Story pick: Kochtopus
Amid lots of news about the Tea Party movement and the upcoming mid-term elections, readers would do well to read Jane Mayer's recent piece in The New Yorker about oil conglomerate billionaires David and Charles Koch.
In a fascinating, troubling and deeply reported piece - though none of the principals would talk to her - Mayer shows how the Koch brothers, life-long libertarians, have taken the manipulation of politics with money to a whole new level.
"Indeed," she writes, "the brothers have 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."
That wealthy people have used their money to buy influence is hardly new in Washington and is true of both the right and the left. Nor is it startling that the Koches have created a well-funded underground infrastructure of think tanks and organizations that pump out position papers in support of their ideology and their businesses.
But again, the Koches are operating in an entirely different league. Witness the fact that the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History makes no mention of climate change - which the Koches have spent millions to discredit.
. At the main entrance, viewers are confronted with a giant graph charting the Earth’s temperature over the past ten million years, which notes that it is far cooler now than it was ten thousand years ago. Overhead, the text reads, “HUMANS EVOLVED IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD.” The message, as amplified by the exhibit’s Web site, is that “key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.” Only at the end of the exhibit, under the headline “OUR SURVIVAL CHALLENGE,” is it noted that levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have ever been, and that they are projected to increase dramatically in the next century. No cause is given for this development; no mention is made of any possible role played by fossil fuels. The exhibit makes it seem part of a natural continuum. The accompanying text says, “During the period in which humans evolved, Earth’s temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fluctuated together.” An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”
Such ideas uncannily echo the Koch message.
Money buying not just influence, de-regulation and social movements, but offering one particular version of human history at one of the nation's most-visited and -trusted museums.
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