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28 February 2011

foreign help from France

Click image, gets a little bigger.

(international news service)
Monday 28 February 2011

Sarkozy Names Juppe
Foreign Minister to Stem
Critics of Mideast Response

by Helene Fouquet

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie quit yesterday following criticism over her Jan. 11 statement during the Tunisian revolt that her government was ready to provide advice to local police on crowd control.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy replaced top ministers and advisers in an effort to stem criticism of his foreign-policy management amid revolutions in the Arab world.

The cabinet shuffle was a "strategic act in face of an acceleration of history with consequences we cannot imagine yet on the global economy and on our countries," Prime Minister Francois Fillon told RTL radio today.

Sarkozy’s address last night and Cabinet shuffle follow a troubled month. His approval ratings fell to a record low and he was criticized by opposition parties, French diplomats and members of his own party for not firing Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie after it was revealed her Christmas holiday in Tunisia overlapped with the beginning of anti-regime protests.

Alliot-Marie quit yesterday following criticism over her 11 January statement during the Tunisian revolt that her government was ready to provide advice to local police on crowd control. Alliot-Marie, who served as a minister for the past nine years, was also criticized for accepting two flights in a private plane from an associate of then-Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

"France’s voice had to be heard in the world … and Michele Alliot-Marie’s voice wasn’t audible anymore," Fillon said. Polemics about Alliot-Marie "became dangerous for France," he said.

Socialist Party

Opposition Socialist Party spokesman Benoit Hamon called Sarkozy’s management a "startling and humiliating failure for France," following the president’s address. The party criticized Sarkozy for "saluting the courage" of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after his resignation.

"Our foreign policy is made of improvisation and a succession of impulsive choices that are often driven by domestic-policy reasons," French diplomats, who signed under the name Marly, wrote in an editorial in Le Monde newspaper dated 22 February. "Many mistakes could have been avoided, mistakes that came from amateurism, impulsiveness and short-term media considerations," they said.

Sarkozy’s new cabinet is the ninth since the May 2007 election and the fourth change in the past year, with the last shuffle in November. Fillon keeps his post as prime minister.

New Cabinet

Alain Juppe, a former prime minister, will replace Alliot-Marie as foreign minister, a job he held between 1993 and 1995. Juppe will hand over his defense minister post to Gerard Longuet, a senator and an executive at the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party.
Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s chief of staff since the May 2007 election, will replace Brice Hortefeux as interior minister. The name of the new chief of staff was not released.

Sarkozy said yesterday European nations have a duty to help Arab countries that have overthrown their dictators. He said the protesters who shook Tunisia, Egypt and Libya share the same values as Western democracies. He said a poorly managed transition to democracy could lead to a return to dictatorships and to a wave of migrants to Europe.

"These Arab revolutions open a new era in our relationship to countries that are so close to us historically and geographically," Sarkozy said. "We should not be afraid. They bring an enormous hope because they are carried out in the name of values that are so close to us, democracy and human rights."

Fillon today said France will send two planes with doctors, nurses and medical equipment to eastern Libya as part of a relief operation it plans to expand. Fillon added that European countries will have to be ”very firm” against illegal immigration coming from the North African countries.
‘Must Go’

France is "evaluating" military options against Libya’s ruler Muammar Qaddafi who "must go, must quit power," Fillon said.

Sarkozy’s approval rating fell 5 percentage points from the previous month, with 66 percent of respondents saying they have a bad or rather bad opinion of the French leader, according to a survey by BVA, a Paris-based polling institute for L’Express weekly magazine, France Inter radio and the Orange mobile phone company, released 22 February.

BVA surveyed 982 people age 18 or older on Feb. 18 and 19. The Paris-based polling agency didn’t publish a margin of error.
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To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

Now we understand that the president has just been on a visit to Brazil and the Argentine

Roosevelt visited Trinidad in 1936.
Secretary of State Cordell Hull received the Nobel Peace Prize for being one of the founders of the United Nations.

F.D.R. in Trinidad
by Fitz MacLean

When Roosevelt came to the land of the hummingbird
shouts of welcome were heard
When Roosevelt came to the land of the hummingbird
shouts of welcome were heard

His visit to their island is bound to be
an epoch in local history
Definitely marking the new era
keeping Trinidad in America

For this great man jubilation
was evinced by the entire population
Friendship for the U.S.A. was shown
and from his house to stars and the stripes were flown

For the state to open the gate
to the president of these United States
In fact everybody was glad
to welcome Roosevelt to Trinidad

We are privileged to see the democratic
president of the great republic
With his charming and genial personality
and his wonderful urbanity

We were struck by his modest style
and we were intrigued by the famous Roosevelt smile
No wonder why everybody was glad
to welcome Roosevelt to Trinidad

Now we understand that the president has just been
on a visit to Brazil and the Argentine
Mr. Cordell Hull in attendance
they took part in a peace conference

To stop war and atrocity
and make the world safe for democracy
The greatest event in the century
in the interest of suffering humanity

27 February 2011

Supreme Court to consider the strange odyssey of an innocent American citizen, Abdullah al-Kidd

The Associated Press
(USA newswire)
Sunday 27 February 2011

US citizen recalls
post-9/11 arrest
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Handcuffed and marched through Washington's Dulles International Airport in his Muslim clothing, the man with the long, dark beard could only imagine what people were thinking.

That scene unfolded in March 2003, a year and a half after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. One of the four planes hijacked in 2001 took off from Dulles. "I could only assume that they thought I was a terrorist," Abdullah al-Kidd recalled in an interview with The Associated Press.

Al-Kidd called his airport arrest "one of the most, if not the most, humiliating experiences of my life."

The humiliation had only just begun.

Over the next 16 days he would be strip-searched repeatedly, left naked in a jail cell and shower for more than 90 minutes in view of other men and women, routinely transported in handcuffs and leg irons, and kept with people who had been convicted of violent crimes. On a long trip between jails, a federal marshal refused to unlock al-Kidd's chains so he could use the bathroom.

In the midst of al-Kidd's detention, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to Congress about recent major successes against terrorism. No. 1 on Mueller's list was the capture of professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

No. 2 was the arrest of al-Kidd, a Kansas-born convert to Islam who was not charged with a crime — either then or later.

Eight years later, the Supreme Court is weighing whether al-Kidd's arrest and detention violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. The court, which will hear arguments Wednesday in the case, also is being asked to decide whether former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be held personally liable for his role in setting the policy that led to al-Kidd's arrest at a Dulles ticket counter as he prepared to board a flight to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Kidd, now 38, was one of about 70 men, almost all Muslims, who were arrested and held in the months and years after Sept. 11 under a federal law intended to compel reluctant witnesses to testify to grand juries and at criminal trials.

The material witness law has existed in some form since 1789. But after Sept. 11, al-Kidd argues in his lawsuit, federal authorities began using it to take someone suspected of ties to terrorism off the streets even when they had insufficient evidence to believe he had committed a crime.

Ashcroft and other high-ranking officials publicly described the importance of using the material witness law against suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens. Less than two months after Sept. 11, Ashcroft said that the "aggressive detention of lawbreakers and material witnesses is vital to preventing, disrupting or delaying new attacks."

Al-Kidd was among the roughly half of those detained who were never called to testify in any criminal proceeding. One measure of Ashcroft's policy is that the government apologized to or reached monetary settlements with at least 13 people, according to a report by civil liberties groups.

But al-Kidd received no apology. The Obama administration, representing Ashcroft for his actions as attorney general, continues to argue the arrest was constitutional.

No attorney general has ever been held personally liable for official actions, civil rights lawyers said.

Five former attorneys general have joined the administration in urging the high court not to end that tradition. But 31 former federal prosecutors have sided with al-Kidd and argue the law's only proper use is to make sure witnesses show up.

The Supreme Court has said high-ranking officials may be held personally liable if they can be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and understood the action crossed that line.

At the trial court in Idaho and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, judges, who like Ashcroft were appointed by Republican presidents, have so far allowed the case against Ashcroft to go forward.
Al-Kidd said he has two main goals: personal vindication and "to insure this doesn't happen to other people." Now teaching English at a university in Saudi Arabia, al-Kidd sat for an interview shortly after returning to the United States this month to see his two children and other relatives.

The government's interest in al-Kidd appears to have stemmed from a trip he made to Yemen after Sept. 11 and his ties to a man the Justice Department prosecuted on computer terrorism charges. That defendant, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, was a graduate student at the University of Idaho, where al-Kidd played running back for the college football team in the 1990s.

Al-Kidd said he met with FBI agents several times and answered all their questions. He said he was never told he might be called as a witness, never told not to travel or asked to voluntarily turn over his passport, as the FBI did with another potential witness in the same investigation.
Early in 2003, he was planning to go to Saudi Arabia on a scholarship to study Arabic and Islamic law. Days before he left — some six months after his last contact with federal authorities — the FBI persuaded a judge in Idaho to sign a material witness warrant authorizing his arrest. Agents picked him up at Dulles two days later.

But the sworn statement the FBI submitted to justify the warrant had important errors and omissions. The $5,000 one-way, first-class seat that the agents said al-Kidd purchased was, in reality, a coach-class, round-trip ticket. The statement neglected to mention that al-Kidd had been cooperative or that he was a U.S. citizen with a wife and children who also were American.

Claims against the FBI agents are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case. Al-Kidd has separately reached settlements with Virginia, Oklahoma and Idaho jail officials over his treatment. A federal judge in Oklahoma ruled the strip searches al-Kidd endured at the federal jail in Oklahoma City "were objectively unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment."
When al-Kidd was brought before a federal judge in Idaho, more than two weeks after his arrest, he was released from custody, but under very strict conditions.
Recently married for a second time, he could only travel in four Western states and was required to live with his new in-laws in Las Vegas. "It was pretty stressful," he said. "In their defense, they probably want the best for their daughter, and even if this guy didn't do anything wrong, he's damaged goods at this point."

His marriage quickly deteriorated and relations were so tense at home that the court allowed him to find his own place.

Al-Kidd found a job delivering supplies to a store on Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, but was told after eight or nine months that security officials would no longer allow him on the base.

Even after al-Hussayen was acquitted on the most serious charges, the government took no action to end restrictions on al-Kidd. But he persuaded a judge to end them.

Nine months later, Al-Kidd filed his suit, which he hopes will finally to clear his name. "I haven't lost faith in the system," he said.

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26 February 2011

The war on the health of women

The New York Times
Friday 25 February 2011

The War on Women

Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning.

The budget bill pushed through the House last Saturday included the defunding of Planned Parenthood and myriad other cuts detrimental to women. It’s not likely to pass unchanged, but the urge to compromise may take a toll on these programs. And once the current skirmishing is over, House Republicans are likely to use any legislative vehicle at hand to continue the attack.

The egregious cuts in the House resolution include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.

An amendment offered by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, would bar any financing of Planned Parenthood. A recent sting operation by an anti-abortion group uncovered an errant employee, who was promptly fired. That hardly warrants taking aim at an irreplaceable network of clinics, which uses no federal dollars in providing needed abortion care. It serves one in five American women at some point in her lifetime.

The House resolution would slash support for international family planning and reproductive health care. And it would reimpose the odious global "gag" rule, which forbids giving federal money to any group that even talks about abortions. That rule badly hampered family planning groups working abroad to prevent infant and maternal deaths before President Obama lifted it.

(Mr. Obama has tried to act responsibly. He has rescinded President George W. Bush’s wildly overreaching decision to grant new protections to health providers who not only will not perform abortions, but also will not offer emergency contraception to rape victims or fill routine prescriptions for contraceptives.)

In negotiations over the health care bill last year, Democrats agreed to a scheme intended to stop insurance companies from offering plans that cover abortions. Two bills in the Republican House would go even further in denying coverage to the 30 percent or so of women who have an abortion during child-bearing years.

One of the bills, offered by Representative Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, has a provision that would allow hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to terminate a pregnancy even when necessary to save a woman’s life.

Beyond the familiar terrain of abortion or even contraception, House Republicans would inflict harm on low-income women trying to have children or who are already mothers.

Their continuing resolution would cut by 10 percent the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, which serves 9.6 million low-income women, new mothers, and infants each month, and has been linked in studies to higher birth weight and lower infant mortality.

The G.O.P. bill also slices $50 million from the block grant supporting programs providing prenatal health care to 2.5 million low-income women and health care to 31 million children annually. President Obama’s budget plan for next year calls for a much more modest cut.

These are treacherous times for women’s reproductive rights and access to essential health care. House Republicans mistakenly believe they have a mandate to drastically scale back both even as abortion warfare is accelerating in the states. To stop them, President Obama’s firm leadership will be crucial. So will the rising voices of alarmed Americans.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on February 26, 2011, on page A18 of the New York edition.

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Vleeptron promised you PIRATES!!! and Vleeptron DELIVERS! Earth got big pirate troubles again! Send in the Marines! (or maybe don't send in the Marines)

The Marines' Hymn -- the martial song associated for two centuries with the United States Marines -- begins

From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We will fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean:
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.

The Marines are the land combat branch of the U.S. Navy. Their operations classically involve amphibious landings from Navy ships onto hostile shores -- although, as in D-Day, the Army can make amphibious landings, too. But the Marines are the US military's historical specialists at this mission.

And historically, when there's Pirate Trouble anywhere on Earth, the USA sends in the Marines. Marines are very good at snuffing out Pirates.

For the last several years, the pirates of Somalia have startled the West, and even provided entertainment and amusement -- surely the world was centuries beyond piracy, and would not see pirates anywhere, except at your front door on Halloween.

But the huge ransoms merchant fleets have paid Somali pirates to get their freighters and tankers back -- millions of dollars per ship -- have emboldened the pirates, and they have spread their attacks beyond Somali coastal waters, and into the Indian Ocean, nearly to India.

If Gettleman's take on the Somali pirates is right, the USA may decide it's time to send in the Marines.

But the USA has tried its military luck in Somalia recently -- 1993, the Battle of Magadishu -- with disastrous results. Somalia is a meltdown, failed state, and our assumptions that our superior weaponry will always make short work of third-world irregulars ... Mogadishu demonstrates that the old assumptions are evaporating, that the world's most powerful superpower military doesn't always win.


The New York Times
(daily broadsheet New York City USA)
Saturday 26 February 2011

Suddenly, a Rise in Piracy’s Price

by Jeffrey Gettleman

For years, the infant American government, along with many others, had accepted the humiliating practice of paying tribute -- essentially mob-style protection fees -- to a handful of rulers in the Barbary states so that American ships crossing the Mediterranean would not get hijacked.

But in 1801, Tripoli’s pasha, Yusuf Karamanli, tried to jack up his prices. Jefferson said no. And when the strongman turned his pirates loose on American ships, Jefferson sent in the Navy to bombard Tripoli, starting a war that eventually brought the Barbary states to their knees. Rampant piracy went to sleep for nearly 200 years.

The question now is: Are we nearing another enough-is-enough moment with pirates?

On Tuesday, Somali pirates shot and killed four American hostages. A single hostage intentionally killed by these pirates had been almost unheard of; four dead was unprecedented. Until now, the first thing that came to mind about Somalia’s buccaneers was that they were brash and mercurial.

Just a few weeks ago they let go some Sri Lankan fishermen after they essentially said, "You’re poor, like us." They were seen as a nuisance, albeit an expensive one, but not a lethal threat.

Exactly what happened Tuesday is still murky. Pirates in the Arabian Sea had hijacked a sailboat skippered by a retired couple from California, and when the American Navy closed in, the pirates got twitchy. Navy Seals rushed aboard but it was too late. It’s still not clear why the pirates would want to kill the hostages when their business model, which has raked in more than $100,000,000 in the past few years, is based on ransoming captives alive.

"Of course, I do not know what the U.S. will do in response to this latest atrocity," said Frank Lambert, a professor at Purdue who is an expert on the Barbary pirates. But, he said, "Jefferson advocated an armed response and eventually war against Tripoli for far less provocation."

For years now, Somali pirates with fiberglass skiffs and salt-rusted Kalashnikovs have been commandeering ships along one of the most congested shipping routes in the world — the Gulf of Aden, a vital conduit for Middle East oil to Europe and the United States. More than 50 vessels are now held captive, from Thai fishing trawlers to European supertankers, with more than 800 hostages. Those numbers grow each year.

But the international response has been limited, partly because the most promising remedies are intensely complicated and risky. Western powers, including the United States, have sent warships to cruise Somalia’s coast and discourage attacks.

When a vessel is hijacked, ship owners cough up a ransom, nowadays in the neighborhood of $5 million, and most of that cost gets passed to the end user — consumers. Until recently, most hostages would emerge unharmed, albeit skinny and pale from being locked in a filthy room. The average time in captivity is around six months.

But recently the pirates have been getting more vicious; reports have emerged of beatings, of being hung upside down, even of being forced at gunpoint to join in raids. And now the pirates have gunned down four Americans.

"I think there’s going to be some type of retaliation," said a European diplomat in Nairobi, Kenya, who trades ideas on anti-piracy strategies with other diplomats and was instructed not to speak publicly about the issues. "I could see the Americans going after the pirate bosses, the organizers, maybe even blockade some of the ports that they use," he speculated. "I don’t think the Americans are going to invade Somalia, because of Iraq and Afghanistan, but they can use local allies." Another obvious possibility would be American Special Forces, who have killed terrorism suspects in Somalia.

Piracy Inc. is a sprawling operation on land, too. It offers work to tens of thousands of Somalis — middle-managers, translators, bookkeepers, mechanics, gunsmiths, guards, boat builders, women who sell tea to pirates, others who sell them goats.

The American government isn’t revealing its plans but officials suggest — as long as they are not quoted by name — that the killings of the four Americans could be a game-changer. "We get it," said one State Department official. "We get the need to recalibrate."

Any course of action, however, will confront two huge obstacles: the immensity of the sea and the depth of chaos in Somalia.

The pirates used to stick relatively close to Somalia’s shores. But now, using "mother ships" -- hijacked vessels that serve as floating bases -- they attack ships more than 1,000 miles away. Sometimes that puts them closer to India than to home. The red zone now covers more than 1,000,000 square miles [259,000,000 hectares] 
of water, an area naval officers say is impossible to control.

Piracy Inc. is a sprawling operation on land, too. It offers work to tens of thousands of Somalis — middle-managers, translators, bookkeepers, mechanics, gunsmiths, guards, boat builders, women who sell tea to pirates, others who sell them goats. In one of the poorest lands on earth, piracy isn’t just a business; it’s a lifeline.

And this gets to the real problem.

"The root cause is state failure,” the American official said.

Somalia’s central government collapsed more than 20 years ago, and now its landscape includes droughts, warlords, fighters allied to Al Qaeda, and malnutrition, suffering and death on a scale unseen just about anywhere else.

The United States and other Western powers are pouring millions of dollars into Somalia’s transitional government, an appointed body with little legitimacy on the ground, in the hope, perhaps vain, that it can rebuild the world’s most failed state and create an economy based on something like fishing or livestock. Young men then might be able to earn a living doing something other than sticking up ships.

But the transitional government has been divided, feckless and corrupt. Islamist rebels control much of the country. Few Somalis think the nation will stop being a war zone any time soon.

The shipping industry seems to know this.

"Until things change on land, you have to come down very hard on them at sea," said Cyrus Mody, manager of the International Maritime Bureau in London.

Shipping companies are frustrated, he said, because while many pirates are apprehended at sea by foreign navies, the vast majority are typically released unless they are caught in the act of a hijacking a ship -- which is a very narrow window because once pirates control a vessel, it’s extremely dangerous to intervene.

"The laws have to be amended," Mr. Mody said. "Why would a skiff be 800 miles off Somalia with a rocket-propelled grenade, a ladder and extra barrels of fuel? What are they doing? Fishing? These people need to be arrested and prosecuted."

The last resort is military action. Many people ask: Why not storm ashore and attack the pirate bases? These dens are well known. I even visited one last year and met a pirate boss who was using millions of dollars in ransoms to build a land-based army that at first glance looked more disciplined and better equipped than Somalia’s national army.

But the military option would not be pretty. The 800 or so captured seamen could be used as human shields. And no Western country has shown an appetite to send troops to Somalia, not after the Black Hawk Down fiasco of 1993, when ragtag Somali militiamen downed two American helicopters and killed 18 elite American troops.

And a military attack could easily backfire. "They might kill a few pirates, but more would certainly spring up to replace them," said Bronwyn Bruton, who wrote a widely discussed essay on Somalia. "The replacements would probably be even angrier and more violent." In her essay, she advised the international community to essentially pull out and let Somalis sort out their problems on their own.

She added that collateral damage from a raid could be severe and "a lot of civilian casualties could actually wind up aggravating a much bigger security threat to the U.S. -- terrorism."

So it seems that Jefferson may have had an easier piracy problem to solve.

"I can offer a couple thoughts based on the U.S.’s dealing with pirates more than 200 years ago," Mr. Lambert said. "If the U.S. response is a vigorous military response, it is likely to be difficult, costly, and prolonged" -- a reference to the war that followed bombardment of the coast.

But, he warned, "If it is a continuation of the present policy (whatever that is), it is almost a certainty that we will see more or perhaps escalated atrocities."
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I taught my chicken to walk backwards / the Wal-Mart philosophy of Ayn Rand, inspiration of the Tea Party and right-wingers everywhere

There is good reason to credit the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand as being the most influential figure in contemporary American politics. Her novels sucked and her philosophy, objectivism, is the Wal-Mart of ideas, but her work has the magical power of mesmerizing high school and college students and making them her worshippers for the rest of their lives. Many of her worshippers went on to become leaders of American conservatism and the right wing of the Republican Party. The USA populist phenomenon known as the Tea Party is a sort of high-school-dropout reflection of Ayn Rand's belief system.

In radio interviews, she'd yell in her thick Russian accent: "It's AYN! as in SWINE!"

Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, attended Ayn Rand's funeral in 1982. Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi called Greenspan "the biggest asshole in the universe" and blamed him for the current economic collapse.

Rand wrote two novels, "The Fountainead" and "Atlas Shrugged." You can get a quick dose of "The Fountainhead" in the Gary Cooper movie, for which Rand wrote the screenplay. 

After watching Cooper in "The Fountainhead," it is impossible to believe he was also a gifted comic actor.

A review:

"The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail."

-- Flannery O'Connor, author of the novels "Wise Blood" and "The Violent Bear It Away," and the short story collections "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge"

O'Connor first achieved fame when, as a 6-year-old girl on a Georgia farm, she taught a chicken to walk backwards, and Pathe News showed a newsreel of the event, "Little Mary O'Connor," around the USA.

"When I was six I had a chicken that walked backward and was in the Pathe News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax."

24 February 2011

Glenn the Pill-Popper / Genius Within documentary

The Spectator
London UK
Saturday 29 January 2011

by Damian Thompson

What would Glenn Gould’s playing have sounded like if he hadn’t chomped his way through bucketloads of Valium? It’s not a question that is asked in Genius Within, a much-praised documentary about the tortured Canadian pianist that has just been released in Britain.

What would Glenn Gould’s playing have sounded like if he hadn’t chomped his way through bucketloads of Valium? It’s not a question that is asked in Genius Within, a much-praised documentary about the tortured Canadian pianist that has just been released in Britain. But perhaps it should have been. In the nine months before his death at the age of 50 in 1982, Gould consumed more than 2,000 pills of every variety. His self-medication is admittedly one of the most famous things about him, but unless you’ve tried some of the tranquillisers he took — and, as it happens, I have — it’s hard to grasp how profoundly they mess with your consciousness.

Gould was a shameless ‘doctor-shopper’, signing up to several GPs simultaneously, extracting a script from one and then phoning another to obtain a different bunch of pills without mentioning the previous prescription. One dreads to think what he would have got up to if he’d lived long enough to discover internet pharmacies. He treated his bathroom cabinet like a box of Quality Street and was also keen to try out other people’s medications — never a good sign. He took tranquillisers to control his hypochondria, but to say that they didn’t work is an understatement.

There’s footage in Genius Within of Gould singing Mahler to the elephants at Toronto Zoo, one of those tiresome zany tricks that he inflicted on Canadian television viewers after he suddenly stopped giving concerts. But more revealing of the real man is the fact that just before the filming he warned the producer that he was suffering from five of the six symptoms of ‘sub-clinical polio’ and if the sixth appeared he’d have to pull out. (It didn’t.)

Gould’s anxiety about his health was all-consuming. Kevin Bazzana’s Wondrous Strange, the best of the Gould biographies, describes someone whose terror of his own body ruined his life. The miracle is that the pills didn’t ruin his technique: the motor skills in his second recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, made just before he died, are as amazing as those he displayed in the whirlwind performance that made him world famous at the age of 23. But did the drugs poison his playing in some more subtle way?

I’ve always wondered why Glenn Gould doesn’t quite do it for me. There are a few recordings I love: the second Goldbergs, the Brahms Ballades, above all a transcription of the Prelude to Wagner’s Meistersinger in which the finger control and machine-gun trills conjure up the opening of a vast baroque partita. But then there are things I couldn’t bear to hear again, such as an Emperor Concerto with Stokowski in which Gould’s playing is so laboured that it leaves you exhausted. Anthony Tommasini, reviewing Genius Within for the New York Times, suggests that the ‘finger-tapping’ technique Gould was taught as a boy — in which each digit develops its own individual power — coupled with the low chair, deprived him of the fluency necessary for romantic concertos. Even in his supremely well-structured Bach there’s often the disconcerting hint of a manual typewriter — far more intrusive than his atonal humming, if you ask me. Uh-oh, here comes the inverted subject: tap, tap, tap. And, once you know about the pills, it’s hard to banish the suspicion that the obsessive quality of his musical argument owes something to barbiturates or benzodiazepines.

Withdrawing from concert life didn’t help, either. This is a minority view, but I find equally eccentric recordings by Olli Mustonen and (before he went totally off the rails) Ivo Pogorelich more satisfying because, even in the studio, there’s a sense of trying to win over an audience. Gould didn’t want to win anyone over. Despite his belief that he could reach people’s souls through perfectly spliced tapes, his loathing of audiences never really left him. He played not for himself but to himself. And, since he was such a desperately worried, lonely man, hearing those performances can induce an anxiety that lingers long after the recording has finished.

I was going to suggest that it might help to listen to Gould after taking some of his beloved Valium — but, actually, I’ve just tried that experiment and, no, it doesn’t help.

Genius Within will be released on DVD in March.
The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London, SW1H 9HP.

Mariner 10 probe about to enter Mercury orbit for a year

23 February 2011

Koch's pay phone: Want access to your elected official?

Associated Press (US Newswire)
Wednesday 23 February 2011


Prankster who duped 
Wisconsin governor 
says it was easy

The blogger who posed as conservative billionaire David Koch to prank Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he is shocked how easily he was able to get through.

Ian Murphy is editor of the Web site the Buffalo Beast in New York. He said he came up with the prank Wednesday to test how easily Koch could speak to Walker when Democrats complained the governor doesn't return their calls.

Murphy says he arranged the call with Walker after speaking with two aides, including the governor's chief of staff. He says he made the call using Skype and posted audio online at 3 a.m. Wednesday.

On the call, Walker talks about his strategy in the state's ongoing battle over union rights and revealed plans to pressure Senate Democrats to come back to Wisconsin.

Murphy, posing as Koch, suggested Walker take a baseball bat when meeting with the Democrats and Walker joked he has "a slugger with my name on it."

Brothers David and Charles Koch have given millions to support Americans For Prosperity, which has launched a $320,000 ad campaign supporting Walker.

Fourteen Democratic state senators left the state last Thursday to prevent passage of a budget bill that would eliminate most bargaining rights for most state employees.

A labor group that represents 45,000 unionized state workers says it is laying groundwork for a strike if the bill is passed.  They South Central Federation of Labor of Wisconsin voted this week to endorse work stoppages by union and non-union workers nationally.

Federation delegate Tony Schaeve tells the State Journal that a strike could affect schools, governments and private businesses, but crucial services wouldn't be interrupted.

Meanwhile in Indiana, where Democratic lawmakers have also fled the state, the state's House Speaker says he won't concede to Democrats' demands that Republicans drop contentious labor and education proposals.

Most Indiana House Democrats have fled to Urbana in an effort to kill the bills. Their absence denies the House the quorum needed to conduct business. Democrats want Republicans to drop a voucher bill that would direct taxpayer money to private schools and a so-called "right-to-work" bill that prohibits union membership from being a condition of employment.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
- 3o -

Libya's ex-Justice minister: Kadhafi personally ordered Lockerbie Pan Am bombing

Agence France-Presse (newswire, France)
Wednesday 23 February 2011

Kadhafi ordered 

Lockerbie bombing,
ex-minister reveals

STOCKHOLM -- Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, former justice minister Mustapha Abdeljalil told Swedish daily Expressen, the paper reported on its website Wednesday.

"I have proof that Kadhafi gave the order on Lockerbie," said the minister, who stepped down Monday to protest the ongoing violence in Libya.

Libyan national Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was in 2001 convicted of the bombing of Pan AM Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 21 December
1988 that killed 270 people, most of them Americans.

But Scottish authorities, who have power over their own judicial affairs, released Megrahi, 58, on compassionate grounds in August 2009 after doctors said he was suffering from terminal cancer and had three months to live.

His release and subsequent hero's return to Tripoli drew a furious response from many, and outrage in the United States has been stoked by the fact that he remains alive almost a year and a half after his release.

According to Abdeljalil, Kadhafi "ordered Megrahi to do it (the bombing)," and had worked hard to secure his release to ensure that his role in the plot remained secret.

"To hide it, he did everything in his power to get Megrahi back from Scotland," the former minister said.

Expressen said its reporter Kassem Hamade, who is currently in Libya, had conducted a 40-minute interview with Abdeljalil at "the local parliament in a large city."

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

= 30 -

the freakazoid gazillionaire ultra-right-wing Koch Brothers: You never heard of them, but their money is killing you

Forbes Magazine
USA business magazine
Friday 18 February 2011

[Vleeptron headline:]
Sleazebag gazillionaire Koch Brothers
behind Wisconsin governor's
union-busting campaign

The Policy Page
by Rick Ungar

As the nation focuses on the efforts of Governor Scott Walker to take away collective bargaining rights from public employees in Wisconsin, new information is coming to light that reveals what is truly going on here.

Mother Jones [USA progressive magazine] is reporting that much of the funding behind the Walker for Governor campaign came from none other than uber-conservatives, the infamous Koch Brothers.

What’s more, the plan to kill the unions is right out of the Koch Brothers play book.

Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado;

If you are reluctant to believe that this is a coordinated attack, consider this --

This afternoon, Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Workers Union, sent a message to the Governor’s office agreeing to the cuts to pension & welfare benefits sought by Walker in his bill.  The governor’s response was “nothing doing.”  He wants the whole kit and kaboodle – the end of the collective bargaining rights of the public unions.

As noted in my earlier post, this is, indeed, the first shot in the final battle to end unionism in America.

UPDATE: The Americans for Prosperity group, a Tea Party group that is a Koch Brothers front, has put up a website and petition called

The website attacks all collective bargaining -– not just for public employees’ unions. Americans for Prosperity is also organizing a rally tomorrow in Wisconsin to support Gov. Walker.

Why are the Koch Brothers so interested in Wisconsin? They are a major business player in the state.

This from Think Progress:

    Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant:

    Officials at Georgia-Pacific said the company is laying off 158 workers at its Day Street plant because out-of-date equipment at the facility is being replaced with newer, more-efficient equipment. The company said much of the new, papermaking equipment will be automated. [...] Malach tells FOX 11 that the layoffs are not because of a drop in demand. In fact, Malach said demand is high for the bath tissue and napkins manufactured at the plant.

You really have to wonder how long it will take for Tea Party devotees to realize just how badly they are being used.

- 30 -


The Koch Brothers have first names, Their enterprises put them in the USA's Top Ten Air Polluters. If your kid has asthma -- well, maybe we ought to re-name it Koch's Disease.


This New Yorker (USA weekly magazine) article scared the living bejeezus out of me.


The New Yorker (USA weekly magazine)
30 August 2010

A Reporter at Large

Covert Operations

The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.
by Jane Mayer

On May 17th, a black-tie audience at the Metropolitan Opera House applauded as a tall, jovial-looking billionaire took the stage. It was the seventieth annual spring gala of American Ballet Theatre, and David H. Koch was being celebrated for his generosity as a member of the board of trustees; he had recently donated $2.5 million toward the company’s upcoming season, and had given many millions before that. Koch received an award while flanked by two of the gala’s co-chairs, Blaine Trump, in a peach-colored gown, and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, in emerald green. Kennedy’s mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had been a patron of the ballet and, coincidentally, the previous owner of a Fifth Avenue apartment that Koch had bought, in 1995, and then sold, eleven years later, for thirty-two million dollars, having found it too small.

The gala marked the social ascent of Koch, who, at the age of seventy, has become one of the city’s most prominent philanthropists. In 2008, he donated a hundred million dollars to modernize Lincoln Center’s New York State Theatre building, which now bears his name. He has given twenty million to the American Museum of Natural History, whose dinosaur wing is named for him. This spring, after noticing the decrepit state of the fountains outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Koch pledged at least ten million dollars for their renovation. He is a trustee of the museum, perhaps the most coveted social prize in the city, and serves on the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where, after he donated more than forty million dollars, an endowed chair and a research center were named for him.

One dignitary was conspicuously absent from the gala: the event’s third honorary co-chair, Michelle Obama. Her office said that a scheduling conflict had prevented her from attending. Yet had the First Lady shared the stage with Koch it might have created an awkward tableau. 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. 

[ U$100,000,000,000 ]

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 

 [ U$35,000,000,000 ]

is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
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.”

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 channelled “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.”

The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, “The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.” With the emergence of the Tea Party, he said, “everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there—people who can provide real ideological power.” The Kochs, he said, are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.”

A Republican campaign consultant who has done research on behalf of Charles and David Koch said of the Tea Party, “The Koch brothers gave the money that founded it. It’s like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud—and they’re our candidates!”

The Kochs and their political operatives declined requests for interviews. Instead, a prominent New York public-relations executive who is close with the Kochs put forward two friends: George Pataki, the former governor of New York, and Mortimer Zuckerman, the publisher and real-estate magnate. Pataki, a Republican who received campaign donations from David Koch, called him “a patriot who cares deeply about his country.” Zuckerman praised David’s “gentle decency” and the “range of his public interests.”

The Republican campaign consultant said of the family’s political activities, “To call them under the radar is an understatement. They are underground!” Another former Koch adviser said, “They’re smart. This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.” Rob Stein, a Democratic political strategist who has studied the conservative movement’s finances, said that the Kochs are “at the epicenter of the anti-Obama movement. But it’s not just about Obama. They would have done the same to Hillary Clinton. They did the same with Bill Clinton. They are out to destroy progressivism.”

Oddly enough, the fiercely capitalist Koch family owes part of its fortune to Joseph Stalin. Fred Koch was the son of a Dutch printer who settled in Texas and ran a weekly newspaper. Fred attended M.I.T., where he earned a degree in chemical engineering. In 1927, he invented a more efficient process for converting oil into gasoline, but, according to family lore, America’s major oil companies regarded him as a threat and shut him out of the industry. Unable to succeed at home, Koch found work in the Soviet Union. In the nineteen-thirties, his company trained Bolshevik engineers and helped Stalin’s regime set up fifteen modern oil refineries. Over time, however, Stalin brutally purged several of Koch’s Soviet colleagues. Koch was deeply affected by the experience, and regretted his collaboration. He returned to the U.S. In the headquarters of his company, Rock Island Oil & Refining, in Wichita, he kept photographs aimed at proving that some of those Soviet refineries had been destroyed in the Second World War. Gus diZerega, a former friend of Charles Koch, recalled, “As the Soviets became a stronger military power, Fred felt a certain amount of guilt at having helped build them up. I think it bothered him a lot.”

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.”

Koch married Mary Robinson, the daughter of a Missouri physician, and they had four sons: Freddie, Charles, and twins, David and William. John Damgard, the president of the Futures Industry Association, was David’s schoolmate and friend. He recalled that Fred Koch was “a real John Wayne type.” Koch emphasized rugged pursuits, taking his sons big-game hunting in Africa, and requiring them to do farm labor at the family ranch. The Kochs lived in a stone mansion on a large compound across from Wichita’s country club; in the summer, the boys could hear their friends splashing in the pool, but they were not allowed to join them. “By instilling a work ethic in me at an early age, my father did me a big favor, although it didn’t seem like a favor back then,” Charles has written. “By the time I was eight, he made sure work occupied most of my spare time.” David Koch recalled that his father also indoctrinated the boys politically. “He was constantly speaking to us children about what was wrong with government,” he told Brian Doherty, an editor of the libertarian magazine Reason, and the author of “Radicals for Capitalism,” a 2007 history of the libertarian movement. “It’s something I grew up with -- a fundamental point of view that big government was bad, and imposition of government controls on our lives and economic fortunes was not good.”

David attended Deerfield Academy, in Massachusetts, and Charles was sent to military school. Charles, David, and William all earned engineering degrees at their father’s alma mater, M.I.T., and later joined the family company. Charles eventually assumed control, with David as his deputy; William’s career at the company was less successful. Freddie went to Harvard and studied playwriting at the Yale School of Drama. His father reportedly disapproved of him, and punished him financially. (Freddie, through a spokesperson, denied this.)

In 1967, after Fred Koch died, of a heart attack, Charles renamed the business Koch Industries, in honor of his father. Fred Koch’s will made his sons extraordinarily wealthy. David Koch joked about his good fortune in a 2003 speech to alumni at Deerfield, where, after pledging twenty-five million dollars,

 [ U$25,000,000 ]

he was made the school’s sole “lifetime trustee.” He said, “You might ask: How does David Koch happen to have the wealth to be so generous? Well, let me tell you a story. It all started when I was a little boy. One day, my father gave me an apple. I soon sold it for five dollars and bought two apples and sold them for ten. Then I bought four apples and sold them for twenty. Well, this went on day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, until my father died and left me three hundred million dollars!”

David and Charles had absorbed their father’s conservative politics, but they did not share all his views, according to diZerega, who befriended Charles in the mid-sixties, after meeting him while browsing in a John Birch Society bookstore in Wichita. Charles eventually invited him to the Kochs’ mansion, to participate in an informal political-discussion group. “It was pretty clear that Charles thought some of the Birch Society was bullshit,” diZerega recalled.

DiZerega, who has lost touch with Charles, eventually abandoned right-wing views, and became a political-science professor. He credits Charles with opening his mind to political philosophy, which set him on the path to academia; Charles is one of three people to whom he dedicated his first book. But diZerega believes that the Koch brothers have followed a wayward intellectual trajectory, transferring their father’s paranoia about Soviet Communism to a distrust of the U.S. government, and seeing its expansion, beginning with the New Deal, as a tyrannical threat to freedom. In an essay, posted on Beliefnet, diZerega writes, “As state socialism failed . . . the target for many within these organizations shifted to any kind of regulation at all. ‘Socialism’ kept being defined downwards.”

Members of the John Birch Society developed an interest in a school of Austrian economists who promoted free-market ideals. Charles and David Koch were particularly influenced by the work of Friedrich von Hayek, the author of “The Road to Serfdom” (1944), which argued that centralized government planning led, inexorably, to totalitarianism. Hayek’s belief in unfettered capitalism has proved inspirational to many conservatives, and to anti-Soviet dissidents; lately, Tea Party supporters have championed his work. In June, the [Fox News Channel] talk-radio host Glenn Beck, who has supported the Tea Party rebellion, promoted “The Road to Serfdom” on his show; the paperback soon became a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon. (Beck appears to be a fan of the Kochs; in the midst of a recent on-air parody of Al Gore, Beck said, without explanation, “I want to thank Charles Koch for this information.” Beck declined to elaborate on the relationship.)

Charles and David also became devotees of a more radical thinker, Robert LeFevre, who favored the abolition of the state but didn’t like the label “anarchist”; he called himself an “autarchist.” LeFevre liked to say that “government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.” In 1956, he opened an institution called the Freedom School, in Colorado Springs. Brian Doherty, of Reason, told me that “LeFevre was an anarchist figure who won Charles’s heart,” and that the school was “a tiny world of people who thought the New Deal was a horrible mistake.” According to diZerega, Charles supported the school financially, and even gave him money to take classes there.

Throughout the seventies, Charles and David continued to build Koch Industries. In 1980, William, with assistance from Freddie, attempted to take over the company from Charles, who, they felt, had assumed autocratic control. In retaliation, the company’s board, which answered to Charles, fired William. (“Charles runs it all with an iron hand,” Bruce Bartlett, the economist, told me.) Lawsuits were filed, with William and Freddie on one side and Charles and David on the other. In 1983, Charles and David bought out their brothers’ share in the company for nearly a billion dollars. 

 [ U$1,000,000,000 ]

But the antagonism remained, and litigation continued for seventeen more years, with the brothers hiring rival private investigators; in 1990, they walked past one another with stony expressions at their mother’s funeral. Eventually, Freddie moved to Monaco, which has no income tax. He bought historic estates in France, Austria, and elsewhere, filling them with art, antiques, opera scores, and literary manuscripts. William founded his own energy company, Oxbow, and turned to yachting; he spent an estimated sixty-five million dollars to win the America’s Cup, in 1992.

With Charles as the undisputed chairman and C.E.O., Koch Industries expanded rapidly. Roger Altman, who heads the investment-banking firm Evercore, told me that the company’s performance has been “beyond phenomenal.” Charles remained in Wichita, with his wife and two children, guarding his privacy while supporting community charities. David moved to New York City, where he is an executive vice-president of the company and the C.E.O. of its Chemical Technology Group. A financial expert who knows Koch Industries well told me, “Charles is the company. Charles runs it.” David, described by associates as “affable” and “a bit of a lunk,” enjoyed for years the life of a wealthy bachelor. He rented a yacht in the South of France and bought a waterfront home in Southampton, where he threw parties that the Web site New York Social Diary likened to an “East Coast version of Hugh Hefner’s soirées.” In 1996, he married Julia Flesher, a fashion assistant. They live in a nine-thousand-square-foot duplex at 740 Park Avenue, with their three children. Though David’s manner is more cosmopolitan, and more genial, than that of Charles, Brian Doherty, who has interviewed both brothers, couldn’t think of a single issue on which the brothers disagreed.

As their fortunes grew, Charles and David Koch became the primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America. Charles’s goal, as Doherty described it, was to tear the government “out at the root.” The brothers’ first major public step came in 1979, when Charles persuaded David, then thirty-nine, to run for public office. They had become supporters of the Libertarian Party, and were backing its Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, who was running against Ronald Reagan from the right. Frustrated by the legal limits on campaign donations, they contrived to place David on the ticket, in the Vice-Presidential slot; upon becoming a candidate, he could lavish as much of his personal fortune as he wished on the campaign. The ticket’s slogan was “The Libertarian Party has only one source of funds: You.” In fact, its primary source of funds was David Koch, who spent more than two million dollars on the effort.

Many of the ideas propounded in the 1980 campaign presaged the Tea Party movement. Ed Clark told The Nation that libertarians were getting ready to stage “a very big tea party,” because people were “sick to death” of taxes. The Libertarian Party platform called for the abolition of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., as well as of federal regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Energy. The Party wanted to end Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, and all personal and corporate income taxes; it proposed the legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs, and suicide. Government should be reduced to only one function: the protection of individual rights. William F. Buckley, Jr., a more traditional conservative, called the movement “Anarcho-Totalitarianism.”

That November, the Libertarian ticket received only one per cent of the vote. The brothers realized that their brand of politics didn’t sell at the ballot box. Charles Koch became openly scornful of conventional politics. “It tends to be a nasty, corrupting business,” he told a reporter at the time. “I’m interested in advancing libertarian ideas.” According to Doherty’s book, the Kochs came to regard elected politicians as merely “actors playing out a script.” A longtime confidant of the Kochs told Doherty that the brothers wanted to “supply the themes and words for the scripts.” In order to alter the direction of America, they had to “influence the areas where policy ideas percolate from: academia and think tanks.”

After the 1980 election, Charles and David Koch receded from the public arena. But they poured more than a hundred million dollars into dozens of seemingly independent organizations. Tax records indicate that in 2008 the three main Koch family foundations gave money to thirty-four political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they direct. The Kochs and their company have given additional millions to political campaigns, advocacy groups, and lobbyists. The family’s subterranean financial role has fuelled suspicion on the left; Lee Fang, of the liberal blog ThinkProgress, has called the Kochs “the billionaires behind the hate.”

Only the Kochs know precisely how much they have spent on politics. Public tax records show that between 1998 and 2008 the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than forty-eight million dollars. The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is controlled by Charles Koch and his wife, along with two company employees and an accountant, spent more than twenty-eight million. The David H. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than a hundred and twenty million. Meanwhile, since 1998 Koch Industries has spent more than fifty million dollars on lobbying. Separately, the company’s political-action committee, KochPAC, has donated some eight million dollars to political campaigns, more than eighty per cent of it to Republicans. So far in 2010, Koch Industries leads all other energy companies in political contributions, as it has since 2006. In addition, during the past dozen years the Kochs and other family members have personally spent more than two million dollars on political contributions. In the second quarter of 2010, David Koch was the biggest individual contributor to the Republican Governors Association, with a million-dollar donation. Other gifts by the Kochs may be untraceable; federal tax law permits anonymous personal donations to politically active nonprofit groups.

In recent decades, members of several industrial dynasties have spent parts of their fortunes on a conservative agenda. In the nineteen-eighties, the Olin family, which owns a chemicals-and-manufacturing conglomerate, became known for funding right-leaning thinking in academia, particularly in law schools. And during the nineties Richard Mellon Scaife, a descendant of Andrew Mellon, spent millions attempting to discredit President Bill Clinton. Ari Rabin-Havt, a vice-president at the Democratic-leaning Web site Media Matters, said that the Kochs’ effort is unusual, in its marshalling of corporate and personal funds: “Their role, in terms of financial commitments, is staggering.”

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.” The Kochs have given millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that criticize environmental regulation and support lower taxes for industry. Gus diZerega, the former friend, suggested that the Kochs’ youthful idealism about libertarianism had largely devolved into a rationale for corporate self-interest. He said of Charles, “Perhaps he has confused making money with freedom.”

Some critics have suggested that the Kochs’ approach has subverted the purpose of tax-exempt giving. By law, charitable foundations must conduct exclusively nonpartisan activities that promote the public welfare. A 2004 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group, described the Kochs’ foundations as being self-serving, concluding, “These foundations give money to nonprofit organizations that do research and advocacy on issues that impact the profit margin of Koch Industries.”

The Kochs have gone well beyond their immediate self-interest, however, funding organizations that aim to push the country in a libertarian direction. Among the institutions that they have subsidized are the Institute for Justice, which files lawsuits opposing state and federal regulations; the Institute for Humane Studies, which underwrites libertarian academics; and the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes a conservative slant on the Constitution. Many of the organizations funded by the Kochs employ specialists who write position papers that are subsequently quoted by politicians and pundits. David Koch has acknowledged that the family exerts tight ideological control. “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent,” he told Doherty. “And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.”

The Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement fulfills, in many ways, the vision laid out in a secret 1971 memo that Lewis Powell, then a Virginia attorney, wrote two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. The antiwar movement had turned its anger on defense contractors, such as Dow Chemical, and Ralph Nader was leading a public-interest crusade against corporations. Powell, writing a report for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged American companies to fight back. The greatest threat to free enterprise, he warned, was not Communism or the New Left but, rather, “respectable elements of society”—intellectuals, journalists, and scientists. To defeat them, he wrote, business leaders needed to wage a long-term, unified campaign to change public opinion.

Charles Koch seems to have approached both business and politics with the deliberation of an engineer. “To bring about social change,” he told Doherty, requires “a strategy” that is “vertically and horizontally integrated,” spanning “from idea creation to policy development to education to grassroots organizations to lobbying to litigation to political action.” The project, he admitted, was extremely ambitious. “We have a radical philosophy,” he said.

In 1977, the Kochs provided the funds to launch the nation’s first libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1986 and 1993 the Koch family gave eleven million dollars to the institute. Today, Cato has more than a hundred full-time employees, and its experts and policy papers are widely quoted and respected by the mainstream media. It describes itself as nonpartisan, and its scholars have at times been critical of both parties. But it has consistently pushed for corporate tax cuts, reductions in social services, and laissez-faire environmental policies.

When President Obama, in a 2008 speech, described the science on global warming as “beyond dispute,” the Cato Institute took out a full-page ad in the Times to contradict him. Cato’s resident scholars have relentlessly criticized political attempts to stop global warming as expensive, ineffective, and unnecessary. Ed Crane, the Cato Institute’s founder and president, told me that “global-warming theories give the government more control of the economy.”

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. But five independent inquiries have since exonerated the researchers, and nothing was found in their e-mails or data to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming.

Nevertheless, the controversy succeeded in spreading skepticism about climate change. Even though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently issued a report concluding that the evidence for global warming is unequivocal, more Americans are convinced than at any time since 1997 that scientists have exaggerated the seriousness of global warming. The Kochs promote this statistic on their company’s Web site but do not mention the role that their funding has played in fostering such doubt.

In a 2002 memo, the Republican political consultant Frank Luntz wrote that so long as “voters believe there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community” the status quo would prevail. The key for opponents of environmental reform, he said, was to question the science—a public-relations strategy that the tobacco industry used effectively for years to forestall regulation. The Kochs have funded many sources of environmental skepticism, such as the Heritage Foundation, which has argued that “scientific facts gathered in the past 10 years do not support the notion of catastrophic human-made warming.” The brothers have given money to more obscure groups, too, such as the Independent Women’s Forum, which opposes the presentation of global warming as a scientific fact in American public schools. Until 2008, the group was run by Nancy Pfotenhauer, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries. Mary Beth Jarvis, a vice-president of a Koch subsidiary, is on the group’s board.

Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego, is the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a new book that chronicles various attempts by American industry to manipulate public opinion on science. She noted that the Kochs, as the heads of “a company with refineries and pipelines,” have “a lot at stake.” She added, “If the answer is to phase out fossil fuels, a different group of people are going to be making money, so we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re fighting tooth and nail.”

David Koch told New York that he was unconvinced that global warming has been caused by human activity. Even if it has been, he said, the heating of the planet will be beneficial, resulting in longer growing seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because far greater land area will be available to produce food,” he said.

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.”

In 1997, for instance, the E.P.A. moved to reduce surface ozone, a form of pollution caused, in part, by emissions from oil refineries. Susan Dudley, an economist who became a top official at the Mercatus Center, criticized the proposed rule. The E.P.A., she argued, had not taken into account that smog-free skies would result in more cases of skin cancer. She projected that if pollution were controlled it would cause up to eleven thousand additional cases of skin cancer each year.

In 1999, the District of Columbia Circuit Court took up Dudley’s smog argument. Evaluating the E.P.A. rule, the court found that the E.P.A. had “explicitly disregarded” the “possible health benefits of ozone.” In another part of the opinion, the court ruled, 2-1, that the E.P.A. had overstepped its authority in calibrating standards for ozone emissions. As the Constitutional Accountability Center, a think tank, revealed, the judges in the majority had previously attended legal junkets, on a Montana ranch, that were arranged by the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment—a group funded by Koch family foundations. The judges have claimed that the ruling was unaffected by their attendance.

“Ideas don’t happen on their own,” Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party advocacy group, told me. “Throughout history, ideas need patrons.” The Koch brothers, after helping to create Cato and Mercatus, concluded that think tanks alone were not enough to effect change. They needed a mechanism to deliver those ideas to the street, and to attract the public’s support. In 1984, David Koch and Richard Fink created yet another organization, and Kibbe joined them. The group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, seemed like a grassroots movement, but according to the Center for Public Integrity it was sponsored principally by the Kochs, who provided $7.9 million between 1986 and 1993. Its mission, Kibbe said, “was to take these heavy ideas and translate them for mass America. . . . We read the same literature Obama did about nonviolent revolutions—Saul Alinsky, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. We studied the idea of the Boston Tea Party as an example of nonviolent social change. We learned we needed boots on the ground to sell ideas, not candidates.” Within a few years, the group had mobilized fifty paid field workers, in twenty-six states, to rally voters behind the Kochs’ agenda. David and Charles, according to one participant, were “very controlling, very top down. You can’t build an organization with them. They run it.”

Around this time, the brothers faced a political crisis. In 1989, the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs investigated their business and released a scathing report accusing Koch Oil of “a widespread and sophisticated scheme to steal crude oil from Indians and others through fraudulent mismeasuring.” The Kochs admitted that they had improperly taken thirty-one million dollars’ worth of crude oil, but said that it had been accidental. Charles Koch told committee investigators that oil measurement is “a very uncertain art.”

To defend its reputation, Koch Industries hired Robert Strauss, then a premier Washington lobbyist; the company soon opened an office in the city. A grand jury was convened to investigate the allegations, but it eventually disbanded, without issuing criminal charges. According to the Senate report, after the committee hearings Koch operatives delved into the personal lives of committee staffers, even questioning an ex-wife. Senate investigators were upset by the Kochs’ tactics. Kenneth Ballen, the counsel to the Senate committee, said, “These people have amassed such unaccountable power!”

By 1993, when Bill Clinton became President, Citizens for a Sound Economy had become a prototype for the kind of corporate-backed opposition campaigns that have proliferated during the Obama era. The group waged a successful assault on Clinton’s proposed B.T.U. tax on energy, for instance, running advertisements, staging media events, and targeting opponents. And it mobilized anti-tax rallies outside the Capitol—rallies that NPR described as “designed to strike fear into the hearts of wavering Democrats.” Dan Glickman, a former Democratic congressman from Wichita, who supported the B.T.U. tax, recalled, “I’d been in Congress eighteen years. The Kochs actually engaged against me and funded my opponent. They used a lot of resources and effort—their employees, too.” Glickman suffered a surprise defeat. “I can’t prove it, but I think I was probably their victim,” he said.

The Kochs continued to disperse their money, creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names, and this made it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington. In 1990, Citizens for a Sound Economy created a spinoff group, Citizens for the Environment, which called acid rain and other environmental problems “myths.” When the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigated the matter, it discovered that the spinoff group had “no citizen membership of its own.”

In 1997, another Senate investigation began looking into what a minority report called “an audacious plan to pour millions of dollars in contributions into Republican campaigns nationwide without disclosing the amount or source,” in order to evade campaign-finance laws. A shell corporation, Triad Management, had paid more than three million dollars for attack ads in twenty-six House races and three Senate races. More than half of the advertising money came from an obscure nonprofit group, the Economic Education Trust. The Senate committee’s minority report suggested that “the trust was financed in whole or in part by Charles and David Koch of Wichita, Kansas.” The brothers were suspected of having secretly paid for the attack ads, most of which aired in states where Koch Industries did business. In Kansas, where Triad Management was especially active, the funds may have played a decisive role in four of six federal races. The Kochs, when asked by reporters if they had given the money, refused to comment. In 1998, however, the Wall Street Journal confirmed that a consultant on the Kochs’ payroll had been involved in the scheme. Charles Lewis, of the Center for Public Integrity, described the scandal as “historic. Triad was the first time a major corporation used a cutout”—a front operation—“in a threatening way. Koch Industries was the poster child of a company run amok.”

During the Clinton Administration, the energy industry faced increased scrutiny and regulation. In the mid-nineties, the Justice Department filed two lawsuits against Koch Industries, claiming that it was responsible for more than three hundred oil spills, which had released an estimated three million gallons of oil into lakes and rivers. The penalty was potentially as high as two hundred and fourteen million dollars. In a settlement, Koch Industries paid a record thirty-million-dollar civil fine, and agreed to spend five million dollars on environmental projects.

In 1999, a jury found Koch Industries guilty of negligence and malice in the deaths of two Texas teen-agers in an explosion that resulted from a leaky underground butane pipeline. (In 2001, the company paid an undisclosed settlement.) And in the final months of the Clinton Presidency the Justice Department levelled a ninety-seven-count indictment against the company, for covering up the discharge of ninety-one tons of benzene, a carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. The company was liable for three hundred and fifty million dollars in fines, and four Koch employees faced up to thirty-five years in prison. The Koch Petroleum Group eventually pleaded guilty to one criminal charge of covering up environmental violations, including the falsification of documents, and paid a twenty-million-dollar fine. David Uhlmann, a career prosecutor who, at the time, headed the environmental-crimes section at the Justice Department, described the suit as “one of the most significant cases ever brought under the Clean Air Act.” He added, “Environmental crimes are almost always motivated by economics and arrogance, and in the Koch case there was a healthy dose of both.”

During the 2000 election campaign, Koch Industries spent some nine hundred thousand dollars to support the candidacies of George W. Bush and other Republicans. During the Bush years, Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies enjoyed remarkable prosperity. The 2005 energy bill, which Hillary Clinton dubbed the Dick Cheney Lobbyist Energy Bill, offered enormous subsidies and tax breaks for energy companies. The Kochs have cast themselves as deficit hawks, but, according to a study by Media Matters, their companies have benefitted from nearly a hundred million dollars in government contracts since 2000.

In 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy was accused of illegitimately throwing its weight behind Bush’s reëlection. The group’s Oregon branch had attempted to get Ralph Nader on the Presidential ballot, in order to dilute Democratic support for John Kerry. Critics argued that it was illegal for a tax-exempt nonprofit organization to donate its services for partisan political purposes. (A complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission; it was dismissed.)

That year, internal rivalries at Citizens for a Sound Economy caused the organization to split apart. David Koch and Fink started a new group, Americans for Prosperity, and they hired Tim Phillips to run it. Phillips was a political veteran who had worked with Ralph Reed, the evangelical leader and Republican activist, co-founding Century Strategies, a campaign-consulting company that became notorious for its ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Phillips’s online biography describes him as an expert in “grasstops” and “grassroots” political organizing. The Kochs’ choice of Phillips signalled an even greater toughness. The conservative operative Grover Norquist, who is known for praising “throat slitters” in politics, called Phillips “a grownup who can make things happen.”

Last year, Phillips told the Financial Times that Americans for Prosperity had only eight thousand registered members. Currently, its Web site claims that the group has “1.2 million activists.” Whatever its size, the Kochs’ political involvement has been intense; a former employee of the Cato Institute told me that Americans for Prosperity “was micromanaged by the Kochs.” And the brothers’ investment may well have paid off: Americans for Prosperity, in concert with the family’s other organizations, has been instrumental in disrupting the Obama Presidency.

In January, 2008, Charles Koch wrote in his company newsletter that America could be on the verge of “the greatest loss of liberty and prosperity since the 1930s.” That October, Americans for Prosperity held a conference of conservative operatives at a Marriott hotel outside Washington. Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the conservative blog, took the lectern, thanked David Koch, and vowed to “unite and fight . . . the armies of the left!” Soon after Obama assumed office, Americans for Prosperity launched “Porkulus” rallies against Obama’s stimulus-spending measures. Then the Mercatus Center released a report claiming that stimulus funds had been directed disproportionately toward Democratic districts; eventually, the author was forced to correct the report, but not before Rush Limbaugh, citing the paper, had labelled Obama’s program “a slush fund,” and Fox News and other conservative outlets had echoed the sentiment. (Phil Kerpen, the vice-president for policy at Americans for Prosperity, is a contributor to the Fox News Web site. Another officer at Americans for Prosperity, Walter Williams, often guest-hosts for Limbaugh.)

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.

Americans for Prosperity, meanwhile, has announced that it will spend an additional forty-five million dollars before the midterm elections, in November. Although the group is legally prohibited from directly endorsing candidates, it nonetheless plans to target some fifty House races and half a dozen Senate races, staging rallies, organizing door-to-door canvassing, and running ads aimed at “educating voters about where candidates stand.”

Though the Kochs have slowed Obama’s momentum, their larger political battle is far from won. Richard Fink, interviewed by this spring, said, “If you look at where we’ve gone from the year 2000 to now, with the expansion of government spending and a debt burden that threatens to bankrupt the country, it doesn’t look very good at all.” He went on, “It looks like the infrastructure that was built and nurtured has not carried the day.” He suggested that the Kochs needed “to get more into the practical, day-to-day issues of governing.”

In 1991, David Koch was badly injured in a plane crash in Los Angeles. He was the sole passenger in first class to survive. As he was recovering, a routine physical exam led to the discovery of prostate cancer. Koch received treatment, settled down, started a family, and reconsidered his life. As he told Portfolio, “When you’re the only one who survived in the front of the plane and everyone else died—yeah, you think, ‘My God, the good Lord spared me for some greater purpose.’ My joke is that I’ve been busy ever since, doing all the good work I can think of, so He can have confidence in me.”

Koch began giving spectacularly large donations to the arts and sciences. And he became a patron of cancer research, focussing 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.”

Harold Varmus, the director of the National Cancer Institute, knows David Koch from Memorial Sloan-Kettering, which he used to run. He said that, at Sloan-Kettering, “a lot of people who gave to us had large business interests. The one thing we wouldn’t tolerate in our board members is tobacco.” When told of Koch Industries’ stance on formaldehyde, Varmus said that he was “surprised.”

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is a multimedia exploration of the theory that mankind evolved in response to climate change. At the main entrance, viewers are confronted with a giant graph charting the Earth’s temperature over the past ten million years, which notes that it is far cooler now than it was ten thousand years ago. Overhead, the text reads, “HUMANS EVOLVED IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD.” The message, as amplified by the exhibit’s Web site, is that “key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.” Only at the end of the exhibit, under the headline “OUR SURVIVAL CHALLENGE,” is it noted that levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have ever been, and that they are projected to increase dramatically in the next century. No cause is given for this development; no mention is made of any possible role played by fossil fuels. The exhibit makes it seem part of a natural continuum. The accompanying text says, “During the period in which humans evolved, Earth’s temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fluctuated together.” An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”

Such ideas uncannily echo the Koch message. The company’s January newsletter to employees, for instance, argues that “fluctuations in the earth’s climate predate humanity,” and concludes, “Since we can’t control Mother Nature, let’s figure out how to get along with her changes.” Joseph Romm, a physicist who runs the Web site, is infuriated by the Smithsonian’s presentation. “The whole exhibit whitewashes the modern climate issue,” he said. “I think the Kochs wanted to be seen as some sort of high-minded company, associated with the greatest natural-history and science museum in the country. But the truth is, the exhibit is underwritten by big-time polluters, who are underground funders of action to stop efforts to deal with this threat to humanity. I think the Smithsonian should have drawn the line.”

Cristián Samper, the museum’s director, said that the exhibit is not about climate change, and described Koch as “one of the best donors we’ve had, in my tenure here, because he’s very interested in the content, but completely hands off.” He noted, “I don’t know all the details of his involvement in other issues.”

The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called “the largest company that you’ve never heard of.” But with the growing prominence of the Tea Party, and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny. Recently, President Obama took aim at the Kochs’ political network. Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, in Austin, he warned supporters that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” Obama said, “They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation” -- or even, he added, “a big oil company.”

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