MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Should Obama Fire His CIA Chief for Misleading the Public About the Senate Spying Scandal? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On March 11, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, strode on to the Senate floor and made <a href="" target="_blank">a shocking charge</a>: the CIA had spied on committee investigators who were examining the CIA's past use of harsh interrogation techniques (a.k.a. torture). She essentially confirmed media reports that the agency had accessed computers that had been set up in a secured facility for her staffers to use&mdash;and that this high-tech break-in was related to a CIA memo that the agency had not turned over. The document was far more critical of the CIA's interrogation program than the agency's official response to the still-classified (and reportedly scorching) 6,300-page report produced by Feinstein's committee. As Feinstein described it,&nbsp;the CIA, looking to find out how her sleuths had obtained this particular memo, had been spying on the investigators who were paid by the taxpayers to keep a close watch on America's spies.&nbsp;</p> <p>Feinstein's public statement&mdash;unprecedented in US national security history&mdash;caused an uproar. I <a href="" target="_blank">noted</a> that this clash between the Senate and Langley threatened a constitutional crisis. After all, if the CIA was covertly undercutting and&nbsp;interfering with congressional oversight, then the foundation of the national security state was at risk, for the executive branch, in theory, can only&nbsp;engage in clandestine activity as long as members of Congress can keep an eye on it. Yet the system of oversight appeared to have broken down.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/cia-chief-brennan-obama-Senate-spying-scandal"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Congress Crime and Justice Foreign Policy International Iraq Top Stories Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:16:56 +0000 David Corn 257466 at Are There Two Different Versions of Environmentalism, One "White," One "Black"? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> was originally published on <a href="" target="_blank">Grist</a>.</em></p> <p><i>Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,</i><br><i>The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,</i><br><i>We, the people, must redeem</i><br><i>The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers</i><br><i>The mountains and the endless plain &ndash;</i><br><i>All, all the stretch of these great green states &ndash;</i><br><i>And make America again!</i><br> &ndash; Langston Hughes, 1938</p> <p>I really didn&rsquo;t want to have to address this. While reading through University of Michigan professor Dorceta Taylor&rsquo;s <a href="">latest report</a>, "The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations," and thinking about what I would write about it, I had hoped to focus on the solutions. Those solutions&mdash;confronting unconscious and subconscious bias and other subtle forms of discrimination&mdash;are the parts I had hoped environmentalists would be eager to unpack.</p> <p>I thought they&rsquo;d read about the "<a href="">green ceiling</a>," where mainstream green NGOs have failed to create a workforce where even two out of 10 of their staffers are people of color, and ask themselves what could they do differently. I thought, naively, that this vast report, complete with reams of data and information on the diversity problem, would actually stir some environmentalists to <a href="">challenge some of their own assumptions</a> about their black and brown fellow citizens.</p> <p>I was wrong.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2014/07/white-black-environmentalism-racism"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Desk Race and Ethnicity Thu, 31 Jul 2014 18:24:55 +0000 Brentin Mock 257446 at We’re Not Just Reducing Demand For Electricity—We’re Destroying It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> was originally published on </em><a href="" target="_blank">Slate</a>.</p> <p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> had a <a href="">good front-page article</a> this week about the challenges facing the nation&rsquo;s utilities. For the longest time, electricity sales and consumption went hand in hand with economic growth. In the last several years, not so much. Electricity retail sales peaked at 3.77 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2008, dropped in 2008 and 2010, recovered a bit in 2011, and fell in each of the next two years. The 2013 total of 3.69 trillion kilowatt-hours was down 2 percent from 2008.</p> <p>The culprits are many: changes in the economy (less industry, more services), higher prices and low wages pushing people to cut usage, more people and companies generating their own electricity on their rooftops, and a renewed focus on efficiency. I&rsquo;d add another factor, one that the <em>Journal</em> underplays: Utilities are confronting the prospect of significant and widespread <em>demand destruction</em>.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2014/07/destroy-electricity-demand-utilities"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Desk Energy Thu, 31 Jul 2014 17:48:15 +0000 Daniel Gross 257436 at Yes, the CIA Spied on the Senate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this year, CIA Director John Brennan accused staffers from the Senate Intelligence Committee of removing classified material from the CIA office where they were researching a report on the agency's use of torture during the Bush administration. This turned out to be very poor tradecraft on Brennan's part, since it implicitly revealed the fact that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers even though it wasn't supposed to. Brennan tried to mount a suitably aggressive counterattack to Senate outrage over this, <a href=";ihp=1" target="_blank">but today it all came crashing down:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>CIA employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a report on the agency&rsquo;s now defunct detention and interrogation program, an internal CIA investigation has determined.</p> <p>....The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel&rsquo;s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency&rsquo;s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.</p> <p>CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee&rsquo;s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, on the CIA inspector general&rsquo;s findings and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.</p> </blockquote> <p>I find that my reaction remains one of schadenfreude. Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the Intelligence Committee seem to be mostly unconcerned with the omnipresent surveillance apparatus constructed by the US intelligence committee, so it's hard to feel very sorry for them when they learn that this apparatus is also sometimes directed at Senate staffers. If this affair had persuaded a few senators that maybe our intelligence chiefs are less than totally honest about what they do, it might have done some good. But it doesn't seem to have done that. With only a few exceptions, they're outraged when the CIA spies on <em>them</em>, but that's about it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Congress Thu, 31 Jul 2014 17:43:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 257451 at We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 31, 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>US Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division participate in a training mission in Florida. <span class="meta-field photo-desc ">(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway.)</span></em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:12:25 +0000 257426 at Why American Politics Is Broken In One Sentence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Dave Weigel explains modern politics <a href="" target="_blank">in a single sentence:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Voters are aware of a border crisis, they are aware that Barack Obama is president&mdash;they blame him for nothing getting done.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. Republicans can basically do anything they want and never get blamed for it. Most voters don't even know who's in control of Congress anyway. When something goes wrong, all they know is (a) something went wrong, and (b) Barack Obama is the president and he should have done something about it.</p> <p>That being the case, what incentive do Republicans have for making things go right? Pretty much none. This is, roughly speaking, a fairly new insight, and it explains most of what you need to know about American politics in the Obama era.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:06:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 257421 at The Feds Are Demanding That Twitter Turn Over More User Info Than Ever <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>US law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hitting Twitter with more information requests about its users than ever before, and in most cases the social network is handing over some data, according to a new <a href="" target="_blank">report released by the company</a> on Thursday. Twitter notes that many of the government demands, which are typically related to criminal investigations, are originating from <a href="" target="_blank">California, New York, and Virginia. </a>They're coming from federal, state, and local law enforcement and intelligence officials, a Twitter spokesman says.</p> <p>Like <a href="" target="_blank">several other tech companies</a>, Twitter releases transparency reports disclosing information about the government requests for user data it has received. According to the latest report, between January 1 and June 30, Twitter received just over 2,000 requests for information covering about 3,100 Twitter accounts from authorities in 54 countries, with about 1,250 of those requests coming from US agencies. That's a sharp increase from the previous six months, when there were about 1,400 requests, around 830 of those from the US. According to the Twitter spokesman, US authorities have placed more information requests over the last six months than the company has ever received in a similar timeframe.</p> <p>While Twitter granted zero requests to some countries that requested information recently, such as Turkey, Venezuela, and Pakistan, the social network handed over at least some information in 72 percent of the cases when US authorities requested it.</p> <p>While the social network can report a tally of law enforcement-related requests, the social network is barred by the US government from publishing the specific number of national security-related requests&mdash;such as <a href="" target="_blank">national security letters and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders</a>&mdash;it has received. Twitter <a href="" target="_blank">notes</a> that it met with the FBI and the Justice Department earlier this year to push for more transparency.</p></body></html> MoJo Tech Top Stories Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:54:49 +0000 Dana Liebelson 257396 at This Is the Lamest Defense of GMO Foods Ever <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="" style="margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>Over on our environment blog, Chris Mooney posts an excerpt from an interview in which Neil deGrasse Tyson <a href="" target="_blank">defends GMO foods:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food," asserts Tyson. "There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There's no wild cows...You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it's not as large, it's not as sweet, it's not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It's called artificial selection."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a very common defense of GMO foods, but I've always found it to be the weakest, least compelling argument possible. It's so weak, in fact, that I always wonder if people who make it are even operating in good faith.</p> <p>It's true that we've been breeding new and better strains of plants and animals forever. But this isn't a defense of GMO. On the contrary, it's precisely the point that GMO critics make. We have about 10,000 years of evidence that traditional breeding methods are basically safe. That's why anyone can do it and it remains virtually unregulated. We have no such guarantee with artificial methods of recombinant DNA. Both the technique itself and its possible risks are completely different, and Tyson surely knows this. If he truly believed what he said, he'd be in favor of removing all regulation of GMO foods and allowing anyone to experiment with it. Why not, after all, if it's really as safe as Gregor Mendel cross-breeding pea plants?</p> <p>As it happens, I mostly agree with Tyson's main point. Although I have issues surrounding the way GMO seeds are distributed and legally protected, the question of whether GMO foods are safe for human consumption seems reasonably well settled. The technology is new enough, and our testing is still short-term enough, that I would continue to err on the side of caution when it comes to approving GMO foods. Still, GMO breeds created under our current regulatory regime are basically safe to eat, and I think that lefty critics of GMO foods should stop cherry picking the evidence to scare people into thinking otherwise.</p> <p>(Please send all hate mail to Tom Philpott. He can select just the juiciest ones to send along to me.)</p> <p>But even with that said, we shouldn't pretend that millennia of creating enhanced and hybrid breeds tells us anything very useful about the safety of cutting-edge laboratory DNA splicing techniques. It really doesn't.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Food and Ag Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:47:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 257416 at Quote of the Day: Vulture Fund Suing Argentina Is Just a Lonely Defender of the Free Market <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is fellow hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb defending Paul Singer, the billionaire owner of the vulture fund that successfully forced Argentina into default because it was insisting on <a href=";_type=blogs&amp;hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSumSmallMedia&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">full payment for old Argentine bonds:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He doesn&rsquo;t get into fights for the sake of fighting. He believes deeply in the rule of law and that free markets and free societies depend on enforcing it.</p> </blockquote> <p>You betcha. Anytime a Wall Street tycoon is supposedly fighting for deep principles, hold onto your wallet. They don't become billionaires because of their deep commitment to fair play and the unfettered operation of capital markets. However, there's also this:</p> <blockquote> <p>The big question, however, is whether Argentina will ever pay Elliott what it wants. If the firm fails to collect, that would underscore the limits of its legal strategy. There is no international bankruptcy court for sovereign debt that can help resolve the matter. Argentina may use the next few months to try to devise ways to evade the New York court. Debt market experts, however, do not see how any such schemes could avoid using global firms that would not want to fall afoul of Judge Griesa&rsquo;s ruling.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is an interesting point. Normally, Argentina would just continue to pay the holders of its "exchange" bonds and refuse to pay the vulture funds that refused to go along with the terms of its bankruptcy and restructuring a decade ago. Elliott and the other vultures would be out of luck. The problem is that Argentina's payments are funneled through a US bank, and the judge in the case has forced US banks to halt payments.</p> <p>But in all the articles I've read about this, I've never really seen an adequate explanation of why it's so impossible to avoid funneling payments through the US. I get that Argentina can no longer use an American US bank. Also, I assume, they can't use a big global bank that does business in the US. But surely there are mid-size banks that do no business in the US that could act as payment agents? If dollars were the issue, they could pay off in euros instead. I don't know what it would take legally for Argentina to switch either payment agents or the denominations of its bonds, but it doesn't <em>sound</em> impossible. And yet apparently it is. Why?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:24:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 257401 at Gaza Conflict Divides Congressional Progressives <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With the war in Gaza continuing without an end in sight, congressional leaders are <a href="">rallying</a> to condemn Hamas rocket attacks and support Israel. But members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have been divided over the conflict, with some commending Israel's military for its use of precision weapons and others outraged by the conflict&rsquo;s mounting Palestinian civilian causalities.&nbsp;</p> <p>The division was clear on July 29 when caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who has visited Gaza three times since 2009 and previously <a href="" style="line-height: 24px;">condemned</a>&nbsp;the Israeli blockade of Gaza, published an <a href="">op-ed</a> in the <em>Washington Post</em> that highlighted recent Palestinian civilian casualties&mdash;including four children who were "blown up on a beach"&nbsp;by an Israeli attack. He noted that most Gaza residents "aren't rocket shooters or combatants. For the past several years they have lived in dreadful isolation. The status quo for ordinary Gazans is a continuation of no jobs and no freedom." Ellison again called for an end to Israel's blockade and urged Hamas to give up its rockets: "There is no military solution to this conflict. The status quo brings only continued pain, suffering and war." &nbsp;</p> <p>Yet this is not the consensus view within the 65-member <a href="" target="_blank">Progressive Caucus</a> that Ellison co-leads. In recent weeks, other caucus members have focused on the rocket attacks launched against Israel and lent their support to its aggressive military reaction.</p> <p>Toward the start of Israel's air campaign in Gaza, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a stalwart liberal representing Manhattan's Upper West Side, issued a <a href="">statement</a> condemning Gaza's rocket attacks and calling for the public to support Israel "to take whatever measure she deems necessary to defend the population against the attempted murder by these terrorists." Nadler attended a <a href="" target="_blank">rally</a> in front of New York's city hall with other prominent New York Democrats to express support for Israel's actions in Gaza. Two days later, on July 16,&nbsp;caucus member Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) issued a <a href="">statement</a> with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) calling for solidarity with Israel.</p> <p>"Israel has gone far beyond what we have seen any other country do trying to protect the civilian population of its enemy," Nadler said. Frankel and Deutch similarly praised the Israeli military for using "pinpoint technology to minimize any collateral damage." So far more than 800 Palestinian civilians, including 232 children, have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza <a href="" target="_blank">as of July 30</a>.</p> <p>Last week, Progressive Caucus member Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), a psychiatrist by training, condemned Israel&rsquo;s attacks on hospitals. "The proximity of military targets or the suspicion of hidden weapons and militants is an invalid excuse in the targeting of a hospital or ambulance,"&nbsp;he said in a statement.</p> <p>"You should not be put in danger in a medical situation by someone alleging that there's some reason they should attack a hospital or doctor,"&nbsp;he tells <em>Mother Jones</em>.&nbsp;</p> <p>On July 18, Ellison and five other representatives&mdash;all progressive caucus members&mdash;signed a <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a> to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry calling for the White House and the State Department to "redouble your efforts" to press for a cease fire in Gaza. Contrast that to 2009, when 54 House Democrats signed a <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a> drafted by Ellison and McDermott urging the president "to work for tangible improvements to the humanitarian concerns" in Gaza.&nbsp;</p> <p>As for Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who co-chairs the caucus with Ellison, he has not said much publicly about the current war in Gaza. Although he signed the 2009 letter, he did not lend his name to the July 18 call for a cease fire. His office did not respond to requests for comment.</p></body></html> MoJo Congress Foreign Policy International Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:22:20 +0000 Alex Park 257166 at