Tag Archives: koch brothers

Why are the Koch brothers opposing solar energy?

General Stanley McChrystal (ret), in a TED talk, makes his brief but cogent “military case for sharing knowledge,” surprising all with his call for general transparency.

MCCHRYSTAL-TED-sharingOf course there are a million ramifications and complexities that cannot fit into a TED talk. It is a complex world and our Protector Caste has genuine needs for tactical (short term) secrecy. But needs become excuses for bad habits that are self-defeating over the longer term … and that could ultimately lead to Big Brother. There must be an ultimate trend toward an open world, and Gen. McChrystal makes about as strong a case as you could in a ten minute TED.

“I am more scared of the bureaucrat that holds information in a desk drawer or in a safe than of someone who leaks, because ultimately we’ll be better off if we share.”

Oh, for a more in-depth appraisal of this new era, see (of course) The Transparent Society.

== Those who want to shut down both light and enlightenment ==

koch-solarThe Yiddish word “chutzpah” means gall and utterly arrogant nerve. It should be re-spelled to “koch-spah” after this news… that the ever-meddlesome Koch brothers are now funding a major campaign against state efforts to ramp up solar energy.

It would be one thing if they limited their attacks to ending tax rebates and minor subsidies for solar and wind… hypocritical, given how much they have benefited from vastly larger oil-gas-coal subsidies, tax breaks and almost free access to resources on public lands.

No, they are also targeting “net metering” which is the law allowing a homeowner who owns a rooftop solar unit to sell excess power back to the utility.

KOCH-SOLAR-ENERGYPlease read that again. The Koch brothers do not want you selling your excess power to the market. Their beef is with filling energy markets with millions of little-guy producers. Their “institute” proclaims that its aim is to “preserve the public utility power company concept” — a state mandated monopoly system in which single companies control all access to energy. Some enterprise capitalists! Some libertarians!

But let’s dig deeper to the heart of it. WHY are the Kochs (and their Saudi partners) doing this right now? Because solar energy is taking off. Because efficiency and durability of photovoltaics have been skyrocketing, in part because we had the wisdom to use some mild incentives to boost an important new industry, the way the U.S. Postal contracts stimulated air travel, in the 1920s, or public roads spurred the rise of the automobile.

Only with this difference: renewable energy systems are improving far faster than airplanes or automobiles did, in their nascent days. And more spectacular tech advances loom on the horizon, that the Kochs can see coming fast.

citizen-solar-powerDig it well. They would not be doing this if renewables weren’t taking off and a looming threat to the brothers’ bottom line. Millions of autonomous citizens, generating and selling their own power is no longer a sci fi pipe dream. It is coming true fast…

…and parasitic dinosaurs are bellowing.

== focus where it hurts ==

Let’s get down to absolute fundamentals: what must shrink is ability of oligarchy to “capture” and corrupt government. Given how deeply committed the Koch brothers are, to meddling and altering our elections, we might want to show it goes both ways, by becoming aware of which products in your neighborhood store augment their Georgia-Pacific empire:

Koch-ProductsKOCH BRANDS: Brawny, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Soft ‘n’ Gentle, Dixie cups/plates/etc, Sparkle/Vanity Fair/Zee napkins.

OTHER BRANDS: Charmin, Cottonelle, Scott, Bounty, Viva, Hefty cups/plates/etc, Kleenex/Bounty/Scott napkins.

Hmmm. Print it out. Keep it next to your shopping list. Make up your own minds.

== Bad Democratic Oligarchs? ==

This article in the Washington Free Beacon, Oligarchy in the 21st Century, pushes the meme — and with some fascinating anecdotal support (!) — that democrats do oligarchy, just as much as republicans do! And indeed, the essay is worth reading, with some informative moments… except a conclusion that is warped and sick and just plain wrong.

Actually, it’s kind of sad, revealing something dark in this writer’s core, that he assumes rich democrats must have the same reasons for donating to liberal causes as wealthy donors on the right.

To him, the only conceivable reason that a rich person would donate money would be self-interest, cheating and greed. But the narrative does not wash when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett publicly proclaim “my class should be paying higher taxes.”

There is another possible motive. Love of a country and civilization and middle-class society that was very good to them.

== Military Matters ==

The US Navy is showing off, announcing the deployment on-ship of a close-defense laser system and the imminent shipboard testing of a railgun system.

140410101202-navy-railgun-story-bodyYou might recall the dramatically exaggerated depiction of a railgun in one of the Transformers flicks. Railguns use electromagnetic energy known as the Lorenz Force to launch a projectile between two conductive rails. The high-power electric pulse generates a magnetic field to fire the projectile with very little recoil. Many sci fi tales have portrayed rail guns used either in space combat or as great big electromagnetic launch systems, hurling cargoes from the Moon or even from Earth. The development of smaller scale guns for the military was an intermediate step, necessary in several ways.

Combine all this with the Navy’s new Zumwalt class destroyer and you can see how advanced a service got that was not crushed and half-ruined by a decade of brutally self-destructive and pointless land wars of attrition in Asia.

Here’s a thought-provoking essay on how empires — mostly spread by military means — do allow (for all their faults) greater safety from violence and opportunities for trade and development. There are feedback loops and ironies. I do not agree in all ways! But interesting.

Defend civilization, especially the ways in which ours has been unlike any others.

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Save Cato from the Kochs? Should we care?

Much in the news is an effort by the Koch brothers – coal barons David and Charles – to seize complete control over the Cato Institute, which has long touted itself as the leading libertarian think tank in the United States.  Staffers and fellows at Cato have been beating the drums of insurrection, calling for support and funds to stave off this blatant takeover by extreme-right oligarchs.  And many – even liberal intellectuals – have come flocking to the cause, offering support.

Is this just a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend?”  Or are there layers beneath layers?  Does it even matter?

First: fair warning.  Though I oft call myself “a type of libertarian,” I’m not today’s typical variety.  Yes, I tout Adam Smith widely and feel we’d all benefit – especially liberals – from re-immersion in the profound common sense of “the First Liberal.”  Moreover, I am the only sci fi author who ever keynoted part of a political party’s convention – the Libertarian Party – at which half the audience gave me a standing ovation, defending me from being lynched by the other half! (The latter, Rand-Rothbard half has – alas – taken over the movement, with calamitous consequences.)  Have a look at how libertarians might save their cause… plus some fresh ways that they – and liberals and conservatives – might view the political landscape.

But back to this attempted putsch to take over the Cato Institute, and the “brave resistance of its scholars.”

== Who are the villains? ==

We start with the most blatant fact – that the Koch brothers, together with Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Grover Norquist and Prince Waleed, have been core promulgators of America’s current, lobotomizing Civil War, which has demolished the nation’s traditional notions of negotiated pragmatism.  A big part of this has been the anti-future, relentless War on Science.

As their frenzy to degrade science metastacized, it turned into a campaign against every “smartypants caste” or knowledge profession in American life. Their other goal – destruction of the U.S. Civil Service – would then leave just one elite standing. The same elite that crushed liberty and markets in every other culture for 6000 years.  The same oligarchic elite that Adam Smith publicly despised in Wealth of Nations, calling it the  basic enemy of true capitalism and the age-old oppressor of mankind.

The damage that these half dozen men – plus a few dozen more – have done both to the people of the United States and to Pax Americana is too spectacularly consistent to have been anything but deliberate.

Ah, but having said that, is the Cato Institute really worth getting in a froth over?  I consulted and wrote for them a few times, back in the last century, before I came to see how shallow was their commitment to Smithian libertarianism or the fundamental goal of encouraging creative competition in society. In fact, parsing down their messages, we find that encouraging creative-competition is the very last thing on their minds.

Ignoring those 6000 years, during which markets were always destroyed by oligarchic cliques, Cato helped to spread the modern mythology that freedom is all-and-entirely about idolatry of unlimited private property.  Government and only government is inherently evil, anti-market or anti-liberty.  If you point to history… any history at all… or to the actual words of Adam Smith, they change the subject with stunning alacrity and truly awesome verbal agility.

In other words, the oligarchic right never had better whores than the intellectual courtesans at Cato.  Polysyllabic prostitutes eager to twist their tongues around fresh rationalizations for a new feudalism.

Read the article. Scan what percentage of Cato’s donors and board members ever gave to genuinely libertarian causes, as opposed to a Republican Party fast spiraling into aristocratism and know-nothing, anti-intellectual populism.

== Example: The “case” for privatizing Social Security ==

Take Cato’s relentless campaign to privatize Social Security. Funny thing about that. Both times that it came near passage… in the late nineties and 2005… it would have dumped 100 million naive sheep into the stock market just in time to re-inflate a failing valuation bubble, letting oligarchs dump half a trillion dollars in unwanted shares onto “greater fools.”

On both occasions, within a few years, most Americans’ portfolio values would have been slashed in half.  (And maybe it should have happened!  The Democrats should not have prevented it.  The ensuing turmoil and anger – perhaps reaching French Revolution levels – might have “solved the oligarchy problem” for a generation. A bit (a lot) more severely than I’d prefer.  But at least there’d be no debilitating, lobotomizing, murdochian “culture war” by now.)

Let’s be plain.  The role model for this “privatization” (of social security) was the selling off of Russian state assets after the fall of communism, in which the shares distributed to each Russian citizen soon were snapped up by a few dozen savvy insiders who became today’s famous Moscow Oligarchs. Some of the richest plutocrats in the world arose from insider manipulation of the unwisely executed privatization of state assets… and NOT the creative-competitive delivery of innovative goods and services.  If you call such monopolist-moguls “capitalists” who deserve their vast lucre, then you add to the spinning in Adam Smith’s grave.

And make no mistake, this timing was no coincidence.  The “let’s privatize social security!” movement only gained its full head of steam… propelled by the Kochs and other eager-funders… after they witnessed how well things went over in Russia.  It was their role model. And Cato led the charge.

Okay, so now we should weep and gnash our teeth, because these guys now face final takeover by the Kochs, who effectively owned their brothel already and are now simply ending the pretense of independence? The hypocrisy? Because the dukes’ court apologists might now have to drop the play-act… and admit – like Blanche Dubois – that their gentlemen callers actually owned them, all along?

Don’t bother, fellows.  Try this instead. Go out into the market you claim to love, and get actual jobs, delivering goods and services.

Weep for Cato. Crocodile tears.

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