Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

But Our Rich Guys Are Decent

I have some admiration for Jane Mayer. Her book The Dark Side is eye-opening on the torture regime implemented by the last Administration.  But she recently wrote an article detailing the evil Koch Brothers and their war against Obama.

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.

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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.”

The rest of it is of a similar vein.  It took me about ten seconds to see what was wrong with this, as Ira Stoll notes:

Charles Lewis is a left-winger and the Center for Public Integrity gets its funding from left-wing foundations including George Soros’s Open Society Institute and Barbra Streisand’s Streisand Foundation.

Bing!  Mayer addresses Soros briefly:

Of course, Democrats give money, too. Their most prominent donor, the financier George Soros, runs a foundation, the Open Society Institute, that has spent as much as a hundred million dollars a year in America. Soros has also made generous private contributions to various Democratic campaigns, including Obama’s. But Michael Vachon, his spokesman, argued that Soros’s giving is transparent, and that “none of his contributions are in the service of his own economic interests.”

This is absurd.  Mayer quotes the Kochs’ critics extensively, often anonymously.  But when it comes time to talk about Soros, she only repeats a quote from his spokesman.

And it’s a wrong quote.  George Soros waged a perpetual personal political war against George W. Bush and has funded tons of political organizations that masquerade as non-partisan but are, in fact, partisan as hell and often disguise their assocation.  Media Matters is a perfect example.  They are relentlessly partisan: you may remember in the ACORN scandal that they uncritically parroted the ACORN line.  They have claimed they are not funded by Soros but later admitted to back door funding from MoveOn and CAP.  Put the Kochs’ name on it and make Media Matters a libertarian watchdog and it would be a conspiracy.

Moreover, Soros has used his power and influence to make himself wealthy, as documented in Do As I Say, Not As I Do.  But since he supports left-wing causes, we shouldn’t look too closely.  A similar hypocrisy applies to the think tanks.  Ones funded by the Kochs are suspicious partisan organizations; ones funded by lefties are non-partisan public interest groups.

Stoll again:

Ms. Mayer describes what she calls “the Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement.” But a lot of Koch-backed institutions would be more accurately characterized as pro-individual or pro-small-government than as “pro-corporate.” These think thanks and professors and groups were criticizing ObamaCare when the drug companies were backing it, criticizing TARP when the investment banks were backing it, criticizing the auto bailout when GM and Chrysler were begging for it, criticizing “clean energy” subsidies when GE and Ford were begging for them.

More relevant to Ms. Mayer’s work?  The libertarians think tanks were, for the most part, massively opposed to the wars and diametrically opposed to the torture regime she so ably detailed in her book.

The core of her article is the Kochs funding of libertarian opposition to climate change legislation, an effort that supports their own energy interests.  She has a point here, but massively exaggerates it.  For example, she says the libertarians promoted Climategate:

Cato scholars have been particularly energetic in promoting the Climategate scandal. Last year, private e-mails of climate scientists at the University of East Anglia, in England, were mysteriously leaked, and their exchanges appeared to suggest a willingness to falsify data in order to buttress the idea that global warming is real. In the two weeks after the e-mails went public, one Cato scholar gave more than twenty media interviews trumpeting the alleged scandal.

This is an amazing distortion.  Cato has been mostly quiet on Climategate with the exception of the “one Cato scholar”.  And that “one Cato scholar” who gave 20 interviews is, in fact, Patrick Michaels, who was specifically mentioned and derided in the leaked e-mails.  Michaels has not asked for anonymity.  The only reason to leave that piece of information out is to make it seem more dark and mysterious than it is.  And Michaels, incidentally, disputes the severity of global warming, not its existence.  Additionally, the chief climate commenter at another evil Koch-supported libertarian think tank—Reason—also accepts the reality of global warming.  However, both think tanks dispute statist solutions to global warming and do not accept the disaster scenarios peddled by Algore.  So that makes them Evil Climate Deniers.

The final onion in the ointment of Mayer’s thesis?  Has all this vile corporate money worked to stop the growth of government?  We have had a decade of unrestrained government growth in every direction, under both Republican and Democratic leadership, that has brought us to the brink of financial ruin.  If the Kochs’ support of libertarian causes is undermining our Republic, it’s doing an awfully subtle job of it.

Anyway, read both her article and Stoll’s response.  Mayer’s book on torture was well-documented and included first-hand non-anonymous interviews with most of the principals.  It was very convincing.  This?  It’s a thinking man’s Shock Doctrine.  I’m not overly enamored of the Kochs, who have run afoul of environmental regulations, among other things, and used their influence to reduce their responsibility.  I’m under no illusion that their motives for funding libertarians ideas are pure as driven snow.  But that could be said of anyone who funds political interests.  if you’re going to disagree with the thinks tanks, dispute their ideas.  Don’t try some nebulous one-sided guilt by association bullshit.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 08/25/10 at 03:01 AM in Left Wing Idiocy  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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