Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I don't think the Bush adminsitration needed a lot of convincing not to sign the Kyoto global warming treaty. But this is the lede in a piece just out from The Guardian: "President's George Bush's decision not to sign the United States up to the Kyoto global warming treaty was partly a result of pressure from ExxonMobil, the world's most powerful oil company, and other industries, according to US State Department papers seen by the Guardian."

Someone (TPM Reader NE) sent me this link to a comment at Redstate.org encouraging people to come to a protest of Rock The Vote at the group's annual awards dinner tonight. It's sponsored, of course, by the new privatization astroturf group -- Social Security for all -- the one put together by Koch Industries other DC outlet, Americans for Progress.

In the post it says that Rock The Vote is hypocritical because they're against phasing out Social Security when in fact young people are in favor of phasing out Social Security.

So they're hypocrites -- unlike the renta-activists from Social Security for All.

Now, do young people really support phasing out Social Security? I'm not so sure about that. A lot of this turns on how the questions are worded. Asking generically about investing Social Security money in the stock market, without mentioning the risks or costs involved, polls pretty respectably -- now minority support, but substantial minority support.

But for months when pollsters have asked whether voters support 'the Bush plan on Social Security' the numbers are overwhelmingly against -- even among the youngest voters, though they tend to be more supportive than older voters.

There's a similar difference when the question is asked in context. Again, privitization polls terribly.

Point being, it's really not at all clear that young voters support privatization.

But what interested me more about the logic behind Social Security for All is that by their reasoning none of the pro-phase-out groups should exist at all. The public overwhelmingly opposes the Bush plan -- the old, the middle-aged, the young, probably even the young-at-heart, though they're harder to sample for.

So I guess that means that all the pro-phase-out groups should cease to exist for being such hypocrites.

Which phoney-baloney privatization astroturf group will be the first to drink the hemlock?

Okay, we're still working through all the information from readers about Americans for Prosperity and their astroturf offshoot, Social Security for All.

They've been assigned the task of mauling Rock the Vote because RTV has been an effective part of the coalition of groups trying to prevent the White House from phasing out Social Security.

To that end, AforP created yet another group called 'Rock The Hypocrisy' to attack Rock The Vote for being too partisan.

Now, when it comes to AforP, 'partisan' is quite a word of derogation.

Like I said, we'll have more information for you tomorrow on this. But the best we can tell Americans for Prosperty is the political arm of Koch Industries (i.e., a front) which the Koch family uses to aid conservative causes in general and stuff the Bush White House wants done in particular. (Koch Industries is a big oil, chemical and mining mega-corporation.) Folks seem to go from Koch Industries Washington lobby shop to Americans for Prosperity or back and forth from the White House on a pretty regular basis. And when you look even closer you'll see that they're all also tied in with Citizens for a Sound Economy, another spawn of the Koch family, which was essentially the predecessor of AforP.

Take Wayne Gable, for instance. He is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Prosperity. He's currently the managing director of Federal Affairs -- i.e., the lobby shop -- of Koch Industries, Inc.

Before that he was president of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer is now the president of Americans for Prosperity. Before that she was the head of the lobby shop for Koch Industries. Before that she was executive vice president or Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Running AforP today must not take too much time because she's also president of the Independent Women's Forum. But it probably helps that both organizations are run out of the same office.

Look into the inner-workings of Citizens for a Sound Economy, Americans for Prosperity, the Independent Women's Forum and you'll see it's pretty hard to see where one group starts and another stops. They just all seem to lead back to Koch Industries, run by the Koch brothers.

(Bonus Koch Trivia: The father of the Koch borthers, Fred Koch, was a founder of the John Birch Society.)

As you might have expected with this new phoney-baloney Social Security group, it's one more astroturf group set up by a major corporation with close ties to the White House, spinning off more and more bogus groups to game overworked reporters into thinking they represent actual constituencies.

That, and to keep Dick Armey on the payroll for his 'consulting' services.

(ed.note: Research by Kate Cambor.)

NYTimes: "A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents. In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved."

You may remember that John Edwards got pulled into the recent flap over Howard Dean's remarks about Republicans and their ... well, work habits. Edwards has a follow-up on the whole situation in a post on the blog at his One America Committe website.

Can she tell us where she stands on phasing out Social Security?

Today Katherine Harris (R), in her continuing and remarkably rapid climb up the greasy pole of public office, announced she was running next year for the senate seat currently held by Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

Nelson has turned out to be an adamant supporter of Social Security. And you'd imagine that in Florida of all places phasing out Social Security is a salient issue.

But Harris has never given a clear answer on whether she supports phase-out or not. We have her listed in our Conscience Caucus with the FIW (Finger in the Wind) designation for her shifting positions.

I would think she'll have to stake out some clear position on phase-out now.

Over at TPMCafe today I discussed some of the implications of the so-called Downing Street Memo. And Thinkprogress gives their run-down here.

As per the previous post we're getting all sorts of information coming in about Americans for Prosperity and their new orders to take down groups that oppose phasing out Social Security.

We'll try to put a lot of it together for later today.

For now, they also seem to be the ones who were behind this apparently-now-abandoned anti-AARP site from earlier this year.

And just how does former House Majority Leader and arch-phase-out man Dick Armey fit in to the picture?

In 2003, the last year for which records are available, AfP paid Armey $429,583 for 'consulting' services.

Some consulting ...

Here's an intersting project.

Rock The Vote has been a real thorn in the side of the pro-phase-out crowd in Washington, DC -- the Bushes, the Roves, the Santorums, the sundry Norquists, et al.

So they seem to have set up one of their standard brass-knuckle operations to bloody the RTV folks up to get rid of an obstacle in the way of their phasing out Social Security.

The chop-shop du jour is an outfit called Social Security for All. SSA is "run" by Americans for Prosperity. And Americans for Prosperity also has a new project called Rock the Hypocrisy, which actually sounds a bit more like a project of SSA, seeing as it's run as a subdirectory off the SSA website.

But I digress.

Back to our aforementioned project: Who or what is Americans for Prosperity?

According to this page at the Center for Media and Democracy's Source Watch website, it was essentially set up as a pet 501c3 of Koch Industries and then 'colocated' with the Independent Women's Forum, with which it also seems to share a rather substantial number of staffers. (They share a president and a COO, for starters.)

In any case, this is the long march phase of the battle to end Social Security. They'll dig in and tear away at the defenders of the program, figuring they can outlast them.

Now, politics is a contact sport, as they say. So I don't think anyone's complaining. But, to my eyes, this group has all the earmarks of a classic 'astroturf' outfit. And I suspect we'd find all the usual suspects involved -- of course, along with a gaggle of twenty-something ne'er-do-wells ready to make a couple bucks in rent-a-crowds and probably more than a few operatives looking to get their ticket stamped in the DC machine so they can move up a couple rungs on the ladder.

So let's find out.

A few thousand eyes are a whole lot better for finding out what these folks are up to than just these two. So, if you're game, take a few moments and try to find out more about these groups. What they're up to? Who's behind them? What have they been planning and so forth? And let us know what you find out. Send emails to socsecturfers@talkingpointsmemo.com. We'll be giving out TPM Privatize This! T-Shirts for folks who come up with particularly choice details.

The phase-out crowd didn't get knocked on its heels out of the blue. A lot of folks worked awfully hard to do it. So let's find out who's trying to get revenge and recover lost ground.

Our friend Noah Shachtman has a bizarre and unsettling story up on his DefenseTech blog about a Los Alamos whistleblower who was beaten senseless over the weekend by a group of thugs who apparently told him he'd better keep his mouth shut as they were knocking him around. I'm not quite sure what to make of this and I don't know much of the backstory. But I do know Noah. He follows this stuff pretty closely and he knows his stuff. So I pass it on on that basis.