Mojo - October 2009

Old Energy Interests Try Hand at 'New Media' to Defeat Climate Bill

| Thu Oct. 22, 2009 7:00 AM PDT

There's another anti-climate bill advocacy group to watch out for: the Cost of Energy Information Project (CEIP). It's a new organization, but it's apparently organized and funded by a lot of the same old critics of climate-change policy.

CEIP is organized by Democratic lobbyist Morris Reid and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a climate change skeptic and former big-time dirty energy lobbyist who was a key player in the Bush administration's climate and energy policy. Republican lobbyists Ed Gillespie (also a former Bush adviser) and Ed Rogers helped form the organization. "The group plans to reach outside of the Beltway to engage citizens who, organizers insist, have been excluded from the lawmaking process," reports the Washington Times.

CEIP's website includes a "cap-and-trade cost calculator" that is built on a deeply flawed report on the House climate bill funded by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Council for Capital Formation. The group is apparently "backed by energy-producing interests," according to the Washington Times, but there aren't any details available on what those interests might be.

I also have to note the headline on the Washington Times piece—"Group uses new media in climate-change debate"—and point you to CEIP's website, possibly the ugliest to launch since 1998. Not only that, their "cap-and-trade cost calculator" also manages to forget Washington, D.C., and their deft use of "new media" includes...Twitter and email to senators. Slick!

They're also competing for the CEIP acronym with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the California Emerging Infections Program. Good luck with that!

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Some Evidence on the Reid Question

| Thu Oct. 22, 2009 4:26 AM PDT

On Tuesday, I suggested Markos Moulitsas should spend a few extra bucks next time he surveys Nevada and ask Harry Reid-haters exactly why they hate Reid. A commenter named "kos" (the genuine article?) suggested that Mother Jones cover the cost. Thankfully, neither Kos nor MoJo nor yours truly will have to write a check after all. That's because on Wednesday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) released the results of its latest Nevada survey, which offers support for the idea that at least some of the opposition to Reid comes from Democrats who think he's not liberal enough. Here's the most important data:

Among Independents who have an unfavorable view of Reid, 55% say it’s because he’s not progressive enough while only 40% think he’s too far left. Among Democrats with an unfavorable view, a whopping 92% say he’s not progressive enough.

62% of Democratic voters are not sure Reid should be the Democratic nominee in 2010, or think it should be someone new.

Seventy-two percent of Republicans with an unfavorable view of Reid think he's too far left, but that's no surprise. If Reid can hold Democrats and Independents, he'll win Nevada in a walk. And the data from this survey, at least, suggests that Reid should be moving left—not right, as Chris Cillizza has suggested. It looks like the Las Vegas Sun's J. Patrick Coolican (who somehow emailed these survey results to scoop [at] motherjones [dot] com before I got PCCC's press release) was right.

Can Michael Stipe and Eddie Vedder Shut Down Gitmo?

| Thu Oct. 22, 2009 4:24 AM PDT | Scheduled to publish Thu Oct. 22, 2009 3:00 AM PDT

Does being forced to listen to Bruce Springsteen constitute torture?

In truth, the guards at Guantanamo and other US military prisons overseas could have played detainees just about anything. Turn it up loud enough, set it to repeat enough times, and any song in existence—from metal band Doom's hyper-aggressive "Die MF Die" (lyrics: Die motherfucker die motherfucker die motherfucker... etc.) to Prince's "Raspberry Beret" to Don McClean's "American Pie" would suffice to disorient prisoners, mess with them, deprive them of sleep. As part of our March 2008 special report Torture Hits Home, we published a list including these songs and numerous others—the Barney theme, the Meow Mix cat food jingle—that were used by interrogators and guards to soften up their charges.

In December 2008, then Mojo staffer Jesse Finfrock reported that British human rights organization Reprieve had launched a campaign called zero dB (decibels) to fight such abuses; artists including Massive Attack and guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine—another name on our torture playlist—got on board to demand the US military stop using their songs. "It's difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you've put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture," Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor wrote on the band's website days later. (NIN's songs were reportedly among those used to torture military contractor-turned-whistleblower Donald Vance.) "If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued," Reznor promised.

Today, he, Morello, and other prominent musicians—including megabands R.E.M. and Pearl Jam—took a step in that direction, attaching their names to a national campaign to pressure Congress to shutter Gitmo once and for all. They are also demanding that the government declassify documents related to the use of music in interrogations—a practice the United Nations has condemned. Among the other artists signing on are Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, the Roots, Rise Against, and popular British crooner Billy Bragg. "Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine," Morello said in a statement announcing the effort. "The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 22, 2009

Thu Oct. 22, 2009 3:15 AM PDT

Spc. Justin Slagle returns to Forward Operating Base Lane in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter after an air assault mission in the Zabul province of Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2009. (US Army photo by Spc. Tia P. Sokimson.)

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Need To Read: October 22, 2009

Thu Oct. 22, 2009 3:05 AM PDT

Today's must-reads:

Get more stuff like this: Follow me on twitter! David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets, as does MoJo blogger Kate Sheppard. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

TARP: The Pyrrhic Bailout?

| Wed Oct. 21, 2009 12:42 PM PDT

In his office's most recent quarterly report, Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General for TARP, reminds readers of the overall bailout funding at risk in the Treasury's TARP rescue so far—as much as $2.9 trillion, a staggering, unimaginable sum. But the SIGTARP's report doesn't dwell entirely on dollars and cents. Instead, Barofsky focuses on TARP's cost to the federal government's credibility in the eyes of the wary public.

The report, in assessing TARP's effectiveness, begins by saying what most of us already figured—that the bailout went a long way toward stabilizing the economy. It propped up financial institutions that, for good or ill, were integral to the financial markets, and brought "the system back from the brink of collapse." But beyond the financial markets, the report continues, many of TARP's programs have sputtered, including its homeowner relief initiatives (read: the HAMP program), and its effort to remove the threat of ticking-time-bomb toxic assets from the books of financial institutions. In short, TARP has largely succeeded in its chief aim—to avert complete financial meltdown—but struggled elsewhere.

But how pyrrhic was that victory? For one, as the SIGTARP report points out, Wall Street is already reverting back to the over-leveraged, risky, even reckless behaviors that helped bring on the crisis—and the government is egging them on. "The firms that were 'too big to fail' last October are in many cases bigger still, many as a result of Government-supported and -sponsored mergers and acquisitions," the report states. "Absent meaningful regulatory reform, TARP runs the risk of merely re-animating markets that had collapsed under the weight of reckless behavior."