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Democracy in Chains: The Radical Right’s Stealth Attack on American Democracy

May 23, 2018

In part one, Nancy Maclean reveals Nobel prize-winning economist James M. Buchanan as the architect of the Koch Brothers’ secret campaign to undermine public education, unions, and to reshape America

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Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR: 2018 has been the year of the teacher, as waves of protest in mostly Republican-dominated states starting in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, and most recently North Carolina have challenged not only low pay, but tax cuts and the privatization that have crippled public education.

STRIKING NORTH CAROLINA TEACHER: The state keeps asking more of us every year, but giving us less resources. So that’s one of the big reasons we’re here to fight today.

JAISAL NOOR: These states have all adopted policies backed by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers, whose network of dark money funders has poured untold sums into transforming the American political landscape by shackling the government’s ability to fund social services and enforce regulations while cutting taxes on the wealthy and increasing protections for corporations, all while passing a slew of restrictive voter laws, in the name of advancing so-called liberty.

A number of reporters and scholars have written works that have shed light on the workings of the shadowy networks of the right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers. But until now there has been little understanding of the origins of the ideology behind this assault on democratic institutions. That led our next guest, Nancy MacLean, the William Chafee Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, to look into the ideological foundations of this movement. And what she uncovered is deeply shocking and troubling; the subject her explosive book, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.” Really happy to have you on.

NANCY MACLEAN: Great to be with you.

JAISAL NOOR: So For the first part of this discussion, let’s start at George Mason University, where you stumbled upon a remarkably unguarded trove of documents belonging to the late Nobel Prize-winning economist James McGill Buchanan, and what you were able to piece together about his role in the Koch brothers’ plans to reshape America and its democratic institutions. Talk about how you came across this, and what you started to piece together.

NANCY MACLEAN: Well, James Buchanan had been on my radar from some historical research that I had done on the state of Virginia’s massive resistance to Brown vs. Board of Education in the late 1950s, and I became intrigued with him. And when I finally was able to get into his private archive at George Mason in 2013, I found all of my suspicions confirmed about the ways that his ideas were being weaponized by the Koch donor network in order to effectively disable our democracy, and to do things like privatizing public education, inflicting these radical cuts in necessary social services in the country, changing constitutional law. All kinds of things I was able to find in that archive.

And ironically, I got into the archive in September of 2013, just as Buchanan’s ideas were guiding a government shutdown in Washington, D.C. led by Ted Cruz, a figure deeply steeped in both this thinking and rooted in the Koch network. So very, very, I would say, unsettling experience to be in the archives during the day while watching the damage being inflicted on Americans who needed the federal government’s services, and needed the government open during the time I was at the archives for the first time.

JAISAL NOOR: So, limiting democratic participation and empowering the wealthy is nothing new in American history. What’s different about Buchanan’s work? What makes his ideas so radical and so dangerous to democracy?

NANCY MACLEAN: Yeah, Buchanan was playing on that same team as the wider right, with people like Milton Friedman and others who believed in a kind of free market fundamentalism, believed that government was the problem, believed that the solution was to turn decision making over to the market for just about everything. But what was different about Buchanan is that he came up with a theory of how government grew over the 20th century, and particularly the domestic part of government, what is sometimes called the liberal state. So things like Social Security and Medicare, worker’s rights, environmental protection, antidiscrimination, and so forth. He produced a theory that was aimed really to discredit government so that people would not automatically look to government in cases of market failure, and that turned out to be a much more insidious, and in the long run effective, approach to to undermining the popular achievements of the 20th century.

So Buchanan’s approach was complementary to that of Friedman and the Chicago school and others, but again, much more devastating. And we see it today in all the language about the swamp, the notion that all public figures are corrupt and misleading the public. All of those ideas really stem from a school of thought that Buchanan developed called ‘public choice economics’ most broadly, and his particular variant was often called the Virginia school of political economy.

JAISAL NOOR: So a historic figure sort of plays big in this, in your book. James C. Calhoun , who was a slave owner, a former vice president, a statesman from South Carolina who had a lot of influence in the first half of the 19th century in the United States. What role-. So, talk about who he is and his significance, and what role he had on the thinking of Buchanan and other influential figures in this libertarian arch-right movement. .

NANCY MACLEAN: Yes. Before James Buchanan, John C. Calhoun was the most significant antidemocratic thinker in America. He was a Southern slaveholder from South Carolina, onetime vice president, South Carolina member of the U.S. Senate. And he produced two big treatises reinterpreting the constitution and the purpose of American government in a way that would protect slaveholders’ interests. He did this a generation after the founders, and he did it because he could see that national majorities were developing that would challenge slavery and he wanted to protect what had become the most profitable capitalist institution in the mid-19th century when he was writing, or I should say the early 19th century, the first third of it, and the 1820s and ’30s in particular.

And basically he was a theorist of what I’ve come to think about as property supremacy, a kind of property supremacy that reinterprets the constitution in a, in order to protect the absolute prerogatives of property holders, the most dramatic being slaveholders, in order to keep democratic government at bay. And what’s really interesting about Calhoun is that Buchanan’s own colleagues at George Mason University have called John C. Calhoun a precursor to modern public choice theory, in particular to the ideas of this figure James McGill Buchanan , their former colleague. And they actually said that the two systems of ideas had the same purpose and effect. And I could not agree more with that because I think the purpose is to protect the rights of property holders, particularly the wealthiest among them, from the reach of majoritarian democracy. I think that, that kind of sums it up.

JAISAL NOOR: And can you talk about the response from George Mason University before and after they were recently forced to admit that this tremendous amount of money they were getting from the Koch brothers came with strings attached which actually compromise their entire department? Because the Koch brothers had veto power over who served, you know, who, who could work at George Mason? You talk about that, and their evolving response in this case.

NANCY MACLEAN: Yeah, it’s a really chilling story. I will say that I have direct personal experience of how poisonous a presence this Koch donor network is in our public life, because after my book came out, you know, the initial review attention and media attention was universally positive and favorable from professional reviewers from historians and others. And about two or so weeks in, two to three weeks in, there was this kind of libertarian pile on. And much of it came from faculty at George Mason University, who had been funded by the Koch network, who were working with the Koch implant on the campus at George Mason in the economics department, the law school. And something called the Mercatus Center, which, interestingly, is housed on the campus of this public university but in no way accountable to it, and Charles Koch has sat on its board for years.

So, what we saw there is how the Charles Koch Foundation 🦕🦖 and the operatives that it funds basically are weaponizing their implants 😈 👹 on our public university campuses in order to come after anyone who is critical of this operation. And there were a few researchers from Greenpeace, and a wonderful group of young people who have built a group called UnKoch My Campus that researched the people who were attacking me and my book, and found that in 90 cases these were people who were, received-. Faculty members who received direct funding from Charles Koch, or operatives in his various operations, who in most cases never declared their conflicts of interest, basically violating ethics 101 in these attacks.

And the important thing about this is not the personal thing, the attacks on me, but what it tells us about how our higher education system is being used for this larger political project. And as you say, the recent revelations over the last few weeks of what has happened over the years at George Mason 🐉 are quite breathtaking. In one case a faculty member was chosen, hand selected by a donor for a tenured position at this public university. And ironically, he was also the first out of the gate to attack me, this individual. So it is really stunning. The other thing that has come out in these revelations from George Mason is the extent of donor influence over faculty hiring and assessments of faculty performance. They were actually able to have a voice in getting rid of faculty if they didn’t adequately advance the Koch donor project.

And especially chilling was revelations from the law school, I should say all made possible by FOIA inquiries associated with UnKoch My Campus, and a group called Transparent GMU, FOIA inquiries that found that the Federalist Society, the body that has been vetting and recommending federal judges to Republican administrations since Ronald Reagan, the Federalist Society had actually set up a front group, a front group of the kind usually used, in legal terms, for money laundering, to funnel money to the now-named Scalia School of Law at George Mason, in order to use that law school as a base of operations for moving our judiciary to the right in terms of faculty appointments, setting up programs that could assist in this political project, and placing students in clerkships with judges on the right.

So it is really mind blowing for scholars to see what is being done to our universities. And although George Mason’s administration at first denied this for years to their faculty senate and to the students who were concerned on campus, they have had to admit, now that these FOIA requests have become public, that in fact the donors had grossly undue influence on the campus that has corrupted academic integrity at this public institution.

JAISAL NOOR: Well, that’s really tremendous. And you know, it sort of demonstrates the ideological conviction over the academic, academic conviction of this group. So this wraps up the first part of this discussion about Democracy in Chains, by Nancy MacLean. In our next part we’ll focus on public education and why this assault on democracy has been so closely focused on it. Thanks so much for joining us.
Geopolitics / Re: The Korea thread
« Last post by jdwheeler42 on Today at 07:52:48 PM »
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This is how a man like Trump GOT elected....

Sharp Exchanges    Highlight BP Fears of Climate Legal Jeopardy

May 22, 2018 by Bloomberg

The Deepwater Enterprise conducts operations to mitigate the effects of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill, May 23, 2010. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

By Kelly Gilblom (Bloomberg) — After paying more than $65 billion in legal costs for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, BP Plc is wary of the risk of lawsuits related to climate change.

Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley raised the topic of class-action lawsuits twice during the company’s annual general meeting in Manchester, England on Monday, saying he wouldn’t disclose certain climate targets, or even answer some questions from activist investors, because the risk of legal action in the U.S. was too high.

“You want to get us to make statements here in front of you that you can document that will lead to a class action,” Dudley said in response to one question from the Union of Concerned Scientists about pending U.S. litigation against energy companies. Such legal actions are “a business model in the United States,” he said.

The sharp exchange between BP and two advocacy groups — Amnesty International  and the Union of Concerned Scientists  — shows the growing pressure on major oil companies to acknowledge their responsibility for emissions of greenhouse gases. It also reflects the burgeoning efforts to hold them legally responsible for the potentially disastrous consequences of rising global temperatures.

Lawsuit Fodder

“BP could be on the hook for millions, if not billions of dollars,” Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “Why wouldn’t shareholders want to know about the risk of legal liability, a risk that’s growing rapidly as climate costs multiply.”

In response to another questioner who suggested that selling oil and gas should be considered a violation of human rights, Dudley warned shareholders this could be another attempt to mire BP in a class-action suit. An open letter from shareholders including Aviva Plc last week urging more transparency could also end up providing lawsuit fodder, he said.

BP 😈 absolutely believes in being transparent. Transparency is beneficial to all,” Dudley said. “But we don’t want climate disclosures to be a tool for class-action lawyers.”

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Marathon Man Newz / Re: For AG. Just A Reminder of Days Gone By
« Last post by agelbert on Today at 06:42:36 PM »
My youngest brother, the rich(er) one, is now partners in a King Air. My other brother, the one who has the auto shop, has now decided he wants a plane too. Part of this is the decadent wish they both have to fly to Alabama on Fridays now to tailgate before my nephew's college games. I know, I know. But they're from Texas, and Alabama is the Numero Uno college team in the US.

The mechanic brother is very technically competent and is thinking about building some fast four-seater experimental from a kit. But since he's been looking at planes, I've been looking too, not that I ever plan to fly anything. The missus has a very low opinion of general aviation aircraft, and she talked me out of it many years ago now. (We once knew somebody who crashed and killed himself and one of his kids.)

But I saw this the other day and thought of you.

I also wanted to tell you that when we landed at Beef Island last month I counted an even dozen boats still derelict on the beach over near the ferry dock. Seven months later.

Thanks for the info about Beef island. 

Yep, that's a Piper Colt (flying brick) with the 108 horsepower engine. You know, some of them were modified to use flaps. They originally did not have them. The purpose of flaps is not what the non-pilot thinks they are for. Most people think flaps are on a plane to help it fly slower for landing. That is true for fast jet aircraft. BUT, for general aviation aircraft, the purpose of flaps is to steepen the glide path without increasing the airspeed. On a Piper Colt, which has the glide path of a rock  ;D, flaps are not needed.

As to your agreement with your wife not to learn to fly because of the death of a person you knew and his kid, the Wright Brothers once said that the properly designed aircraft would "glide gently to the ground in the event of a power failure".

It didn't quite work out that way but light aircraft are really much safer than cars, especially in Texas!

Consider that in Texas, where you and/or your brother will do most of their flying, ANY power failure will result in a a power off glide at about 75 mph and 700 feet per minute rate of descent. That is what you do every time you land one of those babies.

Unlike Vermont, Texas is pretty flat and has miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles with LOTS of roads. As long as you don't hit a cow, a power transmission tower or a wind turbine, you should walk away from any forced landing.

What gets people killed in light aircraft is mostly an inadvertent stall near the ground (I am talking about an aerodynamic condition called a stall, not an engine failure type stall). What happens is that they are near the ground and they make a skidding turn (pushing he rudder too hard because they don't want to bank the wings steeply in a coordinated, rudder plus aileron - like you are supposed to ALWAYS do, way). The inside wing loses its abilty to fly (stalls) while the oustide (of the turn) wing keeps flying.

This results in the inside wing dropping hard down (remember this pilot is near the ground and is standing on the rudder (toward the inside wing, making the drop more severe) too much already in that turn.

The plane enters a spin at about 500 feet above the ground (You cannot recover from a spin in less than 1000 feet above the ground). The aircraft strikes the ground at a high angle and usually the pilot is killed the same way a person is killed if they drive into a wall above 50 mph.

I understand your reticence and caution. Just tell your bro that if he has to make a forced landing, DON'T try to keep from dinging he aircraft by turning to reach a road when all the terrain is mostly flat or rolling hills. Just set up a normal glide STRAIGHT AHEAD (into the wind if possible).

When he is almost at ground level, round out (pull back slightly on the stick) to stop the descent and then flair out (pull back on the stick all the way when the plane no longer wants to fly). This ensures that he will make ground contact with the bushes or whatever at the slowest possible speed (about 50 to 60 mph).

If he is going into a forest, put the plane between two trees. The wings get ripped off and you slow quite quickly. I've flown over Texas. Yeah, you've got all kinds of terrain and East Texas is quite different from West Texas. BUT, trees are not an issue there 99% of the time.  ;D

One more thing: The Beechcraft King Air is an unforgiving (due to the high performance type wing) aircraft. You stay in the proper aircaft envelope or you are toast.
Geopolitics / Re: The Korea thread
« Last post by Palloy2 on Today at 05:59:28 PM »
Trump’s and Bolton’s Instincts Form a Toxic Combination

Completely ignores US-SK war games, which runs counter to section 2.1 of the Declaration, signed only 3 weeks before.  Completely ignores that "denuclearising the Korean peninsula" means the US denuclearising too.
Kim needs to make another statement so that it is absolutely clear on what point the talks are going to fail.
Xi should help him out here by restating their position on defending him if the US strikes first.

Russia’s First Floating Nuclear Power Plant Arrives in the Arctic 

May 21, 2018 by Reuters


The Russian “Academy Lomonosov”, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant  :P >:(, passes Langeland island, while heading for Murmansk in northwestern Russia, in Denmark, May 4, 2018. Ritzau Scanpix/Tim Kildeborg Jensen/via REUTERS

reuters logoBy Vladimir Soldatkin MOSCOW, May 21 (Reuters) – Russia’s first-floating nuclear power plant arrived in the Arctic port of Murmansk over the weekend in preparation for its maiden mission, providing electricity to an isolated Russian town across the Bering Strait from Alaska.

The state company behind the plant, called the “Akademik Lomonosov,” says it could pioneer a new power source for remote regions of the planet, but green campaigners have expressed concern about the risk of nuclear accidents. Greenpeace has called it the “nuclear Titanic.” 😱

Full article:
Surly Newz / Re: Doomstead Diner Daily
« Last post by Golden Oxen on Today at 05:09:01 PM »
Yeah, you have a really, really narrow focus. I get that.

Now Now Edward. You can't expect everyone to have your smarts.

Be kind to those who don't have your exceptional insights and depth of understanding.

Will reexamine your thoughts on how killing millions of babies is really a wonderful helpful practice when one, with smarts like yours of course, takes the time to study the hard data.

Thanks for the sadness and empathy you feel for all involved as well, your tearing up over it reveals a truly kind and loving soul.  :emthup: :emthup:

Surly Newz / Re: Doomstead Diner Daily
« Last post by Eddie on Today at 04:31:08 PM »
Interesting but has no relevance to me, my views, or most of the people known by be who are anti-abortion.

Yeah, you have a really, really narrow focus. I get that.

For your information, Planned Parenthood probably did more to prevent abortions than all the holier-than-thou legislators in the whole country put together, because they provided birth control at low or no cost to young women.

By taking a stand against birth control, it makes it MORE likely for some unfortunate women to need to kill her own baby, since it leaves her with the option of doing that or carrying an unwanted baby to full term and then sacrificing her own young life to raise the child, or alternately, abruptly severing the relationship with the child she just carried for 40 weeks, a part of her own body, and giving it up for adoption.

I don't believe I ever met anyone who really likes the idea of abortion as a form of birth control. It's an ugly event. Yes, a viable human embryo is killed. I find that repugnant, personally. I wouldn't try to sugar-coat it. It sucks. In my view it leaves the woman with permanent emotional scars that never quite heal. Always and forever. And maybe the young man involved too, if he has a heart.

But there is substantial evidence that unwanted babies born to unmarried poor women in our ghettos in this country grow up to be violent criminals. By doing what we are doing now to reverse what was done legally, we are guaranteeing a return to high levels of violent crime within a couple of decades. That matters too.
Geopolitics / Re: The Korea thread
« Last post by Surly1 on Today at 04:16:19 PM »
Pretty perceptive.

Trump’s and Bolton’s Instincts Form a Toxic Combination

John Bolton looking at President Trump
National-Security Adviser John Bolton at a Cabinet meeting in AprilEVAN VUCCI / AP

Why did the Trump administration cancel its much-hyped nuclear summit with North Korea? And why the confusing semi-backtrack the following day, in which Trump embraced North Korea’s “warm and productive statement” regretting the cancellation, and left the door open to a meeting he’d ditched barely 24 hours before? The answer lies in the toxic interplay between Donald Trump’s instincts and John Bolton’s. Each man’s foreign-policy views are dangerous enough in and of themselves. Put them together and you have the perfect cocktail for the decimation of American power.

Bolton is a Manichean in the tradition of his hero, Barry Goldwater. He has spent his career depicting America’s adversaries—the Soviet Union, Cuba, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and these days, Iran and North Korea—as evil. He denies that they have any legitimate security concerns. He abhors compromise. He demands maximum American economic, political and, if necessary, military pressure. He basic negotiating posture is: Once you give in on everything, then we’ll start talking.

But while Bolton’s Manicheanism is dangerous, it’s also targeted. Bolton wants to turn the screws on Iran and North Korea. He doesn’t want to turn the screws on American allies like Germany, France, South Korea, and Japan—except to the degree that they resist a hardline posture towards North Korea and Iran. Bolton has little use for international law but he likes America’s alliances.

Trump is different. He doesn’t divide the world into virtuous, pro-American regimes, which the United States should support, and villainous anti-American ones, which the United States should crush. Trump is less ideological. Instinctively, he believes that almost every regime is ripping America off—the adversaries and the allies too. That inclines him to pick a broader array of fights. But it also makes him more willing to resolve them. Trump is not moralistic and he’s not a stickler for detail. Bolton seems to want to be the 21st-century version of Reagan (as he’s imagined in conservative mythology): standing up to the evil enemy and bringing about its downfall. Trump seems to want to be the political version of Trump the real-estate whiz (as he’s imagined in Trump’s own mythology): cutting great deals that make everyone rich.

The Trump administration’s North Korea policy is what happens when you put these two instincts together. On his own, it’s unlikely Bolton would have agreed to a summit with Kim Jong Un in the first place since it violates one of his core principles: Never concede anything until the other side does first. Bolton’s maximalism would have made any diplomatic deal with Pyongyang unlikely. But Bolton—because he draws a clear distinction between America’s enemies and its allies—would probably not have picked a fight with South Korea over steel tariffs. Nor would he have risked a trade war with China while seeking its help in pressuring North Korea. Bolton is a national-security hardliner, not a trade hardliner.

Trump, on the other hand, was elected as much to confront America’s economic partners as to confront its national-security adversaries. So he threatened trade wars with China, South Korea and Japan even as he threatened a real one with Pyongyang.

But Trump’s love of the deal also led him to embrace a summit with North Korea that he believed might bring him the adulation and vindication he craves. Left to his own devices, he might have attended the summit, agreed to some vague, flowery language about denuclearization, demanded the Nobel Prize, and moved on to other subjects even as North Korea didn’t actually eliminate its nuclear program. And indeed, all it took was an expression of North Korean regret to get Trump to start speculating that the June 12 summit could be back on, and that “we’ll see what happens.” Given the importance of avoiding war on the Korean Peninsula, and the benefits of opening up North Korea to South Korean influence, that would constitute progress.

But not for Bolton, who laid down a marker by declaring that his model was Libya, wherein Muammer Qaddafi utterly capitulated. The North Koreans—who are terrified of the Libya model because they believe Qaddafi’s denuclearization left him vulnerable to Western regime change—responded with fury. And while Trump tried to keep the summit on track by declaring that America wasn’t seeking regime change, he managed to threaten it nonetheless, as did Mike Pence. As North Korea’s rhetoric grew more bellicose, Trump reportedly began to fear that the summit would bring him not glory but embarrassment. As Trump’s biographer, Tony Schwartz, told The New York Times, “Trump has a morbid fear of being humiliated and shamed. This is showing who’s the biggest and the strongest, so he is exquisitely sensitive to the possibility that he would end up looking weak and small.” This analysis was corroborated by an NBC report suggesting Trump pulled out of the summit because he feared the North Koreans would first.

In the end, Trumpism and Boltonism have produced an outcome that’s worse than either on its own. The summit is or maybe isn’t off, and the U.S. is back to threatening war but confusingly somehow seeking talks. None of this enhances Trump’s credibility as a negotiating partner. Meanwhile, North Korea still has its nuclear weapons, and could resume testing them. By confronting Beijing on trade, the U.S. has squandered some of the leverage it needs to convince China to keep imposing tough sanctions on Pyongyang. And with his initial letter cancelling the summit, Trump surprised and humiliated South Korean leader Moon Jae In, who may still pursue détente with the North whether or not Trump rescinds his cancellation, thus undermining Trump and Bolton’s maximum-pressure campaign. South Korea may also draw closer to China, which would leave the U.S. more isolated in Northeast Asia than it has been in decades.

Geopolitics / Re: The Korea thread
« Last post by Golden Oxen on Today at 03:41:55 PM »
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Get angry.  Fight back, although the situation is hopeless. Take a risk. Die on your feet, not on your knees. Are you a man or a mouse?

"Oooooh, God wouldn't want me to do that, he would want me to keep working and paying my taxes, he would want me to eat my dried beans and be proud I had protected my family from the nuclear war, and accept my fate!"

Pathetic zombies.

Your over doing it now Palloy and acting like a horse's ass 17 year old.

No fucking good will come of it. That's the fucking point.

You may as well stick your fucking head into a toilet bowl and scream your fucking head off.

We care. We Get it. Thanks for your input and determination. Let me assure you your message has been received  by all and we would love to help.     Thanks Again,     GO

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