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NYT: China Needs to Rethink Its Not-Letting-People-Die-From-Covid Policy

September 17, 2021 - 5:49pm


It still boggles me that a US paper thinks it has standing to offer advice to China on how to address the Covid-19 pandemic (FAIR.org, 1/29/21). For those who have been on Mars for the past two years, China has had, since the disease first appeared, 95,493 cases and 4,636 deaths from Covid. The United States, with approximately one-fourth as many people, has had almost 42 million cases and 668,000 deaths. On a per capita basis, the US’s handling of the coronavirus has been more than 600 times worse than China’s.

But still, the New York Times has some ideas on how China could do better!

The New York Times (9/13/21) thought 22 Covid cases in a day in one Chinese province was worth a news story. Meanwhile, the state with the lowest rate of Covid transmission in the US, Connecticut, is averaging 641 cases a day.

A September 13 news item began: “China has logged its highest number of coronavirus cases in nearly a month, prompting one county to shut down public transportation and test hundreds of thousands of people.” This would be 22 cases—”the highest since August 14, when 24 cases were recorded.”

China’s last spike in August, the Times reported, was halted “through mass testing, contact tracing, and targeted lockdowns.” But, the paper’s Sui-Lee Wee and Elsie Chen noted darkly:

Health experts have warned that such measures come at a punishing economic and social cost, and may deepen pandemic fatigue among the public.

By comparison, while China was finding those 22 cases, the US was averaging 144,000 new cases a day—or about 26,000 times as many cases per capita. But who cares?

While Sunday’s case count is far below many other countries, the number reflects what health experts have long warned: that it is probably nearly impossible to completely eradicate the Delta variant, and that Beijing needs to rethink its zero-Covid strategy.

‘Health experts’

The New York Times (9/7/21) ran an op-ed by the Council on Foreign Relations’  Yanzhong Huang that argued “China and its people will suffer” if it doesn’t adopt “policies aimed at ‘living with,’ not eradicating, Covid-19.”

There’s those unnamed “health experts” again! The link in the Times‘ copy took you to an August 4 Times piece, also by Wee and Chen, written at the beginning of China’s last flareup. This piece also had the to-be-sure phrase acknowledging that China had next to no Covid compared to the United States, before going on to assert that the Covid China did have posed a dire ideological challenge to Beijing:

While the number of cases in China are still relatively low compared to the United States and elsewhere, these new outbreaks—happening in cities such as Nanjing, Wuhan, Yangzhou and Zhangjiajie—are showcasing the limitations of China’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid. They may also undermine the ruling Communist Party’s argument that its authoritarian style has been an unquestionable success in the pandemic.

The August 4 piece did at least quote some some health experts by name, like Chen Xi, an associate professor of public health at Yale University, who said, ““Once it reaches so many provinces, it’s very hard to mitigate.” That turned out to be false: The outbreak peaked a week later, on August 11, and was under control by August 22—in time to provide a low bar that the latest outbreak could surpass.

There’s also Yanzhong Huang of the Council on Foreign Relations asserting that “China’s ‘containment-based’ strategy would not work in the long run.”  “It will become extremely costly to sustain such an approach,” he said.

And Jennifer Huang Bouey from RAND opined that “it may not be realistic for officials in China to get these latest cases down to zero”: “I think they may have to prepare people for a higher tolerance of Covid.”

The only health expert not based in the United States who is quoted telling China to change its strategy is Zhang Wenhong of Shanghai’s Fudan University, who is said to advocate “following a model similar to that of Israel and Britain, in which vaccination rates are high and people are willing to live with infections.” (The link goes to a July 21 Times piece headlined “How Nations Are Learning to ‘Let It Go’ and Live With Covid.”)

Huh. Israel now is averaging 97 new infections per day per 100,000 people; in Britain, it’s 45. Translated to China’s population size, that would mean 600,000–1.4 million new infections a day. If China had a death rate from Covid comparable to Britain’s or Israel’s currently, it would be losing nearly 3,000 people a day. (In reality, China has had 113 total Covid deaths in the past year.) Is it surprising that China has rejected Zhang’s advice, and elected not to “let it go”?

The New York Times (8/4/21) wonders why China’s Covid policy can’t be more like Israel and Britain’s.  (chart: 91-DIVOC)

‘Pandemic fatigue’

Oddly, the New York Times (8/4/21) ran this photo of a coronavirus-free Wuhan pool party to illustrate a story arguing that China’s overly restrictive Covid rules need to be relaxed.

The argument that China should show “higher tolerance for Covid” comes down to the “punishing economic and social cost” and “pandemic fatigue” cited by the “health experts” in the September 13 Times piece. The economic cost is easier to calculate: With its zero-Covid policy, China’s GDP grew 2.3% last year, one of the few major economies to have a positive growth rate in 2020, while the US shrank by 3.5% with its lots-of-Covid strategy.

Climbing out of that hole, the US is expected to do well this year, with the IMF projecting a 6.4% growth rate. But China is expected to do even better, with an estimated 8.4% growth rate. If China is paying an economic cost for having 99.3% fewer Covid deaths, it’s not a huge cost.

The “social cost” of “pandemic fatigue” is harder to quantify. But if, like most of our readers, you live in the United States, ask yourself: Do you feel like you are free of “pandemic fatigue” because you live in a country that has a “higher tolerance of Covid”? Do you think that most citizens of China—which reopened schools for in-person learning in September 2020, not 2021—would happily exchange their coronavirus anxiety for ours?

“Misery loves company” is an old saying. It’s not a good principle for health reporting, though.

ACTION ALERT: You can send a message to the New York Times at letters@nytimes.com (Twitter: @NYTimes). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective. Feel free to leave a copy of your communication in the comments thread.




The post NYT: China Needs to Rethink Its Not-Letting-People-Die-From-Covid Policy appeared first on FAIR.

The New York Times: Ally to Colonialism in Africa

September 17, 2021 - 4:20pm


In 1948, apartheid became official policy in South Africa. Racial segregation and inequity in distribution of resources, with adverse impact on the  African population on all aspects of social, cultural, economic, and political life—and always in favor of the white minority—was now formalized. It was the law of the land.

1948 was also when Emanuel Freedman became foreign news editor of the New York Times for 16 years, until 1964, when most African countries were formally decolonized. In Freedman, the apartheid regime and apologists for colonialism in Africa found a sympathetic ally, and they could always expect coverage in the New York Times that was inimical to Africa’s aspirations for self-determination.

‘Primitive men, such as Africans’

New York Times (4/22/57)

The New York Times‘ sympathetic coverage of the apartheid regime was similar to its coverage of other African countries still under European colonial domination. Consider Times reporter Albion Ross’s interview with Gabriel Teixeira, the governor-general of Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony, published on April 22, 1954, under the promising but deceptive headline, “Portugal Accepts African Equality.” The sub-headline was even more preposterous, considering the content of the article: “Mozambique Governor Sees No Reason to Bar Advance of Natives to Citizenship.”

The obvious question Ross could have posed in the interview was: If the Portuguese did in fact accept African equality, why were the Europeans the ones who were the rulers, and why was it that, in the more than 450 years of Portugal’s domination over the territory, starting in 1498, the Empire had not produced a single African university graduate or leader? Why would Africans in Mozambique, their own country, want Portuguese citizenship, when it was the Portuguese who had traveled thousands of miles there seeking fortunes?

Ross instead allowed the colonial administrator to disseminate Portuguese white supremacy propaganda using the New York Times as his platform. “Gabriel Teixeira, Governor-General of Portuguese Mozambique, sees nothing wrong with a future united Portugal in Europe and Africa in which Negroes would be a majority,” Albion Ross informed Times readers. “He does not believe there is any such thing as Negro nationalism.” Might it not have been informative to report on what these so-called Negroes in Mozambique thought about these plans Portugal had to uplift them? Ross and his editor were not interested in such stories.

Portugal’s colonial philosophy was incompatible with discrimination, Governor Teixeira assured Ross. Racial superiority was “nonsense” and did not exist, Teixeira claimed; however, rushing the development of “primitive men, such as Africans, would destroy them,” the governor told the Times reporter, a claim identical to one Wyona Dashwood had reported in a May 23, 1926, article in the Times. Christianity offered salvation to Africans, and Africans would eventually become civilized enough to be “full-fledged Portuguese,” the governor told Ross.

What makes Ross’s article invaluable is how his own biases are exposed by his failure to challenge any of the governor’s racist statements, or to inject into the article any countering views, opinion or information from any other source, least of all the Africans whose welfare the governor was toiling to improve.

“We do not believe in superior and inferior races,” the governor also told Ross. “The Black man in Africa is simply where the white man began thousands of years ago. You cannot rush that sort of thing,” the governor continued.

You must have a balance between a moral advance and a material advance. Too sudden contact of advanced material civilization with primitive peoples destroys primitive people.

“On the other hand, if the material advance falls behind the moral advance, you have hatred and disorder,” the governor told Ross. Then, even though Black people in Brazil were at the bottom of the racial hierarchy—as they remain today in the 21st century—Governor Teixeira added, “The problem is to keep a balance between the moral advance and the material advance. The end result which we seek is Brazil.”

Governor Teixeira also made no mention of, and Ross did not ask about the massacres of the “natives” by the Portuguese, when they conquered and plundered the territory—and, whenever there was an uprising—during their “civilizing” mission over the centuries. Teixeira claimed that the Africans in Mozambique did not have any aspirations that were at odds with the Portuguese vision for them. “A native vote is absurd,” Teixeira told Ross. “These people’s grandfathers were sometimes cannibals. How do they vote? What do they vote for?”

‘Guardian and ward’

New York Times (5/26/57)

In May 1957, the South African parliament approved a “native law amendment bill.” The law empowered the minister of native affairs, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, to ban Blacks from churches, clubs, hospitals, pools and other places, if he believed they would “cause a nuisance.”

In a New York Times article published on May 26, 1957, under the headline, “New Curbs Near in South Africa,” an apartheid regime official spoke to reporter Richard P. Hunt about the law’s intended purpose:

The sitting minister holds that these powers are needed to insure that the relations between Black and white here be those of guardian and ward, and consistent with the policy of rigid racial segregation.

The views or reactions of Africans were never sought or published in these news accounts.

‘Helping the savages to better themselves’

Letters exchanged between the Times‘ reporter Leonard Ingalls and Freedman reveal that even when a reporter on the ground conveyed the need to include the perspectives of Africans in the newspaper’s coverage, the foreign news editor was dismissive and preferred the racist narrative about Africa. In one letter to Freedman from South Africa, dated June 14, 1956, Ingalls informed his editor that the whites were oblivious to the changes, including decolonization, occurring elsewhere in Africa.

“You asked me before I left New York to give you, after I had been here awhile, my impression,” Ingalls wrote:

Perhaps the most obvious and fundamental fact to strike the newcomer is that the Negro, by sheer weight of numbers, will take control of Sub-Saharan Africa within the next generation or two.

Ingalls, who considered himself a keen observer, was of course wrong on his predicted timeline for formal decolonization in the rest of Africa, which started in Ghana the following year. He was correct on South Africa.

However, the main point of Ingalls’ letter was that the Times needed to take the views of Africans more seriously, a suggestion ignored by Freedman. Ingalls wrote:

As you know, white South Africans call themselves and all other white persons Europeans. Sometimes, in trying to defend their white supremacy policies, they will argue that South Africa has been their home for 300 years and that they must fight—and they mean that literally—to preserve white civilization in South Africa because they have no place to go.

Ingalls’ letter went on to say:

I was talking with an African friend about this argument recently and his observation was: “They call themselves Europeans, let them go to Europe!” Usually when the question of political, social, economic or educational opportunities for Africans is raised with white persons south of the Sahara, they reply: “You don’t expect us to give them to savages, do you?”

Then, Ingalls, revealing his paternalism and racism, added:

That is fair enough, in a sense. There is a big “but” attached, though, and that [is] there doesn’t seem to be very much enthusiasm for getting on with the job of helping the savages to better themselves.

Ingalls pointed out in his letter that whites in South Africa seemed not to have learned anything from the so-called Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, where Africans were fighting against whites who had ousted the Kikuyu people and robbed them of their fertile ancestral farmlands. “I have talked to quite a few literate, intelligent Africans,” Ingalls continued:

My recollection is that they have said they do not want to force the white man out of Africa. What they do want is the help of the white man in improving the lot of their people. They do not think they are getting that help.

Even a senior US administration official believed Africans could not manage affairs of state and needed to be governed by whites, Ingalls revealed in the same letter to Freedman:

A few weeks ago George V. Allen, a United States assistant secretary of State, spent 19 days touring Africa south of the Sahara. I was told that he gave it as his private opinion that the solution to the African dilemma was more white immigration. I wonder where all the white people are going to come from, and what they are going to do when they get here.

‘Breechcloth, animal skin or birthday suit?’ 

New York Times foreign editor Emanuel Freedman (New York Times, 1/28/71)

Ingalls’ letters suggest that he took his reporting assignment in Africa much more seriously than his foreign news editor; Freedman himself preferred Africans depicted as “savages” and buffoons.

“We read that in Black Africa, where the principle of the wheel was scarcely known a generation or two ago, there is now a great demand for bicycles,” Freedman wrote in a letter to Ingalls in South Africa dated July 25, 1956, recommending an idea for a story:

A trend is underway toward two-bicycle families. Is there a light economic air-mail feature in the increasing mobility of the aborigines? Where do they buy their bikes? What do they cost? How long does it take a man to earn enough money to buy one? Is his status advanced? Does he have roads or bicycle tracks, or does he ride through the bush? What is the usual biking costume—robe, breechcloth, animal skin or birthday suit? How is the bicycle business? Are dealers getting rich? Are there bicycle garages in the bush? What social effects is the bicycle having?

A publicist was evidently more influential in guiding Freedman’s coverage of South Africa than his own correspondents, one of Freedman’s letters in the New York Times‘ archival records reveals. “Albert Fick, who as you know, now enjoys desk space in our wire room, sent me a note suggesting a feature that you might find interesting,” Freedman wrote, in a letter dated September 12, 1957, to a Times correspondent, Richard P. Hunt, referring to the publicist. “It does sound like a good project for a time when you have a chance to take it on.”

Fick’s letter to Freedman, pitching the story about savages encountering the modern world, had read in part:

I have long been fascinated by raw Black men being flown from the bush, where some of them have probably never used or maybe seen a wheel, straight into Johannesburg for work in the mines. The Transvaal Chamber of Mines would probably give Hunt a ride on one of their airlift planes, with these rookies. A good human story, from the middle ages into the 20th century, by air.

This was a South African regime propagandist’s dream come true. Fick, working with an obliging editor like Freedman, steered the New York Times, perhaps the world’s most influential newspaper, toward stories that caricatured or demonized Africans, instead of focusing on the monstrosities of the apartheid system and the toll it was taking on Africans.

Excerpted from Milton Allimadi’s book Manufacturing Hate: How Africa was Demonized in Western Media (Kendall Hunt, 2021). Listen to an interview with Allimadi on CounterSpin (9/17/21).

Featured image: New York Times coverage of Africa (1/31/60).

The post The New York Times: Ally to Colonialism in Africa appeared first on FAIR.

Milton Allimadi on US Media’s Africa Reporting

September 17, 2021 - 10:35am



(Kendall Hunt, 2021)

This week on CounterSpin: The primary “sense” of Sub-Saharan Africa in corporate media is absence. When Africa is discussed, it’s often been, to put it simply, as a material resource and as a staging ground for Great Nation politics and proxy war. Not as far removed as it ought to be from the Berlin conference in the late 19th century, when the European powers sat down to decide who got which slice of what the genocidal King Leopold II of Belgium called “this magnificent African cake.” Challenging and changing the frame requires seeing through the racist fables, the omissions and hypocrisy that have plagued US media’s Africa reporting through history and up to today.

A new book takes that on, and we hear this week from its author. Milton Allimadi teaches African history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and publishes the Black Star News, a weekly newspaper in New York City. He’s the author of the new book Manufacturing Hate: How Africa Was Demonized in Western Media.

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The post Milton Allimadi on US Media’s Africa Reporting appeared first on FAIR.

‘Restrictions on Abortion Are Invisible Because They Appear Based on Who You Are’

September 15, 2021 - 1:19pm




The September 10, 2021, episode of CounterSpin included an archival interview Janine Jackson conducted with Kimberly Inez McGuire about abortion rights vs. access, which originally aired January 29, 2021.  This is a lightly edited transcript. 

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Janine Jackson: In January 2021, CounterSpin spoke with Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of the group URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. We asked her first about how courts have reaffirmed Roe time and again, but that still didn’t get at the layers and layers between what the court says women can legally do and what they can actually do.


Supreme Court Building (photo: Daderot/Wikimedia)

Kimberly Inez McGuire: The gulf between the theoretical legality of abortion in this country and the lived experience of people trying to get an abortion is wide and getting wider. And so much of the restrictions on abortion are rendered invisible because they only appear based on who you are, where you live, and frankly, how much money you have in the bank.

So when we look at the layers upon layers, you know, we go back to the Hyde Amendment, which is older than I am. And it’s a federal policy that prevents Medicaid from covering abortion. And it was passed in short order after the Roe v. Wade decision. And so what happened was, the Supreme Court said abortion’s legal. Folks rejoiced, right? This was a big deal. And almost immediately thereafter, the door was closed on any low-income women who get their insurance through Medicaid. And so for decades, if you are using Medicaid as your insurance, abortion access is not real to you.

We then have seen, since 2010, this newer tsunami of abortion restrictions, literally hundreds and hundreds of new abortion laws passed in almost every state in the country. There’s a handful of states that have held the line. But all over the country we are seeing restrictions on who can get an abortion, where they can get an abortion, restrictions designed to shut down clinics, restrictions targeting young people, right? And this has created a labyrinth for anyone who’s just trying to navigate getting basic healthcare.

And so, again, we have this sort of legal fiction of Roe that says abortion is legal. But if you can’t afford it, if you are young and can’t get your parents to sign off on your decision, if there’s not a clinic in your neighborhood, if the clinic in your neighborhood has been shut down by a state legislature that was targeting them, all of these things can become insurmountable barriers in the real-life experience of trying to end a pregnancy.

Rep. Henry Hyde (1924–2007), author of the Hyde Amendment

JJ: Roe v. Wade passed in 1973, and there was the Hyde Amendment in 1976. And it’s important, I think, to remember that Henry Hyde, the Republican congressman from Illinois, and the supporters of the amendment were very clear that they wanted to make abortion unavailable for all women. But it was only women receiving Medicaid that they had power over.

Getting rid of the Hyde Amendment—it’s not permanent law; it can be eliminated. That’s one concrete action that President Biden could take right now. It seems like, as we record on the 28th, we’ve just had a statement, and no mention of Hyde.

KIM:  You know, we are hopeful but cautious. As many folks know, President Biden has had a somewhat public evolution on the Hyde Amendment, where after, frankly, the nationwide outcries during the campaign, he then made clear that he would be committed to ending the Hyde Amendment. So we’re grateful that he took that position publicly, but we also are really clear that accountability is going to be necessary to make sure that that promise is kept.

And we have seen a few statements from the administration so far around the topic of abortion; they frankly have not gone far enough. The Biden administration statement on the Roe anniversary—in addition to not actually using the word “abortion,” which is concerning in and of itself—did not make clear a commitment to ending the racist Hyde Amendment, which, as you pointed to, with the pro-abortion rights majority in the House and the Senate, with the White House, there is no reason that Hyde, or any coverage ban, should appear in the next round of federal budgets. So now is the time for the lawmakers, the president and those in Congress who have said that they oppose Hyde, well, they’ve got the power now, and people across the country are watching to see how they use that power.

JJ: I just want to add that Hart just did some research: significant majority, 62% of voters, favor Medicaid coverage of abortion services, as against 38% opposed; there’s majority support among men, women, all age groups, all education levels.

Words are powerful. It does matter that Biden didn’t use the word “abortion” in his statement on the Roe anniversary. And framing is powerful, which is why I appreciate the way that you at URGE and others describe legal abortion as “the floor, not the ceiling,” as part of that expansive understanding of reproductive justice. Can you talk a little bit about how we talk about abortion, and why it matters? What are you trying to do with that “floor, not the ceiling” phrase?

Kimberly Inez McGuire: “Reproductive justice means that if you’ve decided to end a pregnancy, you can do so safely, with dignity, without upending your family’s economic security.”

KIM: Absolutely. So I think there’s a few key pieces here. One is about how we show respect to people who have had abortions. And first and foremost, those who have had abortions deserve the dignity of recognition. We need to use the word “abortion.” We need to talk about abortion as necessary healthcare and as a social good. Anything less, honestly, disregards and disrespects the one-in-four women in this country who have sought out this healthcare. So that’s the first piece, is just saying the word “abortion.” It’s not a bad word.  It’s a word that’s saved people’s lives and helped shape better futures.

The other piece around “the floor, not the ceiling” is: for people with economic resources, what is a legal right on paper has so much more meaning than for people who are blocked because of economic barriers, because of racial barriers.

So we look at something like abortion access: Even before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal across large swaths of the country, the reality is that women of means have always been able to get abortions; that has always been the reality for people with money.

The vision for reproductive justice is not just: You have a theoretical right to abortion if you can fight your way through all of the muck and the restrictions. Reproductive justice means that if you’ve decided to end a pregnancy, you can do so safely, with dignity, without upending your family’s economic security, and without being subjected to, frankly, misogynist hate speech and stigma.


JJ: That was Kimberly Inez McGuire from URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, talking with CounterSpin in January of 2021.

The post ‘Restrictions on Abortion Are Invisible Because They Appear Based on Who You Are’ appeared first on FAIR.

‘The Radical Right-Wing Majority of the Supreme Court May Well Overturn Roe v. Wade’

September 15, 2021 - 11:24am


Janine Jackson interviewed Marjorie Cohn about the Texas abortion ban for the September 10, 2021, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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(via hoopsnek)

Janine Jackson: Listeners know about Texas’ new law that provides up to $10,000 to anyone who successfully sues someone they think helped a woman obtain an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. That’s two weeks past a missed period, before many women even know they’re pregnant. And it accounts for at least 85% of abortions in Texas.

Senate Bill 8 is the subject of punchlines and memes casting it as “dystopian,” “draconian,” “backward” and “bizarre.” It’s also, you know, still happening. Clearly those invested in women’s human rights need something more than outrage to fuel the necessary pushback to this development, which, while it is new kinds of creepy and cruel, is entirely of a piece with conservatives’ decades-long effort to turn back not the clock but the calendar on reproductive rights.

So what now? Is the law enough? Has it ever been? We’re joined now by Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and author of, I think most recently, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues, from Olive Branch Press. She joins us now by phone from San Diego. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Marjorie Cohn.

Marjorie Cohn: Thanks so much for having me, Janine.

JJ: I’d like to ask you, first, about Senate Bill 8, or the Texas Heartbeat Act, itself. How does deputizing and incentivizing people to sue anyone they believe aided and abetted an abortion—how is that different than a ban on those abortions? What’s the legal maneuvering going on here? It’s clearly strategic.

MC: It is strategic, Janine, because generally, statutes provide for causes of action in court to be brought by the government. But then people can sue the government. And so in order to get around that, what this Texas SB 8 is doing is to deputize private people to act as vigilantes, and sue abortion providers and those who aid and abet them.

Now, that could include doctors, nurses, friends, spouses, parents, domestic violence counselors, clergy members, Uber drivers, Lyft drivers. They don’t even have to know that they are helping a woman to get an abortion, as long as an Uber driver knows that he is driving a car and dropping off a woman somewhere.

So it’s really broad, and what it does is to put a $10,000 bounty, plus attorney’s fees, on any of these so-called aiders and abettors. What Texas is doing, in effect, is bribing its residents to sue people who help women get abortions.

JJ: And I was several articles deep before I learned that the woman seeking an abortion can’t be sued. So it really is about the support networks, the very people who have been addressing the fact that women have had a right to abortion without access to abortion. There’s something especially devious and scary about it.

MC: It’s insidious, because now women in Texas who can afford to travel, say, to California to get a safe abortion will be able to do that. But poor women, undocumented women, women in rural Texas, people of color in Texas, will have to resort to life-threatening, back-alley, coat-hanger abortions once again, as before Roe v. Wade.

And there’s another law that people are not talking about, that is called SB 4, Senate Bill 4 in Texas, which specifically targets medication abortions. Because 60% of early-term abortion, people who want abortions choose to take a pill rather than have surgery. And what SB 4 does—this is actually a criminal statute—creates a felony for providers who prescribe medication abortions after seven weeks of pregnancy, basically double-banning abortions in the state. And it also bans abortion-inducing pills from being mailed into Texas.

The FDA has approved two drugs for non-surgical abortions. And their guidelines, the 2016 guidelines of the FDA, allow practitioners to provide mifepristone and misoprostol up to 10 weeks gestation. And SB 4 would actually punish someone with a criminal law, state criminal law, for prescribing any of these medications.

JJ: Besides the obvious spur and incentive to vigilantism, the lawmakers have somehow absented themselves from being responsible for the laws they make. There’s a thing where somehow the folks who made these laws, or might enforce them, somehow they’ve taken themselves out of the equation. What’s going on there with lawmakers kind of saying, “You can’t come back to us when this is problematic”?

MC: Right. Well, they’ve had some clever lawyers trying to craft this law in a way that is not going to be successfully challenged in the courts. Now, interestingly, as we’re speaking, the Department of Justice, Merrick Garland, the attorney general—who should’ve been on the Supreme Court, actually, and I think this case—we wouldn’t even be talking about this case right now, in all likelihood.

But the Justice Department sued the state of Texas to block this Senate Bill 8. And they are arguing that the law is invalid under the supremacy clause, the 14th Amendment. It is preempted by federal law. It violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. And the US government has an obligation to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights. Now, this lawsuit has just been filed as we speak, and so we’ll see what the courts do with it.

Also, on the 3rd of September, two days after the five-person, right-wing majority of the Supreme Court allowed Texas’ SB 8 to go into effect with no lower courts weighing in, without briefing, without oral argument—two days later, a judge in Austin, Texas, issued a temporary restraining order in favor of Planned Parenthood, and against the so-called Texas Right to Life organization, and it just affects Planned Parenthood and Texas Right to Life. On September 13, there will be a hearing on a preliminary injunction.

And also, this so-called Texas Right to Life—and I say so-called, because “right to life” is really a misnomer, and many of these people, I’m afraid, are very concerned with the life of the fetus, not so much with the life of the mother, although there is an exception in SB 8 if a woman’s health or life is at stake. If the mother needs prenatal care; if the baby’s born and needs medical care, health insurance, education; that’s socialism. Forget about the right to life.

So back to this other development, which is the Texas Right to Life. They had to close their website after their host, GoDaddy, said that it violated the terms of service. In other words, they were collecting information on someone without their consent.

So there is pushback. Now, there are lawsuits, and I think we’re going to see a proliferation of lawsuits, Janine, as well there should be.

And keep in mind that the five-person, right-wing majority on the Supreme Court—and this excludes Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted with the liberals. He was upset that they didn’t even rule on the constitutionality of it. They just let the law go into effect, the five-person, right-wing majority, with no briefing, with no oral argument, without seeing what the district court and the court of appeals would do with it.

But they did let it go into effect, which is wreaking havoc. Women are freaking out, and so are abortion providers, and families, and everyone else in Texas.

But what this does is to give us a pretty strong indication that when the Supreme Court reconvenes for their new term in October, and they take up the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, that this right-wing majority of the Supreme Court may well overturn Roe v. Wade.

And if that happens, you’re going to see these state laws, particularly in red states, proliferate. You’re going to see women being charged with crimes for having an abortion, and this is very disturbing.

But Donald Trump’s installation of three radical right-wing justices, and I use justices advisedly, is paying off. He said he was going to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and it looks, unfortunately and tragically, like that’s the direction they’re headed.

JJ: I just want to tease you out on some points that you’ve just made. My eighth grade government teacher told us, “If you remember nothing else, remember the Constitution is the law of the land.” You know?

So we have Roe v. Wade, we have Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And we’ve talked a lot  on this show about how a law can provide a right, and that that’s different from access. And how, for example, the Hyde Amendment has always taken abortion out of reach for women who rely on federal funding. So we know there’s a difference between having a law on the books somewhere, and women actually having access to abortion rights.

But still, we’ve understood the Constitution is the law of the land. So I know that you have talked about it, but if you could just go a little bit more—what the hell happened at the Supreme Court?

MC: Well, Roe v. Wade, which has been reinforced by several cases since, provides a right to abortion until viability. That means when the fetus is viable outside the mother, generally 22 to 24 weeks. And so the Supreme Court has said there is a constitutional right to abortion.

And there are two federal criminal statutes on the books. One is Section 242, which makes it a crime for people, under color of law—that means somebody in the government — willfully depriving individuals of constitutional rights. Then there’s Section 241, which makes it an even more serious crime for two or more persons to agree to oppress, threaten or intimidate anyone in securing their constitutional rights.

So beyond this lawsuit that the Justice Department just brought, there can be prosecutions—federal criminal prosecutions—of plaintiffs, and these are anybody, basically. They don’t even have to live in Texas under SB 8: anyone who wants to sue an abortion provider, or someone who aids and abets them.

So there are many legal challenges. There are prospective legal challenges. It’s not over ’til it’s over. But again, as I said, all bets are off, and I’m not so sure they are off. I think it may be, unfortunately, a pretty good bet that the radical right-wing majority of the Supreme Court may well overturn Roe v. Wade next term in that Mississippi case.

JJ: Let me just ask you, finally, I know that you are obviously concerned with the law. But I know that you also recognize the limits of law. What are the other things that we can do? We’ve already recognized the way that Roe doesn’t reach everyone, and hasn’t reached everyone. We want the material reality of abortion access. So what do we do, besides stand around and wait for the Supreme Court to decide about Roe?

Marjorie Cohn: “A majority of people in this country support the right to choose, the right of a woman to control her own body.”

MC: People are already getting into the streets to protest this Texas law. A majority of people in this country support the right to choose, the right of a woman to control her own body. And when people vote in elections, local elections, and also federal elections, state elections, in spite of the right-wing voter suppression laws proliferating all over this country, there is still tremendous turnout of people who are very aware of the consequences of their actions. (And gerrymandering is another hurdle that they have to overcome as well.)

But it may be that this abortion ruling redounds to the benefit of the Democrats in the midterm elections. I don’t know. People can demonstrate, exercise their First Amendment rights, vote, make sure that their friends and colleagues vote, as well as bringing lawsuits, which are happening now.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Marjorie Cohn. She’s professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and author of Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues, among other titles. And you can keep up with her work at MarjorieCohn.com. Marjorie Cohn, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

MC: Thanks for inviting me, Janine.


The post ‘The Radical Right-Wing Majority of the Supreme Court May Well Overturn Roe v. Wade’ appeared first on FAIR.

US Media Support Tech Regulation—Unless It Comes From China

September 14, 2021 - 4:37pm


The New York Times (7/19/21) warns critics of Big Tech not to be “too impressed by how swiftly Beijing is bringing its tech titans to heel”—because China is forcing these companies to promote the government’s efforts “to reduce inequality and promote what the party calls ‘collective prosperity.’”

Recently, US media have been aghast at legislation affecting China’s tech sector.

As part of a comprehensive economic initiative, Beijing has instituted a series of regulations—including fines, IPO suspensions, data-collection laws and other measures—for technology businesses that have raised concerns regarding power consolidation,  labor rights, privacy, cybersecurity and user safety, among other issues. Offenders include ride-hailing giant Didi, the finance-tech Ant Group and multinational conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd.

According to major US news sources, the directives are an instance of government overreach, a transgression of which China is routinely accused. Beijing has sent a “stark message” (New York Times, 7/5/21) with an “authoritarian tinge” (Bloomberg, 7/27/21). Its multibilliondollar corporate targets are thus “casualties” of “Beijing’s crackdown on private enterprise” (CNN Business, 9/1/21), from which the government expects “total surrender” (New York Times, 7/19/21).

These reports, curiously, arise as US media and policymakers continue a protracted process of advocating for restrictions on the “Big Four” homegrown tech companies—Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon—citing many of the categories of malfeasance associated with Chinese tech companies. (Normally, US media aren’t this enthusiastic about corporate regulation; tech companies’ increasingly large share of ad revenues, which renders them a major competitor for traditional corporate-owned outlets, may help explain this stance.)

Yet no matter how much overlap there may be between each country’s regulatory posture, US media maintain a double standard for corporate tech law in the US and China: In the former, it’s in pursuit of democracy; in the latter, of autocracy.

‘Promoting competition’ vs. ‘more authority’ 

The New York Times (7/24/21) highlights the “Biden administration’s growing concern that the concentration of power in technology…has hurt consumers and workers, and stunted economic growth.”

For US corporate media, Biden’s 2020 electoral victory promised “stronger enforcement of antitrust laws” (AP, 11/27/20) and “tougher regulation” (Washington Post, 1/18/21) of Silicon Valley behemoths. After Biden issued a July executive order encouraging scrutiny of the tech industry’s anticompetitive practices, Axios deemed him a “trustbuster” (7/9/21) who was “promoting competition” (7/9/21). The New York Times (7/24/21) added that the Biden administration, stocked with several antitrust “crusaders,” was seeking to “restrain corporate power” and take a “big swing at corporate titans,” including Google, Facebook and Amazon.

China’s enforcement of antitrust policies was met with a markedly different reaction. By July 2021, the country’s State Administration of Market Regulation had fined a number of internet firms, including Didi, Tencent and Ant Group subsidiary Alibaba, for various antitrust violations. The New York Times (7/19/21) framed this not as a reduction of corporate power for the public interest, but as a totalitarian encroachment on corporate freedom. Beijing, it cautioned, was “using the guise of antitrust to bring powerful tech companies into line with its priorities,” demanding the private sector “surrender with absolute loyalty.”

Wired (7/29/21), too, took an admonitory tone. The “seemingly sudden crackdown,” the magazine warned, “comes amid moves by President Xi Jinping to assert more authority over every aspect of life.” Four months prior, Wired (3/9/21) had referred to Biden’s antitrust appointees as “all-stars.”

When privacy is ‘terrifying’

A similar dynamic appears in coverage of privacy and security legislation. By the AP’s estimate (11/27/20), Biden had the potential to “curb” the power of companies that were “endangering consumers’ privacy.” Biden was also lauded (New York Times, 4/21/21) for his recruitment of Tim Wu, an Obama administration alum and “progressive critic” of tech monopolization and data harvesting, and of Lina Khan, a “progressive trustbuster” known for her user privacy advocacy. When Biden appointed Khan to the Federal Trade Commission in June, the AP (6/17/21) welcomed the “energetic critic,” while the New Yorker (6/21/21) reveled in the “important first step.”

The Wall Street Journal (6/12/21) reports that China’s proposed Personal Information Protection Law “seeks to limit the types of data that private-sector firms can collect”—but this is presented as “yet another move to strengthen the role of the government.”

As privacy proponents in the US government are embraced, those in China are questioned. In July, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), an Internet regulator, suspended new user signups and temporarily removed the Didi app from app stores, ostensibly in response to illegal harvesting of user data. To the New York Times (7/19/21), this qualified Didi as “a target of the government’s regulatory wrath.”

New York Times tech critic Kara Swisher (7/20/21) conjectured that the move was meant to punish Didi for a “spectacular” initial public offering, which constituted “a terrifying government action,” one that was “shrouded in doublespeak about privacy, cybersecurity and sensitive-location information.” Compared to the United States, Swisher wrote, China’s efforts to control its tech industry are “much more troubling and malevolent.”

In the surrounding months, Beijing had been drafting the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), which places limits on corporate and governmental data-mining practices. The Wall Street Journal (6/12/21) characterized the law as part of a “power play,” while AP (8/20/21) described it as “tighten[ing] control.”

Both the AP and the Wall Street Journal acknowledged the user protections the law would usher in, but hedged those gains with concern that the government could still gather and monitor citizens’ data—though the Wall Street Journal (8/17/21) would later concede that “the new draft law bars government organizations from collecting data beyond what is needed to perform ‘legally prescribed duties.’” Interestingly, this surveillance-state caveat wasn’t posed in any of the above praise heaped upon the Biden administration, despite the US’s extensive, documented history of surreptitiously gathering data on its populace.

In support of ‘too large’ companies

MSNBC (3/16/21) assures us that our government’s motives are pure, whereas enemy intentions are malevolent: “Washington is responding to pressure to improve transparency and accountability in the industry, Beijing’s motive is to solidify political control.”

Lest anyone view China as a leader in tech regulation, an MSNBC opinion piece (3/16/21) insisted that Beijing was no model for Washington:

In the United States, the Biden administration is recruiting high-profile leaders in the Big Tech antitrust space, but while Washington is responding to pressure to improve transparency and accountability in the industry, Beijing’s motive is to solidify political control to ensure that no private company will grow too large or deviate from serving the political and economic goals set by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Yet isn’t the point of antitrust law, by definition, “to ensure that no private company will grow too large”? Who or what will enforce antitrust law, if not a government? Don’t US tech companies, which regularly operate in concert with arms of the state, serve “the political and economic goals” set by the US ruling class?

If US journalists want to take a possible tech crackdown seriously, there should be no reason to find China’s actions so chilling. And, contrary to what media might argue, if the US refuses to take cues from China’s regulatory success, it won’t be likely to achieve much of its own.

The post US Media Support Tech Regulation—Unless It Comes From China appeared first on FAIR.

September 11’s Never-Ending Story

September 11, 2021 - 10:12am
Remembering the Last US Retaliation Against Terror

by Jeff Cohen (Column, 9/14/01)

“Outrage is the natural and appropriate response to the mass murder of September 11. But media should not be glibly encouraging retaliatory violence without remembering that US retaliation has killed innocent civilians abroad, violated international law and done little to make us safer.”

Nightly News Glosses Over Anti-Terrorism Act

(Action Alert, 9/27/01)

“The report–which ends by saying that ‘no one really knows how much authority the new security czar will really have’–suggests that to stay safe, Americans must surrender liberties without even pausing to ask which ones.”

When Journalists Report for Duty 

by Norman Solomon (Extra! Update, 10/01)

“Restrictive government edicts, clamping down on access to information and on-the-scene reports, would be bad enough if mainstream news organizations were striving to function independently. American journalism is sometimes known as the Fourth Estate—but Dan Rather is far from the only high-profile journalist who now appears eager to turn his profession into a fourth branch of government.”

Retaliation: Reality vs. Pundit Fantasy

by Jim Naureckas (Extra! Update, 10/01)

“One non–Boy Scout the CIA worked with in the 1980s was none other than Osama bin Laden (MSNBC, 8/24/98; Atlantic, 7–8/91)—then considered a valuable asset in the fight against Communism, but now suspected of being the chief instigator of the September 11 attacks.”

Why They Hate Us: Looking for a Flattering Answer

by Jim Naureckas (Extra! Update, 10/01)

“Even before investigators identified Arab militants as the apparent hijackers, the media assumption was that the terrorists had ties to the Mideast. But rather than a serious examination of what political realities might contribute to an anti-American climate there, many media commentators offered little more than self-congratulatory rhetoric.”

Extra! (11-12/01)

Patriotism and Censorship: Some Journalists Are Silenced, While Others Seem Happy to Muzzle Themselves

by Seth Ackerman and Peter Hart  (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“War fever in the wake of the September 11 attacks has led to a wave of self-censorship as well as government pressure on the media. With American flags adorning networks’ on-screen logos, journalists are feeling rising pressure to exercise ‘patriotic’ news judgment, while even mild criticism of the military, George W. Bush and US foreign policy are coming to seem taboo.”

Us vs. Them 

by Jim Naureckas (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“It’s still ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ in other words, and we are told to care very much when ‘we’ are in danger and are explicitly warned not to worry too much about ‘their’ lives. Saying that it ‘seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardships in Afghanistan’ (Washington Post, 10/31/01), CNN chief Walter Isaacson even announced that the network would air some kind of disclaimer whenever footage of dead or wounded Afghans is shown.”

Are You a Terrorist? 

by Rachel Coen (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“The legal definition of ‘terrorism’ is crucial because the USA PATRIOT act gives law enforcement broad new powers to be used against ‘terrorist’ individuals and groups. The American Civil Liberties Union (10/23/01) warns that this new definition will ‘sweep in people who engage in acts of political protest’ if those acts could be deemed dangerous to human life.”

‘No Spin Zone’?

by Peter Hart (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“FAIR activists sent hundreds of letters to O’Reilly after his September 17 program, urging him to consider the ramifications of his rhetoric–and the fact that bombing civilian targets and using starvation as a weapon are war crimes.”

As if Reality Wasn’t Bad Enough: Dan Rather Spread Alarmist Rumors on September 11

by Jim Naureckas in Extra!, 11–12/01)

“But is it really inevitable that anchors will pass on uncorroborated stories to the public—and portray them as fact, not rumor? For days, New Yorkers expressed surprise that the George Washington Bridge story was not true—victims of a needless panic that Dan Rather had helped to spread.”

Network of Insiders: TV News Relied Mainly on Officials to Discuss Policy 

by Seth Ackerman (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“No experts on international law appeared, even though a lively debate among international jurists has been brewing since September 11 over how the United States could respond legally to the attacks. Very few university-based experts on the Middle East appeared. (The main exception was [Fouad] Ajami.) This absence contributed to the networks’ striking lack of explanation of what United States’ policies in the Middle East have been in recent years.”

The Op-ed Echo Chamber: Little or No Space for Dissent From the Military Line

by Steve Rendall (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“Whether the mainstream daily op-ed page was ever a true forum for debate or for ‘nontraditional voices’ is questionable. But during the weeks following September’s terrorist attacks, two leading dailies [New York Times and Washington Post] mostly used these pages as an echo chamber for the government’s official policy of military response, while mostly ignoring dissenters and policy critics.” 

The New Blacklist: The Nation’s Largest Radio Network’s List of ‘Questionable’ Songs  

by Tom Morello (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“When the horrible attacks of September 11 are used as a pretext for squashing the opinions of dissident artists, people who are not beating the blood-lust drum feel alone and isolated. It’s in times like these when we most need intelligent, thoughtful discussion and debates about the issues of the day.”

‘This Isn’t Discrimination, This Is Necessary’

(Extra!, 11–12/01)

“Leave it to Ann Coulter—whose racism was too much even for the Arab-bashing National Review—to reduce the pro-profiling argument to its fallacious core: ‘Not all Muslims may be terrorists,’ she allowed, ‘but all terrorists are Muslims’ (Yahoo! News, 9/28/01).

“That’s just wrong, of course, as Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber and decades of clinic-bombing, doctor-shooting Christian extremists can attest. The fact is that ethnicity has never been a reliable indicator of who might be involved in terrorism, making racial profiling not only discriminatory but ultimately ineffective.”

Patriotic Shopping: Media Define Citizenship as Consumerism 

by Janine Jackson (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“A number of pundits and politicians offered Americans a simple solution to the helplessness and anxiety they were feeling in the wake of the September 11 attacks: Go shopping!”

Covering the ‘Fifth Column’: Media Present Pro-War Distortions of Peace Movement’s Views

by Peter Hart (Extra!, 11–12/01)

“The distinction between ‘peace with terrorists’ and a peace movement rooted in justice and international law was blurred by the media in general, which rather than airing the views of anti-war leaders generally had pro-war pundits explain–and belittle–those views.”

Internet Samizdat Releases Suppressed Voices, History

by Jeff Cohen (Extra!, 12/01)

“A free press would be debating the issue of Washington’s relations with Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and whether such movements are bred by US policy committed to suppressing secular reformers and leftists in Islamic countries. When the CIA funded the Afghan Mujaheddin in 1979 before the Soviet occupation, it hoped to destabilize a secular, Soviet-friendly government (initially led by Nur Mohammed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin), which supported land reform and rights for women.”

Extra! (5-6/02)

From Bozo to Churchill: George W.’s Post–September 11 Reinvention

by Mark Crispin Miller  (Extra!, 5–6/02)

“Countless leaders have been deified by national emergency, but few have been remade as quickly and completely as George W. Bush. In many cases, those who had misread him as a simple tool, braying automatically at his most trivial mistakes, now automatically revered him. Such converts suddenly agreed with those who had seen Bush’s flaws as signs of latent greatness—thitherto the notion only of a large plurality, but now the common wisdom.”

9/11 Anniversary Coverage Plans Fall Short

(Media Advisory, 8/26/02)

“Unfortunately, many media outlets seem ready to exploit America’s grief by replaying the trauma of the attacks, instead of honoring the date with a serious debate over where the country is headed”

Saddam and Osama’s Shotgun Wedding: Weekly Standard Beats a Long-Dead Horse 

by Seth Ackerman (Extra!, 1–2/04)

“Hardline officials have spent the last two years leaking stories, writing op-eds, holding private briefings and making public insinuations, all intended to convince the country that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda worked hand in hand.”

The Media Politics of 9/11

by Norman Solomon (Media Beat3/25/04)

“On September 12, Bush’s media stature and poll numbers were soaring. Suddenly, news outlets all over the country boosted the president as a great leader, sometimes likening him to FDR. For many months, the overall media coverage of President Bush was reverential.”

A Record of Journalism in Crisis: Out of the Buzzsaw, Into the Fire  

by Francis Cerra Whittelsey  (Extra!, 3–4/06)

“Not only was good reporting unusual and largely out of sight after September 11, it was also overwhelmed by the Bush administration’s public relations effort…. These journalists see themselves fighting an unrelenting public relations machine, whose effectiveness comes in large part from constant message repetition and automatic coverage of the president every day, even when he makes no news”

Gullibility Begins at Home: NYT Accepted False Reassurances on Ground Zero Safety 

by Julie Hollar ( Extra!, 11–12/06)

“It’s not just the government that failed the workers and the public with misleading assurances; the New York Times itself must share that burden. Shortly after the attacks and into the ensuing years, the Times—as both a New York paper and a national paper—failed to mount a functional degree of skepticism toward city and federal government pronouncements about the safety of the air and dust around Ground Zero. They by and large dismissed fears of residents and workers about their safety—even as troubling studies and voices of dissent cropped up in the public and private sectors, and in other media outlets.”

Extra! (5-6/07)

The Media’s Mayor: Mythologizing Giuliani and 9/11 

by Steve Rendall (Extra!, 5–6/07)

“[Jonathan] Alter dubbed Giuliani ‘the new Mayor of America,’ which soon morphed to ‘America’s Mayor,’ a moniker used by journalists as if it were a matter of public acclamation rather than a symptom of press corps hero worship.”

‘America Was Safer Under Bush’: Journalists Accept GOP’s Screwy Terrorism Scorecard

by Steve Rendall  (Extra!, 3/10)

“That George W. Bush kept America safer from terrorism than Barack Obama is a conservative article of faith these days—and corporate media seem little inclined to challenge the blatant falsehoods used to advance this childish GOP talking point.”

The Uses of September 11: To the Right, Terror Attacks Are Theirs to Exploit—or Dismiss—as They Like

by Steve Rendall (Extra!, 3/11)

“But the hallowed memory of September 11 is a conservative sham. While the attacks may be the gift that keeps on giving for GOP politics—when politically useful—the right frequently permits itself to diminish or deride the memory and symbols of the attacks for its own convenience.”

Extra! (7/11)

‘Waterboarding Worked’?: After bin Laden’s Death, Media Push Pro-Torture Message

by Peter Hart (Extra!, 6/11)

“Despite Bill O’Reilly’s assertion that his show was a lonely pro-torture voice, there were many media voices suggesting a reevaluation of whether torture should be an accepted practice for the U.S. government. Bin Laden may be dead, but the corrosive effect on public discourse of the “war on terror” lives on.

Losing the Plot: The Afghan War After bin Laden

by Jim Naureckas (Extra!, 7/11)

What was missing from these and most other corporate media discussions of bin Laden and Afghanistan was any recognition of the part that country played in the Al-Qaeda leader’s strategic vision. For bin Laden, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was not a threat to his plan for the triumph of his brand of right-wing Islam—it was the central element of that plan.

Fox’s Eric Bolling Fans on Terror Facts—Twice

by Steve Rendall (FAIR.org, 7/15/11)

“Glenn Beck’s temporary replacement in the 5 p.m. slot on Fox News, Eric Bolling, has started out with a bang. On the July 13 edition of his new show the Five, the host declared: ‘America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don’t remember any attacks on American soil during that period of time.'”

Extra! (9/11)

The Forever Wars: Media Enlist to Promote Unending Military Adventures

by Peter Hart (Extra!, 9/11)

“The shift from the US’s time-limited military adventures since the Vietnam War—in conflicts like Grenada, Panama, Somalia and Kosovo—to today’s seemingly interminable and endlessly multiplying military commitments is one of the most notable, yet little noted, features of the post-September 11 landscape. And corporate journalists seem all too willing to encourage Washington’s new ‘permanent war’ footing.”

The ‘Worst of the Worst’?: 9/11, Guantánamo and the Failures of US Corporate Media

by Andy Worthington  (Extra!, 9/11)

“On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, media bear a large responsibility for having allowed cynical lawmakers to portray Guantánamo as a prison holding ‘the worst of the worst,’ despite so much evidence that Bush administration officials were lying when they first coined that phrase.”

Whistling Past the Wreckage of Civil Liberties: Watchdogs Slept Through a Decade of Rollback

by Janine Jackson (Extra!, 9/11)

“Media submerge the reality of the assault on civil rights every time they report the state’s overreaches as being about ‘terror-fighting tools,’ as the AP (5/26/11) described Patriot Act provisions. Under a system of civil liberties, people are regarded as criminals after being convicted of crimes—not deemed to be so beforehand to facilitate stripping them of rights.”

Richard Cohen Is Sorry You and He Got It Wrong

by Peter Hart (FAIR.org , 9/6/11)

“Someone who was really sorry for stoking war fever would be honest enough to point out that not everyone was on board. And of course Richard Cohen knows this—he was writing columns attacking those who weren’t ‘going along with it.’ As he wrote about Dennis Kucinich, ‘How did this fool get on Meet the Press?'”

‘Terror Returns’—but When Did It Go Away?

by Jim Naureckas (FAIR.org, 4/16/13)

“The fact that journalists assigned to cover this story could fail to remember that political violence has been part of the United States landscape for the past decade and more is testament to a narrow definition that dismisses right-wing domestic violence as not really terrorism—and to a will to believe, for partisan or psychological reasons, that George W. Bush ‘kept us safe‘ after 9/11. The reality is not so comforting.”

License to Kill: Little Scrutiny of Resolution That Greenlighted ‘War on Terror’

by Norman Solomon (Extra!, 5/13)

“While the Obama administration considers how to reorganize its war efforts, we should ask why the US media establishment took more than a decade to begin asking basic questions about the Authorization for Use of Military Force—and why the underlying premises of perpetual war continue to elude concerted journalistic scrutiny.

“The consequences of such media evasions have persisted in tandem with Washington’s political machinations. Rather than handling 9/11 as a crime committed by criminals, the ‘war on terror’ under the AUMF umbrella propelled US military actions that have killed hundreds of thousands in at least six countries.”

They’ll Be Watching You: Mass Surveillance Uses New Media to Track Every Move You Make

by Jim Naureckas (Extra!, 5/14)

“After the September 11 attacks, which reignited a xenophobic backlash against immigration, the Department of Homeland Security began recruiting local law enforcement agencies as the next front in the detection and apprehension of undocumented immigrants. What followed was a massive wave of deportations that increased under the Obama administration to over 2 million (Politico, 3/4/14).

“Like immigration, the ‘War on Terror’ is now being shifted to local law enforcement agencies who, in exchange for federal dollars, are deploying powerful surveillance tools with little oversight and applying these tools to everyday policing, not just ‘counterterrorism.’”

Forgiving Al-Qaeda in Pursuit of a New Enemy

by Jim Naureckas (FAIR.org, 3/18/15)

“There are indications (as noted by the blog Moon of Alabama3/11/15) of a shift in the Western foreign policy establishment toward seeing groups like Al-Qaeda—that is, far-right terrorist groups who espouse a violent strain of Sunni Islam—not as the main targets of US military operations but as potential allies against the governments Washington has identified as more important enemies, namely Shi’ite-led Iran and Syria.”

NYT Recalls Media’s ‘Journalistic Detachment’ Before Iraq War

(Extra!, 9/16)

“In his retrospective (7/19/16) on outgoing Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who lost his job amidst numerous charges of sexual harassment, New York Times media reporter Jim Rutenberg included this remarkable sentence:

It was Mr. Ailes who, after the September 11 attacks, directed his network to break with classic journalistic detachment to get fully behind the war efforts of the George W. Bush White House, which jarred the rest of his industry.

“Of course, Fox News was far from alone in abandoning ‘classic journalistic detachment’ (such as it is) in the lead-up to the Iraq War—the New York Times certainly not excepted. Times reporters like Michael Gordon and Judith Miller helped get the nation ‘fully behind the war’ with front-page stories touting ‘evidence’ of WMDs that did not exist, while others wrote ‘news analysis’ like ‘All Aboard: America’s War Train Is Leaving the Station’ (2/2/03) and ‘US Plan: Spare Iraq’s Civilians’ (2/23/03).”

After 1,379 Days, NYT Corrects Bogus Claim Iran ‘Sponsored’ 9/11

by Adam Johnson (FAIR.org, 7/6/17)

“In its reporting on a dubious lawsuit alleging Iranian meta-involvement in 9/11, the New York Times badly misunderstood the case and maintained for more than three years, in the paper of record, that the government of Iran ‘sponsored’ the September 11, 2001, attacks. The belated correction, issued late Wednesday night on two widely spaced articles on the topic, unceremoniously noted that Iran did not, in fact, help commit the 9/11 attacks.”

On 18th Anniversary of 9/11, Media Worry About ‘Premature’ End to Afghan War

by Josh Cho (FAIR.org, 9/11/19)

“The New York Times (8/2/19) gave a platform to retired generals Jack Keane and David Petraeus to lobby for keeping thousands of “Special Operations forces” in Afghanistan:

“US troops in Afghanistan have prevented another catastrophic attack on our homeland for 18 years,” General Keane said in an interview. “Expecting the Taliban to provide that guarantee in the future by withdrawing all US troops makes no sense.”

“The Times might have pointed out that the September 11 attacks were carried out by militants based in the United States and recruited in Germany.”

Actually, Giuliani Has Always Been Like This 

by Ari Paul (FAIR.org, 10/10/19)

“Giuliani was heralded as a hero when the United States was desperately looking for one after the WTC attacks—despite the fact that his actions on the day of the attacks contributed to the deaths of emergency responders, and his insistence that the air at Ground Zero was safe to breathe without filtration no doubt led to the deaths of many more (Extra!, 11–12/06, 5–6/07).”

Krugman Recalls 9/11’s Silver Linings 

(Extra!, 10/20)

“’Overall, Americans took 9/11 pretty calmly,’ New York Times columnist Paul Krugman tweeted on the 19th anniversary of September 11 attacks. ‘Notably, there wasn’t a mass outbreak of anti-Muslim sentiment and violence, which could all too easily have happened.’ Anti-Muslim hate crimes increased 17-fold after 9/11, the FBI reported (Human Rights Watch, 11/02)—but apparently that doesn’t qualify as ‘mass.’

“Krugman, after praising George W. Bush as someone who ‘tried to calm prejudice, not feed it,’ did acknowledge that he used 9/11 to ‘take us into an unrelated and disastrous war’—the almost 19-year-long occupation of Afghanistan, apparently, not qualifying as a disaster. Before alluding to Iraq, Krugman mentioned that in the wake of the attacks, “my wife and I took a lovely trip to the US Virgin Islands…because air fares and hotel rooms were so cheap.”

As Kabul Is Retaken, Papers Look Back in Erasure

by Gregory Shupak (FAIR.org, 8/19/21)

“In addition to the Taliban signaling that it could be open to extraditing the Al Qaeda leader in October 2001, according to a former head of Saudi intelligence (LA Times, 11/4/01), the Taliban said in 1998 that it would hand over bin Laden to Saudi Arabia, the US’s close ally; the Saudi intelligence official says that the Taliban backed off after the US fired cruise missiles at an apparent bin Laden camp in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, following attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania attributed to Al Qaeda. The outlets thus failed to inform their readers that, had the US pursued negotiations for bin Laden’s extradition, Afghans may have been spared 20 years of devastating war.”

Research assistance: Adam Weintraub, Jasmine Watson

The post September 11’s Never-Ending Story appeared first on FAIR.

‘Where Are the Threads Dropped With the Criminal Investigation of the Sackler Family?’

September 10, 2021 - 9:20pm


Janine Jackson interviewed Public Citizen’s Rick Claypool about OxyContin immunity for the September 3, 2021, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Purdue heir David Sackler and wife Joss depicted in Vanity Fair (6/19/19)

Janine Jackson:  It’s hard to think of a better illustration of the cynicism of “justice” under corporate capitalism than the September 1 ruling that absolves the billionaire owners of a drug company that spent years aggressively marketing a painkiller, misrepresenting its addictive properties, because that same company promises to throw some money at the devastating public health crisis that resulted. But that’s where we’re at with the approval of the bankruptcy organization plan from Purdue Pharma, controlled by the Sackler family, whose heavily-pushed drug OxyContin has contributed materially to the devastation of lives and communities across the country.

Judge Robert Drain of the US Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York, seemed to take no joy in the ruling; he called it “bitter”—which should raise questions about how much practical anger should be directed at the particular venality of the Sackler family, vis a vis the systemic problems they are able to exploit.

We’re joined now by Rick Claypool, a research director focused on corporate crime and wrongdoing at Public Citizen. He joins us now by phone from Rhode Island. Welcome to CounterSpin, Rick Claypool.

Rick Claypool: Thank you, Janine. Thanks for having me.

JJ: I have to start by saying there’s no way we can cover all of the important ground here: The way the Sackler family played cultural currency, the PR employment of actual pain victims, the profit hiding…. Books have been and will be written on this.

But let’s just stay in the moment. What does this bankruptcy ruling do? What’s the impact?

RC: It does a number of things. While the main thrust of it is that it’s ending Purdue Pharma, as the for-profit company that it had been, and turns it into this public benefit company, and is turning over billions in funds towards helping essentially clean up the mess that Purdue Pharma, and the Sackler family who owned and managed it for decades, has created.

The bitter part of it is that it immunizes the family members from future liability for wrongdoing related to the business. So Purdue Pharma, the business, is the reason they are billionaires in the first place. And they’re going to walk away from this billionaires.

And so, if the standard of justice is accountability, deterrence of wrongdoing, equal treatment justice, right? I mean, right now, there are 450,000 individuals on any given day serving time in the US for nonviolent drug crimes, right? Some subset of that nearly half million people started out being addicted to OxyContin, and things went downhill for them from there. The book was thrown at them. And here you have one of the wealthiest families in the world, walking away with tarnished reputations and their billions. And it couldn’t be a more unjust outcome.

JJ: And you aren’t alone in thinking that. And my understanding from press coverage is that it’s not over ‘til it’s over. And that states, for example—and maybe their reasons have to do with being saddled with a lot of healthcare costs of the opioid epidemic—but still, folks are trying to push back on this ruling. Do you see that as meaningful? Or what do you see might happen?

RC: My focus, and what I spend all my time thinking about, is corporate crime in the literal sense. So this is a civil settlement. What I’m keeping an eye out for is subsequent criminal accountability. Department of Justice made a civil settlement with the Sacklers, and also settled its criminal charges, three felonies, against Purdue Pharma itself, back in November. But it explicitly says that that settlement does not release them from future criminal accountability.

So we are calling on the Justice Department to pick up those threads of that investigation, and to continue it. And if any crimes are found from the facts of the investigation, then members of the Sackler family should be indicted.

JJ: I’d like to ask you, finally, what would you like to see more of, or less of, in terms of media coverage? ‘Cause we’re going to see media coverage. What would you like to see more or less of, in terms of that coverage?

Rick Claypool: “In corporate crime coverage, most of the time when the company commits crimes, it’s sort of reported as if it’s bad news that they got caught.”

RC: I want to go back to something you said about the coverage of Purdue, quickly. And just that it is true that this case in particular had been covered better than most corporate crime cases have. I don’t know if it’s just the sheer egregiousness of it, or the actual family members—they seem indifferent, and have no sort of remorse; they’re continuing to insist that they did nothing wrong, and that there’s nothing they would have done differently. Just absolutely ghoulish.

It’s also worth noting that this is a private company. So the only individuals with anything at stake with the company were the Sacklers themselves, right? It is certainly the case that in corporate crime coverage, most of the time when the company commits crimes, it’s sort of reported as if it’s bad news that they got caught on the business pages.

JJ: Right.

RC: And the frame is far too often about how the company will fare. And, of course, we’re not talking about public companies, where there are more investors, and also any members of the corporate media just have more at stake in the fate in how those companies’ stakes rise and fall.

Here, you see a company where it’s almost being treated that those connections aren’t there. So I think that’s interesting. I think it’s still right that it still obscures the deeper systemic issues of corporate crime and wrongdoing, and how capitalist greed fuels and can encourage this kind of recklessness and risk taking that gambled with thousands of peoples’ lives, in a way that’s just impossible to really comprehend.

And if you think about that, and you think about how the outcome of this case, if they walk away from it, and at the same time, there are physicians who were overprescribing  opioids, right, in a number of jurisdictions, who either have been indicted or were convicted for charges including manslaughter—

JJ: Right.

RC: —when their patients died. It boggles the mind.

JJ: The sense is that somehow justice doesn’t have the tools to address the folks who are higher up in the stream, in terms of promoting something like OxyContin.

Rudy Giuliani

RC: That’s right. And it’s also, and I’m sure you’ve seen it in the coverage of the revolving door issues, where some of the highest-ranking prosecutors historically, for one of the most powerful districts, right, the Southern District of New York, and well, let’s see, who are some prosecutors who have worked for the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma? Former prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, Rudy Giuliani and Mary Jo White.

It’s hard to think that there aren’t many instances of those prosecutors. when they’re working for the Justice Department, when they’re working for the public, do they see the corporate representatives that are on the other side, are they adversaries or are they peers, right? And what does that mean for how it ultimately gets worked out?

JJ: Exactly. Well, just if there were a question that you would ask a reporter who was coming to this story on this bankruptcy filing, a question that you would ask them to pursue, what would that be?

RC: I would ask them to pursue the question of where are the threads dropped with the criminal investigation with the Sackler family,? The Justice Department prosecuted the company and made a settlement, civil settlement, with the owners, made it clear that the settlement did not release them from criminal liability—but where is that?

I’ve seen anecdotal mentions that people don’t think that they will be criminally charged. Why? What happened there? Who made those decisions? Was it for lack of evidence? Was it because, as we have seen in multiple other instances in the Trump Justice Department, higher-ups intervened in the cases of career prosecutors to reduce charges against corporate offenders?

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Rick Claypool, research director at Public Citizen. They’re online at Citizen.org. Thank you so much, Rick Claypool, for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

RC: Thanks, Janine. It was a pleasure.

The post ‘Where Are the Threads Dropped With the Criminal Investigation of the Sackler Family?’ appeared first on FAIR.

‘We’ve Structured Our Economy to Redistribute a Massive Amount of Income Upward’

September 10, 2021 - 6:52pm



Janine Jackson interviewed Dean Baker about raising the minimum wage for the September 3, 2021, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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CEPR (2016)

Janine Jackson:  The media debate around the minimum wage has advanced. You don’t hear so much about “pin money”—the notion that minimum wage earners are just looking for a little extra change, and not a livelihood. You may even have heard suggestions that the US minimum wage is out of whack, that it should be higher than it is.

Still, as with reporting on most major economic premises and priorities, media discussions of the minimum wage mainly rattle around the same old tracks; they just don’t go deep enough, don’t ask the right questions of the right actors, to actually explain why so many US workers are struggling by on so little.

Here to break it down for us is economist Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, where he writes the blog Beat the Press, and author of, among other titles, Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer.  He joins us now by phone from Utah.

Welcome back to CounterSpin, Dean Baker.

Dean Baker: Thanks for having me on, Janine.

JJ: If we could do some brief 101: What is the logic behind there being a link between the minimum wage and productivity? That reflects a societal value, right?

DB: Yeah, it does. So we established the minimum wage, the national minimum wage, back in 1938, under part of the New Deal, the Fair Labor Standards Act. And I actually can’t even tell you the exact figure it was set at. Of course, it’d sound very low, because we’ve seen a lot of inflation since then.

But from 1938 to 1968, the minimum wage rose roughly in step with productivity growth. And just to be clear what that means to people, productivity growth is the amount of output we produce in an hour, goods and services we produce in an hour. And the minimum wage over that period rose pretty much in step with that.

And to be clear how that was done, basically they had the minimum wage following the median wage. And the median wage at that period, ‘38 to ‘68, followed productivity growth. So the minimum wage following the median wage meant that the minimum wage also followed productivity growth.

And the implication of that is that even workers at the bottom, what we might think of as the least-skilled, lowest-paid workers—not disparaging these people, just literally saying they’re the lowest-paid workers, people who work busing dishes in restaurants, or cleaning toilets in hotels or businesses—those people shared in the gains in the economy. So the idea was that even those at the very bottom, they got richer when the economy as a whole got richer.

CEPR (1/21/20)

JJ: Now we come to the chart folks may have seen, and there’s a nifty version in your recent Beat the Press post on this, of the minimum wage over time coming detached from productivity growth. I’m going to ask you to explain that delinking, and what relinking those things would entail.

But first of all, you have a nice moment in your recent piece where you talk about $26 an hour, which is what it would be had it kept pace, what a minimum wage of $26 would look like. You spend a minute visioning that. I wonder if you could do that for us.

DB: Yeah, I just did the calculation, and that’s an easy one to do, just taking minimum wage from its peak value in ‘68, and just carrying through what it would be if it rose in step with productivity, and you’d get $26 an hour. It’s a hair less, but trivially so.

So you just go, OK, what does the world look like? Imagine we had done that. So someone’s working a 40-hour week, 50 weeks a year. That comes to $52,000 a year. So imagine the lowest-paid worker—again, the people who are busing dishes in restaurants, cleaning toilets—that they made $52,000 a year. It’s just, to my mind, almost mindblowing in terms of how different the world would look.

So say a single mother is raising two kids. Well, $52,000 a year, that’s well over twice the poverty line. I’m not going to say that person’s hugely rich or anything. Of course not. But that’s a comfortable middle-class existence.

And then I say, well, suppose you have two earners. Let’s say we have two earners, very bottom of the pay scale. And let’s say, even at the bottom, there’s some opportunities for pay raises, promotions. So say 15, 20 years into their working career, people in their mid-thirties, 40, at that point let’s say that their pay is 20% higher. That’s pretty modest. So they have 20% above the minimum wage. That would be over $60,000 a year.

So if you had two earners, they’d have $120,000 a year as their income. This would be people at the bottom end. And it’s just sort of an interesting thought. What a different country we would have if the lowest-paid people, a two-earner couple, was still pocketing $120,000 a year.

JJ: And, of course, the politics would change, because people would be able to imagine a future for themselves and their children. And they wouldn’t feel shackled by debt and—

DB: Again, I just wrote down the number. I said, well, let’s think that through for a moment.

JJ: Let’s think about it.

DB: It almost sounds farcical. But you go, no, we were doing that until 1968. And it’s not that we had all Communists running the country in the ‘40s, ‘50s. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president for eight of those years.

JJ: Exactly.

DB: So it wasn’t as though we were being run by crazy radicals in that period. But that’s what we were doing at the time. The minimum wage, those workers at the bottom, were seeing their living standards rise in step with the growth in the economy.

JJ: Starting from now—and this is important—if we were simply and solely to raise the minimum wage, some bad things would happen. Most media debate just stops there, and that’s the problem with most media debate. You explain why we can’t just do a higher minimum wage; we have to also change a number of other things. And that gets at how the wage got out of sync with productivity in the first place.

DB: Yeah, so just to be clear, there are ongoing debates on raising the minimum wage by more modest amounts. Many people have set the target at $15 an hour for 2026. And much research shows that we don’t have to worry about a lot of job loss at that. So I don’t want to scare people away from that. But I’m talking about a considerably higher number, obviously; I’m talking about $26 an hour today.

JJ: Right.

DB: In 2021. So that’s considerably more than, say, $15 an hour five years from now. But, in any case, suppose we wanted to do $26 an hour? Well,  that would create a lot of unemployment, a lot of problems in the economy, ’cause we’ve structured it to redistribute so much income upwards

And what I always start with here are patent and copyright monopolies, just because this is so incredibly important. There’s so much money at stake. And it’s also literally never discussed. So the fact that people are getting incredibly rich over the Moderna vaccine, or the other vaccines and treatments being produced for treating the coronavirus, that’s because we gave them patent monopolies.

And we didn’t have to do that. In the case of Moderna, we basically paid for the research. So why on Earth the government would give them a patent monopoly, and arrest their competition, is hard to understand. But that’s the sort of thing that redistributes a huge amount of income from the rest of us to the shareholders at Moderna. And, obviously, the higher-paid top executives and, I’m sure, some of their top scientists are doing very well from this.

So that’s a really big part of this story. Patent and copyright monopolies, by my calculation, redistribute on the order of more than a trillion dollars, about 5% of GDP, or half of all corporate profits, upward. So I would certainly look at much weaker and shorter patent and copyright monopolies.

We have a corrupt corporate governance structure. Basically, CEOs write their own paycheck. And as a result of that, we’ve seen an explosion of pay at the top of the corporate ladder. So CEOs now get 200 to 300 times the pay of a typical worker. If we go back to the ’60s, it would have been around 20, 25 times the pay of a typical worker.

So you might see a CEO, if we had the same standard in place, the CEO at a major company, instead of getting $20 million a year, might get $2 million a year. And I always raise this point and people go, well, yeah, that’s bad, but CEOs, there’s only 500, the 500 large companies. But it’s not just the CEO. If the CEO is getting $20 million, the CFO, chief financial officer, is probably getting $12, $13, $14 million. There’s probably a few other top executives in the C suite also getting somewhere near $10 million. And then the third tier is probably getting $2 or $3 million also.

JJ:  Right.

Dean Baker: “We’ve basically structured our financial sector to rake off enormous amounts of money from the rest of the economy.” (image: BillMoyers.com)

DB: If you had the CEO getting $2 million, then you’d see corresponding reductions in the pay of the other people at the top. And that has a huge impact on pay scales throughout the economy. So if we had a corporate governance structure that was similar to what we had 50, 60 years ago, we’d see CEO pay that was more in line with what we had in those decades.

The financial sector—we’ve basically structured our financial sector to rake off enormous amounts of money from the rest of the economy. And, again, it’s not a story that they’re contributing…. If you look at the hedge fund—I was going to say guys. Almost all of them are guys.

JJ: Right.

DB: But, whatever, hedge fund people, that often have pay in the hundreds of millions, even billions a year, they’re not contributing to the economy. And again, I’m open to that argument. If you’d show me, oh, here’s all these great companies, that wouldn’t have gotten the capital they need, but these brilliant hedge fund people were able to recognize them…. Well, if that’s the story, you could tell that. Except there’s no evidence to support that story.

JJ: Right.

DB: So we structured our financial sector in a way that allows for enormous fortunes to be made, again, at the expense of the rest of the economy.

So those are the three I would highlight. I may give you other examples. But the basic point is, we’ve structured our economy in ways to redistribute a massive amount of income upward. And if we don’t address that restructuring, if we don’t basically reverse what we’ve done over the last four or five decades, we can’t have a world where people earning the minimum wage get $26 an hour. So we’ve got to focus on the ways we’ve misstructured the economy, so that people at the bottom—and, in fact, people at the middle—could live decent, secure lifestyles.

JJ: Some pundits still use the image of the “burger flipper” as a kind of emblem of someone who, you know, no moral judgment, but they just don’t contribute enough to productivity to “merit” a higher wage. It sounds like there really are better emblems for that.

But it’s a bitter pill that, for example, CEO pay is stratospheric, that our tax and regulatory structure wildly rewards a handful of people who contribute little or nothing to the productive economy, and that that happens because the people who could change it just have no incentive to.

I think people really want there to be a better reason than that. And by not seriously engaging that reason, I think corporate media lead us to believe that there is really a real, dry-eyed reason things have to be this way, we just don’t understand it.

DB: I think that’s very much right, and trying to get—you know, you’ve been doing this as long as me—trying to get to the core: What is the problem here? I mean, I know many of these reporters. They aren’t on the take. But it literally doesn’t occur to them.

So the idea that, oh, we did not have to give Moderna a patent monopoly. Here we are in this worldwide pandemic crisis. We could have just said, “We paid you for the research. We’re not also going to give you a monopoly. And if it’s not worth your while to do the research for the money, then we’ll find someone else who’ll do the research for the money.” But that’s literally not something they think about. And we first have to start talking about those things if we hope to change them.

JJ: Right. Well, we’ll start here.

We’ve been speaking with Dean Baker. You can find his blog Beat the Press on the website of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. That’s CEPR.net. Thank you so much, Dean Baker, for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

DB: Thanks a lot for having me on.


The post ‘We’ve Structured Our Economy to Redistribute a Massive Amount of Income Upward’ appeared first on FAIR.

Marjorie Cohn on Texas Abortion Law, Kimberly Inez McGuire on Abortion Realities

September 10, 2021 - 10:27am


(cc photo: Beth Wilson)

This week on CounterSpin: Many people will know that the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1973, enshrining women’s right to access abortion—to choose when and whether to have a child. It seemed to signal recognition that abortion is healthcare, that most women who have abortions are mothers (in other words, they don’t need to have an ultrasound to recognize what’s happening), that medical reality and theology are not the same, and that outlawing abortion doesn’t stop it, but just pushes women to have unsafe abortions.

Less often considered is how immediately after Roe, Congress passed the Hyde amendment, taking this fundamental human right out of the hands of women who rely on government assistance—so low-income, overwhelmingly women of color. Hyde acknowledged that they wanted to outlaw abortion for all women, but poor women were the only ones they had legal standing to control. That cynical approach proved effective, as Americans watched the ability to access abortion chipped away, with wait times, parental notification rules, hospital credential requirements, clinic closings, funding cutoffs for international groups—all the while comforted by the notion that the “right” to abortion was somehow still legally protected.

That narrative is exploding right now in the wake of the Supreme Court’s refusal to address, which amounts to an endorsement, what is overwhelmingly understood as an unconstitutional Texas law offering a bounty on anyone who “aids and abets” a woman seeking an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

We’ll talk with Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and author of, among other titles, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues.

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And we’ll revisit a conversation from January of this year about what law  can and can’t do, with Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of the group URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity.

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The post Marjorie Cohn on Texas Abortion Law, Kimberly Inez McGuire on Abortion Realities appeared first on FAIR.

Civilian Deaths Aren’t News for Fox News

September 9, 2021 - 2:42pm

US news outlets have reported stories about civilian casualties in Afghanistan with caution, often noting that claims from the Taliban had not been independently verified. But many outlets showed no inclination to be equally careful when evaluating the Pentagon’s line on casualties.

CNN, for example, ordered reporters to frame reports of civilian deaths with reminders that “the Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that it is trying to minimize” such casualties, and that “the Taliban regime continues to harbor terrorists who are connected to the September 11 attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the US” (Washington Post, 10/31/01).

Brit Hume, host of Fox News Channel’s Special Report (11/5/01), wondered whether civilian deaths were getting too much attention, with or without disclaimers. “The question I have,” said Hume, “is civilian casualties are historically, by definition, a part of war, really. Should they be as big news as they’ve been?”

The premise that civilian casualties have been “big news” in the US is dubious. The Fox discussion seemed motivated in part by a study of network news broadcasts done by the conservative Media Research Center; the group criticized ABC World News Tonight in particular for apparently giving civilian deaths too much airtime—nearly twice as much as NBC Nightly News and almost four times as much as the CBS Evening News. A close look at ABC’s reporting, however, turns up only three segments during the MRC’s three-week study period (10/8/01–10/31/01) that were primarily about civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The subject was mentioned in passing a few other times, sometimes to stress the Pentagon’s claim that civilians were not being targeted. ABC reporters in general emphasized the difficulties in assessing claims made by the Taliban.

Nonetheless, Fox pundit Mara Liasson from National Public Radio seemed to feel that this was too much coverage: “No,” she said in response to Hume’s question. “Look, war is about killing people. Civilian casualties are unavoidable.” Liasson added that she thought what was missing from television coverage was “a message from the US government that says we are trying to minimize them, but the Taliban isn’t, and is putting their tanks in mosques, and themselves among women and children.” (The Pentagon’s assertions that it was avoiding civilian casualties were routinely featured in network newscasts; the uncorroborated claims that the Taliban were employing civilians as human shields were also featured in TV news.)

Fox commentator and US News & World Report columnist Michael Barone echoed Hume’s earlier remarks: “I think the real problem here is that this is poor news judgment on the part of some of these news organizations. Civilian casualties are not, as Mara says, news. The fact is that they accompany wars.”

If journalists shouldn’t cover civilian deaths because they are a normal part of war, does that principle apply to all war coverage? Since dropping bombs is also standard procedure in a war, will Fox stop reporting airstrikes?

Fox’s marketing slogan is “We report, you decide,” but these Fox pundits have decided for you that some deaths aren’t worth reporting. Then again, being impartial journalists might not be the first order of business. As Hume told the New York Times (11/7/01), “Look, neutrality as a general principle is an appropriate concept for journalists who are covering institutions of some comparable quality. . . . This is a conflict between the United States and murdering barbarians.”

With both Fox and CNN trying to marginalize or minimize coverage of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, it’s little wonder that self-censorship is taking place at smaller outlets. A memo circulated at the Panama City (Fla.) News Herald and leaked to Jim Romenesko’s Media News (10/31/01) warned editors:

DO NOT USE photos on Page 1A  showing civilian casualties from the US war on Afghanistan. Our sister paper in Fort Walton Beach has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening e-mails and the like…. DO NOT USE wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the US war on Afghanistan. They should be mentioned further down in the story. If the story needs rewriting to play down the civilian casualties, DO IT. The only exception is if the US hits an orphanage, school or similar facility and kills scores or hundreds of children.

This policy of consistently burying the facts about the impact of the war on Afghanistan must make the pundits at Fox proud. But journalists who care about the principles of the profession should be embarrassed.

The post Civilian Deaths Aren’t News for Fox News appeared first on FAIR.

WGAE Tensions Reflect an Age-Old Clash of Labor Visions

September 8, 2021 - 12:38pm


The Writers Guild of America East has successfully organized digital journalism workers at numerous well-known outlets in the last several years, winning contract protections on things like requiring “just cause” for firing (WGAE, 1/7/19), diversity hiring (Deadline, 1/21/18) and editorial independence (FAIR.org, 6/18/19). Who could complain about this? Plenty of people, apparently.

The union’s governing council is going through a fraught election split between the Solidarity slate, which includes both digital journalistic writers and TV/film writers who defend the organizing drive, and the Inclusion & Experience slate, which believes that the organizing drive has steered the union away from its original mission of representing long-unionized film and TV writers.

The Wire‘s David Simon (Audacity of Despair, 8/22/21): “Contract issues that matter to screen and TV writers might seem secondary if the fight for them interrupts the organization and goals of other sectors.”

One of Inclusion & Experience’s most vocal candidates is David Simon, creator of the HBO hit show The Wire, much of which was drawn from his time as a Baltimore Sun reporter. The Solidarity slate includes Sara David of Vice and Hamilton Nolan, the In These Times labor journalist who helped start the first successful WGAE digital organizing drive at Gawker.

As CNN Business (8/24/21) reported, Inclusion & Experience is running on a platform of moving away from the new digital organizing, fearing that TV and film writers could become a minority within the union. According to one member of the slate, Christopher Kyle, “For every $1 of dues digital members pay, the Guild spends $3 to organize and service them.”

And in a lengthy post on his own website (Audacity of Despair, 8/22/21), Simon warned that a substantial growth in digital media membership in the union was an existential crisis, as the union would lose legitimacy as a TV/film union in the eyes of the much-larger Writers Guild of America West. He has proposed that the WGAE either “spin off the digital components into a new union,” or simply leave journalistic organizing to the NewsGuild, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America.

Industry vs. craft unionism

At first glance, this might seem like a struggle of professional vanities—Hollywood types looking down on a younger, scruffier cohort. What’s actually happening at the WGAE is an all-too-common struggle between industrial unionists and craft unionists.

For the uninitiated, industrial unionism is the idea that a union should represent all workers in an industry. Think of New York City’s subway and bus workers, nearly all of whom, regardless of their skillset or wage—ranging from station cleaners to subway train operators—are in the same bargaining unit in the Transport Workers Union. The idea is that, from a union perspective, all workers are equal in the common struggle.

Craft unionism is where unions are organized and closed off by their specific trade. Think of a construction site, where the plumbers, electricians, sheet metal workers and truck drivers are all in their own separate unions.

Simon makes the case that craft or guild unions are good at protecting their members’ interests. He isn’t wrong. Craft unions, like those in the building trades, can more or less define who can take on a certain job. Often, by limiting how many people can become a unionized craft worker, the union can ensure that all of its members get enough work and keep wages high. Letting anyone take on a certain job title spreads everything too thin, the idea goes.

But that kind of union power is based specifically around exclusion, rather than inclusion. The idea of cross-title solidarity that the Solidarity slate is promoting isn’t just about bringing as many members as possible into the union. It’s also the hope that democratic unionism can inspire more democratic and open media workplaces, because so much of the industry is based on nepotism, going to the right school and knowing the right people.

Simon does make a legitimate criticism of his union, saying that the “aggressive campaign to organizing the digital component has delayed and overshadowed…reaching workers in sectors—animation and podcasting, for example”—that, he said, “are clearly far more relevant to the WGAE than to the NewsGuild.”

But digital media workers have already built a home within the WGAE; the two unions have had turf disputes in the past, which has resulted in the WGAE basing itself more in digital publications while the NewsGuild focuses on print-based outlets. Rather than the mutually exclusive choice Simon offers, the union could choose to expand in all of the areas he cites.

Artificial divisions

Kim Kelly: “Why would any labor union actively choose to be small, exclusive and weak?”

The divisions separating these types of workers are often artificial. The major television networks, like Disney‘s ABC and Comcast‘s NBC employ fiction writers as well as journalists. Writers, including Simon, drift between nonfiction and fiction work all the time. Kim Kelly, labor columnist for Teen Vogue and a WGAE councilmember running for reelection on the Solidarity slate, told FAIR:

As many of us have outlined repeatedly during this campaign, the arbitrary lines between the TV/film worlds and digital media are dissolving at a rapid pace…. Digital media journalists are TV writers are nonfiction writers. Screenwriters are podcasters are comedy/variety writers. We all work in the same industry, even if our day-to-day jobs look different.

The consolidation of the major media companies has left workers scrambling to adjust and add to their skill sets as a means to survive an increasingly precarious industry, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. We have common cause, similar concerns, and occupy the same social and cultural spaces….

There are, of course, differences in the way different kinds of members experience the union—and a disparity in the services and benefits offered—but that’s something to work on bettering, not hammer away at as some sort of indication that adding thousands more members has somehow harmed our union.

Kelly continued:

Shop after shop of digital media workers chose the WGAE because they saw our successful track record, heard from other workers about our incredible, dedicated organizers, and saw the huge gains we made in our contracts. We have made massive strides in organizing this industry and raising its standards, and that work needs to continue. These workers chose this union, knowing that other options were available.

The question you should be asking is, why in God’s name would we turn those workers away and encourage them to join a different union, when our union has worked so hard to bring them in and to show that it is the best home for them? Why would any labor union actively choose to be small, exclusive and weak when it has the opportunity to grow, evolve alongside a changing industry and make a positive impact on the lives of thousands?

TV and film writers are right to worry about their future. The assault on unions from the right is unrelenting, and with shifts in the entertainment industry, including the disruption caused by streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, these writers are looking to protect what they have.

But unions, regardless of their industry, cannot afford to be islands of privilege as union membership declines. Unions must grow, and more importantly, they must grow into places where members are not simply defined by the job titles their boss gives them, but are treated as equal siblings.

Featured image: Writers Guild of America East rally, 2007 (photo: Amber Baldet)


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