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September 22, 2021

Big Brother Feels Bad. Really.

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Remember 1984? The book, not the year.

You probably read it in high school. It’s a dystopian novel, published in 1949, that takes place in a world of perpetual manufactured war, state sponsored torture, omnipresent and intrusive government surveillance, and propaganda posing as news, all controlled by an elite and privileged “Inner Party” bent on squashing independent thinking and dissent in order to keep itself in power. The whole shebang is controlled by a powerful, merciless entity called “Big Brother,” who may or may not be just one person.

No really, it’s just a novel.

The hero of the story, Winston Smith, works for the “Ministry of Truth” which creates propaganda, and historically revises the news to fit the agenda of the “Inner Party.” Torturing happens at the “Ministry of Love.”  The war machine functions under the auspices of “The Ministry of Peace.” You get the idea.

George Orwell, the author of 1984, got his own adjective out of the deal, now firmly entrenched in the lexicon – “Orwellian doublespeak.” It’s when something really bad is cloaked in the words of its exact opposite.

For a modern example, think “The Patriot Act,” which decided that your Fourth Amendment right to privacy was just kind of an adorable suggestion.

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Which brings us to the group “Americans for Prosperity.” The Ministry of Truth couldn’t have done better.

The name is completely accurate, if by “Americans” you mean “billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.” They own Koch Industries, and founded the right-wing political advocacy group. In the 2012 election cycle, Americans for Prosperity figured heavily into the Kochs’ $400 million political network of organizations, receiving huge amounts of money from Koch-linked groups like “Freedom Partners,” and “Donors Trust.”

The staggering budget from Americans for Prosperity comes from the Koch family foundations and other “dark money” sources. Their political expenditures skyrocketed from $7 million in 2007, to $40 million in 2010, to $115 million in 2012. The Kochs are expected to spend at least $125 million in the upcoming 2014 election cycle. Because they are very very concerned about YOUR prosperity.

How are they able to drop this gargantuan money bomb? The Kochs funded 12 different organizations that wrote amicus briefs supporting the 2010 United States Supreme Court’s landmark ruling called “Citizens United.” That decision lifted restrictions on contributions to independent political groups, meaning that outside groups like theirs began pouring unlimited cash into political campaigns to influence elections. Remember, according to them, corporations are people, and money is speech. The founding fathers would be so proud.

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Charles and David Koch = Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers have already picked their man for the upcoming Alaska Senate race. In Alaska’s small and inexpensive media market, Dan Sullivan for Senate must be like buying penny candy. They started early by spending $400,000 on a TV ad that began airing last February attacking Democratic Senator Mark Begich. Unlike in 1984, we still have some actual political fact checkers in 2014. They rated the ad “mostly false.”

Following the tentacles of the Koch octopus, we find they’ve not only been busy spending their own money for our “prosperity,” they’ve also been putting Alaskans out of work – 81 to be specific, at the Flint Hills refinery in North Pole, which is owned by… Koch Industries. The Kochs bought Flint Hills in 2004. Chemical contamination had been an issue since the beginning, and has only gotten worse. The Kochs say they didn’t realize the extent of the contamination until four years after they bought Flint Hills, and that the previous owner from 10 years ago, and the State of Alaska (you and me) should clean up the mess and foot the bill. A court ruling said no, that an entity like Koch Industries should probably have figured out there was a problem sooner than four years AFTER they bought. Just saying.

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Flint Hills Refinery, North Pole, Alaska

The Koch brothers also think that the State limiting the safe level of their contaminant, a neurotoxin called sulfolane, found in 300 wells in North Pole, to 14 parts per billion might be a bit too restrictive for free enterprise. They’re thinking it should be… I dunno… more than 25 TIMES that. Then there’s really no cleanup needed. You’re tough, Fairbanksans. You can handle it, right? Drink up!

The thought of spending “millions” to clean up their refinery turned out to be too much for the Kochs, so they decided to shut the refinery down, laying off 81 Alaskan workers in the process, and leaving a toxic disaster in their wake. It’s not personal, Alaska. You’re just too expensive. After all the Koch brothers are already spending those millions right now on Dan Sullivan, trying to buy your vote. Your health and your jobs are just collateral damage in the war for prosperity. Surely you understand.

So, what does one tentacle (Americans for Prosperity) have to say about what the other (Koch Industries) is doing?

In a radio interview, the Koch Brothers’ Alaska spokesman said that the closure of Flint Hills refinery is “a shame.”  :'(

A shame? I suppose if you use the following definition, then yes. Shame indeed.

          shame
SHām/
noun
noun: shame
a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

“It’s a shame what happened. It’s a shame that they closed the refinery. It’s sad news,” said Jeremy Price, spokesman for Americans for Prosperity-Alaska.

And this isn’t the first time Americans for Prosperity acknowledged the “shame” caused by the closure of Flint Hills. When it was announced, they said the closure “plays a massive role in many foreseeable problems for the interior.” Thanks for noticing.

Sure enough, the Fairbanks area is seeing massive property tax hikes, and you and I are footing the legal bill while Charles and David spend less money trying to dodge the clean up of their own mess, than they would actually cleaning it up. Hey, it’s a business decision.

Yup. You guys are screwed. “Massively.” It’s a shame.

As another American novelist William S. Burroughs once noted in a lecture: “Nobody does more harm than people who feel baaaad about doing it.”

And welcome to 1984.

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GOP Senate nominee Dan Sullivan, meanwhile, knows precisely where fiscal “Big Brother” has buttered his bread. He refuses to criticize his sugar daddies Charles and David Koch for the closure of Flint Hills refinery, the loss of jobs, and the economic impact on the Fairbanks area.  And as long as Americans for Prosperity pours buckets of cash into “mostly false” ads attacking Mark Begich on his behalf, don’t hold your breath. If he wins, he’ll have six years to figure out how to say thanks.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Big Brother Feels Bad. Really.”
  1. Granny says:

    yeah I heard they scadattled out of Alaska as soon as they got wind of the law coming after them…seems some oil companies were started in 1977 and with HUGE money from overseas…so that sounds to me like someone is a ‘birthright owner’ to the oil in Alaska…and how will that work out when that owner hands it back to the Natives? oil boys cry foul…natives point…over there is duck and you might catch the geese…but you better hurry!

  2. Zyxomma says:

    I despise the Kochroaches so much I haven’t been able to cross the threshold of my favorite theatre at Lincoln Center, where I’ve enjoyed many, many performances by both New York City Ballet and New York City Opera (which has moved out). The New York State Theatre was renamed The David H. Koch Theater and, even though I love the ballet, and was a subscriber for a few years, I just haven’t been able to enter the renamed space. The Kochs are currently building a plaza outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I currently still enjoy.

    The Koch brothers have destroyed entire ecosystems, mostly in the American south. The cancer rates downwind and downstream from their plants are through the roof. The world would be better off without them.

  3. mike from iowa says:

    koch bros don’t feel for anything unless their profits don’t hit targets. Absolutely amazing how the bunch that pushes personal responmsibility and swears that private individuals do a better/cheaper job than the gubmint can walk away from their responsibilities and allow the gubmint to clean up after them. It is, after all, about the bottom line and that is the bottom line.

  4. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    It is a little difficult not to resort to vulgar epithets when the subject of the Koch Industries comes up whether here or anywhere else. So I’ll resort to paraphrasing H.L. Menken…. ” look at those two, just look at them, they make you want to burn every bank in the world.”

    Orwell was not being prophetic, he was actually providing a blueprint. I don’t necessarily think that was his intention but it was certainly taken that way by the rabid right wing worshipers of greed. And power.

    We all live under the delusion that there is such a thing as LAW which is uniformly applicable to everyone. It isn’t so. My environment is very different for the US, but as recently as ten years ago when last I was ‘in country’ for an extended period the disparity was tangible. I realize of course that it was tangible all my life but I was often too distracted to pay enough attention. That is really the crux of the thing. Distraction. If ordinary everyday life is a constant struggle, virtually noone has time, energy or will to pay attention to what is being done to them.

    Shutting down the refinery has two benefits for the Kochs. First of course it allows them to stonewall their obligation to mitigate the pollution. That in itself is a big plus. Go to a friends house and cook a big dinner throwing food around and dirtying every plate and utensil with a result that is just shy of inedible, then dash out the door and leave your mess for someone else to clean up. We see this all the time on various scales, from the presidential right on down to the company picnic on Labor Day. The other big benefit is that gasoline prices for central Alaskans can now be rated through an abstruse shipping stream, you will be buying gas refined 2000 miles away instead of locally. To every cost there must be a profit so expect the price of gas to go through the roof even though millions of barrells of oil flow through the pipeline.

    Soon, gasoline purchases in Fairbanks will have been refined in Texas. But but, the free market is so efficient ! At making profits.

    What is the solution? Most simply, a shortage of slaves. Of course it is far more elaborate than that alone but that would be a good start. If population growth turned negative the oligarchs would panic. They depend upon it.

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