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Crèdit de la imatge: Jane Mayer, journalist born 1955 (credit: Larry D. Moore, Texas Book Festival, Austin, TX, Nov. 1, 2008)

Obres de Jane Mayer

Obres associades

The Best American Magazine Writing 2008 (2008) — Col·laborador — 47 exemplars
The Best American Political Writing 2008 (2008) — Col·laborador — 38 exemplars
The Best American Political Writing 2005 (2005) — Col·laborador — 37 exemplars
The Best American Magazine Writing 2011 (2011) — Col·laborador — 36 exemplars, 1 ressenya
The Best American Political Writing 2009 (2009) — Col·laborador — 26 exemplars, 1 ressenya


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Confession, This review is written based on the Blinkist summary of the book so probably doesn't really do the book full justice. Still it allows me to get the gist of the ideas in the original and seek it out if I think it's warranted. At least that's my excuse for not reading the original in its entirety. Besides, Life is short and of the making of many books there is no end". This book is basically about the Koch brothers who head a billionaire funded network: determined to control US politics.
The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch run Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest private company, which was founded by their father, Fred Koch, in 1940. Fred Koch started amassing his fortune by building oil refineries for the Soviet Union and Josef Stalin, which led to Koch’s company being commissioned to construct a massive oil refinery for Nazi Germany in 1934....Eventually, Charles and David would grow up to become business partners, and since the 1970s they’ve been building an elaborate network of political donors and fundraising institutions. This network has so many arms, and reaches so deep into the heart of American politics, that it’s known as the Kochtopus.
Their goal has been to spread their message of libertarian values. These values focus on supporting a free market and small government devoid of regulations, taxes or anything else that might get in the way of profits......They realized that a politician is merely a public voice–real power is creating and shaping the messages that those voices project.
The Koch network uses nonprofits:keeping political donations anonymous, tax-free.
They eventually landed upon a great way to do this: disguising their political agenda as philanthropy....They soon began spreading their libertarian ideology through nonprofit organizations such as advocacy groups, think tanks and private foundations. It proved to be a great strategy, since nonprofits are both cost-effective and require very little public disclosure.....Nonprofits make it impossible to know how many millions of dollars are being funneled in, where the money is coming from and what it’s being used for. Nonprofit donations are also tax deductible. So, by having their family inheritance donated to a philanthropic foundation, the brothers can avoid paying inheritance tax while helping fund the cause of their choice.
By 2013, they controlled over 100,000 of these private foundations, with combined assets of over $ 800 billion. One of the oldest and most influential arms of the Kochtopus is the Heritage Foundation, which has assets of $ 174 million.....That’s a lot of money to use influencing public policy. A lot of money escaping the scrutiny of voters, avoiding political transparency laws and taking advantage of tax loopholes.
The Koch network includes educational programs and think tanks focused on long-term influence.
The idea was to donate to respected universities that would return the favor by providing a space to nurture a new generation of conservative thinkers. This would increase their influence on society by churning out future political leaders who’d been taught the Koch ideology–which is why law schools quickly became a primary target.
Olin was the mastermind behind the Mansfield’s Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard, which received a $ 3.3-million donation from the Olin Foundation. This program provided a conservative interpretation of American government and its students went on to teach at Georgetown, Harvard and Yale.
The George C. Marshall Institute, for example, is one of the premier conservative think tanks and the recipient of donations from the Koch network. This institute is the home of physicists Fred Seitz and Fred Singer, who were at the forefront of challenging the science behind climate change. Despite Seitz and Singer’s lack of expertise in the field, their message of doubt effectively grabbed the public’s attention....Think tanks like to claim that they provide a necessary balance to scientific debate, but what they’re really offering is misleading information with little academic merit.
The Tea Party movement became a way to manufacture grassroots credibility.
By 2009, the groundwork for a political movement had been put in place by the Koch brothers. It was now time for those patiently nurtured nonprofits and educational programs to pay off in the form of the Tea Party movement, which finally brought libertarianism to the mainstream.....The seeds of this uprising can be traced back to the Koch brothers’ right-hand man, Richard Fink, and his Structure of Social Change manifesto from the 1980s.
For it to look like a legitimate political movement, it was important for the libertarian message to be seen as “grassroots” and originating from everyday people. But since it was all manufactured by the Koch brothers, it would become known as an “astroturf”movement, taking its name from the brand of synthetic grass.
Another Koch-funded think tank called Freedomworks paid over a million dollars for conservative media personality Glenn Beck to read the think tank’s “embedded content” on Fox News......At one Tea Party rally, protesters had a banner depicting corpses from Dachau concentration camp, implying Obamacare was comparable to the Nazis’ state-ordered murders.
Supreme Court decision in favor of Citizens United gave Koch brothers more power.
Things took a dramatic turn in 2010, when the case of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission went before the Supreme Court....What really changed was that both nonprofit and for-profit corporations could now spend as much money as they wanted to either support or oppose a political candidate.....This effectively reversed important century-old laws that had been in place to ensure that an even political playing field wouldn’t be thrown off-balance by wealthy supporters.
Citizens United received a flood of donations after the decision–so much that they were able to spend up to 49 percent of their overall revenue on political activity......“There was a huge change after Citizens United . . . anyone could spend money without revealing who they were, [and] the floodgates opened.”–Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher
Koch’s REDMAP plan gave Republicans control of key states and House of Reps.
After the Democrats won the presidential election in 2008, Republican strategist Ed Gillespie came up with a plan known as REDMAP....The act of redefining the borders of a state’s congressional districts in order to benefit a given party is called gerrymandering. For REDMAP, it worked by shifting the borders of these districts such that the vast majority of citizens who tended to vote for the Democratic Party were lumped together in a single district.
Millions in dark money were used to promote Republican candidates and attack Democrats in vulnerable states through vicious attack ads.....With their majority in the House in place, the party was now free to redraw the borders of congressional districts and skew electoral outcome for years to come......North Carolina again offers a perfect example of the disastrous effects that the REDMAP gerrymandering had. As part of the Koch brothers’ small-government agenda, unemployment benefits in the state were cut massively, resulting in the state with the country’s fifth-highest unemployment rate receiving one of the smallest amounts of federal aid.
With a Republican majority, the Kochs went after the Obama administration and climate change.
Thanks to the success of REDMAP, and the radical Republican representatives that were elected as a result, they went on to engineer the government shutdown of 2013......Mark Meadows is the man who is often credited as the mastermind of the shutdown. He was one of the North Carolina congressmen who benefitted from gerrymandering and was elected during the 2012 midterm elections.....This new wave of Republican extremists in the Senate also put an end to any hope of there being a reasonable debate on subjects like climate change......Believe it or not, global warming used to be a bipartisan issue that united Democrats and Republicans, as both sides recognized the serious and imminent danger of environmental degradation. Over time, however, many Republicans backtracked and denounced climate change as a non issue or even a hoax, as the influence and power of the Kochtopus continued to grow.
Climate change was always a thorn in the side of the Kochs,
As a result, they had spent years publicly denouncing well-respected environmental scientists and pitching an alternative story, namely that the government’s climate change regulations were an attack on people’s freedom.
America is dangerously close to becoming an oligarchy.
The work of the Koch brothers has widened the country’s economic divide. The rich are getting richer and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to challenge their authority.
Any politician that steps out of line has to face the wrath of the Koch brothers, including former Koch favorite and Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who stood up against the Koch brothers and refused to agree to their demands.
The result? He was essentially forced to resign by the ultraright-wing Representatives that had been groomed and elected with the network’s help.
This is a clear example of how a democratically elected official can come to be controlled by a few of the nation’s wealthiest people.
Trump’s choice for vice president was Mike Pence, one of Charles Koch’s favorite politicians....But the Kochs aren’t alone. At least eleven of the 200 people present at their June 2010 retreat were on the Forbes 400 Wealthiest Americans list, with a combined fortune of $ 129.1 billion.
This is seriously scary stuff. The subversion of the idea of a democracy where one person’s vote counts just like any other person. I don’t really question the narrative though it has clearly been put forward as a negative view of the Koch brothers. Though, from what I’ve read, the Koch brothers are pretty much about anything that supports their wealth and power and against anything that threatens it. (I recall the Koch brothers trying to corner the market on silver ...and very nearly successful). Their stance on libertarianism seems to be basically a totally selfish philosophy with no regard for the bulk of humanity. And they have used their wealth to massively increase inequality in the USA. (Of course, inequality, traditionally has led to social upheavals so their activities maybe carry with along the seeds of their own destruction). Not very likable guys. But I give the book four stars.
… (més)
booktsunami | Hi ha 67 ressenyes més | Jun 27, 2024 |
Very good book which left me once again furious with the fact that the Bush administration got away with so much despicable behavior and tarnished America's image world wide.
SteveCarl | Hi ha 26 ressenyes més | Jun 24, 2024 |
Want to know about George Bush's extraordinary rendition program? Here it is.
MylesKesten | Hi ha 26 ressenyes més | Jan 23, 2024 |
There is little doubt in my mind that in writing this book Jane Mayer has performed an important public service. Big money has been part of American politics for a long time. Commentators in the 1890’s decried Mark Hanna’s outsized contributions and fundraising for William McKinley’s elections. But today’s Radical Right uses very subtle means to infect the system.

Still, that doesn’t answer Mayer’s most serious charge, that the Koch brothers and their billionaires club have built a third national political party (a third column?) using the Republican Party as its stalking horse, much like the early Greeks used the Trojan Horse to defeat the walls of Troy.

By extension: have they used their cadres to effect a coup d’état in the 2016 election of Donald Trump?

This is a much more difficult question to answer.

Clearly, Donald Trump was not their favourite and yet Paul Manafort managed to convince Trump to adopt Mike Pence as his running mate. Pence is as close as anyone to the Koch brothers.

Trump could be forced out of office any day, or so soiled by his business dealings that he’ll resign rather than see himself or his children indicted for serious federal and state crimes.

This would leave Pence and by extension, Charles and David Koch in the catbird seat.

Mayer gives us plenty of background to figure out what would happen next:
- to satisfy the Christian Fundamentalist wing, eradication of the divide between church and state
- to satisfy the industrialists, complete eradication of environmental controls on big business
- to satisfy the energy hawks, drilling in the Arctic, more fracking, more pipelines through indigenous peoples’ lands
- serious reduction in government services, very likely including prosecution of white collar crime, more resources for incarceration and particularly outsourced incarceration
- the distribution of weapons in the schools
- a serious decline in social entitlement programs, and very likely wider differences between the rich and the poor

Would this lead to a counter-revolution? A Bernie Sanders’ led counter revolution?

I wouldn’t rule it out.

Funny thing is that I kinda agree with some of the tenants of the Ultra Right in the US.

For example, I do think that government could be smaller. In Canada, we have 10 provincial governments that do the work one government could do more cheaply. In the US, you have 50 states that basically do the same thing and replicate each other’s laws.

Pfft. Automation could eradicate these useless obsolete governments.

Even municipal governments, for that matter, duplicate each other.

I’m usually loath to reduce the role of local government because its the only level of government that most people understand. The Kochs and their buddies hate federal government mainly because it:

A) Makes them pay taxes
B) Regulates their use of the commons
C) Tries to make them treat blacks and other peoples fairly
D) Assumes, fairly in my opinion, that failures in the marketplace will not redistribute income to all the owners of the commons

It’s pretty hard to sympathize with these rich people. Especially when they subvert the purpose of non-for-profit organizations toward political ends.

They don’t seem to have a problem with state governments, at least governments they can control. Nor do they have a problem spending unsustainable amounts for worldwide military domination.

My point is if under these circumstances the ability to vote does not produce democracy, or any incremental freedoms, why not just flush them down the toilet, then make rules to ensure majority rules?

Do we need 17 people on the ballot?
… (més)
MylesKesten | Hi ha 67 ressenyes més | Jan 23, 2024 |



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