Mark Ames: Ezra Klein’s Shine Job on the Kochs

Excerpted from Mark Ames’s longer article at The Exiled.

Ezra’s shine-job, headlined “How powerful are the Koch brothers?” does its Beigeist best to muddle the reader’s head into believing that, yeah, the Kochs are kinda bad ‘n stuff, but hey, it’s just how things are:

as far as I can tell, the Koch brothers are rich ideologues/industrialists who are in competition with other rich ideologues, trade organizations, interest groups, constituents, activists, electoral incentives and so on to set the agenda of the Republican Party. Sometimes they are part of the coalition that succeeds, as in the case of energy policy. Sometimes they are part of the coalition that fails, as in the case of foreign policy.

Yeah, they win some, they lose some. Except in the Kochs’ case, even when they supposedly “lose” in foreign policy, they actually win–military contracts that is, for wars they really, really hate, as Yasha Levine points out here.

So all in all, yeah, Ezra Klein looks at this and decides, “It’s just like ACORN, nothing to worry about folks, keep moving along”:

In general, the Koch brothers are in a similar category: Influential political players court them for their money, work with them when it suits their purposes and ignore them otherwise. That makes them a lot more powerful than you or me, and certainly worthy of attention. But it doesn’t make them into a grand unified theory of conservative politics, and people should be skeptical when they’re presented as such.

Really, the problem isn’t so much Ezra–after all, he’s a former roommate of Megan [McArdle]’s and a longtime friend of hers, Weigel’s, and every other corrupt libertard scavenger in DC–the problem is that the Washington Post must have known what they were doing when they zeroed in on this gullible, star-fucking pipsqueak to represent the so-called liberal consensus. The Fred Hiatts and Charles Lanes chose Ezra Klein for the same reason Roger Ailes chose Alan Colmes to sit next to Hannity.

But I’m in a charitable mood today, now that America’s beloved celebrity medium, television, has finally come around to acknowledging that, well, how do I put this? I guess: “WE WERE RIGHT AND YOU WERE FUCKING WRONG” would be a start.


Anyway, Ezra, here’s a little advice: go back to school. Then go out and get a job. A real job: “Obama Administration waterboy” doesn’t count as a job. Meantime, here’ s a quick study guide that might help you understand why the Kochs really are very, very different:

  • From the time they founded the Tea Party in 2009 to today, their wealth shot up from 28 billion to 44 billion, nearly 60 percent;
  • They led the campaign against health care;
  • The Kochs spend more fighting climate change than anyone or any company in the world;
  • The Kochs bankrolled Scott Walker;
  • The Kochs wrote Bush’s environmental policies;
  • Cato wrote the Republican Congress’s 1995 legislative agenda, acting as the think-tank for Tom DeLay and Dick Armey.
  • The Kochs control up to 35,000 miles of pipelines in the US and Canada, enough to circle the globe 1-1/2 times.

Should I go on?

No need. That’s a nice list. And it looks like owning a few Congress critters and a “grass roots” movement can have a fantastic ROI! Also, too, Young Ezra was Megan McArdle’s room-mate? What’s up with that?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. ReaderOfTeaLeaves

    Charles and David Koch are worth more than my state spends on higher Ed and K-12 in a decade.
    Ezra needs to stop being such a gullible toady.
    The stakes are too high.

    1. Jack E Lohman

      Look folks, we have ONE problem… a corrupt political system … and yes, the Koch’s are a major part of the problem. But the politicians — who take cash bribes and give away taxpayer assets — are the main problem. Forget about Obama-Romney or whoever, 100% turnover in congress is the only thing that will save our economy.

      1. Carla

        A 100% turnover in Congress wouldn’t change the system. It would just corrupt another 535 Americans. But it’s impossible anyway, because the system will not permit a 100% turnover in Congress or anything close.

        We need fundamental, systemic change in our monetary system, in our Constitution, and at every level of government. That will not happen without a dedicated, consistent, and patient effort to educate the American electorate.

  2. S. D. Jeffries

    I wonder if someone told Ezra that his (very lucrative and prestigious) job depended on his being a “gullible toady” to the Koch Bros.

    1. PunchnRun

      “I wonder /when/ someone told Ezra that his (very lucrative and prestigious) job depended on his being a “gullible toady” to the Koch Bros.”

      There, fixed that for ya.

  3. Patrick

    The Koch brothers are the epitome of the 1% of the 1% that have far more influence than all the rest of us. Two brothers who have more influence than 300 million other Americans combined. We may have the votes, we are a democratic republic after all, but they have the influence. Sure they don’t win on every issue, but they win far more than their two votes should guarantee then in a fully functioning democracy. Speech isn’t free, it costs; and the Koch’s can outspend the rest of us.

  4. Jim Sterling

    If only they did spend their money fighting climate change, instead of fighting fighting climate change.

  5. Fraud Guy

    Perhaps if Ezra wrote his defense like this:

    “If it wasn’t this pair of billionaires funding efforts to destroy the environment, our chance at a decent health care system, our political system, and the future prospects of America as a prosperous, egalitarian nation, it would be some other rich bastards doing it.”

  6. PaulArt

    Brilliant! What a cannon shot to greet the New Year with. Thanks for that Mark Ames! That link dealing with Ezra-McArdle room mate did not work – came up with the 404 error.

    1. Yves Smith

      Sorry ‘obut that, but I have read of their former roomie status quite a few place, it is not a state secret;.

  7. Dirk77

    I am continually surprised by the respect given to “pundits”. Klein is some young hipster hired by the Post to draw in the similarly aged audience. His views, like all pundits, is just deep enough to seem thoughtful, but that’s because he does it full time while the rest of us have real jobs. However, he either doesn’t have the ability or time to think too deeply, so his views default to the establishment because that’s who he hangs around in DC. I sure miss journalists.

  8. Tom Crowl

    Money in politics is a problem… too much is needed and scaling issues distort balance of influence.

    This article provides just one of many examples.

    But the basic that underlies that… the fundamental issue is: How do you better balance the forces that influence decision makers?

    And that’s the question whether its government, corporate management or a group of hunter-gatherers.

    Some are suggesting banning political contribution altogether!

    An attractive idea… but basic drives are not circumvented by such laws. Look to Prohibition and the Drug Wars; similarly here, regulation is needed but bans are not only a sure failure but will produce undesirable side effects.

    Banning it will only push corruption farther underground and leave you no way to respond.

    I’m convinced there’s a healthier political landscape that CAN be built.

    One (but not the only) element of that needed landscape is the facilitation of your more frequent and meaningful participation in the legislative lobbying process.

    The Pooled-User-Determined Account Network* addresses BOTH problems.

    *There’s a little more to it but think of it like a sort of online cash card enabling certain specialized transactions (and others) especially in politics and other speech-related areas.

    Avoid simplistic solutions… try thinking! Money is a store of ‘decision rights’ in its very roots. You won’t change that by pretending you can avoid that fundamental.

    Liberate the networked political micro-contribution. Its really about YOU joining the political landscape. Frankly, proper scaling of influence demands it.

    Could a one-click, secure ‘micro’ contribution make a difference? (25 cents a couple of times a week times 150 million voters equals over $7 Billion per 2/year election cycle… and BTW, other characteristics of this suggested (and needed) neutral network drastically reduce costs while expanding localization potential.

    Frankly this concept needs to be a part of the meta-political discussion.

  9. alex

    Mark Ames: “the Washington Post must have known what they were doing when they zeroed in on this gullible, star-fucking pipsqueak to represent the so-called liberal consensus”

    Come on, tell us how you really feel.

    In all fairness, Ezra was much better back when he was at the Washington Monthly. At WaPo he’s sold his soul to the devil and become a pathetic example of a “reasonable liberal”.

    And I’m anything but a fire-breathing liberal. I might almost be an Eisenhower Republican. But Ezra, like many “reasonable liberals”, promotes and praises anything and everything palatable to TPTB that’s slightly to the left of whatever the media decides is the center. His ilk wouldn’t recognize the corruption of our politics if they were beat over the head with it.

  10. Dan Duncan

    Today’s distortion comes courtesy of Mark Ames. It’s the “First Person Paparazzi Crotch Syndrome.

    The person afflicted with this syndrome combines the Anthony Weiner proclivity for sexting out “private” pictures of his shlong with the desperate, attention sucking “crotch shot” phenomenon, where a non-talent– like a Britney Spears– resorts to alerting the the paparazzi of her pending arrival so that the photog can get that all-important “beaver-shot” as the skeezy failed starlet exits the limo and self-consciously spreads her legs wide enough apart for the public penetration of “vaginal-tabloid-journalism”.

    The reason that First Person Paparazzi Crotch Syndrome applies to this impressive Mark Ames piece is the Ames’ reference to Ezra Klein’s roomie relationship with Megan McCardle.

    Upon reading the Mark Ames’ piece, the first impression of an unsuspecting reader is why Mark Ames would so blatantly reference what would appear to be an otherwise irrelevant cost-sharing arrangement between two journalists.

    Until it dawns on the unsuspecting reader that Mark Ames like to fuck 15 year old girls.

    And the light begins to shine…

    See, Mark Ames knows that when he references the personal life of his public opponents, his own personal life–as a public figure– will be fair game as well.

    Mark Ames also knows that a cursory search into “The Collected Works of Mark Ames” brings up his first person account of his “pervometer” and the hilarity of banging a “homely” 15 year-old with a three month old baby.

    And Mark Ames knows that his dim-witted opponents will simply engage in an ad-hominem, irrelevant attack on the pride that Mark Ames takes in “slamming” that 15 year-old girl.

    But Mark Ames doesn’t care.

    And why doesn’t Mark Ames care?

    Because Mark Ames is one Fucking Radical Provocateur, that’s why. This guy’s on the edge, dude. This guy is so fearless, he’ll fuck 15 year old girls…and he’ll brag about it. Mark Ames is the Chuck Fucking Norris of Statutory Rape.

    Now, I’m not bringing this up to judge Mark Ames.

    Yves obviously knows of the Legend of Mark Ames. She’s down with it.

    This is just boys being boys, right? This is raw, gonzo journalism.

    Mark Ames simply takes the ex-pat, “man’s-man” macho exploits of Hemmingway, combines it with the hard-drugs of of Hunter Thompson…and brings to life his own version of “Fear and Loathing in Moscow”.

    It’s not contrived at all. Right?…

    No…Judging Mark Ames isn’t my goal here.

    Rather, my goal is to discuss First Person Paparazzi Crotch Syndrome, wherein a desperate non-talent goes Paparazzi on himself and dangles his 15-year-old vagina seeking c*ck right in your face…and it’s OK…because, see, he calls the Koch Brothers “Koch Suckers” and you like that.

    So, it’s all good.

    [If my language offends, please accept my apologies. I’m just trying to keep it all fitting with the edgy parlance of Mark Ames. I’m just trying to keep it real, yo.

    And I’m not self-conscious about it, either. I just happen to be really fucking edgy. So deal with it.]

    1. JTFaraday

      …actually, for once that was a pretty good imitation. You’ve outdone yourself on this one, just in time for 2012.

      1. Frank Speaking

        actually it was Ames imitating the uncensored public Tea Bagger screed dumped into our nation’s body politic over the past three years.

        Dan was just a Tea Bagger being a Tea Bagger.

    2. Oof

      Thank you for writing this. I think people like Mark Ames do a great disservice. We need to have a more healthy, calm, reasonable discourse, and this is no place for someone like Mark Ames. Also, just because Mark Ames wrote satire that was praised in Vanity Fair, and just because his satire included stories about “f*cking” a 15-year-old which Dan writes about, that doesn’t make it any less disgusting. (Nor does the fact that this satire was written 15 years ago make a difference.) People like Mark Ames should not be allowed to hide behind satire, it’s not funny or shocking, just disgusting. And it proves that he is not someone who should be taken seriously or allowed on this site.
      I’m sorry, it’s just that I had to deal with Ames and his partner Matt Taibbi when they were writing from Russia. I really don’t care that they were “right” about exposing corruption there. What is wrong is how they wrote it. If we can’t learn to express ourselves with clear, mature moderation, what does it matter if they are “right” or “wrong” when they are plain DISGUSTING!!!

      1. F. Beard

        If we can’t learn to express ourselves with clear, mature moderation, what does it matter if they are “right” or “wrong” when they are plain DISGUSTING!!! Oof

        Here, hear!

        1. Frank Speaking

          “Here, here!”

          where? where?

          the in-house resident fascist rises to support a fellow brown shirt.

          1. F. Beard

            First, you misquoted me. “Cut and Paste” too difficult for you?

            Second, the definition of fascism is a government/private sector partnership which is precisely what banking currently is.

      2. Frank Speaking

        more tired Tea Bagger talking points…

        “We need to have a more healthy, calm, reasonable discourse…” pllleeeeassseeee!

        after the three years of Koch Industry’s wholly owned subsidiary Tea Bag Party’s toxic and noxious pollution of the United States’ political discourse your plea for reasonable discourse is laughable.

        if it weren’t for ad hominem attack Tea Baggers would have to—you know— STFU!

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, “civility” generally is code for STFU. And all the pundits and talking heads and frontmen and shills who run interference for the 1% and helped get us into this mess are always very, very polite to each other. And there’s just no reason to show them deference, and one way avoid that is coarse language. (For example, here’s a post from 2007, back when the parties seemed to me in some way opposed to each other).

          On the other, the coarsening of the discourse also coarsens thought. This style of “transgressive” writing is very, very easy to do. So, one runs the riff, gets the post out, perhaps at the cost of missing deeper insights. (Of course, productivity is important for a professional writer, and even the blogger.)

          Also, this style of writing feeds anger, both in one’s self and in one’s readers (another example). I’m not saying anger isn’t justified — fighting injustice often begins with a sense of anger — but it’s not an end in itself. Nor is the transgressive.

          Basically, I think I became a better writer and a better analyst when I put down those particular weapons and tried to keep a cooler heart. YMMV!

          1. Frank Speaking

            anger can be debilitating particularly when it is exhibited for its own sake as a tactic. anger intimidates, silences and causes many to withdraw from engagement.

            righteous anger, anger engendered by a real and demonstrable ‘wrong’ or injustice perpetrated against an individual or group can be empowering.

            the manufactured anger of the Tea Bag Party was deployed as a tactic and Tea Baggers who put the human face to the manufactured anger were recycling grievances harbored in their limbic system from decades ago—the spitting episode on the steps of the Capitol comes to mind.

            for those who are fans of basketball or hockey you know well that it is the player that retaliates who is often penalized for an infraction of the rules while the instigator goes unseen by the referee.

            you can’t deny that the tactics deployed by Koch Industry’s Tea Bag Party subsidiary against President Obama made what Richard Mellon Scaife did to President Clinton look like a love letter.

            That the technique of character assassination as a political tactic has been deployed by oligarchs—and it would seem to be accepted by the GOP as a legitimate chapter in their playbook— should cause all concern for the future.

            What has transpired over the past three years has no equal in our political history and it began before the sitting President had ever taken the oath of office.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            @Frank writes; you can’t deny that the tactics deployed by Koch Industry’s Tea Bag Party subsidiary against President Obama made what Richard Mellon Scaife did to President Clinton look like a love letter.

            Obama got impeached? Did I not get the memo?

          3. Frank Speaking

            but Lambert the impeachment had nothing to do with the sludge and lies promulgated by Scaife. certainly you got THAT memo.

            Clinton’s impeachment was Clinton’s own doing…the impeachment was about Clinton’s interlude with his intern.

            but then it depends on what is is, doesn’t it?

      3. alex

        Oof: If we can’t learn to express ourselves with clear, mature moderation, what does it matter if they are “right” or “wrong” …

        You must be a big fan of the MSM, who also think “right” or “wrong” is of little importance. I’m no fan of the writing style of Ames or Taibbi, but I’ll take right over polite any day.

    3. Frank Speaking

      nice piece of misdirection…

      one can only assume that you know Koch Industries is a first class exemplar of the corrupting force corporations represent in our nation and knowing this you have no argument to make on the point of the post so instead resort to character assassination.

      how utterly and perfectly Tea Bagger of you.

      odd that you make a point of Ames’s time in Moscow as the Brothers Koch’s father also had a Moscow interlude—sitting at the right hand of Joseph himself.

      such is the power of fascism—it works from the left as well as the right and always is a bridge between the two poles.

    4. GIT

      This reads exactly like Andrew Breitbart’s attack on Mark Ames last year. Let’s see, Andrew Breitbart hates Ames, the Kochs hate Ames, Megan McArdle hates Ames. Who else?

      1. JTFaraday

        There is no law that says everyone has to like everything about Ames–although his fanboyz do seem eager to force one on the rest of us.

        1. ReaderOfTeaLeaves

          What I find eyebrow raising is that by sabotaging action on climate change, the Kochs harm every 15 year pld on the planet. But evidently, Dan views that as a minor topic; less important than his chance to launch an ad homonym against Ames.
          Go figure.

  11. Jim

    I’m sorry, but all this effort to highlight the Kochs political influence rings hollow when the left is bought nd paid for by George Soros and a few others. All this righteous indignation is laughable considering the left does the same thing…

    1. alex

      “the left is bought nd paid for by George Soros”

      Pray tell, what causes of personal benefit to George do we on the left shill for?

      1. Jim

        None at all Alex…none at all. Soros just pours millions of his personal $$ as well as his companies $$ to benefit all of mankind.

    2. Frank Speaking

      more tired talking points from the ubiquitous Kochistas.

      the difference between the Brothers Koch and the Soros family is that the former hides, conceals and camouflages their breathtakingly expansive political/media network while the latter openly and proudly makes known its political reach.

      do a little key board work of your own and see—for instance—where Wendy Gramm (yes, that Wendy Gramm) has landed to spend her golden years.

  12. Patrick

    Nice post. Klein’s weak reasoning and excuses for the Obama administration are his ticket to being acceptable for the establishment. He is the new generation’s David Brooks, or Tom Friedman. These hacks/pundits have made an incredible amount of money lying and misleading the American public. Matt Yglesias is the same pathetic creature. His predictions of a booming economy in 2012, which Yves highlighted yesterday, are laughable.

    1. Hugh

      You said it before me. I owe you a drink. The Ezra Kleins will be the next generation of the media, that is they are allowed into the media, precisely because of their willingness to sell out the 99%. They never came with good intentions but were seduced by the Dark Side. They came with their eyes open and price tags on their backs.

  13. Hugh

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it
    –Upton Sinclair

    Klein is an Upton Sinclair man. Its a category that takes in most of the media. He got just enough of a smattering of blog experience to sell himself to the TradMed as the next generation of David Brooks, a Villager but with a laptop and Wifi. And yes, of course, he is a shill. The Post would never have hired him if he was anything else.

    Kleptocracy needs propaganda organs like the Post as weapons of class warfare, to distract us, to shape the conversation, to make sure the 99% never crystalize into real resistance to the looters.

  14. Fred

    The Koch Brothers are a small piece of the big problem.

    The huge problem is that the voters of the USA can’t think very well to begin with, given their state-implemented educations and the media represent only the Establishment’s views. The Establishment is people like the Koch Brothers, who only stand out because they don’t pretend to believe in Progressive causes.

    The Establishment 1% Oligarchy has to have some like them so as to make the ‘fight against the enemy’ believable :

    Read Glen Greenwald to understand how deep the Progressive’s ideology binds them to bad ends :

      1. rotter

        Greenwald is not affiliated with Cato. If he ever was, it was during his time as a civil rights litigator. I dont know if they ever have, but Cato may have published something he wrote, narrowly pertaining to civil rights. There is nothng especially wrong with Catos generic record on civil rights. Where they, and all libertarians run into a brick wall of hypocricy is where they believe that a handful of white billionaires have a civil right to enslave the rest of us.

    1. rotter

      Can you explain in a paragraph or so what you mean by “the progressives ideology” ? Please, because none of your comment makes any sense at all unless you do.

  15. mac

    I ask this, is it possible that every ill in the universe is the fault of a plot by some person or person?

  16. Hugh

    Re the Greenwald piece, it is a fairly mushy analysis where he confounds progressives with Establishment and veal penned liberals. That’s a distinction that often gets papered over but it has been there ever since I came to the blogosphere 7 or 8 years ago. It came out with a vengeance during the healthcare debate. Liberals attacked progressives for their refusal to dump Medicare for All for an illusory public option. For many of us on the progressive left, it fundamentally changed the way we view liberals.

    The other thing to keep in mind about Glenn Greenwald is that he believes that common cause can be made between groups on the right and left on select issues. Well, that might be true but it is not enough to create a real alliance between them. A case in point being the history of liberals and progressives on the web to which I just alluded.

    In response to mac, you erect a strawman with your use of “every problem”. But we do live in a kleptocracy. Kleptocracy is a system of elite looting, and so yes, we can blame those elites for the looting they do, facilitate, and cover for.

    1. Frank Speaking

      “Glenn Greenwald … believes that common cause can be made between groups on the right and left on select issues.”

      you mean like Jane Hamsher’s tactical tryst with Grover Norquest?

      somethings are unforgivable

    2. JTFaraday

      I think the real thing to keep in mind about Greenwald is that while most people on the liberal-cum-neconservative to progressive spectrum are volubly loving up concentrated federal power on a daily basis for primarily ideological reasons–including the lofty moral goal of keeping the war on libertards simmering– he’s watching what’s being done with that concentrated federal power around the world on a daily basis.

      I imagine it would be very difficult to maintain mindless ideological fealty to the whole ideal of concentrated federal power under those circumstances.

  17. Walter

    This article was total crap, barely above middle school yard insults (Megan McCardle’s roommate? seriously?). Last straw, more or less, as I’m taking NC off my reader list.

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