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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SCOTUS Allows Waste Dumping in Alaska Lake

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 7:14 PM EDT

In a major setback for the people and wildlife of southern Alaska, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 today that the Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation can legally under the Clean Water Act dump more than 4.5 million tons of “slurry”—a mining waste byproduct that’s a mixture of crushed rock and water—in the Lower Slate Lake in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The ruling overturned a May 2007 decision by a lower appeals court denying Coeur d’Alene’s permit, which applies to its Kensington Gold Mine north of Juneau, Alaska's capital city.

But isn’t the Clean Water Act supposed to protect our lakes and rivers and other water sources? Well, yes. For nearly 30 years, the CWA expressly prohibited pumping harmful waste materials into waters, allowing only "fill material" for building structures like seawalls and levees to be dumped, and only then with permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. But in 2002, the Bush Administration tweaked the definition of "fill" to include dangerous waste products with an EPA memo that the public never saw. The memo's expansion of the "fill" definition permitted harmful slurry dumping into lakes and other water sources. In making its decision today, the Supreme Court relied on this memo.
 

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Are You the Worst Driver in America?

| Thu Jun. 18, 2009 7:51 PM EDT

That's the question the Travel Channel is taking on the road for its new reality show (and a new low for TV): "America's Worst Driver." You know that saying about not being able to look away from a car crash? Well, now you'll get to watch lots of car crashes. And rewind them, pause, get up and use the bathroom, saunter over to the refrigerator and, yes, flip on the slo-mo—all from the comfort of your home.

A casting call on the Travel Channel's website says that the predictably ill-fated show will "determine which city boasts America's worst driver. Each week a number of bad drivers from a particular city will compete in a series of driving challenges designed to ferret out that city's worst driver." (Whereas, here at Mother Jones, we're all about safe driving—and even hypermiling.) At the end of it all, the winners (or is it the losers?) from New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Seattle, and San Francisco will battle it out for the title in what I can only hope is a Demolition Derby-meets-bad-cable-TV showdown.

So, MoJo reader, which city do you think has the worst drivers in America? After a summer spent dodging cabbies, errant tourists, and indifferent New Yorkers in Manhattan, my vote goes to New York.

Bailout Watchdogs to the Rescue?

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 3:17 PM EDT

What’s worrisome about the bailout repayments is that banks might buy back their government-held warrants on the cheap. If the ten big banks that have been in the headlines this week after the Treasury announced they could pay their way out of TARP get discounts like multiple smaller banks before them, taxpayers will be on the losing end...again.

But there's good news: Two bailout watchdogs, the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP) and the Congressional Oversight Panel, announced today in a letter to the Senate that they intend to zero in on the sale of warrants in order to protect taxpayers and shed some much needed light on these transactions.

 

Obama's Bailout Doublespeak

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 7:20 PM EDT

The Treasury Department made headlines today announcing that 10 mega-banks will be allowed to repay their TARP funds. These banks—among them JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, American Express, and Bank of New York Mellon—will return an estimated $68.3 billion to the government’s coffers, almost triple what the Treasury initially estimated.

So what do Obama, Geithner, Summers, and the rest of the gang have in mind for that $68.3 billion? Well, according to Obama's remarks today, the government can save its money and spend it, too:

This [repayment] is not a sign that our troubles are over—far from it... But it is a positive sign. We're seeing an initial return on a few of these investments. We're restoring funds to the Treasury where they'll be available to safeguard against continuing risks to financial stability. And as this money is returned, we'll see our national debt lessened by $68 billionbillions of dollars that this generation will not have to borrow and future generations will not have to repay.

Huh? The $68 billion in repayments are apparently going back to the Treasury to "safeguard against continuing risks to financial stability." This is most likely doublespeak for TARP II, the newest round of bailouts that uses TARP repayments from healthier banks to subsidize the weaker ones. Yet at the same time it's subsidizing banks, that $68 billion is also going to reduce the national debt. This doesn't quite add up.

Obama's contradictory comments on the bailout also fuels the criticism that the government really doesn't have a coherent vision for the bailout, but instead sees it as a endlessly spinning revolving door for taxpayer money coming from and going out to struggling banks. Stay tuned here for more updates on the bailout, and where that $68 billion in taxpayer dollars is really headed.

(H/T Paul Kiel, ProPublica)

The Next Wave of Mortgage Profiteering

| Mon Jun. 8, 2009 7:49 PM EDT | Scheduled to publish Mon Jun. 8, 2009 7:44 PM EDT

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the housing meltdown, it’s likely this: Where there’s a buck to be made, odds are there’s a scam being played.

At the peak of the housing bubble, it was mortgage companies like Countrywide, Wells Fargo, and Ameriquest, among many others, that used predatory lending practices and encouraged falsifiying homeowner information to sell now-toxic sub-prime mortgages. Today, as homeowners struggle to save their homes and search for any kind of lifeline to do so, a new brand of mortgage-industry profiteering is spreading: foreclosure rescue rip-offs.

Tue Jun. 24, 2014 3:22 PM EDT
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