Thursday, March 01, 2012

Very Irritated With The Koch Brothers

Ah, the Koch Brothers. Whereas the right beats up on money guy George Soros for funding causes on the left he believes in, the left beat up on the Koch Brothers for causes they believe in.

I don't beat up on people for funding causes, but I do get irritated if they do something that looks counterproductive the causes they ostensibly try to advance- if they happen to be causes I believe in.

In this case, I am a big fan of the Cato Institute. Cato is a libertarian think tank that has produced many valuable papers and publications, and has had some small (too small, in my opinion) impact on public policy. I especially love the Cato Daily Podcast, which has been hosted by Caleb Brown for the past several years. Brown does a wonderful job of interviewing Cato scholars on topics of immediate daily interest.

The Koch Brothers co-founded the Cato Institute with Ed Krane and the late Ed Niskanen. The Kochs have poured money into the Cato Institute over the years. So far, so good. But, as the Washington Post reports:

The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch filed a lawsuit Wednesday for control of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.

The lawsuit exposes a power struggle for one of Washington’s premiere policy centers, which has been funded by millions in contributions from the Koch brothers’ foundations since its founding in 1974.

Cato was divided between four shareholders: the two Koch brothers, Cato president Ed Crane, and former Cato chairman William Niskanen, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in a court in Johnson County, Kansas.

At the heart of the dispute is the fate of the shares owned by Niskanen, who died in October at age 78 of complications from a stroke. The Koch brothers believe that they have the option to buy Niskanen’s shares, while Cato officials believe that the shares belong to Niskanen’s widow, Kathryn Washburn, according to the complaint.

Why a lawsuit? Is it so important that the Kochs get additional shares? Cato has been absolutely fantastic, just as-is.

Crane released this written statement:

“Charles G. Koch has filed a lawsuit as part of an effort to gain control of the Cato Institute, which he co-founded with me in 1977. While Mr. Koch and entities controlled by him have supported the Cato Institute financially since that time, Mr. Koch and his affiliates have exercised no significant influence over the direction or management of the Cato Institute, or the work done here.

“Mr. Koch’s actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda. We view Mr. Koch’s actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization, advocating for Individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.”

I'll reserve judgment as to the intentions of Charles Koch for the moment. However, at a time when interest in libertarian ideas is at an all-time high, and acceptance of them is growing, the last thing we need for the liberty movement is divisiveness within the premier libertarian think tank. It's counter-productive, at the very least.

Killing Owls To Save Owls?

I'm thinking of oxymorons like 'military intelligence'. I'm thinking about paying farmers not to grow crops. My gosh but we do some strange things in pursuit of certain outcomes. From the Washington Post:
To save the imperiled spotted owl, the Obama administration is moving forward with a controversial plan to shoot barred owls, a rival bird that has shoved its smaller cousin aside.

The plan is the latest federal attempt to protect the northern spotted owl, the passive, one-pound bird that sparked an epic battle over logging in the Pacific Northwest two decades ago.

The government set aside millions of acres of forest to protect the owl, but the bird’s population continues to decline — a 40 percent slide in 25 years.

A plan announced Tuesday would designate habitat considered critical for the bird’s survival, while allowing logging to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and to create jobs. Habitat loss and competition from barred owls are the biggest threats to the spotted owl.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the draft plan “a science-based approach to forestry that restores the health of our lands and wildlife and supports jobs and revenue for local communities.”

We do so much interventive tinkering, trying to freeze certain things in place as we once knew them. It may just be that the spotted owl is a genetically weaker creature, destined not to evolve its way to survival. So, we'll kill barred owls. Let's just not call it an attempt to preserve 'nature'.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coverage for Kole V. Faultless

The case Kole Vs. Faultless rests in the hands of the Supreme Court. In the meantime, there has been some media coverage. The latest is from, a neighborhood based online and print periodical:

Faultless contends that the Reorganization Act, which was legislated a few years ago in the Indiana State assembly, gives Fishers the ability to create what he calls a “modernized” or “hybrid” form of a Class II city. Under the Town’s current plan, the current Fishers town council would appoint themselves as the first city council and then they would appoint the mayor.

“We feel that all the residents of the city should be able to elect the mayor,” said Mike Kole, a plaintiff in the case.

Faultless thinks it would be delightful to have the new city's Mayor be selected by the new City Council rather than the voters. I guess if I were the current council president and wanted to become mayor without having to bother with campaigning, that would be a pretty snazzy way of going about it. Easy, cheap, free of pesky voters.

Other coverage: Includes an audio interview with me.

Hamilton County Politics Blog

The Indiana Law Blog