'Uncategorized' Archive

There is no Fake News; there are only False Stories

Posted Nov 30, 2016 @ 10:39 am by
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Election 2016 saw the rise of a new meme: “fake news.” This label was used to refer to patently untrue stories put out mainly by pop-up foreign sites looking to monetize gullible U.S. voters, and spread via Facebook and right-wing sites eager to promote the Trump campaign.

Post-election, however, the label “fake news” increasingly is being used to smear independent news organizations, especially those rooted in progressive values. Unfortunately, such efforts–including lists of “fake news” sites–are being picked up and spread by media outlets, academics and others who are usually considered trustworthy.

We call on every stakeholder who cares about journalistic integrity to stop spreading these lists. Recognize that those who formerly used false stories to support the Trump candidacy now are working to support the Trump presidency by accusing others of generating false stories. These attacks on the integrity of independent news organizations signal the rise of a new McCarthyism and must be stopped.

We strongly urge all news outlets to adopt the following guidelines:

1. Stop using the term “fake news.” If a story is fake, it isn’t news. Instead, use “fake stories,” “false stories,” or propaganda.

2. Call out any media that brands an outlet producing journalism with the “fake news” label.

3. Be transparent about HOW your own outlet puts together your news stories. Emphasize the work that you put into fact-checking. Talk about your methods with your stakeholders.

4. Define journalism as the American Press Institute defines it: a methodology based on fact-finding.

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Our Response to the New Trump Era

Posted Nov 18, 2016 @ 2:42 pm by
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Here at the Media Consortium, we thought the next president would be a neoliberal feminist; instead, we awoke on November 9 to a race-baiting, sexist president-elect with fascist tendencies, a solidly Republican Congress and what we expect will soon be a right-leaning Supreme Court. Now more than ever the country needs a progressive press!

The Media Consortium exists just for this fight—as a network we can and will work together to grow the role of a journalism rooted in progressive values. Engaging with diverse communities, we will produce fact-based accountability and solutions-oriented stories that will empower our viewers, listeners and readers to make positive change happen.

Our goal is to transform the media sector entirely, centering the voices of members of the public, and decentering the voices in corporate suites. We look to a day when individuals will actively engage in news because that news arises authentically and directly from the facts of all of our lived experiences.

As we enter this new era, the Media Consortium is working on a multi-prong strategy:

1. Protect freedom of the press–from physical attack, from legal attack, and from surveillance by partnering with legal and advocacy organizations doing this work;
2. Bring the voices of rural and exurban communities to national, coastal audiences by partnering with local news outlets and possibly through creating a pool of freelancers;
3. Engage, integrate and amplify the voices of communities of color from around the country by bringing on more TMC members working with such communities and partnering with a wide range of non-traditional outlets;
4. Seek to fix a broken distribution system.

Each one of our outlets has taken a distinct approach to the election results. You can check out some of their responses below.

Jo Ellen Green Kaiser
Executive Director, The Media Consortium

TMC Election Stories
(Many TMC members have published multiple pieces on the elections results—since we can’t fit them all, we only chose 1 piece to profile from each outlet)

AlterNet, http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/death-democratic-party-death-liberal-media-and-way-bernie-would-have-won

The American Prospect, http://prospect.org/article/trump-victory-exposes-weakness-liberal-political-infrastructure

Belt Magazine, http://www.refinery29.com/2016/11/130147/rust-belt-trump-voters-election-media-issues

Bitch Magazine, https://bitchmedia.org/article/donald-trump-white-people-problem
Care2.com, http://www.care2.com/causes/10-things-you-can-do-to-fight-a-trump-presidency.html

Chicago Reporter, http://chicagoreporter.com/trump-victory-rooted-in-democrats-failing-the-working-class/

Colorlines, http://www.colorlines.com/articles/trying-times-some-songs-healing-and-persevering

Dissent, https://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/donald-trump-victory-tomorrow-fight-socialism

Democracy Now! (FSTV), http://www.democracynow.org/2016/11/9/just_like_after_reconstruction_trump_vote

FSRN, http://rewire.news/article/2016/11/10/we-must-take-trump-supporters-seriously-literally/

High Country News, http://www.hcn.org/support/real-reporting-for-a-divided-country

In These Times, http://inthesetimes.com/article/19624/this-moment-demands-we-fight-harder-than-ever-before

IPS, http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/trump-the-symptom/

LA Progressive, https://www.laprogressive.com/working-class-democrats/

The Laura Flanders Show (also FSTV), The Day After the Election, http://lauraflanderscom

Making Contact and Greg Palast, http://www.radioproject.org/2016/11/greg-palast-on-voter-suppression-and-buying-democracy/

Mother Jones, http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/bill-mckibben-climate-change-donald-trump

The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/article/mourn-resist-organize-2/

National Catholic Reporters, https://www.ncronline.org/news/politics/pope-francis-reminds-donald-trump-not-forget-poor

New America. Media, http://newamericamedia.org/2016/11/i-occupied-the-freeway-last-night.php

Public News Service, http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2016-11-11/lgbtqia-issues/post-election-what-lies-ahead-for-lgbt-rights/a54915-1

Rabble.ca, http://rabble.ca/columnists/2016/11/there-are-lessons-canadas-elites-us-election

The Real News, http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=17635

Rewire, http://rewire.news/article/2016/11/10/we-must-take-trump-supporters-seriously-literally/

The Texas Obserer, https://www.texasobserver.org/its-time-to-blow-up-the-democratic-party/

Tikkun, http://nyti.ms/2eDyJP7

Thom Hartmann, http://hartmannreport.com/link/americans-wanted-revolution-and-clinton-only-offered-them-obama-20

Toward Freedom, http://towardfreedom.com/29-archives/activism/4398-it-was-the-democrats-embrace-of-neoliberalism-that-won-it-for-trump

Truthout, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38338-the-real-trump-effect-down-ballot-disaster-for-democrats

Truthdig, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/revenge_of_the_deplorables_20161109/

Waging Nonviolence, http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/43323/

Washington Monthly, http://washingtonmonthly.com/2016/11/09/in-the-wilderness-progressives-need-a-campfire/

Yes! Magazine, http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/after-trumps-victory-stand-with-your-community-20161109

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Letter to the Future

Posted Nov 19, 2015 @ 12:10 pm by
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From the dystopian to the optimistic, from college students to Pulitzer Prize winners, LETTERS TO THE FUTURE went live at 12:01 am, Thursday, November 19, 2015. LettersFuture_logo_square

A national effort to encourage people from all walks of life to write six generations into the future about climate change, LETTERS TO THE FUTURE has so far exceeded the expectations of the project’s organizers and generated original reflections on what has been called the greatest challenge facing the planet.

The campaign (with hundreds of letters from the public continuing to be posted at letterstothefuture.org) puts a spotlight on the importance of world leaders agreeing to a global climate treaty in Paris. Dozens of celebrated public figures joined in drafting letters to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks.

In an unusual coordinated effort, LETTERS TO THE FUTURE is a media project involving alternative weeklies and other media across the United States that will publish in print select letters over the next three weeks, potentially speaking to more than four million readers in print and 15 million unique viewers online. The national rollout of the project began today. The project was orchestrated out of the offices of the Sacramento News & Review and sponsored by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and The Media Consortium.

The precedent for LETTERS TO THE FUTURE was the occasion of The Kyoto Project with the Association of Alternative Newspapers (AAN). Fifty alternative weeklies across the country published the shared climate crisis articles around the 10-year anniversary of the Kyoto Accord. Readership for The Kyoto Project numbered in the millions.

To date, LETTERS TO THE FUTURE has attracted letters from all over.

…From writers across North America
Jane Smiley, Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner
“West America was once a beautiful place—not the parched desert landscape that it is now. Where you see abandoned, flooded cities, we saw smooth beaches and easy waves.”

T.C. Boyle, Author, Winner of PEN/Faulkner Award, Finalist for the National Book Award
“At least you don’t have to worry about abattoirs, piggeries, feed lots, bovine intestinal gases and the like—or, for that matter, the ozone layer, which would have been long gone by the time you started walking on two legs.” (T.C. Boyle wrote his LETTER TO THE FUTURE to… rats.)

Kim Stanley Robinson, Author, Nebula and Hugo Award Winner
“Dear Great-Great-Grandchildren, I’ve been worried about you for a long time. But recently I’ve seen signs that we might give you a better result. At this moment the issue is still in doubt. But a good path leading from me to you can be discerned. ”

…as well as performing artists
Nitanju Bolade Casel, Member of the Grammy Award-Winning
Troupe Sweet Honey in the Rock “Please know that there were also visionaries who worked endlessly for positive changes in this world—changes to benefit the many, not just the few; you may have to do the same.”

David Harrington, Violinist, Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet
“All those who object to the unsurvivable situation humanity faces must mobilize every available resource to circumvent dire shortsightedness.”

…To those active in the world of politics
Annie Leonard, Story of Stuff and Exec Director, Greenpeace USA
“Paris … paved the way for an era of unprecedented innovation, as entrepreneurs and academics fine-tuned the best ways to harness the unlimited power of our wind, waves and sun.”

Jim Hightower, Author, Public Speaker
“Even a dead fish can go with the flow, and if the delegates don’t dare to swim against the corporate current, we’re all dead.”

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, United States Senator from Nevada
“You deserve a chance to experience the beautiful world that I grew up in. … The idea that our actions could jeopardize your future was simply unbearable.”

Bill McKibben, Author, Educator and Environmentalist
“By the time the great Paris climate conference of 2015 rolled around, many of us were inclined to cynicism.”

Sen. Kevin de León, President Pro Tempore, CA State Senate
“This fight is larger than me, larger than any industry, state or nation. It’s about you and the future of your family.”

…from young and old
Julia Brabenec, Retired Orchardist and Gardener
I want to tell you a story: It began in 1926 when I was born, and is near to being finished in 2015. The world that I was born in was not a perfect world. Not everyone had all they needed for a good life, to raise their children and enjoy the bounty of this earth. But it was a grand world, beautiful and filled with resources for its people. . . . . .

Natasha von Kaenel, Writer, recent college graduate
“It was easy to drive, fun to travel and the joy that comes from a steaming shower is so delicious, even in a state plagued by drought.” From an astronaut, who has seen Earth from far, far away….

Stephen Robinson, Astronaut (Retired), Research Scientist and Engineering Professor
“If you look at Earth’s atmosphere from orbit, you can see it “on edge” … And what you see is the most exquisite, luminous, delicate glow of a layered azure haze holding the Earth like an ethereal eggshell. “That’s it?!” I thought.”

Why the 2015 Paris Climate Conference is so important
Scientists have warned for decades that current greenhouse gas emission trends have put the Earth on track for calamitous storms, floods, droughts and rising oceans. But the world’s governments have yet to sign a legally binding agreement to do what it takes to avert climate disaster. The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 is humanity’s last best chance to finally get this done. Environmentalist and former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore has said, literally, that “the future of the world” depends on the outcome of the Paris talks.

Here’s the complete list of letters released on 11/18:

–Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley;
–Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks;
–Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jack Miles;
–T.C. Boyle, winner of the Penn/Faulkner Award;
–Bill McKibben, 350.org;
–MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Rebecca Newberger Goldstein;
–Senator Harry Reid;
–Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet, David Harrington –Kim Stanley Robinson, winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards; –Michael Pollan, author, journalist, activist;
–Aisha Kahlil, Carol Maillard, Nitanju Bolade Casel and Louise Robinson, from the Grammy Award-Winning Troupe Sweet Honey in the Rock –Dr. Stephen Robinson, former NASA astronaut;
–Annie Leonard (The Story of Stuff);
–Anti-coal activist Alexis Bonogofsky;
–Award-winning writer and filmmaker Donnell Alexander;
–Political activist and radio commentator Jim Hightower;
–Kevin de Leon, President pro tempore of the California State Senate;
–Author Pam Houston;
–Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council;
–Roxana Robinson, Winner, James Webb Award for Distinguished Fiction; and activist and former legislator Tom Hayden.

LETTERS TO THE FUTURE will provide the letters to American delegates and accredited observers attending the conference to read, absorb and share them with COP21 Climate Talks in Paris. Letters continue to be written and posted online and, given the wide enthusiasm for the project, organizers for LETTERS TO THE FUTURE are discussing how to extend the effort beyond the Paris Climate Talks.

Media contact: Dave Webb

‘Media for the 99 Percent’ Challenges Corporate Media with Joint Coverage of May Day Protests Nationwide

Posted Apr 26, 2012 @ 1:14 pm by
Filed under: Landing Page Blog, Report, Reports, Uncategorized     Bookmark and Share

This year, International and Immigrant Workers’ Day, May Day, will usher in a spring of protests fueled by the rise in anti-immigrant legislation and enforcement, a lopsided economic recovery that favors the few, and a reemergent Occupy movement poised to challenge corporate power.

If past coverage is any indication, corporate media will not tell the May Day story accurately or with depth or analysis. That’s why more than 25 independent media outlets belonging to The Media Consortium are collaborating to provide coordinated, national coverage of May Day events from around the country.

Calling themselves “Media for the 99 Percent” (www.mediaforthe99percent.com), these diverse outlets will offer a live TV and streaming broadcast, an interactive map, breaking news reporting, and coordinated social media coverage across their sites, reaching a combined audience of more than 50 million Americans.

“With this May Day collaboration, independent media will show that live national coverage can reflect the breadth, diversity, and complexity of the American people,” says Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, executive director of The Media Consortium.

Independent media outlets have stayed with the Occupy story through the winter with unparalleled reporting: books by YES! Magazine and AlterNet; a weekly “Occupy the Media” TV program by Free Speech TV; cover features by In These Times, The American Prospect, The Nation, and Mother Jones; in-depth and breaking news reporting by Truthout, Making Contact, the Public News Service, Free Speech Radio News, and many others.

On May Day, the Media for the 99 Percent outlets will leverage their existing platforms and reporters to provide coordinated national multimedia coverage, featuring:

  • An interactive Map: Find out where actions are happening across the country and follow the independent media’s by-the-minute coverage with links to video, audio, photos, and blog reports.
  • Television and Live Stream Broadcast: Free Speech TV will broadcast live (and live streamed) news coverage throughout the day, featuring reports from around the U.S., as well as in-studio commentary.
  • Curated Social Media Coverage: Using the Storify platform, Media for the 99 Percent will offer a curated narrative of breaking news via blog updates, along with photos and social media posts from reporters on the ground.

All three content tools will be available for embedding by other news outlets and the public.


Weekly Mulch: One Year After the BP Oil Spill, None the Wiser

Posted Apr 22, 2011 @ 11:51 am by
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Creative Commons, Flickr, tsandBy Megan Hagist, Media Consortium blogger

One year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history began, key questions about its environmental impact remain unanswered. The 4.9 million barrels of BP oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico continue to threaten marine wildlife and other vile surprises have surfaced along the way.

Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard lists 10 reasons why we should not let the BP spill fade into the background. Perhaps the most important is the spill’s effect on locals’ health, about which Sheppard reports:

Of the 954 residents in seven coastal communities, almost half said they had experienced health problems like coughing, skin and eye irritation, or headaches that are consistent with common symptoms of chemical exposure. While the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting health monitoring for spill cleanup workers, residents in the areas closest to the spill are concerned that their own health problems have gone unattended.

Unfortunately, protests from these communities are unheard. Low-income and minority communities are typically targeted for oil production due to inadequate political power, but indigenous women in the United States and Canada are ready to change that.

Acting Against Big Oil

Organizations like Resisting Environmental Destruction On Indigenous Lands (REDOIL),  Indigenous Environmental Network, and Women’s Earth Alliance are working together to apply continuous pressure on oil companies in order to stop some of their more environmentally disastrous projects. Ms. Magazine’s Catherine Traywick shares insight from activist Faith Gemmill:

“We are trying to build the capacity of community leaders who are on the frontlines of these issues so that they can address these issues themselves,” Gemmill says. Her organization trains community members who are confronted with massive industrial projects and provides them with legal assistance and political support. Women’s Earth Alliance similarly links indigenous women leaders with legal and policy advocates who can, pro-bono, help them fight extractive industry, waste dumping and fossil-fuel production on sacred sites.

Meanwhile, Congress continues to neglect the National Oil Spill Commission’s advice to endorse safety regulations, while demands for domestic offshore drilling become more vocal under presumptions of lower gas prices and increased employment. But are these reasons worth the economic and environmental risks associated with drilling offshore?

According to Care2’s Jill Conners and Matthew McDermott, the answer is no. They break down the facts, noting:

Political posturing notwithstanding, offshore drilling will not eliminate US demand for foreign oil or really even make significant strides into reducing that dependency. At current consumption, the US uses about 8 billion barrels of oil per year; conventionally recoverable oil from offshore drilling is thought to be 18 billion barrels total, not per year.  What’s more, offshore oil drilling will not guarantee lower fuel prices — oil is a global  commodity, and US production is not big enough to influence global prices.

What about Wind Power?

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the Cape Wind Project, a plan to build an offshore wind farm five miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod. First proposed 10 years ago, the farm will consist of 130 wind turbines, each 440 feet tall and capable of producing 3.6-megawatts of energy.

The controversial project has been opposed by some environmentalists, who expressed fears that the installation of the turbines could have destructive impacts related to aviation traffic, fishing use, migratory birds, and oil within the turbine generators, among other issues.

Moral issues are raised too, as local tribes have fought against the Cape Wind project. Earth Island Institute’s Sacred Film Land Project has reported on the Wampanoag Indian tribes’ petitions, which ask for protection of sacred rituals and a tribal burial grounds located directly in Cape Wind’s path of installation.


A somewhat worrisome study published Monday by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication sheds light on Americans’ climate change knowledge. Results show teenagers understand climate change better than adults, regardless of having less education overall, with a larger percentage believing climate change is caused by humans.

Some of the study’s questions were summarized by Grist’s Christopher Mims, who recounts that only “54 percent of teens and 63 percent of adults say that global warming is happening,” while only “46 percent of teens and 49 percent of adults understand that emissions from cars and trucks substantially contribute to global warming.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Mulch: Interior to Lease More Wyoming Coal; Michigan’s Unfinished Oil Spill Clean-Up

Posted Mar 25, 2011 @ 11:01 am by
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by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

Oil Spill265

The renewable era is still far away. Despite the attention and rhetoric that has been given over to green energy projects, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced this week that coal companies would be able to take a whack at mining 2.35 billion tons of coal in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. A new oil slick appeared off the coast of Louisiana. And Japanese authorities warned Tokyo residents that the city’s water contained levels of radioactive material unsafe for infants to consume.

The black rock

Grist’s Glenn Hurowitz calls Big Coal’s new opportunities in Wyoming “an enormous expansion in coal mining that threatens to increase U.S. climate pollution by an amount equivalent to more than half of what the United States currently emits in a year.” The Powder River Basin is the most productive coal region in the country, and as the Interior Department noted in its announcement of the coal lease sale, Wyoming as a whole accounts for 40% of all coal used in domestic electricity generation. (In John McPhee’s 2005 New Yorker piece on coal trains, he follows coal mined in the Powder River Basin to a power plant in Georgia, for instance.)

The DOI emphasized the role of coal in the country’s energy mix and its importance for creating jobs in Wyoming; Hurowitz read a different message in this announcement. His analysis is scathing:

Despite his administration’s rhetorical embrace of clean energy, Obama is effectively using modest wind and solar investments as cover for a broader embrace of dirty fuels. It’s the same strategy BP, Chevron, and other major polluters use: tout modest environmental investments in multi-million dollar PR campaigns, while putting the real money into fossil fuel development.

Exposure to radiation

At Truthout, H. Patricia Hynes has a similarly dour view of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the country’s nuclear power plants. “This regulatory agency has never seen a nuclear plant it didn’t like,” she writes.

Since the nuclear crisis in Japan, American leaders have been at pains to remind nervous citizens that nuclear energy is cleaner than coal and will continue to contribute to U.S. power. But as Hynes points out, even in the absence of crisis, nuclear plants come with consequences: they leave behind radioactive tailings, depleted uranium and spent nuclear fuel. And during their life cycle, Hynes writes:

Nuclear power plants routinely release small amounts of radioactive isotopes during operation and they can release large amounts during accidents. For this latter reason, a 2003 expert panel of the National Academy of Sciences recommended that potassium iodide pills be provided to everyone 40 and younger who lives near a nuclear power plant to protect against exposure to radioactive iodine.

Of course, the risks in a crisis are great, too. In Japan, people living near the Fukushima plant are being exposed to levels of radiation higher than they should be, Democracy Now! reports. Aileen Mioko Smith, director of Green Action, in Kyoto, told Amy Goodman, “The Japanese government admitted that 30 kilometers outside—this is not an evacuated zone—a person could have been exposed to as much as 100 millisieverts of radiation. That would be twice the amount of the evacuation threshold established by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization. And yet, the Japanese government refuses to evacuate people from beyond a 20-kilometer—that’s a 12-mile—area.”

Snake oil

The full impact of the nuclear crisis in Japan may not be obvious for years; that’s one of the reasons radiation exposure plays on people’s fears so effectively. One of the scary things about nuclear meltdowns or oil spills or coal smog is that it takes a long time for the negative effects to be dealt with. Michigan, for instance, is still struggling with the aftermath of the oil spilled in the Kalamazoo River this summer.

This spill was smaller than the BP disaster, but as Change.org’s Jamie Friedland reports, activists are finding oil in supposedly cleaned sections of the river and a clean-up worker was fired after he witnessed and then talked about other workers hiding oil they were supposed to be dealing with. And, Friedland writes, the county-level task force that was supposed to be watching the process has accomplished little in its short existence.

These sorts of stories are playing out all of the time, on larger and smaller scales. As Care2’s Beth Buczynski writes, another well in the Gulf Coast is leaking. It has released only a small amount of oil, but it’s a reminder that our energy system is routinely polluting the environment.

These pollutants pose a danger to people, too, and for years after they have entered the system. At In These Times, R.M. Arrieta writes about the impacts of development by Lennar Corporation at Hunters Point Naval Ship yard, a Superfund site. Arrieta writes, “When Lennar started grading a hillside, heavy equipment breaking the serpentine rock in the hill released plumes of naturally occurring asbestos. Nearby residents complained of bloody noses, headaches, breathing problems and increased incidents of asthma attacks.”

That is just one of the problems the community has encountered so far. It’s convenient to believe we can regulate and control the dangerous materials we introduce into the environment, but all too often, it turns out, we can’t.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Audit: Grandparents Take on the Recession

Posted Dec 28, 2010 @ 12:54 pm by
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Flickr, Creative Commons, Qole PejorianBy Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Raising kids is never easy, but a recession only makes the job tougher. As more parents struggle to make ends meet, an increasing number of grandparents are stepping in to fill the void. One out of 10 U.S. kids lives with a grandparent, according to new research released by the Pew Charitable Trust, Katti Gray reports for ColorLines. About 40% of these children are being raised primarily by their grandparent(s).

Dawn Humphrey, a 51-year-old grandmother who is raising her 4-year-old grandson, describes her new role as challenging but deeply rewarding. Humphrey and her partner are making the best of a bad situation. Humphrey herself was laid off and her unemployment benefits ran out 3 weeks ago:

“Our situation would be ideal if I had a job,” Avion’s grandmother said. “We’re not materialistic people but this boy has needs. He looks to us for comfort and for love, when he’s hurt and needs help going to the bathroom. Just hearing him calling be ‘Grandma,’ I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just pure joy.”

Humphrey’s partner, Vernon Isaac, agrees:

“Yes, but, wow, grandparents like us could use some help.This recession, with things as tough as they are … I would love to give him the things I never got. But what I do give him is love. And that’s the most important thing.”

The magical thinking in free market ideology

When it comes to fingering culprits behind our economy’s current malaise, one could do worse than note just how poisonous so-called “free-market” ideology has been. That’s the diagnosis of financier Yves Smith, author of ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism, who recently spoke to the Real News Network.

Smith argues that magical thinking about markets has wrecked the United States’ economy. The old view was that the economy needed to be managed so that businesses could thrive. The new dogma is that “free markets are good” and therefore whatever happens as a result of “market processes” must be better than what would have happened if the government had intervened. By definition, everything that happens in a market is the result of market processes. So, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds! (It’s all fun and games until somebody needs a bailout.)

As Smith says:

[W]e then went to a model where everything that–anything that came out of, quote, “free markets”, even though free markets is–conveniently means something different, depending what context it’s in. But we have this kind of nebulous, flexible, free markets concept. But the idea is that anything that happens out of market activity is deemed to be virtuous, so if we go to less regulation, which–corporate interests took this free markets mantra and used it to justify deregulation–if we as a result of deregulated activity suddenly have a big trade deficit, well, we shouldn’t worry: that’s really the result of free markets, and somehow it will correct [itself].

Geico Gecko and Flo

What does it say about our economy that two of the most recognizable fictional characters on TV are insurance company mascots? For David Sirota of In These Times, the GEICO Gecko and Flo from Progressive Auto Insurance are chipper harbingers of economic death.

For Sirota, these ads epitomize everything that’s wrong with contemporary capitalism: Drivers are legally obliged to buy auto insurance. Instead of innovating or providing better service, GEICO and Progressive spend millions of dollars to poach each other’s customers with catchy TV ads.

Who can afford to retire?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the prospect of raising the retirement age from 65 to 69 to shore up Social Security. This proposed change has been vehemently opposed by progressives. Why raise the retirement age when we could just as easily raise the payroll tax ceiling? In Ms. Magazine former Harvard sociology professor Mariko Lin Chang argues that the inequalities of raising the retirement age pale beside the inequities that are already built into the system because of preexisting income differences.

The lower your wages, the longer you have to work to retire at a given level of Social Security benefits. The average American works for 40 years to collect full Social Security benefits. However, the average female worker earns only 77 cents per dollar earned by the average male. So, the average woman already has to work for 50 years to retire with the benefits the average man earns after 40 years.

Similar statistics apply to workers of color, who earn less on average than white workers.

Defending the official retirement age of 65 is a worthy endeavor, but we shouldn’t forget that the official criteria already obscure the brutal financial realities facing large segments of the workforce.

Southern anti-poverty programs at risk

Big Republican gains in state legislatures in the deep south may put poverty programs in jeopardy, Monica Potts of The American Prospect reports. In the midterm elections, Republicans took control of state legislatures in North Carolina and Alabama for the first time in a century. The GOP swept to power on a tide of anti-tax, anti-government spending sentiment. According to Potts:

Anti-poverty programs are among the most vulnerable because states have flexibility over how they spend federal money they receive for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamps. Rules for TANF, the program once known as welfare, require states to maintain a certain level of spending to keep their block grants, but how and on what they spend the money is largely up to them.

States are ordering off a menu of programs, for which they must provide matching funds if they choose to participate. Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies predicts that states will try to save money by cutting programs like prescription drug and dental care for the poor, rather than come up with their share of matching funds.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: DREAM Act Passes the House, Heads to the Senate

Posted Dec 9, 2010 @ 11:37 am by
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by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

A bill that would create a path to legalization for undocumented youth passed the House of Representatives Wednesday, and is now headed to the Senate. The DREAM Act, which has struggled for survival even amid steady and strong bipartisan support, could render more than 2 million undocumented immigrants eligible for conditional permanent residency if they attend college or serve in the military.

Making good on at least one pre-election promise, congressional Democrats succeeded in bringing the bill to a vote before Republicans assume control of the House in January—but not without plenty of contention. For two hours, House representatives rehashed the spectrum of party-line immigration talking points before finally clearing the DREAM Act, 216-198, reports ColorLines’ Julianne Hing.

Forging on a compromise

It’s a refreshing victory for DREAM advocates who saw major losses last October when the bill was momentarily defeated in the Senate, and last November, when the midterm election ushered in a spate of staunchly anti-immigrant representatives and governors who decry the bill as “amnesty.” But the stroke of success is bittersweet for many of the bill’s proponents, who take issue with some of the political concessions made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in an effort to bring the bill to the floor.

As Marcelo Ballvé reports at New America Media, the latest iteration of the act is more exclusionary than previous versions—to the point of possibly eliminating eligibility for as many as 140,000 individuals. In addition to reducing the maximum eligibility age from 34 to 29, the new version of the bill bars beneficiaries from accessing Medicare (or participating in health insurance exchanges under the health reform package) and draws out the citizenship process by several years.

But despite the rigidity of the newly revised provisions, Ballvé notes that the single greatest barrier to DREAM Act eligibility is not its design, but high levels of poverty within immigrant communities. While more than 2 million youths would theoretically be eligible for conditional legal residency under the DREAM Act, the educational barriers associated with poverty would reduce that number to 825,000, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute.

Debate suggests an uncertain future

Still, the DREAM Act makes both economic and political sense, as Katie Andriulli points out at Campus Progress. Even with the number of potential beneficiaries lowered, the Congressional Budget Office calculates that the DREAM Act could reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years, simply by legitimizing scores of potential professionals. And—contrary to opponents’ claims that the act will encourage illegal immigration or reward illegal behavior—the measure only provides “a discrete one-time universe of individuals” the chance for legalization, while actualizing a return on the financial investments already made in the millions of undocumented youth who have completed public school in the United States.

Despite the DREAM Act’s victory in the House, however, its chances of clearing the Senate on Thursday remain somewhat slim. After successfully blocking the bill last October, Senate Republicans have been laying roadblocks ahead of Thursday’s vote—first vowing to stall any and all proposed measures until the controversial Bush tax cuts were extended and then spouting considerable misinformation about the DREAM Act (which Marshall Fitz soundly counters at Campus Progress). Moreover, a number of senators who once supported the measure now appear to be undecided in the face of competing political pressures.

The movement’s next steps?

But whether the bill clears the Senate on Thursday, progressive immigration reform advocates will find themselves in a politically hostile—and possibly unnavigable—environment come January, when a new line-up of right-wing lawmakers takes over the House.

Daniel Altschuler at The Nation argues that the movement must assess and address its greatest weaknesses if it hopes—at the very least—to weather the storm. While the reform movement has demonstrated its ability to “convert grassroots power into legislative pressure,” Altschuler argues, it has failed at “developing a unified legislative strategy and shaping the national debate.”

In terms of crafting a focused legislative strategy, activists will have to contend with a number of competing issues as opposed to focusing on a single target—such as passing the DREAM Act. The Obama administration’s continued enforcement push, anti-immigrant proposals by Republican House leaders, and state-level immigration measures all threaten to divide the movement’s focus, as they have in years past. In the meantime, Altschuler concludes, “the movement’s goals will be to fend off punitive enforcement legislation and lay the groundwork for” comprehensive immigration reform, through substantial—and perhaps disappointing—compromise.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse<. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: DADT, Vampire Bees, and Other Hazards to Your Health

Posted Dec 8, 2010 @ 12:01 pm by
Filed under: Health Care, Uncategorized     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Dr. Kenneth Katz recently published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Health Hazards of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This week, he penned an op/ed for RH Reality Check about his experiences treating U.S. military at an STD clinic in San Diego. Dr. Katz sees the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule for LGB members of the military as a huge roadblock to good medical care. He’s pretty confident that his military patients feel safe divulging their sexual histories to a civilian doctor like himself. But when those troops go overseas, they are cared for by military doctors. Technically, doctor-patient communication is exempt from DADT, but many patients don’t realize that they can tell their military doctors about gay sex without fear of reprisals (at least in theory). Dr. Katz’s patients have told him that they won’t go for recommended follow-up STD screening after they ship out because they’re afraid to be honest with their doctors. He worries about how many troops are suffering from treatable infections in war zones because they aren’t allowed to serve openly.

Food stamp use skyrockets, swordfish sales unaccountably flat

Monica Potts of TAPPED points to the alarming statistic that in the last month alone an additional 500,000 Americans went on food stamps. She notes that the right wing website Daily Caller is alarmed not by the fact that fellow citizens can’t afford food, but rather that there’s no gruel-only foodstamp program available:

Meanwhile, the conservative news site The Daily Caller is shocked, shocked, to learn that you can use food stamps to buy all manner of food. The government, apparently, doesn’t restrict you from purchasing an $18-per-pound swordfish steak from Whole Foods. But that kind of discovery, like almost everything else in the “debate” over food stamp use, is the sort of ridiculous one that comes from a person who’s never been hungry.

The Hyde Amendment

In Campus Progress, Jessica Arons and Madina Agénor call for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment for being an assault on the reproductive rights of poor women and women of color. The Supreme Court declared abortion to be a constitutional right in 1973, yet nearly 40 years later, the Hyde Amendment still prohibits nearly all federal funding for abortions. In practice, the women most affected by the Hyde Amendment are those who depend on government health care programs like Medicaid and the Indian Health Service:

Former U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), the law’s sponsor, admitted during debate of his proposal that he was targeting poor women because they were the only ones vulnerable enough for him to reach. “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman,” he said. “Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the … Medicaid bill.”

Meanwhile, ultra-conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is calling on Congress to de-fund the reproductive health provider Planned Parenthood, Andy Birkey reports in the Minnesota Independent. In an interview with a conservative news site, Bachmann doubled down on that idea, suggesting that all of health care reform be de-funded because it funds abortions. This is not true. The aforementioned Hyde Amendment guarantees as much. Furthermore, even though health reform never would have funded abortions, President Obama signed an eleventh-hour executive order guaranteeing that health care reform would not fund abortions.

Brooklyn bees gorge on maraschino cherry run-off

Home beekeeping is the hottest new trend for health-conscious locavores. New York City recently changed the law to accommodate beekeepers in the five boroughs. Just because you live in an industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn is no reason to miss out on this sweet action, right? Well, actually, there is a catch. That nice honey at the farmers’ market tastes like lavender because that’s what those rural bees ate. What do bees in Red Hook, Brooklyn eat? Run-off from a maraschino cherry factory. The overindulgent bees “look like vampires” according to one local keeper and their honey runs bright red. Maraschino honey sounds like a delicious mash-up of high and low culture. Unfortunately, Sarah Goodyear reports in Grist that the end product doesn’t taste nearly as good as it looks. Arthur Mondella, the owner of Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, wants to do right by the beekeepers. He initially suggested putting out vats of different colored syrup to “help” the bees make rainbow honey. His proposal was not well-received by the crunchy set. Instead, he has agreed to work with the beekeepers to keep the bees out of the vats next year.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: Rotten Eggs, Drowsy Doctors, and Expensive Insurance

Posted Sep 8, 2010 @ 12:21 pm by
Filed under: Health Care, Uncategorized     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Tainted egg shell game

The Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club is pushing state regulators to investigate two factory farms and a feed mill linked to this summer’s massive recall of salmonella-tainted eggs, Lynda Waddington reports in the Iowa Independent. The Sierra Club sent a strongly-worded letter to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller urging him to investigate Wright County Egg, Hillandale Farms and the Quality Egg LLC feed mill. All three firms were linked to the salmonella outbreak that sickened an estimated 1200 people; and all three firms are linked to agro-baron Austin “Jack” DeCoster.

Tom Philpott of Grist calls DeCoster a “habitual” environmental offender and “one of the most reviled names in industrial agriculture.” In 1996, the Department of Labor fined DeCoster Eggs $3.6 million for what the then-Secretary of Labor described as “running an agricultural sweatshop” and “treating its employees like animals.” Over the years, DeCoster enterprises racked up additional fines in other states. A previous Attorney General of Iowa dubbed DeCoster a habitual offender for water pollution. In 2002, five female employees at the DeCoster’s Wright County egg operation alleged that their supervisors had raped them and threatened to kill them if they reported the crime. The company paid $1.5 million to settle the lawsuit. (more…)