-Jayne Mayer Why live in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs—that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom—are sincerely held. But these beliefs also advance their personal and corporate interests: Many of their companies have run afoul of federal pollution, worker safety, securities, and tax laws. The chief figures in the network are Charles and David Koch, whose father made his fortune in part by building oil refineries in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. The patriarch later was a founding member of the John Birch Society, whose politics were so radical it believed Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. The brothers were schooled in a political philosophy that asserted the only role of government is to provide security and to enforce property rights. When libertarian ideas proved decidedly unpopular with voters, the Koch brothers and their allies chose another path. If they pooled their vast resources, they could fund an interlocking array of organisations that could work in tandem to influence and ultimately control academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and, they hoped, the presidency. Richard Mellon Scaife, the mercurial heir to […]
-Doug Green, publisher, The Mirror Daniel Ellsberg has died; he was 92 years old. He suffered from pancreatic cancer. A graduate of Harvard, he volunteered to go to Vietnam as a marine, a decision that made him determined to do everything he could to stop the war. His notoriety came from him helping to write – and then releasing in 1971 – The Pentagon Papers, a monolithic 7,000-word, top secret document, which detailed two decades of lies about the war in Vietnam. The papers were released to the New York times and ultimately led to the impeachment of Richard Nixon. The “Plumbers”, set up in the basement at Watergate, was done so to discredit Ellsberg – their primary goal. The White House established this plan to destroy him; however, through their illegal activities and practices Ellsberg was found not guilty of treason. At one stage he was facing prison time of 115 years. In 2003 he wrote a book called Secrets, about his foreign policy career and the FBI undertook a nationwide search for him to no avail. At the same time, he continued to distribute copies of The Pentagon Papers. Funnily enough, Secrets came out in the same year that the false war on Iraq was declared. A documentary about Daniel Ellsberg’s life, ‘The Most Dangerous Man in America’ was released in 2010, nominated for an Academy Award. It is hard to find these days to watch. To the end he was supporting those against nuclear weapons and of Taiwan. He was a long-time friend of Noam Chomsky. He lived by his convictions…the type of person we need more of in the world today.
by Anthony Seldon & Raymond Newell The UK had Magaret Thatcher and Teresa May who held the ship steady for a few years. Tony Blair, an American ‘poodle’, David Cameron ex-PR, and more lately, Lis Trusk, here and gone in five minutes and of course, Boris Johnson, almost as unhinged as that bloke in the USA who was president before this current one. Across Australasia Paul Keating was one of the better leaders, and in Singapore Lee Kuan Yew. But back to Boris… After his dramatic rise to power in the summer of 2019 amid the Brexit deadlock, Boris Johnson presided over the most turbulent period of British history in living memory. Beginning with the controversial prorogation of Parliament in August and the historic landslide election victory later that year, Johnson was barely through the door of No. 10 when Britain was engulfed by a series of crises that will define its place in the world for decades to come. From the agonising upheaval of Brexit and the devastating Covid-19 pandemic to the nerve-shredding crisis in Afghanistan and the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Johnson’s government ultimately unravelled after just three years. This gripping behind-the-scenes work of contemporary history maps Johnson’s time in power from start to finish and sheds new light on the most divisive Prime Minister to have led the United Kingdom since Thatcher. Based on more than 200 interviews with key aides, allies and insiders, Johnson at 10 gives the first full account of Johnson’s premiership, the shockwaves of which are still felt today. There was utter chaos inside 10 Downing Street where Johnson took huge risks with the truth and malleable principles. His ineptness performing the basic functions are here for all to see. -Doug Green, Publisher, The Mirror www.themirrorinspires.com
From the chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, a magnificent reckoning with how and why the marriage between democracy and capitalism is coming undone, and what can be done to reverse this terrifying dynamic. Martin Wolf has long been one of the wisest voices on global economic issues. He has rarely been called an optimist, yet he has never been as worried as he is today. Liberal democracy is in recession, and authoritarianism is on the rise. The ties that ought to bind open markets to free and fair elections are threatened, even in democracy’s heartlands, the United States and England. Around the world, powerful voices argue that capitalism is better without democracy; others argue that democracy is better without capitalism. This book is a forceful rejoinder to both views. Even as it offers a deep, lucid assessment of why this marriage has grown so strained, it makes clear why a divorce of capitalism from democracy would be a calamity for the world. They need each other even if they find it hard to life together. For all its flaws, argues Wolf, democratic capitalism remains far and away the best system for human flourishing. But something has gone seriously awry: the growth of prosperity has slowed, and the division of its fruits between the hypersuccessful few and the rest has become more unequal. The plutocrats have retreated to their bastions, where they pour scorn on government’s ability to invest in the public goods needed to foster opportunity and sustainability. But the incoming flood of autocracy will rise to overwhelm them, too, in the end. Citizenship is not just a slogan or a romantic idea; it’s the only idea that can save us, Wolf argues. Nothing has ever harmonised political and economic freedom better than a shared faith in the […]
Trump’s unprecedented call for protests is the latest sign of his aim to degrade America’s institutions
-Shelley Inglis, Executive Director, University of Dayton Human Rights Center, University of Dayton In a social media post on March 18, 2023, former President Donald Trump announced that he would be arrested on March 21 on charges stemming from an investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Bragg’s office is probing hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, which were allegedly made to spare candidate Trump embarrassment on the eve of the 2016 presidential election. Scholar Shelley Inglis spent more than 15 years with the United Nations, where she advised governments and democracy advocates on how to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and democratic governance. We asked her about Trump’s post. What did you think about when you heard his call for protests? Let me begin by quickly describing populism, because it’s important to my thoughts about Trump’s post. Populist movements portray “the people in a moral battle against elites,” as scholars Jane Mansbridge and Stephen Macedo describe it. Some level of populism is inherent in democracies where candidates appeal to be elected by “the people.” But what I call autocratic populists use this narrative to claim they are the sole voice of “the people” and those against them are “bad” or even “evil.” They undermine any and all opposition to them and attempts to hold them accountable, including independent institutions like courts, elections and the media. This is how such populists become so dangerous for democracy and the rule of law. Members of the media set up cameras in front of the courthouse on March 20, 2023, in New York, ahead of former President Donald Trump’s anticipated indictment. AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez Trump has that autocrat’s populism, in which he says that not only is he anti-elite but that he is “the only one” who can represent the people and […]
– Jill Lepore A brilliant, revelatory account of the Cold War origins of the data-mad, algorithmic twenty-first century, from the author of the acclaimed international bestseller, These Truths. The Simulmatics Corporation, founded in 1959, mined data, targeted voters, accelerated news, manipulated consumers, destabilised politics, and disordered knowledge–decades before Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Cambridge Analytica. Silicon Valley likes to imagine it has no past but the scientists of Simulmatics are the long-dead grandfathers of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Borrowing from psychological warfare, they used computers to predict and direct human behaviour, deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Cambridge, and Saigon for clients that included John Kennedy’s presidential campaign, the New York Times, Young & Rubicam, and, during the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense. Jill Lepore, distinguished Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, unearthed from the archives the almost unbelievable story of this long-vanished corporation, and of the women hidden behind it. In the 1950s and 1960s, Lepore argues, Simulmatics invented the future by building the machine in which the world now finds itself trapped and tormented, algorithm by algorithm. “A person can’t help but feel inspired by the riveting intelligence and joyful curiosity of Jill Lepore. Knowing that there is a mind like hers in the world is a hope-inducing thing.” –George Saunders “Everything Lepore writes is distinguished by intelligence, eloquence, and fresh insight. If Then is that, and even more: It’s absolutely fascinating, excavating a piece of little-known American corporate history that reveals a huge amount about the way we live today and the companies that define the modern era.” –Susan Orlean “Data science, Jill Lepore reminds us in this brilliant book, has a past, and she tells it through the engrossing story of Simulmatics, the tiny, long-forgotten company that helped invent our data-obsessed world, in which prediction is seemingly […]
There are, it seems to me, two kinds of people in the world: those who have woken in despair a great many times since 2016 and those who think the UK is on the right track. There are those, even now, even after letting the bodies pile up, even after the parties and the public money given to donors, even after the pornography in the Commons and the Electoral Commission being deprived of its independent status and – you know – all the rest of it, who would still vote for the Conservatives tomorrow. I can’t imagine for one second that reading Simon Kuper’s book, Chums (How a tiny caste of Oxford Tories took over the UK), would change any of their minds. This book, Kuper tells us, “is not an attempt to relitigate the Brexit referendum” nor is it “a twee Oxford tale of witticisms exchanged by long-dead dons”; rather it is “an attempt to write a group portrait of a set of Tory Brexiteers” because “it won”: “It ended up making Brexit and remodelling the UK. To understand power in today’s Britain requires travelling back in time to the streets of Oxford, somewhere between 1983 and 1993.” Kuper, you’ll come to understand, was at Oxford at more or less the same time as Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Cameron, Dominic Cummings (and their cheerleaders Toby Young, Nick Robinson etc). While there is a little of Kuper here (his own fleeting experience of Oxford shimmers like a heat haze around the story he is telling), what we are doing is following a small group of men as they transfer all of the advantage of Eton to Oxford, walking around like they own the place, doing what they please because no one has ever told them otherwise and getting away with it, time and […]
A landmark, radically uplifting account of our species’ progress from one of the world’s pre-eminent thinkers – with breakthrough insights into the power of diversity and our capacity to tackle climate change. In a captivating journey from the dawn of human existence to the present, world-renowned economist and thinker Oded Galor offers an intriguing solution to two of humanity’s great mysteries. Why are humans the only species to have escaped – only very recently – the subsistence trap, allowing us to enjoy a standard of living that vastly exceeds all others? And why have we progressed so unequally around the world, resulting in the great disparities between nations that exist today? Immense in scope and packed with astounding connections, Galor’s gripping narrative explains how technology, population size, and adaptation led to a stunning “phase change” in the human story a mere two hundred years ago. But by tracing that same journey back in time and peeling away the layers of influence – colonialism, political institutions, societal structure, culture – he arrives also at an explanation of inequality’s ultimate causes: those ancestral populations that enjoyed fruitful geographical characteristics and rich diversity were set on the path to prosperity, while those that lacked it were disadvantaged in ways still echoed today. As we face ecological crisis across the globe, The Journey of Humanity is a book of urgent truths and enduring relevance, with lessons that are both hopeful and profound: gender equality, investment in education, and balancing diversity with social cohesion are the keys not only to our species’ thriving, but to its survival.
-Gal Beckerman From intimate conversations grow world-shaking movements, argues this probing intellectual history. New York Times Book Review editor Gal Beckerman (When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone) surveys small circles that incubated subversive thinking, including 17th-century French polymath Nicolas Peiresc’s scientific letter-writing network; Britain’s 1839 Chartist campaign for universal suffrage, which galvanised working-class politics; Soviet dissident Natalya Gorbanevskaya’s samizdat journal, the Chronicle, which landed her in a psychiatric hospital; and the 1990s feminist punk scene sparked by the zine Riot Grrrl. He also investigates the internet’s role in modern-day movements: the Facebook page that publicised Egypt’s Tahrir Square demonstration; the Discord chat rooms where alt-right activists organised the 2017 Unite-the-Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.; and the Red Dawn email group of health experts who brainstormed Covid-19 interventions. Drawing on communications theory, Beckerman analyses these intellectual channels for their ability to foster accessible but private conversations that shape innovative ideas, though he’s skeptical of social media as an organising tool because it’s too public, volatile, emotional, and virtual to nurture serious thinking and politics. Beckerman unearths fascinating lore about these ideological hothouses, from the Futurists’ love triangles in early 20th-century Italy to the alt-right’s public-messaging strategies. The result is a timely and stimulating take on how the fringe infiltrates the mainstream.
By Brian Klaas “Does power corrupt, or are corrupt people drawn to power?” So asks Klaas, a professor of global politics at University College London, at the outset of this absorbing survey. The answer is yes. The author delivers a provocative argument to support that claim, whether discussing the case of an African strongman who cannibalized his political enemies or the martinet president of a homeowners association. Two memorable examples come early: One is a “psychopathic pharmacist” who organised the survivors of a 1629 shipwreck on an Australian island to commit more than 100 murders at his whim. The second is a similar marooning, four centuries later, in which a group of young Tongan men lived for more than a year in a flatly organised shared-power-and-responsibility system. That all survived may have been a fluke given that we tend to create hierarchies in which “upstarts who would’ve previously faced ostracism, humiliation, or death now had a real prospect of becoming genuinely powerful.” Because power thrives on conflict, the rate of violence increases; because people fear violence, powerful people who offer security thrive. Hierarchy itself isn’t bad, writes Klaas; it’s just that it attracts corrupt people who flourish in competition. Today, “much of the world is dominated by systems that attract and promote corruptible people.” Some make no effort to disguise their corruption (Putin, Trump, etc.); others are more sophisticated. Is it nature or nurture? “We don’t know,” writes Klaas. The implications are far-reaching. For example, since police work attracts former soldiers who enjoy exercising power, real police reform will involve not hiring such people. To keep people from abusing power, those with power within a hierarchy must be rotated and kept an eye on, given that “watched people are nice people.