TBR News November 13,2011

Nov 13 2011

December 25, 272 AD

            First official public celebration of Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, a pagan Roman holiday that was later co-opted by Christians to celebrate the birth of their favorite Jew. Turning the holiday into “Christmas” (in 336 AD) was part of a pattern of the church stealing various pagan festivals and feast days

The Voice of the White House

          Washington D.C., November 11, 2011:

            ”Helga is the proprietor of a bar.
            She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.
            To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.
            Helga keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers’ loans).
            Word gets around about Helga’s “drink now, pay later” marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Helga’s bar.
            Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in town.
            By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Helga gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.
             Consequently, Helga’s gross sales volume increases massively.

             A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Helga’s borrowing limit.
            He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral!!!
            At the bank’s corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS.
            These “securities” then are bundled and traded on international securities markets.
            Naive investors don’t really understand that the securities being sold to them as “AA” “Secured Bonds” really are debts of unemployed alcoholics.
            Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb!!!, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation’s leading brokerage houses.
            One day, even though the bond prices still are climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Helga’s bar.

            He so informs Helga.
            Helga then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts.
            Since Helga cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and Helga’s 11 employees lose their jobs.
             Overnight, DRINKBOND prices drop by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value
destroys the bank’s liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

             The suppliers of Helga’s bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms’ pension funds in the BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.
            Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers. Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the government.
            The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who’ve never been in Helga’s bar.
            Now do you understand?”


What do we want from Wall Street?
by Spengler

Asia Times

             Recently a distinguished jurist asked me, “How is it possible that the financial industry – the smartest guys out there – did so many stupid things?” In fact, the financial industry is full of people who know perfectly well that they are mediocre, but who nonetheless want to make a great deal of money. So they cheat.
            A few months after the energy trading giant Enron filed for bankruptcy in December 2001, I went up to the partners’ dining room at the New York headquarters of Credit Suisse. Enron, which Fortune had named “America’s most innovative company” for six years in a row, turned out to be one of the biggest scams in American history, and several of its senior managers went to prison.
            The bank used to offer an excellent free lunch to its managing directors to promote collegiality across divisions. Next to me were a group of investment bankers, and I eavesdropped on their gossip while I ate alone.
            “Who was the team captain for the Enron relationship last year?,” one of them asked. Wasn’t it [censored], who arranged the share trust financing?”
            “I thought it was [censored], who set up the off-balance sheet financing through the holding company subsidiaries,” said another.
            “No, it had to be [censored], who did all the derivatives trades with offshore entities,” offered a third.
            “What you’re telling me,” said the fourth (and most senior) of the group, “is that there wasn’t any team captain for Enron. Everybody was doing their deals without telling anyone else, because they were afraid someone else would take away their business.”
            In a nutshell, all the department heads doing business with Enron deliberately occulted their actions from their colleagues and from the management of Credit Suisse, in order to maximize their personal gain at the risk of the bank’s reputation and its customers’ money.
            That sort of cupidity and backstabbing helps explain why Enron was able to defraud the public on such a grand scale. It wasn’t just Credit Suisse, which was a minor player in the grand deception. Enron’s creditors sued 11 other banks for abetting Enron’s fraud about its true financial condition; the banks ultimately paid $20 billion in damages.
            Only one of the Enron transactions slithered past my desk on the fixed income trading floor, where I ran the bank’s Credit Strategy group: a so-called “share trust” financing. Enron would borrow money by issuing bonds, and if it didn’t have the money to pay the bondholders, it would issue common stock and give it to them.
            It might seem obvious that the stock of a company that can’t pay its debt can’t be worth very much; this kind of arrangement used to be known as a death-spiral convertible bond. But the capital market types pitched it with a straight face. We ignored it.
            In some ways, the 2008 financial collapse was Enron writ large. The ratings agencies – Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch – agreed that it was inconceivable that more than a third of a pool of subprime mortgages could default. If the banks got one group of investors to accept the first 35% of losses on the pool, the ratings agencies would label the rest of the pool default-proof, and give it a triple-A rating.
            The banks then went to the Federal Reserve and asked permission to increase leverage on what the ratings agencies called ultra-safe securities. Normally banks can hold about $12 of loans or securities for every $1 of their own money, but the Fed allowed them to own $70 of the phony subprime triple-A’s for every $1 of shareholders’ capital. Some of those bonds are now trading at 33 cents on the dollar.
            That’s one reason the banks had massive losses, but not the only one. Banks (and insurance companies) were writing huge amounts of guarantees on phony triple-A-rated debt, generating up-front fee income in return for turning the banks’ balance sheet into a toxic waste dump.
            By the time that Lehman Brothers went under in September 2008, there is no way that its chairman, Dick Fuld, could have calculated the volume of losses for which his bank was on the hook. Every derivatives and structuring desk was taking in all the fees and back-loading all the risk it could, telling the risk managers as little as possible.
            What do we want from Wall Street now?
            Under the new regime banks have radically reduced proprietary trading, that is, speculating for their own account. The entire business of packaging mortgages or loans into trusts and structuring derivative securities – so-called collateralized debt obligations – has vanished. The banks have radically reduced risk on their books. The exotic securities are extinct, except for a shrinking volume of older issues locked away in bank or hedge-fund portfolios, and even the plain-vanilla securities are at half their previous volume.
            Banks, meanwhile, are not making any money. They can’t make money. They can’t find earning assets to put on their books. Their share prices languish not too far above the flat-line levels of late 2008. They can’t raise capital. And they have no one to lend to. Federal Reserve policy is ineffective because no matter what the central bank does, the banks won’t take on risk.
            We don’t want the banks to bulk up on risk again and threaten the financial system. But we want them to take on risk to promote economic growth. Bank management has no idea what to do, except to hold on to their jobs while the legislature and the regulators decide what they want. The price of bank shares, meanwhile, gyrates wildly, because investors have no way to gauge the risks that might lurk on bank balance sheets.
            Central banks have proposed any number of solutions, few of which seem convincing. On October 24, Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England suggested that the problem lay in the incentives offered to bank managers, who would always choose to maximize leverage.
            He proposed financing banks with instruments that penalize excessive risk, such as contingent convertible securities (instruments that pay a coupon like debt until bank capital falls below the safety point, at which point they convert into common stock). That sounds like the old death-spiral convertible bonds.
            The root of the problem, I believe, lies in the measurement of risk. The incentive to cheat always will be there as long as bankers can represent a sow’s ear as a silk purse. Both managers as well as the public need to measure risk, such that they understand the way that investments or innovations add to or reduce risk.
            Some popular finance writers insist that risks are inherently impossible to measure, because conventional risk models based on the normal distribution of returns don’t assign enough weight to the likelihood of extreme outcomes. In fact, the point of risk models is to estimate the likelihood of an extreme outcome, and the banks have reasonably good models of borrower defaults which do just that.
            The ratings agencies became the arbiters of risk not because they had good models (they did not) or because they employed particularly skilled analysts, but because they were eminently corruptible. In October 2008, congressional investigators found e-mails from Moody’s credit analysts warning management that they had “sold our soul to the devil for revenue”.
            For every Collateralized Debt Obligations, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s received a fee in the low six figures, and these fees made up the bulk of their revenues. They acted as a adjunct to the investment banks’ structuring teams, advising them on the best way to game their own models.
            Why hasn’t the government prosecuted the rating agencies for fraud? Incredibly, the ratings agencies take the position that their ratings are “opinions” with the same legal status as a newspaper editorial. Newspaper editorialists, though, don’t take money from big advertisers for endorsing their products. But whether or not the ratings agencies are held accountable for past malfeasance, they have become a liability. They need to be replaced. But by whom, and what?
            There is a way to do it, in a way that investors will come to trust within a reasonable time frame. Make risk modeling a transparent business with universal access to data and models. The regulators should require large financial institutions to provide their internal data on defaults and delinquencies to the public.
            Many of the large banks have enormous amounts of data describing the characteristics of defaulting borrowers and the circumstances under which they defaulted. The Federal Reserve should collate this data into a single set, and make it available for download on its website.
            The large banks also should be required to publish their internal risk models. To require a private company to divulge proprietary information is a burden, but in light of the 2008 catastrophe, the public has a right to know how the banks are measuring their own risk.
            Once the data and models are available, independent analysts (including the rating agencies) will have an independent capacity to measure the riskiness of bank portfolios. Public scrutiny and third-party analysis will compel bank senior management to improve risk measurement in order not to appear less transparent than the competition.
            None of this is particularly difficult. It is a matter of sorting data and crunching numbers and comparing results. It will take the investing public a bit of time to learn what actually occurs in bank portfolios. But this approach could produce robust measures of risk, and allow banks to take on the kind of risk that promotes economic growth, while giving the market the means to punish banks that take on excessive risk. 

The mathematical law that shows why wealth flows to the 1%

No one who is interested in an equitable society can fail to be irked by unfairness in wealth distribution – but it is not unexpected November 11, 2011by Alok Jhaguardian.co.uk,

One of the main issues raised by the Occupy demonstrators is the inequitable distribution of wealth. Their slogan focuses on the extreme difference between the richest and the poorest:We are the 99%,” say the banners and T-shirts, pointing out that 1% of the world’s population has somehow clawed its way to disproportionate money and power. Time to do something about this unnatural distribution, no?

            The economist Edward N Wolff, of New York University, has pointed out that, as of 2007, the top 1% of households in America owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% had 50.5% of the wealth. This means that just 20% of the people owned 85% of the wealth, leaving only 15% for the bottom 80% of the people. No one who is interested in an equitable society can fail to be irked by this unfairness.

            But the unfairness is, unfortunately, not unexpected. What the protesters are fighting (consciously or unconsciously) is the 80/20 rule – variously called Pareto’s principle, Zipf’s law, the long tail or Benford’s law, depending on what you are studying – a staple in scientific, economic and business textbooks, the go-to idea to show how the frequency of a set of natural events is not always what you might recognise as, well, natural.

            The maths underlying the 80/20 rule, known as the power law distribution, is found in many natural systems over which no single human has much influence. Its concentration of the extremes seems built into the fabric of complex systems that depend on numerous factors that continually change over time.

            The simplest version says that 80% of your company sales will come from 20% of your customers; that 80% of the world’s internet traffic will go to 20% of the websites; 80% of the film industry’s money gets made by 20% of its movies; 80% of the usage of the English language involves just 20% of its words. You get the picture.

            A distribution based on a power law says extreme events (or richest people, or biggest websites) account for most of the impact in that particular world, and everything falls off quickly afterwards. The combined wealth of the top 10 richest people in the world is orders of magnitude greater than the next 10, which is orders of magnitude greater than the next 10, and so on. The rest of the field sits in a long, almost-irrelevant tail.

            This distribution might sound odd. At school, we’re introduced to a different distribution, the more familiar “normal” (or Gaussian), which is best displayed in the bell-curve spread of values around an average. Measure the heights of a random selection of men, say, and most will be around the average value, with progressively fewer as you go in either direction away from the middle. Plot this on a graph and you get the bell curve.

            Power law distributions, however, do not cluster around a single value. The impact of one big earthquake, for example, is bigger than the sum of millions of smaller, more common ones. Very few huge solar flares erupt from the surface of the sun, but those few are more significant than the endless thousands of smaller ones. The same applies to the numbers of big cities, the size of the Moon’s craters and the occurrence and citations of scientific papers.

            Once you know power law distributions exist, they become very useful. The concept of the “average” is useless, for example, when talking about things that follow power laws. The average height of the people in a room (following the normal distribution) might tell you a lot about the spread heights of people in that room, but the average wealth of a country’s citizens (which follows a power law distribution) tells you little or nothing about how rich or poor most people are. And listening to the maths also tells you that the Occupy protesters have got it right that focusing on the extremes (a tax on the wealthiest 1%, say) will bring disproportionate results for the number of people it will affect.


Ohio vote repeals union limit law

November 9, 2011

BBC News 

Ohio voters have struck down a law limiting unions’ collective bargaining powers, dealing a blow to Republicans in a crucial election swing state.

The measure, which had not yet taken effect, was rejected by a nearly two-to-one margin in Tuesday’s special referendum.

The law would have curbed bargaining rights for 350,000 public employees.

Labour unions said the result was a barometer of the national mood ahead of next year’s presidential vote.

Democrats hope it heralds the beginning of an industrial Midwest backlash against the Republicans who were swept into office in 2010’s midterm elections.

No Republican has won the White House without Ohio, and only two Democrats have done so in more than a century.

But in a warning to Democrats, voters in the state also approved a measure on Tuesday against President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

The approval of the ballot measure banning people from being required to buy health insurance was largely symbolic. Republicans could still win control of Virginia’s state senate by ousting an incumbent and splitting the legislative body 20-20. In that case the lieutenant governor, a Republican, would have the casting vote.

But that race is likely to go to a recount as only 224 votes separate the candidates.

Some of Tuesday’s other national election results are being interpreted as a check to conservatives’ momentum:

Voters in Mississippi rejected a measure that would have defined life as beginning at conception, banning virtually all abortions and some forms of birth control

Kentucky’s Democratic Governor Steve Beshear was resoundingly re-elected despite high unemployment, budget shortfalls and a wave of attack advertisements

In another boost for incumbent parties, Mississippi voters followed the script by overwhelmingly electing Republican Phil Bryant as governor.

In Maine, voters reinstated same-day voter registration, which state Republicans had repealed in a move they said would stop voter fraud, but which Democrats said was a ploy to suppress voter turnout

In New Jersey’s state legislature battle, Democrats held off Republicans who had hoped to capitalise on the popularity of Governor Chris Christie

In Arizona, Republican state Senator Russell Pearce, controversial sponsor of a hardline anti-illegal immigration law, lost a recall election to a moderate Republican who said the incumbent’s policies had damaged the state’s image

Ohio’s labour law would have included a ban on strikes, scrapped binding arbitration and dropped promotions based solely on seniority. It would have permitted workers to negotiate wages, but not pensions or healthcare benefits.

More than $30m (£18.6m) from both labour and business interests were poured into Ohio’s vote.

Governor John Kasich, who had toured the state to promote keeping the law, acknowledged defeat in a statehouse news conference.

“It’s clear that the people have spoken,” he said. “They might have said it was too much, too soon.”

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, one of the largest US unions, said the result had been sealed by Republican and Democratic voters.

“Ohio sent a message to every politician out there: go in and make war on your employees rather than make jobs with your employees, and you do so at your own peril,” he said.

Ohio’s labour law would have gone further than a similar one in the state of Wisconsin by including police officers and firefighters. In June, the supreme court in Wisconsin upheld that law.


Chinese ratings agency threatens US with new debt downgrade

 • Head of ratings agency issues warning in TV interview
• Fears of renewed budget deadlock in Washington
 November 11, 2011by Peter BeaumontThe Guardian/UK


            The head of China‘s biggest ratings agency, Dagong Global Credit Rating, is warning that it may downgrade the US’s sovereign debt rating again because of Washington’s failure to tackle the federal budget deficit.

            The remarks by Dagong’s chairman, Guan Jianzhong, to be broadcast in an interview with al-Jazeera on Saturday morning, come at the end of another week of deep turmoil for the world economy.

Dagong, which has maintained a pessimistic outlook on US fiscal policy, has been leading the charge to downgrade US debt over the last 12 months, lowering the US rating from AA to A+ a year ago.

In August it downgraded US debt again, to A. Days later, Standard & Poor’s followed in its wake, becoming the first western agency to downgrade US debt after the threat of a default was narrowly avoided following weeks of political squabbling in Washington over whether President Obama should be allowed to raise the US debt ceiling.

Guan’s intervention comes as another embarrassing political standoff over budget policy looms in Washington. The cross-party “supercommittee” given the job of finding ways to cut the budget deficit is reportedly deadlocked, with Republicans refusing to countenance the tax rises being suggested by Democrats. The committee is due to report by 23 November, but there are fears they could fail to reach agreement, prompting a new crisis.

Founded in 1994 by the Chinese government and the People’s Bank of China, Dagong is the only credit ratings agency in China that grades foreign sovereign debt and bonds.

In an interview with Talk to Al-Jazeera, Guan agrees that it is almost inevitable that his agency will cut America’s debt rating once again, arguing that the only solution open to the US economy is further quantitative easing.

“The measures available to them [the US] cannot be effective so they have another way out which is to depreciate the US dollar, to print more money,” he says. “And that will also make it a lot worse, this has affected their credit and it is negatively affecting their credit prospects – so that their overall ability to pay back their debt will continue to go down.

Asked directly if he believed another ratings cut was inevitable, Guan replies: “I think so.”

He goes on to say: “We are continuing to monitor this closely. First of all we need to look at this year’s economic growth and then predict next year’s trends. If in the year 2012 the overall projections are not very good, meaning that the sources of payment – and liabilities – are bad and cannot be changed, or change for the worse, then we will lower the rating once again.

Any further downgrading of the US credit rating, while making more US borrowing more expensive, would also be a matter of concern to Beijing.

China is the largest foreign buyer of US government debt – accounting for around third of all foreign-held US securities – despite the fact it has gradually reduced its holdings since the S&P downgrade and has also lost heavily on its large holdings of US currency.

Since the summer – and the debt-ceiling crisis – China has become ever more vocal about what it describes as the US “addiction” to debt, warning in August that more “devastating credit rating cuts” and global economic turmoil were around the corner unless Washington learned to live within its means.

The Xinhua news agency issued a commentary that cautioned: “The US government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone.”

Capitalism vs. the Climate

November 9, 2011  

by Naomi Klein

The Nation

There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row.
           He introduces himself as Richard Rothschild. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “an attack on middle-class American capitalism.” His question for the panelists, gathered in a Washington, DC, Marriott Hotel in late June, is this: “To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?”

Here at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, this qualifies as a rhetorical question. Like asking a meeting of German central bankers if Greeks are untrustworthy. Still, the panelists aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to tell the questioner just how right he is.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who specializes in harassing climate scientists with nuisance lawsuits and Freedom of Information fishing expeditions, angles the table mic over to his mouth. “You can believe this is about the climate,” he says darkly, “and many people do, but it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner, whose prematurely silver hair makes him look like a right-wing Anderson Cooper, likes to invoke Saul Alinsky: “The issue isn’t the issue.” The issue, apparently, is that “no free society would do to itself what this agenda requires…. The first step to that is to remove these nagging freedoms that keep getting in the way.”

Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. Over the course of this two-day conference, I will learn that Obama’s campaign promise to support locally owned biofuels refineries was really about “green communitarianism,” akin to the “Maoist” scheme to put “a pig iron furnace in everybody’s backyard” (the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels). That climate change is “a stalking horse for National Socialism” (former Republican senator and retired astronaut Harrison Schmitt). And that environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather (Marc Morano, editor of the denialists’ go-to website, ClimateDepot.com).

Most of all, however, I will hear versions of the opinion expressed by the county commissioner in the fourth row: that climate change is a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism. As conference speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book Climate of Corruption, climate change “has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.”

Yes, sure, there is a pretense that the delegates’ rejection of climate science is rooted in serious disagreement about the data. And the organizers go to some lengths to mimic credible scientific conferences, calling the gathering “Restoring the Scientific Method” and even adopting the organizational acronym ICCC, a mere one letter off from the world’s leading authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But the scientific theories presented here are old and long discredited. And no attempt is made to explain why each speaker seems to contradict the next. (Is there no warming, or is there warming but it’s not a problem? And if there is no warming, then what’s all this talk about sunspots causing temperatures to rise?)

In truth, several members of the mostly elderly audience seem to doze off while the temperature graphs are projected. They come to life only when the rock stars of the movement take the stage—not the C-team scientists but the A-team ideological warriors like Morano and Horner. This is the true purpose of the gathering: providing a forum for die-hard denialists to collect the rhetorical baseball bats with which they will club environmentalists and climate scientists in the weeks and months to come. The talking points first tested here will jam the comment sections beneath every article and YouTube video that contains the phrase “climate change” or “global warming.” They will also exit the mouths of hundreds of right-wing commentators and politicians—from Republican presidential candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann all the way down to county commissioners like Richard Rothschild. In an interview outside the sessions, Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, proudly takes credit for “thousands of articles and op-eds and speeches…that were informed by or motivated by somebody attending one of these conferences.”

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank devoted to “promoting free-market solutions,” has been holding these confabs since 2008, sometimes twice a year. And the strategy appears to be working. At the end of day one, Morano—whose claim to fame is having broken the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth story that sank John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign—leads the gathering through a series of victory laps. Cap and trade: dead! Obama at the Copenhagen summit: failure! The climate movement: suicidal! He even projects a couple of quotes from climate activists beating up on themselves (as progressives do so well) and exhorts the audience to “celebrate!”

There were no balloons or confetti descending from the rafters, but there may as well have been.

* * *

When public opinion on the big social and political issues changes, the trends tend to be relatively gradual. Abrupt shifts, when they come, are usually precipitated by dramatic events. Which is why pollsters are so surprised by what has happened to perceptions about climate change over a span of just four years. A 2007 Harris poll found that 71 percent of Americans believed that the continued burning of fossil fuels would cause the climate to change. By 2009 the figure had dropped to 51 percent. In June 2011 the number of Americans who agreed was down to 44 percent—well under half the population. According to Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, this is “among the largest shifts over a short period of time seen in recent public opinion history.”

Even more striking, this shift has occurred almost entirely at one end of the political spectrum. As recently as 2008 (the year Newt Gingrich did a climate change TV spot with Nancy Pelosi) the issue still had a veneer of bipartisan support in the United States. Those days are decidedly over. Today, 70–75 percent of self-identified Democrats and liberals believe humans are changing the climate—a level that has remained stable or risen slightly over the past decade. In sharp contrast, Republicans, particularly Tea Party members, have overwhelmingly chosen to reject the scientific consensus. In some regions, only about 20 percent of self-identified Republicans accept the science.

Equally significant has been a shift in emotional intensity. Climate change used to be something most everyone said they cared about—just not all that much. When Americans were asked to rank their political concerns in order of priority, climate change would reliably come in last.

But now there is a significant cohort of Republicans who care passionately, even obsessively, about climate change—though what they care about is exposing it as a “hoax” being perpetrated by liberals to force them to change their light bulbs, live in Soviet-style tenements and surrender their SUVs. For these right-wingers, opposition to climate change has become as central to their worldview as low taxes, gun ownership and opposition to abortion. Many climate scientists report receiving death threats, as do authors of articles on subjects as seemingly innocuous as energy conservation. (As one letter writer put it to Stan Cox, author of a book critical of air-conditioning, “You can pry my thermostat out of my cold dead hands.”)

This culture-war intensity is the worst news of all, because when you challenge a person’s position on an issue core to his or her identity, facts and arguments are seen as little more than further attacks, easily deflected. (The deniers have even found a way to dismiss a new study confirming the reality of global warming that was partially funded by the Koch brothers, and led by a scientist sympathetic to the “skeptic” position.)

The effects of this emotional intensity have been on full display in the race to lead the Republican Party. Days into his presidential campaign, with his home state literally burning up with wildfires, Texas Governor Rick Perry delighted the base by declaring that climate scientists were manipulating data “so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” Meanwhile, the only candidate to consistently defend climate science, Jon Huntsman, was dead on arrival. And part of what has rescued Mitt Romney’s campaign has been his flight from earlier statements supporting the scientific consensus on climate change.

But the effects of the right-wing climate conspiracies reach far beyond the Republican Party. The Democrats have mostly gone mute on the subject, not wanting to alienate independents. And the media and culture industries have followed suit. Five years ago, celebrities were showing up at the Academy Awards in hybrids, Vanity Fair launched an annual green issue and, in 2007, the three major US networks ran 147 stories on climate change. No longer. In 2010 the networks ran just thirty-two climate change stories; limos are back in style at the Academy Awards; and the “annual” Vanity Fair green issue hasn’t been seen since 2008.

This uneasy silence has persisted through the end of the hottest decade in recorded history and yet another summer of freak natural disasters and record-breaking heat worldwide. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry is rushing to make multibillion-dollar investments in new infrastructure to extract oil, natural gas and coal from some of the dirtiest and highest-risk sources on the continent (the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline being only the highest-profile example). In the Alberta tar sands, in the Beaufort Sea, in the gas fields of Pennsylvania and the coalfields of Wyoming and Montana, the industry is betting big that the climate movement is as good as dead.

If the carbon these projects are poised to suck out is released into the atmosphere, the chance of triggering catastrophic climate change will increase dramatically (mining the oil in the Alberta tar sands alone, says NASA’s James Hansen, would be “essentially game over” for the climate).

All of this means that the climate movement needs to have one hell of a comeback. For this to happen, the left is going to have to learn from the right. Denialists gained traction by making climate about economics: action will destroy capitalism, they have claimed, killing jobs and sending prices soaring. But at a time when a growing number of people agree with the protesters at Occupy Wall Street, many of whom argue that capitalism-as-usual is itself the cause of lost jobs and debt slavery, there is a unique opportunity to seize the economic terrain from the right. This would require making a persuasive case that the real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system—one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power. It would also require a shift away from the notion that climate action is just one issue on a laundry list of worthy causes vying for progressive attention. Just as climate denialism has become a core identity issue on the right, utterly entwined with defending current systems of power and wealth, the scientific reality of climate change must, for progressives, occupy a central place in a coherent narrative about the perils of unrestrained greed and the need for real alternatives.

Building such a transformative movement may not be as hard as it first appears. Indeed, if you ask the Heartlanders, climate change makes some kind of left-wing revolution virtually inevitable, which is precisely why they are so determined to deny its reality. Perhaps we should listen to their theories more closely—they might just understand something the left still doesn’t get.

* * *

The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong. Before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear: as 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists attest, the Heartlanders are completely wrong about the science. The heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels are already causing temperatures to increase. If we are not on a radically different energy path by the end of this decade, we are in for a world of pain.

But when it comes to the real-world consequences of those scientific findings, specifically the kind of deep changes required not just to our energy consumption but to the underlying logic of our economic system, the crowd gathered at the Marriott Hotel may be in considerably less denial than a lot of professional environmentalists, the ones who paint a picture of global warming Armageddon, then assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying “green” products and creating clever markets in pollution.

The fact that the earth’s atmosphere cannot safely absorb the amount of carbon we are pumping into it is a symptom of a much larger crisis, one born of the central fiction on which our economic model is based: that nature is limitless, that we will always be able to find more of what we need, and that if something runs out it can be seamlessly replaced by another resource that we can endlessly extract. But it is not just the atmosphere that we have exploited beyond its capacity to recover—we are doing the same to the oceans, to freshwater, to topsoil and to biodiversity. The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits, including the limits of human intelligence.

So in a way, Chris Horner was right when he told his fellow Heartlanders that climate change isn’t “the issue.” In fact, it isn’t an issue at all. Climate change is a message, one that is telling us that many of our culture’s most cherished ideas are no longer viable. These are profoundly challenging revelations for all of us raised on Enlightenment ideals of progress, unaccustomed to having our ambitions confined by natural boundaries. And this is true for the statist left as well as the neoliberal right.

While Heartlanders like to invoke the specter of communism to terrify Americans about climate action (Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a Heartland conference favorite, says that attempts to prevent global warming are akin to “the ambitions of communist central planners to control the entire society”), the reality is that Soviet-era state socialism was a disaster for the climate. It devoured resources with as much enthusiasm as capitalism, and spewed waste just as recklessly: before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Czechs and Russians had even higher carbon footprints per capita than their counterparts in Britain, Canada and Australia. And while some point to the dizzying expansion of China’s renewable energy programs to argue that only centrally controlled regimes can get the green job done, China’s command-and-control economy continues to be harnessed to wage an all-out war with nature, through massively disruptive mega-dams, superhighways and extraction-based energy projects, particularly coal.

It is true that responding to the climate threat requires strong government action at all levels. But real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.

Here is where the Heartlanders have good reason to be afraid: arriving at these new systems is going to require shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades. What follows is a quick-and-dirty look at what a serious climate agenda would mean in the following six arenas: public infrastructure, economic planning, corporate regulation, international trade, consumption and taxation. For hard-right ideologues like those gathered at the Heartland conference, the results are nothing short of intellectually cataclysmic.

1. Reviving and Reinventing the Public Sphere

After years of recycling, carbon offsetting and light bulb changing, it is obvious that individual action will never be an adequate response to the climate crisis. Climate change is a collective problem, and it demands collective action. One of the key areas in which this collective action must take place is big-ticket investments designed to reduce our emissions on a mass scale. That means subways, streetcars and light-rail systems that are not only everywhere but affordable to everyone; energy-efficient affordable housing along those transit lines; smart electrical grids carrying renewable energy; and a massive research effort to ensure that we are using the best methods possible.

The private sector is ill suited to providing most of these services because they require large up-front investments and, if they are to be genuinely accessible to all, some very well may not be profitable. They are, however, decidedly in the public interest, which is why they should come from the public sector.

Traditionally, battles to protect the public sphere are cast as conflicts between irresponsible leftists who want to spend without limit and practical realists who understand that we are living beyond our economic means. But the gravity of the climate crisis cries out for a radically new conception of realism, as well as a very different understanding of limits. Government budget deficits are not nearly as dangerous as the deficits we have created in vital and complex natural systems. Changing our culture to respect those limits will require all of our collective muscle—to get ourselves off fossil fuels and to shore up communal infrastructure for the coming storms.

2. Remembering How to Plan

In addition to reversing the thirty-year privatization trend, a serious response to the climate threat involves recovering an art that has been relentlessly vilified during these decades of market fundamentalism: planning. Lots and lots of planning. And not just at the national and international levels. Every community in the world needs a plan for how it is going to transition away from fossil fuels, what the Transition Town movement calls an “energy descent action plan.” In the cities and towns that have taken this responsibility seriously, the process has opened rare spaces for participatory democracy, with neighbors packing consultation meetings at city halls to share ideas about how to reorganize their communities to lower emissions and build in resilience for tough times ahead.

Climate change demands other forms of planning as well—particularly for workers whose jobs will become obsolete as we wean ourselves off fossil fuels. A few “green jobs” trainings aren’t enough. These workers need to know that real jobs will be waiting for them on the other side. That means bringing back the idea of planning our economies based on collective priorities rather than corporate profitability—giving laid-off employees of car plants and coal mines the tools and resources to create jobs, for example, with Cleveland’s worker-run green co-ops serving as a model.

Agriculture, too, will have to see a revival in planning if we are to address the triple crisis of soil erosion, extreme weather and dependence on fossil fuel inputs. Wes Jackson, the visionary founder of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has been calling for “a fifty-year farm bill.” That’s the length of time he and his collaborators Wendell Berry and Fred Kirschenmann estimate it will take to conduct the research and put the infrastructure in place to replace many soil-depleting annual grain crops, grown in monocultures, with perennial crops, grown in polycultures. Since perennials don’t need to be replanted every year, their long roots do a much better job of storing scarce water, holding soil in place and sequestering carbon. Polycultures are also less vulnerable to pests and to being wiped out by extreme weather. Another bonus: this type of farming is much more labor intensive than industrial agriculture, which means that farming can once again be a substantial source of employment.

Outside the Heartland conference and like-minded gatherings, the return of planning is nothing to fear. We are not talking about a return to authoritarian socialism, after all, but a turn toward real democracy. The thirty-odd-year experiment in deregulated, Wild West economics is failing the vast majority of people around the world. These systemic failures are precisely why so many are in open revolt against their elites, demanding living wages and an end to corruption. Climate change doesn’t conflict with demands for a new kind of economy. Rather, it adds to them an existential imperative.

3. Reining in Corporations

A key piece of the planning we must undertake involves the rapid re-regulation of the corporate sector. Much can be done with incentives: subsidies for renewable energy and responsible land stewardship, for instance. But we are also going to have to get back into the habit of barring outright dangerous and destructive behavior. That means getting in the way of corporations on multiple fronts, from imposing strict caps on the amount of carbon corporations can emit, to banning new coal-fired power plants, to cracking down on industrial feedlots, to shutting down dirty-energy extraction projects like the Alberta tar sands (starting with pipelines like Keystone XL that lock in expansion plans).

Only a very small sector of the population sees any restriction on corporate or consumer choice as leading down Hayek’s road to serfdom—and, not coincidentally, it is precisely this sector of the population that is at the forefront of climate change denial.

4. Relocalizing Production

If strictly regulating corporations to respond to climate change sounds somewhat radical it’s because, since the beginning of the 1980s, it has been an article of faith that the role of government is to get out of the way of the corporate sector—and nowhere more so than in the realm of international trade. The devastating impacts of free trade on manufacturing, local business and farming are well known. But perhaps the atmosphere has taken the hardest hit of all. The cargo ships, jumbo jets and heavy trucks that haul raw resources and finished products across the globe devour fossil fuels and spew greenhouse gases. And the cheap goods being produced—made to be replaced, almost never fixed—are consuming a huge range of other nonrenewable resources while producing far more waste than can be safely absorbed.

This model is so wasteful, in fact, that it cancels out the modest gains that have been made in reducing emissions many times over. For instance, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published a study of the emissions from industrialized countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol. It found that while they had stabilized, that was partly because international trade had allowed these countries to move their dirty production to places like China. The researchers concluded that the rise in emissions from goods produced in developing countries but consumed in industrialized ones was six times greater than the emissions savings of industrialized countries.

In an economy organized to respect natural limits, the use of energy-intensive long-haul transport would need to be rationed—reserved for those cases where goods cannot be produced locally or where local production is more carbon-intensive. (For example, growing food in greenhouses in cold parts of the United States is often more energy-intensive than growing it in the South and shipping it by light rail.)

Climate change does not demand an end to trade. But it does demand an end to the reckless form of “free trade” that governs every bilateral trade agreement as well as the World Trade Organization. This is more good news —for unemployed workers, for farmers unable to compete with cheap imports, for communities that have seen their manufacturers move offshore and their local businesses replaced with big boxes. But the challenge this poses to the capitalist project should not be underestimated: it represents the reversal of the thirty-year trend of removing every possible limit on corporate power.

5. Ending the Cult of Shopping

The past three decades of free trade, deregulation and privatization were not only the result of greedy people wanting greater corporate profits. They were also a response to the “stagflation” of the 1970s, which created intense pressure to find new avenues for rapid economic growth. The threat was real: within our current economic model, a drop in production is by definition a crisis—a recession or, if deep enough, a depression, with all the desperation and hardship that these words imply.

This growth imperative is why conventional economists reliably approach the climate crisis by asking the question, How can we reduce emissions while maintaining robust GDP growth? The usual answer is “decoupling”—the idea that renewable energy and greater efficiencies will allow us to sever economic growth from its environmental impact. And “green growth” advocates like Thomas Friedman tell us that the process of developing new green technologies and installing green infrastructure can provide a huge economic boost, sending GDP soaring and generating the wealth needed to “make America healthier, richer, more innovative, more productive, and more secure.”

But here is where things get complicated. There is a growing body of economic research on the conflict between economic growth and sound climate policy, led by ecological economist Herman Daly at the University of Maryland, as well as Peter Victor at York University, Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey and environmental law and policy expert Gus Speth. All raise serious questions about the feasibility of industrialized countries meeting the deep emissions cuts demanded by science (at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050) while continuing to grow their economies at even today’s sluggish rates. As Victor and Jackson argue, greater efficiencies simply cannot keep up with the pace of growth, in part because greater efficiency is almost always accompanied by more consumption, reducing or even canceling out the gains (often called the “Jevons Paradox”). And so long as the savings resulting from greater energy and material efficiencies are simply plowed back into further exponential expansion of the economy, reduction in total emissions will be thwarted. As Jackson argues in Prosperity Without Growth, “Those who promote decoupling as an escape route from the dilemma of growth need to take a closer look at the historical evidence—and at the basic arithmetic of growth.”

The bottom line is that an ecological crisis that has its roots in the overconsumption of natural resources must be addressed not just by improving the efficiency of our economies but by reducing the amount of material stuff we produce and consume. Yet that idea is anathema to the large corporations that dominate the global economy, which are controlled by footloose investors who demand ever greater profits year after year. We are therefore caught in the untenable bind of, as Jackson puts it, “trash the system or crash the planet.”

The way out is to embrace a managed transition to another economic paradigm, using all the tools of planning discussed above. Growth would be reserved for parts of the world still pulling themselves out of poverty. Meanwhile, in the industrialized world, those sectors that are not governed by the drive for increased yearly profit (the public sector, co-ops, local businesses, nonprofits) would expand their share of overall economic activity, as would those sectors with minimal ecological impacts (such as the caregiving professions). A great many jobs could be created this way. But the role of the corporate sector, with its structural demand for increased sales and profits, would have to contract.

So when the Heartlanders react to evidence of human-induced climate change as if capitalism itself were coming under threat, it’s not because they are paranoid. It’s because they are paying attention.

6. Taxing the Rich and Filthy

About now a sensible reader would be asking, How on earth are we going to pay for all this? The old answer would have been easy: we’ll grow our way out of it. Indeed, one of the major benefits of a growth-based economy for elites is that it allows them to constantly defer demands for social justice, claiming that if we keep growing the pie, eventually there will be enough for everyone. That was always a lie, as the current inequality crisis reveals, but in a world hitting multiple ecological limits, it is a nonstarter. So the only way to finance a meaningful response to the ecological crisis is to go where the money is.

That means taxing carbon, as well as financial speculation. It means increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, cutting bloated military budgets and eliminating absurd subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. And governments will have to coordinate their responses so that corporations will have nowhere to hide (this kind of robust international regulatory architecture is what Heartlanders mean when they warn that climate change will usher in a sinister “world government”).

Most of all, however, we need to go after the profits of the corporations most responsible for getting us into this mess. The top five oil companies made $900 billion in profits in the past decade; ExxonMobil alone can clear $10 billion in profits in a single quarter. For years, these companies have pledged to use their profits to invest in a shift to renewable energy (BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” rebranding being the highest-profile example). But according to a study by the Center for American Progress, just 4 percent of the big five’s $100 billion in combined 2008 profits went to “renewable and alternative energy ventures.” Instead, they continue to pour their profits into shareholder pockets, outrageous executive pay and new technologies designed to extract even dirtier and more dangerous fossil fuels. Plenty of money has also gone to paying lobbyists to beat back every piece of climate legislation that has reared its head, and to fund the denier movement gathered at the Marriott Hotel.

Just as tobacco companies have been obliged to pay the costs of helping people to quit smoking, and BP has had to pay for the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico, it is high time for the “polluter pays” principle to be applied to climate change. Beyond higher taxes on polluters, governments will have to negotiate much higher royalty rates so that less fossil fuel extraction would raise more public revenue to pay for the shift to our postcarbon future (as well as the steep costs of climate change already upon us). Since corporations can be counted on to resist any new rules that cut into their profits, nationalization—the greatest free-market taboo of all—cannot be off the table.

When Heartlanders claim, as they so often do, that climate change is a plot to “redistribute wealth” and wage class war, these are the types of policies they most fear. They also understand that, once the reality of climate change is recognized, wealth will have to be transferred not just within wealthy countries but also from the rich countries whose emissions created the crisis to poorer ones that are on the front lines of its effects. Indeed, what makes conservatives (and plenty of liberals) so eager to bury the UN climate negotiations is that they have revived a postcolonial courage in parts of the developing world that many thought was gone for good. Armed with irrefutable scientific facts about who is responsible for global warming and who is suffering its effects first and worst, countries like Bolivia and Ecuador are attempting to shed the mantle of “debtor” thrust upon them by decades of International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans and are declaring themselves creditors—owed not just money and technology to cope with climate change but “atmospheric space” in which to develop.

* * *

So let’s summarize. Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as “people” under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.

More than that, climate change implies the biggest political “I told you so” since Keynes predicted German backlash from the Treaty of Versailles. Marx wrote about capitalism’s “irreparable rift” with “the natural laws of life itself,” and many on the left have argued that an economic system built on unleashing the voracious appetites of capital would overwhelm the natural systems on which life depends. And of course indigenous peoples were issuing warnings about the dangers of disrespecting “Mother Earth” long before that. The fact that the airborne waste of industrial capitalism is causing the planet to warm, with potentially cataclysmic results, means that, well, the naysayers were right. And the people who said, “Hey, let’s get rid of all the rules and watch the magic happen” were disastrously, catastrophically wrong.

There is no joy in being right about something so terrifying. But for progressives, there is responsibility in it, because it means that our ideas—informed by indigenous teachings as well as by the failures of industrial state socialism—are more important than ever. It means that a green-left worldview, which rejects mere reformism and challenges the centrality of profit in our economy, offers humanity’s best hope of overcoming these overlapping crises.

But imagine, for a moment, how all of this looks to a guy like Heartland president Bast, who studied economics at the University of Chicago and described his personal calling to me as “freeing people from the tyranny of other people.” It looks like the end of the world. It’s not, of course. But it is, for all intents and purposes, the end of his world. Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. There is simply no way to square a belief system that vilifies collective action and venerates total market freedom with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that created and are deepening the crisis.

* * *

At the Heartland conference—where everyone from the Ayn Rand Institute to the Heritage Foundation has a table hawking books and pamphlets—these anxieties are close to the surface. Bast is forthcoming about the fact that Heartland’s campaign against climate science grew out of fear about the policies that the science would require. “When we look at this issue, we say, This is a recipe for massive increase in government…. Before we take this step, let’s take another look at the science. So conservative and libertarian groups, I think, stopped and said, Let’s not simply accept this as an article of faith; let’s actually do our own research.” This is a crucial point to understand: it is not opposition to the scientific facts of climate change that drives denialists but rather opposition to the real-world implications of those facts.

What Bast is describing—albeit inadvertently—is a phenomenon receiving a great deal of attention these days from a growing subset of social scientists trying to explain the dramatic shifts in belief about climate change. Researchers with Yale’s Cultural Cognition Project have found that political/cultural worldview explains “individuals’ beliefs about global warming more powerfully than any other individual characteristic.”

Those with strong “egalitarian” and “communitarian” worldviews (marked by an inclination toward collective action and social justice, concern about inequality and suspicion of corporate power) overwhelmingly accept the scientific consensus on climate change. On the other hand, those with strong “hierarchical” and “individualistic” worldviews (marked by opposition to government assistance for the poor and minorities, strong support for industry and a belief that we all get what we deserve) overwhelmingly reject the scientific consensus.

For example, among the segment of the US population that displays the strongest “hierarchical” views, only 11 percent rate climate change as a “high risk,” compared with 69 percent of the segment displaying the strongest “egalitarian” views. Yale law professor Dan Kahan, the lead author on this study, attributes this tight correlation between “worldview” and acceptance of climate science to “cultural cognition.” This refers to the process by which all of us—regardless of political leanings—filter new information in ways designed to protect our “preferred vision of the good society.” As Kahan explained in Nature, “People find it disconcerting to believe that behaviour that they find noble is nevertheless detrimental to society, and behaviour that they find base is beneficial to it. Because accepting such a claim could drive a wedge between them and their peers, they have a strong emotional predisposition to reject it.” In other words, it is always easier to deny reality than to watch your worldview get shattered, a fact that was as true of die-hard Stalinists at the height of the purges as it is of libertarian climate deniers today.

When powerful ideologies are challenged by hard evidence from the real world, they rarely die off completely. Rather, they become cultlike and marginal. A few true believers always remain to tell one another that the problem wasn’t with the ideology; it was the weakness of leaders who did not apply the rules with sufficient rigor. We have these types on the Stalinist left, and they exist as well on the neo-Nazi right. By this point in history, free-market fundamentalists should be exiled to a similarly marginal status, left to fondle their copies of Free to Choose and Atlas Shrugged in obscurity. They are saved from this fate only because their ideas about minimal government, no matter how demonstrably at war with reality, remain so profitable to the world’s billionaires that they are kept fed and clothed in think tanks by the likes of Charles and David Koch, and ExxonMobil.

This points to the limits of theories like “cultural cognition.” The deniers are doing more than protecting their cultural worldview—they are protecting powerful interests that stand to gain from muddying the waters of the climate debate. The ties between the deniers and those interests are well known and well documented. Heartland has received more than $1 million from ExxonMobil together with foundations linked to the Koch brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife (possibly much more, but the think tank has stopped publishing its donors’ names, claiming the information was distracting from the “merits of our positions”).

And scientists who present at Heartland climate conferences are almost all so steeped in fossil fuel dollars that you can practically smell the fumes. To cite just two examples, the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels, who gave the conference keynote, once told CNN that 40 percent of his consulting company’s income comes from oil companies, and who knows how much of the rest comes from coal. A Greenpeace investigation into another one of the conference speakers, astrophysicist Willie Soon, found that since 2002, 100 percent of his new research grants had come from fossil fuel interests. And fossil fuel companies are not the only economic interests strongly motivated to undermine climate science. If solving this crisis requires the kinds of profound changes to the economic order that I have outlined, then every major corporation benefiting from loose regulation, free trade and low taxes has reason to fear.

With so much at stake, it should come as little surprise that climate deniers are, on the whole, those most invested in our highly unequal and dysfunctional economic status quo. One of the most interesting findings of the studies on climate perceptions is the clear connection between a refusal to accept the science of climate change and social and economic privilege. Overwhelmingly, climate deniers are not only conservative but also white and male, a group with higher than average incomes. And they are more likely than other adults to be highly confident in their views, no matter how demonstrably false. A much-discussed paper on this topic by Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap (memorably titled “Cool Dudes”) found that confident conservative white men, as a group, were almost six times as likely to believe climate change “will never happen” than the rest of the adults surveyed. McCright and Dunlap offer a simple explanation for this discrepancy: “Conservative white males have disproportionately occupied positions of power within our economic system. Given the expansive challenge that climate change poses to the industrial capitalist economic system, it should not be surprising that conservative white males’ strong system-justifying attitudes would be triggered to deny climate change.”

But deniers’ relative economic and social privilege doesn’t just give them more to lose from a new economic order; it gives them reason to be more sanguine about the risks of climate change in the first place. This occurred to me as I listened to yet another speaker at the Heartland conference display what can only be described as an utter absence of empathy for the victims of climate change. Larry Bell, whose bio describes him as a “space architect,” drew plenty of laughs when he told the crowd that a little heat isn’t so bad: “I moved to Houston intentionally!” (Houston was, at that time, in the midst of what would turn out to be the state’s worst single-year drought on record.) Australian geologist Bob Carter offered that “the world actually does better from our human perspective in warmer times.” And Patrick Michaels said people worried about climate change should do what the French did after a devastating 2003 heat wave killed 14,000 of their people: “they discovered Walmart and air-conditioning.”

Listening to these zingers as an estimated 13 million people in the Horn of Africa face starvation on parched land was deeply unsettling. What makes this callousness possible is the firm belief that if the deniers are wrong about climate change, a few degrees of warming isn’t something wealthy people in industrialized countries have to worry about. (“When it rains, we find shelter. When it’s hot, we find shade,” Texas Congressman Joe Barton explained at an energy and environment subcommittee hearing.)

As for everyone else, well, they should stop looking for handouts and busy themselves getting unpoor. When I asked Michaels whether rich countries have a responsibility to help poor ones pay for costly adaptations to a warmer climate, he scoffed that there is no reason to give money to countries “because, for some reason, their political system is incapable of adapting.” The real solution, he claimed, was more free trade.

* * *

This is where the intersection between hard-right ideology and climate denial gets truly dangerous. It’s not simply that these “cool dudes” deny climate science because it threatens to upend their dominance-based worldview. It is that their dominance-based worldview provides them with the intellectual tools to write off huge swaths of humanity in the developing world. Recognizing the threat posed by this empathy-exterminating mindset is a matter of great urgency, because climate change will test our moral character like little before. The US Chamber of Commerce, in its bid to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions, argued in a petition that in the event of global warming, “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” These adaptations are what I worry about most.

How will we adapt to the people made homeless and jobless by increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters? How will we treat the climate refugees who arrive on our shores in leaky boats? Will we open our borders, recognizing that we created the crisis from which they are fleeing? Or will we build ever more high-tech fortresses and adopt ever more draconian antiimmigration laws? How will we deal with resource scarcity?

We know the answers already. The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations. Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. “Free-market climate solutions,” as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets. And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks.

As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed. And it will only get colder, as theories of racial superiority, barely under the surface in parts of the denial movement, make a raging comeback. These theories are not optional: they are necessary to justify the hardening of hearts to the largely blameless victims of climate change in the global South, and in predominately African-American cities like New Orleans.

In The Shock Doctrine, I explore how the right has systematically used crises—real and trumped up—to push through a brutal ideological agenda designed not to solve the problems that created the crises but rather to enrich elites. As the climate crisis begins to bite, it will be no exception. This is entirely predictable. Finding new ways to privatize the commons and to profit from disaster are what our current system is built to do. The process is already well under way.

The only wild card is whether some countervailing popular movement will step up to provide a viable alternative to this grim future. That means not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—this time, embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance and cooperation rather than hierarchy.

Shifting cultural values is, admittedly, a tall order. It calls for the kind of ambitious vision that movements used to fight for a century ago, before everything was broken into single “issues” to be tackled by the appropriate sector of business-minded NGOs. Climate change is, in the words of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, “the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen.” By all rights, this reality should be filling progressive sails with conviction, breathing new life and urgency into longstanding fights against everything from free trade to financial speculation to industrial agriculture to third-world debt, while elegantly weaving all these struggles into a coherent narrative about how to protect life on earth.

But that isn’t happening, at least not so far. It is a painful irony that while the Heartlanders are busily calling climate change a left-wing plot, most leftists have yet to realize that climate science has handed them the most powerful argument against capitalism since William Blake’s “dark Satanic Mills” (and, of course, those mills were the beginning of climate change). When demonstrators are cursing out the corruption of their governments and corporate elites in Athens, Madrid, Cairo, Madison and New York, climate change is often little more than a footnote, when it should be the coup de grâce.

Half of the problem is that progressives—their hands full with soaring unemployment and multiple wars—tend to assume that the big green groups have the climate issue covered. The other half is that many of those big green groups have avoided, with phobic precision, any serious debate on the blindingly obvious roots of the climate crisis: globalization, deregulation and contemporary capitalism’s quest for perpetual growth (the same forces that are responsible for the destruction of the rest of the economy). The result is that those taking on the failures of capitalism and those fighting for climate action remain two solitudes, with the small but valiant climate justice movement—drawing the connections between racism, inequality and environmental vulnerability—stringing up a few swaying bridges between them.

The right, meanwhile, has had a free hand to exploit the global economic crisis to cast climate action as a recipe for economic Armageddon, a surefire way to spike household costs and to block new, much-needed jobs drilling for oil and laying new pipelines. With virtually no loud voices offering a competing vision of how a new economic paradigm could provide a way out of both the economic and ecological crises, this fearmongering has had a ready audience.

Far from learning from past mistakes, a powerful faction in the environmental movement is pushing to go even further down the same disastrous road, arguing that the way to win on climate is to make the cause more palatable to conservative values. This can be heard from the studiously centrist Breakthrough Institute, which is calling for the movement to embrace industrial agriculture and nuclear power instead of organic farming and decentralized renewables. It can also be heard from several of the researchers studying the rise in climate denial. Some, like Yale’s Kahan, point out that while those who poll as highly “hierarchical” and “individualist” bridle at any mention of regulation, they tend to like big, centralized technologies that confirm their belief that humans can dominate nature. So, he and others argue, environmentalists should start emphasizing responses such as nuclear power and geoengineering (deliberately intervening in the climate system to counteract global warming), as well as playing up concerns about national security.

The first problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t work. For years, big green groups have framed climate action as a way to assert “energy security,” while “free-market solutions” are virtually the only ones on the table in the United States. Meanwhile, denialism has soared. The more troubling problem with this approach, however, is that rather than challenging the warped values motivating denialism, it reinforces them. Nuclear power and geoengineering are not solutions to the ecological crisis; they are a doubling down on exactly the kind of short-term hubristic thinking that got us into this mess.

It is not the job of a transformative social movement to reassure members of a panicked, megalomaniacal elite that they are still masters of the universe—nor is it necessary. According to McCright, co-author of the “Cool Dudes” study, the most extreme, intractable climate deniers (many of them conservative white men) are a small minority of the US population—roughly 10 percent. True, this demographic is massively overrepresented in positions of power. But the solution to that problem is not for the majority of people to change their ideas and values. It is to attempt to change the culture so that this small but disproportionately influential minority—and the reckless worldview it represents—wields significantly less power.

* * *

Some in the climate camp are pushing back hard against the appeasement strategy. Tim DeChristopher, serving a two-year jail sentence in Utah for disrupting a compromised auction of oil and gas leases, commented in May on the right-wing claim that climate action will upend the economy. “I believe we should embrace the charges,” he told an interviewer. “No, we are not trying to disrupt the economy, but yes, we do want to turn it upside down. We should not try and hide our vision about what we want to change—of the healthy, just world that we wish to create. We are not looking for small shifts: we want a radical overhaul of our economy and society.” He added, “I think once we start talking about it, we will find more allies than we expect.”

When DeChristopher articulated this vision for a climate movement fused with one demanding deep economic transformation, it surely sounded to most like a pipe dream. But just five months later, with Occupy Wall Street chapters seizing squares and parks in hundreds of cities, it sounds prophetic. It turns out that a great many Americans had been hungering for this kind of transformation on many fronts, from the practical to the spiritual.

Though climate change was something of an afterthought in the movement’s early texts, an ecological consciousness was woven into OWS from the start—from the sophisticated “gray water” filtration system that uses dishwater to irrigate plants at Zuccotti Park, to the scrappy community garden planted at Occupy Portland. Occupy Boston’s laptops and cellphones are powered by bicycle generators, and Occupy DC has installed solar panels. Meanwhile, the ultimate symbol of OWS—the human microphone—is nothing if not a postcarbon solution.

And new political connections are being made. The Rainforest Action Network, which has been targeting Bank of America for financing the coal industry, has made common cause with OWS activists taking aim at the bank over foreclosures. Anti-fracking activists have pointed out that the same economic model that is blasting the bedrock of the earth to keep the gas flowing is blasting the social bedrock to keep the profits flowing. And then there is the historic movement against the Keystone XL pipeline, which this fall has decisively yanked the climate movement out of the lobbyists’ offices and into the streets (and jail cells). Anti-Keystone campaigners have noted that anyone concerned about the corporate takeover of democracy need look no further than the corrupt process that led the State Department to conclude that a pipeline carrying dirty tar sands oil across some of the most sensitive land in the country would have “limited adverse environmental impacts.” As 350.org’s Phil Aroneanu put it, “If Wall Street is occupying President Obama’s State Department and the halls of Congress, it’s time for the people to occupy Wall Street.”

But these connections go beyond a shared critique of corporate power. As Occupiers ask themselves what kind of economy should be built to displace the one crashing all around us, many are finding inspiration in the network of green economic alternatives that has taken root over the past decade—in community-controlled renewable energy projects, in community-supported agriculture and farmers’ markets, in economic localization initiatives that have brought main streets back to life, and in the co-op sector. Already a group at OWS is cooking up plans to launch the movement’s first green workers’ co-op (a printing press); local food activists have made the call to “Occupy the Food System!”; and November 20 is “Occupy Rooftops”—a coordinated effort to use crowd-sourcing to buy solar panels for community buildings.

Not only do these economic models create jobs and revive communities while reducing emissions; they do so in a way that systematically disperses power—the antithesis of an economy by and for the 1 percent. Omar Freilla, one of the founders of Green Worker Cooperatives in the South Bronx, told me that the experience in direct democracy that thousands are having in plazas and parks has been, for many, “like flexing a muscle you didn’t know you had.” And, he says, now they want more democracy—not just at a meeting but also in their community planning and in their workplaces.

In other words, culture is rapidly shifting. And this is what truly sets the OWS moment apart. The Occupiers—holding signs that said Greed Is Gross and I Care About You—decided early on not to confine their protests to narrow policy demands. Instead, they took aim at the underlying values of rampant greed and individualism that created the economic crisis, while embodying—in highly visible ways—radically different ways to treat one another and relate to the natural world.

This deliberate attempt to shift cultural values is not a distraction from the “real” struggles. In the rocky future we have already made inevitable, an unshakable belief in the equal rights of all people, and a capacity for deep compassion, will be the only things standing between humanity and barbarism. Climate change, by putting us on a firm deadline, can serve as the catalyst for precisely this profound social and ecological transformation.

Culture, after all, is fluid. It can change. It happens all the time. The delegates at the Heartland conference know this, which is why they are so determined to suppress the mountain of evidence proving that their worldview is a threat to life on earth. The task for the rest of us is to believe, based on that same evidence, that a very different worldview can be our salvation.



Conversations with the Crow


When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.          

            Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

          Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


Here is the hundred and first chapter

Conversation No. 101

Date: Tuesday, September 2, 1997
Commenced:  12:56 PM CST

Concluded: 1:20 PM CST

GD: Hello. What’s up today?

RTC: Good morning, Gregory. Another doctor’s visit scheduled for this PM. A damned nuisance but Emily insists. I am not feeling all that well, what with my bad hip and a tendency to misjudge my feet and then falling. I should use a cane in the house but I don’t feel I am ready for a walker yet. Other than those small things, I’m fine. And yourself?

GD: I am also fine. However, dealing with your feeble-minded scumbag friends is getting to be quite a bore. Jesus, what a pack of morons and they have many allies. People like Kimmel who is outraged that a terrible person like myself is interacting with you. He thinks you’re getting gaga and might spill terrible things to me. And, of course, I am a terrible, disrespectful person who, God knows, might blow the gaff on something horrible. And poor Bill wants to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. When he gets going, it sounds like a Kirby vacuum cleaner what with all the suction.

RTC: Well, the Company people do not like you and yes, they dragged the FBI into it for the reason they are not supposed to operate inside this country. Of course we did, and do, but that is not important. You see, you are considered, as Kimmel says, a loose cannon. No one questions your intelligence, although they publicly question your sanity and character, but they can’t control you. The drill is that these people have gotten to believe that they, and they alone, have the control and the ability to control and that the rest of the peonage are stupid sheep who pay their salaries. And then you come along and rattle their cages. And they try to intimidate you and then realize that doing this only stimulates you to more noise-making so they back off and think of other ways to get at you and shut you up. They also believe that you are in possession or at least control of certain dangerous documents that could cause havoc in certain circles if you ever even hinted at them so they have to make sure you don’t commit unsocial acts. And by unsocial acts I mean shake their trees. Of course they would never just sit down and talk to you like the Army did. We used to do this in the early days but now that we basically control the media and our foreign policy, we have decided that we are far too omniscient and important to descend to actually communicating with our social inferiors. So they turn their pimps and whores loose on you and try to besmirch you to the point where no one will believe you.

GD: They could have one of these sycophants sue me, couldn’t they” Tie me up in endless and devastatingly expensive court litigation? Shut me up that way?
RTC: No, Gregory, because that would codify their fears and might, horrible to contemplate, draw public attention to you. No, you have carte blanche to do as you like and they won’t interfere for fear of the publicity. But, of course, by getting into the Kennedy killing, you will be taking on a whole hog-pen of functioning idiots and fanatics. The Company or Phoebe won’t have to do a thing. Hell, we control some of them…the Farrell woman is ours…and if they attack you, why our hands are clean. I mean you will have far more trouble from these creeps that you ever would have with us. Some self-important twit has a pet theory and supporters thereof and if you dare to publish a word that questions their invented idiot shit, why they will come down upon you, screaming like a drag queen and swinging their purses. Hell, Gregory, if I were you, I would be more concerned about the Jews and the Kennedy nuts than us.

GD: The Jews?

RTC: Oh yes, the vulgar Hebrews again. See, if it gets out and accepted that our government hired all the Nazis they did, why the Jews will have to start wailing and screeching about how dare we do this to them. To them is the operative word here. I mean, how dare you contradict the needs of a Jew? Why, these are God’s very own people, aren’t they? God’s chosen ones?

GD: Well, if you believe the silly holocaust stories, one would have to believe that God chose the Jews to stand in line for the showers.

RTC: (Laughter) Ah yes, the famous showers. But you see the fact that Jews will come after you. Some because only they can moan about their fates and many  more to suck up to officialdom, an officialdom that for now at least is dominated by white Christians. It just gets worse..

GD: Well, when Kennedy was running, the Protestants swore that if he got elected, the Pope would move into the White House, or at least Cardinal Cushing. Of course this did not happen but what does the Jew hope for? Their beach blanket flag flying over the Capitol?

RTC: Certainly. They work their way into the system and rise up quickly, gaining influence as they go because they are very clever and our stupid ones get to rely on their intelligence.

GD: Poisoned intelligence. Onwards and upwards. Jesus, if the Jewish community and the art world…actually the same…ever found out what I got from Mueller before he died, and especially what I am doing with it, they would get Congress to pass a law against me.

RTC: What’s that? Something new here?
GD: Yes, actually so. See, I don’t know if you are aware of it but during the war, the Germans looted billions of dollars of art from all over Europe. Hitler wanted to set up a huge museum complex in his home town of Linz and all the Nazi brass fall all over each other to gain the Fuehrer’s interest by stealing from museums, private collections, churches and so on. Billions. And after the war, people like Tommy Howe and others went around to the vast, underground caves and brought out tons of loot. The more important pieces, or the best known, were returned. At least most of them were. I know of a certain Raphael that old Frank brought back from Poland that the Gestapo bagged and Muller had hanging up in his elegant pad in Piedmont. That’s in a safe place and the Polacks will never get it back, believe me. Anyway, Mueller started selling some of this loot that your people took away from the Army after ’48. Did you know about this supplementary income?

RTC: Yes. Go on, please do.

GD: Well, Heini set up a little organization and began to peddle some of this, as I said for cash for your off the books activities. Naturally, he kept his share in front. He had a large garage in Piedmont stuffed full of it. I mentioned the Jews because most of the post-Impressionist pieces came from Jewish collectors. Of course, some of the older pieces too. I saw the Rothschild collection of gold coins before Heini sold it off and I must say it was delightful to look at. And some Russian treasures looted form Tsarskoe Selo…I mean the old Imperial Russian complex south of St. Petersburg….

RTC: In Florida?

GD: Now, Robert, not in Florida, in Russia. The Communists changed it to Pushkin…Let me go on. And items from monasteries all over Europe, especially from Italy after Mussolini fell from power in ’43 and the Germans occupied the country. Von Senger did rescue the very valuable,,. priceless…library from Monte Cassino before Roosevelt ordered it bombed to powder. But a lot of other art loot went to Germany indeed. Anyway, Heini found out I was an art-restorer at one time and knew a good deal about the subject so we got along just fine although I must admit when he took me to his storage facility and turned on the lights, I very nearly had an involuntary bowel movement on the spot. If the Russians, the Italians, the French or the Poles ever saw what was there, there would be a sound like an approaching freight train. Jesus, the uproar, the demands, and on the part of the Jews, wails of possessive anguish. Everyone else would fade away before their wrath…and their demands. No, when Heini died, I made sure the storage warehouse was cleared out and secured elsewhere. You see, his second wife knew nothing about any of this because he didn’t burden her with the knowledge. And if she found it, naturally, she would try to sell it and then these people would come down, howling with rage and armed with legal papers. We couldn’t have that so I executed Heini’s very firm request. Do you know how Mexicans keep the flies out of their bedrooms, Robert?

RTC: Not offhanded but I am certain you will enlighten me.

GD: Oh, always, Robert. Simple. They shit in the hall.

RTC: (Laughter) So very incorrect.

GD: Ah, but so accurate, Robert. In the hall. In huge, festering heaps. Fly nurseries. So we removed what attracts flies and other vermin. Anyway, the post-Impressionist junk started getting sold off, discreetly here and there. Of course the easily recognizable pieces are a different matter although a great amount of things from Catherine the Greats’ palace were relatively easy to peddle, I wouldn’t want to be too public about things from Warsaw or Rome, or even Florence.

And art is entirely subjective. The picture I spoke of earlier by Raphael is a portrait of someone who looks like a raging faggot dressed in a loose blouse and looking for all the world as if he just left a Castro Street bathhouse after an evening of bumbusting. But effeminate men were the ideal when Raphael worked. Now, we have Jackson Pollock who used to spread art canvas on his garage floor, climb up a ladder and toss the contents of various cans of paint he scrounged from the neighbors at yard sales or from the public dump, toss them here and there while giggling to himself. Then, when the enamels dried, he would cut the canvas into sections, mount the sections on stretchers, stick idiot names on each and sell them to the pea brained who considered them art. Now that Pollock is dead, the prices are rising beyond all belief. I personally think Claude Monet and Singer Sargent were the last really good artists of our time. Nowadays, some orange-haired pimp splatters paint all over a canvas and the tasteless rich rush to buy it. It’s better for the dealers if the artist is dead. Probably if he died of an overdose of heroin in a male bathhouse. It takes about a century to winnow the wheat from the chaff and then the trashy art and equally trashy writing falls away and a few beautiful works emerge. Of course, by that time, the idiots are all mooning after someone who plops his hairy ass down on a pallet and then sits on a canvas. Moon over Miami, which, along with Skokie and most of Westchester County is where all the trash ends up. Ah, one must be careful, Robert. For example, I know about a certain cartouche from the Amber Room. Yes. The Prussian state eagle in amber. Heini liked it and so do I.

RTC: Do?

GD: We don’t need to go into semantics. We’ve been going into Semitics all morning here.

RTC: (Laughter) Yes, absolutely. And if they get it into their heads that sacred Jewish treasures are in the hands of the unbelieving, and worse, these treasures are actually worth money, my God, you will have mobs of livid Hebrews chanting in front of your house.

GD: That’s what fire hoses are for, Robert. To put out fires and also to clean off trash from the sidewalks. Anyway, I suppose you don’t know it but I have bank accounts all over Europe and very nice properties in Germany, France and Italy and all filled with lovely pieces. Oh, if I had to depend on selling books, none of that would have happened. And I do enjoy occasional forays into the world of fine art. I really ought to say successful forays because I always return from the hunt with a full game bag or, in my case, more money to enjoy in my retirement years.

RTC: But supposing they are listening to this? Couldn’t someone go to banks and ask about your accounts?
GD: Robert, I had ten different passports and more passable identities than you could guess at. The Foggybottom freaks tried for years to find out whatever negative they could about me so they could nail me and they had to give up. As an aside, one of their investigators started in on me with all the smarmy subtlety of a fart in a spacesuit and I lured him to a site  loaded with illegal products and the local authorities, whom I tipped off, nailed him as he was carrying what he thought was devastating  evidence against me in sealed boxes, but actually was something entirely different, out to his car. He screamed for help but it didn’t do him any good. Lost his job, his house and got four years in the can for it. Oh my, did I laugh at that one.

RTC: Gregory, naughty boy. Ah, the State people are such  mindless assholes anyway.

GD: I sent him sympathy cards from time to time. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. What? Fuck them all, Robert. And I would burn the paintings before I gave any of them back, believe it.

RTC: I would tend to believe that, Gregory. I should imagine you are entirely capable of such an act. What they don’t know, they can do nothing about, right?
GD: Oh yes, right. And you can visit me any time at my nice villa in Italy. Partially paid for, one might guess, with the profits from selling looted Italian art. Oh, and Russian and Polish as well. And Heini kept meticulous records which I have and if your people, or anyone else, ever tried to push me, records I would gleefully publish. My, oh my, the American museums, the private collections, the major art auction houses  and so on, would be so wonderfully compromised. I love it…

RTC: Yes, but they don’t

GD: No, Robert they really don’t. Most of them are so stupid they couldn’t find either end of themselves in a dark room. You doubt me? Look at some of their children. Either end, Robert, either end. These punks always have to buy new pants because they keep wearing out the knees crawling around on the floor like Mongoloids, while in pursuit of the contents of the cat’s latrine.

RTC: Now, now, you might be speaking about my people.

GD: The ones who harassed you? The ones who harassed Angleton? Those friends? The ones who come to see you and support you now that you have retired? Those friends, Robert?

RTC: Ah, well you have a point there, Gregory. And to use one of your crude expressions, fuck them all. And if they ever find out that I have had my Greg ship off sizzling papers to you, they would certainly renew old friendships.

GD: Wouldn’t you enjoy having so many old friends crowding into your house, Robert? They would shit on the floors and steal anything of value and after molesting your wife and the cat. No, you should follow in my footsteps and leave sleeping dogs, or pigs, lie, Right?
GD: Yes, I reluctantly have to agree with you. Could I have a nice Rembrandt for my living room, Gregory? If and when I die, Emily could have a useful farewell gift.

GD: There were three of his and they have all been sold. How about a Picasso? There are dozens of those. I hate to have to look at Picasso. Or Klee. Or Miro. ‘Oh, Myron! Buy the Picasso! It matches the drapes!’

RTC: (Laughter) Where is the taste with these people?
GD: Up the ass, Robert, up the ass. Along with that wondrous zucchini Aunt Bella shoplifted from the supermarket last month. And always remember, Robert, that Malthus was right and when we run out of food and water, we can start eating each other. I believe the French perfected this technique some time ago but then both parties lived to tell about it. Given some of the fatties I’ve seen waddling around town here, if famine ever strikes, they had best barricade themselves in the root cellar with a shotgun because some of these jiggling lovelies would feed a family of six for a month. Well, it will be back to the caves for the survivors and what will a Picasso be worth then?

(.Concluded at 1:20 PM CST)

Dramatis personae: 

            James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy

            James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.

             William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.

            John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.

            James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.

            Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.

             Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.

             Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organization eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.

             Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”

            Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.

             Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.

            Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

            Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarians and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.

            Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers specializing in creative writing. Although he prefers to be called ‘Dr,’ in reality he has no PhD.

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