Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our Folly

Yesterday, this blogger went to see "Restropo" (2010) and saw a U.S. Army platoon deployed in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. After six years in the Korengal — resulting in hundreds of U.S. wounded and 50 U.S. soldiers dead (and heavier losses on the less well-equipped Afghan side) — the U.S. Command withdrew the troops from Korengal. Can you spell Vietnam, dear reader? The pointless final year of the Korengal Valley campaign recorded in "Restropo" as the men of 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, engage in round-the-clock, but sporadic, firefights with the enemy on the hillsides and the troops attempt to operate as police (capturing the "bad guys") and diplomats (negotiating with village elders about a cow that the troops shot after the animal was hopelessly entangled in perimeter concertina wire). In yesterday's post, Professor (and retired Colonel) Andrew Bacevich asked "What's the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn't actually work?" The abdonment of the Korengal Valley is a demonstration of our failure in Afghanistan. If this is a (fair & balanced) damnation of our folly, so be it.

[x HuffPo]
Our Military's Disturbing Transition To Warriors
By William Astore

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A subtle change has been happening right before the eyes of Americans. Our troops are being told they're no longer primarily citizen-soldiers or citizen-airmen; they're being told they're warriors. Indeed, they're reminded of this linguistic turn in "creeds" that many of them (and often their families) display with pride.

Here's an excerpt from the new Airman's Creed (2007):

"I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my nation's call.

I am an American Airman.
My mission is to fly, fight, and win.
I am faithful to a proud heritage,
a tradition of honor,
and a legacy of valor."

The Army's Soldier's Creed (2003) makes the same point about the need to be a warrior first and foremost.

Now, some would say there's nothing wrong with this. Our troops are at war. Don't we want them to have a strong warrior ethos?

The historian (and retired citizen-airman) in me says "no," and I'm supported in this by a surprising source: An American army pamphlet from World War II with the title How the Japanese Army Fights. After praising the Japanese for their toughness and endurance, the pamphlet, citing a study by Robert Leurquin, makes the following point:

"The Japanese is more of a warrior than a military man, and therein lies his weakness. The difference may be a subtle one, but it does exist: The essential quality of the warrior is bravery; that of the military man, discipline."

In 1942, our army cited the "warring passion" of the Japanese as a weakness, one that inhibited their mastery of "the craft of arms." Yet today, our army and air force extol the virtues of being a "warrior" to young recruits.

Today's cult of the warrior, as represented by these new "creeds," may seem cosmetic, but it cuts to the core of our military's self-image. That most Americans have no knowledge of it speaks volumes about the ongoing militarization of our language and even of our country.

After nearly a decade of war, we don't need more "warrior ethos." What we need are disciplined citizen-airmen and citizen-soldiers who know their craft, but who also know better than to revel in a warrior identity. We knew this in 1942; how did we come to forget it? Ω

[William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), read modern history at Oxford and earned a D.Phil in modern history in 1996. He has taught cadets at the Air Force Academy and officers at the Naval Postgraduate School, and now is an associate professor of history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Astore's books and articles focus primarily on military history and include (with Dennis Showalter) Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (2005).]

Copyright © 2010, Inc.

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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2010 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Friday, July 30, 2010

Roll Over, Francis Fukuyama! Make Way For A Real Visionary!

After posting this latest article from Professor Andrew Bacevich, this blogger is off to his neighborhood indy movie house to see "Restrepo." If this is (fair & balanced) dread of the unasked question in Afghanistan, so be it.

[x Salon]
The End Of (Military) History?
By Andrew J. Bacevich

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"In watching the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history." This sentiment, introducing the essay that made Francis Fukuyama a household name, commands renewed attention today, albeit from a different perspective.

Developments during the 1980s, above all the winding down of the Cold War, had convinced Fukuyama that the "end of history" was at hand. "The triumph of the West, of the Western idea," he wrote in 1989, "is evident... in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism."

Today the West no longer looks quite so triumphant. Yet events during the first decade of the present century have delivered history to another endpoint of sorts. Although Western liberalism may retain considerable appeal, the Western way of war has run its course.

For Fukuyama, history implied ideological competition, a contest pitting democratic capitalism against fascism and communism. When he wrote his famous essay, that contest was reaching an apparently definitive conclusion.

Yet from start to finish, military might had determined that competition's course as much as ideology. Throughout much of the twentieth century, great powers had vied with one another to create new, or more effective, instruments of coercion. Military innovation assumed many forms. Most obviously, there were the weapons: dreadnoughts and aircraft carriers, rockets and missiles, poison gas, and atomic bombs — the list is a long one. In their effort to gain an edge, however, nations devoted equal attention to other factors: doctrine and organization, training systems and mobilization schemes, intelligence collection and war plans.

All of this furious activity, whether undertaken by France or Great Britain, Russia or Germany, Japan or the United States, derived from a common belief in the plausibility of victory. Expressed in simplest terms, the Western military tradition could be reduced to this proposition: war remains a viable instrument of statecraft, the accoutrements of modernity serving, if anything, to enhance its utility.

Grand Illusions

That was theory. Reality, above all the two world wars of the last century, told a decidedly different story. Armed conflict in the industrial age reached new heights of lethality and destructiveness. Once begun, wars devoured everything, inflicting staggering material, psychological, and moral damage. Pain vastly exceeded gain. In that regard, the war of 1914-1918 became emblematic: even the winners ended up losers. When fighting eventually stopped, the victors were left not to celebrate but to mourn. As a consequence, well before Fukuyama penned his essay, faith in war's problem-solving capacity had begun to erode. As early as 1945, among several great powers — thanks to war, now great in name only — that faith disappeared altogether.

Among nations classified as liberal democracies, only two resisted this trend. One was the United States, the sole major belligerent to emerge from the Second World War stronger, richer, and more confident. The second was Israel, created as a direct consequence of the horrors unleashed by that cataclysm. By the 1950s, both countries subscribed to this common conviction: national security (and, arguably, national survival) demanded unambiguous military superiority. In the lexicon of American and Israeli politics, "peace" was a codeword. The essential prerequisite for peace was for any and all adversaries, real or potential, to accept a condition of permanent inferiority. In this regard, the two nations — not yet intimate allies — stood apart from the rest of the Western world.

So even as they professed their devotion to peace, civilian and military elites in the United States and Israel prepared obsessively for war. They saw no contradiction between rhetoric and reality.

Yet belief in the efficacy of military power almost inevitably breeds the temptation to put that power to work. "Peace through strength" easily enough becomes "peace through war." Israel succumbed to this temptation in 1967. For Israelis, the Six Day War proved a turning point. Plucky David defeated, and then became, Goliath. Even as the United States was flailing about in Vietnam, Israel had evidently succeeded in definitively mastering war.

A quarter-century later, U.S. forces seemingly caught up. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm, George H.W. Bush's war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, showed that American troops like Israeli soldiers knew how to win quickly, cheaply, and humanely. Generals like H. Norman Schwarzkopf persuaded themselves that their brief desert campaign against Iraq had replicated — even eclipsed — the battlefield exploits of such famous Israeli warriors as Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. Vietnam faded into irrelevance.

For both Israel and the United States, however, appearances proved deceptive. Apart from fostering grand illusions, the splendid wars of 1967 and 1991 decided little. In both cases, victory turned out to be more apparent than real. Worse, triumphalism fostered massive future miscalculation.

On the Golan Heights, in Gaza, and throughout the West Bank, proponents of a Greater Israel — disregarding Washington's objections — set out to assert permanent control over territory that Israel had seized. Yet "facts on the ground" created by successive waves of Jewish settlers did little to enhance Israeli security. They succeeded chiefly in shackling Israel to a rapidly growing and resentful Palestinian population that it could neither pacify nor assimilate.

In the Persian Gulf, the benefits reaped by the United States after 1991 likewise turned out to be ephemeral. Saddam Hussein survived and became in the eyes of successive American administrations an imminent threat to regional stability. This perception prompted (or provided a pretext for) a radical reorientation of strategy in Washington. No longer content to prevent an unfriendly outside power from controlling the oil-rich Persian Gulf, Washington now sought to dominate the entire Greater Middle East. Hegemony became the aim. Yet the United States proved no more successful than Israel in imposing its writ.

During the 1990s, the Pentagon embarked willy-nilly upon what became its own variant of a settlement policy. Yet U.S. bases dotting the Islamic world and U.S. forces operating in the region proved hardly more welcome than the Israeli settlements dotting the occupied territories and the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) assigned to protect them. In both cases, presence provoked (or provided a pretext for) resistance. Just as Palestinians vented their anger at the Zionists in their midst, radical Islamists targeted Americans whom they regarded as neo-colonial infidels.


No one doubted that Israelis (regionally) and Americans (globally) enjoyed unquestioned military dominance. Throughout Israel's near abroad, its tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships operated at will. So, too, did American tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships wherever they were sent.

So what? Events made it increasingly evident that military dominance did not translate into concrete political advantage. Rather than enhancing the prospects for peace, coercion produced ever more complications. No matter how badly battered and beaten, the "terrorists" (a catch-all term applied to anyone resisting Israeli or American authority) weren't intimidated, remained unrepentant, and kept coming back for more.

Israel ran smack into this problem during Operation Peace for Galilee, its 1982 intervention in Lebanon. U.S. forces encountered it a decade later during Operation Restore Hope, the West's gloriously titled foray into Somalia. Lebanon possessed a puny army; Somalia had none at all. Rather than producing peace or restoring hope, however, both operations ended in frustration, embarrassment, and failure.

And those operations proved but harbingers of worse to come. By the 1980s, the IDF's glory days were past. Rather than lightning strikes deep into the enemy rear, the narrative of Israeli military history became a cheerless recital of dirty wars — unconventional conflicts against irregular forces yielding problematic results. The First Intifada (1987-1993), the Second Intifada (2000-2005), a second Lebanon War (2006), and Operation Cast Lead, the notorious 2008-2009 incursion into Gaza, all conformed to this pattern.

Meanwhile, the differential between Palestinian and Jewish Israeli birth rates emerged as a looming threat — a "demographic bomb," Benjamin Netanyahu called it. Here were new facts on the ground that military forces, unless employed pursuant to a policy of ethnic cleansing, could do little to redress. Even as the IDF tried repeatedly and futilely to bludgeon Hamas and Hezbollah into submission, demographic trends continued to suggest that within a generation a majority of the population within Israel and the occupied territories would be Arab.

Trailing a decade or so behind Israel, the United States military nonetheless succeeded in duplicating the IDF's experience. Moments of glory remained, but they would prove fleeting indeed. After 9/11, Washington's efforts to transform (or "liberate") the Greater Middle East kicked into high gear. In Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush's Global War on Terror began impressively enough, as U.S. forces operated with a speed and élan that had once been an Israeli trademark. Thanks to "shock and awe," Kabul fell, followed less than a year and a half later by Baghdad. As one senior Army general explained to Congress in 2004, the Pentagon had war all figured out:

We are now able to create decision superiority that is enabled by networked systems, new sensors and command and control capabilities that are producing unprecedented near real time situational awareness, increased information availability, and an ability to deliver precision munitions throughout the breadth and depth of the battlespace… Combined, these capabilities of the future networked force will leverage information dominance, speed and precision, and result in decision superiority.

The key phrase in this mass of techno-blather was the one that occurred twice: "decision superiority." At that moment, the officer corps, like the Bush administration, was still convinced that it knew how to win.

Such claims of success, however, proved obscenely premature. Campaigns advertised as being wrapped up in weeks dragged on for years, while American troops struggled with their own intifadas. When it came to achieving decisions that actually stuck, the Pentagon (like the IDF) remained clueless.


If any overarching conclusion emerges from the Afghan and Iraq Wars (and from their Israeli equivalents), it's this: victory is a chimera. Counting on today's enemy to yield in the face of superior force makes about as much sense as buying lottery tickets to pay the mortgage: you better be really lucky.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, Americans contemplated their equivalent of Israel's "demographic bomb" — a "fiscal bomb." Ingrained habits of profligacy, both individual and collective, held out the prospect of long-term stagnation: no growth, no jobs, no fun. Out-of-control spending on endless wars exacerbated that threat.

By 2007, the American officer corps itself gave up on victory, although without giving up on war. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, priorities shifted. High-ranking generals shelved their expectations of winning — at least as a Rabin or Schwarzkopf would have understood that term. They sought instead to not lose. In Washington as in U.S. military command posts, the avoidance of outright defeat emerged as the new gold standard of success.

As a consequence, U.S. troops today sally forth from their base camps not to defeat the enemy, but to "protect the people," consistent with the latest doctrinal fashion. Meanwhile, tea-sipping U.S. commanders cut deals with warlords and tribal chieftains in hopes of persuading guerrillas to lay down their arms.

A new conventional wisdom has taken hold, endorsed by everyone from new Afghan War commander General David Petraeus, the most celebrated soldier of this American age, to Barack Obama, commander-in-chief and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. For the conflicts in which the United States finds itself enmeshed, "military solutions" do not exist. As Petraeus himself has emphasized, "we can't kill our way out of" the fix we're in. In this way, he also pronounced a eulogy on the Western conception of warfare of the last two centuries.

The Unasked Question

What then are the implications of arriving at the end of Western military history?

In his famous essay, Fukuyama cautioned against thinking that the end of ideological history heralded the arrival of global peace and harmony. Peoples and nations, he predicted, would still find plenty to squabble about.

With the end of military history, a similar expectation applies. Politically motivated violence will persist and may in specific instances even retain marginal utility. Yet the prospect of Big Wars solving Big Problems is probably gone for good. Certainly, no one in their right mind, Israeli or American, can believe that a continued resort to force will remedy whatever it is that fuels anti-Israeli or anti-American antagonism throughout much of the Islamic world. To expect persistence to produce something different or better is moonshine.

It remains to be seen whether Israel and the United States can come to terms with the end of military history. Other nations have long since done so, accommodating themselves to the changing rhythms of international politics. That they do so is evidence not of virtue, but of shrewdness. China, for example, shows little eagerness to disarm. Yet as Beijing expands its reach and influence, it emphasizes trade, investment, and development assistance. Meanwhile, the People's Liberation Army stays home. China has stolen a page from an old American playbook, having become today the preeminent practitioner of "dollar diplomacy."

The collapse of the Western military tradition confronts Israel with limited choices, none of them attractive. Given the history of Judaism and the history of Israel itself, a reluctance of Israeli Jews to entrust their safety and security to the good will of their neighbors or the warm regards of the international community is understandable. In a mere six decades, the Zionist project has produced a vibrant, flourishing state. Why put all that at risk? Although the demographic bomb may be ticking, no one really knows how much time remains on the clock. If Israelis are inclined to continue putting their trust in (American-supplied) Israeli arms while hoping for the best, who can blame them?

In theory, the United States, sharing none of Israel's demographic or geographic constraints and, far more richly endowed, should enjoy far greater freedom of action. Unfortunately, Washington has a vested interest in preserving the status quo, no matter how much it costs or where it leads. For the military-industrial complex, there are contracts to win and buckets of money to be made. For those who dwell in the bowels of the national security state, there are prerogatives to protect. For elected officials, there are campaign contributors to satisfy. For appointed officials, civilian and military, there are ambitions to be pursued.

And always there is a chattering claque of militarists, calling for jihad and insisting on ever greater exertions, while remaining alert to any hint of backsliding. In Washington, members of this militarist camp, by no means coincidentally including many of the voices that most insistently defend Israeli bellicosity, tacitly collaborate in excluding or marginalizing views that they deem heretical. As a consequence, what passes for debate on matters relating to national security is a sham. Thus are we invited to believe, for example, that General Petraeus's appointment as the umpteenth U.S. commander in Afghanistan constitutes a milestone on the way to ultimate success.

Nearly 20 years ago, a querulous Madeleine Albright demanded to know: "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?" Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What's the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn't actually work?

Washington's refusal to pose that question provides a measure of the corruption and dishonesty permeating our politics. Ω

[Andrew J. Bacevich graduated from West Point in 1969 and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, serving in Vietnam from the summer of 1970 to the summer of 1971. Afterwards he held posts in Germany, the United States, and the Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of Colonel in the early 1990s. He holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998 as a professor of international relations and director of its Center for International Relations (from 1998 to 2005). Bacevitch is the author of several books, including American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy (2002) and The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (2005). His new book, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, has just been published. He has been "a persistent, vocal critic of the US occupation of Iraq, calling the conflict a catastrophic failure." In March of 2007, he described George W. Bush's endorsement of such "preventive wars" as "immoral, illicit, and imprudent."

On May 13, 2007, Bacevich's son, also named Andrew J. Bacevich, died in action in Iraq, when he was killed by a suicide bomber south of Samarra in Salah Ad Din Province. The younger Bacevich, 27, was a First Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.]

Copyright © 2010 Salon Media Group, Inc.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Goodbye, Mr. (In The) Chips?

Ah, back in the days of yore, this blogger remembers teaching (using that term very loosely) a half-dozen (6!) U.S. history survey courses each semester at the Collegium Excellens. This blogger was chasing nickels (that the Collegium honchos threw around like manhole covers) because the sixth course was an "overload." Using the rule of thumb of "3 hours of preparation for every hour in class," this amounted to a 66-hour work week. Was this blogger a lucky sumbitch or what? Multiply this work week by 32 years and it's no wonder that this blogger — when he hit the Eject button in 2004 — looked like Wile E. Coyote in the "Roadrunner" cartoons after another disaster with something sold by the "Acme Corporation." Now, more than a half-decade later, the Great Recession is being felt in the Groves of Academe. If this is a (fair & balanced) tale of woe, so be it.

[x CHE]
Goodbye To Those Overpaid Professors In Their Cushy Jobs
By Ben Gose

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The notion that college professors lead easy lives isn't quite dead, but it may soon be history.

A decade or two ago, it wasn't hard to find state legislators, pushing for university budget cuts, who complained about the leisurely lives of academics. Try a Google search for such criticism today, and not much turns up.

There may still be full professors who teach three or four classes per year, head off to their cabins for the summer, and send their own children to college with a generous employer subsidy, all while enjoying job security denied to most other workers. But each year, fewer and fewer professors have it so good: An increasingly small percentage of those standing at the front of a college classroom are on the tenure track. For adjunct instructors, who now make up more than half of the professoriate, life is a scramble to piece together as much income as a bartender's. And the young academics who do win coveted tenure-track appointments are hardly coasting—they're working harder than ever before.

So instead of the bellowing legislator, what you find today is college teachers policing their own—to root out any suggestion that the life of the mind is a life of leisure.

John Hare became furious in early 2009 when he learned that a professor at the University of Florida had fought the administration after it asked her to teach three classes per year instead of two.

Mr. Hare's own daily existence is a crazy jumble of students and papers—and he loves it. As a professor of American studies and English on Montgomery College's campus in Germantown, Md., he teaches four sections of composition and one of American literature every semester, and is entering the third year of a six-year contract. But life at the community college beats his earlier career as a technical writer, he says, in which he had little control over his work and had to show up each day at 8:30 sharp every morning.

Now, "I have to spend 15 hours a week in a classroom talking about things that I really love with some pretty interesting people. Once in a while, I have to read their papers. The heavy lifting is picking up the papers to take them back to the classroom.

"For this, I get paid."

Mr. Hare learned that Florida's Florence E. Babb, a full professor who also served as graduate coordinator of the university's Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research, had sought an arbitration hearing rather than teach an extra course during a financial crunch. (Ms. Babb, who declined to comment, had pointed out at the time that she was initially told her load would double, to four courses, but that before the hearing the university agreed to count her duties as graduate coordinator as a course.) The university prevailed in the dispute.

Mr. Hare believes that such actions threaten to backfire against all college faculty members, including those with far less job security. "It contributes to a public perception that we all face at budget time—that we don't work very hard, that we have an objection to working hard," he says.

Last September some professors at the University of California decided that not working on days they were supposed to teach might actually help the university win more support from the Legislature. The professors called for a walkout of classes—to demonstrate how budget decisions were affecting students—even though the president's office had prohibited them from taking furloughs on teaching days.

James Hamilton, a tenured professor of economics on the San Diego campus, called out his fellow professors on his blog. "If some of my colleagues perceive that they now have better opportunities than teaching at the University of California, I'd encourage them to resign so that they can take advantage of those opportunities," he wrote. "If not, they need to stop whining and do their jobs. And perhaps even be thankful that, unlike many other Americans, they still have one."

The professoriate may be policing its own perceived slackers, and there may not be as much grumbling from legislators as there once was about professors out mowing their lawns on Friday mornings. But what about professors' pay—does it qualify as cushy?

For those people lucky enough to land full-time jobs at universities, the pay can be good, although, of course, it's all relative. For example, a mathematician at a college or university makes an average salary of $72,320 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (An annual survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources provides a more detailed breakdown: A full professor in mathematics and statistics at a four-year institution makes $84,324; an associate professor, $66,012; an assistant professor, $55,765; a new assistant professor, $55,186; and an instructor, $42,782.) That compares with an average salary of $67,430 for an accountant or auditor, according to BLS figures, and $75,220 for a statistician.

The average annual salary for English instructors at a college or university, meanwhile, is $65,570, according to the bureau. That's about $10,000 per year more than high-school teachers make ($55,150), but high-school teachers probably started earning real wages at least six years earlier, and have a better shot at tenure.

And, of course, many adjunct instructors in college make far less than high-school teachers, and must supplement their income with other work. Steve Street, a lecturer in the writing program at Buffalo State College (who writes occasionally for The Chronicle's Adjunct Track column), makes just $15,000 per year teaching six classes. He also does some freelance writing (including for The Chronicle), and in each of the past two summers has filed for unemployment benefits.

"I've been working for this system for 15 years, and I'm not at all happy with where I am," he says.

Most professors fare less well than lawyers and doctors. Nancy Folbre, a tenured economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, finds the comparison apt, since all three careers require significant graduate or professional education and an apprenticeship period. She views the residency in medicine and the grueling years before making partner at big law firms as analogous to the bid for tenure.

Lawyers earn an average annual salary of $129,020, according to the labor bureau, and family doctors and general practitioners earn $168,550. The average wage for college and university professors whose disciplines are not listed separately (unlike the economists and English professors, above) is $77,080.

That said, few tenured professors are likely to want to trade places. "The main benefit is being around other smart people and getting to talk about ideas all day," says Ms. Folbre. "If you talk to most faculty members, that would trump everything."

And yet many highly satisfied full professors also say that any young scholar trying to follow in their footsteps is delusional.

Cary Nelson, a tenured professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and president of the American Association of University Professors, believes it is no longer ethical to recommend Ph.D. programs to promising undergraduates. "It's a ticket to exploitation and semi-starvation," he says.

Peter D.G. Brown, a professor of German at the State University of New York at New Paltz and one of the few tenured professors who has fought for better working conditions for adjuncts, says the odds against finding a tenure-track job simply make pursuing a Ph.D. a bad bet for most people: "I do everything I can to talk them out of it."

In fact, it's become such a long shot to snag one of those "cushy" jobs—relative to the years of study required even to be in the running—that some experts believe it is now economically rational only for children from affluent families to pursue academic careers.

"Is there a harm to that?" asks Marc Bousquet, an associate professor of English at Santa Clara University, who blogs for The Chronicle. "The answer is yes. You're no longer sorting for the most-talented faculty. You're sorting for people who can afford that wage discount."

As long as the national economy remains in the doldrums, even those with the most-secure academic jobs may have to work harder. Stephen Nelson, a tenured associate professor of educational leadership at Bridgewater State College, argues that budget-crunched institutions should touch the "third rail of campus politics" and make professors who are accustomed to teaching four or five courses per year take on another course. Doing so could eventually lead to a reduction of 15 to 20 percent in the size of the faculty, he points out, and save colleges a lot of money.

Increasing teaching loads is not exactly an idea that has caught fire (although Carleton College has delayed a planned reduction for tenured professors from six to five courses a year). But who knows what the future holds in a double-dip recession?

Not surprisingly, some professors want the suffering to land elsewhere. Last summer 23 department chairs at San Diego signed a letter urging the University of California system's president, Mark G. Yudof, to "drop the pretense that all campuses are equal" and consider closing those at Merced, Riverside, and Santa Cruz to save money.

That prompted an angry columnist at the The Modesto Bee, near Merced, to label the idea's proponents "fish-taco-eating egotists."

"These folks are willing to stab in the back thousands of students and would-be students, UC faculty and support staff, and cities just to keep their own inflated salaries for what amounts to a three-day workweek," wrote the columnist, Jeff Jardine.

The stereotype of the cushy life may be dying, but watch out for some last gasps along the way. Ω

[Ben Gose is a senior editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Grose is a graduate of Dartmouth College.]

Copyright © 2010 The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Michael Lind's Modest Proposal

In a recent post to this blog, we learned that Andrew Dana Hudson described his personal solution to the inability to find work as a recent college-graduate; Hudson went West, to India and Southeast Asia and found work. Now, Michael Lind envisions a future when U.S. workers — not their jobs — are sent overseas. Let today's Teabaggers be exported to Myanmar to wave their home-made signs at government troops lining the streets. Will David Koch, and his ilk, shed a tear at the resulting bloodbath? Besides, there is no shortage of paper hats and spatulas in the Third World. If this is a (fair & balanced) dystopic vision, so be it.

[x Salon]
Are The American People Obsolete?
By Michael Lind

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Have the American people outlived their usefulness to the rich minority in the United States? A number of trends suggest that the answer may be yes.

In every industrial democracy since the end of World War II, there has been a social contract between the few and the many. In return for receiving a disproportionate amount of the gains from economic growth in a capitalist economy, the rich paid a disproportionate percentage of the taxes needed for public goods and a safety net for the majority.

In North America and Europe, the economic elite agreed to this bargain because they needed ordinary people as consumers and soldiers. Without mass consumption, the factories in which the rich invested would grind to a halt. Without universal conscription in the world wars, and selective conscription during the Cold War, the U.S. and its allies might have failed to defeat totalitarian empires that would have created a world order hostile to a market economy.

Globalization has eliminated the first reason for the rich to continue supporting this bargain at the nation-state level, while the privatization of the military threatens the other rationale.

The offshoring of industrial production means that many American investors and corporate managers no longer need an American workforce in order to prosper. They can enjoy their stream of profits from factories in China while shutting down factories in the U.S. And if Chinese workers have the impertinence to demand higher wages, American corporations can find low-wage labor in other countries.

This marks a historic change in the relationship between capital and labor in the U.S. The robber barons of the late 19th century generally lived near the American working class and could be threatened by strikes and frightened by the prospect of revolution. But rioting Chinese workers are not going to burn down New York City or march on the Hamptons.

What about markets? Many U.S. multinationals that have transferred production to other countries continue to depend on an American mass market. But that, too, may be changing. American consumers are tapped out, and as long as they are paying down their debts from the bubble years, private household demand for goods and services will grow slowly at best in the United States. In the long run, the fastest-growing consumer markets, like the fastest-growing labor markets, may be found in China, India and other developing countries.

This, too, marks a dramatic change. As bad as they were, the robber barons depended on the continental U.S. market for their incomes. The financier J.P. Morgan was not so much an international banker as a kind of industrial capitalist, organizing American industrial corporations that depended on predominantly domestic markets. He didn't make most of his money from investing in other countries.

In contrast, many of the highest-paid individuals on Wall Street have grown rich through activities that have little or no connection with the American economy. They can flourish even if the U.S. declines, as long as they can tap into growth in other regions of the world.

Thanks to deindustrialization, which is caused both by productivity growth and by corporate offshoring, the overwhelming majority of Americans now work in the non-traded domestic service sector. The jobs that have the greatest growth in numbers are concentrated in sectors like medical care and childcare.

Even here, the rich have options other than hiring American citizens. Wealthy liberals and wealthy conservatives agree on one thing: the need for more unskilled immigration to the U.S. This is hardly surprising, as the rich are far more dependent on immigrant servants than middle-class and working-class Americans are.

The late Patricia Buckley, the socialite wife of the late William F. Buckley Jr., once told me, "One simply can't live in Manhattan without at least three servants — a cook and at least two maids." She had a British cook and Spanish-speaking maids. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently revealed the plutocratic perspective on immigration when he defended illegal immigration by asking, "Who takes care of the greens and the fairways in your golf course?"

The point is that, just as much of America's elite is willing to shut down every factory in the country if it is possible to open cheaper factories in countries like China, so much of the American ruling class would prefer not to hire their fellow Americans, even for jobs done on American soil, if less expensive and more deferential foreign nationals with fewer legal rights can be imported. Small wonder that proposals for "guest worker" programs are so popular in the U.S. establishment. Foreign "guest workers" laboring on American soil like H1Bs and H2Bs — those with non-immigrant visas allowing technical or non-agriculture seasonal workers to be employed in the U.S. — are latter-day coolies who do not have the right to vote.

If much of America's investor class no longer needs Americans either as workers or consumers, elite Americans might still depend on ordinary Americans to protect them, by serving in the military or police forces. Increasingly, however, America's professional army is being supplemented by contractors — that is, mercenaries. And the elite press periodically publishes proposals to sell citizenship to foreigners who serve as soldiers in an American Foreign Legion. It is probably only a matter of time before some earnest pundit proposes to replace American police officers with foreign guest-worker mercenaries as well.

Offshoring and immigration, then, are severing the link between the fate of most Americans and the fate of the American rich. A member of the elite can make money from factories in China that sell to consumers in India, while relying entirely or almost entirely on immigrant servants at one of several homes around the country. With a foreign workforce for the corporations policed by brutal autocracies and non-voting immigrant servants in the U.S., the only thing missing is a non-voting immigrant mercenary army, whose legions can be deployed in foreign wars without creating grieving parents, widows and children who vote in American elections.

If the American rich increasingly do not depend for their wealth on American workers and American consumers or for their safety on American soldiers or police officers, then it is hardly surprising that so many of them should be so hostile to paying taxes to support the infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority of the American people. The rich don't need the rest anymore.

To be sure, wealthy humanitarians might take pity on their economically obsolescent fellow citizens. But they no longer have any personal economic incentive to do so. Besides, philanthropists may be inclined to devote most of their charity to the desperate and destitute of other countries rather than to their fellow Americans.

If most Americans are no longer needed by the American rich, then perhaps the United States should consider a policy adopted by the aristocracies and oligarchies of many countries with surplus populations in the past: the promotion of emigration. The rich might consent to a one-time tax to bribe middle-class and working-class Americans into departing the U.S. for other lands, and bribing foreign countries to accept them, in order to be alleviated from a high tax burden in the long run.

Where would a few hundred million ex-Americans go? The answer is obvious: to the emerging markets where the work and investment are found. That will show all those American union members who complain that their jobs have been outsourced to China. Let them move to China themselves and compete, instead of complaining!

Needless to say, the Chinese and Indians might resist the idea of an influx of vast numbers of downwardly mobile North American workers. But like American capitalists, Chinese and Indian capitalists might learn that ethnic diversity impedes unionization, while the mass immigration of North Americans to East and South Asia would keep wages in those regions competitively low for another few decades at least.

Once emptied of superfluous citizens, the U.S. could become a kind of giant Aspen for the small population of the super-rich and their non-voting immigrant retainers. Many environmentalists might approve of the depopulation of North America, because sprawling suburbs would soon be reclaimed by the wilderness. And deficit hawks would be pleased as well. The middle-class masses dependent on Social Security and Medicare would have departed the country, leaving only the self-sufficient rich and foreign guest workers without any benefits, other than the charity of their employers.

Of course there are alternative options, which would not require the departure of most Americans from America for new lives on distant shores. One would be a new social contract, in which the American people, through representatives whom they actually control, would ordain that American corporations are chartered to create jobs in the U.S. for American workers, and if that does not interest their shareholders and managers then they can do without legal privileges granted by the sovereign people, like limited liability.

The American people also could put a stop to any thought of an American Foreign Legion and declare, through their representatives, that a nation of citizen-workers will be protected by citizen-soldiers, whether professionals or, in emergencies, conscripts. The American people, in other words, could insist that the United States will be a democratic republican nation-state, not a post-national rentier oligarchy.

But restoring democratic nationalism in the U.S. would inconvenience America's affluent minority. So instead of making trouble, maybe most Americans should just find a new continent to call home. Ω

[Michael Lind is Policy Director of New America's Economic Growth Program and the author of The American Way of Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy and the American Way of Life (2006). Lind holds a B.A. from the University of Texas-Austin, an M.A. from Yale University, and a J.D. from University of Texas-Austin.]

Copyright © 2010 Salon Media Group, Inc.

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Drudge's Bitch Is A Scum-Suckin' Pig!

Andrew Breitbart is a Matt Drudge acolyte (He self-describes as "Matt Drudge's bitch.") and both of them are this century's equivalent of Julius Streicher. Instead of Der Stürmer (1923-1945), we have the Drudge Report, (which includes,,, and, and Faux News. Julius Streicher danced at the end of the war-crimes rope after WWII. May the same fate come to Drudge, Breitbart, and the denizens of Faux News. If this is a (fair & balanced) daydream, so be it.

[x Salon]
"This Modern World — Report From Parallel Universe: Shocking Video Of Parallel First Lady!"
By Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

Click on image to enlarge. Ω

Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins

[Dan Perkins is an editorial cartoonist better known by the pen name "Tom Tomorrow". His weekly comic strip, "This Modern World," which comments on current events from a strong liberal perspective, appears regularly in approximately 150 papers across the U.S., as well as on Salon and Working for Change. The strip debuted in 1990 in SF Weekly.

Perkins, a long time resident of Brooklyn, New York, currently lives in Connecticut. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism in both 1998 and 2002.

When he is not working on projects related to his comic strip, Perkins writes a daily political weblog, also entitled "This Modern World," which he began in December 2001.]

Copyright © 2010 Salon Media Group, Inc.

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Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2010 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This Teabagger Is A Moneybagging Neo-Bircher!

Old Birchers never die, they just smell that way. Glenn Dreck counts his spirtual father as W. Cleon Skousen, one of the founders of the John Birch Society. Now, meet the money-man for the Tea Party movement: David Koch (rhymes with Coke) a son of Fred Koch, also a founding Bircher. Coincidence? Hmmmmmm. If this is a (fair & balanced) right-wing conspiracy, so be it.

[x NY Magazine]
The Billionaire's Party
By Andrew Goldman

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at

Billionaire philanthropist David Koch is in his Madison Avenue office showing me one of his more unusual possessions, a mechanical-looking doodad on the coffee table next to the couch. “This is a plastic version of my artificial knees,” he says. “If you spent as many years as I did begging girls for favors, you’d have bad knees, too.” The 70-year-old Koch actually wore out his knees playing basketball. Until recently, he held the record for most points scored in a single game at M.I.T.: 41. “I played basketball when you could be white and be good,” he says. Koch has a seemingly limitless storehouse of such Elks club–inflected jokes, which are often followed by his loud, wheezy honk of a laugh. Koch is six foot five, with unusually long arms to match. Although the shirt he’s wearing is custom-made and his tie is Hermès (a gift from his late friend Winston Churchill Jr.), he could readily be mistaken for a mid-level executive at a large company in his native Kansas.

With an estimated net worth of $17.5 billion, Koch is the second-richest man in New York City, behind Michael Bloomberg. Across the room on the floor of his office sits a scale model of El Sarmiento, the sprawling yellow Addison Mizner–designed mansion he owns in Palm Beach (the matching yellow “biography” of the house he commissioned rests nearby). Sitting on a shelf is a replica of a Paranthropus boisei skull presented to him by the Smithsonian in recognition of the $15 million he gave in 2009 to build the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History. “You ever been up to Boston?” he asks. He asks if I know about “the cancer building at M.I.T.” The building in question—the one right in front of the Koch Biology Building, and a few minutes’ walk from the David H. Koch School of Chemical Engineering Practice—is the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, funded with an anchor gift of $100 million from its eponymous donor in 2007 and set to open in December. “Isn’t that a marvelous Steuben?” he asks, beaming. He’s pointing at a glass brontosaurus, depicted with a little smile. “It has a sense of humor.” The sculpture was a gift from the American Museum of Natural History, presented to Koch after he donated $20 million to establish the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. Koch remembers taking a trip to the museum with his workaholic father. “I was gaga about dinosaurs as a kid,” he says. “When we were 14, Father took my twin, William, and I. We’d come to town from Kansas to look at boarding schools. I was blown away. It’s my favorite museum in the city. So when they asked if I wanted to contribute, I said, ‘God! Me? What a thrill!’ ” His sense of wonder could easily read as a put-on, but people who know him say his childlike quality is genuine. “He’s almost guileless,” says his friend Sherry Lansing, the former CEO of Paramount. “He’s constantly surprised when he gets attention.”

Koch and I first met in 2008, just weeks after he’d pledged $100 million to renovate Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater, the longtime home of the New York City Ballet and New York City Opera. Koch (his name is pronounced like the soft drink) was in a buoyant mood. The Times had run a glowing portrait of him; an act of the State Legislature had been undertaken to change the venue’s name to the David H. Koch Theater. That donation marked the capstone of a $500 million philanthropic spending spree Koch had been on since 2000, and he seemed to revel in the attention he was enjoying, especially from the leaders of the city’s great cultural institutions. “Sometimes I feel like a beautiful girl, saying, ‘God! Does every guy that goes out with me just want to sleep with me?’ ” he said. “ ‘Don’t they like me for my personality?’ ” He brayed with laughter.

But several months ago, when we reconnected, Koch’s outlook had darkened. Koch has seen his share of misfortune: He and his brother, William, lived through a protracted falling out; David survived a plane crash in which 34 people were killed; and he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992 and is still fighting the disease. But his bleak mood had other origins. Earlier this year, he found himself attacked for being the financial engine of the largely white, largely male, very angry crowds that were gathering in towns across the country—a few waving overtly racist or menacing anti-Obama signs—to protest the president’s proposed health-care bill and other issues. Koch denies being directly involved with the tea party—“I’ve never been to a tea-party event. No one representing the tea party has ever even approached me”—but he and his brother Charles were being accused of supporting the group through an affiliated conservative organization. Rachel Maddow had effectively called Koch the tea party’s puppet master. “The radical press is coming after me and Charles,” he said. “They’re using us as whipping boys.” Burnishing his reputation was no longer his concern; now, it seemed, he needed to save it.

Fred Koch, a native of North Texas and son of a Dutch immigrant, liked to say that he didn’t want his sons “to turn into country-club bums.” Fred graduated from M.I.T. in 1922 with a degree in chemical engineering and, like David, excelled in sports, in Fred’s case as a boxer. Fred moved to Wichita, where he became a partner in an engineering company called Winkler-Koch, made a fortune building oil refineries around the world, and bought a 160-acre horse farm outside of town, across the street from the Wichita Country Club.

Early on, Fred’s company was nearly destroyed by litigious competitors. He and his partners had developed a new method for thermal cracking, a process that helps convert oil into gasoline; major oil companies tried to block him in court for years. Koch developed a fierce independent streak, and advised his sons never to sue: “The lawyers get a third, the government gets a third, and you get your business destroyed,” he told them.

Between 1929 and 1931, Fred Koch built fifteen oil plants in the Soviet Union, where he bore witness to the lead-up to Stalin’s Great Purge. Thirty years later, Koch published a pamphlet called A Business Man Looks at Communism. His list of “potential methods of communist take-over in U.S.A. by internal subversion” begins: “Infiltration of high offices of government and political parties until the President of the U.S. is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us of course, when as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy he could control us. Even the Vice Presidency would do as it could be easily arranged for the President to commit suicide.” Koch became a founding member of the John Birch Society. “Father was paranoid about communism, let’s put it that way,” says David.

David and William Koch were born on May 3, 1940, the third and fourth sons of Fred Koch and the former Mary Robinson, the daughter of a prominent Kansas City physician. The twins and their brothers—Charles, five years older, and Frederick, seven years older—reported for duty to a retired Marine whom their father had hired as a groundskeeper. “Father always wanted me to have less money than my friends so I would appreciate it,” David says. “If I wanted to go to the movies, I’d have to ask him for the 25 cents.” One summer, David’s father put him to work digging ditches for a pipeline system in southwestern Oklahoma. “It was brutally hot and dry,” David says. “You couldn’t even get a spade in the ground.” By instilling a work ethic in him, “my father did me a big favor, although it didn’t seem like a big favor back then,” Charles has written. According to a 1997 Fortune article, Frederick had a nervous breakdown one summer working on one of his father’s ranches.

As boys, Charles and David got along well, but Frederick and William had a more difficult upbringing. William felt that their mother favored the other boys. William says he loved his parents, “but my father was never around, and my mother had other interests besides her kids—her friends, her social life, her golf.” David’s feelings toward his mother are warmer. “I love people, just like Mother did,” he says, pointing up to the painting of her that hangs in his office. “I’m just like her, this beautiful woman you see right here.” William also says his older brothers bred animosity between him and his twin, “trying to pit us against one another.”

It was assumed that the Koch boys would go to M.I.T., but Frederick rebelled and went to Harvard, then Yale to study law and later drama. He was disowned and partially disinherited by his father. He’s now something of a recluse who maintains little contact with the family. Frederick busies himself, William says, “buying castles,” like the Schloss Bluhnbach in Austria, the former hunting lodge of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

At M.I.T., William and David joined the same fraternity and played together on the basketball team. But William seemed to live in his brother’s shadow. “I sat on the bench behind David,” William says. “He’d say, ‘Bill, you and I’ll get along well, but compete with me, and I’ll always win.’ ” (David says it was his brother’s time on the bench for M.I.T. that drove William, an amateur sailor, to spend some $65 million on the 1992 America’s Cup, which he won.)

After college, Charles went to work for a Boston consulting firm. But his father wanted him in Wichita and threatened to sell the family business if he didn’t move home to work for him. “I hope your first deal’s a loser, otherwise you’ll think you’re a lot smarter than you are,” were Fred’s first words to Charles when he returned in 1961 to run Koch Engineering (Fred had left Winkler-Koch in 1940 to join a new company, and now ran several businesses of his own). After William finished college, he went on to get a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at M.I.T. David, meanwhile, earned a master’s in chemical engineering at M.I.T., worked for two Cambridge engineering firms, then moved to New York in 1967 to work for the Scientific Design Company. In New York, he developed a reputation as a playboy. Three dates in a day was not unusual for him. He was famous for his parties; Miss USA contestants often came to his New York penthouse. It was also in New York that he began indulging his lifelong love of ballet. “It has beautiful women, fantastic music, great athleticism, and great scenery,” David says. “What’s not to like?”

Fred Koch, a man who drank a tall glass of buttermilk with breakfast every morning, had long had heart problems. In November 1967, David received word that Fred had died. “Father was on a hunting trip bird-shooting in Utah,” he says. “He was in a blind with a gun loader next to him. He was having heart palpitations and wasn’t shooting that well. Finally a lone bird came over. He took the shot and hit it square. The duck falls from the air. He turns to the loader and says, ‘Boy, that was a magnificent shot,’ and then keels over dead.” Charles, who was only 32 but had already worked for his father for six years, was the clear choice to take over the family business.

In time, David and William joined what came to be known as Koch Industries, but with very different trajectories. William, while getting his doctorate, was reportedly entrusted with starting a venture-capital fund for the family. It lost $90,000, infuriating Charles. “Bill couldn’t get to work on time, couldn’t get himself out of bed,” Charles has said. When William officially went to work for the company in 1975, running a coal operation out of a Boston office, things got worse. In Charles’s eyes, William dithered in making decisions, and his ventures regularly lost money.

David had more success. He started at Koch Industries in 1970, working as a technical-services manager and founding the company’s New York office. By 1979, he was put in charge of his own division, Koch Engineering. Since then, that unit has morphed into Koch Chemical Technology Group, which the company says has grown 500 times under David’s stewardship. Under Charles, Koch Industries as a whole has grown into a company more than 2,000 times the size of the one Fred Koch built. It is now the second-largest private company in the U.S., employing some 70,000 people in 60 countries, with businesses that deal in cattle, paper, chemicals, and commodity trading.

After Fred Koch died, Charles found a letter in one of his father’s safe-deposit boxes. Fred had written it to his sons when he was 35, before the twins were even born. The fortune they would inherit, Koch wrote, “will be yours to do with what you will … If you choose to let this money destroy your initiative and independence, then it will be a curse to you … Be kind and generous to one another.” It hasn’t worked out that way.

Charles and David each own 42 percent of Koch Industries (the remaining 16 percent was once controlled by J. Howard Marshall, a onetime partner of Fred’s who is now best known for having married Anna Nicole Smith, at age 89). William and Frederick gave up their stakes in the family business more than 25 years ago.

As David told me about his decades of estrangement with his brother William, he began to cry. By 1980, the tension that had been brewing between Charles and William since childhood became strained to the point that William, Frederick, and a group of like-minded shareholders attempted to wrest control of Koch Industries from Charles. The attempted coup failed when one of the investors was wooed back by David at the last minute. Afterward, the board fired William. In 1983, William got together with Frederick and some stockholding cousins and agreed to sell their shares of Koch Industries for $1.1 billion. William walked away with $470 million.

It wasn’t long before William began to think he’d been shortchanged. He felt that Koch Industries was actually worth much more than he’d been led to believe and that Charles had hidden assets when valuing the company. In 1985, William and Frederick began filing what would become a long series of lawsuits against Koch Industries. William hired private investigators to sift through Charles’s and David’s trash. When Mary Koch was unable to persuade William to desist with the lawsuits, she disinherited him. William subpoenaed their mother in one of the cases only a few months after she’d suffered a stroke. “The whole thing broke Mother’s heart, as you can imagine,” says David. Charles refused to shake William’s hand at their mother’s funeral. On the witness stand, in Topeka during a 1998 trial, David broke down. “I didn’t want him to act this way,” he’d said, sobbing. “I wanted him to behave himself and do a good job.” David didn’t speak with his twin for more than twenty years.

In 2001, the Koch brothers finally brought their legal feuding to an end. On the day the settlement was finalized, David, Charles, William, and their lawyers shared a dinner. Although Charles remained angry, William asked David to be his best man when he married his third wife, Bridget. In April, William showed up at David’s Wizard of Oz–themed 70th-birthday party in Palm Beach. The morning after the party, Charles and his wife accepted an invitation from William to come to his home for breakfast. William says he now considers David “one of my best friends.”

In addition to his primary residence—a 9,000-square-foot duplex on the fourth and fifth floors of the famed 740 Park building, where his neighbors include his friend Stephen Schwarzman—David Koch owns a home in Aspen, another in Southampton, and El Sarmiento, in Palm Beach. In 1995, David paid $9.5 million for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Fifth Avenue apartment but moved out in 2005. “It was run-down. She had a lot of money, but she was tight financially. The only rooms that were in good shape were the ones she allowed her guests to visit—the dining room, living room, and library. The back rooms were in awful shape!” (Koch did an extensive restoration.) He has a chauffeur-driven Mercedes that shuttles him and his family around town, and a personal chef. Most years, Koch spends several weeks in the Mediterranean on the Leander, a 246-foot megayacht that costs up to $500,000 per week. Bill and Melinda Gates have rented the Leander. And “Prince Charles was on it with Camilla,” Koch says. “I know because he painted a beautiful watercolor of the Leander in the guest book. He’s very talented.”

In 1991, Koch met Julia Flesher, the attractive blonde daughter of an Arkansas junk dealer. He was 50, she was 27. Julia was working as an assistant for the designer Adolfo, on occasion actually dressing Nancy Reagan in her famous knit suits. The couple was introduced by another couple. Their first date was a flop. “I was a little too, how should I say it, forward with my humor,” Koch says. “Julia was smiling, but weakly.”

Three days later, on the afternoon of February 1, 1991, Koch, who had been on a business trip in Ohio, boarded USAir Flight 1493, from Columbus to Los Angeles. He and an older couple named the Weths were the only passengers in first class on the 737, which was carrying 89 people in all. It was an unremarkable flight until the plane landed at LAX. Five seconds after touchdown, the aircraft crashed into a small SkyWest commuter plane that an overworked air-traffic controller had mistakenly directed onto an active runway. The twelve people onboard the commuter flight were killed instantly in a ball of fire. The 737 veered off the runway and smashed into a utility building. “It was almost as if I was out of my own body looking back at myself as another person going through this extraordinary experience,” Koch wrote in a lengthy account he later sent to hundreds of his friends. “I thought to myself I had had a lot of interesting experiences in my life, and I am about to have another unusual one, that is, the experience of death.” Through a wall of smoke, Koch fumbled his way through the plane and found a service door through which he could see sunlight. He jimmied the latch with his fingers (“I felt like Superman!”), jumped to the tarmac, and ran for his life. Twenty-one people on the plane died of smoke inhalation, including the Weths, whose bodies were found still strapped into their seats. Koch arrived at the hospital with badly burned lungs and some minor cuts but was otherwise healthy. “This may sound odd, but I felt this experience was very spiritual,” he tells me. “That I was saved when all those others died. I felt that the good Lord spared my life for a purpose. And since then, I’ve been busy doing all the good works I can think of.”

Several months later, Julia approached Koch at a party. She had heard about the plane crash, and she told him how glad she was he hadn’t died. Shortly after that, the couple began dating. A year later, Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “I found mine too late to be curable,” he says. (All three of his brothers have subsequently been diagnosed with the disease and cured.) But radiation, surgery, and a decade of hormone therapy have kept his PSA under control. “I’ve been living with it for sixteen years,” he told me two years ago. “I look pretty healthy, don’t I? My doctor thinks the treatment I’ve been getting will work for many more years, but eventually it will fail. So I’ve been financing the development of other treatments that could kick in when the traditional treatments I’m getting stop working.” In 1996, Koch and Julia got married. They have three children, David Jr., 12; Mary Julia, 9; and John Mark, 4.

David and Julia go out no more than several times a week, mostly to fund-raisers or the ballet. Julia, who feels she was unfairly characterized in a 1998 New York Times Magazine story about her debut as co-chair of the Met’s annual Costume Institute Gala, tends to avoid the limelight. Unlike his own parents, who maintained a certain English distance, Koch likes to get down on the floor and wrestle with his kids. His carousing days are definitely behind him, he says. “My wife knows that I’m as devoted as a choirboy to her,” he says. “I would never, ever do anything to compromise my relationship with Julia.” The hormone treatment has been difficult on his marriage, he says. “You get breast enlargement, you know. And it takes away your sex drive. Of course, I can still admire beautiful, attractive women, but that kind of primordial sex drive is sort of missing, you know. Do I miss it? Oh, yeah, sure.” He’s silent for a few moments. “The power of the family overwhelms these other things. And people who have been married a long time say that their sex drive disappears, too.”

In some ways, David Koch’s political views resemble those of the wealthy crowd with whom he socializes in New York. He thought the Iraq War was folly, and supports stem-cell research and gay marriage. In other ways, David is very much his father’s son. Shortly after joining his father’s company, David’s brother Charles began immersing himself in the economic philosophy of the Austrian free-market economist Ludwig von Mises, considered a god in libertarian circles. In his 2007 management book, The Science of Success, Charles rails against what he calls “destructive compensation schemes” such as employee cost-of-living raises. Although David never adhered quite so tightly to the libertarian liturgy as his brother, he did embrace its central tenets—that taxes and government regulation are destructive forces and that government generally makes people’s lives worse. David earned the vice-presidential spot on the Libertarian ticket, then split with the group in 1984, when it promoted the idea of eliminating all taxes, and has been a Republican since.

David and Charles both actively support Republican causes. Charles founded the conservative think tank the Cato Institute. Charles also funds an academic center at George Mason University called the Mercatus Center, founded by a free-market economist named Richard Fink. A 2004 Wall Street Journal article reported that out of 23 government regulations on the Bush administration’s “hit list” that got killed or modified, fourteen had been suggested by Mercatus. In 1984, with the Kochs’ money, Fink started the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation. Its political affiliate, Citizens for a Sound Economy, fought hard to defeat regulations proposed to eliminate acid rain. CSE also helped organize rallies in 1993 to kill Bill Clinton’s proposed BTU tax on fossil fuels. In 2004, Koch started a group called the Americans for Prosperity Foundation devoted to personal and economic freedom. AFPF is now Koch’s primary political-advocacy group.

David Koch is deeply antagonistic to the Obama administration. He fought the health-care bill, and the financial-regulation measure that was passed last week (“Everyone I know in the financial world is terrified by the powers it gives the federal government”). He also opposes the president’s climate-change proposals. In his office, Koch showed me a photocopied flyer Greenpeace had produced with sketches of him and Charles below the words wanted for climate crimes and shook it in the air. Koch Industries’ emissions, Koch told me, are far less than legally required. “And yet they’re attacking us as environmental criminals,” he said. “Wanting to put me and Charles in jail.” Koch says he’s not sure if global warming is caused by human activities, and at any rate, he sees the heating up of the planet as good news. Lengthened growing seasons in the northern hemisphere, he says, will make up for any trauma caused by the slow migration of people away from disappearing coastlines. “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food,” he says.

Koch concedes that he sympathizes with the tea party. “It demonstrates a powerful visceral hostility in the body politic against the massive increase in government power, the massive efforts to socialize this country, which goes against the conservative grain of the average American,” he says. He insists he vigorously opposes the elements of the party “that go too far” and that he stands firmly against “violence” and other “bad things” perpetrated by tea-party members. “I’m not a racist. I’m very broad-minded,” he says.

Koch’s critics, however, say he’s being coy about his tea-party connections. “David Koch likes putting his name on all his things that aren’t evil,” says Lee Fang, a blogger for the liberal “He’ll put his name on his theater at Lincoln Center, but look at the Americans for Prosperity website and his name is virtually missing. All of his groups have used these same tea-party tactics before they actually had the tea-party brand.” Americans for Prosperity, AFPF’s political arm, has certainly not shied away from joining arms with the tea party. In April of last year, AFP took credit on its website for helping to organize Taxpayer Tea Party rallies in Sacramento, Austin, and Madison, and told visitors to “save the date” for National Tea Party Tax Day in Washington, which AFP would be hosting.

Koch’s detractors also like to point out the irony of the so-called grassroots tea-party movement’s being funded by a billionaire. Koch’s real motives, they say, are self-serving. In April, Fang posted a dossier on Koch that attributes to his groups a decades-long pattern of “Astroturfing”—funding movements designed to look grassroots, but which in fact represent corporate interests. Richard Fink insists that Koch’s political activity is about principles, not money. “I view David as a courageous American who has a set of beliefs that he’s willing to support consistently over time despite all the flak he gets,” Fink says. “Very few people would do that.”

On October 3 of last year, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virginia, Koch spoke from a podium at the Defending the American Dream Summit, a convention put on by Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The convention had brought out 2,000 attendees and an impressive roster of speakers from the right, from Senator Jim DeMint to Newt Gingrich to the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund. There was little doubt as to Koch’s importance to the group. “Right from the beginning,” said AFP president Tim Phillips, “it was David’s vision that launched our organization.” Then Koch took the microphone. “When we founded this organization five years ago,” he said, “we envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life, standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that have made our nation the most prosperous society in history.” Though the words tea party did not escape his lips, the image he invoked sounded quite familiar as he discussed the vision he shares with his brother Charles. “Thankfully,” he says, “the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.”

After Koch’s speech, Phillips stood next to him for a roll call, during which each of AFP’s 25 state chapters reported on their activities over the past year. To great applause, New Hampshire’s AFP representative announced that thanks to his chapter, when President Obama had traveled to Concord, he was forced to change his motorcade route “to avoid the angry mob.” Many others noted among their accomplishments the size of their state’s tea-party rallies. “We’re proud not only to be the home of peaches and pine trees,” Georgia’s AFP representative bellowed, “but also the largest Tax Day tea party in the nation on April 15.” There seemed to be little mystery in the room what AFP was up to. Of course, it’s impossible to say what David Koch was thinking at that moment. This much can be said for sure: All six feet five inches of him was standing up and clapping. Ω

[Andrew Goldman is a contributing editor at Elle and New York magazine, where he writes about entertainment, politics, and culture. Goldman also contributes reportage to The Daily Beast.]

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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2010 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves