Posts Tagged ‘Mother Jones’

Recent Readings for Jan. 9, 2016

January 9, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 9, 2016

• “The Fall of King Coal.” In December, a federal jury convicted former Massey Energy Chief Executive Don Blankenship of conspiracy to violate federal mine-safety laws, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year in prison. In “The Fall of King Coal,” which Mother Jones published in the fall as Massey’s trial was getting under way, reporter Tim Murphy took a close look at Blankenship’s career, which involved breaking union strikes as well as existing contracts and safety and environmental regulations.

“It was very, very obvious from the first part that [Blankenship] cared about one thing and one thing only, and that was the dollar, and it was clear that he worshipped at the altar of greed and dollars, and he wouldn’t let anything get in the way,” one longtime union foe told Murphy.

• “The Corporate Takeover of the Red Cross.” The American Red Cross did not have a good 2015, when several reports came out exposing it as a floundering and at times ineffective organization. Take, for instance, a June report from ProPublica and NPR that bore the headline “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes.”

Last month, Justin Elliott extended his reporting on the American Red Cross by describing how former AT&T executive Gail McGovern has brought a businesslike mentality to the charity that has coincided with, if not actually caused, budget deficits, layoffs, internal cutbacks, sagging morale and the loss of trust by countless volunteers and partners. One of McGovern’s apparent missteps was hiring Jack McMaster, a former AT&T colleague who ran a Dutch telecom company into the ground before getting a job with the Red Cross.

• “Republican doom doesn’t equal Democrat victory: Our political chaos could destroy them both.” Salon columnist Andrew O’Hehir blasts the left and the right in this essay:

Clinton’s tone and rhetoric have been measured during this campaign, but as Salon’s Bill Curry wrote recently, she remains an unregenerate foreign-policy hawk who shows every sign of yearning to double down on failed military overreach. Whatever you think she may have said, Clinton has absolutely not ruled out sending American troops by the thousands to fight a ground war against the Islamic State. She has called out Republican candidates for their “bluster and bigotry” and rejected talk of a “war on Islam,” which is all to the good. But the policy proposals discernible below her calm and resolute-sounding language over the last month are virtually indistinguishable from those of the non-Trump GOP contenders: More war, more surveillance, less First Amendment. “You are going to hear all the familiar complaints: ‘Freedom of speech,’” she told a Brookings Institution audience on Dec. 6. I know! As if that’s in the Constitution or something!

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Private foster-care agencies: Where government inefficiency, the free market and magical thinking collide

February 27, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 27, 2015

On Thursday, Mother Jones published a lengthy look at private foster-care agencies, some of which are nonprofit, others of which are for-profit. The report is fairly alarming.

Brian Joseph, a former state government reporter for the Orange County Register and a former investigative journalism fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, produced the story. One of the problems he found is that there is little hard data on the safety or effectiveness of this entire business sector:

Squeezed by high caseloads and tight budgets, state and local child welfare agencies are increasingly leaving the task of recruiting, screening, training, and monitoring foster parents to these private agencies. In many places, this arrangement has created a troubling reality in which the government can seize your children, but then outsource the duty of keeping them safe — and duck responsibility when something goes wrong.

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North Carolina Republican tries to tarnish Obamacare for the crime of … mandating maternity coverage!

June 21, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 21, 2014

A short item that Tara Culp-Ressler posted at Think Progress caught my eye on Thursday.

Mandy Cohen of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who is due to give birth in about three weeks, recently appeared at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled “Poised To Profit: How Obamacare helps insurance companies even if it fails patients.”

During her testimony, Rep. Mark Meadows pressed Cohen about a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to include maternity coverage in all new plans that they sell. The Republican representative, whose district covers the mountainous western corner of North Carolina, asked if there other coverages that insurers must sell (and which ipso facto consumers must buy) because of Obamacare.

Cohen: It depends on your personal family situation and your medical situation. I’ll say as an internist, and a primary care doc, that sometimes you don’t know what that medical situation will be going forward, and that’s the nature —

Meadows: But maternity is one that you can probably analyze pretty well for someone who’s in their 50s.

Cohen: Right, but it’s a minimal essential benefit we wanted to make sure every American has.

If this is going to be one of the GOP’s main points of contention about the Affordable Care Act, then the law could well have a very rosy future. Is it unfair for people (read: men) to pay for coverage that they aren’t going to use? Perhaps so, but that’s also a fundamental component of insurance.

And let’s remember what the health-insurance market was like before Obamacare mandated maternity coverage. The National Women’s Law Center released a study in early 2012 that captured many unsavory aspects of those not-so-good days.

Back then, gender rating — that is, charging women more than men for comparable coverage — existed without restriction in 36 states. Businesses with mainly female work forces were “routinely” charged more than others, the center reported. This disparity affected many hospitals, medical offices, pharmacies, community-service organizations, and home-health-care and child-care businesses, all of which skew female.

But gender rating may have had the biggest impact on the individual market. “Even with maternity coverage excluded, nearly a third of plans examined charged 25 and 40-year-old women at least 30% more than men for the same coverage,” the report stated (emphasis added).

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Twitchy is mad as hell, and it’s not going to take it anymore: Ambassador Samantha Power edition

February 27, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 27, 2014

The Obama administration’s liaison to the United Nations, gave a lecture Sunday night at UCLA. Ambassador Samantha Power, the author of a Pulitzer Prize–winning book on repeated American inaction in the face of genocide, was speaking at the invitation of the Daniel Pearl Foundation. The organization is dedicated to the memory of the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered in 2002 while reporting on al Qaeda terrorism activity in Pakistan. Pearl, infamously, was beheaded in a video that was posted on the Internet.

At some point on the evening of the lecture, Power posted the following tweet:

A number of conservative-leaning Twitter users reacted to Power’s message with a mixture of bafflement and outrage.

Several of these comments were collected by Twitchy, the quick-reaction infotainment site founded by conservative commentator Michelle Malkin. The organization gets most of its juice by finding supposedly outrageous tweets (generally from non-conservatives) and publishing outraged responses from conservatives.

Twitchy first posted about Power’s purported faux pas at 8:14 a.m. on Feb. 24, the morning after Power’s controversial tweet. That inaugurated a series of what would turn out to be seven separate articles, all bylined “Twitchy Staff.”

The first article quoted a tweeter asking if Power’s message was the dumbest tweet ever, or just of the week. “Arguably the former,” staffers wrote. After a tweet by conservative writer David Freddoso that called Power’s comment stupid, staffers added: “Yep. The idiocy, it scorches.”

Immediately following a tweet calling Power “an absolute idiot,” Twitchy closed out one of its articles with this observation: “Dangerous incompetence and appeasement from the Obama administration. Again.”

Twitchy’s fifth post about this kerfuffle, at 2:34 p.m. on the 24th, featured more than a dozen tweets calling for the ambassador’s resignation or firing. Included was this message from a conservative writer with more than 77,000 Twitter followers:

The elegance and wisdom of Burge’s dazzling punditry there is impossible to deny, is it not?

Now, there are plenty of ways to interpret the Power message that so outraged the folks spotlighted by Twitchy; in fact, the ambassador tweeted these two follow-ups in response to the stir that her original post caused on Twitter:

So Power acknowledges that Pearl was killed by bigots because of his religion and nationality. And her correction asserts that is not specifically his story but rather the work of the Daniel Pearl Foundation that reminds us that “individual accountability + reconciliation are required to break cycles of violence.”

Twitchy, by the way, dedicated a post to those two Power tweets. It was headlined “‘Definition of flailing!’ — Amb. Power ‘clarifies’ Daniel Pearl tweet; Doubles down on idiocy.”

For all the energy that Twitchy expended gathering outraged reactions to Power, no one on the staff evidently could be bothered to look up the full text of the ambassador’s remarks. I found a copy of them, which the U.S. mission to the United Nations evidently posted on the night of Power’s speech, with little effort.

Now, the lecture would take a while to process fully; the text runs just shy of 4,000 words, and I’ve only skimmed it. Still, a bit from near the beginning of the remarks jumped out at me. After acknowledging the murdered journalist’s parents, Power said:

I think their son would be very proud that the foundation established in his memory is dedicated to inter-cultural understanding. Given the circumstances of Daniel Pearl’s death, we should recognize how remarkable that is. Much of the world’s sorrow can be traced to cycles of retribution, where one group seeks revenge for real or imagined wrongs done by another.

Individuals become symbols, faiths become enemies, and hate becomes a currency of identity — all that we have in common — as fellow parents, fellow students, fellow believers — all that we have in common becomes reduced to a catastrophic alchemy of Us versus Them.

That was the ugly mindset of the men who murdered Daniel Pearl because he was a reporter, an American and, most of all, because he was a Jew. In that infamous video, the killers advertised their ruthlessness, betrayed their faith, and sought further to inflame passions that divide the world. Not long thereafter, the Daniel Pearl Foundation took its brave stand on the opposite shore, guiding us toward a more profound response to hate: urging dialogue, shared learning, reconciliation, and a recognition that individual — not collective — accountability is required to break cycles of violence.

Now, people are certainly free to disagree with Power’s assertions here. But they don’t seem particularly baffling or objectionable to me. And call me crazy, but I certainly don’t think that they constitute grounds for calling Power an idiot, asking if she smokes crack or comparing her to feces.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation itself would seem to agree. After all, it had invited Power to speak — she was, in fact, delivering the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture. The morning after the event, the organization tweeted:

Twitchy evidently never bothered to scan the foundation’s Twitter feed, even though it was linked to in two of the Power tweets that Twitchy itself cited. Nor is there any evidence that Twitchy sent an email or put in a call to the Daniel Pearl Foundation to get its reaction to anything Power said or tweeted.

Of course, Twitchy isn’t a news organization. It doesn’t seem to be geared toward advancing any specific policy goals, either. Instead, Twitchy is part of — well, not the conspiracy (real or imagined) that Hillary Clinton long ago bemoaned. No; Twitchy is part of a vast right-wing outrage machine.

Twitchy isn’t focused on reporting, or considering, or thinking. Rather, it’s a component in a vast virtual echo chamber, finding and promoting various spurious provocations.

The great Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum regularly uses a great phrase, “nothingburger,” to dismiss overhyped stories, hollow promises or ginned-up controversies. But for Twitchy, whether any given outrage has any substance or not is entirely beside the point. The fact that it will get some people angry is justification enough to throw up one, two, three or seven different posts about whatever comment is at hand.

See-sawing between convenience and privacy

February 17, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 17, 2014

Last week, I considered Kevin Drum’s complaint about Google leveraging its access to his web searches in order to send him a targeted email advertisement.

Since writing that post, I’ve given the topic a little more consideration. Specifically, I spent some time trying to sum up my message in a pithy fashion.

I came up with this formula: You can have lots of convenience or you can have lots of privacy online, but you can’t have both.

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One simple way to evade corporate peeping toms (in which I quote the Founding Fathers and a 1980s TV show)

February 12, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb 12, 2014

The great Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum put up a short post yesterday. The title captures the content pretty well: “Google Reads My Mind (And My Web Searches) Once Again.”

You should read the whole article, though. It’s just three brief paragraphs and 180 words long. Go ahead, check it out. Just click on the link above. I’ll wait.

I’ve been reading Drum on and off for years, and he strikes me as a pretty savvy character. He’s also someone who’s taken a noted interest in the issue of privacy. To be fair, Drum is mostly concerned with government surveillance, but he’s certainly aware of the potential that corporate data mining has to infringe on privacy.

So what did I find most shocking about Drum’s post from Tuesday?

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‘Mr. President, tear down this law’: Considering conservatives’ hostility toward Obamacare

August 22, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 22, 2013

With key deadlines for implementing President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act approaching — except for when the president himself puts them off, that is — a subgenre of conservative punditry has arisen. The theme that unites this new category of opinionating is that its authors all call for Republicans to unite around a replacement set of health care reforms.

It’s long been clear that Americans on the right dislike, if not outright despise, the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Their opposition is ironic for at least two reasons. One is that the conservative Heritage Foundation devised the individual mandate to purchase health insurance that is at the heart of the plan.

The other is that Obamacare is predicated, through that very same individual mandate, upon expanding the customer base of health insurance companies. In other words, the Affordable Care Act is simply not a single-payer system, in which the government assures every citizen a minimal level of health care. And Obamacare really isn’t much of a step toward socialized medicine, which significantly increase government control or regulation of the people and institutions that actually dispense health care.

Back in June, Ramesh Ponnuru published a lengthy essay on the National Review’s website that took conservatives to task for

increasingly embracing [this] theory about Obamacare: It’s going to collapse of its own weight, and its failure could yield a sharp right turn in the 2014 and 2016 elections. That theory is probably wrong, and dangerously so. To be rid of Obamacare, Republicans will have to do more than just wait for it to go away — and more than they have done so far.

Recent public remarks by Obama reinforced Ponnuru’s criticism that GOPers need to get more specific about enacting a replacement for Obamacare. Read the rest of this entry »

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