Monthly Archives: November 2011

Wiz Khalifa & Snoop Dogg To Perform At Party For Internet Censorship Lobbyists In DC

Wiz Khalifa helps Internet censorship lobbyists entertain Washington politicos

Here is the Politico Influence newsletter “scoop” about the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) holiday party this year. The RIAA lobby is helping to lead the charge for SOPA/PROTECT-IP (the vast Internet censorship bill). With a little bit of star power from Wiz Khalifa, I wonder how many Capitol Hill staffers will get an invite to this shindig at the 9:30 Club:

RIAA WITH A SIDE OF GIN & JUICE: Invitations haven’t gone out yet, but PI has the inside scoop on the Recording Industry Association of America’s annual holiday party. Rapper Snoop Dogg is headlining the hot ticket Dec. 7 at the 930 Club for the trade association’s annual fete. Artist Wiz Khalifa and Grandmaster Dee of Whodini are also slated to perform. The event benefits the charity Musicians on Call, which provides in-room bedside performances to patients in health care facilities such as Walter Reed National Military Center. PI hears the invites going out as soon as today will list several sponsors including Microsoft, MasterCard, Walmart, Amgen, T-Mobile, the U.S. Chamber’s Global IP Center and the National Beer Wholesalers Associations, among others.

And it’s cosponsored with the odious U.S. Chamber of Commerce division devoted to promoting Internet censorship.

If a straight up lobbying firm brought in a few hip hop stars and offered a private party for Capitol Hill staffers, it would be a violation of the ethics code. But its these little freebies that fly under the radar. And as a trade association Christmas party, these sorts of events don’t receive enough scrutiny, especially since they aren’t billed as influence peddling events. Although the room will be filled with entertainment industry lobbyists pushing the Internet censorship bill, it’s all good since its a supposed charity event for Walter Reed. But don’t be fooled. Parties like these are not unlike the VIP Delta flight service for lawmakers, or the Friends of Angelo program at subprime mortgage giant Countrywide, or the vacation parties provided to congressmen as “policy retreats.”

For more on the Internet censorship law pushed by the RIAA and other corporate lobbying groups (particularly the movie, software, and broadcasting industry), see here.

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Congressman Buck Mckeon’s Wife Says She’s Running For Office Because A Ten Cent Tax ‘Hit’ Her ‘Pocketbook’

Patricia Mckeon

Patricia Mckeon, a GOP candidate for State Assembly in California, has a reason to serve. Here’s a copy of her pitch to voters at the outset of her nascent campaign:

I came about the decision to run for the State Assembly in an unconventional way compared to most that choose to serve. Some begin to think about the next rung on the political ladder the day after their most recent election. Some think of a wall full of plaques and photos with politicians qualify them to lead.

My decision was made standing in the checkout line in the grocery story. I’m not kidding.

At checkout, the very polite cashier asked if I wanted to pay an additional $.10 for paper grocery bags as they were no longer permitted to provide any bags beginning July 1st. Having raised six children, trust me when I say I have experienced lean times. With many people struggling to make ends meet, paying for groceries is a struggle. Just think about how much food we could buy if weren’t forced to pay ten cents for grocery bags. So that’s how it happened. It’s that simple.

State government was no longer protecting me. It was hitting me right where it hurt — my pocketbook.

Soaring food prices, the unemployment crisis, massive corporate tax dodging, none of that inspired Patricia Mckeon. The real threat, she says, is an extra twenty or thirty cents on grocery trips when you forget the reusable canvas bag.

Patricia’s husband happens to be Congressman Buck Mckeon, a nine-term lawmaker who wields the gavel in the House Armed Services Committee. Earlier this year, a Republican-controlled state assembly district in Mckeon’s Santa Clarita district opened up since the incumbent was term-limited out. Patricia, the congressman’s wife, surprised some local political observers by jumping into the race.

Despite the terrible ten cent tax for disposable paper grocery bags, Patricia is not struggling, at least she shouldn’t be. The Mckeon for Congress campaign provides Patricia with a $78,000 a year salary, a questionable arrangement for a close family member and the congressman’s donors. Though Patricia contends she does work for the campaign committee, other disclosures suggest the campaign has provided a car for her family and paid for certain trips. Congressman Mckeon also collects over $170,000 in salary as a legislator.

Two quick suggestions for Patricia. Find a more plausible reason to run for office. Or, run for the right office (the Los Angeles County Supervisors, not the state legislature, is responsible for the venomous bag tax).

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Wealthy Finance Executives Win $254 Million Lottery Ticket, NYT’s Kevin Roose Calls It A ‘Feel-Good Story’

Kevin Roose

A group of executives at the firm Belpointe Asset Management just won $254 million with a lucky $1 Powerball pick. The winners, three wealthy men from Connecticut, scored the largest jackpot in state history.

New York Times Dealbook reporter Kevin Roose exclaims:

Now the 1 percent has its own feel-good story.

Um… what?

Just clicking through Roose’s stories for the Dealbook, there seems to be a pattern of fawning coverage of the finance industry. It’s a subtle form of bias, to be sure:

— 11/28/11 Roose piece on how Occupy Wall Street “vitriol” has hurt Wall Street recruiting on Ivy League campuses. Lamenting noisy protesters, Roose wrote: “for those students still hoping to land a job in finance, the added peer pressure has forced some of their enthusiasm underground.” Peer pressure sounds dreadful!

– 11/24/11 Roose article on young bankers facing layoffs and grim job prospects in the finance industry. Hundreds of readers commented or blogged about how pathetic the article was, particularly parts about unemployed bankers sitting around with nothing to do but sip champagne. Roose eventually responded by dismissing the criticism as “mild schadenfreude to fiery wrath.”

— 10/24/11 Roose simply posts YouTube videos of billionaire Steve Schwarzman’s birthday roast.

— 11/11/11, 7/29/11, 7/14/11 Look for Roose’s up-to-theminute coverage ‘Wall Street Wives,’ a reality TV show about the women with relationships to men working in finance.

The New York Times Dealbook is an unusual creature for the grey lady. The publication within a publication is sponsored by banks like Goldman Sachs and has faced criticism for its overall sycophantic coverage of wealthy captains of finance.

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Video: Top SOPA Lobbyist Chris Dodd, Now Trying To Censor The Internet, Once Championed Free Speech

Internet censorship lobbyist Chris Dodd, chief of the MPAA, shares a laugh with Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch

The Stop Online Piracy Act, a law making its way through Congress, would radically reshape the Internet. The bill, written with help from copyright lobbyists, would “empower the attorney general to create a blacklist of sites to be blocked by Internet service providers, search engines, payment providers and advertising networks, all without a court hearing or a trial.” The law, which is backed by the movie, music, and software industries, would also allow the government to censor websites simply linking to other websites that have been accused of illegally distributing copyrighted material. This means that if this law passes, political blog posts that I have written, which may have linked to copyrighted material or used a YouTube video that might have been unauthorized, could be taken off the web, despite its noncommercial nature. For the first time, the American government will have a duty to censor wide swaths of the Internet, hurting journalists, bloggers and the public alike. Moreover, the law would create an incredibly slippery slope for corporations and the government to squelch Internet speech on a massive level.

The top lobbyist pushing this monstrosity, Chris Dodd, is a former Democratic U.S. Senator from Connecticut. Dodd, now the chief of the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA), has taken a hard line while promoting SOPA. In a recent speech in Hollywood, Dodd absurdly compared the hosting of allegedly pirated content to the hosting of child pornography.

But just seven years ago, when Dodd still considered himself a public servant, he railed against attempts to intimidate journalists and suppress the media. Listen to the following floor speech from Dodd as he introduced his Free Speech Act of 2004:

CHRIS DODD: Our founding fathers recognized then that for a society to remain free, it must also allow divergent opinions to be expressed and for ideas to be openly exchanged. In many respects, the rights of free speech and the rights of a free press protect the government from trampling on the political and personal liberties all Americans hold so dear.

Watch it:

Dodd has his well-documented flaws. But how could a man, an overall decent man, go from championing free speech and media liberty above all else to pushing a reckless bill that mirrors the type of Internet censorship seen in places like China? Well, for one thing, Dodd went from making about $174,000 a year as a senator to making well over a million a year as a movie industry lobbyist. I don’t have the most recent disclosure for the MPAA, but the last one shows the guy previously in Dodd’s spot making over $1.3 million a year.

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Joe Biden’s Brother Expanding His For-Profit High School Thanks In Part To Gov. Rick Scott’s New Law

Frank Biden owns a for-profit high school company in Florida.

Interesting story in the Palm Beach New Times yesterday about Frank Biden, who looks ridiculously similar to his brother, VP Joe Biden. Frank owns a for-profit charter school management company called Maverick High Schools:

For the past two years, Frank Biden’s been flying around the state talking to local school boards, lobbying for the Mavericks High charters. “I’m a salesman. I’m nothing but a P.T. Barnum for these kids,” he says. Biden’s not an educator. He served as a legislative director in the Clinton administration and worked for a humanitarian aid group in Nicaragua before settling in South Florida. He lives in Ocean Ridge and is currently developing a country club community in Costa Rica. […]

On Florida’s state report cards, Mavericks schools have scored “incomplete” because not enough students have taken the FCAT while enrolled there. Mavericks officials expect that grade to change as more students enroll. And this year, two former Mavericks teachers filed whistleblower lawsuits against Mavericks High of South Miami-Dade, alleging, among other complaints, that the school is not offering Florida high school diplomas.

The Maverick High School website features a throwback sound effect and for some reason, a speech by Obama.

In a new investigation I wrote for The Nation, I explored the explosion of for-profit education reforms across the country. The piece actually focuses on the growth of online schools in Florida, an epicenter for neoliberal education reform. Governor Rick Scott vastly expanded charter schools, opening the door for even more taxpayer money to flow to for-profit education management companies like Maverick, as well as e-learning high schools, which Frank Biden has a hand in as well:

Now Mavericks has eight high schools in Florida, including five in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. The schools offer shorter days designed to appeal to at-risk kids. After one hour of traditional classroom instruction, students spend three hours a day sitting at rows of computers, studying online at their own pace, under the supervision of teachers. This approach is meant to allow students with babies, jobs, and other responsibilities to get a degree instead of dropping out

Lauren Roth at the Orlando Sentinel reported that Maverick is among the many for-profit school companies, like K12 Inc, looking to take advantage of the new law allowing more charter schools.

Also worth plugging this great piece by the Miami New Times from a few months ago. Reporter Gus Garcia-Roberts exposes the various high school diploma mills that have taken advantage of Florida’s decision to experiment with for-profit K-12 education.

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Video: Obama Gets Mic Checked

While doing one of those annoying thank every senator and politician in the audience things before his speech in New Hampshire. Occupy activists in the audience reminds Obama that over 4,000 peaceful protesters have been arrested:

Remember, Obama isn’t arresting the lobbyists who are bribing politicians, or the Wall Street firms that crashed the economy. The people being arrested are the ones standing up to a corrupt system.

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DC Metro Fan Grover Norquist Glides Up A Socialist Escalator

Just saw the 60 Minutes profile of Grover Norquist. Took a screen shot of this:

Thanks to billions in taxpayer investments, the Washington DC-area Metro system is awesome. It goes everywhere, including the suburbs, usually runs on time, and is open late. When I lived in DC, I actually spotted Norquist in the Metro once on his way to Woodley Park, and have wondered since how he excuses using such a socialist transit system.

The 60 Minutes profile was neat, but Steve Kroft didn’t bother to dig into Norquist’s corporate benefactors, or his long history of being a business lobbyist.

In May of 2010, I did a piece for ThinkProgress showing that he still partners with Altria (parent company of Phillip Morris) to conduct “anti-tax Tea Parties” to guard Altria against cigarette taxes.

For more on Norquist’s history of influence peddling, read this delightful rant from Republican Congressman Frank Wolf.

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