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Or... How My Seven Year Old Son Got Into The New York Times

I never got around to posting this, but I think I have to now. DailyKos is my roots and it just doesn't seem right that this video clip has received 30K views today, with none of them (that I know about) coming from Big Orange.

Anyway, the background is that my kids had a snow day. Instead of skipping work, I brought them with me to the job. That day the job happened to be covering CPAC. When we arrived, CPAC's awesome (no - really!) comms director (his name is Ian) credentialed not just me, but the two cub reporters trailing me. The result was that my daughter Antigone, 9, and my son Aaron, 7, found themselves the youngest credited media of the event.

Antigone decided she prefers to remain out of the spotlight, so she chose to be a print reporter. Aaron couldn't wait to get in front of the camera.

The other thing you need to know is that much of my work has centered on the politics of climate change, so for a couple of years now, my kids have been exposed to all sorts of podcasts, television shows and movies, and discussions covering the topic. They have a solid grounding in what's at stake, who the good guys and bad guys are, and what makes someone good or bad.

So Aaron was well-prepared to do this:

Discuss

Wed Dec 24, 2014 at 01:28 AM PST

Low hanging fruit

by Mike Stark

If you're wondering how we might improve policing in the USA, you may be surprised at how easy that may be to accomplish. Results are achievable right now.

I'm not exaggerating.

I mean...

Have you ever wondered how the police could be so mind-numbingly stupid sometimes?

Like...

"I am Darren Wilson" bracelets?

Fucking.

Shit.

Really?

You're going to wear that shit after your guy just killed an 18 year old kid? And everyone in the neighborhood you patrol is burning with pent-up and barely contained anger?

You're going to leak stupid shit like "blown orbital socket" when you know - or should know - that the real pictures from that night will eventually be made public?

You know the stats... You know that "stop and frisk" puts more black than white kids in jail, even though your hit rate for contraband is higher for white people? And you cast crazy hate upon your new mayor because he wants to stop the practice?

Amadou Diallo. Abner Louima. Sean Bell. Troy Davis.  Fred Hampton. Mike Brown. Eric Garner. Akai Gurley. John Crawford III. Tamir Rice.

All dead. Dead by state. (Or, perhaps, worse, in the case of Abner Louima).

Most dead by cop.

I don't know what's happened in St. Louis tonight, just two miles from Ferguson.

In Berkeley, MO.

But again... an Officer of the law... there to protect and...

eh...

fuck it...

the cliche ain't worth repeating because it means less than shit....

anyway... a cop was asked what his name was...

This was just an hour or so after Antonio Martin - another black teenager - had his life cut short by cop...

The protester asked a simple question... "What is your name, officer?"

The answer?

"My name is Officer Fuck You."

Antonio Martin's body was still warm... but still it was... flat on the pavement, just yards away.

Some reports say he was still struggling for life, but the police wouldn't help.

"My name is Officer Fuck You."

How are we stuck with cops so tragically clueless? How do we get stuck with police that are so infernally fucking stupid?

Well...

As it turns out...

They're hand-picked.

A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s decision that the city did not discriminate against Robert Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test.

“This kind of puts an official face on discrimination in America against people of a certain class,” Jordan said today from his Waterford home. “I maintain you have no more control over your basic intelligence than your eye color or your gender or anything else.”

He said he does not plan to take any further legal action.

Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, took the exam in 1996 and scored 33 points, the equivalent of an IQ of 125. But New London police interviewed only candidates who scored 20 to 27, on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training.

Most Cops Just Above Normal The average score nationally for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average.

Is there anything else that could possibly explain this guy?

You want to change policing in the USA?

Start with this.

We're putting guns in their hands.

Can we please set some standards?

Please?

Discuss

Tue Dec 16, 2014 at 09:30 AM PST

Not a diary, just a status update

by Mike Stark

I've been asked by several people if I've got any news about the criminal case brought against the fellow that objected to my photojournalism efforts to bring transparency to the deviant orgy convention we know as the American Legislative Exchange Council's Washington summit. You'll recall that it's the must-attend event that brings corporate lobbyists together with conservative state lawmakers in a posh union-busting hotel. There, over the course of 72 uninhibited and depraved hours, the overweight and pasty-faced attendees gather behind closed doors. Inside, the corporate shills present their seeds of legislation to the eager and welcoming state legislators, who seem to delight in their own humiliation, so long as their campaign coffers remain overtopped. These legislators accept the corporate seed, incubate it,and if exposure doesn't abort the process, model legislation is bred and cloned to be introduced and passed across the many states.

So it's understandable - even acceptable - for everyone involved to be annoyed at the photojournalist creating a visual record of their attendance at the otherwise secretive conclave. But annoyance is one thing, violence quite another.

Violence gets you arrested. And, as I previously reported, that's what happened to this guy after he knocked me over a row of hedges:

Here's what's happened since then:

  • I was able to pick up a police report the next day. It reveals that the perpetrator (on the right, above) was charged with Simple Assault in the First District of Washington DC
  • The police report does not reveal the accused's name or any information that could be used to identify him (but my name, address and phone number are on the form, which is a public record accessible to anyone that asks for it)
  • By law, neither the police nor the prosecutor's office are allowed to reveal the suspect's name until his case enters the court system
  • The prosecutor's office expects the case to enter the court system sometime between 12/29 and 1/9
  • Whether the case is tried or pled, the suspect will probably not be required to appear
  • The prosecutor told me that by all appearances, it's a case that will be prosecuted. I hadn't considered the possibility that the US Attorney's office would decline to press charges, but I, of all people, should know that's possible.
So, in short, the wheels of justice grind slowly*. In the meantime, it sure would be great if we could identify Big Ugly (on the right, above).

*when they grind at all (Yes, I'm looking at you #Ferguson)

Discuss

So Public Citizen lost round one in their defamation defense against the extremely lawsuit-happy Bob Murray of Murray Energy.

I was sad to hear the news, even as I recalled my own satisfaction at beating that bastard soundly when he sued me.

Last September I signed for a letter-sized package delivered by UPS. It was from the Belmont County Court in Ohio.

For the first time in my life, I had been served.

For an article I wrote and published at The Huffington Post, I incurred Bob Murray's immature and petulant wrath. For reporting a series of incontrovertible facts and sounding a note of caution for any Virginia readers that may have been inclined to vote for Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP candidate for governor, Bob Murray went to court claiming separate counts of defamation and false light invasion of privacy - the very same counts charge in his lawsuit against Public Citizen. His pleading sought "in excess of $75,000" from me and my co-defendant, The Huffington Post.

Fucking amateur. Both him and his lawyers.

The first thing we did was remove the case to federal court. That's important - remember this in about 300 words or so. See... Murray's complaint seeking $75K met the jurisdictional bar that allowed us to take the case out of the local Belmont County courthouse in Murray's back yard and into what my lawyers and I believed would be the much more professional federal courts. Because Murray asked for $75K (if he had asked for $74,999.99 things would have been different), removal was automatic once we requested it.

Huffington Post and I were two separate defendants and we had two separate defenses. My defense was straight-forward: the words I wrote were not defamatory as a matter of law. We prepared our motion for summary judgment and submitted it to the court.

The Huffington Post (and several individual editors) had the same defense, but they also had another (in my opinion, more potent) defense by way of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The defense is pretty straight-forward and practically bullet-proof. In short, if you didn't write the words, you cannot be held liable for them if they appear on your website. In other words, I, as the author of the allegedly defamatory article in question, was the only person that could be held legally accountable for publishing my words. (Everyone of us should thank Congress for getting that section correct. Without it, the web could not exist as we know it... DailyKos and Blogger and Tumblr and any site that allows comments would be required to moderate and approve every single comment (this would apply to commerce sites like Ebay too), or face the potential for a constant stream of lawsuits).

So Huffington Post filed a separate motion for summary judgment in their favor, citing Section 230 (and other defenses). Murray's lawyers, evidently unaware of Section 230's force, filed an amended complaint that was riddled with lies manufactured from whole cloth. Get this: they suggested that an in-house HuffPo reporter (no need to drag him into this by naming him) actually wrote the article, but the Huffington Post's editors knew their reporter made stuff up all the time. To evade liability for publishing the article, the Huffington Post sought me out and asked me to publish it under my name.

Obviously that story is just plain outlandish. To this day I have never met or communicated with the HuffPo reporter Murray dragged into the case, and nobody else contributed to the article I wrote. What Murray and his lawyers did was manufacture a set of facts that they believed would provide them with a basis for defeating the HuffPo Section 230 defense. Flatly stated - they fucking lied to the court.

In the end, none of it mattered. Judge Martin Frost took a look at the article and agreed with my lawyers: the article simple was not defamatory. Case dismissed. Judge Frost didn't bother analyzing the applicability of Section 230 because without anything defamatory in front of him, he didn't need to reach the issue.

Still... Murray and his lawyers' tactics in the case were breathtaking-ly unethical and may have even been criminal.

That said, I won. With a great legal team (the ACLU took my case and I had other local counsel as well), Murray's little whine was bounced out of the courthouse at the jump.

Public Citizen hasn't been so lucky. Why?

Well, for one thing, they haven't been able to get the case removed to federal court. Instead, it's being heard right in Murray's front yard, at the Belmont County's Court of Common Pleas:

ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Litigation will continue in a suit between Robert Murray and Murray Energy as plaintiff against the activist organization Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc. for defamation.

Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Fregiato sustained a motion to dismiss suits against advertisers Keymarket of Ohio, Captstar TX, CBS Radio East, Chuck Poet, Jim Elliot, Michael Young and Michael Spacciapolli, concluding these were mere neutral advertising conduits having nothing to do with the defamation.

They are not obligated to verify the truth or falsity of their advertisements.

Those who are alleged to have defamed Murray and Murray Energy Corporation are Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation Inc. These were not dismissed from litigation. Fregiato ruled that litigation may go forward.

I studied defamation at UVa Law School. The words used in my case, and those used by Public Citizen in their ad... Well, they were different, but legally speaking, I don't think the words are materially different. I haven't seen Judge Fregiato's order or any reasoning he used to decide that Public Citizen's advertisement was meant to be accepted as fact rather than the obviously biased opinion of an advocate commenting on matters of public importance, so I suppose it is possible that the Judge saw something I did not.

But then I googled "Frank Fregiato" & "Murray".

Here's a sampling of what was returned:

Murray Brings John Boehner to Wheeling for Fundraiser (#1 result, with picture)

Murray with Fregiato at charity event

I don't have time right now to look for more...

But I am so glad I was able to remove my case to federal court.

Good luck Public Citizen!

Discuss

And thank god for that.

This will be brief, because I’m tired. But this is worth sharing with y’all before I let the lids droop.

Y’all know ALEC, right? They’re the conservative organization that brings state legislators together with corporate lobbyists and provides them with a private space for them to develop the “model legislation” they hope will someday govern the rest of us. It’s a secretive process that shuns public participation, for obvious reasons.

Well, I just got a brand new DSLR camera for my birthday a couple of months ago and I decided to put it to good use. ALEC legislators may be able to huddle behind closed doors with their corporate sponsors (somebody has to pay for their posh hotel), but… Nobody can get to those private rooms without first passing through the front door of the hotel which is in a very, very public place.

I decided to do some journalism. I decided to do some photojournalism. I decided to stand outside and capture as many hi-resolution pictures as I could. And I've been doing it for two days now. What I've been thinking is that good new-media, crowd-sourced journalism can bring sunlight to a place there’s never been any. By posting these pictures and letting the world tag them with names, we can know which lobbyists and which legislators are maneuvering in the shadows of democracy. I don’t know if it will work, but I think it’s worth trying.

So…

I was in the middle of my shift this evening when my priorities were superseded by others with equally (or more) pressing concerns.

The thought that they were simply asking for the right to live free of police terrorism and that the people inside the hotel despised them so much for such a simple ask… well, it truly had me choking up.

After they said their piece (peaking with four and one-half minutes of silence), the enlighteners moved on to spread the message to another part of the city. My heart went with them, but my body remained in place to gather more portraits of the scum that would keep my heroes out of the polling booths.

Funny thing about that though… As much as I wanted to hate the haters, I found it impossible. In fact, I found myself having wonderful political discussions with many of them. And I found many of them to be warm, interesting and even… kind.

It was a cold night. A former legislator, now working to privatize education, bought me a coffee. His staffer brought it to me, and we talked for a while. (I got the big one).

Then a couple of guys from Kansas got out of a taxi. They posed for my picture. We spoke. We disagreed. We laughed. And they went inside.

I turned around and there were four more men in suits. They joked about me taking pictures. One flipped me off. We laughed.

And then the one that flipped me off (red tie, below) took three quick strides, barreled into me and threw me over a row of hedges.

I guess it was his way of protesting (wink wink, nudge nudge, see what I did there?) the way I was exercising my First Amendment rights by using my camera.

Poor, hapless fellow...

He did that in the plain view of about 20 police officers that had just professionally managed the earlier protests.

The police went into the hotel to review the security footage (I’m sure they wanted to ensure there was no provocation on my part – and there surely wasn't). About an hour later, I was asked to duck out of the way so as to minimize any drama – they were about to escort the suspect out of the hotel for arrest, and it would be safest if I was not within his line of sight. I watched from afar as they clicked the handcuffs on him and tucked him into a police vehicle to be taken in for processing.

Discuss


One day in the distant future, an archaeology team will carefully brush off what turns out to be a flash drive. They'll decode the contents and find the video embedded above. In quick succession, knowing glances will be exchanged, and then huge smiles, hugs, and high fives. The team will have solved the riddle of how such an advanced technological society managed to collapse.

It was the assholes.

A relatively small number of smug, insulated, status-obsessed, and myopically self-interested assholes had ruined everything.

For many government insiders, beltway elites, and other sycophants to the 1%, morality is an irrelevant and whimsical notion, not fit for serious discussion.  Their cold and callous pursuit of self-interest, unconstrained by notions of right and wrong, will result in needless suffering on an unimaginable scale as climate disasters increase in frequency and severity.

In the video above, someone speaks up and politely asks a panel of DC insiders why they are not more concerned about moral considerations related to climate change. Phil Sharp, former Democratic Congressman and director of the host organization (Resources For the Future), summarily dismisses the questioner with, literally, a wave of his hand.

In so doing, Sharp protected the guest panelists, one of whom was attorney Jeffrey Holmstead, partner (and lobbyist) at Bracewell Guiliani and former EPA political appointee under George W. Bush. His clients include a number of large carbon polluters and coal companies.

Let me be explicit: Jeffrey Holmstead is paid millions of dollars every year to undermine and/or defeat laws establishing sensible climate policy for the world’s biggest polluters. As a result, millions of innocent people will die.

Instead of respecting the questioner and his decency, Resources For the Future and Phil Sharp protected fellow insider Jeffrey Holmstead.

But Phil Sharp is just a placeholder for so much of what is so wrong today.

Power elites in America and across the world have formed a well-developed circle-jerk of fraud to maintain their status. These criminal elites (because that's what they are) set the agenda for the rest of us. And, unsurprisingly, garbage in, garbage out. From the genetically modified food we eat, to the energy we use, to the media we rely upon to inform our choices... The entire system is corrupt.

The entire system.

From the denialists in Congress...to the advanced network astroturf front-groups... the NRA... the frackers polluting out water and causing earthquakes... to the war-profiteers... to the pesticide manufacturers killing our bees... to the GM food manufacturers... the oil companies spoiling our seas... the bankers that stole your neighbor's house...

All driven by rapacious greed, and damned the consequences...

When they aren't at Charlie Palmer's Steak House devising their next caper, they are gathering at panels like this one, ignoring their own stench and telling the rest of us not to worry our pretty little heads.

Of course, the sell-out beltway media grifters get their cut and dutifully remain silent... (I'm looking at you Mike Allen)...

Happy as they are to have solved one mystery, our future archaeologists remain befuddled by another: Why didn't anyone point out that the emperor was wearing no clothes? After all, right there on stage with Mr. Sharp and Holmstead was a lawyer from the Natural Resources Defense Council.... Why would any respectable environmentalist agree to sit on a panel with someone like Holmstead?

More broadly, why were so many sociopaths, miscreants and amoral deviants - people like Holmstead, like George Will, like the Koch Brothers, like Governors Walker, Scott and McCrory - why were they tolerated, or even welcomed and celebrated within polite society?

Discuss

Wed May 07, 2014 at  9:30 AM PT: Here's the audio:

Along with elected Republicans, I'm one of the few remaining members of Rush Limbaugh's listenership. I'm convinced that he owns the most powerful media voice in the world, notwithstanding the wonderfully effective work done by ProgLegs and the #StopRush movement. He may be hemorrhaging advertisers and audience, but his iron grip on Republicans and their agenda persists; if you want to know what DC Republicans are going to do before they know what they are going to do, listen to Rush.

With that in mind, I tuned in this afternoon to hear him issue the GOP's marching orders regarding the National Climate Assessment. And I figured that since I was listening anyway, I'd call his show and try to get on the air. After all, every minute of his broadcast time I use to tell the truth is a minute he can't use to spread Republican manure.

It worked. Here's the transcript (please don't click):

Lib Caller Spouts BS Anti-Oil Talking Points
May 06, 2014

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: McLean, Virginia.  Mike, welcome to the program, sir.  Great to have you.

CALLER:  Hi, Mr. Limbaugh.  Last time I called you mocked me as part of the liberal castrati, and I guess I still haven't learned -- learned my lesson because I'm still struck by the implausible and self-contradictory nature of your arguments.  I've got two examples from what you've talked about today.  On climate change, I don't know how all these scientists from the National Academy of Sciences -- people that brought us cell phones and the Internet and sent us into space -- can be engaged in a 25-year plot to take away our freedom.  I mean, if they're that smart, you would have thought they would have changed the topic by now. But I called to talk about --

RUSH:  I'll be glad to explain it to you if you like.

CALLER:  I'd love for you to address it later on, but I really wanted to talk about your first story today, about the, uh --

RUSH:  It's about scoring money from government, number one.  It's about getting money from government, and it's about growing government and making it bigger so you could bleed off of it and get rich.

CALLER:  That's what everybody wants. You know, all liberals want to be controlled by our government.

RUSH:  Well, the people you're talking about -- the scientists and all these so-called people joining this "consensus" that exists out there -- that's how they get their living.

CALLER: (snickering) By inventing cell phones and sending us into space and bringing us the Internet and stuff like that? They've increased more freedom... They've given us more freedom, they've given us more independence from the government than they ever could take away from us.

RUSH:  Inventing the cell phone doesn't mean that they are not little skulls full of mush when it comes to political matters --

CALLER: That's exactly right! That's exactly right!

RUSH: -- and are malleable and bendable and shapable and formable and flakable.

CALLER:  You're exactly right on that.  They are not political.  They just do the science and tell us what the science says.  You are the one that's political.  Al Gore says it best.  You got all these --

RUSH:  There isn't any science in it! That's the whole point. It's nothing but computer models.  There's no science in it.

CALLER: Let's change the subject to --

RUSH: You know what? Why do you not reject it? Why do you automatically accept it? Just because you're told it's a bunch of scientists, people that invented cell phones?

CALLER:  Because I went to engineering school and I know what the scientific method is. I know what peer review is.

RUSH:  They can't prove it!

CALLER:  It's that 25 years there's not a huge plot.

RUSH: There's no proof to it, Mike.  It's all computer models.  There's no empirical evidence of anything they're saying.  That's why it's always 10 years from now, 25 years from now, a hundred years from now, 'cause it isn't happening now, Mike.

CALLER:  That's what the talk radio show hosts tell us. That's what you tell us.

RUSH: (sigh) No, it's what it is.

CALLER:  The scientists say there's all sorts of proof. The scientists are running around --

RUSH:  It's what is.

CALLER:  And they are not political! You are, Rush.

RUSH:  Did climate scientists invent the cell phone?  I'm still confused about that.

CALLER:  They -- they... Uh, what I'm saying is these are people, members of the National Academy of Sciences. Uh, uh, you don't get there unless you're --

RUSH:  They are corruptible political bunch, just like the IPCC is a political bunch! Everything you're citing has a political agenda to it, and you're part of it.  Why don't you just admit it?  You're having great success with it.

CALLER: (unintelligible)

RUSH: If you are an avowed member of the New Castrati, that means you're a liberal, and you are part of the agenda, and you're advancing it by hook and by crook.  Why don't you admit what it is?

CALLER:  Rush, I went to engineering school and I went to law school.  So I do both.  I'm... I've done science, and I've done politics.

RUSH:  Well, tell me something. Why is global warming political?  Why is it a political issue at all?

CALLER:  Because Republicans are intent on protecting the fossil industry (sic) because ExxonMobil just signed a deal worth $900 billion.

RUSH:  Protecting the "fossil industry"?

CALLER:  ExxonMobil has a deal worth $900 billion with Russia to drill for oil in the arctic -- $900 billion!

RUSH:  So?

CALLER: You know what? The sequester was $900 billion.

RUSH: So what?  We're gonna need oil, Mike!  There is no replacement for it.  There's not one drop of anything we can replace it with.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  Did you hear?  "They're drilling for oil. The Russians are partnering with Exxon, they're drilling for oil in the arctic."  So what?  That's where it happens to be.  There isn't anything, we're not close to replacing oil, not even close.  It's going to be, I don't know how long it's gonna be, but to these people oil is the modern evil. There's no thinking.  All of this is political.  They never address the fact that there's no evidence. They never address that the only concern for any of this is predictions in computer models.

Let me ask you, if you're watching TV tonight, and your local weatherman told you what the weather was gonna be 25 years from today, would you believe it?  No!  So why do people believe what a computer model says is gonna be the climate all over the world 25 years from now?  And the only way some people could be forced to believe it is if they politicize it and tailor the message to already existing political sensibilities and opinions. And then get people in groups that liberals happen to be approve of, like world bodies like the UN or the IPCC or the National Academy of Sciences, every corrupt liberal interest group you can, get them endorsing the idea, and bammo, you turn it into a political issue, and it is unequivocally true.

You leave it as a science issue and it doesn't exist, it falls apart, there isn't any evidence whatsoever.  [...]

Discuss
Unites States adds to the list of "surgical sanctions" targeting Russian elites. Why haven't the sanctions been tougher and imposed more widely?  Kert Davies (The Climate Investigations Center) suggests it's about Exxon. Yesterday's Bloomberg report settles the issue: For $900 Billion reasons (yes, that's with a "B"), Davies is right.
“I am not a U.S. company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.”  Recent Exxon CEO, Lee Raymond
Two days ago, President Obama announced a third round of sanctions aimed at "seven Russian government officials and 17 companies linked to Russia President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle."

This is the third round of sanctions since the Ukraine/Crimea diplomatic crisis boiled over last month.

The first round, instituted on March 10, "slapped sanctions on two top aides to President Vladimir Putin and nine other people" Three days later, the President Obama ordered the second round, targeting "16 Russian government officials, members of Putin’s inner circle and Bank Rossiya the bank used by many senior officials of the Russian Federation."

Media coverage of each iteration of sanctions has mostly consisted of dry factual reporting, sometimes accompanied by shallow and uninformative analysis.   This excerpt, from ABC, is typical of the media's obtuse coverage:

In the case of Russia, the White House is so far sanctioning individuals and entities in Putin’s inner circle, hoping to squeeze him to halting what the West says is a coordinated campaign to destabilize Ukraine. The White House has held off on what it calls sectoral sanctions, which could hit Russia’s critical energy, mining, and banking sectors.

The reason the White House may not have yet imposed those tougher measures illustrates exactly what makes this so difficult.

Despite Obama dismissing Russia as a “regional power,” it nevertheless occupies a strategic position. Its $2.5 trillion economy is the seventh largest in the world. Its gas exports are critical for American allies in Europe (a major reason they have been reluctant to go along with tougher American proposals). American companies like ExxonMobil and Boeing have massive investments in Russia that could suffer under broad sanctions.

[emphasis added]

But why has the Unites States chosen to levy narrowly-targeted sanctions on individuals, as opposed to the more traditional sanctions, similar to those imposed by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, that targeted the entire Soviet economy?  

A savvy news consumer would probably want to know more about Exxon's "massive" investments in Russia (Boeing's "massive" investment is $7 billion). A savvy news consumer would intuit that Exxon, as the second-largest corporation in the world and the largest fossil energy extractor/distributor, is probably the most politically powerful non-governmental entity on the planet. So what is/are Exxon's "massive" investment(s) in Russia? And again:  Why have we implemented a series of "surgical sanctions" targeting individuals? Presidents Carter and Reagan struck at the entire Soviet economy with sweeping sanctions; wouldn't that be more effective than singling out a few rich oligarchs?

Yesterday, finally, our savvy news consumer might have found a few clues in this Bloomberg report: Exxon’s $900 Billion Arctic Prize at Risk After Ukraine.

Exxon Mobil (XOM) Corp.’s dream of drilling in the Russian Arctic may risk running aground on the politics of Ukraine.

The company plans to start drilling in August in the Arctic’s remote Kara Sea -- the centerpiece of Exxon’s global alliance with Russian state-controlled OAO Rosneft. (ROSN) The partnership, which includes shale exploration in Siberia and joint venture fields in Texas, will come under greater scrutiny after the U.S. placed sanctions on Rosneft’s Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin.

[...]

The Arctic well will be among the most expensive Exxon has ever drilled, costing at least $600 million. The spending is justified by the potential prize. Universitetskaya, the geological structure being drilled, is the size of the city of Moscow and large enough to contain more than 9 billion barrels, a trove worth more than $900 billion at today’s prices.

[emphasis added]

Yes. $900 billion.

How much is that? Well, at $10 a pop, you could wash your car 90 billion times with $900 billion dollars.

Unhelpful?

Well, the truth is that I had a really hard time coming up with any sort of meaningful frame of reference. I googled "largest business deal" and found a three tech mergers that exceeded $100 billion (Exxon's merger with Mobil came in at $80 billion), but the largest was only worth just over $200B.

I needed to look bigger. I realized that at the $900 billion range, I needed to start looking at national GDPs. So I googled it. Turns out there were just 15 nations with GDPs larger than Exxon's single deal with Rosneft.  (Saudi Arabia didn't make the cut. Indonesia, the world's 4th most populous country, didn't either.)

But that measure seemed a bit lacking too. Too esoteric...

I decided to look closer to home, and that's when I made the connection to the sequester.

You remember the sequester, right? It's had the beltway media pre-occupied for the better part of a year now. Secretary Panetta told us it would hollow out our military. The President, Senators, Congressman... they've all spoken at length about the challenges our nation and government will endure if the sequester isn't eliminated.

Yeah, that sequester.

As it turns out, that sequester compels $90 billion of budget cuts every year for the next 10 years. $900 billion. (Note that I subtracted the interest savings, which are not "budget cuts".)

$900 billion shaped the course of politics for the richest and most powerful country on the planet for well over a year. Could Exxon's $900 billion bet be influencing the way we deal with Russia? Is Exxon's $900 billion at stake driving the decision to sanction Russian oligarchs instead of the broader Russian economy?

I know what legendary Marine Corps General Smedley Butler (and two-time Medal of Honor recipient) would say:

War is just a racket. I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Of course, we're speaking of sanctions, not war. And I am very happy that, so far, this has been a spat among oligarchs and no poor grunts have been sent to fight "for our freedom." But... Butler's larger point was that the Big Businesses of his day determined national policy.

Butler's military career coincided with the rise and peak of the American robber barons of the 20th century. What was true then is true today.

Meet the new boss...

PS: Always remember that Exxon is and has always been one of the largest contributors to climate change denial organizations and that they are probably more responsible than any other entity for the climate policy impasse we're stuck in.

It's also worth noting that Exxon's former CEO disclaimed any allegiance to the United States, saying “I am not a U.S. company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.”

PSS: As usual, comments have my head spinning.  There's no end to this story. Truly, it's connected to everything we care about.

Here's one:  Put Citizens United and $900 billion in the same sentence... Go ahead, I'll wait...  OK, now start breathing again. Suddenly, all sorts of things are making more sense, like why Big Oil has retained its tax advantages, notwithstanding overwhelming public opposition...

Discuss

Just go look.

First the outlet.

Then, the name of the op-ed author.

Then, the accompanying graphic and the text that surrounds it.

Rupert Murdoch purchased the WSJ and someone found themselves left behind, deep in the bowels of media hell. Somehow, they've retained their wicked sense of humor.

Discuss

Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 11:13 AM PST

ALEC, cops, and media intimidation

by Mike Stark

DETOUR #1: Intro to ALEC
If you are familiar with ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) and its "business model", feel free to skip this introduction.

If, on the other hand, you've never heard of ALEC, or you've heard of the organization but aren't familiar with their operations, you should continue.

ALEC's genius has always been its unique ability to pair eager state lawmakers (ALEC's "legislative members") with top-tier corporate lobbyists ("corporate members").  

ALEC's legislative members join at no cost. Corporate members provide the vast majority of the organization's operating budget.

ALEC commits the lion's share of their annual budget to two annual meetings. ALEC "scholarships" are provided to legislative members to cover their costs of attendance (airfare, hotel, etc.) Often, the legislators know which corporate member provided funding for their scholarship.

At the summits, ALEC legislators and their corporate benefactors can meet privately. What happens behind the locked doors is anyone's guess, but when the doors open, there's a good chance the legislators will emerge with a bill written by (and for) their corporate sugar-daddies.

What do the legislators and lobbyists do when they aren't drawing up corporate dream legislation? It's hard to say: Invariably, the escort services near ALEC's events share ALEC's obsession with secrecy.

Early last month, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held its most recent policy summit at the Hyatt Regency in Washington DC. I was there to cover it for StarkReports and FossilAgenda.com.

It turned out to be a tough gig. Surprisingly tough.

Don't get me wrong - I had kept up with ALEC's ascent to the apex of Evil Mountain. I knew they were reeling from negative publicity - as victims of their own success.  Trayvon Martin (RIP) and the Newtown massacre each came to be identified with ALEC's pro-gun/Stand Your Ground agenda. As Americans learned how their newly-elected Tea-Party legislators were working hand in glove with ALEC, the secrecy-obsessed organization struggled with its growing notoriety. Don't misunderstand the situation though: The bad press did nothing to slow ALEC's legislative blitzkrieg assault on unions, public schools, elderly and minority voters, low-wage workers, and clean energy.

Yes, I knew all that. I read DailyKos.

I also read the Guardian.

On December 3, one day before the Summit began, the first of several explosive reports about ALEC's membership loss (which resulted in a budget crunch) and their scramble to regain their footing.  

An influential US lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses is seeking to avert a looming funding crisis by appealing to major donors that have abandoned it over the past two years following criticism of its policy on gun laws.

The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which shapes and promotes legislation at state level across the US, has identified more than 40 lapsed corporate members it wants to attract back into the fold under a scheme referred to in its documents as the "Prodigal Son Project".

ALEC's Executive Committee convened an emergency late-night meeting on December 2, presumably after fielding Guardian calls requesting comment.
DETOUR #2: ALEC's bogeyman

Consider this: Most large organizations summon the crisis management team when their brand is responsible or associated with some failure or tragedy. Think of BP and the Gulf Oil Spill, or Freedom Industries and the WV chemical leak, or Toyota and run-away accelerators...

That's not the way it works at ALEC.  If, for example, voter ID legislation were to founder in the New Hampshire state house, the entire organization isn't thrown into crisis mode. There are no emergency meetings or panicked phone calls.

No. For ALEC, failure is ho-hum - it's their successes they fear the most.

Or rather, news of ALEC's successes is what sets hair on fire throughout the entire ALEC organization: Transparency is the most potent threat to ALEC's continued existence.  

After all, most Americans assume their elected officials are more or less committed to representing the interests of the district they serve. Voters can get restless when they begin to think otherwise:

Kansas City Star
December 3, 2013


One of the most interesting documents is a proposed job description for the legislators designated to head up their state delegations. Along with striving to increase membership in ALEC by 10 percent a year and informing the group of all public information requests that include ALEC documents, it was proposed that state chairs take a loyalty oath: “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.”

What? These are elected officials. They are to put the interests of their states and constituents first. Apparently at some level people realized that, because the draft job description was never adopted. But the very suggestion demonstrates ALEC’s eagerness to control these lawmakers.

ALEC is well represented in the Republican caucuses of the Kansas and Missouri legislatures. Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick is the state chairman for ALEC. In Missouri, the state chairman is GOP Senator Ed Emery.

Welcome back...

So... Within one day of launching their major annual event in Washington DC, ALEC's Executive Committee was thrown into crisis, panicked by the prospect of more negative media coverage.

That's what I walked into, and this is what happened:

The video runs about 4 1/2 minutes, is in a draft form, and requires some explanation.

The first few seconds of the video demonstrate ALEC's hostility toward media. Molly Fuhls, ALEC's Manager of Media Public Relations breaks the bad news with syrypy sweetness: media credentials were simply unavailable. In response, I volunteer that I'll just lurk about and interview people in ad hoc fashion. She explains that I won't be allowed to do that. I explain that I've got a room at the hotel, so...

Next the video cuts to the beginning of my first interview, and its conclusion. The interview itself is not important here; it simply serves to establish that there was nothing unusual or disruptive in the work I was doing. The video also establishes that...

Immediately upon the interview's conclusion, I was approached by "security" and that, out of courtesy, I stopped recording video.  Off camera I'm informed that interviews with ALEC members violate a policy prohibiting solicitation. I ask for clarification: obviously impromptu conversations are taking place all around us. I agree to refrain from approaching hotel guests while I wait for the "security" executive to return with clear guidelines.

I attempted to follow up several times, but after nearly three hours of waiting for an explanation, I could wait no longer.

The video (shot with Google Glass - note that Google is a ALEC corporate member) chronicles my return to the registration desk. It also picks up the sound of my pursuers. The "security" professionals I spoke with earlier are chasing me, and they have a uniformed policeman with them. They catch up to me just as I'm asking Molly Fuhls if ALEC had anything to do with my (seemingly) imminent arrest.

But I was not arrested. Instead I'm informed (by the policeman) that if I speak to any hotel guest with an ALEC badge, I will be arrested. This time, the message is very clear: If I attempt to interview any ALEC guest, I will be arrested. I make arrangements on the spot to be arrested and proceed immediately to interview a group of ALEC guests.

The officer and security team hovered over me as I began the interview.  I was not arrested.

You may have guessed it by now, but it took me a few days to learn why I wasn't arrested. When I shared the video with some colleagues, I learned "Security" was not hotel security. "Security" was ALEC in-house security. We know this because these men run security at every ALEC event, in cities across the country. When I was initially approached by a man in a suit, offering a badge and the words "I'm with security here," I made the mistake of assuming he was a Hyatt executive. ALEC's security pros knew that and took every advantage.

So what about the policeman, Officer Gilbert?

Well, it turns out that policeman and retired cops are allowed to moonlight through a program run by Washington DC's Metropolitan Police Department. They are paid well to provide security to private events.

We've come full circle, haven't we? Transparency is ALEC's systemic poison. Their in-house security team knew that if I caught on to their ruse, I could and would have safely ignored them and done my work. (It would have been difficult though: I have a recording of two ALEC members revealing that they were asked not to talk to the reporter with the Glass).

Since transparency is their poison, let's serve up a healthy dose:  Let's make the two ALEC security professionals famous. The first appears at :30. The other, his boss enters the video at the 1:30 mark. Can we crowdsource their names? Can we put their faces on a poster? After all, that's exactly what ALEC did to Lee Fang, Gabe Elsner, Lisa Graves, Nick Surgey, Brendan Fischer, Beau Hodai, Calvin Sloan and Sabrina Stevens:

"We Know Who You Are"

On the morning of May 3, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin -- an ALEC "Legislator of the Year" in 2009 -- gave the ALEC meeting's keynote address. The short, relatively generic speech was the only portion of the ALEC event open to the press: the task force meetings where prospective "model bills" are discussed and adopted were entirely closed-door and guarded by police.

Center for Media and Democracy Research Director Nick Surgey obtained press credentials at the ALEC registration desk. As he ascended the escalator towards the room where Governor Fallin was speaking, though, he was spotted by two ALEC staffers, and within minutes approached by a uniformed Oklahoma City police officer.

"I need those credentials," the officer said.

"I registered," Surgey replied.

"No, you didn't," said a female ALEC staffer, who was accompanying the officer.

"I did, downstairs," he said.

"It was... you shouldn't have been able to."

The reason Surgey shouldn't have been allowed to register, according to the ALEC staffer:

"Because we know who you are."

ALEC's Most Wanted

How does ALEC know who Surgey is?

CMD later obtained a document titled "OKC anti-ALEC photos" at the ALEC conference.

The page featured the pictures and names of eight people, four of whom work with CMD, including Surgey, CMD's general counsel Brendan Fischer and its Executive Director Lisa Graves, as well as CMD contributor Beau Hodai.

It is not known whether the photo array of people who have reported on or criticized ALEC was distributed to ALEC members or shared with Oklahoma City law enforcement.

ALEC's hostility to the press serves a very important purpose: It keeps the corporate front group alive; their extraordinary reach and effectiveness cannot be sustained in sunlight.
Discuss

Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 08:09 AM PST

New Stratfor Reveals

by Mike Stark

I've spent scores of hours running creative searches through the Global Intelligence Files, better known as the Wikileaks collection of over 5 million emails digital activist Jeremy Hammond hacked from Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting).

Plenty has been unearthed already, but I've found a lot more. So let's get started...

Remember Brandon Darby? He's the guy that joined up with a group of kids from Texas, helped them plan some pretty nasty shit at the 2008 Republican convention, and then turned them in to the authorities. He had spent years as an environmental activist, and then decided to cash out apparently. Well... He tried to find work with Stratfor:

What's this guy's story? Is he nuts?

Fred Burton wrote:

He's the dude who took down the RNC activist cell.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Brian Genchur [mailto:brian.genchur@stratfor.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 01, 2009 10:56 AM
To: Fred Burton
Subject: [Fwd: FBI Informant]
Hi Fred,

This guy called again, and wants to talk to you again. I leave it in
your hands...again. :-)
-------- Original Message --------

Subject: FBI Informant
Date: Tue, 3 Mar 2009 09:48:04 -0600 (CST)
From: Brian Genchur
To: Fred Burton

Hi Fed,

Brandon Darby called and says he is an FBI informant involving the case
of the RNC protest up in Minnesota. He says he is also an informant for
other things, in addition to being a legal aide at a law office. He
says thank you for your perspective. He'd also like to talk to you
about "things" if you would like.

His phone: 512 - 803 - 6261
Email: cottonginroad@gmail.com

I leave it in your hands, sir!

Brian Genchur
Public Relations Manager
STRATFOR
pr@stratfor.com
o: 512 - 744 - 4309

--
Brian Genchur
Public Relations Manager
STRATFOR
pr@stratfor.com
512 744 4309

It's unclear whether or not he was successful.

Our friends working to dis-empower Rush Limbaugh are going to love this one...  Back in
2008, Stratfor gushed about Limbaugh. They even wanted to donate books to the "Limbaugh Library":

Let me try first and if I don't succeed we'll ask London to give it a shot.

From: Aaric Eisenstein [mailto:eisenstein@stratfor.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2008 4:24 PM
To: 'Meredith Friedman'
Subject: Limbaugh

Don't know if London has a relationship to get to Limbaugh's Library, but
I really want us to follow up on this one. Fred's book is a perfect fit,
and it's a great way for us to rekindle the relationship. If London
DOESN'T have an in there, offering to help her would also be a nice
gesture to RH.

Aaric S. Eisenstein
Stratfor
SVP Publishing
700 Lavaca St., Suite 900
Austin, TX 78701
512-744-4308
512-744-4334 fax

Six months later, from Stratfor CEO George Friedman:

Ok. Should we also cancel our deal with oreilly? We're extremely
prominent on his website.

We also have press citations on our homepage. Lose those?

Sent from my iPhone
On Feb 16, 2009, at 8:47 AM, friedman@att.blackberry.net wrote:

We are very serious on this. I don't want to be linked to limbaugh. He
is toxic. It also needs a simple and clearer explanation of what that
list is. We never worked for them. They just quoted us. we argue that we
are not the msm then list all the msm. What message are we delivering?
That we are proud to be associated with the msm after all your campaigns
rubbished them?

Make it clear at the top that they cited us and we have no affiliation.
Get rid of limbaugh and oreilly. Neither gain us reputation and our
relationship with him is potentially embarrassing.

The msm connection baffles me but make certain that people know we are
only being quoted by them.

Ithe image I want to project is non ideological, the opposite of the
mainstream media and unaffiliated. At the very least I want the most
toxic ideologues out and a very clear statement that we are merely
quoted by these people.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Sidenote: It's clear that Stratfor was savvy about what they put down in emails. As I searched through the database, I found several emails (like this one) that referenced other email conversations of a sensitive nature that took place on the same day. But searching for those emails reveals that they aren't among the 5 million in this database. I suspect that several executives maintained parallel email accounts for sensitive discussions (legal prophylactic).

This email is from Fred Burton, Stratfor VP for Intelligence:

NewsMax source told me Putin was out of the loop on the KGB hit in
London on the former KGB agent (polonium 210) per Wiki leak?

I've not seen the cable to verify the piece.

Are you effin' kidding me? "NewsMax source"? If Corporate America is relying on Stratfor for intelligence, it's little wonder we're losing our competitive edge.

But that's not all from Mr. Burton. Check this out:

Of course

My first bill would be to have Barney Frank arrested for high treason.

On day two I would introduce a bill to nuke Iran and to increase the size of
our military 5x.

On day three I would drag every political hack Obama has appointed up for
hearings on any chickenshit item I could find and grind the federal govt to
a halt.

On day four I would order the USAF to fly my team to Vegas.

-----Original Message-----
From: social-bounces@stratfor.com [mailto:social-bounces@stratfor.com] On
Behalf Of George Friedman
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 4:15 PM
To: Social list; Walter Howerton; 'Kelly Tryce'; fburton@att.blackberry.net
Subject: Re: [Social] Anyone have a SXSW badge/wristband I can borrow?

You really need to run for congress. Your mind works like a great
congressman. Can I donate some money to get your campaign going?
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

-----Original Message-----
From: "Fred Burton"

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2009 16:13:42
To: 'Walter Howerton'; ;
'Kelly Tryce';
Cc: 'Social list'
Subject: Re: [Social] Anyone have a SXSW badge/wristband I can borrow?

Yes in deed.

All is well though, nice to see O'Bama filling out his NCAA brackets while
my 401k looks like the south end of a north bound dog.

Mr. Burton's extremism shines through throughout the trove of emails. You can spend hours mining gems from his email account. But so far as I'm concerned, when it comes to Stratfor's status, no single email says more than this one. The jokes write themselves:
This is great Fred. Also gives you something to do on July 4th!!!

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Brian Genchur [mailto:brian.genchur@stratfor.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 5:32 PM
To: Fred Burton
Cc: 'Meredith Friedman'; 'Aaric Eisenstein'; 'Darryl O'Connor'
Subject: Re: Premiere Radio Network's "Coast to Coast AM"
Wonderful!

Brian Genchur

Public Relations Manager

STRATFOR

brian.genchur@stratfor.com

512 744 4309

Fred Burton wrote:

Good news. I'm slated for a 3-hour special interview on my book and
terrorism investigations the night of July 4th/July 5th on the largest
overnight talk radio show in the U.S. The producer advises websites
have been brought down in the past due to webhits. More to follow on
exact times.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: DarkEditor@aol.com [mailto:DarkEditor@aol.com]
Sent: Monday, June 29, 2009 3:40 PM
To: King, London
Subject: Fred Burton - Ghost

Hi London,

I would like to pre-interview Fred Burton for Coast to Coast AM. Please
let me know how to reach him, or have him give me a call. Thanks!

"Coast to Coast AM" is the largest overnight talk radio show in the
U.S., airing nationwide on 500 affiliates including WABC, New York; WLS,
Chicago; and KFI am 640, Los Angeles. The show is the number one rated
show in most markets with overwhelming market share. We air live from
10pm to 2am Pacific time and feature interviews up to three hours long.
For more information about the show, please visit the website at
www.coasttocoastam.com

Please call me anytime between 11am and 4pm Pacific time. Thank you.

Lisa Lyon
Producer, "Coast to Coast AM"
Premiere Radio Networks
777 NE 7th Street, Suite 207
Grants Pass, OR 97526

(541) 955-0100 - office
(541) 955-0127 - fax
www.coasttocoastam.com

Discuss

Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 12:33 PM PST

I'm a bully.

by Mike Stark

I'm pretty sure that's what they'd call me anyway.

But I dunno. Is pointing out the truth - even if it is mean - about a misogynistic serial prevaricator really bullying?

So yeah, I was on the Rush Limbaugh radio show today. He always leads with a greeting and a few comments. Today he chose to talk about some folks that were honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of course, he would never, ever, never ever, for nevah evah evah nevah be awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Just no way! Could you imagine?

Well, I thought to myself... He was honored as a honorary member of the House Republicans back in the 90's. And just recently, his bust was installed in the Missouri State House... So maybe it wasn't such a long shot. I decided to call and share those thoughts. And then I shared a few more thoughts:

Discuss
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