income inequality race Rule: Cover The Topic solutions

Blacks, Police & the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’: A Solution Unreported (Updated)

In the quest for answers to Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore, attendant focus on unemployment and urban blight, and the role they play in the tragic encounters between blacks and the police, brought to mind a story reported in March on the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’, a story with proven answers.

The joint piece between News Hour and The Atlantic tells of a broad regional prosperity that resulted from shared wealth policies in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area in the 1970’s, and the subsequent decline after policies were rolled back. Though the Twin Cities still enjoys high ratings in both affordability and upward mobility, an anomaly and powerful lure for millennials, the current ‘miracle’ is not as evenly distributed as it once was. Minneapolis now has one of the widest disparities in opportunity between blacks and whites in the country.

(No ads)

It wasn’t always so. In the 70’s a concerted effort was made to create policies that benefited everyone. Progressive education, tax-sharing and housing laws were passed. The fiscal disparities law mandated that 40% of each community’s business tax base growth was shared regionally. That allowed the less rich communities to share in the commercial wealth of the entire city.

The Minnesota legislature also focussed on integration in public housing. For 15 years, 70% of low-income housing was in the whitest neighborhoods, providing access to better schools and jobs for those occupants.

In the late 80’s, as civil rights laws lapsed across the country, the housing laws were dialed back. Though fiscal equalization did survive, current statistics speak to a divide. High school graduation rates are 47% for African-Americans vs. 86% (statewide) for whites. Homeownership is 34% for African-Americans, 76% for whites. The state, overall, has the highest unemployment gap between whites and people of color, nationwide. (Comparative statistics for ‘before housing rollback’ were not cited, and would have strengthened this report.)

Still, Minneapolis is headquarters to 19 Fortune 500 companies, more than any other for a metro its size. Explaining the locale’s historical appeal to them, U. Minnesota’s Myles Shaver says: “Its most important resource never leaves the city–educated managers of every level, who can work at just about any company.” The implication of all this? Judy Woodruff sums up local leaders’ thoughts: “The racial disparity in education, opportunity and income must be addressed if Fortune 500 companies continue to come and thrive.”

So… one solution–progressive housing–found, then lost. The other–fiscal equalization–intact, but unreplicated and barely reported on. According to The Atlantic, no other large American city has adopted tax revenue sharing. In 2008, Seoul, Korea imported a version of it. The result was the gap between districts in social services funding, narrowed. Poorer communities were able to grow their tax base with minimal impact on richer ones.

The Minneapolis Miracle cries out for more widespread coverage, especially in these times of growing inequality and its manifold symptoms. A TVNews Archive* search yielded no reports of it other than News Hour’s. For print media, other than The Atlantic article, I found this (long titled) Minnesota story: “This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Raised the Minimum Wage. Now, His State’s Economy Is One of the Best in the Country”. Short and data rich, it makes a clear case for policies that benefit everyone.

Once again, we see coverage of the problem but nothing on solutions–proven solutions–in this case. The more I encounter this, the more it makes my blood boil.

To the News Media: Cover the Topic of solutions to poverty! They are off-the-shelf, ready-made and working. They help people… you know, the people you are supposed to inform so as to make their vote meaningful.

Do it!   It’s.  Your.  Job.


Three days after I posted the above Minneapolis Miracle blog, News Hour filed another such report on solutions to poverty, this one on Purpose Built Communities in East Lake, Atlanta Ga. PBC, started by Warren Buffett and local community leaders, turned East Lake around by targeting multiple elements simultaneously–housing, education, health and jobs.

(Short ad)

The project has been mostly successful–crime is down 90%, test scores are up, and other cities have replicated it with a Federal project in the works. The downside: surrounding areas have become more expensive, and there is less subsidized housing than originally, forcing the displaced to move to other low income areas. Still, with the state of things, it is ever more important to report on these endeavors to learn what works and empower the public to demand change. Predictably, a TVNews Archive search produced only a handful of CSPAN results in addition to News Hour.

So, again, good job News Hour.  But to the rest of the News Media, I repeat:
Cover the Topic of solutions to poverty!

*                                *                                *

*Note: The TVNews Archive database may have data gaps, though none were uncovered in the use of it for this blog.  [intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_CCGaps”](more info)[/intlink]

Additional References:
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_NW2014″]TVNews Archive Network List[/intlink]

Minnesota’s Miracle by Tom Berg (former MN congressman)

money in politics Rule: Cover The Topic solutions

Campaign $pending: Mayday! Democracy Is Flatlined!

An all time high of $4B in political spending was reached this past election, with another $200M in dark money, even though less people donated than in previous elections.  And money got results. Of the biggest spenders for House elections, 94% won; in the Senate it was 82%.  All this, according to a Nov. 10 News Hour report.

At the risk of stating the obvious, here are 2 things you probably know:
   There is too much money in politics.
   The news media reaps huge financial rewards from campaign ads.

And 1 you may not know:
   There was virtually no TV news coverage of Senate debate on an
   amendment that would curtail political spending and reverse rulings
   like Citizens United.

Anyone see a conflict of interest here?

The amendment, known as Senate Joint Resolution 19 (SJR 19), or the “Democracy For All” Amendment, was overwhelmingly approved to proceed in the Senate (71-18) in September, but then failed cloture to end debate and go to vote (54-42).  On the major news outlets, other than CSPAN, only a single mention was made- 1 highly politicized ‘discussion’ on FOX News.

To research coverage, I, again, used TVNews Archive*, as I did for my carbon tax blog. The results showed a similar pattern.  For the 3 broadcast networks, ABC, CBS & NBC, there were search hits for “money in politics” and “Citizens United”, but none for “Democracy For All Amendment”, “Joint Resolution 19”, or other variations of those terms.  In other words, again, they reported on the problem, but not on a solution.  

Cable didn’t fare much better.

Nor was there any reporting on either activist & Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig’s “Mayday PAC”, or this summers “California March for Democracy” by the group 99Rise, both of which target money in politics.

In this fascinationg interview with Bill Moyers, Lessig and Zephyr Teachout, who ran for NY governor this November and managed to get a third of the vote despite spending only $1.57/vote vs. Andrew Cuomo’s $60.62/vote, make powerful arguments for campaign finance reform. Lessig, whose Mayday PAC funds candidates commited to eliminating big money, cites a Princeton study that shows a high correlation between political policy that gets made and what economic elites and interest groups want, and no correlation- ie. ‘flatline’- between policy and what average American citizens want.


A San Jose Mercury News editorial by Common Cause cites similar data. For the last 16 years, “the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector has dumped more money into federal elections than any other”, hitting $400M this year.  The result was weaker banking rules and the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

The California March for Democracy last May involved a 480 mile march from LA to Sacramento that culminated in the occupation of the CA state capitol, calling for an amendment to outlaw big money in politics.

But you didn’t see that in the news, they were too busy selling our democracy, right out from under us. The PEW’s latest State of the News Media report that covers political spending for 2012 says: “Political advertising alone hit a record $2.9 billion, up 38% from 2010 and almost double the $1.5 billion spent on local TV in 2008.”

Polls and support for the amendment are unequivocal.  The SJR 19 proposal itself cites a Washington Post-ABC News Poll taken after Citizens United which found “80% of Americans opposed the Court’s ruling, with 65% `strongly opposed to unfettered corporate spending in elections.’”

PRWatch offers more data: 16 states and 500 cities, including NYC, LA & Chicago, passed resolutions supporting the amendment; the Republican base favors it 2-to-1; and 3M have signed petitions. It further cites a Democracy Corps survey showing 73% in favor of overturning Citizens United.  In reaction to 2012 spending data (32 Super PAC donors outspent 3.7M who gave less than $200 each), it quotes Elizabeth Warren:  “When 32 people can outspend 3.7 million citizens, our democracy is in real danger”.

The Senate bill, Mayday PAC and March for Democracy are but a few examples of individual and group efforts striving to wrest control back from monied interests. There is a whole parallel universe of such activities in this country, all trying to make change- Move to Amend, Wolf PAC, Government By the People & many others mentioned in the SJ Merc article above. But you’d never know it from the media.  Broadcast and cable news are not only NOT fullfilling their mandate as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy, they are also ensuring their own continued increasing profits in the bargain!  And we are being total pawns.

Demand otherwise! Support ATDs mission and fight for facts. A robust press which serves the people will not only level the playing field of Democracy, it will raise it as well.

ABC, CBS, NBC, and all the others:

Cover the Topic of solutions to getting money out of politics. It’s. Your. Job.

                *                *                *                *                *                *                *

*Note: The TVNews Archive database may have data gaps, though none were uncovered in the use of it for this blog. [intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_CCGaps”](more info)[/intlink]

Additional Links:
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_NW2014″]TVNews Archive Network List[/intlink]

carbon emissions climate change Rule: Cover The Topic solutions

Tax on Carbon: Do Solutions Stand a Chance If the Media Never Covers Them?

Planet’s burning up, and I’m seeing red.

In the last 5 years, not one of the broadcast networks–ABC, CBS or NBC–Covered the Topic of carbon tax on their nightly news shows, and only CBS reported on cap and trade, with a single segment in that entire period. The concept behind both–putting a price on carbon emissions as incentive to curtail them–is favored by many as the best method to reduce emissions and help slow global warming.

That’s right.  On the major network’s news: carbon tax 0, cap and trade 1.  In 5 years.

Meanwhile, there was no shortage of footage on extreme weather–floods, fires, tornadoes, snowstorms, etc.–on those same shows.

Those reports, along with a sprinkling of others on climate change, have, no doubt, increased awareness that it is real. But repeated coverage of a problems effects will not, alone, lead to policy change. So in my opinion, the answer to the question in the title is no, solutions don’t have a chance if the media doesn’t cover them, especially given the current intractability of congress.

Think about it. Without coverage of solutions to problems, a void of information is created. That opens the door wider for legislators to politicize and hijack discussion of solutions, something they’re already good at. Then, when polls reflect fragmented opinion of an uninformed public, politicians use that as cover to do nothing, and nothing gets done.

In June, there was a stir when former treasury secretary Henry Paulson came out in favor of a carbon tax in a NYT Opinion piece.  This was news because Paulson is a republican who was appointed by President Bush and republican legislators have been against taxing carbon.  He isn’t the first prominent republican to call for one though, there have been many from George Shultz (sec. of state under Reagan) to Christine Todd Whitman (former EPA head).  And the economic case has been solidly made–from revenue-neutral, efficiency/cost benefits cited, to 2.1M new jobs / 33% polution reduction / in 10 years (REMI study), to the proven successes of cap-and-trade programs.

And yet, despite the fact that May and June were the hottest months on record for the planet and the steady stream of storms, heat waves and extreme weather raged on, congress has done nothing.

Having recently discovered a great news video search tool, Internet TVNews Archive, I decided to use it to evaluate coverage of this topic by the broadcast networks.

I don’t typically watch the ABC, CBS & NBC news shows (except maybe on weekends), and had been ignoring them for lack of time and to the detriment of ATD project integrity.  They are important because, according to Pew Research, “over the course of a month”, 65% of US adults watch network news, and “an average of” 22.6 million tune in nightly to 1 of the big 3, — higher numbers than for any other station. Needless to say, I am ecstatic over finding TVNews Archive*. (See Pew & TVNews Archive links below.)

So, after putting the search tool through some paces to satisfy me that it works*, I cast a deep net.  For each of the 3 networks, I plugged in the terms “carbon tax” and “tax on carbon”, going back 5 years to July 2009, the earliest archive year.  The results:

Search:  “carbon tax”, “tax on carbon”;  5 years
ABC   5 hits:    2-GMA, 1-This Week, 1-Breaking News, 1-Nightline
                                (2013 most recent)
CBS   5 hits:    all local news (2013 most recent)
NBC  12 hits:    mostly local news (2014 most recent)

Thus, in the past 5 years, not 1 of the major broadcast networks covered the subject of carbon tax on their signature nightly show- the shows that garner those 65% and 22.6M viewership stats.

I then widened the net to include the terms “cap and trade” and “carbon sequestration”, other proposed emissions remedies, and again searched the same stations and period of time.

“Carbon sequestration” got 0 hits for ABC & CBS, and only 1 on NBC for local news. So, again, 0 hits on the nightly news shows for all 3 networks.

“Cap and trade” had many more (ABC-106, CBS-97, NBC-115) but spread across other news shows, with none on the big nightly news except for CBS, which scored a single hit with its interview of Al Gore in 2009.  (**Note below.)

Summary of entire broadcast networks search (except last line), last 5 years:

Search term  (last 5 yrs.)                    ABC           CBS           NBC
“carbon tax”, “tax on carbon”                5                5               12
“cap and trade”                                  106              97             115
“carbon sequestration”                          0                0                 1
All above terms, nightly news only       0                1                 0

Narrowing the search to the last 1.5 years (since January 1, 2013) yielded:

Search term  (last 1.5 yrs.)                  ABC           CBS           NBC
“carbon tax”, “tax on carbon”                 1                1                2
“cap and trade”                                     12              18                8
“carbon sequestration”                           0                0                0
All above terms, nightly news only        0                0                0

To get a sense of context and scale for the ABC, CBS & NBC numbers, I searched all 24 archived stations (see list at end), for the last 5 and 1.5 years respectively (***Note below):

Search term                                     All (5 yrs.)             All (1.5 yrs.)
“carbon tax”/“tax on carbon”             2,307                     1,042
“cap and trade”                                  9,796                     1,172
“carbon sequestration”                         150                          41

For a more direct comparison, I narrowed the networks down to 2 specific ones (CNN, PBS), and searched for just the last 1.5 years, getting:

Search term  (1.5 yrs.)                          CNN               PBS
“carbon tax”/“tax on carbon”                 20                  79
“cap and trade”                                       25                  91
“carbon sequestration”                             0                    2

So, on the subject of taxing carbon, both CNN and PBS had substantially more coverage in a 1.5 year period, than the broadcast networks over a much longer, 5 year period.

Careening to the other end of the spectrum from specific carbon solutions, I went general.  I searched for “carbon emission”, “greenhouse gases”, “global warming”, “climate change” and “extreme weather”, non-solution environmental terms.  And this time I limited it to just the nightly news shows of the 3 networks, again for the last 1.5 years.

Search (1.5 yrs.)    ABC World N   CBS Evening N   NBC Nightly N
“carbon emission”          1                         2                        3
“greenhouse gases”       2                         8                        3
“global warming”          10                         5                        9
“climate change”          17                        34                      43
“extreme weather”       102                       20                      28

The numbers show a clear pattern: the more general the search term, the more hits on network news.  Nothing beats dramatic videos of torrential downpours, raging fires, highway pileups, tornado swaths of destruction and other heartbreaking stories of loss, to make a point. And, again, no doubt they have some impact.

But when it comes to reporting on solutions, 1 news segment for 3 major networks, in 5 years, is beyond outrageous.  How can we form an opinion, make our positions known, and change our lot in this democracy if the media doesn’t report on actual, workable solutions–solutions that need to be enacted by congress, whose members we elect?

Information drives people.  People vote and drive polls.  Polls and voting drive action.

Reader, resist the temptation to remain cynical, assuming there is nothing you can do. Little by little, we citizens have seen the only power afforded us in the Constitution, our vote, erode. It is time we demand the media live up to their duty as The Fourth Estate. It is time to make them understand–they do not work for corporate interests, they work for us!

ABC, CBS and NBC:  Cover The Topic of solutions to climate change.

It’s.  Your.  Job.

*                *                *                *                *                *                *

*Note: The TVNews Archive database may have data gaps, though none were uncovered in the use of it for this blog. In addition, emails were sent to each network informing them of the content in this blog, and requesting verification of it.  [intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_CCGaps”](more info)[/intlink]

**Note: This “cap and trade” archive search produced 4 hits for each networks nightly news- all mere references in the context of either political campaigns or the legislative environment, so I did not count them.

***Note: There was some overlap with the 2 ‘carbon tax’ terms, and also with the same show being re-aired in 2 time zones, but both seemed infrequent for the non-broadcast networks.  Any such overlaps for the broadcast network news 1.5 year search results were caught and filtered out, as well as the 5 year, “carbon tax”/”tax on carbon” results. Also, except for the broadcast networks, no attempt was made to verify the actual substance of topic coverage- there were just too many.

Additional Links:
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”PEW_2013-2014″]PEW Data[/intlink],
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_NW2014″]TVNews Archive Network List[/intlink]

Rule: Cover The Topic surveillance

Surveillance & Lavabit: ‘the Gag’ on the Gag

This one really got my attention. Lavabit, a small encrypted email service, was shutdown a few weeks ago by its owner, Ladar Levison, because… well, he can’t actually say why. The post on his company’s website hints at the reason, expressing his wish to not be “complicit in crimes against the American people”, and stating he cannot “legally share … the events that led to [his] decision” even though “the first amendment is supposed to guarantee the freedom to speak out in situations like this.”

Another ISP provider, Silent Circle, also shut down abruptly. Its CEO said “There was no 12-hour heads up. If we announced it, it would have given authorities time to file a national security letter (NSL). We decided to destroy it before we were asked to turn (information) over.”

I hadn’t encountered this particular story through my usual news sources, and tripped over it a few days ago online. Despite his government directive of silence, Mr. Levison has given a series of interviews that ended up exclusively online (excepting PBS’s Democracy Now!, which also aired on TV). In each, Mr. Levison kept his lawyer close by to ensure legal lines weren’t crossed while letting the public know, as much as he could, what is happening.

And what that seems to be is- the government is using its powers, in matters of privacy and surveillance, to a degree significantly greater than has been exposed in the media.  As The Guardian put it, Levison is “stuck in a Kafkaesque universe where he is not allowed to talk about what is going on, nor is he allowed to talk about what he’s not allowed to talk about without facing charges of contempt of court.” ‘The gag’ on the gag (order).

PBS Democracy Now (no ads)

In the Democracy Now! interview, Mr. Levison states “There’s information that I can’t even share with my lawyer.” His lawyer, Jesse Binnall, says: “Ladar is in a situation where he has to watch every word he says … for fear of being imprisoned. We can’t even talk about what the legal requirements are that make it so he has to watch his words. … And that’s [the] fear that led the founders to give us the First Amendment in the first place.”

In the various interviews, Mr. Levison alludes to the existence of a Lavabit account in the name of Edward Snowden that he was “made aware of” only after the Snowden story broke. On the obvious aspect that encrypted email services are attractive to criminals, Levison says authorities did ask him on a couple dozen occasions to hand over information on certain users, and he did. He states: “I never intended the service to be anonymous. There are things that I could have done that would have catered to criminals that I would not do. I was always comfortable turning over what I had available.”

HuffPost Live (short ad)

Over the summer, as the (mostly print) news media’s tentacles reached further and further into the NSA story, reports of legal pushback by tech companies (including Apple, Facebook and Yahoo) started to emerge. The SJ Mercury News cited lawsuits filed by Google and Microsoft, and a letter signed by over 60 companies and nonprofit groups- all seeking court approval to disclose more details to the public on the governments requests for customer data from them- as part of their ongoing legal struggle. While those groups sought to loosen the terms of their court orders, what seems different about the Lavabit case, is that the gag has been extended to include legal process, as opposed to just the targets of that process.

Of the many stories reported, only a handful touched on court process. In July, the NYT published an in depth piece outlining the secret FISA court, its history, and, to a limited extent, its workings. And, in addition to the above, and other articles on government resistance to tech companies efforts, the SJ Merc wrote about Yahoo’s hard won victory over the FISA court which finally agreed to declassify legal briefs, along with its ruling, in a 2008 case. Back then, the court had ruled against Yahoo’s argument that its customers constitutional protections against warrentless searches were being violated.

On the legal wranglings taking place, The Guardian writes, “Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, [says] Levison along with Snowden and others [are] at the forefront of a debate over privacy.” In the same article, it goes on, “US district judge Susan Illston [says] NSLs suffer from ‘significant constitutional defects’ and violate the first amendment because of the way they effectively gag companies that receive them.”

I consider myself a realist on what it takes to maintain national security, but this is a step too far for me. Further, it seems obvious that the government, at least partially, relies on a quiescent media to enable its strong arm tactics.

Having followed the NSA surveillance story all summer, my biggest take away is (surprise, surprise) that print media’s coverage far exceeds that of television’s, the Lavabit story being a big case in point. While all the network (ABC, CBS, NBC) and cable (CNN, FOX, MSNBC) news orgs had online reports or blogs on Lavabit, I found none on TV (other than Democracy Now!).

So, to the television news media, this amounts to one, big: Cover the Topic!