Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Detroit News, the Guardian, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndrewKroll.

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The F-22 Fights On

| Mon Sep. 14, 2009 10:36 AM PDT

You've got to hand it to defense contractor Lockheed Martin and its F-22 Raptor fighter jet: The much maligned, headline-grabbing plane will not go away.

The latest news on the F-22 beat is that the Senate is trying to sidestep a decade-old law to allow Lockheed to develop and export a version of the F-22 to be sold outside the US. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to insert language in its 2010 defense spending bill allowing the DOD to "conduct or participate in studies, research, design and other activities to define and develop an export version of the F-22A." Earlier last week, the same committee agreed to end F-22 production for domestic use at 187 planes after a protracted battle between the Obama administration and lawmakers in Congress on whether to extend the production run of F-22s or not. Lockheed also lobbied hard for continuing F-22 production by citing the number of jobs the plane created nationwide.

The provision, however, will face opposition in the House Appropriations Committee. The committee’s chair, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), authored the ban on exporting F-22s in 1998 for security reasons. According to Congress Daily, countries like Japan, Australia, and Israel are likely buyers for the export version of the F-22, which would not feature secret, US-specific technologies. While the Senate Appropriations Committee vote on exporting F-22s doesn’t outright repeal the ban, the full Senate will consider the idea when it reviews the entire defense spending bill this month. The F-22, it seems, just will not go quietly into the night.

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Homes: Underwater and Sinking Fast

| Tue Sep. 1, 2009 1:15 PM PDT

Although a few glimmers of hope for the housing market have shown through as of late, several new reports concerning houses with "underwater" mortgages—when a homeowner owes more than the total value of his or her home—foresee bleak times that could undermine a full economic recovery.

Moody's Economy.com found that 24 percent of all US homes are currently underwater, a 15 percent jump from a year ago, while 8 percent of homes have debt equal to the home's value. Online real estate site Zillow similarly calculated in its own report that 23 percent of homes were underwater. A Moody's analyst told The Washington Independent that her firm's findings mean about 16 million homes are underwater, adding that "Home prices have increased in the last month or two but I think it's too early to call an end to the downturn." More ominous, though, is a recent projection by Deutsche Bank that a whopping 48 percent of all US home mortgages will be underwater or "upside-down" by early 2011.

The fear with these kinds of statistics is that they'll stunt a more vigorous economic rebound here in the US. The housing market—as the Great Housing Meltdown so painfully illustrated—is inextricably linked to broader economic health, and if staggering totals of underwater mortgages continue to pile up, that will seriously blunt recovery efforts to turn the economy around, like stimulus spending. It also doesn't help that the goverment's mortgage relief efforts—like the largely flawed Home Affordable Modification Program—have done little so far, as the recent Hope Now statistics show.

Yet apart from these relief programs, experts admit that the only way to deal with underwater mortgages is to sit back and wait—which doesn't bode well for a V-shaped recovery anytime soon. (Think more of a W.) "For the most part, we have to let it happen. We needed a correction," Deutsche Bank’s Karen Weaver told The Washington Independent. "And, as we let the crisis play out, shore up the rest of the economy with low rates and government stimulus."

Music Monday: Dirtbombs, Dengue, TV on the Radio Top Outside Lands

| Mon Aug. 31, 2009 3:30 AM PDT

San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival, spanning Friday through Sunday here in idyllic Golden Gate Park, had something of a split personality disorder. The festival’s two main stages, as this map shows, occupy opposite ends of the festival’s vigilantly guarded fenced-off area—and as far as Friday and Saturday’s shows went, the contrast in each stage’s fare couldn’t be more stark.

On Friday, rockers of various stripes held court at the main stage at the Polo Field, from Built to Spill and Silversun Pickups to Incubus and headliners Pearl Jam. Several singers at the main stage, however, were snake-bit that first day, it seemed—both Incubus’ Brandon Boyd and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder sounded hoarse, and both limped through their sets and called on the crowd for help more times than I could count. But while Incubus was hardly spectacular (like their more recent albums), Pearl Jam tore through hit after hit, especially in the set’s second half, when Vedder seemed to loosen up a bit and the crowd chimed in plenty.

A Weekend of Rebellious Rock 'n' Roll Brought to You by...

| Sun Aug. 30, 2009 11:18 PM PDT

The girl nervously watched as the tattoo formed on her hand, a small, colorful flower in the fleshy crook between her thumb and forefinger. Up close, though, the flower’s shape came into focus: It was actually a stem and bulb formed by the silhouettes of tiny cars. Mid-size sedans, actually. That’s because this particular tent, peddling not just tattoos but bandanas and gift bags, was Toyota's “Prius Spot” tent, one of several scattered around this past weekend's Outside Lands festival in San Francisco. A tricked-out version of the popular hybrid sat parked inside.

I asked the flower girl’s boyfriend why anyone would want a flower made of sedans or an automaker's name inked on their hand. He shrugged. "It’s only temporary, right?"

Others stepped up for tattoos of their own, choosing between the Camry-inspired flower or a tangle of barbs encircling Toyota’s logo with the name “TOYOTA” emblazoned underneath. Indeed, a winged skull with the Toyota logo was among the most popular tattoos of the day, one of the inkers told me.

Needless to say, the ploy took branding to a whole new level.

Like that girl’s hand, just about every other inch of this weekend’s Outside Lands festival was “Presented by” or “Courtesy of” or sponsored in some capacity by a corporation or company. It was brand overload all weekend (at least for me), the staggering number of companies' names plastered throughout the festival's grounds staggering.

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