Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Senior editor at Mother Jones. Obsessive generalist, word wrangler, data cruncher, pun maker.

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Just How Libertarian Is Paul Ryan?

| Mon Aug. 13, 2012 4:41 PM EDT

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Mitt Romney's new running mate, has been hailed as the closest thing to a libertarian on the Republican ticket since Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). "Ryan is going to be very attractive to the broad libertarian voters," the Cato Institute's David Boaz told Buzzfeed. But aside from his Ayn Rand-reading, entitlement-busting ways, just how libertarian is Ryan?

Thankfully, MoJo's Josh Harkinson made this handy Venn diagram showing the various flavors of American libertarianism, from cranky Ron Paulism to traditional free-market and social liberalism. Sticking Ryan on the diagram shows that while he has a lot in common with small-government, antitax libertarians, he has a lot in common with mainstream conservatives. He has supported extending the Patriot Act, voted to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and voted for the bank bailout—all big no-nos for old-school libertarians.

Ryan is hardly the purists' pick, but as Reason noted before Romney tapped him, "For advocates of limited government, Ryan remains one of the most important allies in Congress."

Quick Reads: "Ascent of the A-Word: by Geoffrey Nunberg

| Mon Aug. 13, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years

By Geoffrey Nunberg


It's hard to say what makes an asshole an asshole, but you know 'em when you see 'em—from Donald Trump to that guy in the SUV who refuses to use his freakin' turn signal. Here, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg of the University of California-Berkeley briskly and entertainingly traces how a bit of World War II GI slang became an ubiquitous epithet and a moral category that's come to embody our polarized politics. Though he doesn't buy into simplistic notions of civility, Nunberg is concerned about the toxic side of assholism: When we declare someone an asshole, we're usually giving ourselves leave to act like one.

This review originally appeared in our September/October issue of Mother Jones.

Boats, Bottles, and Billy the Kid: The Other Koch Brother

| Mon Jul. 23, 2012 4:13 PM EDT
Bill Koch at an America's Cup press conference in 1992.

Now that he's given $2 million to the main pro-Romney super-PAC, William Koch has joined his brothers David and Charles as one of 2012's top conservative moneymen. Bill, David's twin, also made much of his money from his family's energy holdings, though he's not quite as rich as his better-known siblings. Forbes puts his net worth at $4 billion, versus his brothers' combined worth of $50 billion, the result of a drawn-out legal battle over the family fortune that left Bill and the eldest Koch brother, Frederick, behind.

Though he's given money to Republicans such as Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) and has used his company, Oxbow Carbon, to lobby against wind turbines off Cape Cod, Bill has not gotten involved with his brothers' shadowy political fundraising operation. "Bill Koch isn't Charles Koch and he isn't David Koch," his spokesman told the Village Voice. "He's not his brother's keeper."

What Bill Koch does like to keep: Wine and art. According to Antiques and Fine Art, Koch's Florida house has a "computerized wine cellar" that provides "easy access" his collection, whose size has been estimated at somewhere between 35,000 and 43,000 bottles. Koch once believed he possessed bottles of French wine signed by legendary oenophile Thomas Jefferson, but he later claimed they were bogus and sued the dealer and Christie's auction house. Last year, Koch told the Economist that he has spent $4 to $5 million on fake wines. He did not say how much he has spent on his ongoing lawsuits (five at last count) against the alleged purveyors of counterfeit wine.

Koch also has an extensive and eclectic collection of fine art, including works by Monet, Chagall, and Winslow Homer. Not content to let his favorite pieces collect dust, Koch seasonally schleps them to and from his summer home. As AFA explains:

Koch annually chooses artwork from his 400-strong collection to transport from his 40,000 square foot primary residence in Florida to the Cape Cod beach house. At a third of the size, the summer home accommodates only a careful selection. Thus, favorites such as enormous Fernando Botero sculptures, Alfred Stevens's engaging The Coquette, and much of the maritime collection (excluding over 120 boat models of every defender and challenger in the America's Cup), travel north while the majority of Koch's trove stays behind.

Koch's other passion is sailing. In 1992, he won the America's Cup at a reported cost of $68 million. "Financially, I would say win or lose, it's not worth it," he told ESPN. "If you asked me…if I knew what I know now, would I do it, the answer to that would be no."

"Wild Bill" also has a thing for the Old West. In 2010, he quietly purchased Buckskin Joe, a Colorado town/movie set/tourist trap, and relocated its buildings to his ranch. Last June, he spent $2.3 million on the only authenticated photograph of Billy the Kid. That's still $300,000 more than he's spent on Romney, one of his cheaper hobbies.

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