Sunday, August 25, 2019

Subverter of democracy, despoiler of Earth, and philanthropist, dead at 79

The Spy's obituary page
By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

What happens when a profoundly evil man with lots of money who gave a few crumbs to charities dies?  Do you celebrate or excoriate him?  In the case of a man who sexually abused young girls, the answer is Epstein bad.  In the case of a man who did to our democracy and our planet what Epstein did to poor powerless underage girls, well, that's different.

At least when that man, in this case David Koch, dead at 79, spent hundreds of millions of his ill-gotten gains greasing the way for the permanent takeover of our governments by the plutocracy d/b/a the Republican Party, and the sanctimonious mourners are the recipients of that largesse:

What are Reb Shtickdreck and the other two buffoons so upset about?  Maybe because if you actually look at David Koch's record, you can see just how nefarious he was and how much evil has has paid for (together with his brother Chuck).  (We'll leave to others to unpack the rampant hypocrisy of three of the crudest voices of hard-right hate speech tut-tutting an accurate appraisal of Koch's legacy.)

The New York Times, in its front page obit did managed to hint at the truth although they were careful to bury the unassailable facts behind the usual dodge of “Critics say:” (consistent with their 9/11 coverage in which they reported that critics said that al-Qaeda operatives deliberately crashed planes into the World Trade Center):

Critics accused the Kochs of buying influence and using their political machine to manipulate elections and government policies under a guise of patriotism and freedom. Those efforts, the critics said, cloaked an agenda to cut taxes and federal regulations governing business, the environment and other interests, primarily to benefit the Koch family and its enterprises. 

Jane Mayer, the New Yorker writer and a critic of the Koch brothers, said in her book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” (2016), that the libertarian policies they embraced benefited Koch chemical and fossil fuel businesses, which were among the nation’s worst polluters, and paid millions in fines and court judgments for hazardous-waste violations. 

“Lowering taxes and rolling back regulations, slashing the welfare state and obliterating the limits on campaign spending might or might not have helped others,” Ms. Mayer wrote, “but they most certainly strengthened the hand of extreme donors with extreme wealth.” The Koch brothers rejected the allegations. 

 Koch money also funded initiatives to undercut climate science and to counter efforts to address climate change. As Ms. Mayer put it in her book, “The Kochs vehemently opposed the government taking any action on climate change that would hurt their fossil fuel profits.” 

 In interviews after the book was published, Ms. Mayer said that investigators who she believed were hired by the Koch brothers had tried to intimidate her by digging up false information, including accusations of plagiarism, to smear her reputation. 

To be more precise than the Times, Jane Mayer is not a “critic” in the sense of someone offering up their opinion of the new season of The Bachelor.  She is a reporter whose book, mentioned in the obit, contains the definitive account of David and Chuck's campaign to ruin our democracy and the world in which we live.

One thing that Ms. Mayer makes clear is that David Koch's life was rich in achievement.  He achieved subverting democracy on both the state and federal level, through efforts in North Carolina and other states to enrich corporations, gerrymander districts and suppress the franchise.  (Dark Money at 334-37).

He also fought successfully for years against environmental protection and taking steps to avoid the insidious effects of the fossil fuels that made him his billions, notably the catastrophe of global warming.  (Dark Money at 205-25.)   Indeed, it is probably not too much to say that thanks to his tireless counter-factual denial of global warming, he has in effect made it impossible to avoid some of its most dire effects  such as coastal flooding caused by the melting of the ice cap of National Petroleum Reserve #27 (f/k/a Greenland).

His exaltation of fossil fuels ran the gamut from theoretical (the effort to cast doubt upon the overwhelming scientific consensus around man-caused global warming) to the petty (spending millions in dark money to defeat a mass transit initiative in Nashville) to the crudely self-serving (piling filthy petroleum-based coke illegally on the wharves of Detroit).

And all this was done in secret, as if advocating for plutocracy, environmental destruction, and subversion of democracy was something to be ashamed of.  Although he proudly professed himself to be a libertarian, he wasn't nearly so candid about advocating for the crushing human and planetary costs that such a view entails.

The legacy of David Koch?  It's blowin' in the wind
Further, in the rare event that a reporter, exercising the cherished libertarian right of freedom of the press, dared to investigate, she was subject to intimidation and ,if the Koch's paid gumshoes dug up anything worth pursuing, blackmail.  All they managed to come up with was that Jane Mayer went to Yale, but, hey, nobody's perfect.

As Reb Shtickdreck did not fail to mention, the fact that David Koch gave away maybe 2% of his pile to charities of his choice is being used to distract us from his depredations.  Who got his dirty, or at least smoky, money?  One way to tell is to check the New York Times obituary page, because when a rich shit dies, those he shtupped are supposed to take out an obit eulogizing said rich shit's boundless generosity.

And in the tiny type of the August 25 obits, what do we find? Basically three categories of schnorrers: tertiary care facilities (Memorial Sloan Kettering, NY Presbyterian), arts of interest to elites (ballet, the Metropolitan museum, and such), and elite institutions of higher education, like MIT.  Had he paid, for example, Elizabeth Warren's exiguous wealth tax on his fortune, he could have financed comprehensive health care for thousands, not to mention arts and science education in the public schools (which he sought to destroy), but then the benefits might not have redounded solely to the benefit of David Koch and his fellow rich grifters.  And of course you don't get to carve your name on the schools and clinics paid for by taxes, unlike private charities, who for an eight-figure gift will name or rename f***in' anything.  Right, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum, MIT, Memorial Sloan Kettering?

So, no, we don't see in the Book of Life a net credit when his charitable contributions are deducted from the taxes he successfully avoided paying and the inferno he leaves to the rest of us to deal with as best we can.

We're about to read that on Rosh Hashonah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed who shall live and who shall die.  We are told that repentance, faith, and righteous deeds temper judgment's severe decree.  Too bad David Koch went zero for three.

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