We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future.  As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise.  To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one earth community with a common destiny.  We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.  Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

        THE EARTH CHARTER (2000), The Great Turning



Ronald P. Formisano's The Tea Party: A Brief History (2012), and Jane Mayer's Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016) are invaluable books because in essence they tell why and how Donald J. Trump was selected and "helped" into the Office of the President of the United States by what I am calling The Phantoms of ID. I have written about Formisano and Mayer's texts in other posts, but I feel that what has interpolated "we the people" since Election 2010 must be reiterated.

Composition of the Phantoms of ID

The Kochtopus

Ronald P. Formisano writes from the perspective of a historian on how the Koch brothers as libertarians have controlled and shaped Congress since 2010.  Prior to 2010, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby was exclusively Congress's master, however it has been forced to share its position/power with the advent of the Kochtopus and its deeper-pockets.  Formisano posits that Freedom Works, a leading proponent of corporate libertarianism, is the offspring of Americans for Prosperity (AFP).  AFP emerged in 2003 as a successor to Citizens for a Sound Economy, created and funded by the Koch Family Foundation, and continued its multi-pronged campaigns to weaken labor unions, oppose health care reform and stimulus spending, and stymie efforts to make industries accountable for the pollution they crate.  Between 2000 and 2009 Koch Industries dramatically increased the amount it spent directly lobbying Congress and state legislatures, spending, for example, $857,000 in 2004 and $20 million in 2008.

The company's diversified enterprises proliferate from its core businesses of refining and distributing oil.  The privately owned conglomerate's products include chemicals, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, and livestock.  With interests in sixty countries and almost every state the company has fifty thousand employees in the United States, with an annual revenue of $98 billion.  In recent years government agencies have often fined the company for environmental damage (as well as for stealing oil from government and Indian lands), and in 2010 it ranked tenth on the list of top air polluters in the country.  The only men in America richer than the Kochs are Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison.

For decades the Koch brothers operated under the radar, funding AstroTurf lobbying fronts, right-wing think tanks, books, magazines, and what must candidly be called propaganda efforts to advance a libertarian vision that relentless promotes their own economic interests.  They have poured millions of dollars into efforts to deny climate change, to oppose laws to reduce carbon emissions, and to keep regulation of pollution lax.  Recently, they have put their resources into lobbying against Wall Street regulation and net neutrality, an internet ground rule opposed by broadband suppliers who want to charge for different levels of service.  They have contributed millions to the campaigns of conservative politicians at the national and state levels, mostly Republicans and, recently, Tea Party candidates.  From 2006 to 2009 they spent $37.9 million lobbying congress and state legislatures on oil and energy issues.  A complete account of their dozens of political activities and libertarian ideological campaigns could easily fill a book, which would begin with the story of their father, who founded the company in 1927 and who in the 1950s was an original member of the far-right John Birch society.

The Kochs' relative invisibility as political activists and ideological warriors came to an end, however with the investigative essay and book, Dark Money by Jane Mayer.  Mayer state that the brothers had 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."  Mayer's work immediately attracted enormous attention from other media, and the brothers have become a favorite target for liberal critics.

The ties of the Kochs and the AFP to the Tea Party have been well documented.  After recounting denials of Koch involvement by company spokesperson and David Koch himself, Mayer provided ample illustrations of how AFP and the Kochs had "worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement's inception."  In April 2009, AFP's thirty-four national office employees and thirty-five state-level employees worked hand in glove with the tea Party to promote the Tax Day Protest as well as fund by several million dollars "Hands Off My Health Care" bus tours of Tea party activists to attend and disrupt the town hall meetings at which congressmen were attempting to discuss the new health care legislation.

On several occasions David Koch has denied that he or his brother Charles have been involved with the Tea Party.  Yet there is an internet video of the an October 2010 AFP meeting with a smiling David Koch himself at a podium listening to reports from Tea party officials on their activities and showing his appreciation by applauding.

Other Fellow-Traveler Organizations

Several other organizations funded by right-wing corporate money have cooperated with and sustained grassroots activities, including Americans for Limited Government, funded by Republican Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma.  It leader is now a libertarian real estate magnate, Howard Rich, a Koch ally who has also poured millions of dollars over the past thirty years to limit government and promote an extreme free market ideology.  Americans for Limited Government developed the database for the April 15, 2009, Tax Day rallies, and its thirty employees are supported primarily by funds from three large donors.

Moreover, the Kochs are hardly alone as generous donors to right-wing think tanks, Astroturf organizations, political campaigns, and Tea party activities.  other prominent sponsors include the Coors beer family; the Waltons of Walmart; the Olin foundation (one of the pioneers in creating a climate hostile to taxes, government, and all things progressive); Richard Mellon Scaife, banker, publisher, and heir to the Mellon fortune; Rupert Murdoch of News corporation; and Phillip Morris and Exxon Mobile.  Scaife, it should be noted, became well known in the 1990s when he funded any and all efforts to find damaging material on Bill Clinton's business dealings or personal life.

These corporate interest also pay lobbyists who work the halls of Congress and state legislatures, directly promoting laws or opposing regulations in a way that enhances their clients' economic interests.


Words You'll Hear: Freedom Caucus' Role In Health Care Bill Withdrawal


We look at the House Freedom Caucus, a key Republican faction that opposed the American Health Care Act. The GOP healthcare bill was later withdrawn over lack of support.

Jane Mayer takes a more analytically journalistic view of the Koch brothers and their fellow-travelers.  Mayer posits that as far back as 1976, Charles Koch, who was trained as an engineer, began planning a movement that could sweep the country.  As a former member of the John Birch Society, he had a radical goal.  In 1978, he declared, "Our movement must destroy the prevalent statist paradigm."

To this end, the Kochs waged a long and remarkable battle of ideas.  To this end, the Kochs waged a long and remarkable battle of ideas.  They subsidized networks of seemingly unconnected think tanks and academic programs and spawned advocacy groups to make their arguments in the national political debate.  They hired lobbyists to push their interests in Congress and operatives to create synthetic grassroots groups to give their movement political momentum on the ground.  In addition, they financed legal groups and judicial junkets to press their cases in the courts.  Eventually, they added to this a private political machine that rivaled, and threatened to subsume, the Republican Party.  Much of this activism was cloaked in secrecy and presented as philanthropy, leaving almost no money trail that the public could trace.  But cumulatively it formed, as one of their operatives boasted in 2015, a "fully integrated network."

The Kochs were unusually single-minded, but they were not alone.  They were among a small, rarefied group of hugely wealthy, arch-conservative families that for decades poured money, often with little public disclosure, into influencing how Americans thought and voted.  Their efforts began in earnest during the second half of the twentieth century.  In addition to the Kochs, this group included Richard Mellon Scaife, an heir to the Mellon banking and Gulf Oil fortunes; Harry and Lynde Bradley, mid-westerners enriched by defense contracts; John M. Olin, a chemical and munitions company; the Coors brewing family of Colorado; and the Devos family of Michigan, founders of Amway marketing empire.  Each was different, but together they formed a new generation of philanthropist, bent on using billions of dollars from their private foundations to alter the direction of American politics.

By Ronald Reagan's presidency, their views had begun to gain more traction.  For the most part, they were still seen as defining the extreme edge of the right wing, but both the Republican Party and much of the country were trending their way. Conventional wisdom often attributed the rightward march to a public backlash against liberal spending programs.  But an additional explanation, less examined, was the impact of this small circle of billionaire donors.

The Great Turning

David C. Korten explains the title and thesis of his book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (2006), it is the premise of The Great Turning that we humans stand at a defining moment that presents us with an irrevocable choice.  Our collective response will determine how our time is remembered for so long as the human species survives.  In the days now at hand, we must each be clear that every individual and collective choice we make is a vote for the future we of this time will bequeath to the generations that follow.  The Great Turning is not prophecy; it is a possibility.

Korten words were written before Trump, and I question whether there is a future.  However, Korten gives me hope.  Perhaps we will date eras as in Brave New World, "Before Trump," or "After Trump!"  However what I do understand about this current era is that it is the end of the era of Neoliberalism.  Neoliberalism is a term that the Microsoft Word dictionary does not want to accept as valid word.


President-elect Donald Trump gestures toward reporters as he arrives for a party at the home of Robert Mercer, one of his biggest campaign donors, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Head of the Harbor, N.Y. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President-elect Donald Trump gestures toward reporters as he arrives for a party at the home of Robert Mercer, one of his biggest campaign donors, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Head of the Harbor, N.Y. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Robert Mercer is a hedge-fund billionaire who many consider President Trump's most important donor, and he has many eccentric views.

The New Yorker reports that he has said that African Americans were better off economically before the civil rights movement, and also that the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II may have made some Japanese, who lived outside of the initial blast zones, healthier.

Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, who has written about the Mercer family.

Interview Highlights

On who Robert Mercer is

"He is described as really something of a computer and math genius. He's now 70 years old, but he has been behind a couple breakthroughs in the computer world. The first one was figuring out how to translate language on computers, so it was the beginning of Google's translation programs and some of the things that brought us things like Siri. After that, he figured out how to use computers to take masses of data in the stock market and boil them down in ways that would help predict where the market's going, so that his firm, Renaissance Technologies, could make extra-smart trades. In many ways, they have outsmarted the stock market, and the place is just minting billions of dollars."

On Citizen's United and Mercer's political donations

"They've been able to do it much more since the Citizen's United decision from the Supreme Court in 2010. Bob Mercer happens to be especially successful at it recently because he invested in a number of ways and a number of projects that really, behind the scenes, helped launch Trump. That is a statement that was made by Steve Bannon to me in the story, 'No other donor has come close to the impact that the Mercer family has had in building the foundation for' — what he calls — 'the Trump revolution.’"

"If you take a look at Bob Mercer's politics, he is way out on the far-right fringe of America. He believes that he should be able to use his fortune to try to impose his views on the country."
Jane Mayer

On how the Mercer family invests

"In addition to putting $22.5 million just into campaigns in 2016, including the Trump campaign, what the Mercer family did was kind of a longer-view investment in companies and organizations that were trying to undermine the mainstream media. So they invested in Breitbart News, and they also invested in and started something called the Government Accountability Institute. What it did was it dug up dirt on political figures that they didn't like, including Hillary Clinton. It produced a book that became a major best-seller called ‘The Clinton Cash.’ The Government Accountability Institute succeeded in giving a copy of it to The New York Times early, which took that exclusive access to turn it into a front page story, which gave credibility to the whole idea that Hillary Clinton was a corrupt figure.

"I think probably some of the claims are true. Sometimes you can have a slant. That doesn't mean that the story is completely wrong, but it may be lacking context. For instance, the Clintons may have done things, she may have definitely given those speeches to Goldman Sachs. But when you take a look at what Trump was doing, well, we now have a government that's filled with people who worked at Goldman Sachs. So does that make her especially corrupt? There's a question of context that's missing."

On Mercer's political ideology

"If you take a look at Bob Mercer's politics, he is way out on the far-right fringe of America. He believes that he should be able to use his fortune to try to impose his views on the country.”

"My questions coming into this story were — I knew that the Mercers had a tremendous amount of influence. But they don't give interviews. So, my question going into this was, ‘Who are these people? And what do they really believe? And what kinds of places are they trying to take America?’ What he thinks is extraordinary. It's the first time I've ever come across anyone who has been arguing that the nuclear bombs dropped on the Japanese in World War II were actually, in some ways, healthy for the Japanese because the radiation from it outside of the blast zone, he believes was good for the Japanese. It's not a position that the National Academy of Sciences, for instance, backs up. You hear many people with big money, particular fossil fuel industry people, who will say that global warming is not really happening or that people are not really causing it. He endorses that point of view too. But he takes it to a further extreme and suggests that global warming is really great for everybody and that plant life and animal life are going to be better off. Again, it's a position that you just don't find much scientific support for. Bob Mercer supports the financial support for the scientist who is pushing these points of view."

On how the Mercers benefitted from backing Trump

"You don't have to take it from me as a reporter, though I did try very hard to be very factual in this piece. Take a listen to what the people who work with Bob Mercer say about that. David Magerman says Bob Mercer invested in Trump and he now owns a sizable piece of the Trump presidency. There are other people quoted who say they bought themselves seats on the transition team by putting so much money in. So you had Rebecca Mercer on the Trump transition team, and she then recommended various hires — Michael Flynn to be the national security adviser, and of course, he briefly was until he got in trouble and got fired. She also pushed very hard for Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, and that one did work."

On what Bob Mercer recognized about the electorate in the 2016 election

"What they knew early on was that there was this growing populist anger in the country against elites. They were seeing early polling as far back as 2012 showing this. When the Mercers were thinking about which candidates to back, they were cognizant that this growing populist anger was going to be a real phenomenon in 2016.

"I think there's an irony in the idea that you've got a man like Bob Mercer who makes $135 million a year, according to Institutional Investor, who is looking at polling that says the public is getting mad at the idea that the rich are getting away with murder. He's thinking, ‘OK, well, I need to find a candidate who's going to capture that anger.’ And the candidate that spoke to him first was Ted Cruz. When Cruz fell apart as a candidate, they moved to Trump, who was very much speaking in the language of populism. It was a potent kind of message. It was the message that the polling said would be potent, and it was."

This segment aired on March 30, 2017.

Prisons of the Mind

Korten writes that those who control the stories that define the culture of a society control its politics and its economy.  This truth is crucial to explaining how a small cabal of right-wing extremists was able to render the democratic safeguards of the U.S. political system ineffective and gain control of the governing institutions of the nation.  It is also crucial to framing a strategy for advancing the Great Turning.

The leaders of the New right view the world from the perspective of an Imperial Consciousness that holds elite rule to be the only viable option for maintaining social order.  To build their political base they set about to frame the larger stories that would legitimate this worldview in the public mind and bind the political debate to their interests.

Thus, the true believers of the New Right gained power not by their numbers, which are relatively small, but by their ability to control the stories that answer three basic questions: How do we prosper?  How do we maintain order and keep ourselves secure?  How do we find a sense of meaning and purpose in life?   We might call these our prosperity, security and meaning stories.  The New Right has carefully honed and incessantly retold imperial versions of these stories to legitimate, even celebrate, the ordering of society by hierarchies of domination.

Given the long history of elite rule in the United States and other Western democracies, many elements of the stories they needed were already familiar within the culture, as they are but variations of the stories imperial rulers have relied upon for millennial to legitimate injustice.  The leaders of the New right only needed to organize them into simple messages and recruit sympathetic scholars, preachers, politicians, media personalities, and think tank pundits to repeat them constantly through the megaphone of the corporate media.  Together they created an echo chamber that embedded their stories in the culture and limited the boundaries of public discourse to a choice among policies that favor elite interests.

We hear these stories echoed so often in so many different contexts that we come simply to accept them as statements of reality  their narratives become prisons of the mind that confine us to the lower orders of consciousness and possibility.  To liberate ourselves we must first recognize these narratives for what they are.

Talking Race And Respect With April Ryan

President Barack Obama interviewed by April Ryan aboard Air Force One en route to Air Force Base Waterkloof in South Africa, June 28, 2013. (Pete Souza/White House)
President Barack Obama interviewed by April Ryan aboard Air Force One en route to Air Force Base Waterkloof in South Africa, June 28, 2013. (Pete Souza/White House)

Race and respect clashed this week at the White House during an exchange between veteran journalist April Ryan and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Those few minutes in the briefing room became national news when Spicer told Ryan, "Please stop shaking your head again."

The comment, along with FOX News host Bill O'Reilly 's jab about U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters’ hair, set off a conversation about racism and sexism in Washington. We spoke with April Ryan on our air to sort out how her experience represents larger issues about the treatment of black women.

Ryan, who is in her 20th year as the Washington bureau chief for the American Urban Radio Networks, is no stranger to the White House's Ryan Briefing Room. But Ryan says the relationship in this administration has become significantly more adversarial.

"I hate to say this, but we're kind of numb to this a little bit as journalists," Ryan said. She was hesitant to call out the Secretary explicitly for his comments, but she did express concern about the gendered nature of her interaction with Spicer.

"It's unfortunate that we're seeing glimpses of sexism, and I'm not going to go as far as racism as of yet," Ryan said. "But I'm going to say sexism for sure."

Twitter activists were quick to take this incident, and O'Reilly's comments about Rep. Waters, as an impetus to spur the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork. The hashtag was meant as a way for black women to share similar experiences of poor treatment in their own workplaces, and it ended up trending for a period of time throughout the week.

Ryan told us that, though she knew her exchange with Spicer was significant, she did not expect it to take off like it did.

"It makes for a good story in [my] next book, though," Ryan said.

This segment aired on March 30, 2017.


Korten writes that by definition, imperial elites inhabit a world of power and privilege based largely on their ownership of the productive assets on which the lives of all depend.  They understandably favor stories that affirm the importance and legitimate the privilege of the owning class.

The "Official" Washington Consensus

These are the essential elements of the imperial property story:

Economic growth, which expands the pie wealth to create prosperity for all, depends on investment and therefor a wealthy investor class.  The greater the financial returns to members of the investor class, the greater their incentive to invest.  The more they invest, the faster the economy grows and the faster the lives of all improve.  Since the market rewards individual investors in proportion to their contribution, inequality is natural, health and essential to prosperity.  Only the simpleminded or mean-spirited would begrudge the rich their due reward, because as the rich get rich so does everyone else.

        Through regulation, taxes, and trade barriers, government limits profits for investors and reduces their incentive to invest, raises prices for consumers, and destroys jobs--thus impoverishing the society.  Through welfare programs, government eliminates the incentive for the poor to work--thus eroding the moral fabric.

        In a free market capitalist economy, anyone can make it if they really try; individual failure is the mark of a character defect.  Eliminating welfare programs to force the poor to work builds their character and brings them into the mainstream of society.

        To achieve prosperity and end poverty, we must free the wealthy from taxes, regulations, and trade barriers; sell off public assets and services to private investors, who are by nature more efficient and responsive to consumer interests; and eliminate the disincentive of public welfare programs.  The free market will put people to work, eliminate poverty, get money in people's pockets so they can make their own choices, create the wealth necessary to protect the environment, and provide people with better services at a cheaper price.

        Global corporations are benevolent, efficient, public-spirited institutions with an unequaled capacity to find and exploit natural resources, drive technological innovation, open new markets create employment, and maximize the efficient use of productive assets to meet human needs.  The greater their freedom, the faster poverty is eliminated, the environment is restored, and the people of the world enjoy universal freedom, democracy, peace, and prosperity.

        Global integration, market deregulation, and privatization are inexorable and beneficial historical forces that advance the wealth-creation process.  Economic globalization is inevitable, there is no alternative, and resistance is futile.  The winners will be those who adapt to the reality and take advantage of its opportunities.  It is the beneficent mission of the Bretton Woods institutions--the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization--to facilitate the orderly advancement of these processes.  Only the misinformed or mean-spirited who would deny the poor their opportunity for a better life oppose these institutions and their sacred mission.

This story is commonly referred to as the Washington consensus, because it is propagated by the U.S. treasury department, the World bank, the IMF, and various related think tank, lobbyists, and contractors based in Washington, D.C.  It is also known as economic liberalism, neoliberalism, and corporate libertarianism.  Because advocates of the Washington consensus cling to their story with the blind faith of true believers in denial of all contrary evidence, international financier George Soros calls them "market fundamentalists."

March 29, 2017

Week 10: The GOP Fight For Health Care Reform Lives On

Last week, the GOP failed to earn the number of votes required to pass their "repeal and replace" solution to the Affordable Care Act. The president and the party seemed to be ready to move on and set their sights on their next agenda item. ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2017 But on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan affirmed that the effort to provide the American people with a new and different health care solution would continue. On this episode of Indivisible, host Charlie Sykes will discuss what the fate of the health care bill means for the Republican Party — and what may come next. He'll be joined by Weekly Standard editor at large William Kristol, who will also discuss the latest in the investigations over Russia and more. Charlie will also speak with E.J. Dionne, Washington Post opinion writer and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. His latest piece in the Washington Post is titled, "The lessons Trump and Ryan failed to learn from history." Here are some tweets from this episode: Indivisible Week 10: The GOP Fight For Health Care Reform Lives On

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Comment by mary gravitt on March 31, 2017 at 12:45pm

It is not the visible markers of power that must be feared.  Donald Trump is just a muppet--a figure-head that the Kochtopus gives US to either hate or envy while Koch Network control the United States presidency, thus the world.  We as citizens must be aware of this and look behind the facade of democracy that the Kochtopus has set up for US.


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