Mojo - April 2012

4 Things to Know About CISPA

| Fri Apr. 27, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

On Thursday, the House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (HR 3523) by a 248-168 vote. The bill, commonly known by its acronym, CISPA, aims to make it easier for government agencies and private industry to share information about cyber threats. But all that information-sharing worries privacy advocates and civil libertarians, who say the bill lacks safeguards against abuse. Supporters like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who introduced the bill last November, insist that it is a necessary step in cracking down on illegal hacking and foreign spying, and would not be used to target things like file-sharing sites and free speech on the internet.

Now that the bill has passed the House, the focus shifts to the Senate, which is crafting an alternate version of the bill that could be voted on as early as May. Here are four things to know about CISPA.

1. Those for, those against. The usual suspects on both sides—rights organizations, consumer groups, big business, telecommunications—came out to endorse or condemn the bill. Here are some big names that have issued ringing endorsements of CISPA:

…and some key players that have denounced the bill:

2. The vague language. As with charges leveled at other recent controversial pieces of legislation, much of the debate over CISPA is about what the language in the bill actually means. CISPA would allow and encourage companies and government agencies to share internet users' information with each other without court orders or subpoenas so long as the company or agency can cite a "cybersecurity purpose." Proponents say that this will allow companies facing online attacks to report intrusions to the government and get help promptly without having to worry about unnecessary red tape. Critics, however, say there is a substantial potential for abuse in the vagueness of the phrase "cybersecurity purpose." "Right now, companies can only look at your communications in very specific, very narrow situations," Trevor Timm, a blogger and activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Daily Beast on Monday. "The government, if they want to read them, needs some sort of warrant and probable cause. This allows companies to read your communication as long as they can claim a cybersecurity purpose."

It's widely known that many major companies—including Facebook and Time Warner, for instance—already share plenty of user information with federal authorities in the interest of monitoring for national security threats or cyber crime. The concern here is that the bill would allow authorities to disregard the standard practice of subpoenas and court orders in such scenarios. "Essentially, this bill would preempt…other laws related to privacy," Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told Mother Jones.

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This Week in Dark Money

| Fri Apr. 27, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money...

Americans turned off by super-PACs: A new survey from the Brennan Center for Justice finds that 65 percent of respondents say they trust the government less since they feel super-PACs have more power than the people. And 26 percent, particularly "communities of color, those with lower incomes, and individuals with less formal education," say they're less likely to vote this year because of it.

Megadonors step up to the plate: iWatch News reports that seven wealthy men and three cash-heavy organizations have contributed a third of all super-PAC money (and just 46 donors are responsible for $110 million). iWatch has immortalized the top donors with their own interactive trading cards. This rookie Sheldon Adelson looks like a keeper.

Wall Street bullish on super-PACs: Meanwhile, the Center for Responsive Politics finds that the securities and investment industry continues to blow other industries away in the big money game. Casinos are number three, thanks to Adelson.

Coming to a race near you: As Mother Jones' Andy Kroll reports, a growing number of super-PACs are funneling cash into state and local races in efforts to oust congressional incumbents and influence smaller campaigns. The trend promises to create new problems wth campaign finance disclosure, which is inconsistent and often lacking at the state level.

Using dark money to hide dark money: Andy Kroll also reports that Crossroads GPS, the dark money outfit cofounded by Karl Rove, doled out $2.75 million to the Center for Individual Freedom, which fights dark-money disclosure laws. A Washington Post analysis finds that Crossroads GPS, which does not disclose its donors, has spent $12.6 million on anti-Obama ads so far. Meanwhile, Crossroads GPS's super-PAC affiliate American Crossroads has released a new ad, a racially tinged attack that casts the president as being too "cool."

Latest stats from the money war: As supporters of Obama and Mitt Romney max out their legally allowed donations to the candidates, they're turning to super-PACs to keep the money flowing. So far, Obama and the Democrats have raised more campaign money, but pro-Romney and conservative super-PACs have a cash advantage.

15 Reasons You Should Donate to Mother Jones

| Fri Apr. 27, 2012 3:00 AM EDT

Hello dear readers! Yes, it's fundraising time, and we encourage you to donate a few dollars to the Mother Jones Investigative Fund to support independent, investigative journalism.

Unlike NPR, we can't hold your commute hostage to our pleas for money. But what we can do is remind you of some compelling reasons to part with a few of your hard-earned bucks. Ready?

1) Because we still do great longform journalism. Like Mac McClelland's undercover exposé into the warehouse wage slaves behind your online purchases.

2) Because half of all our magazine pieces in 2011 had a female byline–way more than most news/political magazines.

 

3) Because our income inequality charts are so good that Occupy Wall Street protestors put them on signs, Stephen Colbert built a segment around them, and Slate said they deserved a Pulitzer.

4) Because our reporters braved tear gas and arrest rather than back off covering the Occupy movement.

5) Because from pig brains to pink slime, we're not afraid to gross you out.

6) Because we were instrumental in bringing the photography of Vivian Maier to light.

 

 

7) Because we explained and reported the heck out of the Trayvon Martin killing

8) Because we stopped the GOP from redefining rape.

9) Because we made an "are you a slut?" flowchart and support a woman's right to choose to knit her congressman a vagina:

10) Because we allow smart celebrities to speak their mind.

Source: motherjones.com via Mother on Pinterest

11) Because you deserve to know about the nukes speeding by your house.

12) Because our yearlong investigation of the FBI's domestic informant program was so good, it's been picked up by all the big papers (though not always with credit).

13) Because remember the whole exploding Ford Pinto thing? Yeah, that was us.

14) Because we pay our interns, and don't pit them against one another in a weekly acid-saber-fight cage match where only the triumphant one is allowed food.

15) Because we'll help you know the difference between Newt and Schrute.


BONUS: Still not sure? Okay, fine: We invented the po' boy...maybe.

 Delicious oyster po' boy.: fdasA delicious oyster po' boy. Joyce Marrero/ShutterstockWe couldn't have done a single one of these stories without your support. We're a nonprofit, and the support of readers is what keeps us alive. If you've appreciated any of these stories, please donate $5 or $10 to the Mother Jones Investigative Fund right now. We've almost reached our goal, and your gift could be the one that gets us all the way there. Plus, next time you see a great story on Mother Jones, you'll know you played an important part in making it happen. Please give today via credit card or PayPal. Thanks!

Charles Taylor Convicted of War Crimes. Finally!

| Thu Apr. 26, 2012 4:49 PM EDT
Charles Taylor, in custody in 2006

On Thursday, Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, became the first head of state convicted of war crimes by an international court since German naval commander Karl Dönitz (Hitler's successor) faced judgment at the Nuremberg trials. Taylor, who cut his teeth in the '80s as an embezzler and a warlord, was convicted by a UN-backed court in The Hague of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Liberian government handed him over to UN security officials in March 2006.

The court at The Hague found Taylor guilty of providing weapons and technical support to Revolutionary United Front rebel forces fighting in the brutal civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002. (The rebels paid Taylor in blood diamonds in exchange for his support.) The RUF army gained international notoreity for its child soldiers, sadistic attacks on civilians, and widespread use of torture. Announcing the verdict, presiding judge Richard Lussick called Taylor's support for the RUF fighters "sustained and significant." Taylor will serve out his sentence in a maximum security prison in the United Kingdom.

Taylor's six-year presidency was by marked by a record of repression and the Second Liberian Civil War. Here are some bizarre facts about the busted war criminal.

1. Taylor went to school in the United States. Like other mass murderers and foreign terrorists, Taylor was educated in America. In 1977, he graduated with a degree in economics from Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. While at studying at Bentley, Taylor was also busy fathering a second child and showing off his sports car on campus grounds. Other notable Bentley alumni include Dallas Cowboy Mackenzy Bernadeau and Mike Mangini, the drummer for the prog-metal band Dream Theater. Comedian Jay Leno also attended, but dropped out after his first semester.

"If Paul Ryan Knew What Poverty Was, He Wouldn't Be Giving This Speech"

| Thu Apr. 26, 2012 3:20 PM EDT
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House budget committee, knew some Catholics were spoiling for a fight with him Thursday when he was scheduled to speak at Georgetown University, a Catholic institution. Nearly 90 faculty members and administrators sent him a letter expressing concerns with his recent comments that his proposed budget, which includes massive spending cuts to programs for the poor but not a single tax increase, was inspired by his Catholic faith.

"I am afraid that Chairman Ryan's budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ," said Father Thomas Reese, a fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown, in a press release Tuesday. "Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love."

The complaints seemed to resonate with Ryan. On Thursday, he went on record denouncing Ayn Rand, who believed altruism is evil, brushing off his well-documented obsession with her as a teenage romance. Ryan told the National Review's Robert Costa: "I reject her philosophy. It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don't give me Ayn Rand."

Does Rubio's "DREAM Act" Really Put Obama in a Box?

| Thu Apr. 26, 2012 12:54 PM EDT
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at CPAC in 2012.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been trying to create some political space for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has embraced a draconian "attrition through enforcement" approach to immigration, to move to the center on the issue. The Washington Post reports that Rubio's alternative to the DREAM Act, which would provide legal status without citizenship to some undocumented immigrants brought to the US as minors, is getting a look from immigration reform activists:

In recent days, Rubio has quietly reached out to a number of immigrant advocates who are usually White House allies but have grown frustrated with some of the president’s policies. Some of the activists say they are open to Rubio’s effort — even though it would stop short of a provision in the Democratic-backed Dream Act to create a path to citizenship — because it would at least provide some relief to people at risk of being deported.

Rubio's plan is getting attention from activists in part because they're in dire straits—legalization without citizenship is better than getting deported to a strange country you've never really lived in because your of something your parents did. The temptation to embrace Rubio's proposal must be pretty strong, particularly for those activists who have family and friends who would be eligible for legal status under the proposal.

The Post piece, however, is shorn of the relevant historical context of the DREAM Act. Although many media outlets have referred to Rubio's proposal as "Republican DREAM Act," the original DREAM Act was the Republican DREAM Act. It was first introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in 2001, who later opposed President George W. Bush's attempt at comprehensive immigration reform. The proposal quickly became a bipartisan one. Like the individual mandate in health care reform, the DREAM Act represented a narrower alternative to a more ambitious approach to a policy problem—one Republicans were willing to embrace as long as there didn't seem to be any chance of it happening. Like the mandate, once Obama embraced the DREAM Act, it became the latest manifestation of the dark socialist menace threatening America.

Rubio's DREAM Act doesn't actually resolve the primary objection of the GOP's immigration restrictionist wing, which is that any legalization of undocumented immigrants will encourage more illegal immigration. That's why immigration restrictionist Kris Kobach, (whom Romney looked to for an endorsement as far back as 2008 but whom he's recently tried to distance himself from) doesn't like the idea.  

The Rubio proposal hardly puts Obama in a "box," as the Post suggests. All Obama has to do is endorse the Rubio option as a stopgap measure, say it's the best that can be done for now, and tell Congress to get to work. At that point, the GOP will fling it into a black hole of obstruction, from which neither hope nor light can escape.

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Corn on "Hardball": Romney and "Fairness"

Thu Apr. 26, 2012 11:03 AM EDT

Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn joined host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball on Wednesday to discuss Mitt Romney's campaign-trail pivot to "fairness."

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. Follow him on Twitter.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 25, 2012

Wed Apr. 25, 2012 9:58 AM EDT

Lance Cpl. Anthony Acosta fires a M240B machine gun during live-fire training on April 24, 2012 aboard USS Pearl Harbor here. The 22-year-old Phoenix native serves as a mortarman for Battalion Landing Team 3/1, the ground combat element for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The unit is deployed as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, currently a US Central Command theater reserve force. The group is providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the US Navy's 5th Fleet area of responsibility. Photo by Cpl. Tommy Huynh.

Wells Fargo Turns Away Its Own Shareholders From Its Shareholder Meeting

| Tue Apr. 24, 2012 6:28 PM EDT

Outside the Wells Fargo shareholders meeting in San Francisco: Josh HarkinsonOutside the Wells Fargo shareholders meeting in San Francisco: Josh HarkinsonUpdated on Wednesday, April 25th at 11 am PST

"I would not want to work for Wells Fargo," one woman on lunch break in downtown San Francisco loudly told her friend.

No kidding. At around noon today, some 2,000 activists launched a blitzkrieg against the bank's annual shareholder meeting at the Merchants Exchange Building, where they blocked entrances, inflated a two-story cigar-smoking rat in the street, and deployed hundreds of shareholder activists to pack the joint.

Citing space constraints, the bank turned away many of the shareholders, a move protesters quickly decried as an illegal attempt to dodge tough questions. A press release from the activist group the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment claimed Wells Fargo packed the meeting with its own employees, and continued to let shareholders who were not part of the protest in through a side door.

A Wells Fargo spokesman did not immediately return my call.

In the building lobby, I ran into Wells Fargo shareholder Andrew Constans, who was wearing a suit and tie and holding a paper copy of his single share of stock. The 19-year-old University of Minnesota student flew halfway across the country to tell Wells Fargo that it should pay more taxes. (Between 2008 and 2010, Wells Fargo paid none, but got $681 million in tax credits.) "I pay taxes, so why can't they?" Constans asked. "I'm not a multinational corporation; I don't have 60 tax shelters."

The Wells Fargo protest is part of an effort on the part of 99% Power, a coalition of dozens of labor and community groups that plans to target some 40 corporate shareholder meetings over the next six weeks. "It's a broader group than normally does shareholders meetings," says Stephen Lerner, an executive board member with the Service Employees International Union. "It's a campaign that's saying, let's gather all the folks who are impacted negatively by these giant corporations and lets figure out ways to illustrate that and challenge them directly at the meetings."

That strategy was on full display today in downtown San Francisco, where demonstrators hit Wells Fargo from every possible angle. A speaker with the immigrants rights group Causa Justa pointed out that Wells Fargo is a shareholder in Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison firm that profits from detaining illegal immigrants. Bob Donjacour, a freelance computer programmer and member of Occupy San Francisco, held a sign that said, "Stop Funding Dirty Power," highlighting the bank's investments in oil and gas. Other protesters criticized Wells Fargo's involvement in the American Legislative Exchange Council, the excessive salary of CEO John Stumpf ($19 million in 2010), and, of course, its foreclosure practices.

On the corner of Pine and Sansome Streets, I ran into artist Cheryl Meeker, a member of an Occupy-related protest group known as Don't Just Click There. "It's about doing things in real life, like, physically," she explained. She was blocking the intersection with a long cloth banner with flames on it as others held up signs reading, "Hells Fargo."

"Do you think we can get through?" asked two guys in nice suits.

Meeker declined, but did give each of them a dollar bill. It sported an image of humans pulling a stagecoach with the caption: "Debt slavery."

According to press reports, 24 people were arrested at the protests, including several who disrupted the shareholder meeting from within. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo announced record profits and awarded CEO John Stumpf a $19.8 million pay package.

The Bishops' War on Women, Nuns, and...Paul Ryan?

| Tue Apr. 24, 2012 3:21 PM EDT

When the US Conference of Catholic Bishops declared war on the Obama administration on religious freedom grounds, the GOP was right there with them. Republicans cited the bishops' complaints as they blasted the administration's contraception mandate in health care reform, and gave the bishops a prominent platform on the Hill to air their grievances. When the Obama administration declined to award a new contract to the USCCB to serve clients of human trafficking, as it had been for the past five years, GOP members of Congress came out swinging. 

In September, the bishops lost a $19 million contract to provide services to trafficking victims after refusing to make accommodations so that their clients could have access to a full range of reproductive health services. (Read this story from the latest print issue of Mother Jones for all the particulars.)  The lost contract was just one more piece of evidence the bishops invoked to prove that the Obama administration discriminates against religious groups and follows an "ABC—anybody but Catholics" policy, and House Republicans were happy to parrot that charge as well. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held a marathon hearing in December in which GOP members took ample time to accuse the administration of being anti-Catholic and to come to the defense of the bishops' organization.

But even as GOPers have been piggybacking on the USCCB's skirmish with the White House, they seem to have forgotten that the Catholic organization is hardly a Republican proxy. Even though they may align with Republicans on contraception, abortion, and gay rights, the bishops have traditionally been much more in sync with the Democrats. The bishops supported the nuclear freeze movement during the Reagan era, have consistently opposed the death penalty, and backed comprehensive immigration reform.

Despite some GOP claims that the Pope himself has said that the national debt is a moral hazard, the party leaders seem to have missed the part where the church has said that debt is bad because it hurts the poor. USCCB has been a leading advocate for debt relief in Third World countries because the bishops believe debt has to be relieved in a way to help the poor, not simply to placate bankers and rich people.

So Republicans seemed a little taken aback, when, in the midst of the USCCB's showdown with the Obama administration (and women, including nuns), the group took aim at the GOP for backing draconian cuts to government programs for the poor. The source of the controversy dates back to a an interview House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) gave to the Christian Broadcasting Network earlier this month, in which he suggested that his Catholic faith had inspired him to draft a budget that takes an axe to social welfare programs:

Through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that’s how we advance the common good, by not having Big Government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities

Those principles are very, very important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life, help people get out of poverty, out into a life of independence.

In response to these comments, as well the broader Ryan budget, the bishops have sent a series of letters to House GOP leaders criticizing the plan for the dire impact it would have on the poor and disadvantaged. Contrary to Ryan's insistence that the budget is in keeping with Catholic tenets, the bishops insist that many of the budget choices are actually immoral.

Now that the bishops are taking on the House leadership, top GOP lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have suddenly decided that the USCCB doesn't really represent the church or all its bishops, and thus, they are free to ignore it. "These are not all the Catholic bishops, and we just respectfully disagree," Ryan told Fox News last week. The argument didn't fly so well with the USCCB, which shot back in The Hill that the group does, in fact, represent all the bishops.