Category: politics

Billionaire Koch Brothers File Lawsuit to Wrest Control of Cato Institute

Charles and David Koch — the billionaire industrialist brothers who already exert out-sized influence over American politics — are suing (pdf) to gain direct control over the Cato Institute, one of the country’s leading libertarian think tanks. Cato is a non-profit organization incorporated under Kansas law, which — unusually — allows it to be owned by a board of shareholders. Until recently Cato’s board consisted of four people — founder Ed Crane, Charles Koch, David Koch, and economist William Nikasen. Each held 16 shares valued at $1 per share. When Nikasen passed away in October, 2011, his shares fell to his widow, Kathryn Washburn, who has not yet offered to sell them to the other shareholders, as required by Kansas law. The Kochs are suing Washburn and the Cato Institute to force her to sell her shares to the other shareholders, which would give the Kochs a shareholder majority, and thus definitive control over Cato. The Kochs maintain that this is not a hostile takeover, (pdf) but the chair of Cato’s board, Bob Levy, said the Kochs — who now have the power to appoint half of the board — have been placing “operatives” on the board who are pushing Cato towards supporting Republican party ideals rather than libertarian ideals. Cato’s traditional libertarian stances on issues have often differed with Republican positions, for example by supporting same-sex marriage and hands-off foreign intervention and immigration policies. These more truly libertarian (and liberal) stances led to a falling-out between the Kochs and Cato over the years. But now the Kochs see their opportunity to gain more control over Cato. According to some close to the dispute, the Kochs want to use Cato to create more “intellectual ammo” for their front group, Americans for Prosperity, to use to defeat Obama in the 2012 general election. Some close to the dispute also say that if the Kochs successfully gain control of Cato, it will ruin the Institute’s credibility and lead to its demise.

Main sources: The Volokh Conspiracy, March 3, 2012, and Charles Rowley’s blog, March 4, 2012

Conservative Blogger Andrew Breitbart Dead at 43

Andrew Breitbart

Andrew Breitbart, the right wing blogger who operated the website BigGovernment.com and who became famous for posting sensationalistic “sting” videos on his website, has died. The L.A. Times says his death was due to natural causes. Breitbart was responsible for posting a selectively edited video of former Agricultural Administration employee Shirley Sherrod, which was doctored to make her appear racist. The video was quickly exposed by mainstream media as race-baiting. Breitbart was known for posting sensationalized stories that were frequently based on distortions, falsehoods and pure speculation. He was also involved in instigating a fake nationwide ACORN “child prostitution” investigation, led an anti-gay smear campaign against Department of Education employee Kevin Jennings, broadcast yet another selectively-edited video made in conjunction with James O’Keefe (the slice-n-dice right-wing videographer who tried to frame ACORN) claiming that Census supervisors encouraged federal employees to falsify their time sheets. In 2009, Breitbart claimed on his website, BigGovernment.com, that “Transvestites, Mao and Obama Ornaments Decorate White House Christmas Tree.” On September 29, 2009, Breitbart posted a video that he claimed showed community organizers praying to then President-elect Obama. The video had captions that said, “Deliver us Obama,” and “Hear our cry, Obama.”

May he rest in peace.

 

Digital Billboard Companies Working Across U.S. to Ban Local Control

Clear Channel digital billboard advertises itself

Last year, citizens of Rapid City, South Dakota — a town besieged by billboards — passed an initiative banning construction of any more of those quick-changing, super-eye-catching digital billboards within the City. The highly popular measure passed by a 2-1 vote. But outdoor advertisers quickly retaliated by pushing a bill through South Dakota’s state legislature to block local authorities from banning “any advertising technology” within their limits. Senate Bill 157 would effectively make it illegal for local municipalities to ban digital billboards. Outdoor advertisers and digital sign manufacturer Daktronics argue such bans will cost jobs and threaten the industry’s image. South Dakotans are not alone in trying to fight digital billboard blight and the powerful advertising lobby. A similar bill to block local control over outdoor advertising was introduced in Salt Lake City, and Arizona has been fighting to ban digital billboards as well, saying they violate the state’s ban on intermittent lighting along roads. An organization called  Scenic America works to protect the quality and safety of America’s scenic roadways, and offers technical assistance for local efforts to control the spread of digital billboards, as well as other roadside blights.

Source: ScreenMediaMag.com, February 2, 2012

 

The Current High Gas Price Scam

Sixty four percent of all contracts written for bulk oil purchases in the U.S. are made by companies that will never take delivery of even one drop of oil. They are made by speculators positioning themselves to make money off the scare over recent events involving Iran. Recently and American warship was targeted with gunfire in the Strait of Hormuz. Initial reports attributed the attack to Iran, but it turned out to have been made by smugglers — a correction that was buried in the media. Iran also announced it would stop selling oil to Britain and France, but those countries had already stopped buying oil from Iran anyway — a fact less reported than Iran’s announcement.  Decades ago, financial speculators made up only about 30 percent of oil trading markets and refiners and end-users made up about 70 percent. Today those numbers are reversed; now only about 36 percent of all oil contracts are made by producers and end users, while increasing demand for oil in the U.S. is a myth. Demand for oil and gas in the U.S. is down while production of American oil has increased so much that the U.S. has actually started exporting oil to Europe, Asia and Latin America. In fact, now America’s major supplier of oil is Canada, not the middle east. So high gas prices now simply cannot be explained by any shortage or increase in demand, since neither exist. But they can be explained by speculators and their effect on the market, and we are all paying a heavy price for their activity.

Source: McClatchy Newspapers, Febuary 21, 2012

Dogs Protest Romney at Westminster Dog Show

Dogs Aren't LuggageIn 1983, Mitt Romney took his wife, five kids and the family’s Irish setter Seamus, on a road trip to his family’s cabin in Ontario. Romney put Seamus in a dog crate and strapped the crate to the roof of the family car. Romney proceeded to drive at interstate speeds for 12 hours, until the dog — stressed, sick and afraid — came down with diarrhea, which dripped all over the car and grossed out his kids. According to the story, Romney stopped  long enough to hose down the car and the dog, and then hit the road again, with the wet, scared, wind-whipped dog still strapped to the roof of the car.

Romney does not deny the story. But to hear him tell it, the dog enjoyed the fresh air of the roof — a statement that strains credulity as much as any of his varying political positions.

The story has resurfaced this election cycle and is persuading a lot of people — including Fox News contributor Lanny Davis — of Romney’s unfitness for the presidency. Davis, a Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote that anyone who would do what Romney did to his dog “shouldn’t be president of the United States.” I have to agree, but I’m far from the only one.

In 2007, Scott Crider founded Dogs Against Romney, to publicize “Crate Gate” and spread the word about Romney’s legendary form of dog abuse. Dogs Against Romney sells poignant swag like bumperstickers that say “Get ‘Ruff’ with Romney,” and “Mitt is Mean,” official doggy bandanas that say “I Ride Inside,” and T-shirts that say “Dogs Aren’t Luggage.” Dogs Against Romney even formed a super PAC to oppose Romney’s nomination for the presidency.

On Tuesday, February 14, Dogs Against Romney held a press event outside the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden to help draw attention to Crate Gate. Dogs Against Romney says it does not endorse any candidate, but held its even alongside “Pet Lovers for Obama” — another organization working to bring attention to Romney’s mistreatment of his family dog.