Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
Michael Massing writes in the NY Review of Books:
Despite fizzling out within months, Occupy Wall Street succeeded in changing the terms of political discussion in America. Inequality, the concentration of wealth, the one percent, the new Gilded Age—all became fixtures of national debate thanks in part to the protesters who camped out in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. Even the Republican presidential candidates have felt compelled to address the matter. News organizations, meanwhile, have produced regular reports on the fortunes of the wealthy, the struggles of the middle class, and the travails of those left behind.
Even amid the outpouring of coverage of rising income inequality, however, the richest Americans have remained largely hidden from view. On all sides, billionaires are shaping policy, influencing opinion, promoting favorite causes, polishing their images—and carefully shielding themselves from scrutiny. Journalists have largely let them get away with it. News organizations need to find new ways to lift the veil off the superrich and lay bare their power and influence. Digital technology, with its flexibility, speed, boundless capacity, and ease of interactivity, seems ideally suited to this task, but only if it’s used more creatively than it has been to date.
Consider, for instance, DealBook, the online daily financial report of The New York Times. It has a staff of twelve reporters plus a half-dozen columnists covering investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, and regulatory matters. Every day, DealBook posts a dozen or so pieces on theTimes website, some of which also appear in the print edition, making it seem a good vehicle for showing how Wall Street really works.
Unfortunately, it only intermittently delivers. Most DealBook postings are narrowly framed, with a heavy emphasis on CEO comings and goings, earnings and expectations, buyouts and IPOs. Some sample headlines: “BB&T Is New Deal-Making Powerhouse in Banking.” “Investors Hope to Ride Swell of SoulCycle Fever in Coming IPO.” “Dell Is the Straw That Stirs Tech M&A.” “Strong Profit for Bank of America, and Investors See Signs of Progress.” Some pieces veer into outright boosterism. A long feature on “How Jonathan Steinberg Made Good on a Second Chance,” for instance, described in admiring detail how this mogul, through a combination of pluck and savvy, built his asset management firm into “one of the fastest-growing fund companies around.”
DealBook’s founder and editor, Andrew Ross Sorkin, is known for his closeness to Wall Street executives (many of whom serve as sources of information), and it often shows in his weekly column. In one that appeared on October 3, 2011, two weeks after the start of Occupy Wall Street, he explained that he had decided to visit Zuccotti Park after getting a call from the chief executive of a major bank:
“Is this Occupy Wall Street thing a big deal?” the CEO asked me. I didn’t have an answer. “We’re trying to figure out how much we should be worried about all of this,” he continued, clearly concerned. “Is this going to turn into a personal safety problem?”
After speaking with some of the occupiers, Sorkin concluded that the bankers were not in imminent danger, though he warned that they did have to grapple with the demonstrators’ demands for accountability for the financial crisis and growing inequality. . .
I highly recommend Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception; in it, Daniel Goleman explains why blind spots occur: that is, what is the value of having a blind spot? Why do we create them? Some of the secondhand copies at the link cost little more than shipping.
Very interesting interview in Salon with Dave Zirin, sports editor for the Nation, by Elias Isquith:
Earlier this week, after a series of escalating protests from students at the University of Missouri (Mizzou) culminated in the football team’s vow to strike, Tim Wolfe, the school system’s president, resigned. And almost immediately thereafter, R. Bowen Loftin, the chancellor for Mizzou’s Columbia campus, promised to soon resign as well. To see athletes at a prestigious program like Mizzou threaten to withhold their labor for political reasons was remarkable; but to see their threat so rapidly produce such enormous results was nothing short of extraordinary.
Yet because events within the school system transpired so quickly, it could be difficult to keep up. So Salon decided to reach out to one of our favorite sources for understanding the relationship between politics and sports, Dave Zirin, sports editor for the Nation and the author of “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy,” who has been following the story closely. We spoke over the phone a few days ago about the protests, their context and what comes next for the school, its athletes and the NCAA. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.
In terms of explaining what’s happening on the Mizzou campus right now, when do you think we should begin the story? Because that’s often a point of contention, here, with protesters arguing the blow-up was a long time coming; and with their critics opting instead for a narrative that makes the students’ outcry seem disproportionate.
It predates Tim Wolfe by years, if not decades.
The more I read about this, the more I read accounts from students — who aren’t just recent graduates but are in their 30s and 40s — [I see] clearly there is an issue on this campus of unaddressed racism, unaddressed sexism and unaddressed homophobia. And by “unaddressed,” I mean that incidents always happen at an alarming and almost metronomic regularity, and the response of the administration has been to shrug their shoulders, and say, “Well, you deal with it!”
Given that there was already frustration to begin with, couple that with the fact that Ferguson took place just two hours away from the Columbia campus, and the administration didn’t do anything; couple that with the fact that this president, Tim Wolfe, has no experience in higher ed; he comes from a tech background; his plan was to run university like a business; he slashed programs; he slashed healthcare for grad students — and you got what you got.
And what’s that?
A situation where very real grievances weren’t addressed, and where it took protests — a student almost killing himself with a hunger strike — and a football team taking what is, in many respects, an unprecedented act of civil disobedience, to get this guy to exit stage right.
Some critics of the protesters have argued that Wolfe lost his job simply because he answered one question the wrong way.
That one incident was catalytic. But it has more to do with the vandalism that has been breeding on campus; the fact that the student body president, who was black, was assailed with racial epithets and the school didn’t do anything. And these things happen with great regularity. Students come forward, and say that they don’t feel safe walking home after dark because other students and people in the community pull up in trucks and yell shit at them.
I would argue that people on social media, or radio, or television, saying, “Oh, they only wanted him out of there because they’re the p.c. thought police and he just happened to misspeak on that question” — I think those people have an absolute hard-line agenda. They don’t want students organizing or speaking out. [Focusing on that one question] is a way to further marginalize their grievances, which run really deep — far deeper than one statement on one phone-cam one evening.
You’ve written that the protests at Mizzou complicate or run against a common narrative depicting students as, basically, powerless. Can you tell me more about that trope; and why you think what’s happening at Mizzou is such an important counterpoint?
First of all, the fact is that most people view college athletes very negatively. They say, “What are they complaining about? They get a free education.” What they ignore is the incredible amount of exploitation that [college athletes] go through; the absence of their ability to earn any income, even though they are generating billions of dollars in the industry; even their inability to take their classes, or the fact that most college athletes in revenue-producing sports have year-to-year scholarships and are there are at the pleasure of the coach.
But the people, who actually do care about the plight of the revenue-producing, disproportionately black college athletes, too often speak about them in terms of their powerlessness and in terms of how they’re screwed over. They don’t see them as actors who actually have a tremendous amount of social power; and you see in Missouri how much power they actually have.
Where does that power come from? . . .
The closing question and answer are good:
Lastly, I wanted to ask you about how this incident should influence the way we understand the relationship between students and student-athletes. You’ve noted that while the team’s threat to strike was sort of the tipping point, it came after a lot of hard work and organizing from other students on the campus. We tend to imagine that the big-time college athletes sort of live in a different world than the rest of the student body; is that true? And how might this example change that?
Honestly, from what I am hearing and from my own reporting at Missouri, and in general, that separation is very real. It is not just a perception. It is something that is organized by the administration on these big football schools. Big-time athletes have separate study halls, dorms and cafeterias. The separation is organized to keep everyone apart, so they don’t feel the general friction and rhythm on campus — and also so they concentrate on game day.
So I think what this shows is that if student activists make the effort to reach out to student athletes, to reach out to [those in] the revenue-producing sports — if they don’t just speak to them about what is happening on campus, but also listen to their grievances, which are very real, then they have a different kind of power on the campus and a different kind of leverage. The more non-isolated the athletes become, the more powerful movements for change can be.
Conor Friedersdorf continues to examine the University of Missouri issues:
At the University of Missouri, student activists succeeded this week in forcing the resignation of President Timothy M. Wolfe, charging that he has not done enough to address persistent racism on campus. Tim Tai, a University of Missouri student, got a freelance assignment from ESPN to photograph the reaction of victorious activists at the tent city they set up in a public area of campus. As a matter of law, he had an indisputable First Amendment right to photograph events transpiring outdoors on public property.
But student activists did not want their tent city or the people in it photographed, and forcibly prevented him from taking pictures. “We ask for no media in the parameters so the place where people live, fellowship, and sleep can be protected from twisted insincere narratives,” a Twitter account associated with the activists later declared, adding that “it’s typically white media who don’t understand the importance of respecting black spaces.” Tim Tai is Asian American.
“We’re documenting historic events with our photographs, and when people are crying and hugging when Wolfe resigns, it becomes a personal issue that people all over the country can connect with,” Tai explained in an interview with The New York Times. “It’s my job to help connect those people to what’s going on.”
The protests at the University of Missouri were assisted by dozens of players on the school’s football team who declared that they would boycott games until the school’s president stepped down. This important, complicated story can be explored using an impressive timeline published by Missouri’s student newspaper. Tai’s story is one footnote to this larger narrative.
First Amendment protections for photographers are vital. And I agree with my colleague, James Fallows, that Tai demonstrated impressive intellectual and emotional poise. But video of his encounter with protestors is noteworthy for another reason. In the video of Tim Tai trying to carry out his ESPN assignment, I see the most vivid example yet of activists twisting the concept of “safe space” in a most confounding way. They have one lone student surrounded. They’re forcibly preventing him from exercising a civil right. At various points, they intimidate him. Ultimately, they physically push him. But all the while, they are operating on the premise, or carrying on the pretense, that he is making them unsafe.
It is as if they’ve weaponized the concept of “safe spaces.”
“I support people creating ‘safe spaces’ as a shield by exercising their freedom of association to organize themselves into mutually supporting communities,” Ken White wrote prior to this controversy. “But not everyone imagines ‘safe spaces’ like that. Some use the concept of ‘safe spaces’ as a sword, wielded to annex public spaces and demand that people within those spaces conform to their private norms.”
Yesterday, I wrote about Yale students who decided, in the name of creating a “safe space” on compass, to spit on people as they left a talk with which they disagreed. “In their muddled ideology,” I wrote, “the Yale activists had to destroy the safe space to save it.”
Here the doublethink reaches its apex: . . .
It’s interesting, later in the article, to learn that Melissa Click, the assistant professor who called for “some muscle” to stop the photojournalist, also had been actively trying to get the media to come to campus and record what happened. She seems to be a very confused person who has trouble thinking straight.
Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones:
Steve Benen on the Rubio-Lee tax plan:
At first blush, it’s tempting to see Marco Rubio’s economic plan as a dog-bites-man story: Republican presidential campaign proposes massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, even while saying the opposite.
Benen goes on to manfully make the case that Rubio’s tax crankery actually doesdeserve extra special attention, but I’m not sure he does the job. Sure, Rubio’s deficit would be humongous, but so would everyone else’s. And Rubio has a helluva mountain to climb to take the top spot in the tax craziness derby. Let’s roll the tape:
- The “sensible” candidate says his tax plan will boost growth to 4 percent a year. His advisors have basically admitted that this number was pulled out of thin air.
- A second candidate, not to be outdone on the absurd growth front, says his plan will cause the economy to take off like a rocket, producing growth as high as 6 percent. How will he manage this? “I just will.”
- Another candidate suggests we adopt a tax plan based on the Biblical practice of tithing.
- Yet another candidate, apparently thinking that tithing isn’t quite crazy enough, proposes an even lower flat tax.
This is all fantasyland stuff. So why doesn’t the media hammer them more on it? . . .
Radley Balko has a very interesting round-up of journalists and pundits who used the death of Fox Lake Police Department Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz as showing how there is a war on cops. We now know that Gliniewicz had been embezzling public funds for years, that he thought it was about to come out, and he deliberately staged his suicide to look like an attack. (Details in this NY Times story.) Balko’s article is worth reading in its entirety. It begins:
We now know that Fox Lake, Illinois police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz killed himself in what local officials are calling a “carefully staged suicide,” likely to cover up the fact that he had been embezzling public funds for years. But in the days following Gliniewicz’s death, pundits, new outlets, and advocates quickly lumped his death in with that of Houston Dep. Darren Goforth to blame police critics, Black Lives Matter, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, and just about anyone else who was worried about police brutality for fostering and encouraging a “war on cops.”
We now know that not only was Gliniewicz’s death a suicide, but the man who killed Goforth, Shannon J. Miles, has a history of mentally illness, and oncenearly killed a man over an argument over what TV show to watch, but no connection to Black Lives Matter or any other anti-police brutality activist group.
Here’s a partial list of people and outlets who used Gliniewicz’s death to push a “war on cops” narrative:
Lloyd Green, at The Daily Beast:
As in 1968, crime again stands to dislodge the Democrats from the White House, in the same way that in 1988 crime helped propel George H.W. Bush to Ronald Reagan’s third term.
Look around—history can repeat itself. This past week, three mengunned down police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz in the President’s adopted home state of Illinois, even as people were mourning the execution-style killing of Darren Goforth, a Harris County Texas Sheriff’s Deputy.
Yet Obama and his party appear helpless, hostages to the same demographic forces they courted, and then rode to power.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, at Hot Air:
Over the last week, we’ve seen a disturbing trend of police officers being murdered on the job. Texas Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth was killed Friday, gunned down while pumping gas for no apparent reason other than the uniform on his back. And just yesterday, in my neighboring state of Illinois, police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was assassinated by three men, who are still on the run.
Barack Obama, as chief law enforcement officer of the United States, is going to have to stop acting like a conscientious objector in this war on cops.
Wednesday, another officer, in Fox Lake, Illinois, Lt. Charles “GI Joe” Gliniewicz, was gunned down. Last Friday, Darren Goforth, a Houston deputy sheriff, was shot 15 times by an alleged black racist.
President Obama called the widow of Deputy Goforth, but he has yet to show the same indignation and outrage he exhibited at what happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Note that the man who killed Goforth was mentally ill, and not connected to Black Lives Matter. Moving on, here’s Ron Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, writing in USA Today:
In the wake of the execution-style murder of another law enforcement officer last Friday and with a manhunt underway near Chicago after the murder of yet another officer, renewed finger-pointing and incendiary actions threaten to widen the divide between the police and some in the communities they serve.
Police Chief Rodney Jones, in the San Bernadino County Sun:
Garcia’s arrest in Fontana underscored what Fontana Police Chief Rodney Jones said was an uptick this year in people resisting arrest and fleeing from officers. Whether that was related to the increased scrutiny and fear of police was not clear, but Jones suspects there’s a connection.
“You can’t ignore the fact that the timing is consistent with the media coverage of what has occurred in Ferguson and in New York and in other cases. The timing is fairly consistent,” Jones said.
In the past month alone, four police officers or sheriff’s deputies were killed in the line of duty across the country, and at least one of the killings was a suspected execution.
On Sept. 1, Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a 30-year veteran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois, was fatally shot in a marsh while chasing three people.
From NBC 5 Chicago: . . .
The corporation selects and pays the arbitrator and—quelle surprise!—arbitrators find in favor of the corporation around 99% of the time. (The 1% of arbitrators who find in favor of the consumer are simply not hired again.) You’ll note that when corporations make agreements with each other, they never allow binding arbitration as a way to settle disputes. That’s only for corporations and consumers, and it’s so that consumers cannot exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to a trial by jury and thus corporations get to decide the cases (by proxy: the arbitrators the corporation hires). It’s completely a scam and a way for corporations to get their own way. Cf. self-investigation, self-policing, etc.
Pam Martens reports in Wall Street on Parade:
The New York Times has just completed a three-part investigative series on the evisceration across America of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a right to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment, which mandates: “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
Just as corporate prisons and corporate charter schools are proliferating across the American landscape with attendant horror stories, the doors to the Nation’s taxpayer funded courts have been largely closed to the average citizen. Consumers of everything from credit cards to phone service to nursing homes cannot obtain the product or service without surrendering their access to the U.S. court system through fine print buried in the corporate contract. The privatized system is referred to as pre-dispute arbitration or mandatory arbitration or forced arbitration. Many corporations impose it as a condition of employment as well.
The Times writes:
Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found.
The Times, admirably, exposed a litany of abuses in rigged arbitration proceedings that left people worse off than before the arbitration. As Debbie Brenner of Peoria, Arizona tells The Times, “It was a kangaroo court. I can’t believe this is America.” Brenner’s case against a corporate run school for surgical technicians over failing to deliver on its promises was heard by a lawyer from the roster of arbitrators hearing cases for the American Arbitration Association (AAA), Dennis Negron. The proceeding was conducted in the corporate law offices of the firm representing the corporate school.
In addition to the $24,000 Brenner had paid to the school for tuition and the $12,000 her husband had withdrawn from his retirement account to pay for her legal expenses, Negron assigned the school’s legal fees of $354,210.77 to Brenner and fellow students who had also brought claims.
This Friday, it will be exactly 15 years ago that the National Organization for Women in New York City (NOW-NYC) and I protested in front of the corporate offices of the American Arbitration Association on Madison Avenue. We issued a press release to the media, including the New York Times, that revealed the following:
AAA has an incestuous relationship with corporate America. According to its 1999 Annual Report, the following corporations are represented on its Board of Directors: Boeing, PetsMart, Prudential Property & Casualty Insurance, Sprint, AXA Financial, Monsanto, GE, McDonalds, Essex Boat Works, Walt Disney, General Mills, FedEx, Freddie Mac, Pfizer, BellSouth, Pitney Bowes, Waste Management, Goya Foods, Texaco, Kansas City Southern, Cushman & Wakefield, Cooper Industries, DaimlerChrysler, Dow Chemical, Commonwealth Edison, International Dairy Queen, Coors Brewing, Hallmark Cards, Hartford Financial.
Our press release also put a spotlight on the following at AAA:
…the neutrality of its arbitrators has been seriously called into question by a memo written January 14, 2000 by Paul L. Van Loon, Regional Vice President at the time of AAA. In this memo, Mr. Van Loon tells the very arbitrators who may be called upon to adjudicate claims: ‘Part of our marketing effort for 2000 will be to develop business contacts with corporations headquartered in Northern California. Meeting with corporate counsel and CEOs will allow us the opportunity to develop personal relationships and explore the use of ADR in their business. To accomplish this, I am asking for your help. If you have a contact with a corporation and you can make the introduction for us, please print your name next to the corporation listed…Allowing us to make a ‘warm’ call will make the connection more meaningful. If you would like to make the call with us, please indicate it on the sheet…
Wall Street On Parade decided to take a look at who is currently on the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association. According to Bloomberg Business, the AAA Board includes lawyers from some of the most prominent go-to law firms for Wall Street and corporate America: Michael Mukasey of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Daniel Price of Sidley Austin; Guillermo Aguilar-Alvarez of King and Spalding; Albert Bates Jr. of Duane Morris LLP; and John Fellas of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, among others.
The major problem with The Times investigation is that it makes only a few fleeting references to Wall Street – the longest purveyor of a private justice system dating back decades and the only industry in America that shuttles all claims by both customers and employees into mandatory arbitration hearings. (Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010, whistleblower claims are now exempted from mandatory arbitration agreements.)
The Times has been on notice of the systemic abuses in the securities industry’s mandatory arbitration hearings since at least June 9, 1994 when Margaret Jacobs, writing for the Wall Street Journal, penned an in-depth seminal piece on the kangaroo courts routinely masquerading as justice on Wall Street. Jacobs wrote:
Helen L. Walters says her boss called her a ‘hooker,’ a ‘bitch’ and a ‘streetwalker.’ Sometimes he brandished a riding crop in front of her and once he left condoms on her desk.
Ms. Walters, then a trading-room secretary at a California brokerage firm, filed a complaint against him alleging sexual harassment. In a formal hearing, he readily admitted to the whip and the condoms, and to using all of those epithets. Her case, legal scholars agree, seems a textbook example of illegal harassment as defined by the Supreme Court: a situation in which a ‘reasonable person’ would find the work environment ‘hostile or abusive.’
Walters lost her case because arbitrators in security industry proceedings are not required to follow legal precedent or case law, or write reasoned decisions. It is almost impossible to succeed in a court appeal of a mandatory arbitration decision – no matter how egregious the ruling is.
On July 20, 2000, the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA) issued a statement charging the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), with rigging its computerized system of selecting arbitrators. PIABA stated: “In direct and flagrant violation of federal law, the NASD systematically evaded the Securities and Exchange Commission approved ‘Neutral List Selection System’ arbitration rule requiring arbitrators to be selected on a rotating basis. Instead, the NASD secretly programmed its computers to select some arbitrators on a seniority basis – just what the rule was designed to prevent.”
This is a dramatically different process from a jury pool in a court system where jury members are randomly selected from tens of thousands of citizens.
PIABA had discovered the manipulation when its attorneys attempted to test the arbitrator selection system at a conference in Chicago on June 27, 2000. PIABA said in their statement that “this rule violation tainted hundreds or even thousands of compulsory securities arbitrations – many still ongoing. In every such instance, the substantive rights of public investors to a neutral panel have been cynically violated. Many public investors were thus twice cheated: first, by an NASD member firm that fraudulently conned them out of their life’s savings, and second by the NASD Arbitration Department’s rigged panels.”
In 2002, Bloomberg Press released . . .
Melissa Cronin reports in Motherboard:
After an investigation found that ExxonMobil has been funding climate-denying organizations—despite the findings of its own scientists on climate change—the world’s fourth-largest oil company is now going after the journalists who revealed it.
Evidence that ExxonMobil has been deliberately leading a campaign of misinformation about climate change for decades began cropping up after InsideClimate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning publication, led an investigation into the company.
Shortly after the investigation was released, Exxon released a statement denouncing the reports, saying that the they “wrongly suggest definitive conclusions were reached decades ago by company researchers.”
Exxon also called InsideClimate News an “anti-oil and gas activist organization,” and claimed that that site and the Los Angeles Times, which also reported on the documents, “ignored evidence provided by the company” about climate change research.
Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil’s vice president of public and government affairs queued up a series of tweets and sub-tweets and proceeded to blast them out at InsideClimate, political figures, journalists, and anyone who’d listen.
In response to Cohen’s tweets, David Sassoon, InsideClimate’s publisher, said that it was “Odd that he has only one thing to say, over and over, like a broken record.”
“We are a news organization with a track record of excellence,” Sassoon told Motherboard. “Facing a possible Department of Justice investigation, it’s not prudent for Exxon to say otherwise, and mislead its own shareholders. They might be wrongly persuaded to discount the seriousness of what we have uncovered.”
When asked about the particular journalists and activists Cohen was targeting on Twitter, Alan Jeffers, a media relations manager for Exxon, said that the company “doesn’t have any comment on their motives.” . . .
The article obviously hit home—so: attack the messenger. Directly. They obviously cannot appeal to the law. Calumny is the only tool they have, since they are absolutely guilty as charged based on their own documents and words.