Posts tagged with 'David Corn'

Weekly Audit: HBGary Federal and The Chamber of Secrets

Posted Feb 15, 2011 @ 12:03 pm by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

Creative Commons, Flickr, laverrueBy Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The most influential business lobby group in the United States has been linked to a scheme to deploy dirty tricks against its political opponents. Josh Harkinson reports for Mother Jones that prospective vendors for the Chamber of Commerce hatched a plan to frame and entrap critics of the Chamber.

The plan came to light last week after hackers released thousands of emails obtained from the servers of HBGary Federal, a private security company. The emails reveal Chamber law firm Hunton & Williams was looking for firms to help it execute a plot to entrap bloggers, union officials and other Chamber critics. The goal, according to Harkinson, was to manufacture evidence that all the Chamber’s critics were working together to discredit the business group:

According to the emails, Chamber law firm Hunton & Williams wanted to hire digital sleuths that could demonstrate that the business group’s opponents had been working as a “single entity instead of a true ‘grasroots’ campaign.” That phrase and others suggest that the Chamber’s ultimate goal was to openly accuse its foes of a left-wing form of astroturfing.

HBGary Federal was apparently planning to pitch its services as a “Corporate Information Renaissance Cell” to the Chamber yesterday. The emails show that HBGary Federal and two other firms, Berico Technologies and Palantir, proposed to use the social networking pages of the Chamber’s enemies to manufacture evidence of supposed “relationships” between various players.

Labor of love

Robert Kuttner suggests in The American Prospect that organized labor may be the last best hope for reviving the middle class and restoring shared prosperity:

Though no longer centered in auto and steel factories, unions continue to offer lower-income Americans a path into the middle class–just ask a newly organized janitor, hotel worker, security guard, hospital paraprofessional, home-care worker, or warehouse, call-center, or food-service employee.

Kuttner notes that the average union employee earns about 20% more than a non-unionized worker doing the same job. He also cites evidence that unionized workers are more likely to vote for Democrats than their non-unionized counterparts and that the power of unions to deliver votes for Democrats had been growing steadily up until the Republican blowout in the midterm elections of 2010.

Budget bingo

Ari Berman of The Nation takes a closer look at President Obama’s proposed federal budget for 2012. The budget calls for investments in high speed rail and a national infrastructure bank. It does not tinker with Medicare or Social Security. The cuts proposed in the budget barely offset the cost of continuing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Berman notes.

Meanwhile, David Corn of Mother Jones examines the president’s budget and feels deja vu from the Clinton administration. At a recent press conference, White House budget director Jared Lew outlined a budget that attempts to save money while”winning the future.” Obama’s budget promises $1.1 trillion in savings over the next decade, while maintaining investments in future-oriented research and development projects.

Corn notes that the administration is calling for $2.5 billion in cuts to a home heating program (LIHEAP) for the poor and elderly while simultaneously planning a national broadband network. But the administration has more or less given up on immediate job-creation in favor of long-term investment, Corn argues:

It seems the administration has concluded that after that tax-cut deal—which did amount to something of a second stimulus—there is not much else the White House can do via government spending (or tax cuts) to create jobs, especially with Republicans controlling the House.

That sounds good on paper, but how much are these ambitious big ticket projects going to do for Americans who are struggling in the current recession? He thinks it all sounds a lot like former president Bill Clinton’s centrist approach to the budget.

Consumers Anonymous

Carrie Barker of Ms. Magazine interviews CNN host Jane Velez-Mitchell about her new book Addict Nation, a book about American consumerism as a form of mass addiction. As a recovering alcoholic with 16 years of sobriety, Velez-Mitchell says she began to see connections between her personal struggles and the larger cultural script that “more is better.” She argues that our society needs a “consumer revolution” that will prompt people to rethink their buying patterns as conscious social and moral choices, as opposed to reflexive self-gratification.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Campaign Cash: Citizens United Becomes Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card for Corporate Criminals

Posted Nov 3, 2010 @ 10:52 am by
Filed under: Report, Reports     Bookmark and Share

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr/Gage SkidmoreThe votes are in, and while some close races are still being tallied, there is a clear winner from the 2010 elections: Secret corporate cash.

Such unaccounted for political donations may end up allowing those accused of wrongdoing to go free. As Joshua Holland details for AlterNet, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission may have provided a lifetime supply of get-out-of-jail-free cards to corporate criminals.

The Kentucky senate race serves as a prime example. The Democratic candidate, Jack Conway, is currently Kentucky’s attorney general. Conway is also currently prosecuting a nursing home for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of one of its residents.

But that nursing home is owned by Terry Forcht, a millionaire who gives prodigiously to right-wing causes. He poured money into Karl Rove’s organization, American Crossroads GPS, which ran ads backing Conway’s Republican opponent, Rand Paul. Guess who came away with the victory last night?

As Holland emphasizes, the mid-term elections are just how the first phase of the justice system’s corruption plays out. Eventually the mere threat of attack ads could be enough to prevent needed prosecutions. Corporate bigwigs could literally get away with murder, and pay for it only through attack ads.

(more…)

Weekly Pulse: Palin Revives Death Panels; Boobs Against Breast Cancer; and the Anti-Gay Bullying Crisis

Posted Oct 13, 2010 @ 10:35 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Don’t look now, but Sarah Palin is back on her death panel kick, just in time for Halloween. No, really, don’t look. It just encourages the former governor of Alaska to recycle the exhaustively debunked allegation that health care reform will involve bringing the elderly and the disabled before “death panels” who will judge whether they are fit to live.

David Corn of Mother Jones caught Palin referencing the thoroughly debunked myth in her latest interview with the conservative website Newsmax. Oh, and she says she won’t rule out a presidential run in 2012.

Boobs against breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The National Cancer Institute estimates that over 207,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and that nearly 40,000 will die of the disease this year. Breast cancer is the second-most common form of cancer in women.

Amie Newman of RH Reality Check notes that even Kentucky Fried Chicken is getting in on the awareness action with pink chicken buckets “for the cure.” This month, KFC is donating 50 cents from each rosy-hued tub of Original Recipe chicken to Susan G. Komen For The Cure, a leading breast cancer advocacy group. The promotion is expected to raise between $1 million and $8 million for breast cancer research and activism. That’s between 2 million and 16 million buckets of chicken. It’s more of a barometer than a donation, really. (more…)

Weekly Audit: Congressional Inaction Feeding Unemployment Crisis

Posted Jul 6, 2010 @ 9:52 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger

After months of modest gains, the U.S. economy lost 125,000 jobs during June. That’s the worst jobs-related news this year. Without serious action soon, the struggling U.S. economy is going to get even uglier. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama’s economic team was slow to recognize the severity of the jobs crisis, and now seems unable to get Congress to actually do something about it.

As David Corn notes for Mother Jones, the recent jobs data is actually much worse than the 125,000 figure implies:

“The economy needs about 150,000 new jobs a month to keep up with population growth and new entries into the jobs market. It needs a lot more than that to make up for the 8 million or so jobs lost in 2008 and 2009.”

(more…)

Weekly Mulch: When will America be free from BP?

Posted Jul 2, 2010 @ 9:45 am by
Filed under: Sustain     Bookmark and Share

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

On July 4th, Americans are supposed to celebrate their independence. We may no longer have to worry about a greedy, distant monarch. But our country is still held in thrall to powerful interests that prize profit over individuals and their freedom—the energy industry comes to mind. As Jason Mark puts it at AlterNet:

“We’re in an abusive relationship and unable to leave our abuser. The plight of the people in Louisiana proves the point. Louisianans have been punched in the face by the hand that feeds them, and yet their biggest worry is that the oil and gas industry is going to walk out the door and leave them.”

Where’s the love?

It’s clear that BP, for instance, isn’t playing carefully with our country or its resources. At Mother Jones, David Corn relates the latest example of the company’s callousness. Its recovery plan had no stipulations about handling even a small storm like the one that stopped clean-up this week. It did, however, include plans to save sea life that hasn’t lived in the Gulf for millions of years. As Corn put it, the company was “prepared for walruses, not prepared for hurricanes.”

The biggest problem, of course, is that BP wasn’t prepared to handle a blow-out to begin with. The leak has gone on for so long that governmental officials are now taking unprecedented measures to protect the wildlife most vulnerable to its effects. Beth Buczynski reports at Care2 that official are going to dig up about 700 sea turtle nests on Alabama and Florida beaches that are at risk from the oil.

“Once the eggs have hatched, the young turtles will be released in darkness on Florida’s Atlantic beaches into oil-free water,” she writes. “Translocation of nests on this scale has never been attempted before.”

Halliburton

No matter how badly these companies treat us, it seems we can’t get rid of them. Take Halliburton. The company has latched its talons into the country and will not let go. It is second only to BP in shouldering responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon spill. As Jason Mark reports for the Earth Island Journal, just before the oil spill, Halliburton took over Boots & Coots, a company that deals with oil-well blowouts; that company now has a contract with BP to help with the relief well.

“Halliburton is essentially making money from causing the accident and then helping to repair it,” Mark writes. “Halliburton’s many-fingered tentacles is just the latest illustration of how powerful the company is.”

Wimpy Washington

Washington isn’t strong enough to fight back against that sort of corporate  power. Over the past year, energy interests have whittled down the climate change legislation to a tepid half-step. Right now it looks most likely that a bill that passes will regulate only the utilities sector.

“We believe we have compromised significantly, and we’re prepared to compromise further,” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told Politico this week after a White House meeting on the bill.

“If you’re looking for the sorry state of American energy politics distilled into one line, there it is,” writes Jonathan Hiskes at Grist. “Kerry fights harder for clean energy than just about any national politician.”

Still, if anything passes the Senate, Washington will celebrate. As Aaron Wiener explains at the Washington Independent, “For all the disappointment among environmentalists over the repeated compromises Democrats have made on climate legislation to win over moderates, some argue that a utilities-only cap would achieve most of the goals of an economy-wide carbon pricing scheme. The question now is whether Democratic leaders in the Senate can muster 60 votes for even a weakened bill to overcome a Republican filibuster.”

Our friends abroad

On an international level, our governing bodies might be doing a better job, but not by much. Inter Press Service reports that the countries at the meeting promised to scale back taxpayer subsidies of fossil fuels. Even that promise is limited, however. “Countries agree to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” but each country decides what those are,” IPS reports. “Some countries like Japan, Australia, Italy and others have already said they don’t have any.”

And at Earth Island Journal, Ron Johnson heard a different story.

Johnson spoke to Kim Carstensen, who leads the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Climate Initiative, who compared this meeting’s report to that of the last G20 summit and found that climate issues had dropped off the radar. “There were eight references to clean energy in the final report from Pittsburgh (the last G20 Summit) and they have been completely vacuum cleaned,” he said. “That is kind of scary.”

Fight back

In situations like this, it takes massive pressure from outside to move the political apparatus forward. At AlterNet, Heetan Kalan has some ideas about how to progress—reach beyond the environmental community; enlist “doctors, nurses, public health officials and patients speaking out about the connection between consumers of coal energy and their immediate health concerns.” Kalan writes:

“After all, climate change is not solely an environmental problem — it is a human/planetary problem. If we are going to rely on a small base of environmentalists to carry us through this crisis, we are in trouble. Our spokespeople on this issue have to come from a wide spectrum of citizens and leaders.”

Certainly, they have to come from somewhere, and as Steve Benen writes at The Washington Monthly, whoever is speaking on this issue now, they’re not speaking loud enough.

“Lawmakers aren’t facing much in the way of public pressure,” he writes. “The polls look encouraging, suggesting the public is inclined to back the Democratic proposals, but that support hasn’t translated into aggressive advocacy — phone calls to lawmakers’ offices, letter-writing campaigns, district meetings, sizable rallies, etc….If engaged constituents want more, Congress will have to feel considerably more heat than they are now.”

In other words, if America wants to be free of coal, oil, gas, and the energy industry, we’re going to have to fight for it.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Audit: Just Who is Obama fighting for?

Posted Jan 26, 2010 @ 11:50 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

By Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger

Progressives have waited a year for President Barack Obama to roll up his sleeves and fight for serious financial reform. Last week, he finally jumped in the ring, telling weak-kneed Senators to stand up to Wall Street and endorsing a critical ban on risky securities trading.

But while it was good to see Obama start throwing financial punches against the banks, this week he also started throwing them at workers. His recent rhetoric on implementing a spending freeze to reduce the deficit is an economic catastrophe in the making. It indicates that Obama is willing to sacrifice jobs to try and win over Republicans. (more…)

The Mulch: Peaceful Protests Turn Violent in Copenhagen

Posted Dec 16, 2009 @ 2:10 pm by
Filed under: Sustain     Bookmark and Share

By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop15) turned ugly today when police officers beat back hundreds of demonstrators, including a group of 50 to 100 delegates that were trying to meet with the protesters.

More than 250 people were arrested, including spokespeople for Climate Justice Action (CJA), a global network of NGOs that organized a walkout at the Bella Center today. CJA’s spokesperson Dan Glall told Mantoe Phakathi at Inter Press Service that “as a condition for going back to the negotiations, we demand industrialized nations uphold the Kyoto Protocol, commit adequate funds to adaptation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.”

OneClimate has video (below) of today’s walkout.

“More than 1,000 people have been arrested, detained and released over the course of the past week,” Jennifer Prediger writes for Grist. “Some were made to sit on freezing sidewalks for six hours in a nasty version of time out. The people who threw rocks and set cars on fire were rightfully detained.  But the droves who were dragged in last night for dancing awkwardly in Christiana?  Seems like overkill to me.”

The chaos outside reflects the increasing pressure inside the Bella Center, as delegates turn to the United States and China for leadership in the final days of the summit. Together these countries account for 42 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

In order to finalize a global climate agreement in Copenhagen, both countries need to take a big step forward, as David Doniger and Barbara Finamore report for Grist. For the U.S., this means aid for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people; for China, this means making steady progress to meet the country’s carbon reduction goals.

The U.S. has already committed to pay its share of a $30 billion fund to last through 2012. “But to lead in Copenhagen, the U.S. needs to back even larger investments to meet these core needs for the longer-term—2015 or 2020,” Doniger and Finamore write. “China has the opportunity to enhance its standing as a responsible world leader by building global confidence in the implementation of its carbon reduction goals.”

But as David Corn reports for Mother Jones, China and the U.S. are apparently “stuck in a standoff.” An Obama administration official insisted that it’s not about the money: “‘We have to get the developing nations into an international agreement,’ the official said… Yet China has forcefully resisted the idea of incorporating their self-professed emissions goals (essentially, slowing the growth rate of emissions) into a binding agreement. China has also repeatedly said that it will not submit its performance to official outside vetting.”

Corn writes, “But with 115 heads of states beginning to arrive, the Copenhagen talks have left some fundamental gaps for the last minute. Even if those gaps are bridged, the resulting agreement could fall far short of what experts say is necessary to redress the dire consequences of rising global temperatures. Just ask the scientists roaming the halls.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Copenhagen today in a last minute appearance. Clinton has booked a full day of meetings on Thursday and will join President Barack Obama in negotiations when he arrives Friday. Like Obama’s schedule switch at the conference (he originally planned to be there last week and instead will arrive Friday), Clinton’s arrival could indicate the U.S.’s intention to seal a deal by the end of the week.

For live updates of the negotiations and protests, check out The Uptake’s live video stream from the Bella Center.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Audit: Stop Subsidizing Wall Street

Posted Mar 24, 2009 @ 8:28 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner rolled out his new Wall Street bailout plan on Monday and the progressive verdict is already in: This bailout doesn’t look much better than the last one. In fact, Geithner’s latest plan isn’t much different from several other flawed proposals policymakers have floated over the past year. At its core, Geithner’s program is just another attempt buy up “toxic assets” from banks at inflated prices.

If most major U.S. banks accepted current market prices for the bad, mortgage-related assets on their books, they would be insolvent. Geithner is trying to convince Wall Street that the assets are worth a lot more than everyone thinks they are, rather than deal with the fundamental problems of the assets and their owners. The plan unveiled on Monday involves a smorgasbord of guarantees for Wall Street investors, all part of an effort to sweeten the pot and convince them to buy toxic mortgage-related assets from troubled banks. Unfortunately, Geithner’s revisions create new problems without solving key previous dilemmas inherent in the plan.

In a post for Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall highlights a clip of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz rejecting a very similar plan in early February. Marshall asks “Why are we still at this?”

Under older formulations of the toxic asset purchase model, the government would have purchased the assets directly from banks. Since the assets are hard to value, this approach would have carried the risk that the Treasury would pay too much and provide banks with what amounts to a bailout (inflated price = free money + no strings attached). Geithner’s new plan offers incentives that encourage hedge funds and private equity companies to buy toxic assets from banks. But the incentives do nothing to make sure the funds do not pay too much for those assets. Indeed, Geithner’s plan actually encourages the private sector to pay too much. The troubled banks are still likely to be bailed out, thanks to a strong possibility that investors will pony up artificially high prices for their assets. The result is a set of economically irrational subsidies for both banks and Wall Street investment houses.

As Ezra Klein puts it for The American Prospect: “Imagine an art auction. Now imagine an art auction where Sotheby’s loans money to the participants and promises to pay the losses if the paintings fall in value. Think the pricing will be the same? And who would you say is being protected: Sotheby’s or the private investors?”

Still worse, all of those subsidies and guarantees for hedge funds mean that taxpayers are on the hook for much more than our private sector “partners,” since buying up assets that nobody wants to buy is an intrinsically risky plan. In a sane investment world, taxpayers would benefit from a greater share of any gains from the investment. But the Geithner plan actually works the opposite way, as David Corn writes for Mother Jones: “The feds are shouldering much more of the risk burden than the private firms. Yet the feds would not get any greater split of the profits—if they ever materialize.”

The government has intentionally created a gamble in which taxpayers bear the brunt of the blow for any losses, but allows Wall Street investors to enjoy a disproportionately large share of any gains. Subsidizing hedge funds and private equity firms serves no real economic function– they do not make loans that help small businesses or consumers. If we are going to bail out troubled banks, we might as well control how our funds are spent and ensure that the mistakes that created this problem are not repeated: wipe out the shareholders who made bad bets on poorly run companies and kick out the management teams who drove those companies into the ground.

Everyone, of course, is still angry about those AIG bonuses. But excessive executive compensation is not only a problem for companies that have been bailed out, as David Moberg explains for In These Times. Outrageous CEO paychecks distort timelines for executives, encouraging them to take short-term risks at the expense of long-term profitability. This is bad not only for individual companies, but for the entire economy. The current financial crisis is a direct result of executives binging on risky securities to score big paydays without worrying about future damages to their companies’ balance sheets.

It’s also easy to forget that corporations are not merely wealth machines for their top executives—they are supposed to serve a useful economic function and fulfill actual social needs. Moberg argues persuasively that we need new rules for corporate accountability that align the interests of companies with the well-being of our society.

Over at Yes!, David Korten emphasizes the risk that important reforms on Wall Street will fall by the wayside if the government continues to focus on short-term emergency bailout plans instead of serious regulatory changes. It’s past time for regulators to impose new rules on the game. The current financial crisis hit in the summer of 2007. Bear Stearns collapsed over a year ago. If the government had devoted more time to restructuring a broken financial system and less time orchestrating short-term bailouts, policymakers would have a much more effective set of tools to combat the crisis with. The most important lesson we have learned so far is that when a bank is considered too big to fail, it has become too big to exist. If lawmakers do not force over-sized financial behemoths to downsize, the entire economy will be jeopardized again when Wall Street’s next speculative bubble bursts.

At present, however, Geithner seems content to simply blow another bubble with a new set of windfalls for Wall Street. If that sounds like a raw deal for taxpayers, that’s because it is.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit StimulusPlan.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net for complete lists of articles on the economy, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical health and immigration issues, check out Healthcare.NewsLadder.net and Immigration.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.