With A Cherry-Red Ferrari On Top
August 23, 2022
Some Good News
- New Massachusetts statue honors once-enslaved woman who won freedom in court (NBC)
- Kansas recount confirms results in favor of abortion rights (AP)
“The lack of money is the root of all evil.” – Mark Twain
Cash By Surprise
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) was a landmark 5-4 Supreme Court decision holding that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prevents the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofits. Following that decision, an avalanche of “dark money” from undisclosed donors began flowing into nonprofits involved in politics.
One such dark money 501(c)(4) organization is Marble Freedom Trust, founded in 2020 by an ultra-secretive billionaire and 90-year-old manufacturing magnate Barre Seid, and led by Federalist Society co-chair Leonard Leo, a prime architect of conservatives’ efforts to reshape the American judicial system. According to tax records, corporate documents, and a source obtained by the New York Times, Seid donated 100% of the stock of surge protector and data-center equipment maker Tripp Lite, the privately held Chicago company that Seid led for more than half a century, to Marble Freedom in 2020. In January 2021, Marble Freedom announced the sale of Tripp Lite to an Irish conglomerate for $165 billion, leaving the nonprofit with the largest known contribution to a political advocacy group in U.S. history, and allowing Seid to avoid paying up to $400 million in capital gains taxes. Marble Freedom quickly distributed some $200 billion to conservative causes.
Leo is a conservative Catholic who advised President Trump on judicial nominees and helped build the Supreme Court’s supermajority, which has since made a series of sweeping pro-business decisions and eliminated Constitutional protections for abortion rights. He runs a sprawling network of other right-wing nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors. Leo is now in charge of a massive political war chest likely to supercharge efforts to further shift American politics to the right. Robert Maguire, the research director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called the Marble Freedom donation “stupefying” and “by far” the largest known contribution to a dark money political group. “I’ve never seen a group of this magnitude before,” he said. “This is the kind of money that can help these political operatives and their allies start to move the needle on issues like reshaping the federal judiciary, making it more difficult to vote, a state-by-state campaign to remake election laws and lay the groundwork for undermining future elections.” (Oyez, CNN, NYT ($), ProPublica)
Fuel & Unusual Punishment
- Hugo Chavez was Venezuela’s president in 2007 when he nationalized the oil, electricity, and steel industries operating in his country. U.S. oil producer ConocoPhillips had three of its oil projects expropriated. After a lengthy legal battle in which Conoco sought $30 billion, the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) awarded the company $8.75 billion in 2019. Venezuela appealed.
- On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols rendered a default judgment finding that Venezuela was bound by the terms of the ICSID Convention, and that Conoco had properly notified the country of its lawsuit through the U.S. Department of State. The decision gives Conoco new authority to collect on the 2019 award by the World Bank tribunal, and adds at least $1 billion to the amount Venezuela owed to Conoco. Venezuelan officials declined to have representation at Friday’s hearing, and afterward had no immediate comment on the ruling. (Al Jazeera)
A Free Pride
- Earlier this month Vietnam’s government decided that homosexuality is “not a disease,” and its Ministry of Health said it is outlawing conversion therapy. The country’s health minister had received information that some healthcare establishments were claiming to offer “cures” for homosexuality.
- In its announcement, the health ministry said education should be strengthened so all medical providers have correct knowledge about “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people” and that queer people must be treated equally in medical environments. Mental health services can only be provided by experts on sexual orientation and gender identity, and supervision and inspection of medical facilities should be increased.
- Outlawing conversion therapy isn’t only being celebrated for its protection of queer Vietnamese in medical settings, but is also being used to spur an ongoing petition for the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, it remains unclear how the decision will be enforced, as many LGBTQ people are still threatened with conversion therapy, and often face harsh treatment from family. (Al Jazeera)
Additional World News
- Lightning kills runner on Greek mountain race; hurts another (ABC)
- Hotel siege in Somalia ends after 30 hours with 21 dead, 117 hurt (CBS)
- Turkey doubles Russian oil imports, filling EU void (Reuters)
- Dozens dead in flash floods in Afghanistan and Pakistan (CBS)
- Pope urges dialogue over Church-state crisis in Nicaragua after bishop’s arrest (Reuters)
- Drone hits Russia’s Black Sea fleet headquarters in Crimea (NBC)
- UAE ambassador to Iran to return, 6 years after relations severed (Al Jazeera)
Too Cool For School
- Columbus is home to Ohio’s largest school district. The teachers union was in talks with the school board when board members walked away from the bargaining table July 28.
- The union said the board refused to agree to language in a contract that “will guarantee Columbus students basics like air conditioning, appropriate (smaller) class sizes, and full-time art, music, and P.E. teachers in elementary schools.” Classes for the district’s 47,000 students are scheduled to start Wednesday, but on Sunday, 94% of the union — which represents over 4,000 teachers, nurses, and other education professionals in the Columbus City Schools district — voted to go on strike for the first time since 1975.
- Regardless, the school year is still scheduled to begin Wednesday, with classes online being led by substitutes. Schools around the country are facing critical teacher shortages and low morale among educators, exacerbated by the pandemic, low pay, and ever more crowded classrooms. Also weighing on teachers are a growing number of school shootings and changing guidance on what they are allowed to teach. (CNN)
Do A Better Hijab
- An 8th grade student at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Massachusetts was written up for a uniform infraction when she wore a hijab to school last Thursday. A family member posted on social media a picture of the “School Uniform Compliance Form” the student received from a teacher for the hijab.
- In the description of the infraction, the teacher spelled the headscarf worn by Muslim women as “jihab.” In a statement, the school said it allows students to wear religious attire “as an expression of their sincerely held beliefs,” but asks students to provide a letter “expressing this desire from a member of their clergy.”
- The statement also said: “While we would like to reiterate that the well-respected staff member overseeing the process should bear no responsibility for what has transpired, we understand how our handling of the situation came across as insensitive and look forward to using this moment as a learning opportunity to improve our policies and procedures.” Perhaps the “learning opportunity” should start with the “well respected staff member.” (NBC News)
Additional USA News
- Arkansas officers suspended after video shows beating during arrest (WaPo, $)
- Texas sends migrants to New York. They get a warm welcome, but life there is tough (NPR)
- ‘The world flipped upside down’: will end of Roe galvanize Democrats’ base in midterms? (Guardian)
- ‘We got rolled’: How the conservative grassroots lost the fight with Biden because it was focused on Trump (Politico)
- DeSantis uses cash and clout to reshape Florida school races (Politico)
- Texas man accused of threatening conservative convention (ABC)
- Dallas flash flood warning: Floodwaters overtake trucks and cars downtown as threat persists (CNN)
With A Cherry-Red Ferrari On Top
- Monterey Car Week in California is a series of nearly $500 million in glitzy car auctions that coincide with a car competition known as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. A cherry-red 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider was the closely watched star of an RM Sotheby’s auction, and expected to sell for $25 million. It went for the bargain price of $22 million.
- Collectors are splurging for classic and exotic cars, from vintage Cadillacs to modern hot rods to offbeat models like the Nissan Skyline GT-R. Auction houses say baby boomers continue to push up prices for European sports cars by Ferrari and Porsche, while an influx of Gen X and millennial collectors recalibrate price levels for cars by Lamborghini, Audi, and McLaren.
- Ferraris tend to be the bellwether for the market overall, and the Ferrari 410 Sport Spider was coveted partly because it was one of only two versions ever created by Enzo Ferrari and legendary designer Sergio Scaglietti. The car was also driven in the 1950s by famed driver and Cobra creator Carroll Shelby, whose inscription on the fuel tank reads: “Mr. Ferrari told me that this was the best Ferrari he ever built.” Shelby’s life was the subject of the terrific 2019 film Ford v. Ferrari, which got a 92% on the Tomatometer and an audience rating of 98%. (Forbes, WSJ ($))
- The rise of vertical farms: could indoor plant factories be the norm in 10 years? (Guardian)
- Chipotle debuts a ‘water cup’ candle. It smells like lemonade (CNN)
- Receding water levels of China’s Yangtze reveal ancient Buddhist statues (Reuters)
- Chinese city swabs freshly caught seafood for Covid-19 (CNN)
- Diet for a hotter climate: five plants that could help feed the world (Guardian)
- Why women are dancing in solidarity with Finland’s prime minister (NPR)
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU