Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson


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

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A Progressive Pulls Ahead in Bellwether Congressional Race

| Thu Mar. 15, 2012 12:11 PM EDT
Ilya Sheyman

Earlier this week, I highlighted the congressional race of Ilya Sheyman, a former national mobilization director for, as a bellwether for progressive politics. If he wins his March 20th primary race against a centrist businessman in a moderately Democratic district north of Chicago, it will bolster the case that liberals can triumph by campaigning hard on income inequality and government jobs programs. The most recent poll had cast Sheyman as a slight underdog, but new numbers released today have him winning the race with 45 percent of the vote to businessman Brad Schneider's 27 percent.

The poll, conducted from March 11 to 14 by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and MoveOn, asked: "If the Democratic primary for Congress were held today, and the choices were Ilya Sheyman, Brad Schneider, John Tree, and Vivek Bavda, for whom would you vote?" Its margin of error was 3.9 percent. The poll also asked voters about their views of Schneider's political donations to Republicans, what might be considered push polling, but these questions were asked after the one above.

"This is our top priority House race of 2012 because, like Elizabeth Warren, Ilya Sheyman is a proven progressive fighter who will be a strong ally in Congress," PCCC spokesman Neil Sroka said in a statement. "His victory will send a signal to all Democrats across the nation that if you campaign as a bold progressive, grassroots volunteers and donors will have your back and help you achieve victory."

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Watch: Occupiers Set Up Living Room in Bank of America

| Mon Mar. 12, 2012 2:55 PM EDT

Occupiers have tried to squat in bank lobbies before, but never with as much style as this crew from Occupy Wall Street: 

Notice how the occupiers look like they are having fun, instead of foaming with anger? "That was completely conscious," says Nelini Stamp, an organizer with Occupy Wall Street whose mother lost her home to Bank of America in 2006. "This is not a shutdown. We want to make light of the situation but also carry the message that this is a serious thing."

The creators of the video are members of Occupy Wall Street's Fight BAC group (BAC stands for "Bank of America), which formed two months ago to highlight the bank's foreclosure practices and too-big-to-fail business model. They're coordinating March 15th protests against the BofA in Manhattan; Phoenix; Danbury, CT; and Sarasota, FL. Many of them come from the anti-foreclosure group Occupy Homes, which is holding a national week of action starting today. The #M15 events are online at ("F" stands for "Foreclose"—or "a different thing if you use your imagination," Stamp says).

And yeah, in case you were wondering, $230 billion is how much taxpayers spent bailing out Bank of America.

Pot Legalization Foe Getting Rich off the Drug War

| Thu Mar. 8, 2012 3:01 AM EST

The lobbyist who helped kill California's Proposition 19, the 2010 ballot measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana, has constructed an entire business model around keeping pot illegal. While fighting against the proposed law, lobbyist John Lovell accepted nearly $400,000 from a wide array of police unions, some of which he also represented in attempting to steer millions of federal dollars toward California's marijuana suppression programs.

The revelation, reported yesterday by the Republic Report's Lee Fang, illustrates how Prop. 19 threatened the paychecks of some of its biggest foes. Police departments stood to lose lucrative federal grants like a $550,000 payment in 2010 to police departments in three Northern California counties that covered 666 hours of police overtime spent eradicating marijuana. And Lovell would have presumably lost a job as a guy who helped land those kinds of grants. Here's a copy of a notice sent to a police department in Lassen County, California:

Police unions and their lobbyists weren't the only economic interests with a stake in Prop. 19. The alcohol industry and prison guards also contributed money to fight the measure. And on the other side, the passage of Prop. 19 would have given thousands of "hempreneurs" behind the state's $1.3 billion medical marijuana industry a stimulus stronger than a vaporized bowl of Hindu Kush. The likely side effects—a decline in budget-busting law-enforcement costs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state of California—don't seem all that bad compared to what we got stuck with: A war on drugs that makes people like John Lovell even richer.

Also read: Tony D'Souza's "The New Dealers," a tale of recession-strapped Americans who turned to dope dealing to make ends meet.

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