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 Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Blind Ben and the Fed

| Wed Jan. 6, 2010 11:59 AM EST

In his column today, the New York Times' David Leonhardt takes to task the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Ben Bernanke, for not acknowledging that they inexplicably missed the housing bubble, and questions the Fed's ability to spot future bubbles. In the wake of Bernanke's speech this weekend in which he deflected blame for the crisis and instead pointed to lax regulation as the culprit, Leonhardt rightly notes, as many others have, the numerous occasions in the lead-up to the crisis when Bernanke and his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, rejected the idea of a housing meltdown and the broader crisis to follow. Like Bernanke saying "We've never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis" in 2005, or that Fed officials "do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy" in 2007. Ouch.

Still, near the end of his column, Leonhardt begrudgingly concedes that the Fed "does seem to be the best agency to regulate financial firms." Say it ain't so, Dave.
 

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The Curse of Cape Wind

| Tue Jan. 5, 2010 1:22 PM EST

Cape Wind, the proposed 24-square-mile wind farm off Cape Cod, just can't catch a break. Fiercely opposed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and his family, who didn't want rows of spinning turbines sullying their view of Nantucket Sound (they claimed the turbines would cause environmental problems), and getting no help from an otherwise green-tilting Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the alternative energy project now has a new opponent: the Mashpee and Wampanoag American Indian tribes.

Situated on Martha's Vineyard, the two tribes say the 130 turbines would disrupt their sunrise greeting ritual, which requires a clear view of the horizon, and disrupt ancestral burial grounds. In response to the tribes' claims, the National Register for Historic Places announced it is considering the Cape Wind location for listing on its register, potentially ruling it out as a wind farm location. While it doesn't outright kill the project, the National Register's announcement could force developers to relocate it elsewhere.

The decision struck some as an unprecedented move, the New York Times reports:

Others said the finding was surprising because Nantucket Sound, which encompasses more than 500 square miles, is by far the largest body of water ever found eligible for listing on the national historic register. Other eligible bodies of water have included Walden Pond in Massachusetts, which covers about 60 acres, and Zuni Salt Lake in New Mexico, which is about 6,500 feet across, said Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the park service.

"The decision is without precedent in terms of implicating many square miles of what is, legally speaking, the high seas," said Ian A. Bowles, the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs. "But as a procedural matter, it's a good thing a decision was reached, and the secretary is getting personally involved to get it over the finish line."

Now, Cape Wind isn't dead yet. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the tribes and Cape Wind's developer they had until March 1 to reach a compromise, and even if they don't, Salazar himself could still make the final call himself. That said, it'd be quite a surprise to see Salazar go against the powerful Kennedy family, the two tribes, and rest of Cape Wind's fervent opponents.

What Afghans Really Think

| Tue Jan. 5, 2010 12:46 PM EST

In the Western media, the views of Afghanistan's political leaders and news of their latest political debacles—President Hamid Karzai's standoff with the Parliament over his 24 cabinet nominations the most recent example—tend to dominate over all else; few and far between are the perspectives of those at the opposite end of the power structure, the Afghan citizens.

Which is why the Kabul-based Asia Foundation's most recent "Afghanistan in 2009" report [PDF] released yesterday, based on a poll of more than 6,400 Afghan people from all over the country, is so valuable, offering a fascinating and useful snapshot of the Afghans' views as the latest conflict in their war-torn country escalates. The poll's subjects range from war and gay rights to security and the economy. If I had to choose the single most encouraging subject that emerges from the poll, it would be the growing support for women's rights in Afghanistan. 28 percent said women should be able to work outside their home (up from 2 percent in 2006), even though Taliban forbid this, and in general, 67 percent of respondents think women should be allowed to work. 87 percent of respondents also said educational opportunities should be open to both sexes.

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