Three years ago last week, a U.S. drone strike hit the small town of Datta Khel in Pakistan. Local business owners and leaders were in the midst of a two-day tribal council meeting, called to address a dispute regarding a chromite mine in the area. Local authorities had been notified about the meeting, which is a traditional forum employed to resolve community conflicts.
In the fall of last year I traveled to Pakistan. Reports of civilian drone casualties were beginning to permeate through American news outlets, prompting myself, and Brave New Foundation, to launch a full-length documentary investigation into the claims coming out of the tribal regions. In interview after interview I heard the stories of numerous victims and families who had relatives killed and maimed by drones.
During this time of rebirth and renewal, these religious leaders remind us that we must strongly consider how our government conducts itself on behalf of our nation at home and abroad.
Sean Dunagan went to Monterrey, Mexico, to crack down on drugs. As an intelligence analyst for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he wanted to bring down the cartels and other trafficking organizations. He brought his family with him because Monterrey seemed like a peaceful, vibrant place to live. But things changed.
Sean saw that the drug war he was fighting was actually fueling more and more violence, creating the same kind of nasty black market that existed under Prohibition.
The Koch brothers don’t just have a gazillion luxury homes and boats. They’ve been using their wealth to shut out the voices of the 99% — pledging to spend at least $100 million on the 2012 elections. The pro-corporate policies they favor are, of course, antithetical to the public interest. But the TV ads they’re airing so far in this election make it seem like they’re on the side of regular Americans. “Maybe your family is like most, struggling to make it by…The private sector is not doing fine,” says Americans for Prosperity, an organization the Kochs founded and fund.
If any doubt was left about the power of big money in our politics, the Wisconsin election destroyed it. Charles and David Koch goosed Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign with $10 million through their front group Americans for Prosperity, $1 million through the Republican Governors Association, and more from members of the “million-dollar donor club” of financial titans that meet regularly at Koch-hosted secret summits.
This week as I premiered my new film, Koch Brothers Exposed — the result of a year-long investigation on how two billionaires are using their wealth to corrupt democracy — Koch Industries has launched an attack on the film and me. The Kochs intimidate, they menace; they have a letter from their lawyer borderline threatening the media if it reports what’s in the film — and they always try to change the subject so their behavior can stay in the shadows: not only are they unwilling to accept my offer of a debate or interview, they also refuse to testify about their interest in the Keystone XL pipeline and may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into revealing their secret contributions to groups doing election work.
This time, the Kochs are using a technique I point out in the film: attacking to avoid dealing with the facts. They are dodging and distorting the truth to avoid confronting our findings on cancer, voting rights, civil rights, and more.
How? Let me count (some of) the ways.
The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, generally sides with the Right, but it has long shown an independent streak, sometimes bucking conservative orthodoxy on civil liberties, the war on drugs, and U.S. militarism. Will that change if Charles and David Koch succeed in their efforts to take over Cato?
Sarah Palin’s movie opens with shots of celebrities like Matt Damon and Bill Maher wryly observing the oft repeated missive that she’s basically unqualified for county dog catcher.
Documents and interviews unearthed in recent months by Brave New Foundation researchers illustrate a $28.4 million Koch business that has manufactured 297 commentaries, 200 reports, 56 studies and six books distorting Social Security’s effectiveness and purpose.
Together, the publications reveal a vast cottage industry comprised of Koch brothers’ spokespeople, front groups, think tanks, academics and elected officials, which have built a self-sustaining echo chamber to transform fringe ideas into popular mainstream public policy arguments.