In Defense of Lobbyists

Reading Time: 2 minutes In the days after the November election, Obama’s advisers announced “the strictest, and most far reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.” These rules included a ban on lobbyists joining the new administration. Why would political ethics demand such a prohibition? According to Obama’s transition team, the new policy sought to curb the Read More

More on Protecting Monopolies

Reading Time: < 1 minute The New Haven Independent reports that Sen. Joe Lieberman (D – CT) is leading a coalition of “centrists” and “moderates” against a public option for healthcare—a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers. As we recently discussed, the public option is supported by about three-quarters of the public, who, in the terms of Read More

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Corporate Tool

Reading Time: 2 minutes Here’s a useful tool for finding out what US-based transnational corporations are doing around the world. Go to a website called Croctail, where you can search domestic and foreign subsidiaries of publicly traded companies. (Hat tip to www.dirtdiggersdigest.org which brought it to my attention.) And while we’re at it, here’s DirtDiggers on Shell’s spin on Read More

UBS or Just Plain BS?

Reading Time: 2 minutes The Obama Justice Department has just floated a trial balloon to see if it can drop a legal effort to force the Swiss Bank UBS to disclose the names of 52,000 rich Americans suspected of using the bank to evade US taxes. Back in February, the Justice Department sued the bank in an effort to Read More

Hedge Funds Flex Lobbying Muscle

Reading Time: < 1 minute The Wall Street Journal has a solid piece of reporting on the continued power of hedge funds to shape their own—and the nation’s—destiny. The lede says it all (subscription required): Many hedge funds were relieved last week when the Obama administration’s financial-overhaul plan included no big surprises or threats to the lucrative, secretive industry. It Read More

Protecting Monopoly Power

Reading Time: 2 minutes It’s rare that a public-policy proposal manages to please three-quarters of the public. A government-run healthcare option has managed to do just that, according to a recent poll by CBS News and the New York Times. Seventy-two percent of respondents, including fifty percent of Republicans, said they favored the creation of a public healthcare plan Read More

Goldman Sachs Record Bonuses: Where's the Investigation?

Reading Time: 2 minutes Goldman Sachs is on pace to make record bonus payouts after a robust first half, the Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday. Goldman staff in London were briefed on the outlook and told they could look forward to the bonus hikes if the company registers, as predicted, its most profitable year ever, the report said. The Read More

Who’s Got Obama’s Ear?

Reading Time: 2 minutes In the New York Times, Joe Nocera argues that Obama’s steps at regulating Wall Street are tepid compared to FDR’s and are likely to leave in place some of the very mechanisms that contributed to the crisis. Read this excerpt, if not the entire piece, then my closing comment: [T]he Obama plan is little more Read More

The End of American Hegemony?

Reading Time: 2 minutes At TruthDig, Chris Hedges, playing off an economist’s piece in the Financial Times, posits a dire future based on the collapse of the dollar, largely on account of the humongous military budget’s role in ballooning the deficit. The article, typically lively and controversial Hedges fare, is worth reading for its analysis, as are Hedges’s comments Read More

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IRE

Reading Time: < 1 minute Russ has been busy the past couple of days at the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) conference in Baltimore. Today he will lead a panel on book writing and freelancing aimed at investigative reporters in career transition, due to the current instability in the media environment. Russ and I are both card-carrying members of IRE, Read More

Russ on GRITtv

Reading Time: < 1 minute Russ was recently on Laura Flanders’s GRITtv to discuss Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination, the Tiller murder, Obama’s Middle East speech, and the upcoming Reagan centennial. Here’s Russ on the public controversies surrounding Sotomayor: I think most of these [accusations against Sotomayor] are what I would call misdirection. It’s an attempt to focus the public’s eye away Read More

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A Word to the Worried: the Future of Journalism

Reading Time: 2 minutes Those of us in journalism pretty much know the extent to which our field is being decimated by the simultaneous unraveling of the economy and of the journalistic business model. Still, Barbara Ehrenreich’s commencement address at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism is well worth reading. The dean gave me some very strict instructions about Read More

The Charity of Lobbyists

Reading Time: 2 minutes USA Today published a thorough investigation of the donations lobbyists pour into the favorite non-profits of Congressmen to gain influence and buy face time at charity events. Only since 2007, when congressional ethics rules were changed, has such beneficence had to be reported. The article shows that the reform didn’t come soon enough, since the Read More

Citigroup’s Bogus Profits

Reading Time: 2 minutes Remember how Citigroup’s reported $1.6 billion first-quarter profits sparked a rally in financial stocks? Martin Weiss of Weiss Research Inc. thinks Citigroup really suffered a $2.5 billion loss: Citigroup’s $1.6 billion in first-quarter profit would vanish if accounting were more stringent, says Martin Weiss of Weiss Research Inc. in Jupiter, Florida. “The big banks’ profits Read More

A Tale of Two Men-on-the-street Pieces

Reading Time: 2 minutes The Los Angeles Times reports today that the majority of people in Florence, Colorado, do not mind terrorist suspects being moved from Guantánamo to the nearby federal “supermax” prison: The Senate last week overwhelmingly rejected providing funds to close the U.S. military prison in Cuba, saying that no community in America would want terrorism suspects Read More

Moral Hazard, Fed Style

Reading Time: 2 minutes How exactly did the Federal Reserve gain the emergency authority to loan more than $1 trillion of taxpayer money to the banks secretly and without oversight? The Washington Post explains today in a long investigative piece by Binyamin Appelbaum and Neil Irwin. As it turns out, Sen. Chris Dodd slipped the necessary language into an Read More

A Muppet In President Obama's Court

Reading Time: 2 minutes Sonia Sotomayor is not the only recent Obama appointment. She may be the most significant pick, but she is hardly the most intriguing. To wit, I direct your attention to a short Associated Press item, which appeared in papers including the New York Times, about some of President Obama’s recent ambassadorial appointments: President Obama has Read More

Jihad Leak Redux

Reading Time: 2 minutes Recently, I raised some questions about the impact of imprisonment at Guantánamo and how it affected those who were released. For example, I wrote: As for those who returned to jihad, one would like to know whether they were more motivated to do so as a result of their treatment at Guantánamo, or less. In Read More