Archive for December 3, 2010

Greenpeace Sues Chemical Companies for Corporate Espionage

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Abandoning “Net Neutrality,” FCC Chair Backs Two-Tiered Internet Fees

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James K. Galbraith – Casting Light on “The Moment of Truth”

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From New Deal 2.0:

Casting Light on “The Moment of Truth”

Friday, 12/3/2010 – 9:51 am by James K. Galbraith

Where’s the evidence to back up the fear mongering? A challenge to the Fiscal Commission’s report.

The report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, issued on December 1, 2010 by Chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, is entitled “The Moment of Truth.” The words appear in block caps on the second page, weighty and portentous. They reappear in the first paragraph of the preamble:

“Throughout our nation’s history, Americans have found the courage to do right by our children’s future. Deep down, every American knows that we face a moment of truth once again.”

These sentences set the tone. The…

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Economist’s View – The Employment Report

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Economist’s View:

The Employment Report

This is not the report we’ve been waiting for. Unemlpoyment has risen from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent, and job growth is very low:

The unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent in November, and nonfarm payroll employment was little changed (+39,000)

We should have done something about this months and months ago. But instead, it was easier to rely on the hope that things were getting better and avoid the hard work and difficult politics of trying to spur job creation. What do we hear from the White House now? Are they ready to embrace a less optimistic but more realistic path for employment? Nope. The White House view is that “one month does not a new trend make.” When bad news is always discounted as an aberration, and good news embraced as though it is the trend, this is the policy outcome you get — too little, too late, if at all. The White House needed to push as hard as they could for more help, and it should have started long ago. I realize that they probably wouldn’t have been successful due to opposition in Congress, but you don’t know that unless you try, and the battle itself would have had value even if it wasn’t successful.

[Also posted at MoneyWatch.]

Glenn Greenwald – Joe Lieberman emulates Chinese dictators

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From Salon:

Joe Lieberman emulates Chinese dictators

By Glenn Greenwald

(updated below – Update II – Update III)

The comparison of these two passages is so telling in so many ways:

The Washington Post, today:

Revelations by the organization WikiLeaks have received blanket coverage this week on television, in newspapers and on Web sites around the globe. But in parts of the world where the leaks have some of the greatest potential to sow controversy, they have barely caused a ripple.

Authoritarian governments and tightly controlled media in China and across the Arab Middle East have suppressed virtually all mention of the documents, avoiding the public backlash that could result from such candid portrayals of their leaders’ views.

In China, the WikiLeaks site has been blocked by the government’s “Great Firewall,” and access to other sources for the documents has been restricted.  Most Chinese are unable to read the contents of the diplomatic cables. . . .

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More Joe Lieberman-caused Internet censorship

By Glenn Greenwald

(updated below – Update II)

Following up on my post from earlier today about Joe Lieberman’s Chinese-replicating Internet censorship efforts (and please read that first for the context), I wanted this to be highlighted separately: The New York Times reports that another company has now capitulated to Lieberman’s demands:  “a Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which provides a free Web platform for interactive graphics, removed charts uploaded by WikiLeaks in response to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s public statement that companies should stop helping the whistle-blowers.”  Tableau issued a statement, which reads in part:

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WikiLeaks debate with Steven Aftergood

By Glenn Greenwald

(updated below)

I was on Democracy Now this morning debating WikiLeaks with Steven Aftergood, the long-time transparency advocate with Federation for American Scientists and Secrecy News, and a vociferous critic of WikiLeaks.  Because of his harsh and continuous deunciations of the group, Aftergood has been held up by many media outlets such as Newsweek as evidence that even transparency campaigners condemn them.  This debate, in my view, highlights the core disputes surrounding WikiLeaks quite vividly and is thus worth watching.  One added note:  Democracy Now, unsurprisingly, has been providing some of the best and most informative coverage of the WikiLeaks disclosures; see here (and scroll down) for the links to their superb reporting and interviews all week long:

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Leo W. Gerard – Political Corruption: GOP Embraces the Ken Lay Way

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From the AFL-CIO Now Blog:

Political Corruption: GOP Embraces the Ken Lay Way

by Leo W. Gerard, Dec 2, 2010

The GOP has adopted the Ken Lay principles—that is obfuscation, false statements and feigned innocence. Republicans are obfuscating about the real reason for their opposition to extending unemployment benefits, the way Enron CEO Ken Lay concealed the truth about billions in losses his corporation racked up.

Lay assured Enron workers the corporation was strong—five weeks before it failed. When the nation’s seventh largest corporation collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001, Lay walked away, by his own estimate, with $20 million. By contrast, Enron’s 4,000 workers and creditors left with debts. The employees lost their jobs and pensions, and the creditors lost $65 billion.

A jury, and a judge in a separate case, convicted Lay in 2006—finding him guilty of fraud, conspiracy and false statements. He obscured Enron’s massive losses with accounting hocus-pocus then lied about it so pervasively and persuasively that in February 2001, 10 months before the bankruptcy, Fortune magazine awarded Enron first place for innovation and second for management quality.

Republican acolytes of the Ken Lay way contend that the federal budget deficit prohibits spending $65 billion to extend emergency unemployment insurance for a year. But, at the same time, they insist the deficit doesn’t constrain extending tax cuts to the richest 1 percent at a cost of $61 billion for the year 2011. It’s masterful. And as corrupt as Ken Lay.

In the past 60 years, Congress has never terminated emergency unemployment benefits when joblessness was this severe. The highest point at which Congress ended the program previously was 7.2 percent, and that rate was declining. Now, unemployment is stuck at a rate significantly higher—9.6 percent. There are 14.8 million unemployed workers, five jostling for every single job opening. They subsist on unemployment checks averaging less than $290 a week, which for too many is insufficient to forestall foreclosure because it’s half of what an average family spends for necessities.

Despite that six-decade precedent, Republicans blocked extension of unemployment benefits on Tuesday, then on Wednesday announced they’d vote on no measure until they got renewal of the Bush tax cuts and a resolution continuing funding for the federal government. As a result, 800,000 jobless Americans lost those small, family-preserving checks. Republicans are holding them hostage, with a ransom demand of tax cuts for the nation’s richest 1 percent. If the GOP doesn’t get what it wants, 2 million will lose unemployment insurance by year’s end.

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AlterNet – Shocking: JP Morgan Chase Was On to Madoff for Months, Kept Doing Business With Him

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From AlterNet:

Shocking: JP Morgan Chase Was On to Madoff for Months, Kept Doing Business With Him

It’s been revealed that JP Morgan Chase suspected Bernie Madoff’s investments were “too good to be true” in the two months leading up to the Ponzi schemer’s arrest, during which time the bank kept doing business with him anyway.

According to ABC News, lawyers representing Madoff’s victims have filed a $6.4 billion lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase, claiming the bank “continued its relationship with Madoff despite having documented suspicions about him.”

Indeed, a “Suspicious Activity Report” shows that the bank’s London office was, well, suspicious of Madoff’s investment returns in October 2008. Madoff was arrested December 11 of that year.    Read more

By Lauren Kelley | AlterNet
Posted on Friday, December 3, 2010 @ 07:21 AM

Mike Konczal – Today’s Jobs Numbers: Proof Against Structural Unemployment

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From New Deal 2.0:

Today’s Jobs Numbers: Proof Against Structural Unemployment

Friday, 12/3/2010 – 5:44 pm by Mike Konczal

Unemployment numbers for women and the college educated speak to a different kind of problem.

Bad unemployment news today.

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Columbia Journalism Review

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Bernanke–the Wilderness Years:  Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum writes that not long ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke issued a public call for congress and the president to pass another round of stimulus for the battered economy—and nobody noticed. Chittum noted a while back how odd it was that a press corps that likes to parse the Fed chairman’s every word for evidence of what he’s thinking, and which thought Alan Greenspan’s 2001 support of the Bush tax cuts was worth reams of coverage, and which has devoted front page story after front page story to the Two Old Guys’ Report on the deficit, somehow didn’t think Bernanke’s cry was that big a deal. Two weeks later, The Wall Street Journal finally gets around to it.

Inured to “Trillions”: The Federal Reserve is forced by Congress to reveal who it secretly bailed out with trillions of dollars in loans. How does the press play such a stunning story? In many case, surprisingly poorly.  Read Chittum on who gets it and  who doesn’t.  Preview: Huffington Post, Bloomberg do. Other big MSMers? Not so much.

WSJ Caught in an Overdraft: Chittum writes that back when the Federal Reserve adopted rules forcing banks to make customers opt in to overdraft “protection,” it looked like aggressive press coverage might break the back of a $40 billion a year scheme that charged 4,500 percent APRs for what were effectively short-term loans and hit poorer customers disproportionately. But The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago that banking-industry consultant Moebs says that a stunning 75 percent of customers have opted in to overdraft protection, which would mean all those pieces about the demise of “free checking” may have been premature. Unfortunately, the Journal’s piece is a good example of how not to do a story.

BizPress, Examined: Chittum provides a smart roundup of what other writers, including The New Yorker’s John Cassidy’s, the Financial Times’s Gillian Tett, are saying about the  pathologies of the business press.

Expertise Overreach: CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, notes that when Chris Whalen appeared on Tech Ticker with Henry Blodget; he said, in the accurate-if-sensationalist words of the Business Insider headline, that CALIFORNIA WILL DEFAULT ON ITS DEBT.  The interview was actually pretty intelligent and informative, by the standards of financial TV. But Brett Arends of Marketwatch didn’t like what he was hearing and decided to push back a bit with a few emailed questions, the results were illuminating

NYT Lags: Chittum says The New York Times is trying to play catchup with The Wall Street Journal, which has dominated the hedge-fund investigation story. But based on a recent day’s offerings from the Times, he doesn’t think  the WSJ is hearing footsteps just yet.

Tweeting Rumors: Um, that’s a bad idea, says Chittum. He’s written before about how press standards tend to go wobbly when it comes to Apple gossip. Well, the NewarkStar-Ledger recently offered a stark example.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Why Amazon Caved: Amazon Web Services dropped WikiLeaks material from its servers on Tuesday, a move that is widely assumed to be a response to pressure from the Senate Homeland Security Committee, though a statement from Amazon disputed that. CJR assistant editor Lauren Kirchner spoke with Ethan Zuckerman, researcher for the Berkman Center for Internet and Society—who has written about the tricky intersection of public space (the Internet) and private infrastructure (service providers)—on the broader implications of this news.

Disclose This: Speaking of the Berkman Center, its co-director, Howard Zittrain, commented fairly neutrally in Newsweek recently on the surprise Google -Verizon alliance—in which Google seemed to step back from its longtime support of Net Neutrality.  Readers wouldn’t have known that Google is Berkman’s biggest sponsor. Emily Brill argues that journalists should think about donor disclosure in digital policy issues the same way they do about Big Pharma and other areas where big industries have major interests. From the current issue of CJR.

What’s True? In their new book, Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload, Tom Rosensteil and Bill Kovach outline the skills that a new breed of empowered, critical media consumers need to make sense of the torrent of information that flows from a fractured and ever-expanding media universe.  Craig Silverman spoke with Rosenstiel in a Q&A about the new world of news and why the discipline of verification is something we all need.

The Human Toll: From our business desk, The Audit, CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, tips his hat to a great analysis in The New York Times by Catherine Rampell about the long-term unemployed, complete with a new parsing of data from the Labor Department.

A Remembrance: Alfred Balk, the second editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, died in November at the age of eighty. James Boylan, CJR’s first and founding editor, remembers.

Climate Progress – What the pro-pollution, anti-science crowd won’t tell you about the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From Climate Progress:

What the pro-pollution, anti-science crowd won’t tell you about the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments

Benefits exceeded costs by 30-to-1, with 160,000 lives saved

December 3, 2010

This repost from EDF’s Steve Cochran is part of CP’s series on EPA’s highly cost-effective, science-based efforts to preserve clean air, clean water, and a livable climate for our kids.

There they go again. Economic meltdown. Higher consumer costs. Massive job losses. These are among the predictions of doom surrounding EPA’s current and forthcoming round of clean air protections. If they sound familiar, they should. Time and again, from the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970 to today, prophets of doom have predicted that disastrous consequences would flow from cleaning the air we all breathe. And time and again, those dire predictions have been wrong. The Clean Air Act has protected American health and our environment for decades while our economy has grown. It is a legislative success story that continues today.

This series will examine what the naysayers have said about Clean Air Act protections and how those wild predictions compare to the statute’s actual record of protecting Americans from toxic air pollution and its devastating effects on human health and the environment. We start with the acid rain program in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

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Chomsky on Capitalism and Wage Slavery

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Chomsky on US Libertarianism

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Democracy Now! Headlines for 12/3/2010

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The Budget Deficit: How Big an Issue, and What Should Be Done About It

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Is WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange A Hero? Glenn Greenwald vs Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Running Dry: The Colorado River

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Consequences of Kampala The U S and the International Criminal Court

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techdirt – Lieberman Introduces New Censorship Bill In Kneejerk Response To Wikileaks

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From techdirt:

Lieberman Introduces New Censorship Bill In Kneejerk Response To Wikileaks (Free Speech)

by Mike Masnick from the where’s-that-first-amendment dept on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 @ 5:39PM

With Amazon dumping Wikileaks due to pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman, it seems to have only emboldened Lieberman to shred more of the First Amendment he’s supposed to be protecting. First, he has continued pressuring other companies to not host Wikileaks content. This has resulted in Tableau Software removing a visualization of Wikileaks data. People have pointed out that there was no sensitive data in what it had published, but because of Lieberman’s grandstanding, the company felt the need to remove the chart. Of course, you can still find the damn chart everywhere online, and I’m going to publish it here (Senator, feel free to give me a call about this), because it should be damn obvious that publishing something like this is not revealing any sensitive info. It’s all based on the data around the leaked cables, not the cables themselves.

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How The US Response Turns ‘Failed’ Terrorist Attacks Into Successes (News You Could Do Without)

by Mike Masnick from the playing-the-game-they-want dept on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 @ 6:24AM

Terrorism is a serious issue. No one’s trying to downplay the fact that some very angry individuals are trying to kill an awful lot of Americans (and others as well). However, what’s amazing is how incredibly bad the US appears to be at this particular game of chess. Robert Wright recently had a bit of an eye-opening discussion of how the US appears to have played into Al Qaeda’s plan at almost every turn. It’s another case of the US simply not understanding how to respond to a distributed threat, rather than a centralized one. The whole business is based on getting the US to overreact and overspend and get it caught in a quagmire that causes additional problem s. And, increasingly, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happened.

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AMERICAblog – Peter ‘Save Social Security’ Orszag is negotiating his next job – Citigroup

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From AMERICAblog:

Peter ‘Save Social Security’ Orszag is negotiating his next job – Citigroup

by Gaius Publius on 12/02/2010 07:59:00 PM

Via Digby, we discovered this little love note in the business press:

Citigroup Inc., recovering from its $45 billion bailout in 2008, is in advanced talks to hire former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Orszag, 41, may take a job in the New York-based firm’s investment-banking division, the people said, declining to be identified because the discussions are private. An announcement may come as early as today, one of the people said.

So let’s see, the sequence is:

2005 Peter Orszag, already at the Brookings Institute, proposes the Diamond-Orszag Plan, “Saving Social Security” (pdf; intro here; comment here). He wants (surprise) benefit cuts. The Diamond-Orszag Plan is now incorporated into the Bowles-Simpson (Mr. 310-Million Tits) Deficit Commission Proposal.

2006 Orszag is picked to direct The Hamilton Project, created by Robert Rubin “to think about what a future Democratic administration would do” in the economic sphere. Senator Obama attends the opening.

2007 Orszag goes to the Congressional Budget Office, where his specialty was analyzing the effect of health care costs on the federal budget.

2009 Orszag runs OMB for President Obama, where he makes Deficit Fear his specialty. During the run-up to the health care bill:

Orszag … had meetings with insurance executives and health experts as the White House made health reform its top legislative priority after enacting the $814 billion stimulus.

2010 Orszag leaves OMB in August and immediately raises his head in September with a NY Times editorial arguing for extension of the Bush tax cuts.

November 3 Orszag writes a NY Times column arguing again for “saving Social Security” by cutting benefits.

It’s now barely December, and Orszag has already been spotted negotiating his earthly reward. (Psst: The record is 30; I’d go for 31.)

From Rubin to Obama to Bowles-Simpson to Citi. Not bad for a guy who had to climb his way up from Exeter. As Groucho once said, “Clip me off a piece of that.”

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Steely Dan – Black Friday

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment