Wednesday, February 03, 2016

SPECIAL UPDATE! Our U.S. Idiotic Primaries and the Middle East



Illustration: One of you just sent this to me.  If there are any copyright issues, pleas contact me and I'll obfuscate it.  It coveys our sentiments exactly, however. 

It has been awhile, so here is some catching up. The terrorist threat has been vanquished here at the Absurd Times. A trusted Ally helped me to negotiate with Toshiba and then Toshiba whipped Microsoft's ass and all the files were returned, intact, although the programs (now called "apps" for some reason to idiotic to delve into here) had to be found and reinstalled, some over Microsoft's objections.

Much of the following is based on the input of our army of correspondents from around the world, all very wise in matters of social, economic, and political importance.

Do we really want to elect a blood-thirsty young 68 year old when we have the opportunity to elect an older, wiser, 74 year old? In addition, Sander's wife is a good ten or twenty years younger than the grandma. Her supporters squeal when she speaks, giving a sound similar to that of a flock of horribly violated chickens.  THE DELEGATES ARE EQUAL, BUT WERE DECIDED BY A SERIES OF COIN TOSSES, ALL SIX OF WHICH WERE WON BY CLINTON GROUPIES.  

Groundhog day is a ritual in the United States. If the groundhog sees his shadow, it means 6 more weeks of winter. This year, the Iowa caucus superseded this indication six more weeks of being subjected to Ted Cruz.


Rand Paul had the only two sensible remarks during all of the Republican debates. The first was "This is like Junior High," and the second, after Trump decided not to attend the second, thus reducing Faux News' ratings by about half and, I assume making them return part of the advertising revenue, Paul said "This will elevate the debate by a few IQ points". It did, but not enough so he has decided not to participate any more.

Putin has done relatively little in Eastern Ukraine lately, much to the Nazi's relief, but this has prompted Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to propose sending more weapons to NATO. Also, he says we are running out of bombs, so would the congress be good enough to give him a couple billion to buy more?

The ZIKA virus was first discovered in 1947. Then Hillary was born.

Zika is now a sexually transmitted disease, so there will be more about this on the news, no doubt, right after the Superbowl.

Israel has been sending its Black Jews to Nigeria from Holot. Well, perhaps "Semetic" has its uses, but no point stretching things.

Michigan has finally been exposed as trying to "privatize" its water supply. The claim that they did not know something was wrong with the water in Flint seems a bit shallow as bottled water had been trucking into flint for State workers for a year and a half before the contamination was admitted.

Two sane organizations, Jews say No, and the Jewish Voice for Peace, collaborated and put out a mock edition of the New York Times. We estimate that about half the readers figured out that it was satirical. Since they were both Jewish organizations, they have a chance of not being called Anti-Semitic (although this is by no means certain).


Here is an interview on that topic:

Jewish Peace Groups Reveal Role in Spoof New York Times That Criticized Paper's Stance on Israel

FEBRUARY 03, 2016






a member of Jews Say No! in New York City.

journalist at Salon who specializes in U.S. foreign policy and in the Middle East. He just published a piece titled "Progressive Jewish groups make New York Times parody issue to protest newspaper's 'biased Israel-Palestine coverage'"


This is viewer supported news

A Palestinian village has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Israel is throwing open its doors to refugees. Those were some of the headlines that appeared in a fake version of The New York Times distributed across New York City on Tuesday. The paper carried the slogan "All the news we didn't print." The prank copy of the revered "Gray Lady" also announced Democratic presidential candidate "Hilarity Clifton" planned to quit the presidential race to head up a women's nonprofit based in Ramallah. The edition even has fake ads. Volunteers distributed 10,000 copies of the fake paper, but no group took responsibility—until now. Jane Hirschmann of Jews Say No! tells Democracy Now! her group and Jewish Voice for Peace produced the paper. We speak to Hirschmann and Ben Norton, journalist at Salon.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A Palestinian village has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Israel is throwing open its doors to refugees. Those were some of the headlines that appeared in a fake version of The New York Times distributed across New York City on Tuesday. The paper carried the slogan "All the News We Didn't Print." The prank copy of the revered "Gray Lady" also announced Democratic presidential candidate "Hilarity Clifton" planned to quit the presidential race to head up a women's nonprofit based in Ramallah. The edition even has fake ads.

AMY GOODMAN: Ten thousand copies of the fake paper were distributed, but no group took responsible for the prank—that is, until now. Joining us to find out who was behind the paper, we're joined by Jane Hirschmann of Jews Say No! Also with us, Ben Norton, journalist at Salon who specializes in U.S. foreign policy and in the Middle East. He just published a piece titled "Progressive Jewish groups make New York Times parody issue to protest newspaper's 'biased Israel-Palestine coverage.'"

Now, Jane, it begins—above the New York Times logo, it says, "Rethinking Our 2015 Coverage on Israel-Palestine—A Supplement" Who are Jews Say No! in New York, and why did you do this?

JANE HIRSCHMANN: Well, it wasn't just Jews Say No! in New York. There were two groups that came together—our group, Jews Say No!, and also Jewish Voice for Peace in New York City. And we're two organizations that are trying very hard to get out the real news about Israel and Palestine.

The media bias is extraordinary. And months ago, we came together to discuss: What can we do about this, the fact that the coverage never has any context to what's going on in Israel and Palestine? People are not aware that there's a 67-year occupation, that they're not two equal peoples. The press—and it's not just The New York Times, it's really all the press. They always typecast the Palestinians as the terrorists, and the poor Israelis are the victims. And we felt that the time had come to really put out the news, the real news, about it.

People don't know that our government is complicit, that we give $3 billion a year to Israel. And we don't give it for social services, for education, for research; we give it to them for military reasons. It's the largest contribution we make to any country in the world. So we're funding the occupation. People don't know there's an apartheid-like state in Israel. And we worked for months to get out this paper. And yes, it's a parody, but all the facts about Israel and Palestine on the ground are correct in the paper.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you know, I'm sure that many of the people in The New York Times would say that they provide some of the most balanced coverage, although, you know, obviously, you might differ with that. But some of the articles are really amazing. You had a headline, "I.D.F. Generals Blame Israeli Government for Recent Violence." And you even had the advertisements, as well, all dealing with a political reversal of how people here in the United States, many, are fed the news on Israel and Palestine.

JANE HIRSCHMANN: Well, actually, some of the generals did come forward recently and did question what the Israeli government was doing and that it may be the cause for the violence. That's what they questioned in The New York Times. And we're saying that after 67 years of violence, of stealing people's homes, people's water, you know, not letting them a cross border, have checkpoints to go to work, not getting to hospitals, that this is violent. And even the generals—that article is pretty factual about the generals.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What was the reaction when you gave it out on the streets yesterday?

JANE HIRSCHMANN: It was really amazing. We had over 60 volunteers at places like Staten Island Ferry and, you know, Grand Central. And people took the paper and said, "Thank you." And my first paper that I handed out at 7:00 in the morning, this guy left, and a minute later, he came back, and he said, "Who did this?" And, of course, we didn't reveal. And then he said, "This is fabulous. This is the news we never see." He said, "I'm a teacher, and I teach about media and terrorism. And I'm going to teach today. Can you give me more copies?"

AMY GOODMAN: You also have a fake editorial of The New York Times in this four-page supplement. And this, Ben, is one of the quotes you pulled for your Salon piece. You write, "In addition, we are aware"—this is the fake editorial. "In addition, we are aware that a disproportionate number of our news stories in the past year and a half have focused on Israeli government statements and positions or the views of Israeli Jewish citizens; only a small fraction have featured Palestinian speakers, whether officials and advocates or residents who experience the effects of Israeli policies in everyday life." This, Ben Norton, is—was the clip that you chose for your piece inSalon to lay out where the Times says they're going with this, though it was fake, of course.

BEN NORTON: Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

Well, I think—as Jane said, I think it's important to recognize that The New York Times is not necessarily unique in these regards. Rather, I think, as the U.S. newspaper of record, it epitomizes this kind of tendency throughout American media. And essentially, the idea is, you know, Israel is a very close U.S. ally, Israel is a democracy, etc., so we need to give their side of the view the vast majority of the time. And what that does is it normalizes this notion that Palestinians are violent, and they're reacting against, you know, this more civilized, democratic country. And when you look at the media coverage, very often what you see is, you know, you'll see quotes from Israeli government officials—sometimes they're anonymous—and at most there will be one or two quotes from a Palestinian. And even then, the quotes will be very timid and paltry, and you won't see any kind of quotes that discuss, for instance, the brutality of the military occupation. You won't see any discussion, in any kind of significant detail, of Israel's illegal activities.

And as Jane had mentioned, when we're talking about context, context in media is everything. And The New York Times and many other publications very often refuse to acknowledge that there has been an illegal military occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967. The U.S. and all countries in the world, excluding Israel, have admitted this. The New York Times rarely acknowledges, for instance, that—when they're discussing the recent wave of violence, that more than 165 Palestinians have been killed since October. You know, in a few months, we're talking about approximately 170 deaths. And, in fact, a few minutes ago, just this morning—I was looking at the headlines—three more Palestinians were killed in occupied East Jerusalem.

So, when we're looking at this kind of coverage, it's important to understand that when American newspapers quote Israeli government officials, when American newspapers kind of don't acknowledge the daily, quotidian violence and oppression that Palestinians are subjected to, that, right there, it's a subtle but very clear form of bias that must be overcome. This whole notion of having balanced coverage is, of course, very important, but what it often actually means is it normalizes and essentially creates an equivalency between the people who are under military occupation, and have been illegally for decades, and the people who are carrying out that illegal military occupation. And any media that make that clear delineation are actually being balanced. If you don't make that delineation, you're not being balanced, you're normalizing violence.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jane, I wanted to ask you—there were two pieces that were not parodies. They were op-ed pieces by Leila Said and by Aurora Levins Morales. I'm wondering if you could talk about them and the decision to include them, as well, in this issue.

JANE HIRSCHMANN: Well, we thought it was important to put in pieces—as you said, the whole paper is not a parody. There are facts that are absolutely correct. And we thought that it was important to put in pieces—actually, there's only one person that's named correctly in this paper, and that's Aurora. But we wanted to make it accurate, as well. We didn't want it to just be a joke paper. We wanted to show what real coverage would look like. And so, we did that.

And I also want to mention what Ben said. You know, when an Israeli child is killed, they have a whole story about that child. They have a picture of that child. They tell you about the family, you know. So we listed the Palestinian children who were recently killed, and grown-ups, because we thought it was important to get their names into—you never see it in the papers at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Also, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon actually did write a strongly worded New York Times op-ed criticizing Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

JANE HIRSCHMANN: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: But I also wanted to ask you about the ads.


AMY GOODMAN: On the front page, we're used to seeing, you know, various ads.


AMY GOODMAN: "The Perfume of Power." And it says, "Eau de I.D.F. Skunk." Can you say what it says underneath?

JANE HIRSCHMANN: You know, I can't read what it says underneath, because I don't have my glasses, sorry. Ben, can you or somebody read it?

BEN NORTON: So, it is a fake ad for perfume, you know, "Eau de I.D.F," water of theIDF, or perfume. And it says, "Since 2008, the Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.) have routinely sprayed toxic 'skunk water' on and into Palestinian homes and schools. Its smell has been described as 'worse than raw sewage' and 'like a mixture of excrement, noxious gas and a decomposing donkey.'"

JANE HIRSCHMANN: One of my children—


JANE HIRSCHMANN: Yeah, this is true.

BEN NORTON: Absolutely.

JANE HIRSCHMANN: One of my children was at Bil'in when they sprayed skunk. And it was horrific. And, you know, people got very, very ill. One person has died. This is what they spray to disperse the crowds.

BEN NORTON: And it's important to recognize also, for instance, Bassem Tamimi is an outspoken nonviolent Palestinian activist in the occupied West Bank, and he has discussed how they also spray it into homes.


BEN NORTON: And what they do is they sometimes break windows—this is Israeli occupation forces—they will break windows and spray skunk water into people's homes, which ruins their furniture, which makes their house smell horrific for weeks. And if it gets in your hair, it can be stuck—that smell can be stuck for months.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you get a response from The New York Times? I mean, the paper, aside from the headlines and the content, looks exactly like The New York Times.

JANE HIRSCHMANN: Yes, yes. Well, they were quoted. We didn't call them for the quotes. But all our sites have been taken down—our Facebook, our Twitter—


JANE HIRSCHMANN: —and even our domain. Well, we're not exactly sure. The domain, we know, because they were called by The New York Times and threatened, so they took it down. We will be up and running again today. We will not be stopped. And we'll let your viewers know, through you, how to see the paper online, because right now nobody can see it. We were taken down.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, as Jews Say No! and Jewish Voice for Peace New York City reveals they're behind the fake New York Times that was distributed yesterday throughout the city, 10,000 copies made. Jane Hirschmann of Jews Say No! and Ben Norton, journalist at Salon who's written about this, and the piece has just gone up.

Monday, January 25, 2016



Illustration 1: It has been a while since we have seen anything from Keith Tucker.
He is an American Cartoonist who is very much in tune with U.S. Politics. His site is .

Illustration: Money at the heart of everything


After looking a few times recently at our site visits, we notice that Russia averages about 1,000, Germany 600, and the USA a pitiful 300 or more. With that kind of demographic, we find it incumbent to explain how our democracy works. People in other countries that the USA certainly seem puzzled by some of the antics of our political system.

For example, it was once funny to simply say "Donald Trump" and an amused smile would cross the face. Now, at best, a bemused frown clouds the aspect. He was recently "endorsed" by Sarah Palin, AKA Tina Fey. Her son had just been arrested to beating up some woman, perhaps his wife, but she defended him by mentioning that the had PTSD or some other "woundedness", [her word, not in any dictionary]. Donald recently mentioned that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on 5th avenue and not lose a single vote, and there is no reason to doubt him.

Now, the educational levels of the average "tea-partiers" range as high as high-school graduation, and educational levels here still range about 2 years behond those of other countries in Europe. All of the voters are fed up with how the government is being run, but the alternatives are carefully chosen for them by the same people who run it now, the capitalists or Wall Street people who manipulate the people now in Congress.

Below is an interview with the author of the book that describes in detail what is going on.

In other news, there was an attempt to introduce international news by announcing that there is "reason to believe" that Putin was behind the killing of a spy in England. He was a double agent. And his activities were not in Russia's best interests. He would not go back to Russia to stand trial. Who is surprised that the leader of a country would have a hostile secret agent killed? Certainly, the United States would never do anything like that, would we?

In her new book, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right," New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer explores how the Koch brothers and fellow right-wing billionaires have funded a political machine aimed at shaping elections and public policy. The book contains a number of revelations and new details. Mayer begins with revealing that the Kochs' father, industrialist Fred Koch, helped build an oil refinery in Nazi Germany—a project approved personally by Adolf Hitler. The refinery was critical to the Nazi war effort, fueling German warplanes. Mayer joins us to discuss.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This year's election season is set to be the most expensive ever, with some estimates topping $10 billion. Three groups will each spend about a billion dollars on behalf of a presidential nominee. The first two are who you'd expect: Democrats and Republicans, the country's dominant political parties. But the third group is not a political party and does not have a single candidate running for office. Instead, it's a network of right-wing advocacy groups backed by the billionaire energy tycoons, Charles and David Koch.
According to its own estimates, the Koch network aims to spend nearly $900 million on the 2016 presidential and congressional races, more than doubling its amount in 2012. The Kochs' political machine now eclipses the official Republican Party in key areas, with about three-and-a-half times as many employees as the Republican National Committee. Charles and David Koch's 2016 spending comes as part of an effort to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades. Their net worth is a combined $82 billion, placing them fifth on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.
The Kochs' political operations have exploded in the six years since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which removed limits on campaign spending by ruling that donor money is a form of free speech. Citizens United has allowed the Kochs and others to spend millions in dark money—political donations where the source is kept secret.
AMY GOODMAN: The story of the Koch brothers and an allied group of billionaire donors is told in a new book by The New Yorker magazine reporter Jane Mayer. It's called Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Jane Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires, including Mellon banking and Gulf Oil heir Richard Mellon Scaife, chemical tycoon John M. Olin, electronics magnates Harry and Lynde Bradley, have leveraged their business empires to create a political machine with unprecedented influence over politics at the national, state and local level.
Beyond elections, these billionaires have also influenced the political sphere by using their money to create right-wing think tanks, endow university positions, fund research favorable to their right-wing agenda, including climate change denial, opposing healthcare reform and thwarting government regulation. The Kochs' political empire is so vast, it's been dubbed "The Kochtopus," the organizations including Americans for Prosperity, Citizens for a Sound Economy.
Mayer's book contains a number of revelations and new details. She begins with the Kochs' father, industrialist Fred Koch. Mayer reveals that Fred Koch helped build an oil refinery in Nazi Germany—a project approved personally by Adolf Hitler. The refinery was critical to the Nazi war effort. Its oil fueled German warplanes. Before that, Fred Koch built a refinery for Joseph Stalin's Russia. Fred Koch went on to become an original leader of the right-wing John Birch Society. Charles Koch was a member when the group campaigned against the civil rights movement in the '60s.
Jane Mayer also uncovers evidence confirming rumors the Koch brothers tried to blackmail their own brother, Frederick, into giving up his share of the family company by threatening to out him as gay. It also emerges that the EPA has named the Kochs' company, Koch Industries, the single biggest U.S. producer of toxic waste. Mayer recounts her own potential brush with the Koch's empire. After she profiled the brothers in a 2010 piece for The New Yorker, a private firm was hired to discredit her reporting. Although there's no definite proof, Mayer says that clues leading back to the Kochs were everywhere. And she explores the Kochs' multiyear effort to undermine President Obama, starting with a secretive meeting of right-wing donors the week of his inauguration.
Jane Mayer joins us now, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. Again, her book is called Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.
Welcome to Democracy Now! It's great to have you, Jane.
JANE MAYER: Great to be with you. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's start with this explosive revelation about the Koch brothers' father, Fred Koch. Talk about his business and his involvement with Nazi Germany.
JANE MAYER: Well, he built what became the third-largest refinery in Germany during the buildup to World War II. And it was a refinery that, from the start, was meant to help the military effort of the Third Reich. It was clear that Hitler was looking for ways to refine their own oil so that they could fuel the war machine that he was building up at that point. The refinery was begun, the contract was begun in '34—that is, 1934—and was finished in 1935. And one of the things that the father Koch was especially good at—he was apparently a brilliant engineer himself—was refining oil in a really high-octane fuel that would be good for the Luftwaffe, for the warplanes. It had to be done in a special way.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jane, interestingly, the Kochs obviously are critical of your work, but they only actually responded to two of the allegations in the book. And earlier this month, they released a statement specifically on this area. They say, "Mayer falsely implies that Fred Koch was working to aid and abet Germany's tyrannical regime during World War II, and further implies that two of his sons, Charles and David Koch could somehow share these fictional sympathies. ... It is a sad commentary on today's media environment that we have to respond to such irresponsible and reckless attacks." They claim that many companies, like Ford and General Electric and others, also were involved in Germany before the war.
JANE MAYER: Well, there were other American companies that worked there, too. Ford, especially, has been singled out. It's true, though, what they're saying, if facts are facts. They've basically confirmed their father built the refinery, he designed the cracking unit, which is what refined the fuel, and that became a key asset for the Nazi war machine.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Also, one of the things, as you note in your book, that this is the part of the biography of the father that's not included in official company accounts.
JANE MAYER: Well, this is the thing. I mean, it's not to say—and what they're kind of knocking down is a straw dog. The book does not say that Fred Koch or the sons were Nazis. And that would be a ridiculous statement. It says, specifically, Fred Koch's views of the Nazis are unknown, but he worked with them, he made money from them, and this chapter was kept hidden from the Koch Industries history that's up online.
AMY GOODMAN: Why was Hitler—
JANE MAYER: It's one of—one of many secrets about the Kochs. I mean, the truth is, this book, it grew out of a 2010 story I did for The New Yorker, which turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much that was not known, that took—it took five years to document all of this.
AMY GOODMAN: Why was Hitler personally involved with improving this refinery?
JANE MAYER: Well, his underlings were not going to approve it. And there was—the partner in this is a man named William Rhodes Davis, who was working with Fred Koch. He was a Nazi sympathizer. The U.S. considered him a Nazi agent, actually. And he was the partner in this project, and he needed an OK from Hitler. And to get it, he had to go speak with Hitler himself. Hitler greenlighted the project. It was—and then gave him an autographed copy of Mein Kampf.
AMY GOODMAN: And then you talk about the governess that Fred Koch hired to raise the children.
JANE MAYER: Right. So, actually, Fred Koch was back and forth to Germany a lot. One of the things that—he almost went on the Hindenburg, and he was, at the last minute, detained—the dirigible that blew up in New Jersey in, you know, the pre—right before the war started. He imported, or somehow the family wound up with, a German nanny, who brought up the two oldest boys, Frederick and Charles—Charles who's known today as one of the two Koch brothers. And the nanny herself was a Nazi sympathizer of such fervor that when Hitler invaded France in 1940, she had been with the Koch family for five years, but she said she needed to leave. She wanted to go back to be with the Führer to celebrate. It was strange. It was a strange—you know, it's a fascinating family. It was a strange upbringing. I'm not saying that they were Nazis, but what I am saying is that this family was politically, from the start, filled with very strange influences.
AMY GOODMAN: And Fred Koch's involvement in the founding of the John Birch Society, and what that is?
JANE MAYER: Well, so, what happens is, the father then also worked for Stalin and built the oil refineries there in Stalin's first five-year plan. And he comes back to the U.S., and he's horrified by what he's seen of Stalin, and he becomes just an absolutely—a sort of vitriolic anti-communist. And that leads to him being a founding member of the John Birch Society. And he passes those views on to his sons. And both David Koch and Charles Koch, the two that are known as the Koch brothers, were members of the John Birch Society, which was—kind of defined the anti-communist, right-wing fringe in America in the '50s, '60s. So...
Democrats and Republicans are expected to spend about $1 billion getting their 2016 nominee elected. There's a third group that will spend almost as much. It's not a political party, and it doesn't have any candidates. It's the right-wing political network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, expected to spend nearly $900 million in 2016. The Kochs' 2016 plans come as part of an effort to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades. The story of the Koch brothers and an allied group of billionaire donors is told in a new book by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right." Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their right-wing agenda.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to go back to the beginning of your book. You start the book with the inauguration of President Obama in January of 2009 and all the attention and the enthusiasm that that generated across the world and in the United States. But then you also say that that very month there was a secret meeting that was convened by the Kochs of billionaires and multimillionaires with a completely different agenda. If you could talk about that?
JANE MAYER: Yeah, well, I'm glad you ask, because the book is not just about the Kochs. And the Kochs, on their own, probably would not be able to have the kind of influence they have. But what they've done is kind of a magic trick. They've attracted around them—they've purposefully built what they call an unprecedented network—it's a pipeline, they talk about it, too—where they've gathered about 400 other extraordinarily wealthy conservatives with them to create a kind of a billionaire caucus almost. And that's the group that met, just as Obama was being inaugurated. Soon after that, they met to figure out: How can we obstruct this? They regarded it as a catastrophe that Obama had been elected, and they wanted to see if they could stop change from taking place in the country and keep the order the way it had been for them during the Bush years, and maybe even push it further to the right.
So this is not—it's an organization that I think people need to understand is not just about elections. They've been playing a long game that started 40 years ago, when Charles Koch really got involved in politics in the beginning. And they wanted to change not just who rules the country, but how the country thinks. They're very antigovernment. They are—and they have pushed this kind of antigovernment line for 40 years through many different channels. And it's kind of a war of ideas as much as anything else.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you also talk about the secrecy with which they operate. You quote Fred Koch, the family patriarch, as saying, "The whale that spouts is the one that gets harpooned."
JANE MAYER: Yes. And so—and I've talked to—many operatives who have worked for the Kochs are interviewed in this book. And one of them told me, they're not just under the radar, they are underground. And they, for many years, just were almost invisible. They used to—the Kochs, themselves, used to call Koch Industries the biggest company that you've never heard of. It's the second-largest private company in America. It has $115 billion of business a year. And most people didn't know what it was. Many Americans use their products, they don't realize—Dixie cups, Stainmaster carpet, Lycra, Georgia-Pacific lumber, there's Quilted Northern toilet paper. There are so many products that they've flooded the American market with, yet most people don't realize that that is coming from these two brothers who own most of the company and are pouring the money into far-right-wing politics.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to keep talking about this with Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker, author of the new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker, author of the new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. If you think about what's happening in this country, the rise of inequality, why climate change action doesn't happen in a more systemic way—many different issues—Jane Mayer talks about some of the reasons, the power blocs behind the major obstacles—the bloc. Start with where you're getting your information.
JANE MAYER: Well, I interviewed hundreds of people for this. And there—I have many new documents also. I mean, one of the things that was interesting to me, I mean, I went into this kind of wondering why does the government seem so dysfunctional. As you said, why can't something be done about global warming in Congress? All of the scientific community is going one way, Congress is going the other. American public opinion supports doing something about global warming, the Congress won't do anything. What's holding it up? Money, the fossil fuel interests and others. And you can see it in here.
There's a—and it begins long ago. In about 1976, there was a plan laid by Charles Koch to build what he called a radical movement to change the way that America voted and thought. And he said we need to, quote-unquote, "destroy" the statist paradigm and start a movement. And he modeled it on the John Birch Society. He loved the secrecy of the John Birch Society. And there's a paper that is quoted in here that he wrote in 1976 about how he was going to found a movement and launch it. So, this has been a long, long-running project. And he's built it up. He's an engineer. He's extraordinarily wealthy. And he has worked with a number of very smart people to build this network that tries to sort of push, push, push the country in his direction.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you also talk, when it comes—about climate change, the direct interest that Koch Industries has in climate denial, because you say—
JANE MAYER: Oh, certainly.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You talk about—can you talk about their refinery, the Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota, and its importance in terms of polluting the planet?
JANE MAYER: Sure. Their fortune is built on fossil fuels. I mean, they are refiners, and they have tremendous numbers of pipelines, and they own a huge amount of the tar sands that are up in Canada. And so, if America moved off fossil fuels, it would be catastrophic for their business. It's a direct interest that they've got in this. And so, one of the things I do is try to follow the money in the denial of climate change, and an awful lot of it goes back to the Kochs and their circle. They have a number of other fossil fuel companies that are part of their network, their group, this group of 400 or so. The members are secret, but there's one guest list that actually was left behind somewhere, so we've been able to see a little bit of who the members are—at least at one point. And it includes many well-known players and a number of fossil fuel interests.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the hedge fund people that apparently are involved, as well.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone, Steve Cohen of SAC.
JANE MAYER: Steven Cohen of SAC Capital, yes.
JANE MAYER: Uh-huh, uh-huh. No, there are a number of very well-known finance figures who are extraordinarily wealthy. And one of the things that this group has worked hard to do is to keep sort of tax breaks for billionaires, really, for hedge funds. One is the carried interest loophole, it's called, and they wanted to keep it open. There was talk in Congress that the Democrats might try to close it. And so this brought a flood of money from the finance community into this group to shut—to keep that loophole open for them. It means that hedge fund managers pay taxes at 15 percent, which is lower than almost—you know, any decently paid American pays more in taxes than many of these people.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about how they built their power. You got a hold of a several-hundred-page history called "Stealth: The History of Charles Koch's Political Activities." Where did this document come from? And tell us about the four brothers—it's not just two, Charles and David.
JANE MAYER: Well, this is the thing. It's an amazing family feud that took place inside this family. There are four brothers, as you say. Two of them formed one team, two formed the other team. They were in court for 20 years against each other, fighting over who was going to get to run the company and have more access to the family fortune. And one of the brothers, who was estranged—his name is Bill Koch—commissioned a history. He hired a historian, who had actually been hired previously by Koch Industries to do its own history. So, it was a historian who worked at George Mason University, and he did a history for Bill Koch of what the other brother, Charles, was doing politically. It's called "Stealth" because he describes a secret plan by Charles to try to manipulate American politics. It's fascinating. It's full of new details, including this paper that I mentioned that Charles wrote in 1976 that no one's seen before.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And part of the documents you uncovered was a sealed—or at least information on a sealed deposition that involved the battle between the brothers, an attempt by Charles and David to blackmail their own oldest—the eldest brother, Frederick, and to out him as gay, according to the deposition. Could you talk about that?
JANE MAYER: It's true. It was—this is really, you know, a painful scene in this, and I think—but gives you an idea of just how rough these guys play. You've got three brothers trying to set up the fourth, who they thought was gay. And they basically hold a kangaroo court. They invite him in under false pretexts. He walks into the room. The three of them are facing him in chairs, and he's supposed to sit across from them. And they accuse him of being gay. They say, "We're going to tell our father you're gay, unless you give us your shares in the company." The brother that was accused, his name's Frederick. He's the oldest. He stood up and said, "I never want to hear about this again," and he walked out of the room. But all of this is described in a deposition that's remained sealed during all these years. Gives you just a glimpse, I think, of maybe how ruthless these players are.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you get a hold of it? And what happened with the company then, with Bill and Frederick?
JANE MAYER: Well, I can't say how I got a hold of it, but I can say that it is absolutely unrefuted, that this is the real thing. And the company was—for 20 years, there was fighting between these two sets of brothers, the two against two. And in the end, Charles and David triumphed, and they run the company, own the company, for the most part. There are a few other shares that a few scattered other people have, but basically they own virtually the whole company. And the two that were left out got decent-sized inheritances and went off on their own ways.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, this is the only other part of your book that the Kochs directly challenged. They're claiming that this information on this court battle was—especially the information in the deposition, was eventually rejected by a jury, that they triumphed and that it was actually false allegations.
JANE MAYER: Which? The allegation that they blackmailed the brother?
JANE MAYER: No. Well, it says that—it says in the book that Charles denied it, but this is a deposition sworn to be true by Bill Koch, who was in the room at the time. So, I think—take it for what it is. Facts are facts.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Charles Koch in his own words. Speaking at the Wichita Metro Chamber 2015 annual meeting, Koch was asked to explain what "good profit" is. His latest book is called Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World's Most Successful Companies. This is a part of what he said.
CHARLES KOCH: Good profit is creating superior value in society by helping your customers improve their lives. And a business does that by—as I say, by creating superior value for its customers and by more efficiently using resources and driving creative destruction, and, while you're doing it, do the best job of keeping people safe and protecting the environment. And if you do a superior job of all those, believe me, you will be profitable. And if you don't, you won't last. That's our philosophy.
AMY GOODMAN: So that's Charles Koch speaking in his own words. And I wanted to talk about the company and the environmentalism. In 2012, the EPA said that Koch Industries was the largest or the single biggest producer of toxic waste in the United States. In 2014, according to the Toxic Release Inventory, Koch Industries had consistently appeared among the top five U.S. producers of toxic waste.
JANE MAYER: Yeah, and there's a University of Massachusetts in Amherst study, too, that says that they're one of only three companies that has been among the top producers of air pollution, water pollution and climate pollution. They have a huge history of environmental violations. And they say they've worked hard to improve on that. And I think they probably are better than they were way back in the '90s maybe, but at that point they had some of the largest environmental judgments against them that had ever been brought in the U.S. So they have a checkered history on this subject. And I was there in Wichita when Charles Koch gave that speech, and it certainly caught my ear when he mentioned that one of the things you need to do is have a good environmental record. I'm glad he thinks that's important.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about climate change, as we just talked about it before, but go further with what they have done around this issue, the groups that have been set up, the money that has been funneled in to either obfuscate or deny human-induced climate change.
JANE MAYER: Well, what you have to understand is the Kochs have built kind of an assembly line to manufacture political change. And it includes think tanks, which produce papers. It includes advocacy groups, that advocate for policies. And it includes giving money to candidates. And you put those three together, and they've pushed against doing anything about climate change on all those three fronts at once. So you get papers that look like they're real scientific opinions doubting that climate change is real, you get advocacy groups saying we can't afford to do anything about it, and you get candidates who have to sign a pledge that—their largest political group is Americans for Prosperity. They have a pledge that says that if you want to get money from this—from their donors, you have to sign a pledge saying that, if elected, you will do nothing about climate change that requires spending any money on the problem. And 156 members of Congress currently have signed that pledge. So, it sort of is a recipe for how to tie the hands of the country from doing anything on this.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, who—what are some of these think tanks? And also, talk about their role with ALEC.
JANE MAYER: Well, that's just the other thing that's so interesting, is they've created a think tank and helped fund it in almost every state. In fact, in every state, there's at least one of these think tanks. It's called the State Policy Network. And they've worked with the group ALEC, that you all probably know about, which sort of funnels corporate money into lobbying in state legislatures.
AMY GOODMAN: The American Legislative Exchange Council.
JANE MAYER: That's right, yeah. And so, they have kind of—I mean, there's a reason that they won the name "The Kochtopus." It's kind of tentacles on many different levels out there and a lot of attention to state legislatures, where money goes a lot further.
AMY GOODMAN: David Koch actually ran for Congress, is that right, in 1980?
JANE MAYER: He actually ran to become vice president of the United States in 1980. And this is—one of the questions I had was—so he ran in 1980 on the Libertarian ticket, and he got something like 1 percent of the vote. He spent a huge amount of—
AMY GOODMAN: Not Congress. So, for vice president.
JANE MAYER: No, for the vice president. And it was so—which gives you an indication: They were so far right, they were running against Ronald Reagan because they thought he was too liberal. And so, at that time, you have—they really defined the furthest fringe in America, and even conservatives denounced their views. William F. Buckley called their views anarcho-totalitarianism. So, what interested me, as a question, as a reporter, was: How did this group, these two brothers and the others around them, get from the furthest fringe to the center of gravity in the Republican Party? It's pulled their way so far during these 30 years since then.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You mentioned this phrase that Buckley used, "anarcho-totalitarianism." Talk about the Freedom School and how David Koch was involved with this little-known operation—in Colorado, was it?
JANE MAYER: It is. It was in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Even before he ran as vice president on the Libertarian Party, he was, I guess, a young man in his thirties and was very attracted to this school called the Freedom School that was run by a man named [Robert] LeFevre, who had had a very odd background. He had had a lot of legal brushes. And they taught a kind of a fanatical libertarianism that was almost anarchism. The head of the school, this LeFevre, called it—himself an "autarchist," instead of an anarchist. They wanted to shrink the government to the point where they couldn't tax, the government couldn't tax. They wanted to get rid of the EPA. They wanted to get rid of pretty much much of the federal government. And the historical view of this group was that the robber barons were America's heroes and that the Gilded Age really was the golden age. And it was a completely revisionist view of America. And Charles Koch was so supportive of it, he became a trustee of the school.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Jane Mayer. When we come back, I want to find out about her own history in investigating the Kochs—did that lead to an investigation of her and her reporting?—and continue to talk about the size of the operation. Again, as we said at the beginning of the show, the Republican and Democratic parties are expected to spend each something like $1 billion in the 2016 elections. There's another party that's going to spend about that much—not a political party per se, but it is the $900 billion of this—$900 million, close to a billion dollars, that we're looking at today. Jane Mayer is staff writer for The New Yorker. Her book is called Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" by Bob Dylan, here onDemocracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guest for the hour is Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker, author of multiple best-selling books, her most recent, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. So that song that Bob Dylan was just singing, talking about the John Birch Society, where, you know, not only Fred Koch, the patriarch of the family, Charles and David's father, but Charles Koch also was a member of the John Birch Society. The John Birch Society called, what, General Eisenhower, President Dwight Eisenhower, a communist?
JANE MAYER: Yes, they thought Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. They saw communist conspiracies behind all kinds of things. And I have to say that I'm told that Charles Koch didn't buy all the far-fetched conspiracy theories, and he really went in a slightly different direction. He was more preoccupied with becoming a kind of a radical economic libertarian, meaning that he wanted to get the government to just let businesses do what they wanted to do and let the free market rule America. And so he's fought to keep taxes really low, get rid of almost all regulations on business. This is really what he's focused on, not so much on communism.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you also describe in the book how some of the gatherings of this caucus of the billionaires have also at times made it uncomfortable for the established Republican figures, like Senator John Cornyn at one point. And talk about their ability to empower the radical right in Congress.
JANE MAYER: Well, I mean, when Obama was elected, there was a dilemma within the Republican Party. It was: Do we work with him and try to get as much as we can—the sort of the old-fashioned way of politics, where you make compromises—or do we just simply go on strike and try to demonize him and obstruct everything, shut down the government? And there was a big argument, actually, that took place in front of the Koch donor group very early on. And the side that won, and won over the hearts of this donor group, was the side of Jim DeMint, who was then the senator from South Carolina, who said, "Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct." And from that point on—and we're talking—
AMY GOODMAN: He would later quit, right, and go to become the head of the Heritage society.
JANE MAYER: That's right.
AMY GOODMAN: Heritage Foundation.
JANE MAYER: That's right. But at that point, it was a choice, and this group put its money in to stop Obama any way you can. And so, part of also what I try to tell the story of here—and you have to kind of follow the money through the chapters—but is that it's not just an election force. It's—this club has become a force of obstruction against governing, so that when Obama proposes the healthcare plan, this group funnels money to many, many different front groups that then, unseen to the American public, pop up and oppose the healthcare plan and disrupt meetings. I don't know if people remember those town hall meetings during, I think it was, the summer of 2010, when there was just kind of pandemonium breaking out. And a lot of that were—there were actually sort of plans laid among this group to pour money in, get people all riled up and make them think that this was going to have death squads, things like that, that were—that got people very upset.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the connection to the tea party?
JANE MAYER: They put a lot of money into the tea party. I started writing about them in the summer of 2010. And at that point, the spokesmen for the Kochs were saying they had nothing to do with the tea party. I then went down to a weekend meeting that the biggest Koch group was holding, Americans for Prosperity, in Austin, Texas, and there they were giving seminars to tea party members on how to organize. So they really—and the people I interviewed down there evidently hadn't gotten the sound bites, because there were saying, "Are you kidding? The tea party? We've been into the tea party before it was cool."
And so, it's—I think what's interesting to me is that, as you've been saying, there have always been Democrats with a lot of money, Republicans with a lot of money. The history of the country has been, you know, of certainly big money players. What you've got here is almost like a third party that is the money party. It's a conservative, outside pressure group that is acting as a force field, pulling the Republican Party, particularly, to the right.
AMY GOODMAN: With three-and-a-half times as many employees as the Republican National Committee.
JANE MAYER: And a larger budget by two times the budget that the Republican National Committee had in the 2012 presidential campaign. So you're talking about really a pretty professionally organized operation. There's a new paper that I thought was really interesting by Theda Skocpol, who's a professor at Harvard. It came out just last week. It's called "The Koch Effect." And it describes what's been built by them and their allied donors as akin to a national party.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Jane, I'd like to ask you—in July, speaking at the NAACPannual convention in Philadelphia, President Obama praised the Koch brothers for their involvement in the campaign to reform the criminal justice system. This is what he said.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: [This is a cause that's] bringing people in both houses of Congress together. It's created some unlikely bedfellows. You've got Van Jones and Newt Gingrich. You've got Americans for Tax Reform and the ACLU. You've got theNAACP and the Koch brothers. No, you've got to give them credit. You've got to call it like you see it.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, a day after President Obama's speech in July, we interviewed Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries, on why the Koch brothers were getting involved in a coalition to reform the criminal justice system.
MARK HOLDEN: Charles Koch and David Koch are classical liberals who believe in expansive individual liberties in the Bill of Rights and limited government. And so, if your goals are to honor the Bill of Rights and to remove obstacles to opportunity, especially for the poor and the disadvantaged, you have to be in the criminal justice arena.
And to answer your question, you know, as Van pointed out, what worked 20 or 30 years ago doesn't work today. And we have to have the intellectual honesty and courage and humility to correct that. In our businesses, we do that all the time when things aren't working. And I think, to Van's point, what we're seeing happen in the states is really a template for what should happen at the federal level, and making sure that everything we do enhances public safety and that it honors the Bill of Rights and treats everybody in the system as individuals with dignity and respect, particularly victims, law enforcement, the incarcerated, the accused and their families.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Mark Holden, a senior counsel for the Koch Industries. This whole issue of them getting involved in criminal justice reform?
JANE MAYER: Well, I mean, Mark Holden is a very eloquent advocate for criminal justice reform. And the Kochs have long cared about criminal justice reform. But what people may not realize is that they've pushed a different kind of reform than most liberals have. What they would like to do is get rid of many crimes that have to do with pollution, that have to do with corporate crimes, tax crimes. They want to weaken prosecution of companies like their own.
Now, there is a tiny overlap. If you did a Venn diagram of where the far right and everybody else overlaps, they would like to see sentencing reform for drug offenders at this point, which—nonviolent drug offenders, which you've—you know, it's an important issue. It's good they're talking about it. It's not something they've cared about until 2014. And I have a new piece out in The New Yorker which notes that in 2014 they launched a huge public relations campaign to change their image. They're involved in what David Axelrod described as one of the biggest rebranding efforts anybody's ever launched. And I see this as certainly part of it.
And the reason I do is—you'll see, if you read this book—there are tapes. There are tapes that were leaked out from one of their meetings, where they describe how they need to change their image. After they did not win the presidency in 2012, despite the money they put behind Mitt Romney, they went back to the drawing board, and they tried to figure out what they were doing wrong. And they did a huge number of polls. And they came to the conclusion that the public thought they were greedy and didn't trust them. And so, they speak in this tape about how we need to prove that we have good intent and we care about other people. And at that point, they launched a number of programs that have to do with doing good works for the poor. So, I see this as quite related to that.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened to you, Jane, after your big exposé in 2010 in The New Yorker magazine?
JANE MAYER: This was something that had never happened to me before, but—even though I've covered all kinds of things, from wars to the CIA. But I suddenly found myself about to be attacked in the press, the right-wing press, on charges that were drummed up by a private eye that had been digging into me. That private eye was, it turned out—and I report about this in the book—was working with top Koch operatives, who I name in the book. It's all been checked. The Kochs have had their chance to say it's not so. They have never denied it, and neither has the detective. And they tried to plant misinformation about me in the press. Luckily, it was so false, nobody ran with it.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the whole story. What happened?
JANE MAYER: OK. I was working at The New Yorker at the time, and on January 3rd, 2011, David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, was called by the—or emailed by the two publications that wanted to go with stories saying that I was a plagiarist and supposedly had stolen lines from four different other writers. Now, nobody has ever accused me of this in my life. And the stories were things that had been out for years. And David asked me, "What is this?" I took a look at it, and I immediately realized I better call the authors and see if they have any complaints. None of them did. All of them went on the record saying, "This isn't plagiarism. We have no complaints against Jane." And they were willing to be stand-up people and back me up. I went back to the right-wing news organizations and said, "This is false. Here are the statements from the writers." And they never published these.
But I wondered what had happened, and so did the New York Post, which was about to do a story on it. And Keith Kelly, the media reporter there, started asking, "Who's trying to smear Jane Mayer?" And he started doing a series of stories and floating the idea that the Koch brothers were behind it, because they had been unhappy with the big piece I did about them. Anyway, it took years—really, three years—but eventually I was able to connect the dots. And you'll see the story in this book. And amazingly, the detective that they hired to do this was the former commissioner of police in New York City, Howard Safir. And it fell flat. I mean, I'm glad to say it was—it was ridiculous. In fact, one of the stories that I was supposed to have plagiarized from, not only did I—
AMY GOODMAN: He's supposed to put out fires, right?
JANE MAYER: Yeah, really.
AMY GOODMAN: Howard Safir was also the fire commissioner.
JANE MAYER: Well, anyway, one of the stories that I was supposed to have plagiarized from, when I called the author of it, he looked it up, and he said, "Not only did you not plagiarize from me, you credited me in the next sentence and linked to me online." And then it turned out my own husband had edited the story. It was atThe Washington Post, so I guess I was supposed to be plagiarizing from my husband. I don't know. It fell apart. But it was really ugly.
AMY GOODMAN: Did Safir admit this?
JANE MAYER: He's been asked multiple times about it, and he has simply said, "I can't comment."
AMY GOODMAN: Jane, what most shocked you? I mean, you have been now investigating the Kochs and the Koch empire, what some call "The Kochtopus," for many years now. What most shocked you in writing this book that you've been writing for many years, Dark Money?
JANE MAYER: I think it's the comprehensive nature of what they've built. As I said earlier, what I wrote about before was the tip of the iceberg. But this is a really—it's a comprehensive political machine manufacturing political change in the country. And it operates on many, many levels, with tons of money. And I think, you know, you—it's hard to describe it, unless you read the story, but it filters through so many different levels, that it's fascinating. And I think it's—you know, in some ways, it's a testimony to Charles Koch. He is an engineer who looked at American politics and thought, "How do you manufacture change here? What widgets does it need? What do you do?" And he's been a terrifically successful businessman, and he's brought the country far in the direction that was considered fringe many—not that many years ago.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And some of the most surprising participants in the group, that you didn't expect would be in the group?
JANE MAYER: Well, I think it's interesting that these New York finance people are in it, because for the most part they don't share this radical worldview. They just care about wealth accumulation, basically. And, you know, I mean, David Koch's involvement himself in this—I mean, he's the wealthiest resident of Manhattan. His name is on every cultural institution here. He travels in circles that are full of open-minded people. Yet he's backing this machine that's pushing the country in a direction that I think many Manhattanites might be surprised at.
AMY GOODMAN: Jane Mayer, thanks so much for being with us, author of the new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.
That does it for our broadcast. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our website is