Mojo - October 2011

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 14, 2011

Fri Oct. 14, 2011 5:57 AM EDT

US Army sniper Spc. James Wanser, 66th Armor Regiment, Task Force 228, 172nd Infantry Brigade keeps watch in the early morning hours of Sept. 8, 2011 while his battle buddy catches a few precious minutes of sleep. Task Force 228 was on a joint mission with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Border Patrol in the mountains near the Pakistan border. US Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar, 7th MPAD.

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Bloomberg Caves: Occupy Wall Street to Stay in Park (For Now)

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 4:30 PM EDT

UPDATE: New York authorities are confirming that the cleanup and eviction have been postponed. See Josh's feed below for a vivid account of the tense night, and a series of mini-profiles of protesters.

The owners of Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street has made its camp for nearly a month, released a set of rules Thursday that seems intended to evict the protesters permanently. The rules ban camping in the park or lying down on sleeping bags or under tarps. (See document below.) Brookfield Office Properties also announced plans to begin cleaning the park in three stages starting at 7 a.m. Friday—effectively a notice to protesters that they need to be gone by then or face the consequences. I've been reporting from Zuccotti Park since last weekend; for continuous updates during the eviction showdown see my tweets here (with the latest up top), or follow me on Twitter at @JoshHarkinson.


 

 

Reporter Ejected From Jeb Bush's Ed Summit for Asking About Rupert Murdoch

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 4:25 PM EDT

Rupert Murdoch's attempt to corner the education market is not going to go smoothly, it appears. On Thursday, Joel Klein, vice president of Murdoch's News Corp., which owns Fox News, appeared on a panel discussion about school board governance at Jeb Bush's Excellence in Education summit in San Francisco. Klein was at the conference in his role as the former long-serving chancellor of the New York City school system. But there was no getting around his current position. Klein was testy when I asked him about the protesters preparing to descend on the hotel to greet his boss on Friday morning, when Murdoch is scheduled to speak. And he didn't escape his panel discussion without having to face more questions about News Corp.'s education ventures.

During the Q&A session, Steve Begley, a blogger from the K-12 News Network, asked Klein about what Murdoch had in mind for his foray into the education business, which Murdoch has said is a $500 billion market largely untapped by the corporate world. After noting Klein's $4.5 million annual compensation, Begley asked him what sort of "revenue goals" Murdoch had set for him, and "what kinds of goods and services are you going to sell to meet those goals?" Before he could even finish his question, the panel moderator Chester Finn, from the Fordham Institute, cut him off. He told Begley that he was out of line, and that his question was inappropriate. He demanded that Begley pass the microphone to the person behind him. Begley persisted with his questions, until the audience booed him and a woman came up and asked him to leave. As he was being kicked out, he asked Klein, "Don't you want to answer the question?" Clearly Klein did not.

Somehow Begley's ejection seemed appropriate in a session devoted to bashing what Klein called the "small bore" democracy of school boards. But it also highlighted the ongoing problems that Klein is going to encounter as he tries to turn the parent company of Fox News into a player in the education market. Given News Corp.'s recent phone-hacking scandal and Murdoch's reputation as a tabloid publisher and purveyor of conservative propaganda through Fox News, people in the education world are, not surprisingly, suspicious about his motives.

Begley, for his part, thinks Klein should have answered his questions, because beyond News Corp.'s purchase of Wireless Generation last year, Murdoch and Klein have largely remained mum on their plans for the education sector. "I asked real questions on a real issue," he said later. As he was shutting him down, Finn told Begley that he could take the matter up with Klein outside the session. Begley tried. But, he says, Klein "took off like a shot."

Rick Perry: Chinese Spy Enabler?

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 2:50 PM EDT

Over the past year, Gov. Rick Perry helped pave the way for China's largest telecom company—a firm with ties to the Chinese military and intelligence services that have sparked concerns among defense officials and senior lawmakers—to relocate some of its operations to Texas.

Earlier this month, a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on the Chinese military confirmed that the Huawei, the company in question, maintains close ties with the Chinese army. From The Washington Times:

[The] report states that Huawei’s 2010 annual report failed to mention that [Huawei chairwoman Sun Yafang], considered the most trusted aide to Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, has ties to [the Ministry of State Security], fueling suspicions of “potential close links between Huawei and the Chinese government.”

Mr. Ren was identified in the report as having worked for China's military from 1974 to 1983 in the engineering corps. The report says that Mr. Ren is purportedly China’s most influential business leader “who seldom mentions his military background in public.”

In April, a publication sponsored by China’s State Council newspaper reported that Huawei received $36.8 million and $63.2 million in 2009 and 2010, respectively, from the government for “domestic development, innovation, and research.”

The company also received $48.2 million and $80 million in 2009 and 2010 for “completing certain research projects.”

There's more to this story, though. The Washington Times piece makes no mention of Perry's open courting of Huawei CEO Ren during a 12-day bridge-building trip to China this past summer. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the company's new headquarters last October (see video below), Perry had kind words for Ren: "What a really interesting man he is. Rather straight-spoken. If you didn’t know any better, you'd say he grew up out in West Texas.…He truly is a very powerful chief executive officer and a very focused, very hard driven individual, which, in the world we live in today, is a great attribute."

Huawei has been a serious concern for US national security officials for some time. In 2009, the National Security Agency warned AT&T not to purchase Huawei equipment over concerns that Chinese intelligence could use it to secretly eavesdrop on Americans. And in 2010, eight Republican senators asked the Obama administration to investigate Huawei’s effort to sell equipment to Sprint Nextel. Both deals ultimately fell through.

You might dismiss China's potential infiltration into US communications networks via Huawei as Conversation-style conspiracy talk, but it's not totally unreasonable: Huawei has already reportedly tried to take over Iran's telecom system, and India has accused Huawei employees of selling spy technology to the Taliban. 

How does Perry, whose grave warnings about the national security threats on the campaign trail, explain his open embrace of Huawei? Eli Lake asked veteran Perry adviser Dave Carney that very question:

Dave Carney, a strategist who has been with the governor for 14 years and would play a major role on a presidential campaign, defended these moves when I asked him about them. He said that it's Washington's job to vet corporations for national security reasons."…"If this Chinese Company is as evil as has been reported, then the federal government should step in to deal with it."

Carney has a point: National security isn't Perry's purview. But as governor of a state that shares a 1,200 mile border with a foreign country, you'd hope that he'd be more critical of a company with a troublesome track record like Huawei.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Huawei contacted Mother Jones, and denied that the company has any long-standing ties to the Chinese military or intelligence services. The spokesperson added that the company is in the process of reaching out to the media to refute such allegations.

Quick Quiz: Who Wants to Revive Firing Squads?

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 1:45 PM EDT

Florida Sen. Brad Drake (R-Okaloosa) has filed a bill in Tallahassee to make the state's killing of criminals more visceral: He'd do away with lethal injection, giving capital convicts the choice of getting electrocuted or being shot. Saying he's "sick and tired of this sensitivity movement for criminals," Drake has vowed to bring back the state's old electric chair, an apparatus in the Central Florida-based Starke prison known as "Old Sparky." (It was abandoned in 2000 after it had difficulty killing one prisoner with the usual jolt, then set another prisoner's face on fire.)

Here's a way to put this story in perspective: Below are three quotes about killing inmates in Florida. One of them isn't Drake discussing his capital-punishment proposal. Can you guess which one it is? Answer (and source) at the end:

News Corp.'s Joel Klein Testy About News Corp.

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 12:46 PM EDT
Joel Klein with Caroline Kennedy.

Former New York City school chancellor Joel Klein doesn't seem to be especially happy to take questions these days about his unpopular employer, News Corp., the parent company of Fox News. Klein is in San Francisco today at an education reform conference sponsored by Jeb Bush and his nonprofit Excellence in Education, where he's a member of the board. Klein's boss, Rupert Murdoch, is slated to speak tomorrow morning, and his presence at the education event has caused quite a stir. The local teachers' union is organizing a rally for this afternoon and more protests are expected tomorrow when Murdoch shows up.

While Klein may be here because of his ed credentials, he's currently in charge of overseeing the internal investigation of News Corp.'s now-shuttered News of the World over the British phone-hacking scandal, and even accompanied Murdoch to his appearance before the British parliament. So Klein's also here as a Murdoch guy, and the two roles aren't meshing too well. I caught up with Klein in the swanky ballroom of the Palace Hotel, where he was milling around with state legislators and other ed reform types. I asked him how he felt about the fact that the presence of his boss was generating protests, and he was extremely prickly in response. "Whatever people want to protest they can protest. I'm here to talk about education," he said.

Klein has been in the middle of minor scandal of his own involving News Corp. and its purchase of the education technology company Wireless Generation in 2010. Teachers unions had questioned whether Klein had signed off on sole-source contracts for the company while he was chancellor and then moved on to work for its parent company at News Corp., saying the deal that smacked of a revolving door between business and government. Parents also worried that a company owned by Murdoch might not protect the privacy of students. In late August, New York State cancelled a $27 million contract with Wireless Generation over concerns about its parent company. I asked Klein what was going to happen with the ed tech company given so many concerns about its association with the owner of Fox News. Again, he was testy. "Wireless will be fine," he said, brushing me off, saying of the company, "Stay focused on the children and you'll do fine."

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#OWS Protesters Could be Thrown Out of Zuccotti Park Friday Morning

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 11:12 AM EDT

UPDATE: The owners of Zuccotti Park, home to Occupy Wall Street, released a set of rules this afternoon that, if enforced, will put an end to the occupation. It appears that suspicious of protesters who believed the cleaning was an excuse for eviction have been borne out. The park cleaning will take place in three stages starting at 7 am tomorrow, though it's possible a police crackdown will happen sooner. I will be at the park starting this evening and will be posting constant updates on Twitter from @JoshHarkinson.

 

Just two days after announcing that Occupy Wall Street protesters can stay in Zuccotti Park indefinitely, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last night that they'll have to leave tomorrow, at least temporarily, while sanitation workers clean it up. Protesters say they plan to resist the move, with some viewing it as a ploy to permanently evict them.

Bloomberg briefly visited the park last night and later released a statement noting that the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, was concerned about its cleanliness. He went on to outline the cleanup plan: "The cleaning will be done in stages," the statement said, "and the protesters will be allowed to return to the areas that have been cleaned, provided they abide by the rules that Brookfield has established for the park."

What is now known as Zuccotti Park was constructed in 1968 by the builders of the adjacent United States Steel Tower in exchange for being allowed to build a taller skyscraper than zoning rules would otherwise allow. The park is classified as "privately owned public space"--it's open to the public 24 hours a day but maintained by Brookfield, the building's property management company. 

Protesters with Occupy Wall Street's Planning Working Group told me earlier this week that they still weren't clear on exactly what kinds of rules governed the park. Brookfield has not released anything in writing, and has mostly just raised sanitation concerns. In an effort to prevent the cleanliness issue from turning into an excuse for eviction, the Planning and the Sanitation working groups at OWS have been trying to obtain bins in which to store bedding during the day, making the park easier to clean. But the process has been slow. At a meeting on Sunday night, for example, the proposal was met with resistance by other protesters who wanted to try to obtain the bins on Craigslist, rather than purchase them, and wanted to make sure that they were "fair trade."

Now that the cleanliness concerns have come to a head, OWS is organizing a massive cleanup effort today. Still, it probably won't be enough to convince Bloomberg and Brookfield to leave sanitation to the occupiers, which means clashes with the police who'll clear parts of the park tomorrow could be likely.

In the longer term, OWS is trying to apply some urban planning principles to the Zuccotti camp in order to make it easier to clean and navigate. Check out our interactive map of the camp that explains how the layout would work.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Anti-Union Outfit Double Down on GrannyGate

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 10:19 AM EDT

A group defending Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich's anti-union bill, known as SB 5, sparked controversy this week when it grabbed footage from an opponent's ad supporting a repeal of the legislation bill and then used that same footage in an ad fighting the repeal. At the center of the debate is Issue 2, a ballot referendum on Kasich's bill to curb collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions. Ohioans vote on the referendum in early November. Marlene Quinn, the grandmother whose pro-workers rights comments were skewed to look like she supported Kasich's bill, called the tactic "dishonest and downright deceitful," adding that she felt "violated"; at least 30 TV stations in Ohio have pulled the ad. Politicos have dubbed the controversy "GrannyGate."

Gov. Kasich, however, stands behind the group that cut the controversial ad, Building a Better Ohio. Referring to the group's tactics, Kasich told the Columbus Dispatch this week that "what they're doing is fine."

Building a Better Ohio, whose staff includes Kasich's former chief of staff, has repeatedly defended the fairness of the ad and the tactics used to make it. "We're certainly not taking the ad down," spokesman Jason Mauk told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We absolutely stand by it and our right to air those arguments. Opponents of Issue 2 used a personal story to make a political argument, and we believe we're entirely justified in using that same story to advocate for the reforms of Issue 2." Mauk added in a different statement, "We're absolutely not conceding our position. We have every right to broadcast this ad. The person featured in the ad is a public figure."

Here's the first version of the ad, put out by the pro-union group We Are Ohio:

Here's the recut version, from Building a Better Ohio:

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, told the Associated Press that Building a Better Ohio's ad was "really as blatant as anything I've seen." He added, "It will say something about the character of the governor and others, if they do not, in my judgment, step up and very publicly say that this is wrong and disassociate themselves from it... I think it could be the turning point in the campaign, quite frankly."

Chart of the Day: Taxing the Poor

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 10:05 AM EDT

ABC News has crunched the numbers and reported what independent analysts had basically been saying for a while now: Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan, despite his promises to the contrary, would almost double the amount middle-class Americans pay in taxes (low-income earners would see their tax burden increase nine-fold.)

There are a number of different components to this, but one of the most glaring elements of 9-9-9 is that it puts a 9 percent federal sales tax on food. That's on top of whatever other sales tax exists (Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, already apply a full sales tax to groceries). Cain says that this is only fair, because everyone buys groceries. But that ignores the fact that taxing groceries is incredibly regressive. As you can see in this handy chart, poor people have to spend a much higher percentage of their income on food than rich people. Obviously, with more disposable income you can buy fancier varieties of food and do all your shopping at Whole Foods, but there's a limit even then; it's not as if Warren Buffett subsists entirely on $1,600 muffins:

Pretty self-explanatory: The less money you have, the more of it you have to spend on food.: Courtesy of the USDASelf-explanatory: The less money you have, the more of it you have to spend on food.: Courtesy of the USDAPoor Americans spend a lower percentage of their income on food than the rest of the world because poor Americans are pretty well-off, relative to the rest of the world, but the overall trend is pretty obvious. Cain has attempted to argue away the point that 9-9-9 is regressive by noting that under 9-9-9, there would be no tax on used goods. Food isn't much good once it's already been used once, though.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 13, 2011

Thu Oct. 13, 2011 5:57 AM EDT

A C-130J Super Hercules flies in a 10-ship formation Oct. 5, 2011, over southern Germany, during Europe's first full-spectrum training environment rotation. The C-130J is assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (US Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen J. Otero)