Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When John Yoo came to Cato

Cato's "principles" were on full display back in 2005...when they welcomed Bush Admin torture fetishist John Yoo to a forum at the Hayek Theatre in the Glass Cube. The same stage hosted Ben Bernanke two years later.

And yes, they also featured him with glowing approval in the Cato newsletter that month.

One interesting and hypocritical aside: a post by Chris Preble on the Crane Operative blog is currently testing the tactic of attacking the Koch Brothers for financing a conference at AEI featuring speakers of far lesser Neocon pedigree than their own John Yoo.

As a matter of curiosity, Cato donors might also consider asking how much Ed Crane & Co. paid to put on the John Yoo event.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Crane Operative Orchestration

I suppose this shouldn't be much of a shock to anyone, but there's an increasingly blurry line between Cato's "official" response to the lawsuit and what the Crane Operatives do on their own time in support of the same position.

Take for example kochvcato.com the "unofficial" Catoite group blog about the lawsuit.

It's currently borrowing bandwidth from multiple images stored at Cato-At-Liberty, the "official" policy blog of the Cato Institute. Moreover, these images appear to have been specifically created for the technically unaffiliated KochvCato group blog.

Examples here and here.

It's enough to make you wonder who's paying for the "unofficial" Crane blog, and something that current Cato donors should probably ponder.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

That which is seen and that which is not seen

There was something else still on the table until just under two months ago when the Brothers Koch filed their lawsuit over the Cato shareholder's agreement: an opportunity for Ed Crane to take a graceful retirement.

It wasn't the worst option either for all parties involved. Boss Crane is not getting any younger, a transfer in the distribution of Cato's corporate shares would have been a natural way to inject new blood into the institution, and, love him or hate him, it would have let him leave on a high note.

Instead, Boss Crane decided to go out in a fit of destruction. Yes, he offered to retire...but only with strings attached wherein he could direct the naming of his successor and enlist his own resignation as the stick to bludgeon away the pesky shareholder agreement he (a) voluntarily signed all those years ago and (b) previously manipulated in his favor when he wanted to rid himself of the inconvenience of Murray Rothbard.

But now he's drawn other attention his way, and that while in a self-imposed isolation of courtroom battle lines fueled almost entirely by his bitterness. People are peeking into the giant glass cube, and Ed's recent fit of lawsuit-induced hysteria isn't the only episode to be seen. A gracious exit option is no longer available, and even the window for a quiet parting of the ways is rapidly closing; what remains unseen is only the cause and severity of an impending collapse. Truly a 30 year veteran of Beltway politics should know better. Or perhaps that cognitive dissonance is another symptom.

Man is conceived in sin and born into corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud.

There is always something.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Cult of the Presidency (of the Cato Institute)

The Crane Operative group blog is in full gear. What's more, this strange mechanism for all those self-proclaimed "independent" persons who nonetheless owe their careers, titles, and/or present salaries to their complete unwavering loyalty to Ed Crane seems to also be the primary vehicle by which the Catoite faction dribbles out bits and pieces of of things it perceives to be "dirt" upon its courtroom adversaries. Wading through the pedantry of this place can be headache-inducing, as pile upon pile of Catoite miscellany nitpicks the finer points of drab legal briefs in pursuit of a boldly asserted indignation against the Kochs that, outside of the Crane Operative bubble, merits neither the outrage that its authors project nor the gravity with which they self-report their "realizations" of the plain and obvious. Indeed, this is the shrill, obsessive, and conspiratorial wasteland of devoted True Believers.

The only problem: while kings of abstruse fussiness over the tiniest parsing of words and phrases (Seriously. Who but a True Believer composes a multi-paragraph rant to accuse an adversary of malicious intent in wanting to only seal "portions" of a legal brief rather than the entire thing, all the while knowing full well that he would object just as vocally if the same adversary had moved to seal the entire thing instead?), these same Crane Operatives have a nasty little habit of playing fast and loose with finer details that don't exactly fit their own narrative.

Take the latest sanitized Crane dropping from Cato Veep Gene Healy, steaming with fury at the new legal motion from the Brothers Koch. Here's how he describes the supposed cause of the new March 22 Koch-suit against Cato:

To recap, at the March 1 shareholders’ meeting, the day after the Kochs filed their initial lawsuit, they pushed out Dunn, Malone, Randall, and Smith–four longstanding Cato board members actively involved in the Institute’s governance. Three weeks later, by majority vote, Cato’s board reinstated them. That’s your “board-packing scheme.”


Now what could be missing from Healy's excerpted narrative, and his entire post for that merit. Perhaps the fact that, in order to "reinstate" these four "pushed out" board members (who were actually simply replaced by the new Koch nominees when their previous 2-year terms expired), Boss Crane had to drastically alter the existing composition of the entire Cato board by creating four new voting board seats out of thin air. Furthermore, these new board seats increased the Crane voting block from a slim 1-seat 9-7 majority to a significantly larger 13-7 majority. Now I don't really care whose side you're on. I don't care if you love the Kochs, hate the Kochs, if you despise Ed Crane or if you slobber in cultish devotion at his feet. But completely changing the rules of the governing board in the middle of a heated dispute for control is kind of a big piece of information to leave out.

It's also dirty pool by the Crane camp, and it carries all the ethical transparency of an announcement by Barack Obama that he's "creating" four new Supreme Court seats of his choosing on the eve of their health care vote.

Not to be outdone, consider another recent claim by Jerry Taylor:

Let the record show that the shareholders have only met twice over the 35 year history of the Cato Institute. The first meeting was in 1981 when the shareholders bought-out Murray Rothbard’s shares and removed him from the board of directors. The second meeting was in 2010 when the Kochs rammed Nancy Pfotenhauer and Kevin Gentry onto the board of directors.


Aside from once again completely glossing over the way in which Rothbard was deprived of his shares, Taylor adds his own little deception that is further contradicted in the case evidence. Documents in the attached exhibits show evidence of at least a third meeting in 1985 because the other three shareholders all signed a document at the time granting Niskanen his new shares. The fact that the shareholder group was modified again in 1991 (when David Koch received his shares) and 2008 (when George Pearson returned his) further shows that the agreement was hardly "dormant" in those intervening years between 1981 and 2010, even as Murray was wrongfully deprived of his property in the first place.

Now the Crane Operatives will continue to sidestep these pesky little details and focus instead upon regurgitating new iterations of their lone somewhat appealing argument to date: to impugn the Koch appointees to the board, now in a solid minority, by highlighting their various hackish Beltway political connections and pointing out who cuts their paychecks. But as due notation attests, complaints about the other side's partisan hacks lose their punch when you have a long track record of appointing your own hack-of-all-hacks Rupert Murdoch to the very same board. And openly welcoming the ultimate poster boy for partisan Beltway insider smoky back room deal-making to those fancy shindigs at the Glass Cube, one Ben Bernanke. So yes - the Brothers Koch certainly stuck their own Republican Beltway insider types into the "libertarian" Cato apparatus.

But the whole freaking place was already chock full of hackish Republican Beltway insiders brought in by Crane. And even a few Democrat ones. Which is why a Koch takeover will - at worst - only bring more of the same. And at best it gives Boss Crane the boot, in which case a whole bunch of Crane Cultist Beltarian hipsters will leave with him.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Crane-Packing Scheme

Strange happenings, dear reader, are underway in the Beltwaycentric world of Crane vs. Koch.

Although be honest, the pressing matter of the Cato lawsuit had gone into a bit of a dry spell since last approached. When previously checked, the Beltarian hipster social media phenomenon known as the "Save Cato" Facebook page had dried to a trickle of only a couple likes a week and nary a new "story" for days on end...unless you count their link to a crappy youtube video in which a Democratic congressman fawns praise on the "independent" Cato Institute for resisting Kochian influence.

Well all of that changed in the last week when the Giant Glass Cube went on a PR terror of increasingly pedantic and repetitive Cato talking points (all of them conveniently written by people who through financial and personal dependence on their current affiliations with Cato might legitimately be called non-neutral "Crane Operatives," although the irony of that status is apparently lost upon them vis-a-vis their simultaneous charge against certain disliked Koch appointees to the Cato board).

They also gave themselves a new face - a group blog by many of the same Crane Operatives to further sanitize Ed's angry drunken rambling blather of an approach to pleading his case before the public.

So what was the impetus? Well, the Kochtopus filed an addendum to its lawsuit in court seeking to invalidate a recent meeting in which Crane packed the Cato board of directors with four new seats. This increased his slim 9-7 majority over the Koch faction on the board to 13-7 (full details and links to relevant documents here). Of further note, as National Review reveals, the Kochs unsuccessfully asked the court to seal this latest motion , further demonstrating that Crane is dead set upon fighting his little battle by making it into a giant public media spectacle (which any decent game theorist will tell you is a classic tactic when you know deep down the other guy has the stronger legal argument - impose costs on him by publicly shaming him along the route to the courtroom, and hope in desperation he relents). Right now, Boss Crane is in the "throw everything you got and see what sticks" phase of that strategy, and all his Beltwaytarian hipster flunkies are on call to quarters.

Two interesting bits of information have emerged from the middle of this most recent ball of Catoite-Kochian flak and regurgitated talking points. The first is Charlie's own affidavit to the most recent courtroom motion - a 115 page document dump that provides some of the first direct evidence of all those behind-the-scenes conversations and email discussions in the months before the March 1st board meeting (note: the real fun starts around page 45 of the PDF, and again at page 93 relating to the March 22 Crane-Packing Meeting). Also see the exhibits of the lawsuit addendum, including multiple internal emails. Bob Levy was being outright squirrely about the purposes of the March 22 meeting when pressed by the Koch faction.

The second comes from over at the new Crane Operative groupblog where Jerry Taylor leaks out a bit of Catoite documentation of his own, at least in edited form, pertaining to former original Cato shareholder George Pearson. Now Pearson retired from his interest in Cato a few years ago and the Brothers Koch, to their credit, have generally abstained from trying to drag him back into this spat (even as they've rather laughably tiptoed around the matter of what happened to Cato's other original shareholder, the late Murray Rothbard). Crane on the other hand has been on a mission to rope in Pearson to his side from the outset. First came a strong insinuation of Pearson's backing through a Facebook-employed channel of the Crane Operative camp. And now comes Taylor all but claiming Pearson for the cause. It's effectively a ploy to force a side out of the one remaining guy "in the know" at the beginning of the shareholder agreement who has sat respectfully silent through the present episode...all through old excerpted letters and internal Cato documents from the 90's and 2000's that could have come from only one source, Crane himself.

But notice what else Taylor says in his bid to "correct" the history of Pearson's former role in Cato's shares:

From the founding of the Cato Institute in 1977 through 1981, there were four shareholders; Charles Koch (12 shares), George Pearson (12 shares), Murray Rothbard (12 shares), and Ed Crane (12 shares). After Rothbard was bought-out in 1981 by Koch, Pearson, and Crane, there were three shareholders, each of whom received four of Rothbard’s 12 original shares.


So after all those years the silence from the Crane camp is broken, and it was a simple nondescript "buyout" of the Rothbard shares? Something tells me Murray didn't exactly see it that way.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Ed Crane Gravy Train

Notice something similar about all the pro-Cato bloggers?

Yes, that's correct.

Almost every single person editorializing in favor of Cato's position is either a current or former Cato employee.

Or a title-holder.

Same with the people promoting the Save Cato campaign on facebook.

But their stakes in this little lawsuit thing are all "impartial" and "independent" of any "conflict of interest" that could ever suggest they are in any way connected to or controlled by an ultra-wealthy DC-based political boss with over 30 years of high-dollar elbow rubbing in the smoky back rooms of federal power.

Rule #1 of any bloated DC bureaucracy peon: don't bite the hand that feeds ya!