Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment.

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Apple's Rotten Environmental Record

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 3:05 PM PST

Apple, though beloved by progressives, hipsters, and their favorite rockers (John Mayer in October's Esquire said, "it's got us by the balls."), is nonetheless looking a little bit brown these days, like a Granny Smith or Delicio, sliced, and left on the kitchen table too long. The company's dirty little secret, known to enviros and few consumers, is that it's way behind the curve in the race to build a personal computer that doesn't make people sick, especially when recycled, as is the tendency these days, by kids rummaging through e-waste dumps in Asia and Africa.

To highlight the gap between the San Francisco-area company's squeaky clean image and dirty electrical components (which include substances being phased out by rivals such as Dell), the folks at Greenpeace bathed Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York in a green spotlight yesterday, sending the light refracting through store's slick glass façade. A press release called the display, "a symbol of the 'green' Apple that is needed this holiday season."

Compelling Apple to go green, whether it wants to or not, are new environmental rules passed by the European Union this week (see the post below). Still, Greenpeace deserves props for shining a spotlight on unsavory practices that Apple would just assume hide under its crisp white casings.

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The Muscles from Brussels

| Wed Dec. 13, 2006 5:22 PM PST

Today the European Parliament passed one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching EU regulations in its history, a set of environmental rules that will hold companies liable for the health effects of some 30,000 substances used in everything from computers to laundry detergent. The law—which applies to any company that wants to sell into the huge European market (pretty much any global corporation, these days)—signals the evolution of the EU from a paper tiger into the new global arbiter of environmental standards. The rules are sure to affect products produced and sold in the United States much more so than any law recently passed by the U.S. Congress.

To read more about the new law, known as REACH, for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, and how it will affect the environment stateside, check out The Muscles From Brussels, my article in Mother Jones' November/December issue.

Is Gary Miller (R-CA) a Crook? Ask Jeeves. . .

| Tue Dec. 12, 2006 6:51 PM PST

In the latest dispatch from the seismically unstable mansion known as the California Republican Party, former aides of Rep. Garry Miller accuse him of turning them into butlers. The aides say Miller required them to help his children with schoolwork, search for rock concert tickets and send flowers to family members and friends. "There was never a clear line in the office between what was congressional business and what was just business," one former aide told the LA Times. "The expectation was that you would do both." Miller is also accused of new self-dealing involving real estate (a longstanding theme), which I won't bore you with here, except to say that he paid himself $75,000 in rent for the use his real estate development firm as a campaign office, which, it appears, wasn't used for much campaigning.

The theme of gilded excess at the California GOP was dusted off last year when former California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham admitted he'd conspired to take bribes that included a Rolls Royce, a yacht and a 19th Century Louis Philippe commode. Of course, Miller has built on the notion of GOP graft with all the embellishment of a Fisherman's Wharf caricature artist. Voters showed they care about such things by ousting Rep. Richard Pombo in November for, among other things, his associations with Jack Abramoff, but the carnage Out West left plenty of other sketchy legislators standing. See MJ's November article, Washington's Shadiest Shoo-ins, for a shout-out to SoCal's indomitable Jerry Lewis.

One might hope that Republicans, being the perpetual underdogs in California, would at least serve as the party of conscience, as advocates of balanced budgets and moral probity. At times they've been known to fill this role, such as last year, for instance, when former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley was implicated in a money laundering scandal and a Republican appointee replaced him (for a few months at least, until he lost this year's election to a Democrat). That the Democrats rebounded from the scandal so quickly underscores how much the Republican voice of conscience has lost its credibility, or been replaced by pillow whispers with the powerful.

Chris Carney, the Fighting Dem With Intel Creds. How Will He Use Them?

| Tue Nov. 28, 2006 11:34 AM PST

Newly elected Democrat Chris Carney of Pennsylvania is the only member of Congress with a background doing pre-war intelligence on Iraq. A New York Times profile today looks at whether he'll aide congressional investigations into the flawed intel that led to war. Not likely:

Mr. Carney is not enthusiastic about the possibility of a new Congressional investigation of prewar intelligence, which he said would be a major distraction. For Mr. Carney, there is an element of been there, done that to looking back at the now-familiar cast of prewar characters, including Mr. Feith; Mr. Tenet; Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary; and Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi opposition leader who was a prewar favorite of many in the Defense Department to take the reins of a future Iraqi government.

"Let's win the war first, then maybe look at how we got into it," Mr. Carney said. "The more energy spent on answering Congressional investigations, the less time will be spent on winning the war."

The Times story makes passing mention of Republican efforts during the campaign to smear Carney for his intelligence work, which, ironically, had been part of a pre-war intel review led by high ranking members of the GOP (a group first covered by Mother Jones). Also, for an early rundown on the swift boating of Carney, and his response at the time, see my MJ story, Swift Boating the Fighting Dems.

K Street's New 800-lb Gorilla

| Mon Nov. 27, 2006 1:10 PM PST

Just in time to face down Washington's new regulatory mavens, the two major Wall Street lobbying groups, representing securities and bonds traders, have merged this year into a behemoth. Reports the Washington Post:

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, with a budget of $80 million, is the main mouthpiece for the financial services industry, the biggest corporate player in national politics. Only organized labor donates more to candidates for federal offices.

When added together, SIFMA's political action committees gave more than $1 million during the 2006 election season, putting the organization in the top 25 of all PACs. Its combined $8.5 million in spending on federal lobbying last year placed it in the top 30.

The association will need all that and more. It's already at the center of some of the most heated, high-stakes battles on Capitol Hill. It has begun to question the regulatory requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and wants to extend the temporary, multibillion-dollar tax breaks for profits garnered from stocks and bonds.

Don't expect Democrats to shoot this new K-Street Kong off the ramparts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top campaign donors? Securities and investment companies. Her supporters in Silicon Valley have argued Sarbanes-Oxley creates too many roadblocks to taking companies public. The Speaker supports reforming the law. Look for proposed administrative changes to Sarbanes by the SEC in a week or two.

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