Saturday, May 31, 2014

Straw dogs

Straw Dog photo from China News Service. Typical People's Republic, no credit to the photographer or even the author of the piece it illustrates, but there's an editor name, because hierarchy.
Via Steve M ("Libertarian Talk is Cheap"), I'm looking at a weird article by the editor in chief of Reason, one Nick Gillespie, who's been living by his own account off Koch brothers philanthropy for 21 years and wants us to know that old Charles and David are not hypocritical moralist Republican authoritarians but literally—wait for it—too liberal for the John Birch Society:
while the Koch brothers remain staunch opponents of Obamacare and government spending, “they are at odds with the conservative mainstream” and “were no fans of the Iraq war.” As a young man, Charles was booted from the John Birch Society (which his father had helped to found) after publishing an anti-Vietnam War newspaper ad, and David told Politico of his support for gay marriage from the floor of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Hey, I'm not a fan of Taylor Swift but I have no intention of occupying Manhattan with 250,000 of my best friends to put a stop to her. Indeed, I am completely happy to accept her existence, welcome her success, and admire her pluck. I just don't have any interest in listening to her sing. That's what not being a fan means. So, does it mean whenever the Iraq war came on the radio in 2005 Charles and David didn't stop talking or went off to freshen their drink or take a pee? I can well believe that. As Steve says,
Funny, I don't recall them putting together a massive interconnected funding apparatus to stop the war. Nor do I recall them doing any such thing to advance the cause of same-sex marriage or immigration reform. In fact, the vast majority of politicians who've benefited from their help have been pro-war, anti-gay, and anti-immigration.
Commenter Eric complains:

Eric said...
Libertarian talk is cheap? Is it cheaper than the cheap moralizing of the liberal left?

Give me a call when Al Gore or Al Franken funds a PBS series or the largest cancer research program in the country.
Well, I'll tell you, Eric, we know something about David Koch's PBS support, and it's that he expected it to buy him something—positive coverage—and he put away the checkbook when it didn't. The same goes for his support of the former New York State Theater in Lincoln Center, for which he paid $100 million to have it renamed the David H. Koch Theater; but when one of his most favored charities, the theater's former tenant, the New York City Opera, was about to die, and he and Michael Bloomberg were literally the only people in the United States who could have saved it, they refused to step in, apparently because the company had just staged an opera, Mark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole, with an unsympathetic portrayal of the heroine's husband, J. Howard Marshall II, who when alive had been the owner of 16% of Koch Industries.

As for cancer research, there's something I learned about that when I was getting my radiation treatments at the Beth Israel Cancer Center in Union Square, a setting furnished with a luxuriousness unlike any medical establishment I've ever been in: practically everything that can have a nameplate on it, from the massage chairs to the broom closets, is a donation from some millionaire or other, and that's the reason it's so opulent, because cancer is the one thing elderly white male millionaires fear (David Koch's incurable though manageable prostate cancer was discovered in 1990 or so and his generous giving to the cause dates from there). It's just so many burnt offerings to placate the cancer gods. And they can afford it, too. When they start spending that kind of money on malaria or river blindness or some other disease they know they won't get (the way the Gates Foundation does), you just let me know.

And Charles or David may have funded a public TV series, but how about a movie grossing upwards of $50 million? Would they donate 100% of their share of the profits to the Alliance for Climate Protection (the big nonprofit Al Gore founded with the earnings from An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, and still going strong today as the Climate Reality Project)? Or how about 100% of their Nobel Peace Prize winnings ($750,000). Oh wait, they didn't win one, in spite of their advocacy for peace in Iraq which we just heard about for the first time. I guess they were too busy taking over Wisconsin.

But in any event that's not at all the point. PBS funding and contributions to cancer research and whatnot aren't related to libertarian talk; billionaires of any political persuasion may be involved. The point is, when they're putting their libertarian money where their libertarian mouths are, where does the money go? Does it go to candidates or organizations who opposed the Iraq war or favor same-sex marriage?

And as you know very well it does not. It goes overwhelmingly to authoritarians, warmongers, gay-bashers, and Know-Nothing nativists, d/b/a The Republican Party and its ancillary units. Oh, there's the old Koch-funded Cato Institute representing David's publicly proclaimed broadminded views on marriage equality in particular, but the Cato Institute doesn't run the government; the Koch-funded House Republican Caucus and Senate Republican Caucus (thanks to the cloture rules that allow a minority to block any and all legislation) do. If Charles and David approve of marriage equality why don't they tell those guys, who could do something about it?
Straw Dog by yuen.e.
As it happens, I just came across something like an answer, or a better way of expressing an answer I knew, in an unexpected place, the Pando Daily, which I am coming to rely on as the only place for Ukraine news that's cynical enough to be believed, and a post by Gary Brecher bringing up the ancient Chinese trope of the straw dog.

The relevant text is from the Daodejing (Classic of the Way and the Power) traditionally attributed to the quasi-mythical sage Laozi ("Old Fellow"), opening of the fifth chapter:


tiān dì bù rén, yǐ wàn wù wéi chú gǒu
shèng rén bù rén, yǐ bái xìng wéi chú gǒu.

Heaven and earth
do not act from benevolence;
the ten thousand creatures serve
as their straw dogs.
Sages and emperors
do not act from benevolence;
the hundred clans serve
as their straw dogs.

The "ten thousand creatures" are basically everything that lives, the "hundred clans" (literally hundred surnames) are all the common folk, and straw dogs were just that, animal images made of bundled straw, for use in sacrificial rituals; the Song-dynasty commentator Su Zhe explained,
"We dress them up and put them on the altar, but not because we love them. And when the ceremony is over, we throw them into the street, but not because we hate them."
What Brecher says specifically is that the pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine are Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's straw dogs; he'll gladly weep for his brave and selfless and stupid fascist Orthodox brethren, but now he has what he wanted (Crimea, and I guess the drastic slowing or permanent end to the process of integrating Ukraine into the EU), he has thrown them into the street.

Anyhow we're all straw dogs to the Kochs. They may very well be believers at a theoretical level in marriage equality but they'll sell it out every day for what they really care about, which is their freedom to poison us all, treat workers like shit, and lower their tax bills. And their support for immigration? They'll put up with comprehensive reform if they have to, I'm pretty sure, as opposed to really shutting the borders, but they'd prefer to keep the situation just the way it is, because illegal immigrants are easier for employers to abuse.

From blogger Da Boshu (Big Potato).

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