Togane, Japan
December 31
I'm teaching English in foreign countries as a way to see the world. I lived in Germany for three years and have been in Japan since August of 2011.


Kemstone's Links

JUNE 10, 2011 6:45AM

Ignore the Koch Brothers, talk about Weiner!

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I know.  This whole “the media ignores important substantive issues and focuses only on trivial nonsense”-theme is old and tired, but sometimes the contrast between what ought to be getting attention and what’s getting all the attention is so overwhelmingly stark that it begs to be commented on.


Elected officials have been doing terrible, despicable things throughout history.  Even if we focus on just the last ten years, we can point to politicians who have done things as awful as secretly torturing prisoners, stripping citizens of their rights and civil liberties, collaborating with health insurance and pharmaceutical companies to kill legislation that would save lives, taking food off the table of poor families in order to give tax-cuts to corporations, deliberately obstructing an economic recovery just to hurt a president’s chances of re-election, encouraging foreign leaders to enact violently anti-gay policies, starting unnecessary wars to make private contractors richer, and on and on.  Every single day, hundreds if not thousands of politicians at various levels of government across the country do horrible, downright evil things.

But one guy sends some dirty pictures to women who aren’t his wife, and that is unacceptable.  Torture whoever you like, start as many wars based on phony justifications as you want, take as much money from corporations in exchange for hurting the poor as your heart desires, but flirt with girls on Twitter and you are done, sir!

This week, the whole absurd fiasco over Congressman Weiner’s wiener (much of which I admit he brought on himself by handling it so poorly) completely overshadowed a story involving not just a faaaar more egregious crime than being a bit of a pervert, but also something far more important with far more real-life consequences for the American people.


Politico reported that our old friends the Koch brothers (oil-industry billionaires), through their Tea Party front-group Americans for Prosperity, is launching a nation-wide campaign to blame high gas prices on President Obama.  It’s his excessive zeal for environmental protection, they say, his draconian over-regulation of the oil industry, that’s responsible for the high prices at the pump.  The only solution?  Drill for more oil, obviously.

Never mind that Obama’s record on environmental protection is virtually non-existent.  He not only did agree to open up more territory for oil drilling, but even after imposing a perfectly sensible moratorium on drilling after the BP disaster, he’s recently begun handing out new drilling permits in spite of the fact that the problems which caused that disaster haven’t been fixed.  Obama’s refusal to “drill baby drill”, as any sane observer would be able to tell, is not the reason for high gas prices.

What is the reason?  Who are the real culprits?  Ironically, the Koch Brothers themselves might bear the most responsibility.

Most people who know anything about the issue know that that it’s speculation in the oil markets rather than actual worldwide supply of oil that drives gas prices.  Not only do corporations like Koch Industries drive up the price of oil by betting on derivatives (much like the betting in the housing market that led to the 2008 financial crisis), but they use their own resources to artificially manipulate the price in order to boost their profits.  Back in April, Think Progress explained how this game works

In 2008, Koch called attention to itself for “contango” oil market manipulation. A commodity market is said to be in contango when future prices are expected to rise, that is, when demand is expected to outstrip supply. Big banks and companies like Koch employ a contango strategy by buying up oil and storing it in massive containers both on land and offshore to lock in the oil for sale later at a set price. In December of 2008, Koch leased “four supertankers to hold oil in the U.S. Gulf Coast to take advantage of rising prices in the months ahead.” Writing about Koch’s contango efforts to artificially drive down supply, Fortune magazine writer Jon Birger noted they could be raising “gasoline prices by anywhere from 20 to 40 cents a gallon” at the time.

This week, Think Progress posted a special report detailing exactly how Koch Industries rose to become the most powerful force in the oil market, from inventing oil derivatives in the first place (there was no such thing before 1986) to aggressively lobbying to deregulate the trading of these derivatives and thus allowing them to basically do to the price of oil whatever they please.

For most people, myself included, this is a complex issue and it’s hard to wrap our heads around it.  But it certainly sounds as though the Koch brothers are deliberately keeping gas prices high—deliberately making life more difficult for middle class Americans whose livelihoods depend on their ability to drive to and from work—so that they can then turn around and lie to those people and get them to blame the president so that someone more friendly to their industry can take his place in 2013.  That’s almost as despicable as taking a picture of yourself in your underwear…

I could be completely wrong about all this.  I’m no financial expert and I know almost nothing about the oil industry, and the leftist sources I get this information from could very well be skewing it to fit their ideology.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if we had some kind of institution in this country that investigated these issues, obtained all the facts, and objectively presented them to the American people with clear explanations so that we’d all have a better understanding of how our system works?

Instead we have a bonanza of talking heads chattering about whether we’ll get to see more embarrassing pictures of a congressman’s junk.   But at least most of them preface their comments by saying, “I wish we were talking about something else.”

That says it all, doesn’t it?  Even the people caught up in this circus can see how woefully pathetic it is.  That’s what happens when “news” is no longer treated as a valuable, essential element of democratic society, but as just another form of entertainment from which to earn a profit.

Of the three main focuses of this blog post—the Koch brothers, the media, and Anthony Weiner—the one who has done the least harm to this country by far is Anthony Weiner.

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While I strongly agree the Koch brothers need to be under scrutiny, I'd argue that anyone whose wife is the closest person to the current Secretary of State deserves his share. I need to get back to Wisconsin to get back in the know about what's happening there. It's turned into a whole new planet since I went away for the winter.
It's all simply part of the Republican agenda---Disinformation! Keep the populace concentrated on other issues.
Since Hillary Clinton is arguably one of the most powerful women in the free world, and has said she will be leaving her position as Secretary of State and is rumored (although denied) to be in a position to take over the World Bank, I'd say it's all connected, and relevant.
R! thanks for advising as to the Koch bros recent hijinks. They know this stuff works. And like you, we need to keep putting spotlight on the Koch brothers and their hidden agendas - like the fact they're benefitting from high energy prices themselves!

@Rw: man it sure would help if we had the progressive equivalent of the Koch Brothers, Scaife, Lindner and all the rest of the right-wing billionaires to fund the vanguard of which you speak :) Therein lies part of the problem. That's why they demonize Soros so hard - to scare off anybody with money on the Left from stepping forward.
Jesus once said: let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone. Jesus may or may not have been the living God but one thing we can all agree on is that the sayings attributed to Jesus are the personification of mans acquired wisdom. The man without skeletons in his closet has never been born and no one is immune to the type of yellow journalism now being used to attack those deemed to be the enemy's of empire. Five multinational corporations have commandeered the entire media apparatus of the Western World. The only objective of these corporations is to bring prosperity to their share holders regardless of critical information whose availability is necessary to operate an informed democracy. Anthony Wiener joins a long line of victims who had the audacity to believe that public service actually meant serving the public and in NY we really like to pile up the corpses; Elliot Spitzer, David Paterson. The list go's on and it appears they have learned it is easier to bring down a congressman before he becomes a governor.
@Ron anyone who started his “career” selling people out to the Nazi’s to be made into lampshades while he looted their fortunes needs no help with demonization
Hey Jack, I'm pretty sure you're joking, since that's the spin Beck et al have been running with, which Soros has denied, and other more reputable sources than Beck have looked into and found no evidence of. Whatever he did as a little ten year-old Jewish boy in Germany when this is supposed to have happened I'll leave to legitimate historians to determine. I've got better things to do with my time.
For the most part, average Americans are more upset by things they find personally offensive, particularly anything involving sex, than by things that are harder to understand and they simply write off to "politics". We saw this heavily during the Clinton administration - it's why opposition to him in certain circles was so heavy, because he did things that "weren't done".

The difference between a leftist tea party and a rightist tea party is that the leftist one would have to be based on actual sense. Finding enough sensible people might prove difficult and, if you did find them, they wouldn't be as easy to lead. You'll notice that there is no leftist equivalent of Dittohead - someone who is a proud literal follower. There used to be, but only on the Far Left, far enough to really get into dogma. (They weren't sensible either.) If you've ever read right wing fundraising letters, they pick prominent liberals and talk about what they've said and done, the unwritten assumption being that we work like they do. They really think (or their paying membership thinks because they raise money when they get their paying membership to think) that millions of Americans really follow Al Sharpton like people followed Jerry Falwell. Our model doesn't work like that.

I share your frustration. In all the directions you outlined, emphatically including what Obama is doing with oil, which makes no energy sense at all. American drilling will not only fail to insure our supply (which isn't in danger to begin with), it will have a barely discernable impact on oil prices at best and that impact, if it shows up at all, is many years away. In short, it accomplishes nothing but providing a little political cover for the next election because the President doesn't think it's a good idea to address the country and say: Guys, This Won't Work and This Is Why.