to find a moral justification for economic systems built for predation. So Wall Street must be pretty pleased by what it sees in the right’s new ‘populist’ dragon slayer, although you have to wonder if the banksters fully realize how much more potential dragon slaying might be deemed necessary.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 16, 2014, 10:22 am
  32. This weekend the Koch brothers hosted their big donor network event where they roll out their plans for big new initiative focusing on opposition to energy regulations. And what do we find today? The GOP has just started talking about the kind of manuevers in the Senate designed to gut energy industry regulations that sound awfully close to same techniques used in the past to create a shutdown-showdown scenerio this fall. Now that’s service:

    TPM DC
    Shutdown Wars Return? GOP Senators Want To Block Obama’s Climate Rules

    Sahil Kapur – June 18, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

    If early Republican enthusiasm is any indication, the upcoming Sept. 30 deadline to keep the federal government open could turn into an all-out war over President Barack Obama’s executive actions to combat climate change.

    As TPM reported earlier this week, senior House Republicans are considering using appropriations legislation to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s new restrictions on coal-fired power plants, aimed at cutting climate-warming pollution by 30 percent by 2030.

    On Tuesday, numerous Senate Republicans expressed strong support for the idea.

    “I think there’s going to be a lot of support on our side for trying to block that. And I hope with some Democrats too,” Senate Republican Conference Chair John Thune (R-SD) told TPM. “The power of the purse is one power Congress has, and if you want to send a clear message to the administration about a series of regulations that you think are very detrimental, one way to do that would be through the appropriations process.”

    Thune, the No. 3 GOP senator, said his party will support “anything we can do to prevent the administration from going forward with what are really poorly timed, very burdensome, very expensive … regulations.”

    Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said Republicans ought to consider reversing what he described as presidential overreach by Obama on environmental regulations.

    “I think Congress needs to give serious thought to utilizing its constitutional power — the power to fund or not fund,” he told TPM. Asked about using the appropriations bill to undo the EPA rules, he said, “That’s one of the powers that Congress clearly has.”

    The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider government funding bills this week. If Republicans insist on prohibiting implementation of the EPA rule in order to keep the government running past September, it could spark another shutdown standoff. Democrats strongly support Obama’s environmental regulations and they intend to block attempts to undo them.

    Retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) told TPM the idea is “something that will be discussed, I’m sure.”

    “Obviously there are a lot of us that are concerned about those regulations and it’s going to be a huge blow to the economy,” he said. “And whatever we can do to keep that from happening, we’re going to consider it.”

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told TPM he’d be “totally supportive” of using government funding legislation to block the EPA rules.

    Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he’ll do everything in his power to fight the EPA’s so-called “waters of the U.S.” rule — a regulation proposed in April aimed at protecting the country’s streams and wetlands from pollution — which agribusinesses fear will harm them.

    “I strongly oppose the proposed rule,” Hoeven said. Asked if he intends to attach an amendment to the appropriations bill blocking the EPA rule, he said, “That’s my intent. … Anything I can attach it to that makes it though — I’m gonna do it.”

    The dispute that usually sparks shutdowns is about how much the federal government should spend. That’s not a problem this time because the two sides have agreed to spend $1.014 trillion in fiscal year 2015. But the environmental regulations have become a cause célèbre in Republican circles, igniting interest in finding ways to force the president to back down.

    TPM asked Sen. Johnson if he worries the strategy could lead to another government shutdown just one month before the congressional elections.

    “We should not, obviously — the federal government does enough harm to our economy. We need to bring a little more certainty,” the senator said. “So I’m not in favor of threatening government shutdowns.”

    It’s too early to know if Republicans will withhold support for funding the government unless Democrats agree to block the EPA rules. But if they pursue the course several of them have suggested and refuse to back down, this summer could turn into a replay of last year’s standoff — only over environmental regulations rather than Obamacare — where one side backs down or Congress shuts down parts of the federal government.

    Of course, if the GOP really did trigger a shutdown right before the midterms you’d have to wonder why given the kind of voter reaction we can expect. Maybe it could all a giant distraction…a strain of crazy that’s sort of orthogonal to the GOP’s Benghazi/Obamacare freakout that may not play so well with the voters this fall. Could it be a GOP-led distraction to distract from the GOP? Hey, it could happen.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 18, 2014, 9:11 am
  33. With the ongoing fracking boom, more and more local communities are finding that they can shake, rattle, and roll their way to prosperity, whether they want to or not:

    NBC News
    Quakes Rattle Confidence in Texas Energy Boom
    By Miguel Llanos
    6/21/2014

    It wasn’t the semi-trucks rumbling down country roads, or the dust, or the natural gas wells that popped up around their homes that finally got to residents of Azle and Reno, Texas. It was the earthquakes.

    These weren’t major quakes, magnitude 3.6 was the biggest, but no one in those North Texas towns had ever felt tremors before. Now in just three months, between last November and January, 34 quakes large enough to be felt shook homes, cracked walls and foundations, scared horses and pets, and opened a few sinkholes.

    The ones you can feel have since stopped, but smaller ones continue: some 300, in addition to a 1,000 or so tiny tremors, says Heather DeShon, a Southern Methodist University seismologist leading a team studying the outbreak in the area about 20 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

    Locals, and their elected leaders, are convinced the quakes are due to the nationwide drilling boom sparked by a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process forces a mix of water and chemicals into underground rocks to free trapped oil or gas.

    Once used, the mix of water and chemicals is typically gotten rid of by injecting it into a disposal well. It’s that step, not the oil or gas production itself, that can trigger quakes by loosening seismic plates, studies in other areas of the country have concluded.

    The industry and Texas regulators say that hasn’t been proven in the Azle-Reno area and are asking locals for patience while DeShon’s team comes to a conclusion. Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett had other thoughts, telling MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show last January that “we definitely need to get the wells shut down.”

    Reno Mayor Lynda Stokes says it’s not right to ask for patience when residents are on edge, fearing another outbreak and worse damage. “There are studies out there” showing the connection, she tells NBC News. “I feel they are dragging their feet.”

    The bad blood in Reno and Azle has happened elsewhere in Texas and across the country.

    How did it get to this, especially in a pro-energy state like Texas?

    “Fracking came so quickly, much more quickly than we could figure out how to do it right,” says Russell Gold, author of “The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World”.

    Thousands of disposal wells were approved “without asking if there were active faults nearby,” adds Gold, whose full-time job is reporting on energy issues for the Wall Street Journal. The fracking boom has brought “energy to our backyard,” he adds, and sometimes that creates fear. “Earthquakes are a very palpable example of that.”

    As a result, communities are getting more vocal, even in Texas.

    “Without question, local governments are demanding a say in regulating oil and gas,” says Gold. “That’s setting up a rather intense arm wrestling match between local and state governments.”

    The industry is regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission, which has stood its ground, saying it needs to wait for the scientific report before taking any action.

    “There has been no scientific proof that a specific disposal well or wells have caused the Azle-area earthquakes,” says commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye.

    At a public forum last Wednesday, residents made clear they disagree.

    The dozens in attendance broke out into applause and cheers when Stokes, asked what residents want, was blunt: “I think they want to shut those wells down.”

    Residents also didn’t like hearing from DeShon that her team’s study could take a year to complete.

    For all the tension, the issue is one that can be resolved, says Gold.

    “Of all the problems with fracking, fixing earthquakes is one of the easier ones,” he says, citing options like reducing injection pressure, recycling the wastewater and not placing disposal wells near fault lines.

    Azle Mayor Brundrett agrees. “It’s not that all injection wells are bad,” he told MSNBC. “You do research before you choose a location for an injection well.”

    Gold says “the trickier issues” raised by fracking include air emissions, methane leaks and protecting aquifers from wastewater.

    Yes, communities with no histories of earthquakes are discovering that their New Normal includes things like sinkholes, cracked foundations, and a dominant industry that seems to always want more studies into the dangers of fracking while it proceeds to frack the town. And, “of all the problems with fracking, fixing earthquakes is one of the easier ones”. And that might be true. For example, fixing the problem of preventing the fracking industry from overriding local objections is clearly a much more intractable problem:

    The Wall Street Journal
    The Fracking Fight’s New Front Line
    Cities, States Begin to Limit Oil-and-Gas Drilling to Protect Residents, Scenic Areas

    By Russell Gold

    June 4, 2014 2:14 p.m. ET

    As the U.S. oil-and-gas boom rolls into its second decade, a new idea is starting to resonate with regulators and communities: Certain places should simply be off-limits to drilling.

    Note that it’s apparently a new idea amongst regulators and communities that some places should be off-limits to drilling.

    Continuing…


    That is not how it has worked up until now. Over the past decade, oil and gas wells have been drilled for hydraulic fracturing in suburban subdivisions, airports, public parks and golf courses. As long as energy companies leased the mineral rights, they could drill almost anywhere.

    Now this all-or-nothing approach is starting to weaken as the fracking juggernaut, which has created jobs and lowered the U.S. trade deficit, has left some communities feeling trampled.

    Some cities have used their zoning authority to keep fracking far from schools and set back from homes. Fort Worth, Texas, has a drilling ordinance that runs more than 50 pages.

    North Dakota, which has rolled out the red carpet for rigs, is reconsidering whether it should issue drilling permits near some historical sites, parks and areas of particular beauty. The state last month said that any requests to drill near designated areas would result in additional scrutiny and require public comment.

    The new approach reflects “growing momentum from the public to make sure the state is protecting some of the most scenic and historic places,” said Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Mineral Resources.

    There are valid reasons to ban industrial activity, said Mark Zoback, a Stanford University professor who served on a shale-development advisory board for the U.S. Energy Department. “You wouldn’t allow a large-scale food-distribution warehouse to be built just anywhere, with hundreds of semis coming and going 24/7.”

    Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into a well to crack open dense rock and allow oil and gas to flow out. More than 15 million Americans live within a mile of a well that has been drilled since 2000.

    “We are not advocating that we should drill everywhere,” said Eric Wohlschlegel, the spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s Washington-based lobbying group. “The best folks to determine whether an area is safe and appropriate to frack are the state and state regulators.”

    The industry generally prefers dealing with states, in part to avoid fights with individual municipalities and because the message that fracking is safe and offers economic benefits often gets a receptive audience in state capitals.

    But putting the decisions in the hands of the state can cause conflict. Many people who oppose fracking find that some local authorities are more likely than state officials to ban the practice.

    “This issue is very much undecided and will continue to dominate litigation in many states,” said Hannah Wiseman, an assistant law professor at Florida State University.

    In 2012, Pennsylvania passed a law that prevented townships from using zoning to keep fracking at bay. A coalition of municipalities sued, and last December the state Supreme Court struck down portions of the law, restoring power to communities.

    Whether cities can declare themselves off limits to fracking also is roiling Colorado. Voters in Longmont, north of Denver, two years ago changed their city charter to prohibit fracking. The oil lobby sued to overturn the ban. The case hasn’t been decided, and four more Colorado cities have banned fracking in the meantime.

    A municipal ban may even touch down in Texas, the biggest oil-producing state in the country. Fracking opponents have collected enough signatures to put a ban on the November ballot in Denton, a small college town north of Dallas.

    The next front in the battle could be California. Tom Steyer, a wealthy environmentalist and political activist, in March suggested that fracking should only be allowed in counties where voters approved the practice by a two-thirds vote.

    “It will give communities the right to determine whether fracking really is in their interest,” he said in a speech at the California Democratic convention.

    Rock Zierman, chief executive of the California Independent Producers Association, said that decisions on drilling should be left to state regulators. “I think the experts should regulate it, and the experts are the geologists and petroleum engineers at the division of oil and gas,” he said.

    Courts have generally ruled that states can trump local ordinances. In 2005, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Louisiana could prevent Shreveport from banning drilling within 1,000 feet of Cross Lake, the city’s main water source.

    The Ohio Supreme Court this year heard a case that will determine whether cities or the state have the upper hand. An intermediate appellate court ruled for the state against Munroe Falls, a city near Akron, which tried to limit drilling. The Supreme Court has yet to rule.

    As the article points out, “courts have generally ruled that states can trump local ordinances”. “Frack, baby, frack” doesn’t happen on its own. But there’s also clearly a backlack coming. Or, more specifically, many small backlashes. Town by town:

    Texas gas town considers banning fracking
    Posted: Jun 19, 2014 12:53 AM CST Updated: Jun 20, 2014 1:36 AM CST
    By EMILY SCHMALL
    Associated Press

    DENTON, Texas (AP) – Natural gas money has been good to this Texas city: It has new parks, a new golf course and miles of grassy soccer fields. The business district is getting a makeover, and the airport is bustling, too.

    For more than a decade, Denton has drawn its lifeblood from the huge gas reserves that lie beneath its streets. The gas fields have produced a billion dollars in mineral wealth and pumped more than $30 million into city bank accounts.

    But this former farming center north of Dallas is considering a revolt. Unlike other communities that have embraced the lucrative drilling boom made possible by hydraulic fracturing, leaders here have temporarily halted all fracking as they consider an ordinance that could make theirs the first city in the state to permanently ban the practice.

    “I think the people of Denton really want to keep the livability of the town,” said Taylor Schrang, a 28-year-old personal trainer. “And fracking is pretty obtrusive.”

    If the city council rejects the ban, it will go to voters in November.

    The college town has preserved much of its agricultural past. Historic downtown streets lined with 19th-century buildings open up to expansive fields with greenhouses and grazing cattle. But drilling is never far away, with some 275 active gas wells piercing the earth.

    The willingness to reject fracking in the heart of oil and gas country reflects a broader shift in thinking. In place of gas drills, some of Denton’s 120,000 residents envision a future in which their city is known for environmentally friendly commerce and the nation’s largest community garden. They’ve even embarked on a campaign to persuade the maker of Sriracha hot sauce to expand its massive pepper-grinding business here – a prospect that appeals to the local farm-to-table culture.

    Around the time fracking began in Denton, in 2000, the population started to swell, along with doubts about the drilling. More graduates from the University of North Texas and from Texas Woman’s University chose to stay in town and set up small businesses. Then simmering concerns over the proximity of new wells to residential areas came to a head in 2009, when nurse Cathy McMullen organized a 300-person protest against five wells planned in a meadow across from a city park.

    The Denton Drilling Awareness Group proposed tighter fracking rules and even won a series of temporary bans on new drilling permits.

    At the same time, drillers defied city rules that required them to line wastewater pits and prohibited them from burning off, or “flaring,” waste gas in residential areas.

    “All that did was make people so fired up,” McMullen said. “We had no choice” but to call for an outright ban, she said.

    It also helped that only 2 percent of Denton’s residents see royalties from the drilling, McMullen said, citing an analysis of city appraisal records on mineral property values between 2002 and 2013.

    Scores of other cities and some states have considered similar bans, but few, if any, have Denton’s close ties to the oil and gas industry. The issue could test whether any community in Texas – the nation’s biggest oil and gas producer – can rebuff the industry and still thrive.

    The debate comes as the city tries to wean its business community off fossil-fuel revenue. The Sriracha campaign is the highest-profile part of that effort. Another example is Tetra Points Fuels, which produces ethanol from expired soda and other sugary drinks that have been thrown away.

    If the fracking ban is adopted, it’s unclear whether the law would hold up in court. Cities in Colorado and California are being sued by drilling operators over similar bans, and owners of mineral rights here are already making their case for more drilling.

    Ed Ireland, director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, a pro-industry group, said Denton can’t implement a ban because the city in 2000 began issuing drilling permits to operators “in perpetuity.”

    Land in Texas is split between the surface and the minerals below. In Denton, most of the mineral rights are held by estates and trusts outside Texas, according to a preliminary study by University of North Texas researchers who support the ban.

    Yes, “if the fracking ban is adopted, it’s unclear whether the law would hold up in court” because you can be pretty sure that any community that bans fracking is going to get sued. And as the article points out, “most of the mineral rights are held by estates and trusts outside Texas”. So the success of any local attempts to ban fracking is probably going to be determined, in part, by the political influence of the interests that own those underground mineral rights.

    On the other hand, if the Koch/ALEC-led campaign to get the the states wage a battle against the federal government and the Bureau of Land Management is completely successful, it’s unclear why that Koch-backed hijacking of states governments couldn’t be easily translated into a state attack on local fracking bans.

    And, of course, since the Koch’s have also decided to extend their influence peddling to local elections around the country, is unclear why any locality is going to be considered off-limits to meddling by the Kochs are any other powerful outside interests. After all, “frack, baby, frack” and isn’t the only rule of the day. “Bribe, baby, bribeand then threaten” is part of the status quo too. And don’t forget the unprecedented earthquakes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 21, 2014, 6:55 pm
  34. If you thought the story about Maine’s governor holding secret meetings with Sovereign Citizens was rather eyebrow-raising, the official Texas Republican Party Platform now declares that all federal enforcement activities “must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.” Cliven Bundy may have left the GOP , but that doesn’t mean he abandoned the GOP’s heart. This spirit of Bundy lives on in Texas:

    Esquire
    The State Republican Party in Texas Is Now the Craziest in America
    It seems almost pointless to mention this but there is simply no state Democratic party in any of the 50 states that is so clearly, obviously demented.

    By Charles P. Pierce on July 7, 2014

    If you want to see the clearest symptoms of the prion disease that has devoured the brain of the Republican party, the state Republican party is your Patient Zero. And, before a whole bunch of people in the Beltway media playpen begin minimizing this craziness because it pretty much shatters the whole idea of Both Sides Doing It without which most of those people can’t get out of bed in the morning. This isn’t four guys in camo in Idaho. This isn’t a guy broadcasting on a short-wave from upper Michigan, or receiving the truth about chemtrails and the Illuminati through his teeth. This is the Republican party representing the state from which he got our last Republican president, and one of the biggest states in the Union. This is what it believes, as summed up with realit-based parentheticals by Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker:

    Let’s proceed to policy. In the next of its forty pages, the platform demands, among other things: That the Texas Legislature should nullify-indeed, “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify”-federal laws it doesn’t like. (Unmentioned is the fact that, beginning in 1809, the Supreme Court has steadfastedly rejected state nullification of federal laws.); That when it comes to “unelected bureaucrats”-i.e., pretty much the entire federal work force above the janitorial level-Congress should “defund and abolish these positions.”; That the Seventeenth Amendment, which was adopted in 1913, be repealed, so that “the appointment of United States Senators” can again be made by state legislators, not by voters. (Admittedly, the Texas Legislature could hardly do worse.), That all federal “enforcement activities” within the borders of Texas-including, presumably, the activities of F.B.I. agents, Justice Department prosecutors, air marshals, immigration officers, agricultural inspectors, and tax auditors-“must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.”

    Keep an eye on that last sentence. The Republican party of the state of Texas, a state which has 38 electoral votes and which will send 153 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention, has endorsed the exact theory of government that was promulgated by the gun-toting yahoos at the Bundy Ranch. And there’s more.

    …there are plenty of things that Texas Republicans plan to do away with entirely-or, to use their preferred word, things they would subject to “abolishment.” (For Calhoun conservatives, I suppose, “abolition” has regrettable overtones.) A partial list: Personal-income taxes; Property taxes; Estate taxes; Capital-gains taxes; Franchise and business-income taxes; The gift tax; Minimum-wage laws; Social Security (“We support an immediate and orderly transition to a system of private pensions”); The Environmental Protection Agency;The Department of Education and all its functions; “Unelected bureaucrats”; “Any and all federal agencies not based on an enumerated power granted by the United States Federal Constitution”; Congressional pensions; Supreme Court jurisdiction in cases involving abortion, religious freedom, and the Bill of Rights; The Federal Reserve; “Foreign aid, except in cases of national defense or catastrophic disasters, with Congressional approval,” Obamacare (but you knew that already).

    The Republican party of the state of Texas, a state that went for Mitt Romney by over two million votes, would like to do away with the Federal Reserve, and any Supreme Court jurisdiction in any case involving the Bill Of Rights. And, yes, there’s more.

    Things that the Texas Republicans support: Withdrawal from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank; “Traditional methods of discipline, including corporal punishment;” “Reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions,” Returning to “the time-tested precious metal standard for the United States dollar.”

    The Republican Party of the state of Texas, a state in which north of 45 percent of the voters identify as Republicans, would like to bring back spanking.

    Beyond the obvious lesson that the GOP has been completely radicalized and is intent on dismantling life as we know it ASAP (sorry robot armies of the future, there’s a line), one of the key lessons we can take from news like this is that the Texas GOP isn’t just crazy. The Texas GOP is becoming so crazy that’s there’s no way it will be able to uncrazy itself for a long, long time. You can’t shut off “Taliban mode” overnight.

    So beyond the ominous implications this has for the entire US, you really have to wonder what this is going to mean for the people of Texas now the GOP is openly embracing governmental negligence as the state credo. What can the residents expect? That’s hard to say, although we can be pretty sure the results, given enough time, should be explosive. Literally explosive:

    KWTX.com
    First Bill In Response To West Explosion Meets GOP Pushback

    AUSTIN (July 1, 2014) The first bill drafted by Texas lawmakers in response to the April 17, 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West that killed 15 people met some pushback Tuesday from Republicans concerned about the cost.

    GOP House members said Tuesday they worried about requiring small fertilizer operators in rural Texas counties to pay for new regulations intended to improve safety.

    State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, authored the early draft bill after House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety spent the past year investigating explosion.

    Pickett, who chairs the committee, said Texas will have another “major disaster” without any changes to the law.

    The draft measure includes requiring ammonium nitrate to be stored in non-combustible containers.

    State Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, however, called the early proposals “overkill.”

    In April State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy told the committee he wants 46 facilities that store ammonium nitrate in Texas to make safety improvements in the wake of the deadly explosion.

    Connealy told lawmaker that facilities similar to West Fertilizer Co., should be given three years either to install sprinklers or to retrofit their buildings to mitigate the potential for explosions.

    A total of as much as 64 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in wooden bins in the wooden building in West, 28 to 34 tons of which exploded, while an additional 20 to 30 tons in the building and another 100 tons in a nearby rail car did not explode.

    The total amount of ammonium nitrate on the site was about 150 tons.

    Meanwhile Tuesday, Attorney General Greg Abbott, who earlier decided that the state doesn’t have to disclose the potentially dangerous chemicals stored at plants around Texas, said ordinary Texans are free to ask the plants on their own.

    The Republican gubernatorial candidate Tuesday defended his ruling that the Department of State Health Services can keep locations of facilities with possibly dangerous chemicals confidential, but added, that anyone can ask companies what they’re storing and get answers within 10 days.

    Abbott said official confidentiality can stop terrorists, but he called the ruling a “win-win” since everyone statewide can learn about “chemicals stored in any plant.”

    Are you impressed with Texas’s new “anti-terrorism” plan as part of the state’s ‘Sovereign Citizen’ shift? No, not the part about restricting local residents’ access to the information about what dangerous chemicals might be stored near their homes. That seems rather dubious. No, the part about refusing any new safety regulations for small fertilizer operators just a year after the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion. It’s brilliant! Because how on earth can terrorists threaten a state populace with violent explosions when violent explosions are just an everyday expected part of life? If some terrorist group targeted a fertilizer plant and blew it up, well, how could anyone say that’s a terrorist attack? It could have just been one of the ticking time bombs of under-maintained chemical facilities that went off. When Texas Congressman Pete Sessions talked about the GOP adopting the Taliban as a model back in 2009, who would have thought the comment was that literal? Or that self-directed? Still…it’s brilliant and very, very brave!

    So where did Texas’s Attorney General get his bold new idea? He’s running for governor so it would be useful to know how the man thinks. Was this hatch during a recent Taliban-style secret meeting? Maybe he came up with it while planning the next showdown with the BLM. Where indeed…:

    Dallas News
    Money from Koch interests flows to governor candidate Greg Abbott

    By WAYNE SLATER
    Senior Political Writer
    wslater@dallasnews.com

    Published: 01 July 2014 11:05 PM
    Updated: 02 July 2014 07:42 AM

    AUSTIN — Five months after an ammonium nitrate explosion that killed 15 people in West, Attorney General Greg Abbott received a $25,000 contribution from a first-time donor to his political campaigns — the head of Koch Industries’ fertilizer division.

    The donor, Chase Koch, is the son of one of the billionaire brothers atop Koch Industries’ politically influential business empire.

    Abbott, who has since been criticized for allowing Texas chemical facilities to keep secret the contents of their plants, received more than $75,000 from Koch interests after the April 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. storage and distribution facility, campaign finance records filed with the state showed.

    The West accident focused public attention on the storage of potentially dangerous chemicals across Texas and regulatory gaps in prevention, data-gathering, enforcement and disclosure to prevent explosions in the future. In addition to the 15 deaths, scores of people were injured, and homes and businesses were leveled.

    The issue has re-emerged for Abbott in his run for governor. The Republican nominee recently declared that records on what chemicals the facilities stored could remain hidden, citing state laws meant to deter potential terrorist threats.

    The campaign of his Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, has charged Abbott with protecting campaign donors. On Tuesday, Abbott struggled to explain how Texans might learn of dangerous chemicals in their midst.

    “You know where they are if you drive around,” Abbott told reporters at an event in Austin. “You can ask every facility whether or not they have chemicals or not. You can ask them if they do and they can tell you, ‘Well, we do have chemicals or we don’t have chemicals.’ And if they do, they tell which ones they have.”

    Opinion from May

    For decades, Texans wanting to know about companies keeping such chemicals could find out from the state.

    But Abbott has said that those records are closed. And the state agency that collects and maintains information on large chemical supplies has stopped sharing it with the public.

    Abbott contends his opinion, issued in May, strikes a balance. On Tuesday, he called it a “win-win” that keeps information about large chemical inventories off the website of the Department of State Health Services but doesn’t forbid homeowners from asking companies in their neighborhoods what they store.

    He said companies should respond within 10 days, but it’s not clear what penalties, if any, private companies face if they decline to tell a member of the public what chemicals are on site.

    An attorney general’s opinion carries the weight of law unless modified or overturned by a court or lawmakers.

    Abbott campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch did not respond to requests for comment about the Koch donations.

    Chemical interests

    As attorney general, Abbott has issued several opinions instructing agencies, including the Department of State Health Services and the state environmental quality agency, to withhold information about facilities storing so-called Tier II chemicals.

    Chemical interests have donated thousands of dollars to Abbott’s political campaigns, according to state records. He has received more than $50,000 from political committees for Chevron, Dow Chemical, Lyondell and DuPont and thousands more from chemical company executives. Abbott has raised a total of tens of millions of dollars for several statewide campaigns.

    As for Koch, much of its money to Abbott came within a few weeks last year. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

    Chase Koch donated $25,000 in September, shortly after his father, Koch board chairman Charles Koch, also gave $25,000. The Koch Industries political committee sent Abbott $25,000 in November.

    In addition, the company flew Abbott on a company jet in August to an invitation-only gathering in New Mexico that offered wealthy donors an opportunity to meet and mingle with GOP elected officials and leaders of conservative groups supporting the Koch agenda of less government regulation and disclosure.

    In the Texas Legislature, Koch lobbyists are on record advocating repeal of notification requirements regarding company pipeline construction and discontinuing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s compliance history program.

    “In addition, the company flew Abbott on a company jet in August to an invitation-only gathering in New Mexico that offered wealthy donors an opportunity to meet and mingle with GOP elected officials and leaders of conservative groups supporting the Koch agenda of less government regulation and disclosure.” Where indeed…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 7, 2014, 6:47 pm
  35. What kind of gift to you give to someone that already has everything? No, not a handmade gift. That’s just lame. Also, the recipient of your gift views you with contempt so, really, they aren’t really interested in anything you can provide. Well, there is one thing…fawning obedience:

    The New Yorker
    Moaning Moguls
    by James Surowiecki July 7, 2014

    The past few years have been very good to Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and C.E.O. of the Blackstone Group, the giant private-equity firm. His industry, which relies on borrowed money, has benefitted from low interest rates, and the stock-market boom has given his firm great opportunities to cash out investments. Schwarzman is now worth more than ten billion dollars. You wouldn’t think he’d have much to complain about. But, to hear him tell it, he’s beset by a meddlesome, tax-happy government and a whiny, envious populace. He recently grumbled that the U.S. middle class has taken to “blaming wealthy people” for its problems. Previously, he has said that it might be good to raise income taxes on the poor so they had “skin in the game,” and that proposals to repeal the carried-interest tax loophole—from which he personally benefits—were akin to the German invasion of Poland.

    Schwarzman isn’t alone. In the past year, the venture capitalist Tom Perkins and Kenneth Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, both compared populist attacks on the wealthy to the Nazis’ attacks on the Jews. All three eventually apologized, but the basic sentiment is surprisingly common. Although the Obama years have been boom times for America’s super-rich—recent work by the economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty showed that ninety-five per cent of income gains in the first three years of the recovery went to the top one per cent—a lot of them believe that they’re a persecuted minority. As Mark Mizruchi, a sociologist at the University of Michigan and the author of a book called “The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite,” told me, “These guys think, We’re the job creators, we keep the markets running, and yet the public doesn’t like us. How can that be?” Business leaders were upset at the criticism that followed the financial crisis and, for many of them, it’s an article of faith that people succeed or fail because that’s what they deserve. Schwarzman recently said that Americans “always like to blame somebody other than themselves for a failure.” If you believe that net worth is a reflection of merit, then any attempt to curb inequality looks unfair.

    That’s not how it’s always been. A century ago, industrial magnates played a central role in the Progressive movement, working with unions, supporting workmen’s compensation laws and laws against child labor, and often pushing for more government regulation. This wasn’t altruism; as a classic analysis by the historian James Weinstein showed, the reforms were intended to co-opt public pressure and avert more radical measures. Still, they materially improved the lives of ordinary workers. And they sprang from a pragmatic belief that the robustness of capitalism as a whole depended on wide distribution of the fruits of the system.

    That all changed beginning in the seventies, when the business community, wrestling with shrinking profits and tougher foreign competition, lurched to the right. Today, there are no centrist business organizations with any real political clout, and the only business lobbies that matter in Washington are those pushing an agenda of lower taxes and less regulation. Corporate profits and C.E.O. salaries have in recent years reached record levels, but there’s no sign of a return to the corporate statesmanship of the past (the occasional outlier like Warren Buffett notwithstanding). And that’s one big reason that it’s become impossible for Washington to get things done, even on issues of bipartisan interest.

    If today’s corporate kvetchers are more concerned with the state of their egos than with the state of the nation, it’s in part because their own fortunes aren’t tied to those of the nation the way they once were. In the postwar years, American companies depended largely on American consumers. Globalization has changed that—foreign sales account for almost half the revenue of the S&P 500—as has the rise of financial services (where the most important clients are the wealthy and other corporations). The well-being of the American middle class just doesn’t matter as much to companies’ bottom lines. And there’s another change. Early in the past century, there was a true socialist movement in the United States, and in the postwar years the Soviet Union seemed to offer the possibility of a meaningful alternative to capitalism. Small wonder that the tycoons of those days were so eager to channel populist agitation into reform. Today, by contrast, corporate chieftains have little to fear, other than mildly higher taxes and the complaints of people who have read Thomas Piketty. Moguls complain about their feelings because that’s all anyone can really threaten.

    “Moguls complain about their feelings because that’s all anyone can really threaten.” Aint that the truth.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 8, 2014, 6:49 am
  36. Well, this has got to be just about the worst reason ever to avoid implementing new renewable energy sources, but the article does make a valid point: Greater power grid complexity might allow for a wider variety of energy sources, but when the energy industry doesn’t take adequate protective steps to address vulnerabilities that arise from that new complexity, the greater diversity of energy sources will also come with a greater diversity of grid hacks:

    Bloomberg
    Hackers Find Open Back Door to Power Grid With Renewables
    By Louise Downing and Jim Polson Jul 2, 2014 4:23 AM CT

    Making the electricity grid greener is boosting its vulnerability to computer hacking, increasing the risk that spies or criminals can cause blackouts.

    Adding wind farms, solar panels and smart meters to the power distribution system opens additional portals through which hackers can attack the grid, according to computer security experts advising governments and utilities. Where traditionally the grid took power from a few sources, it’s now absorbing it from thousands.

    The communication networks and software that link green energy sources to the grid as well as the electronic meters that send real time power usage to consumers and utilities are providing new back-door entry paths for computer hackers to raise havoc with the grid. The disclosure this week that hackers known as “Dragonfly” and “Energetic Bear” gained access to power networks across the U.S. and Europe in the past 15 months is a reminder of how vulnerable the system has become.

    “Attacks against the grid have moved from theory to reality,” said Raj Samani, chief technology officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa, at McAfee Inc., a unit of Intel Corp. (INTC) that’s one of the biggest security software providers.

    Utilities, already grappling with other challenges to the grid, may spend what may run into the billions of dollars for computer security. A new multitude of energy inputs is forcing grid managers to run systems that communicate real-time data on power flows to consumers and power plants, bringing networks that were previously closely controlled into contact with computer and telecommunication systems used by millions.

    Smart Meters

    Already, the energy industry was the sixth-most targeted sector worldwide last year. It was the top target in the U.S., accounting for 59 percent of the 256 attacks recorded last year by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Almost all the specifics of the incidents are kept quiet to prevent damage to the companies victimized.

    In the past, all power use was measured by mechanical meters, which required a utility worker to inspect and read them. Now, utilities are turning to smart meters that communicate data on flows minute by minute both to customers and utilities. In Britain, the government wants most homes to have smart meters by 2020, opening millions of new access points for attackers. Similar programs are in place across the U.S. and Europe.

    “Anytime you introduce more software, you introduce more complexity and inevitably more potential holes to the system,” said Gavin O’Gorman, a threat intelligence analyst at Symantec Corp. (SYMC), the security company based in Mountain View, California, that identified the “Dragonfly” threat.

    In the “Dragonfly” incident, hackers thought to be in Eastern Europe started targeting power companies with spam in February 2013 and gained access to networks at three companies a few months later. Symantec didn’t name the companies. It said most of the incidents were in Spain, the U.S., France and Italy.

    Renewable energy companies were targeted. The “Dragonfly” hackers used a French website of a clean power provider as a “watering hole,” where victims from the targeted company visit and pick up infected code, Symantec said.

    They were able to compromise industrial control systems and install malware that can replicate itself and spread to other computers.

    “Dragonfly” was the latest in a series of breaches affecting energy companies. In June, the U.S. traced dozens of surveillance sorties in 2012 and 2013 on gas pipelines and electric utilities to the People’s Liberation Army in China.

    As the article points out, the threats of compromised industrial control systems (e.g. Stuxnet) and disrupted power grids aren’t going to fade away as technology advances. They might even get worse. While this may not actually be a valid reason to avoid the introduction of renewable energy technologies (by that logic, no new technology that expands complexity and risk should be implemented), it’s still a lesson worth keeping in mind that new risks are indeed emerging if we transition to a smart grid society. Because it’s not just your local power grid that’s poised for greater technical complexity and risks associated with green energy and smart grid technology. Think closer to home:

    Pando Daily
    Time Magazine shows just how creepy smart homes really are

    By James Robinson
    On July 7, 2014

    Over the holiday weekend, I sat down with Time’s special on “The Smarter Home.”

    A few things hit me straight up. It always feels goofier than it should when populist magazines take on emerging tech. Also, we need to stop the rampant deification of Tony Fadell. (“‘At Apple, we changed society,’ Fadell says, somewhat contemplatively. Now he’s trying again.”)

    But above everything, I felt creeped out. “The dwellings of the future will make you calmer, safer, richer and healthier,” Time’s cover assured me, soothingly. But taking my head out of the tech press and reading such a broad, consumer level cover-all of the smarter home, I was nagged by the thought that a modern surveillance state isn’t so much being forced on us, as it is sold to us device by device, with the idea that it is for our benefit.

    Cast aside any notion of consumer convenience (turn off the part of your brain that looks at shiny things and thinks “hey! cool…”) and think only of what the information that these smart toys gather says about you. All of the companies involved, if contacted, would probably say something noble about protecting your data while offering up a great service. But we know how this plays out. Think Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” maxim versus how it has actually treated your search, maps and email data.

    Nest sucks up data on how warm your home is. As Mocana CEO James Isaacs explained to me in early May, a detailed footprint of your comings and goings can be inferred from this information. Nest just bought Dropcam, a company that markets itself as a security tool allowing you to put cameras in your home and view them remotely, but brings with it a raft of disquieting implications about surveillance. Automatic wants you to monitor how far you drive and do things for you like talk to your your house when you’re on your way home from work and turn on lights when you pull into your garage. Tied into the new SmartThings platform, a Jawbone UP band becomes a tool for remotely monitoring someone else’s activity. The SmartThings hubs and sensors themselves put any switch or door in play. Companies like AT&T want to build a digital home that monitors your security and energy use.

    Time’s feature whirred over a lot of new technology. Withings Smart Body Analyzer monitors your weight and pulse. Teddy the Guardian is a soft toy for children that spies on their vital signs. Parrot Flower Power looks at the moisture in your home under the guise of helping you grow plants. The Beam Brush checks up on your teeth-brushing technique. The ToTo Washlet is a smart toilet. The Droplet Sprinkler helps you save water. The Ravenwindow looks at how much light is coming into your home. The Water Pebble goes in the shower and glows red if you’re taking longer than usual.

    Getting connected device makers to pontificate on what is coming next, what is thrown out gets more personal and if you hold up the same line of suspicion to it all, significantly more horrifying: a micro-wearable that analyzes diet through sweat, a wearable thermostat that analyzes why you’re hot or cold.

    I can’t credit Time for earth shattering insight. But inadvertently, it pulled off something that I hadn’t seen done well before: it put the pieces of the smart home story together in such a complete and excitable way

    Calmer, safer, richer and healthier? Try, quantified, coddled, surveilled, and monetized.

    Yes, the “internet of things” is coming, it’s potentially hackable, and it’s going to consist of your things. Your ‘smart’ things in your home and also the home itself. It’s a reminder that the added risks associated with sane actions like hooking up renewable energy to the electrical grid pale in comparison to the added complexity and risks associated with wiring up all the utilities and random items in our homes in a giant observational network. The risks associated with the renewable energy sector can be wildly overstated.

    And the larger topic of renewable energy-associated smart grid technology creating new risks in the energy sector sector that infects the whole grid should also be a reminder that the biggest risks associated with renewable energy technology disrupting the energy grid don’t actually come from the renewable energy technology. Imagine that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 9, 2014, 8:50 pm
  37. Here’s a peak at the future of the US far right, or at least the future the far right would like to see: Cyber-Koch Heads:

    The Kochs’ nonprofit empire is building a network of libertarian hackers, coders and designers
    Generation Opportunity teams up with Lincoln Labs to host hackathons across the country
    Chris Moody, Yahoo News
    By Chris Moody, Yahoo News July 23, 2014 8:57 AM

    SAN FRANCISCO — It was nearing 2 a.m., the AC had been shut off and the air in the century-old downtown office of Brigade Media, a tech startup that hosted a hackathon in conjunction with a libertarian tech conference here, was starting to feel heavy. A small group of unwashed, sleep-deprived coders toiled quietly over their computers while a young man in a corner was passed out on a beanbag chair with a laptop balancing on his chest.

    The hackathon — an event in which teams compete to build new apps and programs within a short period of time — was part of the first inaugural Reboot conference where hundreds of conservative hackers, coders, designers, tech entrepreneurs and conservative political activists joined some of the nation’s top Republicans to strategize and — ideally — emerge with The Next Great App. As an incentive, the conference organizers offered $10,000 in prize money to be awarded to the best ideas.

    The gathering was the first inaugural conference put on by Lincoln Labs, a year-old club of politically-minded technologists started by three millennials with backgrounds in Republican politics: Garrett Johnson, a former aide to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Aaron Ginn, who worked on Mitt Romney’s digital team; and Chris Abrams, who runs digital operations for Vanity Fair magazine. The group — which adopts the label “conservatarian,” a popular buzzword for the ideological coalition between conservatives and libertarians — was born in 2013 in the aftermath of the failed Republican attempt to regain control of the White House, in which President Obama’s mastery of digital campaigning and data collection trounced Republican efforts to match it.

    Over the past year, Lincoln Labs has grown to represent the epicenter of the right-wing tech scene as it struggles to make a dent in an industry traditionally dominated by the political left.

    For most of Lincoln Lab’s existence, the group has relied upon financial backing and support from the orbit of activist groups that are part of Charles and David Koch’s donor network. Last weekend’s conference was sponsored by an array of groups from the Koch network: Generation Opportunity, its youth outreach group; the Libre Initiative, its Hispanic organization; Americans for Prosperity, its lead political advocacy arm; and i360, which collects data on behalf of the Koch network. Microsoft, Google, and Stampede, a political consulting firm that provides campaign services to conservative candidates, also served as sponsors for the event.

    With Generation Opportunity doing most of the financial legwork, the Koch network has invested in Lincoln Labs hackathons around the country, holding similar, yet smaller, gatherings in California, Seattle, Chicago and Miami.

    That’s enough of an opening for enterprising Republican lawmakers, who are beginning to notice that there’s an opportunity to finally make inroads here. For example, they see how state and local union-backed taxi commissionstry to choke ride-sharing apps such as Uber and how special interests that represent the hospitality industry work to undermine businesses like Airbnb, which connects private homeowners with potential renters. At the conference, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul delivered speeches and joined panel discussions, while Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker piped in their own comments through video presentations. The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee flew in their top tech brass from Washington, D.C.

    For Paul, a possible future Republican presidential candidate, the trip to Northern California was an opportunity to meet with tech entrepreneurs from both sides of the aisle, a group Paul hopes shares his antagonism for unbridled government spying and questionable data collecting practices.

    “I come out here and people say, ‘Oh, I love President Obama. We’re all for President Obama, we’re from the tech community.’ Why?” Paul asked in his address at the conference. “Why would you be? He’s not for innovation. He’s not for freedom. He’s for the protectionism crowd.”

    But votes and campaign donations for Republicans are only part of what the right seeks from Silicon Valley. California voters, after all, haven’t helped elect a Republican presidential candidate since George H. W. Bush took the baton from Ronald Reagan more than a quarter-century ago.

    The right also wants its talent.

    This is where Lincoln Labs — with an assist from the Koch network — comes in.

    Many of the hackers, programmers and designers who participated in the Lincoln Labs hackathon aren’t Republicans, or even conservatives. But by holding the events with the promise of cash prizes, Lincoln Labs has found a way to connect issues raised by D.C. political operatives who don’t know the first thing about coding with solutions from technologists eager to solve problems (and maybe earn a bit of cash on the side).

    Beyond providing the space and financial incentive to create new apps, the conference also aimed to connect those technologists with operatives interested in using their creations for their cause.

    “This bridges that gap of, how do people like us in the political world get involved with individuals like that who are apolitical?” said Adam Stryker, the ?chief technology officer at Americans for Prosperity. “Evidently 10,000 bucks at a hackathon is one way to get people involved. Free market approaches.”

    To supplement the occasional brick-and-mortar hackathon gathering Generation Opportunity has built an online hub for libertarian technologists to connect year-round with politicos and entrepreneurs. The group has built a portal called Liberty.IO as an online space where activists can submit problems they would like to solve or ideas for better apps and connect with designers and developers who know how to build them.

    The upside for the Koch-backed groups? By serving as the home for the libertarian tech community, they get first crack at top tech talent that’s potentially sympathetic to the “conservatarian” cause — and help with everything from smarter data collection to better campaign practices.

    And of course, there’s the added benefit of funding projects that they see as helping put a million little tears into the fabric of the state. As many of the activists here see it, the tech revolution is one of their most effective ways to make the services provided by the government less relevant.

    “Whether the government likes it or not, there’s going to be a revolution,” Paul said during his talk. “One of the things that intrigues me about progress and all the stuff that comes from the Internet in this digital age is whether or not something is going to replace the government.”

    Paul added some parting advice to the group: “Don’t be depressed about how bad government is. Use your ingenuity, use your big head to think of solutions so the marketplace can figure what the idiots and trolls in Washington will never come up with.”

    And here’s a piece by Mark Ames that takes a closer look at the typically terrifying politics on display at “Reboot” and strange history of libertarianism, Silicon Valley, Reason magazine, the Koch brothers that shows why the “Reboot” conference was a very logical choice for showcasing a very irrational movement:

    Pando Daily
    Homophobia, racism and the Kochs: San Francisco’s tech-libertarian “Reboot” conference is a cesspool

    By Mark Ames
    On July 18, 2014

    Starting today, San Francisco plays host to the Reboot 2014 conference. According to the event’s blurb:

    Reboot 2014 will bring together technical talent and policy advocates to turn ideas into deliverables for liberty.

    The word “liberty” is the giveaway, of course. With “Reboot,” libertarianism is making its Big Pitch to Silicon Valley. The event features the movement’s superstar scion, Rand Paul, as keynote speaker; alongside Nick Gillespie, the leather-jacketed editor of Reason.com, the online edition of Reason magazine, the longest-running and most successful libertarian media outlet, backed by the infamous Koch Brothers. In fact, the entire event is sponsored by the Kochs.

    Under the weird banner of “conservatarianism,” other key speakers include prominent republicans like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference, and Andy Barkett, CTO of the Republican National Committee.

    Silicon Valley and libertarianism would seem to be a natural fit, given Ayn Rand’s reputed popularity in the tech world—at least, according to the caricature. At the billionaire level, a number of Big Tech superstars identify themselves as “libertarian”: Pierre Omidyar, Peter Thiel, Travis Kalanick to name a few. And Reason magazine, based in southern California since 1970, would seem to be the perfect matchmaker between the Bible Belt libertarianism of Rand Paul and Charles Koch, and Silicon Valley’s “California libertarianism.” After all, it was Reason that inspired Wired magazine’s libertarian founder, Louis Rossetto, when he was a Columbia U student in the early 1970s.

    Lately, Rand Paul, the superstar of the libertarian world, has been hard-selling himself to Silicon Valley billionaires. In May, Sen. Paul did a billionaires’ crawl in the Bay Area, gloating about “unlimited potential for us in Silicon Valley.” And last weekend, Rand Paul wormed his way into the annual Sun Valley oligarchs’ retreat for some quality one-on-one face time with Facebook billionaires Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, and Peter Thiel (who bankrolled Rand’s daddy Ron Paul’s 2012 run for president).

    [Disclosure: Peter Thiel is an investor in Pando, via Founders Fund]

    So now we have the “Reboot Lab” conference taking place in the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA tech district. But if the purpose of the Reboot Lab conference is to merge Koch-brand libertarianism with Silicon Valley “libertarianism,” then the first thing you have to ask is: Why the Hell did they invite a mean homophobic hick like Cathy McMorris Rodgers to the show?

    Rand Paul at least does a decent job showboating outrage against Big Brother snooping and drone attacks; at least there’s something there to grab onto before you get into the rest of Rand’s loonie-right politics. But the other keynote speaker, McMorris Rodgers?

    In the, I suppose, quite likely event that Silicon Valley doesn’t know who she is, here’s a quick primer:

    Rep. McMorris Rodgers was homeschooled by her father, and got her higher education degree at an unaccredited Christian fundamentalist institution,Pensacola Christian College (PCC), which bans homosexuality, open Internet (PCC until recently banned all Internet access), and mixed-gender stairwells (male and female students are required to use separate stairs and doors). Pensacola Christian College is the publisher of A Beka textbooks for K-12 pupils, which teach kids that Islam is a “false religion,” Hindus are “incapable of writing history,” Catholicism is “a monstrous distortion of Christianity,” African religions preach “false religious beliefs,” liberals and Democrats are crypto-Marxists, and the United Nations is a “collectivist juggernaut that would crush individual freedom and force the will of an elite few on all of humanity.”

    In the mid-late 90s, McMorris Rodgers took office in the Washington state legislature and co-authored a bill banning same-sex marriages, then later earned notoriety for blocking a bill that had already passed unanimously in Washington state’s upper house to replace the pejorative “Orientals” with “Asians” in official state documents. As reported in the press at the time, legislators were dumbfounded as to why McMorris Rodgers would do something as gratuitously mean-spirited as blocking a bill undoing racism against Asians; a few, including the bill’s Korean-American author, literally broke down in tears. McMorris Rodgers’ excuse, as reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

    “I’m very reluctant to continue to focus on setting up different definitions in statute related to the various minority groups. I’d really like to see us get beyond that.”

    Since coming to Congress, she co-sponsored a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, voted against bills that would protect the LGBT community from hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace, against the equal pay bill for women, against federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and she opposes legal abortions in the case of rape or incest (unless the mother’s life is in danger). The Pensacola Christian College grad did, however, co-author a bill “recognizing Christianity’s importance to Western civilization.”

    And this weekend she’ll be keynoting at Reboot, sharing the stage with LeanIn.org’s Andrea Saul, whom Sheryl Sandberg hired last year to “help reach women – and men – so that we can all work together towards a more equal world.”

    Indeed.

    At first glance it makes no sense to front a rabidly anti-gay candidate like McMorris Rodgers to sell the Kochs’ and the Paul family’s scrubland libertarianism to a Bay Area audience full of hip disruptors and “anarchist” practitioners of bohemia grooming fads.

    But that’s because what Silicon Valley folks think of when they hear the word “libertarianism” actually has very little connection to what the libertarian movement actually stands for, and has stood for since the 1970s.

    To understand what libertarianism really means to some of the people on stage at the Reboot conference, you need to look back at the archives of Reason magazine — the de facto house magazine of American libertarianism. A magazine whose online editor, don’t forget, will also be on the Reboot stage.

    For the past few months, I’ve been sifting back through Reason’s archives to try to understand the dark origins of all this flashy libertarian patter that’s being repackaged and sold to today’s Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as “bold” and “new” thinking.

    The rest of Mark Ames’s piece goes into that intertwined history of libertarianism, Reason magazine, Silicon Valley, and the Koch brothers. It’s definitely worth a read. Especially the parts about Reason magazine’s championing of South Africa as a libertarian paradise. And don’t miss the follow up piece on the 1976 “special issue” (yikes!).

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 24, 2014, 8:43 pm
  38. Here’s an article that highlights a key aspect of the concerns over the Koch-dominated Canadian tar sands flowing through the Keystone XL pipeline and the dangers posed to major US ground water sources from an oil spill: Tar sands oil has so many chemicals added to it that it sinks in water:

    Los Angeles Times
    Maine town fights plan to use pipeline to export oil sands crude
    By Neela Banerjee

    July 21, 2014, 5:00 AM

    Tom Blake, like thousands of his neighbors in this coastal town, is used to living alongside the oil industry. Tank farms cluster in neighborhoods, by the park where families watch the movie “Frozen” on a summer night, next to schools and senior citizens apartment buildings. As a child, Blake, the town’s former mayor, used to jump into high snow drifts from the massive oil tank next door.

    Now, after decades as a New England hub for importing crude oil and distributing fuel, South Portland is enmeshed in a dispute with the oil industry that echoes far beyond southern Maine.

    On Monday night, the South Portland City Council, including Blake, is expected to pass an ordinance that would prevent the export of crude oil from the waterfront. The product of a relentless 18-month campaign by residents and Maine environmental groups, the measure is a response to plans by Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, or PMPL, to reverse the flow of its import pipeline in order to export oil sands crude from Canada, the same petroleum that would run through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in the Great Plains.

    “This isn’t an anti-Portland pipeline company measure,” Blake said. “It’s anti-dirty oil.”

    The fight over granting Keystone XL a federal permit and the questions it raised about the oil’s environmental impact has fed the opposition here. But South Portland itself is now the latest front in the battle over developing Alberta’s vast oil sands deposits. The Canadian government is pushing to build multiple export routes. Towns and environmentalists along the proposed routes want to seal them off.

    The South Portland ordinance, if passed, would be “very significant” to efforts to thwart oil sands crude exports, said Danielle Droitsch, Canada Project director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    That has not been lost on the oil sector, from the regional players in South Portland to the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s top lobby, which sent a letter to town officials saying the law “would face strong legal challenges.” No company in South Portland currently exports crude oil, but some say the ordinance signals a willingness to restrict all businesses unfairly.

    “A very vocal minority initiated a groundswell of concern in the community, and the City Council adopted this ordinance without addressing, through independent study, the issues that were initially brought up about public health and safety,” said Taylor Hudson, head of investor relations for Sprague Energy, a New England energy wholesaler. “There was such a rush to judgment without input from state, federal or local regulators. We see it as a very dangerous precedent for any business that wants to innovate.”

    PMPL got local and state permits with little notice five years ago to make infrastructure changes to reverse the flow. But local residents homed in on the proposed change in late 2012 as oil sands crude became a bigger issue with Keystone XL. Communities along the pipeline route, from Vermont to Maine, also grew alarmed by spills of oil sands crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 and then in a subdivision in Mayflower, Ark., in 2013.

    “All of those things — Keystone, Kalamazoo — people woke up to them,” said Mary Jane Ferrier, 82, a spokeswoman for Protect South Portland, the citizens group championing the ordinance. “When people considered that it could happen in their backyard, they got very concerned.”

    The Portland-Montreal pipeline six times crosses the watershed for a major tributary into Sebago Lake, the drinking water source for the greater Portland area. Oil sands crude is a tarry substance called bitumen extracted through strip mining and diluted with chemicals to reduce its viscosity. The bitumen and diluents contain carcinogens. While oil usually floats when spilled into water, bitumen sinks, making cleanup harder.

    “That’s tap water,” Bob Foster said, picking up a half-full plastic bottle from the picnic table after weed-whacking his backyard one recent morning.

    He and his wife, Judy, both in their 60s, back the ordinance. They live in a trim, white clapboard house with a picket fence and flagpole out front, across the road from two huge sage-green tanks owned by PMPL. “All you need is one break, not even a huge break, and hundreds of thousands of people are going to be drinking and bathing in bottled water.”

    PMPL did not answer multiple emails and phone calls seeking comment about the export ordinance. In remarks to the Vermont Legislature last year reported by Vermont Public Radio, then-Chief Executive Larry Wilson said: “It’s a heavier oil, potentially, if we had this project. And we’ve pumped heavy oil, and we’re capable of pumping it very safely.”

    “We have a very powerful municipal tool in home rule that lets us stop projects that are adverse to the community,” said Crystal Goodrich, 40, an occupational therapist and member of Protect South Portland. “I think every community should have something like it. It’s become so that corporations can go to planning board meetings and get everything they ask for. But we are the ones that have to live here.”

    “We have a very powerful municipal tool in home rule that lets us stop projects that are adverse to the community…I think every community should have something like it. It’s become so that corporations can go to planning board meetings and get everything they ask for. But we are the ones that have to live here.” Good luck with that!

    In other news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 29, 2014, 6:37 pm
  39. Lee Fang points us towards a little snapshot of the New Citizens United Normal:

    OpenSecrets.org

    American Chemistry Council
    Outside Spending: Independent Expenditures, Electioneering Communication & Communication Costs by Targeted Candidate as of November 12, 2014:

    Grand Total: $2,382,066
    Total For Democrats: $0
    Total Against Democrats: $0
    Total For Republicans: $2,382,066
    Total Against Republicans: $0

    Candidate Party State Office Total For Against Results Ads
    Ernst, Joni R IA Senate $595,000 $595,000 $0 Winner
    Perdue, David R GA Senate $539,963 $539,963 $0 Winner
    Rounds, Mike R SD Senate $428,000 $428,000 $0 Winner
    Cantor, Eric R VA House $308,731 $308,731 $0 Lost in primary
    Isakson, Johnny R GA Senate $179,987 $179,987 $0
    Pompeo, Mike R KS House $165,200 $165,200 $0 Winner
    Roberts, Pat R KS Senate $165,185 $165,185 $0 Winner

    Based on data released daily by the FEC on November 12, 2014.

    And here’s a look at some of the consequences of the New Citizens United Normal Let’s just say that, based on the well-financed electoral successes highlighted above, the potential consequences don’t just threaten to blow up any semblance of fairness in the US electoral process. The consequences of opening the dark money floodgates will probably include actual explosions too:

    Mother Jones
    Will the “Koch Brothers Bill” Make Industrial Accidents More Likely?
    Such accidents are all too common in chemical country. So why are congressmen fighting to keep the EPA from doing anything about it?

    —By Tim Murphy
    | Mon Apr. 22, 2013 5:00 AM EDT

    Last Wednesday’s explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant, which left at least 15 people dead and more than 100 injured, was made possible by an ultra-lax state and federal oversight climate that make inspections of such facilities all but a rubber-stamp process—when they even happen. If the chemical lobby and its allies in Congress get their way, a regulatory process dismissed by environmental activists and labor unions as extremely weak would be watered down even more.

    In February, 11 congressmen—10 Republicans and one Democrat—joined some two dozen industry groups, including the Fertilizer Institute, the American Chemistry Council, and the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration, to back the General Duty Clarification Act. The bill is designed to sap the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to regulate safety and security at major chemical sites, as prescribed by the Clean Air Act.

    “We call that the Koch brothers bill,” Greenpeace legislative director Rick Hind says, because the bill’s sponsor, GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, represents the conservative megadonors’ home city of Wichita, Kansas. (The sponsor of the sister legislation in the senate, GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, represents the Kochs’ home state of Kansas.) The brothers have huge investments in fertilizer production, and Hind thinks they’ll ultimately get what they want, whether or not the bill becomes law. “It’s not necessarily intended to achieve legislative passage—it’s more about intimidation of a beleaguered agency.”

    The fight over fertilizer and the Clean Air Act has its origins in the passage of the law back in 1990. Although the original bill included language that would have permitted the EPA to regulate the emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide—both of which are important ingredients and fertilizer manufacturing—a fierce lobbying push from the fertilizer industry resulted in the compounds being stricken from the formal list.

    But battle intensified after 9/11, when President George W. Bush’s EPA director, Christine Todd Whitman, decided to take on what was seen as a serious security threat. Whitman, the moderate former New Jersey Republican governor, was working with Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge on a plan to regulate chemical plants, which were considered uniquely vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Whitman believed the law already empowered the agency do that, but she and Ridge sketched out legislation that would expand that authority and put aside any ambiguity.

    “They were all set to announce that publicly and the White House yanked it,” recalls Paul Orum, a chemical safety consultant for the Blue Green Chemical Security Coalition. Philip Perry, Dick Cheney’s son-in-law, and at the time the general counsel for the White House Office of Management and Budget, told her his bosses would never let any such legislation pass. In her 2005 book, It’s My Party Too, Whitman places the blame squarely at the feet of the American Chemistry Council, which she chides for its “extremism and closed-mindedness.”

    Whitman was rebuffed. Her powers were instead transferred through a 2007 budget deal to DHS, which was (and is) considered to be less concerned with things like environmental impacts or workplace standards. She resigned in 2003. Legislation designed to improve safety at chemical plants was introduced in the Senate in 2006, but blocked by Republicans.

    In the meantime, advocates for greater oversight of America’s great unregulated fertilizer facilities hope that maybe, just maybe, the explosion in West will be enough of a wake-up call to get Congress and the EPA to finally act.

    “Most of these things are human error,” says Neil Carman, clean air program director at the Sierra Club’s Austin chapter and a former investigator at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which inspects plants like West. “These things don’t happen all of a sudden. Every accident that I’ve looked at in industrial plants, it was like, ‘Hey, you’ve got a ticking time bomb there.'”

    And if the explosions don’t get you…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 13, 2014, 9:15 pm
  40. If the victimhood was, itself, capable of being victimized we can be pretty sure the Koch brothers would have done it by now since discrediting the very notion of victimhood appears to be once of their goals:

    Bloomberg Politics
    Kochworld’s 2014 Lesson: It’s All About Victimhood

    The leader of a Koch-backed political group explains what tactics will show up in the 2016 playbook.

    by Julie Bykowicz
    Nov 17, 2014 2:58 PM CST

    Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group co-founded by billionaire energy executives Charles and David Koch, spent more than $100 million helping Republican candidates in each of the last two elections–with markedly better results this year than in 2012. AFP President Tim Phillips took a coffee break Monday in Arlington, Va., to explain what went right and the tactics that will be enhanced and expanded upon for the 2016 presidential campaign. His top takeaways:

    Sob stories

    Phillips said he admired his opponents’ use of “real people” on TV to make the case that Republican policies were causing “out-of-control capitalism.” We have victims, too, he thought.

    So earlier this year, AFP dropped its economic argument against Obamacare in favor of TV ads with a bit more human drama, spotlighting people who had to drive twice as far to get to a doctor, for instance. Watch for AFP to continue with ads about environmental regulations putting business owners under water and Medicaid expansion causing doctor overload, Phillips said.

    “I’m just going to say this, though it probably comes out sounding like a joke: We need to keep taking back victimhood,” Phillips said. “The Democrats cannot own that.”

    Culling candidates

    “When you look at the bad candidates this year, it’s the left that had a gang that couldn’t shoot straight,” Phillips said.

    To wit: Bruce Braley clucking over chickens and dissing farmers in Iowa. He lost that Senate seat to Republican Joni Ernst. Colorado Senator Mark Udall picked up the nickname “Mark Uterus” because of his perceived one-note campaign to talk about reproductive rights. He lost his seat to Republican Representative Cory Gardner.

    Although Americans for Prosperity didn’t spend money in primary races this year, it takes care to publicize its favorites, Phillips said. That’ll continue in the 2016 run-up, with AFP email blasts highlighting Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s “positive American dream story” and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s “winning economic message,” Phillips said, naming two potential presidential hopefuls on its watch list.

    Ground game

    To improve Republican voter outreach, Phillips has been building AFP as a mirror image of the left’s labor unions and issues groups. A mix of 550 paid AFP workers and hundreds of volunteers went toe to toe with union activists in Iowa and Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood supporters in Colorado and North Carolina and environmentalists in Florida, Phillips said.

    Having seen results this year, AFP will swell its payroll for 2016. “We’re just going to have to keep getting bigger,” he said.

    AFP’s money well is deep: The nonprofit can count on huge checks from mystery donors aligned with the Kochs as well as small donations from the thousands of people on its fundraising e-mail list.

    So it looks like the AFP is planning on culling candidates without a good anti-government sob story and then proceeding to swell their victimized campaigns with paid operatives. Oh joy. The GOP is planning on boldly executing the exact same strategy it always uses. Let’s hope there’s at least going to be more flair to the GOP’s victimhood campaign this time around just to spice things up. It shouldn’t be too hard to pull off. At this point, pretty much everything should be a muse.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 18, 2014, 7:36 pm
  41. Oh look. A Koch-backed anti-environmental group decided to make a joke campaign equating EPA regulations to torture. It was a somewhat appropriate joke considering the intense global pain and suffering that’s going to be experienced by life on earth planet as a result of out of control human activity and collapsing ecosystems, but only if you assume “The American Energy Alliance” told this joke out of a dark sense of self-referential ironyn:

    Climate Progress
    Koch Group On The EPA: ‘At Least The CIA Isn’t Torturing Americans’

    by Emily Atkin Posted on December 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm Updated: December 16, 2014 at 8:58 am

    The American Energy Alliance is testing out a new tactic for fighting the Environmental Protection Agency: comparing the agency’s proposed regulations to torture tactics committed against terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

    In a short blog post and comic posted Friday, the pro-fossil fuel non-profit said the EPA’s proposed limits on smog-forming pollutants and carbon dioxide were comparable to tactics outlined in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recently released report investigating the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In one instance, the group implied the EPA’s attempts to reduce pollution were even worse than torture, claiming the regulations would kill American jobs, raise energy costs, and “crush” small businesses.

    “[I]t’s clear that the CIA isn’t the only government agency engaged in torture,” the post read. “At least the CIA isn’t torturing Americans.”

    The American Energy Alliance — a group with deep ties to the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch — called out two proposed EPA regulations at the center of the so-called “EPA Torture Report”: newly proposed limits on ground-level ozone pollution (the main ingredient of urban smog) and proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants.

    Meanwhile, media reports surrounding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s actual torture report focused on two gruesome details: the forced feeding of inmates of puréed food through their anuses, and that more than 20 percent of detainees subject to torture tactics were “wrongfully held.”

    With both the proposed ozone and carbon regulations, the American Energy Alliance has claimed they would be extremely costly to businesses, predicting trillions of dollars in losses for both the manufacturing and coal industries. Those purported job losses amount to the torture of American citizens, the group argues.

    The CIA’s torture of detainees at Guantamo Bay reportedly included threatening to kill and rape detainees’ mothers, performing mock burials on inmates, “use of insects,” sleep deprivation, and use of diapers.

    There is reason to doubt the dramatic monetary and job losses predicted by the American Energy Alliance and other industry groups as a result of the proposed EPA regulations. For one, both regulations are in proposed stages, meaning the final rules could look drastically different than they are now. For another, industry groups have been vastly overestimating the cost of environmental regulations like these since the EPA first began issuing regulation of this kind.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 16, 2014, 3:40 pm
  42. Another arm of the Kochtopus, this one slithering around the Roman Catholic Church, shows itself at the Church’s Napa Institute:

    http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/your-face-catholicism-napa-institute-gathers-us-church-s-well-heeled-and-high

    (Please copy and paste link if it’s not active – or search the story on the National Catholic Reporter)

    Some gems from the story:

    “The aim is a mobilization to better equip these Catholics for their role in “the next America,” a phrase used by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput in a 2010 essay in the journal First Things. The essay inspired the formation of the Napa Institute.

    “The next America” is broadly defined as a secular culture with little time for religious questions and even less interest in hearing what Catholic teaching might bring to bear in the public forum.

    A central institute mantra is that attendees are being instructed and inspired, fine-tuned and focused to boldly defend Catholic principles in the civic arena. Marquee issues include defense of religious freedom, traditional marriage and the unborn…

    “The founding president of the Denver Legatus Chapter, John Saeman, and his wife, Carol, raised eyebrows in late November when they penned a Washington Post op-ed that said their belief in Pope Francis’ vision of Catholic social teaching motivates their activities in Catholic charities and also motivates their financial support for Freedom Partners, a nonprofit founded by billionaires Charles and David Koch to defend the free market system.

    “For us, promoting limited government alongside the Kochs is an important part of heeding Pope Francis’s call to love and serve the poor,” the Saemans wrote.”

    I posted this here, but it would very well be posted on any of this website’s Vatican links as well. Plenty of hay is made about Francis’ pleas for the poor, but what, if anything, is he really doing – or can he do – to reform the Vatican Bank and its money-laundering past? I also notice that in the story, several Popes from the 20th century are mentioned, but certainly not JP1, who was like Francis 1.0, only more to the left. I find that interesting…

    Posted by Sampson | December 23, 2014, 8:46 am
  43. Auto dealers in middle Tennessee have reason to celebrate today: Nashville’s bus rapid transit proposal is officially dead:

    The Tennessean
    Nashville MTA: Amp is dead
    Joey Garrison, jgarrison@tennessean.com 6:12 p.m. CST January 22, 2015

    The Amp, Nashville’s controversial bus rapid transit proposal, appears dead once and for all after Mayor Karl Dean’s top transit official said Thursday that the city plans to cease work on the project.

    Metro Transit Authority CEO Steve Bland recommended to his board Thursday that detailed design on the Amp come to an end — a final stamp of defeat three months after Dean announced he would not seek capital construction funds for the $174 million project during his final term in office.

    Metro, at the time of Dean’s move in October, was still committed to completing $7.5 million in design and other preliminary Amp work that the Metro Council had already approved. So far, $2.5 million has been spent, but Bland’s remarks mean that $5 million of unspent Amp dollars still left from that pool are no longer committed to one of the most contentious proposals in recent Nashville history.

    The city now plans to look at other corridors for transit in addition to West End-Broadway, where the Amp was planned. Public meetings on this process are to begin in February.

    Divisive from the beginning

    The mayor’s comments Thursday veered from those made in October when he announced he wouldn’t pursue any more local or state funds for the Amp. Back then, he said “now is not the time to put on the brakes” and that Metro had always known that a project of this size can take awhile to get off the ground.

    Odds seemed against the Amp, however, even before Thursday’s news that planning would cease. With a new mayor set to replace Dean in September, it seemed unlikely Nashville’s next leader would carry the torch of a project that has split the city.

    Dean’s Amp project proved contentious from the time he rolled it out in 2012, splitting the very West Nashville neighborhoods it would serve into camps for and against it. Detractors rallied under “Stop Amp,” led by auto mogul Lee Beaman, limousine company owner Rick Williams and attorney Dianne Ferrell Neal. Opponents found allies from Republican state lawmakers, who passed legislation that would have made the Amp’s approval and implementation harder to reach.

    Besides suspending construction designs and reallocating Amp funds, Bland recommended the following Thursday:

    • “Reimagine” Nashville’s public transit bus system in the upcoming strategic plan.

    • As part of the strategic plan, fully engage other transportation partners: the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Metro Public Works, Metro Planning and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

    • Continue to engage with the Federal Transit Administration, which had approved federal funds for Dean’s Amp project.

    • Keep getting better “with or without” a large public transit project.

    “Opponents found allies from Republican state lawmakers, who passed legislation that would have made the Amp’s approval and implementation harder to reach.”

    And don’t forget two plucky billionaires on a mission to overrule local governments everywhere. They also ‘helped’. ‘Helping’ others is what they do. They just can’t help themselves!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 23, 2015, 10:33 am
  44. Just what a mega-city facing a mega-drought like Sao Paulo needs: an infestation of Libertarian Koch-heads intent on letting the market solve all of Brazil’s problems:

    Teen libertarian is face of Brazil’s young free-market right
    Associated Press By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON
    arch 30, 2015 4:52 PM

    SAO PAULO (AP) — Microphone in hand and standing atop the sound truck, the raspy-voiced protest leader jabbed his finger into the air shouting for the ouster of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, igniting wild cheers from the crowd below him.

    “What Lula and Dilma have done shouldn’t just result in their being banned from politics. It should result in them being in jail!” Kim Kataguiri yelled, denouncing Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

    The March 15 demonstration was the largest Sao Paulo had seen in more than three decades, since 1984 protests demanding democratic elections after a long dictatorship.

    But more surprising than the crowd of more than 200,000, according to the Datafolha polling and statistics agency, was the fact it was being led by Kataguiri, a skinny, 19-year-old college dropout, and other young Brazilian activists inspired by libertarianism and conservative free-market ideals.

    The grandson of Japanese immigrants, Kataguiri is a social media star whose quirky videos skewer Rousseff and the ruling party’s social welfare policies. His ascent as a protest figure has been rapid. Two years ago, when protests erupted across Brazil over corruption and poor public services, Kataguiri was a high schooler who avoided the unrest.

    Today, he is the public face of the Free Brazil Movement, a growing force that is more focused than the 2013 unrest that expressed a wide range of middle-class anger. Brazil’s new wave of protests are seen as a right-leaning movement clearly channeled against Rousseff and her Workers’ Party.

    A widening kickback scandal at Petrobras, the state oil company, is one of several complaints undermining the administration. Kataguiri and others are striking a chord with Brazilians fed up with soaring inflation, a high and growing tax burden, and those who blame government intervention for hobbling Brazil’s economy, which grew just 0.1 percent last year and is expected to shrink in 2015.

    “We are starting to see an agenda that is very politically driven and clearly against the federal government and President Dilma,” said Carlos Melo, a political scientist at the Sao Paulo-based Insper business school. Compared to 2013, “these protests are presenting very different visions.”

    Kataguiri says he had a political awakening two years ago when he began questioning a classmate’s position that a popular cash transfer program applauded by many experts around the globe was responsible for the expansion of Brazil’s middle class and for lifting millions of citizens from poverty during the last decade.

    He believed the credit instead should go to the country’s commodities boom. “That’s what has helped the poor,” he said.

    He began posting satiric videos to YouTube, which gained a following. He joined two digital media collectives and produced more clips. Along the way, Kataguiri read the works of free-market economists Milton Friedman and Ludwig Von Mises.

    His videos, in which he and his cohorts often don wacky costumes and dress up as political figures such as Fidel Castro, caught the eye of Danilo Gentili, a top late-night TV comedian who fiercely lampoons the government. The comedian asked Kataguiri and other young, anti-Rousseff producers and designers to help create a sketch before the October presidential runoff vote, which saw Rousseff narrowly beat her more conservative, market-friendly opponent.

    Today, Kataguiri and the Free Brazil Movement team work from an office that has a tech-startup feel, with two brown leather couches and a clothes rack holding costumes used in their videos. Tequila and mescal bottles sit along a bookshelf holding Rand Paul’s “The Tea Party Goes to Washington” and Russell Kirk’s “The Politics of Prudence.”

    Kataguiri and others in the group believe the best remedy for Brazil’s corruption is the expansion of free-market views and making the government smaller and more fiscally responsible — following classic tenets of American conservatism.

    Some media in Brazil have railed against the young libertarians, accusing them of receiving money from right-wing groups in the U.S. — specifically the billionaire energy mogul Koch brothers, strong supporters of American conservative causes.

    Kataguiri and Renan Santos, the other co-founder of the Free Brazil Movement, deny this, saying the U.S. influence is strictly ideological. Their campaigns are low-cost and easily sustained by private donations and fundraising.

    Some members of the movement have brought home techniques from the Atlas Leadership Academy, a training program run by the Atlas Network, a Washington-based organization promoting free-market policies around the world. Affiliated groups in other Brazilian cities where protests took place on March 15 are connected to Students for Liberty, a U.S. youth group allied with the libertarian Cato Institute think tank, which is supported by the Koch brothers.

    You have to love the denials of any invisible Koch hands given that:

    Some members of the movement have brought home techniques from the Atlas Leadership Academy, a training program run by the Atlas Network, a Washington-based organization promoting free-market policies around the world. Affiliated groups in other Brazilian cities where protests took place on March 15 are connected to Students for Liberty, a U.S. youth group allied with the libertarian Cato Institute think tank, which is supported by the Koch brothers.

    Putting aside the fact that the Kochs founded the Cato Institute and hold continue to hold enormous sway over the organization, note that it wasn’t just that a couple members brought back techniques from the Atlas Leadership Academy. Fabio Ostermann, one of the movement’s leaderswas a Koch Summer Fellow at the ironically names ‘Institute for Humane Studies’ (via Google translate):

    Carta Capital
    Who is behind the protest on 15
    “Students for Freedom” (EPL) are funded by US oil corporation attacking indigenous rights, plunders environment and has obvious interest in achieving Petrobras
    by Antonio Carlos – published 03/13/2015 09:07, last modified 13/03/2015 16:42

    David Koch had fun saying that was part of “the biggest company you’ve never heard.” One of the powerful brothers Koch, owners of the second largest private company in the United States with an annual inflow of $ 115 billion, they only became known for their evil operations in the political scenario of the country.

    If these powerful characters are unknown in the United States, they will say in Brazil? However they are directly involved in calls for the day of protest on March 15 by the deposition of President Dilma.

    According to the Folha de São Paulo “Brazil Free Movement”, a virtual organization, is the main convener of the protest group. The movement of the page gives the names of its columnists and coordinators in the States. According to The Economist, the group was “founded last year to promote the answers of the free market for the country’s problems.”

    Among the “columnists” of MBL are Luan Sperandio Teixeira, who is academic of the Law School Federal University of Espírito Santo and collaborator network Students For Freedom (EPL) of the Holy Spirit [leia a ressalva made by Luan, message in the “Other words “]; Fabio Ostermann, who is coordinator of the same movement in Rio Grande do Sul, tax the Institute of Business Studies (IEE) and executive director of the Institute Order Free, co-founder of Students For Freedom Network (EPL), which was the first president of its Advisory Board, and currently Director of the Liberal Institute Institutional Relations (IL). Other participants are Rafael Bolsoni the New Party and the EPL; Julian Torres defined as intellectual entrepreneur, the New Party, the Libertarian Party, and the EPL.

    According to Torres’s profile on LinkedIn, his education was Atlas Leadership Academy. Another member with this lineup is Fabio Osterman, who also attended the Koch Summer Fellow at the Institute for Humane Studies.

    The Oscip Students for Freedom is the Brazilian branch of Students for Liberty, an organization funded by the Koch brothers to convince the student world of the correctness of their greedy proposals. The President of the Executive Council is Rafael Dal Molin Route, which besides being the University of Santa Maria, it’s official ordnance (2nd lieutenant QMB) in the local garrison.

    Other fronts of the Koch brothers are the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which sponsors the Leadership Academy, and the Institute for Humane Studies, to which the members of MBL are connected.

    Among the harmful activities of the brother is the theft of 5 million barrels of oil on an Indian reservation (which led to a fine of $ 25 million from the US government) and a fine of 1.5 million dollars by interfering in elections Calif. Greenpeace considers the featured opponents brothers of the fight against climate change. Koch were fined $ 30 million in 300 oil spills.

    Koch Industries has its main activities related to the exploitation of oil and gas, pipelines, refining and production of chemicals and fertilizers derived. With this range of activities is not hard to imagine your interest in Brazil – Petrobras course. His minions do not hide that fact.

    Also note that Ostermann’s Koch Summer Fellow internship at the Institute for Humane Studies (Charles Koch is chairman of the board) immediatedly followed his internship at the Atlas Network. And this was back in 2009, so he’s not exactly new to the Koch-head scene.

    And then there’s the Koch-heads of “Students for Liberty”:

    Pando Daily
    Snowden praised for fighting government surveillance… by group that LOVES corporate surveillance

    By Mark Ames
    On February 20, 2015

    Last Friday, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden Skyped into a Washington DC Marriott Hotel conference hall to proudly accept “The Students For Liberty Alumnus of the Year Award.”

    The Students For Liberty describes itself as “a rapidly growing network of pro-liberty students from all over the world.” Their big award was given to Snowden for “initiating a global conversation on the balance of power between governments and peoples that has led to and continues to bring about meaningful reforms to intrusive, abusive, and unjust government surveillance programs.”

    If your award is concerned about how the government is using technology to surveil citizens then Edward Snowden is an uncontroversial winner. Not only did Snowden expose government surveillance but, as a former intelligence contractor, he exposed how much government surveillance is handled by private companies.

    In accepting his award, Snowden told the audience: “As they take the private records of all our lives, and they aggregate a dossier, how can that be said to be constitutional?”

    All of which makes it slightly shocking to discover the identity of another recent winner of Students For Liberty’s big award: Peter Thiel, the founder of one of the NSA’s biggest contractors, Palantir Technologies. If a government is trying to dig through private records and aggregate a dossier, Palantir is the company they call.

    In addition to praising Snowden at last week’s ceremony, Students For Liberty also awarded their “Event of the Year” to anti-Marxist libertarian students at Honduras’ National University for bravely collaborating with the university administration to successfully destroy a leftwing student protest campaign. Leftists and journalists in Honduras have been terrorized ever since a 2009 US-backed coup overthrew president Manuel Zelaya.

    So what exactly is “Students For Liberty”? According to its website, “Students For Liberty has grown into the largest libertarian student organization in the world, with over 800 student leaders supporting over 1,350 student groups representing over 100,000 students on all inhabited continents.”

    Like most of the libertarian nomenklatura, this group gets most of its money from the Koch brothers. Google, another corporation which has worked closely with the US government, recently joined the list of big corporate sponsors. SFL’s Board of Advisors includes such heroes of freedom as “His Serene Highness Prince von Liechtenstein” — whose royal family rules over an exclusive offshore banking tax haven favored by global billionaires who think Switzerland is too transparent.

    The group was formed in 2008 by Alexander McCobin, while he was working in the marketing department of the Cato Institute (neé “The Charles Koch Foundation”). The idea to form SFL came a year earlier in 2007, while McCobin was in the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program at the Institute For Humane Studies, where Charles G. Koch serves as chairman of the board. (My editor Paul Carr is probably getting blisters jamming his forefinger on the “Koch Alarm” sound effect he plays onPandoLIVE whenever I mention the Kochs. But hey, don’t blame me for these two-legged DC caricatures, I just reports the facts.)

    In 2009, McCobin and his fiancée were sued by former colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania for allegedly misappropriating funds from a nonprofit to help high school students learn debating skills. McCobin was also the founder of Penn Libertarians.

    When McCobin’s group gave their award to Peter Thiel, their “west coast director” described Thiel on stage as a “personal role model of mine.”

    Indeed, Thiel’s presence was everywhere at the Students For Liberty schmoozer this year, even if the man himself was absent. After Snowden’s skyped appearance, libertarian celebrity Ron Paul took the stage with longtime Cato Institute board director and FoxNews truther Andrew Napolitano. Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign for president — supported by Snowden and Greenwald — was almost entirely funded by Peter Thiel.

    The following night, Students For Liberty featured Ron Paul’s stubby heir, Sen. Rand Paul — whose run for president in 2016 is being funded by Thiel’s co-founder at Palantir, Joe Lonsdale, who serves on Rand Paul’s finance team and co-hosted Silicon Valley fundraisers.

    So that was like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Libertarian sugar daddies. But remember, all those spunky Libertarians in Brazil have NOTHING to do with the Koch brothers other than being inspired by their awesomeness. And maybe attending their leadership schools. And maybe interning as a Koch Summer Fellow. And maybe coordinating with a Koch-funded “student” group that hands out awards for things like:

    In addition to praising Snowden at last week’s ceremony, Students For Liberty also awarded their “Event of the Year” to anti-Marxist libertarian students at Honduras’ National University for bravely collaborating with the university administration to successfully destroy a leftwing student protest campaign. Leftists and journalists in Honduras have been terrorized ever since a 2009 US-backed coup overthrew president Manuel Zelaya.

    But no, the Koch’s aren’t trying to get Brazil’s middle-class to impeach Dilma Rouseeff so a right-wing government can give the Kochs even more access to Brazil’s resources. Not, the Kochs are just so inspirational that people can’t stop themselves from thinking and acting like a Koch-head. It’s a shockingly common affliction.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 1, 2015, 6:23 pm
  45. cover on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous is getting a reboot. Hopefully it covers stuff like this:

    The Aspen Times
    Federal judge dismisses Koch kidnapping case

    Rick Carroll
    rcarroll@aspentimes.com

    June 7, 2015

    A federal lawsuit that made kidnapping allegations against Bill Koch, owner of the Castle Creek Road property that is on the market for $100 million, has been dismissed.

    U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn threw out the case Wednesday after parties on both sides agreed to have it dismissed, according to court records. The dismissal, entered in Denver federal court, notes that both sides will “bear their own attorney fees, costs and expenses, except as otherwise agreed among the parties.” The suit was dismissed with prejudice, which means the claims cannot be filed again.

    In October 2012, Kirby Martensen, a former executive at Oxbow Group, which Koch founded, sued Koch in California. The suit was transferred to Denver in September 2013.

    The suit said Koch, whose Castle Creek Road estate is the former location of the Elk Mountain Lodge, invited Martensen to Koch’s Bear Ranch near Somerset, about 70 miles from Aspen, for a two-day corporate retreat in March 2012. Martensen flew from San Francisco to Aspen, where Koch met him March 21.

    But Koch had other plans than just a business meeting, the suit said. After a two-day tour of Koch’s 19th-century-style Western town, Martensen was interrogated by two of Koch’s agents — who were off-duty Florida police officers — who accused him of trying to defraud the energy company Oxbow and Koch out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Martensen also was alleged to have taken bribes from competitors of Oxbow.

    The agents then allegedly served Martensen with his termination papers and later took him to an SUV, the suit says. Martensen was told he would be taken to Aspen-Pitkin County Airport that night, but instead was taken to Denver against his will, the suit says. From Denver, he was flown in a private jet to Oakland, California, where they landed at approximately 4 a.m.. From there, Martensen took a cab to his home, defying the agents’ instructions to be taken to a nearby Courtyard Marriott hotel, the suit says.

    Martensen’s suit says he didn’t take any bribes but instead was retaliated against because he called out the company’s alleged scheme to dodge paying $200 million in federal taxes with its Asian trading business.

    Koch, in a Dec. 12, 2013, deposition, said Martensen was taken to Denver because Koch’s pilot “didn’t like flying in and out of Aspen, particularly after dark.”

    Koch’s attorneys argued that the kidnapping claim was invalid because when they were at the 7-Eleven in Carbondale — where they stopped en route to Denver — Martensen was allowed to go in the store at his leisure. Martensen could have made a cellphone call to 911 or even fled, they claimed. During a Sept. 3, 2012, deposition, Martensen explained that he thought he was under arrest at the time.

    Koch is the younger brother of Charles, David and Frederick Koch. Forbes recently estimated Bill Koch’s net worth to be $3.2 billion. William had a strained relationship with Charles and David — well known for their heavyweight status in the Republican party — over the years because of business-related fallouts and feuds.

    “Koch is the younger brother of Charles, David and Frederick Koch.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 7, 2015, 7:20 pm
  46. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous is getting a reboot. Hopefully it covers stuff like this:

    The Aspen Times
    Federal judge dismisses Koch kidnapping case

    Rick Carroll
    rcarroll@aspentimes.com

    June 7, 2015

    A federal lawsuit that made kidnapping allegations against Bill Koch, owner of the Castle Creek Road property that is on the market for $100 million, has been dismissed.

    U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn threw out the case Wednesday after parties on both sides agreed to have it dismissed, according to court records. The dismissal, entered in Denver federal court, notes that both sides will “bear their own attorney fees, costs and expenses, except as otherwise agreed among the parties.” The suit was dismissed with prejudice, which means the claims cannot be filed again.

    In October 2012, Kirby Martensen, a former executive at Oxbow Group, which Koch founded, sued Koch in California. The suit was transferred to Denver in September 2013.

    The suit said Koch, whose Castle Creek Road estate is the former location of the Elk Mountain Lodge, invited Martensen to Koch’s Bear Ranch near Somerset, about 70 miles from Aspen, for a two-day corporate retreat in March 2012. Martensen flew from San Francisco to Aspen, where Koch met him March 21.

    But Koch had other plans than just a business meeting, the suit said. After a two-day tour of Koch’s 19th-century-style Western town, Martensen was interrogated by two of Koch’s agents — who were off-duty Florida police officers — who accused him of trying to defraud the energy company Oxbow and Koch out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Martensen also was alleged to have taken bribes from competitors of Oxbow.

    The agents then allegedly served Martensen with his termination papers and later took him to an SUV, the suit says. Martensen was told he would be taken to Aspen-Pitkin County Airport that night, but instead was taken to Denver against his will, the suit says. From Denver, he was flown in a private jet to Oakland, California, where they landed at approximately 4 a.m.. From there, Martensen took a cab to his home, defying the agents’ instructions to be taken to a nearby Courtyard Marriott hotel, the suit says.

    Martensen’s suit says he didn’t take any bribes but instead was retaliated against because he called out the company’s alleged scheme to dodge paying $200 million in federal taxes with its Asian trading business.

    Koch, in a Dec. 12, 2013, deposition, said Martensen was taken to Denver because Koch’s pilot “didn’t like flying in and out of Aspen, particularly after dark.”

    Koch’s attorneys argued that the kidnapping claim was invalid because when they were at the 7-Eleven in Carbondale — where they stopped en route to Denver — Martensen was allowed to go in the store at his leisure. Martensen could have made a cellphone call to 911 or even fled, they claimed. During a Sept. 3, 2012, deposition, Martensen explained that he thought he was under arrest at the time.

    Koch is the younger brother of Charles, David and Frederick Koch. Forbes recently estimated Bill Koch’s net worth to be $3.2 billion. William had a strained relationship with Charles and David — well known for their heavyweight status in the Republican party — over the years because of business-related fallouts and feuds.

    “Koch is the younger brother of Charles, David and Frederick Koch.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 7, 2015, 7:20 pm
  47. Did you hear the great news? A powerful new civil rights movement has taken the US political class by storm and now has unparalleled power and influence across throughout not just Washington DC but in state capitals all over. And the best part is that this new movement has already accomplished an enormous amount of their agenda with minimal resistance. For years! But there’s always more work to be done because until everyone is free to dump toxic sludge in rivers without fearing the consequences (at all) no one is truly free:

    The Washington Post
    Charles Koch compares work of his political network to civil rights movement

    By Matea Gold August 2 at 5:57 PM

    DANA POINT, Calif. — Charles Koch on Sunday compared the efforts of his political network to the fight for civil rights and other “freedom movements,” urging his fellow conservative donors to follow the lead of figures such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr.

    “History demonstrates that when the American people get motivated by an issue of justice that they believe is just, extraordinary things can be accomplished,” Koch told 450 wealthy conservatives assembled in the ballroom of a lavish oceanfront resort here.

    “Look at the American revolution, the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement,” he said. “All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.”

    Koch’s remarks came at the start of a session about the strategy of the network, which aims to spend $889 million on issue advocacy, higher education grants and political activity by the end of next year. As part of the program, which was not open to the news media, officials from Chile gave presentations on the country’s economic and political history.

    Koch’s efforts to connect the network’s push for rolling back government regulations to historic civil rights movements is part of a broad attempt to cast the organization as one deeply concerned about the plight of the poor. During his comments at the donor retreat, Koch repeatedly cited the effect of big government on the lower class.

    The emphasis appears to be driven by a sense among network officials that they need to do more to win the public over to their cause. On Sunday, Koch cited the need to be “much more effective in articulating” the organization’s mission.

    “If we cannot unite the majority of Americans behind the vision, then we’re done for,” he added. “So that, to me, has to be our number one objective. But to do so, we’ve got to do a much better job of understanding what matters most to people and then to demonstrate that a free society gives them the best opportunity of achieving that.”

    He cited criminal justice reform as an issue that has resonated because it “strikes the same chord as past successful freedom movements.”

    The network is now looking at other policies related to poverty, he said, such as “a failing educational system.”

    Wow, so at the same private conference where the Kochs compared themselves to Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr., government officials from Chile also gave a presentation on the country’s economic and political history:


    Koch’s remarks came at the start of a session about the strategy of the network, which aims to spend $889 million on issue advocacy, higher education grants and political activity by the end of next year. As part of the program, which was not open to the news media, officials from Chile gave presentations on the country’s economic and political history.

    It sure would be interesting to learn more about which periods of economic and political history were discussed.

    And while this is obviously a PR scam on the part of the Kochs, if they’re are going to claim the MLK-league mantle of social reform, let’s hope they at least succeed in actually pushing through some significant criminal justice reforms. They certainly have all the money they’ll need to advance the cause. Now all they’ll need is the will. In particular, the will to actually prioritize criminal justice reform over the rest of their pro-plutocracy agenda. It should be a very doable task too. All they’ll have to do to demonstrate a real commitment to their professed civil rights agenda is oppose nearly all of the candidates they have ever supported and continue to support:

    AlterNet
    Exposing the Koch Brothers’ Stunning Hypocrisy on Criminal Justice Reform
    A new report shows the Koch brothers are playing both sides of the issue for political advantage.
    By Steven Rosenfeld
    July 17, 2015

    A new report traces the exceptional hypocrisy of the Koch brothers’ recent high-profile interest in criminal justice reform.

    “The Koch Brothers’ Criminal Justice Pump-Fake,” by American Bridge 21st Century, a watchdog group “committed to holding Republicans accountable,” traces how the Kochs became interested in criminal justice reform after losing a years-long battle with federal environmental regulators that began in the late 1990s. The study details how the Kochs have long supported candidates and elected officials whose tough-on-crime policies have created the criminal justice crisis they now insist must be reformed—by imposing harsher sentences, building prisons and narrowing probation and parole. The report notes how their efforts to partner with left-leaning groups like the ACLU have led to a public relations bonanza eclipsing their deeper record of supporting politicans who have delivered—and stand by—their draconian crime policies.

    “For all their professed concerns about reforming the criminal justice system, the Kochs don’t really care— not about the impacted families and individuals, anyway— their only concern is their bottom line,” the authors said. “The Kochs’ criminal justice charade is just that — a public relations scam.”

    The Texas Refinery Fight

    The Kochs’ wakeup call about excess in the criminal justice system began in 1996, after they lost badly in a long fight with the federal government. A grand jury investigation of operations at a Koch refinery in Corpus Christie, Texas led to 97 counts of violating federal environmental laws. They spent six years in court, eventually pled guilty to one count and paid a $10 million fine.

    Mark Holden, their chief corporate lawyer, told their hometown newspaper, the Wichita Eagle, the experience prompted Charles Koch to study the justice system, state and federal. He said Koch was “wondering whether it’s been over-criminalized with too many laws and too many prosecutions of nonviolent offenders, not only for him but for everybody. His conclusion: Yes, it has.”

    Holden said Koch was worried that too much regulatory scrutiny would have an insidious impact on the company’s “culture.” Koch began donating to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which represents defendants, giving “seven figures” over the years. More recently, the Kochs saw an opportunity to join a libertarian-oriented criminal justice reform effort led by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and other Republicans, who have called for reduced sentences in non-violent crimes, namely drug offenses. The Kochs also saw that underwriting reform efforts by partnering with liberal groups like the ACLU would lead to more of a PR bonanza than a backlash as arch-partisan Republicans. Additionally, the Kochs started a parallel campaign touting their job-creator role.

    Needless to say, pundits quickly called out the Kochs for jumping on the criminal justice reform bandwagon. As Wonkette.com wrote last December, the effort “sounds all beautiful… until they add that of course, real liberty also means rescinding restrictive laws against dumping toxic sludge into rivers.” This March, Politico wrote:

    “Critics would say that the libertarian-minded Koch brothers have ample personal reasons to want to curtail the power and reach of the U.S. justice system. After all, it serves both their industrial and political purposes to reduce laws on the books that can constrain them. Thanks to a series of court rulings opening up the floodgates for political spending by outside groups and individuals, Koch money can now do almost as it pleases in politics; the Kochtopus would obviously like to do the same in court against the tree-huggers and labor unionists who so often seek to block them.”

    Prison Complex vs. Public Relations

    The Kochs’ criminal justice hypocrisy goes far beyond their personal vendetta against the government after losing the Corpus Christie lawsuit. That’s because beyond the string of recent comments by Holden and other Koch-funded political operators about the positive PR benefits of their criminal justice efforts, the Kochs continue to support a long line of Republicans whose policies have worsened the system they now say must be dismantled. That list includes 2016 presidential candidates Gov. Scott Walker, ex-Glorida Gov. Jeb Bush and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. It also includes governors Larry Hogan of Maryland, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Mike Pence of Indiana and Doug Ducey of Arizona. All have enlarged or sustained their states’ prisoner populations.

    “What we’re doing more than ever is taking our case to the public,’ said Steve Lombardo, the Kochs’ newly hired head of marketing and communications told Yahoo News in March, as the Kochs gathered more positive press for championing criminal justice reform. As the Daily Beast said in January, in a piece written by a former Koch Summer Fellowship recipient, “Prepare for the softer side of Charles and David Koch.”

    That softer side—which includes large donations like the recent $25 million given to the United Negro College Fund—has resulted in starkly hypocritical politics. Attorney Holden has told many reporters, such as Time magazine, that the Kochs do not consider a politican’s criminal justice record or views a litmus test. That’s a stunning contrast with their uncompromising views on Obamacare or environmental regulations.

    Exhibit A: Wisconsin’s Scott Walker

    There is no better example of Koch hypocrisy on criminal justice reform than their support for Gov. Scott Walker, who David Koch said in New York City in April should be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.

    Walker has a record of supporting and shepherding into law numerous draconian prison policies that date back to the late 1990s. .As a state legislator, he helped pass a “truth in sentencing” law that ended parole and all forms of early release. As Yahoo News noted, “The law has expanded the prison population in the state and is partly responsible for the fact that the prison budget outpaced higher education spending for the first time in state history in 2011.” That same report said that while he was a state legislator, Walker “wrote or co-sponsored more than two dozen bills limiting parole, increasing prison time for a variety of offenses, expanding the definition of crimes, and other criminal justice charges.”

    Jeb Bush’s record as a candidate and Florida governor is not much better, the American Bridge report noted. As a candidate, he told the St. Petersburg Times he would “build more prisons and fill them with more prisoners.” Bush told the Orlando Sentinel, “You need to lock criminals up and be sure they serve at least 85 percent of their sentences… For juvenile offenders, you punish them first and worry about counseling them later.”

    Bush was first invited to be a guest at the Koch brothers’ political summit in 2006. This spring, Charles Koch told USA Today that Bush was one of five Republicans who have a “good chance of getting elected.” The other four were Walker, and senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Later this summer, Jeb Bush will give the keynote address at the “Defending The American Dream” summit organized by Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing group founded and funded by the Kochs.

    PR Talk Versus Political Action

    The Koch brothers have said their political network will seek to raise and spend upwards of $900 million on the 2016 election—a sum that is on par with what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each raised and spent in 2012. Yet in contrast, Mark Holden told Time in March that “there are no plans at the moment to increase the financial support for justice reform or form a new nonprofit devoted to the issue.” As the Daily Beast reported this January, “Through their foundation and related entities, five Koch staffers work full-time or part-time on criminal justice….They could not pledge that the amount spent in criminal justice reform in 2015 would definitely exceed that of previous years.”

    In other words, as the American Bridge report authors say, there is a “shocking disparity between the Kochs’ political spending and the comparatively little they spend advocating for criminal justice reform.”

    “The Kochs’ criminal justice hypocrisy goes far beyond their personal vendetta against the government after losing the Corpus Christie lawsuit. That’s because beyond the string of recent comments by Holden and other Koch-funded political operators about the positive PR benefits of their criminal justice efforts, the Kochs continue to support a long line of Republicans whose policies have worsened the system they now say must be dismantled. That list includes 2016 presidential candidates Gov. Scott Walker, ex-Glorida Gov. Jeb Bush and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. It also includes governors Larry Hogan of Maryland, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Mike Pence of Indiana and Doug Ducey of Arizona. All have enlarged or sustained their states’ prisoner populations.”
    It’s just like how, for years, MLK donated massive amounts of money to George Wallace and the Dixiecrats all while leading the civil rights struggle! That totally happened.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 3, 2015, 2:25 pm
  48. It turns out there’s a fun new civics merit badge that everyone should be striving to earn. Unfortunately, you probably aren’t going to even know you earned it even if you do. Regardless, the “Getting Tracked By The Koch Brothers’ Private CIA” merit badge is the kind of achievement all civic-minded Americans should be striving to earn:

    Politico
    The Koch intelligence agency

    As the billionaires’ network works to reshape U.S. politics, it keeps a close eye on the left.

    By Kenneth P. Vogel

    11/18/15 05:14 AM EST

    The political network helmed by Charles and David Koch has quietly built a secretive operation that conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering on its liberal opponents, viewing it as a key strategic tool in its efforts to reshape American public life.

    The operation, which is little-known even within the Koch network, gathers what Koch insiders refer to as “competitive intelligence” that is used to try to thwart liberal groups and activists, and to identify potential threats to the expansive network.

    The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular “intelligence briefing” emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.

    The competitive intelligence team has gathered on-the-ground intelligence from liberal groups’ canvassing events in an effort to assess the technology and techniques of field efforts to boost Democrats, according to the sources. And they say the team utilizes high-tech tactics to track the movements of liberal organizers, including culling geo-data embedded in their social media posts.

    Such stealth activities are the kind that campaigns and party operatives often fantasize about but mostly shy away from – both because of cost and potential political backlash if exposed.

    Marc Short, president of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the network’s central group, declined to discuss its efforts to track the left, generally, or to comment on the competitive intelligence team, which operates as a unit within his group. But he did not dispute that the effort is a focus for the Koch network as it tries to rebound from the disappointment of the 2012 elections and gears up to spend a jaw-dropping $889 million on policy and political battles headed into November 2016.

    “We were caught off guard by what the left was doing in 2012, and we’d be foolish to be caught in that position again,” he told POLITICO.

    The increasingly robust Koch network has seized on significant tactical advantages afforded to big-money independent organizations – but not party committees – in modern politics. Unlike party committees, which are mostly subject to five-figure donation limits, donor disclosure and all manner of campaign finance laws and party rules, the Koch network of non-profit groups and for-profit companies can accept unlimited cash without disclosing donors and faces few spending restrictions.

    The competitive intelligence effort, reported here for the first time, also hints at the audaciousness of the Koch network’s mission. While the Republican Party focuses on winning elections, the Kochs want to realign American politics, government and society around free enterprise philosophies that they hope to spread more broadly.

    A key to accomplishing the mission, from the Kochs’ perspective, is countering super PACs and other big-money groups funded by rich liberals, as well as allied public sector unions and academic and media elites. The Kochs’ allies feel that those forces have worked together for decades with Democratic politicians and government bureaucrats to institutionalize the philosophy that heavy regulation and taxation of business is the only way to ensure an equitable society.

    The Kochs concluded that defeating this well-funded left-wing infrastructure requires tracking the professional left in real time – a capability they realized they lacked after the 2012 election. In the run-up to that election, the Koch network spent $400-million-plus attacking Democratic politicians and policies, only to see President Barack Obama win re-election and his party maintain control of the Senate. A forensic audit of the network’s efforts concluded the Kochs had been out-maneuvered by the left on the airwaves, in the data war and on the ground. Vowing not to let that happen again, the network began investing in the competitive intelligence team and other efforts to keep tabs on the left.

    To be sure, the Kochs’ operation isn’t the only one focused on pulling back the curtain on its opponents. In fact, liberal activists and groups have frequently worked to expose the activities of the Koch brothers and their network. But the competitive intelligence team, like so many other Koch-backed programs, appears to be unique in its scale and its thoroughly methodological approach.

    ‘The Opposition: Understanding Their Strategy and Infrastructure’

    The Koch network’s interest in intelligence on the inner workings of the left was revealed by a secret audio recording of a panel at a June 2014 closed-door donor gathering at the tony St. Regis hotel in Dana Point, Calif. The session, called “The Opposition: Understanding Their Strategy and Infrastructure,” focused on the group that the Kochs’ inner circle regards as the Rosetta stone for figuring out, and ultimately neutralizing, the big-money left – the Democracy Alliance.

    The group, which is meeting this week in Washington, D.C., is a club of wealthy liberal donors and influential operatives. Since its creation in 2005, the DA, as the club is known, has steered more than $500 million to endorsed groups supporting Democratic politicians and liberal causes like fighting carbon emissions, income inequality and the role of money in politics, while expanding voter access, abortion rights and gay rights.

    As a fundraising vehicle, it’s the closest thing on the left to a mirror image of the Kochs’ operation, though the cash raised by the Koch network in recent years has far eclipsed the amount credited to the DA. Donors to both networks write huge and mostly untraceable checks to a collection of endorsed for-profit companies and non-profit groups registered under sections of the tax code – 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 – that do not require the disclosure of donors’ identities.

    During the session at the St. Regis, Mark Holden, a key Koch legal and policy advisor, pointed out the irony in liberal attacks on the Kochs’ secretive spending, calling the DA “a shadowy network of c(3)s, c(4)s – who don’t disclose their donors, remember — who attack us as a shadowy network of c(3)s, c(4)s) … Whatever they may say about us goes the same for them.”

    But Holden told the donors, according to the audio recording, which was obtained and posted by a liberal blogger, “We’ve been able to learn a lot more details about them in the last couple of months from documents that someone in the group, Democracy Alliance, left behind at their last seminar. And it’s very interesting stuff. And, at the end of the sessions here, we’re going to have some handouts, and you’ll be able to see some of the documents that we were able to get a hold of.” He adds quickly – and to some laughter – “I’m general counsel and I just want to say it was all legit, legal, appropriate.”

    As Holden discussed the Democracy Alliance’s efforts, internal DA documents were projected onto a screen at the front of the bronze-chandelier-lit St. Regis ballroom, including a “portfolio snapshot” featuring descriptions of 21 groups that the DA recommended for funding and a breakdown of the “core functions of the progressive movement.”

    ‘Like the CIA’

    It is unclear precisely which documents Holden presented to donors (though similar documents appear to have been published in the weeks before and after his presentation by a handful of media outlets, including POLITICO) or precisely how the documents were obtained.

    Holden – who sits on the board of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which organized the St. Regis gathering and which oversees the competitive intelligence team – declined to comment.

    The competitive intelligence team is run by a veteran Republican researcher named Mike Roman, who is listed as Freedom Partners’ vice president of research on the tax filing that group publicly released on Tuesday. That filing cites Roman’s salary and benefits at $286,000 last year.

    His team is part of Freedom Partners, but is managed through a limited liability company called American Strategies Group LLC, or ASG for short. ASG is set up as a type of corporate structure known as a “disregarded entity”, which exists only as a part of its parent group – in this case Freedom Partners – for the purposes of mitigating legal risk and separating revenue streams for accounting and tax compliance purposes.

    ASG was the conduit for $13.3 million of Freedom Partners’ cash between late 2012 and the end of last year, according to tax filings submitted to the Internal Revenue Service by Freedom Partners, including the filing publicly released on Tuesday covering 2014. It shows that ASG controls a holding company called CAVHOCO, Inc., which received a capital contribution of $17.5 million from Freedom Partners last year. CAVHOCO sits at the center of a confusing web of disregarded entities and holding companies, including one called Demeter Analytics Services, Inc. That entity, which is the holding company for the Freedom Partners-owned data firm i360, was paid $11 million by Freedom Partners in 2014 for professional services, according to the tax return. Separate tax returns also listed Roman as trustee of a mysterious non-profit group called Public Engagement Group Trust, which appears to be dormant.

    Roman, who did not respond to requests for comment, has worked to keep himself and his activity low-profile even within the discreet Koch operation.

    One former network official said that when people were summoned to meetings at ASG’s offices, they sometimes had trouble finding the suite. “They told people that’s the way they liked it,” the official recalled. “They act all cloak and dagger – like the CIA. There was a joke about how hardly anyone ever met Mike Roman. It was like, if you wanted to find him, he’d be in a trench coat on the National Mall,” said the former official.

    ‘Scared to death of moles’

    In addition to delving into the left, the competitive intelligence team also monitors potential Koch network threats, according to sources familiar with it. It tracks people deemed suspicious outside the offices of Koch network groups, circulating be-on-the-lookout photos to internal network email lists, while keeping an eye on the network’s own ranks for possible leakers or disloyal employees.

    One former network executive remembers an email containing a photo of a man identified as an operative with the environmental group Greenpeace who allegedly had been spotted taking his own photos outside the network’s cluster of offices in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington.

    Connor Gibson, a Greenpeace researcher who focuses on the Koch network, said he visits its component groups’ offices once a year to pick up their tax filings, and he speculated he could have been the operative photographed by the competitive intelligence unit. While he said he’s never sought to conceal his identity during such visits, he added “If the Kochs consider me an opponent, I’m flattered.”

    In another instance, sources say, Roman’s team set out to identify an IT contractor who was working for one of the network’s groups and was posting anonymous messages to Reddit, proclaiming that he worked for the Koch brothers but despised their stances. Within 48 hours, the team had sleuthed out the offender and his contract was terminated.

    “They were scared to death of moles,” said the former executive.

    A separate source – an organizer who’s worked with the unit – described it as “a full opposition research operation, only at about 10-times the level of any political campaign.” The organizer added “my guess is that most people inside the network don’t even know about it.”

    Koch allies emphasize that the brothers and their network have been targets of regular sleuthing by the left. A nonprofit group called American Bridge 21st Century – which is aligned with Hillary Clinton and the Democracy Alliance – this year launched a $3-million project dedicated to researching, tracking and attacking the Kochs. Its staffers have been spotted recording the proceedings at Koch network events and appearances by the brothers, and it took credit for unearthing a trove of documents featured in a New York Times New York Times story about David Koch’s 1980 Libertarian vice presidential campaign. The group does not appear to be behind the untraceable recordings made from inside closed-door Koch donor gatherings over the years – like the one of Holden’s dissection of the Democracy Alliance at the St. Regis.

    Holden told the donors at the St. Regis that the big-money liberal groups in the Democracy Alliance were pursuing a two-pronged strategy that bears some similarities to the tactics of the Koch network. “What they do is they try to build a permanent infrastructure to win elections, and they obsess about us – all of you,” Holden said. “And it’s the old quote – first they ignore you, then they mock you, then they attack you, and then we win. We’re close to winning. I don’t know how close, but we should be, because they can’t attack the ideas. They don’t have the real path. All they do is target and they just try to silence people. You know, they’re afraid of us. They really are. They’re afraid of this room.”

    “Connor Gibson, a Greenpeace researcher who focuses on the Koch network, said he visits its component groups’ offices once a year to pick up their tax filings, and he speculated he could have been the operative photographed by the competitive intelligence unit. While he said he’s never sought to conceal his identity during such visits, he added “If the Kochs consider me an opponent, I’m flattered.””
    It sounds like someone just earned a merit badge!

    And as jaw-dropping as a private political CIA run by two of the biggest power-mongers in the world might be, when you read:


    A separate source – an organizer who’s worked with the unit – described it as “a full opposition research operation, only at about 10-times the level of any political campaign.” The organizer added “my guess is that most people inside the network don’t even know about it.”

    keep in mind that the existence of this particular Koch private intelligence operation may have been unknown to both the outside world and maybe even many of the Koch’s own political operatives, but stories about the Koch’s spying on their opponents are nothing new:

    The New Yorker
    Do the Kochs Have Their Own Spy Network?

    By Jane Mayer
    Today 5:15 pm

    Five years ago, when The New Yorker published my piece “Covert Operations,” about the ambitious and secretive political network underwritten by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, the Koch brothers complained mightily about the story’s title, protesting that there was nothing at all covert about their political activities. Since then, the two have embarked on an impressive public-relations campaign meant to demonstrate their transparency and openness. But today, the Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel came out with a blockbuster scoop suggesting that the brothers, whose organization has vowed to spend an unprecedented eight hundred and eighty-nine million dollars in the 2016 election cycle, are more involved in covert operations than even their own partners have known.

    While it’s big news that the Kochs are now running their own private intelligence-gathering operation in order to track political opponents, including labor unions, environmental groups, and liberal big-donor groups, it actually isn’t surprising, given their history.

    For decades, there have been reports suggesting that Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries have employed private investigators to gather inside information on their perceived enemies, including their own brother, Bill Koch, with whom they fought over control of the family business and fortune. My forthcoming book, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” which will come out in January, builds on earlier reporting about this, including my 2010 New Yorker piece. In fact, again and again, those who have challenged the Kochs and Koch Industries—whether they are federal officers, private citizens, or members of the press—have suspected that they have been under surveillance.

    In Daniel Schulman’s deeply researched biography of the Kochs, “Sons of Wichita,” for instance, he describes how Angela O’Connell, the lead federal prosecutor in a huge environmental-pollution case brought against Koch Industries in 1995, “began to suspect that Koch had placed her under surveillance. ‘I thought that my trash can was taken outside my house several days,’ she recalled. ‘I was upset enough about it at the time to report what I thought was a bugging and what I thought was the trash being taken—a number of incidents,’ ” Schulman writes that “the Justice Department was never able to prove that Koch had targeted one of its prosecutors, but for the first time in her career, O’Connell operated as if everything she said and did was being monitored.”

    Schulman also quotes a lawyer for the plaintiff in a massive fatal personal-injury case, brought against Koch Industries in 1999, as saying that he hired a security firm to sweep his office after suspecting that his phones were bugged. The firm, he said, discovered electronic transmitters had been planted there. “I’m not saying that the Kochs did it,” the lawyer, Ted Lyon, told Schulman. “I just thought it was very interesting that it happened during the time we were litigating the case.”

    Similarly, as I reported in my New Yorker piece, when a Senate committee investigated Koch Industries, in 1989, for what its final report called a “widespread and sophisticated scheme to steal crude oil from Indians and others through fraudulent mismeasuring,” the report noted that in the course of the probe Koch operatives had delved into the personal lives of the committee’s staffers, even questioning one’s ex-wife.

    Vogel, the Politico reporter who broke today’s story, has had his own run-ins with the Kochs’ hyper-vigilance. In his 2014 book, “Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics,” he recounts a strange episode. After Vogel told a Koch official where he was staying while covering one of the billionaires’ secretive semi-annual fund-raising events, he received an odd hang-up phone call, although no one else but his wife knew the name of the hotel. Spooked, he decided to leave early, but as he was driving to the airport the rental-car agency notified him that someone had reported the car he was driving as “suspicious or abandoned.” When he asked Koch Industries officials if they were behind any of this, they assured him they were not. “That’s the thing about the Kochs’ style,” he wrote. They always “keep you wondering.”

    “That’s the thing about the Kochs’ style,” he wrote. They always “keep you wondering.”
    They sure do.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 19, 2015, 2:01 pm
  49. The fact that the Koch dynasty’s early fortune was built, in part, on a contract to build oil refineries for Stalin’s Soviet Union is no secret. And given the cynical behavior of the Koch clan it’s not really a surprise either. Well, it turns out Jane Meyer has a new book out on the Kochs that contain another 1930’s secret of that nature. It’s even less surprising:

    The New York Times
    Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery, Book Says

    By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
    January 11, 2016

    The father of the billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch helped construct a major oil refinery in Nazi Germany that was personally approved by Adolf Hitler, according to a new history of the Kochs and other wealthy families.

    The book, “Dark Money,” by Jane Mayer, traces the rise of the modern conservative movement through the activism and money of a handful of rich donors: among them Richard Mellon Scaife, an heir to the Mellon banking fortune, and Harry and Lynde Bradley, brothers who became wealthy in part from military contracts but poured millions into anti-government philanthropy.

    But the book is largely focused on the Koch family, stretching back to its involvement in the far-right John Birch Society and the political and business activities of the father, Fred C. Koch, who found some of his earliest business success overseas in the years leading up to World War II. One venture was a partnership with the American Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis, who, according to Ms. Mayer, hired Mr. Koch to help build the third-largest oil refinery in the Third Reich, a critical industrial cog in Hitler’s war machine.

    The episode is not mentioned in an online history published by Koch Industries, the company that Mr. Koch later founded and passed on to his sons.

    Ken Spain, a spokesman for Koch Industries, said company officials had declined to participate in Ms. Mayer’s book and had not yet read it.

    “If the content of the book is reflective of Ms. Mayer’s previous reporting of the Koch family, Koch Industries or Charles’s and David’s political involvement, then we expect to have deep disagreements and strong objections to her interpretation of the facts and their sourcing,” Mr. Spain said.

    Ms. Mayer, a staff writer at The New Yorker, presents the Kochs and other families as the hidden and self-interested hands behind the rise and growth of the modern conservative movement. Philanthropists and political donors who poured hundreds of millions of dollars into think tanks, political organizations and scholarships, they helped win acceptance for anti-government and anti-tax policies that would protect their businesses and personal fortunes, she writes, all under the guise of promoting the public interest.

    The Kochs, the Scaifes, the Bradleys and the DeVos family of Michigan “were among a small, rarefied group of hugely wealthy, archconservative families that for decades poured money, often with little public disclosure, into influencing how the Americans thought and voted,” the book says.

    Many of the families owned businesses that clashed with environmental or workplace regulators, come under federal or state investigation, or waged battles over their tax bills with the Internal Revenue Service, Ms. Mayer reports. The Kochs’ vast political network, a major force in Republican politics today, was “originally designed as a means of off-loading the costs of the Koch Industries environmental and regulatory fights onto others” by persuading other rich business owners to contribute to Koch-controlled political groups, Ms. Mayer writes, citing an associate of the two brothers.

    Mr. Scaife, who died in 2014, donated upward of a billion dollars to conservative causes, according to “Dark Money,” which cites his own unpublished memoirs. Mr. Scaife was driven in part, Ms. Mayer writes, by a tax loophole that granted him his inheritance tax free through a trust, so long as the trust donated its net income to charity for 20 years. “Isn’t it grand how tax law gets written?” Mr. Scaife wrote.

    In Ms. Mayer’s telling, the Kochs helped bankroll — through a skein of nonprofit organizations with minimal public disclosure — decades of victories in state capitals and in Washington, often leaving no fingerprints. She credits groups financed by the Kochs and their allies with providing support for the Tea Party movement, along with the public relations strategies used to shrink public support for the Affordable Care Act and for President Obama’s proposals to mitigate climate change.

    The Koch network also provided funding to fine-tune budget proposals from Representative Paul D. Ryan, such as cuts to Social Security, so they would be more palatable to voters, according to the book. The Kochs were so influential among conservative lawmakers, Ms. Mayer reports, that in 2011, Representative John A. Boehner, then the House speaker, visited David Koch to ask for his help in resolving a debt ceiling stalemate.

    “But the book is largely focused on the Koch family, stretching back to its involvement in the far-right John Birch Society and the political and business activities of the father, Fred C. Koch, who found some of his earliest business success overseas in the years leading up to World War II. One venture was a partnership with the American Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis, who, according to Ms. Mayer, hired Mr. Koch to help build the third-largest oil refinery in the Third Reich, a critical industrial cog in Hitler’s war machine.
    Well, something needed to refine all that oil the Nazis were importing. And someone also had to finance those imports. The Nazis had a lot of needs. And help.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 11, 2016, 9:32 pm
  50. Here’s something to keep in mind with the ongoing pressure the Trump administration is putting on AT&T and Time Warner to sell off CNN if their merger is to get federal approval: Remember the Koch brothers’ failed attempt to buy Tribune Media (owner of The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles)? It looks like the Kochs might get their piece of the media landscape after all: Time Inc., the publisher of publications like Time, Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated which was spun off from Time Warner in 2014, has been repeatedly pursued in the last few years by Meredith, publisher of Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens. The last round of failed talks ended when Meredith failed to the secure sufficient financing from banks. And that, of course, is where the Kochs come in:

    The New York Times

    Koch Brothers Said to Back Time Inc. Deal Talks With Meredith

    By SYDNEY EMBER and ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
    NOV. 15, 2017

    Time Inc. is said to be in talks to sell itself to the Meredith Corporation, in a deal backed by Charles G. and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers known for supporting conservative causes.

    Talks between Time Inc., the publisher of Time and People, and Meredith, the publisher of Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens, fizzled this year. The new round of negotiations, motivated by the surprise entry of the Kochs, could lead to a quick deal, according to people involved in the discussions.

    The Kochs have tentatively agreed to back Meredith’s offer with an equity injection of more than $500 million, the people with knowledge of the talks said. A spokesman for the brothers’ business, Koch Industries, declined to comment on Wednesday.

    Time Inc. also declined to comment. Meredith did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The companies have been negotiating over the past several days, and Meredith is reviewing the latest Time Inc. financial information.

    Although it is unclear whether the proposed deal will reach fruition, both sides hope to move quickly enough to be able to announce a transaction soon after Thanksgiving.

    The talks are part of the third known attempt by Meredith to purchase Time Inc. In 2013, a deal collapsed when the two publishers could not agree on which magazines Meredith would buy. At the time, Meredith reportedly did not want to acquire four of Time Inc.’s best known titles: Time, Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated.

    Earlier this year, Meredith was said to have been among parties interested in buying Time Inc. Those discussions ended when Time Inc. said it did not want to sell itself.

    An obstacle that stalled negotiations earlier this year was Meredith’s inability to secure sufficient financing from banks. With the addition of the Kochs, with their deep pockets and apparent desire to make themselves players on the media landscape, that problem could vanish.

    It is not clear how much influence — if any — the Kochs would have on a Meredith-owned Time Inc. if the deal were to go through.

    The discussions come during a challenging time for magazine publishers, many of which are trying to remake themselves as multimedia entities. Time Inc. has lately shifted its focus away from its print magazines as it seeks to attract a sizable digital audience and pursue new opportunities for revenue growth.

    The latest talks between Meredith and Time Inc. show the Koch brothers’ willingness to give their media ambitions another shot after they explored purchasing the Tribune Company in 2013.

    Founded in 1922 by Henry R. Luce, Time Inc. was at one point among the most influential and authoritative voices in American magazine publishing, with offices overlooking Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. Through Time and Life magazines, it chronicled the ups and downs of a nation through stellar photography and weekly updates on news, sports and culture.

    ———-

    “Koch Brothers Said to Back Time Inc. Deal Talks With Meredith” by SYDNEY EMBER and ANDREW ROSS SORKIN; The New York Times; 11/15/2017

    “An obstacle that stalled negotiations earlier this year was Meredith’s inability to secure sufficient financing from banks. With the addition of the Kochs, with their deep pockets and apparent desire to make themselves players on the media landscape, that problem could vanish.”

    Yeah, if financing is a problem for the Meredith/Time Inc. merger, having the Kochs enter the picture is going to make that problem go away very fast:


    The Kochs have tentatively agreed to back Meredith’s offer with an equity injection of more than $500 million, the people with knowledge of the talks said. A spokesman for the brothers’ business, Koch Industries, declined to comment on Wednesday.

    And instead of Meredith’s financing problem, we’re all left with the much larger problem of just how much additional damage can the Kochs’ propaganda machine do to the US and the world with these media acquisitions. As the article puts it, it’s not clearly how much influence, if any, the Kochs will have:


    It is not clear how much influence — if any — the Kochs would have on a Meredith-owned Time Inc. if the deal were to go through.

    But let’s keep in mind that buying big media companies hasn’t exactly been a great way to make money in recent years. In other words, the Kochs probably aren’t considering injecting $500 million in a Meredith/Time Inc. conglomerate because it’s an awesome direct investment. But it is a potentially indirectly profitable investment if it can be used as a platform for pollute minds with Koch-style fascist Libertarian memes.

    So the Kochs are shopping for media. It’s something to keep in mind as the AT&T/Time Warner merger plays out. Especially after the reports the Rupert Murdoch has twice inquired about buying CNN in the past 6 months. Because if Murdoch was trying to buy CNN, and now we have the White House trying to force the sale of CNN, that suggests that there’s a concerted push to put that network in far-right hands. Which is the kind of thing that makes the Kochs sudden rekindled interests in the media markets that much more chilling:

    Reuters

    Exclusive: Rupert Murdoch twice discussed CNN with AT&T CEO – sources

    Jessica Toonkel
    November 10, 2017 / 2:11 PM

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch telephoned AT&T Inc (T.N) Chief Executive Randall Stephenson twice in the last six months and talked about cable network CNN, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Friday.

    According to one of the sources, the 86-year-old executive chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O) offered to buy CNN in both conversations.

    Another source said Murdoch had “zero interest” in owning CNN.

    Representatives of Twenty-First Century Fox, AT&T and Time Warner, CNN’s parent, declined comment.

    CNN has become the focal point in antitrust approval of AT&T’s $85.4 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc (TWX.N), hatched in October 2016.

    U.S. Department of Justice staff have recommended that AT&T sell either its DirecTV unit or Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting unit – which includes CNN – a government official told Reuters on Thursday, in order to gain antitrust approval.

    On Thursday Stephenson said he had no interest in selling CNN and that he was ready to defend the deal in court if necessary.

    According to one of the sources on Friday, Murdoch called Stephenson twice, unprompted, on May 16 and Aug. 8 and on both occasions asked if CNN was for sale. Stephenson replied both times that it was not, according to the source.

    TRUMP COMMENTS WEIGH

    The fate of CNN has broader political significance. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the network for its coverage of his campaign and his administration, while he has publicly praised Murdoch’s Fox News.

    In the run-up to last year’s election he vowed that as president his Justice Department would block AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner. He has not commented on the transaction since taking office in January.

    Trump’s comments have provoked concern that he may improperly influence the U.S. Department of Justice to block the deal. The White House has said Trump has not spoken to the attorney general about the matter.

    Nevertheless, a group of eight Democratic U.S. senators on Friday wrote to Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, urging the department “to oppose any attempt by the White House to interfere with antitrust law enforcement decisions, particularly for political reasons.”

    Delrahim said he had not had any contact with the White House or the attorney general on the matter, speaking at an event at the USC Gould School of Law in Los Angeles later in the day.

    “I’ve got to keep my nose down and be a law enforcer and do what’s good and what I’ve committed to doing to the American people,” said Delrahim.

    But he appeared to voice doubts about AT&T’s reasoning that the purchase of Time Warner would not result in a company with too much power because the combined company would have to compete with powerful new online rivals such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Facebook Inc (FB.O).

    Delrahim referred to a comment by former President Ronald Reagan that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I‘m from the government and I‘m here to help.”

    “I’d say you should be equally terrified when someone in an incumbent company, whatever industry, comes to you and says I’m here to help you against the evils of Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook,” said Delrahim. “Some of these pro-competitive comments and justifications remind me of that quote strongly.”

    ‘NO SENSE’

    It would not be the first time Murdoch has attempted to take control of CNN.

    His Twenty-First Century Fox made an $80 billion offer for Time Warner in 2014 but abandoned the plan in the face of Time Warner’s resistance. At that time, Fox had planned to divest CNN – which competes with Fox News – in order to avoid antitrust issues.

    There is no law against a company owning two cable networks, but there is a Federal Communications Commission prohibition on owning two broadcast networks. A Fox deal with CNN could also raise antitrust concerns because of the market share that a combined company would have among cable news viewers.

    “I have been called and asked if I would sell CNN by numerous people,” Stephenson told the New York Times DealBook conference on Thursday. But he added: “Selling CNN makes no sense.”

    Fox has held talks in the last few weeks to sell most of its film and television assets to Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), CNBC reported this week, which would leave the company with its Fox News, sports programming and broadcasting stations..

    Twenty-First Century Fox would sell its stake in European satellite broadcaster Sky Plc (SKYB.L) in a deal with Disney, according to CNBC’s report. Fox is trying to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own but the bid is strongly opposed by some lawmakers and has been subject to lengthy regulatory scrutiny.

    ———-

    “Exclusive: Rupert Murdoch twice discussed CNN with AT&T CEO – sources” by Jessica Toonkel; Reuters; 11/10/2017

    According to one of the sources on Friday, Murdoch called Stephenson twice, unprompted, on May 16 and Aug. 8 and on both occasions asked if CNN was for sale. Stephenson replied both times that it was not, according to the source.”

    Ok, so if that source for the article is correct we know Rupert Murdoch has a real interest in CNN. And we also know the White House appears to be trying to force the sale of CNN as the price of the merger. But we also know that Murdoch buying CNN could easily become a major controversy because he already owns Fox and that will look horrible. And that’s part of why it’s so unsettling to see that the Koch brothers are suddenly interested in major media investments. It just happens to be at the moment Time Warner is getting squeezed into selling CNN.

    And note how there doesn’t appear to be a law outright prohibiting the ownership of Fox News and CNN, so it’s possible Rupert Murdoch really could end up owning CNN:


    There is no law against a company owning two cable networks, but there is a Federal Communications Commission prohibition on owning two broadcast networks. A Fox deal with CNN could also raise antitrust concerns because of the market share that a combined company would have among cable news viewers.

    It begs the tragic question: what’s worse, Rupert Murdoch buying CNN or the Kochs? And if your response is, “the Kochs, because I’ve seen Fox News and nothing could be worse than that,” don’t forget that the Kochs actually helped start Reason Magazine back in 1968 by financing the foundation of the the Reason Foundation, so we do have some media-ownership in Reason Magazine to look over to get a sense of who would be a worse CNN owner. So Murdoch or the the Kochs? Which is worse? Yes, Fox News is a promoter of hate and disinformation, and yet the answer isn’t obvious.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 15, 2017, 11:37 pm

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