News Articles By Maxwell Abbott

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Harsh Treatment of Wikileaks' Bradley Manning Prompts Firing

The world recently discovered that 22 year old, alleged Wikileaker Bradley Manning was subject to inhumane and degrading conditions while being held in military prison. Were his wardens fired? No, the head on the chopping block is State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who denounced Manning's treatment in an off-the-cuff remark on a college campus.

Obama's acquiescence over the status of Guantanamo Bay has brought attention back to the detention facility and the controversial information extraction and confinement practices which are carried out behind its walls. While most Americans probably think that these harsh procedures are reserved for violent "enemy combatants," they would be surprised to learn that some of the same techniques are used on American citizens on U.S. soil.

But that is precisely what seems to be happening to Manning, the Army Private accused of supplying WikiLeaks with sensitive information.

Lies in the Name of the Free Market

Americans for Job Security logoA powerful advocacy organization has made a big impact on this midterm election cycle in states across the country. Americans for Job Security (AJS) has spent millions of dollars on attack ads targeting candidates they view as anti-free market. While this group believes in the free exchange of capital, they are vehemently opposed to the free exchange of information, at least when it comes to their sponsors. AJS has routinely denied requests for a list of donors. As a 501(c)(6), they do not have to reveal this information. But the IRS has stated that any 501(c)(6) group whose "primary purpose" is political activity, must name their donors. The Washington Post reports that AJS spends the vast majority of its budget on television and radio ads before elections. Groups such as Public Citizen have complained to the IRS about AJS' abuse of its tax-exempt status. But the ambiguous nature of the IRS' "primary purpose" standard has allowed AJS to continue spewing attack ads every election cycle.

The Dirtiest Sport

The recession affected every sector and industry of the economy. Amongst those hardest hit was the sport that some feel rivals baseball as America's pastime: NASCAR. With less spending money in the average American's pocket, all professional sports leagues suffered -- but NASCAR, which experienced tremendous growth in the early 2000s, saw reduced attendance at every race this past year.

An Undeserved Award

Earlier this week, Michigan's Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) awarded Dow Corning its "Neighborhood Environmental Partners Program Award." The award was created "to recognize facilities and their community partners who have worked together on environmental and natural resource projects to improve the local environment in their communities." Dow Corning, based in Midland, Michigan, was given this award for creating a recycling program at its facility that employs mentally handicapped individuals. While this effort is admirable, Dow Corning's environmental record is far from praiseworthy.

Get Serious About The Deficit and Cut Military Spending

military spendingDemocrats and Republicans agree that the federal deficit is a serious problem for the stability of American economy. But over the past few weeks, both parties have fought major battles on how to address this problem. The Democrats won the first round when last week, when President Obama signed a six-month extension of emergency unemployment benefits, surmounting Republican objections that the $34 billion measure would add too much to the deficit. The conflict this week is over the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire December 31. As expected, Republicans are fighting for extension of the entire package while many Democrats, including President Obama, vowed to keep them for families making less than $250,000 a year. It is estimated that keeping the tax cuts for households that make more than $250 thousand a year will cost about $40 billion a year. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner argued that tax increases on the richest Americans are necessary "to make some progress bringing down our long-term deficits." $34 billion and $40 billion are surely not trivial sums. But if Congress and the Administration are sincere about tackling the deficit, it should confront the biggest expense of federal funds: military spending.

Unsafe From Any Gulf

America's voracious oil consumption is criticized for many reasons in the media today, but three reasons seem to dominate the headlines. First, the Gulf oil disaster has galvanized public outrage at oil companies and led to questioning of our energy needs which push oil rigs out into treacherous deep waters. Second, climate change attracts significant attention, as academy award-winning films are made on the topic and the manufactured "Climategate"; scandal fills news articles with tales of espionage. Finally, as the Iraq War drags on and tensions with Iran remain high, every politician is giving lip service to the national security threat created by "our dependence on foreign oil." But what often gets ignored is perhaps the most obvious and persistent problem involved with oil use: air pollution.

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